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Civil Road Trip: Memphis Presence of Music

Benjamin Cox ’20 — We spent our final night in Memphis, Tennessee. Out of every stop on the trip, Memphis offered the most opportunities to experience a strong presence of music. The city seemed to run on music, as if everything would stop if blues or rock was not to be heard in the streets. Upon arrival on the evening of the 24th, we were able to explore Memphis. A couple classmates and I ended up in Alfred’s, a restaurant on Beale Street. Given its location, live music accompanied dinner. We finished the night atop a parking garage, taking in the sights of neon lights and latenight activity.

On the morning of the 25th, the two classes separated. While the political science class went to a civil rights museum, the music course headed to the Rock & Soul Museum in downtown Memphis. There I was able to view the progression of blues and rock through listening to examples of the music across the eras. It was a rewarding experience to hear information that I had already learned in class, which heightened the museum experience, as I was able to more fully appreciate the exhibits and what the music really meant to the development of our current culture.

Given that the return trip awaited, we had limited time in Memphis following our trip to the museum. I used the couple hours I had to walk the streets. It was interesting the see the city during the day. The rougher edges of Memphis that had been masked by night were laid bare. Seeing abandoned buildings and apparent poverty was both saddening and valuable. It was sad given the vitality that Memphis once had. That being said, it was valuable because it represented reality. Without the ugliness and harshness of life one could not fully appreciate the blues genre. As we boarded the bus to return to Crawfordsville, I felt much more connected to both my course material and my Wabash brothers.