Posted tagged ‘Seattle’

Art Creates Community

2014/04/24

Jimi Hendrix and Quincy Jones.

Two household names, right? But without two very important words, it’s likely not many people would know about either of them.

These words? Education and mentorship.

Both Hendrix and Jones grew up in the Central District of Seattle, before the Civil Rights Era. Racism might not have been as overt as it was in the South, but blacks could not work, going to school, or live outside the Central District. It was, then, a three mile square area where African-Americans lived their lives. Work was hard to find after the production boom of World War II ended, and many folks in the Central District did not just face racism, but poverty as well.

What did provide people with opportunity? Music. 

Jones and Charles
The Central District had a happenin’ music community. Youth like Quincy Jones were mentored by older musicians, such as a guy named Ray Charles, who moved to the Central District from Florida. Jones was also given the run of the music room at his school, Garfield High, by his band teacher.

Later on, Jimi Hendrix went to the same high school (remember the limits placed on African-Americans in Seattle?) and while he didn’t prosper there (not all teachers are created equal) he benefited from talented mentors just as Jones did.

These mentors, who had nothing to personally gain by teaching youth, exemplified the most positive part of community participation. The connections they made and the values they instilled had far-reaching effects – just ask anyone who saw Hendrix at Woodstock, or heck, has listened to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which Jones produced.

Jimi in Seattle

Hendrix in Seattle, circa 1958 (www.historylink.org)

Not everyone, obviously, can expect the same success as Hendrix and Jones, but that’s not the point. The real important part is people coming together and learning from each other, and building community.

Creart

Fast-forward to present-day Edmonton, and someone who understands this is a Chilean born musician and artist, Sebastian Barrera. An incredible performer in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, Barrera is also on the board for Edmonton’s Heart of the City Music Festival. He has also created a free school of arts, called Creart Edmonton, held at Parkdale -Cromdale Community League Hall every Saturday morning from 9AM-Noon.

The community league graciously donated the space for free, so each class can be held without a charge to the students. The music teachers involved donate their time as well.  Each class starts off with an hour of vocal lessons. Then an hour in the classroom, sectioned off so beginners can learn a few chords, and more advanced students the nuances of music theory.

Sebastian

Following the theory classes, everyone comes back together for an hour of jamming. Participants can join the circle and play guitar, piano, or the drums (and likely the triangle would be ok too). Not surprisingly for Barrera, art and music go hand in hand with community development. As he asserts:

Years ago being an artist was not about fame  but was about community. I come from a country (Chile) where we have important examples of musicians who dedicated their lives to change society and that type of commitment inspires me to work hard to make a difference. In my opinion artists have a big responsibility as communicators and they should work hard to be the voice of those who don’t have the ability to express themselves, and they should be activists working toward strong social changes.

As such, Barrera’s goal is to have as many Edmontonians have this opportunity as possible. His vision is for this to  inspire more free schools of arts all over the city. “Current students will start doing classes in other communities and in that way we can spread cells around.”

guitar

The positive impact of this vision is clear, as jam participant (and CJSR volunteer) Benjamin Arkless highlights, relating that “it’s an incredible opportunity for community development and it’s truly bringing a source of happiness to my life, knowing there’s a place every week where you are welcome – at any skill level to play with other people in the community – all walks of life and ages welcome.”

Arkless goes on to say that, “Parkdale-Cromdale is a true community league that isn’t simply renting the hall out to private things but a place open freely and voluntarily run. It is active and alive. So I like that, it makes Edmonton a good place to be.”

If folks want to know how they can help, Barrera encourages them to send students (of all-ages) to Creart on Saturday mornings. and, of course, to come out themselves. Everyone is welcome to share their skills, whatever they happen to be.   

People are also welcome to join the students on the last Friday of every month at Parkdale-Cromdale Hall, for the Family Friendly Music Night.  It’s a potluck AND concert! For details on the one happening Friday April 25th, check out the Facebook event here!

There’s also an important fundraising event called “Mano a Mano con Valparaiso” happening at, you guessed it, Parkdale-Cromdale Hall on Saturday, April 26th.  It’s to raise money for Valparaiso, Barrera’s home city that was devastated by a fire a few weeks ago. There will be food, drinks and music from 4PM to 1 AM. As Barrera says, “come and help us to help others.” Click here for the Facebook event!

As for how else people can help with Creart Edmonton, Barrera suggests this great advice: “Give us space for more classes, connect us with sponsors or resources. Come to our concerts. Enjoy our facebook.”

May17 

Backlash on Nirvana

2014/03/02

Bleach Review

Review of the Nirvana album Bleach in the Seattle Fanzine Backlash. 

The Backlash to Selling-Out

2013/05/20

In 1988, Seattle was still a few years away from seeing its music community explode into the mainstream. That didn’t mean the city’s musicians weren’t getting noticed by major labels. Here’s a page out of Backlash, a Seattle fanzine aimed at covering the local music community:

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(From Backlash, August-September 1988, p. 1)

J.R. Higgins’ article was about the rumors going around Mother Love Bone, a super-group made up of members of MalfunkshunGreen River, and Ten Minute Warning. Jokingly, it quotes frontman Andrew Wood on what would happen to the band after hitting the big time: “we won’t forget Seattle,” he said, “until we come back and we’re all at the Coliseum and we’re like, ‘Hello Portland! How ya doin! and everyone boos.”

Dawn Anderson’s piece was about how a stalwart of the Seattle punk scene left town and started a band in Los Angeles (hint: the group had a name that combined both guns and roses). Anderson playfully included old quotes from the migrant punk rocker, Andrew “Duff” McKagan on the topics of selling-out and community.

100_0881

This fanzine page offers a glimpse into the Seattle music community in 1988. At the time nobody knew, of course, what would happen three years later. What folks did see was a) local musicians on the threshold of the supposed fame and fortune that comes along with signing a major-label contract and b) a guy that left the community for greener pastures and it had panned out.

Everyone knows that things ended up ok financially for McKagan. Mother Love Bone, unfortunately, ended up with a huge debt when Andrew Wood passed away on the eve of the release of Apple, their debut LP. The surviving band members were fronted a lot of money by their record company, which was now almost impossible to pay back.

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Luckily, two of the members of Mother Love Bone, Jeff Ament and Stone Gosssard went on to form Pearl Jam. But the musicians mentioned in Backlash showcases the tension between local music scenes and major labels, and the dangers posed by being drawn further into the depths of the music industry.

Kids’ Festival of Ideas – What’s Up with the U?

2012/11/17

FREE EVENT

Saturday November 17th, 2-3 p.m. at Enterprise Square 10230 Jasper Ave, Edmonton

“Older children can join four outstanding UAlberta graduate students who will share the excitement of their current research and discoveries. Come and hear about some of the fascinating and important research currently underway at UAlberta. What’s up with the U? will present research in into drug use/abuse, tropical ecosystems, “intelligent” bacteria in our guts, and the cultural story of Seattle’s punk rock scene.”
  (more…)

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!

 

The History of Punk, Class #8

2012/07/06

The Edmonton Free School
Saturday 7 July 1:30PM
Location: Humanities 1-14, The University of Alberta
All-Ages, All-Welcome

“Punk, Grunge, and Selling Albums vs. Selling Out”

This seminar will discuss whether or not bands such as Mudhoney, Nirvana and Beat Happening were part of the underground punk community. Moreover, while viewing it as a social and cultural construct, this seminar will debate if the grunge movement, was, in fact, an extension of the norms, values and practices of punk culture.

Spoiler: I argue that grunge was an extension of punk, and when it hit the mainstream, there were all kinds of resounding implications for the mainstream music industry, underground culture, and a generation known by the letter X.

Once again, we’ll start with a short lecture, and then transition into our intellectual picnic format – so bring food to share if you can!

Reading:
I’m Just Selling Albums, I’m Not Selling Out

Not Required Reading:
This is Not For You: The Rise and Fall of Music Milieux in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, 1950s -1990s

Playlist:
Mother Love Bone “Crown of Thorns”
Jane’s Addiction “Had a Dad”
Soundgarden “He Didn’t (Live from Seattle Bumbershoot Festival 1988)”
Mudhoney “Touch Me I’m Sick”
Ronald Reagan “Morning in America”
Fugazi “Waiting Room”
Hüsker Dü “Eight Miles High”
The Replacements “Unsatisfied”
Scream “Came Without Warning”
Martha Quinn “MTV VJ 1982”
Mötley Crüe “Girls, Girls, Girls”
The Dead Kennedys “Pull My Strings”
Mr. Epp and the Calculations “Of Course I’m Happy, Why?”
Rodney Bingenheimer “Rodney on the ROQ Theme”
Wipers “Doom Town”
Beat Happening “Black Candy (live on TCTV 1998)”
The U-Men “They”
The Melvins “Happy Grey or Black”
The Fastbacks “Swallow My Pride”
The Gits “Insecurities”
Skin Yard “Skins in My Closet”
Green River “This Town”
Malfunkshun “With Yo’ Heart (Not Yo’ Hands)”
The Posies “Ontario”
The Young Fresh Fellows “Amy Grant”
The Green Pajamas “Kim the Waitress”
Screaming Trees “You Tell Me All These Things”
Nirvana “Spank Thru (1/23/88)”
Tad “Loser”
Sonic Youth “Kill Yr. Idols”
Sonic Youth “Teenage Riot”
Alice in Chains “We Die Young”
Pearl Jam “Why Go”
7 Year Bitch “M.I.A.”
Bikini Kill “Double Dare Ya”
Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

 

this IS for you…to read.

2012/04/03

Here’e a link to my MA thesis, This is Not For You: The Rise and Fall of Music Milieux in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, 1950s -1990s.