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Excavating the Tell

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald by Errol Morris, 2012 Ulysses, it is said, was so full of guile, was such a fox, that not even the goddess of fate could pierce his armor. Perhaps he had really noticed, although here the human understanding is beyond its depths, that the Sirens were silent...   – Kafka At the heart of all forensic science there are questions of epistemology which are often taken for granted. How can things be proven to have happened or not happened? How can memories be verified? What if something that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck was never a duck? All modes of inquiry are both predicated on and forever problematized by the relationship between ourselves and the world, as … [Read more...]

The Seer

Swans, The Seer,  3xLP or 2xCD, Young God Records, 2012 — Swans, throughout their thirty year history, have always been good enough not to make me wish I was listening to something else, nor remind even me that something else exists.  If when playing The Seer, with its long boiling rises and reductions, a sniff of Aidan Baker or Burning Star Core comes into the room, it is not because Swans are catching up with the times, it is because the times are finally catching up with Swans. Michael Gira describes his latest work as “the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined.” And while it is easy to agree with this statement in terms of aesthetic and … [Read more...]

Seven Sets, Eight Sides

John Tchicai, Hartmut Geerken & Famoudou Don Moyé West Africa Tour (Sierra Leone, Liberia & Guinea), April 1985,  4xLP (Sagittarius A-Star – SAS #21), 2012 — John Tchicai The history of jazz is too often Americentric, focusing on the epicenters and forgetting the aftershocks, no matter how devastating, and leaving the impression that no one south of the Rio Grande or east of the Atlantic ever blew through a saxophone reed. Indeed, both Gioia’s History of Jazz and Shipton’s otherwise excellent A New History of Jazz devote fewer than thirty pages between them to the practice outside North America. Europe, South America, Africa, Japan, and everyone else barely happened you might think. In fact, European jazz … [Read more...]

Transfiguration by Steel String

Robbie Basho's 'The Seal of The Blue Lotus' — On 26 February 1986, guitarist Robbie Basho lay back on a chiropractor's table in Albany, California, for an adjustment to treat back pain. An instant later, one of his vertebral arteries hemorrhaged and the chiropractor watched helplessly as his patient's cranium filled with blood. Robbie died a few days later in a local hospital at age 45—a rude end to a life of earnest artistic self-discovery. Though it would surely have pained him to receive so little notice in the event of his death, this would not have surprised Robbie since, even as he entered his 40s, he was still sometimes playing his heart inside out to audiences of three, or even one. Henry Kaiser related an incident in … [Read more...]

A Conversation with John Duncan

This interview is the Second Part of a two part post that reviews the work of John Duncan                    Part One: A Conversation with John Duncan: Prologue – Aram Yardumian: You have several times said you were primarily interested in finding ways to tap into the ‘inner self’ and to ‘wake up’. What is the ‘inner self’? Or rather, in what terms do you come to this concept? And what is it to ‘wake up’—do you mean this physiologically, mentally, metaphorically? John Duncan: Interesting question. What is the ‘inner self’? There is a moment in out-of-body experiences when you are aware of the physical body, the ‘self’ that perceives it from a certain distance – and another … [Read more...]

A Conversation with John Duncan: Prologue

It was Nietzsche who predicted the arts and sciences would merge into a single practice capable of opening new vistas to the world. The techne of science and the raw Dionysian energy of art together would render obsolete both theology—that caked residue under the toilet bowl of metaphysics—and the equally tendentious religiosity of Positivism. Whether Nietzsche envisioned specific technologies adapted by one and made suitable for the other, or more generally a reinforced mindset we cannot say. After all, art and science, from Euclid to Catherine Wagner, have always reacted with each other to produce a permanent art. Perhaps he meant a form of rational empiricism forged not by observation but by actualization. The elasticity of the aesthetic … [Read more...]

Poems From A Not Too Distant Shore

Mustapha Skandrani’s Istikhbars and Improvisations LP or CD. EM Records (EM1096), Japan. 2012. also released as Musique Classique Algérienne – Stikhbar. Pathé Marconi (STX 202), France. 1965. – Far from the cultural barrier we often imagine it to be, the Mediterranean is and remains a conductant to the life and practices teeming at its edges. Countless fishermen, sailors, merchants, criminals, pirates, soldiers, and refugees have charted the waters, bringing with them the trappings of their homeworlds. Movement, it seems, is more the rule than the exception in human history. Could water hold and replay sounds that verberate across it, so many mysteries of its deep past would be revealed. Whence came the Minoans, the … [Read more...]

Forensic Epistemology

Believing Is Seeing (Observations on the Mysteries of Photography), by Errol Morris, (2011) The question of knowledge and what can be known is as old as literature itself. Even before the concepts of physos and kosmos [1], observations of pattern in the natural world were hatching in Babylonian omens and Sumerian riddles. Western philosophy has incubated these questions ever since, but their growth has been bounded by the problems of studying our perceptive organs with our perceptive organs. The problem of the reliability of perception and how we approximate the welt extends the epistemological current into the hearts of jurisprudence, aesthetics, semiotics, and even physics, deepening their lines and muddying their waters. Thankfully, … [Read more...]

A Gentleman’s War

An Interview with Faroese Musician Goodiepal, Part 2 – Aram Yardumian: What was the real story surrounding the Key2Sound incident? Goodiepal: The real story was that Key2Sound was a company called Koblo back in the day. They designed Vipra 9000, which was a very successful piece of music software. That one was programmed by my childhood friend Emil, whose brother Max developed the Key2Sound synthesizer. They called me up for assistance in hardware design so I worked on that for a number of years. When Koblo closed down and laid off the employees, no one could get customer support. They were still selling the software by mail but people couldn’t get the authorization code! So I hacked their support email and started a free hotline … [Read more...]

Goodiebags

An Interview with Faroese Musician Goodiepal, Part 1 – Long lectures at American universities on non-human intelligence and mirror points in music; Danish television demonstrations of a model solar system with tonal-valued planets designed to expose the poetic/scientific disjunction of 2D/3D space; classes on Eurobot mythology, complete with whistled discourse; a wind-up mechanical bird in a bell jar; an arrest warrant for the theft of a Eventide H8000 from the Århus Conservatory, from which he had been recently dismissed as a lecturer; some sixty record and CD releases with themes ranging from Skanderborg plate cutters to “how to reinstate the notion of utopia back into electronic music”; and a handlebar mustache. Personally, I … [Read more...]