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).

[weathered musicians, Playas]

Who’s here? Poirier, Sun Araw, Venus X, Cardopusher, Psilosamples… Norte Sonoro’s bilingual website has full information; the project is run by Monterrey’s NRMAL, and Los Macuanos are producing it. Friday’s party has a Facebook page — it’s free (come on down, L.A.!) but RSVP is mandatory.

This is the 2nd edition of Norte Sonoro — I participated in the first version, which was held in Monterrey last year. You can read my writeup + download the 2011 EP.

I’ve written a fair amount on Mexico, this complicated land I love. A good place to begin is this recent essay for Frieze on the music of Javier Estrada as it relates to Aztec-inspired ideas of cyclical time or this account of tribal guarachero (3Ball MTY) from 2010 for The Fader.

Last but not least, I can’t stop listening to Ofrenda Al Mictlán, an incredible (& free) 2010 album from Mexicali’s Juan Cirerol. Guitar, lyrics, voice.

Whole thing is stellar, pulsing with a dark & hopped up lifeforce. Here’s a song:

[audio: Juan Cirerol – Mi Rostro.mp3]

Juan Cirerol – Mi Rostro

“it’s so easy to believe yourself blind in order not to look… the storm’s a perfect time to take a stroll”

MUDD UP BOOK CLUBB: The Other City by Michal Ajvaz

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 Å vankmajer.

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…

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

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

Juan Goytisolo, Exiled from Everywhere

Cesar Aira, How I Became a Nun

Maureen F. McHugh, Nekropolis