Blank Forms

Eight hours of music, readings, and interviews celebrating The Cricket: Black Music in Evolution, 1968–69.


Ben Caldwell's Exploitation blues comic, featuring a black saxophone player askign "How', I Doin' Norm?" and white representative of the music industry champing a cigar and responding "The Public's Not Ready for you yet—we're not makin' a dime! Keep playin!" His cup collecting tips is overflowing, and the musician is shackled to it

Rear cover of The Cricket's first issue, illustration by Ben Caldwell.

“The Cricket will be distributed free to musicians’ unions, clubs, jazz publications, record companies, schools, and will deal, as we said, with ALL OF OUR MUSIC.”

To launch The Cricket: Black Music in Evolution, 1968–69, a reprint of the vanguard forum for Black music criticism edited by Amiri Baraka, A. B. Spellman, and Larry Neal, Blank Forms hosted a day-long radio show at our Clinton Hill office, which was broadcast online and at The Word is Change and Playground Annex in Brooklyn and Cafe OTO in London. Hosts Lawrence Kumpf and Ciarán Finlayson opened the show with a recording of Spellman reading in celebration of Cecil Taylor at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2016, and hosted conversations with artist’s working in The Cricket’s tradition, including documentarian Steve Rowland, writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and the artist-duo Black Mass Publishing.

The show featured records both popular and rare, surveying the era’s Black self-publishing initiatives: Baraka's Jihad Productions, Sun Ra’s Saturn Records, Milford Graves and Don Pullen’s Self-Reliance Program, Rashid Ali’s Survival Records, John Coltrane’s Coltrane Recording Corporation, and Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell’s Strata-East. It also delved into recordings savaged by The Cricket’s contributors, as well as those praised by its essayists (contra  the mainstream jazz press), and revisited tracks made by the soul and folk musicians with whom the jazzers were politically and spiritually aligned—Julius Lester, James Brown, and Otis Redding. One section explored the “multi-sided concept of time” offered by drummers Graves, Ali, and Beaver Harris; another examined the music and writing of Jimmy Stewart—author of “Just Intonation and the New Revolutionary Black Music”—perhaps The Cricket’s most mysterious contributor. The show closed with a performance by Brooklyn-based poet Monique Ngozi Nri and long-time trumpeter in the Sun Ra Arkestra Ahmed Abdullah. 


Originally broadcast October 2, 2022.