Volume 4 Number 4
Table of Contents
Austin talks all this shit about being the live music capital, but 75 percent of bands have no place to play. We want to give bands a spot to play in front of a different audience.
-- Brent Cowley
I enjoyed speaking with Furtado, but he seemed tired, and the next band was starting to play inside. I asked him if he wanted a copy of my article; he told me I could mail an issue to the Austin Plasma Center, where he works.
I can't help but believe there are more hidden agendas than the public will ever know, and if there was a need for posing any questions, the one that is received is this: is it art or is it fabrication?
At 1600 watts, KAZI is the smallest wattage station on the scale in Austin and is ranked 15th of 38 radio stations.
Recently I have been fortunate to play some dates with "Austin's jazz bad boys." This image derives both from the music's fierce eclecticism and energy, and from leader Graham Reynolds' approach to the piano, which sometimes resembles rough sex.
Nicholas Payton put on two incredible shows. The music was steeped in bebop and soul jazz, and the sounds somehow felt intensely appropriate resonating off of the club's vintage decor.
European Classical Music doesn't sell many records, but its series and festivals get corporate support, sponsorships, and annual galas that raise lots of private dollars. Isn't America's Art Music worth some of that respect and support, too?
Peter English can tell a great story. After graduating from a small college in Massachusetts in 1988, he took off for the jungles of Ecuador to research and record mixed-species flocks of birds. In May, Peter will receive his Doctorate in Zoology from the University of Texas, and upon publication of his dissertation, will be known throughout respected circles as the world's leading expert in Ecuadorian birds.
The future of the NEA? Hard to tell at this stage, but I ask you, whomever you are, why does a country as wealthy and vast as the U.S. still fall so far behind in supporting what can ultimately save it -- art?
Blondies -- Where the Music is Free by Christopher Keimling
For those who find stifling mediocrity in the live music capital of the world, Blondie's offers an escape. Every Saturday night, the Austin vendor of skater paraphernalia becomes a no-cover venue for alternative music, with bands ranging from the obscure to the established, from the unpolished to the professional. Above all other considerations, Blondie's seeks to promote local artists, and to expose listeners to a variety of different sounds.
"We like music, most of us have been in bands ourselves," said Brent Cowley, Blondie's manager. "Austin talks all this shit about being the live music capital, but 75 percent of bands have no place to play. We want to give bands a spot to play in front of a different audience."
Some bands that have played at Blondie's include Agnes Gooch, Lighter Fluid, Kid with ManHead, and Bo Bud Green.The Mittens, whom Cowley describes as "sort of REMish sounding" are regulars. Well-known artists Fastball and Sixteen Deluxe have also graced the Blondie's stage.
Bands are unpaid and usually booked together under a common theme. "Last week it was Dyke night and next week is Surf night," said Clay Connell, Blondie's sound engineer, whose work helps to make the night a success. Connell, who has served time in Willie Nelson's studio, sees his job not only in terms of providing entertainment for audiences, but also as a means of cultivating new talent.
"You can't just live off the established artists. You gotta let the younger kids have a stab at it. What you have here is a real good representation of the street scene -- straight from the garage to the recorder."
By making a tape or even a CD of each performance, Connell provides a valuable service for new bands -- a free demo tape and the opportunity to hear what they really sound like in public. "If you suck, you'll know it, because I record you exactly the way you sound," he said.
Blondie's took on its role as a venue for local music in earnest when it moved to its current location on Rio Grande and 5th Streets two years ago. The skate shop had previously resided on Guadalupe, until increasing commercialization necessitated relocation plans.
"The Drag was losing its local flavor. We had to get to a new neighborhood," said Cowley. "Now we're close to a lot of cool places, like Zona Rosa and the Electric Lounge."
With money left over from the move, a stage and sound system was constructed. Thanks to that decision, more local flavor is free -- to be heard and sampled by all.
Can You Hear Me? by MC Overlord
So here it comes
it's another one
bought by the large one
just a little more than you bargained
I stand strong not alone in the rat race
ah can a brother get a little space
I'm tired of all the poor advice
and everybody sucked down
I tell you what
but you don't hear me out
so when I get it open I'm hoping
for a little praise G
too many heroes on the set
tryin' to save me
don't get me wrong
but I'll tell ya when I need ya
it's either do it my way or see ya
I'm workin' on a plan so damn ya
if you can't approve of it
everybody here ain't gotta love it
I'm comin' to my own
I'm grown, so wait till they release me
a shot at freedom here can only please me
I'm coming up but it's rough
cause the scheme on the down
no they're try and hold your back but you don't hear me no
so Can you hear me?
hell yeah Lord we can hear ya
can you hear me
lord we can hear ya
so can you hear me
hell yeah Lord we can hear ya
can you hear me
lord we can hear ya
so can you hear me
hell yeah Lord we can hear ya
can you hear me
lord we can hear ya
so can you hear me
hell yeah Lord we can hear ya
can you hear me
lord we can hear ya
came a long way and now I'm out workin' on my own time
I made a choice
and now I'm makin' up my own mind
life ain't easy it's sleazy and unfair
they'll build you up
they'll tell you that they don't care
and they'll be times that you'll swear they put a spell on ya
your heart will bleed as you watch your homies bail on ya
folks so ruthless sinister and evil-hearted
it's not your problem but behold you're a new target
so when you figure you should keep it in perspective
it's either do it your way or forget it
so let 'em just watch you, mock you,
turn around and knock you
but never let 'em close enough to block you
and what you'll find is a mind full of pride and of self-might
gotta love a brother for his strength and insight
I'm only reeling I'm gonna say it if you don't know
you only hurt yourself but you don't hear me no
and so you said go to bed for your head
be a college grad lead for yourself and don't be led
it's not enough to hold on brother stay strong and righteous
if they plan to take us out then let 'em fight us
I'm building on my own if I must
just allow me to rap G
before the end I contend they'll respect me
now if I open up my rap I'll be labeled
call me what you will cause I'm young black and able
the days are over when I let the others down
you're either on my side or you're out-e
it's what I gotta do yes it's true cause I'm through with the mainstream
for something new I'm paying dues with my own team
so let it roll cause I'm bold and I'm coming with my rhyme cause it's time to let the funky drummer drum it
I want it all so I'm going for the gusto
cause anybody can but you don't hear me no
An Evening of Extreme:
A Sample Platter from the Blondies Menu by Christopher Keimling
Submitted to Self Abuse
"Don't even fucking like it, you know you didn't like it, you guys are full of shit," yells Bob Furtado, lead singer of Self Abuse, in response to a smattering of applause that follows his opening number. It is the first in a series of light-hearted, abusive exchanges between Furtado and the audience, whose opinion he both seeks and dismisses (e.g. "Did you like it?...Fuck off!!")
He launches into another song. It begins with a hearty "1, 2, 3, 4!" only to be still-born seconds later in a discordant jangle of noise. "That's not the way it goes!" he tells his band with disgust.
A mumble emerges from somewhere within a cluster of kids in baggy pants and wallet chains -- "Stupid motherfucker."
"Hey, I'm just a man," he says with a straight face. The crowd laughs. Here and there brightly colored hair can be seen; one head green, one red, another purple.
I looked around the room as the members of Self Abuse tried to figure out what song to play next. If it weren't for the skater merchandise and the store windows facing the Saturn dealership across the street, the concrete floor, pool table and comfortable couches would make you feel as if you were in someone's basement. Rows of skateboards hang on the wall to my left. Shirt racks are to my right, and a pyramid display of sneakers sits in front of me.
By the end of their fourth song, entitled "Dunghole," Self-Abuse was gaining momentum. Applause was on the increase, as was the volume of their vocals.
"I am king! I am king of this trailer hell!" Furtado screams in an ode to white-trash living.
More songs followed; fast-paced spurts of energy lasting about as long as adolescent sex.
Afterwards, I smoked a cigarette and spoke outside with Furtado, 27. "What are most of your songs about?" I asked. His lyrics were intriguing, even if they were for the most part completely unintelligible. "Bad relationships. Being a confused twenty-something with no direction and no motivation...who hates...for no reason," he said. His eyes were serious and sincere, his voice resigned. He put his shirt back on, covering his pale, wiry tattooed torso with a black shirt that said HATE in big letters. One of his band mates stood nearby, wearing a shirt with a sign that read "Thrash Zone." He didn't speak; he seemed the silent type.
I asked Furtado what he thought about Blondie's. He began by voicing his approval of the mixed crowd in attendance. "Punks, metalheads, straight-edgers, you got quite a mix here."
He went on to express his dismay and frustration with what he sees as the balkanization of the Extreme music scene, where fans and performers claim fierce allegiance to one subgenre to the exclusion of all others. "Bands don't want to be booked with other genres," he said, adding that tonight's event was atypical in that grindcore, punk-hardcore, industrial, and death metal bands were all performing under the same roof.
We discussed other topics, including song lyrics. "How does the chorus to that 'Golden World' song go?" I asked.
We're not the generation of the future,
we're the mistakes of yesterday
trying to get by in your Golden World.
Why don't you just fade away.
I enjoyed speaking with Furtado, but he seemed tired, and the next band was starting to play inside. I asked him if he wanted a copy of my article; he told me I could mail an issue to the Austin Plasma Center, where he works. He turned to his mute guitarist.
"You got anything to say to him?" Furtado asked.
His friend paused for a moment. "The guitar was out of tune," he said, grinning.
Next up was 151, a talented young group of graduates from the Nine-Inch-Nails school of angst-inducing noise. Strange samples of voices (mostly dialogue from late-night B-movies) played in the background of many of their songs, which had a slow industrial feel. For a cover song, they performed "So What?" by Ministry.
Other songs picked up the pace, having more of a punk rock sound with catchy spirited choruses like "Never surrender when you can't turn back!!" and "Give it all you got...you gotta go extreme!!"
I spoke with lead singer Tristan Rudat, and I came to admire the ambition and focus of his group. By day, Rudat and his bandmates do camera work for ESPN. Using footage they filmed during their coverage of the X-games, they will put together a music video featuring their "Extreme" theme song. The video of this song will serve as an intro to the summer X-games program that will air on ESPN 2 this year -- if all goes as planned, and I suspect it will.
"We're making a video so you guys gotta look like you're animated," he told the crowd. The young kids in front, a few wearing Nine Inch Nails T-shirts, were roused from their couches, while friends with cameras hovered about, circling and collecting footage.
Towards the back, an older group of guys with long heavy-metal hair stood around two coolers of beer, sipping patiently and waiting for Satan, who was scheduled to perform next.
A Brush with Death (of Millions)
"Here's something that'll hurt you," announced the sinister-looking frontman for Death of Millions, whose long hair and beard made him look like Jesus Anti-Christ.
The guitarists' fingers became lost in a blur as they strummed at lightning speed. The drummer pounded away, sweating profusely. Jesus Anti-Christ, dressed in a monk's cowl, doubled over, his head near the ground. Obscured by falling hair, his face grew red as he vomited forth an unholy torrent of vocals.
He was possessed by two demons. The first spoke in a low, growling Cannibal Corpse voice; a sound that always makes me think of a bear in a cave. The second voice was a high-pitched, visceral screaming that held me mesmerized. It sounded like a cat that had been dunked in gasoline and set aflame -- that's as close as I can come to describing it, my words failing to describe it in all its hellish glory. Its freshly - cut - fingernails - scraping - the - chalkboard quality sent delicious chills down my spine.
He had no middle range -- just these two voices, voices so disparate I could hardly believe they were produced by the same person. Between songs, the demons relinquished their grip.
"We got T-shirts, CDs up here if you you guys want some," he said, pushing some hair behind his ear. Instantly he sounded harmless, even a little wimpy, but the demons repossessed him once the music started. He doubled over, and the growling/shrieking resumed. Disciples gathered at the foot of the stage and nodded their heads in worship.
With songs like "Ritual Killing," "Burn in Hell," "Kidnap Victim #12," "Hopeless Death" and "Abortion Retrieval," there can be no doubt that Death of Millions represents Death Metal at its finest.
Hip-Hop Out of Exile by Sandra Beckmeier
We live in a time which dictates the term "moral panic," -- modest words, taken from cultural studies and mandated national policy for some countries, local government and yes, even little national battles with rap music. Within the past few years the style has found its way into a collection of essays, written by concerned academics in the community who wanted to confront the academy (or confront other academics) with the "new blues."
Censorship has become another cultural battleground for rap artists, and in recent years these struggles have extended to the fans, like myself who once bought an old blues record that carried a parental advisory warning for youth, as if "beans and cornbread" would permanently damage a child. In some cases the problems have clogged the audiences, narrowed it to critics, and confused the music community because these are clearly blatant forms of control over expression, and the cries staining "moral panic" act as if those two words will serve as some kind of be-all and end-all remedy to a problem that doesn't really exist.
What seems clear beyond what has been dictated by the government and trickled past the media's ignorance are the messages from the messengers of rap. They are simply artistic motions, and the lyrics, like anything else, can be heard or not. In general terms, the messages are about people becoming aware and being prepared, what happens when you're not. Whatever kind of violence we speak of should be the marker for panic, not rap lyrics some folks can't open their eyes wide enough to see.
Nowadays it seems like an endless task for the artists more than anyone else, who constantly have to defend, redefine and explore new pathways for their styles and the movement, and with good reason. We're the latchkey generation, and more often than not we rely on music to parlay these life experiences we all have, especially when we can't verbalize them to the extreme of opposing our parents and anyone in authority who may equate the music as some kind of ejaculation for angry youth.
In a time of rigid media surveillance, or alternatively, the "discipline and punishment tent" laid down by governmental interns holding the questions surrounding so many censorship issues, not just the issues enforced upon rap music, I can't help but believe there are more hidden agendas than the public will ever know, and if there was a need for posing any questions, the one that is received is this: is it art or is it fabrication? It is ridicule, and leaves most of us questioning how to revive strong and discernible ideologies which can conquer things like labels and the politics behind the first amendment a-b-c's.
As MC Overlord points out, it is sad that there have been musicians who died under the violence and the labels, like Tupac Shakur, a young man who became a success story practically overnight, and was essentially treated like a Vietnam Veteran within the press as the kid walked around a war zone. He tried to express the climate as he saw it through his art, but even after his death Shakur continued to be ridiculed and belittled as someone who "got what he deserved." The bottom line is, no matter what censors say or said, Shakur's mind was free to create and imagine -- a worthy escape from the messy, modern realignments of race, class and nationality.
Those of us who sit and wait on the fringe, praising the guises of harmonious westerners who preach for the doors of higher education to open and allow the form in, raise our eyebrows at all the phony solutions created as if to perpetuate an issue to the artistic community is worthy. If it could be a question to define "art," once again, which is innately esoteric and an aethestic expression of life, then there can be no argument about rap's brand of fashion. It is simply cultural confrontation.
I can think of no one better suited and well aware of the task to bring rap music and hip-hop into layman's terms than MC Overlord. Austin is ready, and so is he. I don't express this opinion because he's black, or because he's got something unique to uphold. His words are less public, maintain a lot of integrity, and his style raises it up through a straight-forward yet undiscovered sound, and as unusual as it sounds it isn't even his ability to rap and write contemplative songs that makes him steady. It's his ability to connect and transcend on records, make his point live, stepping along the stones every artist has to cross. And to top it off he encourages new artists who might side-step the mainstream community because they feel they have to do so. That's the foundation of how censorship can destroy an artist mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and why it demands attention.
Don Robinson, a.k.a. MC Overlord, has appropriately written an anthem, whether he recognizes it or not -- a title from his second album A Better Funk, called, "Can You Hear Me?" It's got integrity and adds yet another thread to the style, just like he wants it, utilizing a harmonica that subtly embraces the roots of American music and scatting itself. Robinson is in production with his third album, following the unbridled The Dark Side, which catapulted him to a new level last year.
The "Live Music Capital of the World" has yet to define itself, and what better time than now to question it as Central Texas slowly becomes a third coast?
ADA: Several years ago I started keeping track of the number of venues for hip-hop, because there is such a hole in the community, and one of the few venues was a barber shop (even though its kind of cute) on Highway 71, called Cuts By Joel.
ADA: There are a number of folks who have affected the growth of the genre locally. I come from the perspective of hip-hop theater, with artists like the lovely Sharon Bridgforth of Root Wy'mn. Can you see how your music has affected the growth of the genre locally?
ADA: There are a number of folks who have affected the growth of the genre locally. I come from the perspective of hip-hop theater, with artists like the lovely Sharon Bridgforth of Root Wy'mn. Can you see how your music has affected the growth of the genre locally?
Don: I've been in Austin's hip-hop community about eight years now, and I've definitely seen in that eight years it take some growth. For two to three years I've seen the most significant expansion where groups are out touring and putting out records, but it all takes money. It's not that the talent hasn't been here to support growth, but that takes money. Most artists just haven't had the money to put out product, and in order to be really heard you have to put out product. I was very fortunate in being one of those acts embraced by the venue community in saying "we're going to book this guy" in front of the likes of Dah-veed and very mainstream artists. Mainstream audiences helped me incorporate an audience of my own, and in turn the result of that was to open up doors for other groups such as one coming up right now called Big Game Hunter.
ADA: They came and played for our benefit last year.
Don: I think that a lot of negativity with rap music is being turned away, you know not completely, at least people aren't automatically fearful of it, and will take some chances. The kids obviously like it and get into it. I think here in Austin it's a very young thing but it's coming to a point where it's gonna have its own niche. I'm kind of torn both ways. I want to see hip hop have its own nature, but I also want to just be part of the music community.
ADA: Austin is quickly becoming an urban landscape. Fifty families a week are moving here, and those who contribute to the arts will bring a lot of influences along with them which in turn will redefine what gets promoted.
Don: I think it's going to be an amazing outcome when it's all said and done. I feel like maybe I'm here at the forefront of something that's going to turn out to be pretty amazing.
ADA: Have you produced your records yourself?
Don: Yes. I have two friends who have served as my investors, Bobby Wolf and Danny Friedman. Bobby's my manager and Danny's my lawyer. The three of us have financially invested a lot into the project and pushed it from every angle -- from recording to manufacturing, promotion to touring. We've put all of our collective souls into it, and we're pushing as much as we can. I'm very fortunate to be in a situation where I have two other people who believe in what I do whole-heartedly in belief that this is something that's going somewhere. That's the way we've been able to get the product out there and do what we've been able to do.
ADA: Have you had a lot of radio support?
Don: KLBJ has been by far the leader in town. They play us in rotation over there. Here's this rap artist from Austin, Texas and they're playing me on the number one rock station.
ADA: Within rock n' roll's traditions, it kind of makes sense.
Don: Yeah, and people say: "you're missing your mark," but I say "no I'm not. I feel like I'm hitting it right on the head." I feel like that in itself is a pretty remarkable accomplishment because they dig it. They dig the message and the music. They want to push the fact, okay this music is cool. There are a lot of people who would like to push and say it's violent, it's an angry music, it's a destructive music.
ADA: Oh, you mean the government who think honest confrontation is evil?
Don: Yeah, exactly!
ADA: Well, who are they?
Don: I'm not gonna mention any names...
ADA: Tipper Gore.
Don: Mr. Gingrich. But these rock stations are saying "it's a cool music". They've had us play live tons of times, and I've gone over there and hung out on the morning show, traded jokes with Dudley, Bob and Deborah. Every opportunity they get it's MC Overlord, they're plugging away for me. And of course the community radio station KAZI. They get behind all the community acts.
ADA: What about social consciousness, and the social consciousness in your music?
Don: As far as social consciousness goes I think it's important for people to be responsible about what they say. I'm gonna sit here and know for a fact that my music is very appealing to a young audience. That's our future. Those are our little brothers and our little sisters. It's tomorrow. I feel like there are artists out there, and to give an example, Charles Barkley, who said he doesn't want to be a role model. After a point however, you have to understand that whether you like it or not, what you do or say is going to have repercussions. I think one of the saddest examples of that for the rap community is Tupac and Big E.
ADA: Yes and no.
Don: I think it was an eye-opening thing for the entire community to say "you reap what you sow" and "if you preach this madness no matter," but I really do believe they were only trying to paint a picture of what was going on around them. I think they were just victims of a situation that was exploited to ridiculous proportions. That's why the social consciousness for me is very important. I feel this strong magnetic pull to say and do the right things. I have this thing I don't ever want to say anything I couldn't say in front of my mom. It kind of keeps me in focus. That's a very wise woman, and there isn't anything she hasn't seen heard or done. She taught me a lot of valuable things. I'm gonna be who I am, and that is through my music as an expression, an outlet.
ADA: Your music conveys the juxtaposition. I don't know if that was intentional.
Don: I don't think there's any entertainer out there that can't say it doesn't make them feel good to make other people feel good with what they're trying to do.
ADA: Do you feel like any of what you do is edu-tainment?
Don: KRS-One came up with that term didn't he?
ADA: I think it's culturally relevant. I like it.
Don: That was probably one of the most amazing terms I've heard as far as this music and the genre is concerned. Yeah I do. There's a lyric I'm working on for the new record that says, "if it feels like I'm preaching, I am." (laughs) Yeah, I'm trying to get inside their heads, and I'm trying to say look, think about this, everybody out there isn't trying to show somebody.
ADA: Most of the time.
Don: Yeah, and just because you're not doesn't make you a softy or a fool or anything else; it makes you human. It's kind of "welcome to the real world."
ADA: Which isn't so bad. Let me ask you something about rap. It comes from the blues. I have some of these really old Mississippi blues recordings and I swear they sound like they're...what was the word? Scatting?
Don: Scatting. That's exactly right.
ADA: Where are your roots with rap?
Don: What drew me to the form and what drew me to actually pursue the form as something I wanted to do were two different periods. But what drew me to the form was a guy named Gil Scott Herron. There's a record or something called "the revolution will not be televised" and he did this, and it was the most incredible thing that I'd heard. It was kinda like a poem, and kinda like a rap, but it's kind of like the spoken word thing they do in New York. It was awesome and I was taken. Here's this guy talking but here's his rhythmic way of putting it really drawing you in to what its about. That's when I was real mesmerized by the art. And then of course with the beginning of rap as pop culture with the Sugar Hill Gang, "Rappers Delight" and I can't think of a kid my age that didn't think go crazy over that. That took everybody out. Black kids, white kids, everybody said "that is so cool!" Besides, Sugar Hill came up with the term hip-hop. And that's when I knew it was something I wanted to do. That was something I took on and I never lost the love or passion for. There is a deep passion within me. I can't even see a day where I won't be putting words together, you know.
ADA: I do understand that intense pull. Tell me about your songwriting. What is your process?
Don: I have to be feeling something for a while. I'm not someone who can just sit down and write a song. I've seen people do that. They'll sit down and just start writing. I can't do that.
ADA: Have to mull it over for a while.
Don: I have to be in some kind of emotional state, I'm either happy or mad about something. I think back on what has been on my mind for a while. But I don't write to music. Very rarely have I heard music, and then write a song. I usually just write the song, then get with different producers and write the music. Writing as a band is something we don't do enough. I usually write with producers, and then the band interprets what the producer is doing. I think when we write as a band it's cool. Some of the coolest songs come out of that, and one of the coolest songs I have that's come from that process is a song called "A Better World."
ADA: I love that song.
Don: You can feel it on the record.
MC Overlord can be found at Steamboat on Tuesday nights through the month of May, then Robinson, guitarist Danny Whetman and Mike Erdy will hit the road on a five-city tour with the Ugly Americans, then out to Atlanta, New Orleans and the midwest. It will be interesting to watch as the hometown boys make good. Robinson repeats that Austin has been good to him, and he's been good to hip-hop. As it goes for most musicians, we'll see what happens in exile.
KAZI Aims for the Listeners, Not the Money by Caroline Hicok
Do what you love and success will follow. This is a maxim that both KAZI 88.7 and its general manager, Steve Savage, have proven a truism. Steve began volunteering at the station 10 years ago while he worked in the Attorney General's office. With the connections he made in radio, he began DJing on the side. The determination necessary for building a career from the ground up brought business flowing in. "It began interfering with my regular job," he said. Steve had to choose, and he chose what he loved, even if it meant taking a risk. "It doesn't feel like work to me, because it's what I love to do," he said. That love paid off by doubling his income, and KAZI has been climbing in the radio ranks in Austin ever since.
KAZI has a considerable listener base, and continues to grow. As of the last Arbitron rating, The Voice of Austin captured a 2-point share -- two percent of the population. That adds up to 20-30,000 listeners per hour. Not an exact measurement, but an impressive audience. At 1600 watts, KAZI is the smallest wattage station on the scale in Austin and is ranked 15th of 38 radio stations. An article that appeared in the American-Statesman on November 13 of last year says, "Community and listener-supported radio is rating well these days, with KAZI coming in at 15th place. Such ratings speak well for the interesting quality radio programming at all these stations, and demonstrate how Austin listeners support radio alternatives."
In the reception area of KAZI, the wall is lined with community service awards and other various commendations. Among these hangs a framed letter from a listener expressing gratitude and encouragement, with a one-dollar bill enclosed. KAZI's success as a non-commercial station mirrors Savage's own, and allows him to live the joy of renunciation in his work. KAZI is a labor of love, sacrificing profit to the good of the community. Where some radio stations choose to reflect their attitude in such names as KRAD or KROX, KAZI means "work" in Swahili. But, as Steve says, "If you love to do it, it's not work." The sacrifice and its subsequent rewards are reflected in so many ways by this radio station.
As the main black radio station serving Austin, KAZI does what it can to reach out and educate its audience. KAZI was started August 29, 1982 by Dr. Warfield from UT, eight years after applying for an educational license. KAZI policy is to broadcast innovative non-commercial programming that serves listeners with quality educational material: news, entertainment, public affairs and public service information, black history and, of course, music. "We are very diverse," explains Savage. "We play R&B, blues, jazz, rap, hip-hop, reggae, gospel, classical jazz, Caribbean -- a little bit of everything. Most of our listeners tune us in for the music, but we have an educational license. Our goal is to educate the community to let them know what's going on in the world." To this end, even the talk shows remain bipartisan -- equal time for both sides of an issue must be given.
KAZI's mission is to provide educational programming and information with special emphasis on media access for the black community, and other groups previously unserved by existing radio stations in Austin -- including minorities, women, persons with disabilities, senior citizens and children. Talk shows like Wake-up Call, from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, fulfill part of the educational requirement at KAZI. They discuss community, national and minority issues. Other shows attempt to appeal to a smaller portion of the audience, as only a non-profit can afford to do. The Dad Show, coming on Tuesdays from 6 to 7 pm and underwritten by Child Incorporated, is aimed toward dads because "moms are automatically good parents." Teen Scene comes on Saturdays from noon to 1. There's also Wrap it Up, which emphasizes "sex education, how to get through life, stuff like that."
Savage encourages competition for their market, though. "We're a black community radio station, but there's no black commercial radio station, [except one on the AM band] and that's what I'd like to see here in Austin, the live music capital of the world. It makes the community, and it makes the economy. Radio brings business to town. If we had a black radio station, there'd be more black clubs, and more black concerts coming to town."
After nine years of volunteering, Steve started getting paid last year, but it's nominal. "The station's been here 15 years, and if it weren't for our volunteers, we wouldn't still be here. With their help, we'll be here many more." The DJs are all volunteers, but many have used the valuable experience, connections, and training to go on to top radio stations around the country. Former KAZI DJs have gone on to spin at KASE 101, KLBJ, one at KHFI, and in North Carolina and Atlanta. "The radio stations are looking for experience. You can have all the college you need, but unless you have the experience, you won't get into the marketplace. The radio business is tough to get in to," Steve said. KAZI is always looking for DJs who like their brand of music. "We can tell you what to play, but we want the DJs to feel it," Steve said. Most of the DJs play selections from their own collection. "That's one advantage to non-commercial, educational programming -- we have our own music."
With their listener responsiveness, restrained DJs, and modest equipment, they have more than their own music. Being a community radio station, KAZI is very conscientious about lyrics, abiding by the FCC guidelines against the "dirty seven," and even adding other words not covered by the guidelines. If they get even a few complaints, they'll take a song off the air. Beyond profanity, KAZI programming content cannot advocate violence, illegal acts, or the degradation and discrimination of women, ethnic, religious or cultural groups. Unfortunately for the rap artists, these guidelines censor a bigger chunk of their music than most genres. "The rap music industry is bad [about that]; they like to cuss a lot," Steve said. The DJs are responsible for complying with the integrity, professionalism, and community standards that reflect the goals of KAZI: Educate, Inform, Entertain.
Commercial radio stations have playlists on computers and talk jocks battling it out over who's the coolest personality to represent the products that cut into the airplay. "On most radio stations everything is pre-recorded. Their DJs aren't even DJs, they're announcers. Except for morning talk shows, people turn on the radio to hear music. [Here] the DJs here are free to play what they want, and we play a wide range. You won't hear the same song every hour. Sometimes people call, and we've just played the song, so we can't play it again right away," Steve said. The DJs at KAZI can only play a song once in their three-hour shifts, but they will make a note of requests and play them when they can. They do keep a 20-song playlist of the most popular songs. But the KAZI jocks won't make much ado in between playing them. You won't hear much talk from the KAZI's DJs. "We prefer that," he said. They do all this with a recording studio that could fit on three card tables. Pretty frugal for such a class act. So while the disk jockeys at the commercial radio stations that claim to rely on your support, ignore and talk you to death, KAZI relies on its listeners.
"Commercial radio hypes things up using all kinds of gadgets and tricks. This is a listener-based station. We don't sham the audience; we tell them the facts. In non-commercial radio we have to be nonpartisan. We have underwriting, which means we announce them as the sponsor and thank them for their support. We're not here to sell products. We're here to educate," Steve said. KAZI can't even endorse their underwriters, which include Affordable Living Printing, Big J Records, Child Care Incorporated, Top of the Marc, and Texas Organized Professionals. They can only give factual information as to the services they offer.
KAZI contributions to the community even extend beyond the airwaves. "We try to sponsor anything that deals directly with the community," Steve said. They're involved in such events as AIDS Services of Austin and health walks. Steve sits comfortably in his office, inclined forward to get his message across. The walls are decorated with framed prints of black baseball players, heroes, and everyday people dancing in the clubs or playing on the blacktop. "Anything that has to do with people, and no one's trying to make a profit from. If it's free, and it benefits the community, we'll support it. We are required to set aside a certain amount of time for community events. We're supported by the community. If the public, or the underwriters, don't give us any money, we don't make any money," he said. Most of their underwriters, about 90 percent, come to them. They hold a fundraiser twice a year where, Steve says, "No amount is too little -- not a dollar, not five cents." The fundraisers are also a major source of revenue and foster public support. KAZI also supports struggling musicians -- "We specialize in that" -- and local musicians. "We have a show called the Artist's Spotlight on Saturdays from 12 to 1 in which we showcase Texan and Austin artists," said Steve.
In a world where the norm is for people to expect to be employed somewhere, those building a career from the ground up on their passion are the exception, the dreamers. Savage is a man building a career on boosting the community, and rising in the markets as he goes. Steve says of his career choice, "If you work for yourself, and you put as much effort into it as you would working for someone else, you'll make more money." Steve is, of course, referring metaphorically to his radio station's independence from commercial sponsorship and its subsequent success. Only it's not the money KAZI wants, but the listeners. Setting an example for commercial radio as it goes, KAZI is getting them.
The Man with the Golden Arm Trio by Paul Klemperer
Recently I have been fortunate to play some dates with the Golden Arm Trio, a group which seems to be garnering the nickname of "Austin's jazz bad boys." This image derives both from the music's fierce eclecticism and energy, and from leader Graham Reynolds' approach to the piano, which sometimes resembles rough sex (and is most likely the reason they have been banned from the Elephant Room).
Reynolds was born in 1971 in Frankfurt, Germany while his father was in the army, but six months later the family moved to Connecticut. Reynolds began classical piano instruction at age five with a series of teachers. This contributed to Reynolds' current eclecticism; his recently released CD includes pieces by Chopin and Prokofiev.
In junior high and high school he studied with Andras Farkas, a Hungarian piano teacher who greatly inspired him and opened him up to jazz. Reynolds recalls that the high school band director was also very open-minded and let him perform original music. "For every concert, I would compose a half-improvised, half-written out piece."
Reynolds studied at Connecticut College in New London but found the music department "not very open-minded." He became an art history major, focused on drums rather than piano, and played in a variety of punk, funk, metal and alternative bands. In his last year there he formed an improvisational group, a precursor to the Golden Arm concept.
In the fall of 1993, Reynolds moved to Austin specifically to work on his musical concept. "I had a whole approach to the kind of sound I wanted," he explains. Rather than form a set band with set repertoire Reynolds wanted "to create an environment where the kind of music I liked could develop."
During his first year in Austin, Reynolds camped out at UT's Fine Arts Library. "Every week I would get a stack of art books and a stack of CDs and study them. Art history is as influential on my playing as music is. Often times I can relate more to art theory than music theory. It's less focused on numbers than on ideas."
The evolution of Golden Arm involved intense one-on-one playing with various instrumentalists, with Reynolds moving between the piano and the drum kit. He would work a particular coupling of instruments up to "a viable set" and then work on the next instrument. One of the first partnerships was with percussionist Boaz Martin. This was followed by a stint with Smoky Joe Miller on baritone saxophone, then Erik Grostick on bass. The most recent configuration has been Reynolds and saxophonist Thad Scott, who is featured on the new CD.
Reynolds continues to expand his musical concept. He gave a sample of recent musical influences as Prokofiev, Chinese folk music, Prince, Henry Cowell and Herbie Hancock. Also, philosophies of art have influenced him, in particular Dadaism, Joseph Cornell and Rauschenberg. In the modern era, the stylistic possibilities in art have become so wide that each artist has to find a way to incorporate different elements "in a natural way that's comfortable with itself," Reynolds says.
In terms of music, eclecticism often runs the risk of sounding "pasted together." Elements of various musical traditions can become overused, simplistic and cliched when they are pasted together. Reynolds poses the question: "How do you go about incorporating these elements without having that superficial quality?" This is the question that the Golden Arm Trio answers every time it performs.
The Golden Arm Trio's first live show was held at Emo's in October of 1995. Buzz Moran, who worked at Emo's, helped Reynolds get the gig, and also suggested the band name, inspired by the Frank Sinatra movie The Man With The Golden Arm. Reynolds says unequivocally: "I was more than happy to let someone else come up with the name. I hate coming up with names."
While the Golden Arm Trio has played straight-ahead jazz and cocktail gigs (a wedding here, the Four Seasons Hotel there), the tendency has decidedly been toward more alternative settings. Punk rock clubs and experimental venues predominate, such as Emo's, the Blue Flamingo, the Electric Lounge and the Hole In The Wall. The group also plays coffee houses like Ruta Maya, and even played the Pleasureland Adult Bookstore as part of an alternative to South by Southwest in 1996. In '97 they played a SXSW showcase at the Elephant Room, and had been regulars there until this year's over-the-top showcase performance made them persona non gratis. In addition, the Golden Arm Trio often plays music for films, and backs up poets and performance artists. They have worked consistently with the Performance Art Church.
Things seem to be moving along well for Reynolds. His new CD on Shamrock Records arrived fortuitously on St. Patrick's Day, and has been selling well. The project was backed jointly by Shamrock and Jinx Recordings, an offshoot of Jinx magazine, based in NYC and founded by former Austinite L.B. Deyo. The CD is available at most local record stores as well as Tower Records.
The Golden Arm Trio has expanded its venues to include Dallas, San Antonio and Houston and is planning an East Coast tour for June. The group can be seen in Austin in May at the following locations: Ruta Maya (5/8); Emo's (5/16); The Hole In The Wall (5/26). Check it out.
Nicholas Payton Rocks the Victory by Paul Klemperer
The Victory Grill on East 11th Street is recognized by growing numbers of Austinites as an historic club that links the present-day music scene to the city's musical heritage. This link was strengthened on April 19 when trumpeter Nicholas Payton put on two incredible shows. The music was steeped in bebop and soul jazz, and the sounds somehow felt intensely appropriate resonating off of the club's vintage decor.
The night began with Fred Sanders' trio, opening for both of Payton's shows. Every time I hear this group the members demonstrate an increasing sensitivity to each other's playing. They are developing the kind of telepathic synchronization and delicacy of touch that gives the piano trio a special place in jazz. Fred Sanders' sensitive touch, precision chord placement and tightly crafted phrasing create a wonderful texture which inspires bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer J.J. Johnson to an equally focused dialogue.
Sanders' composition, "Ones Of Wisdom," written for his grandparents, was particularly beautiful, built around a syncopated pattern reminiscent of the gentler side of McCoy Tyner. Livingston turned in an exceptional bass solo on this number, as well as some nice bowed solos later in the show.
Throughout the trio's set the audience was attentive and responsive. The mood at the Victory was unique, part concert and part party. The people were there to hear the music, but to hear it together, something that is fairly rare in Austin; concert settings tend to reinforce a polite and distant audience, while the bar scene often pits performers against an audience whose primary concern is talking, drinking or dancing. This was not the case that night.
The Nicholas Payton Quintet (with Tim Warfield on tenor sax, Anthony Wonsey on piano, Ruben Rogers on bass, and Adonis Rose on drums) opened with a funky soul jazz number harking back to Lee Morgan, immediately bumping the energy level up several notches and eliciting sympathetic cries from the crowd. Payton was followed by a burning sax solo from Warfield. Someone yelled: "Play your horn! Play your horn!" This seemed to spur Warfield to further heights. Many local jazz players were in the audience, ears turned wide open, and there were constant exclamations of appreciation as well as groans of envy throughout the show. After the first number, Payton acknowledged the warm and vocal reception by saying: "It's great to be back in the South!"
Payton's ensemble is a group of all-stars, each capable of leading his own band. As Wonsey told me, they choose to play with Payton because of the high degree of musical satisfaction involved. It is a tight band which can burn or lay back, push the edge of emotional release and never lose the finely woven fabric of its collective sound. Payton himself has some of the purest, richest tones of any trumpet player today, coupled with an intricate melodic sense which can build to fiercely beautiful upper register explosions.
Many of the group's numbers were from their upcoming CD Payton's Place, scheduled for release in June. The tunes range from funky jazz which connect Payton to his New Orleans roots, to intricate hard bop classics by Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, to delicious and lush ballads. It's sure to be a recording that jazz lovers will want to add to their collection, and the next best thing to hearing Payton's very special magic live.
Up All Night by Harold McMillan
As we move quickly through May and head on to June, I am knee deep in pre-production for our annual Jazz Festival. After nine years of Clarksville Jazz and Arts Festivals, this year we christen a new name and location for what I think is Austin's best jazz program of the year. From June 5 through 14 the Austin Jazz and Arts Festival offers live performances -- by local, regional, and national/international acts -- in Austin's finest jazz venues and (on June 13-14) downtown at Waterloo Park. This 10 year anniversary is an important one for the festival. It signals persistence, longevity, growth, and dedication to the idea that Austin -- and our music community -- deserves an annual celebration of jazz culture and all of its various musical antecedents and permutations. Even the Live Music Capital of the World needs to acknowledge and celebrate America's own brand of art music.
For nine years we did what we could to draw positive attention to the culture and history of Austin's Clarksville neighborhood. Clarksville -- that area west of Lamar between 12th and 6th Streets, east of Mopac -- and its social history, continues to provide an appropriate metaphoric parallel with the story of Jazz in America, in Austin,Texas. The story is one of struggle and adversity, and finally, a story of evolution and survival. Both Clarksville and jazz music have their deep roots in the culture and history of African America. Through pressures and change from inside and out, Clarksville the neighborhood, the extended family, still face an unsure future in the Austin community. From an 1870s Freedom town of former slaves to one of Austin's most gentrified high-hipness-factor residential areas, Clarksville struggles to maintain its cultural connection to the founding African American families who settled the west side community more than 100 years ago. With jazz in Austin the dilemma is very much akin.
The questions beg the asking: "Can an Austin community, or a form of expressive culture, based in African America, survive and flourish, with cultural integrity intact, in the Austin of the 1990s...and can it do so without totally losing its connection to its cultural roots? For Clarksville the neighborhood, it will continue to grow and change. But will it do this with a respect for preservation and heritage, regardless of who the residents are?
For jazz in Austin the question is much the same. Will the Live Music Capital of the World recognize and appreciate that jazz is America's own art music and deserves the interest in preservation, the respect, the support of the community, regardless of who its originators are?
As hard as I try, as deeply as you might consider the questions, it's really hard to deal with potential answers to these questions without also looking at Austin and how it deals (or does not deal) with issues of race, culture and provinciality.
European Classical Forms, European Art Music is important. No argument. What is American Art Music? We got any in Austin? Is it important? Do we support it in the same fashion as European Art Music? Is European Art music considered "white music"? Is Jazz black? Is Jazz supported in Austin by supporters of Art Music? Is Clarksville, or Central East Austin, considered black? Do black folks support Black - Jazz - American - Art - Music?
If this stuff is so important to some folks, if this American stuff is so important to folks in Europe, if this black stuff is so important to white folks, if this stuff is so important to folks at Lincoln Center and Wolfe Trap, if this stuff is so important to folks in Corpus Christi, if this stuff makes the visitors bureau in San Angelo work hard to get folks to come into town to hear it, if this stuff just doesn't make sense to the folks at the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau...why, oh please tell me, why these high-hipness-factor Austinites, why large numbers of Austin's black folks, why those folks in positions to be helpful, just don't get it? Is it about race? Is it about being provincial? Is it just business as usual? Is it about not knowing, not caring, not having a clue? Is it an Austin thang?......Hep me, hep me.Please!
Given the tone of this rant, you can guess where this leads when discussing the politics of neighborhood preservation. So, I'll stop on that one. We have moved our focus to downtown. Jazz is urban music. It should be showcased in the central city, spread all around, given its due. We changed the name of the festival for this reason. We attract attention from many places outside of Austin. It makes sense, in our 10th year, to identify Austin's Jazz Festival just that way.
As we move into our second decade, the challenge of the festival becomes more than just programming good shows. We do that. And we have identified an audience who supports and appreciates jazz and all of its musical cousins. But there are other segments of Austin's populace that we must reach, educate. DiverseArts' (we, our) recent experiences with two top flight, Grammy Award-winning touring jazz acts -- Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton -- illustrates our "Austin jazz dilemma."
Our Hargrove show (one helluva show, I might add) did not get the audience I think it deserved. The show came together very quickly because of tour routing. We just couldn't pass it up, ESPECIALLY during SXSW week. And although we were up against the opening of SXSW and the Awards Show, I don't think the bulk of Austin's jazzheads were in attendance at the the Awards Show. And, I also don't think that out-of-towner-jazzhead SXSW attendees were in attendance en mass at the Awards show nor at other showcases that night.
One of the top reasons that I thought the Hargrove show was needed during the conference was because jazz programming is so lacking at SXSW. This seemed to me to be a prime opportunity for locals and jazz travelers alike to hear one of the brightest young voices in jazz today. My intent, indeed, was for this to be a SXSW showcase event. As a conference showcase (open to badges, wristbands, and ticket holders) this show would have surely been one of the jazz highlights of this year's conference. And, as soon as I began conversations with Roy Hargrove, I also called SXSW, discussed their need for jazz programming, and invited the conference to participate in producing this show. They declined.
My point regarding identifying our audience is not intended to sound as if we have no audience. Thank God, there is a jazz audience in Austin. To compare, in parallel, Austin's jazz audience to the college radio or top 40 alterna-rock audience, however, misses the message of our work. What we seem to be lacking is the kind of unified support-base that exists for jazz in other cities. There are scores of jazzheads out there and they will support live jazz in Austin. But, jazz is not, nor will it likely be in the near future, as hot a commercial product as rap music or alterna-rock. That is not the point. Finding ways to support the form, keep it growing, and ensure its survival in particular ways that fit the Austin scene, is the point.
And for that to take place, we (and you, and The Chronicle, Statesman, KUT, KOOP, KJAZ, KAZI, the Musician's Union, and etc...) have our work cut out for us. It's about cultural education. The music community, arts organizations, schools, the media, and corporate supporters have to realize that Jazz, much like the symphony and opera, needs a broad base of support to survive and thrive in this market. And, in some situations, jazz should be separated from the kind of market-driven craziness of the rock and roll world. Just because Austin is a fairly small, provincial city, doesn't mean that this important cultural treasure should be ignored by those in the best positions to support it.
Just as Austin DESERVES to have a quality opera, Austin deserves access to the best and brightest local and touring jazz programs. It's a cultural necessity, which, once realized, will translate into tourist dollars, whiskey sales, hotel reservations. Diverse cultural development begets economic development. Austin should support such goals, not because they relate to my work, but because Jazz is the fundamental art music of America.
European Classical Music doesn't sell many records, but its series and festivals get corporate support, sponsorships, and annual galas that raise lots of private dollars. Isn't America's Art Music worth some of that respect and support, too? If Austin continues to miss opportunities to support America's own art music, the claims of our cultural and social progressivism must be viewed as mere lip service. If Austin's corporate community continues to miss opportunities to show support for cultural forms (and likewise, cultural communities) other than those steeped in Classical European forms or Texas Country Culture, then the allegations of provincialism, cultural chauvinism, and bigotry start to sound right on target.
All of the musicians and other folks who sweat blood living and working in the non-profit arts world know that jazz is no commercial cash cow. If it were, we'd probably not be needed. But because of the cultural importance of this music, many of us want to do all we can to keep this stuff alive in Austin. Folks like DiverseArts, the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, the UT-PAC, and other non-profit cultural organizations are the ones who feed Austin's appetite for world class jazz. And they (we) do it because there is a need, not because we are out to make buttloads of money producing live jazz. And that means that a good portion of our mission will continue to be educating audiences, the media, the corporate community, and potential private supporters on the merits of cultural diversity in the Live Music Capital of the World.
DiverseArts recently presented McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Smith, James Clay, Roy and Nicholas, Chucho Valdez, Frank Lacy, Cornell Dupree, Kenny Garrett, Kenny Kirkland, Sebastian Whittaker, Jeff Watts, Mark Whitfield, Kermit Ruffins, Ellis Marsalis, Marchel Ivory, and many other world-class young lions and legends...my point? At each of these shows, and every Jazz Festival performance, there were appreciative folks who encourage us to continue our work. No other organization, promoter, or venue in town (and there are many who are more financially equipped to do so) consistently works to address this market.
It's sad but true: If the non-profit cultural arts organizations (DiverseArts, the PAC, Creative Opportunity Orchestra, and a few others) finally go broke and stop producing the stuff, the Austin jazz scene will suffer dearly.
For the present, Austin does have a jazz audience. But when you consider the offerings and tastes of most commercial promoters and event sponsors, Austin looks like a smooth - country - Texas - folk - rock town . As we move into the next century, the face of Austin's cultural offerings really should begin to more reflect the cosmopolitan image the city has of itself.
In the meanwhile, there is lots of work to do. And it's work I love. As long as we can continue to serve a need in this community, as long as we keep getting new folks at our shows and at the Austin Jazz and Arts Festival, we'll keep swingin'. In time, the support base will broaden. If it doesn't, I'll just have to find something else to do.
[Harold McMillan, Director of DiverseArts and Publisher of ADA, now has a new job. On April 19, 1998 at 12:49am, he was promoted to MacDaddy -- father of Hayes Michael McMillan, 7 lbs. 14 ozs., 20.5 inches long. Mother Grace and baby are happy and healthy.]
UT Press Emphasizes Research, Texas by Jenna Colley
Peter English can tell a great story. After graduating from a small college in Massachusetts in 1988, he took off for the jungles of Ecuador to research and record mixed-species flocks of birds. Peter has since worked as a bird-tour guide through central and south America, a mechanic in Quito, and a repairman at a resort in Belize. He has floated down the Amazon with only a water bottle and a compass and barbecued on the beaches of Ecuador, all while continuing his research. In May, Peter will receive his Doctorate in Zoology from the University of Texas, and upon publication of his dissertation, will be known throughout respected circles as the world's leading expert in Ecuadorian birds.
Now, whether you think his story sounds intriguing is really not the point, because for every person that doesn't care there are at least two people that do. At least Shannon Davies thinks so. Davies is one of three editors for the University of Texas Press, who have offered Peter and many like him a book deal to publish his research along with his personal essays.
The main mission of the UT Press is to "serve the people of Texas...and produce books of general interest for a wider audience, covering in particular the history, culture, arts and natural history of the state." The press also publishes a wide range of cutting-edge research, introducing theories and discoveries that have strongly impacted the fields in which they are regarded. Although the press enjoys publishing works by UT faculty or subjects that focus on Texas, they maintain a reputation as a major publisher of international research. New to the press is an emphasis on accounts of contributions of African and Native Americans, Latinos and women.
Since its beginning in 1950, the UT Press has published over 2,000 books and 12 running journals, nine of which are sponsored by academic institutions within the University. Many of the press's books have won such prestigious awards as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, The Outstanding Translation Award and the Chicago Folklore Prize. The press publishes about 90 books a year and has a staff of 50. Three editors handle all new proposals that are divided among separate schools of thought from Women's Studies to World Archeology.
Book ideas are brought to the editors in several ways. They are either referred by colleagues within the university or are submitted by the prospective authors themselves. Once a manuscript is chosen by one of the editors, it is presented to the Faculty Advisory Committee, a group consisting of faculty members appointed by the President of the University and the Faculty Council. This committee then reviews the reports on each manuscript and must give the final approval before the book is published. The UT Press also has its own marketing department that pushes new books throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America and Asia. The Press averages about 50,000 orders a year. It also handles audio visual media and CD ROMs, ranging in subject matter from Bats: Myth and Reality to Wiyuta: Assiniboine Storytelling with Signs. In 1995, the Association of American University Presses and the Coalition for Networked Information chose the press as a participant in a new program that advances university presses in the networked information environment and encourages cooperation between the press, library and computer center.
The press gets its main funding from the sale of its books and journals while still receiving money from the University. It also receives subsidies from the National Endowment for the Humanities, foreign agencies, other universities, individual donors and foundations.
Although the press doesn't publish original fiction or poetry, it does welcome all other submissions. If you are thinking about pitching an idea, send a cover letter describing your work, a table of contents, a sample chapter, resume or curriculum vitae, and a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage or a check for the amount of postage to University of Texas Press, PO Box 7819, Austin, Texas 78713-7819. Indicate on the envelope to which editor it should go: Theresa May for Social Science, Shannon Davies for Natural Sciences, or Jim Burr for Humanities.
Verities by Sandra Beckmeier
It's no big secret that the National Endowment for the Arts has a new chairperson. Ms. Shanklin-Peterson has been serving as the agency's Deputy Chairwoman for Grants and Partnership and was formerly Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission.
Of late, Peterson holds the task of stepping in after Jane Alexander's return to private life, having established new priorities for the NEA, including launching two unprecedented initiatives to assess not only the health of nonprofit arts organizations and artists around the country, but also raising community involvement in the arts and the public perception of the Endowment's role. Speaking from a local perspective, this is no simple task.
In April of 1994 more than 1,000 artists, arts administrators and government leaders joined together at ART-21 to examine issues that Alexander identified as critical to the future health of the nonprofit arts in America: the role of artists in society, lifelong learning in the arts, the arts and new technologies, public/private partnerships and issues like our cultural legacy.
What was established in concrete, so to speak, was the importance of creating connections in order to sustain and nurture the arts in America, while helping to integrate them more fully into our communities. The country is so short on "big" things -- heroes, villains, conflicts -- that we've had to inflate little things and pretend they're big.
For example, our statesman used to revile Hitler, Mussolini, the godless Reds -- large and sinister enemies who wanted to take over the world. Now the focus of evil in American life is...not the popular accounts of determining the virtue of classless women as human beings -- but the tobacco industry, which seems to be the latest scandal to stimulate our hyper-stimulated political class.
The future of the NEA? Hard to tell at this stage, but I ask you, whomever you are, why does a country as wealthy and vast as the U.S. still fall so far behind in supporting what can ultimately save it -- art? The congressional cutbacks in funding of the arts in the past five years have dramatically increased competition for funding, and thus have caused many fine organizations to stop applying, which is a very serious problem.
It's a simple ideology to invent. Mark Twain didn't need a grant to write. Artists and arts organizations could just flip the finger to funding cycles, but when in trouble those funds sure come in handy -- they're needed. Relying solely on funding as a means to survive won't alter issues surrounding contemporary art that is sponsored in America: where the artist sits inside a container, possessing the mind and voice to create regardless of the walls created by censorship. It's a shell that contains many artistic voices, and it is these artists who have to define what is refining them. Censorship is only a word; when given the power it can refine, alter, even mold a society.
With all the changes within the NEA, the book of jargon created in the "American Canvas" translates into far-reaching definitions, and it will be interesting to see where the next decade takes us. The NEA wants to improve the climate for culture, transmit our cultural legacy, and let go of the elitist approaches which have both supported and hindered the arts in America. I think it's strange how the NEA would take so long to figure it out, but at least arts and education are being promoted so it's not another sell-out all together.
What fits nicely for censors in all this shuffling around of "the challenge to act" is that the government won't be the evil anymore, because corporations will be given the power to control, condemn and reject whatever doesn't fit their mission statement. I'd be willing to bet that Pop will become so large it will explode, and diversity as a marketplace fueled by the media which at times forces a homogenizing effect, can undermine diversity, depending upon who is listening. There is access to the arts, but as it stands, only the privileged have it in the container. Hopefully the "new" findings will save the NEA, or maybe Mark Twain could just re-invent the wheel and pass out some far-reaching advice from his grave.