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Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age

Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age
By Dr. William C. Banfield
Scarecrow Press Inc., 2004
360 pp., $30.00 paper 0-8108-5278-X

Following in the footsteps of renowned authors like Alain Locke, Harold Cruse and Amiri Baraka, Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age, takes as its mission an important aesthetic inquiry, asking the compelling questions: How did we get where we are? What’s next among this generation’s artistic voices, concerns and practices? What is the future of Black popular music? In this fascinating collection of essays, interviews and notes, author William C. Banfield celebrates and critiques the values of contemporary Black popular music through the exploration of both present and past voices and movements (see story pg. 24). From his unique vantage point as musician, artist and writer, Banfield examines a variety of influences in the music world, from 17th-century composer/violinist Chevalier de St. Georges to jazz giant Duke Ellington; from producer Quincy Jones to pop legend Prince.

Amusing anecdotes and the author’s personal stories about encounters with legendary musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder and Flavor Flav can be found throughout the work. Also included are conversations with Bernice Reagon Johnson, Bobby McFerrin, Patrice Rushen and Billy Taylor, among others. Using a wide-angle lens, Banfield effectively draws from the academic world of cultural studies as well as a plethora of popular culture examples, including contemporary Black American composers, films and television shows.  

Dr. William C. Banfield currently holds the Endowed Chair in Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota. He is also director of the American Studies program and associate professor of music. He is the author of Musical Landscapes in Color: Conversations with Black American Composers (Scarecrow Press, 2003). 

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