I’ve had two articles published recently. One is a text I’ve wanted to work up for some time, connecting Nina Simone to narratives of Afrofuturism. It’s a topic I first considered over a decade ago when writing my book about Simone. The material didn’t really fit the shape the book ended up taking (and would have put it considerably over the word count for the Icons of Pop series), and I hadn’t really found a satisfactory way to prepare it for publication since then, partly due to doubts abut the speculative approach I wanted to take. Fortunately, the call for papers for a special issue of Jazz Research Journal on speculative histories of jazz offered an opportunity to work on the piece and bring it up to date with reference to more recent work such as Jayna Brown’s excellent Black Utopias. I’m very grateful to the issue’s editors, Liam Maloney and Nicolas Pillai, and to the anonymous peer reviewers who provided some excellent feedback (including the need to make more references to Brown’s work).
The article includes three main case studies: the 1969 album Nina Simone and Piano!, the song ‘22nd Century’, and Simone’s performance at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival. I’ve posted a playlist below, including Exuma’s original recording of ’22nd Century’. It was fun to write a bit about Exuma, an artist I’ve been fascinated by for years and who I discovered through Nina Simone’s work.
The other new publication is a shorter piece on US hip hop group clipping. written for a themed section of Australian Humanities Review marking seventy years of John Cage’s Four Minutes, Thirty-three Seconds (4’33”). As the brief provided the freedom to not focus squarely on the piece itself (or even on Cage), I decided to explore Cage’s tape composition Williams Mix (1951-1953) as a connecting point between the experimental art music world of the 1950s and the ‘alternative’ hip hop world of the 2010s. As Williams Mix becomes ‘Williams Mix’, a track on clipping.’s second album, it offers an opportunity to discuss the uses of distorted, glitched, sampled or ‘broken’ music by comparing art music examples labelled as ‘experimental’ or ‘avantgarde’ with the histories and traditions associated with popular and vernacular music.