Commissions + Collaborations

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“So Many Rooms to Enter”: Tunde Adebimpe & Xaviera Simmons

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Xaviera Simmons commented that sound has “so many rooms to enter” downtown at the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building two nights ago. In the particular moment that she made this remark, her close friend and collaborator, the musician, artist and actor Tunde Adebimpe, was playing a recording of rippling, cascading voices singing in harmony—raw, early sound sketches that would eventually become songs for his band, TV on the Radio. I could see what she meant: the echoing of the singers, their voices ringing in a loop that repeated underneath Tunde’s own voice, somehow made me imagine a giant, empty house with endless doors, corridors or rooms to enter. Xaviera’s project itself has perhaps provided the physical incarnation of this space, making the viewer/listener hyper-aware of time and space via the sound and other media being configured there. Evoked by the music, the possibilities of working with sound in that moment seemed endless, which is generally the case too when it comes to the act of creating not only music, but visual art and other art forms. Tunde was playing literal, sonic sketches of his creative and songwriting processes, taking the listener through the building of layers upon layers of sound and voice. This particular transmission got me thinking about sound as a malleable and immediate art form, its relationship to the visual realm and questions of sound as it relates to performance and performativity.

In the space of junctures (transmissions to), it can be hard to differentiate between music and sound that is happening in real time, versus what is pre-recorded. Unable to see the performers, and therefore reliant on our ears alone, our entire conception of what’s taking place can shift depending on what we perceive, producing what at times can be a wholly disorienting effect. As Tunde played his sound sketches, it was remarkable to think of “drafts” as something more than visual or material, and it seemed to mirror for me the sketch-like quality and rawness of Xaviera’s project. The two spoke of the act of collaboration itself, and how it nearly always results in many different or newly finished products that are also often unexpected.

Tunde spoke of how sound has a way of erasing his surroundings so that, when revisiting a past piece, he may have difficulty recalling where he was but can immediately remember the emotional state he was in. Hearing his sounds and the conversation while watching Xaviera’s experimental film that plays on a loop in the space much of the time, it became clear that an integral part of this project is how sound and time-based images inform one another to produce mood or tone—particularly in how moving images function against an audio soundtrack, or lack thereof.

As multitalented performers in a vast array of genres—music, film, art—Tunde’s and Xaviera’s collective presence made me wonder: were the two performing as themselves in junctures (transmissions to), or as riffs on their selves, or as other people entirely in the studio space? What does it mean to “take the stage” when performing actions in front of an audience you’re not entirely sure exists? As the two are close friends who have known each other for over fifteen years, how does that familiarity and intimacy conflate or enhance the performative in this particular transmission?

- Abbe Schriber, Program Assistant