Such and Suchness

This article originally appeared on:

http://chimurengachronic.co.za/genres-of-the-human/

In his new book, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics, Louis Chude-Sokei samples freely from history, music, literature and science, conjuring new meanings from dead texts, to build an echo chamber where the discourses of race and technology collide. At a time when automation threatens jobs and pits humans against machine and Artificial Intelligence systems manage financial markets, Chude-Sokei’s arkeological excavations reverberate through the future-present. In this conversation, he joins Kodwo Eshun and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom on a journey into science fiction and Afrofuturism that engages the intimate relations between black peoples and technology within the wider imperial histories of industrialisation and slavery.

piano-lessons

“What then comes up for me in this conversation about the limits of the human is what constitutes the human, right? Because whenever you ask whether or not this is human or that is human, you’re actually asking “what is the human?” in the first place. Which is a question that we still don’t really know. The same thing when we talk about artificial intelligence. What artificial intelligence has taught us is that we don’t know what intelligence is. Whenever we encounter a machine, can it think? Does it have a soul? And then the question becomes: well, what is thinking? What is a soul? Are they human? Do they merely mimic us? Will they take over from us? Will they revolt? These same exact questions that were asked about slaves during slavery. This is not an accident. Things that seem accidental are not accidental at all. It’s a shared logic around a restrictive understanding of what constitutes the human. And that’s where blacks and robots and machines really come together – not just in a clever, theoretical formulation. It’s there in history. It’s why Robert Johnson wants to have sex with his phonograph.”

Read more from an edited transcript in The Chronic: The Invention of Zimbabwe.

Time Signatures Overtures

Time is but a moment in a capsule …

jazz music told me so

but also insisted that i remember

that it ain’t necessarily so

we’ve drifted in and out

to and fro

the storied shores of love

with music as the sea of reeds

with music as a seed

bearing the living trees

with blood on the leaves

we have seen many visions

conquered in many battles

with love and music

as a spear as well as a shield

with love and music carrying us

we found firm ground

even as we steadied ourselves to take off

in full flight

love music our meditation

our rhythmic blue teacher paying fullest attention

love is incense dispelling the tension

vibrating heartical flame

thawing the chill in the room

a way out of no way

respecting no man

just having its own way

freed style poetics

When will the
Performance End?

From Red lipped black books
to cyber-spaced face books
we still dance the minstrel show

paid, underpaid and unpaid slaves
With no intergenerational wealth to show
While my people being
the greater Gods still give away our Powers
we Give until we got nothing for to live
that is ours
We give
– the world the gifts of gab
too few are filling generation gaps
between the perpetual have nots
and the proverbial haves
who among these luminaries and poor liticians give full effect to freedom
works like freeing Mumia Abu Jamar
or Assata, International justice for Lumumba or Sankara?

from red lipped black
books to white pages
blue eyed face books
Our blues are daily painted
grey / our situation will remain in this way
positive disarray
if our powerful ones don’t really sway
the global powerplay
we making minor – major moves
but to white supremacy
its just another office day at the slave market

mark my word and notice
how every rapper boasting about European cars
labels and titty bars
20 years after MC GZA the Genius exposed Hilfiger
are we major?
have we made it?
We stay vainglorious even when we know we haven’t
Who wears the crown and who wears it/
Black excellence is a fact
but how do we celebrate it?
When invisible hands are the ones who fix our stars
and the fault is ours?
picking cotton
picking niggers
from the housed niggers
pitting noble Africans
against the so called pagans
Thats why more often than not I want to throw away the tell-lie-vision
So I can raise daughters and my sons on a good foundation
of Nina Simone, Ayi Kwei Armah, Lupe Fiasco, Sun Ra
And other sound vibrATIONS of the Divine beings we Are.

Stories Of Various Nows

I recently wrote an almost 5000 word short-story for some lucrative competition. Nervous as I was when I sent it, flaws and all, I was a little proud of it. I had meant to suffuse the whole tale with lots of music, lots of carefully placed images or symbols of Southern Afrikan, Nile Valley symbolism and Time Travel in its plot. If I had access to 300 more words, I could have made it better, but 5000 words is a lot – so no excuses, a short-story should do everything in the first 500 words anyway.

I posted this ‘jazzy’ album because I love the players, it is not related to my story in any way aside from the fact that I love its title. Yesterday I agonised all day about whether I had chosen the right title for the story. Then again, I think whether I win or not, I am going to develop this story into something brilliant.

because perfection exists

Lyric by Kurt Elling incorporating “Winter Stars” by Sara Teasdale (Flame and Shadow, 1920)

Afloat and all at sea / the stars align in threes

They’re so fine and free / in blue and in green

Like leaves on endless trees

Come climb the sky with me /

come hear and come to see Melody

in perfect symmetry

/ in love / in light / in key

______________________

I went out at night alone;

The young blood flowing beyond the sea Seemed

to have drenched my spirit’s wings— I bore my sorrow heavily.

But when I lifted up my head From shadows shaken on the snow,

I saw Orion in the east Burn steadily as long ago.

From windows in my father’s house,

Dreaming my dreams on winter nights,

I watched Orion as a boy Above another city’s lights.

Years [a]go, dreams [a]go, and youth goes too,

The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,

All things are changed, save in the east

The faithful beauty of the stars.

When Music is Way more Than

Sounding The Ancient Future Thoughts 

Delmark Records ‎– DS-413 (US, 1968)

https://www.discogs.com/Richard-Abram… 00:00

A1. Levels And Degrees Of Light 10:35 A2. My Thoughts Are My Future – Now And Forever 20:17 B1. The Bird Song Side A: Recorded at Sound Studio. Side B: Recorded at Ter-Mar. Personnel: Muhal Richard Abrams: piano, clarinet Anthony Braxton: alto saxophone Maurice McIntyre: tenor saxophone Leroy Jenkins: violin Gordon Emmanuel: vibraphone Charles Clark: bass Leonard Jones: bass Thurman Barker: drums Penelope Taylor: vocals David Moore: poet (track 2) Levels and Degrees of Light was the first recording under Muhal Richard Abrams’ name and was a landmark album that launched the first in a long line of beautiful, musical salvos from the AACM toward the mainstream jazz world. The title track finds Abrams broadly tracing out some of the territory he would continue to explore in succeeding decades, an ethereal, mystic quality (evinced by Penelope Taylor’s otherworldly vocalizing and Gordon Emmanuel’s shimmering vibes) balanced by a harsh and earthy bluesiness set forth by the leader’s piercing clarinet. “The Bird Song” begins with a fine, dark poetry recitation by David Moore (oh! for the days when one didn’t approach a poem on a jazz album with great trepidation) before evanescing into a whirlwind of percussion, bird whistles, and violin (the latter by Leroy Jenkins in one of his first recorded appearances). When the band enters at full strength with Anthony Braxton (in his first recording session), the effect is explosive and liberating, as though Abrams’ band had stood on the shoulders of Coltrane, Coleman, and Taylor and taken a massive, daring leap into the future. It’s a historic performance. The final track offers several unaccompanied solo opportunities, spotlighting Abrams’ sumptuous piano and the under-recognized bass abilities of Charles Clark. This is a milestone recording and belongs in the collection of any modern jazz fan.” ( This is directly lifted from You Tube channel where this music is found).