This is a situation where I want to grab frame or two to put here, to entice you to click through and read the whole thing. But at the same time, I don’t wanna grab a full frame, b/c every frame of it—and the way the entire thing locks together—is So. Damn. Perfect, and such a perfect presentation of the thing it’s trying to talk about.
I love it. There’s nothing left to say. It’s 100% perfect for me. It is MAUS for this moment.
Born in 1932 in Detroit, Ashbury broke barriers at every angle: a Black female professional artist in a male dominated industry, Ashby established the harp as an improvising jazz instrument, cracking open both mainstream society’s notion’s of what was and was not appropriate for a Black woman to do (playing classical harp) and cracking up the counterculture’s notion of what could and could not be done (bringing “novelty” background instruments like harp and koto to center stage, bringing global cultural and musical tropes to Euro-American-centric jazz).
“It’s been maybe a triple burden in that not a lot of women are becoming known as jazz players. There is also the connection with black women. The audiences I was trying to reach were not interested in the harp, period—classical or otherwise—and they were certainly not interested in seeing a black woman playing the harp.”
But I kinda give zero shits about any of that; just listen to her music:
Don’t you dare click away from that track before you cross the 1min20sec mark! “Joyful Grass and Grape” is, like, 90% of the way to being a Wu Tang banger all by itself, just add some ODB and RZA.
This is why I love Ashbury: the deep, quiet Afro-futurism of this music that came 40 years earlier than it had any right to. She was sampling and mixing and beat juggling in her head, without the benefit of turntables and a sound system. In it’s infancy hiphop constantly justified itself by pointing to jazz—and sadly somehow missed its most obvious Matriarch. I am so delighted to have algorithmically stumbled upon Ashbury that my outrage about her erasure is itself entirely erased.
Here’s the initial track that joyfully blew my goddamned mind:
And there’s much much more out there. Listen. Listen!
There’s a folder on my desktop (which I don’t recall creating) labelled “for blogging.” It contains this file, with the filename “HowAnEclipseWorks.jpeg” and no further explanation or notes. Your guess is as good as mine.