“The merchandise was not the thing, and neither, for that matter, was the nostalgia. It was all about the neighborhood, that space where common sorrow could be drowned in common passion as the talk grew more scholarly and wild.”
—Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue
“Brokeland Records” is the name of the fictional record store at the heart of Michael Chabon’s 2012 novel, Telegraph Avenue. The store sits on the border of Berkeley and Oakland, California, and is a specialty purveyor of soul jazz from the 1960s and ’70s. It is a transitional space, a place where white meets black, old meets young, and the vernacular meets the rarefied, though not without conflict. Chabon’s own writing is similarly transitional—richly worded and highly stylized (Telegraph Avenue features a breathtaking 12-page run-on sentence), yet drawing on genre fiction and comic books.
Brokeland Records the piece is a musical analog of both the aforementioned record store and Chabon’s writing style. Many of the musical materials derive from Bay Area-funk (and from David Garibaldi’s slick drumming for the band Tower of Power in particular). Over the course of the piece however, I use different processes to slide the music back and forth from its origins toward a more rarefied space. Like the conversation in the fictional record store, the music in Brokeland Records grows both more scholarly and wild as it breathlessly heads toward its conclusion.
Brokeland Records was commissioned by the PRISM Saxophone Quartet and premiered at Rose Recital Hall, The University of Pennsylvania, on March 19th, 2016.