Jacksonville, FL — A fugue is a music technique. To be more exact, Jordan describes it as a contrapuntal compositional technique that features multiple, independent conversations and voices that come together in one harmony to produce something whole. A fugue features episodic developments, counterpoints, and a final entry. It is complicated and there are many rules involved. While it may be rooted in some improvisation, that does not make it any less intentional: it has been associated in musical thinking as only for the profound and the serious.
Around his town, he is often referred to as 'that Sock guy' but his name is Jordan Mixson.
Jordan is an artist. He is a creator. He is a creative. Jordan is profound. A thinker. Jordan is also a partner to our brand and to many other small to mid-sized menswear brands through his niche, professional work as a blogger, photographer, and content creator. His work spans the menswear style scene across the US while it focuses on developing a swagger reflecting his hometown of Jacksonville and its surrounding northeast Florida corridor.
As you will read, Jordan’s story is somewhat like this fugue: his many voices, many parts of himself come together to make him one whole person. However, unlike a fugue, Jordan is a rule-breaker: he uses his many voices to create his own style of music and joyful ways of living. Read on and dig into how and why Jordan is living life his way and will not be put inside anyone else's box. He is creating his own kind of harmony and knows to live by his own measures for success.
Jordan, was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. We met for our interview oceans apart. He sat under his shady backyard gazebo in the Atlantic-side port-city of Jacksonville connecting with me via the webs — Zoom, we sigh — where I sat inside our newest store in Malibu, California, just 100 yards away from Pacific Coast Highway, Surfrider beach, and the Pacific. At first we went back and forth about the weather and how bizarre that in both places it is warm one day and cool the next. Coastal things. Then we got into it — beginning with the ‘Florida man’ jokes.
“I know our state loves being in the limelight and in the headlines. You know, the crazy Florida things that happen, and look there are a lot of snowbirds here coming from a lot of other different places. I always say everyone has a little bit of ‘Florida man’ in them. And I own it.”
Jordan lives in Orange Park and locally, he says it is joked that Jacksonville assimilated Orange Park. He describes Jacksonville as a, “A big city with a small town feel. There’s a lot of land in Jacksonville.” Drive just two seconds north and he is in Jacksonville. The city has a fairly active downtown scene — although sometimes it can feel a little ghost-townish being a banking and a military city. Fun fact: Jacksonville is the most populous city in Florida and in the entire Southeast.
If you happen to find yourself in the heart of the Avondale neighborhood in Jacksonville looking for a cup of coffee, Jordan recommends you check out Social House Coffee. Also, SHC is most likely where you will run into him. These days, he hangs out there to write — blogging — about what he loves in menswear at this moment, Cancel Culture and Critical Thinking, and of course, how he is styling our men’s kilim loafers.
“Social House brings back the spirit of what has been lost these days. I talk a lot about tribalism. Even how locally and on a creative scene, folks are, I don’t think folks realize how tribalized they’ve allowed themselves to become where they will not deal with one side of town versus the other based on what they think that group of individuals feel about what is going on politically and socially. Just making a lot of broad-sweeping presumptions. The one thing about a coffee spot that I’ve always appreciated is it is a community hall of different individuals coming together and having a conversation. I feel some of that has been lost. With Social House Coffee — it is small and quaint and also I see people that I don’t actually see on a regular basis — and of different age groups.
“I may be a bit old-school in that I feel like to have a good understanding and informed view of the world, you should talk to people that are older than you that have seen what happens in life. Other coffee shops may largely appeal only to 20 or 30 year-olds, but with Social House Coffee, they really have been inviting and brought back a sense of community of being inclusive to everyone. They also allow a space for dissonance… it is a symphony to me.”
Jordan has been blogging about menswear — photographing and writing — for over 8 years. On his blog and his Instagram, he shares his feelings and experiences, both positive and negative, about working in the menswear industry — an industry, as he points out, that sits in silence and denial about its own bigotries. He writes about how brands have simply attempted to use him and put him in a box without his consent. Then, they gaslight him for it. He writes a lot about socks. And he even writes about how to style our loafers. But before all of this, there was an accidental story about him getting into writing in the first place. For this, he credits his younger sister, Nastassia.
“Eight years ago, I was a groomsman and violinist at my younger sister's wedding. I was playing as she walked down the aisle. The tuxedo rentals came with these really fun matching pocket squares with socks. The color schemes were the same and that was cool. I thought when I needed to return the rental, they would need the pocket square and the socks back. And they were like, ‘Oh no, you keep them!’ And so I used those socks in some of my outfits and from there began taking notice to sock brands.
“I walked into a Nordstrom Rack and there was a kiosk with all these cool socks on display from different brands — Happy Socks, Stance and others — brands I wasn’t familiar with. I started buying them and one pair became two pair, two pair became ten pair. I started posting socks-of-the-day on my Instagram.”
At the same time Jordan was posting sock photos during his lunch breaks, he was working downtown for a Medicare company. He would grab lunch at any of his favorite local places. At the time, Jacksonville was going through a cultural renaissance. There was in particular a flood of new food trucks turned into brick-and-mortar restaurants. This was a new concept for an old-feeling, port-town city. Jordan would hang out in the “Five Points” artsy, bohemian style neighborhood district in Jacksonville where many new businesses and eateries opened.
“So I would go to a brand new spot, try out new tacos, and I would take an overhead shot of my legs crossed incorporating food pics and the socks pics. I did this on my private IG at the time. My friends… I think I was annoying them a little bit so I switched the pictures to a public account.
“My sister gets the credit of the name ‘The Sockateur’ as my family and I were trying to come up for a name to call this. She made it a play on being a connoisseur of collecting really fun socks. I would post and tag businesses. Even to this day I don’t think of it as anything other than documenting.
“It worked out in my situation because there are no menswear bloggers in Jacksonville. There are a lot more food bloggers and event bloggers promoting community stuff and social happenings. I was in the process of blogging about socks and cool, colorful spots around town. It took time to figure out what I wanted to do…”
Jordan was a late bloomer at taking up the violin. He started learning in the eighth grade following encouragement from his father to play.
“It was something my dad always wanted to do but he never had the opportunity to play. I felt like I was musically inclined as I always liked tapping on the window when we were driving to places. Just tapping out rhythmically. I was always a person and still am like a free-spirit unsure what I was going to be into. My dad suggested why not violin? And I said OK, sure.”
He says he was always musically inclined and fell into this at the right time, although, in middle school, learning alongside your peers can sometimes be more competitive than fun and any disadvantage can be tough on your developmental psyche. Jordan had to grow up fast with the instrument. And he did.
“I took my first violin lessons and took an approach where I learned to play by ear and then learned how to read music a little later. I fell in love. I started when I was 12. It just spoke to me and I continued my studies where I went to an arts high school, Douglas-Anderson School of the Arts — a grammy nominated high school — and I had to musically grow up fast. I was learning orchestral literature and prior to that I was learning to play solo stuff. A lot of the kids going there were coming from an arts middle school that groomed them for Douglas-Anderson.
“I was the odd one out. I went to a magnet middle school. I was taking private lessons. After high school I decided to pursue music further.”
Jordan went on to earn his Bachelor in Music Performance at the University of North Florida. From there he began teaching private lessons, teaching at charter schools, becoming a professional freelance musician taking on gigs and performing at private and public functions across Northeast Florida.
He is still a professional freelance musician today. Some of the gigs have taken him as far as Tallahassee. He mainly plays around Jacksonville. And in Part V, Jordan shows how far his work has come.
Enter a counterpoint: photography. While also working, performing, teaching, and blogging, Jordan learned the skills behind photography.
“My love of photography actually stems from Instagram and the way Instagram was back at the time. I was talking about how I miss the way Instagram was when it was still a blossoming platform. While I was not among some of its earliest earliest followers, I came during the time Instagram was championing a lot of photographers. That was my exposure to the art of photography. I felt an affinity for it because I came from the Liberal arts where you are learning about classical music and other things going on during the classical period. There is an overlap and intersection between these artistic disciplines.
“Learning about composition to me…the principles are no different than learning a form of music. When you are playing a Mozart piece, there are certain forms to understand how he has constructed this piece of music. When you understand this form, you understand how to process it and then play it in a particular way. And so with photography, I was seeing how Instagram was highlighting street photographers and food photographers and travel photography, and also very abstract photography that highlighted individuals who did a little bit of everything. That appealed to me. I was trying to find people who were interested in what I would be sharing and I started to befriend some local photographers in the Jacksonville community to get better. I wanted to get better at what I was doing and I formed some really cool relationships. Here it is called the ‘IGers Jax Community’. Back then, it was a portal to find like-minded photographers and bloggers. Through that community is how I was able to befriend photographers who were kind and humble enough to teach me some things.
“At the time and for the longest time I was using my phone to take photos. I was inspired to get my first camera — my entry DSLR camera was a Nikon — and some friends taught me the basics. With life happening, I was working a full-time job, doing side gigs as a musician, a lot of the times the things I wanted to shoot I didn’t have the opportunity to have my big camera with me and I just had my phone. I was using my phone to take photos of what interested me — highlighting the colorful aspects of Jacksonville. And still maintaining those principles and still maintaining those friendships with photographers that were humble and kind enough to take me under their wing and help me figure out what attracts my eye. They inspired me to look at my city in a different way. Really just accepting the city for what it is — and I say that because there was a time where some photographers coming from NYC and other cities like Atlanta — other cities that are photographers cities where there is a lot to it — whereas Jacksonville isn’t necessarily known as a photographer's city. I feel like there is a scene no matter where you go — it is just a matter of how you see a space. When I’m commuting and taking my daily commutes, I’m always looking around at spots to shoot and also spots that work for a fashion shot. That is how my blog grew — I was a bit of a quirky mix of one part fashion blogger, one part lifestyle and street elements photography. Over time I narrowed the field to what speaks the most to me which is currently fashion photography and portraiture.”
While Jordan used all the tools and available public resources as well as he enlisted the humble help of others he sought out, he still encountered early on what many taking on any new spaces will often encounter — the ‘you are not welcome here because there is a right way for how things should be done’ crowd — dismissing him, his work, and ultimately, his human worth. But he has persevered through all of that noise and entitled bigotedness. He credits VSCO for much of this entry-level help in his learning.
“I came across VSCO early. I was one of the earlier subscribers to it. The education of photography in it drew me in… it was free and accessible and broke down principles from a technical standpoint that were sometimes complicated. They would present information, you know, they would celebrate photography no matter what your skill was or what tool you had. They recognized that smartphones are deemed valid.
"With the rise of social media platforms, the photography community was beginning to feel jaded in a way. When others would post pictures online, it would take away the power of a photo. There’s a lot more you can get out of a photo with a camera, but I felt like those individuals were dismissing what folks have everyday. You can tell a story with your phone. There was a bit of that entitled mindset early on that I was dealing with in the blossoming photography community in Jacksonville — you would have individuals that wouldn’t acknowledge anything that you would do if you were only shooting with a phone. But here you have VSCO, they celebrate the story telling of a photo — it doesn’t matter if you have a smartphone or the most expensive Sony camera — it is all valid. And in some cases, there are some individuals that are telling better stories with their phones than individuals I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of dollars on cameras and getting too caught up in the technology. I like that VSCO found a way to speak to the vast community of creatives. A lot of my photography skills evolved from their photo challenges — even if those themes didn’t focus on what I wanted to shoot — it was worth it to give it a shot because it is going to inform your style of photography. Just learning how to understand tools. Their approach to teaching people for me was easier to digest and apply.”
Sometimes, Jordan would do photo challenges even if it didn’t pertain to what he was interested in shooting on his own time because it would inform him and teach him new skills. This is a lesson that in any work can help people discover how to love the process of creating things. The self-discipline required to practice new and complex skills that otherwise might be ignored, Jordan admits, is where his growth happened.
“Instagram had a challenge that was more inclusive to the entire Instagram community called ‘The Weekend Hashtag Project’. The project was taking photos based on a theme and sometimes implemented video, too. I would participate in those challenges even if it didn’t fit with what I was doing — which is actually how I grew — I got featured on Instagram a few years ago from a theme challenge.
"Landon Nordeman’s signature work, a well-renowned NY-based photographer that specializes in portraiture and fashion photography, but his signature work is actually taking photos of the backs of people using flash. He always had a twist on flashback photography. He is also known for taking these very up close shots that feels like it is in your face. It is really interesting. It is almost like they are posed but they are not. You’ll see these images where he is behind the scenes of a fashion show or he is taking photos at some political rally… the colors are bright and there is something invasive but not. It is interesting. So the theme was ‘Get close'. I used myself and I was also using VSCO at the same time to take elements of what they were teaching me about how to edit and about certain ways of how to frame and compose a shot. I was one of the handful of individuals Landon selected and I got featured on Instagram and things just took off from there.
“It created a ripple effect locally. I was using my phone at the time and I felt validated. I was like, look, you can take powerful stories with a phone. You just have to pay attention to what is around you. Sometimes the most mundane things can be turned into the most exquisite photos that don't require a whole lot to get a message across."
Jordan’s successes blogging his photography did not come overnight. The majority of his work to this day is based on his own outreach and pitch efforts to brands. Unlike most bloggers, he points out how he believes his work not only speaks for itself, but also that it is grounded in hard researched and empirically-driven data which he includes as part of his pitch. And, to top that off, Jordan values cultivating real-life relationships when partnering with new businesses online and local to his community.
“When my Instagram was growing, I took initiative and reached out to the brands I loved. I think folks even to this day have this concept that people are supposed to come to you. In rare situations that does happen, that is not the status quo. There is effort involved. I will say I have had the privilege of having brands in my niche approach me and just send me products that I liked, but when it comes to working with other menswear apparel — that is not always easy. And I get it, too. I’m hardly the only one approaching them that wants to work with them. There is also the authenticity factor. I would take the initiative of reaching out to brands and to local businesses. I was trying to incorporate a bit of a fashion and lifestyle element. Offline, I would try to get the business owners and managers themselves. I would want to cultivate a real relationship instead of something that comes off as a sense of entitlement. Over time, I’ve been able to form some relationships that are more mature.”
Jordan is a mentor in the space, often encouraging other bloggers especially young ones to put in the work. His advice to them is to be honest and maintain your integrity as an artist.
“The art of the pitch matters for certain brands you want to work with — you know your own worth. Folks say to me to this day things like, ’Well, I want to work this brand and that brand.’ And I tell them, ‘That is all cool. Great. You also have to think about how to talk to brands because they have to see the value in what you are offering as well. Be honest about what you can and can’t deliver.’
“Flash forward to today. Now. I feel like it is important for me that I do not want to wear a product when you see a post that you forgot about and never see it again. I tell folks when you want to work with a brand, be honest with them about what your voice is, about what you are pitching to your audience, and just consider, ‘Is this product that you want to live with?’ This stuff isn’t cheap! You have to see things long-term.
“Some of the bigger brands want a whole lot out of you and you have to ask yourself, ‘Is it really worth it?’ And some of them aren’t really interested in keeping up a relationship with you. I don’t know. It is a mixed bag. There are pros and cons to working with different brands. I personally enjoy working with small and mid-sized brands. I’ve known bloggers that will literally move to places like LA and NYC to get more access into those spaces. But it is so competitive. There are a lot that really want to chase the image but they don’t stop to think about well, what are you really putting out that is going to be long-lasting and true to you. I like working with smaller brands. I feel like there is way more of a dialogue. There is way more open-mindedness to trying something and also to understanding that I don’t want — for me — I don’t want a transactional post. I understand my audience. I’m not one of those super-influencers where I can blink my eye on Instagram and it just goes viral for absolutely no reason.”
Unlike many bloggers, Jordan isn’t living for the posts and the likes. He is living, and he posts what he likes and likes what he posts. It really speaks to his integrity as someone whose style represents his depth, taste, and ability to do important work in this space — however seen or not.
“Sometimes, what I will do too is there will be moments where I might be talking about a whole other brand but you may be seeing wearing a shoe like my Res Ipsa shoes because I am literally wearing the shoe because it is a part of my style. It is a part of my taste. To this day, I always get compliments wearing Res Ipsa shoes. The point of it is I just want creators out there that are still new to this — stop thinking so transactionally. Think about ‘What are my values and your sense of integrity to this space?’ That matters a lot to the brands you want to work with.”
It will be a year this May since the death of George Floyd sparked a nationwide protest and spurred more wide-ranging support into the Black Lives Matter movement and into ending racism in the United States. Over the summer of 2020, many brands rushed to find Black creators and creatives to fill the literal lack of color in their Instagram squares. Others genuinely pushed to show solidarity to the BIPOC communities. But many just wanted affirmation from the public that they are OK so long as they found a Black artist, Black model, or any person of color to represent their brand image. Then they could check that box, literally. Others, for different reasons, ignored this push altogether as they continued to use their space and voice for promoting their core values.
Where he can be and when he feels like it, Jordan is more selective with the brands he partners with on projects post-2020.
“Truth be told, I’ve never been a menswear blogger where brands are like, ‘Look, he is in GQ.’ But, the menswear space is interesting right now. There are different groups that appeal to different taste levels and brands cater to those groups. For example, you have menswear bloggers that are more into the suit-style than anything else. Then you have your denim-heads. Then you have the brands that go to those particular groups. I am in the middle. I am not really — if I feel like being dapper, I’ll be dapper. If I feel like being casual, I’ll be casual — and every now and then I’ll get approached… Not as much these days. From what I am seeing, brands are acting more politically. They are choosing bloggers in a political sense. It is bringing interesting results.”
Jordan rightfully prides himself his consistency, his honesty and his integrity with the professional work he delivers. All the same, Jordan is up against an industry and a space that often only views and works for what they believe and imagine their audience wants at that moment.
“I am a little bit jaded by it in the sense that, just how we are talking about how for me it is important not to form transactional relationships with brands, I think the same should be said about those that jump on an idea. Whatever the zeitgeist is that is happening in our society. Brands will jump on that bandwagon… But there is a double-edge sword. I feel like we don’t give people enough credit as to how we are about reading the room. You have ones (bloggers) that know how to say certain things to brands that also don’t want to be viewed in a negative light especially with regards to the complexities of hard, hard conversations that are going on in American and abroad.
“For me, I just do my own thing. Right now I am in a phase where I want to help engage more of a conversation on what is Floridian-style, at least in NE Florida. The menswear scene in NE Florida is sparse. The more south you go, the more you’ll see menswear bloggers for Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. But up here, in Jacksonville, I’m still the odd one out. All these years I’ve been blogging. I think there is a hunger (here). I’ve always come across gentleman across town that do care about style. The hurdle that I’m currently dealing with is that I’m writing more detailed opinions about style hacks that make sense to me as well as make sense to living in Florida. The challenge is trying to appeal to brands that I think will not only be appealing to my audience which is predominantly Floridian. I also am trying to engage my local community in the conversation of this intersection between style and community.
“I feel like what we need in Jacksonville…I’ve been to LA, there is definitely a style there. It speaks to the cultural identity of not only LA but Malibu, Santa Monica, etc… And when you go up to San Francisco, the style is very different up there. In my opinion, it is sartorial. From what I saw it is distinctly sartorial even in the streetwear from my visit there. That is something when I visit these places and then think about my hometown, it is like, you know, Jacksonville is still a city that is trying to define itself. I think we are definitely discovering we are becoming a foodie city. I want to speak to the style of it. Like, I always say, ‘When you go to Miami, Miami will let you know!’
“But up here in northeast Florida, there isn’t much of a conversation about that so my efforts right now is getting back into blogging, blogging. Not to say Instagramming isn’t blogging, it is just I feel like the space is extremely saturated and there are a lot of duplicates. I feel like we can post and tag these brands all day long but who is actually educating folks? Some of my friends are trying to use Instagram reels and the tools on Instagram to provide a more educational, bite-sized bits of information.
Jordan is looking to evolve his blogging and writing away from Instagram and its constantly changing algorithm and into more permanent spaces like his personal website.
“I feel like the way Instagram has constantly tried to evolve — it has kind of become a whole lot of things. You only have a few seconds to capture anyone’s attention otherwise they’ll completely miss and dismiss otherwise useful information. I’m putting more effort into my website. As you said, I’m writing more. I’m finding a new sense of liberty in expressing myself more. Not that I don’t feel that way on Instagram — there is just something empowering about writing. If I am going to talk about a pair of shorts, I’m going to write. There is something therapeutic about writing in a way that hopefully provides something useful for someone that is subscribed. Those readers are more locked in. I treat them differently because those are my ride-or-dies so-to-speak. I just want to provide more ownership into what I’m putting out. When it comes to brands that I’m working with now — I’m not really — it is important to maintain relationships with brands that you have grown up with. Like with us. Like with Res Ipsa. You guys have been absolutely wonderful to me.
“Whereas I still see bloggers trying to chase these brands. There are so many to choose from and I think one’s that are trying to chase brands are also trying to define their identity in the space as well. I think that it is important for me to maintain the relationships that I’ve cultivated. I’m not so eager these days to be chasing after all these brands. I still have a desire to expand with what I am doing. I’m trying to get brands to view me — in my opinion — sometimes I feel like I am not viewed as a legitimate menswear blogger. And I say that because there is still a bit of a tribalism to the menswear blogger scene. You have menswear bloggers that won’t acknowledge you unless… you wear a suit. Are you saying that I don’t have style if I don’t have a suit on? Or I’m not wearing selvedge denim? I’m in this everyday style sort of space. The guys that are in the middle. One day I might feel like wearing a suit, but I also live in Florida, you know?
“I’m really trying to curtail my content for the guy that is not beyond… His budget might be Target and H&M, but then he has the money to buy some really nice shoes. I’m trying to talk to that guy.”
This blogging experience, as we discussed, in a broader sense, is like any space in America: it is the experience that is all about getting access into the club. 'What’s your name?’ ‘How did you get here?’ 'What’s your story?’ And ultimately, all of these questions are getting at ‘you don’t belong here.’ Unless, of course, you are invited in.
Whereas others can come in and out of these spaces at will, Jordan has always been there yet rarely feels seen there.
“I’ve seen this discussion and conversation in the women’s wear spaces. However, I don’t think guys are even really wanting to have a conversation about this in the menswear space. I just noticed myself, with me, I can be a dude that can wear some loafers or I can wear some sneakers. It draws out different pockets. The interesting thing is, despite ones (bloggers) coming from those different teams, everyone is claiming to get seen if they are going to comment on a guy’s account that has an exceptionally huge following. For example, a popular suit dude might break his trend and wear some casual denim and sneakers and then people will comment in the first ten seconds just really for the sake of being seen as in the hopes of getting that same brand attention or new follower. And it is like, well OK, you also follow me. I actually wore something kind of similar. Maybe not as expensive as that dude, but I understand fit as well..but that love is circumstantial it’s hardly unconditional. Truth is everyone plays the game to varying degrees.”
Pt. V — Final Entry
“It was kind of my way of keeping my sanity…”
Jordan opens up about how he has spent a lot of the past year writing music, and why. When he was in college, he took a lot of music courses. He studied under a professor who was trained in classical piano and also jazz piano — influencing a lot of the skills Jordan uses to this day in his professional freelance performance gigs.
“Sometimes clients will want you to play a song that there is not any literature for soul violin and ensemble. I would take those skills and apply them to certain gigs.”
During the pandemic, around the summer of 2020 and the death of George Floyd was really when Jordan started writing music again.
“It was interesting to see this explosion of the conversation of the Black experience in general. Those conversations just stemmed from his tragic death and also other sectors of culture where the Black experience is concerned. Me being a Black violinist, there were conversations happening in the classical world that were interesting as well…sort of a rediscovery of notable, classical Black composers.
Joran shared how he had heard of some the Black composers being mentioned again and how others had too, but they had not spent nearly the same amount of time learning about these individuals that were contemporaries and sometimes students of classical great composers at the time as they did the white ones.
“I started writing music that was inspired by a violinist who was also a contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Joseph Boulogne. There is actually going to be a movie about him, which I’m really excited to see what they do with this. He has a really rich history and life. Long-story short, he was a virtuoso violinist, he was a slave, his parents were slaves. He was mixed race, bi-racial, and they had to market him in a way that was palatable at the time… He was also an expert champion swordsmen who led his own battalion in the French Revolution. He has allegedly had a love affair with Marie Antoinette. She was definitely a big fan. I love the French. I love the French. He was like the French Mozart.
"He actually was pushing the limits of what the violin could do at the time where we can actually prove that Mozart was a little jealous. Mozart actually borrowed, really ripped off a particular melodic line that Joseph wrote. He wrote a lot of literature for violin — string concertos. The reason I say he was pushing the envelope is because during that time of the Renaissance period, there were certain classical forms. It was kind of a rule set of writing particular music in a formulaic way. He was still a student of that, but at the time, as the violin was also maturing as to what could be physically done — the best way to describe it — the violin we can play super high notes and all that, and the music at the time was not exposing the fact that the violin could do that. Whereas Mozart wrote string literature, being a pianist, he wrote music in a very pianist way. Joseph Boulogne wrote in a very violinistic way — and he was ground-breaking of that time of writing what we now look back on as music that was more romantic, more exaggerated, more risky and he took risks with what that instrument could do.
“As a ground-breaking composer and violinist, he is not talked about as much. When I would take music history, it was like he gets a paragraph. I had to learn about him by myself. I always knew about him. But with all of these things happening, there was a resurgence of learning about him as well as a variety of other Black composers. What drew my interest in writing music again was his style of writing. If you were to close your eyes and listen, you might be able to tell the difference between Boulogne’s style and Mozart’s style. There is a school of thought during that time period…He writes music akin to his style. I got really impaired by that. With all these conversations of being seen as a valid, living-breathing human and being viewed and judged fairly, Joseph also went through a period of being a phenomena and being an anomaly to a world that he actually went through racism. He was the best violinist in the orchestra. He was bi-racial. Folks didn’t know what to do with that. It was like, he is both, but… They marketed him at that time like a child-star. They would travel around and he would perform and gain the attention of the aristocracy. That is how you submitted your space in life. He was interesting because he is called the Black Mozart because that markedly made sense. It sparked an interesting debate in the classical music world about how the world views you versus I know who I am. You know? Versus what I’m being told and how others should view me and what you should expect out of me despite the fact that this is what I can do. You know?”
Jordan is writing a string quartet as both an homage to Joseph Boulogne and a commentary about this moment in history.
“Joseph Boulogne had to kind of navigate society in a codified way. He was aware that there were advantages of being mixed race. He wasn’t ignorant to the fact that he had a secret child. He had a child with a white woman. They were never going to recognize a mixed race situation — we are talking like colonialism. That was never, ever going to happen. He was dealing with society at multiple levels. Who he is versus how society thinks he should be treated — it is interesting being a phenomenon and an anomaly. He also fought for the abolition of slavery as well. He is finally going to get his movie. I just hope they do it right.
It doesn’t take much to see the parallels between Jordan and Joseph. Like a fugue, their stories are complicated, beautiful, rich and layered. And unlike a fugue, their stories don’t follow and rely on the unjust, centuries-old societal rules written and measured about them before they even get the chance to write their own stories. Their stories are real and while they are rare, they are more-so rarely told. They deserve to be told.
“There are a lot of layers to him. I am interested in stories that are rare. They kind of flip the script. Odd stories. I was very inspired by his music and some of the challenges he had to go through. I’ve been writing this since last summer. It is an homage to Joseph and a commentary to identity. A commentary about… you mentioned before, in my happily canceled blog, “Living My Life Like its Cancelled: My Open Letter to Bloggers and Critical Thinkers,” I wrote about speaking up in a way that surprises people versus what they expect of you. Not to say you don’t understand the sentiments of what is going on, but speaking up as an individual. There is an interesting through-line with how Joseph Boulogne had to live his life, knowing who he was as an individual but navigating an interesting situation where the powers that be will still want to deem you as one or the other.
“There is joy to the music. I just want to put out stuff that is unifying but also thought-provoking. I’ve been in talks with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra about it. I’m dedicated to finally finishing it. I was gravely affected by the pandemic and writing that piece of music was a form of therapy as well as going on photo walks in areas I felt comfortable to go. I listened to music. Just finding the things that still bring me joy even though there are serious discussions that are still being had today. There is still a way to maintain your inner peace and reclaim your inner peace. This piece is a release. Before this year is over, it is going to get performed!”
We look forward to hearing Jordan’s performance when he is ready to share it and we wish him the best as he continues forward with all of his work. We hope you will follow his journey on his Instagram and read his styling tips and work on his blog.