Singer/composer Sathima Bea Benjamin grew up in Cape Town watching movies and listening to jazz records from America. Rejecting a life under apartheid, her career took her to New York, where she now lives. In conversation with Gwen Ansell, Ms. Benjamin discusses, with sung and recorded illustrations, the emotions and debates American music stirred among Cape Town's jazz players and singers, and how America responded to the African contribution to jazz and world culture. Ms. Benjamin is accompanied by Onaje Allan Gumbs, piano.
Gender and Sexuality
Miya Masaoka is a composer, kotoist, and sound artist. She has created works for solo koto, ensembles, mixed choirs, live electronics, and video that have been presented across the world. Discussing her work with her is composer, pianist, and scholar Vijay Iyer. Ms. Masaoka talks about how her and her family's experiences as members of a persecuted minority, Japanese Americans, shaped her works that deal with Japanese artistic traditions and with subaltern social groups--and even with marginalized biological subjects such as plants and insects.
Department of Music
In the 20th Century, improvisation in the contemporary arts has served as a symbol of new models of social organization that foreground agency, history, memory, identity, personality, freedom, embodiment, cultural difference and self-determination.
Vocalist Jeanne Lee took a multidisciplinary approach to improvisation that incorporated dance and visual media and produced remarkable innovations in vocal sound. She remained relatively obscure throughout her 40-year professional career, Porter argues, because of her iconoclastic performance art, and because of her status as a woman, working mother, and black person. He explores the challenges to assumptions about nation, gender, and race in Lee's work, particularly in her performance of her poem "In These Last Days."
Kelly argues that Thelonious Monk's popular success, along with the emergence of free jazz in the 1960s, changed the terms of critical reception for the previously misunderstood composer and pianist. Conservative critics, and some liberal ones, suddenly embraced Monk as a foil against the free jazz rebellion, while defenders of the avant-garde often sought to claim Monk as one of their own-though these younger musicians sometimes challenged Monk's musical conceptions.
This dissertation examines how creative women improvisers are subject to gendered representations and receptions by the media, festival, and record producers. Current dispositions towards women, whether deliberate or unintentional, influence future engagements for women improvisers. In addition, the relative exclusion of feature articles on women improvisers or as leaders at festivals leads to what I call the myth of absence - the assumption that women are not interested in participating in the exploration and development of experimental creative improvised music.
In view of the frequent "spectacle" of a black woman singer performing at politically charged public gatherings in this country, Griffin asks how the black woman's voice can be called on to heal a national crisis-or in some instances to provoke one. Her article delves into the language American writers, both black and white, have used to construct "narratives of nation" around black women's voices, and it identifies an alternative "myth of origin" for a black nation.
This essay explores the sexual politics of women's blues of the 1920s and compares it to black women's fiction during the same period. Carby argues that classic blues singers Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ethel Waters had more latitude to challenge patriarchy and expose the contradictions of black women's experience than black women writers-though the latter's work has been more thoroughly investigated for insights into these issues.