These are some of the recent sources I’ve turned to for musical inspiration, in various ways:

“Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino

When you’re composing music, you’re essentially creating a story and painting a picture. Calvino shows that in the hands of a good liar, the possibilities are endless.

“Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color” by Philip Ball

A colorful (pun intended) history of the chemistry of pigment production, encompassing hues that do and do not occur in nature. A great visual corollary to the parallel evolution of synthesis in music, inspiring thinking about ways of using pitches, textures and sounds to create musical “colors.”

“Light in August” by William Faulkner

Of what does the spiritual core of our culture truly consist? The blues is one potent channel to that core.

“Malick Sidibe” by Andre Magnin, Alexis Schwarzenbach and Malick Sidibe

In the hands of Bamako’s dancing teens of the 1960s, slick Cuban mambo and African-American soul records are given a newly earthen hue and transformed into neo-ritual objects in this Malian photographer’s legendary portrait studio. Can film dance?

“Footprints: A Biography of Wayne Shorter” by Wayne Shorter and Michelle Mercer

Biography of one of the major and most enigmatic figures in modern jazz. Like Jan Willis’ “Dreaming Me,” Shorter’s Buddhist inspiration opened up radically new trajectories for his art, for thought, and for African-American experience in general. There must be a reason why the most cutting-edge figure in jazz is 72 years old!

“Paris Noir” by Tyler Stovall

It’s striking how many of the canonical works of African-American literature have been written in the so-called “City of Lights.” It shows the value of global interchange for local cultures. Sometimes, you need to breathe some different air to get the brain circuits moving in a different way.

“Projects Review 2003-2004” by American Architectural Association

Patterns, shapes and structures manipulated and transformed in myriad ways — an amazing conceptual resource for composers and improvisers who can see beyond the confines of the sonic medium.