Monday, March 31, 2008

take me out to the ballgame...

early 1900 baseball & music RPPC




finally... after several months of down time, and suffering through meaningless spring training games, today is the first game of the season for the los angeles dodgers. perhaps the most consistent roden family ritual is attending the first game of the season with my mom. over the last 20 years we've rarely missed opening day at dodger stadium (one of the few places left in los angeles that still feels as it did 35 years ago); and while it was relatively uncool to wear a dodger shirt to art school (particularly without irony), i can't imagine summer afternoons in my studio without the radio blasting vin scully's majestic voice calling the game. that voice is the true essence of the arrival of spring.

by some miracle, this RPPC eluded baseball collectors, and i snared it for nearly nothing. it is not only a really nice band photo (complete with the town sheriff!), but a great shot of some early ballplayers (probably amateurs). clearly there is a potential train wreck here, with either a baseball team made up of musicians, or perhaps worse; a musical band made up of ball players (which probably sounded like ornette coleman's shape of jazz to come 60 years before it came...).

anyways, today i will be singing "take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch, as well as enjoying abusing my stomach with hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream, and one or two giant cokes...

but lest you think i've gone and turned airforms into a sports blog... tomorrow is the first day of april, which just happens to be national poetry month, and i've got a few gems in mind to post. unless the dodgers win the world series, this will most likely be my only baseball post of the season... (go blue!).

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Friday, March 28, 2008

it was so cold we had to stretch socks over our heads to keep warm...


collecting home recording discs is a total crap shoot. when they're good, they're generally really good; and when they are bad, they are generally incredibly boring. many of the discs i've found have mediocre big band performances taken off a radio program; but there have been occasional gems. the nice thing about these is that you get a real intimate sense of people sitting in their homes (or occasionally in an amusement park record booth), speaking to the intended recipient of the audio letter like a one sided phone conversation. you can generally sense the discomfort people get from speaking into a microphone. these are true audio equivalents of candid photos.

the designs on these discs have soldiers in various humorous situations, so i'm guessing these were intended as audio letters for servicemen stationed overseas during WWII. this group of discs contained updates from mom and dad, stories from a sister or girlfriend, and this disc, which was definitely the best of the bunch, with two guys talking about a hunting trip...

click here to listen...

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

before punk rock...


1920's RPPC


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

grasping the circumference

"we naturally think ourselves far more capable of reaching the center than of grasping the circumference, for the visible expanse of the world is visibly greater than we are; but, since we are greater than small things, we believe that we are more capable of possessing them; yet quite as great capacity is needed to attain the Nothing as the All; it must be infinite for both, and he, methinks, who had grasped final principles could also manage to reach the infinite. the one depends on the other, and the one leads to the other. these extremes meet and combine by the very reason of their distance apart..."

pascal's pense'es, translation h.f. stewart, 1950

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

before jimmy page...


...there was the harp guitar.

rppc, circa 1915 (and yes, that entire building is held up by a small tree stump...)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

this is london...

1959 this is london by m. sasek (fog)

1959 this is london by m. sasek (city without fog)

1959 this is london by m. sasek (the tube)

after posting the richard scarry book last week, i figured i should dig out two other books from childhood that were influences.

when i was a kid, my dad moved to london for a year and the first thing he sent me was this book... m. sasek's 'this is london'. sasek's style is a bit like saul steinberg, but his color sense is more intense and the graphic qualities also bring to mind paul rand's kid's books. sasek's work also shares an aesthetic with early 60's eastern european animation. between 1959 and 1966, sasek wrote and illustrated a series of these books including this is paris, hong kong, munich, venice, ireland, greece, new york, san francisco, and many others.

this is london was first published in 1959. my childhood copy is dated 1966, which means it arrived when i was two or three years old.

as a kid, this book was my first link to a faraway place that was real, rather than imaginary. although i can't really recall anything specific in the book that i obsessed over, i remember pouring over it, and trying to copy images from it often.

the interesting thing about looking at it now is that the three images above reflect the stages of my painting process, and utilize a number of visual languages i use in my own work. the top image is an entire page awash in brown brush strokes that sasek call's london fog. this wash is essentially how i begin every one of my paintings. the second image is the next page and is the same image of london without the fog. a larger whole made up of tiny units, would reflect the second stage of a painting (and continual third fourth, fifteenth stage, etc.), although the colors and sizes of the tiny shapes would probably be reflective of some kind of self imposed rule or system of translation. the last image, is much later in the book. i feel a strong connection to the oddly curved image with a central core; the way it is put together, the use of color, and the graphic qualities. my process is closer to image two, but the trajectory is to use the language of image two to generate something seemingly disconnected from it, like image three. (while looking for a painting of my own to illustrate this, i was surprised to find this one that is very much like the composition of the sasak's subway).

of course, none of this is specific in terms of influence and memory, as i haven't opened this book in probably 20 years. nonetheless, it is interesting how one can still feel connected to certain things. while i'm certain that the connections discussed above come from looking at the book now, and trying to find connections (some thick and some thin) to my own work looking backwards; i can't deny the thoughts that it probably had some effect on my aesthetic when my aesthetic was just being formed...

sometime this week i'll post images from the last book, that probably influenced my work more than any of the others...

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Friday, March 21, 2008

when rabbits play cellos, when colored eggs are music notes, when little chickens are a chorus...

easter postcard circa 1900

... it must be easter...

and if you want to play the egg notes, they're a - c - b - f - a ...

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Thursday, March 20, 2008


"for years i've been trying to pick up my shadow on a sunny day, to put it in my pocket for a rainy day. i remember to do this now and then. it's been difficult. and to tell the truth, i've never succeeded. the shadow changes as i bend over, and i can't quite compress it to fit into my jeans."

allan kaprow, 1997

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


concertintrees RPPC 1910

"in cider-producing areas of England, such as the West Country, wassailing also refers to singing to the health of trees in the hopes that they might better old rhyme goes:

“wassaile the trees,
that they may beare
You many a Plum and many a Peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.”

the purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the autumn.

(image: 1910 RPPC from england)

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the relative scale of some of god's houses... and a plan for music.

segrada famila relative scale chart 1052

found this image in a 1952 booklet on gaudi's 'expiatory temple of the holy family barcelona'. it's a chart showing the relative scale of gaudi's building compared to st. marco's in venice and st. peter's in rome. i like the idea of the three of them superimposed upon each other like one of those wooden russian dolls that continually open up to reveal a smaller doll.

the booklet covers every aspect of the building, both built and planned and includes this section called "musical instruments":

"the internal service of sacred music is completed by four organs situated at the height of 132 feet in a gallery surrounding the base of the central dome. the exterior has the following form: in the towers of the east facade there will be placed tubular bells tuned in tones and half tones as the pianos octaves, electrically put in motion will form a monumental carillon with which they will be able to perform great musical pieces audible in all the town circuit. the bellfries with their stone sound-boards will serve as resonance boxes and will diffuse music horizontally. in the westtowers and in a similar way some monumental organs will alternate their music, during great solemnities, with the carillon of the other facade. in the principle facade a number of normal bells tuned in mi, sol, and do, will serve for ordinary services."

Monday, March 17, 2008

before joseph beuys...(well, sort of)

felt house by richar scarry 1963

richard scarry's 1963 best word book ever was one of my favorites as a kid. scarry has a knack for filling a page with numerous things a child can wander over, and generally, every image has a name next to it. i remember spending hours on a single page, just looking at both the words (which i couldn't read yet) and images (perhaps at times words as images...).

to suggest that much of the relationship of word and image in own work came from these earliest experiences might be stretching it a bit, but the book was one of 3 that definitely inspired me to make drawings (i.e. i made very poor copies of a lot of pictures in this book!).

i hadn't re-visited the book in years, and last night pulled it out on a whim and noticed on a page of various kinds of houses, this 'felt house'. there are so many interesting aspects to this, particularly as most of the others are what you'd expect: stone house, tree house, wooden frame house, houseboat, etc. i can just imagine a youngster asking mommy what is a felt house and receiving a blank stare in return.

the insane thing is that of course scarry's felt house is not unlike our airform dome in terms of form (as well as size!). the felt form also resembes a number of early 70's environment artworks related to caves, wombs, and contemplation environments.

beuy's first started using felt in 1960, mostly in collaboration with fat. his famous wrapping of pianos and larger felt works didn't come until the late 1960's, putting scarry's 1963 felt house right in the middle. having seen one of beuy's felt rooms and being overwhelmed by the quiet, i can only dream of someday living in a felt house like this.

i think i'll try and dig out the other two books from childhood and see what they might reveal this week as well...

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Friday, March 14, 2008

when fragments of silence look like paintings...

microscopic view of damaged recording tape

jean fautrier painting

microscopic view of damaged recording tape

jean fautrier painting

the black and white microscope images are of damage to some reel to reel tape from a 1962 scotch brand tape ad. i was originally attracted to the images as a visible reprentation of those moments when a tape is damaged in small areas so that the sound disappears for a second or two - silence or erasure as an addition rather than a subtraction.

when i used to have dozens of coverless cassettes in various states of decay on the floor of my car, audio dropout was part of every tape i listened to.

during the walk from my studio to the house to scan the images, they started to remind me of the forms and texture of one of my favorite painters, jean fautrier (moca currently has two incredible gems of his up right now for anyone in the los angeles area). the interesting thing is that these 'head paintings' are mostly titled head of a hostage, and while i haven't read up on them very much (something i tend to sidestep if i love something on a gut level so as not to destroy it's magic...), there is a kind of interesting connection between the idea of hostages and violence, and a damaged tape that loses its voice, leaving gaping holes of silence in the areas it has been scarred.

perhaps both are a little troubling as well as a little beautiful.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

eyes closed, open a book, place your finger on a page, open your eyes...

"silence, musical by an effect of resonance. the last syllable of the last word or the last noise like a held note."

from robert bresson, notes on cinematography

like bresson's films, this two sentence entry in what might be my all time favorite book, has almost nothing unnecessary. so many of the words carry their own weight:

the rest, when pieced together reads rather nicely as well:
by an effect of
the last
of the last
or the last
like a

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

this is the order of the music of the morning...

vachel lindsay

norman corwin reads american poetry

i had initially thought that the short spoken poems on this columbia 78 were spoken by the poets themselves, until i noticed norman corwin's name on both sides of the label... fortunately, this beautiful excerpt from vachel lindsay's poem 'the santa fe trail', stellarly spoken by "america's poet laureate of radio" was a more than pleasant surprise.

lindsay's word forms and corwin's diction feels like the sounds of trains, and sounds like a combination of sound poetry, hillbilly music, and even a bit like the beats. lindsay suggested that while reading the piece, one should inject 'one third of music added by instinct'. he also mentions the poem as an experiment to carry the 'vaudeville form back towards the old greek precedent of the half chanted lyric' (an idea that not only comes through in the reading here, but resonates a bit with the ideas of harry partch).

the image of lindsay comes from a blog devoted to him, which is not only interesting but much more obsessive than a wikipedia entry...

click here to listen.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

when your big head sees your little head...


and your eyes speak like arrows...


Monday, March 10, 2008

the only realist i know...

1880's tintype

"the only realist i know is a mystic; he alone relates the broken rhythm of life to the total rhythm that runs through all things." (ranjee shahani, catching a sunbeam in a solar hat, 1950's, 1880's tintype of band member with horn and drum and rocks)

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Friday, March 07, 2008

when architecture looks like soap bubbles...

1970 moma book

the image on the cover of this 1970 MOMA publication is quite a stunner. a sculptural installation in the courtyard of what appear to be airstream size transparent cavities of blow molded hard plastic. unfortunately no mention of who the artist or architect was, but it looks like a scene from logan's run. it's certainly a far cry from the marcel breuer house they built in 1949...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

buying poetry at 2 am...

drawing by ee cummings

"walking back from the subway station at two in the morning i find a second-hand bookstore open all night in west eighth street, i go in and buy more cummings; to purchase early works of cummings in the small hours, in the heart of 'the little barbarous greenwich perfumed fake' and march home with them in the frosty night, while the tugs hoot and central heating plants under the long black street puff away through its many manholes like geysers on the moon, that is to enjoy that anonymous urban civilization that auden has chosen, and of which baudeliare dreamed and despaired"

cyril connolly on his first visit to america, in horizon, oct. 1947 (drawing by ee cummings)

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Monday, March 03, 2008

the dj speaks...

since i am out of town until tomorrow and unable to load photos, here's the complete "liner notes" to the radio program below...

"a strange wonderful sound filled the room, a sort of singing, though accompanied by words, was so supernaturally soft and touching that you could not believe it came from a human throat... "
gerhart hauptmann, the fool in christ.

for this show, i simply wanted to present some of my favorite 78's. i've
included not only songs, but 78's containing fabricated field recordings
(nature sounds made by people in a recording studio), and a recent recording of spoken excerpts from gerhart hauptmann's novel "the fool in christ" that describe sounds (kind of a written equivalent of audio field recordings - and an excerpt from a larger text work recording every sound in the book).

the songs were chosen because of their relationship to the hauptmann quote above - and each track has singing that for one reason or another, makes me tremble. the weather sounds are pauses - stopping by the side of the road to take in the view - while the text is kind of an architectural structure that frames the older recordings. after selecting the parts, i just allowed things to collide in various ways until it felt right.

the order of the songs has a bit of an upwards trajectory - beginning with a john jacob niles rendition of a lullaby (birth/earth), and ending with a song that references the moon. songs were recorded in the usa, japan, turkey, greece, egypt, and others. they explore everything from meditations and prayers, to love and wandering. the players are hillbillies, divas, hawaiian guitarists, gurus, gospel singers, the most famous male indian playback singer, and others.

everything, other than the voice reading the text, comes from old worn 78rpm
discs. one features weather sounds made with drums, metal, etc., while the other features bird songs made by a man (presumably with his mouth). the scratches, scars, and crackles tend to sound a bit like weather conditions as well (and in one section the sound of rain is completely inaudible beneath the similarly sounding active surface of the record itself.)

i've been collecting 78's for years, but i've hardly gathered the caliber of
material that would constitute a bonafide record collector's collection. for
me, the gathering has become a journey of wander, leading to various destinations of wonder. i don't look for specific artists or genres (although, i have tendencies of course), as much as i kind of bump into things - during weekly 6 am visits to the flea market or late night virtual jaunts online. i generally have little idea of what i'm going to hear until i drop the needle onto the surface of the disc. often enough, a
recording will be unbearably dull (what can you expect when purchases are based on a song title, artist name, or disc label art); but when there are surprises, they tend to be good - and once in awhile, mind bending. these are some of the gems.

(link in the post below...)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

i am a dj...

the first dj? (1920's postcard detail)

patrick mcginly was kind enough to ask me to create a program for his radio show framework that runs on sunday nights (10 pm london time, 2 pm los angeles time) on resonance FM 104.4 in london. this will be my first dj appearance on radio (yes, i've spun vinyl a few times, but that's another story)

here's a bit on what you will hear: 'for this show, i simply wanted to present some of my favorite 78's. i've included not only songs, but 78's containing fabricated field recording (nature sounds made by people in a recording studio), and a recent recording of spoken excerpts from gerhart hauptmann's novel "the fool in christ" that describe sounds (these bits of the novel are a kind of a written equivalent to audio field recordings. the spoken fragments are an excerpt from a larger text work 'recording' every sound in the book; thus in this case is the book becomes the field...).'

if you are not in london, or around to hear it live (i believe it also runs live online), don't fret - after it runs live, it will be streaming here for a week.

p.s. if david toop hadn't called his last book "haunted weather" i would've definitely used it myself for this little set... i believe patrick will also post my set list and more 'liner notes' once it is streaming. also you might want to check out patrick's own work under the moniker 'murmur' here

and last but not least, any comments would be greatly appreciated.

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