Singing Los Angeles

The essence of Los Angeles is not easily expressed, but that has not kept everyone from essayists to auteurs to muralists from trying to capture it. Perhaps this is part of the eternal allure of the city: the fact that it can neither be easily described, nor readily dismissed. The upside to all of this is that we are now the inheritors of some magnificent works that, while failing to capture the city in full, continue to add definition to the Angeleno Mosaic.

Music, as we have suggested here before, is a part of that mosaic, and a serious effort has begun to revive and rejuvenate some of the earliest efforts to capture Los Angeles in song. The Library Foundation of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Public Library, and USC professor Josh Kun have collaborated in a project to select some of those early tunes and provide a modern interpretation. More than just covers, these are thoroughly modern renditions of almost forgotten tunes that give them a modern feel.

The songs are available for free download in a link from this story. I will not critique the music – I leave that to better tuned ears. What appeals to me about each of these tunes, though, is that their ability to transcend time also suggests something timeless about Los Angeles. I recognize that this thought will stick in the craw of a lot of people: the suggestion that there are timeless elements to American cities less than three centuries old – much less one whose maturity is of a far more recent vintage – is probably a joke to a denizen of London, Paris, Rome, Jerusalem, or Beijing.

But this music is guaranteed to touch something deep inside any Greater Angeleno, local-born or immigrant. There are themes, feelings, ideas in all of these that resonate to us today in a way that they did to locals eighty or more years ago, and that certainly still enchant those among us who live far away yet are still, somehow, Angelenos.

Digital Eccentric: los angeles food nostalgia. Leslie Johnston, a Washington D.C. digital librarian who apparently really knew her Los Angeles restaurants, offers a brief but mouth-watering walk down a virtual restaurant row of yesteryear. If you were in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, you’ll have the same reaction.

Are bookshelves becoming obsolete?. A great debate on io9, definitely worth reading the comments.

Our growing shelf of Golden West books, some of them very old and highly collectible, are sufficient proof to us of the idea that bookshelves will not go away until books do.

Our take: even with the rise of the e-book, from Kindle to PDF, we don’t see the bookshelf going away anytime soon. We are having to rethink the nature of the shelf, learning to integrate books into our rooms and spaces so they are not taking up space, but enhancing it.


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