Looking forward to moderating a discussion of “Blues Speaker for James Baldwin,” a new sound installation in University Center, by Mendi and Keith Obadike, in honor of “Sonny’s Blues” and the 90th birthday of James Baldwin.
April 24, 2015 at the Vera List Center, 4:00 to 530pm (walk-through of the installation at 3:15)
Blues Speaker celebrates James Baldwin’s keen understanding of the social role of the blues. In his important 1957 short story “Sonny’s Blues,” the writer argued that attending to the blues required the listener to confront and accept both literal noise (sounds beyond the listener’s understanding) and ideological noise (elements of the lives of those whose journeys have taken radically different paths), and seek beauty and understanding. If this relationship to listening is specific to the blues — a form that takes its shape in response to the survival of black people in general and to the decisions of its craftspeople — then musicians who seriously engage the blues must hold a knowledge deeply important for humanity that lives in the music and extends beyond that medium. To examine this proposition, the artists have invited several musicians who work with the blues to read the story “Sonny’s Blues” on Fridays at noon during the month of April.
Dialogues — Schedule
April 10: Melvin Gibbs
April 17: Brandon Ross
April 24: Keith and Mendi Obadike + Rich Blint with Julie Beth Napolin
This event is part of the year-long, city-wide celebration “The Year of James Baldwin”, which is presented in partnership with Harlem Stage, Columbia University School of the Arts and New York Live Arts, and in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the School of Media Studies, and the School of Writing at The New School.