You might not know it from the various hats she wears - Pyeng, the songstress, the voice coach, the Alexander Technique specialist - but Ms. Threadgill is also an adept writer. Judging from the likes of artists she has written for, this starts to become apparent. One of the more well known? Her father, composer and Pulitzer Prize winner Henry Threadgill. In 2014 Pyeng wrote lyrics to the composer's "The Last Mango," which premiered at the Very Very Threadgill festival at Harlem Stage, an event curated by pianist/composer Jason Moran.
"It felt totally normal and totally surreal. I've obviously been hearing his music for a long time...and his musical instincts feel very natural to me" Pyeng explains. Yet whether depicting the poetic demise of an overly ripe mango or longing for a bygone era when people drew inspiration from the sounds and signs of the earth, Ms. Threadgill paints pictures rich in hope and pain.
Revealing this collective pain became a reality when she was commissioned in 2015 by Urban Latin dance theater company Contra-Tiempo to co-write text for Agua Furiosa, an evening-length work inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. The interpretation focused on the perspective of the originally outcast and dark skinned Caliban. "I love Contra Tiempo. The work they are doing is so committed to creating dialogue and uplifting people's voices who have regularly been silenced" Pyeng says. "When I was in high school I remember feeling a new sense of self and a real interest in learning when I started reading books by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Jean Toomer and others...where I was suddenly the main character".
Pyeng's character expanded as well when she became a mother and a teacher. "I used to teach early childhood music so that sort of brought me into this family music scene". You can find Pyeng credited as writing several children's songs including "The Bottle Song" for Arfie & Friends (2007) "paJAMa", "Every Day" and others for children’s musician Nikoskids.
Still Pyeng is curious about carving and following her own path. She states "when I was young I used to make lists of my favorite words from hip hop songs...that's how much I loved their sound and the sound of rhyme...and I love studying languages. So I guess I'm just as stuck on this as I am music," she says. Ms. Threadgill is currently writing a book of original poetry and prose.