Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts

This is the fifth in a new weekly series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: Thelonious Monk’s tips for playing a gig; a free course on creative writing from William Burroughs; and a review of the first authorised biography of Angela Carter. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

Part of a sequence of records showing a master improviser at the height of his powers
Sonny Rollins, Newk's Time (Blue Note, 1957)
Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Time (Blue Note, 1959)

In his autobiography, Miles Davis remembers taking a New York cab with Sonny Rollins: “the white cabdriver turned around and looked at Sonny and said, ‘Damn, you’re Don Newcombe!’”, confusing the saxophonist with the Brooklyn Dodgers star pitcher. Davis goes on: “Man, the guy was totally excited. I was amazed, because I hadn’t thought about it before. We put that cabdriver on something terrible. Sonny started talking about what kind of pitches he was going to throw Stan Musial, the great hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals, that evening”. Rollins’ resemblance to the player became the origin of a nickname ‘Newk’, by which he was known by Davis, Charlie Parker, and the wider jazz community.

Newk’s Time, a Blue Note album recorded on this day in 1957, was Rollins’ third album for the label and anticipates his landmark live recording Night at the Village Vanguard that November. (more…)

The alto-saxophonist’s recording for Blue Note documents the tensions inherent in 1960s jazz
Jackie McLean, Destination... Out! (Blue Note, 1964)
Jackie McLean, Destination… Out! (Blue Note, 1964)

On this day in 1963, Jackie McLean stepped into Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio to record Destination… Out! for Blue Note Records. The album offers an interesting snapshot of the development of jazz during the early 1960s, where bebop and blues begin to give ground to something altogether different: a ‘new thing’, or new ‘avant-garde’.

The alto saxophonist was raised in a New York neighbourhood frequented by some of the most prominent names in jazz. As a young man, he practiced with the likes of Sonny Rollins, Bud Powell, and even found the chops to play in Miles Davis’ band and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

His style, described by Cook and Morton as “menthol-sharp”, owed more than a small debt to Charlie Parker’s fleet-footed bebop improvisations of the ‘40s, but through his association with Blue Note the musician began to engage with the abstract and exploratory possibilities of free jazz. As such, Destination… Out! moves away from the open accessibility of 1962’s Bluesnik and builds on the progress of what is perhaps McLean’s greatest recording as leader, Let Freedom Ring (1963). (more…)

Curating some of the best recent links across literature, philosophy, and the arts

This is the fourth in a new weekly series that brings together the articles, reviews, interviews and miscellany that has caught my eye over the past seven days. Including: a review of the fourth and final volume of Samuel Beckett’s Letters; how to spot a communist using literary criticism; five films that influenced David Lynch’s Blue Velvet; and successful authors offer their best writing tips. Take a look, and feel free to share! (more…)

Innovative arts journal promotes the work of Welsh-born writer, critic, and librettist
music-and-literature-paul-griffiths
Music & Literature (No.7): Paul Griffiths, Ann Quin, Lera Auerbach

Today’s artistic landscape can often feel like a busy marketplace, where voices compete for attention and creative validation. And, as a result, some voices do not get heard. Since its launch in 2012, Music & Literature has been a torchbearer for writers and artists that are often neglected by the mainstream: its first issue was notable for its discussion of avant-garde composer Arvo Pärt, offering an unprecedented glimpse into his life, work, and motivations. Scott Esposito points out that the journal offers ‘the kind of thing that’s unavailable anywhere else’, and he’s right. Music & Literature is a fascinating read for enthusiasts, and a valuable cultural resource for scholars.

Now publishing its seventh volume, Music & Literature is celebrating the work of Welsh-born writer, critic, and accomplished librettist Paul Griffiths. His first novel, Myself and Marco Polo: A Novel of Changes (1989), is a work of speculative fiction that reimagines the life of the world traveller through his memoirs. More recently, Griffiths translated eleven Japanese noh plays, published as The Tilted Cup: Noh Stories (2014) in a beautifully illustrated volume. Paul Griffiths has written five librettos, and is an insightful commentator on modern classic music; he is the author of a number of critical works on topics ranging from electronic music to the history of the string quartet, and was a music critic for both The New Yorker (1992-96) and The New York Times (1997-2005). As if that wasn’t enough, Griffiths is also the biographer of a number of modern composers, from György Ligeti and Bela Bartók to John Cage and Igor Stravinsky. (more…)