Monday, August 31, 2009

when the sky had vanished...


...he spent a great deal of time trying to find it in a field, until he was fortunate enough to discover it sleeping inside of his guitar, thus enhancing the instrument's resonance with a cloudiness in every sounding of a note or a chord...

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Friday, August 28, 2009

when swedenborg explains the speech of angels...


"angels converse with each other just as men do in the world; and also on various subjects, such as domestic affairs, matters relating to their civil condition, the affairs of moral life, and the affairs of spiritual life. nor is there any difference except that they converse more intelligently than men, because from more interior thought. it has been granted me often to be in company with them, and to talk with them as friend with friend - and sometimes as a stranger with a stranger; and being then in a similar state with them, i knew not but that i was conversing with men on earth.

angelic speech like human speech is distinguished into words. in like manner it is also uttered with a sound, and is heard as sound. for they equally with men have a mouth, a tongue, and ears; and they have also an atmosphere, in which the sound of their speech is articulated; but it is a spiritual atmosphere, accommodated to the angels, who are spiritual. the angels also breathe in their atmosphere, and pronounce their words by means of the breath, as men do in theirs.

in the universal heaven they have all one language; and they all understand each other, from whatever society they are, whether near or distant. the language there is not learned, but is inherent in everyone; for it flows from their very affection and thought. the sound of speech corresponds to their affection; and the articulations of sound, which are words, correspond to the ideas of thought, which are from affection; and as the language corresponds to these is also is spiritual, for it affection sounding and thought speaking. whoever directs his attention to the subject may know that every thought is from an affection, which is of love; and that the ideas of thought are the various forms into which the general affection is distributed. for there is no thought or idea without an affection; from thence is their soul and life. hence it is that the angels know the character of another from his speech alone; from the sound they know what his affection is, and from the articulations of the sound, or words, what his mind is. the wiser angels from a single series of words know the character or the ruling affection, for to this they principally attend...

... angelic language has nothing in common with human languages, save with some words that sound from a certain affection; and then not with the words themselves, but with the sound..."

excerpts from "a compendium of theological writings by emanuel swedenborg"
image: rppc of anonymous angels at the piano, circa 1914...

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

when notebooks are transcribed into concrete poetry...

miro notebook drawing

transcribed miro notebook drawing

i was thumbing through a late 1950's issue of art news and found this image of a sketchbook page of juan miro, along with a transcription of the text - the two large "images" taking up an entire page.

i was struck by how "ordinary" the text looks within the context of the notations, and how surprising it was to find text typeset in such a visual way in the midst of a magazine where the design was incredibly formal and "stuffy". visually, in this context, the text layout was a lot more "shocking" than the artworks pictured.

i originally thought the designer was trying to make the layout of type resemble the graphic qualities of miro's line forms in his paintings, before i realized he or she was simply following the logic of the word paths in the notebook page pictured directly above it.

it wasn't until i finished exploring the relationship of these visual forms that i finally decided to read the text...and of course, detached from their accompanying images and their context as notations, they are quite beautiful as concrete poems...

here in clockwork order:

woman on a beach, this
figure is too realistic, make
use of symbols-signs-
to interpret it, like in 1940

in the face violently red cheeks
like those of a cheap doll

white background

in some spots, like the head, make use of a very violent black contour

this cloud is too realistic. interpret the clouds with
the poetic symbols of 1940. so that these canvases have
a "fauve" spirit, but within the poetic (field) so that
they recall in a certain way the good canvasses by matisse.
but going beyond them and more furiously "fauve".

the color of the
figure can perfectly,
in some places, be that
of the background

black line will be
separated from color
by a band of
canvass not filled-in

in some spots
reinforce black line

for the background
put color directly
on canvas and spread
it with hand, rag, fist,
sponge, and so forth

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Monday, August 24, 2009

when on this plane...


"the silence had for me the force of eternal life; for on the plane of eternity without beginning and without end there is no such thing as speech."

sedegh hedayat, the blind owl

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Friday, August 21, 2009

when words are lost and found...

voice reached,
low, close.
heart's red.

hear that
bird spoken.
sound, silence
wind fallen.

know the
whispered wings
and thee.

the answer:

seeking the
way that

is once
felt heavy
and dull.

to thee,
on thy
breast, and

this felt.
heart spoke.

read, know
and understand.

hand felt
and fall.

the knot,
we mourn
the knot.

wind blowing

from lips,

moons, shadow
know all.

(book grabbed,
opened randomly,
text written using two words from each line on one page
in hoffmannstahl's story,
the woman without a shadow.)

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the artist's dilemma, the song's dilemma, the lover's dilemma, the fighter's dilemma, the cloud's dilemma, the shadow's dilemma, etc.

forgotten piano player

forgotten piano detail

snapshot of a forgotten piano player circa 1900

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Monday, August 17, 2009


"i have seen
a curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
of inland ground, applying to his ear
the convolutions of a smooth lipped shell;
to which, in silence hushed, his every soul
listened intensely; and his countenance soon
brightened with joy; for from within were heard
murmurings, whereby the monitor expressed
mysterious union with its native sea."

w. wordsworth, from "the prelude"
image: cdv, circa 1880

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Friday, August 14, 2009

when les equaled more...


sad news that les paul passed away yesterday. his music was not a constant presence in my life, but when i discovered this set of 7" records circa 1979 in a thrift shop, it blew my mind.

at the time i was getting into punk rock and scouring thrift shops for 50's clothes (to tear apart and safety pin back together... and no, i'm not running any pictures of that!). while hunting for iridescent suits and the like, i would always also root through the books and records.

at that time, i pretty much bought old records because of the covers, particularly things like jim flora's artwork, but i rarely listened to the music. when i saw this paul cover i couldn't resist it.

when i got it home, i threw the 45 of "what is this thing called love" onto the turntable. i was expecting it to be "lounge music" and instead it absolutely killed me.

the only thing i can compare it to musically, was hearing stan kenton's "artistry in rhythm", another thrift shop find, around the same time (and i believe of all the records i bought at that time, those two were the only ones that ever got listened to...).

like "artistry", paul's version of "what is this thing called love", involves a mathematical puzzle of interwoven parts and rhythms. unlike "artistry", paul's piece involves multi-tracking, and tape speed manipulations. it's not just the sound of 8 guitars, but the sound of 8 guitars recorded at different speeds... in a word... amazing!

it seems that many people consider these the earliest experiments in multi-tracking and tape speed manipulation, which i would probably question, but certainly paul was the first to bring it to the realm of popular music. the version of "how high the moon" from a few years later, where not only the guitars are layered and processed, but also mary ford's voice is, is absolutely spectacular.

so here i've added my three favorite tracks from this little box set for you to listen to and celebrate the man. in terms of sound and activity, these things seem audio equivalents of the cartoon images of tex avery - graphic, absurd, surreal, inane, and full of layers - sounding a lot like those howlin' wolves in avery's cartoons whose eyes and tongues pop out of heads, continually extending into the infinite...

click here to listen to:
what is this thing called love

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

when writing was based on rhythmic motions...


for the past year or so, i've been collecting multiples of a 1967 pinback button for a small project that will happen sometime next year. the pin is not incredibly rare, and i've found close to 30 of them on ebay over the past year or so. i usually find the pin alone, but once in awhile i'll have to buy a little bag of pins to get the one i want. usually the rest of the pins go into the goodwill box or the trash. on monday a package arrived in the mail containing a dozen or so pinbacks, including the one i've been collecting, as well as the "palmer method" pinback pictured above.

one of the great things about collecting old objects, is that you never know what kind of random, yet interesting, information might be revealed to you through an object and/or its history. when i pulled this palmer method pin out of the small plastic sandwich bag of junk, i certainly fell in love with the graphic quality. i then went online to see what i could find out about it...and lo and behold, wikipedia had an entry on "the palmer method".

it seems that around 1888, austin palmer developed a "uniform style of cursive writing with rhythmic motion". by 1912, over a million copies of palmer's manual - the palmer guide to business writing were sold, and palmer received a gold medal at the panama pacific exposition in san francisco, california, in 1915, and at the sesquicentennial exposition in philadelphia, pennsylvania, in 1926 for his writing method.

at some point educators felt that teaching "manuscript" writing earlier than cursive could shift the early focus on writing from visual form to more important ideas surrounding vocabulary and written expression. thus palmer's method fell out of favor.

the pinback pictured above was given to students as a reward for "satisfactorily finishing the first 25 drills" and is probably from around 1910 or 1920. you can read more about the palmer method here

there is also an incredibly beautiful facsimile of a 1935 version of one of palmer's books here, and i would HIGHLY recommend you clicking on one of the three images of classrooms with writing students, as the drawings are pretty incredible (and a bit like henry darger...).

to bring things full circle, a few years ago i was visiting a friend who teaches at harvard and we spent some time going through one of the libraries dedicated to children's and educational books. one of the books that fascinated me was a book on handwriting, and i took photographs of a couple of pages on writing, and in particular one that had the word "moon" written on a piece of paper in four different directions... of course, looking at the 1935 version of palmer's guide, i now realize the book that i was so interested in was an early version of the "palmer method"...

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Monday, August 10, 2009

between abandon and ave maria...


abbandone - making the time subservient to the expression; despondingly; with self-abandon

acoustics - the science of sound, by a knowledge of which we are enabled to determine the relations of tones and the ratios of intervals produced by vibrations.

affizione - sorrowfully; with mournful expression.

ancora - once more, repeat again; also, yet, still, etc.

anmuth - sweetness, grace.

a tre mani - for three hands.

one word from each page in the A section of j.c. macy's pocket dictionary of over 500 musical terms, 1886. image: tintype of an unknown music teacher circa 1880.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

the stars...

when night falls
i stand on the steps and listen;
the stars romance in the garden
and i stand in darkness.
listen, a star fell with a ring!
do not walk on the grass in your bare feet;
my garden is filled with star splinters.

edith södergran, 1916

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

when teeth become ears...



from gernsback's educational library no. 6, how to have fun with radio, 1938. if you want to learn how to do such things, you can click on the images to see them larger...!

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Monday, August 03, 2009

when poets make pictures...

jacques prevert collage 4

jacques prevert collage 5

jacques prevert collage 6

jacques prevert collage 7

jacques prevert collage 3

jacques prevert collage 2

jacques prevert collage 1

anyone who is familiar with the blog already knows my love of visual work by certain writers - brion gysin, henri michaux, victor hugo, and hans christian andersen. here, a post on another visual body of work by a writer - the collages of jacques prévert.

prévert, of course, is known as a poet, and probably most famous for his poem - to paint a portrait of a bird:

First paint a cage
with an open door
then paint
something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful
for the bird
then place the canvas against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
without speaking
without moving …
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but he can just as well spend long years
before deciding
Don’t get discouraged
wait years if necessary
the swiftness or slowness of the coming
of the bird having no rapport
with the success of the picture
When the bird comes
if he comes
observe the most profound silence
wait till the bird enters the cage
and when he has entered
gently close the door with a brush
paint out all the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the feathers of the bird
Then paint the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful of its branches
for the bird
paint also the green foliage and the wind’s freshness
the dust of the sun
and the noise of insects in the summer heat
and then wait for the bird to decide to sing
If the bird doesn’t sing
it’s a bad sign
a sign that the painting is bad
but if he sings it’s a good sign
a sign that you can sign
so then so gently you pull out
one of the feathers of the bird
and you write your name in a corner of the picture

prévert made collages for much of his life, although the beautiful book i have on his collage work is in french, so i hardly have any facts to share. clearly his friendship with several of the surrealists were an influence on these things (the introduction to this book was written by breton's friend and collaborator philippe soupault).

certainly, max ernst's collage works should be at the forefront of any discussion of such similar work, but i think unlike someone like frederick sommer, who seems to be working from ernst as a true model, prévert works his way into his own territory - much like the psychedelic approach of bruce conner.

surrealist tendencies can be seen in all of prévert's collages in terms of horror, fantasy, and eroticism; but many of them carry a kind of somber pathos, as well as subtlety, that is all his own. some of the works feel very much like the late collages of joseph cornell - mostly because they are just plain "weird", but what prévert's best works really share with cornell's late works is a feeling that these objects are connected more to cosmic truths than grounded ones - i.e. the mystery contained in the worlds they create speaks to us about the unseen things within our own... good stuff indeed.

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