Backstage: Sampling the '80s in 'Liner Notes'
By Jessica Goldstein
Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012
Paige Hernandez, a Baltimore native and major artistic hyphenate - she's a writer-performerchoreographer-educator, and a hip-hop advocate, and that's an abbreviated list - scribbled two words on a piece of paper: "liner notes."
She was thinking about her next move. She'd done her one-woman show, "Paige in Full," a few times, most recently in 2011 at the Intersections Festival on H Street. But for 2012, "I didn't want to tap out my audience and do that show again," she said. "So I thought, what would I like to see? And it occurred to me that I'd really like to see live hip-hop music with trained musicians - trained in jazz and classical music. And hip-hop is based in sampling, in taking from other songs, and I wanted to explore that."
The end result is the hip-hop theater event "Liner Notes," which had its premiere at the 2012 Intersections Festival and will be produced at the Dunes from April 25 to 28. "You see poetry, monologues, projection, music," Hernandez said. She, along with the lead performers (Akua Allrich, Baye Harrell and Hernandez's husband, Kris Funn), came up with a playlist for the show, researched those albums, and found "some really dope liner notes and structured the show around that," Hernandez said.
"When you got a record back in the day, you actually read the liner notes while you listened to the record," said Hernandez, who, like the rest of her band, grew up in the 1980s. "The artist could really transport you."
During the show, with the backing of the Corner Store Jazz Quintet, "we read the actual liner notes: the words of Herbie Hancock, Parliament Funkadelic, Chaka Khan, James Brown," she said, mixing the older tracks with modern hits such as Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Otis," and then the performers "share personal moments in out lives when we realized we were in love with the music from the past."
"We want elevated art for the hip-hop generation," said Hernandez. "Hip-hop shows don't have to dumb things down for the audience. They don't have to be negative. They don't have to focus on the commercial side of hip-hop. It can be a multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-genre experience. I like to look into the crowd and see the most diverse crowd, ever."