I’ve lived in the Kenton neighborhood for seven years but my experience with the music in my immediate surroundings has been random and sporadic. Disjecta, the arts organization, is exploring the music made in the Kenton with an exhibit called “The Music That Makes Us.” Disjecta explains that the exhibit “investigates a neighborhood through its music, and emphasizes the value of diverse musical expression within a community.”
Setting up at Disjecta for the Kenton Street Fair Fundraiser.
All neighborhoods have their musicians, unsung heroes who go unnoticed but this exhibit gives me a chance to explore mine. It may seem like an odd thing. I can’t recall a time when I’ve read anything about any neighborhood in the city making better music or being more creative than any other neighborhood. While we may have our arts districts, I realize the exhibit is not about competition, but a chance to explore the specifics, music wise, of a community. I’m lucky it’s happening here. I have a good opportunity, with little effort, to be introduced to the creative people who are around that I didn’t even know are around me.
Make over and music.
Since the exhibit opened I’ve learned some things. One of the barbers who works at Bart’s Barber Shop not only cuts hair, he’s a musician too, as is one of the guys who works at Cason’s Butcher Shop. It has me seeing these men in a different dimension and making the people in my neighborhood less mysterious. The other revelation is that I’ve found out that Norman Sylvester lives in my neighborhood. He’s a living legend and a local celebrity to me. I’ve seen him on TV on AM Northwest and been to a concert at Kenton Park. I clipped a photo I came across of him with B.B. King. I even met him at Jeff Dodge’s place when he was dropping off some video footage. Recently he was on the cover of the Portland Observer and there he was was at the exhibit opening wearing a sharp suit. I was a bit too shy to mob him.
My own investigations of my neighborhood’s music have amounted to seeing bands at the yearly street fair and occasionally at the Kenton Club. I caught some great music spilling out of the church in downtown Kenton one Sunday morning and I’ve also heard bands practicing in neighborhood basements. For a time my next door neighbor had a band that practiced at her place. Hearing their sound reminded me of playing music in a garage. Once I noticed our chickens bobbing their heads to the submerged rhythms.
When I went to the exhibit opening, I saw a serpentine pattern of music related objects laid out in the room on tables that included sheet music, instruments, photos, a music stand covered in stickers and Norman Sylvester’s press clippings that his wife has gathered over the years. A drum kit was on display and someone was banging away on a piano. The objects gave me a sense of the ephemera that goes into music making but it’s great to see that the exhibit is multi-dimensional offering up a couple of chances to hear the music created in Kenton.
Meat and music.
Two events will be held in association with the exhibit. The first will be a walking tour which starts at Disjecta at noon on Saturday, April 16th. The walk lasts 90 minutes. The tour guides are members of the Portland State University Art and Social Practice program and will present audio recordings of field recordings and interviews. If you can’t make the walk you can still listen to the tour.
The other event is an afternoon concert celebrating the exhibit. Who’s going to show up? Which neighbors are going to reveal themselves to be musicians? How many more proverbial dots are going to be connected? The only way to find out is to attend the show at Disjecta on Saturday April 23 from 4–8pm for The Music That Makes Us Festival.