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‘Put Blood in the Music’: Essential doc on Sonic Youth, John Zorn & other 80s NYC noise musicians
10.10.2017
12:41 pm
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Most of Charles Atlas’ movies cover the world of dance, but in the late 1980s he put together a diverting documentary about the New York sound of the moment, with special focus on two budding stars from that scene, John Zorn and Sonic Youth. The movie is called Put Blood in the Music; the title derives from a comment made by Glenn Branca.

Atlas’ playful methods involve some minor video trickery—his illustrious list of talking heads, about which more later, are always superimposed over footage of NYC street scenes. Atlas’ thesis, one voiced by most of his guests who discuss the matter in the movie, is that the special conditions only New York City can provide are responsible for the particular qualities of the music produced by its citizens—bracing, dissonant, heterogeneous.

Put Blood in the Music has a very impressive roster of participants, including Branca, Lydia Lunch, John Cale, Kramer, Christian Marclay, Vernon Reid, Arto Lindsay, Hal Willner, Richard Edson, Karen Finley, and Lenny Kaye. Obviously we see a lot of Zorn and the SY people as well.
 

Karen Finley in ‘Put Blood in the Music’

Zorn is a more engaging presence than Sonic Youth, who at a distance of about three decades, are also far more familiar these days. Zorn was about 25 when this was filmed, but he seems even younger than that. He’s the kind of music nerd who has distinct, serious phases of getting “obsessed” with hardcore or obscure Japanese pop; can converse insightfully about the music of Carl Stalling, composer for the old Warner Bros. cartoon shorts; and as a teen was quite taken by the music of Argentinian experimental composer Mauricio Kagel.

The Sonic Youth section is no less impressive—the high point may be the glimpse we get of Ciccone Youth covering Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” a subject already discussed at length here. Sonic Youth are arguably at the peak of their powers—they had just recorded Daydream Nation.
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.10.2017
12:41 pm
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Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull and more performing the music of Kurt Weill


 
Whether for his avant-garde work of the Berlin Cabaret scene or his later Broadway scores, Kurt Weill is synonymous with forward-thinking musical theater. It’s hard to imagine the 20th Century pop canon without standards like the indelibly swinging “Ballad of Mack the Knife” or the sentimental “September Song,” and in 1985, producer Hal Wilner conceived a tribute album, featuring a lineup of talent that ranged from actual rock stars like Sting and Todd Rundgren to avant/underground figures like Henry Cow/Art Bears singer Dagmar Krause and Downtown NYC jazz figurehead John Zorn.

The album, Lost in the Stars, was the third in a series of composer tributes put together by Wilner, whose prior similar projects included the Nino Rota tribute Amarcord and A Thelonious Monk Tribute called That’s the Way I Feel Now that featured admirably counter-intuitive contributors like Was (Not Was) and Peter Frampton. Wilner’s well-received tribute series may well have helped kick off the fad for tribute albums in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; his Stay Awake and Weird Nightmare albums, tributes to Disney soundtracks and Charles Mingus, respectively, certainly benefited from appearing towards the beginning of that long-lived vogue.

Here’s Lou Reed, doing “September Song.” He’d record that song again ten years later, and it would serve as the title track to yet another Wilner tribute to Weill. That later album was more focused on historical recordings, and aside from excellent contributions from Nick Cave and William S. Burroughs, it mostly lacked the underground appeal of Lost in the Stars.
 

 
Tom Waits doing music from The Threepenny Opera isn’t exactly a stretch, but it’s as awesome as you’d think. His version of “What Keeps Mankind Alive?” and much much more after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.17.2015
09:59 am
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