“ I’m ready to return to a live audience again; for the hugs, the snaps, the ‘say that shit, girl’, the tears, the sighs of relief, the connection. And I think that anybody that’s walking into The Cube for an event is ready for that as well. ”- La Shaun phoenix Moore, Detroit poet and vocalist
Following a season of CUBE|Digital performances, and outdoor iterations of Cube programming, the synergy re-emerged in The Cube this spring with a cross-genre lineup that reunited and entertained arts enthusiasts eager for more dynamic, in-person events.
Since 2016, the Peter D. & Julie F. Cummings Cube (The Cube) has signatured a multidisciplinary aesthetic that aims to reflect the cultural personality and diverse communities of Detroit. Located adjacent to Orchestra Hall within the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, the black box theater has a communal feel that gives stage to regional, national, and local talent whose artistic skills spread across world music, hip-hop, funk, jazz, poetry, and everything in between–staying true to its intent on being an accessible space.
The Cube’s reopening week featured staples such as OM @ The Max. Led by a certified instructor from Detroit Yoga Lab, with a DSO string quartet providing the session’s score, OM offers peaceful vibes; Storm Large, who performed with the DSO at Carnegie Hall in 2013, returned to deliver Great American Songbook classics; and tapping into the R&B and soul identity of Detroit, local spoken word artist La Shaun phoenix Moore closed out the month hosting HERstories, a Women’s History Month celebration featuring local poets, Detroit R&B vocalist Johdi, and DJ Stacye J.
Something that Moore was keen on when joining forces with the DSO to co-curate poetry and music events in The Cube, was ensuring the representation of Black voices and homegrown talent.
“What I think is really awesome about curating events in The Cube is that [we] wanted to make sure we curate Black events that were open for whoever wanted to come in and attend,” she affirms. “One of the largest events we had at The Cube was an all-girl show; everybody came out and [were] hungry to find out what we were going to do next. So with this rebirth of the programming, it’s really important that while we’re bringing in regional and national talent, to also support our local artists. Drawing them into the space, we get a more mixed level of our community.”
When thinking through programming, the venue is conscious about producing events that are authentically Detroit and relevant to the communities the DSO serves.
“Curation is a really important aspect because it’s about building a community gathering place where all people in the local community can have great musical experiences in whatever genre,” says Goode Wyche III, DSO’s Manager of Jazz and @ The Max. “What’s really cool is that a lot of times when The Cube has events, there’ll be a classical concert going on. That’s impactful because the classical audience sticks their head in the Cube saying, ‘hey what’s going on in here’ and [The Cube] audience is like ‘hey what's going on over there.’ It brings people together.”
Music has a way of doing that–bridging worlds and offering perspectives that challenge what’s thought to be possible. It’s a language felt universally, and when experienced in shared space, connection is undeniable.
“When I’m creating shows, I always think about how can I make a beautiful space to bring people into the energy, into the soul of the performance,” says BLKBOK, a neoclassical pianist and composer from Detroit’s west side made his Cube debut in mid-March. “We are, as artists, storytellers. [So] between me speaking and me speaking on a piano, this is like the merging of two worlds. I'm super excited to be there with an audience and share.”
BLKBOK’s authentic style on the keys attract the ear with compositions situated in a bed of classical notes accentuated with pop forms, jazzy riffs, and hip-hop boldness–sounds that reference his love for rhythms and musicality ranging from Ice Cube and Tina Turner to Chopin and, of course, Bach.
This musical gumbo is the Detroit-bred turned Las Vegas resident’s approach to “breaking the mold” and illustrating the relationship that exists between every genre of music. “They’re all cousins,” he says with a wide grin. “Like the harmonic, melodic, rhythmic structure of it – the crossing of genres is the thing that got me like ‘oh man, that hip-hop thing, that rhythm or beat that he’s on, that sounds like Miles Davis. For me, neoclassical is being able to bridge the gap between classical music and what we consider contemporary music now. It opens up this whole idea that there are other things that are possible.”
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CUBE DEBUT: BLKBOK
BLKBOK’s textured arrangements travel through space and time forming a visceral experience for the listener that’s rooted in exploration–when composing, he never knows the destination–and feeling.
In his debut album, BLACK BOOK, the artist composed a series of musical poems through piano that illustrate both personal experiences and those of his community as it relates to pivotal, socio-political moments in American History. Conceptualized in 2020, while taking a Creative Workshop with Seth Godin, BLACK BOOK was written in 121 consecutive days. This discipline and mental focus lends to the intensity in pieces like "George Floyd & the Struggle for Equality" and "Michelle Obama’s First Day in the White House;" but also the serenity offered in ballads such as "Amalia’s Ocean" or the ego-boost in "The King’s New Drip."
Just as BLKBOK creates soul-touching pieces with deep, thought-provoking context, he also displays his energetic personality with hip-hop and classical blends as heard on his 2021 EP, CVRART.
So, for the piano prodigy who’s toured the world with the likes of Rihanna and Cirque du Soleil to come home and perform at The Cube, is a harmonious fusion of innovative sound in a space dedicated to providing curated, urban, boundless experiences.
“[Detroit] is where it all started. Here’s the city that raised me. It’s in my blood; it’s in my veins. It’s in my heart, my mind, my spirit, my soul. It’s tattooed on me!,” he says. “I was at home and acquired all this talent and skill and then I went out into the world and acquired a bunch of other stuff, so to share these experiences, these stories, and to come and say, ‘Hey guys, look what I did’ and connect with the people that I love so much, it's just like the most beautiful feeling.”
From BLKBOK’s avant-garde compositions to yoga with chamber music, the beauty exists in the exposure to various stylings of sound and performance: in navigating toward what you naturally enjoy, there's the opportunity to discover something new and build community along the way.
“You have to give people what they want to see, what they want to hear, and meet them where they are: offering styles of music that are uniquely Detroit–that’s blues, funk, rock ‘n’ roll. To not include those in a performance art space would limit the potential of who’s going to enjoy the awesome classical music,” Wyche III assesses. “People listen to everything. So having the opportunity to show different genres is a great way to build the community and awareness of the DSO as an arts organization that presents all disciplines.”