Living Collections Catalogue, Volume IV
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Living Collections Catalogue, Volume IV

Walker Art Center

Composite image: Materials related to creative Black music performances at the Walker Art Center, 1960s–1980s, Walker Art Center Archives.

July 8, 2020
Living Collections Catalogue, Volume IV
Creative Black Music at the Walker: Selections from the Archives
Walker Art Center
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The Walker Art Center announces the launch of the fourth volume of the Living Collections Catalogue, the Walker’s digital publishing platform dedicated to scholarship of its renowned collections. Edited by Danielle A. Jackson and Simone Austin, the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Fellows from 2016 to 2020, Creative Black Music at the Walker: Selections from the Archives is the product of a three-year research period, conceived as part of the Walker’s Interdisciplinary Initiative (2016–2020) exploring intersections of the performing and visual arts. The publication presents newly commissioned texts, previously unseen archival materials, and rare audio and video recordings that trace the museum’s engagement with genre-defining, revered Black artists associated with avant-garde jazz and the broader worlds of creative Black music.

Long planned for a June release, the digital publication now comes at this heightened moment in the fight for racial justice. “In focusing on these vanguard artists with whom the Walker has had sustained relationships over time, Creative Black Music aspires to honor them and the art forms they helped to forge, work that exemplifies artistic freedom, self-determination, racial justice, interdisciplinarity, and free-flowing creative expression,” notes Philip Bither, McGuire Director and Senior Curator of Performing Arts.

A foreword by Bither introduces the museum’s engagement with creative Black music, dating back to the 1960s, accompanied by a timeline of selected performances compiled by Jill Vuchetich, head of Archives & Library. And grounding the entire publication is a historical reflection by scholar Tammy L. Kernodle, professor of musicology, Miami University, Ohio, on the emergence and prominence of avant-garde Black jazz in American music.

A key voice in redefining jazz and improvisation, the Art Ensemble of Chicago formed out of a desire to create music outside of the purview of a white-dominated, segregated jazz industry. The ensemble first performed at the Walker in 1980 and many individual members, including Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman, and Roscoe Mitchell, repeatedly returned for solo or their own various group performances.

A poet, critic, playwright, and social activist, Amiri Baraka was also deeply invested in jazz criticism. Three previously unpublished recordings feature Baraka reading his poems as part of the Walker’s 1980 literature series.

Drawing on references to African, Asian, and European musical traditions, Anthony Braxton rejects strict musical boundaries. His approach is traced in this online publication through access to recordings of solo and trio performances as well as a concert with Richard Teitelbaum on keyboard/electronics.

Known for her complex and imaginative vocal explorations, Betty Carter was a jazz pioneer. Presented here are a rare recording and ephemera from her 1983 performance at the Walker with her trio.

A legendary innovator, composer, and saxophonist, Ornette Coleman forever expanded the boundaries of free jazz with radical inventiveness. The publication considers his legacy through two artists of the following generation: Twin Cities based drummer and composer Dave King and musician, producer, and writer Greg Tate.

Julius Eastman’s minimalist compositions embodied a radical politics and an expanded sonic palette. Surfaced here are two previously unpublished recordings of the piano pieces the artist performed at the Walker in 1980, which today are among his most celebrated works. Musician and interdisciplinary artist Jace Clayton offers a personal contemplation on the posthumous appreciation of the vanguard composer.

Trumpeter, composer, and improviser Wadada Leo Smith is revered as one of the form’s most innovative and influential practitioners. An interview between the artist and Taja Cheek, a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and assistant curator at MoMA PS1, New York, focuses on Smith’s musical trajectory, philosophy, and inspirations.

Consciously blending techniques from European composers with African American musical traditions, poet and musician Cecil Taylor first performed at the Walker in 1979. His recordings are accompanied by a reprint of Fred Moten’s “Sound in Florescence: Cecil Taylor Floating Garden” (1997).

By challenging the prescriptive limits of the term “jazz,” composer, saxophonist, and flautist Henry Threadgill embarked on a lifelong series of sonic explorations and radical redefinition of the form in the early 1970s. A response by Twin Cities based cellist and curator Michelle Kinney, as well as an interview between Philip Bither and pianist, artist, and composer Jason Moran, reflect on Threadgill’s enduring influence.

While exploring each of the above sections, readers have the opportunity to also listen to rare audio, view previously unreleased video footage, and browse vintage ephemera and other archival materials, making this publication an uncommon and uniquely layered online experience.

Acknowledgments
Creative Black Music at the Walker: Selections from the Archives, Volume IV of the Living Collections Catalogue, is part of the Walker Art Center’s Interdisciplinary Initiative (2016–2020), made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Editors:
Danielle A. Jackson, Interdisciplinary Fellow, Performing Arts, 2016–2018
Simone Austin, Interdisciplinary Fellow, Visual Arts, 2018–2020

Curatorial Advisors:
Doug Benidt, Philip Bither, Adrienne Edwards, Siri Engberg, and Pavel Pyś

Publication Production:
Ian Babineau, Emmet Byrne, Pamela Johnson, Alanna Nissen, and Jaś Stefański

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