The Round of 64 for Sound of the City’s own version of March Madness—in which you, the Sound of the City voting public, help determine the quintessential New York musician—finishes this weekend, with the Round of 32 kicking off Monday. (The schedule and results so far are here; the full, updated bracket is here.) This time out, your votes will decide the victor of a Downtown brawl between Sonic Youth and Arthur Russell. Check out the arguments in favor of each below, and vote at Facebook for the musician that you think should move on to the next round.
The recent separation of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon puts the future of the indie-rock power couple’s band in doubt. But even if Sonic Youth never steps onstage as a band again, it’ll be a long time before any New York band even approaches their three-decade reign as one of the city’s greatest musical exports. Whether you favor their ear-bleeding New Wave beginnings, their imperial Daydream Nation period, their run as the elder statesmen of the Lollapalooza generation, or their incredibly fruitful post-9/11 autumn, there’s something in this allegedly marginal, inaccessible band’s sprawling catalog for anyone who’s ever wanted to listen to electric guitars.
Arthur Russell’s most important work occurred when he moved to NYC and became the coordinator for the creative roosting place for composers and instrumentalists the Kitchen, where he would meet and eventually collaborate with an avant-garde elite that included Philip Glass and David Byrne. He had spent his youth cavorting with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and John Cage; later, the young composer grew to be a playboy in the underground disco scene, gaining notoriety for his unique take on the genre and his entourage of disco kings. Most fascinating was the fact that his peers put up with him at all. He often dropped projects mid-way (including an opera for Robert Wilson, later saved by Glass), respectfully declined to work with John Hammond (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin’s producer), and sometimes created so many versions of the same track that the end result was confused or went un-recorded. In all, Russell was an innovative composer and musical virtuoso whose strengths and weaknesses combined to make him both adored and, for all intents and purposes, not very well known.