Simply put, the purpose of this whole project is to publish music criticism in order to create community and stimulate discussion about the non-mainstream musical culture of Nashville, TN. Not so simply put? read on….
When you hear the term “Music City, U.S.A.” one often thinks of our proud tradition of country music, not only the honky tonks on Broadway (bless their hearts), or all of the companies on music row, but also perhaps that evening soap opera named after the city itself. These things are very nice, and provide a wonderful tourist income for the city, but there is so much more to this town than that, and this is what this sight wishes to cover. Just to be clear, I have nothing against country music, I just want to hear about other musical aspects of this beautiful and diverse city.
Indeed whether, as myth would have it, the name stuck when Queen Victoria dubbed it music city after hearing the Fisk Singers, or more likely after WSM-AM announcer David Cobb used the name in 1950, it wasn’t ever intended to be just a country Music City. Rather it was much more likely used to describe the extraordinary variety of excellent music that can be heard in the city. In the mid to late ’50s the “Nashville Sound” emerged as a style pioneered by Chet Atkins, which featured the addition of luxurious strings and rich background vocals to the rough and ready honky tonk music creating a polished, genre-crossing sound. The Nashville sound was not about country music, but about enriching country music with influences from the various other genres heard here. It is these other genres we wish to focus on. (It should be noted that this is probably not the “Nashville sound” that Jason Isbell is referring to with his recent LP–one expects from it’s context in the lyrics, he is probably referring to the dominance of male performers on the contemporary country music scene.)
Thus the focus of this project is everything else, classical, jazz, folk, vocal, opera, ballet, and any other musics we can find reviewers to write about. In Nashville we have a Symphony that is amassing a large collection of Grammy awards as champions of contemporary American Music. Each season Nashville Opera brings productions from the center of the canon as well as cutting edge experimental productions at the Noah Liff Opera Center. The Ballet, apart from the obligatory yearly Nutcracker, also offers cutting edges productions of contemporary ballet as well as more traditional chestnuts. Further, the contemporary scene includes smaller ensembles like Intersection and Chatterbird which are redefining the role of classical music in society. There are also a fantastic number of choral organizations in the city. These ensembles are our primary focus for now.
In the future I would like to expand in a number of directions. Many of the universities in the region feature concert series with nationally recognized artists. Also, Jazz, both in the university programs and in the clubs across town is often world class and deserves discussion. Some of the primary founders of Jazz were born here–is the home both Dell Wood and Lil Harding Armstrong (born in Memphis but studied at Fisk). With the impending opening of the National Museum of African American Music here in Music City, perhaps the influence on Music City U.S.A will be more acutely recognized.
Finally, concerning authors and writing style, I am looking for standard, journalistic criticism written from the perspective of a connoisseur of that music. There are no real qualifications, just interest and clarity. If you are interested in contributing, attend a concert, write a review, and send it along. (comment on this post with your email and I’ll contact you)
But whatever you do, go listen to some music and then talk about it with someone!
Joseph E. Morgan joseph.morgan at mtsu dot edu