Breath and Precarity

"'Breath and Precarity' grew out of a poem I wrote in the wake of the murder of Eric Garner, a poem in the 'Mu' series called 'The Overghost Ourkestra’s Next.' Variations on the line or idea that 'no matter we couldn’t breathe, we blew' occurred or came to me as I thought about the approach to breath and breathing taken by black horn players. I thought about it in relation to the cutting off of breath, specifically black breath, of which the killing of Garner was yet another horrid instance. I heard the way these horn players have with breath as an artistic othering of the asthmatic conditions imposed on black folk, the asphyxiations imposed on black life, an othering in which the intentness and evidentness of breath and breathing spoke to their social othering’s revocation of breath. I heard an antiphonal or dialectical relationship between the two. I was thinking about a blowing-without-breath that ranges from Hawkins’s or Webster’s use of subtones to John Tchicai’s or Sonny Rollins’s asthmatic, apprehensive stutter to Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s or Roscoe Mitchell’s triumphant or defiant or put-upon recourse to circular breathing. By making breath more evident, more material, more dwelled-upon, they make black breath matter, implicitly insist that black lives matter."

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