Audra McDonald and Lady Day

 

In an interview, Audra McDonald discussed Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille, for which she won the Best Actress in a Play Tony Award in 2014.

“It’s about a woman trying to get through a concert performance, which I know something about, and she’s doing it at a time when her liver was pickled and she was still doing heroin regularly.”

“I might have been a little judgmental about Billie Holiday early on in my life, but what I’ve come to admire most about her—and what is fascinating in this show—is that there is never any self-pity. She’s almost laughing at how horrible her life has been. I don’t think she sees herself as a victim. And she feels an incredible connection to her music—she can’t sing a song if she doesn’t have some emotional connection to it, which I really understand.”

“One wonderful thing for me is there are tons of recordings of Billie that I’ve been listening to and watching, even audio of her talking about certain songs, so I have a lot to draw on.”

Quoted in “Audra McDonald to return to Broadway as Billie Holiday” by Patrick Healey (The New York times 26 February 2014; RILM Abstracts 2014-89300).

Today is McDonald’s 50th birthday! Below, excerpts from her Tony Awards performance.

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Filed under Dramatic arts, Jazz and blues, Performers, Popular music

Morton Feldman and Persian carpets

 

Repetition and variation are important components of the music of Morton Feldman—components that he extracted from his observation of Persian carpet designs.

Rug design and music are arts that use symbolic language to express certain concepts with a focus on the idea of unity in multiplicity. The designs of some Persian carpets are based on the weaver’s mind map, which resembles Feldman’s musical approach. Key elements of these carpet patterns correspond directly to Feldman’s use of repetition and symmetry in his works.

This according to “A study on the rug patterns and Morton Feldman’s approach” by A.A. Javadi and M. Fujieda (International journal of music science, technology and art II/1 [2020] 48–53; RILM Abstracts 2020-3041). Many thanks to Improbable research for bringing this study to our attention!

Above, a comparison of selected carpets with excerpts from Feldman’s Crippled symmetry; below, the work itself.

Related post: Morton Feldman’s The viola in my life

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Filed under 20th- and 21st-century music, Curiosities, Visual art

Charpentier and social history

 

Gustave Charpentier was one of the most original of the fin de siècle composers, and his works—particularly Le couronnement de la muse (1897) and Louise (1900)—have to be understood in the appropriate political and social context.

Until now, the success of Louise has eclipsed the output of a composer who wished to be in touch with the working class without remaining isolated in a purely artistic dimension. Charpentier was in fact among the first artists to adapt his works to the new communication media of radio and cinema, experimenting with a method of composing closely connected to them. His works reveal a world in which music and social history are inextricably associated, illuminating the contradictions that enlivened fin de siècle France.

This according to La dramaturgie de Gustave Charpentier by Michela Niccolai (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011; RILM Abstracts 2011-13384).

Today is Charpentier’s 160th birthday! Below, Renée Fleming sings his Depuis le jour.

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Filed under Romantic era

The Music of Black Lives Matter

 

Following is a timeline of writings on the relationship between music and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This timeline is selective–sourced from various scholarly writings and music journalism currently included in RILM Abstracts. We encourage the reader to add additional relevant readings, and links to other sources, in the comments section. We hope that this compendium of readings, with textual extracts entirely in the authors’ own words, can serve as a jumping off point for anyone interested in learning more about the crucial relationship between BLM and music. Again and again, authors and activists have observed the undeniable power of speaking, chanting, and singing the names of lives lost to human rights violations and encounters with the police. Links to additional information about the named victims–there are unfortunately far too many to include here–and the music made in tribute to them, are included throughout.

 

July 13, 2013

“The twenty-first-century Movement for Black Lives began to stir in 2013 after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of the murder of Trayvon Martin. In reaction to the acquittal, Alicia Garza wrote a love letter to Black people, and she ended the letter by writing, “Black people. I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives Matter.” Patrisse Cullors, her friend, put a hashtag on it, and Opal Tometi helped to build a network of folks who wanted to unite under that message: #BlackLivesMatter.”

Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith

 

December 4, 2013

“When Anthony D.J. Branker heard about Trayvon Martin, he could not help but think of an experience he had in his early 20s, just after graduating from Princeton University. “I was stopped by police at gunpoint because it was believed I broke into someone’s home”, he said. “I fit a profile. Police surrounded my car”. Branker, who celebrates his 25th anniversary this year as founder and director of the program in jazz studies at Princeton, has composed a piece of music that draws on Martin’s story, which he said “moved me to the core”. Ballad for Trayvon Martin for Orchestra and Jazz Quartet, written in honor of the 17-year-old who was shot in 2012 in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman, will receive its world premiere tomorrow.”

”Princeton Jazz Professor Composes Ballad for Trayvon Martin by Ronni Reich, The Star-Ledger

 

March 4, 2014
The Department of Justice today released its investigation of the Ferguson [Missouri] police, which found a pattern and practice of discriminatory policing. The report includes seven racist emails sent by Ferguson officers. In its review, the Justice Department also found 161 use of force complaints against the Ferguson police from 2010 to 2014. Only one case was founded and no officer was disciplined…The conclusions come nearly seven months after a confrontation with officer Darren Wilson left 18-year-old Michael Brown dead. In the wake of the controversial slaying of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, Brown’s death reignited a national debate over race in America and sparked protests across the country. Separately today, the DOJ announced that Wilson will not be charged in Brown’s death.”

”Ferguson Report: Rampant Racism and Other Scathing Findings From Probe”, ABC News

 

October 6, 2014
“It was a protest of an altogether different sort. Rather than take to the streets of Ferguson, these demonstrators took their demands to the seats of the symphony. As the St. Louis Symphony returned from intermission Saturday night and readied to launch into Brahms’ ‘Ein deutsches Requiem’ (A German Requiem), two audience members stood up and began singing an old protest song–modified for a new cause. “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all, Which side are you on friend? Which side are you on?” Then, others slowly joined in–in the balcony, on the floor, in various parts of the auditorium. The protesters unfurled banners. “Mike Brown 1996-2014”, said one. “Racism lives here”, said another. The reaction was mixed. There was applause among many in the audience. Other patrons remained unimpressed. “He was a thug”, a man was captured on camera saying.

Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, was shot to death by a white police officer in August, fueling protests and spurring a debate on police use of force.”
”Ferguson Flash Mob Disrupts St. Louis Symphony with Michael Brown Requiem” by Saeed Ahmed, CNN

March 2015

“Sometimes a piece of music waits for its moment. Heroes + Misfits, the rock-and-R&B-steeped debut by pianist Kris Bowers, was released on Concord last March, and for a while I regarded it a bit warily: Though I admired its clarity of purpose and execution, I couldn’t fully embrace the album’s urgent, portentous air. Then I saw Bowers and his band at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park. More to the point, I heard them play an electrifying version of “#TheProtester,” track three on the album, with an imploring ad-lib vocal by Chris Turner. “Who are we?” Turner sang plaintively. “What are we?/What are we to do?” He repeated those questions as a refrain, making meaningful tweaks-like “Who are we to you?”-before lowering the boom, with anguished allusions to the situation on the ground in an American city. It was late August, and I’m certain that no one in that age-diverse Harlem crowd needed to be told that Turner was invoking Ferguson, Mo., where citizen protests had been going strong in the wake of a police shooting, two weeks earlier, that took the life of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, Michael Brown. Poignant and raw, the performance resonated with the national mood-and altered my perception of Bowers’ album, which no longer felt quite so overdetermined. By almost any measure we’ve been living through an era of deep tensions in this nation, driven in large part by institutionalized racial injustice. The slaying of Michael Brown came only weeks after Eric Garner, another unarmed black man, was choked to death by a New York City police officer. Mass protests across the country, sparked by a grand jury’s decision not to indict Garner’s killer, found a rallying cry in ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

“What Are We To Do?” by Nate Chinen, JazzTimes magazine

June 21, 2015

“Last year the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented research demonstrating that “youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers”. The report estimates that 30% of young people in urban “combat zones” suffer from some form of PTSD. When I mention this to Kendrick Lamar, he nods and says: “That’s real”…One reason that To Pimp a Butterfly [released on 15 March 2015, Top Dawg Entertainment] has resonated so powerfully is timing. Its complex reflections on identity and racism landed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and a string of cases in which unarmed black men died at the hands of the police. “The timing of both was kind of uncanny”, the R&B singer D’Angelo said recently, comparing it to his own similarly weighty and panoramic Black Messiah album. “It was almost a sign: motherfuckers are making some shit that’s relevant to the times”. But Kendrick started plotting the angriest song, “The Blacker the Berry”, long before his last album and wrote the first draft in a furious burst after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot dead by vigilante George Zimmerman in February 2012.”

”Kendrick Lamar: ‘I Am Trayvon Martin. I’ll All of These Kids’” by Dorian Lynskey, The Guardian

 

August 14, 2015
“During a company conference call with financial analysts last week, Tom Brown, the chief executive of LRAD, a military contractor, informed investors that sales were rolling in, not just from Chinese government agencies and the U.S. Navy, but also from American law enforcement. LRAD manufactures an acoustic cannon that can be used either as a mounted loudspeaker or as a weapon to fire deafening noises at crowds of people. Over the last year, following a wave of protests over officer-involved killings of black Americans, LRAD has seen an uptick in inquiries from police departments around the country…Videos of the NYPD using the LRAD cannon to manage the demonstrators were widely circulated on YouTube, company officials boasted. “So we have been getting good press”, Brown noted, adding, “depending on which side of the press you’re looking at, but we’ve been getting very strong press from law enforcement”. Notably, the LRAD-100X was deployed against Ferguson protesters last year, and has made appearances at other Black Lives Matter events over the last 12 months. In Ferguson, the LRAD cannon was fired on protesters who had assembled in the street. The LRAD device can reach 152 decibels, a level that can cause permanent hearing damage.”

”Acoustic Cannon Sales to Police Surge After Black Lives Matter Protests” by Lee Fang, The Intercept

 

August 14, 2015

“After leading a Philadelphia march against police brutality on August 12th, one-time Atlantan Janelle Monáe has released a moving new #BlackLivesMatter protest song through her label Wondaland Records. In the song, “Hell You Talmbout”, Monáe and her label mates (Jidenna, Deep Cotton, St. Beauty, Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, and George 2.0) invoke the names of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Sean Bell, and Emmett Till, among others. The track, which implores listeners to “say his/her name!” is a “vessel”, said Monáe on her Instagram: “Silence is our enemy. Sound is our weapon. They say a question lives forever until it gets the answer it deserves…Won’t you say their names?”

Jennifer Rainey Marquez in Atlanta magazine

 

October 13, 2016

“The arts scene in Baltimore is really rich and very vibrant. It’s one of the untold stories of the city. Trauma takes away people’s power, and part of our collective work is to help people reclaim their power at the individual level and restore power at the system level. Art and music has a role to play in that. I think about so many people for whom music is one of the ways that they process the world, the way they’ve understood their own gifts, the way they’ve relearned or learned anew how to believe in themselves, or how they’ve been exposed to new ideas and new perspectives. In liberation work, it’s a conversation about how we process the world to make it better.”

–DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter organizer, quoted in ”Black Lives Matter’s DeRay Mckesson on the Power of Protest Music”, pitchfork.com

 

November 2016

“Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see “difference”. At least that is what conventional wisdom has led us to believe. Yet, this book argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear–voices, musical taste, volume—as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, the author helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them. Through analysis of the historical traces of sounds of African American performers, Stoever reveals a host of racialized aural representations operating at the level of the unseen–the sonic color line–and exposes the racialized listening practices she figures as “the listening ear”. In the process, the author radically revises the established historiography of sound studies, and sounds out how Americans have created, heard, and resisted “race”, so that we may hear our contemporary world differently.”

–Book summary for The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening by Jennifer Lynn Stoever

 

June 13, 2017

“Algiers are releasing a new album, The Underside of Power, on June 23 via Matador. They have previously shared the album’s title track. Now they have shared another song from the album, “Cleveland”. The song references Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old African American boy who was shot to death by police in Cleveland in 2014 because he was playing with a toy gun in a playground. The song also mentions other “victims of state sanctioned violence” as a press release puts it, including Kindra Chapman, Andre Jones, Lennon Lacy, Sandra Bland, Roosevelt Pernell, Keith Warren, and Alfred Wright.”

Christopher Roberts in Under the Radar magazine

 

July 26, 2017

“Baltimore’s Lafayette Gilchrist is a jazz pianist, but when his band the New Volcanoes backs him up, listeners also get something different: a go-go beat. Gilchrist describes go-go, a style native to Washington, D.C., and its environs, as “almost like a slowed-down James Brown, but you have a combination of African rhythms”. Blended with his jazz piano playing, that’s the sound of Gilchrist’s latest album, New Urban World Blues, released this May. The album’s powerful leading track is “Blues For Freddie Gray”, dedicated to the young West Baltimore man who died in 2015 of severe spinal injuries sustained while in the custody of the Baltimore City Police. Gilchrist is from the part of Baltimore where Gray was arrested.”
”Lafayette Gilchrist plays the ‘Blues for Freddie Gray’” by Phil Harrell, NPR Music

 

May 5, 2018
“I happened to listen to “This Is America”, the new single by Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, before I saw the eloquent, ultra-violent accompanying video concocted by Glover and the director Hiro Murai. One of the song’s three strands is set to a benign Afrobeat rhythm, with Glover and a backing choir echoing old, edifying dogmas of black striving (“Grandma told me / Get your money, black man”); in another, Glover assumes the tempo of a jazz poet as he declares, “This Is America”; in the third, the familiar voices of Quavo, 21 Savage, and Young Thug are incorporated into the song as ambient reverberations, rather than as discrete guest features. The song, which Glover performed during his hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, seemed like a portal into a successful black man’s psyche, consumed as it is by guilt and by vanity. I liked it. The video, which was released online as Glover performed the track on live television, turned the single into a pessimistic statement on American entertainment–both the making and consumption of it…With the 2016 release of Awaken, My Love!, the funk album released under his Childish Gambino moniker, and the premier of the FX television series Atlanta that same year, suddenly Glover was being called the lodestar of a consciousness, with an uncanny insight into what it is to be young and black and uncertain. Rather than simply becoming a spokesman, however, Glover the musician has found ways to point to the absurdity of the celebrity worship that attends his fame. In his new video, he is the executor of carnage and chaos. “This Is America” is being analyzed on Twitter as if it were the Rosetta Stone. The video has already been rapturously described as a powerful rally cry against gun violence, a powerful portrait of black-American existentialism, a powerful indictment of a culture that circulates videos of black children dying as easily as it does videos of black children dancing in parking lots. It is those things, but it is also a fundamentally ambiguous document.”
”The Carnage and Chaos of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” by Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker

August 2018

“In these perilous times, a new age of injustice, African American musicians in the blues scene are singing out louder than ever through verse and song lyrics. Given the current backlash against Black Lives Matter on social media, even by a few misguided people professing to be blues fans, it is important that a new wave of protest and social change songs has emerged. Protest songs are examined by Brooklyn-based singer Hubby Jenkins (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops), deep roots banjoist and fiddler Rhiannon Giddens (former bandmate and current collaborator with Jenkins), Scandinavia-based acoustic blues musician Eric Bibb, and blues harmonica player, teacher, and songwriter Phil Wiggins.”
”Outrage Channeled in Verse” by Frank Matheis, Living Blues magazine

 

10 August 2018

“[I]n a forum at the 2015 annual meeting for members of the Society for Ethnomusicology [w]e held a roundtable discussion titled “Black Music Matters: Taking Stock” to consider the threats and challenges to black music scenes as well as the strength of black music and its ability to serve as an expression of black life in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement. Since that moment, many other African Americans have died, many at the hands of police, but the killing of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, a significant tipping point, catapulted the Black Lives Matter movement into plain view on social media sites and news networks. At the same time, musicians started releasing songs in tandem with the movement’s development. Songs like J. Cole’s “Be Free” (2014), D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “The Charade” (2014), The Game’s “Don’t Shoot” (2014), Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” (2015), Usher’s “Chains” (2015), Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (2015), and others provided a thematic soundscape the panelists could analyze and critique–activist music flooding the airwaves and heralding a new period of activism for the second millennium.

[…]

The Black Lives Matter movement is not the civil rights movement. It is something else. It is a motivating, dynamic movement still developing in the second millennium, mobilizing similar programs, organizations, and interested allies protesting racial injustice today to work together. Because black music and vernacular forms frame much of Black Lives Matter and Music, we strive to bring to light not just the unfinished narratives that are yet to be realized but rather the recurring or revitalized narratives that have been pronounced in epochs since enslavement, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and the Los Angeles uprising of 1992. From Trayvon to Mike Brown to Sandra Bland to Freddie Grey to Alton Sterling to Philando Castile to Stephon Clark, these are just a few names that have become shorthand points of reference, flash points created from grand juries’ nonindictment for the killing of black men and women in the early years of this new millennium.”

–from the Introduction to Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection by Fernando Orejuela

 

June 3, 2020

“BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo delivered an emotional anti-racism speech on Blackout Tuesday (2nd June), an industry-wide initiative demanding racial justice and structural change in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Amfo, who presents the mid-morning show on BBC R1, explained that she didn’t have the ‘mental strength’ to come into the station to broadcast on Monday (1st June), following the death of George Floyd. ‘I was sat on my sofa crying, angry, confused… stuck at the news of yet another brutalised black body. Knowing how the world enjoys blackness, and seeing what happened to George, we, black people, get the feeling people want our culture, but don’t want us’. She added that ‘One of my favourite thinkers is a woman called Amanda Seales, and she says this and I feel it deeply when she says, ‘You cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues’. And I say that with my chest’”.

”Clara Amfo: ‘You Cannot Enjoy the Rhythm and Ignore the Blues” in DJ Mag

 

June 4, 2020
“In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, streaming numbers for protest songs have soared. Vintage tracks like N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police” that specifically call out police violence serve as a reminder that our current national crisis is nothing new. As Black Lives Matter resistance continues across the country, artists have channeled their anger and sadness into new protest anthems, directly inspired by Floyd’s death and its aftermath. Here’s how artists including YG, LL Cool J, Teejayx6, Terrace Martin, Conway the Machine, Hiss Golden Messenger, Wyatt Waddell, Trey Songz, and Nnamdï have responded to the latest chapter of an age-old crisis.”
New Protest Anthems: Songs of the Uprising for George Floyd” by Jonathan Bernstein, Kory Grow, and Hank Shteamer, Rolling Stone

 

7 June, 2020

“This year’s seniors are leaving academia amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and a global uprising against police brutality toward black people, and through it all, Beyoncé wants you to know: You’re already doing great. “Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that black lives matter”, the singer tells students during YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 streaming special, headlined by the Obamas. “The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken,” she explains. “Real change has started with you, this new generation of high-school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”
”Beyoncé Thanks Black Lives Matter Protestors, Talks Music-Industry Sexism in Commencement Speech” by Halle Kiefe, Vulture

 

June 8, 2020
“For those who are new to K-pop fandom, a fancam is a video closeup filmed by an audience member during a live performance by a K-pop idol group. Fancams have been the bane of many Twitter users, however, who often find their own viral threads hijacked by users posting fancams to capitalize upon the thread’s popularity. Following the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police force, K-pop “stans” redirected their energies to posts on Twitter and Instagram made by police departments seeking to identify protestors against police brutality–jamming them instead with videos of K-pop stars. Other strategies used to subvert such efforts, and to promote Black Lives Matter, are described–including hashtag derailment, Rickrolling for justice, and weaponizing Disney’s heavy-handed copyright policing.”

”How K-pop fans are weaponizing the internet for Black Lives Matter” by Aja Romano, Vox

 

June 9, 2020
Rachel Berry, a 28-year-old from New Jersey, described the fears she often feels as a black woman at country shows and festivals: Being worried that if she stands up to dance, someone will yell a racial slur. The uneasy feeling walking through parking lot tailgates and seeing Confederate flags. Sometimes, she declines to go to concerts because she Googles the city’s name and “racism” and the search reveals racist incidents…Although the popular image of a country music listener is a white person from the South, and concert crowds are overwhelmingly white, the genre’s popularity has expanded from coast to coast in recent years; a 2016 Country Music Association study found that nonwhite and Hispanic fans were the format’s fastest-growing audience. Country music’s roots are also in black history: the banjo originated in Africa and was played by slaves when they came to America. Eventually, white artists started to use the instrument…Country music fans know that, for a lot of artists, speaking up does not come naturally. Nashville singers are frequently encouraged to stay quiet about topics deemed controversial, such as gun control or politics, so they don’t alienate fans or risk backlash (see: Dixie Chicks, March 2003). But the killing of George Floyd, who died 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck, sparked an unusually large public outpouring from country singers, labels and organizations…Mickey Guyton, who just released a powerful song called “Black Like Me” has faced racism at her own concerts; she said she was called the n-word in a meet-and-greet line and was told not to talk about it. Last week, Guyton participated in a Zoom call titled “A Conversation on Being African-American in the Nashville Music Industry.”
“How the Country Music Industry Is Responding to George Floyd’s Death–and Facing Its Own Painful Truths” by Emily Yahr, Washington Post

 

June 9, 2020

“A collective of senior black music industry executives from companies including Warner, Sony, Universal Music Group, BMG, Live Nation, Spotify, and the Music Managers Forum has published an open letter to business leaders calling for immediate action on racism and marginalization within the sector. The newly formed Black Music Coalition welcomed industry statements of support on last week’s #BlackoutTuesday, a music industry-endorsed day of reflection during the ongoing global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but said that it was time to transform that support into “tangible changes”. The letter states: “The music industry has long profited  from the rich and varied culture of black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues”. Following #BlackoutTuesday, Republic Records, home to Ariana Grande and Drake, pledged to stop using the term “urban” to describe music made by black artists. The coalition’s signatories called for music companies across the board to cease use of the term and replace it with ‘black music’”.

”’Urban’ No More: Black British Music Execs Call for Industry Reforms” by Laura Snapes, The Guardian

 

June 9, 2020

“The British rapper, author, and podcast host talks to <NME> about education, solidarity, widespread activism, his recent BBC interview, and creating a level playing field for all–specifically, in relation to racially-based police brutality in the United Kingdom, and the nation’s legacy of colonialism. George Mpanga, a.k.a. George the Rapper. is a former schoolmate of Julian Cole, a man left brain damaged and paralyzed by British police after being “taken to the ground” by officers outside a Bedford nightclub in 2013.”
”George The Poet on Black Lives Matter: ‘This Is Our Opportunity to Reassess Our Story” by Sarah Jenkins, NME

 

June 9, 2020
Just as activists have raised their voices demanding justice for George Floyd and the many killed by police violence, the police have met them with their own sound: the LRAD. These audio devices, colloquially known as “sound cannons”, can be used either as conventional public address speaker systems or to generate extremely loud high-frequency sounds specifically intended for the dispersal of crowds, which can also cause pain, disorientation, and injury to those exposed to them. Genasys, manufacturers of the LRAD, issued a press release touting its use by police departments in seven cities during the protests of the last week, including Portland, Oregon, Colorado Springs, San Jose, and Fort Lauderdale. Protesters and journalists have reported their use in cities like Chicago and New York on social media. [This article] compile[s] a guide to the history of the LRAD, its capabilities, and best practices for protecting yourself in the event of its use and aftercare treatment if you are exposed.”

”Understanding the LRAD, the ‘Sound Cannon’ Police Are Using at Protests, and How to Protect Yourself From It” by Daphne Carr, pitchfork.com

 

June 10, 2020
The demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd have brought a wave of powerful protest music, with new tracks and revisited classics–including tracks by YG, Che Lingo, Kendrick Lamar, Terrance Martin, Keedron Bryant, Beyoncé, Bashy, and Dua Saleh.”

”YG, Che Lingo, Kendrick Lamar: The protest songs of Black Lives Matter 2020” by Joseph Chanté, The Guardian

 

June 10, 2020
“George Floyd was buried in his hometown of Houston, Texas, this week. Floyd left his mark on the city through his friends and family, but also through the music he made under the name Big Floyd. George Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward–the home of the city’s hip hop and rap scene. Floyd used to spend hours in producer DjD’s home studio, making the kind of slow-the-music-down form of rap made famous by the late DJ Screw, who also knew and worked with Floyd. Houston’s chopped and screwed scene, as the genre is called, is a lesser-known but proud one. It seems like everyone who’s part of it loves to rep their city, including Houston’s most famous native, Beyoncé. Music played a huge role in Floyd’s life: There was the chopped and screwed music, but also Christian hip hop, which friends say Floyd listened to a lot. The news of his death was particularly devastating for people around the Houston rap music scene because of how much loss they have experienced already, including the premature death of DJ Screw.”

”Houston’s hip-hop scene remembers George Floyd” by David Greene, NPR Music

 

June 15, 2020

“If there’s a music video that captures the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of June 2020, it’s YG’s “FTP”–which, obviously, is an abbreviation of “f— the police”. The song and the clip are an homage to N.W.A’s legendary 1988 song of the same name as well as “FDT (F— Donald Trump)”, YG’s 2016 collaboration with the late Nipsey Hussle. The “FTP” clip–filmed in Los Angeles on June 7 at a demonstration that saw Black Lives Matter, with YG and the BLD PWR organization, drawing a crowd that BLM estimated at nearly 100,000 people, one of the largest in the city’s history–also features several notable figures, ranging from academic and Black Lives Matters’ Los Angeles Chapter cofounder Melina Abdullah and actor Kendrick Sampson to Justin Bieber/Ariana Grande manager Scooter Braun…The video was directed and turned around quickly by Kariuki (who prefers to go only by that name), founder of Denied Approval, which is also a YouTube channel and a clothing line. Variety caught up with him about how the clip came together–and how he feels about criticism from rapper Chika and others who felt that YG exploited the march to make a video, and more.”
”Behind the Scenes of YG’s Black Lives Matter-Themed ‘FTP’ Video” by Shirley Ju, Variety

 

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Howlin’ Wolf and “Back door man”

 

In June 1960, after nine years of recording and over two decades of touring and performing, Howlin’ Wolf and some trusted sidemen entered Chess Studios in Chicago to cut three sides. Wolf was 50 years old and an established act; yet everything about the session’s results, and particularly the song Back door man, seems elusive and interstitial.

Jim Crow racial segregation—at least one of the many meanings of the song’s title—was then both legally discredited and locally practiced, in the North as well as the South. Minimal, sinister, and edgy, fueled by images of violence, betrayal, and polymorphous sexual bravado, structured throughout by riddles and dialectical reversals, Back door man is a sort of historical puzzle, fusing Jim Crow sound, Jim Crow sex, and Jim Crow space; it implies as well a theory of how sound and subject formation, and subject formation through sound, arise out of Jim Crow violence.

This according to “Back door man: Howlin’ Wolf and the sound of Jim Crow” by Eric Lott (American quarterly LXIII/3 [September 2011] 697–710; RILM Abstracts 2011-27928).

Today is Howlin’ Wolf’s 110th birthday! Below, the recording in question.

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Filed under Black studies, Jazz and blues, Performers

Robert Schumann and postmodern criticism

 

Robert Schumann’s 1831 review of Chopin’s op. 2 variations depicts enthusiastic friends breathlessly emoting over a musical work, commenting upon it in nonlinear and sometimes borderline incoherent phrases. In Schumann’s commentaries—the most prominent examples of the burgeoning nineteenth-century tradition of music criticism—there is often no critical distance whatsoever; intensity and immersion are the driving force of these essays.

Similarly, Beavis and Butt-head’s intense interaction with music is what most clearly defines their daily activities; and, as depictions of critics whose interpretive and even artistic operations are an integral part of life, they reveal themselves to be cut from the same cloth as Schumann’s critical personae Florestan and Eusebius.

This according to “Florestan and Butt-head: A glimpse into postmodern music criticism” by Andrew Dell’Antonio (American music XVII/1 [spring 1999] 65–86; RILM Abstracts 1999-2733).

Today is Schumann’s 210th birthday! Above, the composer in 1850; below, a grouping of four movements from his Carnaval, beginning with his musical depictions of Eusebius and Florestan.

 

Related article: Chopin on Schumann on Chopin

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Filed under Curiosities, Romantic era

The Chanterelle guitar anthology

 

In 2019 Schott issued The Chanterelle guitar anthology: 40 classical guitar miniatures from Sor to Segovia (RILM Abstracts 2019-16967), which presents 40 miniatures (studies, character pieces, caprices, etc.) from the Classic and Romantic eras through the 20th century. Most of the charming little pieces by well-known composers are from the catalogue of the renowned publisher of guitar music Chanterelle.

The selected pieces are of medium difficulty, ideal for music lessons, performances, and private music-making; the edition contains a detailed English preface with performance instructions for each individual piece. All pieces have been recorded by Alberto Mesirca on the accompanying audio CD.

Below, Fernando Sor’s Leçon op. 31, no. 21, one of the pieces included in the edition.

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Filed under New editions

International journal of music science, technology, and art

 

In 2019 Accademia Musicale “Studio Musica” launched International journal of music science, technology, and art, an international and double-blind peer-reviewed journal.

IJMSTA provides a platform for the publication of the most advanced research in music in the areas of acoustics, artificial intelligence, mathematical analysis, learning and teaching, history, and ethnomusicology. The journal welcomes original empirical investigations; the papers may represent a variety of theoretical perspectives and different methodological approaches.

Below, Sheriff Ghale, one of the Ghanaian popular musicians discussed in the inaugural issue.

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Filed under New periodicals, Science

T-bone Walker’s legacy

 

One of the most important and enduring icons of blues history, the charismatic T-Bone Walker radically transformed the music with a combination of instrumental virtuosity and stylistic and technical innovation throughout a career of unusual longevity and legendary significance.

Walker invented both the electric blues guitar concept and the sound identified with it. Incorporating jazz changes with blues innovations of his own design, he created a new guitar sound with a horn-like richness that was emulated by guitarists everywhere, but especially in his home state. Everybody that picked up a guitar in Texas wanted to sound like T-Bone, and his onstage acrobatics, complete with signature splits, were directly responsible for similarly extroverted stage antics by later performers such as Chuck Berry, James Brown, and Jimi Hendrix.

This according to “Walker, T-Bone” by Michael Point (Encyclopedia of the blues, 2006); this encyclopedia is one of many resources included in RILM music encyclopedias, an ever-expanding full-text compilation of reference works.

Today is T-bone Walker’s 110th birthday! Above, T-Bone Walker (1972) by Heinrich Klaffs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Below, a performance from 1966.

BONUS: Walker’s signature hit Stormy Monday.

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Filed under Jazz and blues, Performers

The Siena piano

 

A legendary instrument whose sonorities reputedly have no equal anywhere, praised by musicians such as Liszt and Saint-Saëns, the Siena piano is surrounded by an aura of mystery due to its astonishing history.

Its soundboard was supposedly made of wooden pillars from the ancient Temple of Solomon in Israel. Stolen by German soldiers during World War II, it was discovered half buried in the sands of the African desert.

The instrument was saved from destruction in the nick of time and restored by an Israeli craftsman; subsequently it aroused enormous media attention before being largely forgotten.

This according to La légende du piano de Sienne: Récit instrumental by Florent Ploquin (Plouharnel: Menhir, 2017).

Below, Marisa Regules performs Debussy’s Estampes on the Siena piano.

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Filed under Curiosities, Instruments, Romantic era