Black Studies

NPR reviews A Power Stronger Than Itself

July 30, 2008
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NPR reviews A Power Stronger Than Itself

Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead reviewed George E. Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music for the July 29 edition of NPR’s Fresh Air. In the review, Whitehead outlines the book’s captivating scholarly portrait of the Chicago avant-garde jazz collective known as the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, which, since its inception in 1965, has counted among its ranks internationally acclaimed artists such as Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Muhal Richard Abrams, and gained world wide recognition as one of the defining forces in the avant-garde jazz scene. Listen to the archived audio on the NPR website. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Richard Wright Centenary

June 19, 2008
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Richard Wright Centenary

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of African American author Richard Wright, whose famous novels Black Boy and Native Son redefined race relations in the 20th century. Appropriate to the occasion, the press released a new paperback edition of the authoritative biographical account of Wright’s tumultuous life and literary career, Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley. An illuminating article in the June 11 edition of the Times Literary Supplement references Rowley’s book as it delivers a short biography of Wright, describing his rise and fall as one of the “stars” in the early twentieth century’s “literary firmament,” his complicated relationship to the civil rights movement, and the “hazards of his expatriation to France in the late 1940’s.” You can read the full article by James Campbell at the TLS Online. And then navigate here to find out more about Rowley’s biography. . . .

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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

June 17, 2008
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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City was interviewed yesterday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the gentrification of urban African American communities. Pattillo’s book is an eye-opening sociological exploration of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood and the community’s embattled process of revitalization, where the often conflicting interests of the black middle-class, their less-fortunate neighbors, and the established centers of white economic and political power frame a dramatic tale of the transformation of black communities in the twenty-first century. In the interview Pattillo touches on many of the issues discussed in her book and fields some interesting questions from WNYC listeners. Listen to the audio on the WNYC website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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The transformation of Harlem

June 11, 2008
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The transformation of Harlem

Derek S. Hyra, author of The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, was interviewed today on the BBC Radio 4 program Thinking Allowed. Host Laurie Taylor, on the ground in Harlem, interviewed Harlem residents and neighborhood leaders, as well as Hyra and other authors to understand both the history of Harlem and the “Second Harlem Renaissance” that is renewing and stressing the neighborhood. Does gentrification bring upheaval or stability? Is change always good? Who are the winners and who are the losers? The archived audio is available from the BBC. . . .

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The epic history of the AACM

June 3, 2008
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The epic history of the AACM

The June issue of Downbeat Magazine is running a positive review of George Lewis’s new book A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the definitive history of one of the most influential avant-garde jazz collectives in existence, the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Writing for Downbeat jazz critic Howard Mandel begins his review: George Lewis’s epic history of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians sets a new standard for scholarly writing about the people who make Great Black Music, or any other kind. A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, interweaves interviews with 67 of Lewis’s AACM colleagues, select journalistic reports and theoretical writings with the perspective of a trusted insider across a societal portrait worthy of Tolstoy. Lewis dramatizes the story of independent, underfinanced, determined, sophisticated artists from a working-class minority subculture struggling to launch an esthetic movement that emphasizes individuality, continuous exploration and personal development in a world that could hardly care less. Downbeat magazine seems to be having some technical difficulties with their website, but for now you can read the full unedited version on Howard Mandel’s blog Jazz Beyond Jazz. Also read an excerpt . . .

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Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

May 22, 2008
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Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans

Charles Hirsch’s new book Subversive Sounds: Race and the Birth of Jazz in New Orleans was reviewed yesterday in the Times-Picayune. Contributing writer Jason Berry begins by drawing a parallel between the early New Orleans jazz scene Hirsch brings to life in his book, and the city as we know it today: The music we now call jazz flowered at the dawn of the last century, a time of grinding poverty and struggle for black people, as Charles Hersch writes in a provocative new history, Subversive Sounds. A political scientist by training, Hersch illuminates how musicians of color drew from realities that few white people experienced in forging a form of dance music for people of both races. In that sense, Subversive Sounds is more than timely. The social realities of New Orleans today resemble the city in 1900: racial polarization beneath a blanket of poverty and uncertain leadership. A century ago tourism was in its infancy; today’s “cultural economy” markets an urban identity shaped by African-American traditions that ran deepest in downriver wards that were wrecked in the flooding of 2005, areas where tour buses show visitors the wonder of our Pompeii on the Mississippi. Read the full review . . .

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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

May 14, 2008
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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. From its working-class roots on the South Side of Chicago, the AACM went on to forge an extensive legacy of cultural and social experimentation, crossing both musical and racial boundaries. The success of individual members and ensembles from Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Anthony Braxton to Douglas Ewart, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Nicole Mitchell has been matched by the enormous international influence of the collective itself in inspiring a generation of musical experimentalists. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Read the press release. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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An innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship

May 7, 2008
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An innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship

In a recent review posted to the Bookslut website, Barbara J. King praises anthropologist Richard Price’s most recent book Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination for its unique ethnographic account of the author’s encounter with the enigmatic subject of Tooy—a priest, philosopher, and healer living in a shantytown on the outskirts of Cayenne, French Guiana. Commending the book for drawing not only on Price’s ethnographic and archival research, but also on Tooy’s teachings, songs, and stories, King writes: The book glows with knowledge, Tooy’s as much as Rich’s, as Rich is the first to say; he writes of Tooy with love, as a friend, but also with respect, calling him “a fellow intellectual.…” The complexity of Rich’s analysis sits side by side with the complexity of Tooy’s time-and-space travel. As I close the book (and begin to listen to Tooy’s voice at Rich’s website ), I know that I grasp only a small fraction of what Tooy knows. It’s a good feeling, in a peculiar way; after all, that’s what inhabiting an unfamiliar reality will do for a person—teach her what she doesn’t know, and how to learn something more. Read the article at Bookslut. Also . . .

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The collective history of the AACM

May 2, 2008
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The collective history of the AACM

Today’s New York Times is running a piece on author George E. Lewis’s new book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music—the authoritative historical account of one of America’s most influential avant-garde jazz collectives. Founded in 1965, many icons of the avant garde, musicians like Anthony Braxton and Leo Wadada Smith, have joined its ranks. And many of them continue to play as members of the collective today. The NYT article includes information on several upcoming events in NYC including a special book release concert happening next Friday (May 9th) at the Community Church of New York. From the NYT: The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an organization that has fostered some of the most vital American avant-garde music of the last 40 years. Though noncommercial, often pointedly conceptual and unabashedly arcane, this music has had a profound influence over the years on several generations of experimental musicians worldwide. The scene plays out vividly in A Power Stronger Than Itself: The A.A.C.M. and Experimental Music, an important book by the trombonist-composer-scholar George Lewis due out from the University of Chicago Press this month. Reconstructing that inaugural meeting from audio tapes, Mr. Lewis conveys . . .

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The monumental AACM

April 10, 2008
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The monumental AACM

In 1965 a group of Chicago musicians dedicated to exploring the frontiers of American jazz banded together to create the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians—one of the most radical and influential musical collectives in the history of the genre. Now, author George E. Lewis has chronicled the definitive history of the movement in, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music, a book music critic Peter Margasak praises in today’s Chicago Reader for “ deeper into the formation and development of the AACM than any previous history, and as a formal acknowledgment of the group’s enormous importance and influence….” Margasak’s article continues: In the early 60s the marketplace was indifferent or hostile to creative jazz, and the AACM was the first sustained musician-run group to support it, producing legendary artists like Anthony Braxton, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Henry Threadgill. The organization remains active today, led by reedist Douglas Ewart and flutist Nicole Mitchell, and its members still display the fierce determination and brilliant creativity that made its name a seal of quality. And on Tuesday, April 15, 4:15 pm you’ll have a chance to see some of the AACM’s brilliant creativity yourself if . . .

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