You Want To Read This Book!
The Meaning of Soul: Black Music and resilience since the 1960s (Refiguring American Music) by Professor Emily Lordi
A Recommendation by Thea J. Autry, Postdoctoral Fellow Department of English
Did you know that soul music has historically found its inspiration in the black Baptist tradition? That in Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a nod to 60s soul artist Nina Simone? From the rousing musicality of the black church to the backward-glancing “Afropresentism” of Janelle Monáe, Emily Lordi’s The Meaning of Soul explores the roots, visions, and iterations of soul as a racial habitus of resilience. Expertly employing the practice of close listening, Lordi guides her reader into the sonic experience of soul, thereby unfolding a catalog of performances that demonstrate the power of struggle. Through her, we take no note, no lyric for granted, but vibrate with their historical and spiritual resonance. Focusing on the gendered implications of “soul logic” and the participation of women in its development, Lordi rebuts theories of soul’s masculine predominance. Soul, she demonstrates, is an arena of great symbolic and experiential profundity, redefining raced and gendered boundaries and signaling possibilities for change. Minnie Riperton’s “whistle register,” Sly Stone’s androgynous improvisations, and Flying Lotus’s death-defying “false endings,” combine to exemplify soul’s continued capacity to enact personal self-possession and communal “overcoming.” Anyone interested in sonic theory, music, performance studies, or cultural history is sure to find in The Meaning of Soul a new way of hearing and thinking about the soul icons we may assume we know.