On Sunday August 24, we’ll be meeting to discuss Senselessness (2004, 2008 English trans.), a dynamite novella from Central American author Horacio Castellanos Moya.
It takes the form of a monologue, so everything we get comes from the mouth of, as the book jacket text describes, “an alcoholic, atheist, sex-obsessed writer [who] finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to edit the testimonies of the survivors of slaughtered Indian villages.”
Senselessness is agonizing/ly funny, profane & political, entertainingly written yet dealing with huge issues surrounding language and authority, grieving and historical memory — it’s no surprise that Castellanos Moya’s early novels earned him death threats, leading him to take up residence in exile…in Pittsburgh.
I recently spent time in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. My hosts make sure that I left with fresh cinnamon and many love songs from Palestine.
Shatila Camp Mix – track 9
She’s talking about love for her land/country, the water. She addresses a traveler who is going to Ramallah, she says take my soul with you.
The second half she says:
Oh mother, there’s a knock on our door it’s our beloveds
There’s a strong knock on our door, it’s the fedayeen, the ones who long for/love freedom
They knock on our door
And then some love for a dark palestinian woman
It sounds like a folk song or a combo of a few folk songs
Shatila Camp Mix – track 7
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.
It can be tough to find in bookstores so here’s a purchase page recommended by the publisher. E-book versions exist too. Head here to check out other Mudd Up Book Clubb selections.
[Etel Adnan, title unknown, from Documenta 13]
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
[some of the participants' photos]
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.