New Exhibition by Professor Allie Martin Explores Go-Go Music Culture

Combining photography and soundscape, "Tradewinds" is on view at Stable Arts in Washington, D.C., through Nov. 4.

A new collaborative exhibition by ethnomusicologist Allie Martin, an assistant professor in the Department of Music, is on view at Stable Arts in Washington, D.C. 

"Tradewinds" approaches DC's go-go music club culture from dual angles of photography and soundscape. Go-go music takes inspiration from funk, blues, soul, and salsa, with syncopated rhythms and multiple percussion instruments. It originated in the early 1970s in mostly African American communities in Washington, D.C.

Martin collaborated on the exhibit with Washington-based conceptual, video, and photo artist Larry Cook. 

"I became interested in studying go-go music because I am originally from the Washington area, and I commuted to American University for my undergrad," Martin says. "I drove across the city every day and saw gentrification in real time, and became interested in how that was affecting the go-go music community."

The exhibition presents an intentional focus on scale and new medium exploration. "I thought deeply about how to fill the space with sounds from the city and sounds from DC's club culture," Martin says. Studying Cook's work, Martin considered how to harness light and projection as "their own objects that could be thrown across the gallery in various ways."

Through "Tradewinds," Martin explores the pivotal roles of go-go clubs in Washington's  history and culture, as well as how gentrification affects the unique music, dance, and art scene.  "In this project, I'm trying to suggest that the soundscapes from city streets and the soundscapes from inside go-go music performances can be heard as one and the same," Martin says. "By combining music with soundscape recordings, I ask the listener to linger on the threshold of inside and outside, where the club is the city, and the city is the club.


Allie Martin
Professor Allie Martin

Martin's research combines ethnographic fieldwork and digital humanities methodologies to explore what gentrification sounds like.

"Gentrification is often considered from a visual perspective, where we see drastic changes in developing neighborhoods. My work asks what these changes sound like, from music scenes to noise legislation to the streets themselves," Martin says.

"Tradewinds" opened Sept. 30 and will be on view through Nov. 4 at Stable Arts each Friday from noon to 6 p.m.