Berlin, circa 1921: The painter Hans Richter turns his talents to film and produces one of the earliest abstract films, Rhythmus 21. Clocking in at just over three minutes, it's a significant departure from the newsreels, romances, cliff-hangers, and penny-dreadfuls that made up the bulk of film production in the early ’20s—the first decade in which the film industry began to play a major economic and cultural role around the world. [more inside]
It started two months ago to the day, when a stuttering/strobing video of angry man obscenely rapping over a spasmodic drumbeat was posted on YouTube from an unknown group who called themselves Death Grips, with the promise of an album and a mixtape within the year. The next day, a new track went up, not furious like the day before, but the rapper sounded a bit hoarse now. More tracks were uploaded every few days, and on April 26th the mixtape was on YouTube, soundcloud, and available to download from their website and other places. Still, little is known about the group, beyond that it's probably a trio and Zach Hill is involved. [more inside]
Daughter of Horror (original title: Dementia) was a 1955 avant garde film featuring a noir style, a surrealist sensibility, and virtually no dialogue. A later version of the film even included an over-the-top voice over by none other than Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, but like Blade Runner the flick is better off without the narration. Daughter of Horror is probably most famous for being the film playing in the theater overrun by The Blob. And with a few more surrealistic elements and peculiar dialogue added, this could have been done by David Lynch in a later decade. The film, recently featured on Turner Classic Movies, is available for free on archive.org.
Since the late '70s, Gordon Monahan has been making a career of extracting the unheard from pretty much anything he can get his hands on. Monahan's works for piano, loudspeakers, video, kinetic sculpture, and computer-controlled sound environments span various genres from avant-garde concert music to multi-media installation and sound art. Such pieces include long string installations activated by wind (Long Aeolian Piano, 1984-88), by water vortices (Aquaeolian Whirlpool, 1990) and by indoor air draughts (Spontaneously Harmonious in Certain Kinds of Weather, 1996). His work for electronic tone generators and human speaker swingers (Speaker Swinging, 1982), is a hybrid of science, music, and performance art, where minimalistic trance music based on the Doppler Effect contrasts with issues central to performance art such as physical struggle and 'implied threat'. John Cage once said, "At the piano, Gordon Monahan produces sounds we haven't heard before." [more inside]
On January 5th, 2011 largely unknown modern composer, and pioneer of long format compositions on early computer systems Roland Kayn "... left this world today from his home". [more inside]
Why I Hate the Avant-Garde or, Why Laurie Anderson is less Avant-Garde than DJ Kool Herc. A rant with videos. Via The Front Section.
"I soon learned that if I was asked to play something over again, it meant that they didn't understand it, not that they liked it."
"But this wasn't quite enough and so then I got the idea of having all thirteen of the lowest tones of the piano played together... In other words, I was inventing a new musical sound later to be called 'tone clusters'... Anyway, this was my professional debut as a composer." Henry Cowell's musical autobiography. Cowell was one of the most important figures in 20th-century American music, described by John Cage as "the open sesame for new music in America." In this hour-long program recorded four years before his death in 1965, compositions from every stage in Cowell's career are contextualized and discussed by the man himself.
In those years I imitated him, to the point of transcription, to the point of devoted and impassioned plagiarism. I felt: Macedonio is metaphysics, is literature. Whoever preceded him might shine in history, but they were all rough drafts of Macedonio, imperfect previous versions. To not imitate this canon would have represented incredible negligence.From Jorge Luis Borges' eulogy for Macedonio Fernández. Borges' relationship with Macedonio was complicated, as recounted in The Man Who Invented Borges, a fine essay by Marcelo Ballvé. Macedonio's most famous work, the posthumous-by-design work (he believed literature should be aged like good whiskey) The Museum of Eterna's Novel has finally been translated and published in English translation, here is an excerpt from the novel (one of the ninety or so prologues). The introduction to the novel, written by its translator Margaret Schwartz, has been put online by the publisher (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Schwartz also sat down for a short interview. You can download an mp3 of a great hour-long panel discussion on Macedonio and a master's thesis on Macedonio by Peter Loggie [pdf]
Fred Anderson was a monster on the tenor sax. Fred Anderson was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and his "home court," the Velvet Lounge, remains a place for Chicago creative musicians to find welcoming audience. Fred died June 24 in Chicago. A wake will take place from 5 to 6 PM this Tuesday (June 29) at Leak and Sons Funeral Chapel, 7838 S. Cottage Grove, followed immediately by Anderson’s Going Home service. [more inside]
David Markson has died. David Foster Wallace called his Wittgenstein's Mistress "pretty much the high point of experimental fiction in this country"; but Markson also wrote, earlier in his career, an oddball Western, hardboiled detective fiction (Here is a tribute constructed entirely from text from Epitaph for a Dead Beat), and some uncommonly lusty stuff for a dedicated experimentalist. [more inside]
"The written word hasn't kept up with the age. The movies have outmanoeuvered it. We have the talkies, but as yet no Readies." So wrote Rob Brown in 1930 in his book The Readies. Putting his money where his mouth was, he made a prototype readie, which has since been lost. Brown's story is recounted by Jennifer Schuessler in The New York Times. Brown expert Craig Saper has created a replica Readie online, which includes amongst others texts by Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, F. T. Marinetti as well as translations from Horace by Ezra Pound. [Some of the texts shock modern sensibilities]
A favorite of John Cage and Gyorgy Ligeti, the latter describing his music as "so utterly original, enjoyable, perfectly constructed but at the same time emotional...the best of any composer living today," Conlon Nancarrow's musical ideas were nevertheless too complex and technically demanding for human performers, and his political ideas too radical and leftist for McCarthy-era America. Expatriated to Mexico, the Texarkana-born avant-gardeist lived most of his life in isolation, in a cluttered, dusty studio surrounded by records, piles of books, empty Vodka bottles, newspapers, cigarette cartons, and the tools of his trade: 2 old player pianos and a custom-built piano roll press. [more inside]
Tango With Cows is an exhibition by the Getty Museum of the book art of the Russian avant-garde from 1910 to 1917, which included a performance of sound poetry, all captured on video, both of Futurist poems, other historical sound poems, and contemporary works. Among performers are Christian Bök and Steve McCaffery. The exhibition takes its name from the book of ferro-concrete poems, one of 21 books can be downloaded as PDFs, most are by Alexei Kruchenykh but there are also works by Roman Jakobson, Vladimir Mayakovsky, David Burliuk, Andrei Kravtsov, Vasily Kamensky and Velimir Khlebnikov. These were all Futurists. [more inside]
Processing the Signal == Part 1 - Bill Viola// Part 2 - Nam June Paik// Part 3 - The Medium// Part 4 - Technology// Part 5 - Audience// [more inside]
Never Again is a novel in which no word occurs more than once. Published in Ubuweb's contemporary collection. [more inside]
Primiti Too Taa is an animated excerpt from Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate. You can see the whole text, and hear the whole thing as voiced by Schwitters or many others, including a text-to-speech program and the author of Eunoia. [more inside]
Seattle-based German artist Trimpin makes sculptural musical instruments. He was profiled in a mini-documentary by Washington public TV station KBTC a couple of years ago. Here are videos of some other works of art he's created, Fire Organ, Liquid Percussion, Cello, Sensors and Record Players, Contraption at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, MIDI-controlled Player Piano and Sheng High. Kyle Gann wrote an essay by that placed Trimpin in the tradition of John Cage, Harry Partch and other avant-garde American musical inventors. The audio of a nearly hour and a half long 1990 interview with Trimpin by Charles Amirkhanian can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Another, more light-hearted interview in connection to his show at this year's SXSW, where a documentary about him premiered (trailer).
Elliot Carter, American Composer, turns 100 Born in 1908, Carter's life is a virtual biography of twentieth century music. He attended the US premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Perhaps a slow developer, Carter didn't write his first opera until he was over the age of 90. He turns 100 tomorrow, December 11th. [more inside]
Cinemnesis, filmmaker Martin Arnold's 41 minute compilation of the films of his "compulsive repetition" trilogy, is available to you online. The quality is lacking, small details are missed, but I thought you'd enjoy these nonetheless. Time codes for the three pieces and more inside. [more inside]
i made this. you play this. we are enemies - A new game by Jason Nelson (previously). Featuring Metafilter's own, uh, everything!
Connecticut's Have a Nice Life is responsible for one of the year's most acclaimed, highly conceptual albums this year, Deathconsciousness. The two discs (entitled The Plow That Broke The Plains and The Future, respectively) feature music spanning over five years of collaboration between the two artists, and are accompanied by a 75-page booklet on medieval Italian heretics in lieu of liner notes. Combining elements of shoegaze, new wave, ambient drone, post-rock, experimental industrial, avant-garde dark metal, and electronic music, and citing references such as My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division to their credit, the original and only pressings sold out within hours. Full stream of all 85 minutes available here. Direct mp3 samples here and here. [more inside]
About twenty years ago, HBO aired The Mondo Beyondo Show, a sort-of send-up of avant-garde performance shows like Alive From Off Center and Night Flight. Hosted by Bette Midler (as the character Mondo Beyondo), it showcased artists that covered the broad spectrum between performance art, dance, and absurdist comedy. Strap on your Eighties Goggles; here's the meat of the show: Bill Irwin | La La La Human Steps | The Kipper Kids | Yes/No People | Paul Zaloom | David Cale | and the Divine Miss M as Eudora P. Quickly [more inside]
Bebe Barron, 82, Pioneer of Electronic Scores, Is Dead. Best known for the soundtrack to the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet -- the first full-length feature to use only electronic music -- she and her husband Louis Barron recorded the film's pre-synthesizer "electronic tonalities" with electronic circuits of their own invention. She never scored another feature film, but remained active in the avant-garde music scene.
Robert Wyatt is not dead. In fact, he recently released a new album titled Comicopera. [more inside]
Vispo is a site dedicated to visual poetry, both static and animated, run by Jim Andrews (though there's also a sound section). Among my favorites are bpNichol's First Screening (made in Hypercard), poem game Arteroids, the works of Ana Maria Uribe, Oppen Do Down (warning: audio starts immediately), Enigma M, strings and a selection of typographic works by Clemente Padin
20th Century Avant-Garde is a great resource guide to experimental art from 1900 onwards. Special sections for dada, the situationists and fluxus. You can also browse by categories such as artists, film and video art, movements in art, publishers and many more. If you're interested in experimental art of the 20th Century you can get lost in this site for hours.
Eclipse is a free on-line archive focusing on digital facsimiles of the most radical small-press writing from the last quarter century. [more inside]
Freaky Flicks is a p2p community with a radical mascot that collects arthouse and cult cinema.
Browse the selection on The Pirate Bay or look at their list of Red Letter Directors.
The FF Forum is pretty good for recommendations and links to non-p2p and legal online video.
Browse the selection on The Pirate Bay or look at their list of Red Letter Directors.
The FF Forum is pretty good for recommendations and links to non-p2p and legal online video.
The Avant Garde Project is a bunch of experimental outofprint music digitized from LPs. Free. Available in Flac and 192 kbps MP3. Start off at the Archive.
Owen Hatherley, has three blogs where he expounds on culture and architecture from an English Leftist perspective, sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy, The Measures Taken (which has longer essays than the previous blog) and the group film blog kino fist. To give you an idea of the range of subjects he covers, here's a sampling of his blogposts: Towards a Communist Couture? Sartorial Socialism from Huey P Newton to Honecker, Zuckendes Fleischer (on pre-WWII American cartoons), Industrial Island Machine - Vorticism and the absence of an English Avant-Garde, Hurrah for the Black Box Recorder (on songwriter Luke Haines and The Daily Mail), The Children’s Book as a Revolutionary Object (with a bunch of pictures from Soviet avant-garde children's books), Architectural Drawings of the 1960s, Art is a branch of Mathematics (Taylorism and Russian SF classic We), Brechtian Productivism in an age of Mechanical Stagnation and Notes towards an attempted refutation of the 'Associational Fallacy' (on architecture). All of the blogs are heavily adorned with pretty pictures, some not safe for work. [more inside]
Asemic is a magazine of asemic writing, which is writing without semantic content. The editor is Australian Tim Gaze, who's made the asemic books Aussie Runes and The Oxygen of Truth, volumes 1 and 2. "Only words lie; asemic texts cannot lie." [more inside]
Living in the Mall is an art project by Providence artist Michael J. Townsend that has come to an abrubt end. "Eight artists snuck into the depths of Providence Place mall and built a secret studio apartment in which they stayed, on and off, for nearly four years until mall security finally caught their leader last week." Townsend's wife, Adriana Yoto, also documented the project at her website.
The 9 soap commercials Ingmar Bergman made are a little known part of his oeuvre. Slate's Dana Stevens explains how they came about.
Sean Bonney's translations of Baudelaire are unconventional. Instead of following the form of the French originals they are semi-concrete typewriter poetry. In a review of the book, everyone's cup of tea, onedit magazine says that they are "certainly the best translations of Baudelaire in English ever written." Which might explain why they published 35 of them in their latest issue. You can listen to Bonney read his translations here [mp3]
Introduced to Western culture by the Beatles in their single Norwegian Wood, the sitar has featured prominently in North Indian classical music for centuries. Princeton-based computer scientist Ajay Kapur updates the instrument with his ESitar, an audio and video controller that uses gesture input (PDF) and machine learning algorithms to facilitate joining the computer with Ajay in his sitar performance. Undergraduate engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania work from the other direction, building RAVI-bot, an award-winning, self-playing robotic sitar (YouTube) programmed to generate music from classical Raga scales and melodies all on its own. For those in the Philadelphia area, be sure to check out a live performance of RAVI-bot at the local Klein Art Gallery.
Tonic closes. At the end of a farewell performance, Marc Ribot and Rebecca Moore refused to leave the stage. They were arrested for trespassing, and hope to bring attention to New York's dwindling number of performance spaces for independent music. Previous discussions.
"These are my friends. I love their music. They are among the most important people in my life. The portrait is shattered because I could not make it whole." If you're bored this weekend, check out Robert Ashley's Music with Roots in the Aether. Each episode features a "landscape" (unusually-staged informal discussion) with a contemporary American composer, followed by a one-hour performance of his or her work. Subjects include the recently discussed Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros, and Philip Glass. More on Ashley from NewMusicBox and Ubu.
A short history of Richard Foreman's Ontological-Hysteric Theatre. // "[Richard Foreman's] 'Strong Medicine' (Quicktime) is the kind of mad, risky venture one hesitates to interrupt." // A recent interview with Richard Foreman. (Youtube) // "This website contains hundreds of pages of unedited text which Richard Foreman is making available freely for use by theatrical authors/directors from which to create plays of their own." (Richard Foreman Previously)
What are The Residents up to these days? The avant garde band (if you can legitimately call them avant garde or a band) made an odd choice with their last/ongoing release, The River of Crime. If you like physical objects, you can purchase a package with cover art, a blank cd-r and codes to a website where you can download them; if you don't, you can purchase the episodes, which are styled after old radio noirs, as podcasts or as a double album through itunes. Concurrently, they have been putting out a series of short films via youtube. The Timmy series, based on a character created for the 1995 cd-ROM "A Day at The Midway", uses a mix of found footage, animation, music and voiceover to tell a series of short unrelated stories. As much as the band has done to keep up with technology over the last thirty-five years, they vehemently ">oppose file sharing of their work, including the sharing of mp3s that they have put out for free on their own website. With that in mind, I wonder how the band feels about the amazing collection of concerts, videos, interviews and assorted other weirdness you get when you type their name into YouTube. [more inside]
UbuWeb has converted all of its rare and out-of-print film & video holdings to on-demand streaming formats. via WFMU.
Starting January 1st, the so-called 'Godfather' of avant-garde cinema, Jonas Mekas will podcast one short film per day, for a full year. If you can't wait till January here are 2 of Mekas's films to tide you over: Zefiro Torna and Hare Krishna. Or see the 40 short films being shown at a gallery in New York. [Via this NPR report, which, if you're already familiar with Mekas and his work, is likely the most interesting link here.]
D. F. Lewis: Weirdmonger. "Lewis is either a genius graced with madness, a madman cursed with genius, both, or neither ... But there is more to Lewis than that. Believe you me, my pretties. Oh yes, much more. Because every so often you catch sight of something stirring beneath the frosted surfaces of his dreamy prose, something brilliant yet dark and brooding, something revelatory, something true, something that were you to see it all in a single glance would burn you to a cinder; but you still want to see; it speaks to you. In sibilant whispers. It tells you something you've been waiting to hear."—SAMHAIN review of BEST OF DF LEWIS. "I have a paranoid sensation that I'm always being followed by DF Lewis ... he's always there to torment me ... I can't get away from him even if I switch genres... Is he for real or did somebody invent him purely to annoy me?"—Problem page of OVERSPACE #13. "Then I turned over the page and AAARGH! DF f**king Lewis again!"—from THE SCANNER #11. "DF Lewis? When he's bad, he's awful, but when he's good there's no-one can touch him."—Rhys Hughes.
Meditations on: the poetic and profane; on silence; death; catastrophe; Cage — and yet more strangeness and beauty from David Ralph Lichtensteiger's travels within the world of 20th C. avant garde music and postmodernism.
"I am sitting in a room (mp3), different from the one you are in now." is the opening phrase from Alvin Lucier's (Wikipedia) best known work, simply titled 'I am sitting in a room'. The piece involves playing a recording of a short speech back into the room and re-recording the result. This is done again and again, with the resonant frequencies of the room reinforced each time, until all that is left are the characteristics and resonances of the room. (Interview and documentary also available at ubu.com