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It’s Igor Stravinsky’s Birthday !
06.17.2010
09:13 am

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Heroes
History
Music

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Firebird
Stravinsky

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The great Igor Stravinsky was born this day in 1882. Although it’s nearly impossible to imagine it happening now, this man’s music once caused riots when performed for audiences not prepared for the radical dynamic shifts and sheer exuberant sonic violence. Of course by now all of these elements have been well absorbed into the public expectation of what orchestral music is supposed to be, but at the time this stuff was an absolute affront to human decency! Below is a complete performance by the man himself conducting his epic Firebird suite sometime in the late 1950’s.

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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James Joyce himself reading the Anna Livia Plurabelle section of Finnegans Wake
06.16.2010
10:10 pm

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Art
Books
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James Joyce
Sylvia Beach

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Image via Rodcorp
 
An actual recording of James Joyce himself reading the Anna Livia Plurabelle section of Ulysses. Click here for audio. Via the awesome Ubuweb.

Recording James Joyce by Sylvia Beach

In 1924, 1 went to the office of His Master’s Voice in Paris to ask them if they would record a reading by James Joyce from Ulysses. I was sent to Piero Coppola, who was in charge of musical records, but His Master’s Voice would agree to record the Joyce reading only if it were done at my expense. The record would not have their label on it, nor would it be listed in their catalogue.

Some recordings of writers had been done in England and in France as far back as 1913. Guillaume Apollinaire had made some recordings which are preserved in the archives of the Musée de la Parole. But in 1924, as Coppola said, there was no demand for anything but music. I accepted the terms of His Master’s Voice: thirty copies of the recording to be paid for on delivery. And that was the long and the, short of it.

Joyce himself was anxious to have this record made, but the day I took him in a taxi to the factory in Billancourt, quite a distance from town, he was suffering with his eyes and very nervous. Luckily, he and Coppola were soon quite at home with each other, bursting into Italian to discuss music. But the recording was an ordeal for Joyce, and the first attempt was a failure. We went back and began again, and I think the Ulysses record is a wonderful performance. I never hear it without being deeply moved.

Joyce had chosen the speech in the Aeolus episode, the only passage that could be lifted out of Ulysses, he said, and the only one that was “declamatory” and therefore suitable for recital. He had made up his mind, he told me, that this would be his only reading from Ulysses.

I have an idea that it was not for declamatory reasons alone that he chose this passage from Aeolus. I believe that it expressed something he wanted said and preserved in his own voice. As it rings out-“he lifted his voice above it boldly”-it is more, one feels, than mere oratory.

The Ulysses recording was “very bad,” according to my friend C. K. Ogden. The Meaning of Meaning by Mr. Ogden and I. A. Richards was much in demand at my bookshop. I had Mr. Ogden’s little Basic English books, too, and sometimes saw the inventor of this strait jacket for the English language. He was doing some recording of Bernard Shaw and others at the studio of the Orthological Society in Cambridge and was interested in experimenting with writers, mainly, I suspect, for language reasons. (Shaw was on Ogden’s side, couldn’t see what Joyce was after when there were already more words in the English language than one knew what to do with.) Mr. Ogden boasted that he had the two biggest recording machines in the world at his Cambridge studio and told me to send Joyce over to him for a real recording. And Joyce went over to Cambridge for the recording of “Anna Livia Plurabelle.”

So I brought these two together, the man who was liberating and expanding the English language and the one who was condensing it to a vocabulary of five hundred words. Their experiments went in opposite directions, but that didn’t prevent them from finding each other’s ideas interesting. Joyce would have starved on five or six hundred words, but he was quite amused by the Basic English version of “Anna Livia Plurabelle” that Ogden published in the review Psyche. I thought Ogden’s “translation” deprived the work of all its beauty; but Mr. Ogden and Mr. Richards were the only persons I knew about whose interest in the English language equaled that of Joyce, and when the Black Sun Press published, the little volume Tales Told of Shem and Shaun, I suggested that C.K. Ogden be asked to do the preface.

How beautiful the “Anna Livia” recording is, and how amusing Joyce’s rendering of an Irish washerwoman’s brogue! This is a treasure we owe to C. K. Ogden and Basic English. Joyce, with his famous memory, must have known “Anna Livia” by heart. Nevertheless, he faltered at one place and, as in the Ulysses recording, they had to begin again.

Ogden gave me both the first and second versions. Joyce gave me the immense sheets on which Ogden had had “Anna Livia” printed in huge type so that the author-his sight was growing dimmer-could read it without effort. I wondered where Mr. Ogden had got hold of such big type, until my friend Maurice Saillet, examining it, told me that the corresponding pages in the book had been photographed and much enlarged. The “Anna Livia” recording was on both sides of the disc; the passage from Ulysses was contained on one. And it was the only recording from Ulysses that Joyce would consent to.

How I regret that, owing to my ignorance of everything pertaining to recording, I didn’t do something about preserving the “master.” This was the rule with such records, I was told, but for some reason the precious “master” of the recording from Ulysses was destroyed. Recording was done in a rather primitive manner in those days, at least at the Paris branch of His Master’s Voice, and Ogden was right, the Ulysses record was not a success technically. All the same, it is the only recording of Joyce himself reading from Ulysses, and it is my favorite of the two.

The Ulysses record was not at all a commercial venture. I handed over most of the thirty copies to Joyce for distribution among his family and friends, and sold none until, years later, when I was hard up, I did set and get a stiff price for one or two I had left.

Discouraged by the experts at the office of the successors to His Master’s Voice in Paris, and those of the B.B.C. in London, I gave up the attempt to have the record “re-pressed “-which I believe is the term. I gave my permission to the B.B.C. to make a recording of my record, the last I possessed, for the purpose of broadcasting it on W. R. Rodger’s Joyce program, in which Andrienne Monnier and I took part.

Anyone who wishes to hear the Ulysses record can do so at the Musée de la Parole in Paris, where, thanks to the suggestion of my California friend Philias Lalanne, Joyce’s reading is preserved among those of some of the great French writers.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Marilyn Monroe reads James Joyce
06.16.2010
09:47 am

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Books
Heroes

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James Joyce
Eve Arnold
Marilyn Monore

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And the Bloomsday celebration continues with this 1954 photo by Eve Arnold. From Joyce and Popular Culture, a quote from a letter from Arnold about the day she took the shot:

We worked on a beach on Long Island…I asked her what she was reading when I went to pick her up (I was trying to get an idea of how she spent her time). She she kept Ulysses in her car and had been reading it for a long time. She said she loved the sound of it and would read it aloud to herself to try to make sense of it–but she found it hard going. She couldn’t read it consecutively. When we stopped at a local playground to photograph she got out the book and started to read while I loaded the film. So, of course, I photographed her.

 
Via Steve Silberman

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Charles Fort: The original Art Bell

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You could call Charles Fort (1874 – 1932) the “first Ufologist”—and many do—but that’s already, um, damning the quirky author of The Book of the Damned with feint praise. Fort was more of a scientist (or scientific researcher), but not in any sort of traditional sense most people would recognize as science. A better description of his interests would be to say that what fascinated Fort were the things which were intellectually excluded by science. Rains of frogs, alien spacecraft, meat falling from the sky and spontaneous human combustion were the grist for his mill and this is what he spent his life meticulously cataloging.

Fort was also a bit of a comedian, a Swiftian satirist of science. He hated the idea of experts and thumbed his nose at scientific authority. Fort was a sworn enemy of orthodox rationality. His prose is a delight and is a part of his strong attraction for many readers. His style is “circular,” I guess you might say. Repetitive, but this is kind of the point, to be bludgeoned by the sheer force of the number of examples he’d throw at readers, into accepting the simple fact that something awfully strange is going on here.

Fort, who invented words like “teleporter” kept his notes, his Forteana, if you will, on notecards. Although from time to time, the eccentric author would burn his research, tens of thousands of his cards survive and can be viewed at the New York Library’s Rare Book Room (I’ve looked at some of them myself). In his day, Fort had his share of detracters (his friend H.L. Mencken said his head was filled with “Bohemian mush”!) but also many prominent admirers such as Ben Hecht, Theodore Drieser and Oliver Wendell Homes.

The influence of Charles Fort’s work is subtle but pervasive throughout popular culture. No Fort, no X-Files, for instance. No Art Bell or George Noory, either. Although Fort was in life and after his death, a relatively obscure writer, his work still holds a strong fascination for many people who consider him an intellectual giant. And of course there is a magazine, The Fortean Times, which keeps the flame alive as well as regional organizations of Fortean enthusiasts and a yearly convention.

Dangerous Minds pal Skylaire Alfvegren organizes The League of Western Fortean Intermediatists (or L.O.W.F.I) and she’s got a great short biographical essay of Charles Fort at the Fortean West website:

There is a man, largely undiscovered by the modern world, whom I, and many others, believe made one of the most significant contributions to the world of science. Had it not been that he vehemently opposed modern scientists and their methods, his work might be enjoying a greater popularity than it does. Had this man decided to write about completely different topics, he would be hailed as a fabulous literary character. Here was a peculiar fellow. Charles Fort devoted 26 years of his life to compiling documented reports of scientific anomalies from journals and newspapers from all around the world. He lived in dire poverty so that truth could prevail. His life’s work may one day be of great scientific worth, should the established scientific community ever muster the courage to approach it.

Anomalies. This is what Fort trafficked in. Reports of prehistoric beasts frolicking in the world’s oceans. (Loch Ness, Champ, Storsjon Animal). Ancient artifacts found in improbable places (Roman coins in the deserts of Arizona, Chinese seals found buried deep in the forests of Ireland, small statues of horses discovered in pre-Columbian Venezuela). Falls of things other than rain from the sky (red rains in 1571 England, 1744 Genoa; a rain of “73 organic formations, particular to South America” in France in 1846). Unidentified aerial phenomena (excluding Ezekiel’s Biblical description. Fort’s list contains the first known report of a so-called “UFO”, dating from 1779). These are but a few of the subjects Fort spent his lifetime collecting reports of. This anomalous data are roped together under the banner of “Forteana”, a term which probably does not exist in any dictionary, because that which it pertains to isn’t supposed to exist at all.

He who championed underdogs, has been and will likely continue to be, one of the greatest underdogs of all time. For he has not a baseball team or brooding thespians to compete with, but the entire history of the scientific world. His work spat in the face of conventional scientists. There is much going on around us that defies explanation. Fort amassed reports of events seen by humans around the world countless times, which, none the less, have been dismissed. The data he collected were excommunicated by science, which acts like a religion. “The monks of science” he wrote, “dwell on smuggeries that are walled away from event-jungles- Science has done its utmost to prevent whatever science has done” (the Book of the Damned, p. 245). His legacy, his collection of data lies before us. It is indisputable, and yet still ignored. The reports he gathered could make any enemy of science acquire a renewed enthusiasm for the subject. In his four published works, the Book of the Damned (1919). New Lands (1923) Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932) we find over 1,200 documented reports of occurrences which orthodox science refuses to attempt to explain. Explanation was not Fort’s purpose. He merely presented the data, sometimes with his own speculations, sometimes with tongue in cheek. While anomalies can be entertaining, they can also be deeply disturbing, for they undermine the foundations of science, the idea that every thing in this world is rational and under control. Articles like those collected in Fortean Times and the INFO Journal (International Fortean Organization), two publications which continue Fort’s work, prove that things are not under our control, nor will they ever be. Many people, including scientists, find this discomforting and so ignore that which they cannot explain.

The Life, Work and Influence of Charles Fort (Fortean West)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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The Green Manalishi with the two prong crown
06.11.2010
04:53 pm

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Heroes
Music

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Fleetwood Mac
Peter Green

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The final volley from Peter Green before leaving the band he formed, this dark and turbulent 1970 masterpiece is the sound of an acid fried young genius being torn apart psychologically by the evil god of money. Indeed as this was being recorded Green was actively trying to convince his bandmates to begin giving away all of their then considerable wealth.

Green has explained that he wrote the song after experiencing a drug-induced dream, in which he was visited by a green dog which barked at him. He understood that the dog represented money. “It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time. It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did. When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song.

In any case this is a hell of a guitar workout with amazing chord progressions and has been covered by everyone from Judas Priest to The Melvins, but none matches the vibe of the original.
 

 

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Charlotte Moorman’s answering machine message tape
06.11.2010
11:51 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes

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Yoko Ono
John Lennon
Fluxus
Charlotte Moorman

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A voyeuristic and mesmerizing tribute to key Fluxus player and muse to Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys, the experimental cellist Charlotte Moorman. Listen to personal phone messages to Moorman from the likes of John and Yoko, John Cage, Paik and others and drink in that good old-timey analog tape phone machine atmosphere.

 
A Trove of Archival Performances by Charlotte Moorman (UBUWEB)

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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William Burroughs: Words Of Advice For Young People

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School’s out, or almost out, for summer, and it just occurred to me that some of our Dangerous Minds readers might be graduating this weekend.  If so, congratulations!  And what better way to brace yourself for the ennui of sudden adulthood than icing some words of advice from William Burroughs?

This bit, set to music, shows up on Burroughs’ spoken-word, Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy-accompanied, Spare Ass Annie album, but this is the first time I’ve seen the author himself performing it—a chunk of it, anyway.  For a slightly different, text version of the speech, click here.

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion
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Phil Proctor: Forward into the Past with The Firesign Theatre

Beginning June 15, vintage Firesign Theatre radio shows, dating from 1970-72 will be rebroadcast for the first time since their original air dates on WFMU radio. This is comparable to being a James Joyce fanatic and finding not just one notebook where he’s working out the themes that would become fully developed in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, but an entire crate of ‘em. Some of the most mind-bending, thought-provoking and hilarious material of their career and unheard for the past 40 years. A counter cultural treasure of the highest order. Firesign Theatre LIVE in Portland and Eugene, Oregon this weekend!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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In Praise of Edith Massey

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What with John Waters seemingly everywhere these days (Salon, the NYT, Fresh Air) as he promotes his new book, Role Models, I thought it’d be a fine time to revisit one of his former film muses, Edith Massey.

Along with Divine, Mink Stole, David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce, Massey was a stock player in the Dreamlander universe, and a key contributer to that trilogy of Waters films I and many others consider particularly essential: Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living.

Watching those three films growing up (and watching them, and watching them), Massey always struck me as being infinitely stranger than larger-than-life drag queen, Divine.  Maybe it was because I somehow grasped that “drag” was, by definition, “performative,” and thus safer than the whacked-out maternalism that Massey so artlessly channeled.  In fact, whereas Divine’s acting method might be described as quotation-marks-within-quotation-marks, Massey seemingly acted without the cushion of any marks whatsoever—quotation or otherwise.

Massey’s life after Waters was perhaps no odder than her life before it, and its trajectory has an arc straight out of Dickens: from orphanage to reform school, from freight train rider to brothel madam, and then, as these things sometimes go, to Hollywood.

Some of this ground is covered in the ‘74 documentary on her life: Love Letter To Edie (you can watch a clip from that film here).  The below interview from the early 80’s is also amusing:

 
Of course, no Massey entry would be complete without the infamous “Egg Man” moment from Pink Flamingos.  That follows below:

 
After a battle with cancer and diabetes, Massey passed away in Venice, California, in 1984.  That was 2 years after Massey and her band, called, naturally, Edie and the Eggs, released the below Rodney on the Roq staple, Punks, Get Off The Grass:

 

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion
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Art Clokey’s psychedelic masterpiece: Mandala
06.07.2010
09:31 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Movies

Tags:
Art Clokey
Mandala

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Looking every bit like a Jodorowsky film made out of clay, well known psychedelics enthusiast and Gumby creator, the late Art Clokey’s little seen 1964 psychedelic masterpiece Mandala is a truly wonderous thing to behold.
 
Via Gumbyworld:

“Well, we shot that in our basement in Topanga. We had an 1100 square foot basement in a A-frame on a hillside. It was perfect for our needs. My whole family worked on it, my daughter and Gloria’s daughter. That was our second marriage for both of us. She had a daughter and I had a daughter. They were both artistic, and my son and Gloria worked with the camera. So it was a family effort all in clay.”
Art explained that the goal of Mandala was to communicate “the idea of evolving our consciousness from primordial forms to human form, and then beyond the human to the spiritual and eternal. The theme was the evolution of consciousness: we begin in the mud and we just go out and up.”
The film shows lots of masks and tribal images. “The masks were symbols of the condition that we live in where we are all behind the masks and the whole process of life is to discover who it is behind that mask,” Art told us. “Who are we? Who is that guy behind the mask we’re holding up there? That ‘s the purpose of all religion. You just have to find out who that guy is behind the mask.”

 
bonus goodness: Clokey’s title sequence for the 1965 cheese epic Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine with theme song by the Supremes !

 
previously on DM: Viva Art Clokey !
 
thx Carmel Conlin !

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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