COLUMNS

  • Ever New

    FOR FIVE DECADES, Beverly Glenn-Copeland quietly transcribed the melodies that floated to him, as he tells it, as if from a distant radio tower. A classically trained singer born to two musicians in Philadelphia, he released his first pair of albums—Beverly Copeland (1970) and Beverly Glenn-Copeland (1971)—after moving to Montreal to study music at McGill University. Both records showcase his agile and adventurous songwriting in a jazz-inflected folk style; neither enabled him to gain a foothold in an industry that had little room for queer Black singer-songwriters. Glenn-Copeland wouldn’t

    Read more
  • Madame Butterfly

    FOR MANY WISHFUL LISTENERS, Arca sounded trans long before she publicly identified as such. Even if the Venezuelan-born producer and vocalist hadn’t named her debut album, Xen (2014), after a feminine alter-ego she’d cultivated since childhood, the music, which writhed and oozed like a pupating insect, would have invited such a reading: It stirred with unstable and viscous electronic tones, hinting at identity in flux. Mutant, in 2015, followed suit; both were tellingly illustrated by computer-generated images of ambiguous bodies spilling, tumorous, from their own skins. Before she changed her

    Read more
  • Special Delivery

    AN ETERNITY AGO, the death of Little Richard reignited some debate around the Black queer image in contemporary music. In terms of visibility, we’ve certainly come leaps and bounds since the early days of Queen Richard. Survival is another story. But at that cultural nexus emerging from the Homocore movement of the ’90s, punk rock, and queer Black radicalism, a certain confluence of musicians, filmmakers, writers, and authors continue to find loud, destructive ways to make a living. One of those people is Alli Logout. A Texas-born twenty-seven-year-old musician and filmmaker based in New Orleans,

    Read more
  • WHERE’S THE PARTY

    TECHNO WAS BORN BLACK in the American Midwest, although we have the twin engines of European connoisseurship and commercial interest to thank for the detailed hagiographies given to innovators like Carl Craig. Craig’s enormous influence is due as much to his label, Planet E Communications, as to his prolific output as a producer and DJ. In the early 1990s, his adventuresome yet accessible style formed an integral part of what fans call Detroit techno’s “second wave.” The most distinctive feature of Craig’s music may be its lack of distinctiveness. Always tasteful, his most idiosyncratic and

    Read more
  • Cannibal Club

    SHE’S MORE WILD . . . released last month by Black Truffle, was recorded in 1981 at the Center for Contemporary Music (CCM), the studio at Mills College in Oakland, California, then codirected by composers David Behrman and Robert Ashley. CCM was a hub for experimentation, outfitted with otherwise inaccessible amenities such as a multitrack recording setup and analog synthesizers. The studio was open not only to Mills students, but also to Bay Area composers, artists, and community members at reduced or no cost. This combination of communalism, cheap rents and tuition, and the nascent possibilities

    Read more
  • AND THE WORLD IS WIDE. AND THE WORLD IS SO SMALL.

    THE LATE COMPOSER-LYRICIST Michael Friedman entered my life in such a whirlwind that I can’t even remember exactly where we met. Perhaps our most significant encounter was at “A Safe and Special Place”, a fundraiser for the Trevor Project and KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) organized in response to a line from one of then president-elect Donald Trump’s tweets: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.”* I contributed a song but wasn’t going to be available to attend, so Michael was slated to play and sing it for me—but then the evening wound up running long, and I made it there just

    Read more
  • Old Friends

    ANTHONY BRAXTON HAS TACKLED JAZZ STANDARDS throughout his career: from an unexpected mid-’70s appearance alongside his hero Lee Konitz on an obscure Dave Brubeck record, to outstanding recordings with Hank Jones and Mal Waldron, to a hefty eleven disc box set of sixty-eight Charlie Parker pieces. “I did the music because I love that music, I love that period, that is my lineage,” he told Graham Lock in 1985. Standards, for Braxton, are not some sort of side project or way of proving himself as a “legitimate” jazz musician. Instead, they are tools for responding to the history of the diverse

    Read more
  • Ambient Conditions

    TUCKED BETWEEN the few discrete layers of indeterminate guitar phrases that make up “It’s Late,” the fifth track on Santa Fe–based musician Theodore Cale Schafer’s latest album, Patience (2019), is a nonmusical rustling, like a phone recording of someone walking outside: boots on gravel or dry leaves, keys clanking, some laughter. These details stand out for the degree to which they’re effective, but not useful; of a place, but not a place the listener quite has access to; personal and intimate, but without the attendant narrative dramas.

    Schafer has a dry way of arranging sounds. In his music,

    Read more
  • Love Streams

    HAVING MOVED TO BERLIN from New York last September, I was dismayed to learn that Valentine’s Day is also a thing in Germany. It’s not just that the holiday tends to endorse a set of normative conventions around love (heterosexuality, monogamy, consumerism); it also reminds me that I might want parts of these normative conventions (despite—or because of—my usual queer predilections, which tend towards non-monogamy, long-distance, etc.). In preparation for this piece, I read Dodie Bellamy’s Valentine’s Day essay in this magazine: to my horror, Bellamy confessed her own attachment to February

    Read more
  • Resident Evil

    IN HIS 1846 TREATISE “The Philosophy of a Composition,” Edgar Allen Poe contended that “the death . . . of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” The Residents, San Francisco’s most famous anonymous art collective-slash-band, offer a rejoinder: The death of beautiful conjoined twins of indeterminate gender is more poetic still. Such is the narrative of God in Three Persons, a rock opera of sorts—written in the extremely uncommon trochaic octameter, just like Poe’s “The Raven”—in which Mr. X, a roving talent manager, plainly narrates his fraught relationship

    Read more
  • Private Label

    IN 2019, WARP RECORDS TURNED THIRTY AND EDITIONS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (ECM) HIT FIFTY. The connection felt superficial, and then it didn’t, though I couldn’t immediately figure out why. Both of these independent labels have seeded the air for decades. They didn’t cash in, scale up, and abandon what made them good, like Atlantic and Def Jam and other indies before them. ECM and Warp both stuck to the daily grind of personal relationships, careful record-making, and consistent business practices. This isn’t to say that the two present as similar: ECM generally puts out albums created in real time

    Read more
  • 20,000 GECS FOLLOWERS CAN'T BE WRONG

    GURGLE-Y THUDS, chiptune squeals, breakcore beats, sirens, gleeful rapping, and enthusiastic screaming—no, a Gen Z ne’er-do-well isn’t having a party at your house; someone’s probably just turned on 100 gecs and now has some explaining to do. Formed in 2015 by Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 gecs make music by sending digital files back and forth to each other from their respective headquarters in Chicago and Los Angeles. So far they’ve released one EP (2016’s 100 gecs) and an album (summer 2019’s 1000 gecs) along with a handful of remixes. You can find the EP on YouTube and the LP on platforms

    Read more