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Beginning with the rise of popular sheet music in the early 20th century, New York's Broadway musical theater and Tin Pan Alley's songcraft, New York became a major center for the American music industry. Since then the city has served as an important center for many different musical genres.


A Long Musical Legacy

New York's status as a center for European classical music can be traced back to the early 19th century. The New York Philharmonic, formed in 1842, did much to help establish the city's musical reputation. The best-known New York composer, indeed, the best-known American classical composer of any kind, was George Gershwin. Gershwin was a songwriter with Tin Pan Alley and the Broadway theatres, and his works synthesized elements of many styles, including the music of New York's Yiddish theatre, vaudeville, ragtime, operetta, jazz and the post-Romantic music of European composers. Gershwin's work gave American classical music unprecedented international recognition.

The New York blues was a type of blues music characterized by significant jazz influences and a more modernized, urban feel than the country blues. Prominent musicians from this field include Lionel Hampton and Big Joe Turner. In New York, jazz became fused with stride (an advanced form of ragtime) and became highly evolved. Among the first major New York jazz musicians was Fletcher Henderson, whose jazz orchestra, first appearing in 1923, helped invent swing music. The swing style that developed from New York's big jazz bands was catchy and very danceable, and was originally played largely by black orchestras. Later, white bands led by musicians like Jimmy Dorsey and Benny Goodman began to dominate and produced a number of instrumentalists that had a profound effect on the later evolution of jazz. Star vocalists also emerged, mainly women like the bluesy Billie Holiday and the scat singer Ella Fitzgerald.

Beginning in the 1940s, New York City was the center of a roots revival in American folk music. Many New Yorkers took a renewed interested in blues, Appalachian folk music and other roots styles. Greenwich Village became a hotbed of American folk music as well as leftist political activism. The performers associated with the Greenwich Village scene had sporadic mainstream success in the 1940s and 50s; some, like Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers, did well, but most were confined to local coffeehouses and other venues. Performers like Dave Van Ronk and Joan Baez helped expand the scene by appealing to university students, while Bob Dylan came to national prominence in the local folk music scene in the 1960s.

Contemporary Musical Trends

Disco music diverged from the funk, soul and jazz of the 1960s, elevating music from the raw sound of 4-piece garage bands to refined music composed by producers who contracted local symphony and philharmonic orchestras and session musicians. A musical idiom that was strongly associated with minority audiences (especially black audiences and gay audiences), discothèques grew popular in the 1970s and began moving to larger venues. Many of the major disco nightclubs were in New York, including Paradise Garage and Studio 54. This tradition continued in the 1980s with Area, Danceteria, and the Limelight.

In the 1970s, punk rock emerged in New York's downtown music scene with seminal bands such as the New York Dolls, the Ramones, and Patti Smith. Anthrax and KISS were the best known heavy metal and glam rock performers from the city. The downtown scene developed into the "new wave" style of rock music at downtown clubs like CBGB's. The 1970s were also when the Salsa and Latin Jazz movements grew and branched out to the world, still creating a huge impact today. Labels like the "Fania All Stars", leaders like Tito Puente, legends Like Celia Cruz and RM&M Record Label Created who passed away this year (2009), Ralph Mercado, all contributed to stars like Hector LaVoe, Ruben Blades and many, many more. The New Yorican Sound, differed somewhat from Salsa that came from Puerto Rico, it was being sung by Puerto Rican Americans from New York City and had the swagger of the Big Apple.

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Hip hop first emerged in the Bronx in the early 1970s at neighborhood block parties when DJs, like DJ Kool Herc, began isolating percussion breaks in funk and R&B songs and rapping while the audience danced. For many years, New York was the only city with a major hip-hop scene, and all of the early recordings came from New York. People like LL Cool J brought hip hop to the mainstream for the first time, while so-called East Coast rap was defined in the 1980s by artists including Eric B. & Rakim, Run-D.M.C., and Kurtis Blow. Major New York stars emerged to go on and produce multi-platinum records, including Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, and The Notorious B.I.G., along with critically acclaimed acts like Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Big L, and Busta Rhymes.

New York City has long been one of the leading centers of the indie rock movement. During the mid-to-late 90s, bands such as Blonde Redhead, The Van Pelt, The Lapse, Enon, and Les Savy Fav were part of the New York indie rock scene.

New York City also was one of the primary centers of the Garage Rock Revival of the early 2000s, most notably with bands such as The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well as less popular bands such as The Bravery, The Mooney Suzuki, and The Rapture. Interpol drew influences from garage rock, post-punk and indie rock with some mainstream success. A highly experimental indie rock scene that emerged during the 2000s has seen such bands as Liars, Black Dice, Le Tigre, and These Are Powers take influences from a variety of sources, including dance-punk, synth punk, electroclash, noise rock, psychedelic rock, and no wave.

In more recent years, indie rock, indie pop and indie electronic artists such as LCD Soundsystem, Antony and the Johnsons, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Vampire Weekend, Yeasayer, French Kicks, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, TV on the Radio, and MGMT have further solidified New York City's stance as one of the leaders of the indie rock scene.

A Musical City

With nearly 8 million people riding the city's subway system each day, New York's transit network is also a major venue for musicians. Each week, more than 100 musicians and ensembles - ranging in genre from classical to Cajun, bluegrass, African, South American, and jazz - give over 150 performances sanctioned by New York City Transit at 25 locations throughout the subway system.

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