Did you realize how interesting a book index really is?
As the publication date approaches (this July!) for “You’ll Known When You Get There: Herbie Hancock and the Mwandishi Band,” I’m completing the last parts of this project that remain in my hands. They are two in number: crafting the index and doing a final proofread. The production staff at University of Chicago Press has done a great job at book layout design (it looks really beautiful), and writing the preliminary marketing copy… and the cover art should be ready in a few weeks.
Looking back over the past couple of years, it is the idea of indexing that has been the angst-filled for me. As it turned out, creating it was quite engaging and interesting. The task was an occasion to revisit my original thinking regarding what the book is really about. And it allowed me to reconsider its navigability — what are the various ways I’d like people to be able to use it, based on their interests? About four months ago, I created a preliminary document laying out key words – these included names of people, musical ideas, culture/political concepts, and so on.
To give you a picture of this, here is the opening list of terms and names on the first page of the index.
Areas, José Chepitó
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)
Bitches Brew (1970)
black cultural identification and representation
You are right–none of the musicians who played in the band appear in this list (well, none of their names start with the letter A: Hancock, Gleeson, Hart, Henderson, Maupin, Priester, Williams, plus sound engineer Fundi). To find them, you have to turn a few pages and there you’d begin to come upon names of musicians, names of recordings, tunes, and so on.
So consider what you can learn from this list. One thing that you can see is that the index contains quite a variety of topics: musical/aesthetic concepts (abstraction, avant-garde), cultural/political ideas (afrocentric, black cultural…), people who performed on the recordings: percussionist José Chepitó Areas), musicians who have reminiscences of experiencing performances times with members of the band (Thurman Barker…), electronic musical instruments (Arp 2600, Arp Pro-Soloist…), musical collectives (AACM), places where the band performed (clubs in Berkeley…), non-Mwandishi recordings that provide reference points for discussion (Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew…)… you get the picture.
So, crafting the sixteen page Word document has proven really interesting. Ok, tedious, too. But few things worth doing come without some hard work. Isn’t this the case. And now I can move on to the final round proofreading. I’m getting another step closer to the conclusion of this nearly five-year project. Or at least to it’s next stage, the life of the book out in the world.