::: Kanye West performs “Blood on the Leaves” at the 2013 VMAs.

before inscription speech ruled over all. the speaker was in almost total control of their word, and stories were molded to fit who was listening. but in this way, memory of what was heard could fade and twist with time. then there is a discovery.

writing! it will help improve memory and preserve wisdom. but the speaker will not be around, the words are severed from their writer. now, the wisdom saved in writing can fade and twist with time too. we can misinterpret, and the writer can outgrow their written traces.

this is a pharmakon: remedy and poison, cure and curse. memory and wisdom, though they may not be saved per say, are expanded.

xx

sometimes I listen to a record and there are moments that move me. I go back and find that exact spot. I sink inside. I am so glad it is saved in a record. I am so glad I can go back.

xx

Kanye West just received a doctorate from SAIC. he used Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” in a song about “second stream bitches.” he used “Strange Fruit” to sing about being hurt by a lover. that Simone record is a civil rights protest.

xx

written traces are never fully independent of their writer. written traces are never fully on their own. written traces are haunting, shadows, ghosts. they are not in conversation with the reader, instead they are in conversation with their writer and their writer’s legacy.

xx

the ending of the Kanye West song is him and Simone’s sampled voice back-and-forth. her delicate falling “breeze” is looped while he echoes her, “and breathe/and breathe and breathe.” maybe he is mishearing what Simone sang in her recording, maybe he is not listening to the recorded word, just the timbre.

xx

memory is this multi-layered thing with endless triggers. recordings can save some feelings and I can go back to them sometimes, but they fade and twist too, just like remembering what someone said. memory is a heap.

xx

some people never knew about “Strange Fruit” before Kanye performed his song at the VMAs in 2013. Kanye sang it as a silhouette in front of an image of the woods. everyone is cheering. when Billie Holiday first performed “Strange Fruit,” she got sick after every performance. some people heard the lyrics about “bodies swinging in the summer breeze” and thought it was a sensual song.

xx

when you use a sample, you explode a memory. you implant another song. you insert a whole other heap of history into a new one you are creating. a sample is a pharmakon. maybe your sample is new to the listener, maybe they already knew it. but now they always will: you explode a memory. if “Strange Fruit” was new knowledge, at least now it is known. Kanye may have misused it but at least now it is known. (breeze) and breathe (breeze) and breathe and breathe

xx

-ms 5/19/2015