This fourth edition of Everybody Dance Now involves travel in space and time, beginning with a short from Arizona filmmaker and photographer Harrison J. Bahe of Navajo Joe Films. “Xibalba” comes from the soundtrack of The Fountain (2006) composed by Clint Mansell, which also accompanies Bahe’s film. Xibalba is the Mayan underworld, which figures in The Fountain, a once-and-future picture that weaves together Mayan and Hebrew mythology, featuring a Spanish conquistador astoundingly being recognized by a native priest as the First Father, the life source. Continue reading “Everybody Dance Now 4: Time/Travel”
This is a second conversation with dancer-choreographer Rudy Perez, taking place last month on May 30. During our review of Part 1 Rudy raised a few topics that I wanted to pursue. And, of course, there had been the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day, and the reactions from coast to coast.
What follows has been lightly edited for clarity. Many thanks to Susan Perry Miick for her help with photographs. Continue reading “Portrait of Rudy Perez 2: Remain in Light”
Last year, in Everybody Dance Now 1, I reminisced about studying with dancer-choreographer Rudy Perez in the early 1980s. Nearly four decades later Rudy agreed to let me interview him a week ago, on May 13. What follows has been lightly edited for clarity.
We begin where I left off in that prior post. Continue reading “Portrait of Rudy Perez”
This second and likely last installment of Electric Evangelists (see Part 1) looks at longer works by two composers, both choosing to present religious texts simply spoken atop electronic scores. The third and fourth pieces are artifacts of pop culture, coupling SoCal evangelical eccentricity with European élan. The last composition contains no text at all. Continue reading ““Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2″
The year 2003 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Their killing had a great impact on my wife Andrea Carney (see Part 1 and Part 2 of our trilogy). Somehow I learned that a major commemoration would be held in New York City on June 19, the same day they were killed. It was produced by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, founded in 1990 by the Rosenbergs’ son Robert, who was grateful for the support he and his brother Michael had been shown during the jailing of, and after the killing of, their parents. The fund’s purpose is “to find and help children today who are enduring the same kind of nightmare he endured as a child.”1 Continue reading “Rosenberg Resistance”
Exactly a year ago my discussion with a comrade about music-compelled-by-struggle led to my first original post here, Attica: Coming Together. Last Friday, talking with this same friend caused me to create a list of musics that employ the spoken word—faith-based speech specifically. After jotting down a few titles I came across an extensive list posted for Easter 2013 by one Mr. Fab, a Los Angeles-based deejay and musician. He helpfully includes the name of each orator, which indicates the popularity of two in particular, R. W. Schambach and Gene Scott. My list nearly ended with Praga Khan’s setting of the former in 1991, but Fab provides twenty more years of titles.
My Friday conversation involved Brian Eno and David Byrne’s album My Life In the Bush of Ghosts for which they used the voice of Kathryn “I Believe In Miracles” Kuhlman. While her estate wouldn’t approve licensing, a 1980 UK bootleg of the intended track and others circulated apparently before the official album was released in early 1981.1 Bush of Ghosts was completed in October of 1980 and Eno and Byrne must have scrambled to replace Kuhlman’s vocal: the substitute was an “unidentified exorcist” recorded the previous month in New York. Both these speakers are acts in their own right, with the exorcist commanding (below), healer Kuhlman exploring (at least initially).
Continue reading “Acts of Faith: Electric Evangelists 1”
Last month I saw Gang of Four for the third time.
The first was at a small club, probably their show at the Starwood in West Hollywood, capacity 400–800, May of 1980. Earlier that same year, the band had opened for the Buzzcocks and later, Iggy Pop, both at the much larger Santa Monica Civic. But those garnered lousy reviews by the Los Angeles Times, the first due to bad sound, the second to fatigue. The Civic could put a lot of distance between the stage and the floor. And it ostensibly seated 3,000, but when I saw the Clash there, the seats were replaced by metal plates; when we bounced, so did they—and there were a lot more than 3,000 bouncing.
Obviously that Starwood show in 1980 featured the band’s original lineup: Hugo Burnham on drums, Dave Allen bass, Andy Gill guitar, and Jon King vocals. It was riveting. The stage was small enough to bridge the Civic’s divide, but broad enough to allow Jon King his signature sprints between microphones. If King was a gazelle, Gill was a beast of prey, exactly as described by poet Ted Hughes in his “Second Glance at Jaguar”: “He coils, he flourishes/ The blackjack tail as if looking for a target.”
I keep forgetting we have the realm of music at our fingertips. Long-forgotten or barely remembered works are available if I’d only think to search online. Not long ago I went crazy looking through my LPs for the electronic manipulation of a Chef Boy-Ar-Dee jingle sung by the Andrews Sisters—not remembering I could have DuckDuckGo-ed the keywords. I couldn’t even remember the name of the composer. Turns out it was Jon Appleton, and I had it on a CD…
Tonight I finally wised up and did the search, which led me to a YouTube stream by way of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the label’s founder Moses Asch having recruited Appleton to help in the release of electroacoustic works. Chef d’œuvre (1967), the object of my pursuit, is emblematic of such manipulations, being so well known perhaps due to its popular-culture source material. In the notes for his CD collection, Contes de la mémoire (Memory’s tales, 1996), Appleton complains good-naturedly “that composers are often saddled by others with a ‘signature’ work.” And so it is with Chef d’œuvre. “It is my Boléro,” he writes. Its now-doubly-ironic title translates roughly as “masterpiece.”
Appleton’s various compressions in this composition can be seen themselves epitomized three decades later by rock musician Robert Fripp’s five-second condensation of what surely was a much longer “First Inaugural Address to the I.A.C.E. Sherborne House” by J. G. Bennett, included on the album Exposure but understandably absent from YouTube in our era of attention deficit, the Age of the Feuilleton (a newspaper’s necessarily lightweight literary pages), as Hermann Hesse put it. And as they say, “That’s five seconds I’ll never get back.”
Last night YouTube suggested I watch a new short, Cognitio. I reCOGNIzed one of the actors as having appeared in the 2014 Kadie Elder promo for the song “First Time He Kissed a Boy” (from which I lifted this blog’s header image of four pastel-clad youths). The actor is Lasse Steen Jensen and in the promo he plays a slight thing with an almost-mod mop of hearty hair atop a triangular, angular mug, contradicted by an upturned nose; likewise in the promo, his cruelty is contradicted by his curiosity.
In Cognitio Jensen is presented as the psychically slight, artistically bright Tobias, with an unruly mane that suggests a feral nature. This time curiosity is not rewarded, via the darkly seductive yet elusive Emil (Lior David Cohen).
Back in the 1980s I was given tickets to a Southern California kitsch institution, Pageant of the Masters. The concept intrigued: an amphitheater stage filled with “ninety minutes of tableaux vivants (living pictures), incredibly faithful recreations of classical and contemporary works of art, with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces,” as described on the event website. But the execution, meticulous as it was, underwhelmed. I guess I wanted more vivants in the tableaux, which occurred too infrequently. But it did occur in a sort of sideshow.
That sideshow was not the companion Fine Art Show, which we took in before the Pageant and from which Andrea and I bought a couple of hand-altered Polaroids that hang on our walls today. Allow me to digress…
Boom Boom Room
The Fine Art Show was conspicuous by the omission of skin: many of the artists appeared to be too well constrained by a bland family-friendly bubble-wrap envelope, but not so well contained that we couldn’t detect hints of riskier work. Hell, Laguna Beach (the Pageant/Show’s site) was home to the Boom Boom Room, which OC Weekly (formerly a sibling to Denver’s Westword via Voice Media Group) claims to have been “the oldest gay bar in the Western United States,” its host hotel, the Coast Inn, having opened in 1929, per the founders’ granddaughter’s timeline. Laguna even had its own chapter of the Mattachine Society beginning in the ’50s. Continue reading “The Pageantry, the Spectacle”