Tomorrow i go to South America! I need to see some people about some stuff – very excited – don’t worry, you’ll hear about it. (any latin american literature recommendations?)

Today a Mexican whose name isn’t really Rayo gave me 3 gigabytes of poorly labeled cumbia MP3s (just the song titles, which are not always correct). Yikes! Future libraries are gonna grow weirder and weirder. Oral culture & digital culture – virus-powered all. Replication thru mutation.

When he saw my studio he nodded in affirmation. “Yes, i recognize this. Mine’s the same way.” then he used a Spanish word i didn’t know so i said “what?” and he repeated it, gesturing. “In this chaos, you probably know exactly where to find things.”

+ + +

speaking of dark mirrorings, one of my fav compilations from 2007 features just that. Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics.


True, i would like this purely on the basis of the cover art: a strangely white woman reflected, darkly, in the surface of an old record, her real-world mouth white as if in the spotlight, her mirrored mouth falling into darkness, as black as silence. Open but mute.

But then there’s the music! an eclectic grab-bag of songs from 78s between 50 and 90 years old. The taste of compiler Ian Nagoski is fantastic, so the overall feel this CD transmits is of something quite special and cohesive.

If i’m ever talking too much or doing something annoying, just play this tune and i’ll stop everything and just listen.

Nji R. Hadji Djoeaehn – Tjimploengan (Indonesia)

15 thoughts on “BLACK MIRROR”

  1. What a wonderfully haunting song and so fitting for the abyssal Japanese sky. I quite like the idea of “replication through mutation” and would like to read some more about it somewhere, somehow. Thank you for the music and the post.

  2. Ok, second comment and now I shut up (I was just too happy to see you in my referrals this morning! 🙂

    Latin american literature has a fast track for foreign speaking people, as during the 60s there were a lot of poets trying to use easy words that expressed complex things with simple structures.. Like Nicolás GuillĂ©n, Nicanor Parra (sometimes more complex also – he is part of the Parra family like Violeta), Vicente Huidobro (my favorite Chilean poet). More complex words you find in CĂ©sar Vallejo but Trilce is lovely.

    Then you also have the deep down poets like Alejandra Pizarnik, Nestor Perlonguer the queerest poet of Argentina and a huge role model that also wrote a bit of prose (

    Novel writers there are many also:
    I love Roberto Arlt, yes! Los siete locos great book. And Leopoldo Marechal. He made the Argentinian version of the Joyce’s Ulisses that for sure is not so famous but is much more fun: Adán Buenosayres (that needs a bit of tango listening for understanding before). Also another nice short (a bit chauvinistic) novel he has is “El Banquete de Severo Arcángelo” (Hijo de los piojos! Abuelo de la nada!”)

    Macedonio Fernández (weird stuff)

    Short stories: Rodolfo Fogwill – Dalmiro Sáenz – Rodrigo Fresán – Elvio Gandolfo

    And then science fiction/fantasy:
    Carlos Gardini, Angélica Gorodischer, who you can even find translated to english by the great Ursula K. Le Guin.

  3. Ernesto Sabato wrote these 3 sprawling, self-referential, paranoid, derangedly beautiful novels that are my favorite in South American books (in Spanish, anyway). They grow in complexity with each of the three part series, El TĂşnel beginning as a short, angst-ridden ode to 1948 Buenos Aires and a narrative of a murder by the book’s narrator (a novel which blew Camus’ mind and had translated into French) , flowing into Sobre Heroes y Tumbas, something like a Phillip K. Dick novel without the science fiction: pure urban alienation that is spliced with historical accounts of the taming of the Pampas and the bloody birth of Argentina, as well as a hundred-page, first person hallucinogenic treaty on blind people and their sinister cabal of cthulu-like global influence, and ending with Abaddon el Exterminador, a post-modern masterpiece that aims for Joyce and has Borges as a character, since him and Sabato were good friends.

    Try Sobre HĂ©roes y Tumbas; they’re not sequential, but they build on themselves, El Tunel can be too existential and Abaddon can be too, well, much. I swear you’ll never see a blind person in the same way!

  4. I’m sort of obsessed with Cesar Aira, Argentinian, ridiculously prolific, starts from a premise and then writes forward, throwing up all these absurd obstacles and traps and pitfalls that he has to write himself out of, like some kind of perfromer trapped on stage who has to keep on improvising tricks and art out of nowhere and without knowing why, until for a second you glimpse a pattern in the chaos – and the whole theatre collapses.

    Most of his stuff is short – I recommend Como me Hice Monja (translated as How I Became a Nun) as a place to start.

  5. I assume the recs are for things to pick up in situ. Other recs above all get my seal of approval.

    My friend Marcelo has turned me on to the Colombian bohemian Andres Caicedo. Apparently Chilean author Alberto Fuguet (a favorite of mine) is turning out an auto/biography of him, basically posthumously edited writings. If you see a copy of Caicedo’s novel Que Viva la Musica, all about salsa, buy two and I’ll reimburse you for one.

    Jorge Franco from Colombia is pretty cool too. (Are you going anywhere near Colombia?). Have fun, very jealous!

  6. i was recently reminded how awesome jorge luis borges’s writing is. labyrinths is an absolute masterpiece. and they are short stories, so easy to digest. original.

    on the political tip (not precisely literature), i was recommended (and loved) eduardo galleano’s “upside down” by the great chicano artist john jota leaños.

    also everyone including my basque/nicuraguan grandmother seems to like gabriel garcia marquez.

  7. That’s gorgeous. Thanks. I bought some wonderful cd’s during my last trip to Jakarta. You might like this as well:

    A beautiful song (ánd great music) by Euis Komariah & Yus Wiradiredja with the Jugala Orchestra & Pateraman Dasentra Group: Campaka Kambar (from: The Sound Of Sunda, Ace Records 1989/1990).

    The song is about “Twin Flowers”: She turns her sarong into a hammock and swings and dreams. She swings in the sky; she dreams of twin white flowers. It’s beautiful but you can’t have everything. The flowers are destoyed. What a pity”.

  8. Hello Siebe, i’m looking for that fabulous album for more than a year. Have you a rip of it ?

  9. jace, have you ever gotten your ears on the Indonesian Guitars volume of the Smithsonian Folkways? It’s a pure gem and I think you’ll like it.

  10. Hey waxk0, is that you Wayne? Yes, I can rip the cd if you like. I also have the 1990 JAIPONGAN JAVA cd if you’re interested. Gimme a note via siebe dot thissen @ planet dot nl.

  11. No, Siebe, it wasn’t me.

    And I totally second the Indonesian Guitars volume. Great stuff. Very pretty, interesting, etc.

Leave a Reply