Manrico Montero (1973-2018) In Memoriam

I’ve tried and failed many times to write this post before. I guess I still can’t write it properly. I never will.

I met Manrico in 1994. We were close friends and collaborators for about a decade. Life eventually took us through different countries and different paths, but our friendship was solid and deep. Though he did visit me in the UK (three of us stayed in a tiny room at the University of East Anglia, taking turns to sleep in the single bed and sharing the floor amongst piles of vinyl, equipment and books- he played at the Grad Bar at an event I organised), I never visited him in Bolivia, where he had made his home of late. We tried meeting up in Mexico City several times and last time we only managed to speak on the phone. I remember his voice in that phone call– faraway, yet close.

(If you are curious, see below a review of a performance Manrico and I did in 1997 at the Museo Universitario del Chopo in Mexico City under a name inspired by an essay by Jean Baudrillard and another essay by Jacques Derrida–yup, that was us back in the day. In retrospect this is perhaps the first published review of Manrico’s sound art).

 

EL CHOPO ABRIÓ SUS PUERTAS PARA OFRECER LA INSTALACIÓN SONORA DEL DUETO PORNO-ESTÉREO
Gaceta UNAM, No. 3143, 3 de noviembre de 1997, Pág. 19

 

Manrico sadly passed away late last month and though I had not seen Manrico in a while I was devastated when I found out. I still am, and writing these words is very difficult for me. There’s lots I’d like to say, stories to tell to celebrate him, to share that part of  our friendship with him I and many others got to experience, before he became a well-known sound artist and environmentalist, but I’m not strong enough yet.

However before more time passed I wanted to document here that upon hearing of Manrico’s passing I contacted a group of friends I am still in touch via a messaging service with who also knew him from university and the early days of the Alcachofa Sound Arts and Parador Análogo to prepare a testimonial podcast.

My idea was to humbly apply’s Manrico’s methodology of “lo-fi is love” and to make the most of “a scarcity of resources” and produce and share an exercise of mourning and remembrance as a sound file that incorporated our voices and a selection of his music and sound work (including work he did with a series of collaborators).

The podcast be listened to in both Soundclound and Mixcloud:

You can also download the sound file (mp3) from figshare:

Priego, Ernesto; al., et (2018): Manrico Montero In Memoriam (Puro Amor Podcast). figshare. Media. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.6384398.v1

 

Lo que importa es el amor.

 

On Taking the Time to Perceive, Think, Write, and Share as Self-Preservation

“Nostalgia is the critic’s heroin”

-Mark Fisher, k-punk, January 13 2005.

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say?”

-Audre Lorde, 1977

It must have been late 2003 when I first came across a blog titled ‘k-punk: Abstract Dynamics‘. At the time I did not know the author behind the blog was Mark Fisher. I was fascinated and intrigued by his interest in popular culture, hauntology, ‘the weird’, Joy Division, grime, science fiction. In retrospect, his early blogging, say, between 2003 and 2008, represents a golden age of blogging. It is not a coincidence that the 2008 financial crash would also see a systematic shift in the attention economy, microblogging taking the place that long-form blogging used to have.

I am brought back to k-punk because it helps me realise how privileged, and how necessary, was to have the time to think and to write in a personal-yet-public platform, not for the sake of academic assessment or pomotion, but as a public exercise of thinking as a work-in-progress, and, importantly, as a generous making public of  ways of reading and listening, of reading and listening as performative activities that required their own dedicated time and space. (Take, for example, this post about Ursula K Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven, or the conversational approach he took by addressing other bloggers with whom there was an ongoing dialogue, as in this post).

Fisher was often unapologetically obscure, and could come across as intellectually arrogant, but he was passionately disciplined in his blogging, and obsessively committed to cultural critique in its widest-yet-specific sense. Some of his posts were very short, sometimes limited to photographs or hyperlinks, other posts were proper essays, or notes towards longer pieces, or the re-sharing or further discussion of writing he had published elsewhere.

Looking back at his blog I am infused by a sense of nostalgia for this time in which taking the time was possible– I envied Fisher’s courage to just post, post, post, and to articulate complex theoretical arguments about apparently contradictory cultural artifacts (what do Fugazi and Beyoncé have in common?). Reading Audre Lorde recently, for example her essay ‘The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action’ (1977), I have also been reminded of the importance of taking the time to perceive, think, write, and share as a political act.  This could be abridged to taking the time as self-care.

The relentless automation of experience (I tried to refer to this in my previous post) has different manifestations, one of them being the enhanced competitivity of the attention economy and the acceleration and reduction of time and form, as represented by both Twitter and the maxi-minimalist how-many-minutes-will-it-take-me-to-read-this culture of Medium posts. Another manifestation is the increased popularity of vlogging and of videos as a form of pervasive-reality-TV that takes the role of baby sitter, tutor, news anchor, and all-round entertainment platform. Music streaming services and playlisting have prioritised mobile consumption, implying that media (music, film, TV, even writing) is ‘consumed’, at least in urban areas, ‘on the go’,  i.e. while doing something else.

It is in this setting that sitting down to listen to an album/LP, or a 7″ single, or a CD, or a tape, in real time and for the time it takes to play becomes a rarity, a luxury, an extravagance and a privilege. The same for sitting down and just reading a book or a magazine without being interrupted or distracted to do other things. Like taking the time to do Yoga or napping or meditating, listening to music or reading print publications requires a conscious pause or interruption from the 24/7 demands of our accelerated, automated present and endless should-have-submitted-yesterday to-do lists.

Just in case the clarification is needed: I am not in any way advocating switching off completely or for smartphone-free retreats; I believe that either/or discourse only perpetuates stress and anxieties. My point is rather to recognise that certain processes such as listening, reading and writing in a focused and concentrated way, on specific media that imply and require specific spatiotemporal performative conditions, requires, indeed, from a singular time and space, and that time and space is increasingly rare and more and more precious, to the point of feeling revolutionary, precisely because it breaks with the pragmatism, speed, order and flow of currently expected behavioural patterns.

These reflections are not, of course, anything new. However it still feels to me important, now that I’ve had the opportunity to reflect again on the conditions required for thinking about what’s around us, to find the time to reassign priorities. I have written about this before in more than one place: publish-or-perish cultures in academia, hand in hand with the aggressive marketisation and metrication of academic activity, leave less and less time, and space, to perceive, to reflect, to write, and, importantly, to share. It’s become a famous meme now, but Lorde’s words remain urgently powerful: “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

It is indeed concerning that to take the time to do what is essential if one is in a profession that requires study, interpretation and analysis should become an act of self-preservation. But it is. Creating the circumstances in which taking the time to think, to write and to share for the sake of it and not for academic boxticking remains crucial if we want to remain not only motivated and inspired, but individually and socially healthy and therefore able to keep making contributions.

Mark Fisher is no longer with us, but his writing remains. I am not certain how long his blog will remain online– I am hoping it is preserved for future generations to consult. (Read Simon Reynolds about Fisher’s blogging here). After his passing, I wrote this. To me, at least, his blog remains as a reminder that in spite of changes in cultural perceptions, the importance of taking the time to focus on reading, on listening, on reflecting, on writing and sharing remains crucial: an act of self-preservation.


Update: Anthony Wilson has kindly compiled a list of blog posts and resources on the/posted during the USS Strike. Don’t miss it!

Farewell, Old Year (A 2017 Mixtape)

Chaplin, Modern Times

“music heals too/ i’m here to defend it”

-Björk, ‘Saint’, 2017

 

The end of the year is for me a time for recollection, reflection, planning and self-care.

This year I continued investing in music and books. As a present to friends I recorded a ‘mixtape’ (90 minutes, as the tapes I used to favour to record mixtapes back in the day) featuring some of the tracks and/or artists that were on heavy rotation during 2017 at home. This set was recorded in real time using two turntables, a mixer and a CD player. All the music included is music we bought in physical formats during 2017 or mid-late 2016.

I originally thought it would be a more ‘uplifty’ set but one track led to the other, which coincided with the sun setting this afternoon and the room getting darker and darker as I was recording, so it ended up being a tad gloomy, which was not at all my intention (you will think I must be fun at parties…) If you listen attentively though I hope you can detect the light coming through.

I’m not sure how long the link may be live as I only have a free mixcloud account and I am likely to have to delete content to upload new sets, but in the meanwhile you can listen to it below or by following the link. (Needless to say copyright of the tunes included belongs to the corresponding owners. Love music? Buy music.)

Happy new year to you all!

No Wall Blues (78s Mix)

 

The Great 78 Project is a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records. I think it is one of the most amazing digital humanities projects out there today. As a material culture researcher and music collector I have enjoyed the collections very much. I decided to make a quick mix with some of my favourite tunes.

Copyrights that may exist in these materials have not been transferred to the Internet Archive. I do not own the copyright of the recordings used in this mix/playlist; it has been shared for artistic, preservation and educational use only and no copyright infringement has obviously not been intended.

In my mix I modified the equalization slightly and added some subtle effects. I hope this does not annoy those who with all reason have a lot of love and respect for this music. All my gratitude to the Internet Archive, George Blood, Jessica Thompson, Bob George, Brewster Kahle for sharing these cultural treasures. Shared for educational use.

Setlist

1 No Wall by Claudia;Nicky;Paul Carson;Barbara Fuller;Tom Collins

2 Black And Evil Blues by Alice Moore with Ike Rodgers

3 Moanin’ (Lamentos) by Mills’ Blue Rhythm Band

4 Deep Moaning Blues by Ma Rainey

5 Vibraphone Blues (Queja del Vibrafono) by Benny Goodmand Quartet;Goodman;Krupa;Hampton

6 I Know The Blues by Israel Crosby Quartette

7 I’ve Been A Bad Boy by Doc Sausage and his Mad Labs

8 The Boll Weevil by Lead Belly

9 Last Call Blues by The Spirits of Rhythm

10 Working Man’s Blues by Lonnie Johnson

11 How Long, How Long Blues by The Varsity Seven

12 The Hipster’s Blues – Opus 6-7/8 by Harry (The Hipster) Gibson

13 Cryin’ And Sighin’ by Manzie Harris and his Band

14 Someone To Watch Over Meby Ira and George Gershwin;Linda Keene;Henry Levine and his Strictly from Dixie Jazz Band

15 Heat Cuttin’ Bluesby Hunter and Jenkins

The Strangest Secret: A Great 78s Mix

The Great 78 Project by the Internet Archive is a community project for the preservation, research and discovery of 78rpm records.

I think it is one of the most amazing digital humanities projects out there today. As a material culture researcher and music collector I have enjoyed the collections very much. I decided to make a quick mix with some of my favourite tunes. This was the music of my grandparents and parents, the music I listened to growing up and an important part of my cultural identity.

As indicated on the project’s web pages, copyrights that may exist in these materials have not been transferred to the Internet Archive. Logically I do not own the copyright of the recordings used in this mix/playlist; it has been shared for artistic, preservation and educational use only and obviously no copyright infringement has not been intended.

In my mix I looped some samples from the recordings and modified the equalization slightly. I hope this does not annoy those who with all reason have a lot of love and respect for this music. All my gratitude to George Blood, Jessica Thompson, Bob George, Brewster Kahle and everyone else involved in this amazing project for sharing these cultural treasures.

New Publication: Editorial: Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz and Comics

The Comics Grid logo

Sometimes academic publishing is like London buses. You wait for what it feels like an eternity and then suddenly three appear at the same time.

Yesterday the editorial my colleague Nicolas Pillai and I co-wrote was published on The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship:

Pillai, N. & Priego, E., (2016). Brilliant Corners: Approaches to Jazz and Comics. The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship. 6, p.12. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/cg.92

It’s been an absolute honour and pleasure to work on this project with Nic; stay tuned as there might be further collaborations! We were fortunate to get such exciting submissions for the collection.

Like all Comics Grid articles our editorial cited above is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.  You can read it online, and/or download the PDF or XML, openly and without restrictions. You are also free to share it, use it or reuse it without prior permissions as long as you attribute properly. (For more info see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship is a peer-reviewed open access journal published by the Open Library of Humanities [OLH].

Unlike many open-access publishers, the OLH does not charge any author fees. This does not mean that their journals do not have costs. Costs are paid by an international library consortium.

If your institution is not currently supporting the platform, you could ask your librarian to sign up. The OLH is extremely cost effective and is a not-for-profit charity. However, while the OLH cannot function without financial support and they encourage universities to sign up, institutional commitment is not required to publish in any of their journals.

 

 

The Good Old Days: Charity Shop Music

Near Obsolescence: Charity Shop Music

“Everything comes from somewhere…”

-Paul Morley, Words and Music, 2003

Getting old is hard. It’s hard not to feel that when the stuff you love is becoming obsolescent you yourself are rushing to obsolescence. Suddenly we find our past left behind in charity shops. The stuff you bought once with much effort is suddenly there for a quid.

Recently someone left a sizeable collection of recent-ish, mint CDs in one of my (several) local charity shop. I had bought all of those CDs once in the past (not the same CDs, but the same, in a work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction kind of way), but due to several migrations they got lost along the way. As a record collector and frequent scavenger of second-hand and charity shops, I often wonder about previous owners, and the pieces of biographies they leave behind when they get rid of a collection.

This time around I took the opportunity of recovering some of these objects, that, even as compact discs, still hold on to the aura of valuable, meaningful objects, embedded with collective and individual memories. The newest of those CDs is from a decade ago, and boy, does that still feel like yesterday to me.

Anyway, I have made a ‘mixtape’ (many times in my life I used this word non-metaphorically) with some songs from some of the albums I found in the charity shop. There is nothing rare or ‘underground’ here (particularly for the UK context, pretty much the opposite) but where I come from some of these CDs were precious possessions to be treasured.

I have called this “The Good Old Days (Charity Shop Rock Sr Priego Set)”, and you can listen to it if you click here.

TV UNAM: Son Jarocho Documentary

My parents come from Mexico’s South East. I spent an important part of my childhood against a soundtrack of different forms of popular music that reflected the most varied influences and meanings.

I have always been interested in popular music (I remember with nostalgia our days at the Music Semiology Seminar at UNAM in Mexico City many moons ago). As a record collector I started collecting Latin American recordings on vinyl when I moved to the UK. I’ve also tried to do research (not professionally, for fun, so to speak) about the musical genres that I overlooked as a young man when I was living in Mexico. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there waiting to be read and also produced.

Looking for resources on son jarocho I came across this documentary produced by UNAM‘s own TV station, TvUNAM (their YouTube channel here).

You won’t find there the sophisticated editorial production of BBC documentaries, but if you are patient and sit still for its complete 53:44 running time, you will be rewarded with a plethora of information and fantastic music and dances.

Moreover, it’s free to access. UNAM is mostly funded by the Mexican taxpayer, and everyone everywhere where there is a broadband connection (and the right browsers with the right plugins) can watch this free of charge.

I wish someone (someone else, not me, as sadly I don’t have the time) offered to add English subtitles to it. Doing so would grant it a wider audience, which it fully deserves.

1998: Khora, Porno Estéreo: “deconstrucción sonora”

Una breve nota de Mauricio Matamoros que apareció en el periódico mexicano Unomásuno sobre aquella instalación audiovisual que Manrico Montero, VJ Jones y yo como Porno Estéreo realizamos en el Museo Universitario del Chopo de la ciudad de México el sábado 14 de noviembre de 1998.

Qué tiempos aquellos en que el amor por los mismos libros y la misma música consolidaba amistades y proyectos conjuntos, años en que se querían hacer las cosas de modo distinto, experimentar con los recursos disponibles, cruzar fronteras… qué ingenuo y deprimentemente arrogante nos suena con la perspectiva de la distancia espaciotemporal. Pero allá en 1998, la ciudad de México podía ser el centro del mundo y a pesar de la conciencia siempre a flor de piel de la limitación todo se creeía posible.

Khora_PS_Unomasuno_1998
“Khora, experimento de deconstrucción sonora de acceso a la cuarta dimensión”, nota de Mauricio Matamoros, Unomásuno, sábado 14 de noviembre de 1998.

Al re-encontrar estas notas de esta época uno no puede sino recordar cómo la experiencia común era aquella de depender de intermediarios a la hora de la auto-representación; el blogging y los medios sociales después han ayudado a que al menos ahora se puede tener más control sobre cómo aparece uno diciendo las cosas.

Recuerdo escribir mis notas a máquina y a veces mandarlas por fax, como los faxes llegaban borrosos muchas veces yo prefería llevar las notas personalmente a las redacciones. Esto quiere decir que allá en el ya pasado mítico alguien tenía que re-teclear las notas; no como ahora que se envía por email o se sube directamente a los servidores de las publicaciones. La cuestión con los medios “tradicionales” es que casi por definición retiraban la agencia de la fuente, desempoderándolo para depender de un filtro externo o terceras personas.

Me encanta que en esta nota se nombra a “Jaques Derriba”. (Este typo seguro fue introducido por alguien más, no Mauricio).  ¿Dónde andaban en noviembre de 1998?

1997: “Dudo que la electrónica sea el futuro”

Cómo hemos cambiado… no sin vergüenza comparto este escan… ¿qué andaban haciendo ustedes en 1997?

Musica_Ciberespacio_Priego_1997
“Música y ciberespacio”, El Financiero, Cultural, Jueves 7 de agosto de 1997

Now playing on vinyl: El Guincho, Piratas de Sudamérica Vol. 1.  (Young Turks 2010).