Samuel Charters, Blues Hall of Fame 2011 Inductee

The Blues Foundation will be holding their annual Blues Hall of Fame induction on May 4, 2011. It’s part of their annual Blues Music Awards event. ¬†I would love to go to Memphis, Tennessee some day with Rosemary and be an active part of this event. So yes, this is a bucket list item for me ūüėČ

The Blues Hall of Fame Inductee who I am writing my daily blog post about is Samuel Charters.  I was conducting research for a future daily blog post about the Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughn In Session CD/DVD recording when I happened upon Samuel Charters name as the person who wrote the liner notes for this auspicious blues event.

I pride myself as an amateur ethnomusicologist. ¬†I graduated from the University of New Haven, minoring in music and ethnomusicology was my heart of hearts goal in 1974. I haven’t let go of staying in league with music study. I value music historians such as Alan Lomax and music journalists such as Peter Guralnick , Paul Oliver and Robert Palmer. It stands to reason that Samuel Charters would be on my radar screen as a blues music subject matter authority.

Samuel Charters (81 years young)  is being deservedly recognized for his vast contribution to the study and promotion of the blues music idiom. Samuel Charters has written seven books about the blues. He is also a noted subject matter authority on jazz and has written six titles about jazz.

His book The¬†Country Blues is a definitive publication that sews together the threads of blues history in a musical and cultural quilt. It was, in his words, ‚Äúan effort to force the white society to reconsider some of its racial attitudes,¬†although it was a cry for help‚ÄĚ for the blues artists.

What I find very fascinating is the contribution Samuel Charters, along with his wife Ann Charters have made to the legacy of music and literature. The Charters have collected substantive information about the blues, jazz, and African diaspora music. Ann is a noted subject matter authority on the Beat Generation which is another developing interest of mine. She wrote the first Jack Kerouac biography (which received co-operation from Kerouac himself).

Ann Charters is  a professor of American Literature at UCONN. Please take note of her illustrious curriculum vitae. http://english.uconn.edu/directory/uploads/cvs/charters.pdf

Samuel and Ann Charters split their time today between Sweden where they live (they grew disenchanted with the American political landscape and who could blame them) and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. They have unselfishly donated several large collections to UCONN’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center for ongoing¬†scholarly¬†research.

I plan to spend some quality time researching a book I want to write at this facility. I can’t wait to pour through their exhaustive collection.¬†Samuel and Ann Charters Archive of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture

Thank you Ann and Samuel Charters for your devotion to the preservation of arts and literature! You enhance scholarly pursuit of the origins of music and the beat generation with very skillful detail.


World Music and Wesleyan University, Daily Post 2011 #8

“When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school

It’s a wonder
I can think at all

And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none

I can read the writing on the wall

“Kodachrome” ¬†– Lyrics by Paul Simon, Copyright 1972, Paul Simon Music

High school didn’t teach me very much. College was the real education, especially when I minored in music at the University of New Haven, from September 1972 – June 1974. I was exposed to audio experiences from music professors who were graduates of¬†Wesleyan University‘s World Music program. Their knowledge of world music sounds, cultures and instruments expanded my horizons in ways I never imagined before. ¬†I took courses on the music of the Far East, where we studied such countries as India, China, Tibet, Bali and Japan. We studied Black Music, diving deep into the eras of jazz, deciphering John Coltrane and gaining a full appreciation for Miles Davis. We studied the music of Africa and its relationship with American blues and jazz. ¬†My favorite book we discussed and read was Savannah Syncopators: African retention in the blues by Paul Oliver . We also studied the music of Europe, especially the music of the gypsies and Django¬†Reinhardt.

The term “world music” was coined¬†in the 1960‚Ä≤s at Wesleyan University by ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown.Robert E. Brown, who¬†passed away in 2005, was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from University of California Los Angeles. He was appointed assistant professor in Wesleyan‚Äôs Music Department in 1961 and joined the tenured ranks of the faculty in 1966.¬†He introduced Carnatic (South Indian) music to Wesleyan.

Brown wrote that he: ‚Äú‚Ķ invented the term ‚Äėworld music‚Äô ‚Ķ to avoid using ‚Ķ ‚Äėethnomusicology‚Äô for a new graduate program we were cooking up, and to emphasize music and music performance as the core of the program, as opposed to musicological research.‚ÄĚ (Robert Brown, letter to the editor, ‚ÄúHis fault,‚ÄĚ Folk Roots (208 Oct. 2000), 1-2.).

I also had Paul Simon to thank as he championed world music in exciting, innovative ways. ¬†Simon’s relationship with world music began with ¬†Bridge Over Troubled Water, which featured an Andean song called el Condor Pasa.¬†¬†Then in 1972, when his first solo album Paul Simon was released he created the reggae influenced hit, “Mother and Child Reunion”. He continued on that path by adding layers, textures and world music influences by recording much of¬†Graceland in South Africa.

Paul Simon continued to imbue world music cultures into his music, for example he moved on to the music of Brazil with The Rhythm of the Saints recording.

Another famous Wesleyan graduate, John Perry Barlow has worked with Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture¬†to create an online music archive to catalog all the music of Brazil. It is an open source¬†initiative¬†that I heartily embrace as it will make all the music available for free download.