A melody, rhythm, or environment does not require much commitment when you find yourself amidst it already. The same goes for mythology, whether it be that of a return home à la Odysseus or a tantalizing notion like independence or creative freedom. From the inside looking out, one can float along with both appreciation and critique. The writers and artists featured in this issue of Soap Ear gently usher us into distinct visions. For these artists, sound often blurs with the textual, the conceptual and the imaginary, though sometimes it is just sound.
Music is versatile enough to commemorate death, marriage, and the many other rites that approach us when we aren’t looking. Writing on her band Strokethkok, Rosie Dwyer walks us through a rather unusual wedding event that tests the boundaries of noise music. Mark So honors the death of John Ashbery in a far-reaching mixtape and an essay. Lyle Daniel chronicles another sonic response to loss, as the band Extended Organ revisits the work of their former bandmate, the late Mike Kelley.
Ben Levinson’s profile of Laura Steenberge, in turn, shows us that everyday sounds and objects like swirling plastic hoses can launch us into foreign worlds or render our own realities strange. They can carry us back in time, whether by evoking ancient history or a more recent past, such as the South of poet Eric Ingram’s family origins.
Mark So has composed some 300 pieces directly inspired by the poetry of John Ashbery. In honor of Ashbery’s recent passing, we at Soap Ear would like to follow suit by dedicating our second issue to the great American poet and thinker. His work documents the absurd and delicate sonorities of our world in a way we are happy to echo. Two stanzas from his “The Tomb of Stuart Merill” will lead into the issue:
So one is tempted not to include this page
In the fragment of our lives
Just as its meaning is about to coagulate
In the air around us:
“Father!” ”Son!” “Father I thought we’d lost you
In the blue and buff planes of the Aegean:
Now it seems you’re really back.”
“Only for a while, son, only for a while.”
We can go inside now.
- Laura Steenberge: Humble Objects, Imaginary Sounds, and Ancient Myth in Los Angeles
- Robert Johnson in the Information Age
- A Strokethkok Wedding
- mixtape: at no determinate time or place. a familiar instance.
- Voicing the Poltergeist: Extended Organ at Hauser and Wirth
Cover Image: Mark So, And a stab too at rearranging /The whole thing from the ground up. (2013) [Ashbery series]. Marfa installation, 2017-18