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In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition

Fred Moten
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    In the Break
    Book Description:

    Fred Moten investigates the provocative connections between jazz, sexual identity, and radical black politics. He focuses in particular on the brilliant improvisatory jazz of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, and others, arguing that all black performance—culture, politics, sexuality, identity, and blackness itself—is improvisation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9452-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester’s Scream
    (pp. 1-24)

    The history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.¹ Blackness—the extended movement of a specific upheaval, an ongoing irruption that anarranges every line—is a strain that pressures the assumption of the equivalence of personhood and subjectivity. While subjectivity is defined by the subject’s possession of itself and its objects, it is troubled by a dispossessive force objects exert such that the subject seems to be possessed—infused, deformed—by the object it possesses. I’m interested in what happens when we consider the phonic materiality of such propriative exertion. Or, to invoke and...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Sentimental Avant-Garde
    (pp. 25-84)

    The title comes from a Mingus composition and brings a scene to mind, a triptych, a set of questions concerning the content—the weight and energy in and of sound—of Ellington’s life and love, Ellington’s eros, (the Ellington) ensemble.

    This is about the politics of the erotic and the erotics of sound in Ellington’s music, remembering with Ellington’s most radically devoted follower, Cecil Taylor, that anything is music as long as you apply certain principles of organization to it. Eros in Ellington is not but nothing other than sexual, moving along lines that Freud lays out in his theory...

  6. CHAPTER 2 In the Break
    (pp. 85-170)

    Amiri Baraka’s work is in the break, in the scene, in the music.¹ This location, at once internal and interstitial, determines the character of Baraka’s political and aesthetic intervention. Syncopation, performance, and the anarchic organization of phonic substance delineate an ontological field wherein black radicalism is set to work, and in the early sixties Baraka is situated—ambivalently, shiftingly, reticently—at the opening of that field. His work is also situatedasthe opening of that Weld, as part of a critique immanent to the black radical tradition that constitutes its radicalism as a cutting and abundant refusal of closure....

  7. CHAPTER 3 Visible Music
    (pp. 171-232)

    “Look,” he said. Jimmy’s eyes had already followed Beauford [Delaney]’s anyway, but he just saw water. “Look again,” Beauford said. Then he noticed the oil on the surface of the water and the way it transformed the buildings it reflected. . . . it had to do with the fact that what one can and cannot see “says something about you.”¹


    The first take like a start before the just rhythm; the second and the oil on water is music. The florescent music of St. Mark’s Place, the music ’round the Five Spot, is a lover’s complaint. Move in...

  8. Resistance of the Object: Adrian Piper’s Theatricality
    (pp. 233-254)

    What if the beholder glances, glances away, driven by aversion as much as desire? This is to ask not only, what if beholding were glancing; it is also—or maybe even rather—to ask, what if glancing is the aversion of the gaze, a physical act of repression, the active forgetting of an object whose resistance is now not the avoidance but the extortion of the gaze?

    In spite of a presence that could scarcely be called anything other than foundational, black artist/philosopher Adrian Piper barely shows up for certain critics who have taken on the task of defining and...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 255-306)
  10. Index
    (pp. 307-316)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-317)