Screengrab from Martine Syms's Nite Life (2015)
"Don't you believe me?" "Huh?" "What's wrong with me?" "Somebody…" "You know what I'm saying?"
Asks Martine Syms's Nite Life. These texts appear through an invisible cursor on a purple backdrop, mimicking the rhythm of a nervous diction before quickly deleting themselves. Some level of interaction seems to be expected, but there is no way to reply—in contrast with Syms's recent project with Gina Trapani for Seven on Seven, Insecurity Questions.
The website's performance of these words—which Syms culled from Sam Cooke's asides to the audience on the record Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963—is diametrically opposed to the bravado we often associate with recordings like "A Change is Going to Come" or with Cooke's voice in general. Even after successfully crossing over from Gospel to Pop (a transition that included a comparatively restrained appearance on Ed Sullivan), Cooke's live performances were characterized by their energy and the intensity of the audience's interaction. These characteristics resulted in executives deeming this live recording “too black" to be released; the recording did not see the light of day until Cooke's style was no longer in vogue.