In this volume of Bach Perspectives, Laura Buch edits essays that reconsider parody, transcription, and adaptation in the sphere of the composer J.S. Bach. In Bach Perspectives, Volume 13: Bach Reworked the contributors delve into works of eighteenth-century composers from Bach himself to C. P. E. Bach and J. C. F. Fischer. But they also cast a wider net, investigating early twentieth century reworkings; most notably in this excerpt from Ellen Exner’s essay: keyboardist Bernie Worrell and Parliament-Funkadelic. 

In his 2014 memoir, Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?, George Clinton, infamous leader of a constellation of bands referred to collectively as Parliament-Funkadelic—or more commonly, P-Funk—specifi- cally identified the contrapuntal style of J. S. Bach as a particular stimulus behind the composition of the track “Nappy Dugout” from Funkadelic’s 1973 album, Cosmic Slop:

There’s “Nappy Dugout,” a vicious, low-groove that Boogie brought us wedded to a lyrical idea I got from something a girl said to me about pussy.1 Boogie’s track was so funky that I didn’t have to add too many words to it; my job was to make my point and get out of the way. The final step was to let Bernie take his shot at it, add his keyboard parts around the bass. Bernie, like Sly, liked Bach quite a bit, and both of them used his theory of counterpoint, which is about setting melodies up on top of one another to create something larger. Bernie’s understanding was a bit more classical than Sly’s, but both had a way of making different parts that wove in and out of each other. 2

The Boogie whom Clinton refers to is Cordell “Boogie” Mosson, P-Funk’s bass- ist. Sly is Sylvester Stone of the band Sly and the Family Stone, and Bernie is Dr. George Bernard Worrell Jr. (1944–2016), the brilliant keyboardist and music director of Parliament-Funkadelic.

According to Rickey Vincent, prize-winning author of Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of the One, “P-Funk remains the strongest influence on black music since their popular zenith in 1978.”3 The group is so significant a force that Prince himself inducted it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. P-Funk’s dominance is plainly evident in how often its tracks are sampled by other musicians: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, De la Soul, and many other rap, R&B, and hip-hop artists have used P-Funk’s music as the basis for their own new compositions. Legal issues aside, sampling is an act of homage to revered artists, and P-Funk ranks among the most sampled bands of all time.4

If Bach is somehow in P-Funk’s musical DNA, as Clinton claims, and P-Funk’s sound has been foundational for a new generation of popular music artists, then Bach’s musical influence informs canonic masterworks not just of the concert hall but also of funk, hip-hop, and rap. Thus, Clinton’s specific reference to Bach’s influence on Worrell, P-Funk’s main musical engine, cannot pass unexamined.5 This group, once described “as a psychedelic rock band with diapers, dashikis and face paint,”6 is hardly the obvious place to look for the influence of the Leipzig Thomaskantor. Engaged listening across the band’s discography makes it clear, though, that there is ample musically intelligent life on board the iconic P-Funk Mothership, and it emanates most powerfully from Worrell’s keyboard section.7 Research into his extensive musical background reveals that there is most definitely Bach in your funk, and a lot more besides. This essay is an exploration of P-Funk’s incalculable (and unpaid)8 musical debt to Worrell, by way of what Clinton called “Bach.” As such, it joins an ever-expanding discussion of how Bach’s music transcends generic and cultural boundaries. Indeed, similar things could be (and have been) said of P-Funk.9

Bernie Worrell’s path to P-Funk was in no way predictable. The “Wizard of Woo,” as he became known, was a classically trained keyboard virtuoso and former child prodigy.10 He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and raised in nearby Plainfield, where (to his mother’s great dismay) he first met George Clinton, who ran the local barbershop.11 Worrell’s extraordinary musical talent was evident and storied early on:

in Clinton’s words, “he was a local Mozart who wrote his first symphony before he was in junior high. He could do anything from Ray Charles to classical music.”12

Worrell’s mother, Cora, a domestic worker and church musician, fostered it in every way that she could, finding her gifted son excellent private teachers and sending him to piano lessons at the Juilliard School in New York before he left for college.

According to Worrell’s successful application to the New England Conservatory of Music in 1962, it had been his dream “to do piano, orchestra, and concert work,” with the hope of gaining “a graduate degree to teach music on a college level.”13 The universe had other plans for him, though, and that youthful goal remained unrealized. He was seven and a half semesters into his classical piano performance degree when he was forced suddenly to drop out of school due to the unexpected death of his father. Almost immediately, Worrell became musical director for the soul singer Maxine Brown for a little over two years before answering Clinton’s call from the Apollo Theater inviting him to join P-Funk. His first album with the group was its second: Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow (1970).14 After leaving Clinton’s bands, Worrell worked with such artists as Keith Richards, the Talking Heads, the Pretenders, and actress Meryl Streep, who said of him, “Kindness comes off that man like stardust.”15 The former concert pianist was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice and is listed there, along with Parliament-Funkadelic, as one of contemporary rap and R&B’s “most sampled musicians ever.”16 In May 2019, he, along with P-Funk, received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award (posthumously).

Worrell’s virtuosic instrumental commentary, encyclopedic command of musical styles, contagious bass lines, and the extraterrestrial soundscape he pioneered with his Moog synthesizers not only created P-Funk’s signature sound but functioned as the glue holding the multifarious ensemble together. The infusion of classical idioms into P-Funk’s eclectic blend, although seldom described, was among Worrell’s essential contributions. His accumulated musical experience and enormous professional success eventually made him the recipient of that once-desired professor’s degree, an honorary doctorate, from his alma mater, the New England Conservatory (NEC). Sadly, the gesture came just weeks before his death due to cancer in June 2016. Rigorous formal training and innate musical curiosity meant that Worrell was inti- mately familiar with the canonical works of the Western art tradition and the principles of formal composition. He brought his deep knowledge and extraordinary skills to Parliament-Funkadelic, a group of bands whose style range is so eclectic that it spawned its own adjective: P-Funk.

P-Funk is often described as a mixture of pop, rock, Motown, rhythm and blues, funk, and soul, but a focus on Worrell’s contributions demonstrates that J. S. Bach and other traditionally European concert hall idioms belong in that list as well. 17The singular union of these many styles into one is what creates the P-Funk and makes it like no other. Worrell rendered the audacious multiplicity coherent.

Clinton’s initially arresting claim that the music of “Nappy Dugout” was somehow inspired by Bachian compositional techniques suddenly becomes utterly plausible in light of Worrell’s background. The musical style of “Nappy Dugout” nevertheless remains an obstacle to corroborating Clinton’s recollection. The song does indeed feature the “vicious low groove” and sparse vocals he described in his autobiography, but the compositional logic is only contrapuntal in the most generous of senses. In fact, the song is explicit in every way except Bachian.18 The musical texture of the song is not generated by counterpoint. Instead, it is an example of polyphony: the track is composed of multiple, independent, layered musical lines. Thus, it certainly does contain “melodies up on top of one another,” as Clinton claimed, but there is no calculated, note-against-note counterpoint in the manner descriptive of Bach’s art.

If the technical details do not bear out Clinton’s assertion that Bachian counterpoint informed “Nappy Dugout,” we can still be reasonably sure that Worrell, a conserva- tory-trained concert pianist, encountered Bach’s music.19 We can therefore impugn the details of Clinton’s recollection in this case while continuing the search for the claim’s basis: there is some truth behind it even if the facts got muddled in the retell- ing. There are, in fact, multiple songs within P-Funk’s discography that betray sig- nificant “classical” influences—even specifically baroque ones. For example,

“O Lord, Why Lord/Prayer,” an early track by a subsection of P-Funk known as Parliament,20 features Worrell on harpsichord. He improvises over Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D to accompany lyrics that are a passionate meditation on the scourge of racism.21

Canon is a particularly poignant compositional choice for underpinning these lyrics because its chief characteristic is perpetual, relentless return despite appearances of forward progress. In addition, few pieces of music could be more suggestive of cultural privilege and European tradition than Pachelbel’s Canon, so the conflict of topics contained in this song—the desperate frustration of a senselessly oppressed people paired with a musical style traditionally associated with the oppressors—is profoundly, devastatingly moving. Because the track is a cover, Worrell was not responsible for the original concept, but he was responsible for Parliament’s arrangement of it22 as well as

the informed decision to use harpsichord, a keyboard instrument appropriate to the baroque era but seldom encountered in funk. Worrell’s choices here clearly reveal not only historical knowledge but also a multifaceted progressive vision expressed through his musical ecumenicism.

Multiple, separate, identifiable musical styles emerge from Worrell’s keyboard com- mentary on arguably every P-Funk track. They were certainly informed by the reper- tory he studied at the conservatory but also beyond. In one of the band’s signature songs, “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” Worrell references at least three different styles in extremely close proximity: funk, “classical,” and blues.23 The greatest kalei- doscopic mixture of musics occurs toward the end of the track (approximately seven minutes in), where Worrell participates in the funk groove, adds fistfuls of virtuosic chords right out of the concert hall repertory, and then switches to a blues piano texture, all within the space of less than a minute. What triggered his musical imagination to go in these directions is probably unknowable. Whatever the explanation, Worrell’s characteristic mixture works and represents in microcosm the eclectic blend that is specifically P-Funk. Even Broadway musicals make their appearance. For example,

Worrell injects a direct, though brief, quotation from Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” into “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” (2:43–2:44).24 Worrell answers the vocalists’ refrain, “there’s a whole lotta rhythm going round,” purely instrumentally with Gershwin’s melodic tag to the words, “Who could ask for anything more?”

The topical connection between foreground and background is, in this case, obvious.

The creative impulse behind Worrell’s concert-hall stylings in “Aquaboogie” are much more difficult to pin down.25 His additions in this case owe everything to the classical tradition.26 The liquid subject of “Aquaboogie” might explain the journey of Worrell’s improvisatory imagination. After all, there is piano repertory associated with underwater topics (such as Ravel’s Ondine or Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral). Perhaps it was works like these that inspired his decision to add to the already busy texture big,

March’s free ebook has arrived! We’re giving away In Search of Belonging: Latinas, Media, and Citizenship by Jillian M. Báez.

In Search of Belonging explores the ways Latina/o audiences in general, and women in particular, make sense of and engage both mainstream and Spanish-language media. These women search for nothing less than recognition—and belonging—through representations of Latinas in films, advertising, telenovelas, and TV shows like Ugly Betty and Modern Family. Báez’s personal interactions and research merge to create a fascinating portrait, one that privileges the perspectives of the women themselves as they consume media in complex, unpredictable ways.

Find out more about obtaining your free ebook here:

Dana M. Caldemeyer, author of Union Renegades: Miners, Capitalism, and Organizing in the Gilded Age answers questions about her influences, discoveries, and common misconceptions while writing her book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I started researching this project because I was curious about why workers might not have been interested in joining a union. I had read lots of labor history books that described successful movements and how those movements faded, but nothing really looked closely at the workers’ opinions. I wanted to add something to the literature that would shed light on the individuals who didn’t always go to union meetings or pay union dues. I hoped it would give insight into workers’ conservatism today.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

My biggest influences were my family. Growing up, most of my family was what would be classified as “blue collar.” My dad told me stories about how he’d work in the summer to put up hay—he and his brothers were always cobbling incomes together. Even today I have relatives who still farm and work in the coal industry on the side. So, my family really gave me a way to understand how working class families in the nineteenth century viewed job opportunities and this was something that wasn’t really explained in the labor history books I read. When it came to researching and writing, historian Herbert Gutman had a huge influence on me. I was introduced to his work as an undergraduate and his deep research style was a great guide as I tried to answer my questions regarding rural work in the late nineteenth century.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

Dana M. Caldemeyer is an assistant professor of history at South Georgia State College.

I think for me the most interesting discovery was just how much you could learn from the workers by the letters they wrote. These letters really helped me to envision how they saw the world, what made them angry, what worried them, and what they thought was funny. The letters provided a kind of richness to the research process that I really wasn’t expecting.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

I hope readers will have a clearer picture of labor organizing after reading my book. It’s tempting to think that folks back then were more likely to follow unions than today, but that’s not quite the case. My book also shows how common it was for individuals to work in multiple occupations throughout the year. We often think of occupations as a job that a person works year-round, but since a lot of jobs in the nineteenth century were seasonal, people moved between occupations frequently.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

One of my main goals of writing this book was to show some of the challenges labor organizers faced when trying to build up their unions. I think the experiences back then can help shed light on present-day conservatism among the working class. The occupations might be different, but many of the problems organizers faced back then are still relevant today. I hope readers will use my book help understand trends in working-class conservatism and radicalism.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

I’m a huge sci-fi fan, so when it comes to reading and watching things for fun, I kind of gravitate to that genre. My guilty pleasure reading would have to be anything by James Rollins. His stories are always entertaining and, often, history saves the day.

Author, Charles Titus, of Exploring the Land of Lincoln: The Essential Guide to Illinois Historic Sites answers questions about his influences for and discoveries he’s made while creating a comprehensive guide to Illinois historic sites.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

I have thought for a long while that we can oftentimes achieve a better understanding of history through a cross-disciplinary approach when examining the past. In Exploring the Land of Lincoln I have tried to use that idea by linking Illinois history with geography–specifically with a concept some geographers call “place” which deals with the physical and human aspects of a given location. It struck me that a book that explores the state’s past by combining the physical description of selected sites with the human history associated with those sites might provide readers with an enjoyable way to learn more about the important and varied story of our state. 

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Of course, my college history professors, especially Dr. Leonard C. Wood, were a  big influence. Other influences have been those writers-historians, journalists, biographers, and others-who have tried to portray history to us through rich narratives that are thoughtful, colorful, interesting-even gripping, perhaps-and yet which are as accurate as the known facts dictate. I include in this group, among others, Ron Chernow, James Flexner, William J. Reese, Philip Greven, Barbara Tuchman, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., David Hackett Fischer, H. W. Brands, Rick Atkinson, and David McCullough. These are folks who, at least in my judgment, have done much to spark an interest in our nation’s past through their careful, informed, and vivid writing.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

One of the most interesting “discoveries” I made as I traveled around Illinois while writing Exploring the Land of Lincoln is a treasure that was, in a way, “hiding in plain sight”–the South Side Community Art Center on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The SSCAC is not only a real jewel of an art center but has a fascinating history that is connected to so many other dimensions of the state’s past. Those include the remarkable artistic developments associated with the Great Migration of African Americans from the Deep South to Chicago; the difficulties African American artists faced for decades after arriving in the city; and the connection to the innovative art programs of the New Deal. It was also interesting to see the ongoing work the Center is doing with the arts on the city’s South Side.  

Still another intriguing discovery for me was the mystery that lingers yet at Cahokia. This was especially the case with the strange findings at Mound 72, and the relationship of the Cahokians with lunar phenomena as revealed by the work of archeologist Timothy Pauketat.

Charles Titus is an emeritus member of the history department at Eastern Illinois University.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

The myth I hope Exploring the Land of Lincoln will help dispel is the idea that the story of Illinois is boring or one dimensional, and that the state is simply “corn fields and bean fields and one big city.”  I hope readers will recognize that our state has a vibrant history, a past that saw indigenous peoples establish one of the most important pre-Columbian settlements on the continent; that Chicago was an important destination during the Great Migration; that many of the state’s citizens have played roles of prominence in the nation’s history; and that Illinois has a past that is important, informative and which continues to exert an influence yet today.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that those who read Exploring the Land of Lincoln will have a better understanding of the wonderful diversity that characterizes our state. It is a diversity that can clearly be seen in its citizens, in its geography, and in the events and people chronicled in this book’s chapters. I also hope the book will reinforce the idea that there is a value in looking at the past. It was my great privilege for many years to teach history to college students, and one of the things I shared with them was my belief that the study of history can help explain the present. It helps us know “why we are the way we are,” so to speak. Thus, I hope too that this book will make some small contribution to what I hold to be one of our key purposes for examining the past, for looking at our history, and that is to help us understand our contemporary times.

Q: What do you like to read/watch/or listen to for fun?

As might be guessed I enjoy reading about American history; I like watching some of those old television series like Star Trek the Next Generation and Peter Gunn and Twilight Zone, and I enjoy listening to jazz music of all kinds.

The University of Illinois Press is pleased to announce the launch of our new regional trade imprint, 3 Fields Books. Dedicated to titles about the Prairie State and Midwest, 3 Fields Books evokes a landscape of endless vistas that inspire reflection and the three campuses of the University of Illinois. These books explore the culture, place, and people around us while contributing to conversations that connect the campuses, state, and region with the broader world. Those of us who live here experience an amazing wealth of regional history, food, and travel. With 3 Fields Books, we tell the human stories behind the music, arts, natural history, technological experimentation, religious diversity, and progressive thought that define Illinois and the Midwest. These books continue the longstanding commitment to regional voices that make the University of Illinois Press a cultural pillar of our diverse and vibrant region.

“From our first book in 1918, the University of Illinois Press has been publishing regional titles,” said editor-in-chief, Daniel Nasset. “With 3 Fields Books, we hope to enhance our regional trade publishing program and provide readers new ways to transcend their knowledge and explore our state and region.”

Exploring the Land of Lincoln: The Essential Guide to Illinois Historic Sites by Charles Titus marks the debut of the imprint in February 2021. A one-of-a-kind travel guide, Exploring the Land of Lincoln invites road-trippers and history buffs to explore the Prairie State’s most extraordinary historic sites. Forthcoming books in the imprint will include Graceland Cemetery: Stories, Symbols and Secrets from the Famous to the Forgotten by Adam Selzer, and Destination Heartland: A Guide to Discovering the Midwest’s Remarkable Past by Cynthia Clampitt.

About Diasporic Italy: Journal of Italian American Studies Association

Diasporic Italy: Journal of Italian American Studies Association (DI) is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Italian American/Diaspora studies. DI focuses on timely and varied approaches to the criticism and analysis of the field by exploring new perspectives on issues of diversity, gender, race, sexuality, and transnationalism. The journal is edited by Ryan Calabretta-Sajder.

Dr. Calabretta-Sajder is currently an Assistant Professor of Italian at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. His current research interests include queer and feminist theory in modern Italian literature and cinema; Sicilian literature, cinema, and culture; the Mafia and Anti-Mafia movement; the evolution of the Giallo in literature and cinema.

About the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology

The Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology (MCJA) is published on behalf of the Midwest Archaeological Conference to promote and stimulate interest in the archaeology of the midwestern United States and neighboring areas. The journal serves as a bond among those interested in this and related subjects, advocates for and aids in the conservation of archaeological data, and encourages an appreciation and support of archaeological research. The journal is edited by Thomas Emerson.

Dr. Emerson is a specialist in North American Eastern Woodlands archaeology, especially of the Upper Mississippi River Valley region. His research has generally centered on the archaeology, religious ideology, and political economy of late prehistoric Mississippian cultures.

The University of Illinois Press is pleased to announce that we will be joining the Scholarly Publishing Collective (SPC), along with other top-rated university presses (UPs), hosted by Duke University Press (DUP). The platform will fulfill digital access on behalf of the University of Illinois Press, Michigan State University Press, Penn State University Press, and the Society of Biblical Literature.

“We are excited to be among the founding participants in this venture, which will significantly enhance the impact and reach of our journals on both a national and a global scale,” said Laurie Matheson, director of the University of Illinois Press. “We look forward to working with our colleagues at Duke University Press in this proactive and visionary initiative.”

By partnering with the SPC, we are excited to be working with a state-of-the-art platform that offers an intuitive interface and robust supplemental content hosting opportunities, along with the library relations networks and agents that will help our journal titles succeed in a competitive marketplace. The University of Illinois Press is proud to be part of a collective with other UPs that will help extend university press content to greater audiences.

As the United States grapples with its racial legacy, the scholarship we publish is more crucial than ever. As our authors’ books make their way out into the world, they serve as a launching pad for discussion, engagement, and activism. To recognize the significant contribution our books can make to the progress of our nation, and to support the Black Lives Matter movement, we reached out to University of Illinois Press authors who have published books since January 2017 in the fields of African American History/Black Studies/African Diaspora and offered each author the opportunity to direct 5 copies of their book to an organization of their choice.

As of today, we have provided 210 books to 46 organizations ranging from museums, high schools, research and community centers, libraries, universities, prisons, and advocacy groups. And the work continues. We know that these contributions were a small gesture, but one we hope will make a lasting impact on the organizations supported by our authors. 

Beneficiaries of Five Free Books Program:

Association of African American Museums, Atlanta University Center/Robert W. Woodruff Library, Bisemi Foundation, Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum, Center For Black Music Research, Center for Political Education, Central State University, City Voices, Coalition for Prisoners’ Rights, DC Center for the LGBT Community, Each One Teach One, East St Louis Senior High School, Greenmount West Community Center, GVSU Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, Harold Washington College, HBCU Library Alliance, Historians Against Slavery, Howard University Libraries, Institute for Justice and Opportunity, International Society of Sons and Daughters of Slave Ancestry, Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, Lincoln University, National Association of Black Journalists, New Orleans Public Library, NYPL Correctional Services, Ohio Prison Arts Connection, Ohio Reformatory for Women, Paul Robeson House Museum, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Prince George’s County Public Library, Prison-to-College Program, Project NIA, Revolution Books, Richland County Library — Edgewood Branch, Roosevelt University, Source Booksellers, SUNY College at Old Westbury, The Free Black Woman’s Library, The Kansas African American Museum, The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project; The Public, The Southside Community Art Center, Virginia Union University – L. Douglas Wilder Library & Learning Resource Center, Youth Justice Coalition, WBEZ, Zora’s House.

Thank you to the authors who participated:

Naomi André, GerShun Avilez, Sid Bedingfield, Roger Biles, Keisha N. Blain, Sandra M. Bolzenius, Hannah E. Britton, Karen M. Bryan, Fred Carroll, Sarah H. Case, Peter Cole, Richard A. Courage, Steve Cushing, Yvonne Daniel, Emmanuel David, Denise A. Delgado, Esailama G. A. Diouf, Simidele Dosekun, Dawn Durante, Hannah Durkin, Harry Edwards, Tiffany N. Florvil, Tyrone McKinley Freeman, Amanda Frisken, Tiffany M. Gill, Mollie Godfrey, Sandra Jean Graham, Claudrena N. Harold, Nancy A. Hewitt, Gerald Horne, Lynn M. Hudson, Richard T. Hughes, Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel, Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Kurt Edward Kemper, Tammy L. Kernodle, Denise LaSalle, Gary L. Lemons, Keisha Lindsay, Kimberly D. McKee, Jasmine Mitchell, Koritha Mitchell, Danielle Fuentes Morgan, J.R. Osborn, Robert J. Patterson, Tony Perman, Michael J. Pfeifer, Christopher Robert Reed, Eric Saylor, Ian Rocksborough-Smith, Robert E. Weems Jr., Kariamu Welsh, David Whiteis, Phoebe Wolfskill, Vershawn Ashanti Young.

Leta E. Miller and J. Michele Edwards are the authors of Chen Yi in our Women Composers series. Co-author, Leta E. Miller answers questions about her motivations for writing and their influences, and discoveries while writing the book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

My primary motivations for embarking on this book project were quite simply the beauty and power of Chen Yi’s music, her skill in the art of composition, and her commitment to global understanding through the medium of sound. I first met Chen Yi when I performed her quartet Song in Winter for flute, zheng, piano, and percussion at the 1996 Pacific Rim Festival at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with run-outs to UC Berkeley and UC Davis. I was immediately struck by the expressiveness of the music and the expertise in her handling of the instrumental resources, as well as her ability to combine instruments from Chinese and Western traditions. Then I met Chen Yi herself, when she arrived in Santa Cruz to coach our faculty ensemble. Her joy in life, her respect for us as musicians, and her embracing humanity only added to the wonderful experience of performing her work. Many years later, when contemplating a book on a female composer, Chen Yi’s name immediately rose to the top of my list of possible subjects.

Q: Who were your biggest influences?

Leta E. Miller is a professor of music emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of biographies of Aaron Jay Kernis and Lou Harrison. 

Naturally Chen Yi herself was the most important influence on the book. She welcomed Michele Edwards and me to her home for seventeen lengthy personal interviews in 2015 and 2016 and she opened up to us freely on the most sensitive subjects, such as her painful experiences during the Cultural Revolution. Following the interviews Michele and I had many questions and remarkably, Chen Yi always responded to us within a couple of days with thorough and thoughtful answers. It has been a joy working with her. In addition, others graciously gave us their time to reflect on Chen’s life and work, notably Chen’s husband, the celebrated composer Zhou Long, who not only spoke with us but also provided wonderful photographs included in the book. The other interviewees include pipa virtuoso Wu Man, violist Honggang Li (founder of the Shanghai Quartet), and Susan Cheng, head of the Music In China ensemble, which was the first performing organization in the United States to encourage and support Chen’s music after her arrival in New York in 1986.

Q: What is the most interesting discovery you made while researching and writing your book?

J. Michele Edwards is a musicologist and conductor, and a professor emerita of music at Macalester College and focuses her research on women musicians, especially from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

In terms of Chen Yi’s life, we discovered a great deal of information about her experiences during the Cultural Revolution that had either not been reported at all, or had been reported inaccurately, in previously published sources. These details enriched our understanding of, and admiration for, her astonishing achievements in the face of extreme adversity.

In terms of her musical development, we were struck by the many expressive techniques that have remained constant in Chen’s music, from her earliest works to her most recent compositions, revealing the secret of her distinctive compositional voice. We also made fascinating discoveries about the creative ways in which Chen has adapted Chinese traditional compositional processes into a contemporary musical language. These indigenous influences are often hidden beneath the surface and not immediately apparent to listeners: for example, her use of the ancient Chinese qupai Baban in nearly two dozen works as a skeletal framework or an underlying rhythmic pattern. In addition to obvious manifestations of Chinese musical influences, such as pentatonicism, sliding tones, and ornamental grace notes, these more subtle uses of Chinese musical practices show a fascinating linkage of musical styles that fulfill Chen’s aim at bringing together the two cultures that have shaped her life, without wearing her techniques on her sleeve, so to speak.

Q: What myths do you hope your book will dispel or what do you hope your book will help readers unlearn?

Almost all reviewers of Chen’s music cite her “hybridity” in uniting “East” and “West.” We show that such generalized and overarching statements are too facile and that the bi-cultural aspects of her works are far more intricate and interwoven than such simple summaries allow. We treat this matter and several other themes in our final chapter, which, rather than summarizing the book, explores issues that have come to the fore through our investigation: border crossing, diaspora, and transnationalism; syncretism, exoticism, and intersectionality; women, gender, and bias. We hope that this final chapter will enlighten readers to the complexities of the issues raised by a study of Chen’s music and will encourage them to listen and appreciate her works from a new and more nuanced viewpoint.

Q: What is the most important idea you hope readers will take away from your book?

We hope that readers will appreciate the subtleties and complexities of cross-cultural expressions in art and avoid superficial judgments and conclusions. On a more general level, we hope readers will be inspired to listen to, and appreciate more fully, Chen’s inspiring music.

We are pleased to announce that Dominique Moore will be joining the University of Illinois Press as an acquisitions editor. With years of freelance work as a copyeditor and proofreader and positions that include managing editor at Human Kinetics, Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow at the Ohio State University Press, and, most recently, assistant editor at the University of North Carolina Press, she brings a wealth of publishing experience to UIP.

Her academic background includes a BA in English with a minor in gender and women’s studies at UIUC and a MA in African American studies from UCLA. An Illinois native, she will be returning to the Land of Lincoln and bring experience, knowledge, and passion to her acquisitions in Black studies, women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and American ethnic studies.

“I am thrilled to be joining the UIP team in its second century,” Moore said. “It is an honor to work in subject areas that contribute to our general understanding of race/ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. I have spent my entire career in the publishing world, and I am extremely excited to bring that knowledge, along with my academic experience to the Press as well as current and future authors. And, of course, my inboxes are ALWAYS open.”

Please join us in welcoming Dominique Moore! You can follow her on Twitter at @DomTheEditor.