Music is a cultural phenomenon. Historically, music has been used to foster unity as well as rebellion. It is powerful enough to jettison everyday individuals into stardom and exact societal change.
Three traveling exhibits from the Experience Music Project in Seattle will make their southern California debut at the 2004 L.A. County Fair, Sept. 10-26. The Fair’s feature attraction, “The Beat Goes On!—The History of Popular Music,” presented by AT&T Wireless, will showcase the exhibits.
“Artist to Icon” is a photographic display with 50 photos of the early musical careers of Elvis Presley and The Beatles, as well as Bob Dylan’s transformation from folk music to the electric guitar. The presentation is accompanied by audio recordings of stories about the artists told by the photographers who traveled with them: Alfred Wertheimer, Astrid Kircher, Jurgen Vollmer, Max Sheler and Daniel Kramer.
Besides creating cultural icons music has been a source of political outcry. The island of Jamaica experienced a cultural revolution with the beginning of reggae. “Island Revolution” traces the birth of reggae to its worldwide prominence. Key figures such as Bob Marley and others who revolutionized reggae are spotlighted. The exhibit outlines Jamaica’s cultural and political setting that paralleled the growing popularity of reggae from 1956 to 1981. Also, cultural and musical influences on reggae are documented, such as the emergence of sound systems, and the beats of ska and rock steady. “Island Revolution” also touches on other musical genres that were shaped by reggae or shared the spotlight, such as dub and deejay music. Audio tours, interactive kiosks and films featuring music, interviews and performances by artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Prince Buster supplement the interactive experience. In addition, a variety of artifacts will be on display including Bob Marley’s first single, “Judge Not,” and a mixing console formerly owned by King Tubby, a pioneer in dub music.
In the ‘70s, North America experienced its own revolution in the Bronx. “Yes Yes Y’all” traces the beginning of hip-hop in the early ‘70s to the establishment of the first major record label, Def Jam records, in the ‘80s. The exhibit is based on the book “Yes Yes Y’all: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop’s First Decade,” by Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn. The exhibit tracks the creative outlets artists found in mixing, rhyming and graffiti art. More than 100 photographs tell the story of the environment, clothing and people in which hip-hop had its genesis. Artifacts like the turntable of Grandmaster Flash, fliers, outfits worn by artists, and spray cans used for graffiti art will be on display.
For general information on the L.A. County Fair, call (909) 623-3111 or visit the Web site at www.lacountyfair.com.