The Sound of the City

It's been several weeks since my trip to Atlanta, and the experience that remains most vivid in my mind is that of being driven down Peachtree Street in my friend's car, windows down, with the song Party Like a Rockstar by Da Shop Boyz blasting at full volume. I can almost still feel the base and the wind. What struck me about the whole thing was how incredibly "of the moment" the city felt. I felt like I was tap dancing shakin' my ass on the razor's edge of society.

Granted, semi-trashy hip-hop (a not-as-guilty-as-it-probably-should-be pleasure of mine) is hardly cutting edge in the artistic sense. But Atlanta, in that moment, really felt like the epicenter of contemporary American culture that it is often purported to be. It was kind of an intense moment, and I've been trying to figure out how to work it into a post since I got back.

Enter Jay Walljasper, a senior fellow at Project for Public Spaces, and his article on musical geography over at Terrain. After mapping out the geo-melodic history of the US (with bits of Europe mixed in), Walljasper makes the following statement: "While the power and meaning of music certainly travel well, there’s still something rich in hearing favorite styles on their home turf." My experience in Atlanta had felt so au courant because I was in the very place where what I was listening to had been launched into the mainstream, the "big time." The music was part of the place and the place part of the music.

Walljasper also makes a great pitch for vibrant urban neighborhoods at the end of the article, explaining how these places foster the kind of regular, chance interactions that inspire creativity and collaboration. It's no mistake that great music scenes usually center on specific neighborhoods or cities. Placemaking and music are intrinsically tied...great places give birth to great music movements, which in turn enrich the history and culture of the places from which they spring forth. It's symbiotic. And hey--it sounds great.

Sweet Home Chicago (and Memphis, Motown, and Vienna) (Terrain.org)

World Music Central

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