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In Musical VitalitiesHolly Watkins describes the life of music—tenuous, metaphorical, contingent and mortal—as the cross-modal interpretation of sounds. Sounds are ambiguous, they alert us to dangers and lures, both animate and inanimate. “Music retains that ambiguity; music is the art of possibly animate things”. Chapter 3 of YCTM explores convergence between danger, safety, community, prayer and the flow of information through underwater cables, generations, skies, animals and sediments. “Listening to music, we continuously experiment with being other.” (Watkins, 1972)

In A Sediment Diversion for the Audible World, coastal geologist and musicologist Ryan C Clarke talks to Michael Nardone about the sedimentation and stratification of both geological and sonic landscapes. The interview is animated by a field recording of geologist Erinn Buhyoff, improvised on tenor saxophone with a stationary field recorder at his feet. Traveler’s Prayer, an interview with Steve Reich details the thought process behind his most recent composition, which conflates one’s journey through the skies with a passage into the afterlife. Words “force you to do something that you might not have anticipated”: the form of a prayer comes from the spectral power of language.

Using AI-generated lyrics, Lou Sheppard’s Rights of Passage, presented with the Art Gallery of York University, animates plant species experiencing the re-diversion of rivers and creeks, imagining riparian zones as sites of queer emergence. Through collaboration, conversation, and cross-planetary listening sessions, Ayesha Hameed’s Radio Brown Atlantis explores the potential co-mingling of languages and ecosystems to imagine books as a technology that is aural, nautical and dispersed. Speaking with Christopher Cozier, Keyna Eleison, Natasha Ginwala, Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Manuela Moscoso, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Pablo José Ramirez, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Sancintya Mohini Simpson and Khal Torabully, Hameed asks what would our sea’s own archive consist of? What would be the ways in which winds, currents, flora, fauna, time and stars would imprint themselves?

Developed in collaboration with Liquid ArchitectureTessa Laird’s essay Locating Echoes attempts to bridge the existential void that separates us from bats. It is presented alongside video works by Liang Luscombe and audio compositions created using bat samples by Joel Stern. Responding to Nagel’s 1974 text What is it like to be a bat? Laird writes “I fling myself across the abyss of species difference. I am a bat, imitating a human, imitating a bat.”

You Can’t Trust Music (YCTM) presented by e-flux is a research project connecting sound-based artists, musicians, writers, composers, and writers and exploring the way that landscape, acoustics, and musical thought contribute to the formation of social and political structures. It is presented on a platform designed by Knoth&Renner and developed by Knoth&Renner with Jonas Holfeld.

YCTM is curated by Xenia Benivolski