Thursday, November 29, 2007

the extreme summit of grace...

carlo carra letter

"it is the 'ordinary things' that work our souls in such a beneficial way that we attain the extreme summit of grace; and he who abandons them falls inevitably into the absurd, that is, the void, both plastically and spiritually. for this reason, our opinion is that tranquil happiness is the most elevated rapture ever evolved by man...for 'ordinary things' reveal the forms of simplicity that tell us of a superior state of being, which constitutes the splendid secret of art. but when the flashes of inspiration of 'ordinary things' so rarely repeated, illuminate art, they create those essentials that are most precious for could say that in this way we rise from the depths to the surface like flying fish."

carlo carra' 1918

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

before mr. warhol...



beautiful recent find, an RPPC of a painter playing music. several incredible things about this photo - certainly the mirror reflecting his profile on the desk, as well as all the small paintings of seemingly the same image of two women in profile with a few reversed. this guy was clearly a pre-curser to the serial portrait works of warhol...

"visual artists as musical "dilettantes" are not particularly sought after in the music business. nevertheless, they serve a purpose as trail blazers. unlike the musicians in the classical and light music establishment, they show no reservations and when experimenting are not particularly concerned about correct musical chronology, a problem which composers constantly have breathing down their necks. artists are practicians and researchers, like nanook the eskimo, who in robert flaherty's film of the same name, bites into a record out of curiosity in order to gain physical access to the laws of mechanical noise".

michael glasmeier, broken music,1989

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the architect as hot-rodder...

eames house w/ window notations

i discovered this image of the eames house in reyner banham's 1962 "guide to modern architecture". i'd never seen this image before, with charles' notations referencing a manufacturer's standard window sizes (the house was mainly built without any custom materials)... it's certainly a beautiful thing... (and one more potential score?).

banham has a special way of writing about architecture, as you can see here by his description of eames and the eames house: to many thinking men, frank lloyd wright was never the all-american architect of his own image of himself. he never appeared as much at ease in the real america as in the america of some splendid usonian dream, and - in some curious ways - he trailed a whiff of the european meisterschule of the high romantic period. charles eames, for all his internationalism and lack of whitmanesque ham, is as american as cambell soup. for all his love of things european and oriental he handles power tools and catalogued components like a hot-rodder born, and his own house, spare and elegant, square and ineloquent, is american like a shaker chair or a trestle bridge."

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Monday, November 26, 2007

the fields full of wonder...

watercolor by hermann hesse

" he made no attempt to distinguish the different species of birds or recognize the bushes by their buds. all he saw was the general activity, the colors bursting forth everywhere; he breathed in the smell of the young leaves, felt how much softer and intoxicating the air was and walked through the fields full of wonder... he constantly saw other objects than those that actually surrounded him. what they were he did not really know himself and he did not give it much thought. they were bright, delicate, unusual dreams which surrounded him like paintings... pure paintings only to be contemplated, but this contemplation was a kind of experience too... it was breathing a strange air... full of lightness and delicate dream-like pungency..."

hermann hesse, beneath the wheel, 1906
(1920 watercolor also by hesse)

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

when marches sound tender...

canary records japanese march 78rpm

i found this strange 6 inch thin plastic 78 stuffed inside the paper sleeve of a regular 78 a few days ago. like one of those russian wooden dolls, where a smaller version is hiding within the larger, i had no idea it was living there. although the "label" is similar to the "canary records" standard 78's that i have, i have no idea when this is from, but probably 1940's based on the plastic. one side is totally unplayable due to the ripples in the plastic, but one side plays relatively fine. the track is a patriotic song about a military hero, played by a brass band. it's the kind of song you might see in an ozu film when older men get together, talk about grade school, drink sake and eventually fall into song.

because the surface of the disc is a bit wobbly, the band sounds slightly out of tune (or perhaps, more so than they did already). the whole thing feels a bit like a micro-version of gavin bryars "jesus blood never fails me" (the original version on the obscure label LP, which is one of my favorite recordings of all time... not the disaster that is the version with tom waits singing, which is one of my most hated recordings of all time...).

at less than two minutes in length, i suggest you play this on repeat, very quietly, and hum softly along in tender synchronicity...

click here to listen

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Friday, November 23, 2007

when farmers build instruments...

alfred nelson RPPC 2

alfred nelson RPPC

two RPPC's of alfred nelson, on the back of one is written:

alfred nelson from buffalo min. a plain farmer. plays 32 pc. or. took him 39 years to build it. july 6, 1941

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


dennis oppenheim 1973

last graphic gesture by david oppenheim (artist's father) before his death, november 28, 1971. enlarged and plotted with red magnesium flares, east hampton, ny.

dennis oppenheim 1973

first drawing by chandra oppenheim (artist's daughter), executed on september 1969, age one year. enlarged and plotted with red magnesium flares, east hampton, ny.

dennis oppenheim "polarities" from an exhibition at sonnabend gallery, as seen in an ad in artforum, january 1973.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the ultimate in sound effects...

major records catalog

well, we move from one side of sublime - tarkovsky's poetic use of sound; to the opposite end of the sublime spectrum...

a few weeks ago i found a little 1950 catalog from the major records company at the flea market. it features 20 pages of of 78's containing various sound effects for "radio stations, dramatic groups, movie makers, and music stores". the catalog is reads like a list of sounds and situations, and my original intention was to post it as a kind of concrete poetry. then i happened upon one of the actual records...

the disc is from a series of animal sounds, and the side i recorded contains the sounds of (in order of appearance) "screech owl, cat screeches, frog calls, grimalkin cat, hedgehog, harpie cries". the catalog states that every sound is recorded "FROM LIFE"; so when i put the record on i expected, of course, to hear some relatively straightforward animal recordings.

i'm pretty darn sure that the sounds here are not the actual animals, but in fact, A HUMAN TRYING TO IMITATE THEM. be very afraid. what i'm wondering now is what the subway train, gasoline pump, excavation shovel, wind, calliope, and teletype might sound like... welcome to the other side of sublime...

click here to listen

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of mirrors and electronic music...

tarkovsky's mirror

last night, for the first time in about 10 years or so, watched tarkovsky's mirror. of course, there were hundreds of images, light, and movement that were stunning (a favorite was the scene with the bird pictured above); but there was one incredible moment of stasis where an extremely quiet sound - either a field recording or piece of electronic composition - is hovering in the background, and slowly becomes a focus - even though its presence is always "beneath". it was so beautiful and powerful that i forget now what the visual was. it sent me to the bookshelves wondering if tarkovsky wrote much about sound or music...

i found this in a longer, section on film, sound, and music in tarkovsky's 1987 "sculpting in time" published by knopf:

"electronic music seems to me to have enormously rich possibilities for cinema. artemiev and i used it in some scenes in mirror... we wanted the sound to be close to that of an earthly echo, filled with poetic suggestion - to rustling, to sighing. the notes had to convey the fact that reality is conditional, and at the same time accurately to reproduce states of mind, the sounds of a person's interior world. the moment we hear what it is, and realize that it's being constructed, electronic music dies... electronic music has exactly that capacity for being absorbed into the sound. it can be hidden behind bigger noises and remain indistinct; like the voice of nature... it can be like somebody breathing."

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Monday, November 19, 2007

intermission piece...

for one or more players

this piece is for performance during intermission at any concert situation. it is thought (or hoped) that a major portion of the audience in attendance will be outside the performing area - physically or conceptually - smoking, chatting, etc. naturally, there are always a few people who will stick around. those may realize that a performance is under way and decide to be an audience, or to be indifferent, or be curious enough to wander into the performance area. they'll probably ask questions, and they may even participate in the performance. still others, of course, will never know.

the performer(s) situates himself in the performance area. he sits or stands, as is his custom, and makes quiet sounds. the amplitude spectrum is never to exceed "barely audible". the performance ends at the end of the intermission period.

harold budd, 1968, via source magazine

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

when monks play music...

monks playing music cdv

nice old cdv of some monks playing music... as winter approaches, the scars to the photo's surface begin to look a lot like snow...

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Friday, November 16, 2007

the alphabet is a wellspring...

"have you ever noticed that the letter Y is a picturesque letter open to countless different interpretations? a tree is in the shape of a Y; the fork of two roads forms a Y; two rivers flow together in a Y; the head of a donkey or that of an ox is in the shape of a Y; the stem of a glass is Y-shaped; a lily on its stalk is a Y; a man who prays to the heavens raises his arms in the shape of a Y.

besides, this observation can be applied to all aspects of what constitutes basic human writing. all that is to be found in the demotic language is there because it was put there by hieratic. the hieroglyph is the essential root of the written character. all letters began as signs, and all signs began as images.

human society, the world, and the whole of mankind is to be found in the alphabet. freemasonry, astronomy, philosophy, all the sciences find their true, albeit imperceptible, beginnings there; so it must be. the alphabet is a wellspring.

A is the roof, the gable with its crossbar, the arch; or it is the greeting of two friends who embrace and shake hands; D is the back; B is D upon D, the back on the back, the hump; C is the crescent, the moon; E is the foundations, the pillar, the console, and the architrave, the whole of architecture in a single letter; F is the gallows, the the gibbet, furca; G is the french horn; H is the facade of a building with its two towers; I is a war machine launching its projectile; J is the plowshare and the horn of plenty; K is the angle of reflection equal to the angle of incidence, one of the keys to geometry; L is the leg and the foot; M is a mountain or a camp where the tents are pitched in pairs; N is a gate closed by a diagonal bar; O is the sun; P is the porter standing with a burden on his back; Q is the rump and the tail; R represents rest, the porter leaning his stick; S is the snake; T the hammer; U is the urn; V the vase (hence the two are often confused); i have already discussed Y; X is crossed swords, combat - who will be the victor? we do not know - so the mystics adopted X as the sign of destiny, and algebraists chose it to represent the unknown; Z is lightning, it is god.

so, first man's house and his architecture, then his body, its structure and its weaknesses; then justice, music, the church; war, harvest, and geometry; the mountains, nomadic life, cloistered life; astronomy; work and rest; the horse and the serpent; the hammer and the urn that can be upturned and strung up to make a bell; trees, rivers, roads; and finally destiny and god; that is what the alphabet contains."

victor hugo, travel notebooks, 1839, in writing: the story of alphabets and scripts by george jean, 1992

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

of sound and architecture...

pictorial living 1960's los angeles examiner

future of architecture LP 1959

future of architecture LP 1959

future of architecture LP 1959

future of architecture LP 1959

while looking through some old architecture related magazine covers to run at the beginning of october (also known as architecture month), i found a 1957 LA examiner insert with a cover shot by los angeles' most famous architectural photographer - julius shulman - of his own house. i then noticed, in the lower left hand corner, an LP lying on the end table.

shulman was very particular about object placement in photo shoots, so it seemed significant. the nice thing was that i not only recognized the LP, but i also happened to have it in my own collection. this was not the first time i recognized an LP cover in a photo of an architect's home - years ago i noticed some avant garde music LPs in a photo of pierre koenig's house and eventually interviewed him about his record collection...

shulman's LP is called "conversations towards the future of architecture" and was put together by the reynolds metals company in 1956. the intention was to discuss an architectural future that might include the potential of aluminum; which, coincidentally, was one of reynolds' biggest products. the album features the voices of mies van der rohe, eero saarinen, walter gropius, philip johnson, gordon bunshaft, ernest kump, and richard neutra. the interviews were conducted by john peter, and i really wish i knew who designed the cover...

it seems that by the mid 1950's aluminum was in the architectural air. along with the LP, the reynolds company published a series of books titled "aluminum in modern architecture" in 1956, 1958, and 1960. in 1959, the alcoa company, who i believe was the main competitor of reynolds, published two volumes of their own related to aluminum and modern design/architecture called forecast; commissioning such experimental aluminum projects as charles eames' solar toy, better known as the do nothing machine.

since neutra and shulman worked together for so many years, i figured it made the most sense to post some of neutra's interview, and i like how he speaks of the main material of architecture as "the human material"...

click here to listen

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

incredibly strange music...



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a tree of aluminum...

swiss pavilion expo 70

swiss pavilion expo 70

swiss pavilion expo 70

swiss pavilion expo 70

from the danish design magazine mobilia, a 1970 one page article on the swiss pavilion at expo '70 in japan with nice small grainy images...

"switzerland: a tree of aluminum in front of a finely-detailed, precisely formed exhibition hall. the 32,000 lamps on the branches were turned on in 10 stages. cooled air flowed in waves from the tree, making the plaza a very popular place to rest - electronic music was projected downwards from the tree - when the lamps were lit the music changed to another program and broadcast outwards from the loudspeakers at the treetop. design willi walter."

of course, one can't help but see connections between the photos of folks resting beneath this tree of lights and olafur eliasson's weather project done at the tate a few years ago. i'm much more interested in what the electronic music sounded like!

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Monday, November 12, 2007

an abundant harvest of sun...

lee mullican 1950 catalog 1

lee mullican 1950 catalog 2

lee mullican 1950 catalog 3

some images of a small 1950 catalog of the work of lee mullican, from his first new york show, at the willard gallery. the essay was written by fellow dynaton painter and publisher of dyn, wolfgang paalen... here are some excerpts from his text: has been a fecund year for mullican, an abundant harvest of sun... one of the most inspired of these pictures is called 'ascension'. it makes me think that there ought to be an angel for painters. not a guardian angel nor the final one of the very last judgement; in any case, this angel would not carry a trumpet. for all i know, he might not even be on the very best of terms with the high brass of heavens - and i would believe him equally indifferent towards the run of the mill saints and sinners. he would travel ever incognito, a kind of 'eminence grise' of the spirit. some evening, he might be seen in a silent country, looking over the shoulders of men who sit around the late glow of dying embers. when the embers crumble, one of the men, without a word, would let drift an eagle-feather into the warm air over the ashes, where it would stay afloat for an unforgettable moment. and i dare to think the angel would smile in his wisdom, how well this gesture weighs on the scales of eternity... that angel might also be seen walking in and out of certain paintings, at dusk and dawn.

there's a great interview with mullican here.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

of celestial musicans and dancers of the skies...

uday shankar program

uday shankar program 2

awhile ago i posted a side from a 78 set of pieces from uday shan-kar. above is a recent find, a 1937 program from one of shan-kar's performance tours, featuring the incredible color image inside.

according to the program, shan-kar was born in udaypur and was sent by the maharaja of jhalawar to the london college of arts to study in 1920. the young shan-kar studied painting, and began to be interested in the dance forms found in ancient indian sculpture and painting. he graduated with a painting exhibition in 1923, but the seed of dance was already growing inside of him. eventually, torn between painting and dance, shan-kar was introduced to anna pavlova, who convinced the young artist that he was "a born dancer" because "god never gives such rhythmic bodies to painters and sculptors!"

shan-kar entered the world of dance as part of anna pavlova's company and starred in her radha krishna ballet - one of her most successful - as her partner. in the mid 1920's he successfully started his own touring dance company, but became unhappy with indian music played on western instruments, and a dance company mainly made up of european dancers. he eventually returned to india in the early 1930's and began to develop his "hindu ballet" with a company that included hindu musicians and dancers...

it is interesting to note that uday's younger brother is ravi shankar the famous sitar player and also that my favorite indian film director guru dutt began his career as a young dancer in uday's hindu ballet.

the track here is from a dance called gandharva. according to the 78 sleeve: "the gandharvas are the celestial musicians and dancers at the court of indra, the vedic lord of the skies. this is a solo dance of uday shan-kar. the name of this tune is raga malkounsa; and it is played by vishnudass shirali, dulal sen, rabindra and brijo behari. raga malkounsa is one of the greatest and loveliest ragas in all the music of india. shan-kar is exceedingly fond of this tune. this music is quite akin to the music of bach - the very essence of music."

click here to listen

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Friday, November 09, 2007

i'm a little tea pot...



nice RPPC of a group of people dressed for afternoon tea... from a group of swiss photo poscards of parades picked up awhile ago. here's one of the earlier ones i posted....

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

on how to make a statue fly...



i was cleaning out the archives over the weekend, and found these two photos which i picked up at a flea ages ago. the first shows a pair of photographers with a table of statues, setting up a shot. you can see one guy is attaching a post to the back of a statue so it will hang a good distance off the black cloth background. the second photo is the result... i'm guessing they were working on a kid's book.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

when johns mentioned satie...

the idea of background
(and background music)
idea of neutrality
air and the idea of air
(in breathing - in and out)

satie's "furniture music" now
serving as a background for music
as well as background for conver-
sation. puns on intentions.

the body as a tube
moisture - such as sweat

jasper johns, excerpt from julliard, 1968-69, reprinted in jasper johns by richard francis 1984

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

the oxygen utility dome...

oxygen utility dome

the oxygen utility dome was designed by doloris holmes. holmes was an artist / activist, who eventually founded the white mask theatre and changed her name to janais (to honor both janis joplin and anaïs nin) in the mid 1970s.

i'm not sure if the oxygen utility dome was designed specificaly for the 1970 "art for everyday living" series of articles or if it was something she had been working on prior. the drawing and ideas behind it certainly came at the beginnings of the ecological movement, and also relate to ideas that were prevelant in science fiction films of the time, like silent running...and there's a good chance it was inspired by the mitchell park domes, built in milwaukee, and completed in 1967 (these domes, coincidentally, were considered for locations for silent running...).

the idea of the oxygen utility dome was that it would be run like a utility "along the lines of con edison", and would contain a number of different kinds of spaces and uses; but mainly providing a series of "clean air rooms" - where one could get clean air by putting "a coin in a meter at the door of a room".

holmes was also interested in the dome as a site of social interaction and specific kinds of activity. before arriving at the clean air room of one's choice, one enters a bookstore, art supply store, or music library - where focused breathing becomes an activity accompanying art making or experiencing. along with the 300 clean air rooms there are communal spaces where "alienated men and women can talk to others" and a small children's zoo with hairless and featherless animals for allergic children. the dome would also include a botanical garden of plants which are becoming extinct accompanied by a soundtrack of calls of extinct birds.

the article ends with the words: a small prototype of the oxygen utility dome is to be built next year. i can't find any information as to whether or not this happened, but in holmes' archives there is a folder called - proposals [1969-1970] by doloris holmes with clippings [1970-1977] about her oxygen utility dome - so i'm guessing something was built or there were more published proposals.

...and did i mention how much i love this drawing...

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Monday, November 05, 2007

music for dancing...

bob cobbing concrete poem

"both visual poetry and sound poetry incorporate elements of rhythm. one can move inwardly to a sound poem or interpret it in outward movement or dance. one can, by empathy, enter into the spatial rhythms of a visual poem, or can give it full muscular response. so both sound and visual poetry are steps into the arena. visual poetry is the plan, sound poetry the impulse; visual poetry the score and sound poetry your actual music for dancing."

bob cobbing, music for dancing, stereo headphones magazine, 1971

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

a poem from max jacob...

moon poem

there are three mushrooms on the night and they are the moon. once a month at midnight they change their position as suddenly as the cuckoo in a cuckoo clock pops out to sing. in the garden there are rare flowers, which are little men lying down, a hundred of them, reflections in a mirror. in the darkness of my bedroom there's a luminous shuttle wobbling menacingly to and fro, then another... phosphorescent blimps, reflections in a mirror. in my head there's a bee talking.

max jacob, the dice cup, atlas press

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Friday, November 02, 2007

nice drumhead...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

ionesco on writing...

drawing by ionesco

andre coutin: you do not view yourself as an improtant writer, you do not believe you're creating a magnum opus, yet for you writing is a way of experiencing the wonder of being.

eugene ionesco: to write. to experience the unique sensation of covering a sheet of paper with black signs, words which speak of the wonder of existing and the ability to express it. this is no stylistic exercise, but a birth occurring between nothingness and "thing-ness". to write is to be acutely conscious that the world is simultaneously a hell and a miracle. i discovered this sensation when i was ten or twelve years old. a writer always tries to express the ineffable.

andre coutin: salvation by literature?

eugene ionesco: i said that literature was this superficial, incidental, mediocre thing. yet i continue writing. i write so as to contradict myself. i'm free to express insignificance. books remains as objects, save us from the horror of nothingness. the what's-the-good-of-it-all which today prevents me from living fully doesn't stop my hand from covering sheets of paper with my scribblings.

grand street, issue 65, 1998

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