Edited by Harper Simon and Jonah Freeman.
“Everyone is fascinated by crime,” says Harper Simon. “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 for one. Crime is a major theme in all songwriting."
Simon offers a new and expansive contribution to this legacy with Meditations on Crime, an ambitious multi-media project that includes a soundtrack he produced of musical collaborations with a sweeping range of contributors (Julia Holter, Gang Gang Dance, King Khan, the Sun Ra Arkestra) and a book he edited featuring essays by such notables as Miranda July, Hooman Majd, and Jerry Stahl, alongside artwork from giants like Cindy Sherman, Tracey Emin, Julian Schnabel, and Raymond Pettibon.
For the book, Simon points to “On Crime,” the essay by Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri, as a central piece. “It almost felt like an introduction because it was so philosophical,” he says. “It set the tone. The book started to become less political and more interesting. Once the tone was set, you could go to this beautiful essay on war crimes by Janine di Giovanni, the famous foreign correspondent. You could see it go to a humorous place in a piece by Jerry Stahl or an interview with Kenneth Anger. Wayne Kramer from the MC5 has a foundation called Jail Guitar Doors that brings musical instruments and songwriting to prisoners, and has spent time in prison himself, so I thought he would have an interesting perspective.”
Simon was committed to including visual art that investigated the idea of crime, so he enlisted his friend Jonah Freeman, from the art team Freeman-Lowe, as a co-curator. “He brought in a great deal of artists and really became my partner,” says Simon. “Julian Schnabel came on, Nate Lowman, Laurie Anderson, just so many great people. And then Jonah got Raymond Pettibon, who made this original portrait of John Dillinger, and we put that on the cover—which I loved, because I grew up listening to albums with Raymond Pettibon covers, like Black Flag and Sonic Youth.”
- Hat & Beard Press, Boo-Hooray, and Bunker Basement, 2023
- Softcover with 352 pages
- 9 x 12 inches