Black Talk: How the Music of Black America Created a Radical Alternative to the Values of Western Literary Tradition

Black Talk: How the Music of Black America Created a Radical Alternative to the Values of Western Literary Tradition

Ben Sidran

Language: English

Pages: 314

ISBN: 0862415373

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Filenote: PDF retail from EBL. BookBaby have created it by taking their nice epub and converted to PDF + pagination rather than the typical beautiful PDF imprint
Publish Year note: First published October 1st 1970 by Da Capo

Black Music—whether it be jazz, blues, r&b, gospel, or soul—has always expressed, consciously or not, its African "oral" heritage, reflecting the conditions of a minority culture in the midst of a white majority. Black Talk is one of those rare books since LeRoi Jones's Blues People to examine the social function of black music in the diaspora; it sounds the depths of experience and maps the history of a culture from the jazz age to the revolutionary outbursts of the 1960s.

Ben Sidran finds radical challenges to the Western, white literary tradition in such varied music as Buddy Bolden's loud and hoarse cornet style, the call and response between brass and reeds in a swing band, the emotionalism of gospel, the primitivism of Ornette Coleman, and the cool ethic of bebop.

"The musician is the document," says Sidran. "He is the information himself. The impact of stored information is transmitted not through records or archives, but through the human response to life."











of the solo" was relatively unknown in West African music, there is an essential point to add to Jones's observation: the Black culture assimilated white culture by accepting its forms while drastically altering its content. The new Black individualism, spun-off from the church split and exemplified by the soloist, was unlike traditional Western individualism in that it did not proceed down the chain of inference established through Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.{xliii} Oral cultures do not begin

recognized, "Only in the city does sustained innovation stand a real chance. Only the city is strong enough and secure enough in its amassed conformity to tolerate the disruptive forces of rebellious originality and creativity."{lxix} To showcase the positive aspects of Blackness, originality and improvisation were placed in an economic context through the competitive atmosphere of the "carving contest ": "Down the street, in an old sideboard wagon, would come the jazz band from one ballroom. And

political situation in the latter part of the thirties for clues to the social nature of the radical Black music of the forties. The fact remained that Roosevelt's New Deal had failed: the power of government did not change hands in America, nor did the economic structure of the country open significantly to allow the Negro a firmer foothold. Rather, the New Deal served to salvage the pre-Depression economic structure with the large corporations emerging practically unscathed. It was, in fact,

intuitively rather than formally. Their desire to "compose" was one with their desire to have the merits of their intuition corroborated and legitimized by the music establishment or at least to have this establishment cease ignoring their musical contributions. One reason this corroboration was not forthcoming was that the music establishment, as a body, could not come to grips with the social implications of recognizing Black music as "art." Although individual modern composers often recognized

and be proud of themselves." One symptom of the breakup of the oral continuum is that there has been no really new musical innovation since the early sixties, and even the innovations of the late fifties and early sixties were done, with few exceptions, by musicians over the age of thirty-five. Even Coleman's ideas had been tried by other musicians during the forties, but Parker had so thoroughly dominated the scene that they were written off. Another, more disconcerting symptom is that there

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