- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: University of Washington Press (September 8, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0295991135
- ISBN-13: 978-0295991139
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,998,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Before Seattle Rocked: A City and Its Music Paperback – September 8, 2011
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"This book is an excellent contribution to the history of music cultures in the Pacific Northwest and is a laudable example of a civil history based on a cultural form that impacts daily life but often remains invisible."―Sarah Dougher, Oregon Historical Quarterly
"Armbruster's research is deep and wide and his writing style, graceful, clear, and vastly entertaining, so carries the reader along that one doesn't want to put the book down."―W. Royal Stokes, Jazzhouse Diaries, March 2013
"Armbruster spins an informative narrative thread. . . . Before Seattle Rocked recalls how this connective tissue [music] binds all of the city's inhabitants and reconstructs the musical skeletons overlooked or under cooked by previous local history books."―Steve Griggs, Examiner, February 2012
"Covers most imaginable music-related subjects in our community's past, from Bach through the Wang Doodle Orchestra and beyond."―Paul Dorpat, Pacific Northwest Magazine, December 2011
"Finally, for those who prefer to trace local music history even further back, Seattle historian and musician Kurt E. Armbruster offers this extensively researched and compelling book."―Brangien Davis, Seattle Magazine, December 2011
"This is a lively tour of Seattle's musical heritage which opens a new window on local history."―Mike Dillon, City Living, November 2011
"[Seattle's] culture and nightlight were dependent upon live musicians, from saloons at the turn of the century, to taverns in the 1920s, to symphony halls in the '40s and '50s. Throughout Seattle's history, music was truly woven into the city's cultural fabric."―Andrew Gospe, The Daily, November 2011
"It's amazing how much musical history Kurt E. Armbruster has uncovered . . . He clearly talked to everyone . . . and as lucid and lively as his own prose is, he's often upstaged by interviewees who are born raconteurs."―Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times, October 2011
"The book details a vibrant local scene featuring every kind of music, reflecting both the people of the time and the places they came from."―Josh Kerns, My Northwest Blog, October 2011
"Armbruster’s book effectively analyzes Seattle’s professional music scene and provides a solid overview of the city’s classical, jazz, and blues cultures. The author’s attention to subsets of Seattle music previously underrepresented in the scholarly literature provides a refreshing deception of a rich pre-rock musical culture."―Alexandria Waltz, Pacific Northwest Quarterly
About the Author
Kurt E. Armbruster is a Seattle native, historian, professional bassist, and singer-songwriter. He has played music of many genres and has written numerous historical articles and three books, including Orphan Road. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Cedar, and is a proud card-carrying member of the Musicians' Union of Seattle Local 76-493.
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The reader should be aware of the following errata:
p. 75: The first performance of the Seattle Symphony on December 29, 1903 did not feature Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The program was Overture from "Phedre" by Massenet, Max Bruch's Violin Concerto featuring concertmaster William Hedley, Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, "Cavatina" from Gounod's opera Queen of Sheba featuring a singer named Ida Gray Scott (who also sang an encore, the "Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust), and Rossini's William Tell Overture.
p. 78: Henry Hadley died in 1937, not 1939.
p. 79: John Spargur assumed the direction of the orchestra at the Rathskeller Restaurant in 1910, not 1905.
p. 80: The name of the Seattle Philharmonic was not changed back to the Seattle Symphony in 1917. The last program bearing the name "Seattle Philharmonic" is dated May 8, 1918. The following season commenced in April, 1919 under the name "Seattle Symphony."
p. 101: The text states that Leonard Hagen "came west in 1919 and became John Spargur's concertmaster..." Hagen was never concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony. The concertmaster throughout Spargur's tenure as conductor was Albany Ritchie. The Seattle Times revealed the names of all of the musicians Spargur had imported for the season in an article dated April 3, 1919, and Hagen is listed among several others. The article also states that Ritchie is continuing as concertmaster. Hagen is listed as a section first violinist in the programs throughout the 1919-20 season, never as concertmaster, then disappears from subsequent personnel lists.
p. 109: The author's account of the Seattle Civic Symphony needs some clarification. Although the orchestra was initially unpaid, its members were salaried for its last season (1923-4). The chronology presented in the text is misleading, since the Seattle Symphony was not yet defunct at the time the Seattle Civic Symphony debuted. Thus the contention that "the orchestra had the quiet sanction of Local 76, which saw the greater good in promoting the long-term viability of a professional symphony orchestra" can only be considered in reference to Local 76's desire to allow another orchestra to provide training for musicians for the Seattle Symphony, which was the original purpose of the Seattle Civic Symphony according to news articles at the time. The author has pointed out that the Seattle Civic Symphony gave its debut performance on April 24, 1921. The cancellation of the Seattle Symphony season was not announced by the Seattle Symphony board until October 9, 1921 in the Seattle Times. Since Local 76 had sanctioned the Seattle Civic Symphony BEFORE the Seattle Symphony had folded, Local 76's action cannot be construed as endorsing the Seattle Civic Symphony as some kind of a temporary replacement for the Seattle Symphony to fill some kind of artistic void. The statement that the Seattle Civic Symphony was "virtually all-male" is not accurate. The program for its first concert contains at least 26 female names on the personnel list. Although it is conceivable that the orchestra had a preponderance of male members during its final season, since 21 of its 62 members were ex-Seattle Symphony musicians in its final year of operation, its associate concertmaster remained female throughout the orchestra's existence (Julie Risegari), and many of the personnel listed on the programs for this season are identified with only first initials and last names, thus making a sex differentiation problematic.
p. 125: the author states: "...he (Nick Oeconomacos) joined flutist Glauco Meriggioli, violinist John Spargur, and cellist E. Hellier-Collens in presenting Music d `Ensemble recitals that dazzled listeners until a few years before his death in 1945." Meriggioli left Seattle for Italy in 1936 and died there in 1941. E. Hellier-Collens played violin and viola. Although it is possible Hellier-Collens may have performed on the cello, it is not very likely. He was the long-time violist in the Spargur String Quartet, and principal viola of the Seattle Philharmonic/Symphony 1916 to 1921, and from 1927 to 1945 .
p. 142: Ralph Engberg was Mary Davenport Engberg's younger son, not her grandson.
p. 156: The Youth Symphony of Seattle was founded in 1942, not 1943, and it was founded by the Music and Art Foundation, which hired Francis Aranyi as its first conductor. It was not founded by "Francis Aranyi and a small group of students."
p. 229: It is unclear how the author defines the term "resident maestro," applying this term to Seattle Symphony conductors Karl Krueger and Basil Cameron for the period of 1926 to 1953. Between Karl Krueger (1926-32) and Milton Katims (1954-76), only two Seattle Symphony directors set up residence in the Seattle area: Carl Bricken (who owned a house in Madison Park) and Eugene Linden, who already lived in the area before his appointment. Basil Cameron boarded at the Washington Athletic Club while he was in Seattle during the symphony season. Manuel Rosenthal lived for about a year in Tacoma when he was a guest faculty member at College of Puget Sound, but while he was director of the Seattle Symphony he lived in host homes.
p. 230: Katims states that he played in the NBC Symphony for 11 years in his memoirs, and if he left in 1954 to assume direction of the Seattle Symphony, that makes 1943 the year he joined, according to him. "Before Seattle Rocked" could be right, though, in citing the year 1941. Katims states that he replaced William Primrose, both in his memoirs, and in a videotaped interview from 1986 with a Seattle newspaper columnist, Lou Guzzo, but Primrose states in his memoirs that he left in 1941 and only played in the orchestra four years (since its inception in 1937). William Primrose, "Walk on the North Side: Memoirs of a Violinist," pp. 1, 107. Primrose does not mention Milton Katims at all. In Mortimer Frank's book, "Arturo Toscanini, The NBC Years," the personnel list for violas cites:
Cooley, Carlton, co-principal, 1937-42; principal, 1942-54
Katims, Milton (no dates)
Primrose, William, co-principal, 1937-42
Frank states that Primrose left in 1942. Surviving NBC Orchestra programs from this time unfortunately contain no personnel lists. Thus it is unclear what year Katims assumed the second chair viola position.
p. 234: In a reference to the opening of Local 76's new headquarters at Third and Cedar in the 1950s, the author's contention that "for the first time in its history, the musicians' union owned its own building" is not accurate. Local 76 purchased its previous headquarters at 2025 4th Avenue in 1918 for $25,000. The photograph on p. 88 features the building at this location and the actual gathering celebrating the burning of the mortgage on this property in 1921. Local 76 still owns this piece of real estate to this very day, although the building is long gone.
p. 268: The text states that bassist Leslie "Tiny" Martin "joined the symphony after the (Second World) war..." Martin first played in the Seattle Symphony in the 1937-8 season, then played during the 1939-40 season, then 1941 to 1944, then he played principal bass from 1947 to 1957.
p. 310: The author makes a reference to principal hornist "Richard" Bonnevie being imported from New York by Milton Katims, thus arousing bitterness among Seattle Symphony personnel, because he was not a Seattle musician. This is cited within an interview with principal flutist Scott Goff. Bonnevie's first name is "Robert," not Richard, although his first name is, for some reason, stated accurately in the index. Before Bonnevie was hired in 1967, an audition open only to Local 76 members was held for the principal horn position. The audition committee determined that none of the auditioners were adequate. Two Local 76 members were then approached to assume the position for the 1967-8 season, but both were turned down, because their salary requirements were too steep. It was at that time that an importation was allowed. Robert Bonnevie was not imported from New York, an error which is also cited on p. 252, where Bonnevie's first name is also incorrect, and where it is also cited that his appointment "raised hackles." Although Bonnevie's arrival on the scene may have caused some resentment, Bonnevie was raised in Seattle, graduated from Garfield High School, and then attended the Curtis Institute. Following graduation, he played in the New Orleans Symphony (1960-63), then went to Puerto Rico where he played with the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet for four years before returning to Seattle to assume the Seattle Symphony position.
p. 319: The text reads: "To counter Western (Opera)'s objections to the opera being too closely tied to the symphony, Milton Katims proposed setting up an independent, self-governing organization. The groups merged, and at the end of 1963 the Seattle Opera Association hired its first director." The author does not cite the source of this information, although it is probably from Louis R. Guzzo's interview of Katims in 1986, or it could be from Milton Katims's memoirs. Hans Lehmann attributes the merger to a "meeting of minds" held in the Seattle Room at the Olympic Hotel. Mahmoud Salem maintains that the Seattle Symphony board appointed a committee of five members headed by Albert Foster which recommended a separate opera organization, a development to which Lehmann's recollection undoubtedly alludes. Glynn Ross took credit for the idea of the merger when he was interviewed by Mahmoud Salem in 1973. Ross revealed that he had been previously approached by Western Opera to become its general director, a position he declined.
p. 346, n. 22: The footnote states that Milton Katims negotiated a deal with City Councilman David Levine in 1953 to get municipal funding for children's concerts as a way of providing "relief" from the city's amusement tax on Seattle Symphony tickets. This date is almost certainly incorrect. The city provided its first $7,500 appropriation for free concerts for children in 1956, not 1953. Although Katims guest conducted the Seattle Symphony in 1953, he was not appointed Seattle Symphony director until the following year, and it is unlikely he would have been involved in any such negotiations at this early of a date. The city was prohibited by state law from subsidizing the Seattle Symphony from tax funds. The funds were appropriated through the Parks Department to get around this legal firewall.
These chapters of Seattle's music history and more are compiled in Before Seattle Rocked: A City and its Music by Kurt E. Armbruster. Supported by funding from the Naomi B. Pascal Editor's Endowment, Musicians' Association of Seattle Local 76-493, and 4Culture Heritage Special Projects, Armbruster spins an informative narrative thread. The 375 page story is woven from 123 bibliographic sources and Armbruster's 75 interviews with participants from the local scene. Unfortunately, several of these outstanding individuals have recently left us - among them jazz impresario Norm Bobrow and jazz trumpeters Floyd Standifer and Ed Lee (pictured on the book's front cover). On the back cover is a photo of the late jazz saxophonist Billy Tolles.
"Music is one of the foundation stones of human civilization," writes Armbruster, a professional bassist, historian, and author. "This chronicle is an attempt to honor the musicians who have labored throughout one American city's existence to renew and maintain this essential connective tissue of human existence."
Before Seattle Rocked recalls how this connective tissue binds all of the city's inhabitants and reconstructs the musical skeletons overlooked or under cooked by previous local history books. Music from native, Nordic, Japanese, Chinese, African, and European performers filled the air where people celebrated, honored, danced, and relaxed. Over the years, Seattle's booms and busts grew and gutted the body of working musicians.
Packed with facts covering the region's long musical history, from its Duwamish roots through 128 years of white settlement and foreign immigration (1851-1979), Armbruster still manages to have fun with words. In the introduction he writes, "For decades the symphony was a snake pit of Byzantine intrigue, the musicians' union a farrago of feud and factionalism." This playfulness keeps readers turning pages in spite of the broad subject and multitudinous characters.
Within the dense drama of local stories, plenty of solo space is given jazz artists. Duwamish trumpeter/big band leader James Rasmussen riffs on regional native musical traditions. Saxophonist/club owner Ronnie Pierce spins yarns of colorful band leaders. Composer/teacher Jim Knapp provides history lessons in Seattle's jazz education institutions. Multi-instrumentalist Jay Thomas remembers great times and talents from his early years. Grace and Dave Holden, children of pianist Oscar Holden recall their music education at Garfield and career launches in the local scene.
Beyond the big names of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendricks, and Curt Kobain, this latest book joins a growing list of titles about lesser known Seattle musicians. Miss Aunt Nellie: The Autobiography of Nellie C Cornish published in 1964, gives a rich, though singular view of the city's early music education community. Merle Irene Smith collected historical anecdotes of local songwriters in a 1989 publication Seattle had a Tin Pan Alley, too! In 1994, Paul de Barros dug into the roots of Seattle jazz in Jackson Street After Hours: The Roots of Jazz in Seattle. Three years later, George Yoshida chronicled Seattle's brief Japanese American jazz scene before Pearl Harbor with Reminiscing in Swingtime: Japanese Americans in American Popular Music, 1925-1960. James Bush surveyed the contemporary regional scene in 1999 with an Encyclopedia of Northwest Music: From Classical Recordings to Classic Rock Performances, Your Guide to the Best of the Region. Recently, Peter Blecha assembled an historical photo scrapbook in Music in Washington: Seattle and Beyond (Images of America: Washington) and covered the rock scene in Sonic Boom! The History of Northwest Rock: From Louie Louie to Smells Like Teen Spirit An imaginary recording by Seattle jazz pianist Oscar Holden becomes a significant totem in Jamie Ford's fictional Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.
Throughout all these books, one aspect of musical life remains constant. Seattle pianist Johnny Moten, grand nephew of the famous Kansas City drummer Benny Moten, reflected on one of the slow periods for local working musicians. "It all comes down to economics in the end, and I don't care if you're a black musician or white: In the economics of the music business, you're gonna be livin' on the short end most of the time."