The Memphis Model
To the Editor:
Chris Herrington and Andria Lisle offer welcome point/counterpoint in "The Memphis Music Legacy: Burden or Blessing?" (June 12th issue). The silver bullet to an argument that any next-wave school of pop could come from Memphis is the fact that those who had the chance to establish something permanent here sold the goose that lays the golden egg. The real story of no next-wave-in-Memphis is a chapter from my noncelebrated book about how Memphis was never established as a base for intellectual property. Sam Phillips sold Elvis and Memphis moved to RCA. Stax sold its master recordings and Memphis moved to Atlantic Records. Think of the copyright and recording of "Soul Man" as an industry. Multiply that copyright by thousands, and all of those industries are no longer in Memphis.
However, musicians make a pilgrimage to look for the bones of the saints, and those bones are in Memphis. Eric Clapton knows he borrowed from Albert King, who knew he borrowed from Carl Perkins, who knew he borrowed from Leadbelly, who knew he borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, and well ... before that, you are back in the land where the blues began.
The next really big wave in popular music will not come from techno, punk, or hip-hop but from a world-music version of Elvis. Herrington is correct that minimalistic fashions as seen in techno, punk, and hip-hop are simply mutations of blues-to-rock forms. I agree that there will no longer be a "school of Memphis" as there will no longer be a "school of Motown." However, the model on which the next wave will be built will most likely be built on a Memphis model -- the "Elvis model." It likely will emerge from the Internet, and who knows from what region it will come and what world confluences will establish it? It could come from Kentucky or Ghana. Or, as Robert Gordon stated recently during a symposium at the Rhodes Regional Studies Institute, it could also come from Memphis.
Chair, Department of Music
To the Editor:
Having followed the controversy over the past six months concerning FCC chairman Michael Powell's and the Republican boardmembers' desire to relax media ownership rules, I was extremely pleased to see this issue chosen as your cover story (May 29th issue). Neal Hickey did a commendable job explaining the implications of relaxing current rules, as well as detailing the wide range of groups finding common cause in opposition to Powell's proposed changes. Yet there are two important aspects of this debate that your story overlooked.
First, there is a precedent for the type of changes Powell proposes, that being the deregulation of radio ownership as a result of the 1996 Telecommuncations Act. Since that act's passage, we have seen massive consolidation in radio ownership, which is now dominated by a few giants, most notably Clear Channel, with over 1,200 stations in the U.S., including stations in 248 of the nations top 250 markets. Clear Channel controls 60 percent of stations whose format is "rock." This has led to standardized playlists (or in some cases canned music) being dictated to local stations from the national level, a huge disadvantage to local and regional artists. Accusations have been levelled against Clear Channel by artists who, when seeking airtime for their music, have been refused access unless they arrange their tours through SFX Entertainment, a Clear Channel subsidiary.
According to Democrat FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Powell refused to attend all but one of the 12 public meetings arranged by the FCC. Furthermore, Adelstein notes that Powell held 71 closed-door, off-the-record meetings with representatives of the big five media giants. The Center for Public Integrity reported that over the last eight years FCC commissioners and staff have been treated to more than 2,500 junkets courtesy of the telecommunications and broadcast industries. It is easy to see that the FCC and the industry it regulates have a cozy relationship.
I believe Powell should explain how ignoring the 750,000 public comments the FCC received on this issue -- that, by his own admission, ran 97 percent against deregulation -- constitutes looking after the public's interest.
To the Editor:
The board of directors of WEVL FM-90 would like to thank you for the articles on the FCC's recent decision to ease ownership regulations of newspaper, radio, and television media.
As Memphis' only truly independent, volunteer-programmed, noncommercial, nonprofit radio station, WEVL remains committed to providing a unique local voice on the Memphis airwaves. Your article illustrated the importance of such voices in society. The chart revealing the joint ownership of many Memphis radio and television stations was particularly enlightening.
The Flyer's article was both timely and significant. The consolidation of radio broadcasting poses risks not only to public safety but also to public discussion and diversity. Interestingly, although the Flyer chose to make this issue a cover story, we did not notice any local commercial media outlets providing much coverage of the FCC decision until after it occurred.
Board of Directors
Southern Communication Volunteers
To the Editor:
Oh, how I wish every elected official in this city and county would read "Parked in Traffic" by Dan Johnson (Viewpoint, June 5th issue). Maybe we also need to include every member of "Friends of Shelby Farms." I am fortunate to live inside the beltway and do not have to experience what Johnson writes about. I suspect a very large percentage of Friends of Shelby Farms also do not know what these folks face every day.
I use Shelby Farms for recreation and I am grateful there have been people who have protected it, but we are long overdue for a compromise. The city and county have been considering options for over 10 years. If they were to make a decision today, it would likely still take three to five years to complete the work. "Alternative B" has great merit and needs to be adopted, but they should take the plan all the way south to Humphreys/Wolf River Parkway. Stopping at Walnut Grove will place an even larger stress on an intersection that is already overstressed.
My hat is off to Johnson and anyone else who can bring the necessary attention to finally solving this problem. Just think of the reduced air pollution once Germantown Parkway once again becomes a throughway rather than a "parking lot."
To the Editor:
Back when I was writing news columns, I wrote what I thought was a rather brilliant column about not having a column. It was such a relief from the real work of journalism -- research, calls, interviews -- that it flowed quickly. I was quite proud of myself. The editor was not amused and observed that if I didn't have anything better to offer, he would find someone else to write the column.
That doesn't hold true for all editors. A recent case in point is Dan Johnson's column about driving through urban sprawl. It's a close twin to a sermon I heard by the assistant rector one Sunday morning at St. Mary's. The priest said he didn't have a sermon, but that on the way to church he'd noticed some bumper stickers that he felt were meaningful. He had the audacity to ask if we thought it was divine inspiration. So, now comes Johnson, whose column was as lightweight and meaningless as that sermon years ago.
Johnson freely admits to creating urban sprawl. Those of us who do not choose to create urban sprawl to avoid taxes and integrated schools really don't think it's a big deal that he has to sit in traffic with his mind racing. And if that's as fast as his mind goes when it's racing, well, perhaps he should apply to Jiffy Lube.
To the Editor:
I'm sorry Jim Maynard had an unhappy childhood and I even agree with him that the "Christian right" is often annoying, but his reaction, a virtual agnostic jihad, seems a little much ("Memphis Freethought Alliance," June 5th issue).
His attack on the Christian right paints with too broad a brush. The phrase Christian right correctly indicates that there is a Christian left and Christian center. There's no real need to attack all of Christianity, is there? Please leave us mainline-denomination folks out of this pointless political debate, so we can continue to focus on volunteering in the soup kitchens and shelters.
The Ten Commandments are an exhortation to a lifestyle of safety and respect. And I quote: "Thou shalt not kill." Does Maynard really have a problem with this bit of advice? As both a witness to and victim of crime, I really don't think we can repeat this message enough: Stop the killing, stop the stealing, etc.
Can there possibly be two more entrenched people than Jim Maynard and Ed McAteer? This sort of demonizing debate is counterproductive and only furthers a sense of divisiveness in a community that desperately needs to pull together. Jesus said "Love thy neighbor," and this covers even Jim and Ed. I think the time for these two extremists to put their energies into vitriolic discussions is after the hungry are fed, our kids can read, substandard housing is eliminated, and crime is abated. If your passion blinds you to the real needs in our community, then you are passionate about the wrong things.
To the Editor:
The world is full of unheard voices, have-nots, the underprivileged, and the unengaged. Giving these citizens a voice does not appear to be a priority for our society ("Art Depreciation," June 5th issue). There are a few shining lights who illuminate those at the lowest levels. Amelia Barton and the Center for Arts Education were a great beacon shining into the depths. Barton dedicated herself to providing quality art education to the less fortunate, who need it most of all, to maintain their humanity.
Who would believe an inner-city child could comprehend the intricate movements of ballet or the choices an artist makes while quilting? Who expects that child to understand how actors create character using voice inflection and movement?
Amelia Barton, that's who. Barton and her colleagues empowered my voice as an artist and also empowered the voices of thousands of school children in our city and surrounding regions.
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