Francesca Royster: Black Country Music 

Music unites us, but it also divides us.  We unconsciously foster strong associations between music, gender and race.  Just close your eyes and think about Beethoven’s Choral Symphony: it celebrates music’s unique power to unite disparate individuals into one universal human family, but how many women do you see?  And how many of those women are black?  Now think about the blues and, right after, Madonna’s music.  In the case of the former, do you see any white men?  And of the latter, do you see any Asian men?  Which gender and racial profiles seem to belong to each music and which seem out of place?  Keep in mind: if you have trouble simply imagining those music outsiders, how daring it must be for an outsider to show up at a concert!  Professor Francesca Royster’s new book is a diary-like account of her journey to find belonging in a music world not known for including black women – especially lesbian black women – that of country & western.  Her discoveries are at once insightful, exciting and painful. Who knew that Tina Turner used country & western to perform female liberation and independence from male domination?  Yet it is reconciliation and not retribution that Royster really wants.  In line with the promise of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony, she deeply wishes that music’s magic would dissolve the barriers separating her from fellow fans.  But, for the time being, she finds her place with like-minded (-gendered and -raced) musicians and resigns herself to attentively listening for the revolutions of the next generation.  Come welcome Francesca to our show and she will introduce us to country & western music!

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