Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics: A review

Various — Black Mirror – Reflections in Global Musics
Dust-to-Digital CD

The “black mirror” in the title of journalist/musician Ian Nagoski’s compilation of recordings of musics from around the world is the stone, shellac and carbon surface of the 78 r.p.m. disks that were made of between the two world wars. If the premise of a compilation of music from around the world recorded between 1918 and 1955 seems initially like a broad or extravagant one, Nagoski takes responsibility for his own selections and orderings, seeing in them not some scientific or anthropological grouping of sounds that are “objectively” connected and ready to be analyzed, but rather a series of lateral, intimate, contingent connections produced by chance, pleasure, repetition and the marketplace. Thus a lovely bagpipe track by Scotts Guardman Henry Forsyth from the 1930s morphs into a South Indian nagasvaram track into a West African rhumba from the 1950s into a Polish gypsy wedding music track. The listener is forced to confront the mix as a series of human sounds, discovered by Nagoski no more than a thirty minute drive from his hometown of Baltimore, and costing a total of $125. What is revealed then is Nagoski’s taste and imagination, both of which are rather exquisite, as well as a series of trajectories into a variety of musics that the listener may or may not be familiar with, for further investigation and enjoyment. The blueprint for this kind of activity, as Nagoski points out, are archivist/compilers like Harry Smith, who created historically definitive collections of music that are also highly personal montages of their own record collections. The difference here is that Nagoski presents a path through a whole world of sound rather than a particular region or culture. It’s a risky venture, but the intention here is not to sum up anything but to create a path, and the path of Black Mirror is a delightful one.

Speak Your Mind