It's just that I've been immersing myself in some reading. I've been incubating some posts about sonatas by Matiegka, sonatas by Angelo Gilardino (all five of his sonatas are gems), and there's some stuff about ragtime and classical music I'm incubating. I've also been working my way slowly through a few books I hope to write about. There's a dense monograph on depictions of Native Americans in "classical music", for want of a better phrase, that I've been working through. It's how I learned about Samuel Taylor-Coleridge's work, for instance, and I'll eventually get to the "Indianist" Arthur Farwell, whose work I noticed getting some mention by Joseph Horowitz over at his blog at ArtsJournal. Thanks to his recommendation I read the new Dale Cockrell book. Cockrell's book Everybody's Doin' It: Sex, Music & Dance in New York 1840-1917 is a swift read.
I may write a small bit about Cockrell's book in the future but the main reading project of late is Randall J. Stephens' The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ’n’ Roll, which is an interesting read. Stephens has highlighted how the early pioneers of rock and soul, black and white, hailed from Pentecostal church traditions and that one of the paradoxes of early rock was that Pentecostal leaders felt that Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin were doing wrong by church music singing secular songs about sex that sounded similar to church music, while observers who were not Pentecostal could at times complain that the Pentecostal musical style sounded like dance hall music.
Which gets to Cockrell's sweeping, breezy survey of sixty some years of dance hall music evolving in dance halls, dives and tenderloin district scenes where prostitution flourished and musicians developed recursive dance-driving musical styles to keep business brisk. Cockrell writes at just moderate length at how much racial integration and interaction occurred in this proverbial underbelly of New York and how much of that cultural history is difficult to trawl through because it was populated by people who, as Cockrell describes them, were beneath the level of public record--lots of men and women who were the wrong class or race or sexuality to get mentioned in respectable society by way of newspaper articles ... save for crime reports.
I'm about halfway through the Stephens book and it's interesting but if you aren't already conversant in a lot of musical styles and also conversant in the theological distinctions necessary to understand the differences between Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Nazarenes and a variety of other Protestant American movements The Devil's Music could alienate a reader very quickly who isn't able to juggle all of the religious movements and the musical movements at the same time. I'm not finding it difficult but that's because this kind of book is a perfect nexus of two of my hobbies. Taking the Stephens book with the Cockrell book it feels like these books are confirming a hunch I've had that in European music many of the innovators of the 20th century came from high liturgical traditions while in American music the most historically significant shifts in American popular music, if Stephens' survey of the ways in which early rock was catalyzed by some very, very badly behaved Pentecostals is accurate, emerged from the low liturgical church scenes, so low liturgy that if you were to ask Pentecostals what their liturgy is they would often likely deny they even have one. I think I can safely say that on account of having been raised Pentecostal into my early 20s.
I'm just getting to the part of the book where Larry Norman shows up. It's a fascinating irony that many of the early rock and soul pioneers drew inspiration from church music traditions and then Pentecostal leadership attacked the early rock and soul stars for stealing church music or for being too worldly but, Stephens' points out, there was some uneasiness among Pentecostals about criticisms from outsiders who had more mainstream religious establishment credentials that the Pentecostal musical style seemed too decadent and dance-hall derived to avoid being salacious or crazy.
So, when I finish the book, I want to write a bit about it. I'm ex-Pentecostal for a variety of reasons but there's some spectacular stuff about the musical traditions I've never felt any reason to cast off.
And ... there's still that longer form treatment of the possibilities for fusion of ragtime and sonata forms I'm incubating. That will now entail some analysis of a piano sonata by Richard St. Clair and a ragtime with interrupting fugue by Henry Martin. You can infer from that description that in order to do that sort of thing a good deal of score study and listening is involved since I "can" play the piano when I have to but it's not my preferred or most fluent instrument.
I'm still waiting for the eventual release of a recording of all the Atanas Ourkouzounov sonatas. I will totally buy that CD when it's ready to come out but ... in light of everything I've just written, if it doesn't come out for a while yet, that's alright. I'm pretty busy as it is.