Tuesday, November 29, 2022 by Montez Press Radio #interviews

Hello Forever


Back in May, Laraaji came by the studio and gave this amazing performance. The performance was followed by a conversation with Jacob Gorchov of Palto Flats, which you can read an abbreviated version of below:

Jacob Gorchov: So the instrument you’re most associated with is the zither, an auto-harp. I wanna know, because that’s not what you came up studying as a child, how did you discover the zither? How did you decide and make that instrument your own?

Laraaji: So I studied violin, trombone, piano and pizza. I still study pizza. The first time I saw the zither, or the autoharp, was in a Kentucky bluegrass ensemble in the village at a coffee shop somewhere in the 70s. The autoharp was part of this bluegrass ensemble. Bluegrass music is where there’s a bass, sometimes a zither, a guitar, and an autoharp. An auto-harp is a chunky-looking instrument, although in this case it was being used very politely. I remember making eye contact, not knowing that I would have a story with that instrument later on in my Earth life. So fast forward into 1974/75. I’m in a pawn shop in Queens, New York pawning my guitar. I loved that guitar, but I needed money. So I went in to pawn the guitar. As I was going into the shop, I noticed this chunky looking instrument in the window and I said “Oh, there’s that instrument again.” I’m standing in front of the counter offering my guitar – Martin’s 16 string guitar with a fiberglass case, well worth about 175 dollars, or so I thought. The clerk offered me $25, and I said “I don’t know about that,” and just then, a very clear, articulate telepathic voice: “Don’t take the money. Swap it for the instrument in the window.” I couldn't ignore it. It felt like the voice of a great, great cosmic grandparent. Just warm, supportive and wise. And I was curious to see where this would go so I swapped the guitar for the auto-harp in the window – and $5. I needed money

So, I left with the auto-harp, and I started experimenting with it – open tuning,  electrifying it, and playing it through different approaches: percussion, boad, strummed, hammer dulcimer style. I researched it and experimented with it, usually with a tape recorder going. I'd record my improvisations and then go back and listen to things I thought were interesting, and I would repeat them about 100 times to get them into my subconscious mind to develop a vocabulary on the instrument. Then, after a while, I was able to busk on the sidewalks of New York, the parks of New York, from these altered states of contemplation. Just these streams of sonic presence. So it was an experiment to see what would happen if I were willfully in an altered state and allowed myself to interact with the string instrument, to feel what kind of sound or music would happen.  Most of the time I would have folks sitting in lotus position or standing nearby in a trance, and that's when I discovered that with this music I was able to communicate something that I couldn't do with words. That was trance, altered state, flowingness and can even wake up the memory that we are star children, or cosmic beings. That our identity doesn't end at the skin, but that we are this weightless, timeless, glorious, wondrous presence. With that kind of memory getting invoked by this music – I said yeah. This was doing what I didn’t know I could do after 1974, attracting a paranormal hearing experience. 

JG: So people would see you in the park and they’d be like – wow what is this music? And they’d come and just gather around, and go into a trance. 

Laraaji: Something like that. Most of the time, my eyes were closed. I just imagined they were there. It was music to be in the moment by – it wasn't necessarily something that had an official beginning. I discovered that with eyes closed from a contemplative state, I could reference the unified feel as I just hear it, more of the feel than individual separate listeners. I am referencing rapport within this eternal timelessness, and the electric autoharp proved to be a good instrument with which to interact during this practice. 

JG: At what time were you playing around with electrifying it? And playing around with doing different things with the autoharp that people hadn’t done before? 

Laraaji: You know what the biggest room in the house is, Jacob? Does anyone know what the biggest room in the house is? The room for improvement. So, I was always improving on this instrument. I would be walking through a hardware store or an art supply store, and I’d say “Hm, what if I fool around with that on the auto-harp?  And eventually the idea of – Why don’t I try to electrify it? I’d never heard an electric auto-harp. I went to Manny’s Music on 48th Street, I inquired and discovered there was an auto-harp pick-up and I placed it on the instrument in the store and strummed it. A clerk on the other side of the store was like “Ah, I’m in heaven!” and I knew I was on the right track. So constantly improving; “What if I did that with this – what if I tuned it that way? What if I put some stops under the string – what if I bowed it with a cello bow, or a bass bow, or an E bow? What if I played it through a phase shifter?” So a path of exploration and experimentation was the agenda. 

JG: How long did you play the original auto-harp that you had?

Laraaji: Well, they keep changing. During the years of outdoor busking, you can imagine they take a weather beating. So I might’ve gone through two or three. This one I’ve had for maybe three or four years. It was an experimental release by Oscar Schmidt. It had a short life until I got wise on how to carry it. Certain ways of carrying this instrument were ruining the electronics. I didn't recognize it until I went through three auto-harps. The carrying case was not right for this instrument, I have to adjust it with tape and a bottle cap to protect some of the sensitive workings for this instrument. It’s a fixer upper. I take off the chord bars, so it no longer looks like an autoharp and I tune all of the 36 strings to feeling. When I get the feeling – the feeling might be the feeling of a vast desert, or a waterfall, or the expansive space or a mystical morning somewhere. When I can get a tuning that invokes my emotional imagination, then I can do improvisation through it and just explore the valleys and the mountains and all that it has to say and let it speak through me. That has allowed me to do performances and recordings without actual prepared music. Just be present, rehearse my facility, and allow guidance to come – free association, free flow improvisation within a harmonically prepared medium so that the music always has a soothing edge to it. 

JG: So basically, when you perform, if you’re in an interior space or if you’re outside, you’re still able to transport yourself to other spaces. How do you feel that the spaces that you perform in, whether they’re outside or inside, affect your playing, or do they?

Laraaji: I take various approaches in performance, and one of them is always to feel out the space I’m in, whether it’s outdoors, whether a car is going by, leaves rustling in the wind – or indoors where it’s pristine silence, these elements come into awareness and I work with them. Outdoors, especially with large speakers and a large space, using sound to sculpt an obvious vast space is fun. Putting sound into space or vibrating space, expansive spaces, cathedral spaces. But in an intimate space, like a studio or in someone’s home or for therapeutic healing sessions, where we’re just working with one or two people. Those times we work with just the acoustic sound of the autoharp and other instruments. I allow the vibration of instruments to transport and suggest altered frequencies to the listener. Out of doors, I can rock out. Usually, with large audiences, it’s a feeling of galvanizing, using music to galvanize what appears to be a lot of separate individuals, through the suggestion of sound. Sound can suggest unity. Inner sound, Nadam – the cosmic sound current, can suggest through the listener, or through the performer or the meditator, the unity of the cosmos, the unity of the field. So in that aspect, at times I just go beyond the personal space and beyond the outdoor space and I am consciously intra-acting within this unified field. Hence, is not linear acoustics of relative space-time. You’ll hear in some of the music, a sort of lulling or repetitiveness, a sound current that allows the listener to stay and not go somewhere – just stay, be here, feel. So that’s the third space. The personal indoor space and your outer door space, and then the transcendental field, which is here. With meditative imagination, I found I can play within this field and observe the impact on listeners. The music can invite the listeners to take a vacation from linear mind content, and from the linear field, and just be here, you know, this nonlinear space. 

JG: I was curious what you think the relationship between music and therapy is, and also the experience of humor and levity and how you approach that? I know you started off doing comedy as well and you have this amazing approach to your music where it's not taking itself too seriously and I’m just wondering how you came to be a comic?

Laraaji: Well, I grew up in a very laugh-oriented family. We laughed a lot and the idea of being playful and silly and actually getting someone else to laugh was just natural. In grade school I was easily part of any skits or talent shows that involved getting someone else to laugh. All the way up into college, the sideline was doing comedy for different events and then eventually trying it out in The Greenwich Village. After beginning to study consciousness, the laws of consciousness – cause and effect and how the consciousness that we continuously affirm moment to moment by our language and our thought, really impacts the way the universe shows up through us in this very moment. I felt my comedy was going to attract into my life situations that I didn’t want to take responsibility for. The comedy that I was doing was silly. One of my bits was that one of my favorite passions was ugly women, and that my first love affair was love at first shock. 

But then I said “Now in a very short time, I’ll be attracting all these ugly women into my life.” Or, I’ll be creating ugliness. Maybe there are no ugly women at all. I’m just creating it. So I thought “Do I want to take responsibility?” And I said “No, I don’t. No way.” And I came to the realization that there are no ugly women in the universe. That I’m creating them, so I had to stop creating things like that. Everywhere I look I see a beautiful woman, except if it’s a man. Then it’s a beautiful man. So it resulted in a lot of beautiful people in my life, but I stopped doing comedy for that reason and just leaned into consciousness and music. 

Eventually, my music led me into conferences, holistic centers, mediation centers and I got the idea of doing laughter mediation in the context of a yoga retreat or a new age conference. So there I am handling comedy. I'm no longer on a stage in a smoke filled room addressing people on another level using polarizing humor. I was now inviting people to get into internal laughter and to work their internal systems – from their pituitary gland, thyroid, to your thymus, your heart, abdominal organs and lungs, and grounding to the earth, grounding to the cosmos – using laughter very creatively. It’s beautiful, warm and socially bonding. 

I’m working with heavy laughter, laughter we can cause to vibrate our pituitary. Try sending your voice into your head, first with your tone, and let your tone become a head-specific laughter. Vibrate your brain. One more crucial one is that supposedly with our immune system, we can actually perform our thymus, which sits just beneath the breast bone. We can thump our thymus (thirteen times a day is one prescription) to stimulate the production of T-cells from the thymus gland, and if you do that a couple times – just feel that sensation, thumping. Now, place your hand on the same area. Just think behind that breastbone, the sternum, sits the thymus. Now, let us tickle that thymus from the inside out with tone and then with laughter. You can just creatively target that area with [makes low laughing sound]. It’s to be taken very seriously. We’re raising the functioning of our immune system, so I just showed you the head and the thymus. There’s actually about seven or eight ways we play with laughter and of course, to be in this playful zone, we invite our inner child to come along this journey with us. When we take a playful attitude – we play with a water body at the beginning of the playshop, we play with toes, fingers, hands, the whole body is laughing, so it’s opening up the body, let go and laugh. There’s health benefits of laughter, you’re stimulating the pituitary, releasing endorphins, and massaging the abdominal organs, releasing stagnant or stale air from the lungs and so many yum, yum, yum things. Fifteen minutes of heavy laughter in the morning is equal to rowing a boat. Now, if you have to get to work on a boat, use the boat but laugh while you’re rowing. 

JG: I wanted to ask – not into names specifically – but I remembered this bookstore in Harlem that you had this great history with. Tree of Life. 

Laraaji: Yes, I’m striking the word history, and using just the word story. The Tree of Life on the corner of 125th street and Lenox avenue. Sometimes called UCLA – It was owned and operated by Kanya KeKumbha, who offered the bookstore as an injection into the community of spiritual books, books that you probably never knew existed. Now and then there would be psychic fairs there inviting people to come in and get readings, Kerlian photography, shiatsu and read books for free. I would position myself outside the store with the electric zither, a simple set-up, and channel music supportive of more inward-focused atmosphere. It was at that bookstore that two of the gentlemen there decided after listening for a while that my name, Edward Gordon, doesn't match the experience they were getting from my music.” We’ve done some research, and we’ve come up with a suggestion for a new name for you.” and I said [gulps] Uh-oh, cause if somebody says I got a name for you, you almost want to hear it and almost don’t, because it might start something. So I say “Ok, I trust you gentlemen – your intuition. Why don’t we meet in Central Park tomorrow, and we’ll initiate the name.” Now, little did they know that I was already looking for a name. I intuitively felt it would be three syllables, it would have something to do with the sun. How about that? They knew nothing about that. Sun and three syllables. The next day in Central Park, we met. They reveal the name as Laraaji. It’s an evolution from Larry Gordon that includes reference to the sun, and it’s three syllables. 

JG: It also contains three triangles, right?

Laraaji: Yes, in upper-case, three triangles. And I added an ‘A’ to the name just to make it 7 letters – the numerological value of 7, not knowing that two As after the ‘R’ is how the Egyptians referred to Ra. So there it is, the sun, and the sun has always been a mentor for me. I love the sun, at a distance. So there it was: Laraaji. I accepted the name and it took a while for the biological family to take me seriously, but there it is. I was also concerned that if I changed my name would I start something like wanting to change it again but no, it’s still Laraaji Venus Bramananda. 

When I travel, I use Edward Gordon in case someone needs to page me in an airport. Edward also means guardian of wealth. Many times people see the name and they don’t get it right. I’ve been called launderette. Breaking in a new name is fun. 

JG: You’re a multi-instrumentalist. You play piano. You’ve got three piano recordings – the piano trilogy. I mean, your 80s recordings, there’s a lot of keyboard. Like ‘Vision’ is keyboard/drum machine. You get so many amazing sonic qualities to the music that you make. I guess I’m not really sure where you’re going with this. 

Laraaji: Neither am I. Do we have to go somewhere?

JG: We could go somewhere. Where do you want to go?

L: Let’s go vertical. 

Vertical space-time. I feel a lot of promise for vertical space time as the next quantum leap. Instead of trying to fix things on a cyclical plane, use the spiral plane and migrate up into a new kind of body form – more light, more sound, base body. Come into a higher bliss performance, unity performance. How can it happen? Maybe global sound immersion. I used to think maybe the electromagnetic field could play a part but that might not be safe. To all vibrate at the same time and feel the same intimate communion with the gaia, with Earth. With the omniverse. No words are spoken, just the word, the sound current vibrating. So, where are we going? I feel we’re going toward a sound and light respectful culture. Respecting tone and sound in a new way. I just have this feeling that that's the expanded new medicine and expanded philosophy, psychology. So instead of fixing this plane, if you thought it needed be fixed, just shift our vibrational frequency and be present in a new way. 

JG: It’s amazing to have that be an aid, your music be an aid to getting to that plane. And I think we definitely need more laughter, need more sound healing, need more people to be attuned to that because you know, I think it’s therapeutic and I think it’s really wonderful and beautiful to be tuned in to that. So thank you for sharing that with us tonight as well. It’s really special.

Laraaji: Goodbye, for now. Hello forever.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 by bless ed #music #performance

up there

Here are a handful of live sets produced at 46 Canal Street that I return to over and over again (amazed) 


Laraaji performance followed by interview with Jacob Gorchov of Palto Flats: Sacred Groovy

Extreme Animals

Bookworms and Miho Hatori improvisational set

Takuya Nakamura DJ set with live trumpet

Otis Houston Jr. plus conversation with Salome Oggenfuss

Channel PTP: The Spiral - Conversation then performance with Jonathan González and Johann Diedrick

Lamb, Deuén & Imani Lherisson: Chamber Music


KONRAD KLAPHECK, The Audience, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 170 x 130 cm, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2019, Courtesy of the artist and Jahn und Jahn, Munich


Monday, October 17, 2022 by DJ Uncertain #music

Sleepnot, the rice cake in the window

Sleepnot/Bugpress has the best collection of Korean classic rock, punk, post-punk, and K-indie I have found on the web. His YT Channel catagorizes music by artists, albums, subgenres, and time periods (a playlist called 2006-2010 hits the hardest for me) and while there are some obvious classics, this is a mine where few stones are left unturned in what seems like decades of digging. The highlight in his MPR segment is a bigger and much heavier version of Kim Soo Ja's It's Gone, released in 2014, 45 years after the 1969 original. Where she was once spaced out and exploratory she's now stern and throaty with even more power and spit in her belt. But what to make of her change in tone? The cynical story you hear all too often of Korean music during those 45 years is one of hyperspeed modernization and neo-liberal restructuring. The short version goes that there was traditional folk music and then, suddenly, in the 80s and 90s, three companies, SM, JYP, and YG, cornered the entirety of a nation's musical output at the behest of a centralized economic policy (Hallyu) that forsaw the value of youth culture as an export. While that's a neat explanation for monocultural effeciency, nationlistic tendancies, and the memetic nature of K-pop, Sleepnot's archive tells a far more compelling story of counter-cultural youth with all their aspirations and failures worn on striped sleaves. Somewhere in the thousands of tracks Sleepnot has uploaded, the post-war reconstruction psychedelia of Kim Soo Ja, and her producer, the godfather of Korean rock, Shin Joong Hyun, give way to a tumultous period of student protests in the 80s where, in some cases, pro-democracy movements were anti-modernization when synonymous with "American", and aesthetically against what the Park Chung-Hee regime called "healthy popular music". But then it's just down the road to the glocalized 90's hip-hop and K-indie scenes of Itaewon and the coolest college town on earth, Hongdae-- neighborhoods whose bohemian promises are made in Crying Nut videos or No Brain's Chosun Park and broken in JY Park's gentrification banger Itaewon Freedom, (The ultimate layer of irony being that this the guy who went on to start JYP, one of the big 3 K-pop production campanies). The question of assimilation never sits still either. You can't help to feel sorry for the sound of Korean kids yearning for American suburbs only to realize suburban nastolgia and yearning for something gone or out of reach is the bread and butter of any American 4th wave punk-- but the K-indie kid does it better inspite of and probably because of the distance. In plenty of cases, I'm sure some of these bands could care less about America, and with the remove of any succesive genre, korean alternative kids are just after a sound someone heard on their big sister's stereo. In that 45 years since the original 1969 version of It's Gone plenty has changed sonically and politically for rock music, but its more useful to believe nothing is settled in that deep desire for difference-- if anything, with all the top-down produced k-pop and now k-indie that draws upon rock, "difference" is all the more distorted, tantilizing, and frustrating, in that undying reach for it. 



1. Mamason - Subway Toilet 2. The Monotones - The Beat Goes On 3. 김추자(Kim Choo-ja) - 가버린 사람아(You're Gone) 4. Huckleberry Finn - 낯선 두 형제(Two Strange Brothers) 5. 정차식 - 파이팅 맨(Fighting Man) 6. Dabang - Taxi Blues 7. 나팔꽃(Morning Glory) - 누워서 부르스(Lying Down Blues) feat. 김해원(Kim Hae-won) 8. 황보령=Smacksoft - 비상(Soar) 9. 곱창전골(Kopchangjeongol) - 그대 모습(Your Look) (Baby, Come Back) 10. 상자루(Sangjaru) - 3인 놀이(3 Player Game) 11. 청바지(Blue Jean) - 단풍(Maple) 12. Ann - Burn 13. 모노반(Monovan) - 행진가(Marching Song) (March) 14. Telepathy - Tonight 15. Deadbuttons - Fuckers are Everywhere 16. 어어부 프로젝트(Uhuhboo Project) - 종점 보관소(Terminal Depository) 17. 달파란(Dalpalan) - 만주의 매(Hawk of Manchuria) 18. The Highlights - Mr. Tambourine


Listen on MPR

Produced in colaboration with The Darren Bader Centre for Performing Arts


Monday, September 26, 2022 by DJ Uncertain #art #poetry #music

Triple Candie

<----Listen on MPR

One of my favorite curatorial projects/art historians, Triple Candie, put together an audio-scape of environmental sounds (bird calls, city sounds and honking horns, the clamor of sailboat halyards flapping against aluminum masts, water lapping against a dock) interspersed with: readings of texts by the artists Ryan Gander, Katerina Šedá, and Swoon (all 2008); interviews with two sailors living aboard their boats in the Chesapeake Bay (2022); a text by Tacita Dean on the Bas Jan Ader (2006); a 19th-century sea shanty; and an excerpt from Tadeusz Kantor’s Let the Artists Die (1985).

Triple Candie is a curatorial production agency that ran a 6,000 sq. ft. gallery in Harlem in the aughts. Today, it guest-organizes exhibitions internationally while populating a 22 sq. ft. gallery near the U.S. Capitol Building. Its projects, often rigorously researched and occasionally irreverent, comprise unfaithful copies and props.

Track Listing:
00:00 Bird calls.
05:13 City sounds and honking cars.
06:06 Audio track sample from Francis Alÿs, Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing, Mexico City, video, 1997.
06:20 Audio track sample from David Hammons, Phat Free, video, 1995–99
07:08 Alÿs, Sometimes Making Something.
07:37 Katerina Šedá, “Dear Diary,” commissioned by Shelly Bancroft, Peter Nesbett, and Rebecca Sears and published in artonpaper magazine in 2008. Excerpts read by Shelly Bancroft.
12:52 Alÿs, Sometimes Making Something.
13:42 Audio excerpt from a video of Ryan Gander’s installation, I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorise (The Invisible Pull), 2012, Documenta 13, Kassel, Germany.
14:08 Excerpts from a phone interview in May 2022 with a friend who lives aboard his 42’ sailboat at Harbor Island Marina, Solomons Island, Maryland.
16:51 Mast halyards clanking in the wind.
18:58 Excerpts from an audio recording by Austin Hutchinson, a friend who lives aboard his 30’ sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay.
22:17 “A Life on the Ocean Wave” (1838), words by Epes Sargent, music by Henry Russell, sung by Fred Feild.
23:38 Audio track sample from a video of the final scene in “Let the Artists Die” (1985), by the Polish playwright, director, and artist Tadeusz Kantor, performance venue unknown.
33:43 Mast halyards clanking in the wind.
35:26 Gander, I Need Some Meaning.”
35:41 Ryan Gander, “Dear Diary,” commissioned by Shelly Bancroft, Peter Nesbett, and Rebecca Sears and published in artonpaper magazine in 2008. Excerpts read by Peter Nesbett, recorded with a voice filter.
40:03 Alÿs, Sometimes Making Something.
40:33 Bird songs.
46:20 Swoon, “Dear Diary,” commissioned by Shelly Bancroft, Peter Nesbett, and Rebecca Sears and published in artonpaper magazine in 2008. Excerpts read by Shelly Bancroft.
49:04 City sounds and honking cars.
49:57 Alÿs, Sometimes Making Something.
50:19 Tacita Dean, “And he fell into the sea,” from Bas Jan Ader: Please Don’t Leave Me, edited by Rein Wolfs (Rotterdam: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, 2006). Further edited and read by Peter Nesbett.
55:44 Harbor, waves, and ocean sounds.




Monday, September 26, 2022 by DJ Uncertain #music


Connor Wright:


Connor Wrong:


Connor Wright LIVE on Montez Press Radio -->


Monday, September 26, 2022 by DJ Uncertain #interviews #art #music

Hanne Darboven

Anja Dietmann translated an interview between Hanne Darboven and Gerwig Epkes, recorded for Sprechzeit in 1999–kindly supported by the Hanne Darboven Foundation in Hamburg, Germany. Hanne Darboven talks about her work, her childhood, and her stay in New York between 1966 and 1968 (she was not impressed with what New Yorkers. were reading). We will also listen to her New York letters addressed to her parents, followed by excerpts from her musical works Opus 17 A and Opus 25A.

Listen on MPR here --> 




Bonus: Vanessa Place on Hanne Darboven