New York Underground

Of the many chapters here, this is among the more diffuse. It looks into the pre-Punk years in New York City, exploring a place where the visual arts, avant garde music, Rock and Roll, and life at the fringes were mixing in unusual ways and throwing off a range of products. As the lessons will demonstrate, the Velvet Underground is perhaps more significant to the chapter than any other group. Working with Andy Warhol, testing the limits with songs that referenced a kind of underworld offputting to many, staging live shows that verged on so-called performance art, the Velvet Underground prefigured and kicked off much of what was to come.

One of the lessons will allow students a chance to study the Chelsea Hotel and its role in bringing an artistic community together. From writer William Burroughs to Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe to Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, the Chelsea was a spot where you expected to see someone who was doing something that was shaking up the various worlds of creativity. Somehow, what happened at the Chelsea, those conversations across the arts and the hotel's collective creative spirit touched many in the city, whether they lived there or not. What came out, in this time in New York City, were musicians who broke down boundaries.

Among the topics covered in these lessons will be Lou Reed's career, from the Velvet Underground into his solo years and various collaborations; Andy Warhol's effect on New York City's music culture; and case studies of a range of artists and acts, including John Cale (also a Velvet Underground member), the Rolling Stones (much a part of New York City in the 1970s), Bruce Springsteen (courtesy the bridges and tunnels leading from New Jersey), and, though less well known, Mink DeVille. In different ways, it was a group of artists with an exceptionally visual approach to writing. They were storytellers, capturing the strangeness and beauty of a city that offered dreams and just as often shattered them.