2022 Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award Winners
(CLEVELAND, OH) — Honoring the best popular music books from around the world, the Rock’n’Roll Hall of FameNew York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and The Pop Conference have announced the winners of the 2022 Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award. They include books by Daphne A. Brooks, Kira Thurman and Eric Weisbard.
1st place: Liner Notes for Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound by Daphne A. Brooks (Harvard University Press). Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of musical archives to examine the critics, collectors and listeners who shaped the perception of black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists like Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé simultaneously exist at the center and on the fringes of the cultural industry? Line Notes for Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures – one informed by the overlooked contributions of other black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first black cultural commentator. Brooks addresses the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fan-turned-critics like record label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the 21st century, pop superstar Janelle Monae’s liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians. With a ground-breaking perspective on the history of black women in popular music – and who should rightfully tell it – Liner Notes for the Revolution is at the forefront of a long-awaited recognition and celebration of black musicians as radical intellectuals.
2nd place: Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms by Kira Thurman (Cornell Univeristy Press). In Sing like Germans, Kira Thurman tells the vast story of black musicians in German-speaking Europe for more than a century. Thurman brings to life the incredible musical interactions and transnational collaborations between people of African descent and white Germans and Austrians. Through this compelling story, she explores how people reinforced or challenged racial identities in the concert hall. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the public assumed that the categories of blackness and siblingness were mutually exclusive. Yet, upon attending a performance of German music by a black musician, many listeners have been surprised to discover that German identity is not a biological marker but something that can be learned, interpreted and mastered. While Germans and Austrians located their national identity in music, championing composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Brahms as national heroes, the performance of their works by black musicians complicated the public’s understanding of who had the right. to play them. The public oscillated between considering these musicians as the legitimate heirs of the Austro-German musical culture and as dangerous strangers to it. Thurman explores the tension between the supposedly transcendental powers of classical music and the global conversations that have developed about who might perform it. An interdisciplinary and transatlantic history, Sing like Germans suggests that listening to music is not a passive experience, but an active process where racial and gender categories are constantly made and undone.
3rd place: Songbooks: The Literature of American Popular Music by Eric Weisbard (Duke University Press). In Songbookscritic and scholar Eric Weisbard offers a critical guide to books on American popular music of the 1770s by William Billings New England Psalm-Singer in memory of Jay-Z from 2010 Decoded. Drawing on his experience in editing the Voice of the village music section, co-editing the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and organizing the Pop Conference, Weisbard connects American music writing from memoirs, biographies, and song compilations to blues novels, magazine essays, and academic studies. The authors of these works are as diverse as the music itself: women, people of color, queer writers, self-taught scholars, poets, musicians, and elites who abandon their social norms. Whether it’s analyzing books about Louis Armstrong, the Beatles and Madonna; novels by Theodore Dreiser, Gayl Jones and Jennifer Egan; or various takes on blackface minstrel, Weisbard charts an alternative history of American music as told through his writing. As Weisbard demonstrates, the most enduring work pursues questions that persist across period and genre – cultural studies in the form of notes on the fly, over sounds that keep changing meaning.
These winners were selected from a shortlist of fifteen books that were revealed at the 2022 Pop Conference (hosted by the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music). The award aims to further encourage the publication and reading of popular music books from around the world and to showcase the combination of passionate writing and scholarship in journalism and academia that has marked the work of the critic. musical pioneer Ralph J. Gleason.
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“It is a true honor to receive the 2022 Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award for Liner Notes for Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Soundsaid first-place winner Daphne A. Brooks. “It is a book that in many ways owes much to the breakthroughs in journalism forged by the pioneering Gleason and a generation of critics who have written with color, character, passion and rigor about the captivating complexity of popular music culture. , its promise, and its prodigious power. I’ve often said that the rock criticism that shaped my adolescence had as much to do with the kind of writer I became as the novels of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston. Writing this book has become a way to connect these two seemingly disparate worlds; to argue for black feminist music criticism as crucial to modern culture; to trace the secret, centuries-old history of this criticism; and to offer Flowers to the women writers, thinkers, critics and musicians who were, like Gleason, dedicated to their craft and determined to tell stories about the sounds that were vital to their lives. this award will encourage more of my rock critic peers to seek out the voices of black female critics, past and present. And I also hope that this award adds momentum to what is clearly a new renaissance in black feminist music writing produced by my wonderful colleagues.
A $10,000 prize was distributed to winners, underwritten through the Wenner Journalism Fund.
An event honoring this year’s winners will be hosted by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this fall with details to come. Information about nominating music books published in 2022 as candidates for next year’s Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards can be found at rockhall.com.
Over 70 books were submitted for review. They are now available for reading as part of the permanent collection of the Rock Hall Library and Archives.
Ralph Gleason was a very insightful critic of jazz, pop and rock music whose words stand the test of time and saw the importance of artists like Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Miles Davis. He co-founded rolling stone magazine, was one of the first mainstream writers to cover the San Francisco music scene in the mid-1960s, pushed the San Francisco Chronicle in the rock era and co-founder of the Monterey Jazz Festival.
The Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award Advisory Board is chaired by writer Holly George-Warren and includes writers RJ Smith, Carl Wilson (Slate), Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music/NYU President Jason King, Vice -president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame education Jason Hanley and academics Kimberly Mack (University of Toledo) and Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama). Judges will rotate annually. This year’s judges were Laina Dawes, Nelson George, Alisha Lola Jones, Greil Marcus and Amanda Petrusich.
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