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Esperanza Spalding: From jazz bassist to Smithsonian curator
The accomplished jazz composer and bassist is equally comfortable singing a duet with pop singer Bruno Mars — she contributed vocals to "Old & Crazy," included on the deluxe version of his GRAMMY-winning sophomore album, Unorthodox Jukebox — as she is composing instrumental backing melodies to accompany a poem by William Blake.
But alongside her musical endeavors, Spalding is also a cultural philosopher. The theory she espouses has long permeated much of her artistic efforts— even before she had codified and given it a proper title — and centers on the idea of simultaneous evolution and devolution of cultural concepts as a means of societal growth.
"I was trying to come up with a phrase to describe what I was experiencing and observing," she tells Smithsonian Magazine. "Maybe devolution is a necessary function of evolution — one doesn’t have to diminish the other. They can coexist."
The term she has employed to encapsulate her ideas is "d+evolution," which was used as part of the title of her most recent album, 2016's Emily's D+Evolution. It's now the unifying concept for a new exhibit that Spalding is curating for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.
The exhibit, Esperanza Spalding Selects, will feature her interpretation of d+evolution through drawings, prints, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and other artifacts from the museum's collection. You can view her collection at the Cooper Hewitt through Jan. 7, 2018.