Meet Gique Danielle Williams
International Music Educator, Composer, Performer, & Conductor
Tell us about your background & how it led you to where you are today.
"I realized something not long ago—the art I've created isn't just because of who I am, but because of where I've been and who I’ve met. As I travel the globe, my experiences shape my music, inspire new projects, and fuel exciting cross-cultural collaborations. I've never quite been able to choose just one instrument, nor just one place to call home. I have taught, conducted, and performed in Ghana, Haiti, Nicaragua, South Africa, Canada, Palestine, England, and Brazil, while my compositions have been performed in the U.S., France, Tanzania, and Tunisia. These experiences along with my passion to use music as a tool for social change has led me to define my role in the world as a "Musician for Peace." This past May, I completed my Master’s Degree in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This August, I’ll be moving to the West Bank to teach and explore new musical styles at the Alkamandjati School of Music in Ramallah, Palestine. Before getting my Master’s, I directed the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra's Education and Community Engagement Program in twelve Boston area schools, and spent two years teaching, composing, and conducting at the Umoja Music School in Arusha, Tanzania."
How does your work combine science and art?
"As a musician, I was relying on science and physics to create my art long before I realized it. When I was a young pianist, I enjoyed peeking into the inside of the piano and watching how the longer metal strings vibrated slow and steady when they were set into motion by the keys, producing the low, deep tones of the instrument. Once I was in college, this continued interest in the physics of the piano led me to explore the range sounds I could produce through playing “extended techniques” inside the piano, eventually composing a piece based on this unique palette of musical colors.
In college, I also fell in love with playing the pipe organ. It is such an unbelievably complex instrument, yet I was shocked to discover that it is one of the oldest in our human history. Some of the first organs used water, not air, to produce tones and some artists have continued this tradition in magnificent ways. One stunning example of this is the Croatian Water Organ.
My interest in physics also inspired my desire to compose a string quartet based on Newton’s Laws of Motion. Through this piece, I sought to depict physical reactions in nature through musical sounds. You can hear the piece for yourself and see if I was able to capture the Laws of Motion."
What does being a gique mean to you?
"It’s been quite amazing talking to the wonderful women involved with Gique, because it has renewed my awareness of the link between music and science. Each time I teach flute to a student, and show them to blow air over the mouthpiece while opening and closing holes on the keys to change pitches—that’s 100% science in motion! I think that it’s so important to always keep these overlapping and complimentary fields of study (music and science) on my mind in order to better understand the ways in which each society has built the instruments that allow us to express our feelings, thoughts, and stories. In this way, it turned out that I was a Gique all of my life without even realizing it!
For me, being a Gique means reminding myself, my students, and my artist colleagues of the excitement that comes from understanding how our art is made, how the sounds are produced, and how we can manipulate physical objects to create melodies and sounds that express our deepest emotions. One of my musical heroes, and someone who I feel truly embodies the definition of Gique is the composer and experimentalist Trimpin. The documentary on his life is fantastic, and you can get a taste of it here."
Any words of wisdom?
"Collaborating with other artists has been some of my most thrilling, challenging, and exciting musical experiences. While it sometimes seems a lot easier to make music on my own— there’s no one to disagree with my ideas, after all!—working with others has often opened my mind to entirely new possibilities and opportunities. I highly encourage everyone to collaborate with others who come from different interests, fields of expertise, and even cultures, and being open to learning from them as you create together!"