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Legwork

House: Democratization of the Dance floor

Briana Patrick

The Warehouse, Chicago 70s

The Warehouse, Chicago 70s

 

What is house music?

House music is a genre of dance music whose sound is typically characterized by repetitive 4/4 beats.  The Warehouse, a Chicago nightclub, inspired the genre's namesake. Robert Williams, Founder of The Warehouse, permitted Frankie Knuckles to experiment in his club - a sound we now recognize as House music. 

What happened?

Unfortunately like many things in American history, greatness emerged from repression - the birth of House music is one example. Music served as an outlet for the discrimination Blacks, Gays, and Latinos faced during the early 70s. At the time, the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Liberation Front were demanding equality and accountability for police and systemic violence against marginalized communities.  Disco as a music genre and subculture emerged as a result and escape. 

During the summer of 1979 Disco was at its peak. Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor were topping the charts and Saturday Night Fever won the Grammy for the coveted "album of the year' - cementing Disco's influence into the mainstream. While many were scrambling to adapt to the new disco norm, some genres - primarily rock - did not like this new wave. On a muggy Thursday night, local rock stations teamed up with the Chicago White Sox to host what would later to be known as Disco Demolition, or The Day Disco Died. Sox Fans were told to bring in a disco record for a discounted ticket price and were encouraged to destroy it. While this group thought they killed Disco, they weren't aware of the child it left behind - House music. 

Thought starter: Disco is inherently black, from the sound to the artists. Is Disco Demolition modern documentation of an attempt the erase blackness?

How did house music popularize?

House music fused together different genres and sounds, to create one seamless dance experience. The dance floor initially skewed Black and gay, but quickly expanded when word spread of this spiritual-like experience. Black, Gays, and Latinos around this time had been heavily censored and silenced. Then came this genre, a movement, that allowed them to exist in a vulnerable state free of society's aggression. Up until 1986 House music was underground, but that changed when songs like "You're Love" by Frankie Knuckles and "Baby Wants to Ride" by Jamie Principal went worldwide. Eventually, House made it to the charts with "Deck Your Body" coming in #1 on the UK singles pop chart. Ultimately, Frankie Knuckles went on to win the '97 Grammy for Remixer of the Year - legitimizing House's influence and avenging Disco's demise. 

Thought starter: Are we experiencing the legitimization of rap? You also don’t hear about “Remixer of the Year”, when did the DJ fall out of the limelight?

 

Bay Windows, a staple of the Middle Class

Briana Patrick

 
Oriel Chamber by Peter Ellis; Liverpool, England. Grade 1 listed.

Oriel Chamber by Peter Ellis; Liverpool, England. Grade 1 listed.

It wasn't until I moved to Oakland that I was introduced to bay windows. There was something about these windows I was drawn to, so much, that I ended up choosing an apartment adorned in them. The light that comes through the window makes Seattle's gloomiest days worth it. There's a bay in my room, and during the golden hour- it's as if the world lines up to watch. 

You're probably wondering, "Ok, so what? " Well,  as I strategist my natural inkling is to investigate things that interest me. Everything around us comes with a story, it's up to us whether or not we discover it. I wanted to know more about these windows so, off I went to the world of bay windows.

 

So what are bay windows?

To keep it simple, a bay window is window space projecting outwards from the main walls forming a bay in the room. The first bay windows can be traced back to the Gothic period, where they served as small chapels and altars. Bay windows were later found in mansions during the English Renaissance - typically at the end of a great hall.  What's interesting is the transition from the bay windows role as a place for private worship to an ornamental finish. 

Thought starter: Could this be an early sign of our culture's move towards materialistic values?

The design purpose of a bay window is to admit more light while also making the room appear larger. It's important to note that 'bay window' refers to the structure of a window and that there is more than one kind - Oriel, being the most common. Bay windows were usually added on to homes and fairly common... until they fell out of fashion for a time.

What happened? 

In 1696, the window tax was introduced. This tax was essentially a roundabout way of taxing the wealthy. Originally, the monarch wanted to impose an income tax but was greeted with resistance instead. The monarch's solution was to establish a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. The bigger the house, the more windows it was likely to have, and the more tax the occupants would have to pay. The tax ultimately led to the rejection of the bay window silhouette, so much that to avoid the tax some houses bricked-up their window-spaces. It was later repealed in 1851, as it was seen as a tax on light and air. 

Thought starter: Bay windows went from everyone having one to only a few. As if the very idea of the window is a privilege. The whole ethos of the window is about adding 'more'. More light. More sqft. More sight. ItWhat's interesting is that when the government tried to establish a tax on these windows that the community treated 'light and air' as if they were inalienable rights. Necessities. Guarantees. And because of this, the tax failed. What does this say about some of the homes and schools in low-income communities that let in little light, with just enough air? Solitary confinement.

So how did bay windows take over the Bay?

SF Mission Homes

SF Mission Homes

If you're anything like me, you probably thought bay windows originated in the Bay Area - but that's far from true. With the repeal of the window tax, bay windows were destined to make a comeback. Bay windows spread to other English speaking countries is a result of British architect Peter Ellis 'Oriel Chambers' (1864) located in Liverpool, England. Ellis not only brought back the bay window silhouette but popularized it in the process. After the Great 1906 Earthquake of San Francisco, the city needed to rebuild itself. At that same time, every architect was inspired by bay windows (Victorian/Italianate influence) and found ways to incorporate it an each of their projects. While the Victorian era ended in 1901, due to the earthquake much of San Francisco's architecture can be considered revivalism*. 

* revivalism echoes the style of a previous architectural era.