Black music played a crucial role in the work and life of James Baldwin. What Baldwin heard in the music guided his sense of political reality and human possibility, his invention of character, his shifting analytical point of view, and his decisions about what to do, when, and how to do it during his life in private and career in public. The music, therefore, also offers his critics and his readers important insight and guidance in their own experience and interpretation of his work. This brief essay accounts for some of the most basic connections between Baldwin and black music; it serves here as an introduction to a list of songs, some of which offered Baldwin important guidance and some of which offer his readers access to deeper meanings in his work. A playlist of songs, curated by Ed Pavlić and Justin A. Joyce, is available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtSYQ5bCX-C-IZkeQ_PX7ncsbdjI32HSy
This article considers James Baldwin’s last published novel, Just Above My Head (1979), as the culmination of his exploration of kinship, reflecting on the ways distance and loss characterize African-American familial relations. By analyzing Baldwin’s representation of Hall Montana’s relationship to, and mourning of, his younger brother Arthur, this article argues that JAMH revises the terms of the black family to imagine an alternative, errant kinship that is adoptive, migratory, and sustained through songs of joy and grief. My approach to the novel’s portrayal of kinship is indebted to Édouard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation (1990), in which he defines “errantry” as a fundamental characteristic of diaspora that resists the claustrophobic, filial violence and territorial dispossession that are slavery’s legacies. Baldwin represents errant kinship in JAMH through his inclusion of music and formal experimentation. Departing from previous scholarship that reads JAMH as emblematic of the author’s artistic decline, I interpret the novel’s numerous syntactic and figurative experiments as offering new formal insight into his portrait of brotherly love. Baldwin’s integration of two distinctive leitmotifs, blood and song, is therefore read as a formal gesture toward a more capacious and migratory kinship.
This book focuses on vocal expressions in the borderland between song and speech. It spans across several linguistic and musical milieus in societies where oral transmission of culture dominates. ‘Vocal expression’ is an alternative word for ‘song’ which is free from bias based on cultural and research-related traditions. The borderland between song and speech is a segment of the larger continuum that extends from speech to song. These vocal expressions are endangered to the same degree as the languages they represent. Perspectives derived from ethnomusicology, prosody, syntax, and semantics are combined in the research, in which performance templates serve as an analytical tool. The focus is on the techniques that make performance possible and on the transmission of these techniques. The performance templates serve to organize the vocal expression of words by combining musical and linguistic conventions. It is shown that all the cultures studied have principles for organizing these parameters; but each does this in its own unique way while meeting a number of basic needs on the part of human society, particularly communal interaction and interaction with the spirit world. A working method is developed that makes it possible to gain qualitative knowledge from a large body of material within a comparatively limited period of time.
the discourse. But Luc helps choose ‘who is going to sing the song’, the most appropriate person to ‘ communicate MSF’s message’. In other words, who can best perform a humanitarian role in that context? The most common example was ‘balancing’ convoys: Congolese staff highlighted the importance of mixed and representative MSF teams as a way of rendering impartiality visible, especially when crossing frontlines, roadblocks or travelling through areas controlled by different armed actors ( Pottier, 2006 ). As one driver explained, the humanitarian status of local
Based on a recent, archival discovery of the script, “But Amen is the Price” is the first substantive writing about James Baldwin’s collaboration with Ray Charles, Cicely Tyson, and others in a performance of musical and dramatic pieces. Titled by Baldwin, “The Hallelujah Chorus” was performed in two shows at Carnegie Hall in New York City on 1 July 1973. The essay explores how the script and presentation of the material, at least in Baldwin’s mind, represented a call for people to more fully involve themselves in their own and in each other’s lives. In lyrical interludes and dramatic excerpts from his classic work, “Sonny’s Blues,” Baldwin addressed divisions between neighbors, brothers, and strangers, as well as people’s dissociations from themselves in contemporary American life. In solo and ensemble songs, both instrumental and vocal, Ray Charles’s music evinced an alternative to the tradition of Americans’ evasion of each other. Charles’s sound meant to signify the history and possibility of people’s attainment of presence in intimate, social, and political venues of experience. After situating the performance in Baldwin’s personal life and public worldview at the time and detailing the structure and content of the performance itself, “But Amen is the Price” discusses the largely negative critical response as a symptom faced by much of Baldwin’s other work during the era, responses that attempted to guard “aesthetics” generally—be they literary, dramatic, or musical—as class-blind, race-neutral, and apolitical. The essay presents “The Hallelujah Chorus” as a key moment in Baldwin’s search for a musical/literary form, a way to address, as he put it, “the person and the people,” in open contention with the social and political pressures of the time.
, Moses Charlie: [H]e started singing the song. And people know it was a new song they never heard before. And all the people in that village, must be about maybe four or five hundred people came on to the riverbank to watch my dad. And other people comin’ in from Minto area. But my dad was a leader. So he was singing this song. He was coming closer and the people start coming down to the riverbank. And there were such many people. There were lots of snow and stuff on the
The aim of this study was to pursue greater knowledge of vocal expressions in the borderland between speech and song through collaboration between researchers with different approaches, with a view to developing an interdisciplinary method for the analysis of such expressions. The research presented here is the outcome of the research project ‘In the Borderland between Song and Speech. Vocal Expressions in Oral Cultures’ carried out in 2011–14 with support from the Swedish Research Council. The
Our research has focused on vocal expressions in the area where speaking and singing overlap. Our ultimate interest has been neither the description of performance practices nor their relation to possible ‘culture areas’, no matter how interesting these things may be, but how those principles that make vocal expressions possible are constructed. Therefore, the cultures under study have been chosen not for reasons of comparison, but for their suitability in studying the borderland between song and speech
analytical concept that has gained much attention in film-music research in recent years. 4 Many writers use the term as an equivalent to musical numbers; thus, the definition of musical moments generally refers to performances of different kinds, most often song performances. Consequently, even if musical moments in this sense are supposed to appear in various genres, they are mostly found in musicals. Watching Bergman’s films over the years, I have noticed a special kind of music drama that supersedes a narrative
6 Epilogue: in the beginning was song And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1.5) We have (rather deliberately) said very little about the subject of music, as this is not obviously a part of Rousseau’s social philosophy. Yet music was – though scholars have often forgotten this1 – Rousseau’s main passion, and this passion spilled over into his political writings in more ways than one. Rousseau, the musician and note-copier, was an accidental philosopher. Had he not seen the prize question from the Academy in Dijon on