After riding through his city of Zurich to the Kunstraum Walcheturm studio in 2020, Jason Kahn was struck by the quiet aspects of the usually busy city, now quelled by pandemic; entering the studio feeling the desolation and strange sense of peacefulness in the midst of so much tragedy and suffering, he recorded these "songs" of passionate free vocal improvisations and acoustic guitar.
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Catalog ID: Editions 011
Squidco Product Code: 30657
Format: 2 LPs
Recorded at Kunstraum Walcheturm, in Zurich, Switzerland, on April 9th, 2020, by the artist.
Jason Kahn-voice, acoustic guitar
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• Show Bio for Jason Kahn
" is a musician, artist and writer. He was born 1960 in New York and grew up in Los Angeles. He re-located to Europe in 1990 and is currently based in Zürich.
As an electronic musician, vocalist and drummer Kahn collaborates regularly with many musicians, both in improvised settings and in the context of graphical scores which he composes for specific groups.
Kahn has exhibited his installations in museums, galleries, art spaces and public sites internationally. These works focus on the idea of space: the conceptual and physical juncture points, its production and dissolution, and our relation to it as a political, social and environmental medium.
Kahn's other activities include sound pieces for radio, film, dance and theater. He has also designed numerous CD, LP and cassette covers. As a writer, his work has appeared in books, magazines and as liner notes to many audio publications.
Performing regularly around the world, Kahn has given concerts throughout Europe, North and South America, Australia, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey and South Africa.
In 2011 Kahn started the Editions imprint to publish his own recordings and writings."-Jason Kahn Website (http://www.jasonkahn.net/biography/index.html)
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1. Buried Child 16:06
1. The Unseen Hand 14:09
2. Across The Night 5:53
1. Far In Mind 15:27
1. To See That Heaven 15:27
sample the album:
"These pieces were recorded during one evening on April 9th, 2020, in Zurich, my home for the last twenty-one years. I rode my bike through the rainy night to the Kunstraum Walcheturm, a place where I've recorded many times before. The city felt abandoned. We were in the midst of the first of several Covid lockdowns. Except for supermarkets and pharmacies, most places were closed. Public transportation was still running but was hardly being used. Nearly empty buses and trams drove by. For once, the streets were practically free of traffic. There was hardly anyone in sight on the Langstrasse, normally a clot of drug dealers, prostitutes, students and tourists roving from bar to bar in a drunken, obliterated haze. I could've felt sad at all the loss of life, but somehow I was elated at the strangeness of the situation. I especially noticed how the city sounded now. Every little noise seemed to jump out at me. I rang the bell of my bike. It resonated in the empty streets like a giant church bell.
I've lived in large cities all my life, but I'd hardly ever experienced them so quiet as this. Maybe if I was lucky, in those moments before dawn, did a city reach this level of serenity. But this never lasted long, and with the rise of the sun a city's roar returned again. Zurich had been this quiet for weeks now. Once inside the Kunstraum Walcheturm, the sense of solitude deepened. I had this large empty room to myself. Just one chair and a spotlight above. A pair of microphones stood before me. All I had to do was sit down and play. On this evening I felt like I was singing for the city outside. To fill, at least in my mind, that void of the empty streets with my voice and the sounds coming from my guitar. Of course, I had no songs to sing. I was just improvising with the feeling of this desolation and strange sense of peacefulness in the midst of so much tragedy and suffering.
I hadn't even been planning on doing this, but I'd coincidentally spoken a few days earlier with Patrick Huber, the Kunstraum Walcheturm's founder, and he mentioned that the room was free. Everything in his schedule had been canceled indefinitely. I sat down and started the recorder. After each piece I took a short break to tune the guitar and give my voice a rest. After nearly two hours I'd recorded all the pieces you have here on these two LP's. Nothing has been remixed or edited. I wanted to preserve the continuity and flow of the music from the moment it was created, capturing that brief space in time where my feelings and inspiration congealed into the sounds you have before you now. This record is like a postcard to myself, from a strange time and place that even now as I write this, in the midst of yet another form of lockdown, seems like a frightening dream I once had and not something I actually ever lived through. I filed the recordings away and didn't really give them much thought for quite some time.
I hadn't been thinking of a release when I went to record these pieces. If anything, this was just a product of chance -- having a space to record in suddenly available to me -- and being in a situation where I sensed the need to document what I was feeling. A kind of field recording of my soul's environment. Only after around six months did I give the recordings a listen again. I was immediately stuck by their sparseness and slow movement. At times, the pieces felt like they were on the verge of disappearing into the empty night outside. Maybe I had been trying to fill this void but was also somehow hesitant to intrude on the sense of quiet, which in itself was like a kind of monument to the situation we were all living through. I teetered above an abyss of emptiness with the need to sing out for all the life we still had left in us, despite the world crawling to a halt around us.
The title Days Falling spoke to my feeling of each day falling from above, like a plodding rain, belligerent in its insistence to never completely stop. Each day tumbling down over us, casting a long shadow across our psychic landscapes. The weight just won't let up. We plod on but there seems to be no end in sight, just living for the next day and hoping that that next day will somehow be better, or at least less worse, than the day before. One day falling to the wayside to make space for the next. Like a slow-motion avalanche of time, a morass of days tumbling down across the empty city below. A sense of time lost hangs heavy in the emptiness of the shuttered buildings. Where has everybody gone? Where have the days gone? The resonance of each day comes crashing down, echoes in my mind, fills my dreams. To wake to another day like the one before, windblown streets, an empty aluminum can scraping noisily across the sidewalk, a stray dog barking, sirens in the distance all around us.
The only consolation is the birds, singing more loudly than ever, their tiny voices rising above the call of ambulances and cold gusts of wind blasting in from the east. Where the Alps rise up snow-capped and majestic, like a vision we once had of better times, better places. Blue skies and the dazzling sunlight refracting off the banks of snow like a vast field of diamonds. When thinking of titles for these recordings, memories of Sam Shepard, one of my favorite writers and personalities, came to mind. He died more than a few years back, but I'd recently been rereading some of his short stories and poems. The existential depth of his work seemed fitting for what I was feeling when I made these recordings, thinking about what was unseen, unspoken, maybe never experienced outside of dreams or nightmares. The cumulative effect sometimes being we never know what is right before our eyes. Is it a dream or a waking reality?
With so much death and sickness around us, I was of course worried about my kids. I'd already lost my daughter Louise, who died in her sleep when she was just a few months old. This is The Buried Child in this recording. The title taken from Shepard's play of the same name. Something not secret to us but maybe we wish it were. A yawning fear that never leaves us. I felt this so often in the time of these recordings, worried about another child to bury. Likewise, The Unseen Hand takes its title from another one of Shepard's plays. Here, the title spoke to me more than the content of the play itself, which is something closer to science fiction than anything else. Still, I often ask myself what is the unseen hand which guides us. What pushes us along when we no longer have the strength to move forward? The unseen hand which wakes us from our sleep, cradles us in its palm, slaps us around when we're being stupid or embarrassing ourselves but don't know it. As Diego Maradona so succinctly put it, it is the hand of God. This is the hand which scored the goal, the unseen hand swatting us from here to there. The hand we clasp when it's time to go, pulling us to the other side.
The title "Across the Night" chronicles just what I was thinking on the night of these recordings. Wondering what lies across the night, what all my friends are doing, how they are coping. What a misery as this world turns from night into morning and back to night again. All I could see when I closed my eyes to go to sleep that night after making these recordings were the stars burning down across the black nighttime skies. I was thinking of all the different times and places I looked up at these stars, perhaps asking the same questions about what lay in store for us across the night. The stars map this journey for us, a journey, as Ferdinand Céline so beautifully described it, to the end of the night.
"Far in Mind" would be that place I go to when I can't escape these thoughts, this cold fear of uncertainty and life slowly grinding down to a halt, like a new ice age. Those huge glaciers slowly grinding their way through my soul, deep fissure carved, the scars of so many days left behind. Better forgotten, though hard as we try, these days cling to us like a bitter rain. Far in mind lies beyond the horizon, across the galaxies, in places we've only imagined or dreamed of. Places where we belong and would like to return to one day. A meditation on these places far in mind but yet right there before us, alive and true and beckoning us on. A shelter from the storm of sirens and empty streets. How often have I traveled far in mind only to find myself in the blink of an eye right back here again. An oscillation between all these spaces in my mind, dark caverns and blinding beams of light. "Far in mind" is where I would be if I could be.
The title of the last piece "To See That Heaven" was taken from the lyrics to Stevie Wonder's song "Golden Lady". And actually, the entire verse is to see that heaven in your eyes is not so far, which could be considered as one of my personal mantras. Because what is it we see when we look into the eyes of the one we love? It is that heaven which is always there but which we only notice in love. In these hard times how easy it is to forget that heaven, to not see those eyes. Standing before a mirror we look into our own eyes. We see only fear, uncertainty, sadness. Our aura burns brightly around us but we see only darkness. Heaven might as well be a million light years away if we can't see it, if our eyes are blind to it. Each day I try to see that heaven, though it often eludes me. But there is still the notion that it exists, that I'm part of it. That it's waiting there for me to come back and open my eyes to what has never left. To see that heaven.
These days the streets are alive again. Sunlight fills the air. People are out and about in the parks and at the lake. The stores are busy, restaurants full. It's even hard to find a seat in the bus again. The time before seems like a collective dream we once had. A dream which still casts a long shadow across my soul. Now it's been more than a year since I recorded these pieces. I find this period hard to go back to. It was a dark place but somehow there was a light, and I think at the time that through this music I was able to find my own north star, guiding me out of the darkness."-Jason Kahn
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