World Music

World Music

Talking about the environmental crisis of our time is “a conversation that we can’t avoid,” says New Haven musician Ionne, pronounced ee-oh-NAY. “Eventually, we have to face the reality that the spaceship is breaking apart.” His new electronica album, For Those Who Remain, synthesizes elements of pop, jazz and classical music into one version of that conversation.

The album begins with an upbeat, danceable plea by the mountains to the trees and all living creatures: If I raise you up, wait for me. That hopeful appeal, however, leads to a darker conclusion in the end, when an interrupting rhythm sputters like an arrhythmic heartbeat, and heavy orchestral and choral lines undergird a mostly inaudible call of distress.

sponsored by

Welcome Back to the New Haven Free Public Library

In between, Ionne extends the spaceship metaphor both in his lyrics and in the often otherworldly, pulsing reverberation of both traditional instruments and synthesized tones, which carry his fluid vocals. At the same time, the album addresses some of the earthly concerns that he sees driving the destruction of the planet and its people. “The Sacrifice” likens us to brutal consumers of Earth’s blood, gripping the knife that cuts out her flesh. “Rocket” tells the story of a teenager felled by police, calling for second chances for one and accountability for the other.

Ionne, aka Maurice Harris, who works in New Haven as the inaugural director of marketing and communications at the Yale Schwarzman Center, has been making music since he was a child studying classical trumpet and piano. At the University of Cincinnati, he decided to major in electronic media after buying his first synthesizer. “I was really sort of wowed by all of the different… musical explorations and sound design-type things that I could do that were well beyond even the improvisation I was used to in traditional music,” he recalls. Today, Harris composes almost exclusively on virtual synths. The only “real” instrumentation on For Those Who Remain is the electric guitar on the track “Superluminal,” played by Grammy-nominated artist Rod Harris, Jr.

Remain features additional collaborators as well. That first tune, “Mountains and Trees,” opens with a friend’s analysis after hearing an early cut of the album: You’re talking about ideas that go directly in opposition to what I think the world is constructed to do today, which is to highlight the singular, the individual, over the wellbeing of the world. Other voices underscore the ideas in later tracks.

As Ionne, Harris has created two previous albums: Love Moves Faster (2014) and The Other Side (2020) as well as The Garden (2019), his “nontraditional, creative” PhD thesis, which has not been commercially released. He’s also released numerous singles, remixes and albums as Maurice Harris and under the name Que, as well as in collaboration with Jennifer Fouché.

Ultimately, Harris remains hopeful that music has the power to budge us toward social change. He was surprised, he says, how well his first listeners were able to articulate the unstated ideas in For Those Who Remain. That fact, he says, “speaks to the power of music itself as a language that transcends the spoken word.”

For Those Who Remain by Ionne
Bandcamp | Spotify

Written by Kathy Leonard Czepiel. Images by Susan Warner-Lambert and provided courtesy of Ionne.

More Stories