The Greatest Year In Music: 1952 - presented by WXPN - see the full article here
Nestled between the establishment of a prolific record label (Chess, 1951) and the swiveling hips of Elvis Presley (1954), the year 1952 stands out as a fortifying time for recorded music - and a quiet precursor to the cultural zeitgeist the world will come to know as ‘The 60’s’.
The term ‘rock n’ roll’ was coined in 1951 by the popular disc jockey Alan Freed - the exact phrase went something like: “Yeah, daddy, let’s rock and roll!”. By the year 1952, the term was commonly being used by listeners and the kids were catching on (think: Back To The Future Part I). Large dance-hall shows were hosted by Freed in the Cleveland Arena, and the crowd came out in droves for the arguably the first rock concert in history: the “Moondog Coronation Ball” on March 21st, 1952. In an arena built for 10,000, an estimated 20,000 people flooded the Arena; and in true rock n’ roll fashion, the crowd was so raucous the concert was shut down before the bands could even play. The full list of performers - and the original poster - is below.
This is also the year that “Hound Dog” is recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton; I highly recommend watching her performance of the song taken from the 1965 American Folk Blues Festival (and yes, that’s Buddy Guy on guitar). Meanwhile, Muddy Waters is in Chicago recording a tune titled “She Moves Me”at a recently-founded Chess Records. It will be another two years before Bill Haley puts rock’n roll on the map, but it’s in 1952 that “Rock Around The Clock” is written by Philly native Max C. Freedman & James E. Meyers.
The linchpin for 1952? It doesn’t sound like much - ironically, not music at all - a composition first performed in an upstate New York town called Woodstock (heard of it? No? You will - by the end of 1969). There’s musicians but none of them actually play. There’s sheet music but no notes. For argument’s sake I’m going to call it music. (Don’t believe me? Well, you can buy it on iTunes). Know it? It’s called 4’33”.
There is a transition in music during this era where the ‘underground’ is still the obscure . This is certainly the case when something esoteric like John Cage’s 4’33” comes along. Thanks to record labels like Sun and Chess, an entire genre of music - the blues - gets immortalized. Regardless of race, class, or genre, the majority of artists & writers in 1952 were foreshadowing the trends that would soon dig their heels in at every American dance hall.
side note: I now have my own personal fantasy scenario where John Cage is performing 4’33” in front of those 20,000 Cleveland teens.
from: Shaking Through Vol 4 Ep 2 with Helado Negro (2013)
Roberto (Helado Negro) is a true artist and electronic experimenter, so we got Moog to sponsor our episode so we could let Roberto “play”. What emerged is an incredibly beautiful piece of music and one of my favorite Shaking Through episodes. We tried to cater for everyone but wanted to emphasize the ‘gear’ aspect of the song as well. When most listeners think of electronic music, the words “soft” or “melodic” don’t typically come to mind - especially in the dub-step era. Helado Negro, the moniker for multi-instrumentalist Roberto Lange provides a welcome change. Curated by Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, the two produced a stunningly original song called “Mitad Del Mundo”. We first met curator Mikael Jorgensen in March 2012. He was slated to join Cat Martino and Sufjan Stevens for Cat’s April 2012 Shaking Through session, though his busy schedule touring with Wilco prevented him making it. He promised he’d come back, and that was a promise kept, returning with Helado Negro’s Roberto Lange. Spanish for “The Middle Of The World”, Helado Negro’s “Mitad Del Mundo” was born out of Lange’s childhood memories. “I feel like a lot of the songs that I have are almost like patch cables… like I’m patching in one end of a memory, and these non-chronological experiences come together to make up my lyrics.” Helado Negro is just one of many projects that Roberto Lange has been working on with other artists. In addition to work with people like Julianna Barwick, Bear In Heaven, and Prefuse 73 Lange is also a visual artist with a substantial resume which is how he met Jorgensen. The chemistry of that friendship was immediate. “When I was listening to the Helado Negro records, I was like man, I would love to get into whatever some of this is.” says Jorgensen. During their session, the two spent most of the day pushing and twisting nobs and dials on an impressive collection of their own gear and several synthesizers provided for the session by Moog Music. “I can’t think of anything that’s more fun and gratifying than to have all this stuff set up, have everyone here working together, trying to make something cool that didn’t exist two days ago,” says Jorgensen. As the day progressed, the layers of the song began to bend together effortlessly. Lange’s whimsical Spanish flowed. Whatever problems presented seemed to resolve with a turn of a dial.We felt like we were on another planet. Perhaps it could have been the mitad del mundo… click here to see the full episode and read more
an open letter to Philly (2011)
Philadelphia’s creative independence is its greatest asset. The degrees in which a venue (may it be a gallery, a bar, or a basement) can determine the experience an audience has carries a heavy weight, especially in a metropolitan city. The venues of Philadelphia lend themselves as auditoriums not only for those playing, but for the city itself. As the musicians and artists all over the country suffer under a crumbling economy, I envision Philadelphia as the growing source of new music, capable of rearing its head along- side Brooklynites and the West Coast invasion. The people in charge of the tangible (booking, photography, promoting, directing) are the pillars of which determines the edge-cutters from the obscure. As an art and music omnivore in Philadelphia, I am drawn to the creations of all things new. The process of creating is something that I have extensive experience with, especially when it comes to the work and effort put into ideas that can unfold into larger manifestations of what was once just a simple thought. I contribute to the Philadelphia art and music cultures not by merely attending events, museums, venues and the like, but by being involved as a collaborator and a colleague in all the facets that I can possibly submerge myself into. The DIY nature of the Philadelphia music scene, especially, is embedded in the people that are genuinely interested in the product being made, and the community that it serves.
New York City in the past twenty years has changed; one of the biggest imprints on the island of Manhattan is undoubtedly Times Square, where in the 1980s one could see a Broadway show before walking down the block to a Girls Show. Now, that time is gone. What remains is Burlesque. The dancing has only slightly changed - is arguably more diverse - and is thriving in the new millennium by attracting a wide range of audience members. Unlike the fifty-cent Peep Shows that sprinkled the city once before, the clubs and bars that house burlesque are harder to find but filled to the brim with eager New Yorkers with drinks between their hands. Most of them are searching for a creative outlet in protest of New York City’s competitive art world, others can be categorized as exhibitionists, and some just need the approval of men and women in the kind of venue that can understand and respect their bodies, no matter what the shape or size. These are the fundamental qualities of burlesque- and what separates it from the cabaret, the circus, and the Broadway stage. The emphasis is focused on individuality and uniqueness, which are attributes that can be lost in a city of 10 million people. When you are on the corner of Orchard and Stanton at the Slipper Room on a Saturday night, under the stage lights, the entire world outside fades. The small stage can only hold one performer, and she holds every gaze in the room. “When you don’t make judgment and you sit back and just observe it and look at what it means to people in the moment that they’re living in…..it’s extraordinary…the kind of human connection that is made in those fleeting moments” remarked Susan Meiselas on burlesque, in reference to her own essay in the 1970s. A simple photographic recording of panties today - one of the most common costumes for the dancers- can demonstrate the same quality that it had in 1973. The homemade, sequined and fringed underwear of a dancer that not only is a portrait of burlesque, but also of the dancer herself. It is an artifact; a garment that reveals the woman’s individuality and determination that was tailored to fit her just right, and also a division between herself and her audience.