By Alexandra Huang| 18 September 2019
The American avant-garde jazz band Sun Ra Arkestra is whimsically dubbed after the ancient Egyptian mystagogues in worship of the Sun. Led by the eponymous pianist of the band since the 1930s, the musicians have created some outlandish soundscapes described as “dark, kinetic sounds bursting with spiky electric piano or fuzzy keyboard lines and collective horn freak-outs that would likely send most punk rockers screaming from the room.” Eerie and bizarre as their music sounds, these improvisers blatantly claim themselves to be “tone-scientist” and “architects of the plane of discipline,” namely, scientists of sound who can achieve mathematic precision.
By Alexandra Huang| 18 September 2019
By Ruochen Zhao | 19 June 2019
In this audio-visual essay, Ruochen analyses the music and sound used in Baby Driver (2017) – in particular, what theorist Amanda McQueen has identified as the concept of ‘Sonic Intensified Continuity’ used by (director) Edgar Wright in films such as Saun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs the world.
Uttara Rangarajan | 21 January
Art museums have long been an elite space, subsumed within hierarchies of colour and class while displaying work made for the rich and powerful. Western art has traditionally worked from within the colonial gaze to present whiteness as the norm, to invisibilise or stereotype people of other ethnicities. In the modern era, as people from around the world strive to break free of these categories, one of the most powerful challenges to western iconography has emerged from music videos which reinvent and undermine the Eurocentricism of western art.
Devika | 26 November, 2018
It was Edgar Allan Poe who said “the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world”. Poe’s misogynist statement is an accurate summary of the way the figure of Ophelia has been treated for centuries. Appropriated and rendered in multiple art forms, from paintings to dramatic representations, Ophelia is one of Shakespeare’s most iconic female figures. Besides drama, novelists, artists, painters and even pop stars have found inspiration from the dead, floating woman.
Bradley Copper | 15 May 2017
The patriarchal trope of using a woman in order to explain some woeful truth about a man is of course a damagingly old one. This sexist setup, in which women are one-dimensionally portrayed so as to help a speaker come to some conclusion about himself or his world, while never honouring their experience, is a genric cornerstone that remains in so much literature to the present day. American rock band Counting Crows adopt a version of this trope in constructing femaleness or womanness—the songs are predictably not definitionally specific on this point—as a signifier of clarity. The band’s frontman and lyricist Adam Duritz imagines the women characters in his songs as being able to speak directly about their emotions in a way that he as a man cannot.
Ellen Davis-Walker | 25 April 2017
Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 box office sensation La Haine has long been credited with propelling French hip hop on to the global stage. Drawing on original material by Ministère AMER, NTM and MC Solaar, the film’s soundtrack managed to capture the sonic traces of social unrest on the fringes of French society. Whilst France’s victory in the 1997 FIFA World Cup seemed to mark a momentary coming- together around the inclusive slogan ‘Black-Blanc-Beur’ (Black, White, Arab), the contentious and fractured question of national identity has continued to dominate the country’s musical and political landscape ever since.
The emergence of rap au féminin (female rap) over the past decade marked a significant step in the development of multi-faceted ‘French’ identity. While anglophone female artists of the early 2000s were predominantly focused on debunking “the sexual and material objectification faced by women in the industry,” this article will ask how rap au féminin has offered artists the possibility to explore both what it meant to be a woman in this period, and what it meant (and still means) to be French.
14th November 2016 ¦ Aran Ward Sell.
‘Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in’
These lines have been quoted reverently since Leonard Cohen’s death. The maudlin yet shimmering sentiment is powerfully poetic, and no less so for being sung. Cohen’s ancient, weighty timbre does not dilute his words; it fuels them. He enters a long tradition of revered bards, from Homer to Burns, whose poetry has been performed or sung. No-one argues that because Shakespeare’s plays are performed, they are merer than Literature. And yet, when Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016, an equivalent objection was raised against his songwriting.
31 October 2016 ¦ Katie Goh
Confession: I love Sylvia Plath. The honesty of her poetic expression, the seeds of wisdom in her journals, the technical skill of her story stories, and the fundamental relatability of Esther Greenwood. As a teenager, I was seduced.
But then I went to university. From the lecturer who dismissed Plath as ‘privileged, confessional neediness,’ to boys at parties who scorned her while worshipping Bukowski, to Woody Allen’s patronising ‘interesting poetess’ dismissal in Annie Hall. It was embarrassing to like Sylvia Plath.
June 27, 2016 | Niki Holzapfel
In 2013, when Baz Luhrmann released his adaptation of The Great Gatsby, more than a few people scratched their heads at his choice of soundtrack. Produced by Jay-Z, the album features rap, Fergie, and a U2 cover. Most of it sounds nothing like the 1920s. It led one writer for the music site Noisey to ask, “Who Let The Great Gatsby Soundtrack Happen?”