Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

“Graylen Epicenter” by David Binney (please listen while you read the post)

Audio MP3

I click on my iPod immediately when I step out of the building. The force of the wind tunnel barreling down the street slams into my face as the first sounds emerge. Lately, I’ve been listening to Dave Binney’s 2011 album Graylen Epicenter for hours on end.

I’m walking at a clip toward the Morgan Avenue L train stop. Past bodegas opening for the day, kids walking to school with their parents, a baseball team finishing up an early practice.

Track two, the title track, starts out bustling. Brian Blade’s ride cymbal sears at double time. Bass, piano and guitar leap together in dense clusters. Alto saxophone and trumpet soon enter with one of Binney’s characteristic unison horn lines, soaring contrapuntally with the jumping clusters.

After a minute of swirling lines, Blade cuts back to half time, slamming his open snare drum on two. The pulse opens. It breathes.

Wayne Krantz’s guitar rips in overtop the looping chord progression. Spacious. Measured. Lyrical. Krantz’s lines lie back just behind the beat, stretching the pulse elastic. The horns enter with a unison line gliding in the background, propelling Krantz’s leaping intervals forward with the drums smashing from below.

I turn onto Bogart Street, just steps from the station.

Within five paces, the pulse disintegrates, Krantz’s solo blurs out of time. Blade lifts the group into rubato with his cymbals. Binney’s alto and Ambrose Akinmusire’s trumpet seep in, weaving in and out of one another. The bass lulls underneath. Blade splashes his cymbals with mallets. The pallet is wide open, released from its former structure.

I’m on the platform and the train arrives, crashing through the whispering free-structured sounds in my headphones. I enter the car, standing just inside the threshold, listening, among others.

The alto and trumpet continue their improvised, interwoven lines.
Blade drags his sticks against the cymbals. High-pitched tones, like pulsating bells, or revolving metal wheels, slowly, quietly screaming to life.

I close my eyes in the train. The intimate sounds seem so disjointed from inside the hovering capsule and from each person’s experience of this public space. We all occupy our own insular worlds in the subway. Insulated within our ear buds, our books, our cell phones, our thoughts. It’s a shared experience, but also a detached one.

Blade’s eerily high-pitched cymbals continue to resonate. Akinmusire’s trumpet screeches in the distance, blurring into the fluttering high frequencies. The sounds are drifting. Creeping. Like circular movements felt but unseen.

Craig Taborn breaks the frozen time with a soft voicing on the piano. Gretchen Parlato’s wordless voice emerges with the pulse, resting on top of each piano voicing. She slides into each pitch, nearly whispering. There’s an astonishing beauty in Blade’s circulating unearthly tones, in Taborn’s light chords, in Parlato’s soaring voice out front. The kind of beauty that momentarily stops time. Erases your thoughts. Throws you into a profound experience of the immediate moment.

I’m riding out the music in my ears, in my own space, my own perception of the train’s ebb and flow, flying under the East River. Krantz’s elastic guitar lines. Blade’s circulating frequencies. Parlato’s lyrical articulations soaring above. Taborn’s subtle touch underneath. Binney’s screaming saxophone ricocheting off the driving bass.

This is my space. Perhaps others have theirs. But this is mine.

*******

 

Photo Credit: Hubbard, Tom courtesy of Special Media Archives Services

Feature photo:  Hubbard, Tom courtesy of Special Media Archives Services 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Opportunity for African Writers | Enter for the 2019 Gerald Kraak Award

gerald kraak - as you like it

The 2019 Gerald Kraak Award is open for submissions. The deadline is 25 June 2018. Founded in 2016 by the Jacana […]

If Football Nations Were Rappers | Musa Okwonga’s World Cup Thread Is a Twitter Moment

musa okwonga - god is in the tv zine

Writer-musician Musa Okwonga last week saw a fun thread he started, “If Football Nations Were Rappers,” in which he matched football […]

Cassava Republic Warns Against the Deletion of Local Publishing Houses

cassava republic books

A few days ago, publishers Cassava Republic published on their site a trend in which Nigerian media de-prioritize the work […]

Crime-Writing as Political Engagement in Moroccan Literature

InstaBox_201861813422729

Among the best known Moroccan writers are Laila Lalami, UNESCO-Sharjah Prize winner Bensalem Himmich, Grand Atlas Prize winner Youssef Fadel, Prix Goncourt […]

Mo Abudu Announces Film Adaptation of Soyinka’s Death And The King’s Horseman

mo abudu WOLE-SOYINKA premium times

Nollywood personality Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Television, has announced a film adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. She […]

Writivism: Complaint About Public Slander by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire | Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

novuyo tshuma

Last week, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, author of House of Bones, lodged a formal complaint with the Writivism Board of Trustees, in […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.