Turn Me Loose, White Man

“Is ‘Turn Me Loose, White Man’ his treatise on 60 years of American music, plus a companion 30-CD boxed set? Or is it a lovingly curated recording project with the longest set of liner notes in history? Though these two volumes stand on their own, for Mr. Lowe the music and the analysis form a dialogue, an essential call and response, a set of philosophical arguments much like the commentary surrounding religious texts, ‘honed by a mixed sense of aesthetic worship and social consciousness’ that, thankfully, never grows pious.”

—Larry Blumenfeld, “‘Turn Me Loose, White Man’ Review: How to Listen to American Music.” The Wall Street Journal. April 2, 2021.

At $175, from the author’s website, you might think it’s expensive. But 30 CDs and a 2 volume set sounds like an acoustical journey well worth taking. But, YMMV.

5 thoughts on “Turn Me Loose, White Man

  1. I find a substantial difference between sound filling the space around me as part of a social environment and either over-the-ear or in-the-ear sound making listening an entirely private experience. I recognize that computerized sound files can be saved as lossless from their source, but computer DACs are not optimized for high fidelity sound.

  2. Although not usually thought of in relation to American music, the term ethnomusicology applies here. Most of the recovered musical examples on the extensive playlist have long histories predating the recording era that began at the outset of the 20th century. Those traditions were folkish (as opposed to professional or high art) and often situated among oppressed peoples. One could argue that these traditions were later coopted and/or absorbed by jazz and rock (and other genres). Something similar probably happened when rap and R&B went mainstream.

    Aside: the 30-CD collection is quite generous. However, I recently discovered that the CD player is already a moribund technology (like the floppy disk). Many electronics companies no longer make them or rely instead on playback via Blu-ray devices. The turntable is making a comeback. Wonder if dedicated CD players will, too, for audiophiles who want quality sound?

    1. It is very difficult to untangle creative endeavors and influences. However, I do find these exercises interesting, if for no other reason because it puts a little more rigor into our subjective opinion/interpretations. Ethnomusicology is right. As for CDs, I think of them as archival copies, even though we still aren’t sure how long quality CDs last. When I buy CDs, I first translate them into my preferred listening format and then put the CD itself on a shelf. I’ve been doing this for almost two decades and never really use a CD player. There’s also no need to listen to the original file if you encode it into a lossless format, such as FLAC/Ogg or aren’t an audiophile.

      1. I’m an audiophile, so equipment directed to quality listening (as opposed to using one’s phone or computer) matters quite a bit. If others are content with sorely degraded acoustics, that’s up to them.

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