Inner Soundtracks and Apparitions: Joe Bonomo’s Selected Work

“MY YOUNGER BROTHER had developed a phobia of listening to records played at the wrong speeds,” Joe Bonomo writes in the title essay of Field Recordings from the Inside. Though Bonomo uses his brother’s fear for his own amusement, in some way he empathizes with the younger boy’s extreme reaction. “Playing a record at the wrong speed was transgressive, hostile, chaotic in the ways that I’d imagined ‘bad trips’ on LSD must have felt like, the inner horrors of disunities, of centers not holding, the stuff of nightmares.” Intuiting as a preteen in the ’70s a strategy that countless DJs and producers would discover and use in the decades that followed, he continues:

I didn’t articulate to myself at the time that I didn’t like, but that I also loved, that I could manipulate the turntable in such a way, let loose into stable suburbia a frightening new language that spoke of instability and disorientation. Rotating the RPM knob, sending my brother careening from the room, I turned music inside out, learning, without intending, the dark inside of a pop song. Another lesson at so many revolutions per minute.

Collected, in large part, from his column in the literary magazine The Normal School, Bonomo’s essays examine these odd lessons; the infinite ways music can change our relationship to the people around us and how the people around us can, in turn, change our relationship to music. The Luc Sante epigraph, “Every human…

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