Weekly Churn 014: In Praise of Borders

Ahoy! This is the Weekly Churn, where every Sunday I post about what I’ve been reading, watching, and thinking about over the previous week.

The organizing of my music collection continues. I’ve got everything sorted between keep and donate, and everything I want to donate has been digitized to the extent that I am able (some CDs just don’t want to cooperate, and I have yet to find digital copies of those albums available for purchase, or indeed physical ones), and now I’ve moved on to the playlists from my radio station days.

In Praise of Borders Vol. 4 For those of you know don’t know, I had a radio show called In Praise of Borders on CKLU 96.7 FM in Sudbury from summer 2004 until spring 2005. The title was stolen from an essay by Stephen Henighan, whose work I generally don’t much care for but who is good at titles. The idea behind the show—and the title—was to showcase contemporary music from around the world, stuff like garage from North Africa, ambient from Venezuela, punk from Spain, noise from Japan, and so on. I was fascinated by the idea that “world music” didn’t have to be limited to certain narrow categories of folk sounds, and that the cross-pollination of genres and styles didn’t automatically mean the erasure of local tastes, methods, and sounds. I was quite naïve and didn’t know anything about colonialism or post-colonial thought, but in my head I gave artists a lot of agency when it came to how they would respond to music that I thought of as the “default” set of popular styles. I figured they would use what was interesting to them and throw the rest away, and continue to value what they had thought of as the “default” popular styles.

In Praise of Borders Vol. 6 There was some cool stuff in the radio station’s CD archive, but it was very Canadian-heavy, so I sourced a lot of my music from my Internet friends around the world, which also meant that I managed to play some music that had very limited local releases for audiences half a world away. It also meant I made a lot of my playlists at home rather than on the fly in the studio, so I still have copies of pretty much everything I played. I also had a website1 where I’d post my playlists in case anyone wanted to know more. Unfortunately between the discs I had at home and the website, I still don’t have every playlist. I know, for instance, that I played a bunch of Sergey Kuryokhin and some tracks by Laïs, but neither of them show up in any of my records. All of December 2004 is missing, and so is most of March 2005. It was a difficult time for me personally, so it’s not surprising that there are gaps. I once did a show where Dave Clarke from the Rheostatics showed up with someone he was touring with (somebody Johnson, I think; I’ve forgotten his name, sadly) and they played a little concert in the booth. They were on my show because they were passing through town on a Sunday and I was the only person with a show on that day who broadcast in English.

In Praise of Borders Vol. 9 The show was all over the place, thematically. I did a trip-hop week in February of 2005, and an all-Björk week in October of 2004. My show was likely the only place in radio history where you could here Nancy Sinatra and The Mars Volta on the same hour, or Mohammed Rafi alongside Los Lobos and Mick Jagger (that was for a soundtrack-themed week). I had this theory that you could make almost any combination of genres work in a single playlist as long as you put them in the right order, so that the transitions from one to another worked; they way one song ends works musically with the way the next one begins, even if they come from entirely different styles and traditions. You get from Nancy Sinatra to The Mars Volta, for instance, by putting songs from Kraftwerk and Can between them.

In Praise of Borders Vol. 3 Some of those playlists I put together weren’t great; I was trying not to lean too heavily on European artists or repeating the same artists every week, so I’d play some stuff that I wasn’t really keen on just to make sure there was enough variety. There are a few, however, that I still absolutely love. So what I’ve been doing this weekend is rebuilding them, making old-school mixed tapes (or rather, the digital equivalent), complete with their own covers, made with photographs I took in the ’90s and early ’00s. I am having an absolute blast rediscovering this music and playing around with playlists and covers. This part of being a music fan when I was in my teen and early 20s is something I miss quite a bit.

When all this is done I still have to clean the metadata on my music library, and then I’ll be rebuilding/updating the old IPB website, complete with links to the music I can find on YouTube (no, I won’t be uploading it). I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, here’s something else I found. Before I knew what Photoshop was or even really how to use a computer, I used to make art using photography, acetate, a laser copier, scissors, and glue/tape. I was inspired by the kind of work Dave McKean did for his Sandman covers, but had no equipment and no real skill. All my originals from that period are lost, and so are most of the copies,2 but I did run across the two source photos from my favourite piece, and I spent ten minutes recreating it in Photoshop. The original was two photos copied onto acetate using a laser copier, layered on top of each other, and then scratched with my car keys. Film, development, acetate, and laser copying were so expensive in my hometown in 1997 that it cost me nearly $60 to make the piece. The recreation isn’t as good (my Photoshop skills are not great), but it captures the sense of the original.

Static Rose

Anyway, that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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