The Squid's Ear Magazine

Meehan, Sean: Magazine (Sacred Realism)

Working only with a cowbell from a charity shop in NYC, percussionist Sean Meehan, whose performances often take place in locations of unique resonant properties, discovered the Fort Jay powder magazine at Governor's Island--a compartment once used to store ammunition and explosives--using its sonic properties to capture these two recordings reflecting the original purpose of that space.

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Sean Meehan-cowbell

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Label: Sacred Realism
Catalog ID: SR014
Squidco Product Code: 32584

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: Germany
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded in the powder magazine of Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York, on October 23rd, 2019. Mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Magazine is a new work for solo cowbell by Sean Meehan. It began with the serendipitous purchase of a small cowbell from the bric-a-brac section of a charity shop, and was composed initially on walks in the city and country, as the bell was an easy companion.

As the piece was beginning to take form Meehan was visiting Governors Island, off of the southern tip of Manhattan. There he happened upon the powder magazine of Fort Jay and began finishing the piece over returned visits. The powder magazine is an underground vault and therefore very quiet (rare in New York City). It is also entirely made of stone, has an arched ceiling and no parallel surfaces, so it is live and responsive but with a quick decay. Ideal conditions for recording an entirely staccato work.

Just as the acoustics of the space began to inform the piece, so did thoughts of the room's history and purpose, its modern day equivalents, and their mutual futility. Though not originally intended (or desired), these ideas became inseparable from the work for Meehan."-Sacred Realism

Artist Biographies

"Sean Meehan is a drummer who most notably plays a pared-down kit often consisting of a single snare drum and cymbal, creating sounds that range from the subtle friction of a fork rubbing against a drum to tones that seem electronically-generated. These complex, sometimes subtle sonorities require a great deal of concentration for the performer and listener, foregrounding the act of listening just as much as the production of sound, and bringing the audience's attention to both spatial acoustics and social interactions within a space.

Meehan traces much of his development as a musician to the time he spent as a teen in the public library, in particular reading Downbeat Magazine's Blindfold Tests, for which magazine staff would play recordings for jazz musicians without identifying the artists. The guest musician would comment and guess whom they were hearing. From this he understood the importance of having a unique sound and language. How to obtain that goal was informed by other books Meehan selected for the provocative titles running down their spines: As Serious As Your Life: Black Music And The Free-Jazz Revolution, 1957-1977, by Valerie Wilmer helped him understand that the way to one's own music was for it to be a reflection of one's particular social context, politics, and inner being; and from a distant shelf, On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music by Hermann von Helmholtz provided a lifetime of information and inspiration.

Some of Meehan's early performances were at the Amica Bunker series for improvised music, located at the Anarchist's Switchboard and later at ABC No Rio, New York. Since then, he has presented at many venues, including the Instal Festival, Glasgow, The Whitney Biennial, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Goethe-Institut, Hanoi, but he primarily performs at small, informal, transient spaces and artist-run festivals.

For nearly twenty years, Meehan and saxophonist Tamio Shiraishi presented a summer concert series, always in different locations in New York City that Meehan considered to be marginal. Meehan's work with Shiraishi most directly reflects his interest in urbanism, which includes the acts of walking, writing, filmmaking, and talking to strangers, as well as the practices or concepts of social history, cartography, community control of land, foreclosure and eviction prevention, and tenant advocacy. Three of these concerts have been documented on LP: In the City (Fusetron, 2003) and Summer Concerts 2002 & 2003 (GD Stereo, 2005). In 2007 the duo worked with Arika, a cultural presenter in Scotland, to mount a condensed multi-concert version of these works in similarly "marginal" locations throughout the United Kingdom.

His other significant collaborators include: John Dierker, Geoff Dugan, Michelle Ellsworth, James Fei, Ellen Fullman, Paul Hoskin, Greg Kelley, Andrew Lafkas, Sachiko M, Ben Manley, John McCowen, Ken Montgomery, Toshimaru Nakamura, Kendall Pigg, Matthew Sperry, Edwin Torres, Taku Unami, Barry Weisblat, and Barry Wolifson.

Meehan also makes music-related objects, intended to be used in the way recordings are, but within the listener's imagination, rather than aurally. These include Field Recordings Vol 3 (2003) a folio of letterpress cards, and Audio (2001) a boxed set of four cassette-like objects. These too are rooted in Meehan's early experiences in the library imagining what free jazz sounded like based on Wilmer's descriptions long before actually hearing it, and imagining the swirling, beating tones of Helmholtz's Victorian-era experiments, which Meehan paid homage to in the abridged book-on-tape Meehan Reads Helmholtz (2017).

Meehan completed both his M.A. and M.U.P. at Hunter College of the City University of New York before obtaining his J.D. at the City University of New York School of Law."

-Foundation for Contemporary Art (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. Magazine 58:03

2. Battery 3:40

Related Categories of Interest:

Compositional Forms
Percussion & Drums
Recordings Utilizing the Natural Resonance of a Space
NY Downtown & Metropolitan Jazz/Improv
Solo Artist Recordings
New in Improvised Music
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