by Jeff Milo
This week’s inherently irreverent episode showed highly inebriated comedians slurring through oral reports of otherwise interesting trivia tied to the city.
But, notably, the slightly-accurate stories recalled in this episode involved areas like Battle Creek, Dearborn and Washington D.C., more so than the actual locale. One narrative, on Houdini, involved the city directly as a setting (on the evening of the famed magician’s death on Halloween of 1926).
But Detroit, it seems, is inextricably tied to the entire state’s identity.
So goes Detroit, so goes Michigan?
I started thinking about how many local musicians from all over, Pontiac, Waterford, Royal Oak, or Ferndale, will sometimes, if not always, identify themselves as "Detroit bands" or from Detroit, even if they don’t actually live in Detroit-proper.
Some bands within, say, at least a 15-mile radius of the city’s border will adopt it as their hometown. I’m actually saying that that’s a good thing; it's understandable. It comes from a kind of pride. It’s out of respect for the city; an urge to be part of its legacy. It could be just a way to sound cooler, tougher, more legit. But, perhaps bands want to be part of it, because of an urge to edify it's musical undercarriage; an urge to get it back going again, to root-for the city. Because these generations of musicians have only known a city that’s always, as some kind of civic Sisyphus, trying to make some kind of come-back. Maybe their music can help
I know, that sounds naive.
But the point is – forget the Kellogg Brothers or Houdini and Drunk History.
What about Motown? What about Music History?
Music’s always been vital to this city and no one knows that better than Carleton Gholz.
A recently started kickstarter campaign is on a mission to preserve this area’s rich musical history. The Detroit Sound Conservancy is a conservationist non-profit spearheaded by Gholz, a sound-activist and a born-and-raised Southeastern Michigander with a PhD in Communication. It sounds too astonishing to be true, but: “
there is no oral history archive for music made in Detroit.”
DSC’s goal is “to build one online and preserve it in the city.”
Gholz has been researching and writing about Detroit music past and present for fifteen years. If he’s learned anything from covering this unique creative community, it’s that “if you think something needs to be said or done, you better say it or do it.”
In this world, particularly in a world where Detroit enters Chapter 9 bankruptcy under an Emergency Manager, one cannot bank, Gholz says, on “
‘someone else’ delivering on ‘your’ vision.”
“DSC begins by preserving the legacies of the writers who are my personal heroes,” says Gholz. “If we can come together to preserve their legacies, then maybe, some day, there will be a place for mine.”
“Detroit is already at or near the center of thought in almost every medium and movement you can think of.”
Yet, even though there are dozens of “mapping Detroit” projects there is still no “music-tour that links the Motown Museum to Exhibit 3000. That is, in a word: Nuts.”
“Unless I’m mistaken,” Gholz says, “Detroit is still a part of Michigan, Michigan is still a state in the union, and the USA is still a part of the world of nations. As goes Detroit so goes the species.”
“Any lesser goal,” says Gholz, “is not worthy of our musical contributions to the human imagination. The world goes culturally bankrupt if we fail. This project is a one step in a very long journey.”
Detroit Sound Conservancy