Music Professor Brian Torff Pens New Book

Music Professor Brian Q. Torff Pens New Book

Seize the Beat book jacket

Seize the Beat: The Evolution of American Music, written by professor of visual and performing arts Brian Q. Torff, traces the development of American Music.

Recently released by publishers McFarland and Company, Brian Q. Torff’s new book follows the development of American music from its African roots to the juke joint, club, and concert hall, revealing a culture perpetually reinventing itself to suit the next generation.

The story of American popular music is steeped in social history, race, gender, and class, its evolution driven by ephemeral connection to young audiences. From Benny Goodman to Sinatra to Elvis Presley to the Beatles, pop icons age out of the art form while new musical styles pass from relevance to nostalgia within a few years. At the same time, perennial forms like blues, jazz and folk are continually rediscovered by new audiences.

“Having taught history courses in American music for nearly thirty years, I felt there should be a more holistic look at the story of America’s musical culture and how it has impacted our nation,” said Torff, professor of music in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The book is a detailed historical account complete with some images Torff photographed himself. It’s intended for a wide audience — from readers with an new interest in music to University or other classrooms — and has social consciousness at its core.

“I will be using this in my social justice core classes at Fairfield,” Torff continued. “Yet, I feel it should appeal to a general reader who loves music but has not been exposed to this dramatic cultural story in light of the contributions of Black Americans who created it despite adversity.”

Marc Myers, of JazzWax.com, remarked the book “brings the rhythm of [Torff’s] bass to his writing and offers valuable lessons in how to listen to music and appreciate what you hear on multiple levels.”

A labor of love for Torff that he began in 2015, Seize the Beat is not only a versatile teaching tool, but has informed his craft as a bassist and composer.

“This subject has been a passion for a long time,” said Torff, “and it relates to the music I compose and perform in my life as a musician.”

Fairfield University’s music program within the College of Arts and Sciences offers the intimacy of a tight-knit arts community embedded within a broad liberal arts education. Learn more.

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Last modified: 01-12-23 10:54 PM

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