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Always in Trouble

An Oral History of ESP-Disk', the Most Outrageous Record Label in America

Jason Weiss

In 1964, Bernard Stollman launched the independent record label ESP-Disk' (short for "Esperanto Disko") in New York City to document the free jazz movement there, beginning with iconic saxophonist Albert Ayler. A bare-bones enterprise, ESP was in the right place at the right time, producing albums by artists like Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Giuseppi Logan, and Patty Waters. Soon the label broadened its catalog, including recordings by folk-rock bands like The Fugs and Pearls Before Swine, as well as Timothy Leary, William Burroughs, and Charles Manson. But the label quickly ran into difficulties and, due to the politically subversive nature of some productions and sloppy business practices, it folded in 1974. The story of ESP-Disk' is told through a multitude of voices--first by Stollman, as he recounts the improbable life of the label, and then by many of the artists involved. The result is a fascinating account of the music and the times. Includes interviews with Amiri Baraka, Gato Barbieri, Milford Graves, Roswell Rudd, Sirone, Sonny Simmons, James Zitro, Tom Rapp, Sunny Murray, and many more.

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The Amazing Jimmi Mayes

Sideman to the Stars

Jimmi Mayes

For more than fifty years, Chicago drummer Jimmi Mayes served as a sideman behind some of the greatest musicians and musical groups in history. He began his career playing the blues in the juke joints of Mississippi, sharpened his trade under the mentorship of drum legends Sam Lay and Fred Below in the steamy nightclubs of south Chicago, and hit it big in New York City behind such music legends as Tommy Hunt from the Flamingos, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown.

Mayes played his drums behind blues giants Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Reed, Robert Junior Lockwood, Earl Hooker, Junior Wells, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He lived for a while with Motown sensation Martha Reeves and her family and traveled with the Shirelles and the Motown Review. Jimi Hendrix was one of Mayes's best friends, and they traveled together with Joey Dee and the Starliters in the mid-1960s.

Mayes lived through racial segregation, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the integration of rock bands, and the emergence of Motown. He personally experienced the sexual and moral revolutions of the sixties, was robbed of his musical royalties, and survived a musical drought. He's been a pimp and a drug pusher--and lived to tell the tale when so many musicians have not. This sideman to the stars witnessed music history from the best seat in the house--behind the drum set.

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American Luthier

Carleen Hutchins—the Art and Science of the Violin

Quincy Whitney

From the time of Stradivari, the mysterious craft of violinmaking has been a closely guarded, lucrative, and entirely masculine preserve. In the 1950s Carleen Maley Hutchins was a grade school science teacher, amateur trumpet player, and New Jersey housewife. When musical friends asked her to trade a trumpet for a $75 viola, she decided to try making one, thus setting in motion a surprising career. A self-taught genius who went head to head with a closed and ancient guild, Hutchins carved nearly 500 stringed instruments over the course of half a century and collaborated on more than 100 experiments in violin acoustics. In answer to a challenge from a composer, she built the first violin octet—a family of eight violins ranging in size from an eleven-inch treble to a seven-foot contrabass, and in register across the gamut of the piano keyboard. She wrote more than 100 technical papers—including two benchmark Scientific American cover articles—founded an international society devoted to violin acoustics, and became the only American and the only woman to be honored in Cremona, Italy, the birthplace of Stradivari.

Hutchins died in 2009 at the age of ninety-eight. The most innovative violinmaker of the modern age, she set out to explore two worlds she knew virtually nothing about—violins and acoustical physics. American Luthier chronicles the life of this unsung woman who altered everything in a world that had changed little in three centuries.

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American Music

Vol. 27 (2009) through current issue

American Music publishes articles on American composers, performers, publishers, institutions, events, and the music industry, as well as book and recording reviews, bibliographies, and discographies. Article topics have included the lyricism of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell's "sliding tones," Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, Henry Brant's "Spatial Music," the reception and transformation of pop icons such as Presley and Sinatra, and the history and analysis of blues, jazz, folk music, and mixed and emerging musical styles.

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The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity

Raymond Knapp

The American musical has long provided an important vehicle through which writers, performers, and audiences reimagine who they are and how they might best interact with the world around them. Musicals are especially good at this because they provide not only an opportunity for us to enact dramatic versions of alternative identities, but also the material for performing such alternatives in the real world, through songs and the characters and attitudes those songs project.

This book addresses a variety of specific themes in musicals that serve this general function: fairy tale and fantasy, idealism and inspiration, gender and sexuality, and relationships, among others. It also considers three overlapping genres that are central, in quite different ways, to the projection of personal identity: operetta, movie musicals, and operatic musicals.

Among the musicals discussed are Camelot, Candide; Chicago; Company; Evita; Gypsy; Into the Woods; Kiss Me, Kate; A Little Night Music; Man of La Mancha; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Merry Widow; Moulin Rouge; My Fair Lady; Passion; The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Singin' in the Rain; Stormy Weather; Sweeney Todd; and The Wizard of Oz.

Complementing the author's earlier work, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, this book completes a two-volume thematic history of the genre, designed for general audiences and specialists alike.

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Among the Jasmine Trees

Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria

Jonathan Holt Shannon

How does a Middle Eastern community create a modern image through its expression of heritage and authenticity? In Among the Jasmine Trees: Music and Modernity in Contemporary Syria, Jonathan H. Shannon investigates expressions of authenticity in Syria's musical culture, which is particularly known for embracing and preserving the Arab musical tradition, and which has seldom been researched in depth by Western scholars. Music plays a key role in the process of self-imaging by virtue of its ability to convey feeling and emotion, and Shannon explores a variety of performance genres, Sufi rituals, song lyrics, melodic modes, and aesthetic criteria. Shannon shows that although the music may evoke the old, the traditional, and the local, these are re-envisioned as signifiers of the modern national profile. A valuable contribution to the study of music and identity and to the ethnomusicology of the modern Middle East, Among the Jasmine Trees details this music and its reception for the first time, offering an original theoretical framework for understanding contemporary Arab culture, music, and society.

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New York City-January 1998

John Cage

"That government is best which governs not at all; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." This quote from Henry David Thoreau's Essay on Civil Disobedience is one of thirty quotations from which John Cage created Anarchy, a book-length lecture comprising twenty mesostic poems. Composed with the aid of a computer program to simulate the coin toss of the I Ching, Anarchy draws on the writings of many serious anarchists including Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, and Mario Malatesta, not so much making arguments for anarchism as "brushing information against information," giving the very words new combinations that de-familiarize and re-energize them. Now widely available of the first time, Anarchy marks the culmination of Cage's work as a poet, composer and as a thinker about contemporary society.

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Ancestral Imprints

Histories of Irish Traditional Music and Dance

Edited by Thérèse Smith

This book is about the history and practice of recording Irish traditional music and dance, and the variety of documents that exist as a result of the activities of collectors both in Ireland and in North America.Essay topics range from analyses of nineteenth-century printed documents, to the earliest wax cylinder recordings, to famous, rather large collections, and small all but unknown ones. Authors examine the role of the fieldworker/collector, the impact of broadcasting on regional style, the idea of “Irish” versus “American” style in early uilleann pipe recordings, and the impact of the recording process and marketing on traditional song, amongst other topics. Approaches vary from the analytical—comparing and analysing various settings of tunes and titles—to the personal—reflecting on the impact of one’s own collecting and fieldwork on a regional tradition.Authors also interrogate how music serves to create and articulate identity, how changing contexts and emic and etic perspectives on music can influence a music’s evolution. From original manuscripts in the National Library, to printed documents, audio and video recordings, and art work, this book examines the reception history of Irish traditional music and dance.

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And There I Stood with My Piccolo

Meredith Willson

And There I Stood with My Piccolo, originally published in 1948, is a zesty and colorful memoir of composer Meredith Willson’s early years—from growing up in Mason City, Iowa, to playing the flute with John Philip Sousa’s band and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to a successful career in composing for radio and motion pictures in Hollywood. It was apparent to everyone, except maybe Willson himself, that he was on his way to something big.

Lighthearted and inspiring, it is no surprise Willson’s tales caught the attention of prominent Broadway producers. In 1957, just nine years after the publication of this book, The Music Man became a Broadway sensation, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Meredith Willson’s musical comedy is to this day arguably the most produced and beloved musical in American culture.

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Antiphonal Histories

Resonant Pasts in the Toba Batak Musical Present

Julia Byl

Positioned on a major trade route, the Toba Batak people of Sumatra have long witnessed the ebb and flow of cultural influence from India, the Middle East, and the West. Living as ethnic and religious minorities within modern Indonesia, Tobas have recast this history of difference through interpretations meant to strengthen or efface the identities it has shaped. Antiphonal Histories examines Toba musical performance as a legacy of global history, and a vital expression of local experience. This intriguingly constructed ethnography searches the palm liquor stand and the sanctuary to show how Toba performance manifests its many histories through its “local music”—Lutheran brass band hymns, gong-chime music sacred to Shiva, and Jimmie Rodgers yodeling. Combining vivid narrative, wide-ranging historical research, and personal reflections, Antiphonal Histories traces the musical trajectories of the past to show us how the global is manifest in the performative moment.

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