Voices from Naropa
June 22, 2004 12:05 AM   Subscribe

The Internet Archive just got beat. William Burroughs on wishing. Mystical audio by Harry Smith. Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) on "jism and jazz". Ginsberg reads "Howl." The most historically significant archive of Beat and post-Beat recordings is now free for the downloading. Lossless or lo-fi, saved or streamed -- the tape vault of Naropa Institute is unlocked on archive.org as the Creative Commons grows.
posted by digaman (25 comments total)
I was just at the archive yesterday marvelling at all the educational films online when I could have been really enjoying some of this stuff. I was hanging out in the Prelinger collection, where they did have this somewhat related piece.

Some good links today. How lovely :)
posted by bdave at 12:47 AM on June 22, 2004

God Bless the Internet,and you too digaman for pointing this out to me. Only a pity there is no Jack, who I think the cream.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:02 AM on June 22, 2004

Thanks digaman.
posted by seanyboy at 1:21 AM on June 22, 2004

hearing Ginsberg read his poetry ignites revelation
posted by Satapher at 1:55 AM on June 22, 2004

Very cool. Thanks, digaman.
posted by homunculus at 2:08 AM on June 22, 2004

[this is excellent]

I have much of this audio material on my hard drive already, but the fact that it's forever out there now -- which means I'll never lose it again -- is fantastic. And alternate versions are always fun to explore. Thanks for the link!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:55 AM on June 22, 2004

There would be no Jack, of course, as Jack died before Naropa was even a drip in Trungpa's pants.
posted by sudama at 3:26 AM on June 22, 2004

Great post! I love, love, love Ginsberg reading Howl. The only version I've heard is what he did with Kronos Quartet (a CD I like quite a lot). I'm downloading the aforementioned mp3 now, though.

Damn , I love that poem. And Ginsberg's reading of it is a revelation.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:23 AM on June 22, 2004

Nothing is better than beat from the Beats themselves. I've been fixated since college. And back then, it cost me a pretty penny. I invested in boxed sets like Howls, Raps & Roars, Rhino's The Beat Generation and The Jack Kerouac Collection. While others were blaring Widespread Panic and The Dead, I was letting some of the dharma seep out into the hallway, infecting imaginations where it could.

What a great find, Digaman. Thank you.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:24 AM on June 22, 2004

hearing Ginsberg read his poetry ignites revelation

I had the pleasure (honor?) of hearing Ginsberg read aloud twice, once in a huge theatre with hundreds of people and a live band that played behind him while he read. The other time (the first time) was in a tiny classroom, with only a dozen or so people present. I was quite literally sitting at his feet as he read, a heady experience for an eighteen year old from the depths of rural Maine.

What the audio recording invokes very strongly for me is the motion of his body as he read. He sat in a straight-backed chair with his knees and ankles pressed tightly together and rocked sharply to and fro in time to an internal rhythm -- a rhythm that was different, I might add, from the beat I heard in my own head when I read the poems, although now, having seen him read, his reading rhythm is the only rhythm I can now experience in his work -- even in poems I did not hear him read.
posted by anastasiav at 6:44 AM on June 22, 2004

Thanks, digaman! Nice find.
posted by shoepal at 6:52 AM on June 22, 2004

Great link. Thanks for this, it'll fit in nicely between Ginsberg doing 'America' with Tom Waits and Burroughs doing 'Quick Fix' with Ministry.
posted by snarfodox at 6:57 AM on June 22, 2004

This rules me.
posted by keef at 7:03 AM on June 22, 2004

Glad you're enjoying the post, guys. What made finding this site particularly amazing for me was that I was present in the classroom for several of these lectures, first as a student in 1977, and then as Ginsberg's teaching assistant in 1987, and I have always regretted not taping them myself. These classes had a huge impact on how I see the world, how I read, my writing, and so on.

> The only version I've heard is what he did with Kronos Quartet (a CD I like quite a lot).

Shortly before that Kronos recording of "Howl" was made, I saw Allen and the group rehearse the poem and the score in a friend's livingroom on Russian Hill here in San Francisco. Afterward, I walked Allen down to North Beach, where he gave me a guided tour through his memories of various bars, streetcorners, and apartments, "See that window? I used to make love with Neal Cassady up there..."

On another occasion in North Beach, I sat with Allen, Neal Cassady's son John-Allen Cassady, his girlfriend, Neal's old girlfriend in the Merry Pranksters Anne Murphy, and Al and Helen Hinckle, who were called Ed and Galatea Dunkel on Kerouac's On the Road, as they reminisced about Jack and Neal. The Hinckles were a beautiful, hilarious, goodhearted couple -- the genuine article, cowboy Anarchists (I mean real cowboys with real cows, they were ranchers). Another night I wished I had a Universal Mind Recorder.
posted by digaman at 7:09 AM on June 22, 2004


That is so cool.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:11 AM on June 22, 2004

Beautiful, Anastasiav.

having seen him read, his reading rhythm is the only rhythm I can now experience in his work -- even in poems I did not hear him read.

Very true for me too.
posted by digaman at 7:13 AM on June 22, 2004

I was present in the classroom for several of these lectures, first as a student in 1977


Do you have any thoughts on Sam Kashner's book? Is it a reasonably accurate portrayal, based on your experience at Naropa?

While I'm pestering you, do you have any insights into Burroughs? Kashner's book made his courses sound utterly absurd. What did you take away from them?
posted by sudama at 7:33 AM on June 22, 2004

I haven't read Kashner's book yet, though I definitely want to. I've heard some people say that he played a little fast and loose with the facts -- putting remarks in people's mouths that they wouldn't have made -- but I'm excited to read it, and the excerpts I've read so far ring true.

I took one course with Burroughs, on screenplay writing, about which he knew very little, but who cared. And I hung out with him quite a bit that first summer in 1977, and saw him many times thereafter. Contrary to what one might expect, Burroughs was a very sweet, friendly, polite guy -- a shy and droll old queen really, very endearing and understated, who loved to smoke joints, and sucked in his cheeks as he would launch into some dry riff that would make you remember who was speaking, "So you have this 500-pound lesbian with a poodle in her lap..."

In truth, I don't remember much of what I learned from Burroughs' class, but it was a long time ago. Allen's classes, however, taught me so much I wouldn't know where to start -- what qualities to look for in writing, how to be brave enough to tell the truth, how to appreciate the fact that you and I are going to die, the necessity of being clear-headed and imaginative at the same time, the virtues of Buddhist practice, the joys of loves for which society has no names...

These guys were like my cranky, brilliant, horny, goofy, wise, egotistical, hip old father-figures. As Kashner probably says better. I miss them all. Hearing Allen's voice again on archive.org is wonderful.

If you're interested in the academic part of what Naropa was like for the students, satapher recently posted a link to site of mine called Ginsberg's Celestial Homework. Enjoy.
posted by digaman at 8:12 AM on June 22, 2004

Verily, I love that site. Thanks for creating and sharing.
posted by sudama at 8:28 AM on June 22, 2004

A memory from Gregory Corso's class in '77:

Gregory comes into the room as asks if anyone has a joint. One is produced. He lights it and takes a long, slow toke, exhaling thoughtfully.

"What are fish?" he asks, and then answers his own question. "ANIMALIZED WATER!"

We spend the next hour analyzing the song of Gilgamesh in passionate and learned detail.

Good class.
posted by digaman at 8:57 AM on June 22, 2004

(thanks, Adam!)
posted by digaman at 9:01 AM on June 22, 2004

One of my favourite things in the world is listening to Burroughs talk. Thank you.
posted by Blue Stone at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2004

Blue Stone: If you haven't already, you should check out some of Burroughs' work with Industrial Records.
posted by Jairus at 1:57 AM on June 23, 2004

And if you don't already own this box set, you should.
posted by Dean King at 7:24 AM on June 23, 2004 [1 favorite]

Digaman, when exactly where you at Naropa? A favorite "tutor" (read: professor) of mine at St. John's College taught at Naropa in, I believe, the late eighties very early nineties before coming to SJC in 1991. Charles Fasanaro? Naropa is a very cool.

I recall Mr. Fasanaro mentioning this in the context of a conversation we had about freshman year at SJC, which is a pressure cooker and tends to weed out students unfit for the rigor of the program, not unlike med or law schools do. He mentioned to me that while he understood the rationale, this harsh pedagogy was a bit of a shock for him coming from Naropa.

(It may surprise you that someone would go from Naropa to SJC, a western canon school; but the Santa Fe campus of SJC has quite a few scholars expert in Eastern subjects, and that is why the Santa Fe campus now offers an "Eastern Studies" MA with the pedagogy modeled on the regular Program.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:04 AM on June 24, 2004

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