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In his controversial essay on white jazz musician Burton Greene, Amiri Baraka asserted that jazz was exclusively an African American art form and explicitly fused the idea of a black aesthetic with radical political traditions of the African diaspora. In the Break is an extended riff on “The Burton Greene Affair,” exploring the tangled relationship between black avant-garde in music and literature in the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of a distinct form of black cultural nationalism, and the complex engagement with and disavowal of homoeroticism that bridges the two. Fred Moten focuses in particular on the brilliant improvisatory jazz of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, and others, arguing that all black performance—culture, politics, sexuality, identity, and blackness itself—is improvisation. For Moten, improvisation provides a unique epistemological standpoint from which to investigate the provocative connections between black aesthetics and Western philosophy. He engages in a strenuous critical analysis of Western philosophy (Heidegger, Kant, Husserl, Wittgenstein, and Derrida) through the prism of radical black thought and culture. As the critical, lyrical, and disruptive performance of the human, Moten’s concept of blackness also brings such figures as Frederick Douglass and Karl Marx, Cecil Taylor and Samuel R. Delany, Billie Holiday and William Shakespeare into conversation with each other. Stylistically brilliant and challenging, much like the music he writes about, Moten’s wide-ranging discussion embraces a variety of disciplines—semiotics, deconstruction, genre theory, social history, and psychoanalysis—to understand the politicized sexuality, particularly homoeroticism, underpinning black radicalism. In the Break is the inaugural volume in Moten’s ambitious intellectual project-to establish an aesthetic genealogy of the black radical tradition.

Fred Moten – In The Break

Microgroove continues John Corbett's exploration of diverse musics, with essays, interviews, and musician profiles that focus on jazz, improvised music, contemporary classical, rock, folk, blues, post-punk, and cartoon music. Corbett's approach to writing is as polymorphous as the music, ranging from oral history and journalistic portraiture to deeply engaged cultural critique. Corbett advocates for the relevance of "little" music, which despite its smaller audience is of enormous cultural significance. He writes on musicians as varied as Sun Ra, PJ Harvey, Koko Taylor, Steve Lacy, and Helmut Lachenmann. Among other topics, he discusses recording formats; the relationship between music and visual art, dance, and poetry; and, with Terri Kapsalis, the role of female orgasm sounds in contemporary popular music. Above all, Corbett privileges the importance of improvisation; he insists on the need to pay close attention to “other” music and celebrates its ability to open up pathways to new ideas, fresh modes of expression, and unforeseen ways of knowing. --- John Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. He is the author of Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein, also published by Duke University Press. His writing has appeared in Downbeat, The Wire, the Chicago Reader, and numerous other publications.  He is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, an art gallery in Chicago.

John Corbett - Microgroove

In People Get Ready, musicians, scholars, and journalists write about jazz since 1965, the year that Curtis Mayfield composed the famous civil rights anthem that gives this collection its title. The contributors emphasize how the political consciousness that infused jazz in the 1960s and early 1970s has informed jazz in the years since then. They bring nuance to historical accounts of the avant-garde, the New Thing, Free Jazz, "non-idiomatic" improvisation, fusion, and other forms of jazz that have flourished since the 1960s, and they reveal the contemporary relevance of those musical practices. Many of the participants in the jazz scenes discussed are still active performers. A photographic essay captures some of them in candid moments before performances. Other pieces revise standard accounts of well-known jazz figures, such as Duke Ellington, and lesser-known musicians, including Jeanne Lee; delve into how money, class, space, and economics affect the performance of experimental music; and take up the question of how digital technology influences improvisation. People Get Ready offers a vision for the future of jazz based on an appreciation of the complexity of its past and the abundance of innovation in the present. Contributors. Tamar Barzel, John Brackett, Douglas Ewart, Ajay Heble, Vijay Iyer, Thomas King, Tracy McMullen, Paul D. Miller/DJ Spooky, Nicole Mitchell, Roscoe Mitchell, Famoudou Don Moye, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Eric Porter, Marc Ribot, Matana Roberts, Jaribu Shahid, Julie Dawn Smith, Wadada Leo Smith, Alan Stanbridge, John Szwed, Greg Tate, Scott Thomson, Rob Wallace, Ellen Waterman, Corey Wilkes

Edited by Ajay Heble; Rob Wallace; Rob Wallace – People Get Ready: The Future of Jazz Is Now!

The Fierce Urgency of Now links musical improvisation to struggles for social change, focusing on the connections between the improvisation associated with jazz and the dynamics of human rights struggles and discourses. The authors acknowledge that at first glance improvisation and rights seem to belong to incommensurable areas of human endeavor. Improvisation connotes practices that are spontaneous, personal, local, immediate, expressive, ephemeral, and even accidental, while rights refer to formal standards of acceptable human conduct, rules that are permanent, impersonal, universal, abstract, and inflexible. Yet the authors not only suggest that improvisation and rights can be connected; they insist that they must be connected. Improvisation is the creation and development of new, unexpected, and productive cocreative relations among people. It cultivates the capacity to discern elements of possibility, potential, hope, and promise where none are readily apparent. Improvisers work with the tools they have in the arenas that are open to them. Proceeding without a written score or script, they collaborate to envision and enact something new, to enrich their experience in the world by acting on it and changing it. By analyzing the dynamics of particular artistic improvisations, mostly by contemporary American jazz musicians, the authors reveal improvisation as a viable and urgently needed model for social change. In the process, they rethink politics, music, and the connections between them.

Daniel Fischlin, Ajay Heble, George Lipsitz – The Fierce Urgency of Now: Improvisation, Rights, and the Ethics of Cocreation

In this first installment of acclaimed music writer David Toop's interdisciplinary and sweeping overview of free improvisation, Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970 introduces the philosophy and practice of improvisation (both musical and otherwise) within the historical context of the post-World War II era. Neither strictly chronological, or exclusively a history, Into the Maelstrom investigates a wide range of improvisational tendencies: from surrealist automatism to stream-of-consciousness in literature and vocalization; from the free music of Percy Grainger to the free improvising groups emerging out of the early 1960s (Group Ongaku, Nuova Consonanza, MEV, AMM, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble); and from free jazz to the strands of free improvisation that sought to distance itself from jazz. In exploring the diverse ways in which spontaneity became a core value in the early twentieth century as well as free improvisation's connection to both 1960s rock (The Beatles, Cream, Pink Floyd) and the era of post-Cagean indeterminacy in composition, Toop provides a definitive and all-encompassing exploration of free improvisation up to 1970, ending with the late 1960s international developments of free music from Roscoe Mitchell in Chicago, Peter Brötzmann in Berlin and Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg in Amsterdam.

David Toop Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom before 1970

In the 1970s David Toop became preoccupied with the possibility that music was no longer bounded by formalities of audience: the clapping, the booing, the short attention span, the demand for instant gratification. Considering sound and listening as foundational practices in themselves leads music into a thrilling new territory: stretched time, wilderness, video monitors, singing sculptures, weather, meditations, vibration and the interior resonance of objects, interspecies communications, instructional texts, silent actions, and performance art. Toop sought to document the originality and unfamiliarity of this work from his perspective as a practitioner and writer. The challenge was to do so without being drawn back into the domain of music while still acknowledging the vitality and hybridity of twentieth-century musics as they moved toward art galleries, museums, and site-specificity. Toop focused on practitioners, whose stories are as compelling as the theoretical and abstract implications of their works. Inflamed Invisible collects more than four decades of David Toop's essays, reviews, interviews, and experimental texts, drawing us into the company of artists and their concerns, not forgetting the quieter, unsung voices. The volume is an offering, an exploration of strata of sound that are the crossing points of sensory, intellectual, and philosophical preoccupations, layers through which objects, thoughts and air itself come alive as the inflamed invisible. Spotify and QR Codes This is a book about music, and we wanted to bring the print text to sonic life. We have compiled a series of web links to take you to recordings of the music, musicians, and artists David Toop describes, as well as to artists’ websites. We have placed codes in the margins, so you can listen to the music written about as you read. These codes can be scanned by a smartphone camera. On some phones, the built-in camera app will automatically recognise a code. On other phones, you would need to download a QR code reader app. We have endeavored to find online as much of the music as possible, whether the pieces have been commercially released or not. Many of the links take you to the Discogs database. There, there are links to videos and audio on YouTube. Some links take you to the artist’s gallery website or personal site. For the music that is commercially available, we have compiled an Inflamed Invisible playlist on the Spotify music streaming service. The playlist is accessible. Individual tracks from this playlist are seen as Spotify codes in the margins. To scan these, please download and use the Spotify app on your phone. Select the magnifying glass icon to search, then select the camera icon and scan the code. Atau Tanaka, Sonics Series Editor

David Toop – Inflamed Invisible

Published by Public Bath Press, paperback + CD, 244 pp, 2019 "The acclaimed collection by Seiichi Yamamoto with all new art, photography and a new CD of remixed and new music by Omoide Hatoba and Suido Megane Satsujin Jiken." - Publisher Public Bath Press "Of course, Seiichi Yamomoto is famous as the visionary guitarist of The Boredoms, Omoide Hatoba, Rashinban, Live Under The Sky, Most, Para, Novo Tono and many, many, more projects. His solo work is extensive. He is also proprietor of live house Namba Bears, home of the most interesting shows in Osaka. In the mid-1990s, when Boredoms mania was at its peak, Yamamoto-san was asked by Guitar Magazine to write a regular column. This book represents the best of that writing, with added poetry, fiction and art. "Less well known, at least overseas, is that he is also a fine artist and photographer, having been featured in several solo shows at galleries. "Yamamoto-san has an enigmatic, opaque way of speaking/writing that can feel simultaneously very warm and somehow off-putting. He is basically a very shy person who yet seems to spend most of his time on a stage in the spotlight. "Ginga is the Japanese word for Milky Way, but here it is written in katakana and not its customary kanji (meaning silver river) so who knows if it means anything. He asked me if Gitabarrio, the repeating title of his column, meant anything to me. I said that I could see Gita, the song of the blessed one, and with a stretch, guitar, coming from his own barrio??? He merely smiled. Now it's your turn."- Translator Kato David Hopkins

Ginga by Seiichi Yamamoto