Serendipity strikes again. Yesterday we presented a recital of improvisation at my church. This morning reading in The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist I found that where I left off was the beginning of several pages extolling the ability (and heritage) of the enslaved to improvise.
“… [I]t was the enslaved African Americans who were the true modernists, the real geniuses. The innovation that flooded through the quarters of frontier labor camps in the first forty or fifty years of the nineteenth century was driven by constant individual creativity in the quarters … music and dancing on slavery’s frontier emphasized individual improvisation, not imitation, and not unison.”
It is becoming more and more obvious to me that at the heart of the American spirit and experience are the enslaved people of our past.
This rings through the poets Tyhimba Jess and Amiri Baraka. Just now in reading Jess, he emphasizes a bit of mix of European art music and African American experience via his recreation of Sissieretta Jones, a black singer. Baraka combines a healthy distaste for what America has become with a Jazz sensibility. Both men breath fresh air into my head. They are this week’s mental floss for jupe.
I keep scouring the footnotes in Baptist’s work.
This morning I ordered a used copy of Black Legacy: America’s Hidden Heritage by William D. Piersen.
The day before I ordered The Sounds of Slavery by White and White. Both books were cited in the copious footnotes of The Half Has Never Been Told. I have also ordered my copy of this book as well.
Eileen messed around a bit with taping yesterday concert. She hasn’t shared it yet. We had about thirty people, no children. I was pleased with the recital. I interviewed the players and in each case turned over the mike for them to talk about their experiences with improvisation. In addition to the scheduled improvs I sprang one on them because I felt like the music was getting too stuffy.
Eileen jumped in her mini and drove away after the concert. She is visiting a friend in Montague over night. I dragged myself back to church for a short organ practice, then I went to the liquor store and bought some gin. Last night I did not skip the martini(s).
John Willis Menard: The first black man elected to Congress — and rejected by Congress – The Washington Post
This gives some details about the weird period between the Civil War and the institution of Jim Crow.