Text of Light: Live at the Latvian House (2007)

When I was studying my undergrad at University of Toronto, I worked in the Art History Library like a good young stalwart. The Head Librarian, Margaret English was deep into Sonic Youth and had known them back in NYC in the 80’s. One auspicious day I let her know that SY cofounder and guitarist Lee Ranaldo was coming to town to play in the formation ‘Text of Light’ that performed improvised sound to orignal film works of Stan Brakhage (The Text of Light being one of Stan’s 1974 structuralist films shot entirely through a glass ashtray). The Text of Light often played in different group formations but included the likes of Christian Marclay, Alan Licht, William Hooker, and Ulrich Krieger. Margaret said to me, “oh, why don’t you contact Lee and tell him you’ll record it for him”, and went on to give me his personal email address. I immediately emailed him from my glass office in the middle of the library.

Lee got back to me in about 5 minutes asking how many people to put on the guest list: and that was that. Back in those days I was shooting on the University’s miniDV tape cameras, and I brought 3 of them (keeping two static) and a sound recordist, an old friend named Spacecar. Unfortunatey the mixers’ outputs to Spacecars’ audio device had a lot of noise on them and was incoherent. Nonetheless, I edited the three cameras a/v into a 12 minute video that Lee included in the International touring exhibition Sonic Youth etc., Sensational Fix (2008-2010).

Sensational Fix was a travelling exhibit of various SY memorabilia & historic documents. It is an incredible collection full of all types of sonic memories and highly recommended for the hardcore fan.

From the Sonic Youth website:

“Most people probably know Sonic Youth (Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley) as an experimental guitar band, and to a lesser extent as the multidisciplinary cultural protagonists they have been ever since the collective surfaced in 1981. From day one, Sonic Youth has been exploring and mapping unknown cultural territories through their activities as a band and as four individual musicians, visual artists or cultural entrepreneurs, each member with his or her specific ties to and within the international cultural scene. Through collaborations with musicians, visual artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers and other equally creative spirits, Sonic Youth expanded their artistic potential, which by now – 27 years later – could be defined as a true Sonic Universe”.

Some of the venues: Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (31 January – 10 May 2009); Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (29 May – 20 September 2009), Centro Huarte de Arte Contemporáneo, Navarra/Nafarroa, Spain (October 2009 – January 2010)

Below is a short 6 minute cut of the video Text of Light Live at The Latvian House (Toronto). 

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© All images are copyright Jol Thoms. Texts copyright Jol Thoms and the respective authors.