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William S. Burroughs and Scientology
05.12.2011
05:06 pm

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Heroes
History
Literature

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When I was sixteen, in 1982, I ran away from home and made my way from West Virginia to Boston. There, I soon found myself quite lost. Spying an extremely attractive young woman who was carrying a clipboard and accosting people in a friendly way, I decided to ask her for directions with the most innocuous chat-up line I’ve ever used: “Can you tell me how to get to Newbury Street, please?”

She told me how to get there and we continued chatting. I thought I was really doing great with her, but it soon turned out she was a Scientologist, attempting to recruit random passersby to take the “personality test” like you always see people doing on Hollywood Blvd. She asked me if I’d heard of Scientology and I told her the only thing I knew about it was what I’d read about it in the writing of William S. Burroughs.

That went right over her head, but undaunted, she asked me if I’d be interested in taking a “personality test” and truth be told, I was interested in just about anything this chick had to offer me. So we walked to the huge, embassy-like Church of Scientology building a few blocks away, and she deposited me with staff members there before disappearing back to her clipboard and her post down the street.

I ended up spending a week sleeping there in exchange for doing janitorial work and re-binding a small library of dusty old books that were in bad repair. It was either there or the riverbank (I was also hoping I’d see the Sea Org hottie again, but that never happened).

It was an awfully strange experience going from a small town in the hills of West Virginia to bunking with a cult of headfuckers in “the big city” in less than 48 hours, but one that I will write about here another time.

My point of offering this, um, partial anecdote is to say that if it was not for the fact that I was an avid teenage reader of William Burroughs, I doubt I’d have gotten myself into that zany, madcap situation. Then again, maybe my brief brush with L.Ron Hubbard and crew could be more honestly attributed to me being a teenage guy who was thinking with his dick. That’s probably that’s just as valid of an excuse…

So that’s my introduction to William S. Burroughs’ Wild Ride with Scientology an interesting short essay Lee Konstantinou wrote about Burroughs’ decade-long flirtation with Scientology that appeared on io9 yesterday. Here’s an excerpt:

Scientology appears again disguised as the “Logos” group in Burroughs’s 1962 novel The Ticket That Exploded. As described in the book, Logos has “a system of therapy they call ‘clearing’. You ‘run’ traumatic material which they call ‘engrams’ until it loses emotional connotation through repetitions and is then refilled as neutral memory’ When all the ‘engrams’ have been run and deactivated the subject becomes a ‘clear.’” In the 1964 novel Nova Express, Scientology is for the first time openly described in Burroughs’s fiction. During an interrogation scene in the book, an unnamed character declares “The Scientologists believe sir that words recorded during a period of unconsciousness… store pain and that this pain store can be lugged in with key words represented as an alternate mathematical formulae indicating umber of exposures to the key words and reaction index… they call these words recorded during unconsciousness engrams sir… The pain that overwhelms that person is basic basic sir and when basic basic is wiped off the tape… then that person becomes what they call clear sir.”

At the start of 1968, Burroughs deepened his relationship to the Church. He took an intense two-month Scientology Clearing Course at the world headquarters of Scientology in Saint Hill Manor in the UK and Burroughs was declared a “Clear,” though he later claimed that he had to work hard to suppress or rationalize his persistently negative feelings toward L. Ron Hubbard during auditing sessions. The Berg has almost a dozen files filled with Burroughs’s pamphlets from Saint Hill as well as his almost unreadable hand-written notes on Scientology courses and questions he prepared for auditing sessions he himself conducted. These files include, as I’ve mentioned, an attempt to create a cut-up from auditing questions; from the start, Scientology was very much connected to the cut-up technique and Burroughs’s theory that language constituted a kind of virus that had infested the human host. At Saint Hill, Burroughs entered an intense and obsessive period of auditing sessions with an E-Meter, including a process of exploring past lives, though he slowly began to grow alienated from the Church and what he considered its Orwellian security protocols. Burroughs’s antipathy for Scientological “Sec Checks” are apparent in his strange and violent story, “Ali’s Smile,” which was published in the collection Ali’s Smile/Naked Scientology.

Burroughs eventually rejected Scientology—because of what he called “the fascist policies of Hubbard and his organization”—but cautiously endorsed some of its “discoveries.” His break with the Church developed over course of the late sixties in the pages of the London-based magazine, Mayfair, where Burroughs wrote a series of increasingly hostile “bulletins” about his adventures with the organization. These bulletins culminated in Burroughs’s amusingly titled Mayfair article, “I, William Burroughs, Challenge You, L. Ron Hubbard.” This piece was republished in the Los Angeles Free Press. In his challenge to L. Ron, Burroughs wrote:

Some of the techniques [of Scientology] are highly valuable and warrant further study and experimentation. The E Meter is a useful device… (many variations of this instrument are possible). On the other hand I am in flat disagreement with the organizational policy. No body of knowledge needs an organizational policy. Organizational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organization and freedom of thought.

For his inquiries, Burroughs reports, he was expelled from the organization and in 1968 was put into what Scientologists call a condition of “Treason”; though the exact circumstances surrounding this incident remain unclear. Burroughs’s public battle against the Church continued in a 1972 issue of Rolling Stone, where he expressed his support for Robert Kaufmann’s exposé, Inside Scientology, published by Olympia Press. Here Burroughs uses his harshest language yet: “Scientology is a model control system, a state in fact with its own courts, police, rewards and penalties.” Strangely enough, despite his break with the group, Scientology reappeared in the 1972 film Bill and Tony, which Burroughs made with Antony Balch (the masturbating guy in Towers Open Fire). In Bill and Tony, an image of Burroughs’s disembodied floating head recites instructions for how to operate an auditing session.

 

 
Thank you Steven Otero!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Fred and Patti Smith perform ‘My Generation’, 1978
05.11.2011
04:52 pm

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The other Smiths.

The family that plays together stays together. Patti and future husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith perform My Generation at the Second Chance Club in Ann Arbor, 1978.

Despite the rough quality of the video, this rocks!
 

 
Same time and place, Patti does Rock and Roll Nigger.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Ennio Morricone’s noise ensemble: Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza
05.11.2011
11:17 am

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This is a guest post by writer and musician Dave Madden. Take it, Dave:

What lingers in the closets of the Brass Ring of recent film composers? James Horner scored Robert Conrad’s kinda-crappy cult classic The Lady in Red. James Newton Howard did session work for Ringo and arranged songs for Olivia Newton-John.  And then you have Ennio Morricone whose wardrobe contains enough oddity to match the awards on his mantle.

During the mid ‘60s, while Morricone was securing his role as the Spaghetti Western king via Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, he became a member of Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza, a revolving collective of musicians dedicated to “anti-musical systems and noise techniques” (note: he was part of the band even throughout his days with Dario Argento and his first academy award nomination for the 1979 Days of Heaven). 

GDIDNC loosely labeled their technique “Instant Composition”, as everything went direct to tape, not staff paper. They merged a collage of the previous 50 years – Webern-like serialistic pointillism, free jazz, spectralism, Musique concrète – with extra-musical philosophies and disciplines; not to be confused with aleatoricism, they crafted their works not by emptying their preconceptions to get to zero, but incorporating myriad ideas and exercises to guide themselves to zero. While that reads as par for the course for improvising musicians today, there are a few things that separate them from your average non-musician – and placed the crew in the flagship ranks of AMM and Musica Elettronica Viva, and turned them into idols for a young John Zorn (he wrote the liner notes to their 2006 box set, Azioni) . 

First, each of the tenuous group was a fantastic musician, respected sound artist and/or scientist: a friend and collaborator of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Luigi Nono (who, together, established the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio in Warsaw), Gruppo founder and pianist Franco Evangelisti was involved with the Studio of Experimental Electroacoustics of UNESCO, focusing on the biophysics of brain impulses as sonic vibrations; Mario Bertoncini (percussion, piano) made his living as a music educator and, for decades, a concert pianist; Roland Kayn’s (Hammond organ, vibraphone, marimba) “monumental graphic scores” for orchestra were performed by Pierre Boulez, though he later devoted his life to “Cybernetic Music”, a sonic renewing process that became the focus of his ten-hour long Scanning. And so on with all eighteen-and-counting purported contributors.

More importantly, as former Down Beat editor Art Lange points out, they were all known for their compositional savvy:

The key words here, however, are “composers” and “organized.” Evangelisti insisted on a performing ensemble that consisted solely of composers in part because of the inherent (even if intuitive) sense of formal logic they would bring to the performance, but also to avoid any taint of instrumental virtuosity for its own sake.

Lastly, when they performed, the disparate personalities combined into a single, flailing behemoth that did not understand the concept of “lull” or “wandering” as it pursued its artistic objective. 

Observe part of “Strings Quartet”:

 
Wait for the percussive bombast near 7:20

 
Morricone after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
DREAMWEAPON: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise, original Velvet Underground drummer
05.10.2011
01:53 pm

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Angus MacLise (top left) with Sterling Morrison (top right), John Cale (front left) and Lou Reed (in keffiyeh) on Ludlow Street in 1965. One of the earliest known pictures of the Velvet Underground.

What looks to be a fascinating exhibit devoted to the life work of poet and musician Angus MacLise, opens tonight at the Boo-Hooray gallery space in Manhattan.

A bit of an avant garde Zelig, MacLise, who died in Nepal in 1979, is perhaps best remembered as the original drummer—well, tabla and bongos, really—for the Velvet Underground before Maureen Tucker joined the group in 1965. A fiercely bohemian type, MacLise quit the Velvets on the eve of their first paying gig, insisting that they’d “sold out.” No recordings of MacLise actually playing with the group have ever been officially released, although a version of “Venus in Furs” filmed for TV is included in the Caught Between the Twisted Stars Velvet Underground bootleg boxset.

In the late 90s, however, several CDs of MacLise’s home-recordings of his own distinctive drone/percussion music, and pre-VU early 60s collaborations with La Monte Young’s Theatre of Eternal Music (along with John Cale, Tony Conrad, Marian Zazeela and on occasion Terry Riley) were made available. They are quite extraordinary and difficult to categorize (somewhere between minimalism and the Residents’ Third Reich and Roll by way of world music). Ira Cohen’s film Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda has also been released on DVD and features a soundtrack from MacLise. This too, is absolutely worth seeking out and a new, strictly limited edition DVD, will be on sale via Boo-Hooray. (Ira Cohen died last week in New York).

Putting a show together from the ephemera of a life lived so far outside of the margins cannot have been easy. .In fact if it wasn’t for a suitcase of over 100 hours of Angus MacLise’s recordings, artwork, publications and manuscripts that was left with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela over 30 years ago by his widow, Hettie MacLise, this show might not be occurring at all. The co-curator (along with Will Cameron) of the exhibit, noted pop culture historian and enthusiast Johan Kugelberg, told the New York Times, “When it rains, it pours. I believe that the stuff decides when it wants to be found.” Mr. Kugelberg has also referred to Angus MacLise as “the American Henri Michaux.”

From the New York Times:

But over the last decade a handful of musicians and historians have been exhuming tape after tape, document after document, to resuscitate MacLise’s reputation as a key participant in the underground culture of New York in the ’60s. The latest of these finds might be MacLise’s Rosetta Stone: a suitcase stuffed with his poems, drawings, photographs and other ephemera, lent to Mr. Young by MacLise’s widow, Hetty, and left in Mr. Young’s basement for decades.

The contents of the suitcase form the core of “Dreamweapon: The Art and Life of Angus MacLise (1938-1979),” which opens on Tuesday at the Boo-Hooray gallery in Chelsea. The show’s curators, Will Swofford Cameron and Johan Kugelberg, contend that it further bolsters MacLise’s status as a “human link document” connecting Beat poetry, the art scenes of Fluxus and Andy Warhol’s Factory, psychedelic film, rock and the classical avant-garde.

“This provides a completely different history of the ’60s and ’70s than we’re used to,” Mr. Cameron said.

Some of the pieces in “Dreamweapon” make a case for MacLise’s significance by association: a flier for an eight-hour happening in 1965 with Warhol, Burroughs, Ginsberg, the Fugs; a handwritten note to his friend Ira Cohen, the filmmaker who died last week at 76.

Others trace MacLise’s brand of mystical eccentricity through various artistic movements. Dead Language Press, which MacLise founded in Paris in 1958 with his high school friend Piero Heliczer, published early work by the Beat poet Gregory Corso and the filmmaker Jack Smith, as well as MacLise’s pamphlet “Year,” from about 1960, which lays out an alternative calendar, with new names for every day (“day of the smoking plain,” “diedricsday”); Mr. Young and Marian Zazeela, his wife and collaborator, still use it.

MacLise spent most of the 1970s in Nepal, where he printed his poetry in tiny editions and drew in a fantastical calligraphy of his own creation that resembles Arabic or Sanskrit. Mr. Kugelberg brushes aside the question of whether the symbols are a form of language. “It’s an inner poetry,” he said, likening MacLise’s process to the subconscious “automatic writing” of the Surrealists.

But if MacLise himself comes across as a cipher, a character to be interpreted through scraps of writing or in a few jarring photographs — like one taken near the end of his life, in which a Grim Reaper figure creeps toward him — it’s no accident. His friends and colleagues remember him as inhabiting some distant poetic plane and as being full of creative inspiration but also unknowably remote.

He might show up for band rehearsal or might not. If he did, he might begin playing before anyone else arrived and continue long after everybody had put their instruments down. Like plenty of others at the time he took copious amounts of drugs, but he seemed particularly neglectful of his own health. His death, at 41, was caused by hypoglycemia, exacerbated by years of drug use, his family said. (The cause has also been reported as malnutrition.)

DREAMWEAPON at Boo-Hooray, May 10th to May 29th, Opening Party: Tuesday, May 10th, 6pm - 9pm

Curated by: Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron

Read more of The Velvet Unknown, Now Emerging (The New York Times)
 

 

 
Thank you Jeff Newelt!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Playwright and gay political activist Doric Wilson dead at the age of 72
05.09.2011
06:43 pm

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Heroes
History
Queer

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“If you look at Doric Wilson’s work of the last fifty years, you will see that he knows more words than most people and knows how to use them, but there’s one word that he’s never heard, and this is “compromise.” Doric has always told it as it is. He has never believed in playing it safe and the word “sugar-coating” is not in his vocabulary either. His theater is tough, funny and right on target. No pussyfooting for Doric: he doesn’t write gay theater; he writes queer theater.’
- Edward Albee

Playwright, director, producer, critic and gay political activist, Doric Wilson, died over the weekend of undisclosed causes, at the age of 72.

Playbill said of Wilson:

Mr. Wilson was one of the first resident playwrights at the legendary Caffe Cino in Greenwich Village, where many fledgling Off-Off-Broadway playwrights cut their teeth. His comedy And He Made A Her opened there in 1961. Only two years in New York, and not wanting people to think the work was his first produced play, he attended performances in three-piece suits with a trench coat tossed over his shoulders. “I also drank brandy and soda,” he recalled.

The success of that play and the three that followed, including Pretty People, Babel Babel Little Tower and Now She Dances!— which dealt head on with the trail of Oscar Wilde—helped establish Joe Cino’s hole-in-the-wall cafe as an offbeat theatre mecca. Later in the 1960s, Mr. Wilson was one of the first playwrights invited to join the Barr/Wilder/Albee Playwright’s Unit and, with fellow Cino alum Lanford Wilson, Circle Repertory Theatre. His other plays included In Absence, Turnabout, The West Street Gang, A Perfect Relationship and Forever After.

Doric Wilson was present on June 28, 1969, when riots broke out at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The rebellion of the bar’s gay denizens against harassing police is generally recognized as having signaled the beginning of the gay rights movement. Mr. Wilson had already been an active participant in the anti-war and civil rights fights of the 1960s. Following the riot, he became active in Gay Activist Alliance and, as a “star” bartender, helped open post-Stonewall gay bars like The Spike, TY’s and Brothers & Sisters Cabaret.

In 1974, Doric Wilson, along with Billy Blackwell, Peter del Valle and John McSpadden, formed TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence), the first professional theatre company to deal openly and honestly with the gay experience. “I was involved with Circle Rep at the time,” he later recalled, “when it suddenly occurred to me that I could use the Cino experience to combine my talents with my politics. I could focus my life and abilities to promote a theatre dedicated ‘to an honest and open exploration of the GLBT life experience and cultural sensibility.’”

The company produced new plays and revivals by Noel Coward, Joe Orton, Terrence McNally and Lanford Wilson. In June 2001 Wilson and directors Mark Finley and Barry Childs resurrected the company as TOSOS II. “Wilson has devoted his life to the once-radical notion that gay lives deserved true representation,” observed playwright Craig Lucas.

In 2004 Doric Wilson was honored to be one of the Grand Marshals of the 35th Anniversary Pride Day Parade in New York City. He is featured in the documentary film “Stonewall Uprising” (2010).

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Charles Ludlam and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company
 

 
Via Joe. My. God.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
New Years Eve 1968 en français with Pink Floyd, P.P. Arnold, The Equals and more
05.09.2011
05:10 pm

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Françoise Hardy, New Years Eve, 1968

Our friends at Mod Cinema have scored again with their latest release, Surprise Partie which was basically French television’s equivalent to New Year’s Rockin Eve” minus Dick Clark and chock full of fashionable Parisian pretty people:

This 3 1/2 hour New Years Eve party was broadcast on French television in 1968. Featuring fashionably dressed partygoers dancing, swinging, and casually sitting on every inch of space of a stylishly decorated set. However, the best thing about this party is the long guestlist of musical performers that show up. Featuring rarely seen footage of Davy Jones, Marie Laforet, The Troggs, Jacques Dutronc, Joe Cocker, Françoise Hardy, Aphrodite’s Child, Antoine, Johnny Hallyday, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Hugues Auffray, The Small Faces, Herbert Leonard, P.P. Arnold, Booker T & The MGs, Eric Charden, Freddy, Nicoletta, The Irresistibles, Pink Floyd, The Equals, and Les Variations. In full color and ORTF “stereo technique” sound!

Buy a copy of the amazing 2-DVD set of Surprise Partie at Mod Cinema.
 
The insanely gorgeous P.P. Arnold doing one of her best known numbers. “If You Think You’re Groovy.”
 

 
Below, Pink Floyd do “Let There Be More Light”
 

 
And one more musical morsel from “Surprise Partie”—it’s The Equals (featuring a young Eddy Grant with blonde hair) performing “Softly, Softly.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Harry Partch at Mills College (1952)
05.09.2011
01:09 pm

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Heroes
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Thinkers
Unorthodox

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A wonderful discovery from the archives of Mills College For Women, long a hotbed of revolutionary musical experimentation. This early 50’s newsreel of Harry Partch conducting the students on his battery of self-invented and built instruments (Partch famously described himself as a composer seduced into carpentry) is entirely too brief. Fortunately, due to the Youtubes, there’s been an explosion of materials on the great man for one and all to discover. I include as a bonus but a few of the lesser viewed examples of his greatness and encourage explorers to seek out recordings of Partch’s utterly unique music.
 

 
Harry Partch Music Studio a short film by Madeline Tourtelot circa late 50’s. (in two parts)

 
Much more after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
‘God loves us when we dance’: 1967 gathering of the tribes in L.A.
05.07.2011
05:29 pm

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Pop Culture

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image
 
Les Blank’s God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance captures the dawning of the Aquarian Age. Feel the vibe.

Hippies and flower children dance and create rituals at the historic Los Angeles “Love-In” of Easter Sunday, 1967.  This ‘60s classic documents a once-in a lifetime phenomenon, preserving all the fashions, energy and idealism of the first “alternative lifestyles.” Psychedelic special effects!

I could watch hippies dancing for hours. It’s like meditating with your eyes open.
 

 
“A BBC Reporter uncovers the underground Hippie Culture in Los Angeles during a “Love In” featuring music by The Miller Blues Band (Steve Miller Band).” Chet Helms of the Family Dog introduces the band.
 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore’
05.07.2011
05:25 am

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Fashion
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Pop Culture

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image
 
In Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, British artist Mark Leckey edits found video footage from the 1970s, 80s and 90s of young people dancing and the result is a pop culture artifact that is archetypal, alchemical, and hypnotic. The video “noise” adds a dreamy electricity to the visuals. From disco to Northern soul and techno, we are set adrift on memories of bliss.
 

 

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A mini-doc about the Minimoog
05.06.2011
01:04 pm

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Science/Tech

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image
 
Here’s a cute lil’ doc about the origins and early use of the wondrous Minimoog from the company that brought it into existence. It’s so very easy to take for granted today but this was the very first synth to have a built-in keyboard. I was fascinated to learn that its signature tone, the thing that allows it to cut through any musical setting it’s used in was an unintended excess of overdrive. Credit Moog for realizing what a brilliant mistake they had made and not changing it.
 

 
Bonus: Two of my favorite funky Minimoog workouts, firstly it’s The Harlem Buck Dance Strut from Les McCann’s 1973 LP Layers:

 

And here’s crooner Marvin Gaye bringing you some Minimoog (or is that an Arp Odyssey ?) magic on After The Dance (instrumental) from his brilliant and under rated 1976 LP I Want You:

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
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