Across the Transom: April, 2022

Black Mystery School, LM-1, Egg-based Copyright

Gahlord Dewald :: 4/30/22 :: Mānoa, Hawai‘i


"When Doves Cry" was very nice. It started out with the LM-1, playing the beat on that, and how he had a guitar processor called a flanger, altering the sound of the drum machine. So it would sort of sweep up and down in tone. The record being so stark and so sparse of instruments, it was pretty much just him singing and the drum machine. And then, occasionally, his guitar would come, and there was some other instruments, but there wasn't so much more.

Cecilia Johnson interviewing Roger Linn about Prince and LM-1


The website is colorful and anarchic, evoking the chaotic sensory experience of exploring a crammed, dusty shop. A kaleidoscopic array of scanned cassette covers is on the main page, with a minimum of information. The art is eye-catching—Gergis appears to have been drawn to tapes with intriguing aesthetics. Often, these covers appear to be a DIY cut-and-paste of an artist photo against a hallucinatory, multicolored backdrop.

Geeta Dayal in Four Columns


I think there is a lot in my playing that comes from the practical experience I’ve had over the years, and having the focus on taking apart patterns, and established forms. By this I mean the approach I have to the instrument, the freedom I try to give myself to sing with it, to be a rhythmic base if I want, to look for more noisy sonorities, extended techniques, but that I have never studied… you could say that especially when it comes to improvising, and using my instrument in an “experimental” way, I am totally self-taught. By this I mean that I play extended techniques, but nobody taught them to me. I don’t know the names of the things I do, they come out when I feel necessary to get to what I want to express, and listen.

Bassist Amanda Irarrázabal in Foxy Digitalis


Part of what white supremacy has done in the United States is allowed white people to define everybody else’s racial category. It’s allowed white people to define what it is to be a member of a tribe and what it is to be indigenous. It’s one of the privileges of whiteness, to be able to define and monitor and control everybody else’s identity and that’s in part what’s going on here.

'Our Vote Matters Very Little': Kim TallBear on Elizabeth Warren's Attempt to Claim Native American Heritage

I’m thinking about this with respect to agencies, governments, industries, community orgs who are not taking responsibility for caring for the air we breathe indoors. What if we were to reframe air not as an inert commons inside our buildings but as a relation?

Twitter thread about colonizer logics

“‘The charm of DIY lies in its power of emancipation: you are able to build yourself an instrument so you are able to create music. I find it very anti-consumerist and I like that a lot.’”

The Afrorack, first experiments on DIY modular synthesizers

If we are amenable, the past and the past selves of those we love most are available for conversation, camaraderie, goodbyes that look a lot like full-armed hellos. Have you come from the future, Marion asks Nelly when she first discloses her secret. No, she replies, “I came from the path behind you.”

Petite Maman


This egg-based system of registering clowns’ makeup designs operates outside the courts and is not enforced by lawyers, which makes the practice particularly interesting to legal scholars like us. We’re interested in how artists think about originality, borrowing, and copying. Our prior research has looked at similar forms of emergent property norms: the distinctive pseudonyms of roller derby athletes, and the unwritten rules of copying, inspiration, and ownership in the tattoo industry. Other researchers have investigated the intellectual property in the worlds of stand-up comedy, graffiti, drag performance, and French cuisine, among others.

The legal regulation of creativity plays an increasingly important role in our daily lives. At the core of copyright, patent, and related bodies of law is a belief in incentives. By giving creators legal tools to control how their works are used, the hope is that they will be encouraged to produce more art, safe in the knowledge that they can profit from it.

But people who create do so in response to a host of incentives, only a small fraction of which copyright and related laws address directly. Some create out of love of their art, or to express themselves. While others seek the respect and acceptance of other creators. Formal legal incentives fail to account for these other powerful motivations.

The fascinating reason why clowns paint their faces on eggs


the problems inherent in the cult that surrounded her during her life and which even now is fostered by her former students and unknowing hero-worshipers in an attempt to erase the truth about Boulanger’s behavior and beliefs and, in the case of her students, to promote themselves as having been anointed by her as singularly worthy of teaching music to others.

Mademoiselle Myths

So what do I mean by a Black Mystery School pianist? Well, obviously the word “Black” is in here, so for the purposes of looking at this tree, all of the practitioners I will mention except for one will be Black. That is not to imply a non-black person cannot enter this realm. I am just outlining a code—that there is a definitive tree-like formation that has seemed more often than not to go down a certain path. The word “mystery” is here also which implies a secret code, passed through an underground way of passage, a language outside the mainstream and, yes, outside the mainstream of jazz, even though the father of this school Thelonious Monk’s image has been subsumed into the mainstream of jazz after a long period of incubation.

Mystery School posits an alternative touch—something that does not directly fall within the mainstream’s easily digestible paradigm of being able to play the instrument, even though the practitioners of the Mystery School are obviously highly skilled virtuosos whose touch, language, and articulation are extremely hard to copy. In some ways, in the subconscious of the jazz idiom, the Mystery School is a counter strike to the psychological space of any variant of an Art Tatum approach of playing, filtered down to Oscar Peterson, and then watered down to something like André Previn as a prevailing way of viewing piano playing. And I say that despite Monk’s roots in stride piano. Mystery School pianists have developed profound ways of generating sound out of the instrument grounded in a technique they invented and one that cannot be taught in school. It is a code that somehow gets passed down.

Black Mystery School Pianists


In most ways I prefer this to how things were, but with the enormous gain in access, something has been lost. Scarcity produced a particularly intense relationship with culture, and gave deep significance to subcultural signals. When you found something you loved, something that had taken time and work to unearth, you clung to it. Often you felt as if it was your secret, your talisman. If you met someone else who liked it, it was both exciting and threatening.

There used to be a company that specialized in hipster axes, quasi-utilitarian objects with fancy painted handles. They seemed like a cry for help, a product for men who were desperate to get back to the land, but could only imagine doing so through acts of consumption.

Broken Links


“It comes down to looking at artists as products and not people making art to share. And also, not looking at artists as workers,” Williams says. “And it comes down to people in bands that do it completely differently, who don’t really understand the vibe of long-haul touring. It’s not a sprint. It’s not a two-week-long party to get drunk every night and crash on people’s floors. You’re on the road for several months and it’s important to conserve any energy that you can.”

Why Are Musicians Expected To Be Miserable On Tour Just To Break Even?

It’s the way that we implicate our audiences on these platforms that’s the real ethical crisis.

I’m compromising my audience twice over: first, by asking for their attention…for the sake of having their attention. Second, their engagement with my content makes Meta more valuable; the more valuable the company becomes, the more diminished we all are, individually and collectively.

From Gabriel Kahane: Words & Music April 19, 2020


But what is opting to be on social media even offering us? It wasn’t really helping me achieve what I wanted, which was to engage people enough for them to want to see my live performances.

Am I Going to Kill my Career if I’m Not on Social Media Anymore?


Genres and neighborhoods are both inherently vague sociological constructs, given exact definitions by tech companies in the form of playlists and cartographic labels respectively. I think it’s instructive to view the hyperpop playlist, as opposed to a major label dominated hip hop playlist like RapCaviar, as a manifestation of what sociologist Sarah Thornton calls “subcultural capital” (7). Thornton developed the notion of subcultural capital in her book Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital as an extension of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital to explain the social dynamics of British youth club movements in the 90s, describing the status gained by one’s cultural knowledge or attunement to an “underground” movement. Many of the same observations Thornton made can be applied to the complex tangle of internet movements and subcultures sometimes referred to as hyperpop. She emphasizes the role niche journalism plays in the development of subcultures:

“They categorize social groups, arrange sounds, itemize attire and label everything. They baptize scenes and generate the self-consciousness required to maintain cultural distinctions. They give definition to vague cultural formations, pull together and reify the disparate materials which become subcultural homologies. The music and style press are crucial to our conception of British youth; they do not just cover subcultures, they help construct them.” (p. 151).

In the development of hyperpop as a subcultural identity, this was a role largely fulfilled by the Spotify playlist, rather than the press. But a playlist makes no room for context, flattening the expansive network of collectives, sounds, and histories which make internet music so fascinating into a decontextualized, but expertly curated, amalgamation of songs. And ultimately driving playlist creation decisions, and the subcultural capital derived thereof, is the Echo Nest data platform, specifically whatever clustering algorithm is putting a box around patterns of sonic characteristics, listening behavior, and the web-crawled internet conversations surrounding them and elevates it to the level of genre. Echo Nest developers may point out the inherent uncertainties surrounding their approach, that their model perhaps shouldn’t be considered dogmatic ground truth for what is and is not a genre, but you wouldn’t know that looking at the playlist.

The Essence of Place

See Also: Thornton, S. (1996). Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Wesleyan University Press.