Something Like #59: Talk Speeds to Nothing w/ Bitsy Knox
How we find words, and find them wanting. 15 November 2023

How we find words, and find them wanting: an inarticulacy, a circumlocution, a surfeit, a sanctuary.

  1. You won’t hear much of me in this episode, but I’ve included details about each piece of music below.
  2. Thank you as ever to Roger 3000 for Something Like’s Jingle.
  3. The title of today’s episode comes from an opening line of Dionne Brand’s poem, Nomenclature for the Time Being. Her latest book of new and collected poems, Nomenclature can be found here.
  4. Taha Muhammad Ali’s poem Revenge can be found here.
  5. You can read Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “Identity Card” here.
  6. Watch Simone Forti’s 2003 performance of “News Animations” at Bennington College (audio excerpts of which are aired in this episode) here.
  7. 🇵🇸 Stop the bombardment of Gaza 🇵🇸

Ferkat Al Ard, Matar Al Sabah, Oghneya (Habibi Funk 019), 2022 (Habibi Funk Records, Berlin)

Issam Hajali’s trio Ferkat Al Ard, “Oghneya” was groundbreaking release from 1978 that represents the meeting point of Arab, jazz, folk and Brazilian styles with the talent of Ziad Rahbani, who did the albums arrangements. Here are the lyrics translated into English:

Morning rain, take me out again

To greet the city streets

And a handful of sand in my heart

I wasn’t sure of my path

When it was early rain

They wake up in the sleeping streets

They wake up in the sleeping streets

City prisoners

But the next dawn rain

It will be abundant

And it will run in the sand on my heart

And all the upper floors

All are the sins of the city

All are the sins of the city

All are the sins of the city

Recordings from 4.11 “Free Palestine will not be cancelled” Demonstration, Berlin

Max Roach, Triptych Prayer, Protest, Peace, We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, 1961 (Candid)

This piece, which sits in the middle of the album, was originally composed as a musical score for an improvised ballet, and thematically links the history and legacy of US slavery to independence movements in several African nations. Abbey Lincoln is the vocalist on this piece.

Dionne Brand, Nomenclature for the Time Being, from Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems, 2022 (Duke University Press/Penguin Random House)

This is an excerpt of Brand’s poem Nomenclature for the Time Being, a poem to be found at the beginning of this collection, comprised of poems written over the course of forty years, and introduced by Christina Sharpe.

Maya Al-Khaldi, Samis Lullaby, Other World, 2022 (Tawleef, Palestine)

Maya Al-Khaldi is a Palestinian, Jerusalem-based artist, musician, and composer. This album imagines a future from the beginning point of Palestinian folklore. Here is the English translation of the lyrics:

ohhh to God, my loves, pray for Sami to be safe

God bless you, and seven camels to carry

Pistachios and hazelnuts, all for your teeth to come out

Sleep, your eyes are full of sleep

Like a sleepy deer, sleep under the shade of a sleepy tree

Sleep, your eyes are drowsy

May the eyes of the enemy be full of misery

He wants to sleep, he wants a lullaby

Like in the cradle of Maryam, and the covers are silk

Sleep, drift onto sleep, sleep, my love, Sami

Sleep, drift onto sleep, and listen to me,

Sleep, drift onto sleep, my love, Sami, sleep,

Take his pain away, sleep,

He loves with his big heart, Oh drift away

God bless you, my brother, sleep, close your eyes

May all your worries go away and guide your mind to slumber, close your eyes

May all your worries about the air, the land and the money, go way and go to

sleep with pleasure, my love, Sami, sleep, sleep sleep,

sleep with pleasure, my love, Sami, sleep, sleep

Linda Heck, Right, On Triangles: Sound In Geometry Series Vol. 1, 2018 (Thisco, Lisbon)

Linda Heck is a Sewanee/Memphis multimedia artist, musician, writer, and founder of Electric Arcadia.

Pablo’s Eye, Double Language, Spring Break, 2018 (Stroom)

Pablo’s Eye is an international collective, started in 1989 by the Brussels, Belgian musician Axel Limbeert.

Todd Fletcher, A Part of City, Entrance, 1989 (Poison Plant)

Todd Fletcher is a Washington DC musician who co-founded the Poison Plant label, releasing ambient and prog albums from 1988 on. He relocated to Arizona in 1992, continuing to release ambient music sporadically.

Taha Muhammad Ali & Peter Cole, Revenge, Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, 2006

Taha Muhammad Ali was one of the leading poets of Palestinian contemporary poetry. He was born in Saffuriya in 1931, and fled to Lebanon in 1948 with his family. A year later, he slipped back over the border and settled in Nazareth, where he died in 2011. This reading, with his long-time translator Peter Cole, was recorded in 2006 at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, New Jersey.

Kamilya Jubran & Werner Hasler, Wanabni, Wanabni, 2010 (Zig Zag Territories, France)

Palestinian singer and oud player Kamilya Jubran and Swiss musician Werner Hasler (trumpet, electronics) have been collaborating since 2002. This is their second recording together.

Muqata’a, Thakira Jamaiya, Inkanakuntu, 2018 (Souk Records)

Ramallah’s beat master Muqata’a’s Inkanakuntu was Souk Record’s first release. Thakira Jamaiya means “collective memory”. In Muquta’a’s words:

“The intro of “Thakira Jamay’iya” is from a Kuwaiti drumming of about 40 people and they have this crazy syncopation that happens and the repetition of their loop could reach something like 64 beats. You know how like a lot of western music its 4-4. There it can reach 1-64 and that’s one loop. I was fascinated by that and how it sounds so I sampled it.”

L’Rain, Sometimes, I Killed Your Dog, 2023

I Killed Your Dog is L’Rain’s, also known as Taja Cheek, third album.

Uwandile, Where it All Began, Apartheid, 1987

This album, by the South African musician Uwandile Piliso, was recorded in 1977 at the Decca Studios in Lagos (Nigeria). It was produced and backed by the Nigerian band T-Fire leaded by Themba Matebese. The album was later re-issued in 1987, at the height of Apartheid in South Africa.

Les Humphries Singers, Motherless Child, Les Humphries Singers, 1974

Les Humphries Singers were a roving group of singers from variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, formed in Hamburg, West Germany, in the early 1970s by Les Humphries. One member was Liz Mitchell, later the frontwoman of Boney M, the lead vocalist here. Motherless Child is a rendition of the classic Spiritual, which would become an anthem of the Civil Rights era, although probably first popularized by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, in the 1870s.

Mahmoud Darwish, Identity Card (1964), read by Souhad Zendah, at Harvard University, 2008.

Souhad Zendah, currently a Senior Lecturer at Tufts University in the Department of International Literary and Cultural Studies, reads Mahmoud Darwish’s “Identity Card” (“Record, I am an Arab”) in English and Arabic at Harvard University, September 18, 2008. This poem was subject to enormous controversy when it was first read on air on the Israeli Army Radio’s “University on the Air” programme. It was first published in the book Leaves of Olives, in 1964.

Neil Mills & Elaine Mills, Number Poem For Two Voices (Two Sections), Konkrete Canticle – Experiments In Disintegrating Language, 1971

This piece comes from a compilation album of rather obscure sound poetry, put out by the Arts Council of Great Britain.

KMRU, Solace, Peel, 2020 (Editions Mego)

KMRU is the moniker of Joseph Kamaru, a Berlin-Nairobi based producer and beacon of the experimental scenes of both cities, recorded in Rimpa, Nairobi.

Simone Forti, News Animations, performed at Bennington College, 2003

Simone Forti has been performing News Animations for the past 40 years. It is a piece inspired by her father, whose fastidious newspaper reading Forti credits with their decision to leave Mussolini’s Italy in 1938, saving them from persecution. This recording was made by Eccentric Motions and Pooh Kaye.

Yara Asmar, it is 5.00pm and nothing bad has happened to us (yet), synth waltzes and accordion laments, 2023

Released on October 6th 2023, this album is by the Beirut based musician and puppeteer Yara Asmar. She frequently plays with her grandmother’s accordion.

Girma Yifrashewa, The Shepard With the Flute, Love & Peace, 2014 (Unseen Worlds)

Born in Addis Ababa in 1967, Girma Yifrashewa’s life in music began with the Kirar, a harp-like traditional Ethiopian string instrument. At 16, he began to study piano, receiving a scholarship to study at Sofia State Conservatory of Music. After the fall of communism, he moved to Italy to continue his studies, then back to Sofia, and finally back to Ethiopia in 1995, where he taught piano at Yared School of Music until 2001. This piece was written and arranged by the late Professor Ashenafi Kebede (Amharic: አሸናፊ ከበደ; 1938 – May 8, 1998), who founded Yared School of Music, and was a revered composer, educator, writer, and musicologist.

Linda Sharrock, They Begin to Speak (Studio Part 3), They Begin to Speak, 2016

A collaboration principally between Mario Rechtern, Max Bogner, and Sharrock, this album arises following Sharrock’s stroke in 2009, and her subsequent loss of movement on one side of her body. Max Bogner describes the experience of collaboration thus in an interview with the Quietus:

“The visible frames of expression, our tongues and touching points we had before were shattered into raw pieces and we got plunged into a black sea with no vision nor direction minimized or in this actual sense raised to archaic instincts and just the most basic connectivity a human soul could ever feel. It was a complete and absolute explosion and defragmentation to our most inner parts. After we came back to the surface and from the cellar or Orpheus’ underworld I sat down and didn’t know what had happened or how I should feel about it. All my wishes of moving towards a more abstract realm in music were fulfilled in this hour and it was too much to take or rationalize but I was hooked. “From this point the core trio of Linda, Mario and me went on playing with an ever changing group of likeminded souls around us, people who can feel with us on this level of interconnection which basically leaves the terms of music behind and enters the ones of caring and human interaction, love, sacrifice, suffering, empathy, coining the term of ’empathoharmonics’ since it is not the music we play or our instruments or the structures but it is the (de-)/harmonising of our innermost and darkest motion, the shadow of our negativity, the reverberation of our souls.”