T. Ballard Lesemann’s article asks whether Charleston has a signature sound; my question is does anything as quaint as a ‘signature sound’ even exist today? It is obvious from even a cursory look at this article that the ‘music’ we are talking about is limited to a few categories and is not all-inclusive as evidenced by the people quoted and interviewed.

Music in America these days reflects as nothing else does the hidden myths of American society. We are supposed to be a classless society, an egalitarian society but we are clearly not. While we may not have air-tight hierarchies like say, medieval monarchy or the Hindu caste system, we have very clear lines of socio-economic compartmentalization. Nothing demonstrates that better than musical taste or, what is perhaps more accurate, musical style identification. These days the categories and sub-categories of American society have become smaller; it is harder to find large cultural niches and trends than it was in previous eras. And it is also possible for some to identify with past eras and completely reject the present rendering geographic or temporal ‘signature sounds’ superfluous or irrelevant.

Taste hierarchies have defined themselves more and more not just by race or location but also mostly by age grouping, that essential tool of corporate marketing. If you are 15 you are listening and identifying with something entirely different than if you are 55, even if when analyzed as purely ‘music,’ lyric content removed, there may be only slight harmonic or melodic differences.  Despite all the microscopic surface cosmetics, provided mostly by constantly evolving electronic manipulation, most music of the kind defined in this article is derivative of the social upheaval and social metamorphoses that took place in the post World War II era and which involved the infusion of simplistic rhythmic elements combined with amplification and nourished by civil angst and dissent. This surging tide was quickly usurped and commercialized by a recording industry that caught on to the vast fortunes that could be made by packaging identity to young people. The sad truth is that the current musical landscape is extremely limited, torpidly conventional, and ultimately shaped by factors that are largely non-musical, factors that have to do mostly with how we fit (or stunt) ourselves into the techno-commercial world the corporations have created.

Fernando Rivas


Jonathan Sanchez’s recent story on admission prices at Charleston Stage and the Gibbes Museum of Art somewhat misses the story on lower prices for the arts in Charleston, at least where Charleston Stage is concerned. In addition to 30 percent or more savings Charleston Stage offers season ticket and Flex ticket holders we also have these special offers:

• Pay-what-you-will night – we borrowed this idea from leading theatres around the country and it’s been a huge success, filling midweek performances and opening our shows to anyone on any budget. We offer these on the first Wednesday all mainstage shows.

• New $10 Bargain Seats – New this year is a block of $10 Bargain seats ($15 for musicals) offered for ALL performances.

• $5 Student Rush Tickets – Also offered for most performances. Students with a valid school ID are admitted for only $5 beginning one hour before curtain. This is subject to availability but is usually student rush available. Charleston Stage was one of the first to offer such a rush and it too has been very successful.

• Meet-Me-At-Dock-Street Young Professional Nights – For only $60 ($15 per show, which includes a pre-show reception and special deals at Mad River Bar and Grille after the show.)

There are a lot of ways to enjoy Charleston Stage productions at prices that are lower than ever if patrons will take advantage of these special offers.

You guys generally do a great job of covering the arts, but in this case, critical elements of this story were missed.

Julian Wiles
Founder and Producing Director Charleston Stage Company

Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.