Deciphering Culture

Archive for the ‘American Music’ Category

Short Takes: Tracking Musical Taste — Trendsetting Cities

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Earlier this year, I prepared a literature review on changes in musical taste for a study commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony so the ephemeral subject of how musical tastes develop, shift, morph (choose a verb) is a little higher on my radar than usual. Discover Magazine recently published a quick summary of a research paper that maps the geographic flow of music on the social-networking music site Last.fm. There’s more to it than this but the researchers found that among American Last.fm users, Atlanta is the trendsetting city. There are some quibbles I have with how grand a conclusion you can make based on info. gathered from a single social media site but it’s interesting and they created some cool info graphics so I’d recommend checking it out: Which City Is the Musical Tastemaker for the US? Hint: Not NY or LA.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

May 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

The Art of Agency 3 (Asian Improv aRts @ SF State)

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From March 2 through March 5, Asian Improv aRts (AIR) and SF State’s World Music and Dance Program are holding a “collaborative presentation of public dialogue, workshops and performances exploring the intersection of traditionality and hybridity in the formation of community.” It is an interesting mix of events, culminating with “Sounding Asian Improv aRts (AIR),” the keynote session of the Annual Meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology.


ImprovisAsians 2011! – The Art of Agency 3

March 2nd – 5th, 2011

San Francisco State University College of Creative Arts

All events are free and will take place at San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue

Wednesday, March 2nd

Diaspora Tales #2 – An interdisciplinary work featuring music by the Francis Wong Unit, spoken word by A.K. Black, dance by Lenora Lee and media design by Olivia Ting. “1969” reflects upon the Third World Strike at UC Berkeley and Wong’s family history from the period.
1:10 – 2pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building

Thursday, March 3rd

Asian Improv aRts Master Class with SF State Creative World Music Ensemble featuring composer Francis Wong
2:35 – 4:50pm Room 150, Creative Arts Building

The Artist as Public Intellectual Panel Discussion with Yutian Wong, Jeffrey Callen, Lenora Lee, Francis Wong, and Hafez Modirzadeh
6:10 – 8:50pm Room 147, Creative Arts Building

Friday, March 4th

The Creative World: A collaborative concert featuring Francis Wong, Hafez Modirzadeh, Bryan Bowman, John-Carlos Perea, and Jimmy Biala with members of the SF State Creative World Ensemble
1:10 – 2pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building

Saturday, March 5th

Asian Improv aRts in collaboration with the College of Ethnic Studies, College of Creative Arts, and the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NCCSEM) are proud to present:

Sounding Asian Improv aRts (AIR) A lecture demonstration. This Keynote Roundtable Session is part of the NCCSEM 2011 annual meeting. Co-moderators: John-Carlos Perea, Francis Wong, and Hafez Modirzadeh. Participants include Melody Takata, Dohee Lee, Wayne Wallace, and Kat Parra.
1-2:30pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building


“S.F.’s Cuban Cowboys flavor Latin grooves with punk power” (SF Weekly)

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[A duplicate post from Pop Culture Transgressions]

The Cuban Cowboys bring together rock ‘n’ roll and Latin beats with a punk sensibility that brings to mind such post-punk genre busters as The PixiesManu ChaoJonathan Richman, and Moroccan cha’abi rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit. Musically promiscuous and lyrically inventive, head Cuban Cowboy, Jorge Navarro, has found the musical voice on their new album Diablo Mambo that was only hinted at in the Cowboys’ debut album, Cuban Candles — but he didn’t find it on his own. A couple weeks ago I interviewed Jorge for a piece in SF Weekly and found out the fascinating backstory behind the band and the new album. Check it out!

Trails Mixed

By Jeffrey Callen

The Cuban Cowboys‘ new album, Diablo Mambo, doesn’t hesitate to let you know what it is all about. Drop the digital needle on the first track and you learn all you need to knowwithin the first 50 seconds: A Jimi Hendrix lick establishes the rock bona fides before the track morphs into a mambo section overlaid with a post-punk, art rock guitar pattern. The Hendrix lick then returns and signals the transition to driving punk guitars, but with a difference — the usual straight up-and-down thrash is blended with the sway of a Cuban son rhythm pattern. Two musical streams — rock and Latin music — are introduced, then blended, before the story of the song begins.

Bandleader/songwriter Jorge Navarro has interesting, engaging stories to tell. The opening track, “Cojones,” relates an early lesson in navigating the contradictions of the code of machismo taught by his knife-wielding grandfather. Navarro’s songs portray his family’s memories of a mythical Cuba born out of the nostalgia of exile and his experiences as a first-generation Cuban American, immersed in American pop culture and drawn to cowboy boots and rock ‘n’ roll. These two themes establish the narrative poles for the songs on Diablo Mambo, and Navarro skillfully navigates this bi-cultural territory, spinning tales of romance, sex, politics, and family. The music plays an essential role in the effectiveness of the stories, weaving together various tributaries from the two main musical streams — classic rock, punk rock, doo-wop, post–punk, rockabilly, and son, mambo, calypso, and salsa. (to read the rest, go to SF Weekly).

 

 

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Regenerating jazz?

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There is a lot of talk about the need to regenerate jazz and bring back the audience it has lost (a recent NEA study documents the dramatic aging of the jazz audience). Just take a look at the website of the Jazz Audience Initiative (of the Jazz Arts Group), one of the projects investigating the fading of jazz from the American cultural landscape.

Why is this Work Necessary?

Relatively little research has been done on jazz audiences and what they value. We know that jazz audiences are aging, jazz media outlets and festivals are fading, jazz organizations are struggling, and jazz musicians are overly burdened. In addition, the jazz field lacks meaningful opportunities to network and learn as a professional community.

But maybe the problem lies somewhere else — in assumptions implicit in the suppositions of this problem statement. I think a statement by Cicely James, author of the book The New Face of Jazz, in an NPR interview is instructive:

…I came to realize that hardly anyone I knew (and I consider my circle of friends to be well-educated and very cultured folks) could name a single player alive and well on the jazz scene today, I knew something had to be done. As a reader, I was also frustrated with the endless supply of books out there on Coltrane, Miles, etc. Why do we keep hashing their lives over and over again and ignoring the Coltranes of today? We’re allowing jazz to pass up this generation and the next ones by revering the past as if it’s the only period in this art form that matters.

How can a musical style stay vital if it is defined (and perceived) as being in the past? Let’s take an abbreviated, and admittedly cursory look at the history of the creation of this perception of Jazz. Many mention a 1988 opinion piece in the N.Y. Times What Jazz is and isn’t by trumpeter Winton Marsalis as significant. In this piece, Marsalis argued for a narrow definition of jazz that would place many “jazz” players outside of the tradition. Disgusted trumpeter Lester Bowie responded, “If you retread what’s gone before, even if it sounds like jazz, it could be anathema to the spirit of jazz.” Bowie was one of many critical voices but Marsalis’ opinion held more sway, particularly after the success of Ken Burns’ PBS series Jazz (Marsalis was the executive producer of the series). Beautifully done, Jazz became influential in creating the current perception of Jazz as America’s Classical Music. I must confess that I’ve used it in university classes on Jazz history but innovators (after Miles) and iconoclasts have little place in the history it presents. And where does that leave the current crop of innovators and iconoclasts. Jazz has always been busy reinventing itself — at least until now.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 21, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” — a turning point in 20th century music

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Kind of Blue (1959) changed the course of jazz, bringing new sonorities and modalities to the forefront. It also helped open up and retrain the ear of music listeners and influenced creators of various genres from classical to rock. As rapper Q-Tip said in a 2008 interview, “ It’s like the Bible, you just have one in your house.”

Check out Brian Gilmore’s review in JazzTimes of Richard Williams new book: The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music

New Book by Richard Williams

Written by Jeffrey Callen

March 5, 2010 at 10:00 am

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