Sharp Song, Crop Over
Designed as a site-specific installation for Sylvester Manor, a former provisioning plantation on New York’s Shelter Island. In 2014, after being stewarded by a single family over fifteen generations (since 1652) it became a non-profit educational farm and music venue.
Sharp Song, Crop Over is physically comprised of two parts: (1) an ensemble of large cane knife idiophones that visitors to the Manor can play and (2) a bagasse “seed pattern” labyrinth that visitors can walk through, contemplating the many identities of the property over the centuries.
The cane knife instruments of Sharp Song, Crop Over have a two-fold conception: an homage to a simple, universal farm tool (the machete) as an extension of the hand and a new fieldsong, one radiating from field tools, that allows us to get at honest and often difficult, messy stories about New York’s agricultural history. In dissonance and harmony with these knives, reflective of the labyrinthine qualities of cane fields, the surrounding labyrinth will provide a physical pathway for artistic, historical or spiritual contemplation.
Part of the installation title, Crop Over, references a centuries-old Barbadian laborers’ festival celebrating the end of the sugarcane harvest and is now the Caribbean’s premiere summer carnival. Crop Over also defines what happens at the point of contact with the knife.