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Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age by William C. Banfield

Despite being deeply troubled by much of what he sees and hears, William C. Banfield avoids churning out another of those “things were so much better in my day” volumes. Instead, this comprehensive and insightful collection of essays celebrates past glories and recognizes current achievements, neither demonizing nor excusing rockers and rappers for what he considers questionable actions and debatable sentiments. Banfield is certainly concerned that so many gifted performers place more emphasis on production and image than artistry and excellence, but he also understands that the current system of corporate-dominated popular culture deserves as much, if not more criticism for the state of things than the latest crunk star.

Blending reflection with interviews and analysis, Banfield moves from classical to jazz, then to rock and into the spiritual realm. He even dips into film and television scores, while continually returning to the key question of what the future holds for music in general and, particularly, the sounds created by African-Americans. Black culture may be his principal focus, but William C. Banfield’s treatment extends across the broad spectrum of the arts, exploring complex problems, posing innovative solutions and inspiring readers to carefully consider the songs, films and television shows that define their existence.

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