Introduction Part 1: Speaking in Tongues
September 28–October 11, 2020
film still from Speaking in Tounges, a film directed by Doug Harris
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Program Info

All Ages

Sponsored by

Major support for Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Joseph Robert Foundation.

Presented by

Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal, organized and presented by Ars Nova Workshop and Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (ICA).

The film’s title references an act often seen in the black church that dates back to African religious traditions – a term used to describe a person who becomes so consumed by the Holy Spirit they speak in indecipherable languages. Incoherent words spoken in rapid succession are frequently accompanied by uncontrollable bodily movements that are equally jarring, yet serve the purpose of bringing the possessed vessel closer to the divine.

As an ambassador of spirit music, Milford Graves’s performances are a portal to enlightenment. Saxophonist Dave Murray and poet Amiri Baraka are also featured prominently in the film, each providing context for the black experience. For Murray and Baraka, art is synonymous with life, conversely white supremacy represents death as evidenced by the violence and murder enacted upon black bodies that continues today. The earthly transitions of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler are the primary catalysts for the film. As the narrative unfolds, we see Graves and Murray assume the mantle as spirit music caretakers, a distinction once held by the two jazz legends.<!–

Mondays with Milford

Mondays with Milford is an online screening series presented bi-weekly, in conjunction with Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal, an exhibition gathering the many-layered and multi-faceted works of free jazz pioneer and polymath Milford Graves. Scheduled screenings include rare digital footage from Milford Graves’s archives, along with additional video selections and dialogues that contextualize Graves’s practice.–>

Cover: Still from Speaking in Tongues, 1982, dir. Doug Harris.