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Arts and arguments in the news.
Jan. 4 2002 11:23 AM

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The habit of preeningmay be genetic, scientists now believe. Boasting may be equally genetic, for all we know, and one Web site that makes a boast or two belongs to Cornel West,the professor at the center of a Harvard controversy. In addition to his academic and polemical work (as www.cornelwest.com helpfully points out, the professor's "presence is a mainstay in the American media. So much so that he has virtually become a household word"—shouldn't that be "household name"?), professor West has lately taken up music. In collaboration with Derek D.O.A. Allen, he has produced an album titled Sketches of My Culture. (You can listen to some of the results by going to the Web site.) "In all modesty," the site says, "this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history." One doesn't hear that everyday, even from Mariah Carey. The site continues: "The combination of the oratorical passion and unmatched eloquence of Dr. Cornel West with the particular musical genius of Derek D.O.A. Allen has produced an auditory theatrical experience. Sketches of my Culture succeeds at rendering a poignant yet inviting depiction of the African American experience that begins with the rich African heritage to and through the black American experience. It provides a glimpse into some multi-faceted dimensions and faces of an often maligned culture born out of wretched circumstances."

That West has produced an album may be a watershed in academic musical history, but in musical history in general this seems a boast too many.