Much of the Summer has been dedicated to my noise music output, accordingly it struck me as a reasonable opportunity to list recent and future releases. I shall endeavour to :
And the Maiden – Obstructing Egress (Not On Label, 2019)
The first And the Maiden release, Obstructing Egress was a collaborative split, one might say, between myself and Jacob A. Matthews, a sonic Deleuzian contribution to the blue humanities, in direct reference to the gorges and falls of the Ithaca and Finger Lakes area. Jacob’s tracks were based around synths and field recording, whilst my own were sonic manipulations of various tourist home movies filmed at various locations and uploaded to YouTube.
Prayer Rope – “Better Soul” (ATTN:SPAN, 2020)
As with all other contributions to ATTN:SPAN’s compilation in aid of Cool Earth, “Better Soul” is a ten-second track. Despite its brevity, “Better Soul” was an early nod in the direction of Prayer Rope’s hagiographical construction, making use of heavily treated samples from two modern-day “saints,” who make similar appearances in the next release on this list – Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
And the Maiden – Magdalen Burns (SGFF Records, 2020)
The first physical release, Magdalen Burns was a reflection on the toxicity of the TERF movement, particularly those based in the UK, and the power and beauty of trans and queer communities and organizations. The title is in reference to a mean-spirited retort I made when exhausted having being harangued by a TERF who had the deceased YouTube-based harasser as her twitter profile picture – a comment I immediately deleted and for which I felt ashamed. Nevertheless, the seemingly contagious toxicity of that encounter left a mark on me that I felt required addressing in the first “official” And the Maiden recording. Magdalen Burns was the last digital-based recording, although it also makes significant use of my voice, particularly in the final two tracks, “Knife to My Throat” and “Everything.” What noise is not digitally generated was made through heavily distorted recordings of me crushing and flattening aluminium cans – a trick taught me by one of my best friends, a fellow trans woman. Even such a small, silly thing took on, for me, significant relevance as a diminutive but very sincere avatar for mutual interaction and support between transgender individuals.
Prayer Rope – I Saw God in Whom All Creatures are Nothing (SGFF Records, 2020)
The title for this, the first physical and first full-length Prayer Rope release preceded the recording by a good many months; indeed, it inspired the establishment of Prayer Rope as a noise project, separate from And the Maiden, even so soon after And the Maiden’s own formation. It also marks the beginning of my current approach to noise production, centered predominantly around use of guitar pedals, a shaker box, a circuit bent portable speaker, and a ten-track mixer. The album and its two 15-minute tracks are named respectively after a paraphrasing and direct quote attributed to mystical theologian Meister Eckhart: “I saw God, in whom all creatures are nothing” and “every creature is a word of God.” Superficially contradictory, the aim of this album was to address these statements from the perspective of the abundance and absence implicit in the apophatic tradition of understanding God (or, particularly for Eckhart, the Godhead) in terms of profound darkness, and the sonic representation of such an ontological enigma. The second track in particular has as the “core sound” a me breathing heavily into a speaker, circuit bent into a microphone, through a feedback-looped effects chain, as a tangible reification of that same breath or “word” of God – an approach that might, in any other context, appear wholly narcissistic. However, I believe this not to be the case in relation to Eckhart’s teachings, in which he stresses overtly a corporeal sense of univocal, ontological reciprocity: “The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.”
Pink Triangle Series – Janice Raymond (The White Visitation, 2020)
Sean E. Matzus did me the great honour of inviting me to release an album as part of his queer noise agitprop assemblage, the Pink Triangle Series, at the same time as he and his husband Richard Ramirez, who needs no introduction to my regular readers, dropped their newest creations under the name.
Each artist names the recording after and, to one extent or another, bases it around a particular icon of queerphobia and provides with the title a quote of theirs. Rather than drawing from the usual well of Republican preachers, politicians and pundits, I selected the lesbian radical feminist icon, academic and author of the original TERF bible, The Transsexual Empire: Making of the She-Male, Janice Raymond. A little closer to my Prayer Rope approach to production than my And the Maiden, Janice Raymond is an exercise in haunted wall noise, taking particular influence from both Sean and Richard’s solo projects and, above all, Sean’s incredible work as Thin Mountain. The second track contains within the mix me, reading out loud excerpts from the phenomenal responding essay to The Transsexual Empire by the woman most persecuted by and because of that hateful tome, Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.”
And the Maiden – The Last Mask (Basement Corner Emissions, 2020)
This was a release entirely inspired by its own artwork. This striking illustration, printed on the front page of the Dayton Daily newspaper announcing the death of Lon Chaney, titled “His Last Mask” spoke to the fascinating little ironies of covering the life of a man whose life was so closely associated with representations of death. Lon Chaney’s remarkable penchant and skills regarding facial and bodily transformation, earning him the name “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” so excellently illustrated, speaks to the nuanced elusiveness of identity in performance, and the logistical mise-en-abyme or, indeed, feedback loop that is generated under such circumstances. The tape opens with a sample from The Unholy Three, Chaney’s only talkie picture, in which he plays a ventriloquist, hailed – of course – as “The Man of a Thousand Golden Voices.” With Chaney’s own identity thus reintegrated into the narrative, indicative of his unique bridging of the division between the image of the “character actor” and the “star,” transposed to celebrate not simply the still-recent introduction of talkie films, but his introduction to them. Accordingly, the conceptual groundwork for the challenge of engaging in sonic representation of this all but exclusively silent actor felt already laid.