I maintain that people who believe in fundamental and irreversible changes in human nature are themselves ahistorical and naive. If novelists know anything it’s that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. They are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. At this moment, all over the world—and most recently in America—the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. Here in Germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. But there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. Those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along.
Zadie Smith
Accepting the 2016 Welt Literature Prize

Read the full speech here.

Ben Sisario’s latest feature for The New York Times shines a light on ‘Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten’, a documentary about the rise and fall of Cambodia’s Rock Music scene in the 1960s and ’70s.

Southeast Asian rock (and funk, for that matter) from that era is a favorite of mine: Gritty recordings, slightly untuned instruments, but with unique melodies and phrasings which often hark back to traditional folk songs from the region. Of course, the energy and the optimism of the music feels bittersweet now with the knowledge that a secret war and a subsequent Khmer Rouge genocide would so destroy much of the culture – and kill many of the people who made it.

Thankfully, a modern resurgence of interest in this music is making it more broadly available. Compilations have emerged in recent years (like the ‘Sounds of Siam’ series by DJ Chris Menist) and modern bands like Cambodian Space Project use the classic sound as a template for new explorations.

Readers in the United States should check the listings for when the film is coming to town and, if you’re on the East Coast, you might even get a bonus concert from some of the musicians featured by the movie-makers1.

  1. If you get to go – I’m happy for you but, I must admit, also a little jealous. I’ll work on being a better person. []
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It was only a matter of time before someone made an excellent HTML5-Based Drum Machine that you can play around with in your web browser. This one features five tone banks (TR-808, TR-909, Linndrum, Machinedrum, and an Acoustic Drum Kit) and even lets you export your patterns to WAV files.

I’ll be right back… going to peek into this rabbit hole for just a minute.1

  1. Justin was found years later on the same webpage, still trying to recreate the LinnDrum parts of his favorite Prince songs. []
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North Korea seems to be a place where the strange internal contradictions of their ruling class exceed any attempt to sensationalize them. This article by Pico Iyer for Vanity Fair takes an inside look at one byproduct of the Kim family’s love of cinema: the Pyongyang International Film Festival.

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Have you ever read an article and come across a detail which made you say “Ahhhhhh!” out loud? That’s what just happened to me about halfway through this Stereogum interview with Radiohead drummer, Phil Selway.

Phil was talking to Stereogum to mark the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Bends’ (Amazon / iTunes / Spotify), describing the process of recording the album and how the music they made reflected the emotional moment of the band’s development.

The detail that made me involuntarily vocalize? He mentioned that Thom Yorke recorded the soaring main vocal track for “Fake Plastic Trees” after returning from a Jeff Buckley show, full of inspiration.

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