From Chris Murray, fronter of many fronts, experiments, and minds – and for this purpose: The Hepatitties.
What follows are his thoughts on the passing of Peaches Geldof. The words are his own candid sentiment – a modern-day rarity – servings as the first (and, god willing, the last ) look back at a period in our collective history that is venerable, honorable, and – well – peachy:
I’m not sure what qualifies me to eulogize Peaches Geldof, other than the fact that I briefly fronted a band, The Hepatitties, for which I used various online media accounts of the young woman’s experiences, as fodder to write songs from her singular, and absolutely fascinating perspective.
As author of these songs, I suppose I do have a unique perspective, at least amongst Nashvillians, of what it might have been like to walk even a few miles in her designer pumps, to feel the evening dew thru her ink-adorned skin, to love and fuck and take needle drugs as her beautiful young synapses fire and misfire inside that lonely skull, topped with silken blonde hair…
I suppose what fascinated me with Peaches all along were these dissonances that seemed to be at the very core of her person: she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but never hesitant to use it for melting down heroin with lemon juice. She could bed damn near any man, but chose for her first husband the ginger lead singer of ridiculous electropop/rap group, Chester French. Her face was soft and round, but usually covered in gaudy rouge, and her skin, so supple, alabaster smooth, but criss-crossed with hastily designed ink in her later years. She was an essentially conflicted, and therefor free person, it seemed to me, physically and emotionally untethered.
To me, Peaches represented a unique point on the celestial map of celebrity infatuation: not fully present in any specific time or geographical zone, but existing mostly in, propped up by the digital consciousness shared by Gawker.com readers, and perhaps more importantly, by her reliably tabloid-obsessed home country of England. Peaches gave us the mytheme that we so desperately need for meme. There can be no myth without a people to share it, after all. The fetish object is not a fetish at all, without a pervert.
The second Hepatitties EP, Banality Winkin’, explored Mrs. Geldof’s lately refined emotional sensibilities, her newfound introspection upon the birth of first born son, Astala Geldof-Cohen, as evidenced by her personal Twitter and Instagram feeds. Since the completion of this recording, Peaches gave birth to a second son, Phaedra Geldof-Cohen, and adopted two dogs: Bowgsley and another (whose name I forget,) and seemed to be further distancing herself from the hard-partying lifestyle of her late teenage years.
The Peaches Geldof of old had recently seemed to be dying in favor of a new, more “adult” version of herself. Perhaps she was just not ready to see her real self, her tabloid self, the drug-addled, occasionally chubby society plumb, wilt away on life’s pedestrian counter top.
Goodnight, Peaches. May God have mercy on us all.
Find The Hepatitties albums for free and for sale here:
It is on the night after the death of the great Pete Seeger and upon streaming Henry Mancini’s “Best Of” that I write this.
The duel purpose with which the occasion compels me to jostle my thoughts down can also be revealed in the opening sentence. I awoke this morning to read of the news that Pete Seeger – the legendary folk singer and activist – had died peacefully at the age of 94. This is the first monolithic musical figure that has passed this year, but in 2013 the world lost Lou Reed, Donald Byrd, Phil Everly and Ray Price, to name the smallest amount. All major figures, both in the music community and in the popular landscape as well. But none illicit nearly as much of a reaction from me as Pete Seeger’s death did. My initial thought was that stating he died peacefully seemed a bit ill-fitting, given that the current climate in which we live (double meaning intended) can hardly be navigated in a “peaceful” manner. As such, Mr. Seeger appeared to gracefully let go of the torch he (once) carried, while still maintaining his fervor for life. Either that or he probably asked himself every day upon waking, “are you fucking kidding me?”
My next thought immediately went to the onslaughts of tributes that were about to be poured out for the righteous man. A mental rolodex began to spin of all the people who claimed Seeger as inspiration or in his lineage: Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, etc. etc. and I vowed to skim everyone of them with a dull-attention span and to not go and do likewise. In fact, en route to my relatively yuppie job bar-tending at a locally-sourced burger joint (where I also am in charge of the music during the shift), I said to myself that I wouldn’t so much as even mention his passing to anyone and would play only a few of his tracks – exclusively deep cuts – as I queued up whatever jams for that morning shift. Yet here I am. Human beings are fickle, malleable beasts.
What Pussy Riot has done over in Russia is of no small importance and cannot be understated by everyone the world over. Even this small thing I (Richard) am typing here is justified and should be done by all. No facades, all praise.
I don’t read many blogs. One I return to frequently is The Quietus out of the UK. They always have fascinating records that I know nothing about and write fantastic pieces on a variety of subjects, almost none of which pertain to the current spin cycles of the surface or the underground. I did, however, expect to read an article on the Pussy Riot verdict, but I did not, however, expect to read this one. I can’t agree with it enough and have no interest in deferring any of the language or tone. I’m posting it here because it’s somewhere close to the heart of us here around Blacktooth, and because it is articulate about subjects that don’t get held together often (in my opinion), and because Pussy Riot rules for what they did. Add them to the pantheon, from Guthrie to Bombino.
“And the Pussy Riot case does remind us – religious or not – of a very worrying truth: that when faith gets too cosy with the centres of power and social control, it risks betraying itself.”
Welcome again to “The State of Kuwait,” a reoccurring series here on Blacktooth.
This entry proves a little less polemic and a lot more global-village-y (thanks NPR! you bastion of liberalism, you). Ranging from some Nashville videos that are both entertaining and mawkishly sentimental, to Morocco and Thailand. East to West, y’all.
Without further adieu:
Hans Chilburg (no joke) put together this great, minute-long, smashed-up footage. He’s currently working on a full-length feature that we hope to have our hands in (somehow) called “Dreamscape” and it’s in post-production right now.
Kim McCulla put together this great, three-minute-long, smashed-up footage from our 4th of Joo-Lie party last year, where Ben Trimble of Fly Golden Eagle and the boys in Chrome Pony played the National Anthem every hour on the hour until something ridiculous like 3 AM the next day. It was awesome and so is this video.
In other news,
Natasha Pradhan is an artist/researcher in Morocco. We’ve read a little bit about her, and was exposed to her work by our friend Josephine Foster (Click for her music. Ben Trimble of Fly Golden Eagle played on her new record and Andija Tokic from the Bomb Shelter recorded it. Pick it up when it comes out later this year). Natasha’s visuals are stunning and with a little digging we found a pretty good paper she wrote on the indigenous Moroccan esoteric music rituals that was extremely knowledgeable, both from the writer and for the reader. Here’s an excerpt and click below for a video of the Hamatcha Lila in action. (It is highly suggested you read, if not the whole article, at least the excerpt. Which, in true Blacktooth form, is hardly even terrain as far as “presumed excerpt length” is concerned. You need to read more anyway.)
“This evolution of the Gnawa ritual as a secular performance is largely a matter of economics. Secular performances and collaborations energize a very needy community with the economic fuel to sustain themselves, and potentially their religious tradition in an increasingly modern economy. The Gnawa community has become visibly more well off (nowhere near wealth, but rather distanced from poverty) compared to other brotherhoods. Does this increase in wealth sustain the essence of the Gnawa tradition or fuel more performances that further articulate the distance from a space that was? A new economic relationship with their spiritual practice does have a radical rhythmic impact on life. While zaouia’s are kept up through the giving of small amounts of money in a ritual setting with the idea of baraka, the Gnawa ceremonies are now indirectly funded by large sums of money less frequently from secular sources.
The process of bestowing of money to sacred musicians is a materialization of listening, or receiving practices of the music itself. When the music of the Sufi brotherhoods is absorbed in a space of ritual with its sacred potency, the resulting economic exchange is an offering for baraka. When money is bestowed in exchange for work (secular performance) the musicians receive a salary or stipend. By the same means that practices of creative listening (Novak 2008: 30) are “a vital social activity and the cognitive basis of an interactive music culture.” The materialization of these listening practices directly to the musicians in turn alters their relationship to their performance practices.
One such instance occurred upon the removal of the sacred music of a town called Zahjouka from Zahjouka. Brion Gysin, an artist associated with the beat generation that spent a large part of his creative career in Morocco, describes his discovery of Zahjouka’s music in an interview with Terry Wilson: “I heard some music at that festival about which I said: ‘I Just want to hear that music for the rest of my life. I wanna hear it everyday all day. And uh, there were a great many other kinds of extraordinary music offered to one, mostly of the Ecstatic Brotherhood who enter into trance, so that in itself – it was the first time I’d seen large groups of people going into trance – was enough to have kept my attention, but beyond and above all of that somewhere I heard this funny little music, and I said: ‘Ah! That’s my music! And I must find out where it comes from.’ So I stayed and within a year I found that it came from Jajouka…[tape stops]” (Vale 1982: 47). Gysin proceeded to develop an economic relationship with the musicians in which he could hear this music all day everyday. “Oh the restaurant [1001 Nights] came about entirely because of them…I said ‘I would like to hear your music everyday’ and, uh, they said ‘Well, why don’t you just stick around and live in the village?’ And I said, ‘No, that isn’t possible, I have to go back and earn my living’…and they said, “Well, then why don’t you open a little cafe, a little joint, some place in Tangier, and we’ll come down and make the music and, uh, we’ll split the money?” (Vale 1982: 52)
Secular income from a performance concretizes the economic potency of the performance as work. A sacred ritual becomes a production of a commodity (music) to be consumed, an in turn transformed, by its reception unto secular ears.
What is lost by the popularization of sacred sounds and the assimilation of esoteric modes of existence into a secular economy? Attempts that understand the emergence of modern forms of old traditions, or the mechanisms to sustain traditional forms in modern contexts, as a preservation of these traditions commits the fault of reducing these traditions to their superficially extractable elements. Institutional attempts at preservation of the music of Sufi brotherhoods in this way (through stage performance and marketed recordings) are victim to a flawed essentialism that slightly alters the original meaning of the music each time it is employed for a commercial or popular purpose.
The ritual is the embodiment and sustenance of a particular mode of existence, a particular shared conception of time and situation of space. As life, the ritual is never fixed. Essentializing modes of understanding or recreating the ritual results in preservation attempts that do not transgress the superficial. The forces that endorse secular festivals featuring sacred music and musical recordings as “world music” perceive a space or experience and proceed to reduce this space to its musical performance. Such efforts fix the musical ritual in time and fuel folklorization. The case of the Gnawa ritual makes evident that an either/or attitude is in fact more harmful because it forces this distinction to be digested by the musicians; and as a result of imbalances in resources, the new ritual that articulates a modern and secular digestion of this music is that which prevails. Sacred understandings of one’s musical and religious practice becomes assimilated into modern understandings of one’s musical and labor practice.
Looking forward, subsequent research of the ritual practices of the Sufi brotherhoods and their evolving contexts in environments dictated by popular conceptions of music and musical performance should explore new avenues of preservation. Preservation practices of the Sufi brotherhoods can manifest itself either towards the sustenance of esotericism (or the re-introduction of esotericism), or through modes ofcreative preservation.
Esotericism makes spaces not susceptible to the deleting forces of popularization on the practice of spirit possession and faith-building through hadra. By simply placing restrictions on the dispersion of a music, its popularization, and subsequent economically-systematized secularization can be limited.
Perhaps more useful, however, is to explore existing and possible avenues of creative preservation. Creative preservation is to preserve not the rationally perceivable elements of a tradition – i.e. the music, costume, etc. but rather to preserve what is contained within the ritual and practices of sacred music. This preservation takes into account the space, the performance practices, the faith behind, and the experience of time and space as embedded within the space of ritual. Instead of understanding preservation as a freezing of particular aspects of a tradition that have penetrated popular consciousness, creative preservation sustains and reinvents the what is experienced within the music rather than facilitate reenactments of its forms. This bears into being new rituals, rather than staged reenactments that extract from whatwas and cage an entire way of life within the past.”
Luk Thung – Classic & Obscure 78s From The Thai Countryside is an awesome compilation that came out this year, curated by the Monrakplengthai music blog and others (read about it here: <click!>). In the attempt to seem less ethno-voyeuristic, deem these as simply good, grooving songs. Songs that are long considered as hailing from the the margins by the disfranchised people and continue to serve that function in the political turmoil that resides still today.
(Welcome to our latest installment of the State of Kuwait)
- Amos House Community: A loosely to tightly affiliated group of people here in Nashville, TN that do the righteous thing, especially gearing toward those who don’t usually get the time of day, let alone dignity and decency.
- Brett Fleener: a “member” of Amos House Community, Blacktooth orbiter, and great dude. Knowledgable, flexible, and – in short – down.
- Wiki Leaks: Wiki Leaks.
Brett Fleener is spending time in London this summer working at a Catholic Worker house, gaining new traction and loosing some others. His concerns in life are valid and thoughtful, and he has written an excellent piece on the Wiki Leaks/Julian Assange extradition situation. The link to the article is posted below. We just deemed it pertinent to further the digging and the thoughts being swapped on this issue.
Nothing is more useless to man than those arts which have no utility – Ovid, c. 17
I hope you are not just bored, exhausted and fed up and don’t have the faculties to explain that you simply bored, exhausted and fed up. No one knows what to make of anything, but that’s ok. It’s a hard time to be alive right now, but it’s a very exciting time. Just like every day.
When we get to drinking (anything), we the people get to talking. It’s a Monday morning, Friday night. No big deal. In this reoccurring segment here on Black Tooth, The State of Kuwait gets into the grind of the mind, or rather offers signs and symbols of people pushing and pulling it; political, illegal, fun, and radical (Latin:radix) in nature.
The first of two recent radar blips takes us to the ever-lovin’ border between USA and Mexico, where the insanely awesome street artist Ron English, who has been “hijacking public space worldwide for the sake of art since the 1980s,” struck on April Fool’s day. And did a damn fine job of pointing out the obvious to everyone who would never see it (or care, even if they did), which is basically what culture jamming accomplishes. But we love it here.
For those of you who are burnt out on all they hype and mainstreamitization of BANKSY, Ron English is your man. You too can feel cool again by liking subversive works that not everyone has seen a hundred times, having lost their semiotic pertinence and sensational shock, rendering a Duchamp-like indifference from the general public. Ron English is funny and pretty good at his job. The world is his cubicle and canvas. Check him out.
Our last stop today on The State of Kuwait is an important one: The Reverend Billy/Bill Talen.
Rev. Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping asks the great questions that leave us heavy hearted today:
IS THERE LIFE AFTER PERFECT TEETH!?
WILL WE SURVIVE GOOD GRAPHICS!?
In a fantastic article by Jill Lane – Reverend Billy: Preaching, Protest, and Postindustrial Flanerie – the moves and plays and semi-ironic acts that Talen sets off in the public sector are brilliantly expounded upon. Lane interprets Talen in such a clear-eyed, lucid way, no matter what your opinions are on the subjects the Reverend is tackling, one can’t help but be moved to an AMEN! and a wink after reading this article.
By entering into contested spaces, Rev. Billy stages things like “shopping interventions,” “Spatathons,” and (my favorite), “Cell Phone Operas,” risking the “poetics of Embarrassment” in the same Mise-en-scène that corporations do every day, breaking the routinely disciplined daily structure that they make for us (or we make for ourselves), and, literally re-members the stories and spots (and even lives) that are run over in the modern world and forgotten.
I can’t praise this article enough – as well as the work of the Reverend – because it’s more than the protesting of Globalization and Predatory-Capitalism, it’s more than an ironic rip at the religious right, and Jill Lane is brilliant as a guide through his world. It’s worth every minute you have to not shop and read this. You too can be delivered.
And that, friends, is the State of Kuwait. For today.