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‘Live animals are known to be devoured’: Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles’ Sufi recordings


Part of Ira Cohen’s layout for the Jilala sleeve (via Granary Books)
 
Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka was not the first album of Moroccan music inspired by the kif-smoking literary expats in Tangier. In 1964, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles taped the Jilala brotherhood, a Sufi order whose ritual dance and music were supposed to exorcise evil spirits and heal the sick. The LP Jilala, released a year or two later by Ira Cohen, brought these recordings into limited circulation and preserved them for posterity.

Poet, musician, traveler, author of The Hashish Cookbook, and director of The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda, Cohen was another Olympian of the arts who had joined Burroughs, Gysin, and the Bowleses in Tangier in 1961. (My old employer Arthur Magazine brought out Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda on DVD ten years ago, with new scores by Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of the Man supplementing the original soundtrack by founding Velvet Underground drummer Angus MacLise.) Years before his psychedelic photo experiments with Mylar, Cohen edited the literary magazine Gnaoua, named after a form of North African religious music that’s related to but distinct from the Jilala’s. 

It’s not entirely clear how Jilala is connected to another Paul Bowles recording project involving the same collaborators, time, and place. Bowles wrote Cohen in 1966 about donating the profits from something called the “Hypnotic Music record” to the Timothy Leary Defense Fund. In a footnote, the editor of Bowles’ letters says this refers to a compilation of Hamatcha, Jilala, Gnaoua, and Aissaoua trance music that was put together from tapes made separately by Bowles, Gysin, and Cohen and released by Cohen. However, the Independent reports that the Hypnotic Music record was an unrealized project, so perhaps Bowles’ editor has conflated it with Jilala, which Discogs lists as the sole release on Cohen’s Trance Records.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about this. Does anyone have a copy of the Hypnotic Music record?
 

The cover of the original issue of Jilala
 
Before putting Jilala in your gym playlist, you should probably read Cohen’s liner notes (reprinted in full at Big Bridge and Discogs) so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The Jilala knew how to pitch a wang dang doodle with their flutes and drums. The bath salts of their day, these religious tunes have been known to make listeners eat live animals, slash themselves with knives, and drink boiling water straight from the kettle, as Cohen tells it…

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Surrealist masters, dada directors & avant-garde all stars in ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’


 
Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.

Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 

 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution “Discs” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack in the version embedded below was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music. This is one of those films that demands to be screened outside at night under the stars. You can buy the DVD (which has both the original and modern soundtrack) here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Dreams Money Can Buy: Surrealist feature film from 1947

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Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, John Cage, Ferdinand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Paul Bowles, Max Ernst and others. There is a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.
 
Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. The plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their surreal interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
 
image
 
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution, “Discs,” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
 

 
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack, in the version embedded below, was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music.
 

 
Thank you Vanessa Weinberg!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cracking Open The Sheltering Sky

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Today’s NYT alerts us to the 60th (!) anniversary of Paul Bowles’ novel The Sheltering Sky.  A race to the limits of experience—and existence—set against North Africa’s unforgiving desert, Sky gave Bowles the means to live with the absolute freedom of his two most famous characters, Port and Kit Moresby.  That freedom would ultimately consume the Moresbys, but Bowles, along with his wife, Jane, lived out their years in Tangier, experimenting with hashish and bisexuality, and nurturing friendships with everyone from Gore Vidal to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

It was with Gysin that Bowles met The Master Musicians of Jajouka, a discovery that would later yield Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka.  Dubbed, dryly, by Burroughs as a “4000-year-old rock band,” The Masters can be seen below playing at the 40th anniversary of Brian Jones’ death.

 
In the NYT: Trusting in the Sheltering Sky, Even When It Scorched

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment