Following in the footsteps of renowned authors like Alain Locke, Harold Cruse, and Amiri Baraka, Black Notes: Essays of A Musician Writing in A Post-Album Age, takes as its mission an important aesthetic inquiry, asking the compelling questions: How did we get where we are? What's next among this generation's artistic voices, concerns, and practices? What is the future of Black Popular Music? In this fascinating collection of essays, interviews, and notes, Author William C. Banfield celebrates and critiques the values of contemporary Black popular music through the exploration of both present and past voices and movements. From his unique vantage point as musician, artist, and writer, Banfield examines a variety of influences in the music world, from 17th-century composer/violinist Chevalier de St. Georges to jazz giant Duke Ellington; from producer Quincy Jones to pop legend Prince.

Amusing anecdotes and the author's personal stories about encounters with legendary musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, and Flavor Flav can be found throughout the work.Also included are conversations with Bernice Reagon Johnson, Bobby McFerrin, Patrice Rushen, and Billy Taylor, among others. Using a wide-angle lens, Banfield effectively draws from the academic world of cultural studies as well as a plethora of popular culture examples, including contemporary Black American composers, films, and television shows. This entertaining work is a must read for anyone interested in African American studies, music, and popular culture.

Here is what critics are saying about Banfield's new book:

“Bill Banfield—composer, performer, scholar, and critic—has produced another must-read book with Black Notes. He writes about the glorious past, he controversial present, and the boundless future of Black music from his position on the front lines, and no one does it more engagingly or insightfully than he does. This is a book from which to learn and by which to teach, and to enjoy.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr., chair, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University

“Dr. Banfield is undertaking a daunting task defining Black music. [His] text is without a doubt a significant contribution to the research that has been and is continuing to be collected for present and future scholars who are engaged in solving the riddle of who Americans really are. This approach creates many more questions than answers, but at this time in our history, literature of this nature is a welcome respite to the alternative of sociopolitical and historical subterfuge perpetrated through the mythology of the dominant culture. This is a must-read.”—Ellis L. Marsalis, professor emeritus, University of New Orleans

“William Banfield is extremely well qualified to have written this book. Here is a project that brings together all of his gifts as a scholar, an academic, and a musician—one who has played in many different contexts and has composed for them as well. Nothing like this has ever appeared before, and that could be because no one as qualified as Banfield has made the choice to take on a project of this magnitude. His belief comes down to something he likes to say about the role of those who work in culture, which is ‘to illuminate the world.’ This book contains, as it should, plenty of light.” —Stanley Crouch

“Bill Banfield is a modern magician who, when he raises his baton on music of all kinds, fetches forth a spirit and image that touches new meanings and interpretations. This beautiful and innovative volume breathes new life and understanding to all notes and interpretations.  It is a volume not to sleep with but to sing on. Nobody interprets with a clearer voice and higher tone.” —Ray B. Browne, book review editor, Journal of American Culture


Buy the Book

Musical Landscapes in Color, Conversations With Black American Composers by William C. Banfield

In Musical Landscapes In Color, William Banfield offers unprecedented insight into the lives and perspectives of influential African- American composers. This highly varied and enormously interesting first-person accounts and interviews contained in this work will appeal to both music scholars and general readers. A sequel to the award-winning The Black Composer Speaks (Scarecrow Press, 1978), Musical Landscapes in Color explores the creative world of 40 African American Composers. The book traces the lives and careers of these talented composer’s, and provides a personal perspective of a world that has been slow to recognize their remarkable contributions.