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Cultural Codes

Makings of a Black Music Philosophy

Bill Banfield

No art can survive without an understanding of, and dedication to, the values envisioned by its creators. No culture over time has existed without a belief system to sustain its survival. Black music is no different. In Cultural Codes: Makings of a Black Music Philosophy, William C. Banfield engages the reader in a conversation about the aesthetics and meanings that inform this critical component of our social consciousness.

By providing a focused examination of the historical development of Black music artistry, Banfield formulates a useable philosophy tied to how such music is made, shaped, and functions. In so doing, he explores Black music culture from three angles: history, education, and the creative work of the musicians who have moved the art forward. In addition to tracing Black music from its African roots to its various contemporary expressions, including jazz, soul, R&B, funk, and hip hop, Banfield profiles some of the most important musicians over the last century: W.C. Handy, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Mary Lou Williams, John Coltrane, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Stevie Wonder, among others.
Cultural Codes provides an educational and philosophical framework for students and scholars interested in the traditions, the development, the innovators, and the relevance of Black music.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 254Size: 6 x 9
978-0-8108-7286-8 • Paperback • December 2009 • $48.00 • (£32.95)
978-0-8108-7287-5 • eBook • December 2009 • $45.00 • (£29.95)
William C. Banfield is professor of Africana Studies/Music and Society at Berklee College of Music. A composer, jazz guitarist, and recording artist, he has been hired by the Quincy Jones Foundation to head up a national team to write a new American Popular Music national curriculum. He is the author of Musical Landscapes in Color: Conversations with Black American Composers (Scarecrow, 2003) and Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age (Scarecrow, 2004).
Elegantly and passionately written.
Cadence Magazine, July-September 2010

An exceptionally prolific polymath, Banfield (Berklee College of Music) is only now approaching midcareer. En route to his PhD in music, he earned an MA in theology. As composer, his credits include operas, symphonies, and chamber works, many of which have been recorded (as has his own work as guitarist). Yet in the past eight years, and through a variety of academic appointments, he still found time to write three books: Musical Landscapes in Color (CH, Dec'03, 41-2076), Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post-Album Age (2004), and now this title, a historical journey informed by philosophical perspectives—a tale of African American productivity devoid of the 'commercial monster.' Banfield deals comfortably with all musical idioms, from concert music to rap, in harmony with the heritage of major aestheticians of the recent past. Though endnotes replace a bibliography and the terse discography cites only titles and performers—lacking record labels and, surprisingly, reference to works in the classical tradition (including Banfield's own)—this will be an important addition to collections of black Americana and philosophy. Summing Up: Recommended.
CHOICE, July 2010

For more information on Cultural Codes and the author's other scholarly and creative pursuits, please visit www.billbanfield.com/home.