Medium Rotation presents conversations and sonic experiences that probe the conditions (and counter the received ideas) of our time, among other times. Each season of the podcast is animated by the concerns of an issue of the magazine, which are addressed by artists, writers, and scholars. The first season, Omniaudience, asks how we understand ourselves and others through listening—and what the obstacles to listening reveal about our society. Omniaudience also testifies to the power we exercise as listeners to act in concert with each other, and to amplify voices that might not otherwise be heard.
The first season of Medium Rotation is hosted by Alexander Provan, Triple Canopy’s editor, and Nikita Gale, an artist and longtime collaborator. They speak with—and present compositions, monologues, and oral histories by—Harmony Holiday, Derica Shields, Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, and Tashi Wada. The six episodes ask: How do musical genres reinforce segregation? How is freedom conflated with speech? How are performers silenced or raised from the dead (and turned into intellectual property)? How does the demand to be heard manifest in song and protest, supercharged subwoofers and property violence?
Introducing Medium Rotation
With Alexander Provan
In this trailer for Medium Rotation, Alexander Provan—the editor of Triple Canopy and, along with Nikita Gale, host of the podcast—asks: why listen? That’s the question posed in the first season of the podcast, Omniaudience. The answer: we become who we are—and relate to one another as individuals and members of a body politic—through listening. But we live in a society that seems antithetical to listening, and set up to suppress the voices of those who have, historically, struggled to be heard. Omniaudience is an experiment in listening as well as an argument against the conflation of freedom and speech, an antidote to communication for the sake of outputting data and distraction (which isn’t to say you shouldn’t listen while cooking or cleaning).
Nikita Gale and Alexander Provan ask who we are—and what we can do—as listeners, members of an audience, and bodies in concert (or in conflict). They introduce the podcast by speaking about the revelation of arena concerts, the performance of listening by CEOs and self-help gurus, and how the demand to be heard manifests in protest and property violence. And they listen to MC Hammer, Van Halen, Pauline Oliveros, Kimberly Jones, and the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners.
Nikita Gale and Alexander Provan are joined by Harmony Holiday, a writer, archivist, and dancer who lives in Los Angeles. Holiday, whose essay “The Black Catatonic Scream” was published by Triple Canopy last year, speaks about Black performers whose songs and struggles reflect the ongoing trauma of the “African holocaust.” She links the history of Black music—and instances of performers becoming silent or speechless—to the legacy of enslavement and segregation, when Black people “were smiling and dancing to not get killed.” With Gale and Provan, she discusses the pressure to pander to white audiences as well as the impulse to seek a form of expression (and of being) that is chosen and not imposed by force. They listen to songs written and recorded by her father, Jimmy Holiday, as well as to Albert Ayler, Thelonious Monk, Billie Holiday, Amiri Baraka, and Kanye West.
Nikita Gale and Alexander Provan are joined by Derica Shields, a writer, researcher, and cultural worker living in London. She speaks about her book-length oral history of Black experiences of the welfare state, “A Heavy Nonpresence,” and the value of listening to Black peoples’ accounts and analyses of their own lives. Shields reflects on her effort to share the stories of Black people who are mistreated and monitored by the state, while also being made to feel that they should be grateful for receiving the assistance to which they’re entitled. Her work shows how, in Britain, liberal nostalgia for the so-called care of the state is premised on not listening to those who receive benefits—and how politicians and journalists enable Black people to be shamed for doing so by upholding the age-old distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor (as if colonialism never happened).
Shields, Gale, and Provan listen to and discuss excerpts from “A Heavy Nonpresence,” which includes accounts of seven Londoners whose lives are entwined with the welfare system and was recently published by Triple Canopy. Shields advocates for oral history as a way of enabling marginalized people to be heard—and to hear each other—as well as to mitigate shame and circulate survival strategies. She notes that government assistance for Black people tends to be thought of as contingent on “good behavior,” but observes a recent shift in public opinion and political discourse, due to a reckoning with Britain’s history of colonialism and racism. Rather than act thankful for the rewards of navigating an inhumane bureaucracy, more and more people are saying: “We are here, and the same rights accrue to us.”
Nikita Gale and Alexander Provan are joined by Tashi Wada, a Los Angeles-based composer and performer. Wada presents Table of Visions, a composition for a “high-resolution player piano” commissioned by Triple Canopy, and asks how we discern between human expression and technical perfection, how we listen to virtuosos and machines. With Gale and Provan, Wada discusses the pandemic-era vogue for liveness at home, technologies that claim to capture the souls of performers, and music that prompts listeners to discern between the sounds of machines and humans. They listen to Conlon Nancarrow, Glenn Gould, Perry Como, advertisements for hi-fi systems, the ghost of Art Tatum, and the stars of Hologram USA Theater.
Nikita Gale and Alexander Provan are joined by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste, an artist, composer, and performer living in New York City. He speaks about bass as a way to repulse people or bring them together, cause aggravation or collective pleasure. He recounts moments in his life when bass, emanating from a parked car or carnival, has shaken his walls, tested his nerves, and made him feel connected to other people, whether or not he appreciates the music blasting from their subwoofers. Ranging from the soundtrack of his childhood in Baton Rouge to the sonic maelstrom of J’ouvert in Brooklyn, Toussaint-Baptiste describes bass as a means for marginalized people to make an impression on an insensitive world. He listens to chopped-and-screwed cumbia, Ariana Grande, laptop speakers, Nelly, the passage of bass through subway tunnels, and frequencies too low to hear. (In a conversation accompanying the episode, Toussaint-Baptiste elaborates on the uses and abuses of bass, and on how the experiences recounted in his monologue have shaped—and politicized—him as a listener.)
Nikita Gale, an artist living in Los Angeles and the co-host of Medium Rotation, speaks with Alexander Provan about the forces that shape what we listen to and with whom, and how the segregation of cities has been bolstered on the airwaves. They discuss the trajectory from “race records” to so-called Urban songs, and the role of the music industry in determining whose voices are amplified and whose are silenced. The conversation is followed by a reading of “Little Girls,” Gale’s Triple Canopy essay on Tina Turner, Phil Spector. The essay considers “the sound of being together—or of being packed together, forced together,” and asks how Black performers might be heard without being controlled.
Nikita Gale is an artist who lives in Los Angeles. In addition to co-hosting Omniaudience, Gale has worked with Triple Canopy on a residency at the Hammer Museum and a related series of performances and publications. Gale’s essay “Little Girls” was published by Triple Canopy last year. Gale’s current and upcoming projects include exhibitions at the California African American Museum (Los Angeles) and LAX Art (Los Angeles), as well as the record and book INFINITE RESOURCES (Aventures, 2021).
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, and archivist who lives in Los Angeles. Her essay “The Black Catatonic Scream,” a meditation on Black silence, was published by Triple Canopy last year. Her most recent book is Maafa (Fence Books, 2021), a collection of poems on the “African holocaust,” naming, and erasure.
Alexander Provan is the editor of Triple Canopy. He is the recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant and has been a fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. His writing has appeared in the Nation, n+1, Art in America, Artforum, Frieze, and in several exhibition catalogues. His work has been presented at the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Museum Tinguely (Basel), 12th Bienal de Cuenca (Ecuador), New Museum (New York), Kunsthall Oslo, and Hessel Museum of Art (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York), among other venues. His LP Measuring Device with Organs was published by Triple Canopy in 2018.
Derica Shields is a writer, researcher, and cultural worker living in London. Her oral history of Black experiences of the contemporary British welfare state, “A Heavy Nonpresence,” was recently published by Triple Canopy. She is the author of the forthcoming book Bad Practice (Book Works, 2021).
Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste is an artist, composer, and performer living in New York City. His work for Omniaudience is adapted from a performance that he presented last year at Triple Canopy, where he is currently in residence. His work has recently been exhibited at Interstate Projects (Brooklyn) and Hessel Museum of Art (Annandale-On-Hudson, New York).
Tashi Wada is a Los Angeles-based composer and performer who founded and runs the label Saltern. His composition for the Steinway Spirio, “Table of Visions,” was commissioned by Triple Canopy as part of the magazine’s residency at the Hammer Museum. Wada’s most recent album, Nue, was released by RVNG Intl. in 2018.
Medium Rotation is produced by Alexander Provan with Andrew Leland, and edited by Provan with Matt Frassica. Tashi Wada composed the theme music. Matt Mehlan acted as the audio engineer and contributed additional music.
Medium Rotation is made possible through generous contributions from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Nicholas Harteau. This season of Medium Rotation is part of Triple Canopy’s twenty-sixth issue, Two Ears and One Mouth, which receives support from the Stolbun Collection, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Agnes Gund, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.