An Update on Tone Glow (November 2021)

Tone Glow is going on a temporary hiatus of sorts


This is Joshua Minsoo Kim, the editor of Tone Glow. As you may have noticed, the publication hasn’t been updated in over a month, and I felt an explanation was necessary. As life has become increasingly busy, and this Substack iteration of Tone Glow has been going on for almost two years, I’ve found this passion project turning into more of an obligation, which is always a sign for me to take a step back.

Tone Glow started to gain traction during the pandemic, which proved convenient for me regarding the large amount of free time I could devote to this endeavor. Things have of course changed—namely, I have been teaching in person full-time. For the time being, I will be focusing on publishing interviews and long-promised issues that are long overdue; everything else will be halted for now. As a note, this is not a complete shutdown of Tone Glow, but a temporary hiatus of sorts (i.e. a few issues are still lined up to be published, including interviews from our writers, but nothing that hasn’t already been written/completed will be published).

Earlier this week, I made the decision to pay off the remainder of my car loan. In doing so, I was reminded that the only reason I had this monthly payment is because my previous vehicle was totaled: I fell asleep at the wheel due to constant overworking and lack of sleep, and my car immediately set ablaze after crashing. Miraculously, no one was injured, nor was anything besides my automobile damaged. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson.

While Tone Glow was always birthed out of a deep and lifelong passion for music, I will admit that part of why it was so consistently updated is because of a constant pressure to feel like I was “doing enough,” that I was “spending my life on something worthwhile.” Naturally, conducting and publishing so many interviews was a way for me to convince myself that I was doing something meaningful; it was impossible for me to deny that I had contributed something to the world after all I’d done the past couple years.

Last month, while reading Kevin C. Karnes’s excellent new book Sounds Beyond: Arvo Pärt and the 1970s Soviet Underground, I was deeply struck by something the composer said in response to an interviewer. “Have you ever thought about what Mozart would have composed had he lived into old age? Or would he not have written anything anymore, like Sibelius or Pushkin, who exhausted themselves as far as writing goes?” asked the interviewer. “Maybe those people didn’t exhaust themselves at all,” Pärt responded. “Maybe they just went silent, lived another life. We just don’t know. Their silence didn’t mean they weren’t evolving any longer.” I broke down when reading this, recognizing that my own personal growth needn’t feel stalled simply because this publication was less active, or because less public-facing work would continue to exist. When telling my friend about that quote and how I felt, she pithily replied, “Cage, but make it spiritual.” After all, it was only after decades of listening and reading and learning that I came to know all I currently do. Even more, music was always just one of many things I loved.

I have paused the Patreon for now, and will resume it once I feel like this operation can continue more consistently. Thank you for understanding. I have deep gratitude for all the writers who have contributed to this publication with intelligent writing and insightful interviews, all of which I know are things I never could’ve done myself. It is also very clear to me that Tone Glow would not exist without this group of music lovers—it’s always so much easier doing stuff with friends. We’ll be back in full force eventually. For those who have made it this far, here are some recommendations of things I have immensely enjoyed as of late:

  • Hannah Wilke’s Gestures (1974), the artist’s first video artwork which features little more than an extreme close-up of her face. It’s so simple and moving and suffuses her sculptural practice with even more depth; her face becomes the sculpting material, and while it’s in a quasi-lineage of works like Warhol’s Screen Tests (Benning’s Twenty Cigarettes, etc.), it feels more like a cozy, soundless ASMR video wherein she constructs identity and self in relation to her art, all while simultaneously intimating the quickness with which women are subject to judgment for the most minute changes in appearance. “When my brother-in-law died, I set up the video camera in Claes [Oldenburg]’s studio, and I touched myself, felt myself, molded my face, and stroked myself until I got back my body at a time when I felt emotionally lost,” she explained. Intercourse With… (1978) is also invigorating. Both are available at UbuWeb.

  • Betzy Bromberg’s Petit Mal (1977), the debut 16mm film from a singular director whose love for music overflows with every frame. It’s diaristic, full of emotion and life, and teems with varied stylistic ideas in a way that only a first film could, but it comes off like a sprawling, down-home portrait of those filmed, the director included.

  • The entire filmography of the Ghanaian-American director Akosua Adoma Owusu, whose non-narrative films in particular are larger than the sum of their parts, and abstractly but warmly deal with identity, history, and memory. These are mostly available on the Criterion Channel.

  • Comme des Garçons’s Rouge (2020), the only good fragrance from the brand in many years, which has a swirling haze of pink peppercorn, beetroot, and pencil shavings before drying down into the house’s familiar and friendly cloud of warm incense.

  • Michael Cosmic and The Phill Musra Group’s Peace in the World / Creator Spaces (recorded in 1974, released in 2017). My favorite jazz release I’ve heard this past month. It’s available at Bandcamp.