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The Marfa Sessions

Marc Sanchez

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The "Marfa Jingles" Cover
(Nina Katchadourian)
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Marfa, Texas is no stranger to the arts. Sculptor Donald Judd moved there in the 1970s. With him came his artist friends. Then they brought their artist friends, who brought even more friends. This weekend the whole town will be transformed into a museum. The folks at Ballroom Marfa, a local gallery, invited artists from around the world to create sound installations all over town.

We've gathered a few of the artists to tell you about how their projects relay the sounds of Marfa.

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Debora Stratman: I think of how disparate the economies are here, which is really interesting to me. What makes Marfa tick seems to be from many different planets.

Steven Badgett: Marfa's a very pleasant place. I wonder if there's some secret, unpleasant underbelly, because it's quite a nice place to be.

Stratman: My name is Deborah Stratman and I'm a filmmaker and an artist.

Badgett: My name is Steven Badgett. I'm an artist based out of Chicago.

Stratman: And, we are working on a project called "Caballos de Vigilancia," which means "surveillance horses." It's basically fake, dead, horse listening posts. They're life-size horses made out of wood and papier-mache, and one might see them from the road, just on a drive by, hopefully do a double take, and wonder why they're there.

You can approach them and actually go inside and listen to some audio inside the horses, which we think comments on the disparate economies of the town.

Badgett: Each horse has a different composition. One of them has a combination of songs from the 80s by Claudia Jones called, "Where the Heck is Marfa." And, that's combined with some norteno music.

Stratman: Yeah, narcocorrido, norteno music. Corrido songs, which are traditional Northern Mexican songs that comment specifically on the border and passage across the border, contraband across the border, and run-ins with border patrol.

Badgett: And another one, when you go in it, you'll be able to hear a mix of bagpipe music. Donald Judd was rather interested in things Scottish.

Stratman: And in each horse, there's a little set of speakers inside, so you wouldn't be able to hear anything until you got quite close. They kind of serve as portals, in a way, for learning about local history from a different angle.

John Moe: You know, it's a long walk back from the pasture of faux horse carcasses blaring bagpipe music. Remember, these installations are all over the town. If you're tired, you might want to curl up in Kaffe Matthews' Sonic Bed. It's a gigantic bed with a frame made from discarded wood Matthews found all around Marfa. You take off your shoes, climb up to the bright yellow, felt mattress, and then - then you just curl up and listen.

You'll be engulfed by sounds emanating from 12 speakers in and around the bed. Matthews recorded the sounds from around town and converted them into tones that move all over your body. She likens it to a massage with sound.

Nina Katchadourian made her way out to the West Texas town by way of New York. She wanted to help out a few of the local businesses.

Nina Katchadourian: I decided to write songs for basically anyone in Marfa who stepped forward. Someone with a business, someone with a club, or an organization. Anyone that wanted a short, jingle-like song. Maya, who owns the "Get Go" is a huge funk fan, so she really wanted a funk tune.

We recorded these songs in a fantastic recording studio, called the Marfa Recording Company. It was really important to me to make these songs in Marfa, with the people here. I wrote one for the rotary club, which doesn't usually advertise itself. There is one for a local broom shop that makes brooms in an antique style with an 1850's, Shaker broom making machine.

It was important to me to cover the kinds of things that don't usually get jingles. The Marfa Lights are a well known phenomenon out here, maybe not elsewhere. They are these lights that appear on the horizon line. They move around. They change colors. There's lot's of speculations about what they might be and what's causing them. And, I have seen them. I'm a believer, actually - I've seen them a couple times, and decided that the lights really needed a jingle.

Comments

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  • By Ruth Biller

    From Arab, AL, 10/23/2009

    I would like to get a copy of the album of "Where the Heck is Marfa Texas"I had one at one time and have lost it. I grew up in the area and loved the songs...especially the Old Barunda.

    By Ruth Biller

    From Arab, AL, 10/23/2009

    I would like to get a copy of the album of "Where the Heck is Marfa Texas"I had one at one time and have lost it. I grew up in the area and loved the songs...especially the Old Barunda.

    By Claudia Simpson-Jones

    From Yelm, WA, 12/30/2008

    You refer to the music I wrote in the album "Where the Heck is Marfa Texas". The most exciting part of writing that music was meeting and talking to the folks who were the subjects of my songs--like Carolina Borunda. The music heard at the end of "The Harp Playin' Man" was recorded in a humble dwelling in Mexico belonging to an elderly harp-player. Are these singing horses going to stay in Marfa? I would love to visit the town again (I lived there for a couple of years) and see the exhibits.
    Claudia Simpson-Jones

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