A Pure Solar World © University of Texas Press
Arts & DesignPoetryRaceReviews

A Pure Solar World

Sun Ra and the Birth of Afrofuturism by Paul Youngquist


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Category Anxiety: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize
FeaturePoetryReviews

Category Anxiety: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

It’s been a weird year (the weirdest I can remember at least), and Thursday morning’s announcement that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature made it weirder still. But, overall, it is weird in a welcome way.

Pre-announcement speculation centered on the possibility that the prize might be awarded to an American. Given that Toni …

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Bowie is Watching You © Sarah Stierch | Flickr
FeatureLetters

I Can’t Give Everything Away: on David Bowie’s Final Song

I had heard snippets of “Lazarus”, the third song on David Bowie’s new release “Blackstar”, on the radio last week. The announcer described it as part of Bowie’s newest “jazz album”, although the strongest connection I could detect with jazz was the omnipresence of the saxophone as a lead instrument. Whether the album was “jazz” or not did not concern me all that much. I thought the song was excellent …

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Chuck D performing in Malmo, Sweden,1991 © Jonn Leffmann | Wikimedia Commons
Arts & DesignEssaysMedia & Publics

Rap as News or Art?

“Rap music is the CNN of the ghetto.” – Chuck D

Rap began — Chuck D nailed it — as news from the streets. Rap riffed ghetto life, syncopated in hard rhymes and dense metaphor the raw reality of the ghetto. In Ronald Reagan’s America, blacks in the ghettos from Harlem to Bed Stuy to South Central formed what George Bataille called the heterogeneous element of society — or the unassimable byproduct of a culture, born of that culture, upon which the culture rests. In plain English, rap was the art of the dispossessed, and as the art of the dispossessed, it tells us the truth of the trickle-down economic era from the mouths of those who were held far beneath the place where the trickle dried up. …

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A Conversation with Krzysztof Czyzewski
Arts & DesignMulti MediaVideo

A Conversation with Krzysztof Czyzewski

On the evening of April 9th, the Polish theater director, actor, and “practitioner of ideas,” Krzysztof Czyzewski, had a public conversation with Elzbieta Matynia and Jeffrey Goldfarb at the New School for Social Research. Czyzewski discussed his life course from actor in the avant-garde theater Gardzienice to a resident and activist in a remote northeastern corner of Poland, where Poland, Lithuania and Belarus meet, with Russia and Ukraine just down the road. He delves deeply in this “borderland” through living among and working with the people in the city of Sejny and the surrounding area. …

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A sound wave, in red, represented digitally, in blue (after sampling and 4-bit quantization) © Aquegg | Wikimedia Commons
Arts & DesignEssays

Big Data, Little Music

Established musicians are speaking up about the state of the music world, and they are not happy. They report that there’s no money available to make music, and no money to be made from it. Some have blamed fans for killing the business, by insisting on getting music for free. Others decry the fact that now that everyone is making music, there’s an abundance of dreadful stuff around because the technology that’s used to make music sounds so cheap, and because real musicianship and original musical ideas no longer seem to matter. The complaint that the magic of human performance is lost as music is more often programmed than made by people actually playing together, has only picked up steam since it emerged in the 1980s. Readers and viewers have responded to statements such as these in various ways, but the majority seem to dismiss these viewpoints as out of touch with current reality, and say good riddance to the music world of the past. …

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Tiny piano from the studio of Pawel Romańczuk © Susan Yelavich
Arts & DesignEssays

Tiny Instruments Hit a Profound Chord

Multicultual creativity in the city of Wrocław

Last summer I was fortunate to be among the faculty of the Democracy & Diversity Institute in Wrocław, Poland, organized by Transregional Center for Democratic Studies (TCDS). Friendships were forged, ideas were tested, and disciplinary lines constructively crossed, all of which I’d been prepared for and had been looking forward to experiencing as the sole faculty member from Parsons among colleagues from the New School for Social Research.

What I hadn’t expected was that I’d develop a deep affection for the music of toy pianos. Specifically the toy pianos played by Małe Instrumenty (Small Instruments), a band started in 2006 by Paweł Romańczuk with Marcin Ożóg, Tomasz Orszulak, Jędrzej Kuziela and Maciej Bączyk.

Yes, toy pianos. Including a plastic Barbie piano, which, Paweł explained, has a very good sound, in contrast to their sole Communist-era piano called Precision whose keys emitted static…

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