A Sense of Place

What do you do to cleanse your soul?

I have found that my effective strategies are the ones that have been there all along, asking me to pay attention. When I was a child. When I was a kid. The student stage of life, which I stretched and stretched. Gap Years. There have been other passions and strategies for sure, but the one constant that intertwines with all of the others: music.

There is no way that I’d be able to survive in this world without it and when I meet people who aren’t really into music or don’t really know what they enjoy, I do not get it. I practice empathy of course, but internally, that concept just doesn’t compute with my soul and I try to help by sharing as much as possible. At the connection level, music brings everyone together and it can also create space when you don’t have the right words. Just as easily, it removes unwanted space. On some personal, deep level, I believe that all of us must experience music forever. Historically speaking, its impact is so immense, that it is almost too difficult to comprehend. It is the defining aspect of so much culture.

This week on World Cafe, David Dye did this series show called “Sense of Place” where he toured the historical recording studios of Memphis, Tennessee:

STAX RECORDS-Not only did monumental soul music come out of here, but it celebrated and encouraged white and black artists recording together.

SUN STUDIOS-Elvis was born here

ARDENT MUSIC-Huge for Lucero, this is the studio that worked with Big Star, an influential band which led to others to record here such as REM and The Replacements

ROYAL STUDIO-mostly known for Al Green, and other such soul artists

AMERICAN SOUND STUDIO-recorded artists such as Aretha Franklin

Unfortunately, I haven’t been there yet, but it has been a monumental radio series for me; while I love listening to NPR, I’d have to say that this week was packed with historical interviews, music, history lessons, etc. It got me thinking about my relationship with music, but it also made me reflect about “Sense of Place” and how we may find that in many stages of our lives, where one specific place in a particular point in our lives just becomes an addiction. I wondered if everyone had a sense of place for somewhere, a place where they really knew all of its corners, history, emotions. Then, I thought about whether I really had that. Did I really know any place?

David’s show on Memphis was a tribute to the immense contributions that the place has had on American music. Here is a brief overview on the museum that exists now for Stax, but I also provided another link at the bottom of the post, in case you want to access the entire series.

Stax Records in Memphis

In the past, I was somewhat of an activist for human rights, including environmental justice, such as how we strip rainforests from cultures in order to raise cows so that people can eat McDonald’s burgers. Why is that o.k? Why can a corporation kill people? How we spend our money is the grassroots of evil so consumer responsibility is an issue for me. I’ve done marches, protests, and written I don’t know how many editorials and letters on behalf of people who I don’t even know because I believe in global citizenship. Having said that, I drive a car and fly planes, both of which require gas so like everyone else, I have a layer of hypocrisy going on. I just try to keep it at a minimum.

Sudanesepicture courtesy of brandonfibbs.com
picture courtesy of brandonfibbs.com

With that as part of me, not to mention travel, I’ve come to appreciate our connection to place. But, a sense of place can come from diverse angles, be it the cultural connections or our emotional state. Here, from National Geographic’s God Grew Tired of Us, the Sudanese speak to us about their perspective:

God Grew Tired of Us-Sense of Place and Community

I like when the guy says, “A person without culture is like a human being without land.” I keep going over and over that statement because in my activist days, that was exactly the point. The idea that when you strip a person of their land, you are attempting a slower form of genocide on that culture. Despite this, these people are trying to maintain their sense of place in The United States, rich of many other cultures trying to do the same thing. As diverse as some of the states are becoming, the haves/have-nots war is alive and well and will eat away at the weak points of any soul, as we see in the young people in the video. Cultural norms are difficult to maintain when everything around you screams money.

But, when Dye was talking about the revolutionary Stax Records and how they invited black artists to come in and record with white artists at a time when that was unheard of, for some reason, I thought of the Sudanese. One example is encouraging and birthing culture while the other is just giving them some space to start over. It is up to the Sudanese to keep their culture alive. At Stax, they not only gave these artists a place, but they encouraged cultural growth and diversity. While the show was uplifting, it took me to that negative side as well, but when I went to watch clips of the God Grew Tired of Us again, as much as what happened to the Sudanese angers me, I smiled at the beauty and power of their spirit.

I like to read more about the history behind places or things, and their connection to humans rather than just about the human struggle in itself more and more. In a sense, I’m trying to constantly consider the relationship between humans and place. I don’t know if I’ll ever have a true “sense of place” like the people out of Memphis or the Sudanese, but I’m going to continue to relish in my education of the concept.

World Cafe’s Sense of Place: Memphis

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