Sunday, December 6, 2020

Make Some Space by Emma Warren

(Sweet Machine Publishing, 2019) Hopefully as a music and culture fan you will get a few opportunities during your life to enter spaces that feel hard to believe - spaces where ideals and aspirations and even fantasies about creating a communal physical zone where art and expression and fellowship and a kind of ethereal cool that transcends fashion and trends (while often embracing them) thrives. Places like that often seem transient --  how can such  a thing survive in the realm of culture cannibalism and corporate capitalism? But even if you only get to enjoy it for one month or one night or one song, what it does for your soul is huge. Warren found such  a space in London's Total Refreshment Center, a marginally legit arts hub/recording studio/practice studio, and music venue where DJ parties alternated with live music nights that brought together thrillingly innovative young jazz musicians (with some notable Chicago artists making appearances). Combining elements of oral histories with a cultural critic's musings about the meanings of such space, and with thorough research about the Century-long history of the building, going back to its industrial origins, the writer takes their role as documentarian seriously and passionately. Most impressive is a coda where Warren explains how she tracked down the info, conducted the interviews, and financed the book's printing, demystifying the process in  hopes to encourage similar documentation of these too often ethereal moments in culture.

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