A Personal Journey of Self-Discovery

Corey Highberg @ The Vine in Ojai, 2018. Picture by Amy Campbell

Once upon a time…

At 19, I went shopping for a bass guitar. I wanted something that was more than just something off the wall from a big brand store. Through some exploration, I discovered an oddball shop in Hollywood with a tatted-up salesperson, eclectic brands, and bad lighting. It was the type of place that all the “cool kids” shopped at. I spent the day there in search of a suitable instrument. It wasn’t long before I found one that “spoke” to me. After some 19-year old attempts at haggling, we agreed on a reasonable price and I walked…


Songs for the Dead

The Halloween Town Band, Feb 24, 2018, from: https://tnbc-thoughtsandheadcanons.tumblr.com/post/171230822449/the-halloween-town-band

October in the United States usually means it’s time to cover the yard in stretched out cotton, put bedsheets on the bushes, and fake your own death with a personalized headstone on the front lawn. Candy must be purchased, lanterns must be jacked, and lives must be lost. This whole thing is about dead people, isn’t it?

Well, mostly. It’s also about music. Halloween and Christmas are two holidays in the United States that share more then just a Tim Burton movie. They also share the unique position of having a musical heritage, mostly developed as a result of American…


The Music of the Iberian Peninsula

John Singer Sargent, Spanish Dancer: By John Singer Sargent — http://www.artrenewal.org, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2764079

For 600 years, the Romans ruled over the Western edge of Europe. As the 4th century ended, a new threat loomed on the horizon. The ancient empire was on a precipice, and Hispania, the region known today as Spain and Portugal, was about to enter a new chapter. For the next three centuries, the peninsula would change hands until finally the Moors would stablish a tenuous dominance. The Eastern Mediterranean cultures of Islam brought a relatively enlightened and prosperous time to the continent, particularly to the region of Andalusia in the southern city of Grenada. In the last centuries of…


and its Relation to Protest Music

The subject of music and its relationship to ethnicity and nationality brings a curious convergence to its connection to protest. Ethnic and national identity share many aspects, though they are not one and the same. Nationality is often associated with fealty to specific governance, geographic location, and political ideologies (like democratic or communist political structures) while ethnicity is defined by shared genealogies, mores, language, and religious followings. As we can already see, many of these systems overlap, and where they do not, it is possible to draw correlations. Mexican nationality and Latino ethnicity are one such case. While a person…


A Study of Gender Roles and Power Dynamics in Popular Music

Amiee Mann’s “Voices Carry” video from 1984 is an vital and underappreciated story about a woman’s expression in a patriarchal world, and a man trapped in the stereotype of masculinity and control he was raised in. Amiee is a lead singer and bass player in a rock band and her boyfriend is an upper class young white man who disapproves of her life choices. His disdain is not limited to her music or activities, but extends to criticisms about her hairstyle, conduct, and affections towards him. While on the surface, this seems like a shallow, selfish and egotistical pattern of…


Four Places that Changed European Music Tastes

The composition and performance of orchestral music at the court of Mannheim was that of the professional musician lead by a composer of some standing or accomplishment. In 1723 there are 12 violins and assortments of 2 to 6 other instruments from the other string families along with horns, oboes, flutes, and the occasional timpani. By 1763 the orchestra size has doubled to 24 violins and a respective increase of other players, with the notable increase of some 13 trumpets. The increase in size can be attributed to the increase of notoriety and popularity of the reputation of Mannheim, due…


The string requires several characteristics in order to qualify it for musical use. There needs to be a degree of flexibility, elasticity, and durability in order for it to produce resonance and tone. The circumstances that lead to the first person discovering that these qualities existed within the intestinal tract of animals must be an amazing story. Whatever the circumstances, I think it curious that those discoveries did not prevail in the Americas, yet it prevailed elsewhere, like in the Indus, Mesopotamian, Eastern, and Egyptian cultures. It might be that the materials used for string and rope production simply did…


The ancient civilizations of the Andean region in South America is home to the oldest cities in the Americas. Dr. Rudy Shady, a Peruvian archeologist researched and headed the discovery of some 18 different settlement sites located in the Supe Valley of central coastal Peru, with a capitol city at the ancient cite of Caral. The research done in collaboration with American archeologists Jonathan Haas and Winifred Creamer in 1991–1995 shows that “the rise of civilization in Peru preceded Mesoamerica, the other center of pristine civilization in America, by at least 1500 years.” These cites date back to 2500 to…


The Vessel of Expression

The art of string making is an ancient science. The materials used vary, as archeology has uncovered silk used for strings in the east, horsehair from Scandinavia, plant material and vines used in Mesoamerica, and animal intestine in the western European regions. The Egyptologist, James Burton uncovered strings made from gut for musical instruments in his excavations a Thebes, that to his account still produced tone after some two thousand years of storage, (Larson, Gamutmusic.com). The Mesopotamian instruments reveal the nature of their materials by their construction and pictorial evidence of use. In the instance of the asor, (a triangle…


I had written a series on some of the early Italian luthiers responsible for the modern violin and viola da gamba, along with some interesting stories about the history of a few famous early double basses. While writing, I became fascinated with the origins of the modern string. One challenge for lower pitches is the diameter and tension necessary, along with the overall strength of the string itself. A pivotal moment in the construction and tuning of the double bass came with the invention of wound strings. Steel strings created an even greater amount of flexibility for bass instruments, but…

Corey Hugh Highberg

Musicologist that writes about history and how music permeates the sociology of our past, intersecting with our modern world. Learn more at www.hughbass.com!

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