Online music journal Sound American asks us what American music is | Bleader

Online music journal Sound American asks us what American music is


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Sound American, the great online music journal edited by trumpeter Nate Wooley and affiliated with the terrific DRAM archive of contemporary classical music, went live with its fourth and latest issue over the weekend. While previous issues have focused on contemporary classical stuff—including one devoted entirely to the work and ideas of John CageSound American hasn't been purist in its scope at all. Its first issue focused primarily on gospel music, while the second examined the idea of musical networks—whether they were the improvising group the BSC or the legendary computer-network band the League of Automatic Composers. The latest issue takes on a fairly monumental task: trying to define American music.

When most of us think about American music we think of more vernacular and popular styles: the blues, country, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop. Wooley goes much deeper. This country has a rich and dynamic art-music history, much of which forms the backbone of DRAM's holdings, but with a focus on ethnic-music scholar Ian Nagoski—there's an extensive interview with him, a mixtape of titles he's curated, an interview by him with his record-collecting predecessor Dick Spottswood, and a vinyl-only collection of Lemkos party music for sale called The Widow's Joy: Eastern European Dance Music 1925-1930, coreleased by Sound American and Nagoski's Canary label—this issue considers music made by immigrants here in the U.S. to be part of conversation. With so much of the roots of what's normally considered American music transported here before the advent of recorded music, we rarely examine how other sounds wended their way into our culture. There are also short but good interviews with Josh Rosenthal of Tompkins Square Records, Eric Isaascson of Mississippi Records, and Angela Sawyer of Weirdo Records.

Today's playlist:

Dean Miller, Platinum (Koch)
Sam Yahel, From Sun to Sun (Origin)
Camerata Kilkenny, J.S. Bach: The Musical Offering (Maya)
Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira, Dark Lady of the Sonnets (TUM)
Taraf de Haidouks & Kocani Orkestar, Band of Gypsies 2 (Crammed Discs)

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