In a blog post elsewhere on this site, Jan Ramsey writes about the need to memorialize the important sites in New Orleans’ musical history. I don’t mean to be contrarian, but I’m not sure why. It might just be me, but I remember in my youth visiting the homes of famous American authors in the Northeast, and the only thing I took away from them as a young teenager was that people used to be short. Now, I regularly drive by the old Dew Drop Inn on my way to work, but beyond the mild, cool buzz I feel for knowing where a famous New Orleans musical landmark was, seeing it doesn’t do much for me. It doesn’t bring history back, nor does it tell me much about our musical heritage. The main thing I take away from it is that from the street, it looks like it’s smaller than I imagined (again, this size thing might just be me).
Monuments are secondary ways to connect to historical figures. Since the music made in New Orleans is readily available on record, CD and in the clubs, and because the music is far more lively and idiosyncratic than any plaque or marker, it’s hard for me to see such memorializing efforts as a priority. If anything, I worry that markers are a way to think about New Orleans music in a way that trivializes it by reducing the music to a series of easily consumed facts that don’t get you any closer to the music or the culture that produced it.