Posted tagged ‘Jimi Hendrix’

2012 Festival of Ideas: The Importance of Music Communities

2012/10/24

On Wednesday, 24 October, I’m helping launch the University of Alberta’s 2012 Festival of Ideas at Edmonton City Hall. It’s free and open to the public, and runs from Noon-1:00PM:

Here’s what my talk is about:

When it comes to research, my interest lies in the relationship between music and society. The best way to do this is to study music communities. So, in this presentation, I’m talking about 3 different scenes from Seattle history, and each can tell us something about the past. Seattle was far removed for the traditional music centres in the United States – cities like New York, or Los Angeles. But that didn’t stop the kids living there. Youths making music can spark big change in culture – and kids participating in music communities allows them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Take a kid named James for example. He grew up in the Seattle ghetto in the 1950s. At this time, Seattle was still inherently racist – blacks couldn’t live outside the Central District, a section of town only a few square miles wide. They couldn’t work outside of it either, or go to school. It was an amazing music community though. Folks might not have had good jobs, but that didn’t stop them from playing jazz, the blues, or R’n’B. And despite the intolerance, it was still part of a network that spanned the entire continent. Locals were exposed to some of the greatest musicians in the world.

Now James, at first he couldn’t afford a guitar – so he played a broomstick. When he finally saved enough money to buy one, he was taught by the other players in the community – the ones who had nothing to lose by passing along their knowledge. This kid James? He’s better known as Jimi Hendrix!

Have you heard of the Baby-Boomers? They’ve probably made sure you have! If not, chat with your grandparents. They’re the HUGE generation that came of age in the 1960s. When it came to music in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, these youths went out and did it themselves. They created a successful teen dance network throughout the region, where everyone participated by attending the shows. They had FUN. Friendly rivalries between bands meant that if a band’s members went to the same school as you, you had to get out there and show your support. As the Baby-Boomers grew up, they moved out of the community halls and went on to dominate mainstream culture.

When the next generation was coming of age, the Baby-Boomers didn’t pass control of mainstream culture over to their descendants. Instead, they held on to it. This meant the next generation, Generation X, had to create an alternative to the mainstream. They were a small generation, and didn’t have the same opportunities of their predecessors. So, they worked on a shift underground. The foundation of this was personal expression. In music communities across North America, participants developed their own cultural institutions, and  throughout the 1980s built a stronger and stronger network. This all culminated with the Seattle music scene, and the band Nirvana – whose song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” finally brought the cultural spotlight onto a generation. If you don’t know Nirvana you might recognize the name Dave Grohl, who went on to form the Foo-Fighters. Also, you might be hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” a lot in the near future, since it’s the name of a sitcom being created by the writer of Big Bang Theory.

The 3 examples from Seattle show that youth create change by participating in music communities. And each shift meant this was no longer their parent’s music. For Jimi Hendrix, it was helping him overcome a life of poverty. For the Baby-Boomers, it asserting cultural dominance, and having fun doing it. For Generation X, it was speaking out against the status-quo and doing something different.

It might just be for themselves, or it might spark ideas that impact the whole world. If you have different ideas, your local music community can do the same for you. For example, in Edmonton, there’s record labels, music venues, and magazines. The only thing a local scene doesn’t have is an excuse NOT to participate. So go get your ideas out there!

 

Building a New Scene in Seattle

2010/08/30

The early Seattle music scene was driven by the jazz community. It would help launch the career of Ray Charles, give Quincy Jones his start and influence a young Jimi Hendrix. Now the New York Times sheds some light on the contemporary jazz milieu in the city:

“Seattle, a city synonymous with alternative rock, has also been known as an incubator for talented young jazz players who leave town to develop and thrive elsewhere.

‘But the landscape has been shifting because of recent events at the university level and at joints like Cafe Racer,’ Nate Chinen writes. ‘A growing number of young musicians have been focused on building an autonomous scene, something distinctive and homegrown.'”

Read the New York Times article:
“Seattle’s Alt-Rock Hub, Purring With Jazz”

Look at the New York Times slideshow:
“Building a New Scene in Seattle”

Read my article on the Seattle music community up through the 1960s
“Seattle in the 1960s: Music, Identity, and the Struggle for Civil Rights”

The Black and Tan Club on 12 Ave and Jackson Street. First called the Alhambra, the jazz club was opened in 1922 and closed in 1966. The name Black and Tan referred to the Asian, Black, and White patrons who all happily mingled together, effectively creating a tolerant space in a racially charged era.

A Hendrix Castle Where Musicians Still Kiss the Sky

2010/08/26

“Just down the street from the hot dogs of Gray’s Papaya, on a row of down-market Greenwich Village shops selling used CDs and a certain kind of glass pipe, 52 West Eighth Street is easy to miss. But a small sign marks hallowed musical ground: Electric Lady Studios.

Founded by Jimi Hendrix in 1970, it was an oddity for its time. Instead of following the usual studio model — a big, impersonal box tended by buttoned-down staff engineers — it was a psychedelic lair, with curved walls, groovy multicolored lights and sci-fi erotica murals to aid the creative flow. Hendrix died less than a month after its opening party on Aug. 26, 1970.”

Read the New York Times article here

Jimi Hendrix, seated, with the engineer Eddie Kramer, behind him, and the studio manager Jim Marron in the control room of the unfinished Electric Lady Studios on June 17, 1970.