This Sunday I’m presenting the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner at the Bang On A Can Marathon in lower Manhattan. The event is free. The lineup is stellar. We go on in late afternoon right after the incredible Meredith Monk! (Eastman sang on Monk’s Dolmen Music) Other performers include Jherek Bischoff, Roomful of Teeth, So Percussion. Info.
Summer reading time! On Sunday July 6th we’ll meet in Manhattan to discuss Etel Adnan’s Sitt Marie Rose. This remarkable novella was written in 1977 by Lebanese artist Etel Adnan. These days Adnan is more recognized for her painting — she was a quiet hero of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Elsewhere, Adnan’s words have been put to music by Henry Threadgill and Gavin Bryars. Point is, Adnan does many things very well.
Sitt Marie Rose is light and heavy, experimental and matter-of-fact, this story set during the Lebanese Civil War in which gendered violence might be the real civil war. It is also about the way cities feel and tense up. There is politics and religion and luminous sentences as precise and glowing as Adnan’s abstract paintings. The title character is a teacher of deaf-mute children and the language throughout pays great attention to sound, vibration, and silence.
I tell myself that it would be better to let loose a million birds in the sky over Lebanon, so that these hunters could practice on them, and this carnage could be avoided. – Sitt Marie Rose
We had a phenomenal time presenting the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner in Austin this spring. The University of Texas’ Visual Arts Center and local music organizers Church of the Friendly Ghost made everything quite special; this video they put together documenting the evening’s performance is just one example of their awesomeness. Enjoy!
Have you seen The Act of Killing? Werner Herzog wasn’t kidding when he said “I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, and frightening in at least a decade.” Back in the 90s I collaborated with TAoK director Joshua Oppenheimer, and in that spirit I decided to put together a musical response to the documentary Continue reading
The Art Assignment is a new PBS webseries created by curator Sarah Urist Green and hosted by her and author/YouTube superstar John Green, in which they ask artists around the country to devise an ‘art assignment’ related to their work that viewers can carry out, sharing the results online. Here’s the video for mine. It involves walking to find the quietest place near where you live. Fascinating responses to my #theartassignment have come in already — songs, videos, a delightful array of photos, even diary-style written logs of soundwalks, from all over the globe. It’s been wonderful to see the enthusiasm with which people are searching for their ‘Quietest Place’. (As a bonus, we get to experience the complications of recording quiet — wind in the smartphone mic… handling vibration rumble… it all ends up sounding rather noisy.)
You can check out a growing assortment of the responses over at the Art Assignment blog; some of the best will be folded back into a future episode of the program.
Music is bringing me to Mexico City this weekend. I’ll have time to dig around some of the megacity’s great bookstores in addition to parrandeando.
So, dear reader, can you recommend me some good books to check out? My Spanish-language contemporary fiction bookshelf has a lot of dudes in it — much as I love Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Cesar Aira, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Yuri Herrera, etc — I’m particularly curious about recent writing by women. And yes, Rita Indiana’s new novel Nombres y Animales will be published next week! My Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list gives you an idea of what’s up my alley. OK gracias.
I am off to Mexico City, Distrito Federal, to perform at the Vive Latino festival this weekend. DF is without a doubt one of the world’s most incredible cities — friend visiting for the first time just wrote me: “Such an incredible place, oozing with humanity from every opening… the hustlers, the colors, the shrines everywhere, the highway underpasses playing midi classical music, those guys in the official outfits playing those weird piano boxes from another century…”
Adding to the already overloaded megalopolis, Vive Latino has created a massive musician vortex with many good friends in town: Helado Negro, Ceci Bastida, Sonido Martines, Javier Estrada, Boogat, DJ Rashad, Chancha Via Circuito, and more will perform. I’m particularly excited to be on a lineup with legendary sonidero soundsystem Sonido La Changa!
A 30-minute mix of “cumbia cumbia, not nueva cumbia” that was previously only available at a NYC taco shop. My man Talacha gets on the mic as sonidero.
I used all cumbias purchased in Brooklyn, so it skews heavily towards cumbias poblanas, mexican cumbias, tunes made in the States. Shoutouts include: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, New Jersey, Virginia, Baltimore, Las Carolinas, Ellay… kinda functions as a map of where Mexicans are strong in the US! There’s no tracklist but that’s OK because everyone is always shouting out their name anyhow…
This mix was originally available as a physical-only CD at a taco shop in the East Village, along with another 30minute mix by Sonido Martines. Here’s the post on that.
Stream or download:
If you’re hungry for more of this stuff, you are in luck, as cumbias are almost always close at hand in the Americas… For starters, the 2009 Cumbia Mix I did for Rob Da Bank’s BBC1 radio show remains popular, and my 2008 Fader Magazine feature article on cumbia remains a good introduction the genre as well as what it’s like to speed around Buenos Aires with Damas Gratis’ frontman Pablo Lescano.
Texas-bound! The JEMD crew and I are heading south to present the Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner at a free performance in Austin on Friday March 7. Info. It’s always a pleasure to work with pianists Emily Manzo and David Friend, and vocalist Arooj Aftab — all heard on the album version of the project — and we look forward to doing our thing live. This is pre-SXSW madness, although arriving early to insure seats is probably a good idea. The show is being presented by the good folks at Texas Performing Arts and the Church of the Friendly Ghost.
The Mudd Up Book Clubb returns to Manhattan on March 9, to talk Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall (1962, English trans. 1990). It is graceful. It is crushingly good. It discusses cows, cats, and foraging in great detail, such that this harrowing narrative of thingness and survival is never far from pellucid (if unsettling) meditation on the philosophically big issues. I see your Walden and raise you The Wall.
“I am writing on my novel and everything is very cumbersome” she told a friend, “because I never have much time and, mainly, because I can not embarrass myself. I must continuously inquire whether what I say about animals and plants is actually correct. One can not be precise enough.”
People have called The Wall an eco-feminist dystopia, and true, this tale takes the form of a diary of an Austrian woman who finds herself trapped in the mountains with an invisible wall separating her and a dog named Lynx from a horrible cataclysm which has befallen the rest of the world. Yet there is no trace of the fantastic; sci-fi, Robinson Crusoe, or Stephen King it is not. This radiant little masterpiece is written with such sensitivity that it’s hard to imagine that Haushofer herself did not live through these things — harvesting potatoes for sustenance, slowly running out of sugar, edging on forgetting her name, looking up at the sky in a forest meadow and thinking:
Human beings had played their own games, and in almost every case they had ended badly. And how could I complain? I was one of them and couldn’t judge them, because I understood them so well. . . The great game of the sun, moon and stars seemed to be working out, and that hadn’t been invented by humans. But it wasn’t completed yet, and might bear the seeds of failure within it. I was only an attentive and enchanted onlooker; my whole life would be too short to grasp even the tiniest stage of the game. I’d spent most of my life struggling with daily human concerns. Now that I had barely anything left, I could sit in peace on the bench and watch the stars dancing against the black firmament.
As a bonus for the cat fanciers and dog lovers among us, The Wall has my vote for the least sentimental yet most heartfelt book involving animals. Rare combo! Some moving contemplation on cyclical time too.
So. Manhattan, 5pm, Sunday March 9. You can join us by (communication magic). Don’t let the ‘now a major motion picture’ on the cover of recent editions of the book keep you away…