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Musical Chairs

October 16, 2010

This morning I attended a panel at the annual American Folklore Society conference about commercialization and re-contextualization of texts/artifacts.  One of the presentations was looking at the history of recording sessions in the US South, the most notable of which were the Bristol Sessions.   The presenter mentioned two different individuals who had transitioned from the furniture industry to the music industry, which struck me as an odd transition.  At the end of the presentation, I asked about the connection between furniture retail and the record industry.  The presenter explained that because the record players used in the 1920s were so large, they were sold as furniture, making a transition into the recording industry a fairly natural/common practice for furniture salesmen.  I feel the need to point out that I was apparently the only person in the room who did not know this already.  And I hope, dear readers, that you are, like me, newly enlightened with this information.

At any rate, I am intrigued by the idea of music as furniture in our lives.  When I look at the ways that my friends, my family, and myself use music, I see a multitude of similarities to home furnishings.  We use music for comfort and relaxation; we decorate with music; we use music as a way to tell other people about ourselves and our lives.  Music, like furniture, is defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ not by concrete forms of evaluation, but by the ethereal intersection of form and function–and even then, that evaluation is always subjective.

I think the popular genres of music throughout history can also be linked to popular furniture styles.  For example, the bean bag chair shared its 1970s popularity with Aerosmith, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix; just listening to Hendrix conjures up images of smoking a joint and sinking into a formless polyester blob.  It’s equally unsurprising that people were sitting in chairs like this:

while Strauss, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner were at their respective peaks.

I am left wondering how my generation will leave its mark on the furniture world, based on our popular genres of music.  I’ve tried to come up with some examples.

Death metal:

Lady Gaga-esque pop music:

Techno/house music:

Hip Hop:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Caroline permalink
    October 17, 2010 3:16 pm

    I am not a fan of house music, but I want that Tetris chair. I want it so bad.

    Music as furniture is definitely an interesting idea, though. Often when I turn on music it’s not because I plan on actively listening, but because it adds something to the environment. A comfortable a chair and a comfortable, familiar song aren’t all that different.

  2. Karl McKimpson permalink
    February 11, 2011 12:55 pm

    Can I have the Tetris chair? Wouldn’t match anything in my apartment but the Albers, but I’d manage.

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