I was recently reading a paper titled “The Problem of Excess Genius”. In this paper David Banks, a Statistician, notes “Geniuses are not scattered uniformly through time and space.” Instead, there are clumps or groupings of genius that occur at specific locations and times. Specific examples of clusters that he cited were: Athens (440 BC to 380 BC}; Florence (1440 to 1490); and London (1570 to 1640). The “Problem” referred to in the title of the paper relates to the fact that no one knows why does this occurs or what the triggering conditions for such a cluster are?
The paper was an interesting read but…(Spoiler Alert) it does not really provide a definitive answer to the problem that it poses. Fortunately for me by the time I got to the end of the paper I was not thinking about the answer to his problem. Instead, I was thinking about its applicability to rock music and whether I could identify (and post about) a clump of rock music genius. While a number of possible examples came to mind, the one that I zeroed in on was Los Angeles (1960-1975).
Incredibly talented and diverse groups such as The Beach Boys, The Doors, and the Mamas and Papas formed and flourished in LA during this period and changed the face of modern music. Unfortunately, the great diversity of the LA groups that evolved during this period would be difficult to write about so I began to search for a more cohesive musical genre that evolved during this period.
I settled on the music that became known as the Southern California sound. This sound was based on a combination of folk and rock music and over time it gradually incorporated elements of country music. (Note: In my opinion, most country music today owes more to the Southern California sound that it does to classic country music.)
As I began to research the Southern California sound I determined that the cluster phenomenon discussed in the paper cited above was indeed at work. In a series of 16 posts (starting on Wednesday, March 21) I will build a case for that cluster and show how the musicians in two key foundational groups were the geniuses that created, refined, and influenced the Southern California sound over the time span of a decade. The following figure will play a key role in this series of posts, providing a visual representation of how the Southern California sound evolved over time.
We will fill in the blank boxes in this figure over the series of posts, eventually providing a “complete” picture of the evolution of the Southern California sound. (Disclaimer: Complete is in quotes because what I present is truly only a representative slice of the evolution of the Southern California sound) I hope you stick with me during the next three to four weeks. I think it will be an interesting journey and hopefully you will hear some music that you have not heard before. As always, let me know what you think.