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Music > Individual Composers and Musicians

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Blue Guitar Highway Cover

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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.

Bluegrass Bluesman Cover

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Bluegrass Bluesman

A Memoir

A pivotal member of the hugely successful bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. In Bluegrass Bluesman, this influential performer shares the story of his lifelong career in music._x000B__x000B_In lively anecdotes, Graves describes his upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he adapted Earl Scruggs's revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar and gave the Foggy Mountain Boys their distinctive sound. Graves's accounts of daily life on tour through the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band's dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs's leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons. A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind._x000B_

Blues All Day Long Cover

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Blues All Day Long

The Jimmy Rogers Story

Wayne Everett Goins

In Blues All Day Long , Wayne Everett Goins mines seventy-five hours of interviews with Rogers' family, collaborators, and peers to follow a life spent in the blues. Goins' account takes Rogers from recording Chess classics and barnstorming across the South to a late-in-life renaissance that included new music, entry into the Blues Hall of Fame, and high profile tours with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Informed and definitive, Blues All Day Long fills a gap in twentieth century music history with the story of one of the blues' eminent figures and one of the genre's seminal bands.

Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga Cover

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Blues Empress in Black Chattanooga

Bessie Smith and the Emerging Urban South

Michelle R. Scott

As one of the first African American vocalists to be recorded, Bessie Smith is a prominent figure in American popular culture and African American history. Michelle R. Scott uses Smith's life as a lens to investigate broad issues in history, including industrialization, Southern rural to urban migration, black community development in the post-emancipation era, and black working-class gender conventions. Focusing her analysis on Chattanooga, Tennessee, the large industrial and transportation center where Smith was born, Scott explores how the expansion of the Southern railroads and the development of iron foundries, steel mills, and sawmills created vast employment opportunities in the postbellum era, contributing to Chattanooga's African American community and an emergent blues culture.

Boccherini’s Body Cover

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Boccherini’s Body

An Essay in Carnal Musicology

Elisabeth Le Guin

In this elegant study of the works of the undeservedly neglected composer Luigi Boccherini, Elisabeth Le Guin uses knowledge gleaned from her own playing of the cello as the keystone of her original approach to the relationship between music and embodiment. In analyzing the striking qualities of Boccherini's music—its virtuosity, repetitiveness, obsessively nuanced dynamics, delicate sonorities, and rich palette of melancholy affects—Le Guin develops a historicized critical method based on the embodied experience of the performer. In the process, she redefines the temperament of the musical Enlightenment as one characterized by urgent, volatile inquiries into the nature of the self. A CD of sound examples, performed by the author and her string quartet, is included with the book.

Bound for America Cover

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Bound for America

Three British Composers

Nicholas Temperley documents the lives, careers, and music of three British composers who emigrated from England in mid-career and became leaders in the musical life of Federal-era America. William Selby of London and Boston (1738-98), Rayner Taylor of London and Philadelphia (1745-1825), and George K. Jackson of London, New York, and Boston (1757-1822) were among the first trained professional composers to make their homes in America and to pioneer the building of an art-music tradition in the New World akin to the esteemed European "classical" music. Temperley compares their lives, careers, and compositional styles in the two countries and reflects on American musical nationalism and the changing emphasis in American musical historiography.

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Brahms and His World

(Revised Edition)

Walter Frisch

Since its first publication in 1990, Brahms and His World has become a key text for listeners, performers, and scholars interested in the life, work, and times of one of the nineteenth century's most celebrated composers. In this substantially revised and enlarged edition, the editors remain close to the vision behind the original book while updating its contents to reflect new perspectives on Brahms that have developed over the past two decades. To this end, the original essays by leading experts are retained and revised, and supplemented by contributions from a new generation of Brahms scholars. Together, they consider such topics as Brahms's relationship with Clara and Robert Schumann, his musical interactions with the "New German School" of Wagner and Liszt, his influence upon Arnold Schoenberg and other young composers, his approach to performing his own music, and his productive interactions with visual artists.

The essays are complemented by a new selection of criticism and analyses of Brahms's works published by the composer's contemporaries, documenting the ways in which Brahms's music was understood by nineteenth- and early twentieth-century audiences in Europe and North America. A new selection of memoirs by Brahms's friends, students, and early admirers provides intimate glimpses into the composer's working methods and personality. And a catalog of the music, literature, and visual arts dedicated to Brahms documents the breadth of influence exerted by the composer upon his contemporaries.

Breaking Time's Arrow Cover

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Breaking Time's Arrow

Experiment and Expression in the Music of Charles Ives

Matthew McDonald

Charles Ives (1874-1954) moved traditional compositional practice in new directions by incorporating modern and innovative techniques with nostalgic borrowings of 19th century American popular music and Protestant hymns. Matthew McDonald argues that the influence of Emerson and Thoreau on Ives's compositional style freed the composer from ordinary ideas of time and chronology, allowing him to recuperate the past as he reached for the musical unknown. McDonald links this concept of the multi-temporal in Ives’s works to Transcendentalist understandings of eternity. His approach to Ives opens new avenues for inquiry into the composer's eclectic and complex style.

Carla Bley Cover

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Carla Bley

Amy C. Beal

This is the first comprehensive treatment of the remarkable music and influence of Carla Bley, a highly innovative American jazz composer, pianist, organist, band leader, and activist. With fastidious attention to Bley's diverse compositions over the last fifty years spanning critical moments in jazz and experimental music history, Amy C. Beal tenders a long-overdue representation of a major figure in American music._x000B__x000B_Bley is best known for her jazz opera "Escalator over the Hill," her role in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, and her collaborations with artists such as Jack Bruce, Don Cherry, Robert Wyatt, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. She has successfully maneuvered the field of jazz creating works that range from the highly accessible and tradition-based to commercially unviable and avant-garde. Beal details the staggering variety in Bley's work as well as her use of parody, quotations, and contradictions, examining the vocabulary Bley has developed throughout her career and highlighting the compositional and cultural significance of her experimentalism._x000B__x000B_Beal also points to Bley's professional and managerial work as a pioneer in the development of artist-owned record labels, the cofounder and manager of WATT Records, and the cofounder of New Music Distribution Service. Showing her to be not just an artist but an activist who has maintained musical independence and professional control amid the profit-driven, corporation-dominated world of commercial jazz, Beal's straightforward discussion of Bley's life and career will stimulate deeper examinations of her work.

Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá Cover

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Carlos Aldama's Life in Batá

Cuba, Diaspora, and the Drum

Umi Vaughan and Carlos Aldama

Batá identifies both the two-headed, hourglass-shaped drum of the Yoruba people and the culture and style of drumming, singing, and dancing associated with it. This book recounts the life story of Carlos Aldama, one of the masters of the batá drum, and through that story traces the history of batá culture as it traveled from Africa to Cuba and then to the United States. For the enslaved Yoruba, batá rhythms helped sustain the religious and cultural practices of a people that had been torn from its roots. Aldama, as guardian of Afro-Cuban music and as a Santería priest, maintains the link with this tradition forged through his mentor Jesus Pérez (Oba Ilu), who was himself the connection to the preserved oral heritage of the older generation. By sharing his stories, Aldama and his student Umi Vaughan bring to light the techniques and principles of batá in all its aspects and document the tensions of maintaining a tradition between generations and worlds, old and new. The book includes rare photographs and access to downloadable audio tracks.

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