Edward Osmund Bland (July 25, 1926–March 14, 2013) was an American composer and musical director.
Bland was born on the South Side of Chicago to Althea and Edward Bland. His father was a postal worker but also a self-taught literary critic with illustrious friends such as Ralph Ellison, Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes. Edward senior died in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, and son Edward Bland also briefly served in the Army during World War II, after which he studied at both the University of Chicago and the American Conservatory of Music on the G.I. Bill.
Among his compositions is a concerto for electric violin and chamber orchestra. He composed scores for the TV play A Raisin in the Sun (1989) and the film A Soldier's Story (1984). Another notable work is Sketches Set Seven for piano.
He also wrote, directed and produced the 1959 film The Cry of Jazz. In the 1990s, this documentary was rediscovered by scholars and celebrated as an early example of independent black filmmaking. It was soon restored and reissued on DVD in 1996, and in 2010 the Library of Congress added it to its National Film Registry collection as “a historic and fascinating film that comments on racism and the appropriation of jazz by those who fail to understand its artistic and cultural origins.
* * * * *
Considered by some Hip-Hoppers to be the great grandfather of Hip-Hop, because of the confrontational quality of his musical film work, Ed Bland has left his mark in several fields.
In concert music, Bland's "Piece For Chamber Orchestra" (1979) was called, "An amazing tour de force in terms of relentless energy and build up of tension...a fascinating strong piece," by Gunther Schuller, American composer/conductor/author; and "Original and Fresh," by Bruce Creditor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Among the groups that have performed Bland's works are the Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis, and St Louis Symphonies, the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.
In the late 30s in Chicago, Bland began music as a jazz protégé eventually composing atonally, using Schoenberg's 12-tone system.
In 1959, he produced the first Hip-Hop film, "The Cry of Jazz." Willard Van Dyke pre-eminent American film documentarian (and head of the Film Division of the Museum of Modern Art NYC), said that the "Cry" predicted the riots in the American cities of the '60s and '70s. Bland used the early music of Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the soundtrack of the film.
Bland's synthesis of three canons of music, Western, Jazz and West African Drumming, made it possible for him to work as composer, producer, arranger, orchestrator in the recording, and film industries. Among those sessions was one using Jimi Hendrix in his early days.
In the '90s, after years composing, arranging and producing
in the record industry, many of Bland's efforts were sampled by Hip-Hop
artists that led to sales in excess of 30 million CDs. Fat Boy Slim
and Cypress Hill are artists that sampled his works.
© 1992 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on April 1, 1992. Portions were broadcast on WNIB in 1999; on WNUR in 2012, and 2015; and on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio in 2012. This transcription was made in 2023, and posted on this website at that time.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here. To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.
* * * *
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.