Art and Society

This essay appears in print as the INTRODUCTION of ISSUE 01: Miserable Art. Copies of this magazine are available in our online store.

In the pages that follow, you will meet a painter named Helen Kenney, known creatively as Miserable Art. You will encounter an interview with that artist, a series of recommendations which provide insight into how that artist experiences the work of other artists, as well as a feature length story written by me, your author, containing a narrative think piece. Those are the basics.

This first issue of Durham Beat Magazine will tackle the topic of how art is valued in society, how the labor of artists is perceived, and how society reconciles its need for art with the nature of its consumption. At its core, this issue is about the experience of art and what it means.

Emotional, romantic, a little chaotic, sometimes irrational, the artform we know as “painting” is a familiar one, layered, drenched in history. Painters use their hands to reframe the world. They use the mechanisms of color, light, perspective, imagination, curiosity, and insight to create their works. Some of the most prolific artists across human history have been painters. To this day, many of their works live in museums and occupy wall space in households and businesses worldwide. Why throughout our history has art been so ever-present? What place does it hold among us? How do we, as members of society, understand and experience these works and the labor of the artists who made them?

As our civilization evolves and becomes more scientifically advanced, it’s challenging for the pragmatic drive of commerce and technological progress to maintain an appreciation for the cultural development of human expression that runs in tandem with all other forms of progress. Put another way, people in our society today struggle with how to value art, how to quantify the labor of artists, and how to understand the intangible and yet necessary presence of art in human society. 

People can’t help but create. It’s what we do. Whether we’re engineering a bridge, assembling a car, constructing a house, fixing a meal, or writing a poem, we are always creating. Where engineering and medicine and construction are practical and essential drivers for maintaining a functioning society, art is the emotional expression of that very same human ingenuity. 

Artists are very much like engineers. They build bridges between the heart and the mind, between people and their inner worlds, between emotions that contradict and yet co-exist. Throughout history, art—in all its forms—has been one of the most essential mechanisms humans have used to grapple with their emotional experiences of the world. 

Art provides a safe haven, a homestead for working out whatever it is that’s going on inside of us, whether personally or in response to our external, worldly experience. While some people may see a painting and say, “this has nothing to do with me,” they may yet listen to a song that makes them feel seen. It’s all relevant. 

Ultimately, art is not merely a way of making the world a little brighter, nor is it solely representative of what society finds or deems to be beautiful, it is fundamentally emotional and forces the human soul to confront its own vulnerability. For this reason, art is an essential part of human life and the human experience, of the way we co-exist and interact with each other and the world around us.

Album Review: Tre. Charles – “Stressin.”

Lately I have taken to night walks. Slow solemn steps through darkness I wander, dressed in black, emerging in street light and disappearing again into the shadow we call night. Always I am joined by the company of music. Headphones on, ambivalence tuned up, I make my way through the side streets of my sleepy neighborhood listening to a debut song by a new local artist. His name is Tre Charles. His song, “Stressin”, debuts on 4/26. 

A soft melodic intro matches the pace of my strides as I ease into my ambling. The percussion enters and my feet fall into rhythm. Within a beat we are joined by a dulcet emotive voice. With a lyrical delivery focused on assonance, I allow myself to be carried by the sound of a resonant voice whose inflections tell me everything I need to know. There is sorrow here, longing, isolation, the tone of despair.

True to the genre of R&B, Tre’s debut song holds within it a meditative soul and emotive flow. Self-described as an embodiment of his “personal and social struggles,” this song is contemplative, emotional, and delivered by a voice embracing of its own vulnerability. It certainly pairs well with soul-searching shadowy night walks. 

Listen to the song and check out its accompanying music video, now live across platforms.

Album Review: Raund Haus – “RH – 101”

Featured artwork by Cool Boy 36, courtesy of the artist and Raund Haus.

Long meandering walks have become a regular ritual for me. Many miles I have trod, headphones on, walking to the beat of some tune, sometimes new, sometimes old, but always relevant to mine ears. Today’s walk featured a different palette of “eclectic” than the usual shades of strange that color my daily strides. An advance copy of Raund Haus’ Year 5 compilation had arrived in my inbox shortly before I ventured out into the afternoon sun. So there I was, buttoned up in my usual hat and head-to-toe black, stepping into the light of day in the welcome company of old friends.

Now 5 years alive, the Durham-based collective celebrates its birthday with the release of RH – 101, a compilation of previously unreleased music from artists who have been featured on Raund Haus releases and stages throughout their tenure. Illuminated by artwork created by the co-founder and visual expressionist we know as Cool Boy 36, the 101 release spans a spectrum of sounds akin to a mixtape of early demos. 

From the edge of noise to the sprawling influence of hip hop to the familiar dance-driven pastimes of house and techno, Raund Haus does it all. Filled out by a range of styles, including the pervading eccentricity of co-founder Trandle and the contemplative cadence of fellow co-founder Hubbble, our friends at Raund Haus have put forth a series of tracks which narrate the journey toward their present moment.  And I daresay the dance-inspired vibrations of Footrocket, Treee City, and especially Ronnie Flash had me sliding and gliding down Durham side streets, much to the amusement of my neighbors.

The 101 release feels very much like a walk through time, like a visitation with the accomplishments made thus far. At the 5 year mark, Raund Haus has created a portfolio of releases that span the globe, as well as events and parties which endure in local folklore. I expect their future steps will stride with the same originality as we have thus far seen. Exemplifying the soundscape range of the beatmaking multiverse, Raund Haus is ever pioneering into unfound sounds. Look out for the release of RH – 101 on February 26th.

Introducing Durham Beat Magazine

For as long as I can remember, I have loved flipping through bound pages of printed material. Magazines, newspapers, books, zines, even catalogs. There’s something about that tactile feeling, holding paper in your hands, wafting its scent, running your fingers over slight blemishes—the distorted texture of coffee stains, the rough edges of a well-read book, almost like tracing lines on a lover’s skin. As a writer, it makes sense that I would have an affection for paper, that I would covet the experience of holding a body of work in my hands. These bound pages are more than just paper and ink. They are ideas, expressions, creations. 

Throughout the history of printed matter, the magazine has been an enduring and beloved format. Filled with dozens of stories and photographs and artworks spanning a variety of topics and mediums, reading a whole magazine is an intensive affair. As a journalist, I am very familiar with the mad dash of preparing many different pieces for a single issue. As a reader, there is so much material to get through that I often find I can’t seem to get to it all. I’m sure you have had that experience as well. Feels a shame to leave so many pages unread, untouched, unfelt.

So what’s in a name? A magazine exists to tell stories. What if we choose to slow down a bit, quit the mad dash, and focus on what it means to tell a story in the first place? And that’s where Durham Beat comes in. 

It was just an idea. One might dare call it a dream. I have never much cared for dreams though. And while to some I may seem a tad dreamy owing to my irredeemably romantic nature, I have always been a doer. I wanted to reimagine the magazine, so that’s what I did.

The first iteration took the form of a zine. A blurry interpretation of my anti-dream state, the idea was to tell one story. Simple, plain, singular, focused. These are a few of my favorite things. 

Durham Beat’s early zines became a vehicle for collaboration, a free space to fill however I wanted for a given project. But this approach proved a little too chaotic, even for me. So I retreated into the private thinkspace we lovingly refer to as “my brain” and ruminated for quite awhile.

The pandemic was raging, all of our events lay in ruin, and suddenly I had time to think. Over the course of several months, through pondering, research, endless conversations with a long-time friend and confidant, and lengthy correspondences with Durham Beat’s Chief Designer, Gabi Guerra, we found our way. We had inspired ourselves. And now, today, I can publish these words, which themselves represent the culmination of a singularly proud moment in my life and that of Durham Beat.

At long last, I introduce Durham Beat Magazine. Published quarterly, our print magazine offers an in-depth and focused exploration of a singular broad topic, which we approach through collaboration with a featured artist and present to you in 4 different sections:

Introduction: the opener; a two-page philosophical expression of the pages that lie ahead.

Interview: in-depth, exploratory ​and personal conversation with the featured artist​.​

5 Spot: an examination of inspiration and where it comes from; 5 inspired recommendations by the featured artist.

Story: a highly subjective narrative think piece written by me, your author.

Those are the basics.

Every issue of Durham Beat Magazine will also pair with:

1. A limited run collaborative t-shirt featuring original artwork by the featured artist. Profits from the shirt are split with the artist.

2. An Issue playlist. Think of it as a collaborative mood board in the form of music. I ask the featured artists to keep track of what they are listening to while we work together. I then take some of those tunes and curate them in a playlist with what I have been listening to throughout our collaboration. The result? A very emotional and wide-ranging selection of music, 30 songs deep and available on Durham Beat’s Spotify.

Can you subscribe to Durham Beat Magazine? Yes, soon. Later this year, we will unveil two levels of subscriptions. More on that later.

In the meantime…

ISSUE 01 and its limited run collaborative shirt featuring Miserable Art, a Durham-based painter, is now available in our online shop.

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Broken Dreams or New Things? A Fresh Perspective and Other Musings

I didn’t realize how tired I was. Rest had become elusive and I hadn’t really noticed. Not until everything stopped. Meetings, shows, work, cars, commerce, movement itself. About a week into the lockdown last March, I started to settle into my new daily attire. Instead of my customary hat and head-to-toe black, it was t-shirts and sweatpants and a hoodie and slightly disheveled hair. Then it happened. The most simple, eye-opening experience: I fell asleep at 8PM on Friday and woke up at noon on Saturday. 16 hours of sleep. Where did that come from? The last time I slept like that was after finishing college. I had returned to my parents house and started sleeping for 12 hours a day like it was my job (there were no other jobs back then, thanks to the crash of 08). So when I woke up from that 16 hour nap and realized how drained I had become, how little space I was affording me, I decided to embrace the concept of rest. So I became a prodigious sleeper. For a time anyway. 

The plights of life have a way of keeping us up at night, even when we are tired. The virus was silently spreading. The cloud of an economic crisis was forming. Beautiful spring weather and the bloomage it brings were hard to see among the growing death toll and the millions of jobs that instantly evaporated.

In my own small universe, the plans I had made for myself and for Durham Beat were all coming undone. A road trip across Georgia in July? Scrapped. A few weekend getaways to visit friends in Asheville? Nope. Brooklyn & Philly in August? Don’t think so. Seeing my family? Think again kid. And Durham Beat? Well… we had 15 events on the books and a handful of others in the process of graduating from concept to organizing. Such plans we had. So much fun! We did still manage to brew a beer with Fullsteam though. While our plans to share it with you as part of our 2nd birthday party succumbed to the reality of our crisis, we did still make that beer. And it was damn tasty. A small piece of light in an otherwise gloomy time.

By summer, the inbox started to fill up with release announcements from everyone’s pandemic projects. New albums, new art, new work, new ideas—newness was abound. Myself, I was mourning a year of work now defunct, the disruption of my vision for Durham Beat, not to mention an ailing heart, broken from wounds both new and old, now exposed thanks to so much time spent in solitude and silence. Healing needed to happen, so I decided to let it. 

Inspiration can come from strange places. Allowing myself the space to mourn and heal was only the beginning. In August I quit smoking. After a pack a day (sometimes more) for 15 years, I just stopped. Haven’t looked back. And that’s when I started writing again. For nearly 10 months I had been plagued by a creative paralysis unlike anything I had ever known. Writer’s block is one thing, but this was different. It was existential. The time afforded to me by the stillness of “stay at home” orders and almost no human contact yielded heartening results. I could hear myself again. And I realized I had a lot to say. So I did what any hungry poet would do: I started walking everyday. I wanted to breathe the air, soak up the sun, smell the flowers, and write about anything, everything. Don’t think, just write. In the course of these revolutionary steps, I discovered my stride. And I rediscovered the path I had made for myself; I was walking it, like I’m walking it now. Steady, intentional movement.

The rhythm of that intention spread to every area of my life. Next thing I knew, I had written my first book of poems. I fell in love with photography again. I learned how to cook an entire chicken. I started averaging five miles a day walking around Durham, writing in notebooks, studying trees. (Maybe you have seen me walking in the street picking up leaves.)

I also went back to the drawing board with Durham Beat. I revisited ideas that had been sitting around waiting for me to have time to spend with them. I took that time. We hung out, my ideas and me, and together we came up with a plan. I took that plan and reinvented our business model. And now I’m here, writing to you at long last, my dear readers. I have missed you. We have so many adventures ahead of us.

Between a large pile of new local art to write about and the forthcoming big announcement I’m dying to tell you about, there is a whole lot of space in your author’s life now for the works that will define the road ahead. To begin that journey, I decided we should clear out a little more space. So we’re running a permanent sale on all of our past zines, shirts, and projects until they are gone. It’s time for the future to arrive. We’re ready. Are you?

P.S. Look at that chicken!! You know ya girl made some gravy too. And a chicken pot pie with the leftovers. Mmmhmm. (Note: 18 minutes per pound in a preheated oven at 350; marinate it for 24 hours; internal cooked temperature of 165 and you’re golden; basting is the most important thing. Don’t skip it. Do it often. That is all. See you soon.)

Wild Durham: A Local Beer Collaboration

Featured image is an original photo by 8-bit Photography as part of the Wild Durham collaboration.

Presenting Wild Durham, a local beer collaboration with Fullsteam Brewery. Building on their existing partnership through hosting The Beat Market, Durham Beat’s monthly local art market, Durham Beat and Fullsteam Brewery worked together over the course of several months to create a very special Durham-inspired beer. Between crafting a recipe, foraging for ingredients, brewing the beer, and making a video, this collaboration spanned the creative spectrum. The result? An Urban Forage Modern IPA called Wild Durham.

Brewed with local grain, locally foraged ingredients like persimmon, rosemary, redbud, and henbit, Wild Durham is a beer quite literally made with the wild growth in and around this city. Juicy, herbal, and aromatic, Wild Durham is a beer like no other. Throughout our collaboration, we documented our creative process through photography and video. We are proud to present the fruits our labor to you with this original short documentary created by Raven Media House, in partnership with Durham Beat, 8-bit Photography, Raund Haus, OG SENPAiii, and of course, our brew master friends at Fullsteam.

VIDEO: Wild Durham, filmed and edited by Raven Media House

PHOTO SERIES: Foraging for ingredients (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

PHOTO SERIES: Brewing Day (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

PHOTO SERIES: Canning the beer & interviews (Original Photography by 8-bit Photography)

PREMIERE LOCAL: “By Your Side” by SunSp·t

Our next installment from Premiere Local features another single from Joe MacPhail‘s solo project SunSp·t. “By Your Side,” the second single from his upcoming album artAttack, is a glittery, feel-good tune, apt for a romantic summer night. Stream Joe’s single directly on Durham Beat! Stay tuned next month for another Premiere Local release!

By Your Side by SunSp·t

Featured image by Rosie Gould.

Album Review: Sea Moss – “Bidet Dreaming”

This is an unusual album review for Durham Beat because it is not local. I wrote this piece in an abrupt and spontaneous whirl of inspiration, like an impassioned quickie in a punk show bathroom. That’s what I felt like I was doing while listening to Sea Moss’s new album, Bidet Dreaming. This album is dirty, riotous sex.

Lately, I have been listening to a lot of loud music. I have been hungry for it. I love noise. To satiate this lust for loudness, I put out a call to my friends via Instagram stories to “please send more noise” and received a great many links to metal albums. However, one person seemed to know exactly what I was looking for when he sent me a few “hot tips” to explore, including Sea Moss, who he said would be playing this Wednesday at Nightlight with a couple of local noise makers. I went to their bandcamp page and started listening from the top to the Portland, Oregon duo’s May 2019 release.

Much like spontaneous heated passion, Sea Moss wastes no time getting to the crux of things with their title-track opener. It’s pandemonium, y’all. 

By the time I get to track four, “Appease the peas, please” I am steeped in gritty, glorious chaos. What unadulterated lust this song is. A teasing, noisy and percussive opening soon erupts into sex in the middle of the dance floor. 

I can’t wait to dance at this show.

Speaking of teasing, let’s talk about “Fancy Shit,” the sixth track on the album. The drums come in first, deliberately stumbling into a beat over the course of many timed pauses, staggering the build up with coy precision. A great tease will tell you that timing is everything. And when the song finally comes crashing in, they hold nothing back. 

All together this album reads like James Joyce’s Dirty Love Letters to his wife. Highly recommended reading. 

Sea Moss will be joining two local acts, sister,brother and Distributed Systems, at Nightlight on Wednesday. I have a feeling it’s going to be a hell of a night. I will certainly be there to find out for myself.

Featured image is the cover of “Bidet Dreaming” by Sea Moss.

PREMIERE LOCAL: “Wash Over Me” by SunSp·t

Durham Beat is proud to present our inaugural Premiere Local series: collaborations with local artists to debut original work. Our first installment of Premiere Local features local musician Joe MacPhail, member of eight local music groups (including The Oblations, XOXOK, and dreamRoot) and author of a solo project called SunSp·t. A full-time working musician and multi-instrumentalist, Joe wrote, recorded, engineered, and mixed the entirety of his new and upcoming album artAttack, which is due out in September. Today, June 25th, we at Durham Beat are delighted to host the debut of the first single from this record, “Wash Over Me,” which you can stream below. We wish you happy listening!

Wash Over Me by SunSp·t

Interested in PREMIERE LOCAL? Email us at to inquire further. We look forward to hearing from you!

MOOGFEST Staff Picks: Must-See Acts

At last, Moogfest 2019 is upon us. Like with our Freebies & Local Fun staff picks, the Durham Beat staff put together our general must-see picks. Here’s what each of us had to say:

Riley Says:

NCSU Libraries Workshops 

Life is a Digital Picnic & Visualizing Sound with Code & Digital Making Playground; Please Program the Flowers; I don’t really know what any of these workshops are actually about, but I have spent a lot of time in the NCSU libraries and they’re always inventing new trippy ways to display information, so I’m sure it will be cool. Whatever it is.  In one of them you make virtual reality floral arrangements. 

Building the Sounds that Break Down Walls  At first, I thought the title of this workshop was a sly hint about like, liberal multiculturalism but no, they mean literal walls. You get to build something called the Death by Audio Doomsday Oscillator.

Drum & Lace:Psychology of the Score: Cues, Memory Makers and Emotional Guidestones In another life, I went to school for music composition. In reality the actual work of composing orchestra music note by note is extremely boring to me, but I love hearing people talk about their process. 

Stephen says:


Moog Pop up Factory @ ATC Bay 7…I have no idea what will happen, but Moog and Factory sound killer.


Jax Deluca 5:15-6:45PM @ ATC Federal Funding for Emerging Artists. This sound like a great workshop for those looking to enter the Long Game and make a living and lifestyle as an artist. I wish these workshops were available when I started playing touring and scribbling.

Craig Leon and Jimmy Destri from Blondie 4-6PM @ATC  The production and musicianship on Blondie albums are world class. Their recordings shaped so many artists and recording engineers and probably some of your favorite music.


Thomas Dolby!!! This will be a nerd and freak fest!! He is pretty mind blowing. If you have never heard him get your freak flag out and wave it with pride! Hopefully he plays “Submarine”.

Ari says:

QuestLove… Drummer/Dj/Curator of musical culture transitioning well beyond “just” hip hop. This guy’s crates move through it all. He’s also the DJ that Prince showed Finding Nemo over… See, Storyville #2 Questlove vs Prince for reference. There’s a free one Sat afternoon and a late show at the Fruit. I’m planning on free by day.

Nucleo Concordia (Installation)
Spatial Sound

Had me at brain cortex. I’m super into musical experience immersed in science, so this is RIGHT up my alley. Throw in Johannes Kepler’s work and I’m THERE.

Vorticity (Installation)
Same here. Bell Labs… Audio and Visual immersion based on a sliding bubble? The nerd in me needs this.

Adair says:

15-Minute Songwriting
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM | Friday, April 26, 2019 I’ve recently started dabbling in songwriting, and find myself constantly creating lines, and melodies in my head while I’m out and about with no way to capture it. I’d love to attend this workshop to see how to remedy that so I don’t lose good ideas. 

Matthew Dear 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM | Thursday, April 25, 2019 I’d be lying if I said electronic/techno was my favorite kind of music, unless we’re talking about LCD Soundsystem, which is really electronic light if we’re being honest. But if I’m going to listen to electronic, I’m down to pair it with an artist with an amazing and unique voice like Matthew Dear. 

Craig Leon and Jimmy Destri of Blondie in conversation
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Friday, April 26, 2019 Honestly, I love a good conversation. I like listening to people talk about interesting things (for clarity, I like this live, podcasts and talk radio bore me). Craig Leon has produced some amazing bands, and Jimmy Destri is from Blondie, so c’mon. Blondie! 

Zoe says:

Focal Presents: Hear Your Music, Not Your Monitors.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Friday, April 26, 2019
Full Frame Theatre | Conversations

When I first started recording, I found out very quickly that it’s much harder than I thought. I hope they have tricks for getting rid of that incessant buzzing.

Own Your Voice: Electronic Music Making as a Source of Personal Liberation w/ Madame Gandhi
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Friday, April 26, 2019
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Saturday, April 27, 2019

All I can say is YES. I’m tired of going to shows that have no onstage diversity, and I know the fear of performing in a cis-white-guy dominated space. This is on both Friday and Saturday, so there’s 2 chances to catch it.

LP GIOBBI with LP Giobbi, Drum & Lace, Suzi Analogue and Madam Gandhi Moderator: Tiffany Naiman / FEMMEHOUSE: A Conversation About Gender Socialization and Visual Representation in Electronic Music
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Saturday, April 27, 2019
ATC Workshop 2 | Conversations

So many awesome musicians in one room! I’m excited for this on so many levels.

Matia (me) says:

VIVEK BORAYwith Vivek Boray, Abhi MeerCreativity, Technology and Democracy in the Global South 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Thursday, April 25, 2019 Carolina Theater – Cinema 2 | Conversations This sounds super informative and relevant toour here and now.

PATRICK GLEESON 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM | Thursday, April 25, 2019 Carolina Theater – Fletcher Hall | Performance A legend. A pioneer. Almost certainly the oldest artist on the lineup, Gleeson played with Herbie Hancock back in the 70s and has had a career that spans over 5 decades, starting back in the 1960s. Wicked jazz head.

THE FLOOR B2B SHOWCASE 10:00 PM – 3:00 AM | Thursday, April 25, 2019 Fruit – Basement | Performance The Floor is a local collective and they’ve got a few sets lined up at The Fruit. DON’T MISS OUT.

STEPHAN BODZIN 11:30 PM – 1:00 AM | Thursday, April 25, 2019 The Armory | Performance German DJ likely to lift you from the ground with his cutting-edge tunes. Put another way: you will be compelled to DANCE, y’all.

Own Your Voice: Electronic Music Making as a Source of Personal Liberation w/ Madame Gandhi
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Friday, April 26, 2019
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM | Saturday, April 27, 2019 Really looking forward to this. Madam Gandhi performed at last year’s Moogfest and returns this year for a few talks on empowerment and identity in making music.

THE FLOOR PRESENTS: TOMIE B AKA DJ REAL, TAYLOR HOUCHENS, AND PANGEAN 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM | Friday, April 26, 2019 Fruit – Basement | Performance Five hours of The Floor. Go. Just go.

MOUNT KIMBIE (DJ SET) 11:30 PM – 12:45 AM | Friday, April 26, 2019 The Armory | Performance Gonna be a riot. Breaking out my dancing shoes for this.

RP BOO AND SUZI ANALOGUEThe State of Black Electronic Music Composers 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM | Saturday, April 27, 2019 ATC Workshop 2 | Conversations Super relevant, especially among our local electronic artist community.

THE FLOOR PRESENTS: STRICTLY SOCIAL TAKEOVER – ALVIN SHAVERS, FREDDIE FRED, AND KINGTHINGS 8:00 PM – 1:00 AM | Saturday, April 27, 2019 Fruit – Basement | Performance More Floor.

MEZ 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM | Saturday, April 27, 2019 ATC Cage | Free Programming Raleigh local!! Recently performed at Dreamville, now at Moogfest.

QUESTLOVE 12:00 AM – 2:30 AM | Saturday, April 27, 2019 Fruit – Black Box | Performance I feel like this is self-explanatory.