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  • ‘We are the Robots’: German elementary school kids do Kraftwerk
    10.30.2015
    09:02 am

    Topics:
    Music

    Tags:


     
    OK. We’re pretty sure that this is the cutest kid-related thing you’ll see all day.

    Students at Lemmchen elementary school in Mainz, near Frankfurt, Germany perform Kraftwerk’s classic “Die Roboter,” complete with adorable cardboard robot costumes.

    What’s most remarkable about this version, outside of the cute-factor, is the fact that it sounds so totally (perhaps, refreshingly) HUMAN.
     

     
    Via: Electronicbeats.net

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Ellen Fullman and the avant garde drone of ‘The Long String Instrument’
    10.29.2015
    01:31 pm

    Topics:
    Art
    Music

    Tags:


     
    Composer/artist Ellen Fullman began developing her unique instrument/installation/performance art piece “The Long String Instrument” in 1981. This large-scale site-specific work consists of 70-foot-long metallic cables, anchored by a wooden resonator. The performer moves back and forth among the wires with rosin-covered fingers and the instrument produces droney tonalities that cannot be achieved with traditional instruments. The experience of interacting with “The Long String Instrument” has been compared to standing inside of a huge grand piano.

    Fullman’s first album, titled The Long String Instrument was recorded during a 1985 residency at Het Apollo Huis in Eindhoven, Holland, and has recently been reissued from the original master tapes by the San Francisco-based Superior Viaduct label.

    Ellen Fullman answered some questions about her work via email.

    Richard Metzger: It’s tempting to try to classify your work, and your inventions, alongside of Daphne Oram‘s work and her optical synthesizer, or perhaps Delia Derbyshire’s sonic explorations, but I hesitate to do that because it seems almost sexist. Of course, one might also compare your work to, say, La Monte Young’s, or Robert Moog’s or even Harry Partch or any number of men. So instead of doing any comparisons of any sort, let me simply ask you: In what space, or genre do you see yourself working?

    Ellen Fullman: I am not very familiar with the women composers that you have cited, but, that is the reality that is acknowledged now more than ever: women’s contributions have often been ignored or appropriated. I find inspiration in this quote from African-American composer George Lewis: “If you find yourself written out of history, write yourself back in!”

    From the beginning, I very much took my cues from Harry Partch and reading his Genesis of a Music.

    I was at a recital by Meredith Monk some years ago and she introduced one of her numbers by informing the audience that she was inspired to mimic the sounds of the insects that surrounded her sister’s desert home with her vocal cords and that listening to their sounds was a real epiphany for her when it came to developing her unique vocalizing style. Where did the inspiration for your long string instrument come from? It seems like the kind of idea that arrived fairly fully-formed.

    Ellen Fullman: In my studio practice, my notebook plays a major role. Opening up the pages, I go into another dimension, much like Alice in Wonderland. In this place anything is possible. I also work on logistics here; my mind oscillates between imagination and design. Alvin Lucier’s installation of “Music on a Long Thin Wire” in St. Paul Minnesota, 1980, inspired me to explore long strings. I lived in a loft space there and extended a string wall to wall. I tensioned it with door springs and used a coffee can as a resonator. I bowed the string near the can, sang into it, filtering my voice. Accidentally I brushed it length-wise and found it produced a continuous tone. I was very inspired by Pauline Oliveros’ album Horse Sings From Cloud and I could imagine many of these long wires, tuned, and being able to play organ-like sustained chords. Mysteriously, neither tensioning the wire further, or changing the gauge of the wire had any effect on tuning.

    Soon thereafter I moved to New York City and met Arnold Dreyblatt. I was totally charmed by his ensemble of instruments, his miniature pipe organ and miniature piano, and the sounds that they make in Dreyblatt’s tuning. The feeling for me was, “I want to do that!” I could imagine myself inventing new harmonies and unusual sounding chord sequences. Arnold arranged a meeting for me with Bob Bielecki. Bob explained the basic physics of the longitudinal mode of vibration and set me off on a trail that I have been on ever since.

    Unlike most instruments, your long stringed instrument would seem to require an installation. And few instruments can be played by several people at one time. Do you see yourself working more in music or in the art world? Or do you not make that distinction?

    Ellen Fullman: Generally, I want to share my work in any context that is appropriate for the installation, with people from the art world, music scene, or the unaffiliated. Settings could be in a contemporary art museum, an experimental rock festival, a university music department, an art school, a new music festival, a music presenting organization that scouts abandoned industrial spaces, etc. I have been fortunate to experience interesting spaces all over the world through doing this project. I feel my work is in-between music and visual art, and not really sound art either; my formal education was in visual art I am self-taught in music. I do like my installation in a visual art context; I like being an open studio, work-in-progress residency installation. I don’t care so much what context I am in – I just want to keep doing the work.

    How do you write a score for it? Is musical notation possible?

    Ellen Fullman: In the late 1980s, I conceived of a graphic notation format in which timing and coordination of parts are determined by distance walked. This system still functions as the basis for scoring my work today. Numbers placed on the floor under the suspended strings at metric intervals are used as reference points indicated in the score. Transitions can be coordinated based on the time it takes to arrive at predetermined locations, thereby “choreographing” repeatable events to occur at specific locations. My notation functions like a roadmap for the performer, aligning musical events in time and space to coincide with specific upper partial content. Strings vibrate in mathematical subdivisions of the total string length, simultaneously vibrating in multiple modes at once. The performer’s rosin-coated fingertips pass through these subdivisions or nodal points unfolding in a cascading spectrum, dampening the string and sounding partials associated with each passing location.

    Over the past year I set about to create a method for preconceiving and composing for my instrument using midi and through retuning sound files. This has become a fluid and productive approach. I go back and forth between analog and digital: of course applying a digitally conceived composition requires adaption on the instrument, but this process has helped me to discover new combinations. I created a sample instrument in four octaves that I can play using a keyboard. I can audition new tunings, chord voicings, and hear and score for the tuning range of future installations before arriving on site. (Tuning in the longitudinal mode is dependent solely on length, therefore each venue has a different tuning range that I need to adapt my compositions to.)
     
    Continues after the jump…

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
    Behind the scenes with James Bond in ‘You Only Live Twice’
    10.29.2015
    10:46 am

    Topics:
    Books
    Movies
    Television

    Tags:

    01yoltJBposJ.jpg
     
    The revolution of the sixties kicked off on October 5th, 1962. This was the day The Beatles released their first single “Love Me Do” and Sean Connery was launched on to the big screen as James Bond in Dr. No. Between these twin poles of movies and music the decade began. By 1967, The Beatles were the most influential band on the planet while Connery was the world’s best known actor, and iconic star of the most successful movie franchise of all time.

    During the filming of the fifth James Bond movie You Only LIve Twice journalist and presenter Alan Whicker—best known for his rather snide, tabloid and often condescending reporting—made a documentary examining the success and cultural obsession with Ian Fleming’s super spy, or as he termed it “Bondomania.” Whicker bangs on about sex, sadism, amorality and violence, quizzing Connery, producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, and screenwriter Roald Dahl—who disagrees with Whicker’s insinuation, describing Bond as a “tough, rather insensitive fellow who’s very good at his job.”
     
    0yoltpos1.jpg
     
    The Bond format of gadgets, girls and guns was set by the previous two movies Goldfinger and Thunderball. This time Dahl’s screenplay pushed the form to the limit—dumping most of Ian Fleming’s original novel and inventing his own comic book narrative—an action scene on average every five minutes—throwing Bond into unrelenting danger until the final climactic moments.

    Dahl considered You Only Live Twice to be “Fleming’s worst book, with no plot in it,” and he therefore filled the movie with his own quirky inventions—rocket gobbling spacecraft, a volcanic island disguised as a mini Cape Canaveral, and so on. I think Dahl’s criticism harsh, as I am on the side who think Fleming’s books are actually superior to the films, as they reveal a conflicted Bond, insecure, violent, remorseful, smoking, drinking and popping pills to keep himself functioning. Fleming gave Bond an emotional narrative—from strong, confident agent to broken, haunted spy obsessing over his own mortality—which the films have generally ignored.

    You Only Live Twice was the last Bond novel published in Fleming’s lifetime—he died of a heart attack, aged 56, two months after its appearance—the last novel The Man with the Golden Gun and the story collection Octopussy and The Living Daylights were published posthumously. The film was to be Connery’s last Bond until Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. The title comes from a haiku Bond writes when he is “reborn” as “Taro Todoroki,” a mute Japanese coal miner, to gain access to Dr. Guntram Shatterhand or rather Ernst Stavros Blofeld’s Garden of Death.

    You only live twice:
    Once when you are born
    And once when you look death in the face.

     
    More behind the scenes of ‘You Only Live Twice,’ after the jump…

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy
    10.29.2015
    10:36 am

    Topics:
    Books
    Drugs

    Tags:


     
    I’ve been aware of Kliph Nesteroff’s singular erudition for a number of years now. Sometime in 2008 WFMU’s incredible Beware of the Blog (which sadly stopped operating earlier this year) ran a loooong article about the early years of George Carlin—which is to say, focusing on the years before the 1967 release of Carlin’s first solo album Take-Offs and Put-Ons, an era that most readers probably had hardly any notion about. After a while came similar articles dedicated to the early years of Woody Allen and David Letterman, both of which were similarly informative. All of these articles carried the cryptic byline “Listener Kliph Nesteroff,” which seemed random enough and lent the impression that the author was perhaps a housebound retiree, former Navy during the Korean War, something like that.

    How happy for us readers—as the news may portend further publications down the road—to learn that Kliph is far from a grouchy old obsessive, but rather a charming young obsessive (well, maybe a little grouchy), who for some reason has acquired a taste for unearthing and preserving invaluable scuttlebutt from the early days of comedy. For years he has run an essential blog called Classic Television Showbiz and an amusing Tumblr called Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery. The former houses his long-form interviews with some of the important figures of midcentury comedy (many on the verge of being forgotten today), including Orson Bean, George Schlatter, Peter Marshall, a category that also includes an incredible eight-part interview with Jack Carter. Showbiz Imagery and Chicanery is every bit as entrancing, consisting mostly of context-free screen shots of puzzling images and text culled from the hours Kliph spends with the inexhaustible (and expensive! do donate!) resource known as the Variety.com archives.

    Suffice to say, in a few short years Kliph has put together a knowledge base on the roots of stand-up comedy that dwarfs that of anyone younger than, say, 50. By dint of curiosity and hard work, Kliph put himself into a position where he could see the linkages between the present and the past, could isolate the ways in which the patterns that structure the industry of professional comedy found their origins not necessarily in the ersatz “comedy boom” of the 1980s but in practices that stretch much further back.

    It was incumbent upon Kliph, then, to write a book about all of this, and thank goodness, that’s precisely what he’s done. Next week sees the publication of The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, and I can say with confidence that this book will be an invaluable resource for decades to come, for anyone who wants to know about the full history of comedy, stuff that predates the days when Robin Williams was saying “Nanu Nanu” on national TV. Something very similar happened in baseball a generation or two ago, when a writer named Lawrence Ritter decided to hunt down as many players as he could find from the early days of baseball (around 1900)—those interviews eventually became a book called The Glory of Our Times, which was published in 1966 and had a massive impact on the way the sport’s fans regarded the heroes of prior generations. The highest compliment I can pay Kliph’s new book The Comedians (which is available for pre-order right now) is that I think he may just have written comedy’s analogue to The Glory of Our Times, the book that—if you have not absorbed its contents—all but demands that you hold your tongue on the subject of old-time comedy.

    Kliph graciously set aside some time to answer some questions from DM.

    You’ve discovered a whole new area of research to mine, at least for people of our generation. Soon it will just be called “Kliphland.” How did you get started investigating the midcentury era of comedians?

    Kliph Nesteroff: As a teenager I was your typical hipster scum, collecting vinyl records and raiding local thrift stores. I collected soul music, garage rock, surf music - and comedy records. The comedy LPs were by far the most worthless. I would see the same comedy records in every junk pile: Rusty Warren, Woody Woodbury, The First Family featuring Vaughn Meader.
     

     
    I was already interested in comedy but had never heard of these people. Why were they in every thrift store but never on TV or in movies? They must have been super popular at one point if their records were everywhere, right? So that made me sort of curious. Then I learned that after Vaughn Meader had the best-selling record of all time (not just comedy, but any LP period) he went crazy, schizophrenic, destitution, eating out of dumpsters, eventually wandering the desert on peyote before turning Christian and reinventing himself as a local country and western performer in Maine. Clearly there was a worthwhile story there.

    I was already a writer and started stand-up at the age of 18. So, I guess the subject matter was just a natural combination of interests. The creative freedom Ken Freedman provided at WFMU allowed me to experiment and write on any topic of my choosing.

    The kids in the audience at the UCB Theater probably have no idea that they’re enthused about an art form that was more or less invented by the Mob. You write that pretty much all comedians after Prohibition were working by the grace of one or another group of gangsters. That must have been hard!

    Kliph Nesteroff: No, I wouldn’t say the Mafia invented the art form. In my book I have an anecdote from a 90-year-old comedian who argues they coined the phrase “stand-up comic,” because the Mob managed boxers they called “stand-up fighters” and called people they could rely on “stand-up guys.” But no, the Mob had nothing to do with inventing it. They simply owned 90% of the venues where comedians performed from the 1930s through the mid-1960s. So, you know, make the wrong wisecrack and you might suffer a broken limb.

    You’ve spent a lot of time lately hanging out with some of the now-forgotten stand ups of the 1950s, who are now getting pretty old and crotchety too. They’ve been treating you pretty well, but they’ve probably been difficult at times too. Any stories to pass along?

    Kliph Nesteroff: I don’t know. Old people get angry sometimes. I guess we would too if we had trouble peeing. Carl Reiner is considered the epitome of clean comedy, a guy who can write divinely funny scripts without cussing. I was at a Dick Van Dyke tribute once. I went to the bathroom and was at the second urinal when someone came in and went to the first urinal right beside me. It was a 90-year-old Carl Reiner. He braced himself with his left hand against the wall and the whole time he was at the urinal grumbling, “Goddamit Fuck! Come on! Go! Go! Just go! Jesus fucking bullshit, come on! Fucking goddamn fuck!”

    You’ve unearthed so much valuable information about pioneers who helped forge comedy archetypes we all take for granted now, like Frank Fay and Jerry Lester. It must have been fun to spot and explain connections between, say, Bert Williams and Jim Gaffigan.

    Kliph Nesteroff: Well, mapping the connections that haven’t been connected before is a little bit like playing God. Based on the reviews coming in, it sounds like I’ve laid down some kind of masterwork, a sacrosanct history of comedy, and that’s extremely flattering and gratifying - but wasn’t my intention at all. I was just writing whatever I felt was interesting. Comparing Jim Gaffigan’s under-the-breath comments to a similar gimmick the vaudeville comic Bert Williams utilized is just an easy point of reference to help the reader get it. Sort of the way lazy film critics explain new movies: “It’s Revenge of the Nerds meets Schindler’s List!”
     

     
    It was interesting to read about Carlin’s drug use in such detail. I didn’t realize how central LSD was to his reinvention in the late ‘60s.

    Kliph Nesteroff: George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin are considered the three revolutionary figures of comedy from that time. All three were primarily into cocaine in the 1970s, but before that Carlin and Pryor used LSD to positive effect. I think we as a society, y’know, as we hear The Beatles piped through at the local grocery store… we forget just how valuable psychedelics have been to expanding the artist’s inherent ability. Carlin and Pryor would have been fine talents regardless, they were born with that. But it’s because of their 1960s LSD use that their perspectives were forever altered, and why so many today consider them comic geniuses. LSD and other psychedelics can help our latent talents fuse new, uncharted neuro pathways and in turn create an original artistic temperament, unique perspective, prolific output. Groundbreaking revelations come from these experiences and they don’t wear off like a hallucination. Instead you possess new insight that will further your existing artistic ability. I mean, it’s hardly news that LSD is responsible for countless Aphrodites in music, illustration, filmmaking… But maybe the new news, as I argue in my book, is that it had the same important effect on comedy. If such theories are accepted, it’s usually in reference to the 1960s. Let’s not forget that it can still be used with the same revelatory intent today. To quote George Carlin: “More people should do acid.”
     

     
    Flip Wilson was a huge deal in the 1970s, but he’s practically forgotten now. Can you describe his importance to the comedy counterculture?

    Kliph Nesteroff: It’s mostly tangential. He was an early employer for Richard Pryor and George Carlin, using them as writers, and bankrolled Carlin’s best-selling comedy LPs. Flip Wilson’s significance was less on the counterculture than the mainstream. He was the very first African-American with a major network success of his own. You could argue Cosby with I Spy, but Cosby only costarred. Flip Wilson was the star of his own show… an African-American cokehead who had the number one comedy program in America. Think about that. Ten years earlier, Sammy Davis Jr, a guy who loved Sinatra’s racist jokes and endorsed Richard Nixon, could not get a sponsor for his own variety show because he was Black. Just a few years later and Flip Wilson was on the cover of every conceivable magazine. It’s incredible how quickly America changed. And despite the lunatics saying abhorrent things on cable news today, I think we’re experiencing another rapid paradigm shift akin to that era. Never in my lifetime did I expect to see gay marriage, marijuana legalization or a Black president. Nor could I ever imagine that Bernie Sanders would be a household name. Jerry Seinfeld kvetching about political correctness is not too far from Bob Hope complaining about hippie protestors. America is changing, brother. Sure, everything could dissipate like Jerry Rubin turning into a Wall Street powerbroker, but I think we’re only entering the Abbie Hoffman phase of this new era.

    Order Kliph Nesteroff’s The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy from Amazon.

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Whining Maggots: Members of the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu covering Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and the Beatles!
    10.29.2015
    09:36 am

    Topics:
    Heroes
    Music
    Punk

    Tags:


     
    Here’s a rare and long-dormant artifact of classic Cleveland punks in a once-in-a-lifetime configuration. In the late ‘90s, guitarists Jimmy Zero of the Dead Boys and Jim Jones of Pere Ubu (RIP 2008) formed the Whining Maggots with members of obscure but high caliber CLEbands like New Salem Witch Hunters, Death of Samantha, Easter Monkeys and Prisonshake. The band name was likely cribbed from a line in No Cure For Cancer by Denis Leary, of whom Zero was a fan, and the group played exactly one show ever.

    The band was organized by Zero to serve as the draw for a benefit, the beneficiary being noted independent filmmaker Robert Banks, who needed funds to complete a work in progress (I’ve forgotten which film it was, but I think it was probably “Jaded”). Banks was making his living as a life-drawing model at the time, so he appeared at the benefit nude, and donors scotch-taped cash to his body all night. As the evening wore on, other folks got it into their heads to get naked too. It was quite a time. Frankly, I got so hammered that night that 18 or so years later I’m getting a fierce hangover just watching this video.

    The set was a high-spirits covers affair, largely comprised of classic proto-punk tunes nobody in the band probably needed to spend much time learning—it was surely stuff they all cut their teeth on anyway—and some old songs by the Easter Monkeys, one of the bands with whom Jones played before he ascended to Pere Ubuhood. Other notables here include drummer Scott Pickering of the bands Prisonshake and Gem, the latter being the group that spawned Guided By Voices’ Tim Tobias and Doug Gillard, and who originally wrote and recorded GBV’s very popular single “I Am A Tree.” Also present was John Petkovic of Death of Samantha and Cobra Verde, who’s made a bigger name for himself as a member of Sweet Apple, his band with J Mascis. Here’s the set list as best as I could piece it together, the video follows. By the way, I didn’t notice any of the aforementioned nudity in the video, so this should be safe for work, at least on that count. 

    1) Funtime (Iggy Pop) 00:00
    2) Satellite of Love (Lou Reed) 04:57
    3) Underpants (Easter Monkeys) 08:40
    4) Cheap Heroin (Easter Monkeys) 11:26
    5) Shake Appeal (Iggy and the Stooges) 14:46
    6) I Am the Walrus (Beatles) 17:52
    7) TV Eye (The Stooges) 23:20
     

     
    SERIOUSLY obliged to VidMag Productions for making this video available, and to messers Pickering and Petkovic for the memory jogs I badly needed in order to get this post together.

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    Dark entries: Conceptual photography that will nourish your nightmares
    10.29.2015
    09:30 am

    Topics:
    Art

    Tags:

    Origins by Sean Mundy
    Origins by Sean Mundy
     
    22-year-old Canadian photographer Sean Mundy has managed to build a rather impressive collection of his minimalist yet symbolic photography during his two-decades on mother Earth.
     
    Absolution (2013) by Sean Mundy
    Absolution (2013)
     
    Sigil (2014) by Sean Mundy
    Sigil (2014)
     
    Hailing from Montréal, Mundy’s images have the ability to evoke a wide variety of emotions from the viewer, many which may correlate directly to the more unpleasant varieties like fear, loneliness or hopelessness and perhaps (depending on how your eyes see things) loss of hope. Of course, all of what I just said it truly subject to your own interpretation, a sentiment echoed by Mundy himself regarding the endless options for contemplation when it comes to his work:

    I hope for people to see meaning in my photos where I never intended there to be meaning

    Now THAT is an artist’s statement! I’ve chosen to include images of Mundy’s work that many seem to draw on the darker side of life—a part of our collective existence that I feel more connected to myself. Perhaps it’s the time of year that tends to bring out more of my inner grim; the days are shorter and darker, and living things like plants and trees become skeletal versions of their once vibrant selves. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I have personally experienced many a November where we the sun has gone missing in action for weeks.

    Despite all the doom and gloom I’m exuding, I do think that you’ll enjoy looking at Mundy’s photographs (perhaps to the sounds of Bauhaus in the background?) as much as I enjoyed bringing them to you.
     
    Gateways (2013) Sean Mundy
    Gateways (2013)
     
    More Mundy after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    No one really understands the inner pain of the goth chicken
    10.29.2015
    08:42 am

    Topics:
    Animals
    Punk

    Tags:


     
    Chickens are generally the stupidest-looking birds on the planet. I own two different coffee table books of chicken photos simply because the mere sight of these idiotic fowl can literally bring me to laugh-induced tears.

    It must be hard to be a chicken—they’re all going to laugh at you.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t some elegant chickens out there. Today we cast the spotlight on two types of goth chickens: the Black Silkie and the Ayam Cemani.
     

     
    The Black Silkie is thought by traditional Chinese medicine to increase female fertility and vitality and nourish the pregnant woman’s developing child. It’s feathers and skin are black and they are most often raised as pets or for showing rather than producers of eggs or meat—though they are indeed edible and make a great noodle soup.
     

     

     

     

     

     
    The Ayam Cemani is a designer breed from Indonesia, also possessing black feathers and skin—not to mention black muscles and organs. They are an expensive breed. Chicks generally sell for around $200 each.  They have been referred to in some circles as the “Lamborghini of poultry.”
     

     
    More goth chickens after the jump…

    Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
    Chrome extension transforms ‘Donald Trump’ into ‘your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving’
    10.28.2015
    03:11 pm

    Topics:
    Amusing
    Idiocracy
    Politics

    Tags:



     
    As the dreaded holiday season inches ever closer—and the next Republican debate is tonight—a developer named Tim Bornholdt has created a Google Chrome extension that changes instances of the name “Donald Trump” to “your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving.” In other words, the extension changes news stories so that they are no longer about the obnoxious real estate developer and billionaire TV celebrity, but that dear old drunk uncle who you’re going to have to deal with in a little less than a month.
     

     
    You can get the extension at the Chrome Web Store. It’s cute, but what America really needs is a Chrome extension that makes your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving into Donald Trump so everyone can borrow money from him/them.

    Just think, in an alternate universe, there exists a web browser extension that IS turning all of our drunk uncles at Thanksgiving into Donald Trumps and there are MILLIONS of him and each and every one of them is running for President.


     

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    ‘The Day of the Dead’: Putting Malcolm Lowry to jazz
    10.28.2015
    01:10 pm

    Topics:
    Books
    Literature
    Music

    Tags:

    001colldealowr.jpg
     
    The loss of ignorance makes existence worthwhile. Two days ago I’d only vaguely heard of the late English composer and jazz musician Graham Collier (1937-2011) and would probably have never hooked up with his work if not for a tweeted image of his 1977 album The Day of the Dead that set me off on an Internet voyage of discovery.

    Collier was a musician, composer and teacher of considerable note—which only underlines my paltry knowledge—and wrote a significant body of work before his untimely death. But my attention was drawn to this photo by the name of the author on the cover of the album: Malcolm Lowry—one of the great misunderstood and underappreciated authors of the 20th century, whose books demand to be read and kept permanently in print—currently only one of his books is available, not surprisingly it’s his classic novel Under the Volcano.
     
    00lowvolundcov.jpg
    Little ole drink anything me, Malcolm Lowry and his classic book ‘Under the Volcano.’
     
    Lowry’s Under the Volcano is the Faustian tale of Geoffrey’s Firmin, a British consul to Mexico, and his descent into a personal hell. This book inspired Collier to write The Day of the Dead, which was then described as his most “sprawling and ambitious” work as a composer.

    Too often there is an awkwardness born out of improvised jazz and spoken word (listen to Jack Kerouac’s recordings) which can ruin good music and good words, but here Collier managed to wed Lowry’s words (culled from Under the Volcano and spoken by John Carbery) with his storm-tossed, intense music. It’s a revelation and has been deservedly hailed as his masterpiece. As critic Thom Jurek wrote of the album:

    Collier’s vision here is focused, intense, and spiritually charged by Lowry’s work. This is not some jazz with text, where a written text becomes the thematic cause of a group of instrumentalists, but more a series of passages that offered great textural and spiritual depth and dimension by this obviously on fire group of musicians.

    This is vanguard music, but it is far from “free jazz.” The gorgeous chromatic range is almost overwhelming as these players entwine around one another, and the text, further extending the entire notion of collaboration between literature and jazz.

    The totality of this set makes for Collier’s most ambitious work yet, but also his most realized statement on record for a group of this size. This is the text for British and European big bands to follow.

     
    00collbasspl.jpg
    Graham Collier creating ‘the text for British and European big bands to follow.’
     
    Collier had an understandable obsession with Lowry, as the writer mined a solitary path against insurmountable odds. In fact it was incredible that Lowry ever managed to write anything as his fondness for alcohol often had the better of him—here, was a man who would literally drink anything, including aftershave and hair tonic.

    But Lowry for all his demons was a man who understood and loved life—he thrived in the joy and complexity of existence, writing everything down in his notebooks before it was all too quickly gone.
     
    Listen to Graham Collier’s ‘The Day of the Dead,’ after the jump….

    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    Hear the ‘Sweet Jane’ demo from the new Velvet Underground box set, a Dangerous Minds exclusive
    10.28.2015
    11:48 am

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    Music

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    It’s only a matter of days before the new six disc Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition box set of the 1970 Velvet Underground classic comes out. I’ve been bugging the label about getting a copy of this hefty sucker—which includes demos, the Live at Max’s Kansas City show remastered and another set from the Second Fret in Philadelphia, plus, for the first time ever, a 5.1 surround remix of Loaded, which frankly I am salivating to hear.

    Here’s a previously unreleased version of “Sweet Jane”—it’s an early take of the song from disc three of the box set. It starts out slow and tenuous, as if Reed is teaching the song to the rest of the group for the first time, but soon he starts feeling the… power, I guess, of his song and it starts to take flight. In a 2005 interview, band member Doug Yule revealed that the song’s signature riff wasn’t arrived at until right before they recorded it. Certainly they were nowhere near that place at this stage of the song’s development.
     

     
    We’ll have a full review of Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition in a few days, in the meantime, this should tide you over.
     

    Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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