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.
Composer, Artist, Writer