This event has been recheduled for February 18, 2020.
In 1966, the infamous producer Phil Spector invited Tina Turner to record “River Deep—Mountain High,” which he had co-written. Spector had been churning out hits using his Wall of Sound technique, and he chose Turner for his most elaborate production, which involved dozens of musicians and backup singers. Before recording, the pair spent two weeks at Spector’s mansion working on the song, which Turner compared to “carving furniture.” Turner spent days at the studio, singing take after take, exhausting herself, straining to be heard—and to hear herself—above the din. On the single, Turner’s voice soars and trembles as she sings the infantile lyrics, as she pledges to be “as faithful as that puppy” and to “never let you down.” The vocals are “buffeted and bruised in the tumult of the arrangement,” according to Mick Brown’s Tearing Down The Wall of Sound: The Rise And Fall of Phil Spector (2006). The production is more of a struggle of wills than a confection for teens.
“River Deep—Mountain High,” now recognized as a masterpiece, was a failure in the United States, causing Spector to withdraw from music. Europeans hailed “River Deep, Mountain High,” but American radio stations balked at the orchestral strings, searing vocals, and unconventional structure; the song eluded genre, and genre was the means of defining and selling products to audiences (who were often categorized by race). The possibility of the song appealing to various listeners, even changing listening habits, was irrelevant, if not threatening.
In a performance, Nikita Gale will listen to “River Deep—Mountain High” and consider the song as an allegory, sonic artifact, psychological portrait, and political document. Gale will ask how producers manipulate performances and recordings in order to mold the identities of artists and cultivate (or target) audiences.
Gale will be joined by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, who will present a listening session that deals with the role of playback systems and settings in conditioning how we hear music—and with whom, if anyone. He’ll focus on the role of bass, especially in music by black artists, as a cultural marker, physical phenomenon, and means of creating space—whether for gathering (as in a club) or for solitude (as in a car), for beckoning or repulsing others. What is lost when bass is drained from music, when trunks packed with subs are supplanted by Sonos smart speakers?
A discussion with Gale and Toussaint-Baptiste will follow the presentations.
This public program is made possible through generous support from Jane Hait, a founding member of Triple Canopy Director’s Circle; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Endowment Federation and Endowment Fund.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors thirty minutes prior to each event and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.
- Nikita Gale is an artist who lives in Los Angeles. Gale received an MFA in new genres at University of California, Los Angeles, in 2016. By engaging with materials that have properties that are simultaneously acoustic and protective, Gale examines the ways in which silence and noise function as political positions and conditions. Gale's work has recently been exhibited at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin, 56 Henry (New York), Bemis Center (Omaha), Commonwealth and Council (Los Angeles), CUE Art Foundation (New York), Martos Gallery (New York), and in “Made in L.A.” at the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles).
- Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste is a New York-based artist, composer, and performer. His work considers notions of errant relations that thrive across subjectivities. Toussaint-Baptiste was a 2017 artist in residence at Issue Project Room and received a Bessie Award in 2018 for Outstanding Music Composition and Sound Design. He has presented visual and performance work at MoMA PS1 (New York); Performance Space New York; the Brooklyn Museum; the Kitchen (New York); Issue Project Room (New York); the Studio Museum in Harlem; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Toussaint-Baptiste is a founding member of the performance collective Wildcat! and he frequently collaborates with performers and visual artists, including Will Rawls, Yanira Castro/a canary torsi, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, and André M. Zachery. Toussaint-Baptiste holds an MFA from Brooklyn College’s Performance and Interactive Media Arts program.