Jamie Manser – Zocalo Magazine – Tucson Arts and Culture http://www.zocalomagazine.com Tucson Arts, Culture, Entertainment, News and Events Magazine Tue, 05 Sep 2017 01:48:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.11 Mindful in a World of Distractions: Leila Lopez’s “Our Animal Skin” http://www.zocalomagazine.com/mindful-in-a-world-of-distractions-leila-lopezs-our-animal-skin/ Tue, 05 Sep 2017 01:47:07 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10959 Artwork by Daniel Martin Diaz

Artwork by Daniel Martin Diaz

Leila Lopez writes songs that explore the depths of human relationships, with ourselves and others, and our emotional struggles as we move through this thing called life. She is vulnerable, resilient and authentic, sapient, contemplative, kind and loving, and her richly layered folk songs are imbued with those attributes.

The album is also imbued with a gentle acceptance of life’s pain, joy, challenges, and ephemeral nature. It conjures the Japanese concept “mono no aware,” the poignant, wistful reflection on the transience of existence; calling on us to be mindful and have faith that we’ll receive what we need, as being distinct from what we want.

Over email, Leila shares the dichotomies she writes about: struggling with depression while pretending like everything is okay, “the climb and fall, shadow and light, the high and low.

“My grandmother passed a couple years ago, and she was always the voice of reason for me. Light needs the dark, sorrow paves the path for joy.”

Through discussing the songs, it’s clear this is a deeply personal project that took some time. “The album was written over a period on and off of about three years, starting around spring of 2013,” Lopez explains. “The songs ended up coming together organically, but as somewhat of a timeline, or chain of events that felt cohesive to one another. They came slowly and I let them, not wanting to put pressure on the process, and to genuinely respect the space in between so I could keep it fun and natural.”

Her intuition was spot-on; the flow of the songs is seamless. And pretty much by herself in her home studio, Lopez created a gorgeous, heart-rendering album that features her playing almost every instrument: vocals, backup harmonies, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, mandolin, and cello. The sole exception is Christabelle Merrill’s violin on one track.

The songs on the album are beautiful, poignant, interesting, and they collectively provide an examination on how life moves and morphs us. So, what is “our animal skin” and why is it important to shed it?

“The album name came from (aside from the actual lyric) the feeling that I keep having about time, and where we have been, and who we become along the way. The layers we shed both internally and externally change us whether we want them to or not. We go through this process on our own, or maybe in different relationships throughout our lives. Can we adapt to our new layers? Can we fully support the ones we love through the tides even though they may be uncertain? Sometimes we don’t even know why it’s important to shed some of our layers, or for others to do the same, and we just have to trust the process and know that whatever comes is an opportunity for so many things. We are leading ourselves along, but in so many ways, we are also just tiny particles in a really big current.”

Enjoy Leila’s songs – with bandmates Brian Green (bass), Christabelle Merrill (violin) and Julius Schlosburg (drums) – live on Friday, Sept. 22 at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St., starting at 8 p.m. Dutch Holly opens. Free! Details at Facebook.com/leilalopezsongs.

Leila Lopez

Leila Lopez

Sonic Storytelling http://www.zocalomagazine.com/sonic-storytelling/ Sat, 02 Sep 2017 20:32:02 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10944 Photo by Shelly Black

Photo by Shelly Black

Under an August noon, Chris Black handed me his recently pressed CDs, Lullabies & Nightmares: Chamber Music Vol. 1 and Downtown Suite & Cooper Must Die. I told him, “I only know how to write about this based on the vibes I get from the music. I’m not a classically trained musician.” He smiled and said, “That’s okay, neither am I.”

Be that as it may, Black’s recent releases are songs he wrote for ChamberLab – an alt-classical concert series he created over seven years ago to bring “new music to different audiences in strange rooms and from unlikely sources.”

It’s easy to confuse ChamberLab and these Chris Black releases. “ChamberLab, the concert series,” he explains, “is its own thing, and this release is a collection of music which I hope will have a life beyond that. So, it’s not a ChamberLab show – it’s all about good old Chris Black, who wrote a bunch of chamber music, and here it is.”

The “bunch of chamber music” Black refers to is a collection of fascinating tunes, comprised of a captivating conglomeration of notes that weave together mesmerizing tales. It’s sonic storytelling. Through music, Black creates interesting scenes and evokes a wide-range of emotions. To sit with these albums, and close out the world, is endlessly interesting with its compositions performed on instruments that most people aren’t exposed to on a regular basis. When was the last time you could say you really dug how the double bass and bassoon reminded you of a stern buffalo who was trying to impart ancient wisdom that shouldn’t be ignored?

Lullabies & Nightmares is a 15-song soundtrack to the script in your brain. Some tunes  are filled with suspense and tension, conveying treachery and darkness; other are upbeat, playful and heartening. Different songs bring forth unique and distinct characters and situations, some are pragmatic and logical, others are insistent, haughty and inquisitive, while a couple of pieces have sections that are tenderly romantic and convey loving sweetness. One of the tracks, which imparted a sense of sneaking along in the dark, brought to mind the book “Where the Wild Things Are.” It’s cerebral entertainment.

The Downtown Suite, as noted on the album sleeve, is “a set of double reed duets inspired by the ever-changing landscape of downtown Tucson,” while Cooper Must Die is a “dense, claustrophobic story for string trio and narrator.”

For the upcoming CD release, “Lullabies and Nightmares will be performed nearly in its entirety,” said Black, “and excerpts from Downtown Suite and Cooper Must Die will be performed as well.

“I’m delighted to say that Gabriel Sullivan (who recorded the albums) will be available that night to perform the narration from Cooper Must Die. This is wonderful news, as he’s awesome, and I can’t play the bass and talk at the same time. Sing, yes, but talk, no. I certainly can’t mutter.”

The CD release is Friday, Sept. 8 at 191 Toole, 191 E. Toole Ave. The $10 concert features the original recording ensembles with members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and the Grammy Award-winning True Concord Voices and Orchestra. The musicians are: Mindi Acosta, flute; Cassandra Bendickson, bassoon; Chris Black, double bass; Samantha Bounkeua, violin; Jessica Campbell, bassoon and contrabassoon; Cat Cantrell, oboe and English horn; Anne Gratz, cello; Daniel Hursey, bassoon.

Learn more about all of this at ChrisBlackMusic.com.

Q&A with Chris Black

What drew you to chamber music as a creative outlet? What keeps you interested?

Chris Black Photo by Shelly Black

Chris Black
Photo by Shelly Black

Chamber music, as distinct from playing in bands, appeals to me because of the variety of acoustic sounds, from strings to brass to reeds and double reeds, right down to the monstrous contrabassoon. There’s a lot you can do with this that you can’t find in your guitar/bass/drums power trio, no matter how many effects pedals you pile up. Another thing is the incredible skill and musicianship of classical musicians, who can take a piece of music and bring a deep, living performance out of it, often at first sight. They display strengths in areas you don’t find in the non-classical world, just as non-classical performers have strengths in areas that are practically unknown on the other side of the fence. I love to find the places where these strengths overlap, or where they may thrive out of context. This classical/non-classical situation could actually be the subject of a long article in itself, and an interesting one, and one I don’t think I’ve seen in print before. I could go on and on. It’s just a lot of fun.

When did you compose the songs on these albums? How long was the process from writing to recording to the CD release?

These songs have been composed here and there over the last five years. At some point I realized I had accumulated a nice collection of music, and that I had better get it all into the studio before it is lost. The actual sessions in the studio totaled only about ten hours, which is really unbelievably fast for the amount of music involved. These performers are incredibly talented.

I noticed the nightmares are longer than the lullabies.

Yes, that’s true. Nightmares are more my strong suite, historically. The three lullabies surprised most people who know me when I wrote them. They were unaware that I could write pretty music! Also, there is a certain amount of improvisation in the nightmares, which opens up the form a bit. Most of the lullabies and nightmares began their lives as solo bass pieces, which I expanded for the ensemble at hand.

I like how the songs have different stories and vibes. It runs from film noir and suspense to romantic and horror. Are these genres you enjoy in film?

This probably comes from reading more than film, but I do love noir in all its media. I’m on a Raymond Chandler binge right now, for example, and not for the first time. One of my first chamber pieces was a suite of music inspired by characters in James Ellroy novels. In general, and I’m not sure why, I have always written music that seems to set some sort of scene, and those scenes have most often been darker, dirtier, and maybe a little bent.

Cooper Must Die has this Kafka, David Lynch vibe. What inspired that piece?

As grim as it seems, this piece was a straightforward effort to portray what it felt like to be me. I wanted to write a soundtrack for my inner life, and I wanted others to be able to hear it and understand. I think I succeeded. It was a bad breakup that lingered for a long time. I’m happy to say that I’m better, and my inner life is much, much brighter these days. Cooper’s okay. Everyone’s okay.

What inspired these songs? 

Bassoon Trios

The first three musicians who joined us after the first ChamberLab concert were all bassoonists, and a friend of mine suggested that bassoon trios would be very popular, so I wrote them, and they were!

Lullabies & Nightmares

My wife and I were listening to the radio, and they just played a lullaby by maybe Brahms or someone, and I said, “No one writes lullabies anymore, ” and my wife said, “You should!” So I did, and I added the nightmares because that’s how I roll.

Back to Bed and You Are Alone

These are both pieces from an in-progress Choose-You-Own-Adventure suite called Everything Happens for a Reason, where the listener makes decisions that lead to the next song. We had a dwtntrial run of it a few years back, which you can see here.

Downtown Suite

This was a piece commissioned by the Kontra-Cor Duo in 2012. It’s a set of scenes from Tucson’s downtown, along Congress St. between Wig-O-Rama and the Hotel Congress, from sunrise to sunset. The real-life inspiration for the music is given in each title. The online album cover is a photo I took of the curb outside the Red Room/Grill after the fire.


This is my favorite thing I’ve ever written.

Not Your Mama’s Mother’s Day Benefit http://www.zocalomagazine.com/not-your-mamas-mothers-day-benefit/ Thu, 04 May 2017 05:55:47 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10878 Event poster_webThe vivacious Jillian Bessett – leader and singer/songwriter, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist of Tucson’s beloved Jillian & The Giants – is spearheading a concert fundraiser for Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse on May 13. You should go.

Here are 10 reasons why.

The incredible event line-up:

Five reasons for social justice:

  • One in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
  • A portion of the proceeds benefit Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse.
  • Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse provides domestic abuse crisis intervention and housing, prevention, education, support, and advocacy services to anyone experiencing domestic abuse.2
  • In Arizona, first- and second-time domestic violence offenders are not charged with domestic violence; only the third incident is charged as domestic violence. First and second offenders are charged with offenses that then have ‘domestic violence flags’ attached.3
  • There were 109 domestic violence-related deaths in Arizona in 2014; in 2012, Arizona ranked eighth in the nation in femicides per capita.3

Zocalo conducted a quick Q&A with Jillian over email to find out more about the event.

What was the impetus to create this event fundraiser for Emerge?

The greater impetus for this benefit is seeing women and female-identifying people lose a lot of
support in our current political climate and wanting to contribute some good in some small way.

During times when public funding is cut that supports our most vulnerable, nonprofit organizations like Emerge need to be prepared to help fill in the gaps. I love the idea of celebrating Mother’s Day weekend by having an opportunity to be more nurturing, giving, and generous to our community.

How/why were these bands chosen? 

The bands on this bill aren’t just incredible musicians but they’re also incredible people, which is why they were pulled together for this event. Velvet Hammer, the drummer and founder of The Surfbroads quietly volunteers every week for The Lot on 22nd.

The Surfbroads Photo by Julius Schlosburg

The Surfbroads
Photo by Julius Schlosburg

Rey Murphy, the frontman for Street Blues, practices guerrilla style support for people on the street with blanket drives and cookouts at the park. Amy Mendoza is a licensed therapist. Gigi Owen is a social scientist and activist who we’re all not so secretly hoping runs for office. These aren’t just musicians but active, involved members of our community who go the extra mile in support of the big picture.

Street Blues Family Photo by Julius Schlosburg

Street Blues Family
Photo by Julius Schlosburg

The other beautiful thing about this group of bands is how interconnected they are. A shortlist of all the other projects connected to these musicians: Loveland, Velvet Panthr, Sugar Stains, Katie Haverly and the Aviary, Amy Mendoza and the Strange Vacation, Copper and Congress, Three Kings, Shrimp Chaperone, Trees Speak, Leila Lopez Band, West Texas Intermediate, The Cloud Walls, Orkesta Mendoza, Keli and the Big Dream, etc.

Long story short, a lot of the Tucson music scene is represented with these players and we’re expecting a lot of surprise guests throughout the night.

Mark Bloom and his dog Alfie with some of the permanent Tales from the Trash collection.  Photo by Velvet Hammer

Mark Bloom and his dog Alfie with some of the permanent Tales from the Trash collection.
Photo by Velvet Hammer

How did Tales from the Trash get involved and what does “delightfully trashy” entail?

Tales from the Trash is an art show curated by Steve Purdy and my friend Mark Bloom. The premise is found discarded art that’s given a new lease on life in a cheeky art show format. The art is typically bad, odd, and peculiar in some form or another. But these unloved paintings and drawings get a frame and some space in the world to be looked at and appreciated – which is a pretty wonderful thing. If that’s not a metaphor I don’t know what is.

Not Your Mama’s Concert and Art Show Benefit for Emerge! is Saturday, May 13 at Flycatcher, 340 E. 6th St. The event kicks off at 8 p.m. and there is a $7 suggested donation. More information is at Facebook.com/jandthegiants.


  1. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2015). Retrieved from www.ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics
  2. Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. (2017). Retrieved from www.emergecenter.org
  3. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2015). Domestic violence Arizona statistics. Retrieved from www.ncadv.org/files/Arizona.pdf
“Bycatch” – An Artistic Homage to the Throwaways http://www.zocalomagazine.com/bycatch-an-artistic-homage-to-the-throwaways/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:16:57 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10808 Bycatch-Shame-faced-Crab-Drawing_web

Shame-faced Crab illustration by Maria Johnson.

The sound of waves lapping on the side of a fishing boat sonically greets you when entering the Hanson Gallery at The University of Arizona Museum of Art. It emanates from a small computer speaker in the corner, subtly broadcasting the audio associated with the 14-foot-wide, 10-foot-tall video projection on the room’s east wall.

As you turn to watch the video projection, your eyes pause to take in the bar table in the middle of the room. Maybe you salivate a bit when you see the faux shrimp cocktail presentation adorning the table, complete with white wine glasses, red napkins and poetic menus. Maybe you imagine yourself sitting on one of those black bar stools and squeezing lemon on the tasty crustacean before dipping it into cocktail sauce and popping it into your mouth, slowly savoring the meaty delicacy. But your eyes are pulled to the east wall, to watch the projection of what takes place in order to bring this delightfully delicious arthropod to our collective plates and our – seemingly insatiable – palates.

The 11-minute video is a montage of excerpts filmed on a Gulf of California shrimp trawler, a vessel that drags several nets along the sea floor to capture brown shrimp during the night when the shrimp are bedded down in the aquatic bottom, scientifically known as the benthic zone. The projection brings powerful moving imagery to the gallery’s multimedia “Bycatch” exhibit that features gorgeously detailed ink on Bristol paper illustrations by Maria Johnson, a marine conservationist and Prescott College adjunct professor. Accompanying her work is poignant poetry by Eric Magrane, who is both a PhD candidate in UA’s School of Geography and Development and a research associate with UA’s Institute of the Environment.

Trawler illustraion by Maria Johnson.

Trawler illustraion by Maria Johnson.

Johnson’s visual art and Magrane’s poetry pay homage to the sea creatures considered basura (trash) by the fisheries. Organisms such as crabs, turtles, eels, sting rays, sea horses and numerous fish species are the incidental casualties – comprising over 80% of what is caught in the nets – shoveled overboard to waiting sea lions and pelicans once the shrimp are sorted out from the writhing mass of beings dropped from the nets onto the boat decks.

The complement of illustrations, poetry and video draw you into a world of sea life, and sea death. It showcases the hidden actors, the bycatch, in this larger international economic drama. A drama that Johnson and Magrane were invited to document and catalogue as scientific observers on a Mexican fishing vessel through Prescott College’s Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies program.

In conversation with Johnson and Magrane, the two talk about the countless intricacies associated with the Gulf of California’s shrimp trawling industry. “As a geographer, I think about the multiple ways of trying to make some sense of what’s happening on the boat, because there is that process of being knee-deep in the fish, but then there’s global economic processes that are embodied in this interaction that is happening,” Magrane conveys. “It’s a way for humans to make a living. Although, most, if not all, of the people that work on the boats do not own the boats. There’s an effect that this has on the local and smaller scale fisher people of the region and the indigenous communities of the region, so it gets very complicated very quickly.”

As American consumers removed from the region’s fiscal realities, it may be easy enough to decide to stop consuming shrimp, to not be a part of this extractive industry and wonder how people can choose to earn their living by participating in disruptive ecological devastation. But the fact is, people are going to – understandably – do what they need to do to feed their families.

“The communities around the Gulf of California are so heavily focused on fishing, whether it’s large scale like trawling or tuna fishing or whether it is small scale,” Johnson explains. “It’s hard to find other (employment) options and fishing is a tradition. Many of the people working on the boats… it’s what their fathers did and it’s the life they have gone into for whatever reason.”

The other reality is the “very significant cultural differences, where different groups of people interact with different animals in different ways. You have some cultures where fish are food and that’s the only food that’s there. And some groups of people keep fish in aquariums. Or, we relate to cows in different ways, we relate to all these different species in different ways on this cultural and individual level,” Johnson elucidates.

Johnson and Magrane speak with compassion when discussing the industry’s players. They have reverence for the people who cast the nets, they feel for the creatures needlessly dying. I wonder how it is to be on the deck, cataloguing the organisms as they suffocate to death.

“You have to leave a part of your compassion in this other place and come back to it later, or at least that’s how I sometimes interact with it because if I’m just purely myself as a feeling and sensitive person on that boat, I just want to throw everything off board and save every little creature and cry, because it is so intense,” Johnson shares. “But you’re there and you have a job to do and you’re with people who do this for a living, and you want to respect that and collect data and have conversations, so I feel myself kind of leaving a part of that onshore and coming back to it.”

Shovelnose Guitarfish illustration by Maria Johnson. Courtesy of Maria Johnson

Shovelnose Guitarfish illustration by Maria Johnson.
Courtesy of Maria Johnson

“I think of the role of art and poetry and social science and social theory, in some sense, as being a way to pay witness to what is happening,” Magrane adds. “What going at this project through poetry and art does for me is to try to make some sort of sense, some sort of marking of this relationship that is being played out on the boat.”

Poem by Eric Magrane. Courtesy of Maria Johnson

Poem by Eric Magrane.
Courtesy of Maria Johnson

“I know that a lot of what Eric and I have tried to do with this project, as Eric was saying about paying witness to these, not only the species (collectively) but these individuals both through poetry and through illustration, it’s been a really beautiful process. Going back to what I was saying earlier about leaving that compassion at home, this project has been a way for me to come back to that and really physically sit down and spend time with an actual individual (creature) that maybe we encountered in 2015, or that I encountered in 2013, that I actually remember, or that we actually weighed and measured and maybe we have a photo of it or maybe it’s something in our minds, or we remember that feeling of that fish’s slime on our hands or the way that it moved,” Johnson says, regarding their artistic processes. “Then to translate that into illustration and into poetry and honor and respect those individuals and those species, that’s been this very meaningful part of this project to me, that’s given me an opportunity to slow down and look at them as individuals and kind of make room to give that life space again, just in a different way.”

A unique aspect of the exhibit is the 3.5 by 2.5-inch trading cards on display, which are available for $10 in the museum’s store. They include Johnson’s drawings and excerpts of Magrane’s poetry of rolling couplets. (The poetic form, explains Magrane, was inspired by “the experience of being on the boat, the lull, the boat rolling on the water, the movement in that space.”) The idea behind the trading cards was based on Catholic remembrance cards, baseball cards and lotería cards.

“It’s both riffing off of baseball cards or trading cards and the back (of these cards) riffs off it too with the facts about the species along with excerpts from the poems. But the idea of using this form, a collector’s edition for something that is basura, plays against that,” Magrane shares. “Because bycatch, almost by definition, is not valued, it’s the leftover, it’s the waste. So, using the form of the collector’s edition trading cards kind of critiques that in a sense, puts a different play on that, there’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance with that there.”

“Bycatch” grew out of Johnson and Magrane’s involvement with the 6&6 Artists|Scientists project, which is an offshoot of the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen) interdisciplinary network “of individuals and institutions committed to the rich social and ecological landscape that spans the mainland Sonoran Desert, the Baja California Peninsula, the Gulf of California, and the US-Mexico borderlands,” according to the NextGenSD.com website. Find details on the “Bycatch” project at NextGensd6and6.com.

The exhibit is on display through April 2 at the UA Museum of Art, 1031 N. Olive Rd. Call 520-621-7567 or visit ArtMuseum.arizona.edu for hours and admission prices. Pick up the March/April issue of Edible Baja Arizona to see several “Bycatch” illustrations and poems.

Life of Art/Art of Life http://www.zocalomagazine.com/life-of-artart-of-life/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:09:00 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10836 Matos CA cover_webMark Matos
Lonesome Desert Records, 2017

Gorgeously soul-weary and deeply personal, this 9-track album features acoustic guitar and vocal-driven narratives of remembrance, connection and loss. The introspection is carried with gentle tension; there’s pain, delivered with acceptance.

Matos offers mythological motifs1 from ancient stories that are still universally applicable in modernity. He writes about addiction2 and death3. There’s a yearning beautifully balanced vocally with Buddhist temperament4. Matos’ lyrics bring magical realism5, and musings on rebellion6 that culminate in self-realization7 and wry reflections8.

Written between 2011 and 2015, and recorded at the end of 2015, Matos verifies the songs “are almost uncomfortably autobiographical. Maybe why I recorded them the way I did: lo-fi, by myself, sparse.

“I was alone with an 8-track recorder and a couple of guitars and would wake up and make coffee and start recording; 12 or 14 hours later I would fall asleep and then wake up and do it again. I didn’t see or talk to anyone during the recording, I was in a kind of fugue, in a parallel universe of my own design. Sitting in the kitchen of my youth, floating through my memories, a 40-year-old art lifer staring at the odd fitting pieces of his personal puzzle and slowly, methodically, trying to put the puzzle together, to see the picture.”

To craft these recordings solo, to do his own backing vocals and layer the sounds into a delicate aural tapestry is stirring. His mental/spiritual disposition and recording process created an emotionally affecting album that sonically lulls the listener into a contemplative, day-dream state. It echoes in our souls’ imaginations and individual experiences. We know who these people are. They are us, and our friends, as we collectively navigate life’s confusing intricacies.

Matos performs a free show on Sunday, March 5, 4 p.m., at Che’s Lounge, 350 N. 4th Ave. Visit NewWeirdWest.com for information on Matos and his current projects. Preview and purchase the album at NewWeirdWest.bandcamp.com/album/california

  1. There’s an oak tree up ahead/And it’s burning in the night/Adding fire to the darkness/And spirit to the fight – “Visions of You”
  2. Fire to glass, but it never lasts/That’s the bitch of it, just one more hit – “Fire to Glass”
  3. Behind you the gates are locking/Native son – “Season of Impermanence”
  4. You are the water, you are the fountain/You are the climber, you are the mountain/And we can ride/Side by side/Looking for a home where the light always shines – “California”
  5. You keep stones in your pocket/To protect you from this noise – “Little Wind”
  6. But he won’t be long for that farm/He’s a country boy with a hunter’s song – “Show Me a Gun”
  7. I’d like to get back to planting in the moonlight/Working on the house/Walk away from this Greenwich Time – “Had It All and Lost It”
  8. But the locks on the doors of your mind leave you nowhere to run – “Collateral Mind”
Mark Matos Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway

Mark Matos
Photo by Basil Glew-Galloway

Following is an edited Q&A with Matos, conducted over email.

Are the individual songs composites of experiences or do they reflect particular moments in time? Thinking about “Season of Impermanence” and “Fire to Glass.”

The answer is yes to both parts of the question. The songs are both composites and reflective of particular moments. “Season of Impermanence” deals with a particularly tough 2015: my longtime soundman (Kyle Lesley, who recorded Trans Van Santos’ “Moon Mirage”) passed away after a 2-year, fist-fight with cancer. My roommate ended up in San Quinton on a 2-year bid and another bandmate fell off the wagon and got caught between the Hell’s Angels and the SFPD and got 5 years out of it.

“Fire to Glass” was written on the same day as “Season…”  I returned to SF to play the Dia De Los Muertos memorial show for Kyle after he passed away and found my community in spiritual disarray. A couple members of the road crew and band were holed up, I was told, in a motel in the Tenderloin smoking crack. “Fire to Glass” is kind of my “Needle and the Damage Done” (Neil Young), my cautionary tale, my “try not to smoke crack because it sucks” song.

“Show Me a Gun” and “Had It All & Lost It” feel like different moments in time with the same character, are the songs related in that way? 

“Show Me A Gun” is the protagonist at the beginning of the journey, leaving home, venturing archaically into the future. Rejecting the hand he was dealt and becoming human. “Had it All & Lost It” is the protagonist at the “end” of the journey, looking back at the sacrifices made for a life of art and evaluating the consequences. The artist is considering a future where he sacrifices his “life of art” for a pastoral, solitary “Art of Life” approach.

Who brings the backing vocals? Other collaborators? 

All of the vocals and instruments were recorded by me. The album probably feels so personal, in part, because of this. I had never written and performed my own vocal harmonies before this album. I think the solitude of the recording process and the personal nature of the material opened a window for me where I felt liberated to experiment with singing my own parts. I think this ends up being a big part of the “feel” of the record. I had a lot of moments of spiritual liberation reaching for and hitting those harmonies. A real sense of discovery for me personally. 25 years into this music thing and I feel blessed to still be pushing at the edges of my capabilities, to still be capable of wonder and growth.

Tour? Other news? 

I gave up my room in the bay area last year and have been living a regional nomadic life for much of the past year. I had to “recalculate my course” and sacrifice stability for a while so that could keep writing, recording, connecting the dots, reaching for the magic. My tour never ends but it is the world’s Slowest Tour, I am feeling the turtle magic. I would like to go on tour sometime as a solo support act for someone I know and admire, someone like Sonny Smith or Howe (Gelb), something like that would appeal for the opportunity to keep learning from and stealing from those guys.

I am out in Joshua Tree in April to finish the new Trans Van Santos album with my running mate Matt Adams (The Blank Tapes, Burger Records). We are mixing with Nathan Sabatino at the new Loveland Studio location Joshua Tree (Saba moved the longtime Tucson studio to Joshua Tree last year.)  Then to LA after the Dead Meadow tour to finish the Old Mexico album (Old Mexico is a new project co-led by Jason Simon of Dead Meadow and myself, with members of both of our bands). In spring, I start a 6 month stint as Resident Artist in Grass Valley, CA. I am going to use the time and space for a large scale project called the “Anthology of the New, Weird West,” a post-modern, pre-flood, update of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music wherein I am cast as a Gonzo John Fahey/Harry Smith and my friends are cast as the folk singers for the future myth.

Borderlands Theater Relocates, Launches a $20K Fund Drive http://www.zocalomagazine.com/borderlands-theater-relocates-launches-a-20k-fund-drive/ Thu, 02 Mar 2017 12:00:21 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10822 Borderlands Theater Marketing and Outreach Director Milta Ortiz (left) with Producing Director Marc Pinate (right) in front of the theater’s new office/community space, the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House museum, at 151 S. Granada Ave. Photo by Gaby Hurtado

Borderlands Theater Marketing and Outreach Director Milta Ortiz (left) with Producing Director Marc Pinate (right) in front of the theater’s new office/community space, the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House museum, at 151 S. Granada Ave.
Photo by Gaby Hurtado

For over three decades, Borderlands Theater has survived on a shoestring budget with vitality and resilience. This pertinent production company, comprised of a four-person staff, is committed to creative innovation by presenting plays from both emerging and established playwrights. It keeps pushing the boundaries of theater by showcasing cutting-edge work in venues that range from the Temple of Music and Art’s intimate 80-seat Cabaret Theatre, to outdoor, site-specific productions that easily draw a thousand people over a weekend.

Bolstered by a team of collaborators and community partners, Borderlands illuminates often over-looked Tucson populations and brings to life diverse histories frequently swept under the rug of collective municipal memory. And because it is a local nonprofit that believes theater is for all, Borderlands regularly offers donation-based and free events.

As political action on the national scale threatens to eliminate arts funding, it is exceedingly imperative for local communities to band together and support the organizations that strive and succeed in embracing, projecting and amplifying the diverse voices comprising this unique landscape. Borderlands, as it states on the GoFundMe.com/keep-borderlands-theater-open website, relies “too heavily on national grants with no major donors to help if a grant falls through. That’s exactly what happened last November when we weren’t awarded a major National Endowment for the Arts grant (though, we won two other NEA grants this year, so not too shabby).” Accordingly, Borderlands is seeking donations to both bridge its current $20,000 deficit and plan for the future. The deadline for the company to raise the $20K is March 27, as stated on the GoFundMe.com page.

Even amid these fiscally challenging times, there is good news and recent developments! A press release from Borderlands, sent in mid-February, stated that the company had just relocated to Arizona Historical Society’s downtown Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House museum – “the last remaining dwelling of Tucson’s original Mexican-American enclave sometimes referred to as Barrio Libre or El Hoyo.” Built in the mid-1850s by Jose Maria Sosa, the house was subsequently owned by Territorial Governor of Arizona John C. Fremont and entrepreneur Leopoldo Carrillo.

The move is fitting, in light of Borderlands’ presentation of “Barrio Stories” in March 2016, which featured theatrical vignettes of the late 1960’s Barrio Libre/El Hoyo diaspora caused by the planning and construction of the Tucson Convention Center that demolished the 80-acre neighborhood.

The press release says “the win-win partnership provides Borderlands with expanded and much needed rehearsal, storage and office space while allowing the Sosa-Carrillo-Fremont House to remain open as a museum. Several rooms in the house will remain as exhibition spaces maintained and curated by the Arizona Historical Society. The museum is open to the public during Borderlands’ office hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.”

On March 23, Borderlands kicks off a music series at its new space, 151 S. Granada Ave., with a live band and poets. To learn more, visit BorderlandsTheater.org or call 520-882-8607. Donate at GoFundMe.com/keep-borderlands-theater-open.

KXCI Celebrates International Clash Day http://www.zocalomagazine.com/international-clash-day/ Tue, 31 Jan 2017 18:33:18 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10775 “This is a public service announcement, with guitar!”
Know Your Rights, The Clash, 1982

Joe Strummer of The Clash, London Calling Tower Theater Show on March 6, 1980. Photo: John Coffey via Flickr.com

Joe Strummer of The Clash, London Calling Tower Theater Show on March 6, 1980.
Photo: John Coffey via Flickr.com

It’s been four years since Seattle’s KEXP 90.3 FM DJ John Richards declared Feb. 7 as International Clash Day, and a year since Seattle’s mayor created an official proclamation to honor The Clash on that day. Subsequently, six other cities have jumped on this punk rock proclamation bandwagon, including: Austin, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Vancouver B.C., Bridgwater U.K. and Tucson.

The date doesn’t hold special meaning in the British band’s history; Feb. 7 was just a happy happenstance of Richards spinning the band’s tunes one morning in 2013 and a listener asking him to keep The Clash’s tracks coming. However, it is the timing of the other communities getting onboard that feels significant considering the country’s current political state and the still exceedingly apropos, sneeringly poignant political songs The Clash wrote between 1976-1986.

“I think right now the spirit of The Clash and the spirit of Joe Strummer’s views ring true to a lot of cities not happy with the direction the last election went,” Richards wrote via email. “I also think some of the leaders in these cities are of an age that they clearly remember their own love of The Clash… or at the very least the respect they have for their work.”

Locally, KXCI 91.3 FM Director of Content and Home Stretch DJ Hannah Levin spearheaded the charge to create International Clash Day in Tucson. Levin, who was a KEXP DJ for eight years and moved here in fall 2014, said her KEXP colleagues approached her about getting KXCI involved this year.

Cover of “Combat Rock,” released May 1982.

“Combat Rock,” released in 1982.

“It was a no-brainer. The Clash is one of KXCI’s ‘core artists’ – music that we already play quite regularly – and the spirit of the day is very much in line with the inclusive, creative culture of Tucson,” Levin explained. “Having had the mayor on my show, I knew he (Jonathan Rothschild) was a big music fan and would likely connect with the themes embodied in International Clash Day – peace, unity, anti-imperialism, anti-racism, poverty awareness and freedom of expression.

“Now more than ever, we need to be embracing a sense of a community that welcomes people from all walks of life and celebrates the type of fearless art that brings us together, rather than divides us,” Levin elucidated. “Music has a visceral power to do that which few other art forms have, so my hope is that in addition to enjoying an avalanche of invigorating Clash-related programming, we inspire listeners to become more deeply engaged with our community around issues of social justice and freedom of expression.”

For fans of The Clash, this will be a most welcome day, and it will be an awesome education for those who are not aware of the band’s amazing body of work. KXCI is celebrating on-air from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with special programming that was still being finalized as of Zocalo’s press time, but Levin shared that “listeners can expect to hear Clash classics, deep cuts, rarities, and archived interviews with The Clash. We are also working on interviews with members of Tucson’s music community who were/are influenced by The Clash and/or were in attendance at The Clash’s show at the Tucson Convention Center in 1983, which was the band’s penultimate show with Mick Jones (Howe Gelb snuck into this show!).”

Che’s Lounge, 350 N. 4th Ave., is the headquarters for Tucson’s International Clash Day with DJs spinning Clash tunes that night, along with showcasing a special Clash-themed visual art show – curated by bartender/local artist Donovan White – as well as hosting a record sale of The Clash’s catalogue by Wooden Tooth Records.

Why does it matter? Well, as John Richards shared, “I think one of the main things is, they knew how to write GREAT songs. They also were lightening in a bottle like all great bands, the perfect sound and the perfect players at the perfect time. That kind of magic doesn’t just disappear.”

“There is something singular about their creative focus that is timeless – comforting and galvanizing simultaneously,” Levin added. “Whenever I hear the opening chords of ‘Know Your Rights,’ I always feel ready to be both angry and productive, which is the flavor of punk rock that has always appealed to me the most.”

Get all the event details at KXCI.org. Reconnect with the band at TheClash.com.

The Clash in concert, 21 May 1980. From left to right: Joe Strummer (rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar), Paul Simonon (bass guitar). Not pictured: Topper Headon (drums). Courtesy Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway via Commons.wikimedia.org

The Clash in concert, 21 May 1980. From left to right: Joe Strummer (rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar), Paul Simonon (bass guitar). Not pictured: Topper Headon (drums).
Courtesy Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway via Commons.wikimedia.org


City of Tucson Mayoral Proclamation

WHEREAS, legendary U.K. band The Clash formed in 1976, establishing their unique sound combining punk with reggae, dub, funk, ska, and socially-conscious lyrics; and

WHEREAS, the band played the Tucson Convention Center in 1983, inspiring many Tucson musicians, including a young Howe Gelb, who formed Giant Sand that same year; and

WHEREAS, throughout their career, The Clash used the power of music to share messages of peace, unity, anti-imperialism, anti-racism, poverty awareness, and freedom of expression; and

COT sealWHEREAS, the City of Tucson encourages all citizens to take inspiration from these messages as we work together to create an inclusive, welcoming city; and

WHEREAS, the City of Tucson and the Mayor’s Office affirm that this city is a Hate Free Zone, committed to values of inclusivity, tolerance, diversity and hope; and

WHEREAS, Tucson takes great pride in its growing music community and the cultural contributions of its many musicians across a wide range of genres; and

WHEREAS, the civically-and globally-minded City of Tucson wishes to join with other like-minded cities across the globe in celebrating International Clash Day; and

WHEREAS, the City of Tucson adheres to the belief in the immortal words of Joe Strummer, “People can change anything they want to, and that means everything in the world;”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jonathan Rothschild, Mayor of the City of Tucson, Arizona due hereby proclaim February 7, 2017 to be


in this community, and encourage all of our citizens to Rock the Casbah.

¡Viva Casa Libre! http://www.zocalomagazine.com/viva-casa-libre/ Fri, 06 Jan 2017 06:24:14 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10729 Selah Saterstrom reading at a recent Fair Weather Reading Series event. Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Selah Saterstrom reading at a recent Fair Weather Reading Series event.
Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

“This is a place that has always catered to people’s passions,” explains Kristen Nelson, cofounder and current, but soon-to-be previous, executive director of literary arts nonprofit Casa Libre en la Solana.

“It’s a place where people with a passion, idea or concept could say, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ and Casa Libre would say, ‘Yes, how can we help you?’”

Nelson makes it clear that the writing center she’s helmed for over 13 years is not closing its doors; it is going forward full steam ahead and actively searching for a new leader to carry the organization’s mission, spirit and “have the agency to create what they want with this place and incorporate what they are passionate about, what they care about.”

It’s a chilly Friday night in December, but Nelson and I stay warm under a propane heater. We’re sitting, bundled up, in the breezeway of her 1898 commercial adobe property on Fourth Avenue that shares the same name as the literary organization. Wine and snacks are being enjoyed in relaxed camaraderie because – full disclosure – Nelson and I have been professional colleagues and friends for many years. She reflects on Casa Libre’s history (inextricable from her own), what informed its creation, evolution and what the nonprofit is looking for in its new executive director when Nelson steps down on June 30, 2017.

Incorporated in July 2003, Casa Libre has operated as a connection point for the Tucson writing community for close to 14 years, offering an event space for readings, salons, book releases, workshops, fundraisers – and certainly some hell raisers – to serve groups traditionally not supported by mainstream writing outlets.

“We have tailored our vision and our mission specifically to writers of color, female writers, LGBTQIA writers, and emerging

An example of a kite made as part of "Made for Flight," a youth project started by T.C. Tolbert at Casa Libre to commemorate the lives of murdered transgender people with kite building and poetry writing. Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

An example of a kite made as part of “Made for Flight,” a youth project started by T.C. Tolbert at Casa Libre to commemorate the lives of murdered transgender people with kite building and poetry writing.
Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

writers and other underserved groups,” the 38-year-old elucidates. “In the last two years, the board of directors and I recognized how important it was to have that as a stated mission and say, ‘This is why we’re here, this is your place.’ And everyone is welcome to come and be a part of that and enjoy those voices, but we want to serve these voices.”

As a queer female, Nelson is one of those voices. She shares her experiences as a youth in a multiracial neighborhood in Mount Vernon, New York and how that taught her to embrace and celebrate different perspectives. Her racially diverse community, where Nelson was in the white minority, was comprised of socially conscious families engaged in activism and connected to the larger world.

“When I was growing up, my mom got involved in this program called CISV, Children’s International Summer Villages, and we had international students live in our home for months at a time. I learned about different cultures all over the world – Costa Rica, Guatemala, Portugal, France, Spain, Taiwan, Egypt, Greece. I grew up with this sense that the United States is not centric; we are part of a world community.

“And then I just started paying attention. I recognized that I was queer somewhere around 16-years-old. I grew up in a family that was incredibly loving and supportive of who I am, they always have been – regardless of sexual identity, regardless of career path – and really believed in the concept that you can do anything you want to do.”

As Nelson navigated college and met other queer individuals and people of different races, she recognized the privilege she had even as she was personally experiencing discrimination.

“I saw my own challenges in terms of publishing, in terms of sharing my work, getting my voice heard. From my own personal experience and paying attention to other voices that were trans voices, paying attention to people of color’s voices, international voices and how much harder so many underserved groups in the world have it. I recognized that I would never be imprisoned for writing a poem and what a privilege that was. Growing up in an activist, socially conscious, super, super liberal family helped. And that taught me to pay attention, and from there, that grew.”

While at the University of Tampa – as a junior with only three semesters left on her scholarship – Nelson knew she had to change her major from marine biology to English. “I feel like college taught me to pursue my passions, it was really then that I started to identify as a writer,” Nelson shares. She jumped right into the field with a summer internship at The Village Voice in 1999, worked as a journalist post-graduation at The Rivertowns Enterprise and then 9/11 happened.

Nelson describes New York City as being in chaos and how her sources were calling to describe the violence happening against Muslims and people who were presumed to be Muslim, articles she knew were important to write. But her publisher refused to print those stories, saying the charged topics were too political.

“I thought, ‘This isn’t why I am a journalist. I’m a journalist to tell the truth, I’m a journalist to report.’ I took that really seriously. When I left New York, I was jaded after that experience and decided I wanted to work in a different field. I wound up, because of my science background, getting a job (eight months after arriving in Tucson) at what is now UA’s Institute of the Environment.”

It was the idea of starting Casa Libre with her then-partner that brought the two of them to Tucson in April 2003. The couple had envisioned an organization that would serve as both a community center and a space to host writers’ residencies – which is exactly what they did.

She explains that they were “looking for a fresh start in a place that had a vibrant queer community, a vibrant arts community, and a sense of opportunity about it. The literary community here was already so rad. Kore Press had been around for 10 years already; the Poetry Center was thriving and raising money to build their new building at the time. Spork Press, Chax Press, POG, Tucson Poetry Festival, all of these organizations really embraced Casa Libre. When I started to meet the folks running those organizations, they were excited to collaborate and support something new. In particular at the time, the Poetry Center and Kore Press – Lisa Bowden was such a huge supporter of Casa Libre from the beginning – so it felt like there were these big sisters and brothers and siblings that were out there going, ‘Come on, you can do this here.’ I felt really engaged from the beginning. It turned from a concept, a dream and a website within a year to an organization.”

Weekend writing residency led by Rebecca Brown, left; also pictured are Frankie Rollins (center), T.C. Tolbert (background) and Lisa O'Neill (far right). Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Weekend writing residency led by Rebecca Brown, left; also pictured are Frankie Rollins (center), T.C. Tolbert (background) and Lisa O’Neill (far right).
Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Casa Libre’s writer residency program worked for several years, during a period when Nelson was able to secure scholarships through private donations for the winning grantees. When the Great Recession hit in late 2008, the private funding streams dried up and Nelson turned the short-term writers’ residencies into long-term artist live/work spaces over a period of two years.

Throughout Casa Libre’s existence, it has continually strived to adapt to the changing needs of Tucson’s community by hosting meetings to discuss the organization’s role in serving the writing populace. “If you want to know how to better serve your community,” says Nelson. “Ask your community. There’s no mystery there.”

Lisa Bowden, Kore Press’ publisher/cofounder and a longtime collaborator with Nelson, describes Casa Libre as being “a vital center in the community for the literary arts, for discussion and exchange of ideas. An incredible, glowing, magnificent force.” Bowden also shares that partnerships between Kore Press and Casa Libre have included various community projects, activism workshops for youth, along with holding other writing workshops in Casa’s library.

There’s been a bevy of programs Casa Libre has hosted over the years. Nelson easily rattles off a short list – The Writers Studio, The Edge: Emerging Writers, Stjukshon: An Indigenous Reading Series, Kore Press’ First Book winners.

Left to right: Logan Phillips, Kristen Nelson and Roger Bonair-Agard after Logan and Roger's reading at Casa Libre's Fair Weather Reading Series. Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Left to right: Logan Phillips, Kristen Nelson and Roger Bonair-Agard after Logan and Roger’s reading at Casa Libre’s Fair Weather Reading Series.
Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

“This is also where, after Maggie Golston’s downtown book shop Biblio closed down, Maggie contacted us and said, ‘Hey, I need a place for WIP (Writers In Progress, a UA MFA curated reading series) to be,’ and we housed WIP for eight to nine years.

“There was a need for Casa Libre because we were able to be a central kind of organizing unit for a bunch of different projects. I always pictured us as an octopus, where we had this central head but there were all these tentacles and each of those tentacles were organized by a person or community group. Those are the niches we filled.”

There comes a time for any writer who has worked hard on community projects for years to get to the point where they need to get back to focusing on writing. That time has come for Kristen Nelson. During her almost 14-year tenure at the helm of Casa Libre, she has been a renovator, maintenance person and landlord for her property. She went and got an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College, worked as an adjunct professor at Pima Community College for four years and currently is the program coordinator at UA’s Institute for LGBT Studies.

“That’s my trajectory of professional history, but that whole time, running Casa Libre. And for nine of the 14 years that I’ve run this place, it was unpaid, and that’s not something I want to pass on to the new executive director. Which is why I am not taking a salary this year, we’re fundraising, and we’re getting money in the bank so no one will be in that position again.”

As we circle back to chat about Casa Libre’s upcoming events – the Fair Weather Reading Series, happening mostly monthly January through May – Nelson lights up and says, “T.C. Tolbert, we haven’t talked at all about T.C.!” She shares that Tolbert was the organization’s assistant director for seven years, who started and ran the Trickhouse events with Noah Saterstrom.

“I started the Fair Weather Reading Series about two years ago, so that was the time T.C. decided to step down as the assistant director to pursue other professional opportunities, with so much love. That was when I started envisioning leaving Casa Libre myself because my best friend and collaborator claimed that opportunity for himself and I thought, ‘Oh wait, wait, and now you’re writing more?’ But I knew that I couldn’t hand over this octopus unpaid to somebody.”

Nelson and her board are in full fundraising mode, she says they are about 40% to their goal and is confident they will reach it by July 1, 2017.

Casa Libre's outside courtyard. Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Casa Libre’s outside courtyard.
Photo courtesy Kristen Nelson

Board president Sara Wolfe Vaughan says she is “excited to see what the future holds both for Casa Libre and for Kristen. I’m truly elated that Kristen will have more time to devote to her own art. It’s something she so deserves and we need her work out in the world, maybe now more than ever. Tucson has no shortage of talented artists and I can’t wait to meet our candidates.”

Reflecting on what they are looking for in a new leader, Nelson shares that they’d “really like somebody who has some experience running events, particularly in the nonprofit world and also someone who has development experience. Someone who has the skills to continue it forward in a new way.”

To donate, visit CasaLibre.org/donate.html. The Fair Weather Reading Series is Jan. 17, 7 p.m. A $5 donation gains entrance at 228 N. 4th Ave. to hear from Garnette Cadogan, Jordan Flaherty and Yanara Friedland. Learn more at CasaLibre.org/events.html. Check out Nelson’s writings and sundries at KristenENelson.com.

Songs Stuck on Repeat http://www.zocalomagazine.com/songs-stuck-on-repeat/ Tue, 29 Sep 2015 22:15:05 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10328 It’s a nearly universal human phenomenon, an experience that can be a blessing or a curse; educational or irritating; crazy-cool or enough to drive someone crazy. It happens to over 90 percent of us and scientists still don’t really know why.

This occurrence is the ubiquitous ear worm – a tune that gets stuck in your head. It spins around ad nauseam, and maybe fades away when more complicated, cerebral tasks come along only to pop up again later when your brain isn’t otherwise occupied. Or perhaps when it is otherwise occupied. It really depends on you. One thing The Arizona Ear Worm Project investigators have found is that the ear worm experience is highly personal.

Last month, in an office at the Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences building on the University of Arizona campus, these researchers discussed their project “Musical Cognition, Emotion and Imagery: Understanding the Brain, One Catchy Song at a Time.” The project was funded through the UA’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry Faculty Collaboration Grant program.

What was discovered and what remains to be uncovered surprised the interdisciplinary team. They will present their findings in a presentation called “Can’t Get You Out of My Head!” for Confluencenter’s Show & Tell event on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

“One of the main things that happened – (which was) exciting from a scientist’s perspective – is that we got rid of all the easy answers,” said Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences Associate Professor Andrew Lotto. “All the easy answers are not true: that ‘all ear worms look like this, everyone who has an ear worm looks like this.’ One of the things about scientists that oftentimes people don’t understand (is that) easy answers are not that exciting to a scientist. So, as this has gotten more and more complex, it becomes more and more interesting.”

The Arizona Ear Worm Project includes Dan Kruse, an ethnomusicologist and AZPM radio announcer, UA Associate Professor of Music Theory Don Traut, and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Professor Andrew Lotto. photo: Jamie Manser/Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry

The Arizona Ear Worm Project includes Dan Kruse, an ethnomusicologist and AZPM radio announcer, UA Associate Professor of Music Theory Don Traut, and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Professor Andrew Lotto.
photo: Jamie Manser/Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry

Dan Kruse, a radio announcer at Arizona Public Media and an ethnomusicologist, was inspired several years ago to investigate why songs get stuck in people’s heads after hearing a National Public Radio story on music psychologist Victoria Williamson, “who, of all things, was doing research into what starts ear worms,” said Kruse. “And I thought, ‘that’s so interesting, that somebody would actually study such a thing because I’ve experienced this my whole life.’”

Kruse recruited Lotto and Associate Professor of Music Theory Don Traut to join the team. “Don had done some really interesting research about hooks in pop music that lined up so beautifully with this,” Kruse shared.

When Lotto, Kruse and Traut – all music lovers – initially began batting around ideas and hypotheses, they collectively realized that their combined knowledge and perspectives would work together perfectly. Kruse was responsible for the interviews and the human touch, Traut approached it from a music theory perspective, and Lotto from the hearing sciences angle.

Once they started drilling into the meat of the matter, ideas about common harmonic patterns leading to ear worms and common songs recurring among the research subjects were tossed out due to lack of evidence. “Out of 150 to 200 ear worms (we studied), there were less than half a dozen that were repeat songs. It’s not like everybody has the same four to five songs stuck in their head,” Traut said. “It’s really a very personal thing. I thought that was significant. I thought there would be more uniformity.”

While the individuality of the ear worm occurrence was notable, Kruse said there were also cases when the song-stuck-on-repeat became a collective experience among partners, friends or coworkers. “Sometimes unspoken, they just notice they will hum something out loud and notice later that someone has the same thing going on,” Kruse said.

Kruse proposed that future research could “go ethnomusicologically – what are the qualities of music that people listen to? Are there certain things in music that people attach to? Are there music universals?”

“Again, the ear worm itself is a way of getting into the questions that we care about,” said Lotto. “The ear worm is one of these experiences that nearly everyone has related to music and it lets us start getting at why this sound (music) is so important across cultures for every single person, because it is a complex sound – it’s like a speech sound, an animal call – these are all complex structures.

“Why music and why not these other sounds?” Lotto queried. “There’s nothing really special (from a hearing science perspective) about the sound of music, yet our experience of it is very special.”

Find more information on The Arizona Ear Worm Project at AZEarWorm.org. The  presentation “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is on Wednesday, Oct. 7 for Show & Tell at Playground, 278 E. Congress St. The free event starts at 6 p.m. Visit Confluencenter.org for details or call 621-0599.

Breaking the Silence http://www.zocalomagazine.com/breaking-the-silence/ Tue, 25 Aug 2015 21:09:00 +0000 http://www.zocalomagazine.com/?p=10261 Cristina Devereaux Ramírez

Cristina Devereaux Ramírez Photo courtesy UA Press

Cristina Devereaux Ramírez’s Feminist Recovery Project

Cristina Devereaux Ramírez speaks with verve and passion when she talks about the Mexican women journalists she covers in her recently-released UA Press book. Her eyes flash with light and fire. This passion is good, and required. It’s important and time-consuming research that Ramírez is conducting, saving and sharing.

“All of these women were doing something absolutely unheard of at that time (late 19th, early 20th century); for women to write, not just write stories or poetry, but to be writing their opinions and putting them out there!”

She enthusiastically continues: “Women were trying to take back the discursive power, to frame themselves and who they are. Not just at that present moment, but historically as well.”

The book is “Occupying Our Space: The Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists and Activists, 1875-1942.” Its launch at UA’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry Show & Tell event on Wednesday, Sept. 2 will feature Ramírez sharing a multimedia presentation on two of the women in her book and sharing her incredible journey of research.

In “Occupying Our Space,” Ramírez asks the reader to “reconsider the traditional voices, languages, and geographical settings of the rhetorical tradition. It challenges and crosses linguistic, cultural, gendered, and political borders. This book project explores Mexican women’s voices that have been lost, forgotten, or buried in archives and sidestepped for too long in the pages of history.”

While the writing style is rooted in academia – it evolved from Ramírez’s Ph.D. dissertation – it is inspiring in its recovery of Mestiza feminist, rhetorical history centered in the women’s intense struggle to gain full Mexican citizenship rights and make their voices heard. Women were not granted national suffrage in Mexico until 1947; it wasn’t until 1953 that women were given the legal right to run for political office.

Occupy Book Cover_webRamírez provides historical background that allows readers to comprehend the societal context and conditions in which these women were writing. Without it, we’d miss the importance of their work. We would not fully understand how dire the circumstances were for women and indigenous groups and how dangerous it was for them to speak out. Through this background, we can fully appreciate the women’s vanguard role in trying to establish gender and cultural equality in Mexico. Ramírez’s research gives a solid case for including Mestiza voices in the rhetorical canon.

The women Ramírez includes are Laureana Wright de Kleinhaus, Las Mujeres de Zitácuaro, Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza, and Hermila Galindo. The chapters are comprised of condensed biographical histories and are capped by examples of their writings, presented in the original Spanish with an ensuing English translation.

As Ramírez scribes, “the histories of these women are divergent, yet parallel. They form a pathway in the history of women’s writing from the early discourse of Wright de Kleinhaus in 1887 to that of Las Mujeres de Zitácuaro in 1900. On this trajectory, the writings of Las Mujeres de Zitácuaro served as a bridge to the more radical voices of Gutiérrez de Mendoza and Galindo, who were writing before and during the Mexican Revolution. Persistent and undaunted, each woman claimed the right to a discursive puesto (space/place) in the Mexican public sphere, which had yet to recognize them.”

In order to further situate the Mestiza rhetors in historical and cultural context Ramírez examines Malintzin in chapter one. She was the Nahua “mother at the center of this racial and national identity.” Malintzin was sold into slavery by her mother after her father died; she was subsequently given to the Spaniards by the Yokot’an after Cortes’ troops defeated the Yokot’an in what is now the Mexican state of Tabasco.

Ramírez writes that “for three years (approximately 1519 to 1521), before she took the role of mother of a new Mestizo race, Malintzin stood and spoke at the center of negotiations and conversations between two empires caught in a contact zone.”

“She was a double threat,” Ramírez states with a confident shrug and smile, “because she was the intellectual, linguistic bridge between these empires, between these two men, Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés. They had to go through a woman. How scary and possibly demeaning is that to them? She was called ‘the traitor’ to put her back in her patriarchal place. And so, that’s why I use her as the theoretical base because these women are reclaiming her historical space. Of speaking, and speaking out, in society.”

"Image of Laureana Wright de Kleinhaus as it appeared in the 1910 publication of her book 'Mujeres Notables Mexicanas’." Photo caption from "Occupying Our Space," page 61. Image courtesy Cristina Devereaux Ramírez

“Image of Laureana Wright de Kleinhaus as it appeared in the 1910 publication of her book ‘Mujeres Notables Mexicanas’.” Photo caption from “Occupying Our Space,” page 61.
Image courtesy Cristina Devereaux Ramírez

In chapter two, we learn about Laureana Wright de Kleinhaus, a woman of the elite class and a prolific writer in the late 19th century who started the journal Las Hijas [Violetas] del Anáhuac. Also and significantly, Wright de Kleinhaus captured the biographies of over 100 “Mexican women for her book ‘Mujeres Notables Mexicanas.

“As an intellectual who read and listened to the history of her homeland,” Ramírez writes, “she recognized that the greatest injustice leveled against indigenous women was their systematic erasure from history.”

“Over 100 years ago, Laureana was doing this history,” Ramírez says with spirited energy. “You can hear the same resonance of what she was saying; feminist historians are saying it now! ‘Where are these histories?’ She was very pioneering at that time. She was a scholar, a historian, a philosopher and a poet. She was amazing. I’m really surprised more people don’t know about Laureana.”

The feminist protests of Las Mujeres de Zitácuaro (MZ) are covered in chapter three where Ramírez writes that the “progressive Presbyterian movement” involved “activists at the forefront of Mexican civic philosophies, which would later be adopted as secular educational values centered on individual, modernist and open public education for men and women.” Further, the MZ’s written protests claimed “their agency as political beings through the nation’s sacred calling for women: motherhood. The women did not eschew their maternal role but, rather, embraced it.”

Chapter four features a riveting overview of Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza. She “appeared on the Mexican journalistic scene to claim her own rhetorical puesto of protest with her dissident newspaper Vesper: Justicia y Libertad,” writes Ramírez.

“Gutiérrez de Mendoza’s mocking, grassroots, and angry tone soared off the page, affecting and arousing the emotions of those who read her newspaper. Her writings gained such a level of attention that they earned her several incarcerations, forced her into exile in the United States, and prompted the seizure of her printing press several times throughout her life. Her writing also garnered the respect of other revolutionary journalists, activists, and generals throughout Mexico. Her writing career spanned forty-five years (1897-1942) and was punctuated by great social upheavals and movements.”

This woman’s life deserves to be covered by a film or a play, says Ramírez. “She’s the bad ass, she’s the revolutionary. You could absolutely do a film on a woman who was thrown in jail, accused of being a lesbian, went into exile, took on presidents, and was a prolific writer. There’s a story!”

"Masthead of Hermila Galindo's women's magazine 'La Mujer Moderna,' dedicated to women and women's issues." Photo caption from "Occupying Our Space," page 166. Image courtesy Cristina Devereaux Ramírez

“Masthead of Hermila Galindo’s women’s magazine ‘La Mujer Moderna,’ dedicated to women and women’s issues.” Photo caption from “Occupying Our Space,” page 166. Image courtesy Cristina Devereaux Ramírez

Hermila Galindo, who Ramírez covers in chapter five, is notable for her role in politics as the presidential spokeswoman for Venustiano Carranza between 1914 and 1920. Galindo was afforded the opportunity to bring “the concept of feminism to a much larger audience in Mexico and Latin America.”

“She was given the podium, literally, by Carranza,” Ramírez explains. “He sponsored her, he sponsored La Mujer Moderna, she was able to publish that and he sent her all over Mexico speaking; she went to Cuba. She’s amazing.

“Carranza had Hermila Galindo on his roll, and we see – right after his assassination – (that) she becomes quiet. That’s how it goes in Mexico. If you’re on the side of president that gets assassinated, your gig is up. So she stopped writing, she disappeared.”

Ramírez is intimately knowledgeable about these women; it has been ten years of researching, traveling and writing to get to the publishing of “Occupying Our Space.” This book is a powerful liberation of buried Mestiza feminist, rhetorical history which could have easily been further entombed by the years. Reading these women’s words and chewing on the revolutionary language is extremely satisfying.

If you are riveted by protest voices speaking out for social justice to break the bonds of oppression, this book is for you.

Cristina Devereaux Ramírez celebrates the release of “Occupying Our Space” with a multimedia presentation for the UA’s Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry’s free Show & Tell event on Wednesday, Sept. 2. It happens Downtown at Playground Bar & Lounge, 278 E. Congress St. and starts at 6 p.m. Event details are at Confluencenter.arizona.edu. Information about the book is available at UAPress.arizona.edu. Ramírez’s website is CristinaDRamirez.com.