Composing, producing and performing the music for “An Inventory of Memory: Vol. II,” which dropped last Friday, was cathartic for multidisciplinary artist Harley Cortez. The album release represents the next phase in his healing process after losing his mother and nephew last year. The musician, painter, filmmaker and writer created a collection of aural examinations of genetic memory purposed with turning loss into something beautiful, which is a fitting description of the eight ambient-classical tracks that comprise the second volume of the four-volume “An Inventory of Memory” recording series.
With a history that includes being part of indie solo, duo and band projects and touring as the opener for alt-rock icon Morrissey, Cortez now records electronic instrumentals that are introspective, meditative and moody ruminations. Etching simple yet exquisite melodies and haunting minimalistic refrains, he crafts intimate compositions on piano and keyboards with sparse accompaniment by Modeste Colban (flute and saxophone), Andy Baldwin (violin) and Nancy Kuo’s (Janelle Monae) strings.
Cortez’s art over the last few years – music, paintings, drawings, sculptures, writings and experimental films – has focused on the “An Inventory of Memory” theme. He released the first album in the series last December. Early next year, he plans to publish “An Inventory of Memory” book, which is a collection of short stories, poetry and recollections tied to the motif.
“One of the things I think is really interesting about genetic memory is the idea behind how so much of what our ancestors did can dictate where we’re at, what we’re doing or who we are. Memories we perhaps didn’t know we had, so on and so forth. My mom was a very mystical person; being Native American, she was very spiritual, and my father, who I really didn’t know growing up, was a writer and a pretty well-known painter and musician for where he was. That’s how he made a living. I never really knew him, yet our trajectory was very similar. That’s what really sparked my curiosity in genetic memory, along with the theme of mortality. Those are both very apparent themes in my work,” Cortez recently told the Monster Children website.
“The third and fourth ‘An Inventory of Memory’ records are essentially done. I’m putting the finishing touches on both. The third volume will be out in the autumn or early next year around the book release. I’m still adding a couple of little things to the book. Traveling abroad this summer has been great inspiration for the book as well as for my upcoming art exhibitions,” said Cortez while traveling in the Greek Isles.
The artist who has exhibited his work in New York City, Los Angeles and Tokyo has several exhibitions slated to open this fall. Late next month, Cortez’s work will be exhibited for two weeks at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. In October, he will be part of a major exhibition in New York City curated by noted art critic and poet Donald Kuspit at the Georges Bergés Gallery. A third show taking place at La Galleria Nuevo Progreso in Mexico in November will include a performance element.
“For my solo show opening in Mexico in November, I will conduct a string quartet playing ‘Y (Be Still)’ from “’An Inventory of Memory: Vol. II.’ I’m very excited that the live music will be accompanied by a special dance performance in collaboration with renowned Mexican choreographer Diego Vega,” said Cortez who recently found out that his short film, “The Sick Oyster,” will premiere at the Kinsasha International Film Festival in September.
“This is a bit of a big deal because the lead actors are African and the characters in the film are Congolese. It is a Pan-African film,” said the Los Angeles-based Cortez.