Monday, December 28, 2009

Kronos reunites with former cellist in Berkeley

In December 1998, Joan Jeanrenaud played her last concert as cellist of the Kronos Quartet and left the ensemble early the next year. After 20 years, the Kronos without Jeanrenaud seemed unthinkable. The only woman in the group, she was not only a captivating, eloquent musician -- as well as a willowy beauty -- but she also provided the ensemble its casual, avant-garde fashion sense, which revolutionized the look of classical music.

Jeanrenaud, however, had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and maintaining the Kronos’ extensive travel schedule was no longer possible. For those who knew of her illness (she didn’t make it public at the time), the specter of Jacqueline du Pré, the brilliant young British cellist whose career was tragically ended by MS in the ‘70s, seemed ominous.

But the news hasn’t been nearly so bad. Jeanrenaud has been able to continue performing, and many composers with whom she became friends during her Kronos years have lined up to write new pieces for her. She has also found her own creative spark and become a composer of note in her own right. Now she is being asked to write pieces for a new generation of hip, young string quartets. Last year, her CD “Strange Toys” was nominated for a Grammy.

And Sunday night here at Hertz Hall, as part of UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances, she reunited with Kronos for the first time in 11 years. A new string quintet by the controversial Russian composer Vladimir Martynov was commissioned for the occasion.

She walked on stage with a cane, but the moment the cellist sat down with her old colleagues (violinist David Harrington and John Sherba and violist Hank Dutt) she seemed at home. She also appeared slightly the mother hen to the ensemble’s young cellist, Jeffrey Zeigler, who was born in 1973, the same month that the original (pre-Jeanrenaud) Kronos was formed in Seattle.

Still, since this was a classic Kronos concert, there was little room for sentimentality. The evening began with two quartets by feisty young composers from the Brooklyn scene, where the distinction between classical music and pop has all but vanished, just as Kronos prophesied it eventually would more than three decades ago. The program ended with a recent work by Terry Riley using weird homemade instruments.

But the premiere of Martynov’s “String-Quintet (Unfinished)” was the big event. The 63-year-old Muscovite is a Kronos favorite, but he is otherwise little appreciated in the West. His extraordinary opera “Vita Nova,” premiered this year, was, I thought, unfairly trounced by British and New York critics who disapprove of his nihilist appropriations of other composers.

In the new quintet he turned his attention to Schubert’s C-Major String Quintet, noting in his program note that its so-called “heavenly lengths” are no longer long enough for the 21st century. An obstinate composer if ever there was one, he proposes they be prolonged forever.

Although only 21 minutes long, “Schubert-Quintet” is a start. He gives the impression of time stopping by haltingly reconstructing the C-Major Quintet with original Schubert fragments that repeat over and over, as if Martynov simply can’t let go.

There are major rewards for the patient listener, especially in the delirious lushness of string textures. Jeanrenaud and Ziegler played throughout as one rich, super-cello, coddling the quintet in the lap of sonic luxury.

The two works that began the concert – Bryce Dessner’s beaming post-Minimalist “Aheym (Homeward)” and Missy Mazzoli’s entrancingly soulful “Harp and Alter” – were commissioned for an outdoor concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park last summer. Both use electronics, and Mazzoli’s includes gorgeous sampled vocals by Gabriel Kahane.

Riley’s “Transylvanian Horn Courtship,” which was written last year and received its West Coast premiere Sunday, is nearly as curious as its title. It was written for new instruments based on the principle of the Stroh violin, or horn-violin, patented in 1899. A brass bell, instead of the normal wood resonating chamber, was employed to produce a louder volume of sound.

For Riley’s new work, the artist Walter Kitundu created a string-quartet set of Stroh-type instruments, applying the principle to the viola and cello for the first time. Riley then tuned them down half an octave, creating a mournful, raw sound from the slack strings.

The experiment didn’t completely work, since the lowered instruments have a limited tone range. They were appropriately atmospheric for Riley’s Indian-inspired drones. But for the livelier sections he relied on the ensemble’s standard instruments, which were further enhanced by electronic looping effects.

The quartet ends with a moment entitled “Keep Hands Up Close to the Face Before the Knockout Punch,” and that is what happened. Harrington broke a string just as it began. Riley’s was apparently one knockout punch too many in a memorable occasion that had already produced several.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vic Chestnutt dies, a tragic loss

Vic Chesnutt, a singer-songwriter whose music dealt with mortality and black humor, died on Friday in a hospital in Athens, Ga., a spokesman for his family said. He was 45 and lived in Athens.

He had been in a coma after taking an overdose of muscle relaxants earlier this week, said the family spokesman, Jem Cohen.

In a two-decade career, Mr. Chesnutt sang darkly comic and often disarmingly candid songs about death, vulnerability, and life’s simple joys. A car accident when he was 18 left him a quadriplegic, but he has said that the accident focused him as a musician and a poet.

“It was only after I broke my neck and even like maybe a year later that I really started realizing that I had something to say,” he said in a recent radio interview with Terry Gross.

Discovered in the late 1980s by Michael Stipe of R.E.M., who produced his first two albums, Mr. Chesnutt has been a mainstay in independent music, collaborating with the bands Lambchop and Widespread Panic.

In 1996 his songs were performed by Madonna, the Indigo Girls, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M. and others for “Sweet Relief II: The Gravity of the Situation,” an album that benefited the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a nonprofit group that offers medical support for musicians.

His survivors include his wife, Tina Whatley Chesnutt; a sister, Lorinda Crane; and nine nieces and nephews.

Recently Mr. Chesnutt had had a burst of creativity, releasing two 2009 albums, “At the Cut” and “Skitter on Take-Off.” In the song, “Flirted With You All My Life,” from “At the Cut,” Mr. Chesnutt sings about suicide, which he had attempted several times. Written as a breakup song with death, it expresses a wish to live:

“When you touched a friend of mine I thought I would lose my mind

But I found out with time that really, I was not ready, no no, cold death

Oh death, I’m really not ready.”


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Documentary is Just a Feature Film In Disguise: An Interview with Werner Herzog

Above: Werner Herzog looks into the camera's mouth of madness while Nicholas Cage contemplates insanity on the set of The Bad Lieutenant

Around the time Tom Waits simultaneously released his albums Alice and Blood Money, he was regularly asked why he was putting out two titles at once? His common reply: “If yer gonna fire up the griddle, you might as well make more than one pancake.”

Werner Herzog seems to have taken a cue from Waits (it’s not hard to imagine the two getting along) with the release of his first two productions in the United States since 1978’s Stroszek. The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, a madman’s delusional romp and bayou fever-dream that revolves, reeling, around Nicolas Cage’s highly entertaining—even genius—performance, came out last month. It was followed yesterday by the release of My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, based on the true story of an adult son who kills his aged mother, running her through with a sword at the neighbor’s house before retreating back home across the street where a day-long stand-off with the police ensues. Among its distinctions? A creepy and creeping American suburban surrealism spun by a cast including Michael Shannon, Chloë Sevigny, Willem Defoe, Grace Zabriskie, Udo Kier, and Brad Dourif (who puts in noteworthy performances in both of the new movies)…not to mention David Lynch as executive producer. Both films feature Peter Zeitlinger’s virtuoso hand-held camerawork which comes across, as pointed out by a friend, like its own character, a documentary filmmaker who has inserted himself invisibly inside the shooting of a feature.

A lot of discussion leading up to the release of The Bad Lieutenant focused on the legitimacy of a “remake” of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 classic of a similar name. However, a quick look at Herzog’s version confirms his repeated assertion that the two movies are connected by name alone. Herzog has different fish to fry than remaking another auteur’s work, and viewing The Bad Lieutenant alongside My Son suggests a committed subversion of the American police procedural. At the center of The Bad Lieutenant is Cage, Extreme Actor. His performance is so incrementally demented and even appears so physically pained that it could challenge a tag-team of Ann Savage’s outer-space femme-fatale in Detour and Max Schreck’s still-blood-curdling portrayal of the vampire Count Orlok in the original Nosferatu. Cage has successfully created a monster. Yet at the same time, he’s also yielded an iconic figure of schizoid frontier “justice” while wading through Herzog’s flotsam-and-jetsam location choices. In a keenly chosen theatrical gest, whenever Cage opens his jacket ostensibly to display his badge of authority, all he’s really flashing is his gun, his force. It's a repeated physical encapsulation of the character's true motivations that seems both funny and chilling every time.

Madness is more mundane in My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, and leaves more questions unanswered. Less frantic, but ultimately more unsettling, the film opens as Willem Defoe’s character, a homicide detective, reports for duty to a fresh crime scene only to realize too late that he’s already talked with the murderer (Michael Shannon) in the gathering crowd before letting him slip away. As the fiancé and another friend of Shannon’s appear at the crime scene to lend their assistance to the case, we are filled in on contextual information about Shannon’s madness through numerous flashbacks that depict unmistakable warning signs, as well as unmistakably Herzogian staged shots. Yet from these set-pieces, with their ecstatic imagery, we always return to the standoff in the streets of suburban San Diego, waiting for Shannon's next move. Cage’s performance is a fireworks show, always surprising. Shannon, we know more convincingly after each flashback, is a bomb still waiting to go off.

In spite of The Bad Lieutenant being unequivocally and self-consciously more hard-boiled, wearing its neo-noir status on its sleeve, My Son is the first Herzog film I can think of to use this film noir staple: a flashback structure itself emphasizing a world out of order and a mind out of sorts. The apparatus itself is disoriented and decadent having taken on the burden of standing solitary witness to Shannon’s deterioration while all other characters surrounding him appear oblivious to the very clear warning signs he regularly displays. The man is undeniably plagued by visions. “It was dreamed unto me…,” Kaspar Hauser would say. But My Son seems even more closely linked to Herzog's 1976 Heart of Glass, a film I’d wager as commonly agreed upon by fans and foes alike as Herzog’s most ornery feature (more Ordet than Aguirre), a film about seers and the visions that haunt them, regularly cutting away from the already static action of the film’s narrative to obsessively contemplate panoramas of time-lapsed landscapes. Or in the case of My Son, a lingering dessert-table tableau spontaneously struck around a bowl of unnaturally black jello. Or a crowded marketplace in central Asia. Or a woodland cabin inhabited by a midget in a tuxedo with no further explanation. The Auteurs spoke to Herzog over the phone to try to get some answers.


Werner Herzog: Where are you physically?

Ben Simington: I'm in New York, in Brooklyn.

Herzog: Oh yeah, okay, I'm in Los Angeles.

Simington: There are a lot of aspects of the two new films that seem like they might be new to you—they are the first screenplays, I believe, that you are not the sole author of, they're your first features in the U.S. in 30 years, since Stroszek, and they both seem to be the first explicit American genre films that you've done, the film noir and the police procedural.

Herzog: Film noir I've done before, with Even Dwarfs Started Smaller (sic), Nosferatu, whatever. But of course much of it is new terrain, I'm always out for new horizons, new alliances, new actors, the collaboration with people, for example, who are from the stable of David Lynch, new actors like Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny...the screenplay of The Bad Lieutenant, a good amount was written by me, or changed, modified. It's not that I'd just take a screenplay from someone. And My Son, My Son was a screenplay co-writer with a friend of mine.

Simington: My Son, My Son feels more like an ensemble piece, and The Bad Lieutenant seems really driven by a single performance by Nicolas Cage.

Herzog: No I disagree! Nicolas Cage would be no man's land without the very strong chemistry and texture of the supporting cast, he would be nowhere! It's the same as with Humphrey Bogart, who'd be in no man's land without Ingrid Bergman.

Simington: Both films deal with characters who are going mad; in The Bad Lieutenant we know from the get-go what has motivated Cage's madness, while in My Son, My Son we see the flip side of the coin where there's no concrete explanation of Shannon's mental illness. How did you go about structuring two films that show different sides of insanity?

Herzog: I wouldn't emphasize the mental illness so strongly. Sure, in My Son, My Son there is an element of mental illness, but there is also something else, something other, something inexplicably scary about the story. If it's all explained by mental illness I wouldn't care very much for a story like that. I met the real man who committed the murder, who will spend 8 1/2 years in a maximum-security mental institution for the criminally insane. I met him and he was really…you could tell he was not right in his head. There were things like he wanted to be crucified on national television live, and he was upset that it wouldn't happen. There was real madness there, and I don't harp on it. I do not want to play with it too strongly, then all explanations come down to "it was insanity, period," which is not the case.

Simington: You mentioned working with David Lynch, who executive produced My Son, My Son. Beyond working with Grace Zabriskie, who has been in several of Daivd Lynch’s films, what sort of involvement with Lynch did you have?

Herzog: Not much, you shouldn't overdo it. We somehow plotted to make films with fairly low budgets but with great stories and the best of the best of actors, almost like putting out a manifesto, that's how filmmaking should be done responsibly, where you would be in profitable terrain fairly early on. As we liked each other and respected each other's work very deeply we were talking about projects and he said do you have a story and I said yes, and David asked "when can you start?" and I said "tomorrow!." [Laughing] So he said it would be great if he could protect the film and he could have a look at the production, but he never interfered, he never showed up on the set or was there during editing or anything. It's something else, some sort of a spark that ignited a project that was long dormant. His main role was throwing a match onto a powder keg.

Simington: What attracted you to the characters played by Cage and Shannon?

Herzog: There are two sides. One side is the character as they exist in the screenplay, in the story. In both stories, for me, something that I felt was familiar. And second, the caliber of actors. Michael Shannon is an extraordinary talent, and you can tell right away. I saw that long before he got the Oscar nomination, I even invited him to join me on the set of The Bad Lieutenant. I didn’t have anything big to offer him, he was there for two or three days; I asked him to look at how I work and how I function, that I'd like to warm up with him as he would have to carry the central role of my new film on his shoulders. I think it was good that we had at least a few days time to warm up with each other. Five months later he got the Academy Award nomination and I really felt proud for him.

Simington: Do you think these two characters inhabit a similar world?

Herzog: I think they're quite different, otherwise Nicolas Cage would have played both parts; or Michael Shannon would have played the bad lieutenant as well. I'm always good in casting; or, let's put more solidly (it sounds like being conceited)—I think I've not made major mistakes in casting throughout my life as a filmmaker.

Simington: A question about the look of your movies...Peter Zeitlinger's cinematography really shines in both The Bad Lieutenant and My Son, My Son. He's been a major collaborator of yours for years now, shooting with you since Gesualdo. How do you communicate with him about what you want in your frames?

Herzog: Well, I have a sort of short hand communication with him by now, but it has always been quite brief and clear because I have such a clear vision of what I want to do. I start to work out a scene with him first, the kind of movement, the kind of camera position and things like that, and it goes very quickly. I think my footprint is very strong in all my films with him, but it was the same with Thomas Mauch who did Aguirre and Schmidt-Reitwein who did many others like Nosferatu. You can tell there's always a certain handwriting in it.

Simington: Has your relationship with Zeitlinger changed over the years as you've moved to larger or different productions?

Herzog: I've made much larger productions before, for example Nosferatu and Fitzcarraldo, so these two recent films, The Bad Lieutenant and My Son, My Son are much smaller productions as a matter of fact. But—how can I say? We have a very physical approach to cinematography. There's a clear understanding between him and me. He actually got into filmmaking because he had seen The Enigma of Kasper Hauser, which was such a strong experience for him that he decided to become a cinematographer. He would be, for example, the only one who, when we are shooting and something doesn't feel right, he'd put the camera down and say, "Werner, this scene doesn't have a rhythm." He's the first cinematographer to tell me that, and he's totally right because he senses it physically. I think he's a wonderful collaborator, physically very strong, I mean strong like an ox!

Simington: You've said before that you "direct landscapes," that you direct spaces. New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole are cast very well in The Bad Lieutenant, and San Diego has a very real sense of place in My Son, My Son. What was it like shooting in both locations?

Herzog: New Orleans, I mean New Orleans after Katrina, has a big role; it is obvious it would play a bigger role than just the backdrop. San Diego isn't that essential to the film [My Son, My Son], it could have happened in Minneapolis or Boise, Idaho, but a kind of suburbia close to the Mexican border is something that translates into the film, and when you speak of directing landscapes I have some wide locations in Peru on the Rio Urubamba, and I also shot in Central Asia, a very, very strange dream sequence, a very essential piece in the film.

Simington: Speaking of dream sequences and subjective camerawork, those scenes you speak of in My Son, My Son remind me of Kausper Hauser’s dreams, both somehow are related, too, to Nicolas Cage's hallucinations with the iguanas.

Herzog: That is all stuff I filmed myself. I wouldn't allow a cinematographer to do that in such a case, I'd do it myself. Central Asia, for example, I did myself, in My Son, My Son. The iguanas had to be a completely demented way of seeing the world, that only the bad lieutenant full of drugs would see, that no one else would see, so in cases like that I take over the camera.

Simington: In The Bad Lieutenant press kit Nicolas Cage mentions a Cortez project you brought to him several years ago.

Herzog: There are sometimes projects that are not really doable; in this case it was a production that would cost around $100 million, and you make a film like that only if your last film has made domestic growth, box office growth, of $250 million, then you can make a film like that. It was 14 years ago or so, but it was very clear early on that the film was not going to be made, and I can live easily with that.

Simington: Do you have any other projects that are in the pipeline right now?

Herzog: About 5 feature film projects and 3 documentaries. It's not that I am working on them, but that they are pushing me. I never search around for projects, they come to me like burglars in the night.

Simington: So you don't necessarily feel a different impulse to make a documentary or a feature?

Herzog: No, I don't care, it's all movies for me. And besides, when you say documentaries, in my case, in most of these cases, means "feature film" in disguise.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

At 94, She’s the Hot New Thing in Painting

Under a skylight in her tin-ceilinged loft near Union Square in Manhattan, the abstract painter Carmen Herrera, 94, nursed a flute of Champagne last week, sitting regally in the wheelchair she resents.

After six decades of very private painting, Ms. Herrera sold her first artwork five years ago, at 89. Now, at a small ceremony in her honor, she was basking in the realization that her career had finally, undeniably, taken off. As cameras flashed, she extended long, Giacomettiesque fingers to accept an art foundation’s lifetime achievement award from the director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Her good friend, the painter Tony Bechara, raised a glass. “We have a saying in Puerto Rico,” he said. “The bus — la guagua — always comes for those who wait.”

And the Cuban-born Ms. Herrera, laughing gustily, responded, “Well, Tony, I’ve been at the bus stop for 94 years!”

Since that first sale in 2004, collectors have avidly pursued Ms. Herrera, and her radiantly ascetic paintings have entered the permanent collections of institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and the Tate Modern. Last year, MoMA included her in a pantheon of Latin American artists on exhibition. And this summer, during a retrospective show in England, The Observer of London called Ms. Herrera the discovery of the decade, asking, “How can we have missed these beautiful compositions?”

In a word, Ms. Herrera, a nonagenarian homebound painter with arthritis, is hot. In an era when the art world idolizes, and often richly rewards, the young and the new, she embodies a different, much rarer kind of success, that of the artist long overlooked by the market, and by history, who persevered because she had no choice.

“I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure,” she said of painting. “I never in my life had any idea of money and I thought fame was a very vulgar thing. So I just worked and waited. And at the end of my life, I’m getting a lot of recognition, to my amazement and my pleasure, actually.”

Julián Zugazagoitia, the director of El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem, called Ms. Herrera “a quiet warrior of her art.”

“To bloom into full glory at 94 — whatever Carmen Herrera’s slow rise might say about the difficulties of being a woman artist, an immigrant artist or an artist ahead of her time, it is clearly a story of personal strength,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said.

A minimalist whose canvases are geometric distillations of form and color, Ms. Herrera has slowly come to the attention of a subset of art historians over the last decade. . Now she is increasingly considered an important figure by those who study her “remarkably monumental, iconic paintings,” said Edward J. Sullivan, a professor of art history at New York University.

“Those of us with a passion for either geometric art or Latin American Modernist painting now realize what a pivotal role” Ms. Herrera has played in “the development of geometric abstraction in the Americas,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Painting in relative solitude since the late 1930s, with only the occasional exhibition, Ms. Herrera was sustained, she said, by the unflinching support of her husband of 61 years, Jesse Loewenthal. An English teacher at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, Mr. Loewenthal was portrayed by the memoirist Frank McCourt, a colleague, as an old-world scholar in an “elegant, three-piece suit, the gold watch chain looping across his waistcoat front.”

Recognition for Ms. Herrera came a few years after her husband’s death, at 98, in 2000. “Everybody says Jesse must have orchestrated this from above,” Ms. Herrera said, shaking her head. “Yeah, right, Jesse on a cloud.” She added: “I worked really hard. Maybe it was me.”

In a series of interviews in her sparsely but artfully furnished apartment, Ms. Herrera always offered an afternoon cocktail — “Oh, don’t be abstemious!” — and an outpouring of stories about prerevolutionary Cuba, postwar Paris and the many artists she has known, from Wifredo Lam to Yves Klein to Barnett Newman.

“Ah, Wifredo,” she said, referring to Lam, the Cuban-born French painter. “All the girls were crazy about him. When we were in Havana, my phone would begin ringing: ‘Is Wifredo in town?’ I mean, come on, I wasn’t his social secretary.”

But Ms. Herrera is less expansive about her own art, discussing it with a minimalism redolent of the work. “Paintings speak for themselves,” she said. Geometry and color have been the head and the heart of her work, she added, describing a lifelong quest to pare down her paintings to their essence, like visual haiku.

Asked how she would describe to a student a painting like “Blanco y Verde” (1966) — a canvas of white interrupted by an inverted green triangle — she said, “I wouldn’t have a student.” To a sweet, inquiring child, then? “I’d give him some candy so he’d rot his teeth.”

When pressed about what looks to some like a sensual female shape in the painting, she said: “Look, to me it was white, beautiful white, and then the white was shrieking for the green, and the little triangle created a force field. People see very sexy things — dirty minds! — but to me sex is sex, and triangles are triangles.”

Born in 1915 in Havana, where her father was the founding editor of the daily newspaper El Mundo, and her mother a reporter, Ms. Herrera took art lessons as a child, attended finishing school in Paris and embarked on a Cuban university degree in architecture. In 1939, midway through her studies, she married Mr. Loewenthal and moved to New York. (They had no children.)

Carmen Herrera at work. She has painted for six decades, and since her first sale in 2004, collectors have avidly pursued her.

Although she studied at the Art Students League of New York, Ms. Herrera did not discover her artistic identity until she and her husband settled in Paris for a few years after World War II. There she joined a group of abstract artists, based at the influential Salon of New Realities, which exhibited her work along with that of Josef Albers, Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay and others.

“I was looking for a pictorial vocabulary and I found it there,” she said. “But when we moved back to New York, this type of art” — her less-is-more formalism — “was not acceptable. Abstract Expressionism was in fashion. I couldn’t get a gallery.”

Ms. Herrera said that she also accepted, “as a handicap,” the barriers she faced as a Hispanic female artist. Beyond that, though, “her art was not easily digestible at the time,” Mr. Zugazagoitia said. “She was not doing Cuban landscapes or flowers of the tropics, the art you might have expected from a Cuban émigré who spent time in Paris. She was ahead of her time.”

Over the decades, Ms. Herrera had a solo show here and there, including a couple at museums (the Alternative Museum in 1984, El Museo del Barrio in 1998). But she never sold anything, and never needed, or aggressively sought, the affirmation of the market. “It would have been nice, but maybe corrupting,” she said.

Mr. Bechara, who befriended her in the early 1970s and is now chairman of El Museo del Barrio, said that he regularly tried to push her into the public eye, even though she “found a kind of solace in being alone.”

One day in 2004, Mr. Bechara attended a dinner with Frederico Sève, the owner of the Latin Collector Gallery in Manhattan, who was dealing with the withdrawal of an artist from a much-publicized show of female geometric painters. “Tony said to me: ‘Geometry and ladies? You need Carmen Herrera,’ ” Mr. Sève recounted. “And I said, ‘Who the hell is Carmen Herrera?’ ”

The next morning, Mr. Sève arrived at his gallery to find several paintings, just delivered, that he took to be the work of the well-known Brazilian artist Lygia Clark but were in fact by Ms. Herrera. Turning over the canvases, he saw that they predated by a decade paintings in a similar style by Ms. Clark. “Wow, wow, wow,” he recalled saying. “We got a pioneer here.”

Mr. Sève quickly called Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, a collector who has an art foundation in Miami. She bought five of Ms. Herrera’s paintings. Estrellita Brodsky, another prominent collector, bought another five. Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, also bought several, and with Mr. Bechara, donated one of Ms. Herrera’s black-and-white paintings to MoMA.

The recent exhibition in England, which is now heading to Germany, came about by happenstance after a curator stumbled across Ms. Herrera’s paintings on the Internet. Last week The Observer named that retrospective one of the year’s 10 best exhibitions, alongside a Picasso show and one devoted to the American Pop artist Ed Ruscha.

Ms. Herrera’s late-in-life success has stunned her in many ways. Her larger works now sell for $30,000, and one painting commanded $44,000 — sums unimaginable when she was, say, in her 80s. “I have more money now than I ever had in my life,” she said.

Not that she is succumbing to a life of leisure. At a long table where she peers out over East 19th Street “like a French concierge,” Ms. Herrera, because she must, continues to draw and paint. “Only my love of the straight line keeps me going,” she said.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jim Harrison: The Masculine Mystique

Don’t be fooled by the trout, the dogs, the pickup trucks, the whiskey, the cowboys and Indians, and the war stories. Beneath the rugged trappings of Jim Harrison’s manly fiction hides the tensile, scorch-proof frame of the red-hot romance, whose heroes are totems of an idealized, brute masculinity. In the feminine version of the genre, the heroines typically possess awesome powers of desirability. In Harrison’s spin, the male leads aren’t much to look at (usually), yet they possess awesome powers of desire. Whether a whippersnapper of 12 or a “geezer rancher” in his 70s, the Harrison hero unfailingly sparks the ardor of any girl or woman he encounters, even when he’s sick, drunk and drugged, having his teeth pulled, passing kidney stones or dying. He doesn’t mind if a woman is a few decades older than he is or half a century younger; whether she’s a king-size Lakota divorcée pushing 60 or a “miniature” young nurse with a boyfriend. Nor does he care if she’s cruel or kind, married or single, straight or gay. Whoever she is, if she’ll have him, he’s up for the job.

Harrison’s new collection, “The Farmer’s Daughter” — a title redolent of Merle Haggard or off-color barroom jokes or both, depending on your referents — contains three stories that feature, among their sprawling casts, several lusty adolescent boys (including one with a clubfoot and one who’s a werewolf); an aged rancher, who, at 73, on his “last conscious day” of life, gingerly gropes a 14-year-old girl who curtseys in thanks; and a handful of men in their prime, including a depraved country fiddler, a vegetable farmer, a piano-playing Mexican botanist and the author’s best-known character, a hapless, oft-jailed, half-Indian “kindly fool” named Brown Dog (B.D. for short).

B.D.’s picaresque adventures first appeared in 1990 in Harrison’s “Woman Lit by Fireflies,” re-emerged in several later collections and here resurface in the story “Brown Dog Redux,” which finds B.D. as benighted and bold as ever. He regards himself as a champion of womankind because he’s “greatly drawn to women with none of the hesitancy of his more modern counterparts who tiptoed in and out of women’s lives wearing blindfolds, nose plugs, ear plugs and fluttering ironic hearts.” Also, when contemplating what he reverently calls the “sacred muffin,” B.D. is capable of “clapping in hearty applause.” Fair enough — but when he jokes to a lesbian whom he’s got in his sights that “they used to say that if a girl is big enough she’s old enough,” he loses some crossover appeal. Harrison’s Montana and Upper Peninsula Michigan make fine playgrounds for old men, but the terrain isn’t terribly hospitable to women of any age.

Nevertheless, Harrison, like Brown Dog, seems to worship the female sex, in his way. In the title story of this new book, he chivalrously seeks both vigilante and poetic justice for his precocious heroine, a tall, busty teenager named Sarah, who grows up in the 1980s in rural Montana, “where the passage between girl and woman is a short voyage.” Neglected by her taciturn father and abandoned by her “inane” mother, Sarah hunts antelope; plays Liszt like a prodigy; reads Dickinson, Faulkner and Henry Miller; daydreams of a career in metallurgy; and sunbathes semi-nude to turn on her “best friend,” a septuagenarian codger with a heart of gold. She feels a little sheepish about it, but then, there aren’t any high school heartthrobs within lassoing distance, and a girl’s got to whet her allure on someone.

“Sarah wasn’t mentally comfortable with the biological aspects of life,” Harrison writes reproachfully but kindly, like a literary Euell Gibbons. Still, after joining 4-H to pad her teenage-friend base, she soon finds grounds for her mental discomfort. After spending an innocent afternoon boozing and skinny-dipping with new pals, she drops by a rodeo where an evil horse hauler dopes and abuses her. After the attack, Harrison depicts her in a canyon, on a boulder, privately mourning her woes. “She began inevitably to look at males as another species,” he writes. “Not that she could summon up any special admiration for women.”

However well-motivated the author’s pity, however imaginative his ventriloquism of Sarah’s inner monologue, the portrait that emerges doesn’t feel age-appropriate; it recalls those medieval paintings in which the artist painted the child as a diminutive adult, with eerily progeriatric features. In a spirit of self-preservation, Sarah decides she has “no choice but to become prematurely older and austere,” and devises a scheme for vengeance. In 100 pages, the farm-girl Lolita turns Clint Eastwood — two fantasies in one. But when chance throws her in the path of an amorous 35-year-old aesthete, she gets another crack at Lolita. “I’m older than you in most ways,” she tells the man. However many ways there are, none of them are legal.

“Brown Dog Redux,” still bawdy but more believable, continues the quest of B.D. — the Upper Peninsula’s Chippewa Odysseus — to find a humane living environment for his stepdaughter, Berry, who suffers from the double burdens of fetal alcohol syndrome and encroaching adolescence. Berry can’t speak, but she communes with nature, cooing like a dove, calling crows and bonding with snakes and other wild creatures — she’s a child of the forest. In a previous story, B.D. transported her illegally from Michigan to Canada to keep her out of an institution for the disabled in Lansing. In Toronto, enlisting the help of a Lakota social worker called the Director, B.D. indulges his customary lip-smacking appetites as he looks after Berry’s welfare, chowing down on corned tongue and brisket, pork steak, fried T-bone, fatty rib steaks (“his favorite cut”) and a hearty menu of feminine flesh — Deidre, Nora, Gretchen and the Director, among others.

As he rides the bus back to the United States, confusing the “roar of the bus engine with that of a female bear he used to feed his extra fish when he was reroofing a deer cabin,” B.D. dreams of the engrossing exertions of fishing, of dancing at powwows (“a state of being carried away that reminded him of the pleasure of being half-drunk rather than fully drunk”) and of the “landscape he called home, dense forests of pine, hemlock, tamarack and aspen surrounding great swamps and small lakes.” When he’s not on the bus, he lives in the moment, caught up in the meat of the day and the heat of the night. He “felt lucky,” Harrison writes, “that he could resolve his own problems with a couple of beers and a half dozen hours of trout fishing and if a female crossed his path whether fat or thin, older or younger, it was a testament that heaven was on earth rather than somewhere up in the remote and hostile sky.” Flush with the uncomplicated enjoyment of his physical being, Harrison’s hero fills three dimensions and more — on occasion exceeding the confines of his character to recite Longfellow to wow a lady or take in a National Geographic special on Siberia, flatteringly reflecting his creator’s interests.

In the third story, “The Games of Night,” Harrison employs magical elements to make his themes more palatable. When the unnamed 12-year-old protagonist is seduced by a lubricious seventh-grade classmate, the author tenderly records their underage play. A little later, during a bird-watching expedition to Mexico with his ornithologist father, the boy is bitten by both a wolf and a hummingbird. Through a mysterious transformation — like the one in which Peter Parker turns into Spider-Man — he becomes a demon lover, and satisfies his new cravings posthaste with a sensual, willing, older, married woman. After their tussle, he fortifies himself by feasting on a bowl of tripe. Not that long before, the boy, like the farmer’s daughter in Montana, had felt oppressed by the demands of physicality. “I was getting my nose rubbed in the animality of people,” he fretted. But if there’s one thing Harrison knows, it’s how to teach his characters to share his sensual hunger and relish their role in his supernaturally charged natural world. Whether his readers can tuck in with similar gusto is a question of taste — and perhaps of glands.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Back From Vacation

Advice from the Editor: When on vacation, never play Chess on a glacier with a sherpa that knows the only trail back and is a little bit sensitive about his knight and rook. Also, when inhaling the morning air at 14,000 feet always, always make sure...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Schubert and Beckett: Footsteps in Snow

MAPPING the no man’s land between poetry and music may be impossible, but exploring it is not. “One Evening,” at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College from Wednesday through Friday, tries to do just that, weaving poems and prose of Samuel Beckett into Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Winterreise” (“Winter Journey”). The songs are performed by the tenor Mark Padmore and the pianist Andrew West, the Beckett text by the actor Stephen Dillane.

Last week, at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Mr. Dillane appeared in the theater piece “Four Quartets,” which juxtaposed the set of poems T. S. Eliot considered his masterpiece with Beethoven’s Opus 132 String Quartet, Eliot’s acknowledged model. Though most of the links in “One Evening” seem more intuitive than direct, “Winterreise” is known to have haunted Beckett throughout his life.

Like “Four Quartets,” “One Evening” is a presentation of Lincoln Center’s experimental New Visions series and was shaped by Katie Mitchell, a director renowned for symbiotic fusions of live performance and video. Examples include her chamber adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel “The Waves” (at the National Theater in London and at Lincoln Center) and a titanic staging of Luigi Nono’s opera-cum-Communist manifesto “Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore” (Salzburg Festival).

In the New Visions pieces Ms. Mitchell is operating on a more intimate scale, with technology at a minimum. “Four Quartets” did without electronics completely, and the architecture of the piece was simplicity itself: first the words, then the music, all connections to be established in the ear of the beholder. “One Evening,” though it, too, forgoes Ms. Mitchell’s signature video trappings, is predicated on an all-encompassing sound design.

“There are just some microphones,” Ms. Mitchell said recently from London. “The idea in ‘One Evening’ is for the audience to imagine a young man walking through the snow across a changing landscape. That’s the basic aural experience. You literally hear footsteps, breathing. The songs and the poems are the thoughts in his head.” (This scenario is precisely that of Schubert’s song cycle.)

Mr. Padmore likens this project to a radio play. “In Katie’s work there’s always an emphasis on making things,” he said recently from his home in London. “You see us creating this sound world, using quite a range of objects: wind machines, twigs, leaves, a thunder sheet. All three of us onstage take turns. The soundscape is the thread that runs through the whole piece.”

Wrapped in that envelope of naturalistic sound the Beckett material drops into the sequence of “Winterreise” at irregular intervals, much as Schubert’s songs may be presumed to have drifted through Beckett’s mind. The biographer James Knowlson has shown in “Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett” that Beckett alluded to the songs often, in ways both overt and oblique.

Wisps of Schubert’s song “Der Tod und das Mädchen” (“Death and the Maiden”) are heard in the radio play “All That Fall” (first broadcast in 1957). Beckett’s last television play, the evanescent “Nacht und Träume” (“Night and Dreams,” first broadcast in 1983), takes its name from another Schubert song and incorporates a snatch of the melody, first hummed, then sung to its nostalgic German text.

The literary critic Miron Grindea once wrote that the notoriously morose Beckett considered Schubert “a friend in suffering.” Yet the affinity goes only so far. Beckett would have found nothing in Schubert’s melancholy to feed the gallows humor that was as integral to his art as his misanthropy and gloom. There are few laughs, if any, in Schubert. In Beckett there are many of all kinds, from howls to snickers.

Schubert’s contemporaries were baffled by “Winterreise,” but he predicted they would come to love these songs more than any of his others. Whether or not the prophecy came true in his lifetime, it was borne out in Beckett, who listened to the cycle over and over in a recording by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, “shivering,” as he once wrote, “through the grim journey again.” Today he would have had hundreds of other interpretations to choose from, including a new one from Harmonia Mundi by Mr. Padmore and the top-flight Schubertian Paul Lewis.

That embarrassment of riches has Mr. Padmore concerned. As a noted lieder specialist, he has often sung the Schubert cycles in conventional fashion. This time his aim is to reach out to the vibrant, intellectually curious crowd he encounters when he attends the theater.

“One great spur to me was Beckett’s play ‘Eh Joe,’ with the camera on Michael Gambon’s face as he simply listened to a woman speaking in voice-over,” Mr. Padmore said. “That was the kind of world we wanted to explore. We wanted to take ‘Winterreise’ away from the Rolls-Royce quality of the recital hall and put it into the rougher theater environment.”

Hence a slightly battered upright piano in place of the expected concert grand. What’s more, with British and American audiences in mind, Mr. Padmore insisted on singing in English rather than the original German. He is relying on diction, microphones and sound design to put the words across. There will be no titles.

Purists will bridle at some of these innovations. More scandalous still, certain songs have been dropped, and others will be spoken rather than sung, without accompaniment. Though the settings in question show Schubert at his sparest (surely a mode Beckett would have found congenial), Ms. Mitchell did not sanction such depredations lightly.

“The idea came from Mark,” she said. “I thought that if he, who knows the music so intimately, wanted to try it, it was something we should consider, for balance, as part of the overall structure.”

In London, Mr. Padmore reported, there were walkouts and a review in The Times that wrote off the approach as dangerous and silly. “I know as well as anyone that ‘Winterreise’ needs nothing added,” he said. “But we’re coming to the end of an era. Without new motivations for listening and performing, the point comes when we’re just hearing different performances of the same thing. This version of ours won’t please everybody. For me, and I hope for new audiences, it’s very exciting.”


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kris Kuksi, Recycled Sculpture

The beautiful thing about upcycled materials is that the end results often bear no resemblance to the original items. Such is the case with sculptor Kris Kuksi’s toy sculptures, which are constructed out of old toys, statues, and mechanical parts.

According to Kuksi’s artist statement, his work is “feeling that he has always belonged to the ‘Old World’. Yet, Kris’ work is about a new wilderness, refined and elevated, visualized as a cultivation emerging from the corrupt and demoralized fall of modern-day society. A place where new beginnings, new wars, new philosophies, and new endings exist.” That place is apparently also quite macabre and grotesque.
In any case, Kuksi’s mindblowingly detailed toy sculptures remind us that trash and discarded materials can be refashioned into nearly anything we want.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Debussy’s Homage to Poe, With the Blanks Filled In

What should be done with the unfinished works left behind by master composers at their deaths? This question has long dogged musicians and scholars of later eras, and the debate goes on. Maybe the proper way to respect the masters is to leave their incomplete scores alone. How can we presume to know what an ingenious composer might have intended?

On the other hand, some of these scores are tantalizingly close to being performable. When there are enough sketches, composers and scholars have often tried to fill in the gaps and produce a playable version of a piece. The composer Friedrich Cerha’s completed Act III of Berg’s “Lulu,” which Berg died before finishing and orchestrating, has been embraced by many prominent musicians, including James Levine, who will again conduct the three-act “Lulu” at the Metropolitan Opera in May.

My choice for the most frustrating case of an unfinished work by a master composer is Debussy’s opera “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Debussy’s libretto, adapted from Baudelaire’s translation of the Poe short story, survives incomplete, and the musical score exists only in meager sketches of certain scenes for piano. There are scant indications of basics like tempo and dynamics.

There is simply not enough of Debussy’s “Usher” to work from, and few have tried to finish it. None of which stopped Opéra Français de New York, in partnership with the French Institute Alliance Française, from presenting what was promoted as the American premiere of “a rare double bill of two works by Debussy” last weekend at Florence Gould Hall.

The 60-minute multimedia production, “Debussy and Poe: The Devil in the Belfry & The Fall of the House of Usher,” which I saw on Saturday, included not just performances of scenes from “Usher,” based on Debussy’s sketches, but also spoken dialogue and fragments of music (played on piano) from another, even less complete Debussy opera based on Poe, “The Devil in the Belfry.” Without enough of Debussy’s music, even in sketch form, to fill out an hour, “Debussy and Poe” was padded with four songs and a piano prelude by Debussy.

Still, on its own terms, “Debussy and Poe,” created by the directors Jean-Philippe Clarac and Olivier Deloeuil and the music director and pianist Jeff Cohen, was a dark, moody and intriguing theatrical amalgam, performed by a small cast accompanied by Mr. Cohen. A quasi-abstract set designed by Rick Martin evoked a spooky library at the Usher house.

For those of us who revere Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande,” first performed in Paris in 1902 after a nearly 10-year gestation, it is exasperating to have only that unorthodox and mesmerizing Debussy opera. Refined, intellectually cagey and ahead of his time in his comprehension of the unconscious, Debussy was a master of indirection, veiled emotions and psychological subtext. To him, most of what passed for opera was dramatically obvious and musically crude, with too much action and too predominant a role for music.

In Maeterlinck’s haunting “Pelléas et Mélisande,” a landmark play of the Symbolist movement, Debussy found a literary work that inspired him to a new kind of opera. Little happens onstage as the story, set in a vaguely medieval setting, unfolds. Mélisande, a secretive, fragile young woman lost in the forest, is found weeping by Golaud, a sullen widower, a grandson of a king. Golaud takes Mélisande home and marries her, only to see his mysterious wife and his impetuous, handsome younger brother, Pelléas, fall hopelessly, and fatally, in love.

The characters’ inner turbulence, the real story, is conveyed through Debussy’s sensual orchestral music. With its wayward harmonic language, milky colorings, avoidance of dramatic flourishes and spacious pacing, Debussy’s music illuminates the unconscious in ways that spoken dramas and more conventional operas can hardly match.

In Poe’s “Usher,” Debussy felt he had found another source suited to exploring the unconscious and the macabre. Strangely bonded and sickly siblings, Roderick and Madeline Usher, live reclusively in the family mansion, a house that they come to believe is almost alive and bent on their destruction.

Debussy worked intermittently on “Usher” for 10 years. In 1908 Giulio Gatti-Casazza, the enterprising director of the Met, secured the rights to present “The Devil in the Belfry” and “Usher” as a double bill of one-act operas. Debussy cautioned Gatti-Casazza not to get his hopes up, saying, “I am a lazy composer” who sometimes “requires weeks to decide on one harmonious chord over another.” Nothing came of the project. Debussy died in 1918.

During “Debussy and Poe” it was impossible to know how closely the music was drawn from Debussy’s sketches. The production began with the sturdy baritone Michael Chioldi, in spectral pale-faced makeup, singing an intensely subdued Debussy song, “Le Son du Cor S’Afflige” (“The Sound of the Horn Wails”). Then, as Mr. Cohen played fleeting piano sketches from “The Devil in the Belfry,” two young and attractive singers, the baritone Phillip Addis and the soprano Ariadne Greif, as the Usher siblings, spoke dialogue from “The Devil in the Belfry,” looking like children hiding in the corner of the house library, using flashlights to read a forbidden text.

This episode segued into the first two scenes of “Usher,” accompanied by piano, in which Mr. Addis and Ms. Greif were joined by Mr. Chioldi, playing a controlling family physician; David McFerrin, a baritone, as Roderick’s concerned friend; and Alexander Blaise, an actor, playing another friend. As the work progressed, the other Debussy songs and a piano prelude, “Des Pas sur la Neige” (“Footprints in the Snow”), lent substance and connective music to the sketchy work, which concluded with the final scene of “Usher” and Madeline’s death.

In some ways “Debussy and Poe” was a tease, a dramatic patchwork of their work. I was willing to go along and accept it as a mix of sources and speculation. Still, I left wondering what might have been.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Voice That Helped Remake Culture

Louis Armstrong, a k a Satchmo, a k a Pops, was to music what Picasso was to painting, what Joyce was to fiction: an innovator who changed the face of his art form, a fecund and endlessly inventive pioneer whose discovery of his own voice helped remake 20th-century culture.

His determination to entertain and the mass popularity he eventually achieved, coupled with his gregarious, open-hearted personality, would obscure the magnitude of his achievement and win him the disdain of many intellectuals and younger colleagues, who dismissed much of what he did after 1929 as middlebrow slumming, and who even mocked him as a kind of Uncle Tom.

With “Pops,” his eloquent and important new biography of Armstrong, the critic and cultural historian Terry Teachout restores this jazzman to his deserved place in the pantheon of American artists, building upon Gary Giddins’s excellent 1988 study, “Satchmo: The Genius of Louis Armstrong,” and offering a stern rebuttal of James Lincoln Collier’s patronizing 1983 book, “Louis Armstrong: An American Genius.”

Mr. Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the chief culture critic of Commentary magazine, writes with a deep appreciation of Armstrong’s artistic achievements, while situating his work and his life in a larger historical context. He draws on Armstrong’s wonderfully vivid writings and hours of tapes in which the musician recorded his thoughts and conversations with friends, and in doing so, creates an emotionally detailed portrait of Satchmo as a quick, funny, generous, observant and sometimes surprisingly acerbic man: a charismatic musician who, like a Method actor, channeled his vast life experience into his work, displaying a stunning, almost Shakespearean range that encompassed the jubilant and the melancholy, the playful and the sorrowful.

At the same time, Mr. Teachout reminds us of Armstrong’s gifts: “the combination of hurtling momentum and expansive lyricism that propelled his playing and singing alike,” his revolutionary sense of rhythm, his “dazzling virtuosity and sensational brilliance of tone,” in another trumpeter’s words, which left listeners feeling as though they’d been staring into the sun. The author — who worked as a jazz bassist before becoming a full-time writer — also uses his firsthand knowledge of music to convey the magic of such Armstrong masterworks as “St. Louis Blues,” “Potato Head Blues,” “West End Blues” and “Star Dust.”

During his lifetime Armstrong performed with virtually everyone, from early jazz pioneers like Sidney Bechet, Joe Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Johnny Dodds and Kid Ory, on through more recent masters like Leonard Bernstein and Johnny Cash. His freewheeling incandescence as both an instrumentalist and vocalist would influence not just every trumpet player to come but also countless composers, bandleaders and singers as varied as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.

“Even before his face became known to the readers of newspapers and illustrated magazines — and, later, to filmgoers and TV viewers,” Mr. Teachout writes, “Armstrong was the first jazz musician whose voice was heard by large numbers of people. In this way he emerged from behind the anonymity of the recording process and impressed his personality on all who heard him, even those who found most instrumental jazz to be unapproachably abstract. It was the secret of his appeal, and he knew it. So did the many singing instrumentalists who followed in his footsteps, hoping to lure some of the same listeners who smiled at the sound of his gritty tenor voice, which deepened as he grew older but was always as recognizable as a fingerprint.”

Although Armstrong’s life story has been told many times before, Mr. Teachout does a nimble job of reconjuring the trajectory of Armstrong’s experience, which coincided with — or was in the vanguard of — so many formative events in 20th-century Afro-American history, from the Great Migration that brought many Southern blacks North to cities like Chicago to the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and ’30s. He recounts the travails of touring that Armstrong experienced in a still segregated South, to his acclamation in Europe in the ’30s and ’40s and the mainstream American success he finally achieved in the ’50s.

The reader gets a dramatic snapshot in this volume of Armstrong’s life on the mean streets of New Orleans, where he grew up, the illegitimate son of a 15-year-old country girl, among gamblers, church people, prostitutes and hustlers; his adventures in gangland Chicago and Jazz Age New York; the rapid metamorphosis of this shy, “little frog-mouthed boy who played the cornet” into the most influential soloist in jazz; and the long, hard years on the road, crisscrossing the United States dozens of time, playing so many one-nighters that he often came off the stage, in his own words, “too tired to raise an eyelash.”

In addition, Mr. Teachout does a fluent job of explicating Armstrong’s apprenticeship under Joe Oliver and Fletcher Henderson; his seminal work with the Hot Five; and the key business roles played by his wife Lil and his mobbed-up manager, the former boxing promoter Joe Glaser, in shaping his career.

As Mr. Teachout astutely points out, Armstrong’s trumpet playing, like his singing and copious writings (including two published memoirs and countless letters, which he pecked out on a typewriter he brought with him on the road), was the means for Armstrong to reflect on all that he had witnessed. “I seen everythin’ from a child comin’ up,” he said once. “Nothin’ happen I ain’t never seen before.”

“When I blow I think of times and things from outa the past that gives me an image of the tune. Like moving pictures passing in front of my eyes. A town, a chick somewhere back down the line, an old man with no name you seen once in a place you don’t remember.” This belief in music as a deeply felt and personal expression is one reason Armstrong avoided using musical terminology when speaking about his work and it’s one reason he said that he disliked bop (like other cooler, more modern forms of jazz), complaining that it “doesn’t come from the heart,” that it’s “all just flash.”

Boppers and avatars of the cool, in turn, rejected Armstrong’s desire to entertain the audience — to mug and clown on stage. And yet even Miles Davis, who in rejecting Satchmo’s crowd-pleasing ways went so far as to turn his back on the audience, acknowledged that the history of jazz radiated out from Louis Armstrong: “You can’t play nothing on trumpet,” Davis said, “that doesn’t come from him.”


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Filming a Friendship, Founded on Film

VILMOS ZSIGMOND and Laszlo Kovacs, whose cinematography would help change the look of American movies in the late 1960s and 1970s, first met in 1953 on a Budapest street corner near the Academy of Drama and Film, where both men were enrolled as cinematography students. Three years afterward — on Nov. 11, 1956, a week after Soviet troops poured into the city to crush the Hungarian uprising — they ran into each other again on the same corner.

“The Russian tanks were going up and down the street,” recalled Mr. Zsigmond, 79, in a recent phone interview to promote the documentary “No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos,” an account of their long friendship that will be broadcast Nov. 17 on “Independent Lens” on PBS. “I said, ‘Laszlo, you know the Arriflex camera, you have it up in the film school in college.’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s where I have it.’ He knew what we were about to do.”

Mr. Kovacs got the camera and some 35-millimeter film stock. The two men roamed Budapest, surreptitiously recording over an hour’s worth of film of the crackdown, then smuggled the undeveloped negatives out of the country via rail to Vienna, jumping off the train 10 miles from the Austrian border and finishing the journey on foot. Their imagery joined the collective record of that grim period, appearing in newsreels, TV reports and documentaries throughout the next half-century.

After the revolution the men moved to Hollywood, paid their dues shooting low-budget horror, action and biker films, then graduated to higher-profile assignments, eventually collaborating with some of the most influential directors of the 1970s, including Robert Altman and Steven Spielberg. Their association lasted until 2007, when Mr. Kovacs died of pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Kovacs, whose filmography included “Easy Rider, “Five Easy Pieces” and “Frances,” had a style simpler and more forceful than Mr. Zsigmond’s, whose work on movies like “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “Deliverance” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (for which he won an Academy Award), was more lush and impressionistic. But their artistry came from a similar, shared place. “The whole story, you could write a book about it,” Mr. Zsigmond said, laughing.

The director of “No Subtitles Necessary,” the cinematographer James Chressanthis, who studied under both men in the 1980s, thought so too.

“The story about them during the revolution” were widespread in Hollywood, he said. “But you always heard different pieces of it, different versions of it. Beyond the fact that they were great cinematographers, there was this whole back story that hadn’t been definitively told.”

During the 1986 production of “The Witches of Eastwick” — which Mr. Zsigmond photographed, with Mr. Chressanthis serving as his assistant — Mr. Kovacs stopped by for a visit. “When I saw them together, I realized that this was a remarkable story that people needed to hear,” Mr. Chressanthis said. “But 20 years intervened.”

The one-two punch of Altman’s death in 2006 and the onset of health problems for Mr. Kovacs ultimately spurred Mr. Chressanthis and his co-producers to bring the two men together again — this time in front of a camera — and have them tell their tale.

The result is a movie about a friendship between men who shared certain unusual, difficult experiences, and how those experiences shaped their art.

Mr. Zsigmond described his and Mr. Kovacs’s feel for light and shadow — which they developed together on earlier, low-budget efforts, productions on which one man often served as the other’s assistant — as “poetic realism.”

“It came out of being a couple of guys who had to leave Hungary in a hurry so they didn’t get killed,” he said. “It came out of coming to America and shooting all these movies that were all very low-budget — we called them ‘no-budget movies’ — with very small crews and very small lights. Laszlo and I figured out pretty quick that if you shoot something at the right time of day, it’s going to look gorgeous without any additional light, and that if you do need additional light, you try to make the light look real, not ‘lit.’ I hate movies where the light looks phony.”

Mr. Kovacs’s battlefield-tested resourcefulness and affection for his adopted country’s landscapes informed the look of Dennis Hopper’s 1969 counterculture smash “Easy Rider.” The film was distinguished by trippy lens flares, mournful firelight and tight close-ups of motorcycle riders and their machines, which Mr. Kovacs captured while being towed in the back of a sandbag-stuffed trailer. The whole feature was shot with a camera on loan from Mr. Zsigmond.

Even after the men had risen to the upper echelons of their industry, they continued to act and think like low-budget filmmakers. The documentary’s anecdotes include an account of how Mr. Zsigmond “flashed,” or briefly exposed, the negative of Altman’s “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” to create that movie’s decayed-boozy visuals, and how Mr. Kovacs, while shooting Bob Rafelson’s “Five Easy Pieces,” constructed a much-needed camera brace out of a termite-riddled branch he’d found in the woods near the set.

One can see traces of the men’s idiosyncratic personalities showing up more vividly in Jerry Schatzberg’s 1973 feature “Scarecrow,” a road film about the deep friendship between hobos played by Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. Mr. Zsigmond says the film’s warm light and embracing widescreen images of American landscapes were inspired by his early years with Mr. Kovacs, when they were adrift in a beautiful but forbidding new land.

“When we came to America, we had to stay together just to survive,” Mr. Zsigmond said. “It was like being brothers, that’s what it was.”


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arthur Rimbaud Documentary

Johnny Cash—the Man in Black & White

Reinhard Kleist's brand-new graphic novel, Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness (Abrams Books), opens with a vintage Caddy (license plate "HELL") barreling past a neon sign on the outskirts of Reno. Without a word, its surly driver—the Man in Black himself—makes his way to the strip, where he spots a short, wealthy, sleazy-looking man walking into an alley with a prostitute and proceeds to fill him with lead. In the scene's final panel, the killer is inside an armored bus, pulling up to the gates of Folsom Prison. Get it? I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die.

The Berlin-based artist has fun with this concept in his well-researched biography of the late country star, segueing into pen-and-ink depictions of Cash hits like "Big River," "Cocaine Blues," and "A Boy Named Sue" (which unbeknownst to me was penned by Shel Silverstein). Kleist uses a different, faux-tribal drawing style for "The Ballad of Ira Hayes"—a choice that reflects his interest in Cash's views on soldiers and war, an interest that also emerges in a studio scene with Bob Dylan.

If you caught the 2005 Cash biopic Walk the Line, with Joaquin Phoenix (the wrong actor as far as I'm concerned), you'll recognize the basic outline: The Depression-era upbringing amid cotton fields in Arkansas, where a neighbor kid teaches young J.R. Cash to play guitar. The horrible mishap that befalls his brother Jack. The Air Force service in Germany. The courtship and marriage to Vivian Liberto. The settling down in Memphis and forming a band. The record deal, tours with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, leading to a devastating addiction to uppers. The public disgraces. And, of course, the forbidden love with June Carter, whom he eventually marries.

But Kleist creates a fresh narrative, too, with side stories and small details you won't find in the film. Notably, he follows the character of Glen Sherley, a Folsom inmate who monitors Cash's career closely from behind bars and writes a song that Cash ends up using when he performs at Folsom in his big 1968 post-rehab comeback. In the book, as in the film, the Folsom sessions stand out as the dramatic peak. But there the movie ends. Kleist fast-forwards a quarter century, to 1994 and a solo recording session with rap producer Rick Rubin at Cash's cabin. By this time, Cash is an Old Man in Black, and through his chatter with Rubin we learn what became of Sherley after Cash helped get him sprung.

Artistically speaking, Kleist is a master of the genre who has spent much time studying Cash in all his facets—see his sketch gallery at the book's conclusion. He experiments with composition enough that the eye is never bored, and in just two pages of silent pictures, he manages to express the agony of drug withdrawal as viscerally as any words could. Kleist does his homework, taking seriously his duties not simply as a graphic artist but as the biographer catering to a newer generation of fans, those first drawn in by Cash's covers of artists like Danzig, Beck, and Soundgarden on Rubin's American Recordings and its sequel, Unchained. Like Rubin, and the late Cash himself, Kleist found a way to push an old story in a new direction.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Art Against the Inevitable in Sudan

THERE is a demand and a prayer made in each of Ibrahim El Salahi’s designs. This pioneer of Sudanese modernism has fused the diverse traditions of Sudan to make an art that is universal in its importance. His monumental painting The Inevitable (1984) is an uncompromising condemnation of civil war and injustice. The comparison with Picasso’s Guernica is not misplaced: indeed, the painting can be seen as an African counterpoint to it.

Born in 1930, El Salahi trained in Sudan and at the Slade in London, before travelling through Europe and returning to his home country to become a professor and Minister of Culture. He was one of the early members of what is now called the ‘Khartoum school’, which tried to define a cultural identity for the nation after the end of British colonial rule.

Sudan is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in Africa, and the early Khartoum school stressed this inescapable plurality. The grouping of poets and literary critics who called themselves the ‘School of the Desert and the Jungle’ recognised that their Sudanese heritage is a synthesis of these landscapes. The poet Salah Ahmad Ibrahim puts it unequivocally:

Liar is he who proclaims: I am the unmixed, the pure pedigree.
The Only. Yes!, a liar!

El Salahi’s early pictures are decorative versions of Koranic verses. After time away from his homeland, the artist felt estranged from Sudan, and so travelled throughout the country, looking again at the patterns in handicrafts and the local landscape. In the early 1970s, his art takes on the crimson colours of the Sudanese earth. El Salahi’s calligraphy spirals and unwraps into patterns, and finally into representations, maintaining the rhythm and structure of the Arabic alphabet, whilst also introducing the mask-like faces from the country’s southern culture. His paintings become peopled poems.

The result is a re-appropriation of the African traditions which influenced early European modernism and cubism, re-infused with their spiritual significance. El Salahi has on occasion defended himself against the charge that representation in the arts is not Islamic: “Islamic scholars say there is nothing at all to restrict you from reproducing the human image. In a way, it’s a kind of prayer too, because you are appreciating God’s creations and trying to think about them and meditation on His creativity”.

In 1975, El Salahi was imprisoned for six months without trial under the dictatorship of General Numieri, accused of anti-governmental activity. Deprived of even pen and paper, El Salahi secretly drew designs in the sand during his daily 25 minute exercise break, protected by other prisoners, and quickly erasing his work as the guards approached. Upon release, he went into exile in Qatar and Oxford. After this time, his paintings lose their earthly colours and are almost always expressed in black and white, pen on paper. By now, El Salahi had abandoned all distinction between design and representation.

The Inevitable is El Salahi’s reaction to his time spent in prison: the canvas is divided into nine separate sections that represent the different periods of time incarcerated, and act as a condemnation of the civil strife which ravaged the country after the end of British rule. Arabesque and Coptic motifs underlie and structure pained and distorted faces. Sheltering curves upsurge into rebellious arms and fists. The flood of white-space is channelled and complicated by the black ink.
Unforgettable in many of El Salahi’s later works are the hypnotic eyes which pose unavoidable questions to the viewer. In ‘Funeral and Crescent’, for example, where under an Islamic crest of a moon the huge emaciated faces of the cortège seem to carry the corpse on their own, every joint of a body is spiralled into an eye. In the simply named ‘Faces’, eyes and ears and noses and mouths all swirl deliriously outwards toward the viewer. In The Inevitable, eyes are either shaded-out into black voids, or are averted from the viewer. Only a soldier keeps a sideways watch on us. The picture is machine-like, sharp and cold. For there is a demand and a prayer made in each of El Salahi’s designs, and in this picture the questions posed are the same, but here the responsibility is even greater: who will dare to look at this? Who will dare to do something to avoid The Inevitable?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Officials to restore birthplace of Robert Johnson

JACKSON, Miss. – The mystery surrounding bluesman Robert Johnson's life and death feeds the lingering fascination with his work.

There's the myth he sold his soul to the devil to create his haunting guitar intonations. There's the dispute over where he died after his alleged poisoning by a jealous man in 1938. Three different markers claim to be the site of his demise.

His birthplace, however, has been verified. The seminal bluesman came into the world in 1911 in a well-crafted home built by his stepfather in the Mississippi town of Hazlehurst.

Now, 71 years after his death, local officials want to restore the home in hopes of drawing Johnson fans and their tourism dollars to Copiah County, about 100 miles from the Delta region that most bluesmen called home.

Johnson's life and music have been the subject of multiple books. And producers are shopping a script in Hollywood about him penned by Jimmy White, the screenwriter for the Academy Award-winning film, "Ray."

"It's amazing that after all these years, people still talk about Robert Johnson on the level that they do," said the bluesman's grandson, Steven Johnson.

Johnson's influence can be heard in the works of numerous artists, from Muddy Waters to Eric Clapton, who covered 14 of the bluesman's songs on his 2004 album, "Me and Mr. Johnson."

The house is an important piece of Johnson's legacy, said Grammy-winning pianist George Winston, who will headline a fundraiser for the restoration Monday at the Belhaven College Center for the Arts in Jackson.

"Everything with Robert is mysterious, but the more we can demystify, we can get down to the truth," said Winston. "He was an inspired musician. He took a quantum leap." The story goes that Johnson didn't play all that well at first, then left town for awhile. When he returned, his music had undergone a transformation.

"He came back and everybody couldn't believe how well he played," Winston said.

That's likely what gave rise to the soul-selling rumor, a transaction purportedly taking place at the crossroads of U.S. 61 and U.S. 49 in the Mississippi Delta.

Johnson's birthplace was verified in a letter from his half-sister years ago, said Janet Schriver, executive director of the Copiah County Office of Cultural Affairs.

The 1,500-square foot home now owned by the county has fallen into disrepair, but it still bears evidence of craftsmanship. Johnson's stepfather, Charles Dodds, was a furniture maker and a prosperous landowner. The house had a double-parlor, a long front porch and a pump that allowed water to flow into the kitchen, a modern convenience unheard in most homes occupied by blacks in the early 20th century, said Schriver.

Schriver said the county is trying to raise $250,000 for the restoration project, which coincides with efforts to get Johnson's life story to the screen.

White was commissioned by HBO about three years ago to write the script, but the production company's management changed and the project was scrapped, said Cathy Gurley, who handles publicity for the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation.

HBO confirmed Thursday a project had been in development, but subsequently producers were allowed to take it elsewhere.

Gurley said "we're currently shopping the project."

White, who is based in Santa Monica, Calif., said he was moved by the "sheer genius" of Johnson, who was self-taught on the guitar.

"He was so good that he would literally turn his back when they were recording him. He didn't want the other musicians to see his fingering technique," White said.

A restored Johnson birthplace would offer his latter-day fans something rare: a tangible relic linked to the long-dead musician. Few personal artifacts from Johnson's life remain. Only two photographs of Johnson are known to exist, one known as the "studio portrait" made for Johnson by Hooks Brothers Studios in Memphis, Tenn., and the other referred to as "the dime store portrait" or "the photo booth self portrait" taken by Johnson himself.

White spent months researching Johnson's life and interviewing other blues artists, including David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who knew Johnson. Little known in their prime, outside of the audience for "race music," the bluesmen created an enduring musical legacy.

"As a writer, it was exciting for me because nobody has been able to crack the code of how to tell the story of a blues singer from that era, especially the legendary one who sold his soul to the devil," White said.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lost Chaplin film discovered in $5 can bought on eBay

When Morace Park bought a can of nitrate film on eBay for $5, he was surprised to discover that it contained footage of Charlie Chaplin.

The inventor was utterly astounded when his friend John Dwyer, a former member of the British Board of Film Classification, told him that he had discovered rare footage of the performer, and possibly an unknown Chaplin work. Unlike many nitrate films, the contents of this 1916 can were still intact.

The unearthed film, called Charlie Chaplin in Zepped, features footage of Zeppelins flying over England during the First World War, as well as some very early stop-motion animation, and unknown outtakes of Chaplin films from three Essanay pictures including The Tramp. These have all been cut together into a six-minute movie that Mr Park describes as "in support of the British First World War effort". It begins with a logo from Keystone studios, which first signed Chaplin, and there follows a certification from the Egyptian censors dating the projection as being in December 1916. There are outtakes, longer shots and new angles from the films The Tramp, His New Profession and A Jitney Elopement.

The main, animated sequence of the film starts with Chaplin wishing that he could return to England from America and fight with the boys. He is taken on a flight through clouds before landing on a spire in England. The sequence also features a German sausage, from which pops the Kaiser. During the First World War there was some consternation that the actor did not join the war effort.

Mr Dwyer persuaded Mr Park, from Henham, Essex, that they should make a documentary about the discovery and their attempt to unearth the story behind the movie. The filmmakers enlisted the British director Hammad Khan – whose first feature Slakistan, about slackers living in Islamabad, is in post-production.

Mr Park and Mr Dwyer raised £120,000 from friends and family to finance the shooting. The project, currently known only as The Lost Film Project, follows the duo as they visit locations associated with Chaplin. Their journey began in Henham then they visited several locations in London frequented by Chaplin, as well as Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, the site of one of the big Zeppelin crashes.

In the past week the men have been in San Francisco, riding the world's largest Zeppelin over the city, and Niles, Fremont, home of Chaplin's Essanay studios. They are currently in Los Angeles, where they met and showed the footage to Ric Robertson, the executive administrator of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The filmmakers are staying at Montecito Inn, the hotel that Chaplin built for his friends to stay in. They have also been in contact with the Chaplin family.

The filmmakers organised a transfer of the nitrate film on to a DVD, which they have been using to show footage of the film to Chaplin experts.

Mr Park said that most of the questions being raised are about the astonishing animation sequence and whether Chaplin himself was involved in the creation of the film.

Film historian Simon Louvish, author of Chaplin: The Tramp's Odyssey, cast doubts on whether Chaplin would have been involved in its creation.

"There are a number of these compilation films around, and in Senegal there were a number of films that had been cut together by other people using Chaplin footage," said Mr Louvish. "Keystone Pictures was going bust at the time and footage from these Chaplin films was freely available.

"This is less so of the Essanay films. Chaplin by 1916 was signing multimillion-dollar contracts and was very aware of the copyright on his films.

"It would be no surprise though if someone in Egypt, which was under British occupation at the time, decided to use one of the world's most famous figures to support the war."


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

new blog, LectureAndLearn

Another new blog that features what I spend quite a bit of my time doing. I watch and listen to lectures online. This new blog is a way of achieving an archive and presenting those that i find. The interests are varied like the education I have prescribed for myself since escaping "higher education".

Friday, November 6, 2009

Soddoma: Cantos of Ulysses

Through the slave quarters and to the river below, cross sections of freshening earth…

1. Shaft scene

Syphilitic skeletons borne in blood menstrual pillars of Sodom coitus breath scars thorns milk interprets the scrotal consummating corpse labia drunk and made holy clitoridectomies penis sheaths paleolithic barriers scavenging decomposition narrow receiving bowl.
Bushmen read the koka shastra, wandering wombs dilate the reproductive cycle…

2. Venus in furs

Hedged yogic castration, umbilical suckling male hymen ejaculatory ducts the membranous urethra pastoralists, conjugated estriols feminized (double castration) dislect of deep incised consumption an infant’s sexual attributes cranial/uteral childbirth masturbation swallows.
Whaling asps three miles by four, heavens corpse spinal venerated. It’s flaccid genital beard, (it’s) (madness to be confined-Rimbaud)

3. Coffin birth

Menstruation (ovum) migration explicit breath sutras tenderness, thick wash rape (decay) copulation abortifacients peyote insufficient mitochdrial DNA homologue of the penis (masculine machinery) the debauchery of an open wound herded to the dead.

4. Flesh allows sins without the body

Departing drew squalor copula weightless heat sweating petals de-centered borne wallow plurality of unrecorded raindrops rhythms tastes screams branches nausea erections vomiting animal bearers agony clutter the pineal eye
A smell is monogamous; intimate doctrine of a menstrual matter.

5. The absurdity of rigor mortis

Blood bathed lips of a reptilian beings drag Basilidan stones spreading the dust from her ribcages to make another opening in her entrails (the presence of unnecessary practice – peremptory expulsion) the jaws of the clitoris are pried open by hideous animals (ecstasy excludes the worker) inundated with hair.
In a time if war the mountains…having nothing, baring all, we ate the dead.

6. When confronted with conflict the mind re-enters the body; you are going where the smell is coming from.

Vertebras exposed misshapen fingers beat abdomens earth flash rises an intersex scrotal sac (divided) of freshly labes burning shitting expiating hesitation dilacerated forehead emanating from the mouths of disemboweled children which have come to signify bread human bridges of decomposed odors draws the flesh in mummification raised shoulders head down ochre resin the surface of the bone circulation of infection mineralized deposits inorganic tapeworms the vertical diameter of the head the breadth of cremation grooves worn into the pubic bone spina bifida occulta proliferations of forensic anthropology ask when will rape be as pure as birth?
The species of half-sex neuropsychological orgasms of the anal gene, spliced chromosome not noticed in mutation.

7. Whether goest thou…

Ejaculating the blood spray of the lotus consummating the decomposition of the corpse the rapist’s paradox, the pelvic grasp easing milk from the prostrate hair menstruation vaginal dreaming; ingredients; the silphum bone of a Namibian woman hardened impulse that collapses to repulsion retracting the narrative to transparency, it’s surgical augmentation lit by phallic lamp-arching tusks hybrid of distinctive strains grave blood a pregnant mare incites a doctrinal aria of machinations, of language – anima/animus
What is heaven without the significance of blood? Man and his beliefs must be in excess!

8. Blood house

Malignant roots necrophilous traits excoriations of physiognomy the immune system is unresponsive to foreign tissue until electricity is accompanied by the fear of drowning monologues of EKG readouts cosmogony commotion carnis enzymes human secretions reliquiae cibi the collecting of hair fingernails urine feces dead skin pedagogical serum unclothed bodies are often confused as being undisturbed until you look under the skin, whores are usually the cleanest bodies pulled from the river hand to vein mouth to cunt phallocentrism

9. I believe, so I cannot

Indigent numerology purity humility behaviorists recrocity pails full downstream consensual pre-scientific confinement the occipital lobes sinsemilla weighing departure a season in hell unrelated ecstasies smeared lingams bone fragments cognitive distonic transmutation glass variants decomposed absentia burial
Bestiality; rhythms of the unborn – flesh of the flesh

10. Fresh water beds (subject to birth), thus to the profane…

Urinating kisses necessity in suffocating silence buttocks bruised in blood and sensuality passages through bodily death diatonic coils currents of starvation re-absorbed hymns of the Rig Veda a drenching of meat, shifting the collapse of a consenting body the deep percussion of fist against skin a Urethran Oresteia a swaying fragrance unasked unsaid an odor a pile of earth made holy
The throat is a brothel, it is illiterate, and it is innocence

11. As for my sins (for Allen Ginsberg)

I’m a predatory species, a certain despondency; bred for dying the mouth opens and it squares the circles the circle the nature of deceit there are limitations to death the real threat is my own mind the size of the water gasping breaths quiet immersions glimpsed eternal anal concealment surveillance in the pubic beard, NAMBLA subtlety woke out of breath, vying prophet speaking in tongues, as for my sins.
Psychagogues; studies of the body are linked to the undead. Are the undying really the unborn?

12. The rhythm of the prey managed through paths of bone; allows some conditions to breathe.

Massive confinement addresses the conscience a theater of atrocity texts sober recited states all science is God, God does not exist obsession dictates ritual excavation of past mastery healing seizures migraine delta malignant roots of necrophilous traits reliquiae cibi succubi incubi ascension reawaken the form of life.
The external world has nothing to tell, it’s not a disorder it’s an opening a growing together of undoing

13. Head instead of body, a stone burnt halo of worms

Sodomized with urine feces in the brow death twice beaten manuscripts scared onto the tongues of man hunted erotic half skull spinal ropes of pure masturbation ropes made from the pubic hair of Christ black fruit cruel mud the true origin of foreskin that human smell his mouth dripped laughed again smooth muscles discrepancies excremental ejaculation intestinal composites half-remembered incest balancing writhing a counter recording rectum scratching muffled gray urine decay encrusted doors lubrication pushing her mouth into the blindfold glass cavern eye socket condensation discretion
Briefly humid fingertips spreading delicacy, internal muscles

14. Skin recedes, flesh peels

Curious emergence the agonizing receptive position the crushing weight nectar stretched slightly her breath preserved on his belt abject slaves shoulders bent pushing her mouth into the blindfold are animals really ignorant of taboos overlying tissue anus curvature craniofacial identification hollow cast anatomical points rectal incisors alter cremation purified with wine practical uses of graves discontinuity of being the gulf of death mainsprings animalcula orgiacal eroticism plethora of the genital organs habitual reserve interred field notes hair fociles toxicology preservation of blood evidence the striking of vows
Veneral orgasms, a preconscious reductionist velocity

15. Any sign of being: sidereal bodies

Anumalous monism postulate retinal unconscious naturalizing hemorrhagic nerve endings recoiled bleeding escophaged lining malnutrition normal vomiting of early infancy fecal incontinence intravenous lines vascular dementia middle temporal lobe structures surgical ablation unilateral spatial neglect motoric immobility conjunctival injection brief psychotic disorder schizoc affective sexual dysfunction lubrication swelling response sensory bondage infantilism oxygen depriving bulimia nervosa postual tremors premenstrual dysphoric disorder agonist medication constricted thought insertion dysarthria predisposed abscess orgasmic disorders syphilis meat racks bathhouses ecology of anal intercourse
Anchoring the apocalypse (archaic records – sexual antiquity)

16. Sloth

Vaccination contaminated blood nasal census, transmutation counting of pubic hairs uteral lacerations erogenous mixtures phosphorescent congestion her thighs rubbed with blood ankles bound to the wrist face sprayed, pussy filleted ashes bridled death stroked by penetration unwinding of the ceiling guttural mirrors magnified blond raven rubs her ass in my face I sleep, I eat, I drink decomposed my cock like a thorn impales her blood gives way to cartilage to bone if I can’t kill you, I’ll breed you earth bent to the pplow an orchid drinks from the serpent black and reflectent cunnlingus, raw sleep the margin of flesh unqualified embalming fragments of pregnancy an imbalanced mixture pressurized contagious hemophilia a perceiving body of primitive speech purged of paternal soil multilingual dysentery intravenous transmidible agents quarantine exhortations posthumously hanged puncture contagious blood the fetus predates the abdominal wheel
Subordinations to nature, betrothed laboring breaths and the ferocity of silence

17. Semen dries, efficacy of prayer

Agrarian societies ritual androgyny irregularities of creation putrefying male consumption flailed unclean intimacy calculus of bodily secretions sodomite, hysterical growth cycle mountagnard rosary when hair gives way to flesh the vaginal chambers of my brain blesses the wine with my spent cock swallowing the poison sac practioners of dissonance with a voice that has no tongue desecrated by an abyss that limits to the last breath the properties of sound buggery at the Sabbath a mercenary of thought locked down burning a child ingesting its skull ataraxia a deviation of nature peering at death through anal protusions oral decay the power of the animal that kills and refuses to feed his young that eats his young is pure he drinks of the waters that pour from hell consumed of sickness half conscious of sudden pain thickening screams smell the distance trembling, undulating, backwash of castration unprecedented chaos a laughing hymn of exhaustion listening posts set in the abdomen certain bodies lecture esoteris doctrine disembodied corpses are weighed and transported these abstractions of matter are no longer Bodhisattvas their physical manifestation burned unto consumation the hunger is mine their eyes synonymously endowed, liquefied spititus mercurialis, mystagogues of humidum radicale albino sparrow a littoral species paths acted its natural contents the genitals of either sex the palmer reflex the mucosa of the lower lip the pedagogical domain solidarity of substances
Dreams dissected, impregnated the pulmonary chamber

18. Yahweh, covered with hair; the progenitor of the sweat-born child

Explanatory respiration contrary of undirected thought speech delivered breech abstention of male’s ejaculation visualized liquor the phalangeal circulation embroidery that leaps irreconcilable behavior that demands the bowels be bled postulated pain divorces sound its overlapping change that is analogous to birth is not comprised of pitch only that of the effort the reburial of milk proteins of prehistory is unearthed accidentally by psychagogues
When we bleed why do we not bleed urine? In an autopsy when the lungs are examined, why do they not find milk? When the feet are cut off, why doesn’t that sense of balance shift to the hands?

19. Light extends to the darkness

I loaded the skins the deep percussion of fist against skin I turned Shepard’s lumber great sacks of flesh the remaining bones piled in the monastery candles deep in the petrified ice stones opening to excrement, excrement to ash the ash I will ingest entering into Laos I can sense the flames…why am I still alive
Never forget it was the Garden of Eden that grew the apple. I tmay not have delivered the apple into her hands but it did hide the seed.

20. Winter in Laos

In my brain washing decapitated head ash and bruising hair once as minutes bone vein thorn hungry finger skin Shiva’s steps inhalation drawing mud cap shorn washing cock in honey a buried library of semen swallowing circling contortions a grave of hair black raised veins open to the teeth inscribed hibernation burnt dried oils of cock zero syntactical pubic forms of closing hands swallowing dilation mouth husks elongated unnatural defecation smearing hymns buttocks skull testicle anorexia stomach fucked for blood murals loosened and bound masturbation cellar lingam jaw finger rose spade scales baskets of loin pelvis scythe Mahatma Buddha Jesus fuck floor urine mother father birth renunciation hallucination gravel thigh walls mattress ammonia vomiting constriction perfumed sedition gesture of cracked stain a confusing of shoulders the hairs on convulsion inwitted mulatto absorption hurling spinal fellatio a parasitic interracial hemorrhage the belly’d quill malarial excrement yaqui hookah mescalito mantis subcutaneous sarcophagous shuddering acceleration urinating in the Ganges firstborn ashes inches of stomach foreskin of the nostril a riverbed caked in burlap ovens of boiled rust the coils of mongoloid cannabis rose burst cremated hair calcified muscle matter roughened bone muscular appendage saliva placenta
Piercing pains in the hands, coldness in the mouth, the mind is in too much pain to go on.

21. Awareness of broken skin and the swarming of decay

The death it was concentrated in the mouth vacuity sweating from an obscure orifice the corpse knows only one thing ugliness is not dying decomposition a miserable excess the soul of a dying animal bred with the feces of the dead produces a cycle of transformation its potency applicable to the husbandry of the kundalini my soul encased in your breath of my words
Exonerating mouth cathedrals

22. Hands asleep crawl the eyes

What we need is a knowing thoughtful ecstasy of death an unquenchable sanatoria, a precious and thundering somoditical crematorium, a depth of skin these abdominal excretions show a prophetic willingness of nature turn their skin aware, nothing
A glassening inhalation

23. Mud smoke; aumgn

Her legs open to a faint heartbeat dying of thirst with straps across your feet; when hair gives way to flesh filth is migratory the precipitated nostril
Blood fear

24. Aboriginal fear

The sefrirotic tree a dying winged flood replicas of swarming crouching bird-like plunging nudes into flames darkness unsculptiral monotonous terrain ravings in grotesquely brutal sequence anthropomorphic resurrection mirror-eyed ecstasy summoned aboriginal monoliths swung from genitalia blown from blood hearts of erections augmentations of shitspeak
10050 Cielo Drive, I feel dead now

25. Four-sided blade

A chest ripe with intestines opens like the Sarawak chamber sore eyes that inhale appear like blackened buckets the light opening into darkness the smells narrowed the abscessed layers of skin has relieved the shoals to collapse this once inaccessible grotto now becomes open and dry
Black and semen drenched, two bodies seem to have been grabbed by wire, ever tasted blood? Sexuality the domain discipline the blown hair of a wound
Exaltation of the mother’s milk, umbilical impropriety
30. Sunken cheeks, infatuated with the body
The rain room is filled with possessions the dumpster is abridged stream hinged on a drowned distance of blood a hardened pederastic vision shifting up through the nakedness exclusive to the rigour wiped from the lips
A taste oriented ejaculation
31. Convulsions (inaudibility)
Hurling spurts of thick blood molested lying cold in soap morning like a hymn warming like cock sweat agitated by flesh hallucinations feed the entrails removing the lesions and then swallowing them the dying dead motion with their tongues for water
29 metallic bodies inserted into pubic areas, gender is an illusion
32. Horn cloth
Anointed with oil burned flesh ripped pregnant and retching diarrhea washing back into her face she was eventually exhumed most of her body little more than a greasy smudge police investigators found a severed head of an adult male in the womb others were extensively mutilated and left in repose

- Chris Mansel