If you listen to New York from across the water it has a booming, breathing hum that rises and falls with the mirrorglass sun and moon – the sound of nine million people rubbing together. Listen closely and there are solos in it: cab horns, steam pipes, loud advice, merengue battles, friendly gunshots. At traffic junctions, hot engines change key when the lights change. If calmness threatens there are mystery screams to shake up the out-of-towners. Angry alphabets of Spanish shouting. Glass breaking in the park. Urban coyotes on the corner of 12th. Loudest of all are the heavy iron clangs that ring out right across town – the noise of new towers being bolted on.
In among these million broken beats there are music-makers on every block. Prayers and drums and Brooklyn guitars; skull tees and skinny genes; jazz scientists, classical warriors, gospel grins. The kiddie-rush of EDM with its Pavlovian drops and day-glo chords. Worldwide taxicab radio. Broadway belters, house divas, ’80s insurgents. Synth terrorists in disco basements. Superstar DJs – and a few real ones. And ten thousand MCs rapping under their breath as they roll to the subway. In a town that makes so much music the map will never be finished.
The newer names squeeze into the city’s fat history, in among the Big Apple’s hometown genres – be-bop, doo-wop, hip hop, mambo, electro, disco, junk-funk, punk. From Tin Pan Alley to Twilo, from the Bronx River Houses to Max’s Kansas City, CBGB back to Roseland via Danceteria. – Frank Broughton