I`ve always thought that Rock `n` Roll brought the races to

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I`ve always thought that Rock `n` Roll brought the races to
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Contributors:
Cover Art, Layout: Eleanor Vogel
Editor: Pei Xiong Liu
Copy-Editor: Shauna Pratt
Photographer: Isabella Cucchi
Articles By:
Alexander Golick
Brendan Fortin
Peter Belmonte
Carter Peterson
Stacey Bosques
Dan Storm
Rhyan Toledo
Grace Zimmerman
Hick Huston
Kayla Bennet
Jacob Kleinman
Kyle MacDonald
Ellika Healy
Shauna Pratt
Christian Opalinski
Chelsea Aiken
Isabel Magowan
Liz Wojnar
Special Thanks:
Garth Taylor
Daniel Charness
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Contents:
Profiles
Up Close With E-603
The Incarceration of Lil Wayne, Pop Icon
The Smiths, Your Primary Guide to Love
Radiohead Through the Years
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Outside the Wesleyan Bubble
Austin Musicians Crowded Out by Yuppies
Deafness and Music
Profit Over Talent?
Brooklyn’s Blues Revival
The Beatbox Flute
Radiohead’s Pay-What-You-Like Experiment
Poem: Evolution
Rock and Race
“Music-Racist”
The Truth Shall Set You Free... Or Not
Most Wanted Artists
Rock and Roll Has No Color
Here at WES
Sitting Down With Garth Taylor
Beatlemania and Beyond
Behind the Music at Wesleyan
Works Cited
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PROFILES: people to know
E-603 pictured with the names of all the artists sampled in his song “Hit Up Tonight”
Up Close with E-603
By Brendan Fortin
Every time some skinny jeans-wearing hipster
releases mash-ups featuring popular songs, the music
debate over free music and sampling heightens. Ethan
Ward, also known as E-603, is an upcoming producer
of the upcoming and controversial genre of mash-up
music. He is an integral part of the
indie music revolution, a myspace
music favorite, and, looking at his
twitter page, a comical college kid.
Studying at Hampshire College, in
Massachusetts, he has performed at many different
schools around the Northeast area, and has recently
played at shows with artists such as The Hood Internet
and Passion Pit. He has even been compared to mashup pioneer Greg Gillis, also known as Girl Talk. E-603
currently has two releases available, 2008’s Something For Everyone and Torn Up, which was released
in 2009. Ethan visited Wesleyan on September 25th,
2009, where he performed tracks from both albums at
Psi Upsilon.
Growing up in Nashua, New Hampshire, Ethan began recording and producing his music when he was
12 years old. He has been educated in classical and
experimental music composition, with no concentra-
tion in a specific genre. The name E-603 was thought
of in high school for a music project. “E” stands for
Ethan and “603” is the area code for the state of New
Hampshire.
Speaking about his first album, Something for
Everyone, “I wanted to make it free. Because it’s just
a nice way of getting the music out and also it’s a nice
little treat for those that are looking for new music
and that’s free. I actually made it over the course of a
month, and I kind of just sat down and made it, after a
suggestion. …Over the course of January I just made
the album, got everything ready for it, and then released it I think in mid-February.”
Working entirely in a digital format, Ethan’s
only piece of equipment is an Apple Macbook. He
uses software like Cubase SX and Pro Tools to generate his albums. In the album Torn Up, each track
took from 20 to 50 hours to make. Song construction
involves deconstruction of popular audio and then
reconstruction of some new art.
“There’s moments when I’m listening to music
when I’m like, ‘Okay, okay, this has to be messed
with, I have to sample this and turn it around or something,’” he said. Especially if it’s making a pretty big
statement out of something, which is pretty rad.”
E-603 can sit at his computer and make an album,
free of any expense (other
than time). Other artists have
to go to a recording studio
and pay big bucks. He makes his albums free because
there is little expense in producing, and he generates
money playing at colleges. He believes that “if a new
art form is being created then the sampling artist is not
doing anything illegal at all.”
Although his original fame has come from
mashup, he can’t see himself doing it any longer. He’s
always making other types of music, much of it unreleased. He will be concentrating on producing more
original stuff that may include samples, but can’t see
only doing mashup stuff for much longer.
“Okay, okay, this has
to be messed with”
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The Incarceration of Lil
Wayne, Pop Icon
By Carter Peter
Rap superstar Lil Wayne
was recently denied a postponement of his jail sentence. The rapper, who was caught in possession
of illegal guns, will head to jail on
March 2nd, making it the first time
in years that Wayne will seemingly
“not exist.”
Wayne is always in the
spotlight. He guests on hit singles,
releases frequent mixtapes, and is
constantly front and center in the
world of pop culture. Although
his treatment of music may seem
careless, it also can be looked at as
quite calculated. In the world we
live in, media changes constantly.
Twitter, Facebook, and even radio
rapidly switch their focus. In this
environment, one hit wonders are
constantly being played over the
airwaves. An artist makes a catchy
sound, is played, and then forgotten. However, Wayne combats this
by keeping up with the speed of
the rotating pop culture. He guests
on tons of artists’ tracks, such as
T-Pain or the new Jay Sean hit
“Down.” He also is constantly
releasing music. It seems that every
day, Wayne raps into a microphone
and creates one more thing that
the masses can embrace. With this
behavior, Wayne makes it impossible for pop culture to forget him.
By always being in the spotlight,
Wayne staves off becoming a onehit wonder. He maintains his status
as a star.
Born Michael Dewayne
Carter, Jr., Wayne was almost instantly thrown into a celebrity
status. At age 12, he was discovered by the co-CEOs of Cash
Money, Ronald “Slim” Williams
and Bryan “Birdman” Williams.
Taken under the
wing by Birdman,
Wayne’s talents
were developed
at a young age.
Starting in 1993
with “True Stories” EP, Wayne’s
career began to
take off. Originally paired with label mate B.G.,
Wayne consistently released music.
With Juvenile and Turk, Wayne and
B.G. formed the quartet Hot Boys
in 1997. Their debut album, “Get It
How You Live” sold over 500,000
copies independently. This showing convinced Universal Records to
sign a distribution deal with Cash
Money Records. Wayne had shot to
the top, and was not looking back.
Following these events,
Wayne was featured on numerous
Cash Money artists’ albums. In
1999, he released his debut solo record, and his career seriously took
off. With the release of “Tha Carter
III” Wayne has cemented his place
as a superstar in the hip-hop world.
However, his recently released follow up album, “Rebirth,” is based
in the rock genre.
What seems like a bizarre
move to many
is a game
change for Lil
Wayne. After
his huge success in the hiphop genre, he
has decided to
switch genres.
His rock chops
have undoubtedly been criticized
in the past, but this has not stopped
Wayne in the slightest. “On this
album I have to show my growth
as artist. I want my fans to see how
far I have come musically,” Wayne
said. This move completely fits
Wayne’s overall persona. His body
“He has created
a new Twitter account that he can
update from jail.”
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is covered in tattoos and he wears
his hair in dreadlocks. Tattoos
on his eyelid and on the middle
of his forehead have completely
altered his look. He even brags in
multiple songs that he is seen by
over-lookers as a “Martian.” He is
absolutely a non-human character,
and is seen by all as having a mind
that is completely out of this world.
At times it seems like his bizarre
antics can help describe his fame.
Fans are drawn to this rapper who
looks like no one they have ever
seen, and who acts on a whim. Fans
who wish they could run their life
this way follow Wayne, and end up
worshipping his every move.
Wayne’s seemingly unstoppable career may come to a
screeching halt with his jail sentence. His continuing domination
of pop culture will have to pause.
With our rapidly changing culture,
this pause may mean the end of Lil
Wayne. Realizing this risk, Wayne
has already started to try to combat
his disappearance. He has created
a new Twitter account that he can
update in jail. He obviously hopes
that his genre-changing album will
linger on the radio for much of his
jail sentence. However, his downfall seems more and more likely.
He will be unable to record music
or update his celebrity in jail. Every day, songs that he is featured on
are played fewer times on the radio
and slip down the charts. Other artists are beginning to take over his
place, and are nudging him out of
the spotlight. Unless he finds a way
to keep himself famous in jail, his
career’s end is inevitable. Instead
of Wayne, the next great rap single
will be by a new exciting up and
comer who breaks through with
new sounds—Wayne’s old territory.
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The Smiths: Your Primary
Guide to Love By Stacey Bosques
The Smiths are a British alternative rock band from the ‘80s. If
you have not heard their music, this will be your introduction to their
musical glory and your guide to find that love you’ve been searching
for.
Meet the Smiths: Stephen Patrick Morrissey (goes by Morrissey) is
the vocalist. Johnny Marr is guitarist. Andy Rourke plays bass. On the
drums is Mike Joyce.
The Smiths formed in 1982 in Manchester, England. They are
the speakers for the outsider and the melancholy that his position in
society brings. The Smiths chose their name in response to their opposition to the aesthetic of popular synthpop groups at the time and
their over-the-top, attention-demanding names. The Smiths’s purpose
of existence was to bring into the spotlight the ordinary people who got
pushed to the wayside in popular culture and to embrace the humane
(not a viable characteristic of the pop star).
So now, I will present to you the recommended Smiths tunes
that will get you on the road to finding your love for them. But before
that, I must say that The Smiths write the words of a sad romantic and
their glum lyrics truly emphasize the importance of sadness and loneliness. These are emotions that are perceived as negative in society and
people who openly display them are perceived as weak. Therefore, I
ask that you listen to these songs with a sense of appreciation of these
feelings because they are in fact, part of life, as cheesy as that may
sound. Embrace these emotions and shatter the negative connotations
they carry.
Recommended Smiths Tunes:
“There is a Light that Never Goes Out” from The Queen is
Dead
This song speaks specifically to the youth culture. It illustrates the need
to feel limitless without having to pay dues to anyone or anything. “Take
me out tonight, take me anywhere, I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t
care, driving in your car, I never want to go home because I haven’t got
one.” It also brings forth the beauty of young romance and those initial
feelings of want coalesced with panic. “And in the darkened underpass
I thought Oh God, my chance has come at last, but then a strange fear
gripped me and I just couldn’t ask.”
Recommended Smiths Tunes:
“This Charming Man”
from The Smiths
This song is brought to life by
Marr’s trademark jubilant and
rhythmic guitar riffs. This is a
great song that demonstrates
the Smith’s characteristic sexually ambiguous lyrical theme.
This topic of sexual ambiguity
is prevalent in Morrissey’s lyrics
and it underlines his interest in
taking the male voice and shaving off those masculine attitudes,
leaving him vulnerable. This tune
may provoke some energetic
dance moves!
“The Headmaster Ritual”
from Meat is Murder
“Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools, spineless swine,
cemented minds” starts the rhythmic and rancorously humorous
anecdote about the abusive treatment at an educational institution
in Manchester. Again, a beautiful
Johnny Marr trademark heard in
an upbeat tone accompanied with
Morrissey’s whiny yodel makes
for a great listen. A very small
dose of ambiguity muddles the
details of the abuse described in
the lyrics and provides room for
interpretation (which is always
fun!) Also check out Radiohead’s
awesome cover of this song!
Radiohead Through
the Years By Peter Belmonte
It’s almost impossible to classify Radiohead’s music into any single genre, and yet they
have made astounding contributions to and even
pioneered several of rock’s current sub-genres. Originally formed in
1985 as “On a Friday,” these English musicians were like most any other
young rock band in the 90’s, sporting the typical composition of singer,
guitarist, bassist, drummer and an angst-ridden, youthful sound. Most
recently, their music is known for its unconventional, transient style of
music and mystifying if not imperceptible lyrics. While these styles of
music may seem completely unrelated, the progression from one to the
other can be followed through the band’s seven full-length albums, from
1993 to present.
Pablo Honey was produced after the band reformed as Radiohead upon completing college. Showcasing “Creep,” perhaps the band’s
biggest single to this day, the album as a whole was considered overall
depressing and whiny, with lyrics concerned primarily with alienation
and feelings of helplessness. Without the context their future work would
bring, the seemingly straightforward indie-rock songs were not appreciated for their youthful ingenuity and innocence that an experienced listener
might later recognize. Creep eventually reached #2 in the US alternative
rock charts, made the top 40 charts, made #7 in the UK singles chart, and
put the band on MTV and other mainstream music media of the time.
Showing a significant level of progression and maturation, The
Bends was released in 1995 and proved to be a more accessible compilation. Maintaining the same underlying musical tone, the tracks are
slightly heavier, more layered, and, where potentially seen as depressing,
more poetically skillful. Still largely focused on themes of alienation a center-piece to perhaps all of Radiohead’s music - Yorke’s belting of
“I wanna be part of the human race” on the title track shows the band’s
eagerness to escape feelings of alienation and to achieve meaningful connections. “My Iron Lung,” a comment on the brief fame their first single
brought them, shows the band’s contempt for the pop music industry and
consumers’ willingness to participate. Lyrics also began to address issues
of individualism and internal conflicts, with songs like “Street Spirit”
foreshadowing the dark and troubled motifs more prevalent in future
albums.
The release of OK Computer in 1997 found the band its first
period of true stardom. The band seemed to finally master the art of song
writing, producing epics like “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police”
which would become all-time hits. Most tracks exhibited an avant-garde
and heavily electronic guitar distortion, especially notable in the shredding on the first two tracks, “Airbag” and “Paranoid Android.” With lyrics less focused on the individual and more on the problems of the consumer world and the stagnation of the people immersed in it, the album
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contains its ambient and abstract tracks as well as the hits. The success of
this album led to one of the band’s most stressful and troublesome periods
in their career, with bouts of depression and talks of splitting up, leaving
everyone wondering – what would be next?
The answer was given in 2000 with their fourth studio album,
Kid A – one of the most experimental, electronic, disappointing, innovative, influential, and, according to Rolling Stone, the best album of the
decade. Lacking the classic guitar-based sound the band had become
loved for and replacing it with distorted singing, synthesizers and diverse
instrumentation, the album disenchanted many of their newfound fans.
However, those who were willing to accept the band’s progression into
the unknown were rewarded tenfold with the band’s progression into new
realms of music. With lyrics challenging common conceptions of right
and wrong in the individual’s day to day life as well as in humanity’s abstinence of self-consciousness, the tracks exhibit a much more reserved,
subdued message, as reflected in the sound of the music itself. The depth
of each song, let alone of the album as a whole, is almost impossible to
grasp and is certainly a point of debate amongst listeners and critics alike.
In 2001, Amnesiac released a darker, even more reticent set of tracks recorded concurrently with those found on Kid A, which, despite its themes
of internal conflicting, maintains an overall air of joy and well-being, if
not optimistic bliss.
Following their establishment as pioneers into electronica, Radiohead took their music to the next level with Hail to the Thief in 2003. Ascertaining their musicianship as an amalgam of the rock band they were
in the previous decade while still maintaining their experimentalism of
the past few years, the album rounds out their guitar shredding, transient
electronics, subdued falsetto, and forcible singing all into one. Asserting that we’re all “not even paying attention,” the band makes one last
attempt to convince their audience to confront the issues that result from
hiding in the crowd and remaining subservient to a system that rewards
only the few. Following its release, the band sees a period of discord
amongst the members and a period of separation, in which Thom releases
his solo album The Eraser. Concerned primarily with the treatment of the
planet’s environment and its inhabitants, the album is an even more politically minded remark on humanity’s handling of the world.
The band finally reformed and released In Rainbows in 2007. Distributed over the internet as a pay-what-you-like download, over 1
million copies of the album were estimated to have been downloaded on
the day of the release with 3 million sold within one year of its physical
release some months later. Exhibiting a more jazzy and acoustic influence, the music is more aesthetically pleasing than any previous and
received the most positive reviews yet, charting #1 in both the US and the
UK.
Though the band was reported to have been back in the studio in
the two years following, Yorke seems to have gotten distracted with bouts
of solo work. Reported in late 2009, the band is currently hoping to release EP’s, as opposed to full-length albums, sometime in the near future.
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Recommended Smiths Tunes:
“Reel around the Fountain”
from The Smiths
“It’s time the tale were told” about
the hopeless romantic who simply
wants “fifteen minutes with you”
for the sake of his/her love. A very
mellow Marr guitar riff and slow
tempo drums create an atmosphere for your lovesick moments.
And again, the lyrics wouldn’t
be Morrissey without that sexual
ambiguity that is ever so present.
In addition, some haziness about a
couple of lines that seems to imply
pedophilia, which aroused great
controversy for the band.
“Cemetery Gates” from
The Queen is Dead
Great bass and drums intro to
this highly intellectual song that
demonstrates Morrissey’s literature savvy and lyrical wit. I call
all English majors to try and pick
out all of the references this song
makes!
These recommended tunes will
aid you in falling in love with the
Smiths. So, stretch out and wait,
kiss someone under that iron
bridge, don’t lose your faith and
give in to lust, and don’t go out tonight, for The Smiths are with you.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed in
1983 in Los Angeles. Members of the group have
changed over time, but vocalist Anthony Kiedis and
bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary have always been
members of the group. Kiedis was kicked out of the
group for a short while due to his addiction to cocaine
and heroin. He rejoined the group and remained sober
for 53 days before relapsing. In addition to Anthony
and Flea the band’s lineup today includes drummer
Chad Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer.
Anthony lived
with his mother in
Grand Rapids, Michigan until the age of
11 when he moved to
Hollywood, California
to live with his father.
His father was John
Kiedis, who went by
the pseudonym Blackie
Dammett, was an actor
and was involved in doing publicity work for
the stars in Hollywood.
His father was a regular
at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco
on Sunset Boulevard.
Blackie was hanging
out with the likes of
Alice Cooper, Lou
Reed, John Lennon,
Led Zeppelin, Sonny
Bono, Cher, and The
Who. When Anthony
moved in with his father, his father didn’t
slow down his fast
life filled with drugs, women, and partying one bit. In
fact, he brought Anthony along for the ride. The two
lived like brothers in a bachelor pad in which beautiful naked women walking around the house were
common. Dammet brought Anthony along with him
to celebrity-filled night clubs where Anthony learned
how to deal with women and bad guys. He even
shared Anthony’s first joint with him and helped him
lose his virginity at the age of 12 to Dammet’s current
By Alexander Golick
girlfriend. By the time Anthony Kiedis entered high
school he had already lived like a rock star.
It’s not hard to see how Kiedis’s unconventional upbringing prevented him from ever living a normal
lifestyle. Kiedis has even commented that his early
sexual encounters and his father’s influence probably
made it hard for him to ever have a successful long
term relationship, except with the band. He went into
high school with an attitude that there was nothing
to learn and that none of the other kids had as much
life experience as he
did. He was always a
nonconformist preferring to listen to different music and dress
differently than the
mainstream. It was
in high school that he
met Michael Balzary,
Hillel Slovak, and
Jack Irons and when
they formed Red Hot
Chili Peppers. The
Red Hot Chili Peppers
were originally signed
by Electric & Musical
Industries Ltd., which
was later bought by
Terra Firma Capital
Partners. The band
was the first white
act to mix traditional
funk with rap, heavy
metal, punk rock and
psychedelic rock. The
Red Hot Chili Peppers
early influences were
members of the L.A.
punk scene such as the Germs, Black Flag, Fear, Minutemen, X, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly &
the Family Stone, Bootsy Collins, and Jimi Hendrix.
Much like the beach boys sang about cars, girls, and
surfing the Chili Peppers began singing about what
interested teens of the time: drugs and sex.
Anthony and his fellow band mates have
evolved over the years both musically and as people.
Hillel Slovak and Kiedis developed major drug addic-
“The Chili Peppers began
singing about what interested
teens of the time: drugs and
sex.”
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tions and Hillel Slovak, the group’s
original guitarist died in 1988 of a
heroin overdose that shook Anthony so much that he got clean
and remained that way for almost
20 years. They strayed away from
drugs and alcohol and instead practice yoga, drink ginseng and wheat
grass, and get ozone injections.
Musically they have evolved both
in style and lyrics. They have released hit songs like “Scar Tissue”
and “Under the Bridge,” which
deal with Kiedis’s battle with
drugs, “Californication,” about
the dark side of Hollywood, and
“Dani California,” which is about
a Southern girl moving to California and living the fast life. Their
style has become more polished,
even though some still have a lot
of funk, and their guitar and base
solos have become amazing.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers played their first gigs wearing
nothing but tube socks over their
genitalia and still often play wearing very little clothing. They goof
off during interviews, often making up silly answers to questions
and Anthony Kiedis almost always
throws female interviewers off
by asking what color underwear
they are wearing. They have been
known to kiss each other on the lips
and saying they are comfortable
with their sexuality. Upon being
questioned about it Flea responded
that the people who get mad about
things like that are the same people
who watch football where guys
in tights tackle each other and pat
each other on the butts and think
that it’s any different. The Red Hot
Chili Peppers continue to evolve,
challenge conventional beliefs, and
create amazing music.
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Outside the Wesleyan
Bubble: Music in the
World
Austin
Musicians
Crowded
Out By
Yuppies
Kayla Bennet
Austin has been dubbed “The
live music capital of the
world,” but with the recent
rapid development of Austin neighborhoods and the
resulting noise ordinances,
photo by Isabella Cucchi
this title, as well as many local musicians, are being threatened. With recent gentrification, the Austin
music scene is changing as rapidly as the city dwellers. Ten years ago you
wouldn’t have been able to find downtown condo buildings if you tried.
Today, expensive condos built in the middle of downtown are becoming
neighbors with many popular live music venues.
In April 2009, Freddie’s Place, a local restaurant and venue for
nightly live music, was issued a noise violation warning by the police
after the decibel level outside was measured between 74 and 80 decibels.
The decibel level at the property when the band was not performing was
67 decibels. Austin Ordinance No. 20080226-028 states that “Live entertainment is permitted if the amplified sound does not exceed 70 decibels,
measured at the property line of the licensed premises.” So, the band is allowed to be 3 decibels louder than the normal sound of the restaurant. As
a result of the noise violation warning, the owner of Freddie’s Place, Fred
Nelson, was forced to cancel 83 booked bands for the remainder of 2009.
Over 200 local Austin musicians were affected. He is quoted in the Austin
Chronicle saying, “There’s no way of doing music and staying below 70
[decibels].”
Freddie’s was the first of many venues that would fall victim to
the noise ordinance. Kevin Russell of “The Gourds,” in a letter to the
editor, spoke of Shady Grove’s sound ordinance violation. Shady Grove is another popular music venue
that hosts “Unplugged at the grove,” a weekly concert
that features local musicians. Russell writes, “In its
race, which is already lost, to move people Downtown,
this city is going to lose something that cannot be replaced.” He acknowledges the growing gentrification
of Austin as a major contributor to the death of the
music scene and says, “It is remarkable that up until
now we have been able to maintain such a vibrant musical scene with the artificially overvalued real estate
market.” He calls on all musicians and their supporters “to make some serious noise about this issue” and
concludes by saying, “If we do not, then those who
call it ‘noise’ will have their way. And all will be lost.”
In June 2009, Shady Grove was shut down
mid-concert. Austin Sound, an online Austin music
journal, reports that the Austin Police showed up in
the middle of Sahara Smith’s set, before the headliner,
Jimmy LaFave, had even gone on. Mike Young, the
owner of Shady Grove was quoted saying, “We’re
gonna be back with live music next Thursday and
the Thursday after that. I’ll pay the bands even if
they only play five minutes. We’re not gonna give up
the fight.” The noise ordinance violation started as
a phone call from a neighbor that the music was too
loud.
What is Austin becoming? Will music be
ruined by rich yuppies? Austin has been recognized
for its nightly live music events at numerous venues
as well as its reputation as a launching pad for musicians. The careers of Lucinda Williams, Janis Joplin,
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Spoon, Robert
Earl Keen, Ben Kweller, and Joe Ely among others
were aided by their early live performances in Austin.
Every year Austin hosts Austin City Limits and South
By Southwest as well as numerous other local festivals such as the free biweekly summer blues shows
at Zilker Park, “Blues on the Green.” Other annual
festivals include Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Old Pecan
Street Festival, First Night Austin, and the Keep Austin Weird Festival. If sound restrictions and ordinances
continue, more and more venues and local artists will
be affected. This is not only an issue for us Austinites
who enjoy listening to live local music, but is a threat
to all musicians trying to get their start in a city that
has historically welcomed them. As many locals have
so eloquently begun to write all over the city, “Evict
Yuppies.”
Deafness and Music:
What it Really Means
to “Feel the Beat”
By Kyle MacDonald
A typical explanation
of music is an organized
arrangement of sounds
and silences. To be deaf
or hard of hearing is to
exist with little or no
ability to perceive sound.
Based on this logic, the
fairly common question
is then: What is it like for
the deaf/hard of hearing to
experience a life devoid of
music? While not entirely
illogical, owing to the typical experience of music as
sound, this question is inherently flawed because there
are, in fact, a variety of ways to “experience” music
that do not depend on hearing it.
The words of 29-year-old deaf painter Karla
Quinonez aptly describe the role of music in Deaf culture, “Deaf people love music just as much as hearing
people do…they just understand it differently. They
can feel it.” This tactile link between music and experience allows the deaf to develop a unique relationship
with their music that
can manifest itself in
“Deaf people
interesting ways. For
love music just as
instance, it is a common anecdote that
much as hearing
parties at Gallaudet
people do…they
University (a liberal
arts university for the
just understand it
deaf and hard of heardifferently.”
ing) can be felt long
before they are heard
because the bass has been turned to the highest level,
allowing the students to “feel” the rhythm and tempo
of the music via vibrations. On top of just listening
to loud, bass-packed music, these students regularly
enjoy dancing – an activity that at face value would be
left for the hearing.
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Deaf people’s experience with music, however,
is not limited to the role of audience members. From
Beethoven, who continued to compose symphonies
even after profound hearing loss, to the contemporary all-deaf rock band Beethoven’s Nightmare, deaf
people have been actively
creating music; despite
the obvious obstacles set
before them. How might
this be possible? Again,
the answer seems to be
a highly tuned ability to
“feel” and use vibrations
to understand the music.
Beethoven was known
to bite a specially made
rod, which was connected
to the soundboard of his
piano in order to increase
his sensitivity to the
vibrations of his music.
Similarly, Beethoven’s
Nightmare attempts to
reach their deaf audiences
using a brand of Rock
that consists of a strong
beat created with the bass
and drums. A common
link among the contemporary deaf artists is that they photo by Isabella Cucchi
maximize their abilities
to produce quality music, and possess an attitude of
rebellion that will quell any doubts, which are sure to
arise. This defiant nature is a trademark of the Rock n’
Roll artist— hearing or deaf.
If dance-filled college parties and deaf musicians are not enough evidence for the importance
of music in the lives of the deaf, consider the recent
phenomenon of viral videos that depict signed covers of popular songs. With the growing popularity of
websites such as YouTube, these videos are becoming
more and more prevalent, and in the process are bridging the gap between hearing and deaf worlds. While
on the surface these covers may appear harmless, they
can also be a sensitive topic among the culturally deaf.
For one, there are those who exist on the far end of the
deaf culture spectrum that view music as a “hearing”
interest and therefore should not be pursued by the
deaf. This perspective would typically be the minority
opinion, as demonstrated by the importance of music
in deaf culture previously discussed.
A more common concern is the misuse of
American Sign Language (ASL) throughout these
videos, which runs the risk of devaluing an important
aspect of deaf culture. Often, the signers in these
videos vary tremendously in both
skill and connection to the deaf
world– from hearing, introductory
ASL students (little to no connection to deaf culture) all the way to
deaf from birth, fluent ASL users
(high connection to deaf culture).
When a song is covered by a
skilled ASL user, she/he will interpret the meaning of the lyrics and
translate it completely into ASL,
which has its own syntax and word
order. This ensures that the sanctity of ASL is maintained, which
is a highly stressed value among
the culturally deaf. The alternative cover version has been called
“English on the hands”, which
keeps English word order and syntax but expresses it with sign. The
issue with this type of cover is that
it blurs the line that separates ASL
as a unique language, making ASL
appear more like a signed version
of English. This is such a sensitive
issue because of the greater historical struggle for ASL to be recognized as a legitimate
and unique form of communication, which has only
recently occurred (1960s).
To recap our investigation into deafness and
music: (a) To be deaf does not mean a life without
music, (b) the deaf enjoy lower frequency tones with
the bass turned as high as it can go, (c) deaf people
can produce music as well, and finally (d) if covering
a song in ASL, make your best attempt to respect the
language and culture. While at first glance music may
not seem to be important to those who cannot hear, it
is a valued part of deaf culture and when used properly can be an interesting and unique form of musical
expression.
Turn up the bass!
12
Profit over Talent? A Look into Atlantic Records
By: Isabel Magowan
The music industry continues to face multiple difficulties, all of which suggest the possible
demise of the recording industry as it currently exists.
A downward trend in record sales over the past few
years has made it an imperative for record companies
to digitalize their products. The digitalization has also
been necessary to combat the illegal downloading
and file sharing which has produced severe economic
consequences. Although illegal downloading remains
an unresolved issue for the record labels, the recent
announcement that Itunes celebrated the sale of its
billionth song is evidence of the fact that convenience
trumps frugality. However, the digitalization of the
industry has produced significant
changes in the way music is made
and sold. Record stores, for instance, have almost become extinct
as consumers flock to the internet
for an infinite variety of musical offerings. Another aspect behind the consumer’s shift to
digital music is that music may be purchased a la carte
on a song by song basis without buying an entire CD.
This liberalization has had repercussions for artists,
because customers today tend to download only one or
two songs from an album, ignoring the artist’s cohesive artistic vision. Few can say with certainty if the
traditional 12 song, 45 minute format will survive as a
mass consumable product and conceptual medium.
Singles, rather than CDs, are disproportion-
ately purchased, an economic trend the record industry
has reluctantly come to recognize. In speaking with
Ryan Brady, a digital media manager at Atlantic, it
becomes clear that his company feels the pressure
to produce hit songs. The goal of Atlantic is to make
profitable music, which calls for the production of
singles, rather than records, that can be successfully
merchandised to the masses. For the large record
labels, commercial and financial success is the critical
imperative; consequently, musical integrity is compromised in the process.
Brady contends that Atlantic’s economic
concerns have not undermined the artistic value of the
music being produced under his firm’s direction. Atlantic, in his view, remains
dedicated to the music that
it is invested in and cares
for, as “we put out records
we like.” The music Atlantic produces, Brady continues, “is not as manufactured as you think.” However,
he admits that “there are certain rules to a hit song…
maybe 65 percent of the time.” But formulas can only
get one so far, “the rest is luck. The whole industry
is luck. Right place. Right time. But you have to be
prepared. Talent plus preparation.”
Certainly, artists like Elvis or Little Richard
did not originally conform to formulas; their rise to
fame seems to be thanks to the elusive combination of
“There are certain
rules to a hit song”
13
luck and talent. Both of these artists are representative
of those few musicians or bands whose music, stage
performance, and lyrical content managed to challenge musical norms of their time and challenge what
was then considered to be “good” music. Indeed, to a
certain extent, even these musicians adhered loosely to
a standard formula for the rhythm and beats structure
of their songs.
Atlantic may
be committed to making good music, but it
is only good in their
understanding of the
term—music that the
public will respond to
and purchase. However, it is debatable
whether popularity and commercial
success is indicative
of musical ingenuity
and artistry. While the
popular reaction to a
song is just one aspect
of the song’s value,
other elements, mainly
the marketing of that
music to the public,
may ultimately determine its commercial
value. Undoubtedly,
numerous outstanding musicians have
deserved the larger
public response that they received. Bob Dylan and
the Beatles are two examples of musicians who made
what is generally considered superb music, but in part
their success was due to their extraordinary ability to
connect with their audience. It is that direct connection
that partly explains their enduring popularity. Such
lasting musical influence is rare and explains why
some subpar music can nonetheless gain popularity; a
firm bond with the audience is a traditional key to success. Recent pop phenomenon Ke$hai is an excellent
example, as noted by Atlantic’s Brady “A good song is
a good song. Urban and pop music have blended into
something that’s not quite rap but not quite song. Love
or hate it, Ke$ha is a perfect example. Fastest selling
single for a female artist. Ever. People want to hear
songs about love, sex, money, heartbreak....things they
can relate to.”
The value or originality of Ke$ha’s music
is debatable, but her appeal to teenagers and young
adults obscures the quality of her music. Ke$ha in this
case makes “good” music, in that she successfully
connects to her audience. Brady argues that no amount
of publicity can force the public to embrace music it
does not like. While this
might be true, publicity has been and continues to be the means
for marketing artists to
the public. And this is
why Atlantic has been
successful in producing so many hits; it has
the financial resources
necessary to promote the
music of its artists. In the
music industry as it is
often said, image is everything: Britney Spears
may have commissioned
some stellar pop compositions, but it is doubtful
if they would have sold
as well if a less sexualized or attractive female
artist had been in her
place.
Darwin could have been
speaking about the music
industry when he coined
the term survival of the
fittest. Major labels are like the major leagues, which
look to the minor leagues, or this case Indie labels,
to scope out new and emerging talent. The major
recording companies have the financial resources to
capitalize on these discoveries by using their superior
resources to maximize distribution, promotion, and
publicity. Brady diplomatically presents Atlantic’s
interests but makes it clear that as a commercial operation Atlantic is protective of its investments. With
this structure it is understandable that artistic freedom
is limited by the constraints of corporate overhead.
While Indie labels are inadequately capitalized they
allow their artists more flexibility and take greater
chances. As Brady noted, Atlantic “is out to make hits.
Big ones.”
“Atlantic is out to make hits.
Big ones.”
14
Brooklyn’s Blues Revival
By Jacob Kleinman
Jessie Carolina has a wide smile and heavy
cheeks, wears a blue country dress and a bonnet on
her head, and when she opens her mouth you can hear
the great blues singers of the 1920s cry out through
the decades. The voices of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey
and all the rest mingle together as Carolina belts them
out in standard twelve bar blues. The rest of the Bill
Murray Experience stands around her, dressed in worn
flannel and old tweed. They slowly play their instruments: a banjo, a guitar and an upright bass. But the
focus is always on Carolina, and her voice which is
hitting the high notes with ease and rumbling like a
subway train on the lowest ones.
I’ve grown so used to you somehow/ Well I’m
nobody’s sugar daddy now/ I’m lonesome go the lovesick blues/ said I’m lonesome, got the lovesick blues/
said I’m lonesome, got those lovesick blues.
Carolina sings the final refrain, and a few quick plucks
from the banjo closes the song. A large man with a
mass of dark black hair under his chin walks up and
down the isles of wooden church pews, clamoring for
tips, and threatening to make a scene. A few members
of the audience walk back to the bar for a jar of white
wine or a bottle of Red Stripe, while Caroline hangs a
washboard from her neck and places thimbles on her
fingers. She slowly drags her thumb across the instrument, and the Bill Murray Experience breaks into a
lively rag, and Carolina shouts, “Everybody loves my
baby, but my baby don’t love nobody but me,” before
breaking into a washboard solo. It’s a regular Wednesday night in South Brooklyn.
Miles south of Williamsburg and the growing
hipster scene stands Jalopy, a small red building on
Columbia Street, nestled against the Brooklyn-Queens
Expressway, the inter-borough highway that c ut
through Red Hook and redefined Brooklyn. Six days
a week—the owners take Tuesdays off— the Jalopy
Theater and School of Music offers music classes,
and sells vintage guitars, banjos and mandolins. Every
night you can hear live music, ranging from Jazz, to
Blues, to Rock, to the occasional Country hoedown,
but on Wednesday nights a rotating cast of New York’s
(and sometimes the world’s) greatest blues and folk
musicians put on a show called Roots and Ruckus.
Entry is free and the acts vary from the weekly regulars to random ensembles that were mostly likely put
together outside on the sidewalk just a few minutes
before they walked onstage.
Back when Rock ‘n’ Roll was still just slang
for sex, Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston joined forces
to record one of the first Rock songs ever, titled
Rocket ’88. Turner opens the song with twelve bars
on the piano, and Brenston belts out “You may have
heard of jalopies/You heard the noise they make/ Let
me introduce you to my Rocket ’88./ Yeah it’s great”
(the rest of the song is an extended metaphor for sex).
But the Blues revival growing inside Jalopy isn’t just
one noise, it’s a mix of overlooked, often misunderstood musicians whose only desire is to pay tribute to
their heroes.
One night Isto the Lumberjack, a large man
with a larger voice, croons soft blues/pop songs off
the young John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s respective demo tapes. Another week The Dust Bunnies
fill Jalopy with the sound of their violins, banjos and
lyrics from the Dust Bowl. Later in the evening Honey
Melon appears on stage. Hidden beneath a long grey
trench coat, a matching hat, and a thick scarf, only his
nose is visible. He clutches his banjo, turns away from
the audience, and plucks cautiously at the strings as
15
he moans along softly. You could cut the tension with
a knife, and then he does, pulling a large razor from
his jacket pocket and sliding it up and down the neck
of his instrument, before returning it to his pocket. If
you’re lucky Frank Hoier (sporting a head of hair that
would be reminiscent of the early Beatles if he wasn’t
a platinum blonde) will play a set. Either alone, his
powerful voice betraying his youthful face as he sings
We Both Live in Brooklyn, Babe, or alongside his
band, Boom Chick, his electric guitar turned way up,
wailing the lyrics to a song called Bo Diddley’s Ghost.
To truly experience Roots and Ruckus, venture into
South Brooklyn on a Wednesday night with a couple
of bucks in your pocket for tips. If you can’t make
it check out this short documentary: http://vimeo.
com/8210884.
Roots and Ruckus at Jalopy [315 Columbia St. between Woodhull and Rapeleye streets in the Columbia
Street Waterfront District, (718) 395-3214]. Wednesdays, 9 pm.
16
Strange but True:
The Beatbox Flute
By Shauna Pratt
Flutes and beatboxers inhabit separate
musical spheres—
right? Perhaps not. Certainly flute tends
to be found in classical genres of music
more than contemporary popular music.
However, in recent years, men like Greg Patillo and
Tim Barsky have demonstrated a new flute technique,
often called beat-box or rhythm flute.
RadioActive is credited as the original flute-beatboxer, using a pan flute. Tim Barsky was the first to use
the popular Boehm model flute. Both men came from
the hip-hop scene in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The technique itself is complex and requires a lot of
practice and precision. First, one must develop an
ability to play polyrhythmically—moving fingers and
beatboxing in two different rhythms. It also requires
an ability to adapt “harmonic qualities”—overtones
and pitches of beatboxing in real time so that the
overtones from voice and flute do not cancel each
other out, in effect creating no sound from either
one.! The flute overtones change with every note and
every alternate fingering—and so must the beatboxing
sounds.
The key, as in all music, is practice. Says Tim Barsky,
“I still practice classical and jazz exercises every day,
as well as a bunch of klezmer technique. You need to
sound tight just playing the flute in the ordinary way,
or the beatbox will be fuzzy, and your tone will go to
shit.”
then offer the price of their choice. They were able
to plug in $0 to $100, and anything in between. In
the first month, 1.2 million people visited the site and,
of those who downloaded the album, 38% chose to
donate money. In the US, the average price was $8,
whereas globally it was a lower $6. Despite the album
being pricing optional, In Rainbows, generated more
money than all of Radiohead’s other digital albums
combined. So not only was this experiment a success
for the retail CD copy, but also for the digitally downloaded copy, despite payment being not obligatory.
Radiohead was able to pull this off with such
success because of their fame and large fan base. It
would be nearly impossible for a smaller, newer band
to get away with this, let alone make a profit off of it.
Furthermore, the album had high quality songs on it.
Many critics were impressed that despite the marketing hype created by the pay-what-you-like experiment,
the music was not overshadowed—the album was
able to garner a nod for Album of the Year and win
Best Alternative Album at the Grammys. Lastly, this
method of releasing an album increased respect for the
band—both by the fans and the music industry as a
By Ellika Healy
whole.
One reason they made money is because they
Despite the fact that fans had access to the
did not have to share any money with a record label or
album for free, Radiohead’s prerelease sales of their
a distributing partner. In fact, one of the motivations
2007 album In Rainbows was more profitable than
for releasing this album without a record label was the
the total sales of their previous album, Hail the Thief.
issues involving the bureaucratic nature of music at
What caused this dramatic improvement in only four
the time. Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead,
years? Was it their record label better marketing their
told Time Magazine, “I like the people at our record
new album? No. Did they have a music distributer
company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask
who was able to reach a broader audience across the
why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would
country? No. For this album, the
give us some perverse pleasure to
English alternative rock band
“Criticized by CNN as say ‘F___ you’ to this decaying
chose to release the album as a
business model.” This new album
number 59 on the top release also had implications for
digital download, three months
before it was sold in stores, and
101 Dumbest Moments both record labels and the entire
allowed the fans to name their
music business. One A&R execuprice. This pay-what-you-like ex- of 2007.”
tive from a major European label
periment was the first of its kind
noted that with this new method, he
and was found to be very attractive to Radiohead fans. felt the decline of the necessity of record labels. But
Although this method was criticized by CNN as being since only high profile bands are able to get away with
number 59 on the top 101 Dumbest Moments of 2007, something like this, newer bands will have to continue
Radiohead found it to be a huge success—both in
to use record labels and charge for their albums in orthe amount of albums sold and the amount of money
der to gain any type of recognition. It has been argued
made once it was released for retail, not to mention the that no one will willingly pay money for a new, lesser
respect and adoration it garnered from fans.
skilled artist, when they can get the music of one of
This do-it-yourself method allowed fans to
the most famous bands in the world for free.
download the album off of the Radiohead website and Many artists followed Radiohead’s footsteps in
Radiohead’s Pay-WhatYou-Like Experiment
17
this unprecedented album release.
One such artist was Girl Talk, a
mashup artist who visited our own
campus in the fall of 2009. Girl
Talk, inspired by Radiohead, not
only mirrored their digital distribution method, but also sampled three
of Radiohead’s songs within his
album. He argued that he supports
the pricing optional downloading
because it increases the public’s accessibility to music. Although Girl
Talk’s music has not been officially
recognized in the charts, his fame
and fan base is growing daily.
Not only was Radiohead’s
legacy seen within the music industry, but the pay-what-you-like
experiment extended to other sectors. A café lounge in the suburbs
of Seattle has begun offering coffee
and other treats, while allowing the
patrons to choose the price. This
has been mirrored in a variety of
restaurants throughout the country.
In France, a real estate company is
renting out 40 apartments to guests
of a music conference, for whichever price they choose. This price
optional method has been applied
to a myriad of different areas of
industry, as well as regions of the
world. From hotels to magazines
to pedicab drivers, the In Rainbows
album release has changed the way
people are doing business, and emphasized a closer and more trusting
relationship between retailer and
consumer.
Evolution
By Nick Huston
In 1923, her optimistic tenor often
Found its way through the chain-link radio,
Weighed heavy by the southern heat,
Into the linoleum-lined kitchen, winding
Past the faded green refrigerator,
Over the cool tile floors, and out through
The screen door propped open by a stale breeze.
There, it would swirl upwards and hover over
The dilapidated street. Voices, pained, troubled voices,
Would ascend out of nearby windows to join
Her in her swooning flight, swearing that, one day,
They too would come out on top. Soon, their
Voices created a sound so inescapable, wrought with
Decades of desperation, years of second-class dreams,
That it spilled, and they were heard.
He swooned along with them as he sped
Over the softly crested interstates, the chrome molding
Shimmering in the fleeting glint of late summer light.
Tires kissed pavement as her Coup de Ville silently lost
Ground, his needle resting uneasily on ninety-five.
She smiled, eyes hidden behind oversized frames, hair
Blown frantically backward. She slammed on her accelerator.
His voice called after her, but it was lost in the hollow echo of
the V8.
He watched, eyes wide, as her bumper vanished
In the rising heat. Rain began to cascade downwards, perfuming
The evening with the scent of wet, warm asphalt as the sun
set
Slowly behind the road’s soft curve. The heat relented.
He urged his V8 back to life, chasing the needle
Around its wide arc. Yellow and white passed in a blaze
As he pushed his V8 onward, screaming down the darkened
Highway, headlights trained on the shimmering Coup de Ville
On his Maybellene.
He watched them roar by, that shimmering Coup de Ville
Followed closely by the metallic Ford, as he marched
18
Deliberately down the side of the road, his tattered clothes
The only remains of the gleaming Oz left to fade
Quietly in the background. His back,
Hunched under the weight of a hundred things he left behind,
Rose slightly as he breathed the dry summer air.
A hushed sigh escaped his lips worn weak by
Wondering. His questions circled above him,
Haunting the weak foundation of his psyche,
Trying to crack it, to break it, so just as to reel back
And cackle when it finally gave way. Yet he continued,
Carrying their burden, changing it, making it his own.
“How does it feel,” he pleads, “To be on your own?”
“I’ll survive,” replies the wind.
photo by Isabella Cucchi
Rock
and
Race:
white people act black, black
people act white, and one by
one, boundaries are broken...
19
“Music-Racist”:
Crossing Over in the
Music Business
Today By Liz Wojnar
so unnatural / Peter Gabriel too / Can you stay up /
To see the dawn / In the colors / of Bennetton?” The
group is almost apologetic about the implied collegiate affectations of coming from a white background
and then embracing the fashionable world music and
culture – “you spilled kefir on your keffiyeh,” is one
memorable lyric from “Campus,” referencing the
irony of students who self-consciously wear Middle
Eastern scarves. While sampling and world influences
are commonplace, perhaps it is the stereotype of elitist white students who live privileged, sheltered lives
Music classification has become more compli– “sleeping on the balcony after class” – that grates
cated and colorblind than its early roots – “pop” and
critics.
“race records” charts. Genres have multiplied and
While race has not subsided as a division in our
divided into micro-genres, with the Billboard chart
society, in the music world, socio-economic class is
classification becoming increasingly irrelevant. Hownow the crucial indicator for authenticity. It is acever, despite the irrelevancy and arbitrary nature of
ceptable for Eminem to rap because he had a difficult
musical genres, we still categorize music into genres –
childhood in Detroit. Ja Rule faded from public view
which still denote race. Hip-hop, rap, r&b still conafter his fellow Queens native 50 Cent criticized him
note “black” to most listeners. “Rock” usually means
for lacking street credentials: “Lil’ nigga named Ja
white, despite rocks origins with black artists. While
think he live like me / Talkin’ about he left the hospiartists often cross this artificial genre and color barrier,
tal took nine like
it is still commented on
me / You livin’
and sometimes criticized.
“All these ways we classify things as
fantasies nigga, I
Musicians still need to
reject your der&b and hip-hop and rock . . . It’s
have a background we
posit / When your
consider “authentic” to
bullshit. It’s all music. If you put
lil’ sweet ass gon
their genre.
come out of the
yourself in that box, then you won’t
When artists have borcloset? (50 Cent,
rowed from other musical be able to hear that it’s all music at its
“Hail Mary”)”
traditions, it still draws
soul. When people say stuff like, ‘Oh, Ultimately 50
questions of authenticCent talked up
ity. Vampire Weekend is
that’s soft rock. I don’t listen to that,’ his drug dealing
a group of mostly white
background and
I find that elitist. It’s music-racist.”
artists who formed while
gunshot wounds;
at Columbia University.
– Jay-Z
Ja Rule’s defense
They borrow rhythms
wasn’t convincand instrumentation from
ing enough deAfrican music – drawing comparisons to Paul Sispite growing up next door to each other in Hollis and
mon’s “Graceland.” However, their music has even
South Jamaica – he didn’t have the rap sheet, and he
been seen as inappropriate, as if using African music
was more known for duets with Ashanti and Jennifer
while singing about what’s seen as white, upper class
Lopez than for gangsta rap.
references is some kind of cultural appropriation or
While drug dealing seems almost like a prerequisite
imperialism. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” exemplifor rapping, some rappers have managed to skirt their
fies their aesthetic. “As a young girl / Louis Vuitton /
more law-abiding and middle-class backgrounds either
With your mother / On a sandy lawn. As a sophomore
by speaking about it straight-forwardly or rapping
/ With reggaeton / And the linens / You’re sitting on,”
about more universal issues like women and partying.
the song begins over an African-inspired beat. But
On The College Dropout, Kanye premiered by rapping
Vampire Weekend is also self-conscious about the Ivy
about a frankly middle class background. He rapped
League prep/multicultural references: “But this feels
about surviving a car accident, not a gunshot wound.
20
His experience with race issues wasn’t about coming
from the ghetto. In “All Falls Down” he raps about “a
single black female” in college, and how blacks use
wealth to prove themselves: “We buy our way out
of jail, but we can’t buy freedom / We’ll buy a lot of
clothes when we don’t really need em / Things we buy
to cover up what’s inside / Cause they make us hate
ourself and love they wealth / That’s why shortys hollering “where the ballas’ at? / … I got a problem with
spending before I get it / We all self conscious I’m just
the first to admit it.” In “Spaceship,” he raps about
working at the Gap: “Let’s go back, back to the Gap /
Look at my check, wasn’t no scratch / In the mall ‘til
12 when my schedule said nine / Puttin’ them pants
on shelves / Waitin’ patiently I ask myself / Where I
wanna go, where I wanna be / Life is much more than
runnin’ in the streets.” Kanye has since reached superstardom by becoming a totally iconoclastic character
– wearing flamboyant designer clothing, producing
a radically different album (808s and Heartbreaks,
with all electronic background music) and delivering
absolute, provocative statements about the president or
the “best music video of the year.” When they become
totally outrageous characters, we are more welcoming to artists’ excursions into more experimental and
genre-bending music.
Listeners have always been more open and
adventurous than the music industry has given them
credit for. White and black artists “crossed over” and
adopted music styles before integration was achieved
legally and on music charts. Now of course, the
music industry has realized that there is profit to be
made from a more diverse audience. Young white
audiences are among the most rabid listeners of rap
music – even if their parents might question why they
listen to “black music.” With the internet, it’s easier
than ever to discover new artists, trace their influences
and (usually illegally) download them. This new era
of “cross-over” and musical eclecticism may be best
personified in the “mash-up” phenomenon. DJs like
The Hood Internet, Super Mash Brothers and Girl Talk
seamlessly create combinations like Grizzly Bear and
Lil Wayne (“2 Weeks ‘Til Prom” off the “Veckaflyest”
mashup of their albums), Fleetwood Mac and Daft
Punk (“You Make Lovin’ Better, Faster, Stronger” by
the Hood Internet), and Usher and Los Campesinos!
(“The Year This Club Broke My Heart” by the Hood
Internet). Girl Talk – love him or hate him – can juxtapose classic rock, pop and rap in one composition.
“Hold Up” on Night Ripper samples Mariah Carey,
James Taylor, Ludacris, 50 Cent, the Pixies, Nas and
others in less than three minutes. While artists and
listeners are still “self-conscious” about what kind of
music they listen to and how it represents them (even
if only Kanye West will admit it), hopefully we can all
just enjoy the music regardless of how “authentic” it
makes us – white, black, rich, poor or somewhere in
between.
The Truth Shall Set
You Free.... Or Not
By Chelsea Aiken
Authenticity. It makes every artist in the music industry more likable. Credibility. It’s the difference
between a mediocre artist and a pop star. These two
aspects of songwriting take on a whole new perspective when we apply them to one specific subgenre of
music: gangsta rap. The idea of listening to a middle
class suburban rapper compose songs about the
“hood” is as distasteful as MTV’s Jersey Shore is to
well-educated, hard-working Italian Americans. The
reason many fans of the genre listen to the most popular rappers is that we believe what they are rapping
about. The biggest stars of the genre make their fame
through the portrayal of their “ghetto” life, and some
are still proving it.
How did it start?
Gangsta rap evolved in the early ‘80s and is often
credited to rappers such as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. The
influence of rap was thought to have begun in Jamaica
and then made its way to New York. It spread to the
West Coast as it gathered support and recognition
from the streets. The two major labels were Sean
Combs’s “Bad Boy Records” of the East Coast and
Suge Knight’s “Death Row Records” of the West
Coast. With the rise of Snoop Dog, Biggie, and Tupac,
the subgenre of gangsta rap worked its way into mainstream music as its recognition on the hip-hop charts
rose.
Nothin’ But a ‘G’ Thang
It is almost assumed that the artists of gangsta rap have had what we might call “humble beginnings.” Involvement in gangs, drug trafficking, low
socioeconomic status, and time spent in jail are con21
sidered normal occurrences in the adolescent life of
many star artists of the genre. In fact, the pre-stardom
days lay the foundation for content in many rappers’
songs. The surge of success that accompanies a rap
hit or a record deal can take a rapper from the streets
to being loaded overnight. Most gangsta rappers
never forget their roots, however, and continue to
rap about the “ghetto” and the hard times they faced
before stardom. Some rappers even continue to prove
that money hasn’t changed their demeanor with their
continued involvement in drugs and violence. So it
should come as no surprise that rap stars have found
themselves facing jail time. However, these rappers
are in luck, for two reasons. One is that jail time has
virtually no effect on their career other than the fact
that they aren’t producing tracks in the cell. The other
is that they are probably used to it.
Rapper Mystikal
was recently
released from
jail after serving a 6-year
sentence for
fraud and rape.
He has released
three albums, all
of which were
nominated for a
Grammy and his
hit song “Shake
Ya A**” won a
Soul Train Music
award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video.
Most Wanted Artists
Rapper T.I. has
recorded over 170
songs and has been
featured in over
60. He has been
nominated for over 50
awards from organizations such as the
Grammy’s, BET, and
MTV. He has won
14 awards including Best Hip-Hop Artist and Rap
Album of the Year. T.I. went to jail on March 27th
2009 to serve a 366 day sentence after his arrest in
2007 for attempting to buy unregistered machine
guns and silencers. He was released on December
23rd 2009.
Rapper Lil Wayne has
recorded over 580 songs
and has been featured in
over 280. He has won
15 awards and has been
nominated for over 40,
including 8 Grammies.
Lil Wayne is set to serve
a one year jail sentence
beginning on March 2nd
for gun possession.
Rapper DMX has over 230 songs and 8 albums. He
has been nominated for over 10 awards and has won
four. He has served several minor jail sentences
for charges of drug possession, driving without a
license, and animal cruelty.
He served two and a half
months in 2005 for violating parole. In December
of 2008 he was sentenced
to another 90 days for theft
and animal cruelty. Since
then he has continued to be
less than an ideal citizen.
22
Berry, Richard, Presley, Freed- Rock ‘n’ Roll has no
Color By Christian Opalinski
began to rise as a musical performer.
Revolutionary to the music industry and the
In 1955, Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniworld as a whole, the post-war 1950’s were the begin- man) came onto the music scene with his combination
ning of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era. Still amidst a time of
of rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie
racial prejudice and social
and emotive modulations. He was
segregation, the ascendency
“I’ve always thought
introduced to music through the
of white artists in the muthat
Rock
‘n’
Roll
church, and the gospel music he
sic industry restricted black
heard there would later influence
artists’ attempts to enter the
brought the races tohis style. This time of racial dismainstream. Musical artists
gether.”
crimination allowed for white artsuch as Chuck Berry, Little
ists such as Pat Boone to do cover
Richard, Elvis Presley and
- Little Richard
versions and take credit for work
others came to be known as
that belonged to black artists. Little
the founders of the soon to be
Richard and his producer were disrefined genre known as rock ‘n’
traught at the thought of Pat Boone
roll. With these artists and disc
and others making money off of
jockeys such as Alan Freed, the
their music, so the two thought they
racial barrier was slowly beginwould speed up the music and hopening to fall. Each artist and his
fully make it impossible for artists
music played a significant role
attempting to take credit by covering
in bringing about musical and
songs. Little Richard was successful
social change.
in doing so, which helped to bring
Chuck Berry (Charles
unique style to light amongst crowds
Edward Anderson) born on
of both races. Little Richard tells
October 18, 1926 to a middle
the story of how teenagers would
class family in St. Louis, Mishide his album from their parents
souri, was brought up with a
and display Pat Boone’s clean and
musical background. Despite
acceptable version so that they could
a minor misdemeanor during
simultaneously please their parents
his late teens, in which he was
and listen to the rock ‘n’ roll music
arrested for stealing a car at
they loved.
gunpoint, Berry soon began
Another big name in rock ‘n’
his performing career playroll who brought a great deal of
ing in small clubs with local
controversy when he came onto
bands. Berry combined blues
the music scene was Elvis Presley.
and hillbilly sounds, which
Many have the image of Presley
was different from then-current
as
an
overweight
and
washed-up Vegas performer.
musical trends. He began drawing the attention of both
However, in 1956 Elvis was dangerous. Sam Phillips
black and white audiences with his showmanship and
(Elvis’s first producer) recalls that after hearing Elvis
signature “duck walk” (one-legged hopping routine),
enticing the crowds. In hopes of making his music ap- on the radio for the first time he received a number
peal to popular white culture, Berry decided to make it of calls asking who the singer was. People originally
“harder and whiter” to appeal to the mainstream. Soon thought Elvis was a black singer because of his style,
but to their surprise they found that Elvis was a young
after joining the Chess records roster in 1955, Berry
23
white performer. His looks, charisma, and ability to play rhythm
and blues style music led to a mid
1950’s craze among the youth
of the day. His showmanship on
stage, although controversial for
its sexual implications, aroused the
public’s ire.
All three musical artists
played significant roles in the development of rock ‘n’ roll. Chuck
Berry and Little Richard, along
with many other musical artists, introduced new styles and variations
to develop this style. However their
musical style and sexually explicit
lyrics many times were criticized
and associated with the color of
their skin. For many, it was hard to
accept these artists as mainstream
performers. Their charisma and
music helped to slowly overcome
this prejudice. When Elvis burst
onto the mainstream scene playing
what had been considered black
music, he helped bring audiences
to accept the idea of integrating
cultures, but without the help of
disc jockeys such as Alan Freed it
would have been difficult to bring
about this integration. Alan Freed
was one of few disc jockeys that
played music by black artists that,
at the time, was not fully accepted
by the mainstream. Alan Freed
helped accelerate racial integration
by means of rock ‘n’ roll by hosting concerts and playing rock ‘n’
roll music. Little Richard amongst
others credit Freed for bringing the
races together. Many artists contributed to rock ‘n’ roll and its development, however these four are
among the leaders. Without them,
music today would have a different
sound and there is no saying what
racial issues would exist.
24
Right Here @
WES:
The Music Scene
Sitting down
with Garth
Taylor ’12 of
the Wesleyan
Spirits
By Rhyan Toledo
Garth Taylor ’12 is a member of
the Wesleyan Spirits, Wesleyan’s
oldest all male a cappella singing
group. I recently sat down with
Garth to talk about the Spirits’
involvement in the Wesleyan community, their musical style, touring,
and recording.
Rhyan Toledo: What led you to
audition for the Wesleyan Spirits?
Garth Taylor: I went to the a cappella showcase Wesleyan holds
during freshman orientation. I had
never done a cappella before, it’s
not a big thing where I come from,
so I thought maybe I could get
involved in one of these groups and
try something new in college. I just
asked a few people I knew what
would be a good group to try out
and they all mentioned the Spirits. I was also interested in them
because they were all male, and I
like that sound.
RT: What do you think distinguishes The Spirits from other
singing groups on campus?
GT: Well, besides the fact that we’re the oldest all
male group, I think our spring break tour sets us apart.
The Spirits do a trip over spring break where we rent
vans and first we drive to D.C., because a lot of our
members are from there. We have a show there, and
then we drive down to Georgia where we stay with
a family of Wesleyan alumni that the Spirits have
been staying with for 16 or 17 years. They’ve just
always opened their homes to us. So we’ll perform
there and do workshops with some of the high schools
around there. Then we go to New Orleans and stay
with these two families that just picked us up off the
street however many years ago. They didn’t even go
to Wesleyan, they just found us however many years
ago, and it’s become a tradition that we stay with them
every year. They treat us so well. So there’s that, and
it’s just a great time.
I also think there’s something different about the
Spirits, partly due to our long history and involvement
with the school. And I think the Spirits are like…if
there was a fraternity, well I don’t know much about
Greek life, but to me it’s like a fraternity or brotherhood centered around music. And music is such an
emotional thing in itself, so really it’s like family.
RT: I’ve seen the Spirits perform a few times and
the types of songs you sing seem to be pretty diverse. Would you say this is accurate, and can you
tell my about the styles of music you perform?
Sun Comes Up by John Legend. Justin Bours sings
Let Me Leave by Marc Broussard, which is more of
a contemporary song. We also sing a Georgian folk
song, and mix in songs from the Black Book, which is
a compilation of traditional Wesleyan songs. And then
I sing Poker Face by Lady Gaga…so yeah, I would
say we’re pretty eclectic.
RT: Can you tell me more about the Black Book
and Spirits’ involvement in the Wesleyan community?
GT: Wesleyan used to be known as the singing college of New England. We use to go to competitions
and win all the time. The Black Book is a collection
of Wesleyan’s traditional songs. One of the Spirits’
goals is to keep those songs and traditions alive for the
school. So we have our pop repertoire, or you could
call it our contemporary repertoire, and we also have
15-20 practicing songs from the Black Book that we
know and perform at university relation events, alumni
ceremonies, trustee events, commencement, and senior
week. We usually incorporate a song or two in our
regular performances as well.
RT: The Spirits also record, right?
GT: We’re actually working on recording our next
studio album. At the end of last semester we started
recording at Green Street, and that was interesting. I’d
never recorded in a studio before, so that was a really
great experience for me. We had sound engineers and
producers in the booth with headphones and everything, it was a fun time. We should be getting things
together this spring to record the new album, so we’ll
see how that goes.
GT: I would definitely say that the music we sing is
eclectic. For instance, I just went to Harvard to visit
my friend and we saw an a cappella show there. They
were all pop songs and I knew every one of the songs.
Whether or not I agreed with the way they were performed is another thing. But I knew all of the songs.
And I liked it, and that’s cool I guess. But I do like that You can check out the Spirits on their Youtube chanwhen a new song is brought into our group, I would
nel at www.youtube.com/wesleyanspirits as well as at
have to say that half of the time I’ve never heard it
their website www.thewesleyanspirits.com
before. Now my musical tastes are really top 100,
pop, whatever, songs I hear on the radio, but one of the
things I love the most about the Spirits is that I get to
perform all these songs that I’ve never heard, and it’s
giving exposing me to all different styles of music.
So right now Aaron Peisner, for example, sings You
Can Bring Me Flowers, which is a Ray Lamontagne
song, it’s a little more jazzy. Spencer Hattendorf sings
25
stead. So I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel,
the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and other songwriters
from that generation. I think that, to a certain degree,
my own music reflects that background.
Beatlemania and Beyond:
An Interview with Daniel
Charness
By Dan Storms
photo by Isabella Cucchi
While most people know what Beatlemania is, few
have caught it like Daniel Charness, class of 2010.
Charness is currently writing his thesis on The Beatles
and the effect that music can have on a generation.
Coming up during an era as influential as the Baby
Boomers, The Beatles were able to show just how
profoundly one group of musicians could influence the
world. Charness’ contribution to the musical world
goes well beyond scholarship and into his own singing and songwriting. In August 2008 he released his
own album entitled “One Night Stand,” available for
purchase on iTunes. I had the opportunity to talk to
this bright, passionate musician about his musical and
academic work.
Dan Storms: How long have you been making your
own music? When did you start recording?
Daniel Charness: I began writing my own music at the
end of high school. At the same time I began writing
I also took an interest in production and audio engineering, so I set up a small studio in my basement and
began recording my music. As a multi-instrumentalist
I was able to multi-track and erase the need for a band.
DS: Who influences your music?
DC: I grew up listening to the music that my dad, a
baby boomer of the 60s generation, had lying around
the house. I was never a fan of R&B or rap, which has
dominated popular music since we were young, and so
I tended to listen to the music that he played for me in26
DS: Have your musical interests changed since you
started creating your own work?
DC: Our musical interests are always shifting. How I
listen to music has changed since I started recording
and producing. I tend to listen in layers, trying to understand why certain arrangements work and why others do not. As for genres, I always pick up a new one
here and there. Lately I have become totally obsessed
with bluegrass.
DS: What audience do you have in mind when you
play a show, when you write?
DC: When I write, I write for myself. My songs are
an expression of my own experiences, or at least the
experiences of others in life who I relate to. However,
like any artist, when I market my music, I do so with
the intent of reaching as large an audience as I can. I
know that my music tends to appeal to an older crowd.
DS: Has Wesleyan affected your writing or your
tastes?
DC: Wesleyan has been my life for the past four years,
so of course my music draws from my experiences
here. But life is life whether you are at Wesleyan or
not, and the experiences that we have just as young
adults could be had anywhere. I think my music reflects that as much as it reflects my life at Wesleyan.
DS: How did you decide on The Beatles for your
thesis?
DC: I wanted to contribute something to the scholarship on why they had the impact that they had
DS: What can our generation give to the world of
music, what can we take?
DC: Who knows what our generation will give to music. That’s very hard to say, and much easier to examine in retrospect. One thing that I hope our generation
will do is to figure out how to pay for the music we
listen to. I admit that a large component of my music
collection was stolen, but after I put out my first album
on iTunes, I suddenly realized how upsetting it was
when people burned copies of that album and simply
passed it on like that. I wanted all that work to pay off,
but it just can’t if people steal the music.
photo by Isabella Cucchi
Plugging In: Behind the Music at Wesleyan
Grace Zimmerman
If Wesleyan does one thing right, it is music. With concerts occurring almost twice a month,
students have ample opportunity to participate in a
vibrant undergraduate music scene. Talent is found
around almost every corner, and Wesleyan provides
ample chances for opportunity to knock. We all know
the names: MGMT, Santigold, Das Racist… and we
are confident our classmates will follow in these artists’ successful footsteps. The question then becomes,
how is the integrity of this artistic tradition preserved?
How is the vitality behind Wesleyan’s unparalleled
music scene retained? The answer is in the concerts
themselves, and the people who help create them. These dedicated students, working behind, on,
and in front of the scene ensure that Wesleyan maintains its animated music culture. So, what does it take
to put on a musical event at Wesleyan? Who are these
dedicated students working to bring either off campus
talent to Wesleyan or Wesleyan students to the stage?
The answer can only enrich our understanding and
appreciation of the intangible tradition that is music at
Wesleyan.
The music scene at Wesleyan can be split into
two groups: on campus and off campus bands. When
it comes to on campus bands, emerging groups have
ample opportunity to play. From larger venues like Psi
U or Eclectic, to the more intimate gatherings that take
place at Music, Earth, or Buddhist House, any and all
performers can be encompassed into Wesleyan’s music
scene. Starting with the program houses and working
our way out, we can explore the many layered music
scene and opportunities at Wesleyan.
Music and Earth House are two program houses on campus known to frequently host student-run
concerts. Interviews with members of each program
house revealed how accessible their space is to on
campus bands. Joshua Levine, house manager of Earth
House, explained that to play at Earth House, a band
must contact him. Joshua then brings the band’s proposal to the other house members, looking for either
conflicts or a sponsor. Every concert at Earth House
must have a sponsor, thereby ensuring house support
for the band in question. Music House operates in a
similar manner. Resident Howe Pearson emphasized
the ease with which Music House can host on campus
bands, or as he calls it, “non registered events.” Advertising consists of flyers, and Earth and Music house
request that bands bring their own instruments and
clean up after themselves.
Andrew Zingg, a sophomore resident of Music
House and member of multiple on campus bands (such
as ¡O Presidente! and Moon Bounce), describes on
campus band events quite nicely. “Very true of Wesleyan, everyone helps out and is supportive of your
projects, so you’ll find a place to play.” Ed McDavid,
social chair for the fraternity Psi U, also emphasized
connections in the Wesleyan music scene. Psi U is
known for hosting dance parties with on campus DJs,
who, as Ed explains, are usually “friends of brothers
or friends of friends.”
When it comes to bringing off campus bands
to Wesleyan, things get a little more complicated. Here
the Concert Committee (CC), a subcommittee of the
Student Budget Committee of the Wesleyan Student
27
Assembly, plays a crucial role. In its inaugural year,
ICBM, and Folk Revival Initiative, who brought us the
the CC was granted a little more then $80,000 from
Contra Dance.
the Student Budget Committee to fund campus wide
Outside of booking groups, driven students can also
music related events. To petition for money from the
bring artists to campus. Andrew Zingg described how
CC, student groups must submit a proposal. If asking he was able to bring Cryptacize to Wesleyan. After
for money for an off campus band (which is usually
exchanging emails with Cryptacize, and acquiring a
the case, given that on campus bands rarely charge to
venue (he petitioned Eclectic, in order to take advanplay), the student group must include in their proposal tage of its large space), he petitioned the CC for funds.
a quote from the band and a sample of the band’s mu- Andrew noted the multiple technicalities that take
sic. The CC, consisting of five mem-“Very true of Wesleyan, place in the aftermath of acquiring
bers and chairman Donovan Arthen,
sufficient funds to bring a band to
meets on Sunday to read and dis- everyone helps out and campus. From dealing with contracts
cuss proposals. Chairman Donovan is supportive of your
to registering the event with P-safe,
Arthen emphasized the care the CC
much more goes into the production
takes in deciding the legitimacy of projects, so you’ll find a of a large concert then meets the eye.
a fee proposed by any off campus place to play.”
Finally, freedom to perform on
band. “We assess the quote from the
the Wesleyan music scene takes on a
band based on previous knowledge, and a site called
new name with WestCo Café. An underground space
Pollstar.” Pollstar is a website which tracks band’s
in West College, WestCo Café is under the control of
upcoming progress, listing their previous gigs and
a Café manager. Sophomore Mike Ullman currently
rates. While much of the information forming a deciholds the key to the café. His treatment of the space
sion on the validity of a band’s quote is quantitative,
marks a departure from past years, when the café was
Donovan emphasizes, “It is not just a number game.”
treated as, according to Mike, a joke. “Typically”,
The CC investigates whether the band would be suited describes Mike, “[the café’] got the shows that weren’t
to Wesleyan’s atmosphere, and if quote that the band
housed by larger venues.” Last year the Residential
proposed is reasonable to grant given the CC’s budget. Life area coordinator took the café away twice, due
Often, the CC will not pay a student group the
to the poor management of the space. Mike stated his
entirety of the price asked. Student groups then need
goal this year was “to trick the freshman into thinking
to look into ticket sales to subsidize the remaining cost WestCo café is cool.” He far surpassed this goal, sucof bringing an artist to campus. A proposal to the CC
cessfully transforming the café into a thriving center
is to be made no later then fourteen days before the
of music and artistic endeavors. WestCo dance parties,
event is to take place, so that technicalities like conlast year’s guinea pigs that have grown into popular
tracts and reserving soundboard can have time to hap- raves, feature in house DJs like Bastille, Procrastinapen. The Wesleyan Sound Board is a student trained
tion, and Snorlax. Off campus bands are sometimes
sound board operation, which can be booked online
pulled in to play, but these bands are usually friends of
on their website. Soundboard operatives are paid $12
friends and are rarely paid. Mike notes that he will ocan hour, and can do up to three shows a night. Their
casionally petition the Student Budget Committee for
services can be requested for any musical on campus
concert accoutrements like glow sticks but does not
event, and their pay can be requested from the CC.
look for funding from the CC.
As far as actually finding off campus bands to bring
The Wesleyan music scene is ever growing and
to Wesleyan, the responsibility ultimately falls to the
changing, as evidenced by the creation of the Concert
students. A series of ‘booking groups’ exist, whose
Committee and the renaissance of the WestCo Café,
sole purpose is to find and propose concerts. One such both which took place in the past year. With such amgroup, Radical Performance Machine, founded by
ple opportunity, the Wesleyan music scene provides an
CC chairman Donovan Arthen, has been responsible
atmosphere conducive to emerging talent and musical
for bringing bands like Yeasayer and Beach House to
participation. If your ambition is to sing on the stage,
campus. Members of booking groups work to sell tick- or if you are only comfortable singing in the shower,
ets to help subsidize cost (the price of Beach House
the Wesleyan music scene will assuredly encourage
was a little under $3,000), and sometimes assist with
musical development either way.
manning the doors. Other booking groups exist, like
28
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Liz Wojnar:
“Jay-Z”, interview by Elvis Mitchell, Interview, February 2010.
“Got Beef?” Ethan Brown, New York, Dec. 1, 2003.
www.wikipedia.org
Alexander Golick:
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Austin 360 online: “Practical Solutions to Music Scene Problems: #1 in a Series” by Michael Corcoran. April
20, 2009. (http://www.austin360.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/music/entries/2009/04/20/practical_solutions_to_music_s.html?cxntfid=blogs_austin_music_source).
Austin Sound: “Noise Ordinance Strikes Again: Shady Grove Unplugged Show Shut Down.” June 12, 2009.
(http://www.austinsound.net/2009/06/12/noise-ordinance-strikes-again-shady-grove-unplugged-show-shutdown/).
Austin American Statesman: “Council works on noise issue for live music venues” by Sarah Coppola, April
23, 2009. (http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/cityhall/entries/2009/04/23/council_works_on_noise_issue_f.html).
Chelsea Aiken
Source: Abrams, Nathan. “Gangsta Rap”. 2005. February 24 2010. <http://www.bookrags.com/history/gangstarap-sjpc-02/>.
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