Adj Marshall

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

HONK A History of Musicianship and Community

In Art, History, Music on March 15, 2011 at 9:06 pm
HONK TX !

No Noise is Illegal !

~Bread and Puppet Theater

In only one city in Texas would you expect to find 20 alternative, radical, activist, community, brass, marching bands. This year marked the first annual HONK TX festival held the weekend before SXSW March 11-13th in public spaces across Austin.

A Combined Effort !

While this year marked the first Annual HONK TX festival, the concept of gathering activist marching bands to celebrate the community-centered union of art, activism and music finds its roots here on the east coast.

The very first HONK! made its debut on Columbus Day weekend of 2006 in Somerville MA, a community just outside the city limits of Boston. The concept of HONK was envisioned by local activist band, The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band (SLAPS), who “saw the need for a gathering of like-minded souls interested in applying the joy of music to the work of promoting peace, social justice, and civic engagement.” That year a dozen socially conscious street bands from across the US and Canada descended upon Somerville and Cambridge to perform in Davis and Harvard Square.

The ERB in TX!

HONK Fest 2006 signaled the beginning of a tradition that would spread far and wide across the states. By HONK Fest 2009,  more than 29 bands were overflowing the streets of Somerville spreading the message of music, community, and access to public space. Between 2006 and 2010, HONKS! arose here in Providence (PRONK!), Brooklyn (BONK!), Seattle (HONK! Fest West), and now Austin (HONK! TX).

While each HONK! Festival and further each HONK Band’s structure mission and goals can vary widely, they all share a commitment to core values including the:

  • Creation of inclusive communities valuing diversity of all forms: not just the conventions of age, gender, class and orientation – but background, upbringing, and for many, level of musical experience.
  • Transformation of everyday locations into organic stages where the line between audience and performers is dissolved.
  •  Demonstration of the potential for the creative use of our public spaces without the need for amplification or artificial stages.
  • Celebration, serving as the soundtrack for community gardens, public school yards, puppet shows, pride parades, worker rallies, peace marches and neighborhood fundraisers.

Celebrating sleep with my Canadian friends

The shared values of the growing activist marching band moment are central in creating the environment that is HONK! Regardless of the city each HONK serves as a space where we as individuals learn and grow from each other musically, personally, politically, socially, and culturally.

This years ERB appearance at HONK TX represents the bands 6th HONK event. With 2 HONK, 2 PRONK, and 1 HONK Fest West under our belt we headed south of the Mason Dixon Line to make our appearance as part of HONK! TX. As the closing band of the entire weekend we were given the monumental task of bringing together the many elements that represent HONK! Staying true to the inclusive communal nature that is the HONK! experience we invited all 20 bands in attendance to join us on stage for our closing song Deep in the Heart of Texas. Carrying the message of hope, unity, and social change in our hearts and music we closed the weekend together on stage as One Band with One Sound conveying to our audience and ourselves the transformational nature that is HONK!

Sites of Interest:

Musical Activism

In Communication, Education, Music on January 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

ERB at Riverz Edge Fundraiser with Big Nazo

Any note is better than no note !

– ERB motto

As a bunch of costume wearing, alien fraternizing, activists, you may call us crazy we call it love… a love of music and community.  When or where you may ask did we fall in love, well the answer is different for all of us but one thing is for sure most of us had not played music in a decade or more if ever before joining the band.  The Extraordinary Rendition Band was formed in the fall of 2008 with an activist bent in mind, this is evident in the name that was chosen to represent the band. If you don’t know what I am talking about click here: Extraordinary Rendition. The Extraordinary Rendition Band or ERB as we like to refer to ourselves in short is a local activist marching band that calls Providence its home. I have been part of the ERB for just over a year now and am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn and grown from such an amazingly diverse and wonderful group of individuals.

New Years 2011

How did I come to be part of an activist marching band…? My musical journey began at a table in my jr. high cafeteria where entire 7th grade took an aptitude test. I remember clearly the small dual cassette boom box that played notes as we all furiously scribbled onto our blank score sheets where we thought the notes belonged. The outcomes of the test would determined whether we were invited to be part of the band or not. Despite the alienating experience of not being invited I did not hesitate petitioning to be part of the band. My time with this group would however be short-lived, lasting a mere 10-month school year.  I bowed out quietly before having to put myself through the  chair test auditions (musical ranking process) that was to come in the fall.

I would avoid instrumental performance for close to 15 years before being introduced to the ERB by a friend at Wooly Fair 2009. I fell in love at first sight and defaulted to a position of groupie, as I continued to see myself lacking any musical skill. The fear of judgment and failure from my jr. high experience still lurked within me. The leap from groupie to official member came only after 5 months of steady encouragement from various band members.

Initially when I joined I knew very little about the intentional activism the band engaged in from its open band policy and democratic structure to its support of specific causes, now these are the things that endear me most to the band … and well of course all the amazing personalities that make up our awesome group. We have played in support of labor rights, queer rights, environmental awareness, arts and community organizations.

Here is an awesome short documentary of Activist Marching Bands from the HONK Fest: No Noise is Illegal !

Last years reading

Saul Alinsky, in his book Rules for Radicals, states “The spirit of democracy is the idea of importance and worth in the individual, and faith in the kind of world where the individual can achieve as much of their potential as possible”. In the ERB, we work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential through our democratic structure, where people are expected to contribute whether it be leading practice, managing gigs or composing music.

Band Practice !

Often times the term activist  or radical is associated with crazy. In many ways we are no different than most of you. In our professional lives we are engineering professors, art professors, college counselors, college students, music teachers, high school teachers, speech pathologists, graphic designers, toy designers, editors, and much more. Our open band policy attracts individuals of all ages spanning the gambit of early 20’s to early 60’s. In our society we so rarely find ourselves in inter-generational situations. On many levels this has alienated us from our elders and reinforced the concept of older generation as “out of touch” relegating them to a place of marginalization. For us the intergenerational element of our band’s make up is an essential piece of our musical creativity.

Our open band policy also means there are no “try outs” we accept individuals of all musical backgrounds. While a goal is to operate as one coherent group that eventually produces recognizable music our first and foremost goals is sharing the love of music with others. We work to break down the barriers between the performer and audience whether that be avoiding stages or inviting the audience to be an integral part of our band.  In many ways we attempt to break the mold of a Marching Band redefining for our selves and hopefully others who a musician is and what musicianship is while making saving the world just a little bit more fun and weird.

Websites of Interest:

The ERB

HONK Fest

Marching for Change: Street Bands in the U.S. Podcast by the National Radio Project on Activist Marching Bands:

No Noise is Illegal: Documentary on Activist Street Marching Bands