Wednesday, January 27, 2010

some free marfa music...


it was about a year ago that stephen vitiello and i were lucky enough to participate in an exhibition in marfa texas called the marfa sessions. part of the exhibition was inside the marfa ballroom, but many of the installations were site specific and out in the landscape. along with our installation, we had the incredible opportunity to do a performance inside one of the large military barracks that are part of the chinati foundation and filled with a beautiful series of reflective aluminum sculpture by donald judd. stephen and i performed live inside the space, while bob bielecki mixed the sound that moved from interior microphones to speakers outside the space. the audience was outside, listening to the speakers, and essentially seeing us as if inside of a fishbowl. as the sun set, reflections upon the glass walls shifted, light changed, and our visual presences appeared and disappeared amongst the landscape and the sculpture.

as i was about to leave for marfa, a stereo mix of our performance, as well as one of our rehearsals, has been made available for free on ubuweb. all of the music was improvised using a variety of electronic and acoustic sounds.

click here to listen

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

the man who went away...



in light of leaving town sunday morning for a five week residency in marfa texas, i figured it was a good time to share these two postcards, each featuring one of harold bell wright's temporary writing studios.

aside from their reference to working in non-city temporary digs amidst nature, anyone who visits the blog regularly knows i have a soft spot for objects residing within the intersection of the homespun and the modern. i'm not sure if bell wright designed and/or built these beautiful things himself, but regardless of who did the design work, they are awkward and wonderful in all the right places (and yes, i could've titled this post "when circus tents meet straw bail houses").

my introduction to bell wright came a few months ago, through the discovery of the following quote, which comes from his book "the man who went away" - an out of print novel that i'm still trying to find for under $100...

"from a bewildered frightened, money-mad, war-crazed world this man - the creature of his little materialistic day - had come into the vast tranquility of 'hempsted forest'. in this place of the redwood, he sensed time not as men greedily measure their hurried hours, but as it is - measureless - holding the infinite past, the present, and the infinite future as one. the silence of these primeval groves was the silence of that mystery from which which all life issues."

bell wright's studio forms and silent primeval trees seemed a nice little parting note to let you know my postings will probably be sporadic for the next month or so, as i will be seeking days filled with a similar silence...

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

when they tried to play records with fingers and catch baseballs with horns...

Monday, January 18, 2010

when mathews followed stendhal's plan and mentioned the walkman...


"stendhal meant something different than this. he meant, not writing about anything, but adding twenty lines to a work under way. then his rule guaranteed high productivity (at least at first-draft level): 20 lines x 300 days = 6,000 lines - about 200 pages, or the better part of one of my novels, if not his. did he follow his rule? if he did, did it prepare him in some way for the incredible fifty-two day binge on which he dictated la chartreuse? (why does dictation, practiced by two novelists, perhaps my favorites, so frighten me? go ahead, see what happens. your Walkman won't tell.) does writing every day foster a style that is one's own - that is, a way of writing uniquely artificial and at the same time "natural", like g.p.'s unhurried sentences and stendhal's hurrying ones? maybe. i'm skeptical, because i remember starting to write a novel "spontaneously" on my typewriter and finding that what came out was, syntactically, late henry james (that other dictator). i also feel that behind these daily warm-ups there is another or several other writers whom i'm imitating unawares, especially as i approach the zone of the page where the twentieth line is coming to an end, and that an end is more than a cessation, more too than a conclusion (conclusions being unacceptable to those who practice modernism), the expression of a wry awareness that although you and i feel and speak, any speaking of our feelings will be imperfect, fragmentary, and expressive only through its failure to express.

harry mathews, 8/9/83, in 20 lines a day.

the text above is the entirety of one page of harry mathew's 20 lines a day. in the book, mathews attempts to write following stendhal's dictum for writing "20 lines a day, genius or not." mathews book is certainly genius. his writing is precise, yet all over the place subject-wise. part diary, part literary experiment, and part prose-like ruminations, reading the book is really reading a writer's process of thinking as writing, and as much as mathews fears the idea of dictation as a writing process, the book reads very much as if mathews was speaking.

with only one or two exceptions, each "chapter" or segment begins and ends on its own page, which reminded me of how much i love to read books that can be read all the way through, as well as in single focused moments. several of gerhard roth's novels are also broken down like this. (i would love at some point to compile a list of books with chapters or segments of a page or less...)

i haven't read a lot of writing from the 1980's, but mathews' mention of the walkman (as opposed to the tape recorder) is pretty wonderful. i remember the first time i saw and heard the first consumer model of the sony walkman while in highschool. it was 1979, in gym class. another kid's dad had just returned from japan and had given one to his son. i remember him putting in a cassette and watching the headphones slowly move around the group of us, watching each kid's face react to the sound until the headphones were ritually placed upon my head. i remember how incredible the sound seemed when the phones went over my ears, and i imagined audio sound could never be better. unfortunately i don't remember at all what the music was.

i don't think i've ever had such a response to a quality of sound in relation to the positives of a "new" technology. perhaps what made the walkman so much more exciting than the development of the cd was that it took an already existing personal medium (in terms of building tapes of favorite songs for the car, house, etc.), and made it sound a zillion times more personal. it wasn't just the quality of sound that was amazing, but the seemingly tiny size of the machine itself, and its setting the table for a new kind of portable private musical experience. i remember sitting in this huge nearly empty gym and listening to music, knowing that the person sitting close enough to touch me could not hear what i was hearing. we were all together, but for a few moments, each of us listeners got to transcend our known reality towards a new one... we were transported.

of course, the walkman also set the table for the ipod, and the current situation where music has mostly become a soundtrack for other activities. it has led us towards inhabiting a situation, where music simply plays while one does things, not because they are listening, but because music can now be played everywhere or anywhere. it is now possible to have music accompanying every minute of one's life, and hence, the activity of listening to music has certainly been diluted by its availability at any time, in any place, in any form. obviousely i'm not the first person to bemoan (as well as embrace) the situation.

what's also interesting in mathews' slight mention, is that he writes of the walkman as a vehicle for recording into and then listening back to what one has just, or perhaps recently, created. i remember my mother, who was my grandfather's secretary, sitting at her desk with headphones transcribing her father's words into typed letters for him to sign; and i think about the stories of arthur russell walking down the streets of ny with headphones on, listening to mixes of his own music while being immersed in the city, to get a sense of whether or not a mix was "right"...

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Friday, January 15, 2010

when theatres blossom from the backs of trucks...






some images of a model of emilio perez pinero's mobile theatre project from 1961, as pictured in peter cook's 1967 book "architecture: action and plan." cook places pinero's images in a chapter entitled "action and process", and one can easily see in pinero's portable, unfolding architecture a connection to cook's work with archigram - particularly in terms of architectural forms as living moving things. what i love about the photographs is how the action of the growth and expansion of pinero's theatre is so much like a tree, perhaps something like a willow, where the leaves and blossom eventually encase the trunk in a similar way that the theatre encases the truck. i also cannot stop thinking about the spinning criss cross wooden structures my grandmother spun wool around when she was knitting (which i just discovered is called a "yarn swift"). i remember sitting on the floor and playing with this wooden object for hours and hours, expanding and retracting its lattice like limbs. perhaps pinero's grandmother used a similar object in her own knittings that let to the inspiration towards this theatre in a truck...

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Monday, January 11, 2010

some nuggets mined from sunday's flea market...

Friday, January 08, 2010

when conducting from the floor rather than the podium...



a recent tintype acquisition, that is pretty marvelous. obviously a small string and voice band, but for some reason the conductor is sitting on the floor. i believe the idea of him conducting in such a strange way was so the camera would be able to see the players, without anyone being blocked by the conductor when standing and with a podium. it was a strange decision, particularly as the camera is looking up at the group rather than straight forward, reminding me a bit of the filming style of japanese director yasujiro ozu, who often set the camera hight on interior shots at the hight of his head when sitting on a tatami mat. perhaps in light of that, we get this image from the point of view of an audience member sitting in the front row, looking a bit upwards towards a stage...

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

when skulls determine the form of the name of a color...

"according to one of the most prominent experts of kanji ideagrams - shirakawa shizuka (1910 - 2006) the chinese characters for 'white' was modeled after the shape of the human skull... supposedly because the image of white held by people back then was based on the sight of abandoned skulls in the fields, bleached by wind, rain, and sunlight."

from: white, by kenya hara

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Monday, January 04, 2010

francis ponge on the poem and the object...


"from now on, may nothing ever cause me to go back on my resolve: never sacrifice the object of my study in order to enhance some verbal turn discovered on the subject, nor piece together any such discoveries in a poem.

always go back to the object itself, to its raw quality, it's difference: particularly its difference from what i've (just then) written about it.

may my work be one of continual rectification of expression on behalf of the raw object (with no a priori concern about the form of that expression).

therefore, writing about the loire from a place along the banks of the river, i must constantly immerse my eyes and mind in it. any time they dry up over an expression, back they must go into the waters of the river.

recognize the greater right of the object, its inalienable right, in relation to any poem... no poem ever being free from absolute judgment a minima on the part of the poem's object, nor from accusation of counterfeit.

the object is always more important, more interesting, more capable (full of rights): it has no duty whatsoever toward me, it is who am obliged to it.

what the preceding lines do not adequately emphasize: consequently, never leave off at the poetic form - though it must be used at some point in my study because it produces a play of mirrors that can reveal persistently obscure aspects of the object. the reciprocal clash of words, the verbal analogies are one of the means for studying the object in depth.

never try to arrange things. objects and poems are irreconcilable.

the point is knowing whether you wish to make a poem or comprehend an object (in the hope that the mind wins out, comes up with something new on the subject). it is the second phase of this alternative that my taste (a violent taste for things, and for advances of the mind) leads me to choose without hesitation.

so my resolve has been reached...

after that i hardly care whether someone chooses to call the outcome a poem. as for me, the slightest hint of poetic droning simply reminds me that i'm slipping back onto the old merry-go-round and need to boot my way off."

francis ponge, banks of the loire, 1941, reprinted in mute objects of expression.

i realized as i was typing ponge's text into the computer, my interests are not only in the sharing of these things via this blog, but also an interest in the act itself of transcribing these texts onto (or into) the computer (and/or paper), and how it effects my reading of them. the act of re-writing (or typing) allows me a different kind of reading experience, moving across letters and words much more intimately in relation to their individual forms, for a second or third reading, and a slow walk upon the construction of language. i seem to comprehend or understand a text differently when i'm reading, than when i'm reading and writing at the same time. movement is fragmented and slowed in the latter case, usually revealing something i'd missed during the initial rolling down a hill with my eyes closed... lately i've felt the need to read things twice, once in a simple singular flow, and once mining the words and the forms to dig deeper. it's not exactly a decision, as it is for the writer, to "comprehend the object" or to "make a poem"; but to comprehend also the poem or writing as an object, and to find within the text that "play of mirrors that can reveal persistently obscure aspects of the object" - in this case the object being the poem itself.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

enter the year of the golden sun or spore...


here to say happy new year is a 1961 gold ink drawing by harry bertoia, one of my heroes, who has been mentioned here several times. bertoia worked with the eames in cranbrook (and back here in LA), designed furniture, made incredibly underrated abstract monotypes, worked with sound sculpture, self-released a series LP records of his sound sculpture, created large scale sculpture for public spaces, etc.

over the years i have been lucky enough to buy a few cheaply priced monotypes (some of which i will try to post in the near future); but because the monotype was harry's preferred mode of drawing, actual traditional pen or pencil on paper drawings are rarely seen.

the drawing pictured above was created to accompany a letter describing a sculpture that harry was offering for sale to a collector. it shows a sculpture described in the letter as 7 feet tall with a four foot diameter orb on top and the entire structure resting on a marble base. the selling price in 1961, direct from the artist, was $1200... i suppose the price now would be at least ten times that.

in light of how much bertoia's works were inspired by nature, it seems fitting to post this spore or sun (or blue moon perhaps) as it sprouts up from the ground as a symbol of the new year risen...

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