Are you afraid of where this song is going?
Collective listening, as a ritual, alleviates some of the absurdity of the acoustics of the everyday in a world obsessed with machines and mechanical communication. For Black Hauntology, Harmony Holiday will explore the intimacy of conversation built on listening closely and communally to Black music and archives. In keeping with the season, she’ll focus on the thin border between the tangible and shadow worlds that are evoked this time of the year, which listening helps us to cross. She’ll play recordings of music and speech that haunt listeners, render them mute, or prevent them from coming up with words in response, because they’re afraid of where those words might lead, because unconditional love for the music discourages them from considering how they’re programmed by songs and language.
Holiday will draw on her recent book, A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds LLC, 2019), as well as an essay on Black song and catatonia to be published in the forthcoming issue of Triple Canopy. Holiday suggests that the equivalent of the Day of the Dead for the African diaspora is the jazz funeral, the New Orleans ritual of a procession accompanied by an exuberant brass band. Black Hauntology will examine that tradition in the context of speechlessness. Listening situates us between the haunted and the ecstatic, enables us to speak to spirits and hear their guidance. How have changes in the ways in which we listen enhanced or compromised our access to the “other worlds,” in Sun Ra’s words, “that wish to speak to us?” And how do we get back in touch?
Holiday will select recordings from her personal jazz poetics archive of rare and out-of-print sounds. She’ll ask listeners to allow themselves to be spooked by other worlds, which are actually just other frequencies and unfamiliar approaches to composition. Where Black sound tends to celebrate and liberate our most haunting experiences, no one place can confine it. She’ll be joined in the listening, discussion, and ritual by the writer Ben Ratliff and other friends.
This public program was 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.
- Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, and archivist. She’s the author of A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (2019); Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2016); Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2014); Negro League Baseball (Fence Books, 2011); and The Black Saint and the Sinnerman, an LP composed of sound and speech that assimilates Charles Mingus’s classic 1963 album. She runs Afrosonics, an archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics, and Mythscience, an imprint that reissues work from the archive. She is currently working on a book of poems called M a a f a and an accompanying collection of essays and memoirs, Reparations: Thieves Who Stole My Blue Days, as well as a biography of the jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. She has received the Motherwell Prize from Fence Books and the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a fellowship from New York Foundation for the Arts, and a fellowship from the Schomburg Center Scholars-in-Residence Program.
- Ben Ratliff is the author of Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (2016), The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music (2009), Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (2007), and Jazz: A Critic’s Guide to the 100 Most Important Recordings (2002). He was a pop and jazz critic at the New York Times for twenty years and now teaches at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.