Nota Bene: The Prince Edition

The September 2017 edition of The Journal of African American Studies was devoted entirely to the study of one artist: Prince.

According to the editors:

It is our hope that this special issue will inspire readers to access previously untapped reservoirs of creativity, help reorient the thinking of those who endeavor to pursue similar ventures that place Prince at the center of analysis, as well as prompt scholars to devise nuanced and unconventional ways to probe, study, and analyze an artist whose persona and life’s work defied convention…

Nota Bene: Music for the Masses

From Alex Ross’s “Handel’s ‘Messiah’ on Skid Row“:

The first performance of “Messiah,” in Dublin, in 1742, was, according to a contemporary announcement, presented “for the Relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols.” Proceeds from the première helped the Charitable Musical Society to free a hundred and forty-two people from debtors’ prison…

In Memorium: Grant Hart (1961-2017)

From Bob Mould’s Facebook page today, on the sad passing of Grant Hart, the brilliant drummer and co-lyricist for Hüsker Dü and ringleader of the great but underrated Nova Mob:

It was the Fall of 1978. I was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. One block from my dormitory was a tiny store called Cheapo Records. There was a PA system set up near the front door blaring punk rock. I went inside and ended up hanging out with the only person in the shop. His name was Grant Hart.

And now, probably Grant’s greatest song (make sure to play on repeat):

Reader’s Corner: ‘Shake it Up’

As part of the Library of America’s attempt to reach beyond their authoritative bind-ups of great American writers, here comes Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z, edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar.

It’s in stores now and a necessary addition to your bookshelf. My review is at PopMatters:

…stuffed with everyone from Robert Christgau to Nick Tosches and Nelson George, this anthology is like some steam-powered hurdy-gurdy of sound and vision. In these gnarled curlicues of theoretical musings, cool-handed thematic unpackings, freakout rave-ups, and widescreen snapshots of postwar America’s sonic landscapes, this is a book that will remind you of just about everything you love about music.

Screening Room: ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’

florencefosterjenkins1

Meryl Streep’s latest role requires her to do some stretching, as it involves playing a woman who was absolutely terrible at doing the thing she loved most.

Florence Foster Jenkins is playing now. My review is at Eyes Wide Open:

There’s an old joke about the difference that money makes for people suffering from mental illness. Most mentally ill people are just referred to as “crazy.” The ones with money, though, are tagged as “eccentric.” Very few statements have more clearly defined the advantages that wealth bestows upon those who have it. Until, that is, the release earlier this month of Florence Foster Jenkins. It’s a dialed-in, feel-good period piece in which almost all the main characters bend over backwards to protect the fragile delusions of one extremely eccentric woman…

Here’s the trailer:

Writer’s Desk: Music for Writing

In addition to politicians trotting out their newest talking points in between dodging questions, you can occasionally find writers on the Sunday talk shows flogging their newest book. This past weekend, viewers of Face the Nation were treated to the sight of former Reagan speechwriter and current dispenser of fatuous bromides for the Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan talking about her new collection of columns. She did drop one decent piece of advice, if you need music when writing, try movie soundtracks:

Because other music would take me away from my work but movie music is meant to help the story along. And … when you’re writing a column or an essay, you’re writing a story.

You need to match the music with the material, of course. For a science fiction piece, the otherwordly Daft Punk soundtrack for the Tron remake is a fine choice. For something more fanciful, try Dan Romer’s beautiful music for Beasts of the Southern Wild. And John Corigliano’s lush score for The Red Violin works for just about anything.

Before you sit down and actually write on this fine Sunday, though, waste a little time with Dame Peggington Noonington from the good folks at Wonkette.