“Eat the book”: Electric Evangelists 2

Saint Francis @ Walmart

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″

Observing the Sabbath: Killing the Rosenbergs

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg photo image

Note: See also Part 2 and Part 3 of this trilogy.

As early as I can remember I was placed in front of the radio (we had no television). I was exposed to music, advertisements, dramas, and news. At age three I tried to read newspapers. I simply wanted to read about what I’d heard.  By the age of five I was reading the “briefs” in the back pages because they were easier for me, but they also could lead me to bigger stories. In particular I remember reading briefs about spies.

I was eight years old in 1950 when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were arrested on an eventual charge of—not espionage—but rather conspiracy to commit espionage. Their co-conspirator Morton Sobell also was arrested (while in Mexico during which time Julius was arrested).1 Julius had been implicated by Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, who said at trial that in September 1945 he’d given Julius a nuclear bomb diagram as well as verbal scientific secrets, typed up by Ethel,2 which presumably were transferred to the Soviet Union. Continue reading “Observing the Sabbath: Killing the Rosenbergs”

Acts of Faith: Electric Evangelists 1

Behind The Scenes With Kathryn Kuhlman cover image

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”

Sibling Cities in an Invisible Empire

KKK Letter

We’re all familiar with the Charlottesville chant from two years ago: Jews Will Not Replace Us.

It’s a perennial paradox. Torch-bearing worshippers of an almighty God who answers prayers with miracles, and devotion with salvation, at the same time have an inferiority complex as vast as their numbers. In 2014 the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study reported that if the U.S. had a population of only 100 (adults) there would be two Jews, one Muslim, and 71 Christians. Verily: Jews will not replace Christians. But what might rightly rile these folks are two other Pew stats: 1) only 47 of those 71 nominal Christians are white and 2) as many young people identify as “unaffiliated” as they do “Protestant.” (Earlier I discussed how sex surveys of young people show that about 1 in 5 don’t ID as straight—about the same percentage as the unaffiliated total in the Pew poll.)

KKKpleton

When my wife Andrea Carney and I first moved to our Denver neighborhood in 2005, Andrea found it was named for a mayor who had profited politically from the prototype of what we saw in Charlottesville. We were heartened in 2015 when Black Lives Matter began an effort to change the name.

Town Center Sign
A Black Lives Matter 5280 banner is draped over our local town center sign in August 2015. The oblong Stapleton logo below the LED screen no longer appears on the sign, an indication of how the name is being removed from public display, little by little.

In July of this year, we and our neighbors (property owners only, no renters) voted whether to retain the neighborhood name Stapleton, which we inherited from the former airport on which our plots are platted. (Our true legacy, of course, is from indigenous people, as explained here.) Continue reading “Sibling Cities in an Invisible Empire”

Vaneigem and Bubblegum

Zulu Compilation Gatefold image

Last week, when I was uninspired whilst reviewing my running list of blog topics, YouTube operated as a sort of Oblique Strategies, the deck of cards initially developed by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt independently in the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Eno included four of Schmidt’s prints in his 1977 album Before and After Science.) The cards’ suggestions and comments can act as disinterested—oblique—prods for artists when they encounter roadblocks during the creative process. And so YouTube essentially did the same for me, but not obliquely—rather, evidently, based on my past searches and pointing-and-clicking. “Recommended for you” last week was an obscure track from The Zulu Compilation (1984), an album I happen to have in my collection. Zulu Records was formed by Jayne Casey and Ambrose Reynolds (both of whom also worked in the band Pink Industry, which issued lovely minimalist and melancholic music in the ’80s). The compilation is perhaps most collectible for its inclusion of a pre-Trevor Horn version of “Love Has Got a Gun” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

I hadn’t listened to that compilation LP in years and had completely forgotten the track YouTube selected for me: “The Kremlin in Flame [sic]” by S.T.F.O.T.P.A. It sounds like something from the 1976 Art & Language-Red Crayola collaboration, Corrected Slogans (discussed in my post I Found That Essence Rare). After some searching I found the identity of the track’s creators in a 2010 interview by Arthur McDonald of The Royal Family and the Poor fame. Except that I’d never heard of the band. Or, rather, when coming across their LPs, two of which were issued by Factory Records, I’d passed them by. Continue reading “Vaneigem and Bubblegum”

Took Me to Church

The Prodigal Son

Seeing the nave and altar of Notre-Dame de Paris after its recent fire, and thinking of it open to the elements, I had an eery sense of, well, déjà vu. I had been there, literally, with my family on a 2002 trip to France in celebration of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. But I had been in that ruin, virtually and earlier, twice more. Continue reading “Took Me to Church”

Hanky and bandage, cigarette and perfume

Hanky and Cigarettes

The other day I came across Prashant Bhilare’s recitation of a poem on YouTube. As it streamed, themes like beads were strung on a thread (sūtra, from the Sanskrit)—of imperialism, impermanence, love, possession, exposure. And I was reminded of similar work, such as Marguerite Duras’s The Lover, which I’ve mentioned here before. Her roman-à-clef received the prestigious Prix Goncourt despite its subject: an intergenerational relationship that otherwise would bestir the book burners if not the gendarmes.

Bhilare is more circumspect. Yet, I thought to myself, somehow he shares Duras’s audacity, if not her craft. And I returned to him. The poem is titled “ME.” (Unlike Duras, no subject-or-object equivocation.) Who dares title this thus? Continue reading “Hanky and bandage, cigarette and perfume”

Profile: Wallace de Ortega Maxey, Mattachine Foundation Member, Free Speech Champion

Sex Life Of A Cop cover image

Wallace de Ortega Maxey was a founding member of the Mattachine Foundation, which was the public face of the clandestine Mattachine Society. In that capacity, Maxey is best known as having hosted the Mattachine’s constitutional conventions, in the spring of 1953, at Los Angeles’ First Universalist Church where he was pastor. Later, Maxey became a champion of free speech, to the point of being a defendant in a significant obscenity case.

I composed two versions of the profile of Maxey.