Listening Guide

A chapter-by-chapter selection of audio/video clips featuring the music referenced in Uproot, with endnotes and links to explore further!

Chapter Nine How to Hold On?

This chapter's epigraph quotes these two wonderful songs:


British rapper/producer Wiley's Zip Files release can still be downloaded. At the time, I blogged:

"Game-changing event alert! British MC/producer Wiley just gave away 200 songs for free, including his unreleased new album. Wiley also fired his manager, had a cup of tea, and twittered.

Value. Music. Access. Catharsis.

Wiley is a major force of change, fearless, constantly imagining how things could be Very Different (music industry norms, synth settings, common sense etc) then making his fundamentally ‘other’ vision real."

Dan Hancox interviewed Wiley a few days after the Zip Files went out. His article ‘Essential Wiley’ from 2010 is a good place to begin exploring this incredibly productive -- and wiley -- artist.


Shellac. Lacquer. I had no idea that the material for those scratchy old 78 RPM discs was produced by insects until music historian Ian Nagoski came to my radio show for an enlightening interview and affectionately referred to shellac as "bug juice." pop-up player

I wouldn't be surprised if we see a shellac revival. Take away the cheapo rock-dust filler and you're left with a 100% natural platter whose fidelity can compete with that of vinyl. Beetle goop can justify eco-friendly premium pricing, too. “Sustainable” insect swarms? No problem. Insects like to swarm. I can see it now, boutique record pressing plants race to ditch their reliance on vinyl — after all, it's another fracking petroleum product! — and go green with bug-sourced lacquer. You're debating whether or not to pick up that bag of baked seaweed puffs in the checkout lane when the intercom crackles into life: Whole Foods Records is pleased to announce that M.I.A.'s latest single, now on sale in aisle nine, comes pressed on 100% organic fair trade Sri Lankan lakh…

Golden Record

NASA's Golden Record project with Carl Sagan and crew is well-documented. Recently they upped a large selection of included audio (but not the music) on Soundcloud: Sounds of the Earth and Greetings to the Universe.

For all his brilliance, Sagan turned out to be a wack DJ. This was 1977, after all. Disco easily dominated the pop charts. New York salsa had redefined Latin music. Punk was rumbling. Reggae flirted with the mainstream. Recording studios were coming to be seen as places for creative experimentation in their own right. Synthesizers had been electrifying pop for over a decade. In the face of all this, Sagan’s mix fails to include a single piece of music reflecting his time. The populist, future-positive aspect of his own work is notably absent in the music. The only thing with electronics was a thirty-seven second excerpt of Laurie Spiegel’s prescient data sonification piece (in which six planets’ movements are represented by synthesizer tones), included in the ‘Sound’ section and not with the ‘Music.’ Three cuts by Bach made their way into the mix. So much for diversity. Sagan skipped over all the musical innovations of his era to focus instead on creating a pre-electronic, acoustically quaint portrait of the breadth of human song.

Here's the full audio from Laurie Spiegel:

Mustafa Said

The Foundation for Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR) directed by Mustafa Said, maintains an incredible, expanding bilingual website-archive with plenty of audio clips. Their podcast is Arabic-language with English transcriptions and lots of music. Here's Said's fantastic Abd al-Ḥayy Ḥilmī biography that that I quote on page 234.

Mahmoud Turkmani

Refugee Libraries

Notes about Shatila Camp song 9:

"She’s talking about love for her land/country, the water. She addresses a traveler who is going to Ramallah, she says take my soul with you.

The second half she says:
Oh mother, there’s a knock on our door it’s our beloveds
There’s a strong knock on our door, it’s the fedayeen, the ones who long for/love freedom
They knock on our door

And then some love for a dark palestinian woman

It sounds like a folk song or a combo of a few folk songs"

Keep Going!

The Recording Angel: Music, Records and Culture from Aristotle to Zappa (1987) by Evan Eisenberg is a zany, polymath reflection on the cultural impact of music recording technology.

Time for some fiction: Sitt Marie Rose. This remarkable novella was written in 1977 by Lebanese artist Etel Adnan. These days Adnan is more recognized for her painting — she was a quiet hero of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. Elsewhere, Adnan’s words have been put to music by Henry Threadgill and Gavin Bryars. But the book!

Sitt Marie Rose is light and heavy, experimental and matter-of-fact, this story set in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War in which gendered violence might be the real civil war. It is also about the way cities feel and tense up. There is politics and religion and luminous sentences as precise and glowing as Adnan’s abstract paintings. The title character is a teacher of deaf-mute children and the language throughout pays great attention to sound, vibration, and silence.

Another powerful work set in wartime Beirut is Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish's Memory for Forgetfulness. It is also one of the great coffee novels!

Welcome to the Listening Guide, a chapter-by-chapter selection of audio/video clips featuring the music referenced in the book, with endnotes and links to explore further!

Order now!!

Available August 16, 2016 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux