Ears Wide Open: Meditations on Crime

Harper Simon (Photo by Patrick Hoelck)

Meditations on Crime is not so much a band as it is a multimedia project, featuring a new collaborative album and art book, set for release on Sept. 23. And quite a project it has become.

The sweeping collective of boldface names is spearheaded by Harper Simon, son of Paul Simon and Peggy Harper, who produces and co-writes musical collaborations with the likes of Julia Holter, Cole Alexander of Black Lips, Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux, King Khan, Animal Collective’s Geologist and Sun Ra Arkestra. The book, edited by Johan Kugelberg and co-curated by Jonah Freeman, features artists Cindy Sherman, Nate Lowman, Julian Schnabel and Laurie Anderson, along with essayists Miranda July, Hooman Majd, Jerry Stahl and MC5’s Wayne Kramer. Artist Raymond Pettibon was commissioned to create artwork within the book and for the album cover, which will feature an original portrait of John Dillinger.

“This project allowed me to explore different worlds other than the music world,” Simon says of Meditations on Crime. “To have different platforms for different audiences, and to do a whole bunch of things that people don’t normally do when they make an album.

“Everyone is fascinated by crime,” he adds. “When you look at the history of song, romantic love songs may be the dominant mode of songwriting, but second would probably be songs involving crime — murder ballads, political protest songs; crime is a major theme in all songwriting.”

Three of the album’s nine tracks have been been released, including a video for “Crime Seed,” which is an infinite loop of political and heinous crimes paired with the psychedelic beats of the song. Lizzi Bougatsos and Brian Degraw of Gang Gang Dance are featured on the track, which has a soothing, heavy groove and plenty of flute flutters. The eerie chamber-pop sounds of Holter grace the song “Heloise,” which also features Geologist. “We the People of the Myths” features the animated, spoken words and jazz orchestra of King Khan, featuring Marshall Allen and the Sun Ra Arkestra.

The latter was made with an estimable cast of musicians and recorded, arranged and produced by Harper Simon and the late, legendary Hal Willner in his final sessions.
“There were many comets colliding in this track,” King Khan says. “The late, great Hal Willner was the main source of this interplanetary musical supernova. Hal put Harper in touch with me and the Arkestra, whom I had joined on stage a few times to perform the ‘We the People of the Myths’ poem that I had written for Marshall Allen. Harper had composed the track for the Arkestra, which also featured the late, great Danny Thompson on baritone sax. When Harper sent me the track, the poem fit perfectly into it like sacred geometry. It’s as much an invocation to ancient spirits as it is a beacon for help, asking the universe to send aid to this dying planet. I think if Sun Ra had heard this track he would have been proud.”

The Meditations on Crime multiverse continues its expansion as Simon and project partner Jonah Freeman are completing a short film based on Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri’s essay, narrated by actress Katherine Waterston. Art shows and benefit concerts are forthcoming.

||| Stream: “Crime Seed” by Gang Gang Dance (and watch the visualizer), “We the People of the Myths” by King Khan and the Sun Ra Arkestra and “Heloise” by Julia Holter