The stages and studios that shaped American music

By | September 20, 2022

Among the many better of my many US highway journeys, locations that highlight the roots and raves of American music shone memorably. Driving by way of Austin, Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Nashville and extra, I fortunately sang within the automobile whereas listening to songs from masterful musicians en route, fantasizing that “we” had been duets collectively. (do you try this too?) At every cease, I used to be delighted to get pleasure from behind-the-scenes excursions of arenas and auditoriums, ballrooms and bars, stadiums, phases and studios. For instance, on Music Row in Nashville – the heart beat middle for document firm places of work, recording cubicles and radio stations – I had the chance to play the piano (one track, only for enjoyable!) within the legendary Studio B of RCA Victor Studio (now listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations), the place artists resembling Chet Atkins, David Bowie, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Charley Delight and Hank Williams had carried out, slicing singles and albums. It’s due to this fact with enthusiasm that I welcome the forthcoming October launch of Rhona Bitner’s new hardcover ebook, Hear: The Phases and Studios That Formed American Music (Rizzoli New York).

Motivated by the 2006 closure of New York’s famed CBGB membership – which had attracted an eclectic vary of musicians and magnetic followers, giving rise to new musical revolutions dubbed punk and new wave – Bitner launched into an bold 13-year challenge to {photograph} 395 noteworthy areas. “I spotted that the interior structure of American music historical past wanted its personal document,” says Bitner. “Dwelling music, listening to it, is each a collective and private act. I stood alone within the areas. The place is freed up for reminiscence, which in flip accepts time. And time is on the coronary heart of all music. This quest has taken Bitner to 89 cities in 26 states to visually doc these uplifting locations in music, resembling Elvis Presley’s Graceland Music Corridor in Memphis; Jimi Hendrix’s recording studio in New York’s Greenwich Village; Aretha Franklin’s New Bethel Baptist Household Church in Detroit; The Macon Metropolis Auditorium in Georgia, the place 14-year-old Little Richie was found sending his profession trajectory skyward (in addition to the place James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding wowed crowds); and Minnesota’s Hibbing Excessive College Auditorium, the place pupil Bob Dylan (then nonetheless Zimmerman) rocked the rafters.

A mess of web sites – ravaged by time and disrepair – are shells of their wonderful previous: “the ghost ships of American music”, as perceptively writes “the godfather of punk” Iggy Pop (singer, songwriter, producer and actor) within the foreword to the ebook. “Are you able to see into the previous by gazing lengthy sufficient at these eloquent images…? Sure, sure you possibly can. Listed here are the locations the place love is discovered.

An ideal collaboration: Natalie Bell (artwork world curator), Jon Hammer (author, researcher, painter, musician), Greil Marcus (writer, music journalist, cultural critic) and Jason Moran (jazz pianist, composer, educator ) additionally supplied an evocative, illuminating commentary on the ebook. Enhancing was fine-tuned by Éric Reinhardt (novelist, editor), who oversaw crisp, detail-rich annotations on every location, which stand out from Bitner’s images, on contrasting paper, as a helpful organizational format. Plus, dozens of shifting photographs of well-known and beloved musicians, songwriters, singers and producers (from different photographers and archives) – resembling Chuck Berry, David Bowie, James Brown, Johnny Money, Ray Charles , Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, Berry Gordy, Elton John, BB King, Carole King, Freddy Mercury, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, The Beatles, The Grateful Useless, The Mamas and The Papas , The Rolling Stones, The Intercourse Pistols, The Temptations – are included, dotting the pages with human vitality.

“For instance it is First Avenue in Minneapolis…you are on stage and also you notice that your proper foot, only a step in entrance of your left, is the place Prince put his. You may virtually think about that there’s an imperceptible despair on stage. That he left a mark. And so that you press tougher, as should you would too,” writes Greil Marcus. “This ebook is a public historical past of these personal moments. It is completely ephemeral – there aren’t any folks within the locations Rhona Bitner photographed, no ecstatic faces, no whirling our bodies. You have to think about your self in these locations… In the event you hear rigorously sufficient, [the walls] will let you know what they heard.

“Bitner’s sequence, as a lot as it’s about sound, music and listening, can also be about absence and silence,” writes Natalie Bell. “It is the photographer who throws the material over her head to take the image, then additionally invitations us beneath… Sit with the calm and stillness of those areasBitner appears to say. Now what do you hear? Within the silence, the picture turns into extra radiant, and in contrast to the cacophony of a live performance or efficiency picture, within the silence of Bitner’s areas we are able to hear our recollections emerge.

“It’s important to act within the play,” says Jason Moran within the ebook’s afterword. “It is a phrase touring musicians typically use as a result of they spend numerous hours performing in venues they do not fairly know. If a heavy steel band walks right into a live performance corridor like Carnegie Corridor, they’ll discover that the acoustics of a stadium and a corridor constructed for acoustic music are vastly completely different. The artist is tasked with discovering a approach to “play the half”. This normally means: Studying the parameters of the room simply sufficient in order that your music may be felt by the viewers. All through Rhona Bitner’s portrayal of those areas, we see the usually vacant – but totally dynamic – rooms.

In every of those areas Bitner photographed, there’s a deeper responsibility and belief. “It’s no coincidence that the letters of the phrases quiet and Hear are the identical,” Moran continues. “Reminders of the facility of silence and thanks for the sounds listeners decide up of their our bodies…From the porch to the live performance corridor, discover the vibration.”

Already interested by your upcoming vacation items? Hear: The Phases and Studios That Formed American Music could possibly be a considerate present to your personal American music aficionado, who appreciates its colourful historical past and significant sense of place.