Musical Landscapes in Color: Conversations with Black American Composers

Univ. of Illinois. Feb. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780252086915. pap. $29.95. MUSIC
Composer/jazz performer Banfield (emeritus, Africana studies, Berklee Coll. of Music; Cultural Codes: Makings of a Black Music Philosophy) interviewed 41 Black composers for this book first published 20 years ago, and now revised and available in paperback. Everyone interested in music should read it, if only to realize how much superb music people miss by slighting these productive artists. Several have backgrounds in jazz, and nearly everyone mentions Duke Ellington, but the book is about music composed in the late-20th-century concert and symphonic music tradition, not any kind of pop music. There are commonalities to interviewees’ experiences: the prominence of public schools and churches as training grounds; the different ways they approach Black vernacular in their work; and whom they listen to—among Western composers, the names of Igor Stravinsky and Paul Hindemith appear frequently. While some composers are familiar (including Herbie Hancock and Bobby McFerrin), the overwhelming impression is how many unsung Black composers have contributed so much pleasure to music lovers. It’s abundantly clear their work has enriched and expanded the world’s musical palette. This book should bring them wider recognition.
VERDICT A book that should be in every music lover’s library.
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