Monday, December 31, 2007

pattern simpler / patterns complex

jess / duncan book cover

"the nurses insisted
it is a clean white sheet
i admitted that it might be...
colors brighter by midnight
pattern simpler
once i almost saw
an unknown color"

jess, four intervals passing in a ward

yesterday, i finally managed to see the exhibition - jess/to and from the printed page at the pasadena museum of california art. the show focused mainly on jess's works that were created for print, and consisted mainly of collage works, printed books, broadsides, a few paintings, drawings, ephemera, etc.

i've been a fan of his work for a long time, initally discovering the collages, and eventually being floored over by his incredibly underrated paintings. two standouts (and surprises) in the show, were a 1969/70 recording of jess reading some of his own texts, and a short experimental film he made with filmmaker lawrence jordan in 1962.

the film, entitled 'the 40 and 1 nights, or jess's didactic nickelodeon', featured still images of collages, each accompanied by a snippet of sound from an LP, film soundtrack, and even a bit of james joyce's voice. the connect and disconnect between the images and the sound bits (which appear for only a few seconds), seem connected to the merce cunningham quote below in terms of sound and visual relationship potentials. i only wish the film were projected in a dark room rather than playing on a crappy small monitor with a pair of headphone dangling...

(and speaking of lawrence jordan, you should not miss this beautiful film of his i found on youtube)

the recording of jess speaking his own texts was also pretty darn wonderful. while the barrage of words made it difficult at times to to focus on the printed works in the exhibition, it gave all of the works in the show another level of vision. the animated sound of his deep voice was a butterfly-like spiderweb filling every empty corner and whitewall gap in the space; and very much presiding over the entire experience.

a footnote in the catalog mentions that a compiling of jess's text works is in the works, which will be a welcome addition to an artist's oeuvre that is already quite faceted - one can only hope the book will include a cd of these recordings of the artist reading...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, December 28, 2007

their master's voices...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

when collage becomes architecture...

henri matisse confessional door

image from the book chapelle du rosaire des dominicaines de vence par henri matisse, 1958.

of course matisse's work for this chapel is well known, but i really love this door to the confessional. it seems a perfect translation from a collage of paper cut outs into physical form - particularly before computer/laser cutting made such things possible without the need of human hands. here one is confronted with a rigid plane that retains much of the original qualities of a thin membrane of shapes with tiny openings for for shared air, small streams of light, and quiet voices.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

the most realistic of all possible things...

merce cunningham 1952

"... now time can be an awful lot of bother with the ordinary pinch-penny counting that has to go on with it, but if one can think of the structure as a space of time in which anything can happen in any sequence of movement event, and any length of stillness can take place, then the counting is an aid towards freedom, rather than a discipline towards mechanization. a use of time structure also frees the music into space, making the connection between the dance and the music one of individual autonomy connected at structural points. the result is the dance is free to act as it chooses, as is the music. the music doesn't have to work itself to death to underline the dance, or the dance create havoc trying to be as flashy as the music.

for me, it seems enough that dancing is a spiritual exercise in physical form, and that what is seen, is what it is. and i do not believe it is possible to be "too simple". what the dancer does is the most realistic of all possible things, and to pretend a man standing on a hill could be doing everything except just standing is simply divorce - divorce from life, from the sun coming up and going down, from clouds in front of the sun, from the rain that comes from the clouds and sends you to the drugstore for a cup of coffee, from each thing that succeeds each thing. dancing is a visible action of life."

merce cunningham, space time and dance, in transformation 3, 1952

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

the sounds of ghosts of christmas past...

Monday, December 24, 2007

twas the day before christmas...

columbia records gift sleeve from japan

... and all the old records in japan were wrapped in holiday sleeves like this.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 23, 2007

winter is here...

record store, belfast maine

record store, belfast maine

well, yesterday was the "official" first day of winter. i suppose, like this gent, the best thing to do would be to wait around in the snow for the record store to open :-)

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 22, 2007

the physicist and society...

physicist snapshot 1952

physicist xray 1952

two illustrations under the title "the physicist and society" from transformation, issue 3, 1952. these images, by "frere amer" (probably a pseudonym) were used to illustrate an article by francis bitter called "the potentials of physics". they most certainly are referencing apollinaire's calligrammes, if you click on them, you can see them larger and read the text...

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 21, 2007

when sound generates architecture...

harter raum: coop himmelblau, 1970

in 1970, coop himmelblau performed harter raum / hard space, an event in which heart microphones were attached to the three group members and electronically connected to three explosive charges two kilometers away. the transmission of the three heartbeats activated the explosions, and three "instant" (and very temporary) spaces were realized.

from arthropods, 1972, by jim burns

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 20, 2007

a tintype...


while the bulk of my collection is RPPC's and CDV's, i have also picked up an occasional tintype when it relates to music and is affordable (a rarity that is akin to the stars being aligned).

the image above is probably the best of the few i have, particularly because the image is not only stellar, but it retains its original frame. if you click on it you can see the hand tinted rosy cheeks (which seems to be common amongst tintype portraits) as well as the fiddler's very sporty vest.

the tintype was developed by professor hamilton k. smith in 1856.

here's a bit of history: A wet-plate collodion process produced on a thin iron plate--named the melainotype (melaino, meaning dark or black) or ferrotype (ferro, referring to iron) and popularly called the tintype--was developed in Ohio in the early 1850s. While many mid-nineteenth century photographers did not value the tintype, it held many advantages over earlier photographic processes. It was less expensive, easier and faster to produce than the silver-plated daguerreotype, and much more durable than the glass-plated ambrotype. Like the ambrotype, the tintype was simply a collodion negative image that appeared as a positive due to the black (japanned) base upon which it rested. Despite reaching the peak of its popularity during the Civil War, the tintype continued to be used well into the second quarter of the twentieth century.

more here

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

some things behind glass...






items recently seen in glass cases in the small museum at mission san juan batista.

an old bible with faded color ribbon place holders, a book with some kind of number/alphabet coding, a book with gosh darned beautiful graphic design, an object one could seemingly hold in one's hand while singing and praying, and one of the largest roller organ cobbs i've ever seen (an absolutely beautiful object to behold!).

the museum, with its peeling walls and dusty contents reminded me a lot of the joseph cornell show (also seen over the weekend), a stunner, which was impossible to get one's mind around in one visit...

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

old new worlds...

1540-1552 ptolemy map detail 2

1540-1552 ptolemy map detail

images of america from munster's 1540 edition of ptolemy's geographia as pictured in "old maps and their makers" from 1925. i love the color combinations and how the printing give the images an incredibly awkward presence. the linework a bit more crude and seemingly distant from munster's originals. they feel more re-drawn than printed, or better yet, as though they are hovering between drawn and printed - and almost kid-like...

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 14, 2007

feet formed by thoughts...

littlefield mineral microscope pic2

littlefield mineral microscope pic1

here are a few more images from littlefield's book "man minerals and masters". see the previous post for more info. the top image is "the right foot: and he set his right foot upon the sea". the bottom image is "the left foot: and his left upon the earth". i'll leave you with feet firmly planted in seas, earths, and thought for a few days... back to posting monday...

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

books formed by thoughts...

charles littlefield mineral book image 2

charles littlefield mineral book image

charles litttlefield felt that mineral salts were the physical basis of life, and that with the proper psychic/spiritual training, these minerals "charged with the vital force, become susceptible to mind control so that any picture the mind accepts as true in principle, may be fixed in them". littlefield called these forms "faith-pictures" and as early as 1902 he was able to create such images by imposing his spiritual thoughts on mineral salts while looking at them through a microscope. speaking the "magic words" he learned as a child (from a man who healed his bleeding wound by speaking the spell), he'd imagine a mental picture and eventually see it form.

his 1937 book "man, minerals, and masters" discusses the training necessary to begin such a venture - by studying ancient numerology, kaballah, the veda, yoga, and the bible - which all together forms a kind of "mystery science". he also wrote a book called "the beginning and way of life", and much of his writing talks about god, christianity, the pyramids, and "the universal plane of consciousness".

of course, i have no idea if any of his words are true, but i would hate to doubt him; because the images his little book is filled with are quite amazing... hoaxes or not, they are stunningly beautiful, and seem the kind of things joseph cornell would've coveted and kept in a small cigar box.

the two images above are both of books formed in minerals. the top one is titled "the book opened", the bottom one "the inside of the book: map of united states of america". there's so much visual goodness here i'll probably post a few more tomorrow.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

between snowflakes and leaves...


between snowflakes and leaves there are resemblances. at the sight of snow falling one thinks that one is seeing small flowers that are falling from the sky. why is foliage dying in the autumn secretly golden, and why does one think of springtime flowers having tongues, to shape some kind of conversation? seeing leaves one thinks of hands, their fingerinesses are budlike. birds' feathers, leaves on a tree, the delicate feathery, fingery snowfall in winter - one rightly tells oneself that they are related. the wind seems to be an undependable blunderer; its lull is as sweet as compliance, blissful in itself, flowing round itself, feeling itself beautiful. does the wind feel that it is windy? does the leaf know how beautiful it is? do the snowflakes smile and do flowers charm themselves, and do curls know their curliness? a river in its motion resembles a limber wanderer in a hurry, the watery mass of a lake in its repose a beautiful woman in white gloves, with blue eyes. the profusion of leaves hides hides the enchanting finery of the branches. it is a pretty thought that pretty things exist. the shapes of waves and branches are snaky, and times do come when one knows that one is no more and no less than waves and snowflakes, or, as it clearly longs now and then for release from its uncommonly graceful confines, the leaf.

robert walser, 1927-29, in speaking to the rose, bison books

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

before harry partch...

wiliam campbell CDV

a small cdv of william campbell and his bagpipes. not much i can add to such a wonderful image...this might be the famous william campbell who won a highland society of london gold medal in 1897 and was a head bagpiper to the queen circa 1901... nice pants too...

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

feldman, on art & inspiration...

..."cage doesn't have to be idea-orientated. he told me last summer - it was so charming the way he put it, i couldn't have put it that way - he said: "so many people tell me what to do next, i don't have to think anymore." very cute. i don't know what to tell you. i'm doing a lot of teaching these days and i find everything so conservative. you can't tell a student today: "why don't you just work and maybe you'll get an idea?" all of my most important work was done that way. i never had an idea when i sat down to work. i was reading something in one of those conversations where it turned out that stravinsky never thought about his work unless he was working, which i thought was very interesting. it's like the analyst joke, you know, a guy call his analyst and says:"doc, i'm going to be ten minutes late, why don't you begin without me?" it's just too incongruous to say: "work and the idea will come". kline began with an 8, that's what he told me, unless he came in and really had something. guston just looked out the window, made a little mark...

...the terror (of boulez's teachings) is that you have to have an idea, while with me my ideas came out of the piece. 'idea' became the new myth for that old word 'inspiration'. if i was going to wait for an idea to write a piece i'd go out of my mind, i'd commit suicide. but it's a very important terror that the piece has to be good, that it has to make sense, that is has to go somewhere, it has to exploit the materials, you have to use up its potential, it has to feed on itself, that it has to be something."

interview with morton feldman, by gavin bryars and fred orton, in studio magaine, londond, dec. 1976

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

leave enough silence... (when an avant-garde master brings to mind a crazy motorcyle daredevil)


play a vibration in the rhythm of your body
(of your body. the player's.)

play a vibration in the rhythm of your heart
(that's possible.)

play a vibration in the rhythm of your breathing
play a vibration in the rhythm of your thinking
play a vibration in the rhythm of your intuition
play a vibration in the rhythm of your enlightenment
play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe

mix these vibrations freely

leave enough silence between them

karlheinz stockhausen, score from aus den sieben tagen, 1969

well, first it was the death of evel knievel, now karlheinz stockhausen has passed. they say deaths come in threes, but i can't imagine there's a third person out there who's such a combination of genius and trainwreck.

the things they shared: humongous ego, a knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, carving their own niche in the world like a maverick, and being rooted to ideas and ideals that were both beautiful and extremely ugly at the same time... so many ways they could leave you with your mouth agape.

like evel, one of my favorite recent stockhausen moments was also an interview. it wasn't the insane messiah-like tendencies of his post 9-11 comments; but an article in the wire magazine, where he listened to a variety of recent electronica and he tore most of it to bits. like knievel, he never compromised his vision, and never cut anyone any slack that did not approach the world (i.e. music) as he did.

of course, the great difference between them was that karlheinz was one of the most important composers of the last century, and evel jumped motorcycles. stockhausen never seemed as much a superhero as he did a kind of mega villian... he always seemed poised to take over the world.

my relationship to stockhausen's work has always been conflicted - for there is much of it i honestly can't listen to. there was a moment in my life that his writings/interviews had a huge influence on me, and i think that in many ways the ideas of his work until the mid 1980's are full of huge nuggets of inspiration. sternklang, the park music piece, is probably my favorite of his works for the simple fact that it must've been so beautiful in a landscape and that it approaches a large scale classical music concert as a sound installation. the scores for aus den sieben tagen are, for me, the right kind of spiritual hippy eastern mystic 1970's intuitive approach to artmaking (feeling connected to the texts of agnes martin, and the approach of alice coltrane).

unfortunately much of what he had been working on over the last 15 years or so, i couldn't find an entry point into. the music feeling more connected to traditional avant garde tendencies, and the writing either too ego inflated or verging on new age. the exception, perhaps, is the helicopter quartet - a marvel of grand schemes on the scale of p.t. barnum, and possibly the most eccentric piece of music ever realized. like a real genius, his creation knew no boundaries and he found a way to realize something that most people surely thought would be impossible (something again he shared with evel).

last night, after hearing about his death, i pulled down some of my books on him and by him, searching for a quote to post. the above text, from aus den sieben tagen is a good look at the kind of things he was writing in the late 60's. it was probably the single work of his that had the most inspiration for me... and i've never heard it. i've always been afraid that it would'nt live up to the images in my mind that come from reading the score and thinking about what it might genuinely be able to generate. for stockhausen, it was written for musicians to try to move beyond what is known, and towards a kind of improvisation that is totally free (disconnected from free jazz, which he says has it's own rules). it also suggests (perhaps unintentionally) that anyone can create music, and that music can be birthed from a spiritual place - certainly not new ideas, but good ideas that one can mull over, when considering the work and the man.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 07, 2007

when music and booze collide...


1920's rppc, no idea what that presence is on the right side of the photo, but it's pretty darn lovely.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

left handed man...


i have to say that when i bought this 78 off ebay for 99 cents i had no idea what to expect... and when it arrived, it blew my mind. the only thing i can compare the oddly melancholic guitar chords at the beginning to, is the first few bars of billy bauer's intro to 'kary's trance' on lee konitz's inside hi-fi. both have a slight dissonance that makes them feel very melancholy, and slightly punk rock.

canhoto's playing here is amazing. those first few chords express a kind of sadness, starkness, and other worldly beauty. there are moments you can feel his fingers literally bouncing along the guitar neck. it turns out that canhoto (whose real name is américo jacomino) is hardly obscure, and is pretty much considered the father of brazilian choro music...

click here to listen to guitarra de mi tierra

more info here from the web: Américo Jacomino 'Canhoto' (12/02 1889 - 7/9 1928) is considered one of the originators of the Brazilian guitar tradition, also of major importance regarding the founding of the guitar choro. His composition 'Abismo de Rosas', a valsa-choro, has been the piece-de-resistance of many a pretending player of the violão (6 string guitar) showing off his or hers skills and knowledge on the guitar choro tradition. Américo Jacomino 'Canhoto' recorded the piece himself in the early days of record production in Brazil. Alvaro Neder writes about Américo Jacomino 'Canhoto' in AMG: "Canhoto learned to play the guitar with his older brother. As a left-hander, Canhoto never changed the order of the strings, playing the violão (guitar) in the inverted position, which granted his lifelong nickname (which means "left-handed man"). In 1907, he met the famous singer Paraguaçu and started to accompany him in performances during silent movies. In 1913, Canhoto was already enjoying good fame and recorded for the first time for the label Odeon. Three years later, one of his two earliest pieces was "Acordes do Violão," later known as "Abismo de Rosas," one of the classic pieces of the instrumental repertory of the Brazilian violão. With the soon-to-be lyrical singer Abigail Alessio and the actor Viterbo Azevedo, he formed a trio which toured through several cities but was dissolved with Azebedo's murder. Canhoto's production of music for the carnival also had expression; he successfully launched "Ai, Balbina" (with Arlindo Leal, 1920) and "Já Se Acabô" (also with Leal, 1921). Canhoto recorded his other instrumental classic for the guitar, "Marcha dos Marinheiros," in 1926."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

two tiny singing activities for a coffeebreak...

song of uncertain length:

performer, with bottle balanced on his head, walks around singing or speaking until the bottle falls off.

the gift of tongues:

sing meaningfully in a language made up on the spot.

emmett williams, 1960, from selected shorter poems 1978

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 03, 2007

drum on a tree...


nice RPPC of george, a member of the "ranch band", milwaukee wisconsin. i really love the tree stump cut to hold the drum.

for some reason, when i noticed the postage cancellation stamp on the back i began to think about this card and the person on the front. i never really read these things other than to get a date and location, but i noticed this one also has the time of day on it. i couldn't help but feel a weird connection to this person going to a post office at 3:30 pm on july 18, 1908 because i do the same thing around the same time many days here myself. i had a sense that this card's entire trajectory through life came out of a single moment; and that moment is recorded directly on this object. it's nice to find a kind of consistency to life in the fact that the kind folks at my post office still hand cancel a number of things with rubber stamps of almost the exact same design as they used in 1908 as we approach 2008...

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 02, 2007

goodbye evel... (you were kind of a bastard but you will be missed)

evel knievel action figure from childhood

stepping a little bit outside of the airforms arena here, but if you were a child of the 60's and a kid of the 70's you had to feel at least a little pang of sadness at the death of motorcycle maniac evel knievel on november 30th. sure he was ornery at times, indeed he was a macho chauvinist at others, his ego was the size of a small country, and he most definitely was a politically incorrect sonofabitch... but, for many a young kid looking for a legend, he was the closest thing we had to an actual superhero.

like superman, he seemed, at times, able to fly; and like superman, there seemed to be only one mysterious thing that could stop him - gravity (instead of kryptonite). evel even had a younger, and much less exciting, counterpart - his son robbie knievel about as lackluster as superman's superboy.

of course, most fans remember the snake river canyon fiasco, the smaller successes, the cape, the cane, and of course the toys. remarkably, i found my childhood knievel "action figure" a few years ago in a box of old things and eventually added the missing helmet. instead of ending up in the goodwill pile, he's been hanging around my studio even since.

i remember a few years ago, driving from los angeles to sun valley idaho for an exhibition and passing signs for snake river canyon on the drive. i hadn't thought about this place, or knievel for years; but for some reason i didn't want to stop and take a peek - as i didn't really want to see the reality as the name snake river canyon seemed perfect for a more mythical place... a childhood place.

for me, one of knievel's finest moments came much later in life, probably a year or two ago, when he was the guest on jim rome's radio show. rome, who clearly idolized knievel as a kid, asked him why in the world he would've attempted the snake river canyon jump when he knew full well there was only a 50/50 chance he would survive. knievel paused for what seemed like an eternity and then answered with a kind of dirty harry inflection... "do you know who the hell you're talking to...?"

i am assuming that, wherever he's gone to, his spirit continues to spew heavy doses of similar attitude to just about everyone and everything it comes in contact with, regardless of whether it's got a pair of wings or, more likely, a pair of horns...

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 01, 2007

painter's words...

"the apple is red,
red forever the leaves where memory, like water,
seeps and sinks,
ever beyond two layers,
unnoticed and unobserved.
the horns of autumn are lifted beyond the woods,
compelling and sweet.
the frost moves, covers and bites in silence.
september sends down to us its message,
a yellow leaf whirling in ecstasy,
before sleep,
before death.
the dragon fly lights on the grey bark of tree
and is gone to some distant point of sky.
where does the round moon live?

where does the round moon live?
are the trees afire in the crimson sunset?
the eye is seen and remembered through other eyes.
the horizons are numberless as falling drops of rain.
the eye opens,
the first silent movement of the day.
the eyes are not related in unison."

excerpt of a poem by painter mark tobey, 1952... and speaking of painter's writings, tonight i will be giving a short reading of some of my own text works in the grand company of anne tardos and simone forti. information here.

Labels: , , ,