Music

  • Heart of Stone

    WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT CHAIR?

    There used to be a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Avenue C and East Second Street. It was called The Golden Dragon. The filmmaker Ela Troyano owns the building. In 2005, her friend, composer John Zorn, turned The Golden Dragon into The Stone.

    What the fuck are you doing with that chair?

    The space was emptied of appliances and counters. In their place, a Yamaha grand piano, a small PA, and sixty or so black chairs were installed. Black sound treatment curtains were hung over the windows. Avenue C itself became the lobby. If the place wasn’t ambitious in any

    Read more
  • SAME DIFFERENCE

    THERE IS SOMETHING very homosexual about using “multiple instruments of the same kind.” This is the ensemble instruction composer Julius Eastman gave for performing some of his most exciting scores, in which groups of players work through themes and variations, all on the same musical instrument. These compositions were introduced to new music audiences in the 1970s and ’80s and have been rarely heard since. Still, they are thrilling to witness live, as was made possible by the miraculous “That Which Is Fundamental,” an exhibition and concert series presented in Philadelphia at the Slought

    Read more
  • Major Scale

    MUSIC FESTIVALS ARE ALL ABOUT SCALE.

    On one hand, festivals solve financial problems of presenting live music by scaling up—what if, says the ambitious promoter in Tennessee, instead of eighty shows selling a thousand tickets each, we put on one show that sells 80,000 tickets…? And thus Bonnaroo is born, with an astronomical budget to work with. (Tickets this year are $337.50, which means a sell out will gross $27 million—before merch).

    But on the other hand, festivals create entirely new problems for music by shifting scale like this. Not all live music—not any?—is made to be heard by 80,000

    Read more
  • Pop Is Pop

    YOU MIGHT NOT BE SURPRISED to learn that there are only four degrees of separation between Jacques Derrida and Charli XCX. The father of deconstruction and the atomic pop songstress form the ends of a chain held together by A.G. Cook of PC Music and Green Gartside of Scritti Politti. Cook, who produced XCX’s late 2017 “mixtape” Pop 2, has hailed Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85 as an example of pop music taken to its “extreme,” a limit toward which he himself aspires. As evinced by its title, Pop 2, like Cupid & Psyche 85 before it, is all about popular music. Curiously though, there is no

    Read more
  • MATTERS OF THE HEART

    IN MID-OCTOBER, the seventy-six-year-old percussionist, herbalist, scientist, and martial artist Milford Graves stood before an admiring audience at the Artist’s Institute on New York’s Upper East Side. “Well, I must say this is a new adventure for me,” he began with a buoyant smile. “It’s like I’m starting all over again.” Pointing to a sculpture across the room—a dunun-carrying skeleton swathed in a tangle of wires connected to laptops, circuit boards, and anatomical models—Graves remarked, “I’m entering a whole new era, because I’m on to my next sculpture piece now, and then another

    Read more
  • Glissando Through the Blues

    MORE THAN A FEW ASPECTS of Alice Coltrane’s life and music stand out as singular, epic, genius—and, sometimes equally, tragic. Her husband, John, passed away from liver cancer in 1967, and as a widow at just twenty-nine she raised their four children on her own, never remarrying. Throughout, she maintained a brilliant and groundbreaking solo music career. I could go on. She’s the kind of inspiring person we need to keep celebrating, and so we do.

    The Coltranes were wedded in 1965 in Juárez, Mexico, and their short time together looks, on the surface of things, as if it were pretty blissful. At

    Read more
  • Slash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles, 1977–80

    Slash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles, 1977–80, edited by Brian Roettinger and J. C. Gabel. Los Angeles: Hat & Beard, 2016. 496 pages.

    THE PORTRAIT DRAWN IN THIS BOOK—an enormous compendium of photos, mini-memoirs, drastically reduced facsimile pages from the Los Angeles–based tabloid-form magazine; original band interviews reprinted as inserts; and special sections for Gary Panter’s Jimbo comix and flaming editorials from Claude Bessy, aka Kickboy Face—is of people having fun. While oversize and heavy, the volume is fast on the eye and throughout its nearly five hundred pages maintains

    Read more
  • Jeff Mills

    THERE HAVE BEEN many unlikely events in the career of Jeff Mills, but perhaps few as odd as scoring to a Raquel Welch vehicle. Mills’s live soundtrack for the 1966 cult movie Fantastic Voyage was part of a weekend of happenings at London’s Barbican Centre this past summer that nodded to the pioneering DJ and producer’s decades-long experiments in sound and image. In 2000, he crafted a new soundtrack for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), the popularity of which led to further cinematic interventions; included among these was Mills’s arrangement for Georges Méliès’s 1902 A Trip to the Moon on the

    Read more
  • Alan Vega

    AS THE 1960S DISSOLVED into the ’70s, the late Alan Vega made two transitions: from painter to light sculptor, and from visual artist to rock vocalist. After an epiphanic experience witnessing Iggy Pop in concert in 1969, he teamed up with Martin Rev to form Suicide. The notorious New York duo was equally provocative and prescient, setting the pace not only for punk but for the electropop and EDM movements by stripping rock instrumentation down to a keyboard, drum machine, and vocals. One of Suicide’s first gigs took place at Lower Manhattan’s OK Harris gallery in 1970, alongside an exhibition

    Read more
  • This Is Grime

    This Is Grime, by Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2016. 320 pages.

    THE ONLY STATESIDE PHOTOGRAPH in Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose’s book This Is Grime flickers at the edge of abstraction. Illumined by camera flash, a hazy specter—the fug of weed smoke, maybe—renders the signage of Williamsburg’s Music Hall barely legible: DIZZEE RASCAL—BOY IN DA CORNER. The show took place this past May, and Dizzee, offered an undisclosed fee by the Red Bull Music Academy, had agreed to perform the entirety of his Mercury Prize–winning album Boy in da Corner (

    Read more
  • Via App

    “FREAK TECHNO,” “haunted house,” “dark electro,” “noise”—any number of genres have been affixed to the sonic stylings of Dylan Scheer, a twenty-two-year-old electronic-music producer and DJ from South Carolina who has been performing under the alias Via App since 2012. Based in New York since 2014—the same year Vancouver label 1080p put out Via App’s first official release, the ten-track cassette Dangerous Game, to critical acclaim—Scheer has quickly ascended within the underground electronic scene, where she is celebrated for her unique and infectiously sinister output of

    Read more
  • Johanna Fateman

    1 BEYONCÉ, LEMONADE (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia) The Queen broadcasts on her own frequency, cutting through the chatter of a thousand hot takes to assert soulful authority on personal matters as well as those of grave public concern. With Lemonade she appears betrayed but unstoppable, triumphant on a sinking cop car, ready with hooks, hashtags, and fresh choreography.

    2 M.I.A., AIM (Interscope) Now that the West can no longer deny center stage to border politics and mass displacement, M.I.A., who has trained her spotlight on the refugee experience all along, tells us this album will be

    Read more