As a part of The Rotunda’s Poet-Tree En Motion series, a handful of artists will perform on Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. One of those artists is Otis Brown III, who will honor his father, Otis Brown, Jr., a poet and longtime employee at Penn, with a musical tribute 11 years after his death.
Using his father’s recorded poetry as the centerpiece, Otis Brown III, a 38-year-old disc jockey from West Chester, Pa., will remix tracks using two decades worth of music as background. Through a process known as “soundscaping,” or seamlessly blending sounds together, Brown will create a moving auditory experience. (He is listed as Rigger for the show).
“Each poem is unique, so the music for each will be different,” he says. “I wanted to breathe new life into my father’s work and reach audiences who may be novices to the world of poetry and spoken word, mixing forward-thinking poetic imagery with forward-thinking electronic music."
Brown believes his father’s music still has such a fresh feel and timeless imagery that has remained relevant even after 40 years.
His father, the late Otis Brown, Jr., moved to West Philadelphia in the 1970s after establishing himself as a post-beat poet in New York City. From the late-1990s until his death in 2001, Brown, Jr. worked as a parking attendant for the University, but was also known for his poetry.
For nearly 30 years he could be seen delivering poetry readings and performances on Penn’s campus regularly, such as the ones he did at the Mask and Wig in the mid-1970s. His only son, Brown III, says he practically grew up on Penn’s campus.
“I remember many afternoons as a boy climbing onto the Button in front of Van Pelt Library and playing video games inside Houston Hall,” Brown remembers. “I’m very proud and honored to be able to present my father’s work in University City, where my father developed, flourished, and later died as an artist.”
Other artists who will be performing on Dec. 19 include Hennessy Bonfire, a group fusing ancient and futuristic sounds rooted in African, Mediterranean, Cuban and Indian grooves; Mira Treatman & Friends; and Plum Dragoness, delivering a mix of dance, spoken word, and live music. The event is free and open to the public.
Originally published on December 6, 2012