The Sound of Red Dust: Jean Toomer, Marion Brown, and the Sonic Transactions of “Karintha”

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Jürgen E. Grandt

Abstract

On his 1973 album Geechee Recollections, free jazzer Marion Brown tackles one of the most musical African American narratives, “Karintha” from Jean Toomer’s Cane. The velocity of sound Toomer’s text seeks to transcribe in literary form Brown trans-scribes back into music propelled by what I term Afro-kinesis. Afro-kinesis is a form of motion — a Benjaminian eddy rather than a Derridean trace — that improvises modalities of transaction with and in new-old sonic topographies, and in the process limns an aural modernity that constantly reinvents itself. This kinetic ecology of sound goes beyond acoustic transposition and instead aspires to effect a signifying exchange between the mercurial improvisation of free jazz’s “new thing” and the scripted stasis of literary text, a transaction of meaning across cultural time and physical space.

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