There is this famous bit where Tanehisi Coates is speaking about failure. I agree with him, because it really is all about failure. Not just failing as a creative, but willing to take that risk of failure. I think one can achieve a sort of limited, almost superficial success by adopting a trend or fad. In contrast, when one stays true to oneself, works towards an ideation that might only vaguely exist in some distant location within the mind of the creator, the success is much more satisfying.
One of the biggest mistakes I have made in the last two years was showing student work, not believing in myself as someone who had original concepts or was attempting to fabricate an original style. I use the term “student work” very loosely. My early work was very inspired by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Their collage work, it was also inspired by Cy Twombly and even David Hammons. At that stage I was actually very audacious, I had been making art for some four months, had visited New York City for the first time and decided I wanted to do this professionally. Within a year I was published by The Superstition Review at ASU. About six months after that, I had my first showing and sold about $500 worth of small works on canvas, the largest was about 24 x 6 inches, those proceeds went to help Push Drive Studios pay their rent. I kept none of it.
Since that showing, I have fallen in love with not just making art, attempting to create new styles and explore them, I have fallen in love with the art of failure. I think that is the most important thing for an artist to do, this falling in love with failure is the only way to move forward. If one looks at Beethoven’s sketchbooks, one discovers his love for failure. There are numerous passages he composed that never made it into his works without modification. His life was a life of redaction, alteration, and in his own way, I think Beethoven was a sculptor, maybe not by way of subtraction of stone, but by the addition of notes, by the addition of Zappa’s “black dots”.
I think it takes an absolute moron to even begin to think that the Instagram 9 photo grid is an effective presentation for photos. For starters, when it is done, there is a grid overlaid on your photo. More importantly, each photo will just appear as a blurry, fuzzy, out of focus, pixelated piece of shit.
Unfollow someone and let them know the reason you are doing it is because all they post is bullshit 9 grids.
I saw Cornel West in a Borders bookstore here in Santa Fe, New Mexico when I was about 15 or 16 years old. He was squatting down holding an open novel somewhere in either the A or B section of Fiction. I still wonder who he had open. Maya Angelou? Isabelle Allende? William S. Burroughs? Jane Austen? I would bet anything it was a new edition of a James Baldwin book. I was familiar with some of Cornel West's writing, which was included in a book of social theory I had recently purchased. I was too shy to approach him and tell him I was a fan of his work. I realize now that he would have appreciated my Native heritage and my interest in jazz music over the fact I had read an excerpt from Race Matters.
I eventually read Democracy Matters in August 2015. Around that same time, I read Race Matters in a single sitting at the Java Joe's on Siler Road. These books really spoke to me, West referenced John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr.; the work was a cohesive summation of everything that spoke to me in the contributions of these great men. One of the most important influences West had on me, actually comes from his Christianity, after reading these books, I began to see a lot of the Satanism and occultist trappings of my friends in the heavy metal, electronic music, and art scenes as ignorant.
There is this strain of thought in so-called LaVeyan Satanism that claims Witchcraft is psychodrama and intended to have merely an aesthetic and psychological impact on the practitioner, as LaVeyan Satanists are essentially atheist. In reality, the beliefs are a crutch for people who are perpetual teenagers and falsely see themselves as strong individualists, which they often are not, seeing as how the majority of popular culture has embraced their symbols and affectations. You can see pentagrams and candles and horned dancers in hip-hop videos as well as on movie posters in Hollywood. West caused me to reflect on why occultism has gone so mainstream and my current stance is that we are desperate. Spells promise love, wealth, and power, and embracing witchcraft is a way to quiet the desperation inside all of us as Americans, something that West touches upon over and over again in Democracy Matters.
With the majority of people relying on horoscopes, tarot readings, numerology, and witchcraft to make decisions and plan their lives; those of us living in reality have no choice but to find truth within and without; studying, creating, and living while not being bogged down by occult semiology or superficial burnings of incense and ritual cleansing. In essence, it is all bullshit, and West is more rational and coherent than any practitioner of the occult could ever hope to be. West really freed my mind up aesthetically, freed my attitude and allowed me to walk away from the Luciferian identified, the Satanists, the goths, the 40 year old pagans with dreadlocks and incense and lava lamps; the perpetual teenagers of our cultural wasteland. Many of us feel hopeless when these trappings are stripped of us and it takes a strong person to sit down and confront that hopelessness as themselves, which is what West's books are about, that confrontation of hopelessness, honestly and realistically.
Thanks, Cornel West.
I bought my first David S. Ware record when I was 16 years old. It was a CD actually. It was the album called Go See The World. It was mind blowing, I think it had just been released and it featured Susie Ibarra on drums. I was too young to understand it but I now look back on this moment and realize that I was holding my first copy of an album by Coltrane's torchbearer. Ware was a Cecil Taylor-alumnus and it completely shows in not just his playing, but also in the detailed and complicated improvisations of Matthew Shipp.
I soon became acquainted with albums like Godspelized, Surrendered, and Renunciation. These were at odds with the proclivities and limited worldview of the death metal and goth/industrial crowds I ran with through the early 2000s, but I still enjoyed them and I loved them. I know there are metal heads (but probably zero goth kids) who could dig his music. He creates this intensity that is akin to the hardest shredding on the planet. There is often a multitude of notes contained within a flurry, within an outburst, but it is achieved by way of improvisation. The improvisation and the imperfections inherent in an improvisation are what make his music exciting. Right now, we live in an era where everybody is so used to having their thoughts, actions, and ideas logged by surveillance, they remain afraid of saying anything. Ware is a model for the transcendence of this state of fear.
Noise music has attempted to achieve what he did, but the so-called freedom and non-music of noise is actually just obscured by distortion, it's about obscuring the surveillance. Ware put himself on a limb and it is up to us as humans in this epoch of the 21st century to achieve a similar openness in terms of our art. If we can't, we might as well keep waiting tables, keep scrubbing floors, and keep paying off debt, because that is where we belong.
Below is a video of a David S. Ware performance and the first 20+ minutes are just mind blowing. It's so beautiful. Enjoy.
The first time I ever showed art, as far as I can remember, I showed a piece inspired by David Hammons. I was about 25 years old and it was part of the first Meow Wolf exhibition at the old Hopewell space. I made a sculpture out of dreadlocks I had cut off my head the year before (yes, I know---wack), I strung them from the ceiling and underneath was a flower pot in which I had placed dry ice and a strobe light, then filled with water. The piece was titled "Gloryhole", hopefully I get to recreate it one day. Anyways, it was a straight David Hammons rip-off and the RISD kids thought it was a waste of space.
Hammons once noted that he wished he could create art like James Turrell's light sculptures, but do it in a distinctly black way. I think he has, not necessarily with light, but he has achieved this minimalist effect with materials that are about the African American experience, items like the shovel, the saxophone, liquor bottles, hair, grease, broken objects, and refuse. His work is the African American answer to minimalism, I read a commentary on him that noted that he takes one object and does one thing to it, and that is basically what his art is about. I think that's accurate in many instances, although he has certainly made some detailed work.
David Hammons has been immensely influential at different moments in my career, or journey as an artist. There was that initial showing with Meow Wolf, then there was the second show we did, Indoor Winter Activities, I had created 40 tissue roses (the kind guys make for their girls in jail on Valentine's Day), and then placed them inside this old beat up bass amp. I had set a Discman on top to play a cd of this really gentle ambient music that I made by time stretching music to about 400%. Much later, in 2015, I made paper collages and drawings using grease, kool aid, old magazines, comic books, and dirt, which reminded my Uncle of that part from Art School Confidential where they call that kind of work "Cy Twombly shit". From 2016 to 2018, I created a couple assemblages out of garbage, old porno flyers, scrapwood, dirt, oil paint, spray paint, acrylic, nails, screws, and old speakers, and electronics parts. Right now, I am creating things from nothing but scrap wood, trying to get at the minimalist wisdom of David Hammons himself. It's really difficult for me, if you have seen my other work, you will know what I mean.
Hammons was important because he taught me to make art with whatever I had available. I don't think he ever bought paints or bought paper or anything like that. A lot of the work of his I am familiar with was constructed from glue, bottles, wire, hair, or created by bouncing dirty basketballs across a surface. He truly is a genius. I am trying to get back to the essence of Hammons in my work at the moment. It's cultural but not really about accepting stereotypes or rejecting stereotypes, it exists somewhere in between or outside, which is what jazz was about. The underground, the cracks in the scales, or beginning phrases on the offbeats. His work is not perfectly measure or metered and it often is constructed from materials that have been degraded. It's truly remarkable. While I don't feel that he is as much of a hero to me as he seemed to be to my father, he still is an influence and he always will be.
When I first heard Drexciya, what I loved was how absent but also ever present identity was from their music. I never really thought of Gerald Donald, James Stinson and DJ Stingray as being African-American. After looking under the hood of their music, noting the funk influences and the mythology, which has been labeled a sort of "Afrofuturism", I became fascinated with the power of Detroit underground in general. The minimalist aesthetic of their albums and music and relative anonymity of their press releases are classic and iconic representations of what techno music originally was, something that was intended to be anti-celebrity and anti-corporate.
I see these pioneers of Detroit techno as being kindred spirits, embracing instruments that were British, European, and Japanese in origin (i.e. Roland, Oberheim, Korg etc), abandoning the norms of other Detroit music (guitars, organs, acoustic drums). I relate this experience, being Native American and having defied the expectations of my Navajo and Pima family, embracing influences along the lines of Nietzsche and Bataille as much as I have rejected the water drum and the sweat lodge.
Drexciya's inclusion of a personal mythology makes the music that much more special and fascinating as a whole. Many of their records have these aquatic references and underwater themes, I think this particular type of personal reinvention is essential for negotiating these times we live in, where an emphasis on identity has been taken to the levels of toxic pride, group think, and collective narcissism; all fueled by semiocapitalist marketing tactics and memes. Identifying as an individual and building a world up inside oneself is more important than ever. Drexciya developed this personal myth about an underwater species and their albums revolved around that mythology. It's a sublime metaphor for what Drexciya may have wished for themselves and for what they actually were, a pair unique underground musicians.
James Stinson died in 2002.
I've included this link to a great mini-documentary on the Detroit scene.
two I am trying to recall the first Eric Dolphy LP I purchased, I am certain it was from Ear Shot records on Montezuma in Santa Fe, NM. I am not entirely sure but I think it was Vintage Dolphy. It has that awesome, iconic picture of him on the cover, where he looks like a Pharoah or wizard. There are always a number of individuals where you say to yourself, "What if he had lived?"
Eric Dolphy is one of those few, like what if Hendrix lived? Or Charlie Parker? Or Ritchie Valens? Dolphy is like that, too. Dolphy laid the foundation for many alto saxophonists that followed. I see Dolphy as an important influence on both Anthony Braxton and John Zorn, artists who have diverged and converged multiple times over a period of 40 some years. I can only imagine what Dolphy might have worked on had he lived through the 70s and 80s. His death was unexpected and early, the victim of a heart attack brought on by diabetes.
Dolphy got up early every morning so he could log in several hours of practice before his day began. Dolphy comes from a generation where abilities were valued over possessions and materialism. Dolphy was not materially wealthy, but his spirit and his art was rich. For every consumer who ignores his work, there are hundreds who create themselves and happen to love his work. Those of us who have retained that drive to rise early and practice, relate to his work ethic. Some people learned to lie at a young age and logged in 10,000 hours of lying to their parents, maybe they are CEOs now, maybe they are in prison. Dolphy logged in 10,000 hours of experience on the flute, the bass clarinet, and the alto saxophone. And his work has lived on into the 21st century and he is a respected heir to the likes of Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.
I always earn admiration for someone who recognizes Dolphy's image without consulting Google, or without asking anyone who that is, because it shows a true appreciation for art and for true music. I think jazz music was the first truly underground music and whether or not someone appreciates underground hip-hop or indie rock or whatever, just ask them about the Beatles and the Stones and Dolphy and Mingus, the way they guide the conversation will reveal everything about their understanding of American culture. All of these artists were working in the same epoch, but Dolphy and Mingus were not actively promoted by mainstream recording companies.
Afterall, am I fucking British? Or am I fucking American?
Making Universal Raw Shit. MURS.
Making Underground Real Shit. MURS.
I saw MURS live in 2010 at the Bluebird in Denver. Sick Jacken opened. My girlfriend was crazy about MURS and said to me, "I'd fuck MURS." It was hilarious. As it turned out, she'd fuck anybody, but that is a different blog post altogether. MURS spit a rhyme dissing somebody and pointed his fingers at me when he delivered it. It was pretty intense. Fuck. I got dissed by MURS.
I love his music. God's Work. After Hours (fuck Anticon). Lookin' Fly. His music is inspiring to be honest. I also really dig his project The White Mandigos. It is the best fucking punk rock I have ever heard. His collabs with Tech N9ne are just legendary. He's one of my favorite emcees.
My favorite project of his was his collaboration with Terrence Martin and ironically, he mentioned in an interview it was his favorite album he did, but nobody liked it. I got dissed by MURS. It's No Surprise is my favorite song. I dropped that anthem at a Zozobra party in Santa Fe that I was dj'ing back when I was doing things with Meow Wolf and that track killed the club. It just drew people onto the dance floor and then they stayed there. Thank you, MURS.
I got dissed by MURS. Oh, and he's sick because he mentioned that he reads and prefers biographies, nonfiction, novels, and lots of newspapers, and one comic a day. I thought that was one of the dopest admissions in rap music. I hate the thug and baller mentality and the thrift store expensive aesthetic of MURS is truly extensive. Thank you, MURS.
I was exposed to Basquiat's work very early on in my life. As a child, my father told me about him, comparing the way I drew Universal Monsters characters to Basquiat's drawings, explaining that the artist often left drawings laying all over his studio and just walked over them, leaving tell-tale smudges and grime on their surface. Through high school, I read about him and developed my own obsessions with a number of his heroes: Max Roach. Charlie Parker. Dizzy Gilespie. Miles Davis. Learning their licks and themes and improvising over the progressions from their compositions.
I think my familiarity with Basquiat's art made it an easy transition towards studying jazz guitar. As an influential figure in art, Basquiat is arguably the greatest American artist who ever lived, often appearing in discussions of art alongside Caucasians like Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Keith Haring, and Jackson Pollock. His work can be read so many different ways, as a massive critique of high culture and elitism, a sweeping dismissal of capitalism and the 80s as a whole, as the struggle of a black man who has grown up in a society that accepted the beatings of African Americans, as an artist who was functioning on the cusp of the end of a golden era and the beginning of cultural decline and eventual collapse.
His paintings are provocative and often confront racism directly. I've often insensitively joked that his short career can be divided into three stylistic periods: cocaine, heroin, and speed balls, respectively corresponding to his early period (child-like raw expressionist canvases with no text), his middle period (intricate text and collage alongside his distinct figures), and his late-period (which was very sparse in comparison to his earlier work, and includes the Eroica paintings).
I've included a number of links to quite a bit of content. He was incredibly influential when I began working and I purposely imitated him as best as I could when I began painting. It was how I learned. I caught a lot of flack for it, but I knew I had to do it as I had no other role models as an artist and his outsider status was very relatable to my own (self-taught, disabled, bisexual, arrest record). I made my last Basquiat inspired canvas in September or October of 2016 and I learned a lot from imitating his work, particularly basic skills like working with oil stick, acrylics, brush selection, spray paint, collage, gesso, raw canvas, and so forth. He's important and if he is not the greatest American artist who ever lived, he is at least the most important artist to have worked in the last 40 years. There is a good reason why his art sells for so much, each painting is completely one of a kind and there can never be any others like his.
Anybody who has ever seen Punch Drunk Love will obviously be aware that Adam Sandler’s character, Barry, functions as the scapegoat in his family. The scapegoat is a term used to describe the outcast in a Narcissistic family unit. A narcissist thrives on triangulating individual family members and separating them into patterns of treatment that consist of either showering them with adulation or abusing them and neglecting them in every way possible. This serves to elevate the narcissist above the imperfect scapegoat, using the child to inflate the narcissist’s sense of superiority. The polar opposite of the scapegoat in a narcissistic family is the golden child. While the scapegoat is abused repeatedly by one or both parents, the golden child is praised to the point where one would be misled to believe that the golden child could do no wrong. The golden child serves as an extension of the narcissist, able to succeed in life where the narcissist failed, giving the narcissist an opportunity to feel superior as a parent who is solely responsible for creating this golden human.
In Punch Drunk Love, the seven sisters are a gang of golden children, engaging in one of the numerous extending behaviors of their narcissistic parent, bullying the scapegoat. The sisters are nothing more than your garden variety bullies, collectively referring to Adam Sandler’s character as “gay boy”; a phrase which takes on a renewed semantic of abuse in our current era of intersectionality. The breaking point for Barry occurs at a celebration, during which Barry is derided for his suit, his gift of a cake, excusing himself from one sister’s abusive phone call, and for his perceived failure to set up a blind date with one of the sister’s friends. The words of abuse crescendo and climax with the sound of Barry breaking a sliding glass door, which is symbolic in a sense, Barry wants out of the family unit, he feels a need to escape. The scene is one of the most chilling in cinema, and I have always found the film to be revelatory as to where an individual’s temperament lies along the spectrum of cluster b disorders. Many partners I have dated, who were incredibly narcissistic/borderline/histrionic, seemed to identify with the sisters and one even called out, “What a fucking idiot!” in the silence after Barry smashes the glass doors. Another former lover, admitted that her and her friends called one of their boyfriends “gay boy”. The thing that was most alarming about this was that this was his nickname and they had called him “gay boy” for an entire decade, from the time they were 16 until they were 27 years old. I recommend showing this film to a lover, along with Bladerunner and Good Will Hunting, if you ever want to vett a potential long-term partner for malignant narcissism. If they are truly narcissistic, they will identify with the sisters in Punch Drunk Love, they won’t understand why the Vight-Kampff questions in Bladerunner are designed to identify robots from humans (empathy. . .duh), and they will think the emotional climax of Good Will Hunting is stupid, because therapy is stupid to a narcissist (believe me, everybody needs therapy as much as they need a doctor or a dentist) and a potentially narcissistic partner might also find Will to be a fool for pursuing love over money and power and prestige.
It would be interesting to see how the parents in Punch Drunk Love treated the sisters and Barry as they were growing up. Barry was most likely name-called by mom and dad, he was probably made to feel inferior despite getting good grades, pursuing hobbies, or achieving anything else growing up. He might have even been told he would never amount to anything. Perhaps, mom or dad was a drunk or a sex addict and rewarded the sisters for enabling behaviors like keeping their mouths shut about the drinking, the affairs, the lying, the stealing, and so on. If Barry did something amazing, like performed at a piano recital, or maybe he wrote an intelligent research paper, the narcissistic parent or parents probably found a reason to deride him and make him feel inferior. Maybe the way he sat during the performance was not to the narcissist’s liking or the writing in his research paper was insulted as being too wordy and pretentious or some other nonsense. Meanwhile, the sisters were more than likely told individually, they could do anything they wanted. That they were beautiful, brilliant, athletic, maybe even told they were a gift from God himself. When they failed, they were told that it was fine because we all make mistakes, and maybe they were even made to feel that no mistake was made. Perhaps they were even put on display for friends, showed off as the parents’ wonderful daughters, while Barry sat on the sidelines and kept quiet. This is all speculative, but it is likely because this family dynamic only results in distinctly abusive households.
This brings me to a consideration of Luke Cage. The main character, Luke Cage, definitely has a rivalry with his half-brother, Diamondback; inversely, the preliminary villain, Cottonmouth, has his own rivalry with his cousin, Black Mariah. I will be writing about my observations on the first season, as I have yet to watch the second season, so admittedly there may be assumptions of mine that are false.
While we never see the interaction of Luke or Willis with their parents, we do witness Mariah and Cornell interacting with the matriarch of their crime family, Mama Mabel. Cornell, who is later to become the crime boss known as Cottonmouth, is very passionate about music. We see him practicing piano, casually improvising while Mariah is studying. Several things occur in this scene which are characteristic of the scapegoat and golden child dynamic. The children are actively compared and placed in a rivalry with one another, Mariah is upheld by Mabel for her studiousness and Cornell is upheld by Pete, Mariah’s lover, for his natural talent in music. At one point, one of Mabel’s thugs returns and he is derided for dealing drugs, Mabel’s twisted sense of morality refuses her involvement with drug racketeering despite her utilization of larceny, murder, extortion, prostitution and other crimes to achieve her ends. Mama Mabel cuts off the thugs’ finger in a rage and then sends Mariah away while demanding Cornell stay and witness the violence. Pete and Cornell are sent into the basement to murder the thug. Pete returns to his piano with blood on his hands. This scene has very powerful symbolism at play and is one of the most interesting representations of the narcissistic family dynamic in moving images.
The beginning of the scene is one of joy and innocence, Cornell is playing music, bringing art into the world. Mariah is studying, increasing her knowledge of the world. Pete, who we later learn has sexually abused Mariah, is praising Cornell. Mariah is counter-praised for her studies by Mabel. Here we see a rivalry emerge between the two Narcissists, the two sociopaths, at the head of the family, and it is played out with the children as pawns, as bargaining chips between Mabel and Pete. Cornell, being forced by Mabel to murder the thug, is sabotaged by Mabel and taught that he is a thug, a cold blooded killer, he is simultaneously Mabel’s scapegoat and Pete’s golden child. Mariah, being sexually abused by Pete and sent away before the murder by Mabel, is simultaneously Pete’s scapegoat and Mariah’s golden child. The scene ends with Mabel praising Cornell as a murderer and Mariah absent from the scene. Later, after Cornell murders Pete and is praised by both Mabel and Mariah, he permanently becomes the family scapegoat, as Pete is no longer around to praise him for his talents and continue his sexual abuse of Mariah. Later in life, as Cornell inherits Mabel’s criminal empire, Mariah uses him as a pawn in her own maneuverings to rise to political power. After Cornell’s involvement with Mariah is exposed by Luke Cage, she murders Cornell after being provoked by Cornell’s insistence that she seduced Pete and was never actually raped. Shades Alvarez, one of Cornell’s thugs, insists that she cover up the murder because she unconsciously wanted him dead. Alvarez understands the rivalry between the two and brings it into Mariah’s awareness. Mariah’s manipulation, slander, and eventual murder of Cornell is an extension of Mabel’s scapegoating and abuse of Cornell.
These two children could have gone either way between healing or inheriting the sociopathic characteristics of the adult role-models in their lives, as all children raised by sociopaths or narcissists could. The very thing that would have saved either of them was to remove themselves as far from the family unit as possible and begin healing. In adulthood, many scapegoats wind up attending years of therapy, desperately doing everything in their power to not wind up acting like their parents, continuing their abusive patterns. Eventually, the scapegoat comes to realize that abuse extends beyond hitting someone or calling someone a name. The scapegoat realizes that abuse can come in the forms of sabotaging another person, downplaying their efforts and achievements, slandering that person, neglecting that person, attempting to cut that person off from systems of support within friends and family, denying that person any opportunities, attempting to control that person’s finances, and making that person feel ashamed for being who they are. What the scapegoat who manages to free themselves from abuse must do is to take control of their life, regain their sanity through therapy, go no contact with every person in that toxic family unit (mom, dad, sibling, and so forth), and then recover their sense of self and discover their own passion and reason for thriving as a human being. Eventually, the scapegoat will realize they are not any of the things their abusive parents, and often abusive siblings, said they were. The scapegoat will be able to live a truly fulfilling life, separate from the family, which is something the golden child will never be able to completely do in the way the scapegoat could, as the golden child’s sense of self is completely imposed by a sociopath who over-praised the child and lied to the child, telling this young person they were the greatest and the best in the whole world. The sociopath lied to both children, for the scapegoat is not worthless or bad anymore than the golden child is the best in the world. Unfortunately, for the golden child, it is an insurmountable challenge to overcome decades of living as the creation of the sociopath, living as an extension of the narcissist’s false self, because the truth that both children were equals existing in a world of mixed grey, with equal potential, completely shatters the distorted black and white window the narcissist has forced the golden child to view the world through.
The philosophical framework for the project that has eventually become Canvaskiller began with reading Franco 'Bifo' Berardi's book Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide, a text which is much more than just a writing on the dystopian reality of mass murder, but also contains a myriad of passages dealing with extremes of alienation in semiocapitalism, perhaps even a new era of semioalienation, which is to say that alienation has leaked into all forms of existence. In my opinion, mass murder can be looked at as an extreme catharsis for a group of hopeless and rage filled nihilists and to label the modern spree shooter as simply mentally unstable, harks back to the scapegoating of Stultifera Navis. This has become a banal prefabricated argument for the compassionate liberal and conservative alike, that something must be done about mental illness, in regard to shootings, to drug addiction, to homelessness, and any other social problem.
In chapter 9, titled "Suicidal Wave", Berardi notes the occurrence of the hikikomori in Japan, which is a moniker glowingly embraced by various youth showing interest in video games and anime culture. The hikikomori choose to withdraw from society, with all the pressures to perform and outperform one another. At the end of the book Berardi calls for an embrace of 'dystopian irony', in fact the last two pages of Heroes contain passages that read almost like a scrambling of Zen koans (scroll to the end of this piece for a quote of the very ending of the book).
I read this work as I was discovering a renewed interest in electronic music production. I had extensively produced music with software sequencers and trackers, as well as hardware synths and samplers, from the age of 17 until I was about 31. I lost a number of music to a hard drive failure in 2014 and jokingly took that as a sign to focus on writing classical scores. Reading this book right before Christmas 2017, I began setting up hardware and recording. I was having fun, I was always alone, and I related to the experience of the hikikomori. Gradually, the production of this music became a sincere exercise in dystopian irony. By mid-March, I finished a number of tracks that now form the soundtrack to Canvaskiller.
I took the score recordings and began making a video album. I needed a form, a sort of experiential arc and structure to the work, so I created a storyboard, which is a term I use casually. What has resulted is that three tracks are set to original video art (not dissimilar to the videos I produced in the last year for CFOR and WURM), another three tracks document the act of creating mixed media panels (which is a return to video work I created in 2015 and 2016), and the last three tracks are derived from screen captures of creating glitch art pieces (these are thematically unique, cyberpunk sci-fi, horror films, and one for The Punisher).
My list of influences for Canvaskiller include:
As of this writing, the completed body of work for Canvaskiller includes 24 collage studies on paper, 8 mixed media studies on masonite, 1 study on canvas board, a number of digital works to be printed, and the video component. I intend to finish the large scale masonite pieces in the coming month.
"Do not belong. Distinguish your destiny from the destiny of those who want to belong and want to participate and to pay their debt. If they want war, be a deserter. If they are enslaved but you want to suffer like them, do not give in to their blackmail.
If you have to choose between death and slavery, don't be a slave. You have some chance to survive. If you accept slavery, you will die sooner or later anyway. As a slave.
You will die anyway; it is not particularly important when. What is important is how you live your life.
Remember that despair and joy are not incompatible. Despair is a consequence of understanding. Joy is a condition of the emotional mind. Despair is to acknowledge the truth of the present situation, but the skeptical mind knows that the only truth is shared imagination and shared projection. So not be frightened by despair. It does not delimit the potential for joy. And joy is a condition for proving intellectual despair wrong.
Finally, don't take me too seriously. Don't take too seriously my catastrophe premonitions. And in case it is difficult to follow these prescriptions, don't take too seriously my prescriptions.
Irony is about the independence of mind from knowledge; it is about the excessive nature of the imagination.
So, at the very end: don't believe (me). "
First and foremost, Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize win is phenomenal to me, not only historically, but for spiritual and emotional reasons (I am referring to his capturing a certain spirit of our age, but also the emotional difficulties encountered while dealing with this era). I want to address the outrage expressed over his win, particularly the outrage of academic composers, and how this historical moment has completely changed me as a person and possibly altered my life’s direction.
Last year in 2017, when DAMN. was released, our current president, Donald Trump, was still in his first 100 days of office. The Dakota Access Pipeline had been constructed, which was a major blow to all Native Americans across the country, a gesture that said loud and clear, “You mean nothing. Your protests meant nothing. Your future means nothing.” I was personally devastated and suffering through a period of depression (I am type II bipolar). I was also wrapping up the music for Head Worship.
The day DAMN. was released, I pulled out my paints, swept the floor in my room, and tacked some duck cloth to the wall and listened through the album as I created an abstract. There were moments when paint was drying where I just let the album play and play and would replay entire tracks over and over, and particular sections would be repeated so I could catch the lyrics. This album conveyed how I was feeling perfectly. What was astonishing was how his lyrics attacked materialism and the pursuit of possessions; money; status symbols; guns; violence; celebrity image; racism; police brutality; and a myriad of problems that make America a complete dystopian nightmare.
In the coming year, his music served as the soundtrack to my experience as an Associate Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. I had applied as a composer and was exploring video art. I really do think I was incredibly selfish, refusing to leave the studio I setup in my bedroom to eat with the other artists, or to partake in pleasures like going to dinner, going to parties, or going to the beach. That summer of 2017, I listened to a lot of Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, and Kendrick Lamar. The majority of the other Associate Artists were female and LGBT, so I usually played his music with headphones, so as not to offend anybody, plus they all admitted they didn’t particularly care for rap music.
A very personal layer to Kendrick’s album revealed itself to me one night after a particularly harrowing experience with an artist who had been going through my things and stealing my spray paints, discharging them into the air so the community studio always smelled toxic through the day and it would always appear to be my fault (I actually had a strict policy of only using spray paint during the late hours of the night, specifically for the reason not to offend anyone). A friend of mine, a brilliant artist from Iran, Nulifar Farahmand, who I discovered had no chance of ever entering America due to the travel ban, was messaging me, and everything hit me all at once.
Now I hear it. Kendrick was rapping cathartically about experiences and feelings in his life that parallel mine, which is what great art does via craft, innovation, and authenticity. He was rapping to the type of idiot who would try to sabotage another artist. He was rapping about the kind of loser who needs a rigged system to win. The steroid users of the athletics world; the corporations who are dependent on lobbyists to get pipelines built; the men and women who use sex to extract money and attention from romantic partners; the people who spread gossip about business rivals; the fuckheads who use social media to exaggerate and as a platform for delusions of grandeur; the celebrity wannabes who are about image and lack substance in their craft; he was rapping to Americans about Americans. The album is pure genius.
I heard a lot of idiocy in regard to this Pulitzer prize win, specifically from the composers in the so-called New Music Community. The basic agreement amongst Kendrick’s detractors in academia is that his music was not well-crafted, relies too much on samples, there are no real musicians, no real drums, and he only got the award because he is black. I am not kidding, these people actually wrote these things and clicked like in agreement all over social media. I raised a question: Why has classical music failed us as a society? They gave the regurgitated nonsense about people not being educated enough to know about the music or understand it, which comes off as incredibly narcissistic coming from a group of music educators.
Late last night, I was working on this new series of mixed media collages and paintings and a composer who I have decided not to put on blast because gossip is petty, messaged me and called me a moron, an idiot, a dupe for supporting the #MeToo movement, and then a jackass for ignoring him. I was actually listening to DAMN. as I have been about something like 10-20% of the time I paint (those of you who know my tastes and listening habits, know that is an awful lot), and the song ELEMENT. came on. When the chorus hit, I cried a little bit, because I know exactly what type of people that song is about and also what that entire Pulitzer Prize winning album is about.
I replied to his 5 paragraph rant (not directly in message, but as a comment on one of his posts about the Pulitzer), “Listen to the song HUMBLE., then imagine Kendrick is rapping to you specifically, and be sure to listen very closely. Everything will be very crystal clear.”
Two minutes and fifty seven seconds later, he blocked me.
I plan on no longer basing my worth on the validation of academic composers, they don't know shit.
When I was about 21 years old, Skinny Puppy was one of the most influential bands for me. I saw them twice in 2004. Otto von Schirach opened for them.
Their music is relevant for brining together an eclectic batch of influences such as electronica, musique concrète, punk, and synth-pop. Their music was really sample heavy and this was incredibly influential. Their music sounded insane to me because it was so dissonant and so bizarre. If you strip out all elements and just listen to drums and bassline, they might sound like Depeche Mode or something of that style. Nivek Ogre’s vocals were heavily processed and reminiscent of cheesy 80s horror film creatures. Dwayne Goettel added a lot of heavily processed samples taken from so many sources. I recall bits of Charles Manson, cyberpunk sci-fi films, blasts of radio static, Gregorian chants, film trailers, recycled drum bits, classical music, and so many other sources.
Here is where Skinny Puppy was really important for me, they made mention of being heavily influenced by reggae and world music and saying this was the biggest influence for them. This was pretty important to hear because their aesthetic on a superficial level had no relation to reggae music and no resemblance to world music. After a bit of closer analysis, I could hear the way these influences had driven their seemingly chaotic drum arrangements. Cevin Key’s up-cycled oil barrel in the Ain’t It Dead Yet? VHS had ancestry in the regional music of many different cultures.
This is an important concept for me: synthesis and transposition. In my own musical compositions, as well as my artwork, I take various influences from various places. If I attempted to make a comprehensive list it might look something like this:
I am even wondering as I write this, if it might be a fruitful endeavor if I were to embark on a project where I attempt to bring all my influences into a singular creation. It would be incredibly ridiculous, but it would definitely have its roots in the strain of thought that Skinny Puppy sent me down for the last decade or so. God bless ‘em. lol
The playlist for this post is the set list from the last Skinny Puppy show I attended in Tucson, Halloween 2015. I had pizza, got drunk with a closeted Republican wannabe rockstar gun happy punk, enjoyed the show and then partied with a goth-girl and her fishnet clad boy-toy in an Airbnb until sunrise.
I can’t make something like that up.
I’ve been working with models. Well, I “worked” with one “model”. The rest are girls and women who have been messaging me about setting up shoots, and have failed to set up any shoots. The one who came through, managed to contact me, set up a shoot, show up, get drunk, pose, pop pills, and nearly crash her car in a matter of 24 hours.
I have to admit, the situation has left me disillusioned. I suppose it is the state I live in, or the fact that countless artists and photographers have disillusioned the talent by inviting them over to shoot and then trying to fuck them, rendering my efforts in vain. I could analyze the situation a thousand different ways but I don’t think it’s completely necessary to go over this fact again and again, the fact that I am disillusioned with the search for models for my art.
Making matters worse is the vague apocalyptic scenario that America finds itself in at the moment, the country certainly does seem on the verge of collapse and here I am, trying to build a fucking career! It’s a rather exciting time to be alive in a sense, but the fact is that the largest mass murder in American history was committed this year in Las Vegas (again, the largest was committed last year in 2016 in Orlando). The planet gets hotter and hotter and our violence grows in immensity with each passing year. The weather becomes tempestuous and erratic and our gunfire becomes stormy and chaotic. We are products of our destroyed environment.
What I do know is that right now, as an artist, as a member of the creative community, the modes of production are back in my hands. I can up-cycle materials to create paintings, to create installations, to create assemblage, and then photograph the work in my own home and endlessly share it online, even making adjustments in Photoshop to each reiteration (re: Baudrillard’s Evil Demon of Images). Can we even call this capitalism anymore? If one is willing to suffer and ignore that pain, one can assume all responsibility and treat objects as objects, material as material, and humans as obstacles and ultimately become one’s own boss. This isn’t a form of self-employment as an artist, this is a true embrace of minimalism.
I do not mean minimalism in a formal sense or aesthetic sense, but in terms of building something from nothing, building the biggest fucking buildings from absolutely nothing. We are in the middle of the beginning of the era when our own inventions and science are beginning to turn on us and devour us (guns, climate change, polluted water, our own inept lawmaking, etc.). For me, in this moment, the big question is how to earn enough money to pay my minimal overhead and afford me the luxury of hanging out on the weekends without ever answering to another boss, teacher, or mentor? Because fuck parents (re: authority figures). They left us with this accursed inheritance we call the future.
Here is the video I've completed to CFOR's track, Assume Formlessness.
This was one of those rare cases where I found something on Soundcloud and just had to do something with it. I contacted CFOR and he gave me the thumbs up and permission to post the video I made. I am honored!
Richard D. James released his album Drukqs in 2001 and then “retired”, “disappeared”, and basically “stopped releasing music.” There has been speculation on various messageboards that he has been behind numerous releases, among them titles by Steinvord, The Tuss (officially confirmed to be a project of his own), Smojphace, Jodey Kendrick, Syntheme, and pretty much anything else that is electronic and not obviously associated with a particular entity. He’s been known to drop disinformation in various media outlets, including a claim that his production kit included an MC-909 Limited Edition, a Quasimidi Van Helden and “all the Behringer effects that copy other things” (lulz). I think this a very clever PR tactic on his part. Certainly it must be incredibly entertaining if nothing else.
Like many other IDM heads, I made my first Aphex Twin download on Napster in 2000. I came across his name on a list of futuristic musicians. He was among other artists whom were shoe-horned onto this list such as DJ Spooky, Brian Eno, and Moby. In retrospect, Aphex Twin was the only artist to sincerely be peering into the possible future of what music could become. In fact, he was already performing live with a laptop as early as 1995!!
I credit Aphex with ultimately getting into electronic music production. He opened a world of possibilities for me. He’s also name-dropped artists who are still huge favorites (Tod Dockstader, Venetian Snares, and Holly Herndon). I imagine Aphex to be familiar with Jonty Harrison as well. He’s never really been easily categorized and he continues to make statements in long outdated styles (jungle, drum n’ bass, acid, etc.) and always with a plethora of rare analogue equipment. He is rumored to own a super-rare Yamaha GX-1. I imagine his synth collection, disklavier, and whatever else he has in his studios is worth millions. The guy has always struck me as a true businessman, never bragging about revenue but always on top of his earnings.
Today's blog post is about Alfred Schnittke. Before I start, I want to write a little bit about why I do these blogs and how they fit into my creative process. I treat all creative activity the same way one would approach physical exercise. I always begin with a warm-up of some type. This actually first came about when I began seriously practicing guitar. I would sit with my guitar plugged into a headphone amp and begin with something to get my fingers moving and to achieve a sort of suppleness in my hands (scales, chords, Slonimsky’s chromatic patterns, a brief improvisation, etc). The blogs often serve as a warm-up for various creative activities, I do not always post my warm-up journals, sketches, or improvisational recordings, but I do make a point of doing something before every session. These entries on composers and musicians are actually written rather quickly, with very little editing. This accounts for the content of these entries, the mixture of autobiographical memories and reflections on how the music has inspired me and influenced me throughout my life. They are important to my creative process. I think that the contemporary cross-disciplinary artist is blessed to live in an era where so much of one’s creative process can be laid out and exposed, the artist can be rendered vulnerable in a way that was not possible in previous generations. I express sincere gratitude for this luxury. I also intend to do a series on filmmakers, artists, and writers. I imagine this will be an ongoing process into the next decade of my life.
I would say I was about 15 years old when I first discovered Alfred Schnittke. I had thumbed past his work in the compact discs at Rare Bear for the past year while I was looking for works by Stravinsky and Shostakovich, both of whom I idolized and imitated to the best of my adolescent abilities. The first disc I purchased was a Naxos release, which contained Stille Musik and his Cello Sonata from 1978, which was written around the age of 44 or so. I had recently noticed that his releases suddenly contained his birth year but also his death year (1934 - 1998). Naturally, this intrigued me that he had died since I first noticed his name and Naxos releases were not significantly expensive, as I often left with as many as four at a time -I decided to purchase one of his discs, which did not include his death date.
When I returned home and listened to the recording, I was blown away! This was a different type of modernism from what I was familiar with, it was maybe even postmodernist in its own way, but Schnittke was living under Soviet rule and I imagine his exposure to culture outside of Soviet Russia was rather limited, which would limit the influences he was absorbing. The music was constantly shifting between extremes, between dichotomous textures and sounds (soft/loud, tonal/atonal, slow/fast, etc.) What was even more striking was that Schnittke seemed to favor rather slow tempo markings. In fact, between the Cello Sonata and Stille Musik, the tempo markings were Lento, Largo, Presto, and Largo!!
I had played this music for a girlfriend and she was really into death metal and punk music and I recall her response to the Agitato from his Second String Quartet as she brushed her faded-green mohawk out of her face, “Jesus. I thought my music was hardcore.” I think that just about says it all. She loved Dying Fetus and Cannibal Corpse! Schnittke achieved intensity without any electricity! His electricity was organic and achieved by utilizing elements of dissonance, volume, polyphonic density, and quick pacing. He was definitely a neo-classical composer in his own way, as he was working with sonatas and symphonic form, but he was also very much so a postmodernist, working with what he termed polystylism.
His work also encompassed film scoring and he worked with some legendary directors, including Shepitko and Askoldov among others. One can run through his catalog of work and find the influences of jazz music, Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, Gregorian chant, Shostakovich, the Darmstadt serialists, and folk songs of various countries. He was entirely eclectic and eventually shed modernist pretensions of complexity in favor of a haunting and obsessive emotional content at the end of his life’s work, I almost get the sense that he was basically writing the same composition for the last 8 years of his life.
I have created a playlist that includes his Second String Quartet performed by the Kronos Quartet, and his work Stille Musik and the Cello Sonata from 1978, taken from the Naxos recording I purchased towards the end of 1998 and listened to when I was supposed to be at school that day.
Ornette Coleman’s music came to me in my freshman year of high school. I had this really bad habit of saving my lunch money up and ditching school every three days to purchase compact discs from a store called Rare Bear. It was right around the corner from the high school I attended.
I started my journey through Coleman’s catalogue with The Shape of Jazz to Come. I have to admit that I lost interest in his music once I started to explore his work that he released in the 70s and after, but his earlier work was highly influential on me. I also have this memory of being in a car with my cousin who was obsessed with punk rock music (Circle Jerks, Ramones, Dead Kennedys and the like, music which I do appreciate) and she had asked me to put on some of my favorite music. I had two cassette tapes in my bag, a cassette I had dubbed of Henryk Gorecki’s music for strings and an Ornette Coleman birthday tribute I had pulled off of the radio over spring break that year (Ornette’s birthday was March 9). I decided to put Ornette Coleman on as his music was considerably “heavier” than Gorecki’s 2nd String Quartet and also very rebellious in spirit. I will never forget the ignorant tone of her laughter when she heard Coleman’s music! Some things are forgivable, but I cannot forgive poor taste, while I won’t hold a grudge, it’s hard to forget that an individual has a limited knowledge of culture, regardless of whether that limited knowledge is of art, music, film, literature, critical theory, philosophy, or anything else, it just shows that an individual hasn’t really taken time to enjoy anything that isn’t placed in front of them by a teacher, a parent, a friend, the television, a movie, a magazine, social media, and so on. In other words, a limited knowledge of culture shows a lack of intelligence and free thinking and a shallow necessity to fit in and be accepted.
Which brings me to the importance of Ornette Coleman. His music is loved by the elitists in so-called “new music” and “improvised music.” However, I would not call him an elitist. He was famous for dropping the piano from jazz and completely ignoring the implied harmonies of the bass line when he improvised. He played a plastic saxophone. He released an album that lent its name to an entire genre, Free Jazz (a feat that was also accomplished by Venom with their album Black Metal). Another hero of mine, John Zorn, has recorded an entire album of hardcore covers of Ornette’s work, Spy vs. Spy: The Music of Ornette Coleman. He made contributions to the soundtrack of David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Burroughs’ controversial novel Naked Lunch.
The point is, at the age of 14, I was completely unaware how Ornette’s music would keep coming back to me as my interests developed and I would eventually become aware of the web of influence that connected Ornette to William S. Burroughs to David Cronenberg; or Ornette to John Zorn to Napalm Death; or Ornette to Weasel Walter and The Flying Luttenbachers to the sounds of No Wave (which could even be connected to Basquiat in a round about way). Ornette Coleman would eventually become this nexus point of the avant-garde for me. I cannot think of anything more cutting edge and more amazing than to be that influential on such a diverse assortment of progressive thinkers. His music epitomizes substance and quality and departure from tradition. Coleman was an iconoclast.
Coleman passed away June 11, 2015.
I also want to acknowledge my thoughts and prayers for the family of Chris Cornell. Soundgarden and Audioslave have been two of my favorite rock groups throughout my life and he was an incredible vocalist. RIP.
I've been reflecting on a conversation I recently had with artist Derek Chan.
Chan raised the notion of taking painting to another level and ideas about stretching canvas in non-rectangular shapes and canvas displayed on the floor in the manner of a rug were expressed. Our conversation also covered notions of knowing when a painting is finished and new directions for our work. This inspired some thinking about execution versus contemplation in my own work.
In my process, there are currently two activities in creation -contemplation (the planning, studying and actual thinking that go into any creation) and execution (the act of painting, performing, filming, and so on). For myself, I consider these to be two very separate activities. Cy Twombly, who is a primary influence of mine, has mentioned that he might think about a piece for several hours, but the execution is rather quick, maybe 15 minutes and everything is finished. I also strive for this separation of analysis and creation.
If I am too careful with something and it begins to take too long, it will be discarded. That always happens as a result of an overlap between contemplation and execution, where contemplation overpowers the execution of a piece. This applies to music as well as visual art. I might spend 15 hours contemplating a work via a combination of sketching, journaling, and reading. But when a piece takes me 15 hours to complete, it bores me to death and I move on to something else before it is finished. One of the alluring aspects of visual art over musical composition is that visual art has a potential to be incredibly direct and incredibly expressive, perhaps even more emotional than a lot of music can be, which often relies on clichés and preconceptions about emotion and expression (slow blues, love ballad, minor keys are associated with sorrow, etc.)
One of the major flaws in the human animal, is that of overthinking. I strive to be more machine-like, but not entirely mechanical -that is to say unstoppable in the directness of its executions, radically indifferent to its own creations, and a human being completely of its era. Chan said something about Gerhard Richter being the quintessential postmodernist and I admit that I strive to be the equivalent in our own hypermodernist era -an extension of my machinery rather than the master of my hardware and software. I want to be useless as an artist without the technology that makes it possible, an endeavor that will take years to achieve and that is taking things to the next level for me.
Before I begin today’s post about my influences, I am going to write briefly about love and relationships. People will always reveal their true selves. You have to have compassion for them. The truly troubled will do anything they can to hurt you, the key is to not react and let them fall to the wayside. Their downfall will be their tendency to hurt those who care about them. Ignore and ignite.
Now. . .let the end times roll.
One of my all time favorite 20th-century masterworks is Track 4 of the album I have shared above, a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s 2nd Piano Trio featuring Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma, and Emanuel Ax. The movement is built around a theme that is dark and macabre. The theme itself has a gypsy flavor and Shostakovich is said to have written this after learning that the Nazis had forced some Jews to play the violin on their graves before being executed at gunpoint.
Shostakovich is relevant because his music was about taking a muted stance against totalitarianism and Stalinism. Every time I hear his work, I can almost feel his anguish and frustration; and his overall anxiety about his own future and the fate of his friends and family. In fact, over the years I have come to identify with The Three Russian S composers over the usual Three B’s (Stravinsky, Shostakovich, & Schnittke as opposed to Bach, Beethoven, & Brahms; I never particularly enjoyed Brahms’ music). Furthermore, Shostakovich’s music contains a kernel of the polystylism we find in Schnittke’s work. This movement in particular contains not only the brooding violin them, but also ostinati that are reminiscent of popular music; a tonality that shifts center as abruptly as anything found in Schnittke’s work; romantic piano flourishes; and that characteristic sardonicism that only Dmitri Shostakovich was able to pull off in a dire way that made you take his humor very, very seriously.
There is not much else I can say about this piece, or should say about this piece. The work certainly speaks for itself, as all great masterworks tend to speak entirely for themselves. Shostakovich never had the luxury of playing public relations for himself in Stalinist Russia. Just listening to his work makes me feel ashamed of all the luxuries I personally take for granted -Facebook, Twitter, blogging, buying my own commodities, being able to self-release my own work, etc. His music is a reaffirmation of the freedoms we should be fighting for. His work is a reaffirmation of the future we should all be fighting for. To sit by quietly is suicide.
Abolish Fear. Establish Trust.
There is a part of me that is proud to say that the first Anthony Braxton recording I acquired was his Three Compositions of New Jazz. The recording featured himself, Wadada Leo Smith, Leroy Jenkins, and Muhal Richard Abrams. I will never forget the remark made by Carter, the man who ran the record store I frequented. As I approached him with this compact disc in my hands and prepared to pay him for it, he said to me “Oh, man. Anthony Braxton. Denton, my man. That album separates the believers from the nonbelievers.”
I have since interpreted Carter’s words as being a commentary on the nature of jazz music, freely improvised music and the evolution of jazz music as being that of a continuum headed in the direction towards the complete emancipation of the role of the jazz musician in society; from that initial role of entertainer, minstrel, or vaudeville performer; to the penultimate role of high priest, sage, intellectual, and prophet. Jazz music was the product of a time before black musicians and black artists were not permitted to openly speak their minds in public, to speak their thoughts in the realm of the social or in the realm of the political. Braxton's music came at a time when Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, after Malcolm X had been assassinated. I will always contend that jazz music was the artistic product of the muted voice of the black prophetic experience and hip-hop music was the proclamation of the post-Civil Rights Era black prophetic experience. I use the word prophet in the sense that these individuals from jazz music and hip-hop music were inspired teachers and true progressives. For example, Duke Ellington had one of the first truly integrated touring bands; in fact, his pianist and orchestrator, Billy Strayhorn was openly homosexual-a personal reality that was often not acknowledged in mainstream America as homosexuals and jazz musicians were often stigmatized in the 1940s and 1950s and placed in the same social stratum as violent criminals and drug addicts.
Braxton's music was completely prophetic and visionary in terms of freeing up the role of the black musician in American culture. The opening atonal choral, sung as if the group were participating in a solfège of something by Webern, eventually leads into a group improvisation in which Braxton, Jenkins, and Smith performed on saxophone, trumpet, and violin; but also an assortment of cymbals, found percussion, recorder, harmonica, kazoo, bagpipes, slide whistle, accordion, and other instruments. The disc also contained a composition by Leo Smith entitled “The Bell” and another Braxton piece, “Composition 6D”.
For myself, this recording will always be classic and highly influential, not just for its audaciousness in the handling of modern classical and free jazz, but for its lasting influence on a number of other musicians who added to the development of new music. People like John Zorn, Steve Lacy, and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore have openly acknowledged the influence that Anthony Braxton had on their music. Braxton has gone on to collaborate with Wolf Eyes, Archie Shepp, Philly Jo Jones, David Holland, Chick Corea, Richard Teitelbaum, Max Roach, Paul Smoker, Marianne Schroeder, Gyorgy Zsabados, Gino Robair, Marilyn Crispell, Andrew Voigt, Frederick Longberg Holm, Peter Brötzmann, and so many more. Anthony Braxton has even been sampled by Venetian Snares!!
I leave you with a playlist of my favorite Anthony Braxton recordings.
Experimentation in BDSM
The basic element of BDSM sexuality is one of pure experimentalism. Approaching BDSM with open-mindedness is essential to the enjoyment of BDSM. A commonality between BDSM and other types of sexuality is the spectral nature of the experience. Fetish sexuality exists along a spectrum, perhaps even within a field or universe of its own, and at certain times, the only true tenet in BDSM might be the notion that one cannot enjoy what one has not tried.
A list of hypothetical aesthetic and sexual analogs could be drawn up:
What I do not wish to imply is that my artistic taste or any of my work in music, painting, collage, drawing, photography, or film is influenced by the notion of depicting sexual acts or is intended to be an expression of the emotions tied to sexual activity. All I mean is that the action of choking a blindfolded lover with a belt while she cums multiple times after an hour’s long lead up that involved high-impact flogging, degradation, humiliation, and tit torture—with a harsh noise wall used to drown out the sounds of her moans and her ability to anticipate the next crack of the whip—is about as far removed as you can get from the banality of boring in and out pumping with a club track playing in the background (those types of sexual encounters typically involve the participants fantasizing about other people anyways). I aim to achieve this level of unorthodoxy and rawness in my work, alongside the rational and calculated.
What I am getting at is that the expression of the anomic, the alien, the primal; all those elements of the paradisiacal island of sexual and aesthetic maturity; these are the concepts that I look to express in my music, art, and writing. All by way of experimentation. The promiscuity of forms and content is an exploration that my work is currently focusing itself upon. Building tools from scratch (just as I have built toys from scratch) is also a focus; I currently write patchers in software like MAX and Reaktor for both visual and sound applications. In fetish sexuality, anything can be tried; the gratifying elements are to be retained and the extraneous are to be reserved.
Fetish sexuality co-opts so-called lovemaking (which is an outmoded, strictly confined concept in and of itself) as an act that engages one’s creative faculties. The most intense BDSM experiences are abstract, a sudden and sustained shock of distorted meaning and signification that engages distinct antipodal points of our human instincts (the aggressive and the primal; Eros and Thanatos), into a singular experience in time and space. The experiences are intense, experimental and highly memorable bits of pleasure and pain intertwined with one another. To approach the act of creation in this manner, is not for everybody, and that is the appeal of BDSM.
To get at a really satisfying BDSM experience, one has to explore one’s mind very much in a way that is similar to the methods of the Dadaists and Surrealists. Sexual experiences that have taken place between myself and various partners have been inspired by revelations made in therapy; dreams and nightmares; free writing; films; and the transposition of items not intended for sex into a sexual context (in fact, I pride myself on the ability to be able to walk into a hardware store with $50 and leave with enough material to pleasure a partner for the whole weekend without repeating the same sex act twice).
My early sexual experiences were often boring, by rote experiences of light spanking and gentle hair pulling before I engaged in a long-term study of the human mind and human society. At one point, I intended to formally study sexology and commit myself to a formal research of human sexuality—but I opted for a privately, more personally funded research endeavor instead. Exploring my own psyche involved a long process of dismembering my preconceptions about personal identity, a process of ego-dismemberment that involved experiences that were wide-ranging and unconventional. Part of that self-discovery involved experiences with straight women, gay men, lesbian couples, trans-women and trans-men, married couples, and groups I met through swingers’ clubs and gay bars. These experiences included impact play, wax play, religious play, race play, age play, standard roleplay, WAM, watersports, emetophilia, and so forth. A turning point was when I began constructing my own floggers and canes; spanking benches and restraints; and ultimately realized that fetish sexuality is an art in and of itself that involves an understanding of one’s mind, one’s body, and one’s spirit.
This is the key to creating true art.
Mediation: Scarcity and Saturation
In my life, I have had the recurrence of two extremes of BDSM experience: one with no toys and no paraphernalia; and the other with an overabundance of choices of toys and paraphernalia. Anecdotally, a long term partner and myself had engaged in a lot of different types of play and what we learned was the more complex the experience, the less satisfying it was on a primal level. What we eventually noted, was that when we had spontaneous experiences, say in a friend’s house during a party or in a remote corner of the public library, we still had a satisfying experience due to the presence of our natural sexual apparatus (genitalia and hands). I was still spontaneously capable of choking her, spanking her, and penetrating her. Those experiences were often more satisfying to us than experiences involving a spanking bench, a St. Andrew’s Cross, suspensions, a hitachi, a hundred yards of jute rope, a custom soundtrack, custom lighting, and so forth.
In a technological world, we often forget that we are animals who really only possess the disease of religion, philosophy, opinion, politics, murder, art, music, racism, classism, and the like. We are Idiots. We are over evolved Apes. Our hyperreality is comprised of an abundance of individual choices between sounds, flavors, images, and other sensate experiences. The self-aware realize this and engage both the beast and the intellect. However, these extremes, the primal and the rational, need mediation.
BDSM has taught me the importance of being resourceful when confronted with scarcity but also appreciating saturation and finding a time and place for each extreme. Currently, my work involves a data-saturation of sorts and the utilization of integer sets as generative material for various types of processing and calculation. At other times, my work will involve what might appear as childish scribbling or graffiti markings on paper and canvas. What is important is the mediation between extremes—the primal and the rational—between scarcity and saturation.
BDSM can be an incredibly intellectual, but there is also a state of altered consciousness that is entered. Anybody who has lots of experience and has had satisfying experiences is aware of this state. I need not utter the name of this mental state. Those of us who are initiated know the name of it, and the herd needs to learn it for themselves. Lesser humans have used artificial means to arrive here (think LSD, alcohol, ecstasy, crystal meth, etc.), but this can be achieved by several natural means and BDSM is one of them. For those of us who have experienced great fetish sex, we are well aware of that moment when rationality and intellect cease processing the real and the hyperreal and a trance-state is induced. This is why the spirit has to be maintained alongside the body and the intellect. BDSM is ritualistic and requires endurance, strength, suppleness, and everything in between. BDSM is a true yin and yang experience, as I have said, a mediation.
I am including a list of books, films, and music that have influenced my explorations of the fetish lifestyle throughout the years. While this list is not definitive and it is merely subjective, these have all helped me to understand these concepts and I recommend that those who are interested familiarize themselves with these works. Some of them deal with unorthodox sexuality, others are merely unorthodox:
The Psychick Bible by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Liber Null by Peter J. Carroll
Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage by Midori
The New Topping Book by Janet W. Hardy
Female Ejaculation and the G-Spot by Deborah Sundahl
Sex, Drugs and Magick by Robert Anton Wilson
Modern Sex Magick by Donald Michael Kraig
The Ultimate Guide to Cunnilingus by Violet Blue
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud
Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs
The Soft Machine by William S. Burroughs
The Job by William S. Burroughs
The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
Crash by JG Ballard
Music for Bondage Performance by Merzbow
Clitoris Projectile Pump Action by Masonna
Ejaculation Generator by Masonna
Adoration of the Faceless Woman split by Vomir/Paranoid Time
Filmworks V: Tears of Ecstasy by John Zorn
Ganryu Island by John Zorn and Michihiro Sato
The String Quartets by John Zorn
STRGTHS by SHXCXCHCXSH
The Disintegration Loops by William Basinski
My Love is a Bulldozer by Venetian Snares
The Piano Teacher (2001)
In the Realm of the Senses (1976)
Rubber’s Lover (1996)
Año Bisiesto (2010)
Get My Belt (2013)
9 1/2 Weeks (1986)
Pink Flamingos (1972)
A Dirty Shame (2004)
964 Pinnochio (1991)
Visitor Q (2001)
Graphic Sexual Horror (2009)
There’s always been something of a unique aura about Grant Green’s music, an ability that is somehow mystifying and intangible. Green played the guitar more like a horn player, having copped Charlie Parker and Miles Davis licks in his youth. Being a guitarist, his music was firmly rooted in Detroit blues and his music swings hard. His solos are almost always perfect, notable for extending repeated three note phrases over as many as 6, 8, 12, and even 16 measures at a time, making subtle rhythmic variations with each repetition, generating an obsessive tension that is relieved with either a flurry of notes or a single held tone. His solos have a strong melodic sensibility and he rarely plays fast for the sake of playing fast. Green is one of the rare few who managed style and substance, rather than sacrificing one for the other. Green died in 1979.
His distinct work has been sampled by Cypress Hill, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Wu-Tang Clan, and Kendrick Lamar. Which is testament to the fact that you don’t manage to meaningfully contribute to history without knowledge, without taste, and without heritage.
I first met James T-Model Ford in 1997. He had opened for R.L. Burnside. His music had a memorable approach to a number of blues standards I would eventually grow to adore. Ford’s music served as an introduction, as the necessary open-valve to a whole world of blues music. His renditions of “Cut You Loose” and “My Babe” showed an affinity for James Cotton and Little Walter; and his renditions of “Smokestack Lightnin’” and “Catfish Blues” were excellent covers of Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. For me, his and R.L. Burnside’s music were the blues analog of Frank Zappa to classical modernism—that is to say, a gateway drug, so to speak.
I witnessed T-Model Ford play in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. I was always the youngest person in the club when I attended those shows, always going with the accompaniment of a parent and always drinking Coca-Cola. One of my fondest memories was having the opportunity in 1999, to play guitar alongside T-Model Ford’s drummer, nicknamed Spam, at Santa Fe’s Thirsty Ear Festival, which primarily presented roots music and underground alternative rock. Spam and I played for about 30 minutes as a duo and he used a snare drum in a North Mississippi Hill marching style, which he muted with a handkerchief to match the dynamics of the small saloon we played in. I ran through a number of styles: Robert Johnson style Open-G riffs; John Lee Hooker style vamps; and Muddy Waters-influenced stomping drones in the key of E. Even to this day, this is one of my fondest memories of my adolescence. Later, Spam admitted that “a white boy learnt” him the drums.
In the interim between these show experiences, I participated in weekly jam sessions and gigs throughout the bar scene in New Mexico. I was thirsty for playing experiences and I was often the first musician to arrive at 8 PM and the last to leave at 2:30 AM. I would be so wound up, I sometimes couldn’t get to sleep and I would cram in as much studying as I could before attending school the next morning around 7:30 AM. Those early morning study sessions often involved practicing for jazz ensemble; studying voice leading for music theory; and writing research papers on music (Anthony Braxton, Eric Dolphy, Arnold Schoenberg and Karlheinz Stockhausen are four names I remember writing papers on at this time). I remember the feeling of walking around school after a great show—having not had time to wash the cigarette smoke out of my hair—and I would have to listen to the other kids gossip and bicker; meanwhile I was living this double life of student and bar musician and there was always this compartmentalization between being the kid with a guitar that the high school cliques ignored and being the kid with a guitar that the college cliques cheered for the night before. After my third gig, I stopped telling the other children because they usually didn’t believe me, the response was always, “Sure, in your wildest dreams you played at a bar last night and some older girl with a fake ID gave you kiss on the cheek as she was leaving.” I was fourteen when this started and it went on until I was seventeen.
I estimate that I had something like 8,000 hours of gigging, rehearsal and practice and jamming experience by the time I reached legal adulthood. Between studying classical, jazz rehearsal, guitar class, and watching movies with my guitar in hand; I was playing about 4 or 5 hours a day, and I’ve done my best to keep this pace up with all my passions throughout life. These were crucial, formative years for me and I still prefer early morning to any other time for work, often rising as early as 3 AM to start weightlifting, write critical essays, compose music, and create visual art; I also typically read for 1 or 2 hours every night before bed. I don’t drink, I don’t take drugs, I don’t pursue unnecessary partnerships, I make time for meditation, and I attempt to sublimate everything into my work. I feel truly blessed at this point. I wish I could tell T-Model Ford how much he and Spam set the forces of my passion for music into motion. James T- Model Ford passed away in 2013. He was about 90 years old.
shit pours from my lips
it fills the candlestick with gas and perfume
corpses intertwine like egos
and drips of alcohol
ignite their perfume
can you believe there is no censorship
left in the newspaper?
possibly the eroticization of relieved bowels
will disintegrate your shallow ego
your hallow ego
your okra, your dildo, your potato skin
your whole agenda
is divided into white, black
and every shade of disbelief in between
you owe us nothing
yet, take everything for yourself
you have already begun to undress yourself
in front of the whole world
this is why I could never love you
everything and nothing is left for me
artificial light battles me lightly
attempting to write my own autobiography
after all of my slander has passed into idiocy
eternally grateful for the hateful anonymity
of the blanket of digital stars
emptiness knows his name
emptiness knows my name
attempting to remember where it all began
only the strong shall survive violence
only the violent survive silence
the silent will collect money, data, goggles, and heat
the mute button
writing for one more ride
one last chance
it is I who will write the story of our decline
every passive aggressive
nonsensical bit of censorship
sucks up the savory worthlessness of its own ego
I forgot you
I forgot to indulge you
I forgot to follow you
instruct you and dominate you
you have unwritten our own story
our own revolution
I can comfortably move forward
knowing that our reticence
represents an ending
a quiet apocalypse
the mute orgasm of the smile
forget me forgetting you
it is over.
Composer, Artist, Writer