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Norma Coates

A free outdoor music festival organized and headlined by the Rolling Stones that took place on 6 December 1969. Goaded by the music press to put on a free show in the wake of the recent Woodstock festival and unprecedentedly high ticket prices for their own shows, the group quickly and haphazardly arranged the festival. The remote Altamont Speedway in the scrubland northeast of San Francisco was used after attempts to hold it at more congenial spots fell through. Possibly at the suggestion of the Grateful Dead’s manager, the Stones hired some members of San Francisco Hells Angels, the notorious motorcycle gang, to work security. Over 300,000 people flocked to the desolate place on a wintry day. Violence, primarily attacks by the Hells Angels on audience members and musicians, began almost immediately, and culminated in the murder of a young African-American man, Meredith Hunter. Documentarians Albert and David Maysles captured Hunter’s knifing at the hands of a Hells Angel, and the rest of the day’s dysfunction and violence in their film ...


Miloš Velimirović

Semi-autonomous monastic ‘republic’ comprising numerous Greek and other Christian monastic communities. It is located on a peninsula of the same name, east of Thessaloniki in northern Greece; the peninsula is also known as the ‘Holy Mountain’ (Hagion oros) or the ‘Garden of the All-Holy Virgin’. Since the Middle Ages, and especially since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Athos has been an important centre for Byzantine chant. A number of notable musicians and composers worked there, including Joannes Koukouzeles, who lived near Lavra in the 14th century, and many important manuscripts were produced in its monasteries. The Athonite monastic communities are now unusual in their adherence to the regular recitation of the Byzantine Offices.

Because of its isolation and semi-desert nature, Athos is an ideal monastic site. Monasteries were first established there in the 9th century (references to earlier foundations are unsubstantiated). Great Lavra, the oldest continuously inhabited monastery, was founded in 963 by St Athanasius of Athos with the support of the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus Phocas. The number of subsequent foundations grew rapidly; there are references (perhaps exaggerated) to some 180 monastic settlements in the 11th century and close to 300 by the early 13th century. Later, however, the number of monasteries diminished. In the early 13th century crusaders conquered Constantinople and many monasteries lost their property and suffered economic decline. In the early 14th century Athos was ravaged by Catalan soldiers, and for over 20 years in the middle of the century it was a part of the Serbian Empire. During this century, too, the monks were sharply divided by the theological controversy over the views of Gregory Palamas....


Alexandra M. Apolloni

Located at 1619 Broadway in New York, the Brill Building housed the offices of some of the most commercially successful songwriters, producers, and music publishers working between the late 1950s and mid-1960s. The term “Brill Building” additionally has become a descriptor embracing a wide range of popular musical styles that were being created in New York in the early 1960s, including girl groups, bubblegum pop, vocal doo-wop, Latin pop, and soul. In addition to 1619 Broadway, other sites, notably the offices of Don Krishner and Al Nevins’s Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, were also locations that contributed to the Brill Building sound. The Brill Building is credited with fostering skillful songwriting and introducing innovations in popular music production models, following in the tradition of Tin Pan Alley.

Numbers 1619 and 1650 Broadway housed songwriters, producers, and publishers in dozens of small offices and cubicles, where collaboration took place daily. Songwriters, often working under salary, were able to pitch their work to publishers in the same building, while producers could solicit songs for their artists, hire musicians and arrangers, and make recordings in-house, resulting in what has been described as a vertically integrated production structure. This system has been likened to a conveyor belt and the Brill Building to a songwriting factory. While this characterization is accurate in some respects, scholars have argued that it undermines the creativity and innovation that emerged there as a result of close relationships between songwriters, publishers, producers, and artists....


Meredith Eliassen

The music and songs of the (California) Gold Rush in San Francisco reflected the sorrows and hard luck of residents who failed to find fortunes in California’s gold fields and faced mortality far from loved ones. The newspaper Alta California observed in 1851, “Birds of a feather flock together,” describing San Francisco as a miniature world where music reflected nearly “every country on the face of the earth.” A few short blocks from the Latin Quarter lay the heart of Chinatown. Streets reverberated with the bustling rhythms of landfill machinery used to reshape the geography of San Francisco’s waterfront and the transient movement of boardinghouse dwellers dodging firestorms, shanghaiers, and outbreaks of cholera.

Musical influences from Californios, New York’s Bowery district, and the Appalachian Mountains region, along with sea shanties from the Pacific Rim trade routes, rhythms of freeborn African Americans, and traditional musics of Europeans fleeing famines, economic depressions, and violent unrest reverberated through San Francisco’s vibrant street culture. Regular steamship service made minstrel shows and bawdy burlesque featuring all-male casts profitable in the absence of women performers. Local minstrel shows parodied popular music by adapting songs with new lyrics to entertain miners. The Philadelphia Minstrels started a long engagement at the Bella Union Hall on ...