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Bill Clifton

America's Bluegrass Ambassador to the World

The most atypical of bluegrass artists, Bill Clifton has enjoyed a long career as a recording artist, performer, and champion of old-time music. Bill C. Malone pens the story of Clifton's eclectic life and influential career. Born into a prominent Maryland family, Clifton connected with old-time music as a boy. Clifton made records around earning a Master's degree, fifteen years in the British folk scene, and stints in the Peace Corps and Marines. Yet that was just the beginning. Closely allied with the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Mike Seeger, and others, Clifton altered our very perceptions of the music--organizing one of the first outdoor bluegrass festivals, publishing a book of folk and gospel standards that became a cornerstone of the folk revival, and introducing both traditional and progressive bluegrass around the world. As Malone shows, Clifton clothed the music of working-class people in the vestments of romance, celebrating the log cabin as a refuge from modernism that rang with the timeless music of Appalachia. An entertaining account by an eminent music historian, Bill Clifton clarifies the myths and illuminates the paradoxes of an amazing musical life.

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Bird

The Life and Music of Charlie Parker

Chuck Haddix

Saxophone virtuoso Charlie Bird Parker began playing professionally in his early teens, became a heroin addict at 16, changed the course of music, and then died when only 34 years old. His friend Robert Reisner observed, Parker, in the brief span of his life, crowded more living into it than any other human being. Like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, he was a transitional composer and improviser who ushered in a new era of jazz by pioneering bebop and influenced subsequent generations of musicians.   Meticulously researched and written, Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker tells the story of his life, music, and career. This new biography artfully weaves together firsthand accounts from those who knew him with new information about his life and career to create a compelling narrative portrait of a tragic genius. While other books about Parker have focused primarily on his music and recordings, this portrait reveals the troubled man behind the music, illustrating how his addictions and struggles with mental health affected his life and career. He was alternatively generous and miserly; a loving husband and father at home but an incorrigible philanderer on the road; and a chronic addict who lectured younger musicians about the dangers of drugs. Above all he was a musician, who overcame humiliation, disappointment, and a life-threatening car wreck to take wing as Bird, a brilliant improviser and composer. With in-depth research into previously overlooked sources and illustrated with several never-before-seen images, Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker corrects much of the misinformation and myth about one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century.

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Black Music Research Journal

Vol. 30 (2010) through current issue

Black Music Research Journal includes articles about the philosophy, aesthetics, history, and criticism of black music. BMRJ is an official journal of the Center for Black Music Research and is published by the University of Illinois Press.

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The Black Musician and the White City

Race and Music in Chicago, 1900-1967

Amy Absher

Amy Absher’s The Black Musician and the White City tells the story of African American musicians in Chicago during the mid-twentieth century. While depicting the segregated city before World War II, Absher traces the migration of black musicians, both men and women and both classical and vernacular performers, from the American South to Chicago during the 1930s to 1950s.Absher’s work diverges from existing studies in three ways: First, she takes the history beyond the study of jazz and blues by examining the significant role that classically trained black musicians played in building the Chicago South Side community. By acknowledging the presence and importance of classical musicians, Absher argues that black migrants in Chicago had diverse education and economic backgrounds but found common cause in the city’s music community. Second, Absher brings numerous maps to the history, illustrating the relationship between Chicago’s physical lines of segregation and the geography of black music in the city over the years. Third, Absher’s use of archival sources is both extensive and original, drawing on manuscript and oral history collections at the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, Columbia University, Rutgers’s Institute of Jazz Studies, and Tulane’s Hogan Jazz Archive. By approaching the Chicago black musical community from these previously untapped angles, Absher offers a history that goes beyond the retelling of the achievements of the famous musicians by discussing musicians as a group. In The Black Musician and the White City, black musicians are the leading actors, thinkers, organizers, and critics of their own story.

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Black Resonance

Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature

Emily J. Lordi

Ever since Bessie Smith’s powerful voice conspired with the “race records” industry to make her a star in the 1920s, African American writers have memorialized the sounds and theorized the politics of black women’s singing. In Black Resonance, Emily J. Lordi analyzes writings by Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Gayl Jones, and Nikki Giovanni that engage such iconic singers as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, and Aretha Franklin.

Focusing on two generations of artists from the 1920s to the 1970s, Black Resonance reveals a musical-literary tradition in which singers and writers, faced with similar challenges and harboring similar aims, developed comparable expressive techniques. Drawing together such seemingly disparate works as Bessie Smith’s blues and Richard Wright’s neglected film of Native Son, Mahalia Jackson’s gospel music and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, each chapter pairs one writer with one singer to crystallize the artistic practice they share: lyricism, sincerity, understatement, haunting, and the creation of a signature voice. In the process, Lordi demonstrates that popular female singers are not passive muses with raw, natural, or ineffable talent. Rather, they are experimental artists who innovate black expressive possibilities right alongside their literary peers.

The first study of black music and literature to centralize the music of black women, Black Resonance offers new ways of reading and hearing some of the twentieth century’s most beloved and challenging voices.

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Blackness in Opera

Edited by Naomi André, Karen M. Bryan, and Eric Saylor

Blackness in Opera critically examines the intersections of race and music in the multifaceted genre of opera. A diverse cross-section of scholars places well-known operas (Porgy and Bess, Aida, Treemonisha) alongside lesser-known works such as Frederick Delius's Koanga, William Grant Still's Blue Steel, and Clarence Cameron White's Ouanga! to reveal a new historical context for re-imagining race and blackness in opera. The volume brings a wide-ranging, theoretically informed, interdisciplinary approach to questions about how blackness has been represented in these operas, issues surrounding characterization of blacks, interpretation of racialized roles by blacks and whites, controversies over race in the theatre and the use of blackface, and extensions of blackness along the spectrum from grand opera to musical theatre and film. In addition to essays by scholars, the book also features reflections by renowned American tenor George Shirley._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Naomi Andre, Melinda Boyd, Gwynne Kuhner Brown, Karen M. Bryan, Melissa J. de Graaf, Christopher R. Gauthier, Jennifer McFarlane-Harris, Gayle Murchison, Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr., Eric Saylor, Sarah Schmalenberger, Ann Sears, George Shirley, and Jonathan O. Wipplinger.

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Blowin’ the Blues Away

Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene

Travis Jackson

New York City has always been a mecca in the history of jazz, and in many ways the city’s jazz scene is more important now than ever before. Blowin’ the Blues Away examines how jazz has thrived in New York following its popular resurgence in the 1980s. Using interviews, in-person observation, and analysis of live and recorded events, ethnomusicologist Travis A. Jackson explores both the ways in which various participants in the New York City jazz scene interpret and evaluate performance, and the criteria on which those interpretations and evaluations are based. Through the notes and words of its most accomplished performers and most ardent fans, jazz appears not simply as a musical style, but as a cultural form intimately influenced by and influential upon American concepts of race, place, and spirituality.

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Blue Guitar Highway

Paul Metsa

This is a musician’s tale: the story of a boy growing up on the Iron Range, playing his guitar at family gatherings, coming of age in the psychedelic seventies, and honing his craft as a pro in Minneapolis, ground zero of American popular music in the mid-eighties. “There is a drop of blood behind every note I play and every word I write,” Paul Metsa says. And it’s easy to believe, as he conducts us on a musical journey across time and country, navigating switchbacks, detours, dead ends, and providing us the occasional glimpse of the promised land on the blue guitar highway.

His account captures the thrill of the Twin Cities when acts like the Replacements, Husker Dü, and Prince were remaking pop music. It takes us right onto the stages he shared with stars like Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen. And it gives us a close-up, dizzying view of the roller-coaster ride that is the professional musician’s life, played out against the polarizing politics and intimate history of the past few decades of American culture. Written with a songwriter’s sense of detail and ear for poetry, Paul Metsa’s book conveys all the sweet absurdity, dry humor, and passion for the language of music that has made his story sing.

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Blue Rhythm Fantasy

Big Band Jazz Arranging in the Swing Era

John Wriggle

Behind the iconic jazz orchestras, vocalists, and stage productions of the Swing Era lay the talents of popular music's unsung heroes: the arrangers. John Wriggle takes you behind the scenes of New York City's vibrant entertainment industry of the 1930s and 1940s to uncover the lives and work of jazz arrangers, both black and white, who left an indelible mark on American music and culture. Blue Rhythm Fantasy traces the extraordinary career of arranger Chappie Willet--a collaborator of Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa, and many others--to revisit legendary Swing Era venues and performers from Harlem to Times Square. Wriggle's insightful music analyses of big band arranging techniques explore representations of cultural modernism, discourses on art and commercialism, conceptions of race and cultural identity, music industry marketing strategies, and stage entertainment variety genres. Drawing on archives, obscure recordings, untapped sources in the African American press, and interviews with participants, Blue Rhythm Fantasy is a long-overdue study of the arranger during this dynamic era of American music history.

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