Letter #58

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. There’s lots of new people joined this week, so welcome 😊. I hope you love this as much as I love putting it together (I’ve also explained how this all works a bit further below too).

The thinking that’s gone into this week’s mixtape has been dominated by my discovery of Lonnie Holley (thanks for the recommendation George), and you’ll hopefully see the ‘outsider’ and deep soulful echoes throughout the whole mixtape.

This week’s TL;DR section is filled with great stuff from you – thank you for sharing!

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: listen to this wonderful mix on The Nova Show from one of our friends (hi Tony!); find some brilliant new newsletters thanks to another friend of ours (hi Gemma!); dig into this brilliant collection of films and documentaries on 4:3 on Boiler Room (thanks Craig!); learn about the forgotten women of Bauhaus (thanks Dad!); order this book exploring the cultural DNA of Radical Essex; listen to Francois K’s worldwide.fm tribute to Larry Levan on what would’ve been his 64th birthday; look at these photos charting the evolution of skateboarding photography; listen to Mos Def and Talib Kewli talk about what hip-hop means to them; look over this photoessay of Hackney from the 70s and 80s; listen to Moodymann’s first ever interview (with Gilles P) – it’s a classic; read the first part of the inside story of Primal Scream’s Screamadelica; and finally, listen to surrealist art hero Marcel Duchamp talking about the act of creating, and the meaning of art.
🔩 How this works 🔩
Now, if you’re new here, then this is how it works. The red button above links through to this week’s mixtape. The mixtape is always thirty tracks long, and the order is intentional – so it’ll sound better if you listen without shuffle on. It builds and, hopefully, flows. Each week I pick songs from a really long list of stuff that I’ve found that week – sometimes it’s brand new, sometimes it’s old – but it’s always music that I think is brilliant. The music varies a lot week by week, so you might not be into it every week, but stick with us.

Below that is the TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) section, which is a collection of links to interesting stuff I’ve found this week in culture. Below this bit here is where I usually write some rambling notes that are loosely themed around stuff I’ve found, thoughts I’ve had, and sometimes more explanation of some of the music that I’ve included. This email lands at 11am every Friday, and if you like it, I’d love for you to share it with your friends ❤️.

If you’ve got any suggestions for interesting links then please reply to this email and send them! Equally, if you’ve got music that you’d like to share then we have a collaborative playlist for music. Sharing is most definitely caring 😊.

📚 The notes 📚
This isn’t a particularly lengthy set of rambling notes this week, but I did have a few things that I wanted to share. George (one of our founding members) sent me a track by Lonnie Holley this week, and it blew my mind. I then went through his whole back-catalogue, and I’ve fallen totally in love with his music (check out the track on the mixtape). So then I started researching more and more about Holley, as I know / knew almost nothing about him, and what I’ve found has only served to intensify the feeling of admiration.

He’s a very interesting character, and this NY Times feature goes some way to explaining more about him, his story, and his view on the world. I’m still trying to find more about him, but there were a few ideas from the NY Times piece that really leapt out; the first being a thought from Holley’s ‘manager’ that “all music is improvised – just at different speeds”. The idea of improvisation has always appealed – the idea of creating something in the moment, for that moment, that is relatively ephemeral – but Holley has taken the idea of improvisation and turned it into a way of living. There are almost Buddhist echoes to his view on the world, but from everything I’ve read so far, his way of living is often misinterpreted as being that of a performance artist. To me, listening to his music and looking through his art, it doesn’t feel like a performance, it feels like a representation of him as person, and his approach to life – maybe that’s splitting hairs, but it feels like ‘performance artist’ misrepresents and underplays his view of the world.

This was echoed again when the journalist talked to Holley having “the air of someone not fully present, but only because he was picking up signals from elsewhere”. To me, this felt like something that could’ve been said about Sun Ra, or Miles Davis – people who took as much of the world in, and created something beautiful to put out into the world. This idea of having a highly curatorial view of everything is hugely appealing. How many interesting signals or ideas do we miss because we’re not paying attention, or because we’re paying too much attention to the wrong thing?

Maybe it’s Baader-Meinhof syndrome, but I felt parallels with Holley’s view on this excellent clip of David Lynch and Patti Smith talking through their view on creativity and their process. Smith talks about taking in as much as she can in order to create something new, and Lynch frames his process as having one piece of a puzzle, but not knowing what the complete puzzle should look like – and using each piece to explore the possibilities of what could be. I love this thought.

A lot of my job involves finding new solutions to old problems, and vice versa. I like fixing things, and I’m really fortunate to have a job that puts value of that. I get to work with some really smart people, but one of the mistakes I see often is an obsession with learning everything about a single area – people often think that to fix something, you have to know everything about the thing you’re fixing, and that a creative solution will come from that. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it does. But often the best and most creative solutions com from left of field. I’ve always encouraged people I work with to read about everything but advertising – and I’ve mentioned here before the idea of the adjacent possible. The more we expose our brains to different situations and out of context ideas, the stronger our brain becomes at making new connections between problems. Creating something new is about looking everywhere but where you’d usually look. Anyway, I’m rambling.

I also watched a brilliant monologue from Theo Parrish this week too, and in this short film, Parrish talks about being far from home, out of his comfort zone, and being used as a source of cultural insight. It feels like there’s a connection to Holley, but my brain is too tired this week to make the full connection. It’s worth a watch, and touches on lots of different aspects of culture, music, appropriation, authenticity, and the boundaries between the edges and the mainstream. I’m still digesting a lot of this, so I’m going to come back to it, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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