Tuesday, October 31, 2006

travellin' man...


airforms will be quiet.. i'll be out of town the rest of the week...

Monday, October 30, 2006

phantom of the theremin...




here's some scary music for halloween... a 7" called music for monsters, released on sounds records in glendale california (eeek.... it's almost walking distance from pasadena...). there's no date but it's pre-zipcode, so probably early 60's. picked up ages ago at the flea market for the cover design, which looks like an ad in an old comic book. i love the cut and paste design - the green overlay is incredible.

of all the halloween and horror records i've heard this one is without a doubt the scariest (scary with a little avant garde going on...). perhaps it is the loneliness and haunting quality of a theremin playing solo most of the time instead of being submerged in a bed of good vibrations... listen to this in a dark room alone and you will definitely be afraid.

of course, reality says it's just a guy waving his hand over a box with an antenna, periodically kicking a few pieces of chain, mixing in a thunderstorm from an old soundtrack LP, while some hot and bothered cats are fighting in the room next door... but there is something really eerie about the pace; and the banshee sound of the theremin (think early yoko ono) makes the recording really frightening. the way the secondary sounds move in an out at sometimes barely audible volume levels is downright spooky, almost like they are coming from the room rather than the record. it has more of a snuff film or ad hoc ed wood aesthetic than the sexy gore of jess franco or the victorian doily and cuff link horror of vincent price. the fact that the green vinyl 45 is totally covered with surface scars just adds fuel to the fire.

click here and listen.

more strange animals for halloween...




it seems folks were a bit more creative in the costume department a hundred years ago...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

seance of the lamb...


as halloween approaches, thought i'd dig out a few real photo post cards that are not music related. i've tried desperately to keep everything in the RPPC collection connected to music in some way; but once in awhile you come across something outside of what you think are the narrow confines of your collection, yet for some reason you can't pass them up. these photos are from a college party of some kind, circa 1900. they're all pretty amazing, but this image is by far the most haunting...

Friday, October 27, 2006

the do nothing machine...



in the late 1950's, as part of the alcoa company's "forecast collection", the eames office created the solar toy. this toy was unique in many ways; but the most unique aspect (particularly in light of the way things seem to be done today) was the fact that charles eames was interested in creating a toy that did nothing. in terms of "doing nothing" he didn't mean that it would be a static and mute object -he was interested in an object that didn't direct one towards specific answers (or in the case of the work of a designer, towards a specific "use"). it followed an ideology found in much of his works, where the power of play is valued as an experience that can be quite powerful in and of itself - and where a sense of wonder can lead to a depth of thought and a kind of expansive understanding (think powers of 10).

in alcoa's 1959 publication "design forecast 1" (the first image above is from this book), oscar schefler elaborates on the ideas behind the eames's solar powered "do nothing machine"..."there is little pertinence in asking what the toy is supposed to do. it is not supposed to do. it is supposed to be. its whole function is in its being." eames adds "we now have a moment in time which is very precious; but this is valid only if the toy does nothing". eames then goes on to talk about a kind of delightful awareness - found in the attraction to little things that rilke talks about in letters to a young poet; but with a sense of delight in the ability not to want to "know" found in zen (particularly in the same way cage seemed to find this childlike delight in much of the world through zen). eames is toying with the idea that the object really is mute until receptive perceptive humans begin to interact with it and find meaning in their experience with it. it's a wonderful connection to duchamp's ideas regarding the viewer as the "art coefficient".

the solar toy was never manufactured beyond the prototype stage; but alcoa used it in their forecast ads and for some strange reason it ended up on the cover of billy mure's supersonic guitars volume 2 (a somewhat lackluster space age bacheolar pad LP). the toy design is part alexander girard fabric patterns come to life; as well as a healthy dose of irving harper's nelson clock designs, the eames' house of cards and other toys, alexander calder's mobiles, and old chemistry lab kits (and it would be quite an idiosyncratic stretch, but perhaps duchamp's spinning bicycle wheel on a stool too...). here's a track off the mure LP called the moon of manakoora...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

one man band...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

bird song...

sibyl sanderson fagan was one of the most popular whistler's in the early 1900's. she's on a ton of edison cylinders and early 78's. her specialty was replicating bird songs.

here's "a nightingale" from a flea market 78 on emerson records (serial #4159)...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

rubber inn?


Sunday, October 22, 2006

surround sound...


Saturday, October 21, 2006

feel it...



another great exhibition catalog from the museum of contemporary crafts new york 1969. the exhibition was called "feel it" and seems to have been a series of interactive environments involving a whole lot of tactile works (pre-dating the appearance of the term "interactive" in the artworld by about 20 years...). the show was put together by architect gustaf clason and architect/exhibition designer eric sorling. here's a bit of their introduction:

"our way of life dulls our senses and inhibits our communications with one another. our conventionalism demonstrably produces negative effects and reduces human qualities. our sensibility is threatened, supressed, inpaired. "feel it" has come about as a test room for sensual experiences and emotional states, or as an exercise instrument for making use of human creative resources regardless of mental handicaps".

the touchy feely show involved a small group of hip young swedish designers and artists who created environments to be experienced through temperature, light, sound, and of course touch. unfortunately the catalog has no pictures in it; but there are some nice cryptic and poetic descriptions such as this one for the area called darling: "vibrating column to squeeze. shut the eyes and "go flying". can be used in psychic-physical therapy and for training sensory perception."

perhaps to compensate for the lack of pictures, the catalog does have a few nice surprises - a handy wipe and a comb attached to the back cover to clean up after feelin' it; and a 7" record of sounds from the andromatic, a "sculptural panel for your eyes and ears. sound light and color are blended and guided by andomatic, an electronic terminal that produces impulses through automatic or manual programming". the sounds were created by ralph lundsten and leo nilson (in 1969 the pair also created "blue bird" - a two channel electronic composition broadcast from a series of giant air ballons floating over the city of ostersund!), with technical design by the great erkki kurenniemi! nice futuristic electronics from the pre-digital age...click to listen.



Thursday, October 19, 2006

natural history...


"the good shepherd home band of crippled orphans, with "clover" the oldest horse in the world...this picture was taken july 8, 1923, "clover" the methuselah of the horse world died april 26, 1924 - aged 53 years. the body was taken to new york city where it will be exhibited in the american museum of natural history."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

folding kindergarten...

some images from the third volume of the kindergarten collection. these are paper foldings. there is more of a cubist approach here, in that the foldings are sometimes titled and sometimes meant to reference things in the world (the reference is clear in some, looser in others, like the visual realtionship to an origami crane and a real one). the window is a particularly wonderful piece of simplicity - small paper folded twice, then unfolded and spread flat again. of course, there are also abstract designs, similarly using the limitations of the process towards an unlimited vocabulary of aesthetic results. this book in particular feels a lot more like decorative quilt patterns than pure abstraction...










Tuesday, October 17, 2006

kutting kindergarten...

here are some more victorian era projects from the second book of froebel kindergarten excercises in my collection; these are paper cuttings and weavings. the simple geometry is certainly reminiscent of early josef albers paintings (and perhaps even more so, anni albers weavings) and some of frank lloyd wright's cement block motifs, not to mention navajo blankets and japanese basket designs. of course it is highly unlikely either of these last two came out of froebel's teachings; but there are many connections between froebel's building of aesthetic forms and the process of weaving, basket making, etc., where images and designs are formed -and informed- by a grid that is inherent to the building or making process. it is interesting that froebel was influenced by crystal forms and the process of nature, in terms of a connectedness between the aesthetics of his work with traditional craft and folk art that came out of one's experience with nature.









Monday, October 16, 2006

finding kindergarten...

friday night we went to the opening of the "inventing kindergarten" show art center college of design's williamson gallery. the exhibition consists of a large portion of norman brosterman's incredible collection of early froebel related kindergarten objects that were amassed while writing his 1997 book "inventing kindergarten". brosterman's book suggests that froebel's kindergarten teaching methods of the mid 1800's influenced the beginnings of the bauhaus, abstract art, and the work of frank lloyd wright. of course one glance at the materials and you can see that his ideas make sense. through different activities of drawing and making, froebel's teaching methods developed a kind of visual (and tactile) thinking that clearly connects art, science, math, and architecture.

the show is a mind bendingly beautiful selection of paper weavings, cuttings, sewings, etc. made by children and kindergarten teachers in the early part of the 20th century. these works reference josef albers, bridget riley, paul klee, richard tuttle, rudolf steiner, frank lloyd wright, the shakers, and everything in between. it's a visually compelling pathway towards pure abstraction through what was historically considered the humble crafts of "women's work" and children's games. remarkably, it's the first time brosterman's collection has been exhibited, and i would highly HIGHLY recommend the show to anyone in the southern california area - and also checking out the show's co-sponsor, the insitute for figuring

a few years ago, thanks to my good friend bloggsy i was lucky enough to get my hands on three books of foldings, cuttings, and sewings that were most likely put together by a teacher as examples for students circa 1900. they've been in my studio as inspiration ever since... seeing brosterman's collection gave me goosebumps, so it seemed time to share my own. today i've posted some sewing works...







Saturday, October 14, 2006

guru dutt week - pyaasa


certainly guru dutt's 1957 film pyaasa is his masterpiece. it was the first film of dutt's that i saw and it completely blew me away. pyaasa has one of most beautiful tear your heart out tragic songs of any dutt film, and it also has one of the funniest (johnny walker massaging a customer's scalp and playing bongos on his head). it is easy to see the main character of the film (the genius poet vijay, who is ignored by the public until after his death); as a metaphor, if not a direct reflection, of dutt's own life and career as an artist with a tenuous relationship to critics and the public.

pyaasa tell's vijay's story, which begins with his poems being sold as waste paper by his brothers; to his enormous fame as both a genius and a martyr, after he is mistakenly thought to have been killed by a train. there are scathing portrayals of greedy family, wealthy publishers, pompous poets, and "the public". there is condemnation of a culture that, presumbably influenced by the west, compromises on all fronts for want of money. the title roughly translates as "the thirsty one" and dutt's poet vijay is obviously thirsting for artistic and spiritual fulfillment in a world that, vijay (and dutt perhaps) believes, is no longer looking for such things. it's a stark film, but also a beautiful film. the one character of genuine goodness is gulabo, a prostitute played by waheeda rehman, who falls in love with vijay, and rescues his work. her relationship to vijay through his poems is dutt at his most passionate.

one interesting side note on film, is that it uses a plot device inspired, if not blatantly stolen, from the hollywood film sullivan's travels. in dutt's film vijay gives his jacket to a beggar who is then hit by a train and mistakenly identified as vijay because of the coat. in the 1941 preston sturges film, the same thing happens to joel mccrea's character. after vijay is presumed dead, dutt really begins to dissect what he must've felt was the hypocracy of the culture he was surrounded by. in the film, just as vijay (now thought to be dead) is being celebrated and memorialized as a genius; he appears at his own memorial to condemn the "worship" and adulation. his brothers, as well as the publisher who is making so much money on his "posthomus" poems, denounce vijay as a fraud and a riot ensues - as the adoring crowd would rather worship the martyr vijay than be confronted with him as a real human being. the poet escapes, finds gulabo, and they wander off into the sunset to find a new life. it is a difficult film, that somehow still contains hope.

the music is by s.d. burman, who also did the music for dutt's baazi, jaal, and kaagaz ke phool (one of the LP's i'm still looking for!). burman's soundtrack is one of his best.

here are the two songs mentioned in the first part of the post - both sung by the great mohammed rafi. click on the titles to hear:

first is the gorgeously sad jinhen naaz hai hind par (note the beautiful lap steel guitar)

and last, the hilarious sarjo tera chakraye.

after seeing this film in the early part of 2004, i ended up creating a sound/text installation called stills for guru dutt for the tang museum. it was the 40th anniversary of his death, and the 40th of my birth... and so ends guru dutt week....

Friday, October 13, 2006

guru dutt week - C.I.D.



c.i.d. was made in 1956, and starred dev anand, shakila, and johnny walker. guru dutt produced the film, and raj khosla directed. dutt knew khosla, as he had assisted on several of dutt's previous films; and khosla had recently directed his first film, milap (also with dev anand). unfortunately milap was not the success khosla (and the production company) had hoped for. after milap's commercial failure, it was a credit to both dutt's generosity and his belief in khosla's potential that he decided to produce c.i.d. and hand the directorial duties to khosla. in light of khosla's minor reputation at the time, c.i.d. was a risk; but dutt's friend dev anand was already a star, and fortunately for everyone involved, music director o.p. nayyar was at the top of his game.

c.i.d is considered one of the great early bollywood crime thrillers, and khosla went on to be considered one of the great directors of hindi cinema. the movie is indeed a good one, but the songs really steal the show. nayyar had previously written the music for dutt's aar paar, and his distinct style is evident in both soundtracks. nayyar's songs gleefully borrow from western melodies, and there are strange enchanting moments where a bollywood song will suddenly fall into a few bars of "brazil" or in the case of c.i.d.'s yeh hai bombai meri jan, part of the main melody is clearly lifted from "my darling clemintine".

the soundtrack to c.i.d. is considered one of nayyar's greatest, and features mohammed rafi, geeta dutt, asha bhosole, and shamshad begum. because the cover art is so great, i've pictured both the LP and the 7" above. because the songs are so great, it didn't feel right to pick just one, so here are a few tracks from the LP. click on the titles and listen.

ankhon hi ankhon men geeta dutt & mohammed rafi

jata kahan hai diwane geeta dutt

leke pehla pehla pyar shamshad begum & mohammed rafi

yeh hai bombai meri jan geeta dutt & mohammed rafi

Thursday, October 12, 2006

guru dutt week - chaudhvin ka chand


chaudhvin ka chand was made in 1960 and starred guru dutt along side one of his leading actresses waheeda rehman. rehman has a large cult following similar to that of greta garbo in terms of a fanbase obsessed with her "transcendental" beauty.

in chaudhvin ka chand, a case of mistaken identity leads to guru dutt's character marrying the woman (waheeda rehman) that his best friend is in love with. there is an agonizing tension towards tragedy throughout; but it is also considered one of dutt's most passionate romantic films. because his previous film - kaagaz ke phool - was such a box office failure (although it is clearly one of his masterpieces), dutt stepped down from directing; and although chaudhvin ka chand was directed by m. sadiq, it is still generally considered dutt's film. certainly, his influence is felt everywhere in it.

the soundtrack has wonderful songs with music by ravi and lyrics by shakeel badayuni, with singing by mohammed rafi and asha bhosle, along with one track by geeta dutt. today's song is mera yaar bana bai dulha sung by mohammed raffi. click here to listen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

guru dutt week - mr. & mrs. 55


guru dutt's 1955 romantic comedy mr. & mrs. 55 contains one of the great comedic lines of indian cinema, when sita devi asks preetam in reference to his work, "are you a communist?" and he answers "no, a cartoonist".

the film centers around dutt as a down on his luck cartoonist, agreeing to marry anita (played by madhubala) so she can inherit a large sum of money. the plan, devised by anita's man hating aunt sita devi (played by lalita pawar) expects that the arranged marriage will end immidately after the money is inherited. the situation becomes complex once dutt and anita realize they are actually in love.

the film definitely took inspiration from preston sturgess, and the screwball romantic comedies of spencer tracy and katherine hepburn. while mr. & mrs. 55 is one of dutt's few out and out comedies, it also relates strongly to ideas carried through much of his work, particularly a strong disdain for many of india's social realities of the time. it's one of several of dutt's films where the main character is a struggling artist who is unable to make ends meet and whose genius is ignored by the public. ironically, this was one of dutt's first hits with both the public and critics.

this song, is titled preetam aan milo, and is sung by geeta dutt. it's actually a song that was a hit years before the film was even made, by a different singer, c.h. atma. geeta's version is dreamy, and i really like how they left some of the background sounds on the LP recording. click here and listen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

guru dutt week...

today marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of one of my favorite film directors, the great indian cinema poet guru dutt; and so it seems a good time to share some of the cover art and songs from dutt's soundtrack LP's i've been collecting over the past few years.

dutt's films are a distinctly personal mix of poetic tragedy (think ingmar bergman) with comedic moments (think early rene clair), and, of course, musical numbers. his films are generally considered pioneering for his unique use of songs. for years, elaborate musical numbers were inserted into bollywood films as musical pauses, having little to do with the story lines. dutt was one of the first directors to make them integral to the narratives of his films; creating musical moments that were completely connected to the trajectory of the story lines.

although he is mainly famous for his directorial work, dutt also starred in many of his own films - a reluctant decision that came out of necessity for 1953's baaz. this led him to essentially become his own leading man (in fact one can't help but feel that the great playback singer mohammed rafi's voice is actually dutt's voice, as rafi's voice and dutt's face are connected in so many of dutt's films). dutt worked often with a small group of character actors who become familiar presences throughout his films... and almost every film has the comic genius of dutt's good friend, johnny walker. because dutt created his films within an existing studio system and structure, his vision is not always present on the surface of his work. his films break new ground quietly beneath the trappings of popular film.

here's a beautiful song from 1954's aar paar, one of dutt's most successful early films which seems heavily inspired by hollywood, and in particular, film noir. it's called ja ja ja ja bewfa and sung by dutt's wife, geeta dutt. it's a much slower version of the song most popular from the film called sun sun sun zalima click here and listen

Monday, October 09, 2006

contemplation environments



here's a small catalog from the 1970 exhibition 'contemplation environments' at the museum of contemporary crafts in ny.

the basic idea was for the invited artists to create environments that would induce a contemplative state. the interesting thing is how many of the installations involved sound, and how few of the artists were really active in the field of sound art. only irv teibel went on to work with sound extensively, mainly as a pioneer in psychoacoustics; releasing a series of atmospheric LPs of recordings of rain and ocean sounds. (much to the delight of 1970 era stoners everywhere).

there's a lot of sci-fi meditation chambers, a lot plexiglass, and a lot of hippy looking structures built with mud and straw; but there are also some really interesting approaches to architecture - and some early attempts to use sound towards the creation of space (both actual and psychological). i think the curator's text below is still relevant in speaking of the need for solitude to balance the environment most of us are confronted with in our everyday lives...

from the exhibition catalog:

"contemplate is defined as meditation on spiritual things; as the act of considering with attention; as musing, as study. traditionally, man's contemplative needs were fulfilled with his daily direct access to nature. however, today we live in overcrowded noisy, dehumanized communities, where there are few places idea for contemplation. as a result there is a growing need among people for places of solitude.

this exhibition does not deal with the process of contemplation as such, but rather with physical surroundings which somehow elicit a response which can be called contemplative. there can be said to exist a kind of ineffable presence in the architectural space itself which exerts a quieting, peaceful influence on the mind and emotions of the individual who enters it..." paul j. smith.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

dance monkey dance