Wednesday, February 28, 2007

the hight of a tree


another from ropp's... how to gage the "hight" of a tree.

considering most of the people i know with MFAs couldn't figure out much of the simple tasks in this book in terms of equations, i'm thinking folks understood math a lot better then than most of us do now.

the "hight" of a tree, is one of a number of little beautiful images and activities. you'll have to click on it to be able to read it; but i love the idea of someone laying down a pole next to a tree and then laying down oneself to get one's eye in line with the top of the pole and the tree, rather than getting a ladder and some trained birds and monkeys and a really long tape measure.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

in case you were wondering...


this is the first of several journeys the archive will make into ropp's calculator for the pocket, published in 1912, and rescued from obscurity a few sundays ago at the long beach flea market.

you'll have to click on the image to be able to read it, but it's a beautiful chart of "the specific gravity of well known substances" (including aluminum, gum arabic, castor oil and human blood).

ropp's little book features an insane amount of information including "time and labor saving tables, also the rules, principles, and short cuts for arithmatic, mechanics, and mensuration; concisely and clearly stated for practical use, handy review, and ready reference for the use of farmers, mechanics, business men, bankers, miners, laborers, and dealers in grain, stock, cotton, hay, feed, coal, lumber, etc."

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Monday, February 26, 2007

hit me with your rhythm stick...




some nice hand painted drum heads circa 1910. the life of a drum head is to be continualy covered with "patterns of duration that are phenomenally present in the music".

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

light forms...




images from lewis wright's light, published in 1882.

"as the physicist nears the confines of his kingdom... he finds himself compelled to speculate on invisible presences, if only to find a rational explanation for undoubted physical phenomena, and insensibly he slips over the boundary, and is, although he does not yet realize it, contacting the astral plane."

although seemingly connected to these images, this text is not from wright's book of science experiments; but written several years later in the introduction to annie besant and c.w. leadbetter's book thought forms. i wonder if besant and leadbetter were familiar with wright's images, and had them in mind when they wrote about a scientist moving beyond the rational.

wright's images are so compelling one wants to give them mystical connotations - and yet what could be more mystical than their rational explanations. the images transcend their rationality to exist as beautiful things, with visual poetic power greater than their intended meanings. where besant and leadbetter tend to rationalize the mystical to give proof of its existence; wright simply shows natural phenomenon in all its mystical and provocative beauty.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

when bauhauses collide...


i was digging through a box of my "childhood" 45's, and found one of the oddest things in the 4AD catalog. it's a 7" collaboration between bauhaus the band (actually bassist david jay) and surrealist poet/painter renee halkett who studied at bauhaus the school (in the 1920's).

halkett seems to be somewhat forgotten, as most of the online references to him are connected to this record; but i did find some images of early paintings here.

halkett lived in java following world war one, and then ended up in weimar at the bauhaus where he studied with oskar schlemmer, moholy-nagy, and walter gropius. he writes alot about the the dessau bauhaus contradicting the intentions of the experimental weimar school; and laments the fact that it was the beginning of what are now known as official schools of art and design (think MFA program...). despite his connection to early avant garde histories, he seems more connected to the beats in terms of wandering and irreverence.

in spite of the band name, i believe this was the only actual collaboration between a member of the school and a member of the band. i bought the 7" when it came out in 1981, just a few years before halkett's death in march of 1983.

the two tracks are not great, but totally worth a listen (particularly if you like drum machines and that early 80's post punk, right before the batcave thing started, type of sound). armour is somehwat hampered by jay's distracting music; but nothing is pretty darn good... with jay adding a subtler bed beneath halkett's fragile, yet slightly manic, delivery. halkett's voice is the thing here; and it kind of reminds me some of the things burroughs did (the voice... not the words...). i'm pretty sure this is the only released recording of him reading his own works; and it's a nice document of an artist who seems somewhat forgotten. i don't think this has been re-issued on cd, so i've posted both sides. take a listen... armour & nothing.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

and thus begins the drifting...


an illustration from an article on telemetry in a 1950 issue of electronics world. i should probably just let you revel in the image without adding any text; but i can't help but add just one tiny bit from the article. the following should certainly enhance the mind moving in various directions of expansion that the image suggests.

one of the simplest methods of measuring any quantity is to convert it to code, where the quantity is transmitted as a function of time. for example, to indicate 10 pounds per square inch of pressure, a switch may be closed for 10 seconds.

time, functioning as a language... for me, this is like a foot pushing a boat away from a dock, and into a large open lake of possibilities...

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

listening to what...


you have to wonder what this guy is listening to... something in his ears somehow connecting him to a guy in a similar basement in the next town... voices, music, or fragmented audio worlds from some place more distant.

i suppose in a way, this guy is like us... trolling the airwaves (or the web) for surprises.

people talk about the "armchair traveler" in relation to reading books, but you can't close your eyes while you read... listening is the ultimate armchair traveling experience; and ever since we've had ears and things to listen to, there have been opportunities for sound to take us elsewhere.

with the advent of transmissions and recordings, a person can select their destination by throwing on a record or turning on the radio... you close your eyes, open your ears, and basically vanish. no wonder the paper on the wall in the photo above says "this is my busy day".

here's side two of a coverless african folk music 7" i picked up at the flea market on sunday. i don't have track names or other pertinent info, so it simply has to be as unquestionable as everything else in a dream.

perhaps if the guy in this photo had a really good "busy day", he heard something as beautiful and wonderful as this...

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

the long and wavy line...


this image was part of an article from an old radio and tv magazine. i believe it was related to television transmission and reception... the letters are keys to the illustrations and their meanings, which i mistakenly cut away. i think i like them better as the shapes of the sounds of the letters they are connected to.

it would be nice to see images of all the words one could make with the letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, j, k, l.

i wonder what these words would look like:

add ace ache age aged aced addage ale all able affable allege babble back bad baggage baffle bag bade badge bale bake bagel bead beef beech beach bed be bee beg bell behead beheaded blab blah black bleach bleed bleak bled beak black blade chafe chad cheek cab cabbage cage caged cake caked cede ceded dab dabble decade dad deed deeded deaf deface defaced dead deal each ebb edge egg eagle efface flack flake flaked flag flab fable face faced fad fade faded fake faked fleece feel feed fed gab gaffe gag gage gaged gale geek glad glade...

and i wonder how long that beautiful wavy line of 11 interchangeable parts, in endless combinations, would be...

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the sound of writing the sound of music...



it's nice when world's collide, particularly on the same object. here's a nice RPPC of a man playing some kind of zither, with some serious visual music on the reverse. no idea if the guy on the front made the marks on the back, but they certainly seem like they were generated by placing pencils between strings in various points on the instrument, and then holding the card against the pencil points as the strings and pencils quiver together.

in one sense, the backside reminds me of william anastasi's subway drawings, and some of tom marioni's drawings, where a physical action generates a scratchy and elegant image. i've done similar drawings with my eyes closed, using sound as a source for determining the movements of my hands; and i think of gerhard ruhm's recordings of the sounds of pencils on paper... as if these marks are speaking.

in another sense, they seem almost mechanical, like the marks of a seismograph or brain wave monitor. they resemble mechanical iterations of sound activity; and perhaps if oscilloscopes could draw, this is what they would make... broken sound waves fallen to the surface of paper like dried leaves...

and since this is the place of writing on a postcard, i see these marks in a third sense... visual, yet related to writing. i think of the calligraphic and scrawl-like nature of the visual works of brion gysin, henri michaux, carlfreidrich claus, ana hatherly, and others who have used their own relationship to the physical process of writing to generate visual images.

and lastly, of course, the marks could simply be a form of writing that we just can't read... perhaps with a depth of focus and concentration, one could discover within these marks a long lost micro story written by the gentle hand of robert walser... a whisper is only a whisper until one places one's ear up against it...

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Monday, February 19, 2007

bean stalkin' on president's day...


"As far as I'm concerned, I think Coleman Hawkins was the President first, right? As far as myself, I think I'm the second one." Lester Young, 1959

it seems that changes are made for two basic reasons... commerce and convenience. president's day, which was initially a celebration of george washington's birthday ON his birthday, and abraham lincoln's birthday ON his birthday, has now become a three day weekend and a lot of "president's day" sales at department stores. since the idea of celebrating the birth of some of the most important humans in american history with barbeques and new bedsheets seems somewhat misguided, i propose an alternative...

here at the archives we are celebrating president's day with real meaning, starting with a nod to the first president of the saxaphone... coleman hawkins. hopefully the inclusion of some deep listening (and finger snapping and toe tapping) will give president's day back some of the lustre it has lost over the years...


body and soul

bean stalkin

how deep is the ocean

drifting on a reed

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

more do nothing machine


charles eames has pointed the way with his ultimately functional functionless solar toy."

back in october i did a post on the solar toy, better known as the "do nothing machine", designed by charles eames. the project was funded by alcoa, and the images in the previous post were from an alcoa publication.

a musty cache of old radio, stereo, and hi-fi magazines arrived in the mail today, intentioned to be subjected to the human paper shredder, and hopefully ending up in some of my work; but a few nice looking things are most definitely going to have to be left intact. one of them was the above surprise... an issue of radio and tv news with the eames solar toy on the front cover!

unlike the alcoa article, which focused mainly on eames's ideas; the short text in this magazine speaks about the technical aspects of the solar powered display - much of which, thankfully, i do not understand.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

field recordings...

a text from lawrence halprin's notebooks, called elements of a natural landscape on a walk up camp tucker canyon 1961:

1. unpredictable rhythms - as arrangements through scatteration of trees.

2. relatedness of things - colors all related... brown range: fallen leaves, tree bark, earth etc., shapes etc.

3. small counter rhythms - leaves falling, branches moving.

4. sounds are quiet and persistent / unpredictable within a configurative pattern - as in the stream moving over rocks.

5. all edges are soft. they feel as though they become by being worn - not created into a fixed edge.

6. evolvement by either addition or subtraction of shapes - i.e erosion shapes or the additive shapes of growth (trees, leaves, falling, etc.).

7. non completion of spaces.. the spaces all move into other spaces and are non-configured.

8. variability of light - non-fixed and glowing.

9. the environment is pervassive - it enables you to come in and participate on your own level in any way you see fit. it does not impose many restrictions. limitations but not restrictions.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

before harry partch...


i wish i could offer you more info other than: this is from greece circa 1910. i have no idea what he's playing other than i'm sure it's not in the national museum of musical instruments... one string, and some very very serious resonators...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007



a nice surprise to find this fragile little letterpressed advertisement bound inside of an 1869 edition of bjornstjerne bjornson's "arne: a sketch of norwegian country life".

this most powerful and weird-like story is famous in modern literature, as well as for the elegance of its style as for the graphic reality with which its terrible incidents are forced upon the reader.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

plastic palace alice...



two pics of plastic houses from a 1970 issue of the danish magazine mobilia. the first, a french plastic star shaped house with six points, made by dubigeon, normandie division plastique. the second, a summer cottage designed by eric clements that looks to be a model or prototype. cousins of the plastic monsanto house of the future and descendents of various cabin sized utopian housing projects... the first an extension of monsanto's technology, the second a precursor of gaetano pesce's plastic aesthetics...

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Monday, February 12, 2007

from the land of jazz...


to oblivion...

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Sunday, February 11, 2007



of course, the obvious first impression to the scrawled 'note to self' in this book, is to laugh a little at the dead end this poor sap seemingly ran up against while reading some seriously stunning stories by joao guimaraes rosa; but maybe ino really loved them.

ino confirms for me that it would be impossible to read these stories and not find poetry in them (as it is with borges, calvino, robert walser, pessoa, etc.). i think there is an attempt to suggest that poetry and fiction claim different territories; but to define one of those territories in a simple phrase creates misunderstandings (or perhaps ino wasn't a great writer). ino seems to suggest that poetry is disconnected from fiction because it doesn't always make sense; but can making sense be exclusive to fiction, or not making sense exclusive to poetry?

found texts are often like a private message scrawled on a note and stuffed inside of a drifting glass bottle. their meanings are determined by their connection to the objects they are written on or hidden inside of. ino's text could not have been inscribed on a more perfect object; for guimaraes rosa's third bank story clearly reveals that there are new potentials to be found in the pre-defined; and that one can see a new presence in something already completely familiar.

if you ask someone looking at a river, which bank they like better, they would more than likely choose the left or the right assuming there are only two choices. guimaraes rosa chooses a third bank - creating a third space where others see only two. this previously ignored pre-existing space becomes a new space simply because it has been activated with a new potential of seeing or experincing it differently (similar to the landscape of treetops in calvino's baron in the trees, or the subscape of george nelson's furniture). this new space is born out of the connected space of two pre-existing others; perhaps like the space between fiction and poetry that guimaraes rosa's writing lives (for to place it exclusively in either would not do it justice).

certainly, great poetry and great fiction can contain an incredible depth of experience for a reader left with questions, unfinished business, and a picture that still needs some of the dots connected. this can reveal the experience of reading as a potential... as something that can keep growing inside of you long after the period of reading (and long after the limited time it takes for the questions in a text to be answered within the same text).

i go back to ino's short text thinking that 'too much like poetry...' was written because his, or her, heart was overwhelmed with guimaraes rosa's words; and that he, or she, simply couldn't get them out of his, or her, head. i am hoping, perhaps, that ino really loved this book tremendously and specifically because it absolutely is 'too much like poetry (and); doesn't always make sense'.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

musical minimalist...


inspired by a mid 1700's performance of music made by rubbing wet fingers on a set of wine glasses, benjamin franklin invented the glass armonica. getting tones from a wine glass with a wet finger was first mentioned in the experiments of galileo. athanasius kircher, and francis bacon in the 1600's. at the time a single glass was so expensive, all experiments were done with only one. by the mid 1700's an irish musician, richard puckridge, took a set of glasses into the world of performance and the glasses went from science to music.

when franklin saw a similar performance by william deleval, he began designs on the glass armonica (a crystal structure, not unlike a brancusi sculpture laying on its side, where the cup forms rotate with a foot pedal). franklin's armonica allowed the possibility of rubbing ten tones out of the glasses at once... simply hold each of your fingers along an edge of the spinning instrument.

of course these spectral sounds resonated beyond mere entertainment. mesmer used them as a major part of his mesmerism theories about magnetic fluid; and just the fact that kircher mentions glass music means it had some connection to alchemy. in the late 18th century there were all kinds of rumors that the music that came from wine glasses was dangerous.

supposedly these lilting sounds could shatter one's nerves and send them into deep melancholic depression - a fact that is slightly ironic in terms of much recent armonica recordings are related to new age healing (if you want to hear a great example of the instrument in an experimental context you should check out christina kubisch's armonica cd).

here we have a nice RPPC of a man playing wine glasses circa 1900. unfortunately no info on who the brave performer might be, but he must've been a pro, as his glasses seem rigged with some kind of amplification. i'm sure the music was incredibly wonderful...

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16 flowers dancing...

diagrams from a 1943 etude magazine article on a potential dance to accompany john philip sousa's stars and stripes forever... i think it's more like the forever potential of the interaction of flowers and numbers...

aside from painting scores (or music scores!) and chinese acupuncture diagrams, i can't help but think of these as design models for different areas of a small garden...












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Thursday, February 08, 2007



"they will comprehend that esthetic emotion cannot be understood, it can only be experienced."

merle armitage in the preface to personal revolution by louis danz

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

he's got the spirit...



i can't help but look at this 1909 RPPC and hear the devastating voice of ian curtis singing "i've been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand"... and then screaming "i've got the spi-rit, i've got the spi-rit"...

the caption reads "billy sunday talking "booz" to 7,000 men. fully 90% rose to their feet when asked who would vote against booze. bloomington ill. photo by c.u. williams". i'm sure you can understand my affection for this image of the blurry mr. sunday with his fire and brimstone on overload.

i was all set to pair this image with a 1928 recording of pine top smith's "i'm sober now" (and possibly joy division's disorder), but the web revealed such an interesting picture of mr. sunday, that i took my tongue out of my cheek, and decided to fill in the historical blanks....

billy sunday was born in 1862, and began his adult life as a professional baseball player. he started his career on the chicago white stockings in 1883, and played on various teams until 1894. he was not much of a hitter (he struck out his first 13 at bats... yes, it must've been the devil's work...); but he was a great base stealer. in 1891 he set a new record with 90 stolen bases; and billy was known as the fastest player to run the base path - he could do it in 16 seconds. no wonder the camera couldn't catch his flailing arms in this photo...!

sunday was saved in 1886, and took this to be his calling. he secretly preached while playing ball for a few more years; but eventually saw the light, turned down some incredibly lucrative offers to continue to play ball, and began to preach full time.

it might have been fate, but sunday's preaching career was at the height of popularity during the years that the irascible ty cobb was playing baseball (1905 - 1926). cobb was notorious for doing just about everything sunday was preaching against... (and coincidentally, cobb was also a great base stealer). i wonder if during his life as a ball player, sunday learned about many of the vices he would eventually preach against .

sunday was incredibly famous during this time and supposedly preached the gospel to more people than anyone before him in an age without television and barely radio. due to the flailing arms and fiery evangelist style, he became extremely wealthy and preached vehemently against the evils of alcohol until his death in 1835. his fame and popularity would make it seem likely that he had an impact on prohibition hanging around as long as it did, and i'm sure he was heartbroken when it was lifted just two years before he died...

it kind of makes you wonder if there's something in a certain man that would make him a good preacher and a good ball player. it's like he had two lives, in two worlds. i found this incredibly crude recording of him online... listen

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

bal primitif...



postcard invitation to bob edwards' 1917 bal primitif (this is not an RPPC, but a printed card, you can see the dot patterns in the detail). i like the northwest native influenced ukulele...

unfortunately the prevalence of bob edwards from npr on the web denied me the ability to find any info on mr. creative here... he must've been a somebody because he had a phone in 1917, and was friends with saul harrison (this card is addressed to him and came from his estate). harrison was a an actor and director of silent films at the time...

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Monday, February 05, 2007

unit structures...



looking through a pile of old photos at the flea market sunday morning, i was instantly smitten with this image. its visual appeal is probably clear to most airforms visitors and my plan was to leave it at that... but by the time i got home and scanned it, it got me thinking.

almost all of my work is somehow composed of building blocks - small units that can move from one language to another - and the forms of these small trains in crooked lines on a table feel uncomfortably familiar (somewhere i've already made this painting).

i actually counted the trains in each line, hoping the lines would reveal a secret, perhaps each one signifying a letter based on the number of units, and the whole becoming a visual translation of a word or phrase (unfortunately the long rows spelled: ggkhgghjj, and the short cluster at the top: dababb).

so i stepped away from myself, from the limitations of my own inability to 'translate' the forms into something else, and to simply fall back into the arrangement of units and the beauty of misunderstandings (i was slightly disappointed when i discovered these were trains, as i had hoped originally that they were blocks of wood or some such secret aesthetic activity - which they still, of course, could be... for who hasn't absentmidedly arranged books by color or counted steps out loud while climbing...).

it led me to one of my favorite painters, and one of the masters of large structures built from single boxlike units; and also towards objects that revel in their stubbornness not to let their secrets be known. you have to take them on their own terms, and allow their beauty to simply envelop you.

i was talking to someone on the phone a few days ago about how alfred jensen's paintings come down to this kind of powerful vibrational moment, where logic and understanding is consumed by emotion and experience. in the end, there is no need to seek answers from the mass of specifically arranged units, as much as to accept their potential for some seriously revelatory wandering (perhaps that's what he meant by painting 'remote sensing' across the top of this painting - as their 'force' can seep deeply inside of a sensitive viewer from across the room).

i think most visual objects have the potential to affect us in this way; deeper and quieter than the logic of words and understanding; and i hold a kind of secret hope that jensen wouldn't mind me loving his work for all the wrong reasons.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

hand in motion...


the last few posts have been about a connection between things:

things meant to be,
things physically,
and sometimes just "felt" to be...

must be something in the air.

this morning i discovered a found drawing on an old receipt stuck in a book. i love how you can actually feel the motion of hands in the line and its form. with all this connectedness running through my head, it seems that the gods and goddesses of fate had no choice but to hide this in the center of a 1974 first edition of simone forti's handbook in motion. the beautiful thing is that this line was drawn in the description area of the receipt, so that it somehow not only connects to the content of the book; but to a representation of the title....

perhaps it describes the title even better than re-writing the words; and i like to think this was the book clerk's intention - that he or she made other motion drawings representing titles of other books sold...

of course, the image formed could easily fit into the graphic notational language of dance movement and dance scores... or perhaps it's just simply a beautiful line on a nice old piece of paper...


Friday, February 02, 2007

even daylight's dark as night...


photo: anonymous

music: the lonliest gal in town by goldie hill

even darklight's day as night,

even daylight, dark as nights,

even nightlights, day as dark...

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

the connectedness of all things good...



much to the horror of many of my friends, richard dyer bennet is one of my all time favorite singers. he's a far cry from the wonderful insanity and gritty humanism of most of the 'folk' music i love (the harry smith anthology, alan lomax field recordings, and most things rural and running 78 revolutions per minute...). nonetheless, his first LP on his own dyer bennet label (simply called richard dyer bennet 1) is one of the most stunning combinations of voice and guitar i've ever heard. i've tried to convince myself that there is still an "otherness" to his music; and that it somehow connects to the "cooler" things that inspire me; but the reality is that you can't always predict what you will love and you can't always know why...

like a lot of professional folk singers of his generation, dyer bennet's voice has that weird affectation of studying and training. none of his records are perfect (although dyer bennet 1 comes close), and there is always a song or two or three that makes you shudder in their dainty elizabethan shakespeare-ness; but i cannot deny that the combination of voice and guitar in songs like oft in the stilly night and down by the sally gardens gives me goose bumps.

dyer bennet also had a little punk rock in him. in the mid 1950's, at the height of his popularity; he started his own record label to present folk music differently than the major labels like decca and mercury he'd recorded for - he thought the labels didn't care about recording quality enough, nor marketing the stuff with the right amount of integrity. i like to think it was his james dean moment.

i hadn't really listened to dyer bennet for awhile when a cd by kopalen & jao yeay arrived in the mail yesterday. the cd, titled khmer surin vol. 63 is a mix of cambodian kantrum pop, and has some of its own magical moments. i can't read the song titles, but when track 8 came on, the melody sounded extremely familiar.

i listened to the song 3 or 4 times, and it dawned on me that the first half of the main melody is totally connected to dyer bennet's version of a song called 'old maid'.

of course there's no way either knew of each other's song... dyer bennet being long passed away and his version of old maid unavailable other than a scratchy 78, and kopalen & jao yeay's version of a song recorded recently, and in a language dyer bennet would've never understood.

i just started to wonder...what if i unwound the groove that makes up the recorded side of dyer bennet's old maid... how would that awkward unbent line connect dyer bennet to track 8 on khmer surin vol. 63... what path would it take... and what could one potentially find along that path between those two points?

i just wish that i could read the title of the cambodian song... as it might shed some light on the connectedness of all things good...

richard dyer bennet, old maid & kopalen & jao yeay, track 8

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