The collective improvisations of black America – and their profound impact on poetry and sound – are near impossible to find in the annals of US academe. In fact, their absence is as stark as the control of archiving is white, writes Harmony Holiday in her Call for an Archive of AfroSonics, first published in the Chronic. Now, to counter this absence, she’s teamed up with New York based publishers FenceBooks to launch an Astrosonics imprint.
The Astrosonics imprint of FenceBooks will be devoted to the powerful, transformative, and all-too-often invisible or grossly underrepresented in the publishing world, body of work that lives in the interstices between poetry and poetics, music and sound art, and dance and the moving image—we will offer sanctuary for work that most gracefully and articulately subverts the boundaries between these forms. This means we will publish both in print and digital formats as well as occasionally on vinyl, works which transcend the categories of genre using sacred ancient and future technologies often rooted in the spirit of collective improvisation, as well as in the Devotional Avant Gardes to which many black brown and beige AntiqueFurturist artists turn in making their work.
Through our publications and releases we will build the necessary lexicon for this material, fleshing out terms like the Devotional Avant Garde the AntiqueFuture, and Afrosonics and Astrosonics themselves. With a fierce and devoted creative and curatorial spirit we will draw a line between the zany and diffuse iterations of this multi-disciplinary/cross-genre aesthetic, and those which truly lay down a gauntlet and invent new reaches and repositionings of artistic communication from the literary to the aural to the all of it. The monthly podcast we produce lays the foundation for our publications and releases and will preview some of their content and set an overall tone and aura for the imprint.
In addition we will house an archive that chronicles the history of Astrosonics, at a major university as well online (digitally). This will be a living archive which we will expand with each project we produce, each text we publish. In the first two years of operation we will publish seven works covering the full gamut of Astrosonics; and in addition we will provide a Journal of Astrosonics to be released quarterly, and three live events of varying scales per year which we will document on film and in audio. Our journal will be unique in that it will come in the form of “objects,” Astrosonics-related materials that we design and distribute to subscribers. Some examples are: screenprinted shirts and dresses (with the text of poems or images of poets on them), herbal teas and other medicinals in the spirit of Afrosonics, recipe pamphlets, broadsides, engraved copper and silver cuffs, rare one-off recordings or video footage of readings and performances, ephemera, oils and spices, surveys of Afrosonics and Astrsonics in places like Paris, Brasil, and Tokyo, interviews with key artists in the tradition, etc. There will be digital written content to accompany the objects, and to which the objects will loosely or directly refer. Overall we will be developing a new type of space, for which the occupants already exist and are constantly multiplying.
A rough sketch of our initial seven projects is as follows:
1) A reissue/remixed version of Amiri Baraka’s Black Spirits: New Voices in Afro-American Poetry lp. This will feature extensive updated liner notes which will provide information on the poets featured in the reading. We will issue 500 copies on vinyl and infinite availability for digital download. One of our first events will be a live reading and concert celebrating this release and in the tradition of this recording.
2) A US release of Kodwo Eshun’s More Brilliant than the Sun including a CD of readings of the text mixed with the music addressed in the text.
3) A Retrospective on the work of filmmaker Bill Gunn
***4) An Anthology of Afrosonics including a CD featuring key recordings in the genre. This work will include poems, essays, speeches, excerpts from plays, pieces of film scripts, descriptions of choreography, interviews with artists and scholars, and musicians’ discographies– all of which will serve to survey both broadly and precisely, what we mean by Afrosonics; what we mean by Astrosonics.
5) A reprint of Langston Hughes’ Good Morning, Revolution including an album of music, recitations, and mixes of the two.
6) A reissue of Albert Dailey’s album Renaissance with a suite of short stories as liner notes.
7) It Never Entered My Mind: A series of short films based on Langston Hughes’ Simple Stories. Visually this suite will present and represent the human body from the perspective of Astro and Afro sonics.
Additional Primary Considerations:
The budget for each project will range from 4-7,000 depending on the scale.
We will hire two full-time employees, the founder and a lead designer
Based on the historical significance of some of our preservation work, we will ultimately aim to acquire our own venue or loft space in the city of New York wherein we can hold our events and house archival materials and generally build an Astrosonics and Afrosonics community by hosting film screenings, concerts and discussions and seminars on the topic as it evolves. A venue is always the missing link between artists and their creative freedom and we need to address this by establishing one no matter how modest, and operating it under a model that gives artists in this tradition room to experiment.
We will aim to build an audio archive of Fence authors in addition to the archive of Astrosonics
**Our funding and resources will come from a combination of grants and private donors to begin with. We will work toward hosting events that generate revenue in order to diversify our funding sources as we progress. We will also develop partnerships with universities and arts organization in the New York area and beyond, as there is a significant market for this material throughout this country and even internationally in places like Paris and Sao Paulo.
Read more here.