“I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next.”
– Ernest Hemingway,
A Moveable Feast
“Work is always an antidote to depression.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
“Alea Iacta Est” (16:50)
“A digito cognoscitur leo” (16:16)
Dedicated to my grandfather and father,
Alfonso and Leonard Sannicandro
Thanks to Scanner, Kate Carr, Eduard Solaz, Camilo Salazar, Matthew Gardner, and Joe McKay
released May 19, 2020
“Alea Iacta Est” is a two-channel work, which can be listened to separately or together. It was exhibited at IKLECTIK 4 – 24 October 2019, as part of Morley College London’s The Engine Room International Sound Art Competition.
My father is deaf in one ear from an adolescent accident. He worked as a printer from 1969 until his retirement in 2015, and as a result his good ear suffers from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
The Left channel simulates NIHL and is composed from recordings made in the New Jersey press room where my father was working at the time of his retirement.
The Right channel is a collage of the 1969 draft lottery and cassette recordings of my father’s father (in 1988) musing on work, war, and fathers and sons.
“A digito cognoscitur leo” is comprised of processed and unprocessed press recordings, recorded in the same New Jersey press room, with some brief dialogue from my father.
I have a very different relationship to work than my father. He started work as a gopher in a press room in lower Manhattan in 1969, still a teenager, and worked his way up to a foreman, retiring in 2015. Good union jobs that offer opportunities like that are few and far between these days. I’m in my mid-30s now and still working on my PhD. I’ve worked so many different jobs I can hardly remember them all. But for a short while, I had a good union job at a public university working in international education, a job I gave up to pursue my Master’s. I don’t think my dad really understood why I gave up that job, and given how precarious my life has been since that’s a totally understandable reaction. I’m just another underemployed academic in the humanities. But it turns out precarity is the norm, that the relative stability and prosperity of my father’s generation, the post-war Boomer generation, was the real historical outlier.
My father’s father was born in 1908, his parents having recently arrived in the Bronx from Napoli. As he explains in the text of “Alea Iacta Est,” my grandfather worked many different jobs in his life, from selling peanuts at ballgames to working in a screw factory to polishing furniture for Gimbels and eventually, thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt and the WPA, training young black and Puerto Rican New Yorkers to be polishers themselves. And on and on. War, economic crises, family tragedy, all conspired against him, and yet he continued to hustle, working seven days per week. As he would tell anyone who would listen, “nobody worked harder than Alfonso Leonardo Sannicandro.” Me, I haven’t always worked, at least not in that way that my father and grandfather did. I keep busy, but I have been determined to enjoy life, to see the world, to be creative, to be helpful, to have those rare moments of understanding the world better.