Coffee Houses, Culture and Music

Coffee culture has a rich history and music has been a part of this since the 16th century and this is where the story of coffee and creativity begins….

There were some places in the entertainment life of Ottoman addressing to various cultural levels and nearly all of them were musical in nature. Coffee houses as one of these places differ from the other musical entertainment places because of the fact that it has its own varieties as well. Ottoman Café was a distinctive part of the culture of the Ottoman Empire. These coffeehouses, started in the mid-sixteenth century, brought together citizens across society for educational, social, and political activity as well as general information exchange. The popularity of these coffeehouses attracted government interest and were attended by government spies to gather public opinion. Ottoman coffeehouses also had religious and musical ties. And Europeans adopted coffeehouses and other Ottoman leisure customs during the early modern period.

One of the most remarkable and distinctive features of musical life in eighteenth-century Europe was the astonishing level of productivity achieved by many of its composers. The sheer number of major works written by Antonio Vivaldi (nearly five hundred concertos, at least forty operas and a vast amount of sacred music), Georg Philipp Telemann (whose 1,700 church cantatas represent just one part of his enormous output), J. S. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and many others, reflects, in part, the century’s predominantly optimistic, energetic mood, which encouraged writers such as Voltaire and Diderot to be similarly prolific. It was probably no coincidence that this age of almost manic intellectual and artistic creativity was preceded by the introduction into Europe of a drug that, although not isolated and named until 1819, thoroughly pervaded eighteenth-century life.

From the rich chambers of the rising sun, 
Where arts, and all good fashions first begun, 
Where earth with choicest rarities is blest, 
And dying Phoenix builds her wondrous nest, 
COFFEE arrives, that grave and wholesome liquor, 
That heals the stomach, makes the genius quicker, 
Relieves the memory, revives the sad, 
And cheers the spirits, without making mad.

Long before there was association with folk music, coffeehouses had a distinctive history of their own. In 1555, a coffeehouse was recorded in Constantinople. They spread throughout the Muslim world, and by the 17th century, coffeehouses were becoming popular in Western Europe. Coffeehouses appeared in England in 1652—first in Oxford and then in London. By 1675, England had more than 3,000 coffeehouses.  Coffeehouses did equally well in Paris – where they became major meeting places for the French Enlightenment. America’s first coffeehouse was established in 1676, in Boston.

The caffeine ingested in these coffee-houses had two mutually reinforcing effects. First (as the poem quoted earlier attests), it stimulated individual coffee drinkers, increasing their mental energy, alertness and sense of well-being. Second, as coffee drinkers interacted with one another, the caffeine encouraged conversation, the give-and-take of opinions and information. Coffee-houses became places where intellectuals and artists could test and (depending on the political conditions) extend the limits of freedom of expression. Caffeine thus helped to fuel the Enlightenment.

During the 19th century, coffeehouses faded a bit as their wealthier patrons were drawn away into private clubs and cheap liquor establishments offered their patrons inexpensive refreshments as well as “free lunches.” However, in the early 20th they were reinvigorated by the Temperance Movement and, more importantly, by massive Italian immigration. It isn’t accidental that places that had Italian immigrant communities, such as New York’s Greenwich Village, Boston’s North End, and San Francisco’s North Beach, were also where folk music coffeehouses initially appeared.

Coffeehouses tended to be small, intimate spaces—so single performers playing quieter instruments – guitars, for example –and smaller ensembles were a plus. Folk and ethnic traditions that called for louder and larger ensembles—like tamburitza orchestras or sacred harp singing squares, for example—did not become coffeehouse staples. The lack of space also meant that dancing was not a common feature of coffeehouses.

In 1948, Kerouac introduced the phrase “Beat Generation”, generalizing from his social circle to characterize the underground, anticonformist youth gathering in New York at that time. The name came up in conversation with John Clellon Holmes, who published an early Beat Generation novel titled Go (1952), along with the manifesto This Is the Beat Generation in The New York Times Magazine.[1] In 1954, Nolan Miller published his third novel Why I Am So Beat (Putnam), detailing the weekend parties of four students.

The adjective “beat” was introduced to the group by Herbert Huncke, though Kerouac expanded the meaning of the term.[citation needed] “Beat” came from underworld slang—the world of hustlers, drug addicts and petty thieves, where Allen Ginsbergand Kerouac sought inspiration. “Beat” was slang for “beaten down” or downtrodden, but to Kerouac and Ginsberg, it also had a spiritual connotation as in “beatitude.” Other adjectives discussed by Holmes and Kerouac were “found” and “furtive.” Kerouac felt he had identified (and was the embodiment of) a new trend analogous to the influential Lost Generation.[2][3]

As time has progressed and the birth of independent establishments in the UK, Europe and the USA a genre of music has emerged for relaxing and enjoying coffee. From mood lighting to lo-fi beats, a laptop and the creativity flows for those who are digital nomads and internet entrepreneurs. A sub culture moving away from the office and running businesses, writing blogs and making music with headphones in coffee joints across the globe.

Coffee shops have become the hub for artists, music lovers and friends to meet and share new ideas as they have for centuries before them…


Audio Mogul

Blogger, Ableton Coach, Coffee Connoisseur and DJ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s