“Art is Alive” is a multi-part series detailing Yuurea Sulphur’s experiences making music within the punk scene.
There is something magical about watching this tape deck record: an aux cable plugged into the input, running from the output of a refurbished Macbook. On the screen, a carefully curated YouTube playlist of sorrowful, heart wrenching R&B, funk, and soul songs. The person seated at the small desk beside the tape deck is carefully trimming and drawing the mixtape’s J-card insert; on my right, a girl plucks at a cleanly soldered modern clone of the oldest and first electric guitar ever mass produced and sold. Through the tiny amplifier, also based on ancient designs, tinny punches are delivered. They punctuate the air between the din of light traffic and the low distant hum of the tape deck and the music from the headphones.
In this moment I am those noises, existing between these technologies, between these worlds.
I am but a guest here.
As the tape shuffles on, the girl places the guitar down, turns the amplifier off, and begins cutting out her own pre-printed J-cards—for another album she is dubbing. I’ve been here for two weeks and it still astounds me to watch the process happening before my eyes, almost as much as watching a mixtape be made in this way. I am handed a coffee cup, which reminds me I am alive and existent, that art is alive and existent. The perforator rolls, a paper pleasing Wartenburg wheel of sorts. There is music here, in our hands and in our hearts.
As I sip the coffee, the tape ends, the moment ends, but things are still here, still moving. Just in smaller delineations.
The mixtape is done; back to the long, laborious process of dubbing 100 tapes each for two musicians—this process takes time, and an amount of care. Twenty minutes at a time, something (something I surely took for granted in the glovebox of an old Ford Taurus) magical is being made.
I am sweaty now, the lights have changed and the room has changed, morphed itself into a space for live music, for something to be written and created in; for something to be recorded in. I have written three songs since arriving here—one is featured on a surprise and two are for the future. I feel good about these things. I feel good being a guest and having this access to a well of compassion and understanding within a community.
But here we are, just like last night, lying in a cool breeze.
I used to find myself obsessed with the narrative of art and the ways in which people came to create things that had such wonderful impacts on me, but now I see maybe things are a bit smaller, a bit more beautiful than I could ever have imagined—and I am very glad for it.
Art by guest artist Blare Coughlin, whose portfolio can be found at blarecoughlin.tumblr.com.