Event Of Your Leaving was recorded by Raum (Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Liz Harris) in 2011 and 2012. Their first collaborative LP, the record is a loose set of memories, dreams, and images interpreting the work of visual artist Vija Celmins for piano, guitar, keyboard, voice, and tapes. The three-panel, fold-out cover is an offset and letterpress print of a drawing by Harris. Artwork printed at Stumptown Printers in Portland, Oregon and LP mastered at Dubplates in Berlin by Rashad Becker. Edition of 1000.
Liz Harris has been recording, performing, and releasing solo material under the name Grouper since 2005 on various imprints including Kranky, Type, and her own YELLOWELECTRIC. She lives and works on the Oregon Coast.
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is a Brooklyn-based musician who has performed in bands and under his own name since 1996. He is a founding member of the groups Tarentel, The Alps, Portraits, and Moholy-Nagy as well as the Root Strata record label.
Harris and Cantu-Ledesma first performed together at 2012's Transmediale Festival in Berlin, where they debuted Harris' Circular Veil – an 8-hour composition designed for performance-goers to sleep to.
To celebrate the Raum release, Liz and Jefre performed live at Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, CT on October 4, 2013.
Nigerian culture is suddenly very hip. Do you think that's a good thing?
TC: I always come to this with the view that Nigeria is the size of France with 122 million people and I believe that by rights, a country that large should have a voice on the world stage. The population of America is perhaps twice that of Nigeria, and we certainly hear a lot from them. Why? They’re no more important as people. There are fewer French people than Nigerians. Fewer British people and we hear a lot from them too. In that sense I have a very straight forward approach to rights and equality, which is: every Nigerian person should be as important as any other person.
But can that be equality really be achieved through cultural appropriation?
TC: Well I don’t exactly love that stuff, but it’s almost like we have to pass through that phase. Like India has always been appropriated but over the past few decades a lot of Indian voices have also asserted themselves on the international scene. The doors might have been opened through appropriation, but now a lot of Indian people do what they want without reference to American or British interests.
Do you think you were able to assert your voice because you had experience of living both in Nigeria and America?
TC: I certainly think it helps that neither of those cultures are strange to me now.
Do you see Every Day is for the Thief as a sister text to Open City?
TC: I think they’re very related in quite peculiar ways. The narratives are similar with enough in common for you to know that they came from the same writer. And they’re both maddeningly connected to me in some way, which makes it very easy for people to assume that my narrator is all me. Or at least very close to the person I am. People are often surprised to find that I am quite extroverted.
Is that because your narrators are usually quite elusive?
TC: That’s right. They’re quite introverted. They give a general vibe of, ‘Oh I’m interested in many things but I can’t be bothered.’ Now I’m interested in many things but I do get engaged and it surprises me that people think I’m this serious, introverted person. I wrote a piece only yesterday which, might I say, is pretty fucking hilarious.
You’re more active on social media than a lot of novelists. Do you get people following you on Twitter who have never read the books and vice versa?
TC: Yes, there can be a lot of separation between audiences. Sometimes people tweet at me saying, “You have a way with words, you should write a book.” I also encounter people who see this serious, intellectual side in my books and then they come to Twitter and are thinking, ‘who’s this frivolous jerk?’
I think a lot of people like their literary figures to be unreachable, especially in the US, which by being on Twitter I’m not. Commenting on current affairs is not something novelists really do in the US. A novelist isn’t going to write an op-ed about Isis or drone warfare for the New York Times. Which is strange, because anywhere else in the world, a novelist is someone who also has a column in a national newspaper.
Bret Easton Ellis and Irvine Welsh both push the envelope more than me on social media. Except that Irvine Welsh has a lot of British followers that are more accommodating to ‘bad behaviour’, whereas Americans are more puritanical. They’re very keen for people to be inoffensive.
Born in 1946 in Massachusetts, Sandy Skoglund is a American installation artist and photographer. She graduated in 1968 from Smith College where she studied studio art, history and fine art. A year later, she went to University of Iowa, a graduate institute, where she learned printing, multimedia and filmmaking. In 1971 and 1972, she earned a Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts, respectively. From here onwards, she started working in New York as a conceptual artist. However, she soon became fond of photography and so in 1978 as a first assignment for herself, she photographed food stuff.
Skoglund worked with food items against colorful and patterned backgrounds. It was her means to develop a universal language – without a doubt everyone eats. The intention to use food as a subject was to create a connection with the spectators of her work. Today in the world people are injecting various chemicals in to food items to give them a different appeal for example by using artificial colorings to stimulate the appearance of vegetables and fruits. In advertisements, photography is used as a tool to capture the enhancements of looks in something. For example oily coatings to give shine to food surfaces or usage of dimethicone to reproduce sweat on a chilled glass. This is why Skoglund had a fondness in studying and working with food since there is a plethora of options to re-create something.
Sandy Skoglund produces surrealist photographs by constructing intricate tableaux. She colors the set, places life size objects and subjects. This process for a single piece takes her months to finish. Once she is done staging the desired scene, she photographs it. Skoglund fulfils her artistic endeavors with photography and most importantly is able to document it – she is able to experiment with varying themes.
Tomasz Stanko was born in 1942 in Rzeszów, a city in the southeast of Poland. He began a formal classical training in music at 7, learning piano and violin. Then, as a teenager, he heard his first jazz on Conover’s radio programs and was taken first by Chet Baker, then Miles Davis, who became a favorite. “I decide to play on trumpet, in Scouts—my father’s friend was a teacher on trumpet—and then I go to music school in Kraków. But with trumpet I was always jazz musician.”
While Stanko studied in Kraków, the Dave Brubeck Quartet performed their history-making concert behind the Iron Curtain there. At this time Kraków was a hotbed of jazz activity like no other city in Poland. In 1945 jazz was banned by Stalin and existed only in clandestine concerts in Warsaw’s catacombs until the ban was gradually lifted after Stalin’s death in 1953. By then, jazz musicians were already an informal party of opposition, making common cause with painters, writers, poets, playwrights and filmmakers. The Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, writing about a parallel situation in Czechoslovakia, captures the essence of these times in The Bass Saxophone, describing how musicians perfected ways to express their hatred of communism and how audiences loved the joke, more so because the system simply didn’t get it. When Stanko began playing jazz in 1961, he says, “It was, like, cool!”
Stanko’s first major influence was Ornette Coleman. “I always look for something new, and I found out about Ornette. One guy in the States–he was American-Polish–sent us these LPs, Free Jazz and The Shape of Jazz to Come, and we studied them and started into his music, I check harmony—what was wrong! But it was unharmony, of course! This and the George Russell Lydian system were the two things that built my beginnings [in jazz].”
In 1962 Stanko organized his first group, the Jazz Darings, which included pianist Adam Matyszkowicz, now Makowicz. “He was at this time playing pretty free,” says Stanko of Makowicz. “He saved those [Art] Tatum things for himself, funny guy! But he was really best for me in the free; he had fantastic harmony feel, and played really interesting in a free way, but he didn’t like it! He wants to play Tatum. In those days, European jazz was in the shadow of American jazz, but now it’s beginning to come into its time, like Italian opera once did.”
Later in 1962, the Jazz Darings entered a competition for amateur musicians and won, with Stanko taking the top instrumentalist award. They were one of the first European bands to absorb the potential of Coleman’s music, and this new profile brought Stanko to the attention of pianist, composer and arranger Krzysztof Komeda, a doctor by profession but also Poland’s leading jazz musician, credited with launching the modern jazz movement in the post-Stalinist era. At the 1963 Warsaw Jazz Jamboree, Komeda invited Stanko to join his ensemble. It was a career-shaping move. Not only was Komeda an established jazz musician in his own right, he was also a composer of film music working with directors such as Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, Miroslaw Kijowicz, Janusz Morgenstern and, most famously, Roman Polanski, for whom Komeda scored a number of films, from Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) to Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Soon, Stanko was recording film music and touring with Komeda across Europe—to the Golden Circle in Stockholm, the Café Montmartre in Copenhagen, to Prague, the Konigsberg Jazz Festival, Yugoslavia and throughout Poland. In 1965 Stanko was voted top trumpeter in a poll in the Polish magazine Jazz and the following year he participated on Komeda’s historic album Astigmatic, which is generally regarded as the first album to reflect a genuine European sensibility in jazz. “He was writing his own music, and he used tradition as material but his compositions were completely fresh and new,” recalls Stanko. “He connected everything in very original way. He was very cunning, maybe from the movies, because film dictates untypical construction. He was master with this. What he wrote was great for improvisation, was very good for jazz musician—when you play this stuff it sounds like new.”
When Komeda left Poland to join Polanski in Hollywood, the plan was for Stanko to join him later. But Komeda suffered a fall after completing Rosemary’s Baby, striking his head. He was in a coma for three months before he died April 23, 1969, four days before his 38th birthday. It was a great blow to Stanko, who lost a friend and a mentor. “He was something of a guru to me; he was very charismatic and a great person, not just a great jazz musician but a great composer,” says Stanko. “What I got from him was his simplicity. He loved simplicity. Simplicity is the most difficult thing and very beautiful. And mood, which probably comes from our Slovenian background. And many harmonic things: one side, very traditional; one side, novel.”
Nancy Spero, the American artist, feminist and leftwing activist, was interviewed in her New York studio a year before her death in 2009. "What can one do as an artist when you see all the violence being carried out in the world?" she asked. In her youth Spero had been a maker of paintings, drawings and prints. Later, as rheumatoid arthritis took over the joints of her hands, print and collage techniques allowed her to create paper friezes and murals, many of them epic in both scale and ambition, and typically featuring a multitude of images of women – from the art of ancient civilisations to the mass-media image-world of the present. In the final decades of her life she experimented with textiles and installation. Prestigious public art commissions came her way: for instance, the lavish, glittering mosaic murals that since 2001 have adorned the subway station under New York's Lincoln Center. Her pieces varied in mood from lacerating and shocking to playful, comical and celebratory, but for most of her career she grappled with that brutally simple, tortuously difficult question: in the face of so much cruelty and suffering in the world, what are an artist's ethical and political responsibilities?
Launched at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, last year, the Serpentine Gallery's exhibition surveys Spero's career from the late 1950s through to her last piece – a large, idiosyncratic experiment in sculpture made in 2008 – revealing the variety of her responses to the challenge of making politically committed work. Intrinsic to that campaign was her own personal quest for self-expression as a female, and feminist, artist. Paradoxically, she found her solution in a kind of ventriloquism, by recycling pre-existing visual images and others' writings. In relation to this the remarkable Codex Artaud (1971-72, represented at the Serpentine by about half-a-dozen large pieces) is often cited as Spero's breakthrough moment.
The Codex is a huge graphic work comprising 37 differently proportioned sections, some of them well over 10ft long. Each is a collage of printed and painted images, plus yards and yards of mechanical type thumped out on an old-fashioned bulletin typewriter, a "big old monster" that Spero hired for the project. Together, its sections form a colossal frieze or scroll that the artist likened to Egyptian papyri. Against the variegated white shades of its paper background, the Codex's colours are elegantly restricted and make great use of inks and metallic pigments. Formally, it is rhythmical and choreographic, balancing blocks of text and images against blank areas.
At this level, it's a poised graphic object, but its eccentric repertoire of figurative imagery – mythical monsters, dismembered limbs, bugs and gargoyles – and its frantic, deranged textual contents violently contradict its formal elegance. Spero recycled the anguished outpourings by the poet Antonin Artaud: terrified recollections of electric shock therapy, crazed railings against God and the universe, delirious streams of obscene "fecal poetry".
At the time of making the Codex, Spero was involved in feminist activism and protesting against the Vietnam war. She was dealing with ever-worsening arthritis and a generalised feeling of invisibility and voicelessness. Having been fascinated by Artaud for more than a decade, she hi-jacked his prose and made it a vehicle for her own pain and anger. Given Artaud's well-known misogyny it was an intriguing and ambivalent strategy. Spero summed it up herself via an image that recurs across the Codex – a disembodied head with a grotesque phallic tongue protruding from its mouth: the organ of speech envisaged partly as a weapon and partly as a gag. The language enabling her to speak was also a kind of self-suppression.
However, the Codex Artaud is arguably better seen as a consolidation of Spero's earlier experiments than a "breakthrough" to a mature method. Lots had already been going on. Between 1966 and 1969 she produced the War Series, a cycle of more than 150 aggressive, satirical, rapid-fire paintings on paper addressing the Vietnam war. This series grafted corporeal, sexualised imagery on to the machinery of war, but like the Codex Artaud it played a perverse game with conventional gender roles. Spero's guns, bombs and helicopters are polymorphous and perverse: male and female by turns. A "female" helicopter/she-wolf feeds human figures blood from teats dangling from its undercarriage; a "male" bomb distributes death from its two heads and its grotesque armoury of proliferating penises; genderless victims are represented in the form of bloodied rib-bones with screaming faces. Spero explicitly wanted to shock, she said, and to "be obscene, because the war was obscene".
In On The Wire, film scholar Linda Williams pushes back against that conventional wisdom. The Wire’s greatness, she argues, isn’t because of its literary or classical dramatic qualities. Rather, The Wire is great because of the way it uses and expands upon the resources of serial television melodrama. As Williams says, “in seeking to articulate what is so exceptional about The Wire, I shall argue that it is first necessary to appreciate what is conventional about it: seriality, televisuality, and melodrama.”
That last one, melodrama, is perhaps the most important for Williams. Melodrama, she says, is often seen as a particularly artificial mode, complete with mustache-twirling villains, weeping heroines, and exclamation-strewn intertitles. In contrast, The Wire is seen as valuable because it is true to life and nuanced. It is not like other television, in part, because it is not artificial. It is authentic.
Williams argues that this fundamentally misunderstands melodrama — a genre that she sees as central to the democratic experience and project. Her book is not just about rethinking The Wire, but also about using The Wire to rethink melodrama, and therefore as a way to rethink, or re-understand, the democratic values to which The Wire is committed. Her reading of The Wire, therefore, starts with the insight that melodrama is not artificial, but is actually a quintessentially realist genre. As a definition she states, “melodrama always offers the contrast between how things are and how they could be, or should be.” She adds, “This is its fundamental utopianism” — but it is also its fundamental realism. Melodrama, in Dickens or Harriet Beecher Stowe, relies upon a vision of the world as it is in order to imagine, or create, a vision of the world as it ought to be.
Williams contrasts melodrama in particular to classical tragedy, where the heroes “face up to the way things are — to being the ‘playthings of the gods.’” For Williams, tragedy is iconically aristocratic and conservative; it is based on the acceptance of hierarchy and power as immutable constants. Melodrama, on the other hand, is, again, a liberal, democratic mode, in which suffering is presented as unnecessary if only the authorities, and indeed the viewers, would commit to change. Melodrama is therefore the essential genre of democratic discourse. When activists on the left point to Trayvon Martin’s death and call for changes in Stand Your Ground laws, or when activists on the right wave placards touting fetal heartbeats, both are crafting melodramas by pointing to (a version of) reality and holding out the possibility of change. “Melodrama,” Williams says, “belongs to liberalism’s promise of progress, individual self-determination, and the refusal of predetermined fate.”
America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib. Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardon explains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.
It's an educational arms race that's leaving many kids far, far behind.
It's depressing, but not nearly so much as this:
Even poor kids who do everything right don't do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's annual conference, which is underway.
Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne'er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.
Laurence Crane is a contemporary composer who was born in Oxford in 1961. He has said of his music, "I use simple and basic musical objects— common chords and intervals, arpeggios, drones, cadences, fragments of scales and melodies. The materials may seem familiar, perhaps even rather ordinary, but my aim is to find a fresh beauty in these objects by placing them in new structural and formal contexts."
Crane's compositions have frequently been played in concert. Apart from tracks on compilations, it has not been easy to track down recordings featuring his music, the most notable exception being Michael Finnissy's recording Solo Piano Pieces 1985-1999 (Metier, 2008). Consequently, Crane has not become as big a household name as some of his contemporaries. Now, two recent releases seem likely to change that situation in the near future...
Lush Laments for Lazy Mammal is Håkon Stene's debut on Hubro and his first album under his own name, although he has an impressive discography as a percussionist with others. Six of this album's nine tracks are Laurence Crane compositions, with Gavin Bryars, Christian Wallumrød and Stene himself contributing one each. As a result, the Crane pieces are very influential in determining the mood of the album. Played on acoustic instruments, with any use of electricity being subtle and restrained, the music fits Crane's description above, with "beauty" being a key word. His pieces evolve gently at their own pace, never sounding rushed or forced; so each one has a tranquil, meditative quality that draws the listener in and is totally engaging.
Listeners may occasionally have to double check the running time of a track; in a positive way, Crane and Stene have the uncanny knack of creating soundscapes which allow the listener to drift away, making two or three minutes seem far longer. Quite blissful. Crane has resisted the "minimalism" tag being attached to his music, but it is not difficult to hear why it has attracted it; although the music does not have the repetitive quality of much Reich, Glass or Riley, it is stripped back to basics without fat, slack, unnecessary ornamentation or drama. The resulting stark beauty makes it music to be returned to again and again.
Michael Magras: There’s a significant paranormal component to your new novel. What fascinates you about the paranormal? Do you have any favorite examples of that genre that you used as guides or inspirations as you were writing The Bone Clocks?
David Mitchell: I’m interested in mortality because I’m going to die at some point, and I wanted to think about this from the point of view of immortals, whose relationship with death is a lot less final than ours. As far as is widely known, immortals exist only in the realm of the fantastic, so the novel got shunted toward the paranormal by default. Not so much guides or inspirations, but the fact that Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita or Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children or Robert Louis Stevenson or most of Atwood or chunks of Dostoevsky or Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books successfully deploy the paranormal to explore the “real world” we live in reassured me that while it’s not easy to break the laws of physics and still retain literary credibility, it can’t be altogether impossible.
In Cloud Atlas, the composer Robert Frobisher says at one point, "How vulgar, this hankering after immortality, how vain, how false." Now, in The Bone Clocks, we have two groups of quasi-immortals, the Horologists and the Anchorites, vying against one another and using the protagonist, Holly Sykes, as a weapon in their power struggle. Is it vulgar to hanker after immortality? Are the Horologists and Anchorites versions of vulgarians?
No, it’s not vulgar to hanker after immortality — we’re genetically driven toward survival, and we only reach the middle stages of our lifespans because of this drive. The thing is, then what? We evolved during historical periods when there was no “then what?” because our ancestors would have died in their 30s of infections or illness easily curable in the modern age. Nowadays we feel kind of shortchanged if we don’t reach our 80s. In this context, our wish to survive becomes less a practical reflex to do with the maintenance of our species, and more a ball-and-chain: we don’t want to die, but we’re going to, and as we age and age into our fifth, sixth, and seventh decades, we have less and less to do but contemplate the decay of the bodies that used to serve us so much better. Who wouldn’t want to opt out of this, given the chance? The devil, however, is where he and lawyers can reliably be found, in the details. Whereas the Horologists are harmless souls who get reincarnated in new bodies whether they want this or not, the Anchorites’ immortality has to be paid for by other people. The Horologists are vegetarians, the Anchorites carnivores. My novelist character Crispin Hershey hankers after immortality of a literary kind, of course — I would view that as a vulgar aspiration, as well as misguided. Writing for future generations rather than your own is probably the best way of guaranteeing your own eternal oblivion.