Yale Professor Wins MAAH Stone Book Award 2021 for Dark and Feminist Sound Story

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Professor Daphne Brooks wins an award for her radical work on music criticism through the long-unrecognized prism of black women in music.


Contributing journalist and collaborating journalist


Courtesy of Dr Van Truong

From Bessie Smith to Béyonce, the black feminine sound has largely contributed to the foundation of American music. According to award-winning author and college professor Daphne Brooks, the names of many of these musicians, critics and artists have been lost in time or overshadowed by their male and white counterparts.

Brooks – who is Professor William R. Kenan Jr. of African American Studies, American Studies, Women’s Studies, Gender and Sexuality, and Music – explores and reconstructs the story of lost black women in music criticism. His book, “Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound”, recently received the award. African American History Museum Stone Book Award 2021.

“I started to think about what the music story would look like if told from the perspective of women of color,” Brooks said. “Who could we value and who could we want in the room for these conversations? “

Brooks, from the Bay Area of ​​California, explained that his inspiration for the book really started during his youth in record stores. His house was filled with an amalgamation of sounds, from his father’s love for Duke Ellington to his mother’s affinity for the Spinners. She “developed a real passion” for rock criticism, but was struck by the fact that most of the popular critics in rock magazines like Rolling Stone were white, male, and primarily interested in the music of artists. similar.

“I wanted to write a book to honor intellectual conversations and ideas about black women, revolutionary musicians and artists, and reflect on why it has been such a problem for mainstream music criticism to pay attention to their contributions.” Brooks said.

Brooks applied for the award on the recommendation of Jacqueline Goldsby, chair of the Department of African American Studies. The MAAH Stone Book Award, according to its website, aims to inspire, nurture and “recognize new literary works in the field of African American history and culture.”

In its field, the award is also unique due to the large sum of money attached to it. Brooks said she was incredibly “grateful” to the awards committee for their recognition. She also said that the large sum of money is culturally important, as capitalism often equates cultural value with its monetary equivalent.

Brooks also noted that the award recognizes an author’s ability to write in a way that makes academic writing accessible to all audiences.

“I think there is real power in this award,” said Brooks. “[It is] an incentive for academics to think about producing projects that reach all kinds of readers and affect them in different ways.

Charles McKinney, Stone Book Award jury member and president of Africa Studies at Rhodes College, said the award was crucial for its focus on African-American history in the literary realm. He said the study of African American history offers insight into “race, democracy, the perpetual search for meaning and value.”

Brooks’ book, which is split into A and B sides – like a vinyl record – transcends the spaces of academia and popular culture. The first half is a more traditional intellectual story, while the second half “breaks the fourth wall” and questions historiography itself. The second half is more radical too, with interviews from Brooks’ own mother. Brooks noted that she wanted her book’s unique style to be a “model” for young readers and scholars in examining narratives and research outside of mainstream academia.

“We may want to pay attention to people in our own communities and families as geniuses and as bearers of knowledge of stories that have not been explained,” Brooks said.

Brooks’ novel has particularly deep meaning within the Yale community. Pia Baldwin Edwards ’25 said reading Brooks’ novel was like “an eye opener”. Baldwin Edwards said Brooks wrote with “beautifully musical prose” that she had never encountered in her other classes.

“The novel made me question my assumptions about the role of music,” said Baldwin Edwards. “I now see music as a way for black women to celebrate their complexities and to persist through the denials imposed on them by the music industry. “

Brooks’ award-winning and distinctly musical prose comes from a unique writing process called “critical karaoke,” developed by his colleague Joshua Clover, professor of English at the University of California Davis. In a article published in Popular Music magazine, Clover described his process. It includes a three-minute meditation on a piece of music, followed by writing while listening to the music to help writers extract “lasting value or cultural significance”.

Brooks said this process frees her from the constraints that come with “teaching in a closed and intellectually conservative space” found at prestigious universities. She added that it helps her “write about the music in conversation with the music itself.”

McKinney described Brooks’ book as “monumental” and said it was one of the best books he had ever read.

“By expanding our understanding of a musical archive, Brooks takes us on a vast and fascinating intellectual odyssey that significantly reshapes almost everything we have come to believe about the role black women played in shaping landscapes. sonic and intellectual of the nation, ”McKinney says.

The Stone Book Award ceremony will take place virtually on October 14 at 6.30 p.m.




ALESSIA DEGRAEVE



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