Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
image of an 1866 "ribbon map" from a 1975 issue of design quarterly devoted to the mississippi river.
"the linen-mounted map unrolls from a wooden cylinder in a strip about 2 inches wide by 129 inches long and shows plantations, towns, landings, and mileage points along the mississippi as they existed just after the civil war."
i've never seen one of these in person, but i am hoping someday to find one for the archives here...
Thursday, September 27, 2007
a musical wonder returns...
a little over a year ago (august 29th 2006 to be exact), i posted some images of CDVs of one man bands and their musical contraptions from the victorian era (click here to see that original post). some were stamped with a performer's name, but one of the images had no printed text or information other than a messy signature on the back that reads something like "chisolm".
last week, i found another photo of him! it's clearly from the same photographer and came from the same studio. of course, these guys traveled the country doing performances and demonstrations and handed their pictures out as promotion or sold them as souvenirs; but i can't imagine "chisolm, the musical wonder" had more than 20 of these made....
since i've been collecting photos, i've been amazed by a number of finds like this, where things that have been separated for about a hundred years have found their way back to each other. the above image is the new photo, and you can click here to see the older one.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
the ideal cinema...
"...it is safe to say that old forms of the cinema will disappear. the film has nothing to do with the symphonic, spatial organization of the stage elements. its task is to break clear of all imitation of the theater. the film has grown mature enough to create its own form of architecture which must signify 100 percent cinema. our age is an optical one. the rapidity of events and their brief duration require a receding apparatus that can register as speedily as possible. it is the eye. the speed of light waves exceeds that of all other waves. the film is the optical flying machine of camera. the film is a play on surface, the theatre a play in space, this difference has not been realized concretely in any architecture, either that of the theatre or the cinema. the ideal cinema is the house of silence."
the film has nothing to do with the symphonic, spatial organization of the stage elements. its task is to break clear of all imitation of the theater. the film has grown mature enough to create its own form of architecture which must signify 100 percent cinema. our age is an optical one. the rapidity of events and their brief duration require a receding apparatus that can register as speedily as possible. it is the eye. the speed of light waves exceeds that of all other waves. the film is the optical flying machine of camera.
the film is a play on surface, the theatre a play in space, this difference has not been realized concretely in any architecture, either that of the theatre or the cinema. the ideal cinema is the house of silence."
frederick j. kiesler, 1929, from selected writings.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
the one string eng-eng...
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
when words smell of the sea...
"one ought to concentrate on all that's primitive and fresh in the language with boundless avarice. no other words should be recognized than those strikingly fragrant. the ones smelling of the sea are the best. if you have the right vernacular you have the right philosophy."
"a book - glimmering from fire and salt - should be like a good storm, continual, powerful, ceaseless, with a sharp murmur as night falls."
"the greatest moment: like the silent interplay of shadows in a budding forest - the slience of a thought's interacting shadows extending inside me."
"to be consistent can sometimes be easy enough. to be honestly inconsistent can be more difficult."
"i am but an eye looking into the blind and ghastly eye of meaninglessness. why? who am i? the howling lonliness around the human."
some gems from vilhelm ekelund, written circa 1914, from a collection of his writings called "the second light".
Saturday, September 22, 2007
not immune to colors...
a series of photos of the top scientists studying the immune system circa 1968 from an issue of life magazine. what is stunning of course, are the strange and wonderful backgrounds. created by an anonymous artist, the paper cut outs are certainly in line with the illustration and design of the era, clearly related to the work of textile designer alexander girard and designer on disneyland's "it's a small world" mary blair. it's amazing how forty years later, much of these backgrounds resemble a lot of what's going on in contemporary painting.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
pieces of realities...
from philip corner's small book: pieces of realities for some days : (italienische reise) - "a series of simple tracings of objects picked up, each in a different place in italy during the summer of 1983".
Labels: philip corner
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
thomas ustick walter was one of america's most important architect's of the early to mid 1800's, and played a major role in the founding of the AIA (american institute of architects). walter designed the iconic u.s. capitol dome, as well as the 1843 girard school for orphans - which is largely considered his greatest achievement, and was the most expensive building project in america before the civil war.
most of walter's designs are in a slightly over the top greek revival style, and indeed many of his works of the mid 1800's are hybrid masterpieces of early american and greek designs.
while doing research on walter's work, i came across some very strange architectural drawings he did as teaching aids for a sunday school class he taught for much of his life.
this image of solomon's temple, was based entirely on descriptions from the bible, and compares the scale of the temple with two popular and well known buildings of the time. it's a wonderfully odd and modern looking building that seems totally out of character with most of walter's work, reminding me a bit of some early 20th century italian architectural experiments - the overbearing towers of sant'elia and the austerity of terragni.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
space is the place...
found this 8 x 10 at the flea market on sunday, in a large trunk of photos probably all taken by the same person or studio. we sifted through what seemed to be someone's archives, finding mainly second rate movie stars and areas around los angeles from the 20's - 50's from a dealer asking crazy money for much of it. fortunately, this was not only the nicest photo in the bin, but also the cheapest. unfortunately, there weren't any more like it...
it is stamped "rothschild los angeles" on the back, and the image is of an amazing display for the rocketdyne company from some kind of trade show. note the north american display company employee hand painting stars on the wall.
i've lamented the nearly vanished art of the hand painted sign for years, but never really thought about the extinction of the man who paints stars... click on the image to see it bigger, it's worth it.
Monday, September 17, 2007
an audio kinetic environment...
nice recording from a '67 issue of canadian art magazine featuring a short interview with artist zbigniew blazeje, and an excerpt from his "audio kinetic environment" that was featured in the canadian pavilion at expo 67(the building above that looks like an upside down pyramid).
it's too bad the "interview" isn't longer, as i would've liked to hear more of his ideas (although the sounds are pretty nice as well). just 9 years after corbusier, varese, and xenakis's philip's pavilion, it seems the hybrid of electronic music and architectural space had blossomed into a relatively commonplace practice - particularly in the context of spectacle in expos and world's fairs.
zbigniew's ideas regarding immersion and the creation of sound as space, seemed to be hovering in the minds of a lot of composers in the late 1960's; when electronic music and music concrete composers began to think about sound more like sculpture. there are precedents of course (many of them); but during the late sixties it seems that the exploration of sound in space, as well as sound as space was becoming a serious path of pursuit for a number of composers moving away from concerts and towards what would eventually be called "sound installation"...
click here to listen.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
before cage and cunningham...
Friday, September 14, 2007
some suggested activities for the weekend:
rainbow no. 1 for orchestra: soap bubbles are blown out of various wind instruments. the conductor breaks the bubbles with his baton.
ay-o, no date
drip music: for single or multiple performance. a source of dripping water and an empty vessel are arranged so that the water falls into the vessel.
george brecht, 1959
piece for ben patterson: construct a piano with the treble on left ascending to the bass on the right. play all the old favorite classics.
albert m fine, 1966
music for piano no. 5 (flux variation): an upright piano is poitioned at center stage with its profile toward the audience. the pedal is fixed in a depressed position. a performer, hidden from view in the wings, throws darts into the back of the piano according to the time pattern indicated in the score.
toshi ichiyanagi, no date
south no. 2 (for nam june paik): pronounce "south" during a duration of more than fifteen minutes. pause for breath is permitted but transition from pronunciation of one letter to another should be smooth and slow.
takehisa kosugi, 1965
all texts from the fluxus performance workbook, edited by ken friedman.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
when german spheres land in brazil...
my one "free" day in porto alegre, i visited the expointer, which is a fairgrounds spotlighting agriculture of the rio grande do sul area of brazil. i expected the gouchos, animals, farm displays, etc.; but i was totally unprepared for the architectural surprise pictured above.
these three painted metal spheres (the colors are related to the rio grande do sul flag) are actually large rooms that one can go inside of, and they are connected by two small pedestrian bridges forming a path from green to yellow, and through red.
seeing that the spheres were a gift to brazil from germany in 1974, their relationship to 70's utopian architectural experiments (such as the work of haus rucker, archigram, superstudio, or the 60's expo experiments of charles eames, bucky fuller, etc.) makes sense; but they certainly have an uncanny presense in the current landscape of the outskirts of porto alegre.
it's always interesting to see what happens to these things, once their experimental moment has passed. there was something wonderful about the once cutting edge exteriors being filled with small craft booths and people selling things made of yarn, handmade dolls, etc. via an assortment of makeshift tables. it would be nice to think that disney hall might have the same fate one day, for this interior felt humbled, taken over by humans, and still somehow a container of dreams.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
don't kick your mother in the stomach...
"masterworks are not made to astonish. they are made to pursuade, to convince, and to enter us through our pores... "when you lack the respect you owe to nature, when you dare to offend against it in your work, you kick your mother in the stomach... "art is never at a higher level than when it resembles nature so much as to be mistaken for nature itself. art never succeeds better than when it is hidden... "if i could make you musicians, you would become better painters. in nature, all is harmony: a little more or less disturbs the key and produces a false note. we must learn to sing true with our brush or pencil, as much as with our voice. truth of form is comparable to truth of sound... "it is true that exhibitions have become part of our lives. it is therefore impossible to suppress them. but they must not be encouraged. they destroy art, by making it a trade which artists no longer respect. the exhibitions are no more than bazaars in which mediocrity is impudently flaunted. they are useless and dangerous..."
"when you lack the respect you owe to nature, when you dare to offend against it in your work, you kick your mother in the stomach...
"art is never at a higher level than when it resembles nature so much as to be mistaken for nature itself. art never succeeds better than when it is hidden...
"if i could make you musicians, you would become better painters. in nature, all is harmony: a little more or less disturbs the key and produces a false note. we must learn to sing true with our brush or pencil, as much as with our voice. truth of form is comparable to truth of sound...
"it is true that exhibitions have become part of our lives. it is therefore impossible to suppress them. but they must not be encouraged. they destroy art, by making it a trade which artists no longer respect. the exhibitions are no more than bazaars in which mediocrity is impudently flaunted. they are useless and dangerous..."
jean auguste dominique ingres, passages from his correspondence and studio talk as reported by his pupils circa 1870, quoted here from sources & documents in the history of art, neoclassicism & romanticism 1750 - 1850, volume 2 restoration/twilight of humanism.
Monday, September 10, 2007
little drummer boy...
nothing like getting a surprise gift in the mail, this one courtesy of mr. jenkins who runs a nice blog on the history of disneyland called stuff from the park (check out today's great old snapshot of a ticketbooth in frontierland!) - over the years he has dropped a number of little gems in our laps, and this one also shines.
according to the single link i could find online: "the shippen family band were music makers of 1890's. the shippen brothers family band was quite an organization, made up of two fathers and their ten children. they played at many events around the county".
Saturday, September 08, 2007
once in a rare while, a record will actually live up to the promise of an incredible cover; and this strange little 7" from 1958, contains sounds that are certainly as wonderful as the little painting by jouineau bourduge that adorns its sleeve. the vinyl features the voice of jacques doyen, reading poems by cocteau, poe, villon, and lorca... but the special thing is that the tracks also feature the percussive and resonant sounds of jacques lasry and the lasry-baschet instruments.
each track has a relatively different approach to soundscape and instrumentation. my favorite is the haunting sounds that accompany a reading of lorca's erotic poem"la femme infidele", written in 1937. the melodies resemble a bowed steel drum, somewhat relentless as well as feeling, at times, like little glowing fireflies. the treatment of cocteau's early poem "batterie" is much more percussive, aggressive, and almost carnival like. its 4 minutes of rhythmic tension is slightly trance inducing (particularly if one doesn't speak french). the thing that is so nice about these tracks is that the music is the underbelly so it has little narrative trajectory and remains more of an atmosphere, i only wish there were wordless dub versions on the other side, because i'd love to hear this stuff without doyen's voice...
jacques lasry and the lasry baschet instruments were used on a slew of records; but all i could find on jacques doyen was that he worked on an LP of spoken word experimental music with jac berrocal in the mid 1980's.
click here to listen to "la femme infidele".
click here to listen to "batterie".
Friday, September 07, 2007
looking for a labyrinth?...
Thursday, September 06, 2007
the invisible ceiling surrounding our planet...
a photo of a model of a british space ship, from a 1947 architecture magazine. the model was presented in the "future" section of the "britain can make it" exhibition of the same year .
the design was by warnett kennedy, here are some of his ideas:
"the design is neither complete fantasy nor it is immediately practicable. it is, however, a "design fantasy" based on legitimate scientific assumptions... my problem as a designer, was to obtain an esthetically satisfying solution of a technical problem... the spherical shape was the result of the following considerations:...to find a shape designed to travel at low speed in air and at high speed in airless space...the sphere gives the greatest strength-weight ration and resistance to shock... by analogy, all bodies traveling in airless space are spherical...the sphere is one of the basic sculptural elements and one which i find partiuclarly satisfying... the transparent outter shell can be likened to the invisible ceiling surrounding our planet..."
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
more wierd wood with sound...
well, it seems fitting to return from working with wood and sound on an architectural scale, to discover the mammoth zobo phunnygraph in an old zobo musical instrument broadside circa 1900 that was waiting for me in my po box. the zobo musical instrument family was made by the j. and p. myers company in nyc, and consisted of a series of kazoo type instruments shaped like real brass instruments - including a 27 inch long "slide trombone".
along with a listing of different zobo instruments, the broadside has suggestions for military band, bicycle band, female college quartet, and the amazing funny organ (which includes a 10 foot by 9 foot cardboard printed paper image of a pipe organ that a "zobo band" can stand behind).
of course, the phunnygraph is the most amazing of the bunch - a crude richard tuttle-esque replica of an early phonograph made with a soap crate, a wooden packing box, and a pasteboard megaphone. the band should be stationed hidden inside the thing, while one person stands outside turning the crank (it's too bad they don't have suggestions on how to make a mammoth surrogate 78!). the whole thing looks a lot like one of russolo's "intonorumori" (and 5 kids and a gaggle of kazoos could probably give russolo the kind of noise-scape he was after).
i'm thinking/hoping there is somehow a connection to this room size sound projecting space and the things i've just finished in the post below... or perhaps it will end up as partial fodder for the next project...