1619: “Music,” by Wesley Morris
“If freedom’s ringing, who on earth wouldn’t want to rock that bell?”
Happy Monday. Hope you enjoyed your weekend and are enjoying your summer so far. (I’m finally on break.)
It’s time to get back to reading! Here’s our schedule.
This week, let’s read “Music” by Wesley Morris. The essay celebrates Black music and its many Black visionaries. (There are so many, Mr. Morris can list but a few; still, his list fills pages 363-64.) From spirituals to jazz to blues to Motown to rock to R&B to rap to pop, Mr. Morris explores the joy and power of Black music, explaining how its “ingenuity, invention, intuition, and improvisation constitutes the very core of American culture.”
Mr. Morris writes:
What you’re hearing in what we call Black music is a miracle of sound, an experience that, like the spirituals, can really happen only off the page — not just melisma, glissandi, the rasp of a sax, break beats, or sampling but the mood or inspiration from which those moments arise. Writing down the asides and ad-libs and overdubs and yelps and wails, the extended solos, the mumbled running together of rhymes seems, if you think about it, like a fool’s errand, the flowers wilting under hot water that Zora Neale Hurston was talking about. It’s not that Black music isn’t written. It certainly is. But so much of its glory can’t be captured in recorded notes alone. That results from spontaneity. It resides between the notes, in personalities, in grunts, sighs, gestures, timbre, inflections, phrasing. You wouldn’t be trying to capture the arrangement of notes, per se. You’d be trying to capture the uncatchable: the spirit.
Read “Music,” by Wesley Morris.
If you haven’t already, confirm that you’ll be at our discussion on July 10. It’ll be great to see you all there!
Also, please feel free to reach out. Let me know if you need anything or want to chat. All you need to do is hit reply. Thank you and have a great week!