Monthly Archives: September 2012

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: Nada by Carmen Laforet

The October Mudd Up Book Clubb selection is Carmen Laforet’s Nada, completed in 1944 when she was just 23 years old. First novels of this caliber are rare indeed.

In many ways, Nada form perfect counterpart to last month’s selection, Ouředník’s Europeana. Whereas Ouředník presents the 20th ct seen through a kind of radically wide-angle lens, Laforet distills the troubling landscape of post Civil War Francoist Spain down to one claustrophobic house/family-in-decline on Aribau street in Barcelona’s Xiample neighborhood. Acutely observed, existentially heavy, shot through with incredibly vivid depictions of poverty’s ramifications… And it also doubles as a welcome alternative to the horrid Barcelona boosterism that has changed the city so much since the Olympics and the 2004 Forum and the SleazyJet Age. Bonus: one of the main characters is a twisted yet magnetic former violinist, which makes for some nice musical passages.

You can locate a copy in Laforet’s original Spanish (it’s a relatively easy read en Español) without too much trouble; the NYPL stocks a few, as does the Barco de Papel bookshop in Queens, etc. Edith Grossman’s lucid English translation is fine too.

So! On Sunday October 21st, we’ll gather to talk about ‘Nothing’ and drink some homemade sangria.

Here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list (you join by recommending a book) in reverse chronological order:

Patrik Ouředník, Europeana

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum

Tatyana Tolystaya, The Slynx

Augusto Moterroso, Mister Taylor

Vladimir Sorokin, Ice Trilogy

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis

BEYOND THE BLOCK & A NEW RUPTURE MIX

This weekend we gave away physical copies of my latest mix CD. Today I’m offering it online. The mix is directly inspired by transnational Mexican sonidero culture, and uses its format to air the voices and stories of a group of dedicated rent strikers out here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Here’s a download of the mix and the story of how it came to be–

This past Saturday, friends & I threw a community-minded block party at Rainbow Park in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The basic idea was to air live music that reflects the population here (Latino, Chinese, Arab…), to bring folks together into a space with great sound as community groups offer info and services.

It takes much painstaking organization, discussion, and collaboration to create an open-ended space, any inclusive moment wide with margins of possibility. I think we managed to do it. Hundreds showed up, listened, participated.

[BTB - kids at Nuria Montiel's print vinyl station, photo by Sound Liberation Front]

Planning for ‘Beyond The Block’ began in late spring and continued — with weekly meetings! — until this Saturday. Our we grew over time, expanding to include people from Beyond Digital, Dutty Artz, The Arab American Association of New York, CAAAV, La Unión, La Casita Comunal de Sunset Park, Sound Liberation Front, and various local artists and community members. Manhattan electronic music school Dubspot donated a grip of top-quality gear. On the day of the event, dozens of volunteers came to help everything flow.

[Undocumented youth activists. Ty Ushka's instagram.]

We made posters for Beyond The Block in four languages: Spanish, Mandarin, English, Arabic. Musicians/DJs held extended conversations with community organizers working towards social justice. Various worlds shrank. We focused on local, person-to-person outreach — that’s why you didn’t see mention of this event on any blogs for example. Our digital hype/ “social networking” skills were put towards helping our partner organizations located in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge activate & amplify the word through their networks.

[Beyond The Block flyers by Talacha]

If the dominant mode of musical experience in 2012 is a web-sped diet of consume and move on, then Beyond The Block is interested in learning about the slow social manifestations of all this music that moves us, and asking how our excitement over these sounds can contribute, in a direct way, to the communities where its heartbeat comes from. And besides, I’ve lived in Sunset Park ever since I moved back to the US in 2006.

As we wrote in the mission statement:

Can a hype block party double as an opportunity to spread information about stop & frisk, immigrant rights, police surveillance, and housing? We say yes. As the championing of diversity, a global outlook, and a celebration of the local become increasingly common in today’s dance music scenes, we see an ideal opportunity to use the energy & open-ended vibe of a great party to connect musical ideas to their real-world analogs — to create a space where we can talk about – and dance to – an incredible musical selection while sharing useful information for our communities that are impacted by issues pertaining to undocumented workers’ rights, transnational identity, health care, police violence, housing and more.

How did it go? Fine late summer sun shone on nonstop music performances across a variety of styles and languages — including teen rappers from around the block, Omnia Hegazy’s English-Arabic guitar songs, Los Skarroneros’ Marxist ska-punk, Uproot Andy DJing, and a perfectly-pitched closing ceremony by Cetiliztli Nauhcampa Quetzalcoatl in Ixachitlan. (This last group had me wishing that DJ Javier Estrada was there, indigenous time rise up).

[photo by Neha Gautam]

In addition to the music were things like: a handball court transformed into a realtime street art gallery, Nuria Montiel’s incredible pushcart art station that let kids transform vinyl records in printing devices, a dozen or so community groups sharing info, $1 spicy grilled octopus from the Chinese food cart…

As fellow organizer Larisa Mann/DJ Ripley wrote, “the face-painting and mural-painting folks were total troopers mobbed by excited kids all day, the community organizations & folks at the tables were full of useful information and good humor and the basketball and handball NEVER STOPPED.” When Ashland Total Freedom came walking up I had to pinch myself. As it turned out, everything really did happen. We’re working on a website but until then you’ll have to peer into the soul-sucking abyss of the Zuckerborg to see it.

[painting produced on the day, Ty Ushka's instagram]

The point is not to brag about this event. The point is to remind ourselves: this is possible. A few dedicated individuals can leverage a lot. Music can start & sustain conversations. You can throw a block party like this wherever you live, too. Getting the permits and such wasn’t that hard (despite NYC’s somnambulant bureaucracy); sharing the workload made everything easier; post-meeting tacos & micheladas formed their own satisfying world.

But about this new mixtape…

As the planning went on, I started thinking about ways to extend the outburst of energy that comes – then goes! – with putting on a party. Something that could spread slowly, perhaps in online worlds, after we tended to the here-and-now on one exquisite September day.

[Beyond The Block flyers by Talacha]

In helping to make this block party happen, I ended up working closely with people involved in the rent strike on 46th St. The mixtape idea clicked into place all at once: I would select made-in-the-USA cumbia instrumentals, and have those sounds serve as a backing track to the rent strikers explaining, in their own words, what is happening, why they are struggling. Most of the three rent striking buildings’ residents are Latino immigrants, many from Mexico. I mentioned my idea at a meeting — people were into it. Pues… ¡Vámonos!

[photos taken by rent strikers]

Noelle Theard introduced me to some of the principal rent strikers, then she and Dennis Flores, who had already been working closely with the strikers, conducted incredible interviews. As the Spanish-speakers among us will hear, one of the other great things about these interviews is how very different each person’s perspective on the rent strike is. It ranges from deeply personal accounts — say, of dirty water dripping on Eulogia’s stovetop — to broad political analysis examining the banks’ roles, to philosophical reflections on rights and dignity and how a just struggle can empower. If you don’t understand the Spanish then hopefully the deep cumbias will communicate.

The ‘Sunset Park Rent Strike Speakout Mix’ was directly inspired by Mexican sonideros. Sonideros (DJs/sound-people) talk on the mic and select tunes, narrating the party and activating the music, cracking jokes, taking requests to dedicate shoutouts to (often-distant) friends, family, lovers. They literally speak community into existence. Dozens of sonidero parties rock NYC each month, from private weddings to all-nighters in inconspicuous venues under the BQE. (Here’s an introductory article on cumbia sonidera in the New York Times from 2003, and an excellent Spanish language e-book published by friends over at El Proyecto Sonidero.)

Another nice thing about the voices gathered here is how they reflect the high level of women involved in the struggle for housing justice in Sunset Park. (With notable exceptions like DF’s Lupita de la Cigarita, sonidero culture skews heavily towards men on the mic).

But I’ve said enough. Here you go:

DOWNLOAD : Sunset Park Rent Strike Speakout Mix [25 minutes, 61MB] (mixed by DJ Rupture, produced by Noelle Theard & Dennis Flores)

DRONE UP!: free drone event in Brooklyn tonite

[Sufi Plug Ins DRONE: screen shot]

Tonight, Thursday September 20th, I am participating in a free event at Williamsburg’s Public Assembly. DRONEWORLD! is “a multimedia conversation” presented by Motherboard.tv & the ETC festival. Our drones switch on at 9pm.

The FB invite contains bios of the participants in this “late night chat about our robot past, present and future, with detours into Peruvian archeology, Marilyn Monroe, remote taco delivery and more. With surprise unmanned cameos and the whir of new software — all set to luscious drone tunes.” I will be talking Sufi Plug Ins, ‘playing the stock market’, audio drones’ relationship to architecture, & more. Coder-wizard / microphone handcrafter Bill Bowen will be on-hand to demo our ‘Drone’ Sufi Plug In.

I enjoy events that get different types of people talking & relating to each other — call it interdisciplinary, call it being bored by the same type of similarly open-minded music fans shouting at each other in the same old rooms. This should be a lively night. Plus it’s free!

To get amped up, here are some vids. The first comes courtesy of fellow panelist Rahel Aina, who tweeted “as gender+surveillance goes, there’s also cryptodrones in TLC’s ‘unpretty’ video, c 1999″. It’s incredible. I would say that this TLC video is more exciting than the entire internet in 2012 — much of whose DNA seems to come from it, especially Tumblr. Check it out:

Next is the Instructional Video for our Drone Sufi Plug In. I believe that all software should come with clear, concise directions as to its use:

And last but not least, a new hit from Pakistani singer Sitara Younis, whose viral success in our Anglophone media bubble is due to a translation of its chorus: My gaze is as fatal as a drone attack. As the Guardian reports,

Maas Khan Wesal, a Pashtu music veteran who wrote the accompanying music, said the drone reference had nothing to do with politics, but simply the fact that the “eyes of a beautiful dancing girl are so powerful they are like a drone, they can destroy men”.

BOOK CLUBB: Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana

This month’s Mudd Up Book Clubb selection is Patrik Ouředník’s Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century, and we’re meeting next Sunday, September 16, to talk about it.

Europeana is a brilliant, simple/sly/hypnotic little book, which of course isn’t simple at all, so few things are. Rather incredibly, the New York Public Library files this book in the History section, which gives the Czech writer’s work even more weight.

Ouředník offers some generous reflections on his work in this interview:

Does the brevity of this novel suggest that we try to remove ourselves from the twentieth century and its horrors, or were you trying to illustrate the absurdity of this past century?

Ouředník - I could simplify this: what were the key words of the twentieth century? Undoubtedly, haste (rather than ”chaos,” which is no more appropriate to the twentieth century than to any another). This meant, let’s try to write a hurried text. Another peculiarity of the twentieth century, I think, is infantilism — with everything that it implies, from the romantic-commercial image of juvenility to the refusal of taking the full responsibility of one’s acts and words. Let’s try then to write a childish text, a text that could have been told by a kid reciting his lesson or by the village idiot. Thirdly, this century has been explicitly scientific. This meant, let’s use a vocabulary more or less scientific, with all its contradictions and, if possible, with all its vacuity. These are the elements that gave birth to the form and content of the book.


Here’s an excerpt from the first two paragraphs:

The Americans who fell in Normandy in 1944 were tall men measuring 173 centimeters on average, and if they were laid head to foot they would measure 38 kilometers. The Germans were tall too, while the tallest of all were the Senegalese fusiliers in the First World War who measured 176 centimeters, and so they were sent into battle on the front lines in order to scare the Germans. It was said of the First World War that people in it fell like seeds and the Russian Communists later calculated how much fertilizer a square kilometer of corpses would yield and how much they would save on expensive foreign fertilizers if they used the corpses of traitors and criminals instead of manure. And the English invented the tank and the Germans invented gas, which was known as yperite because the Germans first used it near the town of Ypres, although apparently that was not true, and it was also called mustard because it stung the nose like Dijon mustard, and that was apparently true, and some soldiers who returned home after the war did not want to eat Dijon mustard again. The First World War was known as an imperialist war because the Germans felt that other countries were prejudiced against them and did not want to let them become a world power and fulfill some historical mission. And most people in Europe, Germany, Austria, France, Serbia, Bulgaria, etc., believed it to be a necessary and just war which would bring peace to the world. And many people believed that the war would revive those virtues that the modern industrial world has forced into the background, such as love of one’s country, courage, and self-sacrifice. And poor people looked forward to riding in the train and country folk looked forward to seeing big cities and phoning the district post office to dictate a telegram to their wives, I’M FINE, HOPE YOU ARE TOO. The generals looked forward to being in the newspapers, and people from national minorities were pleased that they would be sharing the war with people who spoke without an accent and that they would be singing marching songs and jolly popular ditties with them. And everyone thought they’d be home in time for the grape harvest or at least by Christmas.

Some historians subsequently said that the twentieth century actually started in 1914, when war broke out, because it was the first war in history in which so many countries took park, in which so many people died and in which airships and airplanes flew and bombarded the rear and towns and civilians, and submarines sunk ships and artillery could lob shells ten or twelve kilometers. And the Germans invented gas and the English invented tanks and scientists discovered isotopes and the general theory of relativity, according to which nothing was metaphysical, but relative. And when the Senegalese fusiliers first saw an airplane they thought it was a tame bird and one of the Senegalese soldiers cut a lump of flesh from a dead horse and threw it as far as he could in order to lure it away. And the soldiers wore green and camouflage uniforms because they did not want the enemy to see them, which was modern at the time because in previous wars soldiers had worn brightly-colored uniforms in order to be visible from afar. And airships and airplanes flew through the sky and the horses were terribly frightened.

In the margins on nearly every page there are incredible subheadings written in tiny grey type, for example the above selection contains the subheadings THE ENGLISH INVENTED THE TANK and MARCHING SONGS and GERMANS INVENTED GAS. Europeana! You’re in for a treat.
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Here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list (you join by recommending a book) in reverse chronological order:

Patrik Ouředník, Europeana

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Michael Taussig, My Cocaine Museum

Tatyana Tolystaya, The Slynx

Augusto Moterroso, Mister Taylor

Vladimir Sorokin, Ice Trilogy

Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Samuel R. Delany, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis

DJ JAVIER ESTRADA & LA VOZ DE HUITZILOPOCHTLI

[DJ Javier Estrada, courtesy Reuben Torres]

An essay I wrote on “The Aztec imagery and digital soundworld of Mexican producer Javier Estrada” is available in the current issue of Frieze. In it I explore resonances between global genres in the internet age, Atomik Aztex (the novel), Oscar Zeta Acosta, Aztec-inspired notions of cyclical time and our favorite hummingbird god, plus a pragmatic approach to the issue of “aliens” coupled with advice on how to exit the category of speed. Javier’s work is generous, complicated, and inspires these sort of linkages.

You can find the article wherever fine magazines are sold and read it online right here.

Below, two songs that I discuss in the piece. Listen to the voice of Huitzilopochtli…


Los Cadetes de Linares – No Hay Novedad (DJ Javier Estrada remix)

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DJ Javier Estrada – Pre-Hispanic Moombahton Gods

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