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Bizarre, expensive porcelain stereo speakers in the form of political dictators

Russian artist Petro Wodkins is behind the design, manufacture, and sale of these hand-made porcelain “Sound of Power” speakers in the shape of five powerful heads of state. The group consists of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Barack Obama of the United States. I find it almost refreshing that Obama could make this list, it smacks of a certain contrarian je ne sais quoi.

The craftsmanship on these beauties is purported to be impressive: as the PR materials brag, “The figurines are crafted by artists and we put a lot of attention to the authentic details, like the small stars on the buttons on the shirt of Kim Jong-Un.” I have to admit that when I do shop for international dictator audio equipment, I do look for that sort of attention to detail.

The speakers come in three sizes. The 10-inch model costs about $1,200 and is appropriate for use with a desktop computer. The largest is the 43-inch model, which runs roughly $39,000 and will instantly become the most attention-getting object of almost any room in which it is present, as depicted below. As you can see, the speakers are also useful for providing a surface upon which the spoiled children of plutocrats can lean comfortably.

If you don’t like speakers in the shape of meanie dictators, you can opt to get speakers custom-made of your own head or anyone whose head you can subject to a 3D scanner. The custom model is available in “white or gold” and “prices start” at around $165,000.
Kim Jong-Un
via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Gold-plated Kentucky Fried Chicken bone necklaces
06:25 am


Kentucky Fried Chicken

It’s voodoo. It’s disco. It’s so tacky I’m gonna keel over and die if I don’t get one of my own. They’re chicken bone necklaces—excuse me—actual gold chicken bone necklaces, rendered from greasy bird meat—the mutilated hoards blessed by the late Colonel himself, or at least a corporate trademark based on his actual face.

Kentucky for Kentucky is a Lexington-based haberdashery specializing in all things Buegrass state.There’s the more traditional fare—cute totes, hip onsies and t-shirts—there are even some great bowls featuring “The Greatest” Kentuckian, Muhammad Ali. However, it’s the currently criminally sold out gold chicken bone necklaces that tower above all other Kentucky swag. Here’s how they boast about their wares:

We got together with our favorite Kentucky jewelry designer Meg C to create a beautiful line of “Kentucky Fried Chicken Bone Gold Necklaces”. That’s right, your dreams have now come true.

Thanks to Meg C and Kentucky for Kentucky, you can now wear a 14kt gold plated Kentucky Fried Chicken bone around your sexy neck. No joke, beautiful handcrafted gold necklaces made with real bones from a Kentucky Fried Chicken 8-piece chicken dinner. Boomtown.

Alright, I can’t say I approve of the use of “boomtown” here, but they’re right about the “your dreams have now come true” part. When something is this outwardly chic yet covertly trashtastic, I must have it. It took Meg C a month to complete all the coatings and treatments required to gold-plate a chicken bone, so I suggest she get cracking, stat. At $130 for the small model and $160 for the large, it costs a lot to look this cheap, but I will find the cash.

Maybe I could sell my bone marrow…

Via Lost at E Minor

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Furtive fecal felon breaks into people’s homes and poos in their toilets
04:50 am


Poo Man

A furtive fecal felon, dubbed “The Poo Man” (“Bajsmannen”) has been breaking into people’s homes in the town of Mariestad, Sweden, and taking a dump in their toilets. Mariestad’s toilet invader made headlines in the Aftonbladet newspaper after the Poo Man’s foul deeds were reported on TV crime show Brottscentralen, where one of his victims was interviewed. According to The Local:

Hosts on the show said the incident had developed into “an unusual, uncomfortable, and utterly revolting pattern.”

“A man or woman has repeatedly made their way into people’s apartments and done their business in the toilet,” one of the programme hosts explained.

“Without flushing, we should add,” the co-host added.

Since last summer, the Poo Man has left a noxious call card at four different households, visiting one of the victims, Emmeli Johansson, on four separate occasion. Ms. Johansson said she rued the fact that neither her landlord nor the police took her complaint seriously, and explained how she was forced to change her locks. Though this trail of devastation (defecation?) has led to many puns, jokes and assorted banter, Brottscentralen‘s reporters reminded residents “that the crime was actually a serious one”:

“It’s easy to laugh about it, but it’s really uncomfortable when you realize that a pattern is developing,” they said.

An anonymous caller to The Local explained that the suspect could be “the legendary poop man” who hits music festivals around the country, covering himself in human excrement from the festivals’ portable toilets. The caller’s claims remain unconfirmed.

Oh him? It’s unknown whether the Poo Man is still on the run, or bunged-up somewhere… but we can only hope this fecal terrorist washed his hands after using the facilities…

With National Toilet Paper Day coming up on August 26th, here ten facts about you know what…

H/T Arbroath

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Christianity is Stupid’: Negativland takes on religion in ‘It’s All In Your Head’
02:20 pm



The other day I was pondering how I would explain the whole “Why are we here?” / “Is there a God?” concept to my (hypothetical at this point) child and discussing this with my wife who is about as religious as I am (i.e: not at all). When I was a kid, raised in a very Christian home in West Virginia, it was a pretty straight line between reading Thor comics, then Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes before I was already having my doubts about “church.” If the Norse gods, like the Greek gods, were all just myths, wasn’t the whole Judeo-Christian thang on a similarly shaky epistemological foundation? What’s the difference? I couldn’t see one. From a very young age, religion had no credibility with me, but I was lucky. Christianity ultimately had very little effect on me.

How to discourage an irrational belief in the bearded sky god without being too heavy-handed about it and causing the hypothetical kid to go in the other direction to rebel will be an interesting road to navigate. Then again maybe not. As everyone knows millennials have left their parents’ religion in droves. Nearly two-thirds of under 30s subscribe to no organized religion. At the current rate of attrition, by mid-century Christians may no longer even constitute the majority in America.

For all kinds of reasons, the movement away from religion has picked up some serious speed in the past few decades, with this in mind, I laughed out loud reading the press release for Negativland’s new album, It’s All In Your Head which describes the double CD set (packaged in an actual Holy Bible repurposed into a “found” art object, modified by hand) as being “millennia-in-development.”

It’s true if you think about it. They wouldn’t have been able to get away with something this cheeky in previous decades. In 2014, it’ll be a sought after collectible, of course. They wouldn’t have had the source material to work with, either. It’s All In Your Head provokes and entertains listeners with Negativland’s signature mix of found music, sounds, radio dialogue and original electronic noises, bleeps and boops fashioned into a musical essay that looks at “monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.”

It’s monotheism, but it’s in stereo, putting me in mind of the Firesign Theatre crossed with Richard Dawkins crossed with Madlib. If that sentence is even halfway intelligible to you, the “trailer” for It’s All in Your Head, below, is required viewing, freak.

It’s All In Your Head comes out on October 28th, but if you preorder it, you’ll get it two weeks before that (I have one already and highly recommend it).

Bonus: “The Mashin’ of The Christ” music video:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Man with Alzheimer’s disease drew a series of self-portraits over the years
12:17 pm


Alzheimer's disease

William Utermohlen’s self-portrait from 1967
British artist William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1995. Utermohlen decided to document the progression of the disease by doing self-portraits until he no longer remembered his own face. As terribly sad as these portraits are, they show how rapidly—and with such fury—Alzheimer’s can affect the human brain.

Utermohlen’s widow, Patricia, said, “In these pictures we see with heart-breaking intensity William’s efforts to explain his altered self, his fears and his sadness.”

William Utermohlen passed away in 2007.








Below, Louis Theroux’s eye-opening and poignant 2012 documentary Extreme Love: Dementia. I highly, highly recommend this documentary if you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or just want to learn more about the disease. You won’t soon forget it.

h/t Death and Taxes

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Sleep is for Sissies: Before ‘Repo Man,’ there was Alex Cox’s mind-bending student film ‘Edge City’
11:30 am


Alex Cox
Repo Man

Edge City, a/k/a Sleep Is for Sissies, is director Alex Cox’s first movie. Made for $8,000 while Cox was a student at UCLA, the 36-minute picture already includes a number of the distinguishing features of his works. That means a repo man, a Chevy Malibu, and Ed Pansullo; references to Nicaragua and Sid Vicious; class exploitation, absurd violence, and creative sound editing. As usual, characters work at cross-purposes and don’t listen to each other. Jokes are reminiscent of Harvey Kurtzman-era MAD comics.

Cox’s sense of humor is at maximum bananas level. Shots ring out at a crowded LA pool party where a beer commercial is being filmed. A gunman is indiscriminately murdering the guests in broad daylight, but no one notices the shots, screams, or falling bodies. In another scene, when Cox, playing graphic artist Roy Rawlings, answers the phone, a badly overdubbed voice utters the meaningless line: “Hey, baby! Heh-heh-heh-hey!”

Friend, do you like a good yarn? If so, watching this movie might not be the leisure activity for you. Its “trippy, associative editing style,” which Cox says was influenced by Nicolas Roeg and Lindsay Anderson, just about obliterates whatever narrative was there to begin with. “At one point there was a 50-minute version which was sort of intelligible,” Cox explains in Alex Cox: Film Anarchist, “but I was embarrassed by it after a while because the story seemed so mundane. Then I deliberately cut 10 minutes to make it more obscure.”

In his engrossing book X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker, Cox elaborates on the perversity of the film’s final cut:

Inevitably, the film reached a crisis point. The screenplay had been 35 pages or so – the length of a 35-minute film. By the time I’d cut in all the scripted stuff and the improv’d scenes and images from downtown, Edge City was a sturdy 55-minute creature. I only needed to shoot another 30 minutes, and I would attain that much-coveted grail, the independent feature.

This was what all of us UCLA auteurs wanted: a 90-minute feature film. Right? Perhaps not. [...] Colliding with the ambition for a feature was an artistic instinct – imagine that! – which distrusted Edge City. Artistically, aesthetically, the film already seemed too long, in danger of acquiring a familiar narrative. Letting it get still longer would make it more normal. Ambition, routed, retreated without firing a shot.

I pruned the picture back to a 36-minute, weirdo film. I think this was the better option (especially for the viewer). It was also shorter and cheaper, which was a consideration when you were shooting film and paying for it yourself.

“Shorter and cheaper” was also the guiding principle when it came to the music on the soundtrack, assembled from Cox’s record collection. Among other things, you’ll hear Metal Machine Music, Another Green World, Tonio K.‘s “The Funky Western Civilization,” Tangerine Dream’s Sorcerer soundtrack, and Sid’s “My Way.”

Good luck figuring out what’s going on. Headphones are indispensable, as is this synopsis from X Films:

The script – written in a fragmented fashion in the style of the director Nick Roeg – told of one Roy Rawlings, an English commercial illustrator based in L.A. Roy seeks to stay one step ahead of his creditors while (a) getting the girl and (b) pursuing his Big Break. His agent is the sinister Smack Hasty, who pays him in drugs. Roy wants to meet the author of the book he’s illustrating, but Smack keeps putting him off.

Roy meets Krishna, a rich hippy girl, at a party, and invites her to the ruined house he lives in. He promises her ratatouille, but when she comes to the party there is none. However, he does have Quaaludes, which restore her equilibrium. While Roy is at the supermarket, Krishna swallows too many Quaaludes, and drowns in the bath.

On his return, Roy is surprised to find two soldiers, or vigilantes, eating the contents of his fridge. He flees just as Krishna’s body is discovered, and heads out to the desert in his sports car, where he meets the mysterious author, and various secrets are revealed.


Edge City part 1
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Fugazi: Red Medicine for the White House, live in Washington, DC, 1991
10:44 am


Ian Mackaye

Dischord Records, the independent punk label of immeasurable historic importance founded by Minor Threat/Fugazi/Evens singer Ian Mackaye, made an intriguing announcement recently:

In January 1988, after only ten shows, Fugazi decided to go into Inner Ear Studio to see what their music sounded like on tape. They tracked 11 songs, ten of which were ultimately dubbed to cassette tape and distributed free at shows, with the band encouraging people to share the recording.

The only song from the session that has been formally released was “In Defense of Humans,” which appeared on the State of the Union compilation in 1989. Now, some 26 years later, Dischord is releasing the entire demo including the one song (“Turn Off Your Guns”) that wasn’t included on the original cassette. The record has been mastered by TJ Lipple and will be available on CD and LP+Mp3.

This release will also coincide with the completion of the initial round of uploads to the Fugazi Live Series website. Launched in 2011, the site now includes information and details on all of Fugazi’s 1000+ live performances and makes available close to 900 concert recordings that were documented by the band and the public.


The label’s coyness about the actual release date of the demos is a bit of a drag, but it may have something to do with the near impossibility of getting timely vinyl pressings done these days. Given that these are finally being widely issued, perhaps one can hope that someday we’ll get an official release of Steve Albini’s demos for the album In On the Kill Taker? They’ve been repeatedly taken down from various blogs, but if you can track them down, you may agree with me that they kicked a lot more ass than Albini or Fugazi ever gave them credit for.

Those Fugazi Live Series pages are worth a good, thorough combing-through if you’re a fan. They not only boast an exhaustive list of the band’s concert dates (what would you give to have been at “Jan 20, 1988, East Lansing, MI, USA, Matt Kelly’s Basement?”), but also offer recordings of many of them, some made by the band, some by fans. Where they exist, the recordings are offered for sale at the price of—all together now—five dollars per show, in a surely intentional echo of Fugazi’s eminently fan-friendly move of demanding that their concert admissions be capped at $5. One almost has to half-kiddingly wonder if Mackaye’s bed isn’t literally stuffed with five dollar bills.

Since the US is evidently going to be in Iraq for freakin’ ever, it seems fitting to punctuate this post with the show that serves as the subject of Fugazi Live Series FLS0308, the Gulf War protest in Lafayette Park, Washington DC, January 12, 1991. I was in DC for those protests, but to my lasting regret, I had no idea this show was happening right in front of the White House.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The 1960s photography of Dennis Hopper
08:44 am


Dennis Hopper

I am a child of the 1970s, so Dennis Hopper really means two things to me, Blue Velvet first and Easy Rider second. For me, Hopper doesn’t have much of an identity before Easy Rider, which goes to explain why I had scarcely any idea of his excellent photography (and excellent connections to the art world) during the 1960s. This information helps inform some of his filmmaking career, for instance his artistic intransigence over The Last Movie—only someone steeped in modernist art and abstract expressionism would ever have made such a stand. Everyday I Show brings us an excellent selection of Hopper’s b/w pics from the 1960s, be sure to click there to see more of them. Hopper wasn’t in the league of a Diane Arbus or a Garry Winogrand, but he clearly knew what he was doing and also had some great subjects in the form of Jane Fonda, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, plus Teri Garr (!).

Three years ago Taschen came out with a gorgeous book dedicated to Hopper’s early photographic work, Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967.

Jane Fonda (with bow & arrow), Malibu, 1965

Biker Couple, 1961

Ed Ruscha, 1964

Double Standard, 1961

Andy Warhol and Members of the Factory (Gregory Markopoulos, Taylor Mead, Gerard Malanga, Jack Smith), 1963

Ike and Tina Turner, 1965
More of Hopper’s terrific pictures after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Get hypnotized by the psychedelic slo-mo hula hooping for Bishop Allen’s new album
08:39 am


hula hoops
Bishop Allen

Bishop Allen is one of those indie bands that’s been quietly buzzing around for nearly ten years—I knew about them because they’re a former Brooklyn-based group with the weird distinction of being on Dead Oceans, a label based out of Bloomington, Indiana (my home before all the good bartending gigs dried up). The new album Lights Out is full of the kind of sunny, poppy, electronic-infused tunes one might use to round out the last of days of summer. It’s got a lot of darling hooks and bitter-sweet warmth.

However, I’m well aware that the Dangerous Minds crowd can be a bit… anti-sunny—or at least, anti-Brooklyn Indie Rock. If you feel a curmudgeonly tirade coming on, fear not! There is another component to Lights Out that may yet seduce you!

Perhaps in an attempt to humiliate Beyoncé (we can only speculate, but I believe there is a bitter feud going on between them), Bishop Allen has also released a video to go along with every track on the album, connected as a continuous playlist below. The twist is that every video is some variation on the same theme—their friends hula-hooping, in slow-motion. Now we here at Dangerous Minds would never advocate drug use, but I will say that if you’ve partaken of some “entertainment insurance,” then the videos have a hypnotic effect I’d liken to a liquid light show.

If you want to catch some shimmery synths in person, Bishop Allen just kicked off a big tour. If you are personally affronted by the thought of seeing a sunny Brooklyn Indie band, relax and enjoy the hula hoops.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Bogie and Bacall’s forgotten radio drama
08:19 am

Pop Culture

Lauren Bacall
Humphrey Bogart

Promotional standee for Bold Venture sponsored by Genesee Beer, 1951.

When the great Lauren Bacall died recently at 89, her obituaries routinely mentioned her relationship with Humphrey Bogart, and their onscreen chemistry in the four classic films they made together.

Less widely known, and rarely mentioned however, is Bold Venture, the radio show they starred in together in 1951-1952. Bogart and Bacall played the owners of a hotel in Cuba and a boat called the Bold Venture, romantically sparring while getting mixed up with smugglers, spies, con men and corrupt cops “in the sultry settings of tropical Havana and the mysterious islands of the Caribbean.” If the writing isn’t quite To Have and Have Not, it delivers enough sharp wit to keep the couple’s classic chemistry alive and enough tension to keep the drama moving.

57 half-hour episodes have surfaced and they’re available to listen to and download for free at If you’ve ever wished Bogie & Bacall made more movies together, Bold Venture is the next best thing.


Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall aboard their private yacht, Santana.

This is a guest post from Jason Toon of Seattle, Washington.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Johnny Cash’s musical ad for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 1971
07:48 am


Johnny Cash
Richard Nixon

You are in no position to give health advice, Mr. Johnny Cash!
Johnny Cash certainly lived his paradoxes—a champion of the rebel, yet oddly reverent of the powerful. He sympathized publicly with the margins of society while simultaneously invoking a kind of nostalgic, rural wholesomeness. That in mind, it makes total sense that he’d do a public service announcement on physical fitness for Richard Nixon.

It’s not totally without its charms, either! The tune is catchy. “The man I used to be” is a pretty clever euphemism for “I got fat,” and the whole thing lends itself to that wistful reminiscing you want from a Johnny Cash. This was recorded only one year in of a seven-year period of sobriety. Before 1970 he was still doing insane amounts of pills, and engaging in super-wholesome activities like driving out to the wilderness all cranked up and accidentally setting fire to 508 acres of California National Forest.

I guess Nixon thought America needed a fitness spokesman who wouldn’t make us all feel bad about ourselves?

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Entertainment: Gang of Four, live in Zagreb, 1981
07:20 am


Gang of Four

A blog I will never be able to read recently posted a gleaming gem of a video—professional footage of six live Gang of Four songs, performed in Zagreb, Yugoslavia (now Croatia, of course), around the height of the band’s strength. This was the Solid Gold tour. While that album isn’t quite the stone classic that their debut Entertainment! is, songs like “Outside the Trains Don’t Run on Time,” “Paralysed” and “What We All Want” easily rank with the band’s best work. The performance was recorded at Music Biennale Zagreb in 1981, the first year that long-lived festival featured rock music.

Though Gang of Four were on the rise at this time, they were also near the end of their original lineup. In a change from which the band wouldn’t ever recover artistically, bassist Dave Allen would soon leave to form the more dance-oriented Shriekback. In a dismal irony, Go4 themselves would become a markedly tamer, more accessible, dancier band after Allen’s departure. (Mind you, that incarnation of the band STILL slayed in concert—hell, singer Jon King was still an electrifying frontman even in Go4’s why-did-they-bother mid ‘90s resurrection attempt.) But in this Zagreb footage we can see the band still riding their initial burst of ferocious, jagged, Marxist-inspired salvos against leisure class complacency and economic injustice. God damn, they were glorious.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Dialectics & disco: post-punk Marxists Gang of Four get funky on ‘Dance Fever,’ 1982
Entertainment: complete Gang of Four show, 1983

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Electric Würms: ‘I Could Only See Clouds’ exclusive video premiere
03:51 pm


Wayne Coyne
Electric Würms
Steven Drozd

The world premiere of the decidedly lysergically-informed new Electric Würms music video, “I Could Only See Clouds” directed by Wayne Coyne. The song comes from Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (“Music that’s Hard to Twerk to”) out today on CD, vinyl and iTunes from Warner Bros. Records and available via the Flaming Lips online store.

Electric Würms is the side project of Flaming Lips Steven Drozd and Wayne Coyne (who steps away from his normal frontman role here and plays bass) working with Nashville-based psych-rockers Linear Downfall. It’s a spacey, raw cosmic jam that Pitchfork called a “Live-Evil-era Miles (by way of Yoko Ono’s Fly) psych-funk shriek.”

What are you looking for? What are you really, really looking for? Maybe you’ll find it here. It’s worth a try, right?

Bonus: Würms on Würms…

Posted by Electric Würms | Leave a comment
Marxist Minstrels: The Beatles want to sexually hypnotize you into Communism!
12:15 pm


The Beatles
David A. Noebel

Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles
If you’re like me, you can’t resist a good piece of moral panic red-baiting propaganda, especially when it’s directed at a social phenomenon that seems so chaste by today’s standards. As luck might have it, I recently came across the 1974 opus, The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music, by the good Reverend David A. Noebel.

Evangelical tracts denouncing rock ‘n’ roll, especially as related to either homosexuality or “race mixing,” aren’t hard to find if you scour antique shops in middle America, but as something of a connoisseur of the genre, I have yet to find a piece of literature that so succinctly combines the collective fears of old, white, crazy Christian dudes. David Noebel, ordained in 1961, started his illustrious career with the above pamphlet, Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles. He saw the rise of Beatlemania as the result of Communist indoctrination via hypnosis (yup, just like the title), a thesis he developed more thoroughly in his 1964 book, Rhythm, Riots, and Revolution: An Analysis of the Communist Use of Music, the Communist Master Music Plan. The book transitioned from The Beatles to folk artists, focusing on Bob Dylan, his colleagues, and their earlier influences. This is at least slightly more understandable, when one considers the political leanings of the folk movement, frequently with explicit anti-racist, pro-labor lyrics.

The Marxist Minstrels: A Handbook on Communist Subversion of Music however, synthesizes all of his previous work, citing children’s records, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll as being part and parcel to some elaborate integrationist, free-love, Communist conspiracy. As a rock ‘n’ roll propaganda collector, I’m used to trudging through a lot of this stuff, and the majority of it is incoherent ramblings—the sort of thing you’d read in a madman’s personal manifesto. Noebel is compelling because he’s intelligent, coherent, and well-researched, despite being absolutely paranoid and utterly mad. Aside from some minor comma abuse, he has a clear, if discursive thesis: rock ‘n’ roll is turning kids into gay, Communist miscegenators.

Some of his “evidence” is fascinating. For example, Alan Freed’s “payola scandal”—who was paying him to play all those rock ‘n’ roll records to unsuspecting teenagers? Communist record companies invade the airwaves by bribery, infecting the youth with music that is ““un-Christian, mentally unsettling, revolutionary and a medium for promiscuity.” He cites psychological studies, sociological statistics, numerology, etc. to scientifically “prove” the moral degradation incited by popular music, causing everything from sky-rocketing “illegitimate” birth rates to sexual rioting. Lots of sexual rioting. The appendices are incredibly dense and well-cited.

What follows his strange assessment of rock ‘n’ roll is an (actually, semi-accurate) account of the American Left, including some background of the American Communist Party and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Then of course, Noebel posits that folk artists were inspiring the youth to instigate a race war. He believed acoustic musicians like Malvina Reynolds (her “Little Boxes” is the theme music to Weeds) and Pete Seeger were instructing white students to join with “radical groups of Negro racists” so that they might revolt and achieve racial dominance in America. The weirdest part of all this is that by 1974, integration was (at least, on paper) complete. The folk artists who were most explicitly leftist or Communist weren’t a particular focus of pop culture, The Beatles had already long been broken up, and he never quite explains how these two very distinct fanbases are somehow connected (except that they’re obviously both very Communist). One can only imagine the lovely psychosis that The MC5 would have brought him.

Noebel is still living today, and I recommend checking out his extensive collection of YouTube videos and blog, if you’re looking for a laugh. These days, he’s much more on the “Obama’s a Socialist” train and decrying “Warmism” (Noebel’s evocative name for climate change) than he is into denouncing rock ‘n’ roll. Hell, even Paul Ryan loves Rage Against the Machine. Still, his older words bring an odd comfort, when we read his treatise on rock ‘n’ roll, comparing it to a children’s record that supposedly contained subliminal messages only audible when the record is played in reverse; “the noise that many of our youth call music is analogous to the story tape played backwards. It is invigorating, vulgarizing, and orgiastic. It is destroying our youth’s ability to relax, reflect, study, pray, and meditate, and is in fact preparing them for riot, civil disobedience, and revolution.” Dear god, I hope so.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Stockhausen’s audacious ‘Helicopter String Quartet’

It was a series of dreams that inspired the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen to write his controversial Helikopter-Streichquartett or The Helicopter String Quartet in 1992-93.

Stockhausen had been asked to compose a quartet for Professor Hans Landesmann of the Salzburger Festspiele in early 1991, but the composer had no interest in writing one, that is until he had a dream. Stockhausen was at a party, where the guests snubbed him, were rude to him, whispered behind their hands about him, and he dreamt he could fly away, quite literally:

l don’t have any philosophy, but all my life l’ve dreamt that l can fly, and that l know what it means to fly. ln lots of dreams l leave earth. l often dream that l’m in a cellar, surrounded by people in tuxedos, holding drinks in their hands, and l know l could shut them all up in one go. They don’t want me there.

Then l’m on tiptoes and l let myself go, l just take off and l end up on the ceiling. And then…l swoop down to the floor and fly up again, and everyone says, ‘‘Oh!’‘

l turn elegantly at the wall. l dream that the people are all speechless, watching me—a man, fly.

In another dream, Stockhausen dreamt he was hovering high above four helicopters in which of each four musicians were playing his music. On waking he saw the potential of such a work and made a series of notes and sketches. However, Stockhausen had never written a quartet, as he later explained in a documentary about the Helicopter Quartet:

lt’s the first and probably the last! All my life, l’ve never composed anything for a classical formation.

ln fact, the string quartet is a prototype from the 18th century. Just as the symphony and the solo concerto are the stamp of a very particular era in composition, both as regards interpretation and form. All my life l’ve kept away from that. l haven’t taken up the classical forms.

l’m a pianist but l’ve never written a concerto, and l’ve refused commissions for concerti for violin or piano. The same goes for symphonies and quartets. This quartet is the result of a dream. When the work was commissioned, l said, ‘‘No way, never!’’ Then l dreamt it.

And that’s when everything changed, because l started imagining the four musicians flying, playing in a completely different room. The show is put on for an audience sitting in a concert hall. They imagine the musicians in the air, playing in four flying objects.

ln the future, they could be in flying objects that go up even higher.

This idea was progressed by two further dreams: one in which Stockhausen saw and heard a giant swarm of bees, buzzing, swirling, turning in the sky like a helicopter blade; and a third in which he saw a violinist play music that captured the magical sound of buzzing bees.

Though often performed as a separate piece, the Helicopter Quartet is only one part (“Scene Three”) of Stockhausen’s opera Mittwoch aus Licht or Wednesday from the cycle of seven operas Licht (Light).

Light or “The Seven Days of the Week” consists of 29 hours of music with “neither end nor beginning” that Stockhausen composed between 1977 and 2003.
Stockhausen sent his score for Helicopter Quartet to Professor Landesmann who welcomed it enthusiastically. Of course, Stockhausen has not always been received with such all-embracing support—many considered him to be the P. T. Barnum of classical music, eschewing content for showmanship. One can imagine the sharp intake of breath from some when reading of the requirement list for Stockhausen’s airborne quartet:

4 helicopters with pilots and 4 sound technicians
4 television transmitters, 4 x 3 sound transmitters
auditorium with 4 columns of televisions and
4 columns of loudspeakers
sound projectionist with mixing console / moderator (ad lib.)

Of course, Stockhausen was used to the criticism (perhaps the most famous line coming form conductor Sir Henry Beecham who when asked if he had heard any Stockhausen, replied “No, but I believe I have trodden in some”), and he showed it the disdain it deserved. These “negative critics” were part of that group he had once described, at a lecture on electronic music in 1972, as those who would fail to evolve as humans. Stockhausen believed that not everyone is equal and that his music would only help some people evolve to the next stage—whatever that may be.
The composer at work on the ‘Helicopter String Quartet’.
Stockhausen is described as one of the most important and influential composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, who casts a long shadow over composers like Harrison Birtwistle and Jean-Claude Éloy; jazz musicians such as Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis—who cited his influence on the album On the Corner and later recorded with him on an (as yet) unreleased track in 1980; to The Beatles to Frank Zappa to Krautrock and beyond—Roger Waters, Björk, Kraftwerk and Can—whose members Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay both studied under him at the conservatory.

And this is before we get to his influence on novelists Philip K. Dick and Thomas Pynchon.

The Helicopter Quartet is one of Stockhausen’s most outrageous and incredible works, performed by four musicians, one in each of the four helicopters, who keep in sync with each other by monitors. The whole piece last 30-minutes with the helicopters hovering in the sky—the sound of the rotor blades adding to the music—as a long series of string tremolos (based on complicated formulae set forth by Stockhausen) are played over and over, in relation to the quartet’s three themes of Michael, Eve and Lucifer.

Surprisingly, the complete opera Mittwoch aus Licht was not performed in its entirety until 2012, when the English Birmingham Opera Company gave the opera its world premiere. This is the complete Helicopter String Quartet as performed by the Birmingham Opera Company on August 22nd, 2012.

A German documentary was made in 1995 about the preparation, performance and recording of and Stockhausen’s Helicopter Quartet. This film can be seen below, though you’ll have to click through to YouTube in order to turn on the English captions.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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