I started the Mudd Up Book Clubb as a celebration of books, readers, libraries, face2face meetups, and all the hot people who love slow media. Last year I gave away hand-drawn portraits of all the authors we’d read so far by artist Rocio Rodriguez Salceda, and I’m happy to announce that we’ve added 5 new images to the collection. Our muddy canon grows with fine drawings of Tatyana Tolstaya (who showed up, unannounced, to the Slynx meeting!), Patrik Ouředník, Carmen Laforet, and the author of our current book, G. Willow Wilson).
Each drawing measures 600 x 800 pixels — formatted for Kindle screensavers, but they work well in many situations: say, an iPhone background, or a razor & octopus ink tattoo.
The Mudd Up Book Clubb exists increasingly offline, but I shouldn’t let us flesh-and-blood meetup ghosts have all the syllabi, so — time to announce our next two selections, novels by Rita Indiana Hernandez (yes, that Rita) & G. Willow Wilson.
The Mudd Up Book Clubb’s first selection of 2013 is G. Willow Wilson’s remarkable debut novel, Alif the Unseen. Hack3rz & djinn & a white american lady called ‘the Convert’ suspensing through a composite Emirati city contemporary with Arab Spring. Allah-ex-machinas abound but Alif is much more about the ideas and well-observed societal nuances than any action. Gender relations and visibility, class striations defining urban space, the liturgical music of the djinn… Plus there’s a lot in here about coding, computer languages, spirituality, and control — very much in line with Sufi Plug Ins, not to mention the Clubb’s occasional subtheme of old school Islamic geomancy.
Wilson, like one of her characters, is a white american who converted to Islam and lived in the Middle East for awhile. The world is big; I hope this gets translated into Arabic.
We’ll meet in Manhattan on Sunday Feb 3rd to talk Alif The Unseen.
And I’m very excited to say that in late March we’ll read the second novel of Dominican superhero, Rita Indiana Hernandez. Papi is written in Spanish. We got enough Spanish-language readers in the clubb that I figured it’d be fun to do this.
I see your Junot and raise you a Rita. For real. Rita is a brilliant force; if you’re unfamiliar with her music, check out the El Juidero vid below, or read this breathless-but-its-true! introduction post I wrote back in 2010 when I released her first single, a few months before she signed to a major label.
Juan Duchesne Winter describes Papi: “Una niña espera y espera a su padre hasta el delirio, Papi no falla en aparecer. Aparece y reaparece, repitiéndose sin pudor, encarnadno el neomacho global de los trópicos. . . narrada en prosa que inocula el ritmo del perico ripiao en el pulso tecno, que inyecta la bachata en la sonata.” (I wonder if Juan Pablo Villalobos read Papi?)
Alif is the only book club selection which you can buy in mainstreamy bookstores (I saw it in Penn Station the other day) and Rita is the only book club author whose (musical) output every Dominican in NYC has an opinion on. Yet few who found about her through the music have experienced her literature — so let’s change that. Dos mil trece!
Keep these books burning.
Here’s the Mudd Up Book Clubb reading list (you join by recommending a book, although we are somewhat full…) in reverse chronological order:
Michal Ajvaz, The Other City
Carmen Laforet, Nada
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
This week I’m recording a new album with an incredible team including musicians David Friend, Emily Manzo, and Arooj Aftab. Think pianos. But before we get to that, I decided to give away a dozen of my mixtapes for free.
The incoming year is all about radical optimism and revolutionary love. OK? OK! Let’s get it.
Sufi Plug Ins, currently on display at the Istanbul Design Biennial, are touching down at the Aicon Gallery in New York City! This Thursday is the opening for the ‘Fact|Fission’ group show and you are invited to come catch Bill Bowen & I performing a 25-minute drone (using our DRONE plug-in, naturally) as live soundtrack to a new video by artist Nitin Mukul. Come melt with us! If you can’t make it on Thursday, the Sufi Plug Ins prints & ‘how-to videos’ will be on view for the duration of the show, and the drone audio will be incorporated into Nitin’s video piece.
This Thursday, November 29th, I’m presenting SUFI PLUG INS at a special session of Wayne Marshall’s Harvard course on ‘Technomusicology‘. Taking this unusual sound-software-art project to Harvard University! Amazing – thanks to Wayne for the invitation.
I expect we’ll cover a lot of ground, from Morocco music research stories to interface politix to considerations of software-as-art and the relationship between non-western knowledge systems & creative expression in our digital era.
The two-hour afternoon event is free & open to the public, so come along and let your Boston/Cambridge art-sound-tech friends know. Check out Wayne’s post for background on the class, and head here to read more about (& download, for free!) Sufi Plug Ins.
[screenshot: Sufi Plug Ins Bayati synthesizer]
Music 190r: Technomusicology presents… SUFI PLUG INS a conversation with Jace Clayton (DJ /Rupture)Arts @ 29 Garden (corner of Garden and Chauncy Streets) Harvard University Thurs, Nov 29, 3-5 pm.
[crossing la frontera in a van, all photos from my Instagram]
We drove into Mexico at the San Diego/Tijuana border last night. We’re in TJ for Norte Sonoro, a weeklong musical event that I’ve curated this year.
The idea behind Norte Sonoro: bring a half-dozen international producers to Mexico to work with several regional musicians, culminating in a free fiesta and keeping the energy afloat by releasing a free EP of the collaborative works a few months later. Getting an on-the-ground sense of contemporary Tijuana, and of the contexts that gave rise to the sounds we’re working with is key (and includes a strict dietary regimen of only delicious food).
Every genuine encounter destroys our existing world.
That’s a line from our next book clubb selection, Michal Ajvaz’s The Other City (1993, English trans. 2009). It is set in Prague, where an unnamed protagonist chances upon a book written in a strange script and slowly discovers the existence of another equally-present city, at once metaphysical and, well, filled with very physical things like tiny elks and all manner of fish and bedspreads which turn into ponds or ski slopes. Compatible with the dark whimsy of fellow Czech artist, Jan Švankmajer.
I think you have to surrender a bit to Ajvaz’s style, these language flows from the other city (“grammar is applied demonology” goes one middle school lecture there, and elsewhere an official complains that the ban on certain verbal tenses is “utterly nonsensical anyway. It’s been obvious to everyone for a long time now that all verbal endings are totally harmless and have nothing to do with the evil music that destroys shiny machines.”), but once you’ve done that, it’s a perfect little book. Creates and defies its own gravity as it changes that way you see your own city, its corners.
“Can there really exist a world in such close proximity to our own, one that seethes with such strange life, one that was possibly here before our own city and yet we know absolutely nothing about it? The more I pondered on it, the more I was inclined to think that it was indeed quite possible, that it corresponded to our lifestyle, to the way we lived in circumscribed spaces that we are afraid to leave. We are troubled by the dark music heard from other the border, which undermines our order… And yet the world we have confined ourselves in is so narrow. Even inside the space we regard as our property there are places that lie beyond our power, lairs inhabited by creatures whose home is over the border.”
This is without a doubt the most BLDGBLOGgy book I’ve read to date, being built from the sort of ‘architectural conjecture and urban speculation’ that Geoff Manaugh writes so compellingly about. When a closet you thought you knew suddenly opens up into a whole new architecture, or hidden lanes set previously unconnected places in close dialog, when by simply looking up you can gain access to an unseen world…
And on the literary front, The Other City forms a fascinating triangle with Gene Wolfe’s masterfully ambiguous 1992 short story “Useful Phrases” (about a bookseller discovering an alien phrasebook in his pocket) and China Miéville’s 2009 The City & The City, which features the same city-within-a-city/shared mutant topography conceit as Ajvaz albeit set within a noir/police procedural. Ajvaz wrote a book on Borges but is not chilly, is more Bioy Casares even.
SO. We’ll meet at 5pm on November 25nd, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, in Manhattan, to talk about this other city…
I’m pleased to announce that the special guest on tomorrow’s radio show is James Bridle, in town from London, full of provocative ideas & playful manifestations of our current digital-IRL moment, where the very definitions of memory, visibility, tangibility, etc are glitching out/fraying together in fascinating ways then physicalizing in fashion, advertising, interface design, architecture…. (When I saw the above piece of pixelated grief-graf in Beirut a few days ago, I instantly thought of James Bridle’s New Aesthetic.)
So. On Wednesday October 17th from 8-9pm EST we’ll be talking about the role of sound in all that with James sharing an ear-opening audio selection.
In case you don’t know, James’ work made the internet explode last April when Bruce Sterling wrote a WIRED essay on The New Aesthetic as a kind of new art movement/weltanscshauung with James as “the master of the salon… the guru there.” Because of how the internet works, within days Sterling’s article had sparked roughly 1,000 other articles debating and reflecting on ‘The New Aesthetic’ — most of them written by people who didn’t really have an idea what was going on but felt excited to meme-dive and bend the discussion to whatever they were already thinking about. So, noise aside, Bridle is zeitgeisty in a good, contagious way, and this show is not to be missed.
Tomorrow I’m off to Beirut for the Share Conference, “a weekend-long public, free and non-commercial hybrid event blending an Internet culture and technology related daytime conference with dynamic cutting-edge music festival by night.” I’ll be doing double duty: a daytime artist talk on Sunday October 7th, and a conference-closing DJ set that night. First time in Lebanon, looking fwd!
From there I head to Istanbul for the opening of the Istanbul Design Biennial, where we’re taking over a room to install Sufi Plug Ins & John Francis Peters’ Morocco photographs. Beyond Digital by the Bosphorus! Last time I was in Turkey was a dozen years ago, touring with Wax Poetic & Norah Jones before she was (the) Norah Jones. Everyone says the city has changed more than any other in this time, turned ‘hip’, skyrocketed.
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.
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