Race, Sound, and Poetry in Production

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: Published: January 2021

Author: Anthony Reed

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Music > Jazz

In Soundworks Anthony Reed argues that studying sound requires conceiving it as process and as work. Since the long Black Arts era (ca. 1958–1974), intellectuals, poets, and musicians have defined black sound as radical aesthetic practice. Through their recorded collaborations as well as the accompanying interviews, essays, liner notes, and other media, they continually reinvent black sound conceptually and materially. Soundwork is Reed’s term for that material and conceptual labor of experimental sound practice framed by the institutions of the culture industry and shifting historical contexts. Through analyses of Langston Hughes’s collaboration with Charles Mingus, Amiri Baraka’s work with the New York Art Quartet, Jayne Cortez’s albums with the Firespitters, and the multimedia projects of Archie Shepp, Matana Roberts, Cecil Taylor, and Jeanne Lee, Reed shows that to grasp black sound as a radical philosophical and aesthetic insurgence requires attending to it as the product of material, technical, sensual, and ideological processes. 


“Offering a new way of thinking about black soundwork as an understanding of text, Anthony Reed makes a deep theoretical intervention in black studies by opening up the role of recordings in the black aesthetic avant-garde. The beauty and appeal of Soundworks lies in Reed's fresh focus on the records that allow us to hear the more ephemeral and unrecordable situation of blackness.” — Margo Natalie Crawford, author of Black Post-Blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics

“Anthony Reed adds his instrument to the slowly swelling chorus of intently listening, jazzed readers and critics. We've gone from the veritable whisper to a scream, and now is the time to consider the black media concept we have been inhabiting. Reed argues for an ‘overhearing,’ a phonographic mode of what he terms disalienation. Baraka called it ‘word-music’ form. Whatever we term it, it remains Black soundwork. Give it a listen.” — Aldon Lynn Nielsen, author of Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anthony Reed is Associate Professor of English at Vanderbilt University and author of Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Black Sonic: Textuality  1
1. Voice Prints: Toward a Black Media Concept  23
2. Communities in Transition: A Poetics of Black Communism  61
3. Tomorrow is the Question! Amiri Baraka's Poetics for a Post-Revolutionary Age  103
4. Body/Language: The Semiotics and Poetics of Improvisation and Black Embodiment  143
Coda. No Simple Explanations  181
Notes  195
Bibliography  235
Index  251
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1127-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1021-0