Words to go with Black Music Month
June is Black Music Month, and Albert Murray's "The Magic Keys" came out last month just in time. This is the fourth and last of his novels celebrating Scooter going from Alabama to the wider world of music and intellect with passages that are like black music on the page. "Just like when one of us hits that right note that sounds like something we were all waiting to hear without realizing it before we hear it ... talking about keeping the right time with the right people. That's the thing about life, just like it's the thing about music."
It doesn't refer to a month, but music is celebrated, among other aspects of black experience, in "Faith Ringgold: A View from the Studio," by Curlee Raven Holton with Faith Ringgold. In one photograph the benign artist with her tubes of paint is pictured in front of her stylized painting of a jazz band. "Mama Can Sing" and "Papa Can Blow" are among her color etchings. She talks of the blues. "The black musicians took all the pain and suffering and turned it into music.... It's what I've done with my work.... When you listen to their music you not only think black, you think America."
Hearing everybody's voice
The late Alan Lomax recorded black and other folk music in many countries over many years. As early as 1977 he warned of losing music like losing endangered species. His "Appeal for Cultural Equity" appears in "Alan Lomax: Selected Writings 1934-1997," edited by Ronald D. Cohen. "A mismanaged, over-centralized electronic communication system is imposing a few standardized, mass-produced and cheapened cultures everywhere." Later he gives examples (Romania, United States, Trinidad) to "show that any of the folk traditions can revive and can nourish important values if given proper administration and care."
The May-June issue of Black Issues Book Review celebrates Black Music Month with a full page noting 15 books. BIBR is a bimonthly focusing on "black authors, readers, and African Americans working in the publishing and book-retailing industry."
Words and music also come together in Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, published twice a year at Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa. Its title is from a Thelonious Monk classic.