Category Archives: Music

Alpaca for AFR

Drew Wilson, a friend of mine who performs and composes electronic music under the stage name Alpaca Music (facebook here), has graciously composed a track as a benefit for Americans for Forfeiture Reform, a non-profit that I am involved with. The track is titled 2720 (Alpaca Remix) by Spankalicious, and you can find out more here.

Alpaca Music is based out of Oakland but will be playing shows this year in Missouri and other venues around the country.

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“White Negros” and hipsters

From Ulrich Adelt’s Blues Music in the Sixties: A Story in Black and White:

The complex identification of white people with black sounds has a longstanding tradition, as many scholars have traced. A key text to understanding white appropriations of blackness is Norman Mailer’s glowing description of the “White Negro”: a term that Paul Verlaine had introduced to characterize fellow poet Arthur Rimbaud. In his 1958 essay, Mailer equated the appropriation of black culture (in particular jazz spontaneity) with being a hipster, a view also apparent in many writings of the 1950s Beat Generation, like those of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. A few years earlier, Franz Fanon had vividly described what he saw as the alienation of black men in the face of white oppression. In an astonishing role reversal, Mailer envisioned black men as something real to aspire to in the face of white alienation. The White Negro drew mixed reactions after its publication. While James Baldwin criticized what he saw as Mailers sexual insecurity and romanticism, Eldridge Cleaver aligned Mailer’s hedonistic fantasies of primitivized masculinity with his own and connected the White Negro to student protests at the University of California at Berkeley.

Here is the wiki on The White Negro.

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The history of blind auditions

From Nat Hentoff’s (really) excellent At the Jazz Band Ball: Sixty Years on the Jazz Scene. This selection is from chapter 47, “The Thoreau of Jazz”:

Art Davis, who died of aheart attack at seventy-three on July 29, 3007, was, for me, the Henry David Thoreau of jazz. I’ve known many people in the jazz family with admirable integrity, but Art Davis’s was fiercely unbreakable, whatever the cost.

Art Davis was a complete musician, as authoritative in a symphonic orchestra, a Broadway pit band, network studio assignment or accompanying, as he did, Judy Garland or country music comedienne Minne Pearl.

He also became a pariah in parts of the music business for years because he insisted on breaking the color line in symphony orchestras. As I had reported in the The Reporter magazine in the late 1950s, it was not only that Jim Crow managed much of that hiring. Also, as positions opened in an orchestra, the first-chair players (all of them white) would get management to hire their best students (also white) for those chairs.

For years, Art, having been turned down by leading symphony orchestras, challenged the conductors to pit him against any classical bassist they chose in an open competition. There were no takers. In the 1970s, he sued the New York State Philharmonic for racial discrimination, and as the years went on, until the case was dismissed, Art lost a lot of the previously highly diversified work for which he had been sought. Obviously, the man was a “troublemaker”.

But because of the lawsuit, the attendant publicity and Art’s continuing challenge to put any symphonic bass part–however deeply traditional or unprecedently avant-garde–before him in competition for a gig in any world-famous orchestra, he became the major force that created “blind auditions”. It became the practice, when there was an opening for any instrument, to audition the player behind a screen so that those judging his or her abilities–Art also protested gender discrimination–could hear the music but not see the musician. He lost the lawsuit, but won the battle.

Here is William Osborne with more on blind auditions and gender.

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Another Requiem Post

This is John Rutter‘s Requiem, based on Psalm 130; I was introduced to it several years ago and always marvel at how bright and vibrant it is. It is one of my two favorite pieces of choral music; Mozart’s Unfinished Requiem (k 626), which is a far more intimate work, is the other. I own this copy, featuring the London Sinfonia conducted by Stephen Cleobury.