Guthrie Ramsey

Kahn Professor of Music, School of Arts and Sciences


Writing the Early History of African-American Music

Thursday, February 22, 2018 – 5:00 pm

Reception to Follow

Harold Prince Theatre, Annenberg Center

3680 Walnut Street

Free & Open to the Public


This lecture – drawn from Prof. Ramsey's work in progress, Soundproof: Black Music, Magic and Racial Intimacies, a history of African American music from the slave era to the present – describes how the musical practices of the enslaved were deployed as a sign of humanity, as a melting pot for the diverse African cultural groups that would become African American people, and as a soundtrack for paranormal events like spirit possession. Music is a powerful cultural transaction with allegorical potential. It doesn't just reflect community values, it “makes” communities and creates social bonds.

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. is a pianist, a composer, and the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hopand The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History and the Challenge of Bebop. He is currently completing two books, a collection of mid-career essays titled Who Hears Here? and Soundproof: Black Music, Magic and Racial Intimacies, a history of African American music from the slave era to the present.

As the leader of the band Dr. Guy’s MusiQology, he has released three recordings and has performed internationally at legendary venues such as The Blue Note in New York. Among his other musical works is “Someone Is Listening,” a commission written with poet Elizabeth Alexander and commemorating the 100th anniversary of the NAACP. His documentary film Amazing: The Tests and Triumph of Bud Powell was a selection of the BlackStar Film Festival in 2015. He co-curated the 2010 exhibition Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment for the National Museum of African American History and Culture and was a contributing scholar to the Museum of Modern Art’s recent exhibition One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works.

Ramsey is the founder and editor of the popular blog Musiqology.com, which takes on musical issues of the day. He received a doctorate in musicology from the University of Michigan and taught at Tufts University before joining the Penn faculty in 1998. He was a Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth College and a DuBois Institute Fellow at Harvard University, and he has held visiting professorships at Princeton University and Harvard University.