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Neighborhood Rhythms
Spring 2013

Neighborhood Writing Alliance (NWA) writers reflected on ideas about music and explored connections between music and current and historical social justice issues and movements

This theme was developed to encourage writing and reflection on how music shapes our individual and shared histories, how music affects social movements, and how we listen to, talk about, and share lyrics, instruments, and messages in music.

  • Poetry Workshop with Calvin Forbes. Writer and jazz scholar Calvin Forbes lead a poetry workshop focused on the role of music in opening doors to personal and social histories. Drawing on historical accounts and examining the music from the Great Depression and the Great Migration, Forbes discussed the importance and value of inter-generational dialogue, cultural exchanges, and deepening our understanding of our own relationships to music. The seminar stressed the importance of interviewing elders and community members, and how to use these conversations to write poetry and personal narratives.
  • Seminar at the Center for Black Music Research. Monica Hairston O’Connell and the Center for Black Music Research staff introduced writers to a wealth of materials that document the black music experience across Africa and the diaspora, presenting on a selection of the archives which includes more than 5,400 cataloged books and dissertations, 11,000 sound recordings, 4,500 scores and pieces of sheet music, and 72 archival collections that contain research materials, audio-visual recordings, paper-based and photographic materials, ephemera, publications, and oral-history interviews. Participants individually selected music genres or musicians to research for future written work, and used the archives and newly introduced research tools to explore the intersections of music, creative expression, personal identity, community, and place.
  • Memory and Music Workshop with Jeffrey Solotoroff. Research shows that we hold on to our connection to music into our later years, even for those who experience profound memory loss and dementia later in life. Music has the power to improve memory and to transport us to memories of significant times in our lives while helping us to feel connected to our histories and to each other. This seminar with social worker and storyteller Jeffrey Solotoroff explored the many ways that music and our memories of music affect our lives. Solotoroff introduced participants to scientific insights that confirm the connection between music and memory and guided participants towards a deeper understanding of the role that music plays in memory formation.
  • Twisted Roots Concert with John Kimsey and Lia McCoo. Professor and scholar John Kimsey and musician Lia McCoo presented a seminar on the making of the composition Twisted Roots—a song cycle that uses vernacular music of the American South to explore what might be called the American dream blues and map historical and contemporary convolutions of place and race, politics and culture. The cycle uses traditional Southern idioms like blues, jump, rockabilly and bluegrass to map a shadowy American dreamscape populated by ruling class Old Boys, race-baiting spin doctors, oldtime religionists, shattered veterans, defiant inmates, clandestine operators, Caribbean rebel-prophets, overworked single mothers, Appalachian ghosts, bullying talk radio hosts, rock’n’roll aristocrats, Social Darwinist sociopaths, manic street preachers and ordinary folk struggling to do the right thing. Kimsey and McCoo discussed the layered writing processes involved in the project and performed selected pieces. Ben Sidran, host of NPR’s Jazz Alive described the project as “An ingenious way to integrate political and social commentary into a musical architecture.”

Please visit our events pages for dates and locations of these special programs.

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