2017-12-01 / State News

USC Upstate Professor set to talk Black Sabbath at book signing

Spartanburg, S.C. – Dr. Nolan Stolz, assistant professor of music and coordinator of commercial music at the University of South Carolina Upstate, is slated to give a multimedia presentation and sign copies of his book “Experiencing Black Sabbath: A Listener’s Companion” Dec. 12 at the Hub City Bookshop.

Stolz said the presentation, which runs from 6-7 p.m., will include both readings from the book and samples of Black Sabbath songs.

“Sometimes you do book readings, but because this book walks the reader through the music, the idea is that you’re listening and then you read and then listen and then you read – you’re kind of following along with the recordings,” Stolz explained. “If I just read, I think it would be out of context, so what I’ll do is play some musical examples, then do a reading – essentially what the readers would do on their on time.”

Considered to be one of the leading pioneers of the heavy metal genre, the members of Birmingham, England’s Black Sabbath began playing under that name in 1969. The band underwent many lineup changes in the intervening years, but continued to deliver its signature thunderous sound until this year, when the members officially disbanded.

The book was three years in the writing and is part of the Listener’s-Companion series produced by publisher Rowman & Littlefield.

“I was in Milwaukee at a conference of music theorists and musicologists, and the publisher had a booth set up and I was talking to them,” he recounted. “They asked me about my research and I was saying about how I was writing a paper about Black Sabbath for a conference in France and they seemed really interested. They asked me if I would be interested in doing a Black Sabbath book. So I thought about it and did a whole book proposal, and they liked the idea and went with it.”

During research and writing “Experiencing Black Sabbath,” Stolz was able to interview several Black Sabbath members, including drummers Malcom Cope and Bobby Rondinelli, bassist Laurence Cottle, keyboard player Jezz Woodroffe, lead singer Tony Martin, and early manager Jim Simpson. He also visited the band’s hometown, Birmingham.

Even with such resources, Stolz said, it was often difficult to ferret out the facts about the band’s history.

“Once the book idea came about, then I really had to do an intensive study of their entire catalogue, from their demos and the first album all the way to their most-recent album. Really, every song they ever did in the studio for a release is covered in the book,” he said. “There’s also a lot of research involved, sometimes just to figure out an actual timeline. There are a lot of miss-told stories and incorrect dates and facts that are out there. Sometimes I would spend three hours on just one sentence, because I could not quite verify what I needed to. There was a ton of work involved in that respect.”

Despite the painstaking research, Stolz said the book is not targeted at scholarly readers.

“I avoid jargon so that it’s readable by the general public, but there’s enough of a musician’s perspective to give greater depth and understanding of the music at hand,” he said.

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