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Carla Bley

by Amy C. Beal

Part of the American Composers Series

Carla Bley Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive treatment of the remarkable music and influence of Carla Bley, a highly innovative American jazz composer, pianist, organist, band leader, and activist. With fastidious attention to Bley's diverse compositions over the last fifty years spanning critical moments in jazz and experimental music history, Amy C. Beal tenders a long-overdue representation of a major figure in American music. Best known for her jazz opera Escalator over the Hill, her role in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, and her collaborations with artists such as Jack Bruce, Don Cherry, Robert Wyatt, and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, Bley has successfully maneuvered the field of jazz from highly accessible, tradition-based contexts to commercially unviable, avant-garde works. Beal details the staggering variety in Bley's work as well as her use of parody, quotations, and contradictions, examining the vocabulary Bley has developed throughout her career and highlighting the compositional and cultural significance of her experimentalism. Beal also points to Bley's professional and managerial work as a pioneer in the development of artist-owned record labels, the cofounder and manager of WATT Records, and the cofounder of New Music Distribution Service. Showing her to be not just an artist but an activist who has maintained musical independence and professional control amid the profit-driven, corporation-dominated world of commercial jazz, Beal's straightforward discussion of Bley's life and career will stimulate deeper examinations of her work.

Carla Bley Press Reviews

Accurate and kind, Carla Bley reveals with remarkable effectiveness the anatomy of the successive moments of Bley's musical life. --Clarin Carla Bley is a marvel of concision, packing biography, musicology and cogent, descriptive analysis of her major work in barely 100 pages. --Shepherd Express Amy C. Beal responds with alacrity and intellectual force to the challenge of contextualizing the work of this uniquely important, yet academically underexplored twentieth-century American composer-performer. An important and salutary work that greatly enriches the field of jazz studies. --George E. Lewis, author of A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music Beal could have easily written a biography three or four times longer than the present volume. But it would be a mistake to consider Carla Bley something of a half-loaf, as it is more than enough to set the record straight. --The Wire Beal's prose is often lyrical and always dynamic, she instantly finds the appropriate pacing for the narrative and, just as quickly, demonstrates deep knowledge of and affection for her subject. --Popmatters Beal ... expertly contextualizes Bley's career within the landscapes of emergent avant-garde, free jazz, and experimental music while also exploring her creative relationships with the legendary Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden, and others. . . . Readers and researchers interested in women composers, American music history, music theory, or jazz from 1950 to the present will find this book invaluable. --Library Journal Excellent. --New Yorker

Book Information

ISBN: 9780252036361
Publication date: 25th October 2011
Author: Amy C. Beal
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 128 pages
Categories: Jazz, Individual composers & musicians, specific bands & groups,

About Amy C. Beal

Amy Beal is a professor of music at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of New Music, New Allies: American Experimental Music in West Germany from the Zero Hour to Reunification.

More About Amy C. Beal

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