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Power Spots: 13 Artists On The Inspiration Of Jon Hassell
Patrick Clarke , September 16th, 2020 10:26

From Katie Gately to Wacław Zimpel, Abul Mogard to Sarah Davachi, we asked 13 of our favourite musicians to pick a work by the great Jon Hassell, and to tell us what it means to them


Ami Dang on Sulla Strada with I Magazzini (1995)

While I thought that Jon Hassell’s interest in Hindustani classical music would guide my preference in his work, it was actually Sulla Strada, an album partly inspired by the music of Beti and Bemileke of Cameroon, that caught my ear.

Originally composed to accompany the play On the Road (yes, as in Jack Kerouac) presented by Italian theatre company I Maggazzini, this album tangles percussion, whistles, voices, horns, pads, and field recordings to form an ever-spinning cascade of sound. To be honest, I wanted to write something here about cultural appropriation—about a white, male, American composer ripping off the musics of the Beti and Bemileke of Cameroon. But as I researched Jon Hassell and read his writings on culture with(out) technology (written before it was widely known that we were hurdling towards the singularity), I discovered a composer who incorporates non-western musical concepts into his work not for the sake of drawing attention to the “other” but for calling out Western (classical) music for its rigid and archaic protocol. Here, Hassell’s compositions offer thoughtful combinations of cycle and gesture that invoke a grounded sensibility of how musical expression transcends cultural definition.

Picture: Missy Malouff