Musical Cities

The Evergreen State College

The night life


The night life or lack there of. I visited my site a couple nights ago and there were practically no people. I was there for about an hour around 10:00pm. For the longest time I didn’t see the birds either but then a few stragglers appeared in the distance.

Finding Bliss

I have always found it hard and unsettling to stay in the same place. Place can mean a lot of things. As human beings we are constantly curious about what’s around the next corner. We live in a world that is constantly in your face. Although we are advanced comparably to any other known species, a cat, jumping from something 5 times their height, will land on their feet…unharmed…if you’re reading this, don’t try it. You’re not a cat, and IF you land on your feet…

The nervous system has a specific sensory system or organ, dedicated to each sense. Humans have a multitude of senses. Sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception) are the five traditionally recognized. ‘Traditionalt recognized’- sounds simple. We’ve developed languages, with words to simplify and categorize everything; Boy or Girl? It’s clear to see that reality isn’t really that simple. We are not computers. Emotions are unique, expressive reactions to the beating these traditional senses take. From your first breath to your very last. The beauty unveils when you discover how to direct feelings and express this over abundance of emotion. That one thing that when your doing it, it is the only thing in the world that matters. It is an amazing thing to find your bliss. I’ve found bliss in being a daughter, a sister, a friend but most of all; being a mother.  It is even more amazing when other people see the beauty, and your expression portrays new perspective. We live in a world of difference awaiting another piece to fall unti place. Among us are breathtaking masterpieces of expression. We are taken by Vincent van Gogh, let me look at starry night. We envy Beethoven and the symphony is that we will never write. These glorified monumental pieces of art leave us in awe. The single creation of a master hand, in sync biologically through the central nervous system, battered by emotional, perspective, experience. Each person creates a new perspective reacting to the emotional impact relayed by one or more of your five senses. I find it easier than ever to compare perspective of music—pick one song; YouTube it. Listen to the original, hear the different layers, notice how they come together. When it’s over add the words ‘cover’ to your search bar. You will be overloaded with hundreds of different perspectives of that very same song. Each musician promises to deliver a different yet unique version.
I’ve stopped trying to see the beauty in everything. I will no longer sit through that of poor quality. As it seems like self mutilation in a less dramatic or physically destructive form yet still harmful to your mental health.

There are resesrches everywhere studying a type of sensory overload; Information overload (also known as infobesity or infoxication). This refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that is caused by the presence of too much information.
The term is popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock, but is mentioned in a 1964 book by Bertram Gross, The Managing of Organizations. Speier et al. (1999) stated:

“Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.”

It only seems fair to occasionally put your senses in check. I challenge you to question those sensory intakes that created your beliefs. Revisit those that helped form your sense of stability. Those that determine beauty and what is beautiful. Why is it beautiful? Hear the sound. Can you touch it? Does it smell good? What does it look like? Clear some room for new data. Look at those things and try to gain a new perspective. Listen to your favorite song like it was the very first time you’ve ever heard it. As you prepare yourself for travel, make a list. List four things that are beautiful, four things that make you angry or scowl and four things you haven’t experienced; two you believe will be good and two you feel would be bad and uncomfortable. With the new connections we have learned to make between music, art, culture and the city or impact of ones surroundings, try to experience each thing you listed in this new unfamiliar environment. You can’t do everything, or be everywhere but you can learn to wake up and see a new person looking back at you in the mirror, just as every morning is a new day. Challenge old habits and clear a space in your brain for new perspective, a new experience of those senses everyday. You already experience them everyday but we don’t acknowledge them. We’ve trained our brains to look straight ahead to our next destination, to block out the soundscape of our everyday life. Step out of yourself for a minute even if it’s uncomfortable. This will ensure that you learn something different everyday. Oh and be patient! Because everything usually works out if you keep it a possibility.

 

Self-Eval

If anything brings me closer to achieving happiness it is the act of traveling. Los Angeles brought me so far away from the spiritual journey I began 5 years ago but upon returning to Olympia I realize that to taint the soul with evil is to learn to cleanse the soul of evil. I have never felt so a part of something larger than myself and my ego. It’s as if my destiny is riding slowly underneath me to keep me from falling through the earth. I am insanely lucky. I am outrageously blessed. This quarter has given me faith in the revolutions of our planet.

People are what connects music to the city or to anything for that matter. How much of myself did I carry there and into my music? How much of what I interpret is through an unshakable lens? My music took a turn towards greater accessibility with a more popesque style. My writing content this quarter revolved around temptation, desire and possession. Sure, these are changes brought about by my experience but they are changes in the meta. I didn’t write about the sun, sand, surf and palm trees. My compositions do not reflect the wide open geography, traffic or smog of Los Angeles. What is buried in the cracks of my LA music are the people whom I met that reside there. These people are not from LA. They are not long time residents. They are young, they are successful, they are professional, discourteous, rude, uplifting, inspirational and fleshy. They are the hands of the urban space. They reach out to you as if the city were a living vessel for life. The music is the sound they make, the sound they listen to and the sounds I heard. What if I did all of a sudden begin to make my compositions reflect the physical world of Los Angeles? I could create anything from classical music to hip hop and still have identifiable correlations. It seems that the act of adapting music directly from the geography of a place is a specific style in and of itself like adaptations of literature into film and is not so much indicative of the place the musician is in rather of their preferred method of composing.

Consciousness stays the same. Try to exist in the third dimension in a way that is not somehow relatable to a constant state of ‘experience’ which metaphysically ‘feels’ the same no matter where you go or what you do. I’ve been all over the world and one thing has always remained the same: ego. The variables of what occurs may be wildly different waking up in Japan from waking up at home but the true essence of your experience retains its state; your identity with identity, awareness of temporality and fear. Identity is what keeps you doing what you do, temporality rules what you do and fear keeps you not doing what you don’t do. All three of these metaphysical principles interact with the physical world and therefore the physical world must in some way shape the metaphysical laws that govern these principles.

I move closer and closer to a complete understanding of my life’s work in metaphysics while remaining true to my creative expression through music. I am growing closer to the people who inhabit this earth through sound of and the study of human interaction.

Wrapping up…

Me at Murchison Falls

This week I have continued to take adungu lessons from Robert Kijogwa. I have been learning a song called Tweyanze. I mentioned in my last post that the adungu is traditionally from the tribes in the north of Uganda including the Acholi, Alur and Lugbara. However, over time, many instruments were exchanged between the different tribes of Uganda.

Tweyanze is in Luganda (language of the Baganda) and is a song of gratitude and thanks. Here is the lyrics to a version of the song from an album called Tour of Light 2012 by Children of Uganda:

Luganda:

Tweyanze, tweyanzeege, walala kagutema bamwongere e Nabulagala
Tweyanze abakyala n’abaami (walala kagutema bamwongere e Nabulagala)
Munkubire engero ndimwana wambuga…
Munkubire engoma abuganda bweyagale
Twazze kusanyuka abakutte kuttama
Nyimba mpola mpola tebandaba engeleka
Nyimba mpola mpola tebandaba ekibuno
Nyimba mpola mpola tebandaba akamiro
Ate namunyeeye bwekaaba eruma

Translation:

We are so grateful – may you be rewarded accordingly
We are grateful to you, women and men.
Clap for me, I am a son of the king
Play drums for me so that Buganda (kingdom) will be happy
We came to enjoy, but now some of you are feeling sad
I sing mildly, not to show my teeth
I sing gently, not to show my gums
I sing slowly, not to show my throat.
When the owl hoots it brings sadness.

The song is structured such that the lead singer sings a line which is then followed by a refrain from the chorus (walalala kagutema bamwongere e Nabulagala). Depending on the situation in which the performers are playing the song, the lead singer can change the lines to fit the situation as long as they fall within the structure of the song.

I was also able to attend a performance by the Uganda National Contemporary Ballet (UNCB). My adungu teacher, Robert Kijogwa, was involved in a collaboration with the UNCB called ‘The Power of Hope.’ The music and script were composed by an American doctor named Scott Shepherd in response to the violece in Darfur, Sudan. The performance included a recording of Dr. Shepherd’s composition along with live drumming from Robert Kijogwa. The UNCB dancers were also accompanied by children from the Katwe Youth Development Association (KAYDA). KAYDA is an organization that attempts to provide help for children who are living on the streets in Kampala.

Before ‘The Power of Hope’ there was a short play titled ‘Solidarity’ that was performed by primary school students from the Ecole Français (French School) in Kampala. This was followed by a dance titled ‘Crazy Dancers’ and a set of solo performances by the UNCB dancers.

I was also able to attend a performance at a venue called Jazz Ville in a neighborhood of Kampala called Bugolobi. The Code 9 band performs at the venue every Friday night. They played a combination of covers of popular jazz songs as well as original compositions. They used typical Jazz instrumentation including guitar, bass guitar, drums, saxophone, horns and vocals. Most of the covers were sung in English while some of the original compositions were in Luganda.

Lioness and cubs_crop_color adjusted_sharpened

I was also fortunate enough to be able to make a trip to Murchison Falls National Park. The park is located near the western border of Uganda across Lake Albert from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Victoria Nile bisects the park on its way to Lake Albert and the Albert Nile forms a part of the Northwest border of the park. The section of the park south of the Victoria Nile is composed primarily of forested areas while the section north of the Victoria Nile is primarily savanna.

Giraffe

The soundscape of the park is very distinct from that of Kampala. In Kampala, I was predominantly faced with a mixture of vehicle noise, honking, people, roosters and bird songs. In the park the absence of traffic noise was a welcome comfort and gave me more room to appreciate the natural soundscape. In the southern part of the park, the forests are filled with the songs of the many bird species that live there. While in the northern part of the park the savanna is filled with a tranquil quiet.

Elephant and baby_crop

One of the most impressive soundscapes at the park was the sound of Murchison Falls itself. At the point of the falls, the Nile narrows to 7 meters before plummeting 43 meters into the chasm below. At the top of the falls, you are surrounded by the thunderous sound of the water as it echoes off the walls of the deep cauldron.

Murchison and Uhuru Falls

Murchison and Uhuru Falls

Post-LA Post

REKS was an album I released April 11th, 2015 following the conclusion of Winter Quarter. It is a solo album with an appearance from Eli on Bass Guitar in one track. This album focused around my relationship with my mother and the concept of predetermined initial conditions. I sampled from a lot of sad music, Cocorosie specifically whose music is often about abuse and trauma. I also used a lot of old music; jazz, classical, and 50’s love lamentations. I created about 25 original songs in this vein and selected the tracks I thought were ‘best.’ It’s my first major work using the Sp404 SX Sampler. The drum samples used were from a compilation of old school producers samples released in the alley’s of some production forums. It’s the first time I used these particular drum sounds and veered away from the collection I had been using on previous albums. There’s a heavy amount of piano work for the very first time where I attempted to utilize the grids and structures from classwork in my playing style. The compositions were created before and during a few live performances prior to any physical recording of the composed material. This was my first time experimenting with composition through live performances rather than only performing in the studio. Two major aspects of this album are its lack of dependency on synthesizers and increased usage of Bass Guitar. I used bass synths in this album mostly to fill out the low end of the music to maintain a contemporary atmosphere while layering old school sampling, light piano and old school drum samples on top. When not using the bass synth there is actual line-in bass guitar, which I prefer, and have used a lot previously. The album contains 8 songs. All the songs are under 3 minutes besides one. Some are even under 2 minutes or significantly close to 2 minutes. Almost every song has a ‘cut to black’ ending without any fading out or trailing outro. This album was the best display of my production quality to date, it was the easiest to mix and closest to completion “right out of the box.” It is still technically unmastered.

(This Widget is huge)

While in Los Angeles I composed 13 songs in 5 weeks and performed 7 of them while residing there. Few of the songs have names but the naming has taken on a more variant style than i’m used to. Cloud 9, These Days, The Magic of Money and I Just Want it All, are some examples. It seemed that the experience of temporary travel influenced the conceptual commitment to any particular ideas that would bring forth a name for some of our songs. They are currently named by the date of creation for my reflection. About 80% of the tracks were created without any lyrical writing and only three currently have vocals recorded. It’s been a spacey experience. The process of making these songs is not at all what I am comfortable with: Sparse recording sessions, “quantity over initial quality,” and lack of conceptual identification. Only after returning home have I begun to fully organize the stages of the compositions along with their vocal recordings. My experience in Los Angeles bred an odd composing style. I continued to use a turntable to aggregate samples from vinyl, the SP404 for manipulating those samples and Logic Pro X, Massive and Reaktor 5 as usual. However I lacked any realistic sound monitoring system (besides flat frequency headphones,) a piano/keyboard/midi controller, studio microphone, guitar and Bass.

It seems to me that the way in which music and cities are connected is ever evolving. Could it not be said that any change that is happening is happening simultaneously in congruence with all other changes? It has come to my attention many times at the farce of divulging a grand exposition about music and cities. It’s mentally impossible to narrow the causes and effects of geographic ecosystems over any period of time without anthropological investigation and even then we’re only able to interpret off of what we see. The inexplicable possibilities of everything in a world so governed by mass media, transportation technology and internet interaction mutes any point of reference for cause and effect in western society. Look at EDM. What isn’t EDM now? Where can’t you find EDM? Is anything within EDM original at all and therefore who is to be credited and what is their geographical location? Were they born there? How long have they lived there? There are individuals who travel the world multiple times in a single lifetime. Is earth their city? How does earth effect the music on earth? Earth is the reason there is music to begin with. No earth, no people. No people, No music.

People are what connects music to the city or to anything for that matter. How much of myself did I carry there and into my music? How much of what I interpret is through an unshakable lens? My music took a turn towards greater accessibility with a more popesque style. The writing content revolved around temptation, desire and possession. Sure, these are changes brought about by my experience but they are changes in the meta. I didn’t write about the sun, sand, surf and palm trees. My compositions do not reflect the wide open geography, traffic or smog. What is buried in the cracks of my Los Angeles music are the people whom I met that reside there. These people are not from LA. They are not long time residents. They are young, they are successful, they are professional, discourteous, rude, uplifting, inspirational and fleshy. They are the hands of the urban space. They reach out to you as if the city were a living vessel for life. The music is the sound they make, the sound they listen to and the sounds I heard. What if I did all of a sudden begin to make my compositions reflect the physical world of Los Angeles? I could create anything from classical music to hip hop and still have identifiable correlations. It seems that the act of adapting music directly from the geography of a place is a specific style in and of itself like adaptations of literature into film and is not so much indicative of the place the musician is in rather of their preferred method of composing.

Possibly related thoughts: Consciousness stays the same. Try to exist in the third dimension in a way that is not somehow relatable to a constant state of ‘experience’ which metaphysically ‘feels’ the same no matter where you go or what you do. I’ve been all over and one thing has always remained the same: ego. The variables of what occurs may be wildly different waking up in Japan from waking up at home but the true essence of your experience retains its state; your identity with identity, awareness of temporality and fear. Identity is what keeps you doing what you do, temporality rules what you do and fear keeps you not doing what you don’t do. All three of these metaphysical principles interact with the physical world and therefore the physical world must in some way shape the metaphysical laws that govern these principles.

Leaving Uruguay

Returning from a trip, I’m always asked “How was (city name here)?” and I always struggle with the answer. What words can I use that can’t be used for every other city? Writing, I have the advantage of having as much time as I choose to use to describe my experience and I can write things in a manner that is more descriptive than a conversational style.

On my first day here, a local told me not much happens in Montevideo and time flies by. The pace of life here is never rushed and it’s never too late for anything, literally. Running on La Rambla at night, I see more runners than I saw in the marathon I ran in Olympia. Work out groups meet in the park at 9:30 a la noche and dinner as early as 8p.m. is practically unheard of. Everyone greets everyone in the room with a kiss on the cheek and says farewell to everyone with a kiss on the cheek, even those they never spoke with. This even goes for my tango classes and for office workers. Most restaurants aren’t open for lunch and the workday begins closer to 11a.m. Most of the buildings are from the 19th century, are in various stages of crumbling, and have graffiti on them. Most other buildings are built to fit in with the 18th century style, although not posing to be from the  same time period themselves. Every block has some street art. The sidewalks are composed of roughly 8″x8″ cement tiles pushed up at various angles due to the allees of mature Pocitos trees shading every street. The curves match the gently rolling hills of the streets themselves. I can walk anywhere I want to go in Montevideo in less than a half hour.

The locals of Montevideo are notably kind, unless they are trying to give you the tourist price. They’re happy and smiling, go out of their way to be helpful, and too often apologize for their lack of English vocabulary. The politics are left leaning. Voting is obligatory. Medical marijuana is newly legalized. The former President Mujica was in-prisoned during the guerrilla war against the military dictatorship of the 70’s and 80’s and this played a roll in his humanitarian decision to accept six of the over sixty victims of Guantanamo Bay cleared for release (57 are still waiting for a country to accept them). I met two of the victims of Gitmo in front of the U.S. embassy where they were protesting in tents for months on end for aid from the U.S. government after being imprisoned and tortured for over ten years without a trial. They were extremely kind and even insisted I have some cookies.

Leading up to the elections, the city is decked in posters with candidates’ faces, you can’t leave your house without a campaigner handing you a flier, and you can’t go six hours without hearing a vehicle, be it a van, truck, or bicycle with a trolly toting an amp blasting propaganda.

The other sounds this recognizable are the bells on the hoarse-drawn carriages driven by young men who live in the outer parts of the city, coming in to collect scrap metal, and the calls of parrots and pigeons, and Cumbia music rolling through the streets and parked next to La Rambla emphasizing the beet just after the 1,2,3, and 4 and the Candombe drummers parading twice weekly. The city is the most hi-fi city I’ve ever visited, only comparable in sound quality to some historical districts which are frequently hi-fi because of their quieter residential parts and lack of autos. 

The nightlife is filled with love of life. Although necessities in Uruguay are as expensive as island prices, luxuries such as entertainment are unheard-of cheap. Never did I see a slow or quiet nightlife scene. Never did I see more engaged audiences, singing and clapping along and giving the most supportive and encouraging applauses I’ve ever heard.

I believe Montevideo’s good vibes are owed to the unique culture of open-heartedness thriving there.

Compositions

“KONKREIT MUSICK” is sound collage piece composed entirely from different field recordings I took while in New Orleans. Sounds include: church bells, a brass band, an out-of-tune steamboat organ, sound effects from an action figure, a streetcar, and birds. I deconstructed the content from these recordings to form new melodies and used digital effects such as echo to create repeating rhythmic patterns and reverb to create a sense of space.

“Dream Melody” was something I came up with while playing around with a sanza, an African instrument also known as a “thumb piano”. I then took the melody and transposed it onto guitar and later added a chord progression to support it. In this recording you will hear the lead guitar and sanza playing in unison accompanied by guitar chords underneath. It then segues into a piece I call “Sombre Ecstasy”. This composition is one that I had been developing throughout my time in New Orleans. It based around acoustic guitar with some added ambience also created with guitar and an electronic device called an Ebow.

*recordings recommended for headphone listening* Enjoy!

Spots of Time

On my last day in New Orleans, there was a rainstorm that lasted all morning until noon. After it had cleared up, I decided to go out for a final walk around the neighborhood cemetery. Along the way, I spotted a broken tree branch lying across the middle of the street. This branch was enormous, like a tree growing out of another tree. As I stood there staring at it I wondered, how long before somebody does something about it?

IMG_0068

For me, this was the perfect picture of New Orleans. It is a symbol and a summary of what I learned about the history of Hurricane Katrina and about the city as it exists today.

 

Conclusions

  • Clearly restate the purpose and research question of your study

-My goal is to explore the connection between the city of New Orleans and its music. Over the course of the city’s history, New Orleans has undergone many changes in its social and physical landscape; particularly in recent years due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. I am interested in learning about how these changes have impacted musicians and their music and how the current state of music in New Orleans reflects these changes. Have musicians striven to retain a sense of tradition despite these changes or have they aimed to progress into newer musical territories? How has the music developed along with the city?

  • Classify the research methods employed in your research and report their effectiveness

-My research methods included internet sources, books, and a documentary. However the bulk of my research was done on an interactive basis and involved doing field work such as exploring the city, chatting with and interviewing different people (musicians and artists), handing out surveys, and taking field recordings and photos. I found that going out and interacting with the city that I was studying was the ultimate way of learning about it first-hand. I found it to be a much more valuable experience than staying inside and reading about someone else’s impression of the place. However, after conducting this type of work I referred to texts and other sources to compare my experience and validate or reconsider my own ideas.

  • Collate and display the data that you collected

-The objective data I collected in my research was based on a survey that I created and distributed to different people in the city. From these surveys I was able to determine some statistics about the city’s people and the significance of music, art, and the current state of the two in New Orleans. Interviewing people provided me with insight on a more personal level and highly influenced the conclusions I made about my work.

  • Explain how your readings further informed your study.

-My readings further informed my study by providing me with more specific information about the different topics I was interested in. They also offered different perspectives for me to consider.

  • State the outcome of your research, that is, the answer that you arrived at for the research question(s)

-What I learned about the music’s development along with the city is that the music did not undergone any detectable changes. However, the main difference now is not the music that is being played but the new group of people that are playing it. After Hurricane Katrina, the displacement of most of the city’s original musicians ushered in a new wave of musicians coming from other parts of the country. For example, you can walk around the city and hear a man playing a clarinet in a traditional New Orleans Jazz style and think about how authentic it must be but the chances are that that performer has only been there within the last decade. Currently, the music of New Orleans is a perpetuation of tradition performed by mostly newcomers.

  • Discuss your research results from a broader perspective, that is, how did your field study contribute new information to the study of musical cities?

-I believe that by traveling to New Orleans and trying to gain first-hand insight about it,        I put into practice everything we discussed in the program. That is looking for and making connections about the place itself, its people, and all the facets of that place that make it what it is (history, politics, culture, architecture, music, art, etc.)

  • Share a story or two that illuminates the context (the city) of your field study

-I have two musical stories that will be included in my next post.

  • State conclusions of your study and needed future research

-Knowing what I know now, I would have spent more time looking around at the most afflicted, slowly re-developing parts of New Orleans such as St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward. This would have provided me with more valuable first hand research for this project however, I did not spend time doing this while I was there.

Jazz Funeral

In August of 2005, New Orleans was devastated by the category 5 storm known as Hurricane Katrina. Although the media and officials originally attributed the city’s destruction to the hurricane, it was not the hurricane its self but it was the failure of the federal levee system to withstand it that resulted in the flooding of the city. The consequences were catastrophic; 80% of the city was flooded with water up to 20 ft. in some areas.

The city’s then-Mayor, Ray Nagin, issued a mandatory evacuation only one day before the hurricane had struck. Although 80% of the population were fortunate enough to make it out in time however, the remaining 20% who were unable to evacuate were left to either take shelter at the Superdome or suffer the consequences from the outside. The worst part of the hurricane’s aftermath was the state and federal government’s failure to manage the situation. In Spike Lee’s documentary, “When the Levees Broke”, it is explained that the delayed response to the situation was due to petty politics between the state and federal government. Basically the state’s then-Governor, Kathleen Blanco, prolonged asking the federal government so that it wouldn’t appear like she didn’t have the situation under control. She tried to defend her own ego at the expense of thousands of people’s lives. A great amount of criticism is directed at FEMA for failing to respond to the disaster in a timely manner and then making matters even worse when they finally decided to show up. FEMA was responsible for stopping civilian and corporate trucks and planes that voluntarily came to transport people and deliver water and fuel to those stuck in shelters. They decided that operating “by the book” and denying assistance from “unauthorized” people was more important than saving lives. I found it totally jaw-dropping and infuriating that a government agency would do this to its own people. The incompetence of government agencies combined with the corruption and lack of leadership from government officials transformed what could have been a relatively non-destructive storm into a monumental catastrophe.

Although Katrina is now historicized as the deadliest and most costly storm in American history, the people of New Orleans have still found a way to carry on despite the tremendous impact it has left behind. I believe that the key to their perseverance is embedded within their history and expressed in their deep respect for the city and its culture.

One of the books I read during my project was “Why New Orleans Matters”, by Tom Piazza. In one section, he describes one of New Orleans’ oldest traditions known as a Jazz Funeral. After a person passes away, family, friends, neighbors, and virtually anybody will partake in a special celebration of the deceased person’s life. However, the ideology behind this event is based on the idea that life itself is greater than the life of any one individual. Although that person’s life is honored and the ceremony typically begins with mourning, it is followed with a huge party filled with live bands, dancing, and lots and lots of eating and drinking. As Piazza puts it, “This isn’t escapism, or denial of grief; it is acceptance of the facts of life, the map of a profound relationship to the grief that is a part of life, and it will tell you something about why the real New Orleans spirit is never silly, or never just silly, in celebration, and never maudlin in grief. Under ordinary circumstances the word “irony” might come to mind, but the detachment implied by the word doesn’t seem to quite fit the situation. It is a way of containing the opposites that are a part of life in a way that allows the individual, and the community, to function with style and grace, even wit, under the most adverse circumstances.”

I think this shared perception about life and death is a very unique quality to the culture of New Orleans. It is something I find personally inspiring and it is a type of mindset that I wish was more widely appreciated.

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Olympia, Washington

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