(Posted this afternoon on the TONY Blog)
Peter Cherches -- poet, occasional vocalist, jazz fan and food blogger extraordinaire -- compiled a concise but thorough research guide covering the history of New York's downtown music scene(s) for the Fales Library at New York University earlier this year. Today he posted his work online for everyone's enjoyment and edification. At a glance, it's a terrifically useful starting point for anyone still baffled by the term downtown music and its varying meanings.
Cherches's Downtown Music 1971-1987: An Overview and Resource Guide provides an overview of major figures (such as archetypal downtowner John Zorn, left), performance venues and stylistic developments during the period defined by its title. The first section covers downtown music in the contemporary-classical sense: the territory Tom Johnson and later Kyle Gann valiantly detailed in the Village Voice. Laurie Anderson, Julius Eastman and Bob Telson are included, as is virtually every figure whose name was mentioned in the Great Minimalism Debate of 2007.
Part two deals with the punk scene that primarily developed around CBGB from 1974 to 1978. The third section takes on No Wave -- DNA, James Chance, Lydia Lunch and so on. The fourth part handles the loft jazz scene that took root at Sam Rivers's Studio Rivbea, Rashied Ali's Ali's Alley, Environ and the like: a movement whose current descendant is the Vision Festival scene fostered by William Parker and Patricia Nicholson. Part five covers the music most commonly associated with the downtown music tag these days: the era of John Zorn, Eugene Chadbourne, Jim Staley, Kip Hanrahan, etcetera.
In each section, Cherches offers a short, smart introduction to the major movers, scenes and stylistic trends. Each essay is followed by a list of prominent artists and venues, a selected bibliography and discography, and a list of hyperlinked web resources.
It's a major piece of work, and it's also intended to be a starting point rather than a conclusion. To that end, Cherches has also launched a related blog, Downtown Music, 1971-1987, for commentary and additional feedback.
(Non-TONY note: Thanks, Pete, for sharing this outstanding project.)