#tbt: Old Leather Man

Today’s Throwback Thursday selection is from our 2008 book The Old Leather Man.

I first learned about the Old Leather Man around 15 years ago, when I worked for Arcadia Publishing. One day, after joining the staff here at Wesleyan, I was pleasantly surprised to see a proposal for an entire book on the subject. That book, The Old Leather Man: Historical Accounts of a Connecticut and New York Legend, has gone on to become one of our best-selling regional books. First published in 2008, it has maintained a steady stream of interest. The book and its author, Dan W. DeLuca, were recently the subject of a feature article, by Jon Campbell, in The Village VoiceIt is wonderful to see Yann Legendre’s phantom-like interpretation of the mystery man gracing the cover of The Voice. It is not often that we see regional history and regional books receiving this kind of coverage!


The Old Leather Man, featured in The Village Voice. Our book, the newspaper, and some memorabilia are seen here.

Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam fame, happens to be a fan of the mystery man, and our book. Vedder wrote of our book on his band’s website. He said: “While this book offers up his life and times in the most complete manner possible, the mystery of Leather Man remains intact. It’s also interesting to note the parallels between the Leather Man and Chris McCandless who we got to know through Into the Wild.”

The spirit embodied by the Leather Man is universal. As Vedder pointed out, the desire to drop out of society and roam the world freely remains strong in our modern times. Who hasn’t day-dreamed about leaving it all behind and walking off into the woods?

from Connecticut Valley Advertiser, Saturday, December 27, 1873

The veritable “Old Leather Man” paid our village another visit last week. It has long been a query who he is, where he comes from, and where he stays nights. With the juveniles, the latter query is the most important, and for their gratification, more particularly we can inform them that his home is in a cave, in what is known as Elijah’s ledges, in the west part of the town of Westbrook. In this lonely place he makes a home when he wanders this way. The cave is small and does not compare very favorably, either in size or gorgeousness, with the famous “Cave of the Winds” at Moodus. This queer specimen of humanity, clothed in leather, is indeed a curiosity. He is very reticent, only conversing when necessity compels it in soliciting food. It is not known where he came from, but it is generally supposed that he escaped from some Dime Novel.

Not everyone was happy about visits from Old Leathery and his kind.

from Bristol Press, Thursday, August 26, 1875

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp

There would appear to be no immediate prospect of abatement of the tramp nuisance. Rather, the tramp seems to have become ubiquitous and the growth of his order is only equaled by its capacity for villainy and “general cussedness.” The few mild measures taken in some sections for the suppression of this dangerous class have proved wholly inoperative, thus far. How long the community at large will continue to bear the inflictions before resorting to a more vigorous and wholesome treatment is difficult to determine. From the way in which people permit themselves to be imposed upon and cowed into acquiescence with all that these rascals insolently demand, we should judge that this is a sort of tramps’ millennium and is to be of indefinite duration. At any rate the tramps are increasing and with their multiplication, robbery, incendiarism, intimidation, rape and murder in like ratio become more and more common.

This tramp nuisance will continue just so long as people submit to it and no longer. The remedy is within reach. It is a simple remedy, easily applied. It may appear to some to be harsh, but if people would be rid of the evil, they must first make up their minds that harsh measures are the only ones that can be made effective. In the first place, stop feeding tramps. Secondly, let every man, woman and youth learn how to use a revolver and have one or more of these useful articles in every house, especially if in an isolated situation. Then whenever a tramp appears, peremptorily refuse him food or shelter and escort him off the premises at the muzzle of a cocked revolver and if he isn’t easily scared and attempts force, shoot.

A trusty weapon in every house and a disposition to use it on very slight provocation, will do more to squelch this abomination than any other means possible to use. And when people drop their squeamishness and sickly philanthropy and all other classes of criminals with that promptness and fidelity which is possible only by taking the law into their own hands, the moral atmosphere will improve wonderfully and life, property and virtue will be properly respected.

Yet others took pity on this lost soul, and were happy to feed him.

from Connecticut Valley Advertiser, Saturday, December 4, 1875

The old veteran leather man passed through this place on Thursday last, and as usual, he stopped at the house of W. B. Starkey, on South Blood street, and partook of hot coffee, cake, pie, etc., as he has done for the past twenty years. He makes his trips every six weeks. He is always on time and never fails.

Sadly, the man who seemingly had no name died a rather painful death from cancer of the mouth.

from Evening News, Friday, January 25, 1889

The Leather Man in Redding

The Leather Man was in Redding and called early in the morning at the residence of Dr. J. H. Benedict, where he asked for a breakfast. He was readily recognized by Mrs. Benedict from his leather clothing, and she invited him into the kitchen. As Mrs. Benedict can speak French she soon learned his wants, which were simply coffee, and she furnished him with all he desired. He drank the full of two large bowls, into each of which he put a teacupful of sugar.

He explained that he was unable to partake of solid food on account of his cancer, which prevented chewing. He conversed for a short time with Mrs. Benedict in French, until she asked him of his antecedents and then he became suddenly and stubbornly silent and spoke in his broken English.

His cancer is rapidly eating away his life. The right cheek is entirely gone, including a portion of the lower lip. He would not allow Dr. Benedict to dress it or Mrs. Benedict to do anything for his comfort, save to give him the coffee and a bottle of milk.

He now seems very shaky and is evidently drawing near his end. It seems as if the Humane Society should look after him, and care for him, even if it was necessary to do so by force, or else some day he will be found a corpse in some out of the way place, the victim of a-craze, want, neglect and exposure.


In the end, the Leather Man died alone. His death was reported in the Hartford Times, on Monday evening, March 25, 1889. The headline read:

“The Old Leather Man” Gone
a great sufferer from cancer






At Left: The Old Leather Man, photographer and location unknown. Courtesy of the Plymouth Historical Soicety.



#tbt: Tricia’s Rose’s Black Noise

This week’s Throwback Thursday post, the final post for our Black History Month series, features one of Wesleyan University Press’ best-selling titles, Tricia Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Rose’s book is one among many published by Wesleyan on African American music and musicians. Other books include Monument Eternal: The Music of Alice Coltrane, by Franya J. Berkman, on the life and work of Alice Coltrane as a composer, improviser, and guru; the classic text Music of the Common Tongue: Survival and Celebration in African American Music, by Christopher Small, who explored the origins, nature, and function of music in human life; and Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity, by Paul Austerlitz, who provides a scholarly argument to support the theory of a wide-reaching jazz consciousness—an aesthetic of inclusiveness—considering jazz within the African diaspora and in varying transnational scenes, from Finland to the Dominican Republic.

 MusicArt copy

In Black Noise, Rose grapples with the lyrics, music, cultures, themes, and styles of rap music, and discusses the most salient issues and debates that surround it. She writes, “Rap music brings together a tangle of some of the most complex social, cultural, and political issues in contemporary American society. Rap’s contradictory articulations are not signs of absent intellectual clarity; they are a common feature of community and popular cultural dialogues that always offer more than one cultural, social, or political viewpoint. These unusually abundant polyvocal conversations seem irrational when they are severed from the social contexts where everyday struggles over resources, pleasure, and meanings take place.”

In the following excerpt, Rose discusses the deep political implications present in rap music:

Rap music is, in many ways, a hidden transcript. Among other things, it uses cloaked speech and disguised cultural codes to comment on and challenge aspects of current power inequalities. Not all rap transcripts directly critique all forms of domination; nonetheless, a large and significant element in rap’s discursive territory is engaged in symbolic and ideological warfare with institutions and groups that symbolically, ideo­logically, and materially oppress African Americans. In this way, rap music is a contemporary stage for the theater of the powerless. On this stage, rappers act out inversions of status hierarchies, tell alterna­tive stories of contact with police and the education process, and draw portraits of contact with dominant groups in which the hidden tran­script inverts/subverts the public, dominant transcript. Often rendering a nagging critique of various manifestations of power via jokes, stories, gestures, and song, rap’s social commentary enacts ideological insubor­dination.

In contemporary America, where most popular culture is electroni­cally mass-mediated, hidden or resistant popular transcripts arc readily absorbed into the public domain and subject to incorporation and in­validation. Cultural expressions of discontent are no longer protected by the insulated social sites that have historically encouraged the re­finement of resistive transcripts. Mass-mediated cultural production, particularly when it contradicts and subverts dominant ideological posi­tions, is under increased scrutiny and is especially vulnerable to incorpo­ration. Yet, at the same time, these mass-mediated and mass-distributed alternative codes and camouflaged meanings are also made vastly more accessible to oppressed and sympathetic groups around the world and contribute to developing cultural bridges among such groups. More­ over, attacks on institutional power rendered in these contexts have a special capacity to destabilize the appearance of unanimity among powerholders by openly challenging public transcripts and cultivating the contradictions between commodity interests, (“Docs it sell? Well, sell it, then.”)and the desire for social control (“We can’t let them say that.”) Rap’s resistive transcripts arc articulated and acted out in both hidden and public domains, making them highly visible, yet difficult to contain and confine. So, for example, even though Public Enemy know pouring it on in metaphor is nothing new, what makes them “prophets of rage with a difference” is their ability to retain the mass-mediated spotlight on the popular cultural stage and at the same time function as a voice of social critique and criticism. The frontier between public and hidden transcripts is a zone of constant struggle between dominant and subordinate groups. Although electronic mass media and corporate consolidation have heavily weighted the battle in favor of the powerful, contestations and new strategies of resistance are vocal and contentious. The fact that the powerful often win does not mean that a war isn’t going on.

Rappers are constantly taking dominant discursive fragments and throwing them into relief, destabilizing hegemonic discourses and at­tempting to legitimate counter hegemonic interpretations. Rap’s con­testations are part of a polyvocal black cultural discourse engaged in discursive “wars of position” within and against dominant discourses. As foot soldiers in this “war of position,” rappers employ a multifaceted strategy. These wars of position are not staged debate team dialogues; they are crucial battles in the retention, establishment, or legitimation of real social power. Institutional muscle is accompanied by social ideas that legitimate it. Keeping these social ideas current and transparent is a constant process that sometimes involves making concessions and ad­justments. As Lipsitz points out, dominant groups “must make their triumphs appear legitimate and necessary in the eyes of the vanquished. That legitimation is hard work. It requires concession to aggrieved populations…it runs the risk of unraveling when lived experiences conflict with legitimizing ideologies. As Hall observes, it is almost as if the ideological dogcatchers have to be sent out every morning to round up the ideological strays, only to be confronted by a new group of loose mutts the next day.” Dominant groups must not only retain legitimacy via a war of maneuver to control capital and institutions, but also they must prevail in a war of position to control the discursive and ideological terrain that legitimates such institutional control. In some cases, dis­cursive inversions and the contexts within which they are disseminated directly threaten the institutional base, the sites in which Gramsci’s wars of maneuver are waged.

In contemporary popular culture, rappers have been vocal and un­ruly stray dogs. Rap music, more than any other contemporary form of black cultural expression, articulates the chasm between black urban lived experience and dominant, “legitimate” (e.g., neoliberal) ideolo­gies regarding equal opportunity and racial inequality. As new ideologi­ al fissures and points of contradiction develop, new mutts bark and growl, and new dogcatchers are dispatched. This metaphor is particu­larly appropriate for rappers, many of whom take up d-Og as part of their nametag (e.g., Snoop Doggy Dog, Tim Dog, and Ed O.G. and the Bull­ dogs). Paris, a San Francisco-based rapper whose nickname is P-dog, directs his neo-Black Panther position specifically at ideological fissures and points of contradiction:

P-dog commin’ up, I’m straight low
Pro-black and it ain’t no joke
Commin’ straight from the mob that broke shit last time,
Now I’m back with a brand new sick rhyme.
So, black, check time and tempo
Revolution ain’t never been simple

Submerged in winding, dark, low, bass lines, “The Devil Made Me Do It” locates Paris’s anger as a response to white colonialism and positions him as a “low” (read underground) voice backed up by a street mob whose commitment is explicitly pro-black and nationalist. A self­ proclaimed supporter of the revived and revised Oakland-based Black Panther movement, Paris (whose logo is also a black panther) locates himself as a direct descendent of the black panther “mob that broke shit last time” but who offers a revised text for the nineties. Paris’s opening line, “this is a warning” and subsequent assertion, “So don’t ask next time I start this, the devil made me do it,” along with his direct address to blacks “so, black, check time and tempo,” suggest a double address both to his extended street mob and to those whom he feels are respon­sible for his rage. “Check time and tempo” is another double play. Paris, a member of the Nation of Islam (NOI) is referring to the familiar NOI cry, “Do you know what time it is? It’s nation time!” and the “time and tempo” based nature of his electronic, digital musical production. Later, he makes more explicit the link he forges between his divinely inspired digitally coded music and the military style of NOI programs:

P-dog with a gift from heaven, tempo 116.7
Keeps you locked in time with the program
When I get wild I’ll pile on dope jams.

Speaking to and about dominant powers and offering a commitment to military mob-style revolutionary force, P-dog seems destined to draw the attention of Hall’s ideological dogcatchers. Although revolution has never been simple, it seems clear to Paris that not only will it be televised, it will have a soundtrack, too.

Tricia Rose is Professor of American Studies at University of California at Santa Cruz. She is also the author of Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk about Sexuality and Intimacy.

The first book on hip-hop sampling as a musical process—now with a new foreword and afterword

We are pleased to announce new edition of Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop, by Joseph G. Schloss with a new foreword by Jeff Chang.


Based on ten years of research among hip-hop producers, Making Beats was the first work of scholarship to explore the goals, methods, and values of a surprisingly insular community. Focusing on a variety of subjects—from hip-hop artists’ pedagogical methods to the Afrodiasporic roots of the sampling process to the social significance of “digging” for rare records—Joseph G. Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. Making Beats won the International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s (IASPM) Book Award 2005, and is now looked upon as one of the foundational works of hip-hop scholarship. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

For more details, click here.

Also available as an ebook—check with your favorite ebook retailer.

#UPWeek: AAUP’s Third Annual Blog Tour


It is University Press Week…a time to celebrate all the wonderful work published by scholarly presses! In the spirit of partnership that pervades the university press community, thirty-two presses will unite for the AAUP’s third annual blog tour. This tour will highlight the value of collaboration among the scholarly community. Individual presses will blog on a different theme each day. Today’s theme is “Collaboration.” The following presses are participating. Click on the available links to learn about some of the collaborative efforts initiated by our colleagues at other presses and institutions.

University of California Press

University of Chicago Press

University Press of Colorado

Duke University Press

University of Georgia Press

Project MUSE/Johns Hopkins University Press

McGill-Queen’s University Press

Texas A&M University Press

University of Virginia Press

Yale University Press

Tomorrow’s theme is “Your University Press in Pictures.” Wesleyan University Press is participating on Thursday, November 13th, as part of “Throwback Thursday.” Read more about AAUP, University Presses, and University Press Week here.

Holiday Gift Ideas from Wesleyan UP

Something for everyone on your list!!!

Order from using discount code W301 to receive a 30% discount.

For History Readers

Vizenor - Blue Ravens R-72-3 Blue Ravens
by Gerald Vizenor
$27.95 Hardcover

From one of today’s most important Native American writers, this “emotionally wrought and finely crafted” (ForeWord) novel follows two Anishinaabe brothers from the battlefields of World War I, to their home on the White Earth Reservation, to the streets of post-war Paris. The book is based on his great uncle’s stories, as well as extensive research.

Campbell_Tempest-Tossed.indd Tempest-Tossed:
The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker
by Susan Campbell
$28.95 Hardcover

The youngest child of one of America’s most famous families, a mover and shaker with a wild streak, Isabella Beecher Hooker is remembered in this engaging, breezy biography. Pulitzer-winning author Susan Campbell combines the research skills of a “born historian” (Connecticut Explored) with a breezy, accessible style.

Williams - Prudence R-72-3 Prudence Crandall’s Legacy:
The Fight for Equality in the 1830s, Dred Scott, and Brown v. Board of Education
by Donald E. Williams, Jr.
$35.00 Hardcover

In 1833, despite public backlash, Prudence Crandall admitted a black girl to her private school, resulting in the first integrated classroom in the country. Former CT state senator Donald E. Williams Jr. details Crandall’s life and work, and her unique role in the fight for civil rights, including her battles in the court system and the legacy of these battles, which include Brown v. Board of Education, the civil rights movement, and the problems and progress we see today.

Farrow - Log Books R-72-3 The Logbooks:
Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory
by Anne Farrow
$27.95 Hardcover

Anne Farrow, co-author of the bestselling Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, takes readers on a harrowing journey onto the slave ship of a Connecticut merchant via the journal of that merchant’s son, bearing witness to our most shameful forgotten history. 

For Film & Theater Buffs

Eichenbaum _ Director R-72-3 The Director Within:
Storytellers of Stage and Screen
by Rose Eichenbaum
$30.00 Hardcover

Thirty-five masterminds of film, television, and theater—the directors of such productions as The Lion King, Chicago, and Rain Man–open up to Rose Eichenbaum about the entertainment industry, the role of the director, and how their work impacts our culture and lives.

For Poetry Readers

Shapiro - Momentary-croppedR-72-2x3 A Momentary Glory:
Last Poems
by Harvey Shapiro
$24.95 Hardcover

Acclaimed poet Harvey Shapiro “plays for keeps” (Hugh Seidman) in this posthumous collection. With his signature brilliance he reflects on war and eroticism, illness and aging, love and death, all in search of a worldly wisdom and grace that the poet calls “a momentary glory.”

Coultas.indd The Tatters
by Brenda Coultas
$22.95 Hardcover

Brenda Coultas turns her keen eye to everyday objects—a pigeon feather, a discarded piece of jewelry—to make sense of the landfill we humans have made of our world. “These poems,” wrote The Kenyon Review, “cataloguing and owning and turning from and grappling with our vast trash, are trouble in the most useful sense of the word.”

. In Defense of Nothing:
Selected Poems, 1987-2011
by Peter Gizzi
$26.95 Hardcover

Bookslut calls Peter Gizzi “a major force in the ever-expanding vastness of the poetry world.” In this landmark collection, representing over twenty years of work, Gizzi cements that reputation, enlisting the very American vernacular in a magical and complex music all his own.

vizenor_crows_R-72-3 Favor of Crows:
New and Collected Haiku
by Gerald Vizenor
$24.95 Hardcover

Gerald Vizenor unites the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe people in this stunning new collection, in which ordinary moments “come to shimmering life on the page” (David G. Lanoue, president of the Haiku Society of America).

 For Music Lovers

 KlostyBookwOutline72DPI John Cage Was
by James Klosty
$55.00 Hardcover

A lavish 12 x11″ art book with a textured hardcover, velum wrap, and over 170 stunning duotone photographs of the great composer at work and at play, combined with eclectic remembrances of Cage from figures like John Ashbery, Yoko Ono, and Stephen Sondheim. This book a memorial to treasure.

 Lucier - Music 109 R-72-3 Music 109:
Notes on Experimental Music
by Alvin Lucier
$19.95 Paperback

Composer and performer Alvin Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young. No previous musical knowledge is required, only a love of music.

 Jarrett - Producing R-72-3 Producing Country:
The Inside Story of the Great Recordings
by Michael Jarrett
$27.95 Paperback

In what Music Tomes calls “one of the best oral histories of country music to come around for quite some time,” Michael Jarrett interviews the producers behind the most iconic country recordings of Elvis, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and more—revealing how producers have shaped our music and our tastes over the decades.

 . Making Beats:
The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop
by Joseph G. Schloss
$24.95 Paperback

Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values, and cultural realities. This second edition of the book includes a new foreword by Jeff Chang and a new afterword by the author.

 Walser - Running 2-R-72-3 Running with the Devil:
Power, Gender, and Madness
in Heavy Metal
by Robert Walser
$22.95 Paperback

Dismissed by critics and academics, condemned by parents and politicians, and fervently embraced by legions of fans, heavy metal music continues to attract and embody cultural and societal conflicts. Walser explores how and why heavy metal works, both musically and socially, and investigates the genre’s formations of identity, community, gender, and power. This edition includes a new foreword by Harris M. Berger and a new afterword by the author.

#tbt: John Luther Adams and Experimental Music at Wesleyan

This week’s Throw-Back-Thursday post is dedicated to composer John Luther Adams. Below you’ll find a passage from his 2004 book, Winter Music: Composing the North

John Luther Adams, who received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music, for his symphony Become Ocean, is a widely praised composer, and author of two books published by Wesleyan: Winter Music and The Place Where You Go to Listen: In Search of an Ecology of Music. Adams is the subject of a recent Radiolab podcast, which aired earlier this month on WNYC . Give it a listen if you are interested in “all the forces at play in Adams’ work,” or in “the dark majesty of Adams’ take on the apocalypse.”


From Winter Music. “Love the Questions”

John Cage said that in the course of his life and work he gradually came to understand composition ‘‘not as the making of choices, but as the asking of questions.’’

Morton Feldman put it even more succinctly, when he advised simply: ‘‘Love the questions.’’

The most important questions in music and in life may turn out to have many answers, or no answers at all. In any case, the questions may well be more important than the answers.

Varèse had a maxim for composing: ‘‘Keep it level, especially in times of invention.’’

Lou Harrison has written: ‘‘When I find myself inspired I enjoy it—but, I try to lay the pencil down, for, if I continue, I know that I shall have to use the eraser in the morning.’’

Although the music of Cage, Feldman, Varèse, and Harrison sounds nothing alike, all four composers speak of a healthy mistrust of ‘‘inspiration,’’ ‘‘self-expression,’’ and the artist’s ego. In very different ways each of them placed his faith in something larger than his own will and intentions: a deep belief in the power of the music and the sounds themselves.

In my own work I try to follow a similar path. I try to ask as clearly and directly as possible a few essential questions about the music at hand. Once I articulate these questions, my discipline is simply to keep faith with the musical materials, to listen carefully to the sounds and follow wherever they might lead me.

# # #

Wesleyan University Press and Wesleyan University’s music department are well known for their commitment to experimental music. Our press has published a number of John Cage titles. John Cage Wasby James Klosty, is newly available. Cage was an assistant professor in Wesleyan’s music department, collaborating with members of our community from the 1950s until his death in 1993. Our press also published Alvin Lucier’s Music 109 (now available in paperback), aptly named after his Wesleyan course “MUSIC 109: Introduction to Experimental Music.” Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, at Wesleyan. Another recent retiree from Wesleyan, Anthony Braxton (Emeritus, Faculty of Music), continues his musical life with the Tri-Centric Foundation. You can read more about Wesleyan University’s music department here.

This weekend (October 11), Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts will host a performance by the Vijay Iyer Trio. Vijay Iyer was described by Pitchfork as “one of the most interesting and vital young pianists in jazz today.” The trio also includes bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (Wesleyan, MA ’11).

In the brief piece above, “Love the Questions,” Adams considers the virtues of letting music itself take the lead while composing. Experimental music allows listeners to consider sound and art in ways they might never have imagined. Wesleyan remains committed to facilitating such artistic innovation. Experimental music has certainly enriched the cultural life at Wesleyan University. We hope our readers will enrich their own lives through experimental music.

An inside view of experimental music, with Alvin Lucier

Alvin Lucier’s Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music. is now available in paperback!

Lucier’s new CD was recently reviewed by Robert Carl for Fanfare Magazine. Carl wrote: “Lucier has fruitfully pursued his passion for a uniquely personal form of research and experiment over the decades. He could have been a ‘one-hit wonder,’ but definitely was (and is) not. This is another I’d love for the Want List, though by now the waiting room is getting crowded. Highly recommended, and even those who think they won’t like it should confront this. It’s bracing, and one hears everything differently, and fresher, afterwards.”


Composer and performer Alvin Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young. Lucier explains in detail how each piece is made, unlocking secrets of the composers’ style and technique. The book as a whole charts the progress of American experimental music from the 1950s to the present, covering such topics as indeterminacy, electronics, and minimalism, as well as radical innovations in music for the piano, string quartet, and opera. Clear, approachable and lively, Music 109 is Lucier’s indispensable guide to late 20th-century composition. No previous musical knowledge is required, and all readers are welcome.

For more details, click here.

Also available as an ebook—check with your favorite ebook retailer.

This project is funded by the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Celebrating “John Cage Was”


We are pleased to announce an important new book of photographs by James Klosty — John Cage Was, a collection of intimate portraits and remembrances of one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Books will be available at the October 18th release party, and on October 31st in all other locations.

John Cage at a piano

Wesleyan is honored to continue our close relationship with the memory of Cage and his works. In his recent review of John Cage Was (Paste magazine) Bill Taft notes:

John Cage Was adds an important work to the Cage canon published by Wesleyan University Press. The small press published Cage’s first book, Silence, in 1961. The success of that book enabled Cage to author five more tomes (all published by WUP) filled with lectures, essays and scores. Thanks to WUP’s fine stewardship of the Cage archive, today’s readers have easy access to a wealth of his written work. Klosty gives us a pictorial representation of a man whose life became as significant as his art.”

Wesleyan’s collection of Cage’s books include Musicage, Anarchy, Year from Monday, Empty Words, Cage:M, and Cage:X. Our recent 50th Anniversary Edition of Silence exposed a new generation of readers to his genius. In his foreword to the 50th Anniversary Edition, Kyle Gann explains why Silence was not only groundbreaking for its time, but also how it remains an innovative text in the 21st century.

“Personally, I have tried, at Cage’s urging, to enjoy a baby crying at a concert, not letting it ruin a piece of modern music; so far I’ve failed. But that’s why I keep coming back to Cage, because I keep thinking that if I could evolve or relax a little more, I could enjoy babies crying and fire alarms ringing, and feel as comfortable with the universe as he always seemed to be. He thought his way out of the twentieth century’s artistic neuroses and discovered a more vibrant, less uptight world that we didn’t realize was there. Silence is the traveler’s guide to that world. Every visit it to it lifts the feet a little more off the ground.”

We are overjoyed to add John Cage Was to our collection of John Cage titles. This volume is a true celebration of a remarkable figure who redefined music forever.

For more information on John Cage Was by James Klosty, click here.

Rhythms of South India, in Persian!

Wesleyan University Press is pleased to announce the release of a Persian language edition (Aref Music, Iran) of Solkattu Manual: An Introduction to the Rhythmic Language of South Indian Music, by David P. Nelson.

Solkattu Blog Picture

The book, a first of its kind, is a step-by-step introduction to South Indian spoken rhythm. It includes instructions for designing performable pieces, accompanied by graphic notations as well as video demonstrations on two DVDs (Persian language edition), and online (English language edition). The Persian edition sports beautiful new artwork that is reminiscent of our English language edition.

Solkattu Manual is designed for use in a variety of settings. Beyond courses in Indian music, it can be used for beginning music courses or for courses in percussion studies. It does not assume any prior experience with Indian music.

More information about our English language edition is available online.

A vivid ethnography and in-depth history of musical performance in North Sumatra

We are pleased to announce a new book by Julia Byl, Antiphonal Histories: Resonant Pasts in the Toba Batak Musical Present.

byl blog


“Well-written, smart, and honest, Antiphonal Histories is an innovative juxtaposition of historiography, ethnography, musical analysis, and reflexive autobiography. There are also moments of poignant insight, brilliant induction, and hilarity.” —Jeremy Wallach, author of Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997–2001

Positioned on a major trade route, the Toba Batak people of Sumatra have long witnessed the ebb and flow of cultural influence from India, the Middle East, and the West. Living as ethnic and religious minorities within modern Indonesia, Tobas have recast this history of difference through interpretations meant to strengthen or efface the identities it has shaped. Antiphonal Histories examines Toba musical performance as a legacy of global history, and a vital expression of local experience. This intriguingly constructed ethnography searches the palm liquor stand and the sanctuary to show how Toba performance manifests its many histories through its “local music”—Lutheran brass band hymns, gong-chime music sacred to Shiva, and Jimmie Rodgers yodeling. Combining vivid narrative, wide-ranging historical research, and personal reflections, Antiphonal Histories traces the musical trajectories of the past to show us how the global is manifest in the performative moment.

byl collage

Clockwise from top left: a group of men playing at the lapo tuak; ceremonial dancing at a Toba adat ceremony; Martahan Sitohang playing the Toba suling during a performance residency in the Netherlands (photo: Hardoni Sitohang); and a gondang group.

For more details, click here.

Also available as an ebook—check with your favorite ebook retailer.