“Silent Majority” (Eugene McDaniels)

The silent majority, without doubt, is terrifying, bent on “creating souls of immunity” out of the war-torn remains of “Arlington Cemetery.”  Yet the “vocal minority” doesn’t assert their ascendancy or demand race war; it’s really a fundamental difference in beat: they live on the two and four (while the majority lives on the one and three).  Second in line and last in everything, this spatial, sonic, and stress(ed out) positioning grants the right to claim true democracy, with this caveat: 4/4 is still a steady pulse and throbbing commitment to shared “humanity”–another “hanging tree.”  Perhaps, though, this is the limit of our shared “national emergency,” grooved out and locked in.

Read more "“Silent Majority” (Eugene McDaniels)"

“Au clair de la lune” (fragment) (Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville)

The earliest playable sound recording is this phonautogram of 9 April 1860–played back for the first time in 2008 through the miracle of the First Sounds collective. This trax consists of the first ten words of an eighteenth-century folk song (and sometime lullaby) intoned very slowly and as carefully as possible: “Au clair de la lune, mon ami Pierrot, prête moi—” (“By the light of the moon, my friend Pierrot, lend me…”). If M. Scott had not run out of recording space, the commedia dell’arte trickster figure Harlequin would have gone on to tell his “friend” that he’s searching for a pen and a light, so that he might make a record of his thoughts. Pierrot rebuffs him and sends him to his neighbor. In the final verse, the search for implements transmutes into a discovery of the shaft (la plume indeed) and eros (le feu) with the aid of the girl next door, and the trickster beds down Pierrot’s beloved. Much as in the long version of Kenneth Anger’s film, Rabbit’s Moon (1972), Harlequin teaches Pierrot braided lessons on desire, deceit (double entendres), and inscription/reproduction (the apparatus). The song operates, then, as a metacritique regarding the mimetic and psychological limits to Scott’s labors. Relatedly, the trax ends with an open-ended “lend me,” implying, at minimum, some form of outside supplement to reproduction. An ear, perhaps?


Scott’s phonautograms can be heard at: http://www.firstsounds.org/sounds/scott.php

Read more "“Au clair de la lune” (fragment) (Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville)"

“Harlem Shake” (Baauer)

The controversy involving the conflict between the achievement of a culturally-specific dance and the white supremacist practice of “adapting” material really comes down to this: if people of color could really name themselves, when would this ever be a possible conflict? The irony, perhaps, is that the original Filthy Frank video has no leader but an alternation between an extremely excited Bernie/Berne dance and the Butthead hump; the meme: all iterations require a leader or, more directly, motivation to break from alienated movement. Purportedly a riffing off of Dutch House/Dirty Dutch (among other genres/techniques) with a repeated bipartite structure alternating rooted and mobile (within the measures) bass patterns. Baauer himself claims ownership of the song, which ironically backs into with the imperative sample’s source  critique: an attempted indictment of black rappers who sign endorsement deals. How about a way below this? If we are for each other, then even a citation is unfaithful to the original.


Read more "“Harlem Shake” (Baauer)"

“Revelation March” (James Blood Ulmer)

As album’s inside cartoon implies, the revelation that inspires marching toward must escape the orbit of anarchy’s desire—in Sex Pistols’ reference—to resituate the state. The tension in this process of extrication accompanies harmolodic theory’s structured freedom, demanding support as much as it does innovation. Ascending/Descending, downward-sliding, shared pair of doublestops on guitar and bass at beginning lay claim to this commitment, initiating the destabilization of strict rules of instrumentation; for example, bass primarily maintains walking technique while honing in on and, alternately, initiating key changes. Coleman’s reverbed performance stresses revolution’s commitment to the past through its distant (re)incarnation, if only to reinforce the work of transforming so that, like track’s end, dominion emerges through consideration.


Read more "“Revelation March” (James Blood Ulmer)"

“Home, Unspeakable” (John Duncan and Bernhard Günter)

Wordless soundscape for a Samuel Beckett libretto to Morton Feldman’s Neither: a long track of extreme silences (with intermittent white noise, pops, clickings, and whirrings) punctuated after eighteen minutes by a sounds of a door unbarred, opened, shut, and refortified (three times). The idea of home for the self, or spatial origin and presence (spatial belonging), is a tempting phantasm, but unattainable. Home’s door closes upon approach. No one home, ever, but something (still) stirs: infrasonic refugees.


Read more "“Home, Unspeakable” (John Duncan and Bernhard Günter)"

“Ascension Day” (Alphaville)

While others develop, seek out, or endure for a future salvation, what posture should be assumed? The other kinds of engagement build living “nightmares,” ranging from colonization to self-monitoring to sexual quietism. In these “times of terror and pain,” this trax advocates giving in to “temptations” as long (as they last) and stepping on the necks of the “meek.” With so much focus on experience(s), it’s not too much of a stretch to think this will all end badly—with a libertarian bent and superior sneer. There are no border police here, though, and you can “send in” anyone you want to protect hegemony. Being with “fools” and “whores” an antidote to the “torture and fame” of sinning, fueling a life on provisional but indefinitely renewable “dreams.”


Read more "“Ascension Day” (Alphaville)"

“My Story” (Jean Grae)

Just like it’s impossible for a trax to encompass a single life (“I’ve actually erased a lot that I’ve been through”), the same goes for a human fetus with the poles reversed. Susan Sherwin contends that a set of feminist ethics shouldn’t be pro-choice in the common sense; rather, it should advocate for women being able to make “truly voluntary choices,” which includes determining the value and meaning of a fetus. As for the first, this would involve an intensive structural critique addressing situations like having to “fuck . . . for rent” or being resigned to “Medicaid fix[ing]” you. (It would entail, in the short term, a rights-based advocacy with a longer view toward the full enfranchisement of women, understood as a category of potentiality.) But what’s a fetus’ potential if it never existed as such? Can it provide enough material for a trax in itself? For Jean Grae’s narrator, a fetus is “divinity” while “mother” is an unmarked and experientially remote status. The fetus represents “another life that almost got close.” That’s a closed narrative already, an anti-utopia premised on disciplining and patterning the murderous self. A choice, then, is only a choice if one’s options include both the manageable and the impossible, or when the voluntary choice is able to entertain unboundedness as one of its orientations.


Read more "“My Story” (Jean Grae)"

“Yankee Dollar” (Lord Invader)

Henry C.K. Liu: “World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy.” Liu dates this to Nixon’s breaking of Bretton Woods, but Lord Invader forecasts the coming storm in 1946: the girls in Port-of-Spain “will tell you plainly/They love Yankee money.” Singer states this not as a rebuke of such impossible desires (after all, what is the simple alternative?), but when only the dollar matters, one might hear currency imperialism in action, in the flat notes (little green ones, which leave the Caribbean flat broke).


Read more "“Yankee Dollar” (Lord Invader)"

“Road Runner” (Bo Diddley)

Evasion of intersubjective domination through speed. Futurist, in principle. But so long as speed remains calculable (“I’m the fastest in the land”), it provides a platform for exclusivity (“I’ve got to put you down”). Rock as fundamentally a measure of miles-per-hour, without breaking the sound barrier (much less attaining the blur of warp speed).


Read more "“Road Runner” (Bo Diddley)"