The End of Silence, revisited

‘Life is full of noise and that death alone is silent… nothing essential happens in the absence of noise’.

Noise: the Political Economy of Music, Jaques Attali (1985)

What meaning is in a sound? To hear the rattle of gunfire from the comfort of your stereo speakers, is our imagination transported to a distant war zone, or do we listen to such a noise as simply that, a singular audible event which fails to infer a semantic meaning outside of the situation from which it is been listened to? Instead we stare at the lifeless, cold speaker cones, bewildered at the loss of a visual source. The invention of recording technology allows us to strip a sound from its original context, disrupting the ephemeral nature of a noise and transforming the vibrations of the world into sonic subjects that can be revisited at a later date. Throw in samplers, synthesisers and the near endless potential of digital manipulation, we are able to get further and further away from the source of origin, complicating our attempts to understand a musical abstraction, to make sense of our emotional response to a transplanted sound. Does this technological chasm between a sound and its source leave us with simply a barrage of meaningless noise?

Matthew Herbert’s 2013 release, End of Silence, is a record that asks us to confront such questions, and many more, challenging our perceptions of recorded sound. Having pressed play, a hubbub of distant cheering voices and alerting whistles vie for attention against a rumbling white noise that quickly swoops into dominance, exploding from the speakers and perforating the space between the listener and the recording, before dissipating into an uneasy quiet, a sonic detritus that bubbles under the fallout of the devastating sound that hits you after only five seconds into the piece. That sound is a recording by photographer Sebastien Meyer, who captured the moment a bomb falling from a pro-Gadaffi plane hit the ground in Libya, during the battle of Ras Lanuf at the height of the troubles in 2011. What you hear in End of Silence is the noise of terror that resulted in the death of civilians, a 5-second sample that serves as the sole sound-source for the album. Over three tracks, that sample is disintegrated, contorted and mutated, exploring the depths of horror contained within, turning the explosion into a haunting beat, the whistles and cries of urgent fear as awkward melodic loops. This is Herbert attempting to ‘freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound’, stretching and slowing down the event in order to better make sense of it, acting as the antithesis to the ceaseless 24-hour rolling news coverage that desensitises us to the world’s atrocities. It is as if Herbert is searching for a resolving silence inside the sound-clip, a moment of quiet to contemplate the tragedy. Yet just as soon as the music lulls into relative calm, the deafening explosion returns with a cacophony of noise, an aural onslaught to reassert the terror of the sonic subject.

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Matthew Herbert, Yann Seznec, Tom Skinner, Sam Beste

Recorded over three days, Herbert and his band improvised with and around the fragmented sounds that Herbert had prior manipulated, a sort of live electronic jam that maintains a human element that is often lost in programmed electronic music. In order to acknowledge the distance between the performance and the actual event, microphones were set up outside of the studio, capturing a gentle birdsong for the beginning of ‘Part 2’ that is quickly shattered by the noise of the explosion once again. Despite the safety and quietude surrounding Herbert’s studio in the Welsh countryside, the terror encapsulated in the sample remains omnipresent. A minute before the final track comes to a close, we are hit one final time by the 5-second recording which abruptly breaks into an uneasy silence that hauntingly lingers until a few digital bleeps bring it to an end. That silence is as shocking as the explosion itself, offering a poignant finish to a record that will linger in your memory long after listening.

Herbert’s musical explorations into sound have taken many tangents over his prolific career, from experimental house to big-band jazz, but with End of Silence, he appears to have crystallised the potential to utilise the medium of sound as a ‘new frontier in storytelling’. I first came to be aware of Matthew Herbert’s work via a professor’s suggestion to listen to his reworking of Mahler’s 10th symphony, an intriguing work that re-recorded Mahler’s final completed orchestral movement. Herbert instils a ghostly, haunting presence through manipulating the original sound source, as if Mahler’s aura has been stirred from the dead within this recomposition, having been unsettled by Herbert’s temporal alteration, placing a mirror between light and darkness, life and death. Mahler Symphony X was followed by Herbert’s One trilogy, a collection of albums released over two years that were constructed from utilising a single source of sound, taking as subject himself, a performance in a nightclub and the life of a single pig, from birth to slaughter. These records worked to construct a narrative through sampling, and with End of Silence, Herbert has further narrowed his scope and in doing so highlights the incredible capacity of sound to hold a vast complexity of meaning.

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Listen to The End of Silence on Bandcamp

Yet what story is told in End of Silence? Listeners unaware of the album’s concept, the origin of its sound source, would be left feeling relatively cold to a record that is essentially a barrage of noise and fragmented bleeps. We can only take the word of the photographer, of Matthew Herbert, as to the horrific circumstances from which the album is derived, without which the powerful political value of the album would be lost. But what meaning may this album hold for those who have bared witness to the trauma of being in a conflict zone, who have heard the sound of a bomb explode?  We may suggest that End of Silence has appropriated a highly sensitive subject and packaged it as musical entertainment, ultimately making music out of the sound of death from a position of relative privilege, another case of cultural imperialism making profit at the expense of lost and forgotten voices outside of the western world. Its political value becoming masked by Herbert’s musical ego that serves to dismantle the sound beyond recognition to display his prowess at sonic manipulation. However, this is undue criticism, as the album has prompted important discussion, it does force us to confront and remember the violent atrocities that occurred in Libya, and indeed in other nations suffering from similar conflicts.

 

End of Silence highlights the potential for electronic artists to utilise sampling to create a form of protest music that takes real sound bites of actual events as its subject, forcing us to confront surrounding issues through sonic excavation of the sample. With Herbert’s album, the instrumental, abstract nature of the music may be ambiguous in suggesting how listeners should respond to the political message, but through this ambiguity, more

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Regarding the Pain of OthersSusan Sontag (2003)

questions can be asked, our ways of listening and seeing the world can be challenged as opposed to reading off an already-written script. Susan Sontag once wrote, ‘photographs are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand, photographs do something else – they haunt us’. In a similar sense, Herbert’s use of sampling in End of Silence functions in a similar manner as to how Sontag perceives photographs work in representing pain and tragedy. We are not told how to feel, yet we are forced to confront this sonic representation of violence in a way that encourages greater introspection alongside attempts to make sense of it in regards to the music’s outward reality. Through its abstract form, we can explore the subtle nuances of meaning and emotion that lie beneath the ability of language to symbolise or express, not working towards an explanation, but instead haunting us.

 

 

What is so fascinating about this piece is how Herbert uses recorded sound to construct a complex rhetoric through exploring that sample. It serves as a unique voice in the representation of modern conflict, and in many respects, the album has managed to capture a representation of a specific historical event that otherwise may have been forgotten. As a sonic artifact, it holds significant political weight in itself. But through Herbert’s manipulation of the sample we are asked, as listeners, to interpret that sound in a self-reflective manner that is eternally present, and not just as an objective historical incident. That is the beauty of sound recording and of creating sample-based music; as each time we listen, it echoes (but is not limited to) the past, whilst also asking us to re-evaluate the meaning of that sound through its present contextual frame, and to interpret its relationship to our own experiences.

 

You can read Noise: the Political Economy of Music in full, here.

Thoughts on Brexit, a Lesson in Change

It’s all not so funny anymore.

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A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.

Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.

The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.

As a British citizen, I feel completely disillusioned by the whole debate in which both sides fail to adequately address the issues at hand. Its divisive politics have had a clearly damaging effect upon the UK’s social cohesion. The polls reflect this, with a clear majority of young people aged 18-24 voting remain, and conversely a clear majority of the older generation voting to leave.

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What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.

Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.

These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.

May we make the mistakes from which others learn.

Brandee Younger brings soulful vibrance to community arts

The intimate PSI Theatre at Durham Arts Council felt like the perfect space to experience the soul vibrations of Brandee Younger, along with Chelsea Baratz on tenor sax, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Otis Brown III on drums. 

The band played a medley of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, original compositions from Wax and Wane, and pieces she selected to play first and reveal afterwards, inviting the audience to guess the tunes. One was  If it’s Magic by Stevie Wonder, a favorite of hers, as she states in conversation with Obvious Magazine, it is “one of those songs that makes you question everything and also feel hopeful regardless of circumstance. It’s about spreading the love.” The spread was inviting, with a warm backdrop where melodies could dance, and the audience could cozy up. 

Durham Arts Council utilizes the space in PSI Theatre for various arts performances, film screenings, and community meetings. Over 3,400 folks of all ages flock to the building to attend Durham Arts Council School, a community education program for visual and performing arts, providing over 700 courses throughout the year, including summer camps for kids ages 5 to 12.

The next stop for the harpista was another community-based event, the culmination of Harp on Parka concert series commissioned by Arts Brookfield. The organization presents free cultural experiences in public spaces at Brookfield’s properties around the world, to support creativity and innovation in music, dance, theater, film, and visual art.

Younger curated and assembled the 4-concert series exploring the ways harp is used in the 21st century to showcase the flexibility of the instrument, “I thought about who is doing something different, challenging the status,” she said to Village Voice, “and while classical harpists are a dime a dozen, the ones [who play other genres] aren’t. It’s a bold thing.”.  

The “hybrid harpist” embodied that boldness here in Durham for the Art of Cool Festival. Younger collaborates throughout the community of creators, with Lauryn Hill, Ryan Leslie, Talib Kweli, Common, and Ravi Coltrane – under whose creative direction she collaborated in Universal Consciousness, a recent tribute to Alice Coltrane. While reaching across genres and forging her own style – as we witnessed at Durham Arts Council – Younger projects the rich musical traditions of Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. 

Altogether, the music and works of Brandee Younger provide a smooth lesson in the vitality of past and future collaboration in both jazz and community.

If you’re in New York this summer, Brandee Younger will be around for several shows starting June 7. For community arts programming (like Harp on Park) in New York, check out The Swings: An Exercise in Cooperation from June 10 to July 7. The installation is sponsored by Arts Brookfield and designed by Daily tous les joursan interaction design studio with a focus on participation by empowering people to have a place in the stories that are told around them.

Tennyson: Playing through Process

The crowd at Motorco Music Hall grooved along with Tennyson, deeply attuned to the myriad frequencies and rhythms being processed and punctuated before our eyes. Digital jazz pulsated through the crowd in pleasant bouts – when eyes weren’t closed, they were alight – captivated by the layers and levels The Canadian sibling duo brought to the venue.

Luke and Tess Pretty started playing music when they were nine and seven years old, respectively, playing jazz cover shows until deciding to share another dimension of their musical imagination with their hometown of Edmonton, Alberta in 2012. In late 2015, Tennyson released the Like What EP, filled with compositions telling stories through percussion, melody, and measured arrangements of space.

Tennyson has an interesting approach to creation and collaboration, charting new territory all the time armed with novel equipment, skillful musicality, and unbridled commitment to the daunting/invigorating creative process. Luke shared this insight on mistakes and creating with Yours Truly: “I noticed something recently,” says Luke. “Part of the reason why it was so hard, is because there was a fear of, like — if there’s a section that you know you want to make, but you haven’t started yet, there’s a part of you that’s scared to start. Because you feel like maybe now is not the best time to make it, or something. Or, tomorrow, maybe in the morning, you could really get that section to sound right. But I realized — the last song in the album is the only one I made in a week, where the other ones were two or three months. But that week was kind of like, ‘Whoa, you can just make it. You don’t have to worry about it.’ And same with lyrics. You could just write them. And then kind of fix it. And it’s good. It’s probably better if you’re not worried the whole time you’re making it.”

Like What? opens with the words of Oliver Sacks: “we see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well. And seeing with the brain is often called imagination.”

The video for the title track is an exploration of process in itself. Director Fantavious Fritz played the song for Nikita – a 12-year old girl who has been blind since birth – and recorded her commentary, then created the video using the visuals that she described. The result is an engaging trip through a dynamic space, with rhythmic auditory cues and visuals that capture life and light playing in spite of limitations. You’ll rethink the way you experience music.

Tennyson’s tracks invite Sacks’ “seeing with the brain”, playing with different spaces and guiding the senses to place ourselves in the music. The Art of Cool festival at large took that on wholeheartedly, appreciating the plurality of experience and the effect of letting sound take over the space.

Terence Blanchard & the E-Collective: Groove As Advocacy

Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective’s headlining set at the Art of Cool Fest began with a sense of drama that was only amplified by the elegance and grandeur of the Carolina Theatre. Blanchard’s trumpet seemed to howl with anguish while the E-Collective quartet maintained a hard-edged groove underneath, creating a palpable tension and forward momentum that was infectious. With nods to jazz fusion and Miles Davis’ electric explorations of the ‘70s, a dose of R&B, blues, and funk, and the urgency of music with a deeper message, Blanchard and company gave the audience a great deal to consider.

Although the music they performed that night had its feet planted firmly in the now, the Grammy-award-winning Blanchard is no fresh face to the jazz scene. In fact, anyone who’s enjoyed a Spike Lee film from Jungle Fever on has heard his compositional style. Since 1991, he has had a successful solo recording career playing traditional jazz and now heavier, more groove-based music with his group E-Collective. Breathless, his first album with the E-Collective, is his heaviest yet. Though the music came first, it became clear to Blanchard that he had to speak out about police brutality and the deaths of so many African-Americans as a result, and the music naturally took on that voice.

The group was first conceived by Blanchard and drummer Oscar Seaton during the scoring of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. It took them eight years, but they finally came together while America was embroiled in the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. “Once we got to it, we were in Europe, and we noticed that there was a lot of stuff going on back in the States—a lot of crazy stories about violence with African-American youth and law enforcement. We took note, and all of the meanings of the songs started to change. That became the basis of the album,” Blanchard said ahead of Art of Cool Fest.

He goes on to speak more about impacting youth through musical exposure, saying “Part of what we’re trying to do is reach […] kids, to let them know if they want to play an instrument there’s a way to do it at a high level that can be very rewarding. It’s all about trying to bring people together, trying to show people other options.” During a press interview at Art of Cool, he elaborated more on why he thinks young people are very important to the future of music: “The thing I love about working with young folks […] is that there’s some young creative minds out there that are astonishing. […] And the thing that blows my mind is that when you give them the tools [they can do incredible things.]”

Seeing cuts from Breathless performed live only confirmed this, as up-and-coming bandmates Charles Altura (on guitar) and Fabian Almazan (on piano) have unique and masterful voices on their respective instruments. Altura’s guitar seems to soar and blaze with a bite to rival any contemporary jazz guitarist today. Almazan’s fleet fingers have Cuban roots, and his touch on the piano and synth alike is reminiscent of jazz and fusion greats like Joe Zawinul. “Fabian is probably one of the great young talents of his generation,” Blanchard has said of Almazan. “Once people really hear what he’s about and what he’s doing, they’re gonna be enriched.”

Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective will continue to tour in support of Breathless, their next show will be in Seoul, South Korea.

RECOUNT: Art of Cool Festival Playlist

In anticipation of Durham’s third annual Art of Cool Festival, RECOUNT presents this 2-hour Spotify playlist of our featured artists! We’ll be bopping around the Bull City all weekend; from the free, family-friendly day parties to the late night/early morning jams to the Innovate Your Cool Conference think tank at American Underground.

From the epic, cross-generational jazz of Kamasi Washington to the stripped-down, modern soul of The Internet, the 2016 Art of Cool Festival boasts a range of diverse, jazz-inspired acts bringing the traditional, the innovative, and everything in between to Durham.

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If you’re anywhere near the Triangle this weekend, come out to enjoy local and internationally renowned artists, support local vendors and venues, and embrace the community-building focus of the Art of Cool Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization hosting this three-day event.

Hope to see ya there. Either way, there’s more to come from us. Stay tuned.

Alex Quirk invites you to explore memory and perception

“In Western thought, the conscious being is often divided into two parts: mind, and body. Senses, and thoughts. Perception, and memory. It seems every conscious thought is rooted in either instantaneous perception or recall. What, then, can be said about a person’s soul if one side of that duality is completely destroyed?” asks Alex Quirk.

 

 

Deborah Wearing Enters, the second track of Alex Quirk’s first EP, Looking Up,  explores the concept of instantaneous perception through consummate layers and resonant loops, telling stories of love and learning inspired by the unique life of Clive Wearing.

The video is a visual thought experiment.

It feels like an honest recollection, offering moments of clarity through altered perspective: sunlight entwined with lamplight, motion out of sequence. Clive Wearing’s consciousness is not tethered in the way the rest of ours is. In his amnesia, there is implied conviction that what he sees, feels, and says then and there, is true. That “truth” fades from his existence forever, in seconds.

His experience is enclosed in the present; one could hardly even imagine that as our reality. In our experience, the rest of us relive what we can recall of our lives and loves, again and again, perhaps under the pretense that those memories carry any promises or prescriptions for the future. The present is rarely better; to ascribe permanence to particular moments of instantaneous perception is literally illogical, yet innately human. So in Clive’s case, and in our own, where does meaning come from? As Quirk asks, what can be said about a person’s soul if one side of the mind-body duality is destroyed?

This is where Deborah Wearing Enters.

 

In his state, Wearing’s wife Deborah is the only human being he recognizes- and enthusiastically greets at every opportunity. That is when he and Deborah share in familiarity and love safe from the amnesia-induced void always a few moments behind him.

Alex Quirk’s visual thought experiment and musical homage to Clive and Deborah Wearing is simultaneously moving and grounding. It takes on that void; it’s a testament to what Clive is reliving through those seconds of clarity with Deborah, definitive of his experience though well beyond articulation.

 

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Visit Alex the Quirk on Facebook.

 

Overcoming Fear of Feeling the Bern

Some people will read my account of attending three Bernie Sanders events and think I have a long way to go before I’m able to call myself “politically involved”. I agree, but I wanted to share my experience with taking the first steps toward active involvement. Before embarking on this journey, I was incredibly nervous about showing up to volunteer at campaign events because of the classic millennial fear of awkwardness. I thought there’d be no way I would be able to hold my own in political conversations with the type of people who’d be volunteering for Bernie Sanders on a Saturday. I imagined a bunch of over-achievers around the same age as me spouting off fact-checked tidbits about income inequality and making me feel l was an outcast among activists.

Before the first event I participated in, I was terrified. As I walked towards a voter registration event in New York City, on 112th street and Broadway at Columbia University—right outside Tom’s Diner from Seinfeld—I almost turned back multiple times. I was alone, after asking numerous friends to come with me and finding that even my fellow Bernie supporters were too nervous, busy, or both, to accompany me. It was about a month and a half before the New York primary, volunteers approached people on the street to ask if they were registered to vote. The idea is simple enough, but the thought of approaching strangers in the middle of the street added an extra layer to the fears I had about the dynamics between the other volunteers.

I walked to a table decked out in Bernie signs and saw a few older volunteers handing out forms and clip boards. There was not one person my age in sight, certainly a disappointment (why weren’t 20-somethings coming out to these events) though the reasons revealed themselves. Oddly, I also found comfort because these older volunteers seemed enthusiastic about guiding me through the process. My fears were eased as I realized that a sort of passing of the torch was taking place among the main organizer, a man named Steve Max, and some of the other volunteers.

Next to conquer was the hurdle of taking my clipboard and voter registration form, situating myself outside of the New York Public Library, and asking passers by if they were registered to vote. Volunteers with their clipboards were scattered up and down the block, so at least I had some cushion as pedestrians passed by and were approached by my fellow Bernie supporters. Eventually I started to recite a refrain of, “Hi, are you registered to vote?” Almost everybody responded, “Yes.” Or a polite (and somewhat timid) “No, thank you.”

Eventually I got some more engaged responses, like “Woo-hoo! Feel the Bern!” Or, “Sorry, I’m voting for Hilary.” I fell into a rhythm with the people passing by and it became painless, because of the very thing that makes New York City so great—you’ll never see these people again.

Back at the table, I talked to Steve Max about his involvement in the Bernie campaign and found out that he was a lifelong activist, which fascinated me. I was so focused on my notion of campaigning and getting involved as scary and overwhelming, so it was refreshing to hear the point of view of someone for whom this seemed to be second nature.

“You probably won’t believe this, but I can remember campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt at the age of four,” he told me. “We’ve done everything. We started in September just signing up volunteers to build up the list. We built that up to about 425 people. We’re trying to keep it local. You know, in the same neighborhood all the time. Then we went to petitioning. We were the highest group except for one upstate in terms of getting the greatest number of petitions.”

He pretty much sticks to organizing events around the Upper West Side, which I think is great because it builds a sense of community, everything an idealistic Bernie supporter dreams of. By the time I left voter registration that day, I frankly felt great about myself and the world, although that didn’t totally stop me from nervously anticipating the next event, a primary results viewing party in the East Village.

This one was more passive, just a bunch of people at a restaurant watching the results of the Arizona primary and the caucuses in Idaho and Utah, but it was clear that there was a sense of community among those in attendance. Many of them told me they came to events regularly, and pointed me in the direction of the organizer Jessica Stokey.

Unlike Max, Stokey was new to political organizing, but wanted to get involved because of her fierce support for Bernie. “I just knew I wanted to volunteer,” she said. “I actually even signed the petition for him asking him to run. So I was following him from the beginning and trying to get involved and trying to volunteer before they even had a sign up to volunteer. Then the first thing that they were having people do was to organize events. And I’m actually kind of good at that, so I was like, ‘Perfect.’ It was sort of a no-brainer for me.”

The watch party event had a much more diverse range of people in attendance, and Stokey told me she thinks many volunteers are, in fact, getting involved for the first time. I shared with her my own nervousness about volunteering and my pleasant surprise at how rewarding and nice it was. “In terms of the experience overall, I actually want to write how working on the Bernie Sander’s campaign has made me a better person,” she told me. “It’s enriched me in ways I never expected. I wasn’t looking for personal growth. I was looking to support Bernie. It has literally changed my life.”

It might sound over the top, but I totally got what she was saying. These community-organized, grassroots volunteering events make you feel like you are really part of something. The people you meet all share a common view, based in appreciating that we are all different. It reminds you of all of the other humans around you on this earth and the fact that we all have a unique story. “My heart is open, my mind is open and I’ve been meeting the most incredible people and we are forming these friendships and alliances in ways that I think I was living in more of my own little bubble. My whole life has opened up,” said Stokey.

The third event I went to, which I am confident will not be my last, was canvassing. Although by this point I felt like I had legs to stand on, I was probably most nervous about this because all I knew was that canvassing entailed knocking on people’s doors, which seems like one step more awkward than approaching people on the street. That day, I learned that volunteers only knock on the doors of registered democrats, ask if they will be voting in the New York primary, and ask if they have decided who they will be voting for. If they have decided who they will vote for, but do not volunteer which candidate, the volunteer can delicately ask if they are leaning towards one candidate or the other. The answers to these questions are then recorded on a form.

Since starting this journey, I’ve had people say positive things to me. Friends seem to look at it as admirable or revolutionary. That would be great, even flattering, except for the fact that they are rarely able or willing to join in. Now, maybe deep down they’re all a bunch of Trump supporters and don’t want to tell me—but somehow I doubt that’s it. I think they share my initial feelings of anxiety toward awkwardness. A fear that political activism is for someone else, some other group that doesn’t include them. For a generation that has infinite knowledge in the palm of our hands, We seem to use the excuse that we “don’t know enough to get involved” quite often, but I found getting physically involved the best way to learn. Meeting individuals from different walks of life who shared my basic beliefs and thought process was emotional, validating and inspiring. When I first set out to get involved, I probably would have told you my job would be done by the time the primary rolled around, but now I realize that being a concerned citizen never ends. I’ll be voting on April 19, but there is so much more to devote my time and attention to – I’ll have to go beyond that. I hope others are willing to take those scary first steps as well.

A fresh lens on Fes

Faces and places in Fes, Morocco captured by Hannah Sommer, our Asheville-based contributing photographer, currently abroad in Europe and North Africa. Her lens invokes a willingness to see, which the natural states of life there greet with a warm welcome.

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Mahmoud Hamzi, Hannah Sommer Photography

 

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Hannah Sommer Photography

 

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More on life lived throughout the world, in its simplicity and multiplicity, to come! Follow us or visit the blog at Hannah Sommer Photography to view more from her travels. Definitely check out her incredible thematic work in portraiture, and dope music photography while you’re there.

 

Your Vote Matters: A Call to Arms in South Carolina

INTERESNI KAZKI, posted by @recountmag on

 

 

 

In the loosely packed auditorium at the University of South Carolina, the crowd murmured anxiously as they waited for a glimpse of the headliner:  Dr. Cornel West, radical black activist, a demi-god to some. He, with other local prominent leaders hosted a town hall in support of Bernie Sanders’ higher education and labor reforms. Although Sen. Sanders himself was not present, the crowd littered with educators, young professionals, pastors, bartenders, and all else in between displayed a fervor usually reserved for the man himself. The town hall was co-organized by the South Carolina Labor for Bernie Committee and Higher Ed for Bernie, and was sponsored by the University of South Carolina Student Government.

Dr. West stressed the importance of dignity within Sanders’ campaign, mentioning at one point that, not party alliances, but honesty, dignity and integrity were the most important factors in measuring a candidate. He even went so far as to refer to Sanders as a “moral and spiritual laxative” for America. In these vivid descriptions, Dr. West exhibits his true belief in what Sen. Bernie Sanders has to offer, especially to communities of color and young people. Much of the rhetoric surrounding Bernie Sanders’ campaign for presidency dictates that he will not succeed, unless youth who support him and his commitment to higher education and labor reform, turn out to vote.

When the speech ended, the floor opened for questions from the audience when a man asked why it felt as though the fate of civilization rested on these elections. After taking a moment to let those words sink in for both the speakers and the audience, Dr. West answered in such a way that you or I would: he commiserated, then went on to point out that, for most people of color and those living under oppressive systems, it feels that way every election, rather, everyday.

As primary results from Iowa, New Hampshire, and soon Nevada roll in the youth vote is particularly crucial now. In Iowa, Sanders received 84% of the youth (17-29) vote, while Clinton left with only 14%, yet Clinton won by 0.3% of the overall vote, appealing to the middle age and older demographics. Although 0.3% is not wide of a margin, every vote makes a difference. As we saw in New Hampshire, Sanders won by percentage (59.9%) through more demographics than Clinton, save for the senior vote and those voters whose families make more than $200K/year. While the Sanders’ campaign still views Iowa and New Hampshire as victories, they are even more significant as representations of what can be accomplished by mobilization of the people and ideas for an America based on our dignity.

As I write on the cusp of primaries in my home state of South Carolina, I urge you, whoever you may be, whomever you may vote for, make sure you are registered, turnout, and make sure your vote is not wasted. Engage others through action; find a local campaign office and volunteer. Although civilization may not rest on this year’s elections, smaller fates do, and if you’re anything like me, you’re aware that yours is one of those smaller fates. I hope to one day join and flourish in this shrinking middle class. If I want that to happen, I must galvanize young voters like you, and myself.

Register to vote.

And for those who ask the question, “What’s the point of voting?” your frustration is beyond understood, but not tolerated- apathy never sparked a revolution. If you’re still not convinced, John Oliver recently did a segment on Voter ID laws that threaten our voting rights. Check it out below: