[Whoah 2020 right? Needless to say I didn’t read quite as much as I wanted to but I did survive and I think that counts for something. Additionally, I devoted a large chunk of my reading attention to understanding more about syndromic surveillance, especially as related to work on a Covid-19 Chart for NYC.]
As part of my creative practice I take in a lot of culture–books, articles, writing of all kinds. Through reading and engaging with ideas via the written word I come up with ideas, approaches, and make meaning. Also, for projects such as the Free Improvisation Research Orchestra, these readings help me expand discussion.
Here’s a running list of the things that are informing my creative work and my thinking generally.
Readings on music, improvisation, culture, community
Baym, Nancy. Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection. New York: New York University Press, .
An analysis of artist business practices from the late 1990s to early 2000s. This period in music business is marked by the shift from being based on physical album sales and touring to digital forms of product and communication. Some useful background on what music truly is and how it functions in society. Many of the strategic developments of the musicians featured are no longer available to emerging artists in contemporary digital environments. This book is weakened by an absence of non-white musical culture (I believe the only reference to a not-white musician in the book is a disparaging remark re: Prince’s approach to digital distribution). Given the domination of contemporary streaming music revenues by not-white musicians I’d love to see a book with similar focus which investigates the practices of those artists.
transition to digital, music business practices, music and connection
Highlighting the influence of technology on creative practice in late 70s/80s funk to focus attention on structural and repetition/citation capabilities inherent in the sampler, ultimately leading back to time-focused innovations via Dilla et al.
I read this article for background following online discussion about racist things Reich is quoted as saying in a book published this year. The article contextualizes Reich’s participation in the radical street theater & minstrelsy scene of 60s San Francisco. Particular focus is spent on the source material for Reich’s contribution, how his association fits within his post-college life trajectory, the relation of this work to other socially-informed work he has done (in particular It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out), and ultimately Reich’s rightward political drift and distancing from work related to social justice, possibly in the service of attaining recognition and status as a “serious” composer.
minstrelsy, Steve Reich, art and social impact, composer vs artist, experimentalism vs establishmentarianism
A comparison of the social media presence and UI of leading streaming services highlighting their similarities. Discussion of reasons for this including the nature of their business relationships with record labels, sociology factors, and technology factors. The sociology factors are very convincing. A good companion read with Sisario’s interview with Jimmy Iovine.
An examination of how money flows through streaming in regards to “lo fi” hip-hop producers. This article makes a good companion to Baym’s book above, filling in some of the gap (though I’d love to read a book length treatment by Hu on this topic!). Of particular note is the relationship (or pointed lack thereof) between producers of lo-fi hip hop and touring. I can’t help but think about this in relationship to aggressive individualization/neoliberal values vs ways of being which encourage and incorporate gathering/assembly and being together in the world.
music business practices, streaming music, lo-fi hip hop
Read this on hearing of the passing of the influential forward-thinking bassist. A short contextualization of Peacock’s early career.
bass, 60s jazz
Jafa, Arthur. “Black Visual Intonation..” In The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, edited by Robert. G O’Meally, 264-268. New York: Columbia University Press, .
I saw a reference to the term “polyventiality” in a text photographed by one of the people I follow on Instagram and wanted to learn more about it. This essay, which I think may be transcription of a speech given at an event celebrating Black American creativity, is the source of the term. It means “multiple tones, multiple rhythms, multiple perspectives, multiple meanings, multiplicity.” Like a collapsing of everything past/future/present into one moment, the word is useful to me in configuring a conception of improvisation that set orthogonally to contemporary jazz/not-jazz approaches. This essay also is the only source I’ve found for the Nam June Paik quote “The culture that’s going to survive in the future is the culture you can fit in your head.”
polyventiality, the culture you carry
Rankine, Claudia. Just Us. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, .
A direct conversation and inquiry into whiteness: what it is, how it is expressed, origins and ongoing influences in contemporary and historical American life. Beautiful writing, interconnected with a wide variety of scholars, thinkers, artists.
Redmond, Shana. Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora. New York: New York University Press, .
Through an exploration of the situational and social contexts of four songs, Dr. Redmond discusses how song is utilized to transform an audience into a public. Additionally, elements and details of each work’s creation, political intent, distribution/dissemination, inherent knowledge transfers, and the meaning of each song after the movement to which it has been attached fades are illuminating.
African diaspora, anthems, the public, audience, transformation, Paul Robeson
A radio essay by scholar Shana Redmond focusing on Paul Robeson’s performance of “No More Auction Block for Me” at the the US and Canadian border, the place the song holds in history and culture, and her own encounters with Robeson’s music. Dr. Redmond goes into detail examining the gesture of the opening of this work. She also shows how the conceptions of the song translate to global conditions and also later generations; the material’s relationship to subjugating people to the desires of capital/material society. As a bassist, Paul Robeson’s sound is what I am pursuing and holding in my mind as I perform. Dr. Redmond’s work holds a particular place of interest for me as I deepen my knowledge of the sources of that sound.
Paul Robeson, activism and resistance, archival recordings, musical gesture, communication strategy
Good satire highlights the real experiences we have with one another. This article struck me as effective satire of jazz performance in contemporary times.
satire, music experience, jazz
Sharp, Elliot. IrRational Music. Newark: Terra Nova Press, .
Memoir of a notable figure in the New York City New Music and New Music adjacent scenes. I read this one in preparation for performing with the author in a free improvisation context. Includes a clear description of Sharp’s creative practice, outlines networks of musicians within an engaging writing style, covers about 50 years of active performance. The writing features multiple overlaps of linear time which help(ed me, anyway) observe and feel the transformation from being an unconnected musician in NYC to becoming a functional and productive member of a musical scene.
memoir, manifesto, creative practice, New Music
Sisario, Ben. “What’s Eating Jimmy Iovine.” New York Times, New York Edition. , AR-10.
An interview with popular music businessperson Jimmy Iovine in which he discusses the outcomes of commoditization of streaming services and identifies this as a problem for the future of the music business, relative power between established artists and businesspeople, and the reticence of emerging artists to participate in social justice.
transition to digital, music business practices, streaming music
Táíwò, Olúfémi. “Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference.” The Philosopher, 108, no. 4.
A discussion regarding the distribution of power in societal spaces (metaphoric and physical) of both marginalized and prioritized identities, the permeability between those spaces and identities, and problematics associated with performatively (or sincerely) deferring to individuals who have a perceived (or real) lived experience within a marginalized group yet conform enough to a prioritized group to be asked to represent marginalized people. Much of the essay carefully defining the problematics; the end has some suggestios for doing the real work which needs to be done.
epistemology, attention economy, social justice
Welscher, Hartmut.”Winner Takes All, Igor Levit in the Attention Economy.” Van Magazine 155. .
A discussion of the attention economy as it relates to the sustainability of a classical performance career using the behavior of Igor Levit as a focus. Includes references from philosophy and sociology.
music business practices, attention economy, media and valence, audience