Jazz As Critique
Adorno and Black Expression Revisited
Fumi Okiji



There is a short passage in the middle of Jaki Byard’s solo on “Fables of Faubus” that begins with the pianist playing a stuttered quotation from “Yankee Doodle” (perhaps reminiscing about an early piano lesson). A descending bass line pulls listeners away from the practice room toward an insistent common blues trope. Byard moves on quickly—prematurely, it seems at the time—to the opening phrase of Frédéric Chopin’s “Marche funèbre,” completing the medley. The triptych in itself is rich with inference: the sandwiching of the blues between child’s play and death; the play of time—from the out of time / lost time of nursery rhythm, through a slight pulsating push, to a laid-back swing, perverting the funereal march. There is much to think through. Yet it is its blues part that most caught my interest. As Byard continues in a style more in keeping with the recent modal developments in jazz harmony, that phrase plays on in the imagination. So it is immensely satisfying to hear Mingus resuscitate it verbatim. This unleashes a staggered shout chorus of response begun by Eric Dolphy’s bass clarinet, chased an octave higher by Clifford Jordan on tenor saxophone. The phrase is accompanied by interpellations on muted trumpet by Johnny Coles and, soon after, by Mingus’s vocals and then other band members’ sniggers of assent, exclamation, huffs, squeals, and sighs. This supporting contribution soon becomes the focus, pulling Dolphy and Jordan into its vocal(like) interlocution. In the meantime, the rhythm section finally succeeds in luring Byard away from his modal reverie, morphing into a frisky rhythm-and-blues shuffle.

These thoughts begin with the Charles Mingus Sextet at Cornell University.1 Listening to a recording of the concert the band gave in 1964, I was struck by how well their work—that is, their sociomusical play—resembled ideas of a progressive, empathetic mode of sociality suggested by critical theorist Theodor Adorno. While adhering to a strict negativism, which prohibits “utopia [being] positively pictured,” Adorno’s work on the critical potential of art offers something in the order of a code of conduct, a guide to how people might go about “arrang[ing] their thoughts and actions” to resist a world in which Auschwitz could occur—an essential precondition to any utopic future.2 He rejects the idea that art can provide a blueprint of a future society, that it can be adapted for social or political purposes; in fact, even when driven by honorable intention, our propensity to extract utility, to quantify and, ultimately, to profit from that which is brought within our purview, compounds the totalizing tendencies such praxis claims to counter. Yet lying just beneath the surface of Adorno’s writing on art is an unremitting address of the ethical disposition required to bring about such revolution.

Adorno submits the idea that music, when coupled with critical reflection, offers, for all intents and purposes, a social theory, constituted by two distinct but interlocking areas of exploration. First, according to Adorno, the contradictions, fissures, falsehoods, and other structuring conditions of modern and contemporary life can be read from a musical work, which is, after all, despite its relative autonomy, also social fact. Expressive work cannot help but partake of societal dysfunction, even when—and perhaps especially when—an artist is committed to countering these dehumanizing conditions through his or her work content. The second of these areas of study is concerned with the notion that a musical work, through the way it comes together in composition and unfolds in performance, points to a way for us to be together in the world, against the world’s tendency to reduce us, qualitatively. On various levels of structuration a composition is formed through a productive tension between particularity and communion. The composer wrestles with an active pool of found musical material; chords, intervals, feel, and generic sensibility may all pull in divergent directions. The single note similarly stakes its claim to significance against the phrase or chord in which it falls. The various elements of the work tussle and wed—an unstable, never-to-be-taken-for-granted union—holding on to distinction as they come together in cooperation. Absolute synthesis, if such a virtue were obtainable in practice, would not produce artistic work. The unwieldiness of particulars—how they jump out, protrude, and threaten to unravel the forming or unfolding piece—is definitive of such work and artifacts. Indeed, as Adorno reveals, artistic work and the products of that labor “speak” to us “by virtue of the communication of everything particular in them.” The embrace of these potential agitators, the preservation of “their diffuse, divergent and contradictory condition . . . is the unfolding of truth.”3 This respect for particularity within a work’s musical material and event, even as the various aspects come together in a discrete space and transpire temporally, presents an attitude that has little place outside of the arts. It is a way of being that struggles in other spheres of living invariably driven and dependent on instrumentality and violent integration. These are the ideas Mingus’s ensemble helped me recall.

The sextet is hooked up and conversant with a social world with which it has a burdensome relationship. As a group of black men, the musicians show up in it only insofar as they confirm, augment, or rejuvenate extramural presuppositions pertaining to “the black”—a category used to control people of African descent and a marker of the outer limit of what can be considered human, one of the restricted ways black folk show up in the general social field—or the extent to which their activity and what they produce can be made appropriate for, and be synthesized into, the mainstream. This degraded involvement is enforced, which is to say that both the degradation and how this mainstream imagining is used takes place with or without black consent. Although key texts chronicling the malevolent underbelly of modernity—such as Adorno’s—fail to manage more than a cursory glance, and most often contribute to a broad denial of black humanity, a tradition of black radical thought has offered a compelling case about why the formation of the black subject, which is always to say the inauguration and continuance of its subordination, should be considered the nucleus of modernity. This collective critique shows the near-silence of European and Euro-American humanities to be part of a comprehensive program that works to eliminate, or at least obscure, blackness. The near-silence labors as hard as the overtly racist. Jazz as Critique is enabled by a chorus of thinkers—Saidiya Hartman, Hortense Spillers, Nahum Chandler, Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, Jared Sexton, Nathaniel Mackey, and Frank Wilderson, to name only the most significant—who have shown how it is that blackness is structurally incapable of world-making, how black subjectivity was encoded from the start with irresolvable contradictions, how this subject is caught between the denial of American/human home and the active dissolution of African origin, and how black expression is never innocuous but rather both complicit in its own subjugation and a critical weapon deployed against it.

Black life’s incapacity to extend meaningfully through the objects and people of its environment is pronounced on each stratum of modern and contemporary society. The election of African Americans to the highest of public offices provides a depressing relief of appropriate black incursion, against which this inability is cast. Similarly, activist Marissa Johnson’s challenge to potential allies of Black Lives Matter to not just appreciate appropriated products of the expression but to “love black people” is an astute rejoinder to those who present alleged black cultural dominance as evidence of forthcoming equality.4 Even if I were to accept that a compensatory social currency is facilitated by ubiquitous (appropriated) black cultural forms (which I do not), there would still remain an overwhelming need for society at large to know and share (in) the life of black people. In CCTV footage a black boy, racing through an urban landscape, most often becomes visible by way of his potential criminality (increasingly this is “countered” by mobile-phone video in which he shows up—with similar inaccuracy—as “the victim”). It takes a keen eye to draw to the fore from those grainy frames “a boy at play in himself, and perhaps with the image of himself.”5 To see and recognize everyday black living requires X-ray vision. Blackness may well be a thing not yet known, as Fred Moten tells us, and it is unclear how the world could ever know it without internal collapse. But black life is lived, and particularly where it comes up against its appropriated and sanctioned mainstream images and uses, where it misshapes the categorical smoothness of race, it provides invaluable insight. In its contradictory subjecthood—human enough for governance but too black for admittance to the “household of humanity”—such life rhymes with what Adorno understands to be the double character of radical art, rejecting what it is unable to rid itself of through critical immersion.6 It could well be argued that black life is necessarily an artistic undertaking, although questions pertaining to that do not drive this present study. What is suggested here, however, is that black expressive work cannot but help shed light on black life’s (im)possibilities.7

Black music is sociomusical play. It is not so much that it represents black life or an alternative human future; rather, it demonstrates to us how to acquit ourselves toward blackness (and toward another world). It shows us how we might go about dispositioning ourselves, so that we might know how it feels to be a conflicted subject—both human and inhuman, American and black (African), and both “the black” and heterogeneous, fecund blackness. Holding contradictory positions, and the playful negotiations of these, is what is revealed in the recapitulation of Jaki Byard’s blues riff described at the start of this chapter. Byard’s fellow players gravitate toward that node of significance. Their contributions thicken and deform it—initially by merely repeating the riff verbatim and then through more deliberate deconstruction. The performance allows us to glimpse a way to listen to, to be with, and to speak as part of a gathering of deviates. It demonstrates how unfettered, poorly regulated black life congregates in distinction. We are able to sneak a listen beyond the racial clod that organizes black excursions into mainstream spaces, of which discourse on jazz performance, such as we have here, must be included. The musicians are “at play in themselves,” but they are also at play with the image or concept the world has of them. Their interlocution reflects, and is perhaps even facilitated by, the constant negotiations between their everyday life and that of the “hung, drawn-and-quartered” extramural portrayal. And at the risk of a charge of infinite regress, it could be argued that this burden is the foundational condition of blackness. The riff recalled by Byard (and again by Mingus) is a node of significance to which contribution gathers; and, in a slight shift of emphasis, it is also a token or symbol of an inescapable collectivity in displacement, an “abeyance of [the] closure” between appearance in the general social field and the life that imagining routinely suppresses.8 The riff can be understood as a sacrificial amulet, an ever-forming, ever-vandalized effigy of “the black.” While on, a distinct but imbricating register, the flashes of eschatological utopia that we hear in the sociomusical play take us, momentarily, into a blackened atmosphere “beyond space, time, causality, and individuation.” According to Adorno, it is “in [these] emotional shocks of aesthetic experience” that the human “self peeps out for a moment over the walls of the prison that it itself is.”9

The explorations in this study rest on the idea that black life cannot help but be lived as critical reflection. One need not be politically committed to question the integrity of the world. Blackness is a mode of existence in which the disjuncture between the reality of one’s everyday living and the ways one is understood by society at large is so pronounced that the former must be considered an impossibility or a lie in order to preserve the latter. Enabled by, but in animated debate with, Adorno’s thoughts on the notion of a social theory being offered by Western art, I propose that jazz is also capable of reflecting critically on the contradictions from which it arises—indeed, that it is compelled to do so.10 Art embraces what the world cannot or will not accommodate, Adorno tells us. It gives voice to that which has been silenced or excluded, either willfully or through negligence. In a rejoinder to Adorno’s European selectivity I will show how jazz, too, rejects “categorical determinations stamped on the empirical.”11 This book explores the idea that jazz—the music Adorno considered archetypically affirmative of the failed Enlightenment project and insufficiently autonomous to mount effective critique of it—is capable of contributing to a “model of a possible praxis” that shows a gathering constituted by the play, the wrestling and cooperation, of disparate parts. I am less interested in speculating on a utopian alternative than in explicating how jazz gives us access to a conflicted subject that will not cohere but rather is in a state of constant rejuvenation through the unstable, generative relations of its disparate ways.12


Krin Gabbard assures us that “while Miriam Hansen has brilliantly constructed a positive aesthetics of cinema out of Adorno’s largely negative writings on film, no one is likely to tease a corresponding jazz aesthetic out of essays such as ‘Perennial Fashion—Jazz.’13 Jazz studies’ engagement with Adorno has been largely confined to the debate over his provocative linking of the music to the machinery of capitalistic cultural production. In dedicated texts such as “On Jazz,” published in German in 1936, and “Perennial Fashion,” which first appeared some seventeen years later, as well as in his treatment of the form within essays such as “On the Social Situation of Music” and “On the Fetish-Character of Music and the Regression of Listening,” Adorno details his objections to what he views as an embodiment of the “administered life” of late capitalism, a synecdoche that speaks on behalf of the entire culture industry.14 The publication of an English translation of “On Jazz” in 1989, which happened to coincide with the “contextual turn” within jazz studies, has resulted in a burgeoning of interest in Adorno’s critique. Among the most astute of recent responses is Robert Witkin’s, which, alongside an insightful rehearsal of the debate, reaches beyond well-established battle lines to suggest that, far from dismissing jazz as an inconsequential irritant, Adorno’s attentiveness was due, in part, to the music’s questioning the exceptionalism of Austro-German and critical formalism. Witkin writes: “The very claim that jazz music was good music, that it was serious and creative as well as being informal and primitive, posed a formidable challenge to the sociological and musicological theses that Adorno was advancing in respect of twentieth-century modernist music. Adorno’s implacable opposition to jazz has to be seen in the context of these claims.”15 This is stunning speculation but, in light of the discussions of this book, also compelling. Furthermore, the all but unachievable preconditions required to instigate a genuine revolution bring Adorno’s underdefined utopian ideal (which we might say would reside in these preconditions, as much as in any “No-Such-Place” beyond) very close to Jared Sexton’s striking assertion that “the most radical negation of the anti-black world is the most radical affirmation of a blackened world.” This book attempts to reconstruct this unfulfilled engagement.16

Adorno’s response to jazz must be accessed by way of acknowledgment of his anxiety over the fact that individuals are powerless and socially impoverished and that this situation has been exacerbated by the culture industry and its products. The individual holds a problematic but central position in jazz narratives. The term individual, which in its most common usage leads us to the image of the defunct bourgeois subject of earlier and less malignant permutations of capitalism, has largely escaped interrogation within jazz studies. Its use has assisted the desire to bring jazz closer to the model provided by Western European concert music and the singularity of the composer and her or his composition. It is an abstraction that leads to the fetishization of the solo as the essence of jazz work. Yet the idea, which finds its (broken) voice with Louis Armstrong’s twelve-second introduction on “West End Blues,” is considered significant within the most improbable of contexts. The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is by many accounts the most successful example of artistic collectivism in black American music. During the fifty years of its activity, it has maintained its commitment to community engagement, collaborative creative work, and the pooling of economic support and resources.17 During a 2014 panel discussion, cofounder Muhal Richard Abrams stated in no uncertain terms that the AACM is grounded in the contribution of distinct personalities and that “individualism” is a fundamental facet of human existence. It is essential to pay close attention to what Abrams says here, thrown as it is into sharp relief against the communitarianism for which the organization is renowned. I repeat his actual words for clarity: “I realized very early in life . . . I noticed . . . very early in life that individualism was one of the basic [traits of] . . . human nature. Why is it that none of us are alike? Why? . . . So it occurred to me that individualism, being that extensive, meant that all the information was not put in one place. . . . So, I decided that, well, we learn from each other, because he’s not like me and I’m not like him, so he’ll do something and I’ll say, ‘Oh you can do it that way,’ and vice versa.”18 Abrams’s individual is encoded with heterogeneity and distinction. True individualism cannot occur in isolation. It is not captured by mere tolerance of difference. In fact, it goes beyond a virtuous embrace of the best examples of multiculturalism. It involves an awareness of the individual’s dependence on what it is not. An individual cannot reach truth alone, “the information” being distributed across each and every one. Or, as Adorno has it, “the concept of freedom does not lie in the isolated subject, but can be grasped only in relation to the constitution of mankind as a whole. Freedom truly consists only in the realization of humanity as such.”19

Prior to Abrams’s having pinpointed it for me, I had taken Adorno’s dismissal of the music as pseudo-individualism to be an attack on jazz (supposedly) leading people to believe that the category of the individual still had relevance. I now consider the disparagement to also refer to the debasement of the term itself: the “individual” being defined over and against the collective—even as real-life human beings struggle to assert a modicum of personal sovereignty—rather than as existing in empathetic, ceaselessly mutating relations with other individuals and the collective whole. Abrams’s nuanced, very particular understanding of individualism helps us to see what is lost in shorthanded parlance. When Adorno tells us it is no longer correct to speak of the individual, he is referring, at least in part, to the fact that the milieu is not conducive to a communal individualism. Faced with the isolation and self-interest propagated by ideology under the cover of which the dehumanizing infrastructure of capitalism and acute rationalization operate, genuine communion retreats into artistic practice, social theory, and those underground spaces that have been rejected or ignored by the societal mainstream. An interest in jazz as representative of this subterranean space, where alternative forms of subjectivity are able to flourish, fuels this study.


In “Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation” Vijay Iyer disputes the idea that jazz work “unfold[s] merely in the overall form of a ‘coherent’ solo” or “simply in antiphonal structures.” He urges us to look to “the microscopic musical details” and “the inherent structure of the performance itself.” And perhaps most crucial for this book, he stresses that the “story dwells not just in one solo at a time, but also in a single note, and equally in an entire lifetime of improvisations. In short, the story is revealed not as a simple linear narrative, but as a fractured, exploded one.”20 The proposal to contract the focus to minute constructive detail and broaden to a multitude of layers that make up the “lifetime of improvisations” allows for—in fact, calls for—expanded senses of both the loci of jazz work and the kinds of interaction that take place there. Sites of significance in jazz are found not only within the framework provided by the individual improviser, or the real-time interaction of a band, but also within various and combining expressive registers and ensemble configurations. The gatherings of contribution—what Stephen Henderson has termed “massive concentration[s] of Black experiential energy,” or “mascons,” in his writing on black poetics—frustrate the notion of time- and space-limited collaboration we most often encounter in jazz studies.21 These intergenerational works represent a markedly different version of the story from the abstract solo of traditional analysis. In this book jazz is shown to be a congregation of musical play in the broadest sense. Crucial groundwork to this alternative analytic is an appreciation of the generative tension between a musician holding on to his or her distinctive characteristics and approach and the commitment to sharing (in) that common story of deviance. The playful tension involved in retelling a communal work in his or her own voice and within his or her own communicative capabilities is the prime site of creative activity. A negotiation of the desire to share in the tradition and the imperative to remain distinct is where the work of a jazz musician is centered. This mimetic attitude is a feature of all artistic pursuit, but it comes into sharp focus when considering jazz. The mimetic negotiations in jazz and other collaborative practices may also be their “unity-constitutive” moments.

Within this understanding of jazz, sociomusical alliances are as likely to occur between Ethel Waters’s 1928 interpretation of “West End Blues” and saxophonist Sahib Shihab’s contribution on “Monk’s Mood” some twenty years later, as they are to be found within one of Miles Davis’s venerated quintets.22 A heterophonic chorus in revolution around the word mine and a “multi-stereophonic schmear” created by listening to five versions of Louis Armstrong performing “(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue?” are valid examples of jazz work.23 The fact that this approach makes the listener-analyst a (poor) collaborator cannot be ignored. The illusion of academic objectivity and invisible authority is forfeited, so perhaps, by customary standards, it is an approach certain to fail. With this caveat in mind I respond in this book to an urgency to meet the music partway. The limited music analysis that is included should be considered tentative probes for more substantial deliberations to come.

The book is written on the assumption that jazz is black music, yet the discussions contained herein help transform that supposition into a well-grounded thesis—a welcome by-product rather than the fruits of any dedicated rumination. My focus is in no way an attempt to define who is able to contribute to jazz, and I am not concerned with adjudication on the “truthfulness” or authenticity of work by nonblack people. I am, however, guided by an interest in approaching the music from an alternative vantage point. It is implied herein that jazz performance (whoever its players may be) is facilitated by the disconnect between black life and its denigration. The book asserts that jazz emerged by way of a mode of subjectivity that allows little respite from self-reflection and one necessarily at play with the way it has been appropriated by, and presented in, society. The principles of structuration in jazz pertain to black life, even in work where “content” does not. That is to say that jazz work, as such, is facilitated by life that is often lived in, but always is an embodiment of, critical reflection on the integrity of the world. My exploration of the critical potential of jazz is carried out through the eyes of those who live black life, but it should be made clear from the outset that any insight garnered by such an approach is of consequence to all. In this I am emboldened by Aimé Césaire, who writes: “I’m not going to confine myself to some narrow particularism. But I do not intend either to become lost in a disembodied universalism. . . . I have a different idea of a universal. It is a universal rich with all that is particular, rich with all the particulars there are, the deepening of each particular, the coexistence of them all.”24


1. Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy, “Fables of Faubus,” on Cornell 1964, Blue Note 0946 3 92210 2 8, 2007 [1964], compact disc.

2. Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. E. B. Ashton (London: Routledge, 1973), 365.

3. Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Christian Lenhardt (London: Routledge, 1984), 207. Lenhardt’s translation makes the point clearly. Here is how Robert Hullot-Kentor translated it: “It is the nonviolent synthesis of the diffuse that nevertheless preserves it as what it is in its divergences and contradictions, and for this reason form is actually an unfolding of truth. A posited unity, it constantly suspends itself as such; essential to it is that it interrupts itself through its other just as the essence of its coherence is that it does not cohere.” Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 143. I have used Hullot-Kentor’s more recent translation in most quotations drawn from Aesthetic Theory.

4. “Marissa Janae Johnson Speaks: #BLM, Sanders & White Progressives™ | #TWIB nation,” YouTube video, 26:07, on This Week in Blackness, posted by “Blackness.TV | #TWIBnation,” August 10, 2015,

5. David Marriott, Haunted Life: Visual Culture and Black Modernity (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007), xi. The remarks that appear at the end of this paragraph were enabled by Marriott’s haunting rumination on voyeurism, record, memory, and blackness. It is a response rather than a reiteration.

6. The phrase “household of humanity” comes from Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov,” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (London: Fontana, 1992), 100.

7. Even here, however, it appears in a flash, appearing to light up then extinguish quickly (perhaps in the time it takes for our cognitive faculties to kick into gear).

8. Hortense J. Spillers, “Moving On Down the Line: Variations on the African-American Sermon,” in Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 262.

9. Albrecht Wellmer, “Truth, Semblance, Reconciliation: Adorno’s Aesthetic Redemption of Modernity,” in The Frankfurt School: Critical Assessments, ed. Jay Bernstein (London: Routledge, 1994), 4:36. The latter two short quotations are from Adorno but are referenced from this essay by Wellmer. For context, as well as Wellmer’s excellent essay, see Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Hullot-Kentor, 245.

10. The word jazz is used throughout this study with deep misgivings about its suitability. Should a word that may have first meant “unnecessary, misleading, or excessive talk; nonsense, rubbish . . . unnecessary ornamentation,” one marred with connotations of illicit sex, be maintained? I considered following the lead of musicians such as Duke Ellington and members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, who eschew the heavily loaded term in favor of others reflective of the heterogeneous nature of the music and also capable of highlighting the sociohistorical specificity of its emergence. But a label that specifies the blackness of jazz would require discussions that would have taken me away from my central concern. It might be argued that this book lays the groundwork for such ruminations. Also, perhaps, in light of discussions contained in this book, it is appropriate to retain a word that exemplifies the imaging of “the black”—all sweaty physicality and lacking in respectability. I have settled on the contentious but broadly accepted term, although my reluctance should be kept in mind. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “jazz,”

11. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Hullot-Kentor, 5.

12. Adorno’s pronouncement that “peace is the state of differentiation without domination, with the differentiated participating in each other,” allows me to speculate on whether acts of refusal of the irresistible demand to “join in” in the world may well constitute a utopia of sorts. See Theodor W. Adorno, “On Subject and Object,” in Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords, trans. Henry W. Pickford (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), esp. 247. For an overview of this hook, to not “join in,” see Adorno, Problems of Moral Philosophy (Cambridge: Polity, 2001), 167–70. See also aphorism 18, “Refuge for the Homeless,” in Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso, 2005), 38–39.

13. Krin Gabbard, “Signifyin(g) the Phallus: Mo’ Better Blues and Representations of Jazz Trumpet,” in Representing Jazz, ed. Krin Gabbard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 105.

14. Theodor W. Adorno, “On Jazz,” trans. Jamie Owen Daniel, Discourse 12, no. 1 (1989–90): 45–69; Theodor W. Adorno, “The Perennial Fashion—Jazz,” in The Adorno Reader, ed. Brian O’Connor (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), 267–79. Both essays can be found in Theodor W. Adorno, Essays on Music, selected, with introduction, commentary, and notes, by Richard Leppert, trans. Susan H. Gillespie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 391–436, 288–317.

15. Robert W. Witkin, Adorno on Music (London: Routledge, 1998), 161. James Buhler argues that Adorno was attuned to the potential of the African American distinction from which the music originated but that he thought the ease with which it is put to use by the culture industry robs the form of its potential for mounting a challenge. Echoing Witkin, Buhler points to the fact that Adorno was often speaking of music’s construction in the mainstream imagination, its “composite image . . . being proffered by the culture industry.” See James Buhler, “Frankfurt School Blues: Rethinking Adorno’s Critique of Jazz,” in Apparitions: New Perspectives on Adorno and Twentieth-Century Music, ed. Berthold Hoeckner (New York: Routledge, 2006), 122. See also Robert W. Witkin, “Why Did Adorno ‘Hate’ Jazz?” Sociological Theory 18, no. 1 (2000): 145–70.

16. On “No-Such-Place” see Nathaniel Mackey, “Song of the Andoumboulou: 24,” in Whatsaid Serif (San Francisco: City Lights, 1998), 43; Jared Sexton, “Ante-Anti-Blackness: Afterthoughts,” Lateral 1 (2012): par. 17,; and Fred Moten, “Blackness and Nothingness (Mysticism in the Flesh),” South Atlantic Quarterly 112, no. 4 (2013): 739.

17. For a thoroughgoing history, ethnography, and discussion of the AACM see George Lewis’s excellent A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

18. “AACM Panel Discussion,” YouTube video, 15:00, from a panel discussion that took place at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Stanford, May 12, 2014, with Muhal Richard Abrams, Frederick Berry, George Lewis, and Roscoe Mitchell, with moderator Charles Kronengold, posted by “ccrmalite1,” July 3, 2014,

19. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Towards a New Manifesto (London: Verso, 2011), 50.

20. Vijay Iyer, “Exploding the Narrative in Jazz Improvisation,” in Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies, ed. Robert G. O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, and Farah Jasmine Griffin (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 395.

21. Stephen Henderson, Understanding the New Black Poetry: Black Speech and Black Music as Poetic References (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 44.

22. Ethel Waters and Clarence Williams, “West End Blues,” Columbia 14365-D, 1928, 10"; Thelonious Monk, “Monk’s Mood,” Genius of Modern Music: Vol. 2, Blue Note 4971832, 1998 [1956], compact disc.

23. Nathaniel Mackey performs this work with such virtuosity in his serial novel From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate. The node of significance of mine and be mine was explored in the serial’s second volume, Djbot Baghostus’s Run (Los Angeles: Sun and Moon, 1993), 59–70. As part of a recent lecture-performance at the New Museum in New York entitled “Fred Moten on Chris Ofili: Bluets, Black + Blue, In Lovely Blue,” Fred Moten played an extract from artist Ben Hall’s “multi-stereophonic schmear,” an audio installation that augments and redepositions the work begun by Invisible Man. “Fred Moten on Chris Ofili: Bluets, Black + Blue, In Lovely Blue,” YouTube video, 1:43:40 (“multi-stereophonic schmear” at 15:36), presented Jan. 29, 2015, posted by “New Museum,” Nov. 30, 2015,

24. Aimé Césaire, Député for Martinique, to Maurice Thorez, Secretary General of the French Communist Party, Oct. 1956, quoted in Robin D. G. Kelley’s introduction to Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000), 25–26.