Sound is a vibration. A series of compressions and rarefactions on a longitudinal wave. Music is the method of that. Patterns of ideas and thoughts layered one on top of the other. All music is sound, but there is something that happens in the ordering of it. In the placing of one thought below or astride another, in the construction of an argument, a logic that allows us to interpret it as either melodious or without method.
Birds – sing.
Bees – hum.
Whale – sing.
Lion – roar.
Before the introduction of cognition, all music is just air. It is our understanding that shapes into rhythm and rationale. Our lived experiences and societal exposure then beat this down into right or wrong.
In the music of JLin, the strata are multitudinous. Each buzzing layer has its own vibration, a particular tremble, its own fears. The air around each note hums noisily. The unrelenting timbre of five million feet tapping – beating music out of the earth, kicking up pitch and timbre – myriad miniature helicopters rotating electric into life. The sky opening up in faint pats-tiny droplets tripping the light fantastic on aluminium roofing. So soft, so consistent that it almost isn’t there.
In “Will The Circle Be Broken?”, a short story by Henry “Hank” Dumas, a group comprised of three white musicians and critics attempt to enter the blacks-only Sound Barrier Jazz Club, arguing their knowledge of the genre should grant them access into the venue. Jan, a white saxophonist, is old friends with Probe, the musician of myth and melody that everyone is gathered here to hear.
“Finally as if it were some supreme effort, he looked at the three. “I’m sorry, but for your own safety, we cannot allow you… We cannot allow non-Brothers because of the danger involved with extensions. Jan looked at the sign and a smile crept across his face. […] Jan shook his head at the sign, turning to Ron and Tasha. He was about to explain that he had seen the same sign on the West Coast, It was incredible that all the spades believed this thing about the lethal vibrations from the new sound.”
The new sound is the one emitted by the afro-horn. According to the story, only three exist, forged from a rare metal found only in Africa and South America. One sits in an Egyptian museum, one is supposed to be “somewhere on the west coast of Mexico”, and one is on the stage, hanging off Probe’s hand. At the end of the night, true to the sign that hangs, the three white guests lay motionless, their uninitiated hearts giving over to the rhythm of the afro-horn.
Only the Gods know why music is sacrosanct. Why the drum talks in an unfamiliar language we all have the ability to comprehend. Pitch is essentially how high or low a note is. It is determined by the frequency of the soundwaves, so, how close together the waves are. The closer the waves, the higher the pitch. It is the pitch of the song that pierces, that makes deep, precise cuts. The pitch of a dog-whistle is not determinable by human ears, in the same way that the pitch of the afro-horn evades the ears of the uninitiated, simply by regulating how far we understand one soundwave to be from the next.
“I can make space and time disappear,” says JLin in an interview with Anna Dorn. And it comes across as too matter-of-fact to be magical. But it’s true. “And that’s hard to accept because that quite a statement to make. People love to talk in technicalities, it becomes formulated.”
JLin, born Jerrilyn Patton in 1987, Gary Indiana tapped her way into the footwork scene with popular 2011 song “Erotic Heat”. In 2017, she dropped sophomore record “Black Origami”, a denser, much more mature following than its predecessor “Dark Energy”. There is a thing about footwork that hates blank space. It is there always, but it is menacing, a trickster daring us to fold our listening into something else.
“Black Origami for me, comes from letting go creatively, creating with no boundaries. The simple definition of origami is the art of folding and constructing paper into a beautiful, yet complex design. Composing music for me is like origami, only I’m replacing paper with sound. I chose the title to the album “Black Origami” because like “Dark Energy” I still create from the beauty of darkness and blackness. The willingness to go into the hardest places within myself to create for me means that I can touch infinity.”
“Space is not only high, it’s low. It’s a bottomless pit.” Sun Ra.