Sunday, November 16, 2008

A final thought on music

While watching music videos as a way of avoiding real work, I found myself thinking about the ways in which I have structured places by associating music with them. I suppose this is not all that original of a thought, and we may have talked about it in class, but it is nonetheless interesting to think about music in the role of place-making. Or, in this case, conceptual place-making.

I'm reminded slightly of Mike Davis' work on LA, and the ways in which the film industry has constructed a particular mythology of LA. I wonder if there are great musically-defined cities that stand out to y'all. I'm particularly tied to images of Kinshasa and Lagos that I've encountered though African music of the 70s. These are places that I, at one point, had no non-musical point of reference for, but have a fairly well developed mental image of both. I've created largely mythical images of a place, and I think its interesting to think about these visions, and also communal visions. How did (does?) Motown structure the making of Detroit, both politically (or lyrically) but also in terms of sound? I remember touring the Stax Records Museum in Memphis and watching a video where Rufus Thomas talked about how once Soul Music hit the South, it turned dirtier and uglier. Its a common but nonetheless great thought, and one that I think directly relates to the construction of place though music, and the inverse, the construction of music through place.

I'm particularly interested in the actual sounds of music in terms of place-making and not the lyrics. Tempo and sound seem crucial to my conceptual understanding of place, so thinking about the sonic differences between hip hop from Houston or hip hop from Miami gives me a totally different read on the feel of the cities. The same could be said for a variety of different genres and cities and readings and misreadings and I imagine the result is that conceptual schemes help to create the realities of particular places. There is no Memphis without Elvis, ultimately.

2 comments:

Chris Rencontre said...

I agree it's interesting to consider how we view place or imagined places based on perceptions created by listening to music.

I like the concept of spaces created through music that comes from places we've never been. I tend to enjoy music that is derivative, and there's a lot out there. Peter Gabriel worked with African musicians, The Beatles incorporated Indian music, Even Yo Yo Ma has worked with musicians from around the world to compose and record music that combines the essences of many different tribal and classical European traditions.

Maybe the spaces we create of places we've never been are a way to escape [in a good way] our own daily existences? Maybe they bring us to imagined spaces where stress and worry and the pressures of life do not exist.

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