November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Category — Music

Gene Lowinger / Photographer

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Street scene in New York City

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The World As I See It

on the streets of New York City

with Chuck Haupt, Photography/Layout Editor 

Gene Lowinger’s career began as a musician, transitioned to author, and then photographer whose work captures the faces of NYC, out on the streets….

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Q: You had quite a career as a musician, fiddling with Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. How did you develop your passion for photography?

A: In the 1980s I began to SCUBA dive and loved the underwater colors and shapes, so I bought a Nikonos V camera and strobe. The Nikonos 35mm lens was also good for land photography, so I photographed the exotic locations to which I traveled to do my diving. After developing a bad case of pneumonia with residual lung problems, I had to discontinue my diving. But I’d already been bitten by the photography bug. I took a few courses at the New School in NYC, including b/w darkroom. I had some inspiring teachers.

Q: How did you happen to concentrate on being a documentary street shooter over other styles of photography?

A: My darkroom teacher, Mario Cabrera, was a stringer for Associated Press and he talked a lot to me about photojournalism. His teacher, Ben Fernandez, who was the head of the photo department at New School, was a documentary photographer. Between the two of them they got me interested in documenting life and times. I did other types of photography also − landscape, nature, macro, etc., but it was documentary/photojournalism that really gave me goosebumps.

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Gene Lowinger / Streets Scenes from the streets of NYC

very cold day in New York

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Houston Street

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West 14th Street

All photos © Gene Lowinger. Used with permission.

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Q: The tone of your black & white photographs is very rich. Why do you like it over color?

A: I originally shot color slide film – especially Kodachrome. But I really enjoyed the darkroom process of b/w (except for developing the film itself, which I really hated). Making the manipulations and seeing the prints come alive in the developer was very exciting. I try to create images that tell a story. When someone looks at my image I want them to see the story, not the pretty colors of the clothes or the scenery. With b/w I have much more control over how the viewer’s eye moves through the image. And I like the abstraction of using just tones of gray, black, and white for my work. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate others who work in color. B/W is just the way I see when I shoot.

Q: How do you decide who to photograph while on the street? Ever get confronted by a person after you photograph them? If so, how do you handle it?

A: I don’t think about it. When I’m out walking around I let my intuition take over. All the thinking is done beforehand. I have in the back of my mind the kinds of situations and/or subjects I want to shoot. I look for people with interesting expressions or interesting  juxtapositions with their environment. I try to catch interactions between two people. I’m usually pretty close to my subjects and I use wide to ultra-wide lenses – 35mm equivalents of 15mm, 21mm, 24mm, and 35mm. Rarely longer than that unless I’m doing a portrait or a performance. I’ve been confronted, but not often since I’m very unobtrusive (sneaky). When a person becomes confrontational I just keep walking. If they follow me I go into a store and they never follow. Sometimes when people have asked why I’m taking photos, I tell them I’m working for the FBI or NSA. That gets a chuckle and breaks the ice, then I can have a pleasant conversation with them. I give them my card which has my website and blogsite on it.

Q: What cameras do you shoot with? How do they help with your style of photography?

A: At first I used a Nikon D700. But when Fuji came out with the X-Pro1 I jumped on it. I love the optical viewfinder. The size of the camera and lenses make it easy to carry around for long street walks and they don’t draw attention like the big ‘howitzer’ Canons (get it?) and Nikons. I also like the Fuji X-T1 very much. It’s smaller than the X-Pro1, but doesn’t have the optical viewfinder. The amazing quality of the EVF makes up for that. And I especially like that everything I need to change or control on the fly is available to me on the top of the camera with analog dials. I can see in an instant how the camera is set and make changes if I need to. No menus to scroll through. I shoot with zooms and prime lenses, depending on my mood and the particular situation. The Fuji 10-24mm zoom is a wonderful lens that allows for great flexibility on the crowded streets of NYC. But it’s a relatively large lens, so sometimes I take my 14, 23, and 35mm lenses with me. But I don’t obsess about equipment.  Learning to work with what I have to get what I want is more important.

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Gene Lowinger / The Jewish Diaspora, NYC

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Crown Heights

House of Sages on East Broadway.

All photos © Gene Lowinger. Used with permission.

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Q: You spend a lot of time on the Lower East Side documenting the Jewish neighborhood. What do you hope to become of this project?

A: I began that project over 20 years ago as a self-exploration. I’ve expanded the scope of the project now to cover areas of Brooklyn, upstate New York, and New Jersey. I’ve had several shows of the work as it developed, and eventually I will try to get a book put together.

Q: Which photographers have and still do inspire you?

A: The two at the top of my list are W. Eugene Smith and Garry Winogrand. I’ve been looking at their work for many years and every time I revisit them I see something new. It’s like playing a great piece of music by Bach. I’ve studied his solo works for violin for over 50 years and every time I practice one of the pieces I see and hear new things in it. Beyond those two photographers, I really like Robert Frank, Walker Evans, all the FSA photographers, the New York Photo League. More modern photographers such as Tim Hetherington, Joao Silva and Greg Marinovich of the Bang Bang club.

Q: What more can we expect to see from your photography in the future?

A: The Lower East Side project has a ways to go yet. It’s expanded into much more than I originally thought, so there’s quite a bit of work to do with it. I hope to start traveling, especially to Israel, next year. It’s an oasis of development and growth in a part of the world that always seems to be falling apart and in conflict. I’ll probably always stay with b/w, but maybe experiment a bit with color.

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See more from Gene Lowinger at: 

www.genelowinger.com and genelowinger.blogspot.com

About the interviewer: 

Chuck Haupt is Photography/Layout Editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us.

This interview was conducted via email in October 2014. 

November 6, 2014   Comments Off on Gene Lowinger / Photographer

Retro Video Club, Hamburg

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Retro Video Club Collection

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Retro Video Club

by Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor

Today Youtube is filled with video sessions of high definition digital pristine perfection. They are beautiful documents of culture, featuring, as they do, the best of various bands, musicians, performers: The Emery Sessions from my home town of Cincinnati, Hamburg’s Küchensessions, the Furious Sessions in Barcelona, Balcony TV from all around the world. The sessions are lovely and document an important aspect of musical culture, but they are all too perfect, in the sense of digital music to vinyl. Moreover, with HD video a feature of nearly every smartphone and camera, artistic uniqueness is nearly impossible to achieve.

In the midst of these trends, artist Marq Lativ Guther plunges into the past with a project that couldn’t be further from the contemporary idea of digital perfection. Armed with a repertoire of professional video cameras of late ’80s’ vintage, Marq set out last year to document a selection of concerts at venues in Hamburg. The result is an insider’s archive of Hamburg’s subculture: The Retro Video Club.

Retro Video Club creator

Retro Video Club creator

I first met Marq last year at Gagarin Records’ 15th birthday celebration in the club Westwerk, several weeks after he began his project, discovered that he had taped one of the concerts I’d already seen, a set by Holger Hiller, founding member of the German new wave art band Palais Schaumburg (1980-84). The concert at Golden Pudel Club had multiple layers of charm. Holger Hiller practically grew up in Pudel Club, he told the audience, and for this concert his son had flown in from London to support him on drums. When Marq told me he had prepared a small, handmade, numbered, DVD edition of the evening, with original artwork, it sounded too good to be true.

Since then our paths have crossed at numerous other events and I have became a regular subscriber of the DVD edition. The discs are wonderful memories of the events, but more importantly, many years from now these recordings will represent an important historical document of avant garde culture in Hamburg.

Marq’s art is subtle. It does not overwhelm with visual effects but rather presents the performances in a way that comments and accentuates the live experience. In the case of Mary Ocher’s concert at Pudel Club, Marq demonstrated the compelling presence of the artist by relying mostly on close-in shots during the performance. The mix of Felix Kubin’s set at Westwork on the other hand, using three cameras, supported the psycho-surreal tone of the music. In general the visual dynamic is always there, the camera(s) following the action with intrigued curiosity, drawing the viewer along on a fascinating visual and audio journey.

The selection of musicians in the Retro Video Club represents a cross section of important countercultural acts in Europe today including Adi Gelbart, Eli Gras, Felix Kubin, Holger Hiller, Mitch & Mitch, Peter Um, Tellavision, also Mary Ocher and Schnipo Schranke, captured while still under the status of well kept secrets. A pearl of the collection, and according to Marq, the most requested so far, is the reunion of Palais Schaumburg at HFBK’s 100th birthday celebration. My two favorite concerts of the collection are “L.A. Sued” and “Frau Kraushaar”.

“L.A. Sued” (German for L.A. South) is a collaboration that defies imagination. It includes Ray Buckmiller “Fred & Luna,” who over the years has built up an impressive repertoire of unpublished electronic compositions, the enigmatic “Putzmiester,” who in the early ’80s worked with Brian Eno and engineered the sound of bands like the B52’s, then lived off the grid for many years, and veteran musician Chris Cacavas, one of the founding members of Green on Red, who settled in Germany about twelve years ago. The music they produced that evening at Hafenbahnhof was transcendental. Ray playing as if in a trance, Chris in determined concentration and Putzmiester doggedly bending the strings. They were the three spirits of music. Marq’s cut of the concert alluded to this spirituality by superimposing different camera angles, also a symbolic statement that the music was more than the sum of all its parts. This concert is definitely one of the highlights.

L.A. Sued

L.A. Sued

 

The visual masterpiece is the concert of Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls at Golem, April 10, 2014. Marq himself labels it “the most radical look of all films made till now.” The music is sublime, a concert of Frau Kraushaar’s album on Rough Trade “The Power of Appropriation” in which she interpreted forgotten folk songs from around Europe, sung in eight different languages. Marq’s handling of the recording, probably due as much to the low light situation at Golem as anything else, is endlessly intriguing. Combined with the timeless musical  interpretations − guitar (Sasha Demand), stand-up bass (Andrew Krell) and chorus of sirens (The Hairy Girls), the strong personality of Frau Kraushaar announcing the songs, and the near black and white appearance, it feels like an experimental television broadcast out of another dimension, Frau Kraushaar as an alternate Carmen Miranda appearing with her band at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, but of another time. At one point Frau Kraushaar alludes to the political situation in Ukraine, adding the feeling of a concert taking place under the sceptre of serious political threats. The video reminded me of sitting in front of an early 1960s’ floor model Zenith TV watching out-of-town broadcasts, but that’s as close a comparison as I can come up with.

On September 8th at Westwerk, Marq introduced the Retro Video Club project to the world, along with a concert by post noise band LXMP from Poland and a showing of Felix Kubin’s concert from last year’s Gagarin Records birthday celebration. A Website is in preparation and Marq is currently searching for a label to officially issue the series. Independent of that, more releases are on the way, including a documentary of Tellavision filmed with four cameras. Marq granted me a sneak preview, and it is going to be incredible. Ernie Kovacs would be proud.

Felix & Felix

 

The collection so far:

  1. Holger Hiller @ Golden Pudel Club (21.9.2013)
  2. Palais Schaumburg @ HBFK (11.10.2013)
  3. Gagarin Records 10th Anniversary party @ Westwerk, 16.11.2013 (Peter Um / Adi Gelbart / Felix Kubin). Exerpts and promos:
  4. Felix Kubin with Mitch & Mitch @ Uebel und Gefaehrlich (3.12.2013)
  5. Schnipo Schranke @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAKOwyDZ6w
  6. Mary Ocher @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGgQeHb6-Ns
  7. Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls @ Golem (10.4.2014). Concert excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J8MFOA2B0
  8. L.A. Sued @ Hafenbahnhof (27.4.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwypACIUarc
  9. Eli Gras @ Kunstverein (10.5.2014)
  10. Tellavision @ MS Dockville (9.8.2014)   Bonus Feature: http://www.bostonhassle.com/2014/10/17/fresh-vid-tellavision-betony-world-premiere/

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About the author: 

Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. Photos by Fred Roberts.

October 31, 2014   2 Comments

September Americana Releases/Music

AmericanaValerie Brown photo

Good Morning

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September Americana Releases
By Fred Roberts

Contributing Music Editor

In my voracious thirst for music I followed nearly every genre I stumbled upon, but had a blind spot for the “local” American genres as interpreted by non-American musicians: country, folk, bluegrass, etc. It was my way of limiting the amount of music to follow, and perhaps a snobbish idea that no non-American band could do justice to “our” genres. But more and more I’ve encountered artists that have caused me to rethink that idea. A selection of these are presented here in a set of four releases from the month of September. The ladies: Kristina Jung and Rose Brokenshire. The gentlemen: Emmett and Filip Johansson.

Americana

Kristina Jung

Kristina Jung – Into the Light that I Have Known (Woodland Recordings)

Kristina Jung hails from Rostock, Germany. On her EP Into the Light that I Have Known she presents us with five songs and an incredible range of voice talent, a voice that is rich and regal. At times she is a troubadour of medieval times (King with no Throne), a classic folk singer of the 1960’s (Show Me Where You Hide Your Longing), or a voice of remarkable gospel-blues sensibilities (It’s the Wind). The latter track makes me wonder if Janis Joplin accompanied by John Fahey on acoustic guitar would have sounded much differently. The fourth song of the set Wish You Were a Hunter is my favorite, weaving a spell that transfixes, the longing voice and sparse accompaniment combining into magnificence. Five songs. Highly recommended.

https://kristinajung.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/kristinajungmusic 

Americana

Rose Brokenshire

Rose Brokenshire – WEND

Wend is an old English word meaning to wander, to explore. The EP WEND presents five songs loosely collected around this concept but with meaning on multiple levels. Rose Brokenshire, singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada sings with crystalline clarity. Her songs are for a quiet mood, building their magic out of the nuances of simple elegance. The first four songs of WEND are like a slow dance that breaks down all resistance. The stunning finale To My Dreams is musical poetry. To those who seek sanctuary and escape from the dissonances of the day, they may follow one into the dreams. The song ends as slightly and subtly as a dream. If you find yourself wanting more, her EP Seeds You Grow is the next stop.

https://rosebrokenshire.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/rosebrokenshiremusic

 

Americana

Filip Johansson

Filip Johansson – Since We Were

Seven Songs for an introspective mood, superbly arranged alternative folk-pop is what Filip Johansson presents with his EP Since We Were. This is Filip’s solo project. His band Dear Sasquatch, reviewed last year at Ragazine, is already something of a legend. That project is on hold while Filip pursues a solo career in London. The EP’s opening track Autumn Leaves really does have an autumn feeling to it, singing of a relationship gone by, just like the passing of the seasons. Song to Eileen and Naive Song continue the legacy of the Dream Academy in sound and spirit, though this could be said of the entire album. Filip’s songs are intimate, honest, unassuming expressions of emotion, emotions we might be hesitant to bare to another person for fear of rejection. It’s difficult to single out a favorite song of the album since the tracks support each other as a complete work. My current favorite is the note on which the album ends, I’m Just a Man with the powerful line “I’m standing here / I’m standing proud / my dreams are loud.” My only complaint about the album is that it isn’t longer.

https://www.facebook.com/FilipJohanssonMusic

http://www.filipjohanssonmusic.com

Americana

Emmett

Emmett – This is Emmett’s New Record

Emmett is Elias Bjerstedt (vocals and acoustic guitar) and Samuel Johansson (backup guitar). Their music transforms me back to my childhood to songs like Take Me Home Country Road and Rocky Mountain High, to the feeling of driving through Kentucky and Tennessee on an odyssey to the Smoky Mountains. I have to keep reminding myself that Emmett are from Malmö, Sweden! Elias has a soulful voice two parts John Denver and one part early Bob Dylan. The accompaniment is gentle. It’s music for a warm summer night, sitting on the back porch with family and friends – Emmett’s Youtube channel is filled with back porch sessions! Trying to select the “best” song is impossible among 11 highlights, but my favorites are Montana and the epic seven minutes long Friends. Forget the city and take a drive through the Appalachian mountains, to another time, to songs of substance, before the genre of folk-country became overloaded with kitsch.

https://www.facebook.com/emmettmusic/

https://songsbyemmett.bandcamp.com/

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About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC.  He is an American living in Hamburg, Germany. You can read more about him in About Us. 

October 31, 2014   Comments Off on September Americana Releases/Music

Mary Ross/Video Artist

Eric and Mary Video dance 2011

“Mary Ross – Video Artist”

Interview with Eric Ross

 

The late MARY ROSS was a fine art photographer and visual artist. In 1975, she began using video and computers to produce still images on film, one of the first fine art photographers to do so. Her images provide some of the earliest examples of the convergence of photography, video and computer technology. Recognized as a pioneer of digital photography, her photographs and video art have been featured in hundreds of multimedia performances she has produced in collaboration with composer/performer Eric Ross. She exhibited extensively at galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan. Her photographs are in private collections and in the permanent collections of the Kunsthaus, Zurich; International Polaroid Collection; Herbert Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University; King’s Library, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the Lincoln Center Library Dance Collection. Her archive is at the Rose Goldsen archive for New Media Art at Cornell University and at LIMA in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

ERIC ROSS, musician/composer. Ross has presented concerts of his music at Lincoln Center (NYC), Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Disney Redcat Center (LA), Newport Jazz, and Berlin, Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others worldwide. He performs on guitar, keyboards and is a Master of the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments. The New York Times calls his music “a unique blend of classical, jazz, serial and avant-garde.” He began playing the Theremin in 1975, and has performed on radio, film and TV. Since 1976, with his wife Mary Ross, he has presented multimedia performances with video, music and dance. Recent projects include an Ultimedia Concept program at UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum, Spain; Residenz Palace, Wurzburg; Bauhaus- Dessau, Germany; and Casada Musica, Portugal. He was a friend of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and electronics pioneer Robert Moog. In 1991, he met and played for the inventor of the Theremin, Professor Lev Termen.

 

Q) How did your multimedia Pieces develop?

A) Mary and I started working together in the 1970s. In 1976, we first used live and pre-recorded video in my Songs for Synthesized Soprano (Op. 19). There was immediate synergistic energy to our combined work. Mary wrote, “In 1977, I began to use video in live multimedia performances in collaboration with my husband, composer/performer Eric Ross. At first I used live video cameras in closed circuit installations during performances of his original electronic and acoustic music compositions. Two or three video cameras were mounted on tripods and focused on him as he performed, inside the piano, and I manipulated video camera imagery with a glass prism. The results were displayed on two color TV monitors which faced the audience. Since then, I have produced pre-recorded videotapes and now DVDs which are designed, composed and edited to his music. These tapes, with accompanying video stills and digital images, have been displayed and projected as he performed concerts of his music worldwide. I wanted to create a parallel in the music to the video which would reflect and comment upon the action in different, distant and often remote ways. I like to set up contrasts with the music and images on the screen – fast when slow, bright when dark, dense when sparse – to create unexpected relationships and meanings. Eric’s music has led me deeper into this non-literal, non-narrative form. Musically there are specific themes for some parts and other sections open to improvisation. In performance, the music and the emotional relationship to the video, which is fixed, is ever-changing depending upon time, place and mood.”

By the 1980s, we were performing our pieces in major venues in the US and Europe. We worked with the space and equipment situations available. We performed in big rooms like the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Berlin, Montreux and Pori Jazz Festivals as well as smaller, more intimate rooms like the mirrored ICC in Belgium, the Munch Museum in Oslo and loft spaces in NYC.

Mary’s work evolved steadily. She was a darkroom printer in black-and-white and color film, and in other media including gum bichromate, silkscreen, and Polaroid. She saw video processing as an extension of the technical possibilities of print-making, or an “electronic darkroom.” She included slide dissolves and video during this period. She said, “The video synthesizer functioned as a type of electronic darkroom. My own slides, negatives, prints, movie film and videotapes provided source material.” At a certain point, technique and aesthetic merged and became intuitive.

In interviews we were asked, “Which came first: the music or the video?” Usually, we would work simultaneously and at a certain point of progress, would come together for editing sessions. From that point on, we would stay in close collaboration. Mary preferred to edit to my music – I would give her track to edit to, and then I would orchestrate the final versions for “mixdown.” Other times she would work alone on a piece until it was nearly complete and then I would compose music to it. We were open to different approaches and each piece shaped up differently. Our works were never experimental – Mary and I knew exactly what we were after in each piece and worked hard to get it right. 

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Q) Were there artists she was influenced by?

A) Mary knew the great European and American painters, the classic black-and-white photographers and all kinds of visual references. She was commissioned by universities to photograph art galleries and museums across the USA and EU. Thus, she was familiar with the works of the major artists as well as many other painters, graphic and visual artists, photographers, sculptors, etc. She had a “photographic memory” regarding images. She never forgot a picture and could recall names, places and details of photos or prints she had seen from decades before. Joseph Buemi, a classic black-and-white photographer, gave her occasional help and some darkroom tips and the two remained good friends despite their work being very different. She kept in contact with a network of video and film makers and was aware of work and tech developments in her field. She was an avid reader, writer and prose editor. All of these things formed background to her own work. She never wanted to be copy artist, a clone or from the “scuola de” style artist. She always sought her own identity and vision in art.

Q) What were the themes of her work?

A) The major themes that Mary worked on all her life included: People Real and Abstract; Dance; Self-Portraits; and Imaginary Landscapes. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for her work with dancers. She was very aware of “negative space,” the spaces between things. Most of her images fit into these categories, although she would take a photo of any subject if it pleased her.

Q) Did she storyboard her videos?

A) Almost never. She improvised in the camera, in the studio, and in her editing, mixing and finished work. She knew what she was after, recognized what she actually had, and went with the work where it took her. Because of her great visual memory, she could find and combine edits from materials that were perhaps years or miles apart. She could work on different sections, or from the inside out, to shape the materials. It was a process as well as a product. Mary knew what she wanted in the final print. I don’t think anyone else could have predicted from the source material, or even mid-stream, how the final images would look.

Q) What was her working method?

A) Mary was constantly shooting, editing, evaluating, filing, re-evaluating and re-editing. She shot a lot of film and later digital images, but she was often a one-shot picture-taker. Even her video shots were mostly single-takes. Editing was her forte. She edited herself – always selecting, refining and mixing. Sometimes she liked to let the computer make random mixes, putting together images like musicians “jamming,” and then remix that. Her final edits were always carefully chosen. Mary seldom took the first version of a shot. If she liked something, she would keep working it, sometimes over the course of years, changing things minutely or entirely – adding, subtracting, changing in different media, etc. She liked to work on many projects at the same time and this helped to “cross-pollinate” her ideas.

Q) What were your last collaborations?

A) Mary and I created dozen or so works for video and music. By our last pieces, the Blvd Reconstructie (Op. 54) and Rimn Vornl (Op. 37, 2011 Edition), she had a real sense of the architecture of her time-based art on the micro, middle, and macro levels. She used her own autobiographic materials as a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother, a cancer patient and an artist, with concert footage, travel, dance, human abstractions, family, friends, black-and-white stills, Cibachrome color prints, super 8mm films, gum bichromate prints, silkscreens, Polaroids, watercolors, distressed images, images with text, hand-drawn and hand-colored prints – everything relevant to her life – all in the mix. Ideas that she had worked on during her entire career came together and were interwoven in these last pieces.

Q) How do you see Mary’s artistic development?

A) I think all of the elements of her vision were present early on. She refined her vision by focusing in on the ideas that she loved and that would convey her artistic objectives. She acquired technical mastery over her tools as well, and these tools (home computers, video cameras, etc.) became simpler and more easily accessible over time. In the early years this was not always the case, but she had always “worked with what she had,” or as she might say, “fought with what she had.” Mary had periods of time that were real growth spurts and others that seemed fallow where she did many different things but were in fact “in developmental” stages ready for the next artistic endeavor. She stayed true to her art and her last works were a combination of her ideas with many layers of energy going on, both simplifying and gaining in complexity.

Q) Why do you think her is work important?

A) Mary had an aptitude for getting a great shot or sequence of shots that spoke to the viewer on different levels of interpretation. She said, “The images create a narrative that can be supplied by the viewer’s imagination.” Her mixing of imagery was precise, yet free, strong and beautiful. Her vision was unique from a woman’s point of view without being self-consciously so. Her sense of composition and drama within a shot was enhanced by an expressionist palette, which makes her images even more striking. There is a timeless quality about her work. Some figures in her shots seem to be floating or in suspended animation. Her work was never totally “abstract.” She said, “The human form is a recurring motif…along with many images of dance. Though often abstracted, my photographs and videos usually contain recognizable elements. In recent work, I continue to explore abstract renditions of the human form in imaginary landscapes.”

In some of her pieces, there is a calmness and quiet of infinite spaces, where time seems suspended and there is an air of tranquility. In others, she deliberately introduced chaos, noise, glitches and other random elements to create a sense of real and unreal; there is movement, the action is in flux, and she went for the vital significant energy of the moment. She liked to capture energy, mood, setting, characters, time and place. She was not fascinated by technology for its own sake – she was interested in the human aspects of art and art-making.

 

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c.MMXIV. Tyava Music. BMI. Used with permission.

 

Eric and Mary Ross Ultimedia Concert

$12 general/$10 students & seniors

Advance tickets available at: CornellCinemaTickets.com

Friday, September 12th at 7:00pm

 

A special electronic music performance with composer and master thereminist Eric Ross and his Avant Ensemble, including Trevor Pinch (Moog Synths), Peter Rothbart (EWI), John Snyder (theremin, digeridoo, waterphone), and Joseph Perkins (bass). The evening will feature music on the theremin, as well as Analog and digital synths, guitars, percussion and electronic wind instruments, and will be accompanied visually with work by the late video/computer artist Mary Ross, whose work will be deposited in Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. The event is cosponsored with the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series and the History Center of Tompkins County.

 

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August 29, 2014   Comments Off on Mary Ross/Video Artist

Hamburg’s Music Subculture/Fred Roberts

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Club Golem

Photo: A scene at Club Golem

Underground Hamburg

When I look back at all the events I’ve seen in Hamburg in the past year I feel the awe expressed by the replicant Roy in “Blade Runner” just before he expires:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in rain.”

I’ve never journeyed through the galaxy, but I’ve taken the s-bahn to places like the Golden Pudel Club, a Hanseatic version of CBGB, and across from the Fischmarkt, that venue called Golem, with its secret doorway behind a wall of antiquarian books, down to a crypt and subterranean cinema. Or Hasenschaukel in St. Pauli with its unbelievably rich repertoire of events, not to mention a dozen other tiny venues all within a five minutes’ walk from the Reeperbahn but nevertheless entirely unknown to the waves of tourists one leaves behind in the main street. The real secret in Hamburg is HFBK, the University of Fine Arts, with its end of semester parties, a broiling fusion of exhibits, music and performance art. These are the places in Hamburg where I’ve collected my most memorable cultural impressions.

Tellavision

Tellavision

 

Artist-musician Tellavision (Fee Kürten) sounds like Björk on quaaludes. She weaves dreamscapes out of loops and samples, increasing their complexity with a fine sense of balance and detail until one is hopelessly captivated. It’s like waking up into an aural hall of mirrors behind the usual realm of sleep. One leaves the self behind and follows the alluring voice and sounds into a seductive infinity. Her voice is deep and soulful and would be right at home singing a blues standard, yet here it is exploring the surreal. There’s a strong positive quality about her music, as if she were a sorceress of sound casting white spells of mystery and wonder. These are my impressions after seeing her perform twice and listening to her albums.

Fee is a student at HFBK. My first time seeing her perform was at Golem this February, as part of a larger program Stimmen (Voices). Students of Felix Kubin presented their audio projects, an evening of fascinating sound experiments, lectures and demonstrations. The program concluded with a short set by Fee. I was astonished at the intricate and layered wall of sound she conjured out of nowhere. Afterwards I explored more of her music, well-represented at bandcamp. I started with Music on Canvas and We Love the Omniscient Narrator adding them to my loves. I learned she played often in underground clubs in Poland, where she is enthusiastically received. Concerts in Hamburg are scarce, but I finally saw her perform again at an art exhibit, in a darkened cellar below the main activity, standing before the projection of an abstract painting of hers. The empty basement filled quickly after she began playing. It seemed unplanned, but she gave us an encore, her own interpretation of the 1963 Ronettes’ number Be My Baby. That was greatness.

Some while ago Fee sent copies of her first album Music on Canvas into the world and heard back from the label Feeding Tube Records in Northampton, MA, which released it on vinyl last year. In September she begins a visit in Boston including plans to tour with ZEBU! Her newest album, Funnel Walk, will surely be a part of that. It continues where her previous releases left off, a surreal nightscape with sounds of shadows dancing festively, and always her engaging voice guiding the listener to secret corners of imagination.

Next shows:

October 14th @ Retirement Home @ SoPro, Northampton/MA
October 19th @ Whitehaus, 10 Seaverns Ave., JP/Boston/MA
November 8th @ Hassle Fest Extension, Aeronaut Brewery, 12am-ish, 14 Tyler St, Somerville, MA 02143
November 18th @ Midway Cafe with BATHAUS and BLK BX

http://tellavisionmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/Tellavisionmusic

* * *

Schnipo Schranke

Schnipo Schranke

 

Schnipo Schranke are two sweet girls singing about sex. There’s more too it than that, of course, but when they came to Hamburg this January it was quietly, under most everyone’s radar. Last summer (2013) they played three concerts, opening for Nuclear Raped Fuck Bomb and HGicht, with Rocko Schamoni credited as having discovered them. Now they shared a bill with Mary Ocher at the Golden Pudel Club. I had never heard of Schnipo Schranke before, so had a look at their Youtube channel to find several undiscovered gems: Mein Leben als Imperator (My Life as Imperator), a  hip-hop rap of Star Wars meets street wit. A love song to Harry Potter that winds up taking him to bed. And a song about fuck buddies (Fickbuddy). Schnipo Schranke are like the Fugs, Tom Lehrer and your favorite 1960s’ girl band rolled into one.

The set at Pudel Club began with Fritzi Ernst on drums (and flute) and Daniela Reis on keyboard – halfway through the set they switched places. The texts were well-written, dealt openly with sexuality and were hard as hell for a non-native speaker of German to follow, at least on first listen. My favorite song of the night was Cluburlaub, a song about an “extremely enriching” vacation experience. Bits and pieces from the lyrics: my psychiatrist killed himself last week, booked a ticket to Panama, self-service ha! – everything is brought to me, flat-rate at the cocktail bar, vodka and soda, gangbang with the tour guides, topless at the cocktail bar, naked at the cocktail bar, and so on. My other favorite, Intensiv was played in the style of an early rock and roll ballad with lines like “Baby, dein Sperma schmeckt so intensiv” and “Küss mich da wo die Sonne nicht scheint” which I leave for the interested scholar to translate. Describing more of the relationship (my translation) “come in my arms / come in my mouth” and the end of the story, “I was so in love with you, you were so into me.” Outrageous, ironic, but kernels of truth. That describes their texts.

At that time they didn’t have a cd or record with them. They apparently hadn’t recorded anything at all except their Youtube videos. In April a song of theirs appeared on the label Staatsakt, on the Keine Bewegung sampler. Their contribution was Pisse (Piss), a standout breakup song which become a sensation over the summer. Most of the album reviews singled out that particular song. The alternative Internet station Reboot.fm played it twice in a row on one of their broadcasts. No one can listen to it just once! The song is remarkable for the unbelievable rhymes and for putting to words what no band has ever done, a breakup as viewed through the nuances of oral sex. The official video for Pisse was banned on Youtube and had to be moved to Vimeo (see links below).

Their next concert in Hamburg was in June at the small bar Strandgutfischer in St. Pauli, by invitation of the owner. Word of mouth and Facebook filled the entire venue.Two weeks later they appeared at Golem before another full, enthusiastic house, including an introduction by Rough Trade artist Frau Kraushaar. Triumphant gigs, each of them. By this time they had a set of self-made EPs along with them, with individual polaroid photos and three songs, Pisse / Schranke, and a different, completely unknown demo on each. I have four of them by now. One of the demos was Vorhang (When the curtain goes up), about the “first time,” in quite a number of variations, yet sounding so innocent. The first lines:

When the curtain rises, the first time always hurts a little
When the curtain rises, there’s no turning back, because it’s too late
And when it’s happened, you start to write songs, shine with that certain glow
Hey, it’s totally normal the first time
It hasn’t happened yet, but today I’ll say goodbye to my virginity…

As the ultimate subversive prank this song must be smuggled into a purity ball for that special father-daughter dance. Musically it fits perfectly, and afterwards if someone listening understands German the story would go viral. I feel certain that Schnipo Schranke will continue to take the underground cultural scene by storm, even if mainstream radio never plays a single song of theirs.

https://www.facebook.com/SchnipoSchranke

https://www.youtube.com/user/SchniposchrankeYo

https://soundcloud.com/staatsakt/schnipo-schranke-pisse

http://vimeo.com/101536315

* * *

THERNST

Thernst Band

Katherina Messer is a woman of dark personas. Known also as SKEWOLF, Miss Anthropy, or Werewolf Sucker she is an artist-filmmaker who studied at the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design as well as HFBK in Hamburg. A few years ago I somehow landed on the mailing list for her Misanthropy Lounge events in which she DJed a varying range of genres such as punk, grindcore, black metal, death metal, industrial, military pop, wave, noise and neofolk, and more. The accompanying posters were terrifying as they were titillating. Skinned corpses in passionate embrace, crucifixion art, bloody ejaculations along with occasional self-portraits blurred and defaced.

Thernst PosterOne day Katharina’s mail announced a live concert of her band THERNST, a contraction of “The Ernst” also a play on words with the German word for earnestness or severity. Not knowing entirely what to expect, I went. The concert was held at HFBK during one of the semester parties, in a fairly large lecture hall. Purple-green hues projected onto a screen behind the band painted an eerie mood. The first number set the pace of the band. Rumba Oma (Rumba Grandmother) – electronic, primal and minimalistic, swirls of Neue Deutsche Welle, noise, industrial and death wave. The lyrics could have been an homage to a song by Palais Schaumburg which repeated calls of “Telefon, Blumenhalter” over and over.

Katharina was dressed in black, wearing sunglasses and a deadpan expression, operating the controls. Next to her stood bandmate Taeckgo Goldt on keyboard, like a robot out of Kraftwerk. Patrick Baumeister delivered vocals that morphed from emotional detachment into a manic extreme. Another number Ping Pong Match – Tennis Turnier was wonderfully audacious, a funeral march played in the style of the early computer tennis games. Hundewelpen auf Ebay (Puppy dogs in Ebay) was equally audacious, with yelping dog samples, and strangely sweet.

As the evening progressed, the combination of low key music, irreal lighting and serious personas developed into a powerful mesmerizing force. Students began projecting shadows and shapes onto the screen, contributing a sense of of de-evolution, of dissolving into the noise. Towards the end of the concert Stefanie discarded her emotionless veneer and vivaciously shouted into the audience, “You want more?” She went on to play the keyboard with her entire body. This was as underground as it gets, music for the dark caverns of Hamburg, where oblivion is master.

THERNST has played subsequent concerts around Hamburg, including at B Movie and coming up in September at Nachtasyl. See them if you have the chance.

http://thernst.eternaltrend.de

https://www.facebook.com/THERNST.hqe

About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. 

Photos by Fred Roberts, except Thernst, by Thernst.

August 29, 2014   4 Comments

A Night at Bar 227 – By Fred Roberts

Local Heroes:

Germany’s Battle of the Bands

by Fred Roberts
Contributing Editor, Music

Prologue

In January we saw Saskia Maas playing a “fireside concert” at the literary cafe Mathilde in Hamburg: 20-30 people in a cozy room, with a wood furnace emanating its warmth, and Saskia before us, sharing her songs. It was just Saskia, her voice, her guitar and some kind of magic. The encores lasted nearly as long as the original set, and her adaptation of a Hermann Hesse poem to music was impossible to resist. She played that twice. And it made us believers. A few weeks later on the last day of March, Alexandra and I followed Saskia to Bar 227. She appeared there in a qualifying round of the band slam contest “Local Heroes” and there was no question of our showing up to support her.

The Local Heroes event is a yearly band contest throughout Germany, with local chapters in major cities. Bands compete with each other in qualifying rounds, semi-finals and then a finalist event. The rules of the voting are simple. Each visitor is given an official event ballot. After all the bands have played, the ballots are returned, with visitors selecting their two favorite bands. On this night the two bands with the most votes would move into the semi-final event coming up in June.

The host of the event, Bar 227, is a tiny venue with a couple of sofas, a few arm chairs, and standing room. Seat cushions are scattered in an alcove off to the right of the stage. We took two cushions and sat up close to get the best view of the coming events. We ordered a round of fritz-kolas from the bar and snuggled in for the evening along with around 40 other guests.

Website: http://www.bar227.de

* * *

Saskia

Saskia at Bar 227

Saskia Maas

Saskia Maas was up first. I’d found out more about her in the time leading up to the contest. Saskia is a young singer-songwriter finding her way to a powerful voice. Judging by the list of shows at her website, she has taken every opportunity to hone her craft and gain experience, playing extensively around Hamburg in the last two years as well as participating in any kind of contest or slam event. She released a CD in 2012 “Wonderland” with songs mostly in English, but has since increased her repertoire with German texts, her native language. A new CD is scheduled for release in May this year.

Her songs are generally about moments and emotions, snapshots of life that for me bear a direct relation to the lost forms of poetic and allegorical literature in Germany such as Stefan Zweig or Hermann Hesse. As she played her set, we noticed again the remarkable synthesis of text, the warmth and depth of her voice and the harmonic, folk-influenced music. We were entranced from start to finish. A few of the highlights included the Herman Hesse piece “Die Welt unser Traum” (The World of Our Dream) and her song “Wonderland,” a rare example of positive inspiration, in the sense of Steve Wynn’s song “Believe in Yourself.” She closed the eight-song set with the stunning “Für einen Moment,” an embodiment of Erich Fromm’s idea of being and having, a magical moment of experience that she’ll not trade for any money in the world. Applause all around. It was obvious that her songs had connected.

Website: http://www.saskia-maas.de

* * *

Lion's_Waltz

Lion’s Waltz performs at Bar 227

Lion’s Waltz

The next band was Lion’s Waltz. I did some research beforehand and discovered a heavy metal hardcore noise band founded 2011. The Facebook page had 20 likes and very little activity, even from the band itself. Then again, maybe these are not the kind of fans who hang out in facebook clicking “like.” Google searches found a few scattered references to gigs in Hamburg. There was nothing in Youtube. I had high anticipation for Lion’s Waltz, as hardcore is a genre I know little about, having only heard it occasionally on university stations mixed into alternative sets.

Lion’s Waltz is a four man combo. They arrived with a small circle of fans that must have comprised about a third of the guests. The band was announced and the microphone handed to the lead singer, probably not more than 18 or 19 years old, who introduced the group with the understated words, “We’re Lion’s Waltz”. After a round of applause they broke into their first song. It was hard core, with charm. The lead singer, wearing a woolen cap, growled his vocals directly into the microphone, while pacing up and down in front of the stage, much like a lion in a cage –  the band grinding out a blend of metal riffs, steady rhythm, and noise.

Their fans, of the same age group, were sincerely enthusiastic, and the set had a certain innocence to it, played as if this were the only genre to exist. I have one hardcore track in my collection, a contribution by the Meat Puppets “Hair” on Monitor’s self-titled debut (1980), and that’s what Lion’s Waltz sounded like. Between songs one of the contest hosts kept requesting “Summer of 69” from the band, suggesting some kind of inside joke. The band declined, saying they didn’t play that anymore. They completed their set and enthusiastic applause followed. It looked a lot like first place.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lions-Waltz/535691913113693

* * *

Äläx

Äläx at Bar 227

 

Äläx

Äläx was the next band up, so-dubbed because the two members of the guitar and drum duo share the first name Alexander. A few days before the concert I had a glance at their Facebook presence to discover a  space-themed band. “Interstellar Explorations” is the title on their page. Scrolling down I saw a photo of the band preparing their self-made concert banner, the band’s logo along with a ringed planet on a black cloth. We watched as they put up the banner, as meaningful and effective as $100,000 stage scenery in setting the scene. Before long they were introduced and began playing. The set was a pleasant surprise, spacious sounds and galactic motifs cruising somewhere between rock and jazz, all instrumentals. “Reise nach Andromeda” (Journey to Andromeda) was a wonderful, nearly ten minute sound excursion.

I used to listen to Chopin on repeat while reading Kafka. Now I could imagine reading my favorite science fiction authors Robert Sheckley or Clifford D. Simak while playing this music on endless cycle. If you ask me, a non-musician, how to capture  a sci-fi mood in an instrumental delivery, I wouldn’t have a clue of how to do it. That’s what made their sound all the more amazing to me, that it so overwhelmingly succeeds. This is indeed the music you’d listen to on the way to a distant galaxy. The audience response was as enthusiastic as by Lion’s Waltz and all the time I wondered why I hadn’t heard of Äläx before.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aelaexhamburg

 * * *

Metamorphonia_by_Sonja_Brüning

Photo: Metamorphonia by Sonja Brüning

Metamorphonia

Metamorphonia is a dark pop singer-songwriter duo of Denis Scheither (piano) and Christiane Schmidt (vocals), as stated on their Youtube channel. I watched one of their videos “Ten Months” before the concert, and it looked promising to me. Now Denis and Christiane opened the set with a medley of two covers: Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” and Rammstein’s “Sonne.” I thought the vocal part was engaging and Denis’ accompaniment thoughtful. The next song, “Dissonance” began with the words “Why must the flower slowly fade away” and goes on to become even more somber and pessimistic, about the dissonance that develops in a relationship. Next, Alex Dietz replaced Christiane on stage. Alex and Denis played two songs, including a piece Alex had written following the death of his father. To me it was something too precious to share in such a profane setting as a band contest. The three of them then joined for the remaining songs.

Altogether the set did not like me. It was more like three bands instead of one: Christiane and Denis, Alex and Denis, then all three together. Each constellation was a different kind of sound and feeling, with no real chance to catch on. I’m not sure I heard right, but at one point during the set Denis wondered aloud to the audience, “Why does everyone think we play sad songs?” He invited everyone to visit the band’s Facebook page and to write, even if with constructive criticism, so I am hoping that my words here are not too harsh, and maybe somewhat helpful. I think Metamorphonia should decide in which line-up they want to play, and then develop their sound with that in mind. Judging by the applause, the audience seemed not to share my reservations.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/metamorphonia

The Voting

The emcee announced it was time to vote, thanking the bands in the order they had played. Saskia Maas, Lion’s Waltz, Äläx and Metamorphonia. Saskia’s applause was the least loud of all, but that may have been an effect of being announced first. The second time an audience responds it is usually louder because everyone wants to outdo themselves. Still, it made us nervous as to the outcome. Judging by the levels of applause, it still looked as if Lion’s Waltz had won the evening.

It took a few minutes for everyone to write in their votes. Alexandra and I both voted for Saskia, and we agreed on our second vote as well. I won’t reveal which band it was, but in the end, that second vote appears to have made no difference. When the audience was finished dropping their ballots into the cardboard box on the bar, the contest hosts took the container into the back room to count out the ballots. The two bands with the most votes would go on to the semi-finals. Ten minutes later they returned to announce all the band names again, the same levels of applause as before – not a good sign for Saskia – then called the bands on stage for the announcement of the results.

They drew it out as long as they could, telling us there had been one overwhelming winner. “Not a band, but a project,” as they put it. What could that mean? Finally they told us, it was Äläx. Enthusiastic applause. Now it was time to announce the second band to move on into the semi-finals. But something unusual had happened, they said. A tie for second place. After some consideration, the hosts told us, they had decided that both of these bands would go on to the semi-finals. The first of these, was not a band, but a project, they continued, drawing it out for all it was worth. Lion’s Waltz, they finally revealed. This meant that Äläx and Lion’s Waltz and one other band were still in the contest. That band was…… Saskia Maas. We were happy that she had made it to the next level. In the end, though, I don’t think it is fair to pit such diverse styles against each other. Each band was good in its own way.

Local_Heroes_Result

Local Heroes contest winner: Äläx

Epilogue

The largest concert I’ve been to was Pink Floyd in Dortmund, in the late 1980s, a mass event in a major arena holding the population of a small town. It was unforgettable. But it is not always the mass events that bring us the most joy or the most vivid memories. These can be found in the small venues with bands as yet unknown to the masses. It is the feelings and the moods that music evokes in us that we remember, intensified by intimate surroundings and reinforced by a far more personal connection to the artists.

————-

If you’re in Hamburg the next weeks and would like to support the bands, the semi-final events are:

June 20th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle (Äläx, Lion’s Waltz)
July 5th, 7PM,  Marx/Markthalle
July 18th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle (Saskia Maas)
July 25th, 7PM, MarX/Markthalle

Best of luck to everyone!

Complete line-ups and additional events:
https://www.facebook.com/localheroeshh

 


April 28, 2014   2 Comments

Finding “Darshan”/Fred Roberts

sign

Patrick McMahon

and the Spirit of Music:

Darshan (1983)

by Fred Roberts

My path to the music I share in this article is as meaningful to me as the music itself. In 1980, my last year of high school, I took Mrs. Wilson’s “World Literature” class. It made quite an impression on me. Mostly we read ancient literature: Greek classics, Persian poets, Omar Khayyam, the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest writings, and others. It showed the universality of human drama and passion and sparked an interest that I began to deepen after high school. I read Homer’s Odyssey and the Iliad. I began reading Tolkien, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and especially the Silmarillion, written in the best tradition of Classic literature. I haunted my school library, the public library, and various bookshops around town. Aquarius Bookshop, on Main Street in downtown Cincinnati, is the place I invariably drifted to.

Aquarius_shopfront_1989                                                                                                        

Aquarius Bookshop was a new age bookstore at a time when the term was new to many people, and sometimes suspect. Entering the shop was a mystical experience, a step out of the fast-paced life of 20th century America into a microcosm of peace. The wooden floor, the aroma of incense, the soft sounds of music, never obtrusive, intertwined to form an indelible impression. In the center of all this, at the register, stood the store’s owner. His thoughtful manner of speaking, his enlightened expression, and total lack of negativity were unmistakable facets of the man. He glowed with serenity. I thought he might be the Buddha himself.

My days at the university were full and hectic and included a 75-minute bus ride each way, transferring in downtown Cincinnati. Sometimes I used the opportunity on the way home to stop by Aquarius. It was always like entering a sanctuary. I went to browse the shelves in a far side of the shop filled with a selection of books beyond the usual commercial offerings. There was ancient literature, philosophy, esoteric works and writings on the world’s religions. I might stand before the shelves an hour or longer, reading the back covers and introductions of various volumes before deciding on the one I wanted to buy. I don’t know if the shopkeeper ever noticed me. I assume he didn’t. I rarely spoke with him when I was in the shop, being generally shy. But I was conscious of him, usually as he was in conversation with one of his other customers. The shop seemed never to be empty. Virgil’s Aeneid, The Song of Roland, and translations by Professor Tolkien of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and of Pearl are a few titles I found there that engrossed me from the first word to the last, and that I still have today.

There was more to the shop than the books. It was adorned with American Indian artifacts, artwork, crystals, and a stand with record albums. In 1984, when I finished my studies and before moving to upstate New York, I took note of the records. There were several issues by a band with the curious name of Blacklight Braille, which I had never heard of. Blacklight Braille is best described as the Amon Düül II of the parallel universe, but that’s a topic for another article. I selected their first album Electric Canticles. Another album caught my eye: Darshan, by Patrick McMahon, of whom I also had not heard. The cover was a photograph of a virgin seashore, of the tide, of the light of a sun behind the horizon just about to engulf the world in light. It was a picture of peace and serenity, the kind I had felt while browsing in Aquarius. The music on that album has stayed with me the last thirty years and is as fresh and as timeless to me now as it was the first time I heard it.

Darshan                                                                                                     

Darshan is music from another age and place, a reflection of eternal beauty, contemplation, introspection, simplicity, innocence, all the aspects of life that have different meanings for every single person and that are so impossible to define. It slows life down. It quiets storms. It is an early, quintessential New Age album, without really belonging to that category. For all the countless times I have listened to Darshan, I still don’t know how best to describe the experience. The seven tracks feature Patrick McMahon’s vision of music as expressed via various flutes and other wind instruments. He is supported by Dan Murphy, soft accompaniment on acoustic and electric guitar as well as on electric piano. Despite the use of these modern instruments, the music sounds astonishingly ancient, originating even before time. The compositions and interpretations remain blissfully unaware of modern styles.

The first track, Divine Awakening, might be a call to prayer at an ancient temple. It is a duet on two flutes, both parts intertwining and mingling, calling and answering. The next track, Dharma (Righteousness) – flute, acoustic guitar and electric piano – is the sound of innocence and wonder, a Garden of Eden, eternal Spring, chirping birds, but without a serpent. After that, Cave of the Ancients, is slightly dissonant. The single flute, representing perhaps the Spirit of the Wind as it sounds out the spaciousness of the caverns, calling into the depths, is the essence of that composition. The next piece, Shanti (Peace) conveys a nostalgic mood, and reminds me most of the spirit and sanctuary I felt in Aquarius Bookshop. Side two of the record begins with the sound of the ocean, of the waves crashing onto the shore, the eternal rhythm that precedes the existence of music and out of which music was born. It is joined by the sound of chimes and the dissonant-harmonic cries of the gulls as they relate an enigmatic story. This is the title track Darshan (Vision of Light). Prema (Love) is a melodic composition whose expressive variations on flute evoke the image of the eternal musician. Sathya (Truth) concludes the album with bass flute, played as a deep-whisper. The album is so grand and unique in all its points, that I have no idea of what to compare it to. As a rough point of reference I can only think of Eden’s Island (Eden Ahbez).

                                Patrick McMahon1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                       I listened to the music of Darshan many times. I listened to it alone, and it brought me home, to times so familiar. I listened with a girl who was dear to me and it sheltered us from the stresses and pressures of life, bringing us closer together. One time, in 1989, I returned for a visit to Cincinnati, and stopped by Aquarius Bookshop. It was still there, the same shopkeeper in attendance. There were fewer books, and more native American artifacts and art. I told him about the album I had found there and how much it had come to mean to me, asked him who Patrick McMahon was and if there was anything more by him. He began talking about the artist’s later releases, on cassette tape. I asked more and more questions about the music, and the shopkeeper continued to answer, appearing to know quite intimately the artist’s intentions, almost too intimately, at the same time appearing slightly embarrassed. It finally became obvious.“Well, it’s me,” he admitted. In that awkward, but beautiful moment I sensed the modesty of a grand spirit.

Patrick McMahon2                                                                                                       

———————————————–

For a feeling of Patrick’s music:

Cape Breezyhead (with Blacklight Braille), a continuation of the spirit of Darshanhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9genSOgkpE

About Patrick McMahon: https://fandalism.com/patrickmcmahon

On Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/treeoflifeworldmusic

 

About the reviewer:

Fred Roberts, contributing Music Editor.  A native of Cincinnati living in Germany since 1987, Fred enjoys subverting the arbitrary commercial process in which great works often go unrecognized.  He is creator and designer of Elbot.com, an award-winning AI system. His interests include literature, film, photography and discovering all the well-kept secrets Europe has to offer. You can read more about him in About Us.

Email: indeterminacy@gmail.com

March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Finding “Darshan”/Fred Roberts

Jeff Edstrom/The Everly Brothers

“Now and Forever…”

by Jeff Edstrom

I was only seven when the Everly Brothers broke up in 1973. I wasn’t too familiar with their songs other than hearing short snippets of “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye Bye Love” on commercials selling K-Tel “best of” records during commercial breaks during The Monkees and Three Stooges afternoon reruns. I was too busy listening to The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and The Beatles red and blue albums.

When Phil Everly died, I thought about the first time they really caught my attention: their reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983. You could tell that they were enjoying themselves immensely, rediscovering the magic of their harmonies. The concert was lively and had a tone and energy that was beyond a normal oldies concert.

Then came the encore. Don sang lead, as he usually did, but the camera focused mostly on Phil. “Let It Be Me” begins with them looking at each other while singing harmonies that inspired the singers I grew up listening to. Phil and Don seemed oblivious that there was an audience in front of them.

I bless the day I found you
I want to stay around you
And so I beg you
Let it be me

Don’t take this Heaven from one
If you must cling to someone
Now and forever
Let it be me

Then comes the moment for Don to sing solo.

Each time we meet, love
I find complete love
Without your sweet love
What would life be?

As Don began singing the solo, Phil stepped back to give him the stage. The camera focuses on Phil watching his brother sing with Don in profile. You can see a look of almost sheer joy and disbelief on Phil’s face. The brothers had built a successful career and were worshipped by some of the greatest artists in the world, but spending most every day of over 30 years together took its toll.  Each had personal troubles and grew weary of the other. Can you know who you are when your whole success is not yours alone?

You can see Phil as both a participant and audience member. You sense that feeling of chemical emotion that comes down in a wave from the top of the brain down when something is so affecting.

When Phil came back to the microphone to rejoin his brother, they weren’t just harmonizing; their voices were becoming one. You can almost see Phil physically wrapping his voice around Don’s in the space between them.

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you’ll always
Let it be me

Phil almost staggers back to watch his brother take the lead again.  He has a faraway look in his eye like he’s remembering everything that brought them to that moment in two lines.

Each time we meet love
I find complete love

A half smile goes across his face as Don sings “Without your sweet love” and he’s brought back to the stage and he slowly steps back to the microphone.

Without your sweet love
What would life be?

There’s an effortlessness of the final lines of the song. They needed that time apart to find their own voices and lives.  They still had their differences, but seemed to come to appreciate that perfection that when those voices came together.

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you’ll always
Let it be me

Phil later said the concert was the most memorable moment of his career. And you could see it in that one song.

 

About the reviewer:

Jeff Edstrom is a Chicago-based environmental consultant. He is married and has a son and a daughter who keep most of his free time occupied. When he can, he gives tours of the Monadnock Building, the world’s tallest masonry frame office building, as a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

http://old.ragazine.cc/2013/03/edstrom/

March 1, 2014   Comments Off on Jeff Edstrom/The Everly Brothers

DIY Best Music List

laollaexp

One of Many Small Labels Producing Great Music

* * * * *

Free Will at Work:

Blaze Your own Trail

by Fred Roberts

It is that time again when everyone writing about music comes out with their list of top ten best releases of the last year. There are so many of these articles, in fact, the next step would be to start compiling lists of the best lists, and then lists of the best lists of the lists, and so on. If you had a dime for every year-end retrospective you could power a jukebox for a decade. By their nature these selections are arbitrary because no one person could ever honestly appraise all of the thousands of releases done in the period of a single year. And even the highest calibre musician may tour extensively for years and still not break into the critics’ consciousness. A year-end list also encourages passivity. Give a man a fish and he will eat for day. But I say, teach him to fish and he will find the next Trout Mask Replica all by himself.

Most everyone has noticed how the Internet has brought us closer together, made specialized culture available to a worldwide audience and opened up new ways to discover music. Naturally there are numerous sites that make it easier for bands to present their music and some that give random suggestions based on some unspecified algorithm, such as who paid the most for promotion, but even if not that cynical, do we want our musical discoveries to be guided by an inscrutable algorithm? It is a modern application of the free will vs. destiny discussion. You can slip past all that to take a proactive role in blazing your own trail through the musical realms. Consider these steps:

1) Notice and follow chance occurrences involving music, a song you overhear, an interesting album cover you see, an intriguing blurb in a magazine, a mention by a friend, anything.
2) Visit the Website of the label behind the band you have found.
3) Explore the various artists at the label, listen to sample tracks – (Many small labels allow listening to complete albums via bandcamp or soundcloud).
4) If you fall in love with some music you find, support the artist by ordering a record, cd, digital download or attending a concert.
5) Share your experiences with your friends. Chances are good they will not know about the great music you found. Most people never look beyond the obvious.

Why does this work? Most small labels are run by people who feel passionate about music, and want to present the highest quality selection possible. It is more about art than about commercial enterprise. It is hard not to find good music in an environment like that. Below are some “case studies” based on my own experiences.

ljup_logo


This year a spontaneous coincidence led me to the music label Ljup Musik in Sweden. Visiting a friend at a gig in Bremen we saw the band Club K of that label and loved their music. Back home after the concert I explored the Ljup Website. It is a small label in Kristianstad run by Joel Andersson, Christina Källstrand and Patrik Jönsson. They say of themselves “Ljup musik is an independent, small and personal label that deals with music that sometimes means a lot to many people, and sometimes means a lot to only a few.” The Website is mostly in Swedish, but after some random exploration I found the essential sections: “AFFÄR” leads to a bandcamp page where you can listen to and purchase all of the releases.

“ARTISTER” gives detailed information about the bands, though not all in English. Aside from Club K and Dear Sasquatch, which I reviewed here at Ragazine, there was much more that impressed me. MOCO is the duo of Naoko Sakata (piano) and Casey Moir (voice) performing dadaistic, avant garde pieces, not traditional songs but vocal art along the lines of Kurt Schwitters and his “Sonata in Urlaute” accompanied by Satie-like piano work. But there was even more. The jazz group Pombo has a lovely album called “Hunden” which means dog in Swedish. That’s about all I understood of the lyrics, but the jazz is harmonic and pleasing to the ears. The vocals by Marie Hanssen Sjåvic make Swedish sound like the most beautiful and mysterious language in the world. Another gem on the label is Silence Blossoms, with poetry interpretations set to timeless jazz. It sounds like walking around the corner into a beat club in early 1960’s Greenwich Village, but with another foot in the new century. Have a look at the Website. What are your favorites after exploring?

lado abc

Lado ABC is a Polish label I recently stumbled upon, rich in modern-retro Slavic sounds. In their audio section you will find a selection of tracks by the various bands they cover, Polish hardcore to avant garde dissonant jazz. My favorites on the label are Alte Zachen and Mitch & Mitch. Alte Zachen stands out with hasidic surf instrumentals. The big band combo Mitch & Mitch succeeds in combining modern jazz with surf styles, as well as the cutting edge collaboration with Felix Kubin. The most unexpected surprise was the alternative folk band Paula i Karol, harmonic and upbeat compositions that would be at home in Ohio, rather than Warsaw. There is much more to explore at Lado ABC and I feel like this is the music I will be listening to in 2014.

woodland

The label Woodland Recordings is one I found purely by chance. Searching for a certain video clip at a Hamburg venue I came across a different band, Vivian Void, seven girls with loads of charm in minimalistic numbers like “High Heeled Shoes” or the epic “Love History”. The label’s mission statement “We make beautiful releases of music we love and organise concerts for artists” shows the passion behind the project. Stephen Burch (The Great Park) is label proprietor, a compelling singer/songwriter from England who has curated a variety of bands from around Europe and even in America. His own “Wöschnau Recording” with violinist Sophia Basler is magnificent. Recent Woodland releases center on folk and acoustic artists. The German musician Fee Reega, has an amazing trilingual release: “Wildheit / Salvajada / Savagery”, interpreting her songs in English, German and Spanish. The newest addition to the catalogue is Lucille Furr of Long Beach, California, dark folk songs on acoustic guitar, with lyrics that are simultaneously eerie and alluring. Her voice casts a twisting spell that doesn’t easily let go. That’s what I found at Woodland Recordings, but I have only begun to browse.

Do you see how it works? There are so many small labels in existence, and you have the power to explore them, to revel in the feeling of discovery, taking a chance turn and being the first to find something that none of your friends know about, and that could become personally meaningful to you for a long time after. I have a feeling that thirty from years from now, when mass culture has faded, that this will be the real story of music. Here is a list of some interesting European labels to get you started:

Alcohol Record Label: Strange, fun music label in UK. Tip: Ron ‘Pate’s Debonairs feat. Rev. Fred Lane – Raudelunas’ Pataphysical Revue

Beear Records: Russian indie label with music from Stalingrad (sic)

Blue Rose Records: Americana in Europe, alternative country. Tip: Chris Cacavas

Buback Tonträger: German punk, outsider label. Tip: Die Goldenen Zitronen

Crammed Discs: World-alternative music label in Belgium. Tip: Maia Vidal

Finders Keepers Records: UK label with exotic, obscure reissues

Gagarin Records: Sci-fi future electronic avant wave in Germany. Tip: Candy Hank

La Olla Express: Quirky, electronic-eclectica label in Barcelona. Tip: Florenci Salesas

Lado ABC: Polish jazz avant garde retro future. Tip: Alte Zachen

Ljup Musik: Alternative music from Sweden

Mik Musik: Bizarro electronic label in Poland run by Wojciech Kucharczyk

Surfin’Ki records: Italian psychedelic garage. Tip: Hangee V

Whatabout Music: Reflection of cultural melting pot Barcelona. Tip: Amanda Jayne

Woodland Recordings: Folk, singer-songwriters, acoustic, experimental.

Good luck on your journey of discovery. If you happen upon something that captures your enthusiasm, please take the time to share your experiences in a comment.

 

About the author:

Fred Roberts is a contributing music editor to Ragazine.CC. He lives in Germany. You can read more about Fred in “About Us.”  http://old.ragazine.cc/about-us/

Contact him at: indeterminacy@blogspot.com

December 31, 2013   Comments Off on DIY Best Music List

James Devin Fry/Music Review

 

fry

Katie Rose Pipkin. Quartz Crystal.

* * * *

Devin James Fry’s

“Headwater Songs”

by A. J. Stephens

It was Sunday October 20th, at the venue Holy Mountain in Austin, Texas. Up until that point, I knew very little about Devin James Fry. He is kind — I thought of him as the benevolent beekeeper (he cultivates his interest in bee herding with East Austin Honey Company). He gives time to persons with whom he speaks.  He has a unique ability to convey and perceive energy, and does so with a sense of humor, reassuring levity, and reasoned perspective. When he told me about his residency at Holy Mountain — that he was a singer-songwriter musician —I realized that, if his actions in life were as sincere as they seemed to be to my friends and me, his music would follow suit.

Perhaps it was the desolate sort of energy many cities have on any given Sunday evening, especially during the change of seasons. Or, the apt setting for appreciating new music. Whatever the case, on October 20th I understood the type of impact music can have when it is absorbed without reference or preconception or anticipation, to truly alter one’s sense of being, even if only for an hour. With no sense of where or how Fry’s music would guide my evening’s pondering, the journey and escape were touching, inspiring, and something I felt anyone in his or her corner of the world could and would appreciate. Something certainly deserving of attention.

Several of the pieces Fry introduced in October were released Monday, December 16th, on his nine-track solo album titled Headwater Songs, through Tucson-based label People In A Position To Know (Golden Boots, Little Wings, Wooden Wand).  Recorded in one take on Marantz 4-track cassettes after weeks of thorough preparation and rehearsing to get through the album without innumerable cuts (if any — and, in the end, a successful feat), the album at once embraces the musicians’ vulnerability and exposes our own. As I am often drawn to form-and-function, I was convinced I had experienced an integrated work of musical artistry; an opinion furthered when Devin explained that Katie Rose Pipkin’s smoky quartz artwork for the album cover alludes to the imperfections he recognizes may or may not reflect from Headwater’s various stages of development.

A “psychedelic country and clawhammer guitar reflection” on the fires and flooding that tore through the Arkansas River Headwaters region of Colorado during the summer of 2013, the album’s first track, “After The Royal Gorge Fire,” is a tribute to Fry’s family and childhood friend, Eric Andrew Smith — a firefighter assigned to defend the community — in his home town of Cañon City, Colorado. Other tracks I found particularly special are “New Moon” and “Blackflowers” — and taken as a whole, each track and the entire album’s exploration of soul and sound does not disappoint.

The formal press commentary for the release adds that Headwater is: “…stripped-down, intimate country ballads reminiscent of Willie Nelson’s Crazy: The Demo Sessions. Fry’s formidable clawhammer work is everywhere, along with Salesman [the six-person band for which Fry provides vocals and guitar] drummer Clayton Lillard’s masterful playing, moments of sparse harmony, and an expanse or two of trance-inducing reverb. ‘Bloodstone (I’m Not Afraid To Die)’ is a psychedelic lullabye equal parts comforting and defiant, title track “Headwaters (Song For Gatherer)” evokes a roadhouse along a burnt stretch of I-50 coming out of the Rocky Mountain foothills, and closer “Skate” seeks forgiveness in still-warm sandstone.”

The album’s release comes as unsurprising given Fry has collaborated as a member of the groups Salesman and Lord Buffalo for several years. However, the solo album brings attention to the 20 or so years of the dedication he has given to music since childhood. This is shared from the strings of his father’s 1949 Gibson LG Parlor-size guitar through a Twin Reverb Amp. The drumming accompaniment provided comes from Clayton Lillard; Garrett Hellman dials-in crafted tones on three of the tracks; and Daniel Jesse Pruitt harmonizes on two. Though Fry’s choice guitar may be known to have been used over time by vagabond travelers and children, the leadership it takes next to Fry’s poignant lyrics and easy voice show that a permanent presence on the music landscape will soon be carved out by the type of maturity-of-sound Fry delivers on this album.

Fry has provided the opening track for readers as a complimentary invitation to his work: “After The Royal Gorge Fire” is available here for download.

 

The other tracks and entire album can be downloaded at http://devinjamesfry.bandcamp.com/.

December 24, 2013   Comments Off on James Devin Fry/Music Review

Andy Summers/Photography-Interview

Shanghai May 2013©Andy Summers

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“Del Mondo”

“Police” guitarist’s other passion

 by Ginger Liu

 Andy Summers shared a love for both music and photography from as early as the late 1970s. As the guitarist in one of the biggest bands of the 20th century – The Police – his photography became an extension of his music.
andyWhile the band toured the world, Summers documented behind the scenes, giving an intimate, personal and unique point of view that could not be captured by hired press. Much later, after The Police stopped touring and stopped making music as a band, Summers produced with Taschen (2007) “I’ll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980-1983.” His first photography book of the band and their travels was “Throb” (William Morrow & Company, 1983), currently out of print. Since the band’s demise, Summers has been productive in both solo music projects and photography, the latter of which has extended his art to numerous exhibitions, magazine essays, photography publications and recently, keynote presentations of his work.

For his exhibition at Leica Los Angeles, Summers presents his global travels through a series of striking black and white portraits. You won’t find any images of music in this project, instead we see people and places and gritty raw realities of people’s lives in many parts of Asia.

I spoke to Andy about his upcoming exhibition in Los Angeles, his use of Leica and his photographic process.

GL: Tell me about your upcoming exhibition at Leica Gallery Los Angeles and what we can expect to see?

AS: I am pleased to be exhibiting at the new Leica gallery in LA, as I have been a Leica photographer for many years now. Therefore, to show in the new and  first Leica gallery in LA is a distinct pleasure and seems fitting. All the photos in the show are shot with Leica and will be a selection from around the world in the last few years.

GL: When did your love affair with photography, and in particular Leica, begin?

AS: My true pursuit of photography began in the early eighties. I used a Reflex cameras as I started out but switched to the Leica Rangefinder a couple of years later when introduced to it by Ralph Gibson.

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GL: From the images I’ve seen in this exhibition, people feature in many of them. Is this a conscious point of view?

AS: There is no conscious shooting of people; it would depend on the situation and if it ignites something in  me.

GL: What is your method in setting up an image? Is it a fleeting visit and taking photographs of what you see, and/or do you enter into dialogue with your subject for background information?

AS: It can be both. The real preparation is the effort that one puts into developing photography skills over the years, or seeing photographic possibilities as part of some larger progression.

GL: Which city, town or country has been your most inspiring place to photograph so far?

AS: The inspiration for a photograph is not tied to one town or city, but rather something could be anywhere that grabs one’s visual imagination.

GL: Which photographers have and still do inspire you?

AS: Ralph Gibson, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Henri Cartier Bresson.

GL: From your upcoming exhibition in Los Angeles, can you choose an image to describe its subject matter and creative process?

AS: I wouldn’t pick out one; rather I would say that they are all facets of the process. First being in a situation that is  visually stimulating and that may involve shooting rapidly or waiting for a scene to develop visually,  i.e., the shapes become better inside the frame, the light improves or whatever it is that you recognize  as more compelling.

GL: What more can we expect to see from your photography in 2014?

AS: No doubt I will travel with my Leica monochromatic and  see what comes up…more images from China, probably.

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“Andy Summers – Del Mondo” opens at the Leica Gallery Los Angeles with an opening reception on November 9, 2013 from 6pm – 8pm and the exhibition runs to January 4, 2014.  Andy Summers will present an artist talk on December 14 at 6pm.

Leica Gallery Los Angeles
8783 Beverly Blvd.
West Hollywood CA 90048

See also: www.andysummers.com

About the interviewer:

Ginger Liu is a contributing editor to Ragazine.CC.  You can read more about her in “About Us.”

 

November 2, 2013   1 Comment

Fred Roberts – World Out of Control

DecoderPosterOld

Decoder (1984)

 

Der Protest

by Fred Roberts

Did you ever watch a pot of water come to a boil? First the water is still, then there are a few bubbles, then more and in more places, and all of a sudden many, until finally the boiling point is reached and the water is in a constant state of turmoil. This is what a recent viral video reminded me of, a project by Penn State doctoral candidate John Beieler mapping global protests from 1979 to the present day. It makes sense. Anywhere you look there is something to be concerned about. Corporations out of control, banks out of control, militarization of the police, mass NSA spying, prison as a business model, war as a business model, fracking, mass oil spills, nuclear meltdowns and melt-throughs, genetically corrupted food, global warming, dysfunctional government and a complacent media trying its best to make us feel good along the way to the catastrophe.

In this article I want to share some encounters I’ve made with political statements in music and film in the German language, representing different approaches but sharing a common goal: change.

A German film released in 1984 – “Decoder”, was just about 30 years ahead of its time. It is a must see today: a counterculture film of post-punk protest – surely not one to catch on in the mainstream of the mid 1980s. Too radical, although indeed the film did make its mark in Italy. During Italy’s period of social unrest an early version of the chaos club showed the film at all of its events and garnered it a faithful cult following. The film was inspired by the writings of William S. Burroughs and includes tracks by Einstürzende Neubauten, Soft Cell and The The, with additional music composed especially for the film by members of Soft Cell (Genesis P-Orridge and Dave Ball) and of Einstürzende Neubauten (FM Einheit, Alexander Hacke, and Jon Caffery). Burroughs had a small role in the film, as well, which is an unimpeachable confirmation of the film’s integrity. The lack of distribution apart from the Italian exception counts the film as a forgotten classic today.

The film is set in a dystopian present in which muzak is used to hold the population under control. The imagery is of fascism, a howling wind, a nameless agent walking along an urban landscape into a faceless bureaucracy, then through endless, anonymous corridors. It looks creepy and hypermodern. Many shadows. The lighting creates a dark mood, similar as in films like “Blade Runner” or the TV series “Max Headroom.”

The main character, FM Einheit, discovers that by playing back certain music/sounds, he can counteract the muzak and cause people to revolt. He carries out his experiments in, of all places, a fast food restaurant. All the while he is pursued by the shadowy agent (Bill Rice) out to eliminate him, but also following an obsession with FM Einheit’s girlfriend, played by Christine F, of the famed book “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.” In a key scene, Genesis P-Orridge states: “Information is like a bank. Some of us are rich. Some of us are poor with information. All of us can be rich. Our job, your job, is to rob the bank, to kill the guards, to go out there to destroy everybody who keeps and hides the whole information… Information. Power!” Later, during the riotous endgame, one of the leaders reflects the converse of this idea: There will be no news blackout. It is an information blackout.

The film metaphorically portrays today’s powers as they stand before us with the curtain drawn back and their masks torn away. This has been brought about as much by the lack of real change over the decades as by the new awareness given by Wikileaks and Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. “Decoder” captures the moment of the boiling point when the powers that be are no longer able to control the masses. This is what makes the film so remarkable and essential viewing today. There has been a US DVD release of the film, albeit out of print, but according to the film’s author Klaus Maeck, a European DVD release is planned for 2014.

Georg Kreisler

Anyone who is a fan of Tom Lehrer will probably be astonished to learn about Georg Kreisler (1922-2011). Kreisler was a Jewish-Austrian who emigrated to America with his parents in 1938 just after Hitler had taken Georg_Kreisler_detailover in Austria. Kreisler began performing macabre, sarcastic songs in a similar vein to Lehrer but by the mid 1950s returned to Austria, continuing the same in German, developing over the years a repertoire of several hundred songs of social and political criticism, ironic, satirical and often quite dark texts. Kreisler coined the term “everblacks” for this type of song. His performances were cabaret style, accompanying himself on piano. In learning about his work, I came across many gems with head-on attacks on the reality of society’s institutions. It is punk protest in a charming, old-school manner, often praising his targets to death. Many of the songs were banned from radio and according to an intro to one of his songs, Austrian state radio was reluctant to play even his apparently harmless songs, as they were afraid he might be saying something they did not understand.

Some examples: “Der Euro” (1996) starts by listing all the historical landmarks of Europe which will soon fade into oblivion, overshadowed by the all-powerful Euro. “Who needs culture when you have the Euro? It can bribe politicians, build banks rising to the stars. It can build McDonalds and military barracks, poets will die for it and the masses will learn to worship it.”

Another song is a chilling psychogram of a sociopathic politician: “Der Politiker.” With each verse he captures some aspect we will recognize in some politician somewhere: “I see homeless freezing under bridges, unemployed who are ashamed before their own children, war refugees, burning villages, and freshly raped women. My one thought in all this: How can I help my party?” Another remarkable song laments the fact that there is a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and also to nearly every class of person, but not a society for the prevention of cruelty to the police: “If a student goes for a walk before parliament / He should desist and cease / Let’s protect the police.” Over and over he decries ad absurdum, “who will protect the police?”

Those songs are just the tip of the iceberg. I ventured a translation of one of Kreisler’s works which struck me as the most bitterly sarcastic song I’d ever heard. As I translated, it terrified me that this is a perfect snapshot of America today. Do I need to give examples? Warning: the language is graphic and racist:

Shoot them Dead
 
If you see a nigger ape –
Shoot him dead!
If your neighbor looks agape –
Shoot him dead!
You don’t have to be ashamed
You will never once be blamed –
Shoot them simply stone cold dead!
 
Turkish, Kurdish, Lebanese, and sometimes white –
Worthless human specimens are a blight
Communists and anarchists and bleeding hearts –
Don’t you lose your sleep at night!
Attorneys and employees and pacifists –
Anyone who still believes that good exists
In the gutter, in the trash!
With a weapon flash!
 
Does someone have prosthetic legs –
Shoot him dead!
Has he joined the reader dregs –
Shoot him dead!
Homeless bums or slacker swine
And the Gypsies first in line
Shoot them simply stone code dead!
 
Don’t come to me with democrats –
Gas them, squash them!
Let them die like traitor rats –
No one wants them!
Father, mother, sisters, brothers, and old friends
There’s something you need them for?
Pastors, teachers, city libruls –
kill and crate them!
All the stupid poet souls –
Eliminate them!
Know one thing: you are strong!
All the rest are wrong!
 
Let’s go to war in foreign places –
Shoot them dead!
Decimate entire races –
Shoot them dead!
When they’re in the cemetery
You will feel so legendary –
So shoot them stone cold dead!
 
Stone cold dead –
Eats no bread
Get them and shoot them dead!

 

Songs like this unmask a harsh reality, make us uncomfortable, and hopefully catalyze us into effective action. Another key song of Kreisler’s “Vorletztes Lied” (Next to Last Song) captures the idea that it is too late to write songs, jokes, words to change the establishment. It is time to do something. That is where we are today.

 

Gustav

 

gustav-hamburg-pudel by robin hinsch

Photo by Robin Hinsch: http://www.robinhinsch.com/

 

Austria, the land that gave us Gustav Mahler and Gustav Meyrink also gives us the lady Gustav. Gustav is the pseudonym under which electronic musician Eva Jantschitsch writes and performs songs that follow on the idea of Kreisler’s “Vorletztes Lied.” Her texts (in both English and German) are determined attempts to slap us out of our stupor before it is too late, and in some cases with the undertone that it already is. Her debut “Rettet die Wale” (Save the Whales) was released late 2004 and became an immediate favorite of mine. The American war against Iraq was in full drive and headlines sometimes took on surrealistic proportions. In 2008 she followed up with “Verlass die Stadt” (Leave the City), but most of her time in the past years has been devoted to theater projects.

The first song on her debut “We Shall Overcome” is a cousin to the civil rights song of the same name. It is about seeing through the superficialities of modern society and breaking the chains of manipulation, to ultimately overcome the repression. It also immediately establishes her style of songwriting. Most of her songs are a challenge to interpret. The texts bombard the listener with the same idea presented in different ways in semi-enigmatic references, for example: “when all the beauty just seems to be wrong”, “we dance to their music”, “we all are invited to their big bingo show.” The advantage: the songs stay up to date and allow listeners to relate the ideas to their own perceptions. Some songs have a strong feminist message: “One Hand Mona” describes the situation of a woman becoming a man’s wife, calling it the same as losing an arm (ceasing to be his equal) – the modern violin accompaniment lends an extreme sense of urgency to the situation. “Mein Bruder” is like a song out of the end times of permanent war, repeating the mantra “my brother was an American patriot, brave, strong, a believer, family man and pilot” alternating it with the details and repercussions of his death in battle.

The loveliest and most fascinating song on the album is “Rettet die Wale” (Save the whales), with sugar sweet vocals and orchestral accompaniment, it sounds like a sister to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” but is instead an aggressive attack on complacency and the idea that by correctly sorting your garbage and using all the politically correct terms you will save the world. Gustav performed in Hamburg several weeks ago and sang it like a long, slow kiss with the audience. The final suggestion, take each other by the hand and make love every day, has the implication that maybe all we have left to make this world a better place is to reach out to one another on an individual level.

Her concert at Hamburg’s Golden Pudel Club was also the occasion for me to learn about her newer songs including a lullaby about the riders of the apocalypse and the amazing “Soldatin oder Veteran.” It is classic Gustav, asking the question: are you a good soldier, or a veteran of that belief? Are you a conformist or a fighter? The idea is presented again and again in diverse variations: when you dream are you someone who resists? It’s the kind of song that makes you want to open a club, just to play it – because it rocks that much.

Gustav has received positive reviews for rescuing the genre of protest songs, but her songs are not exactly protests. They are not songs to sing at the demonstrations but rather to get us there. In a sense we are living in Metropolis and Gustav is Maria, calling us into action.

Gustav’s Website: http://gustav.me/

———–

Maybe contemporary events are so far along now that we can only despair. I hope not, but to paraphrase Georg Kreisler, the time for writing songs has long passed. It is time for action. Gustav’s music is a wakeup call to all those who have missed that message. The film Decoder shows us the prerequisite for change. We need to fully understand what is going on in the world in order to correct it. So what do we do now? Something, I hope.

 ———–

About the reviewer:

Fred Roberts, contributing Music Editor.  A native of Cincinnati living in Germany since 1987, Fred enjoys subverting the arbitrary commercial process in which great works often go unrecognized.  He is creator and designer of Elbot.com, an award-winning AI system. His interests include literature, film, photography and discovering all the well-kept secrets Europe has to offer. You can read more about him in About Us.

Email: indeterminacy@gmail.com

November 2, 2013   Comments Off on Fred Roberts – World Out of Control

Jeff Katz/Music

david wax

David Wax Museum at City Winery

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Dancing Girl

 by Jeff Katz

Why do we get so angry at the lone girl dancing at a concert?

I was at a David Wax Museum in Albany, a great show, exciting, very danceable. The Linda is a fairly austere place, a former bank building, with about 175 seats set up facing the stage. There’s room on the side for circular tables and, if so inclined, dancing. There were a few who took advantage of the that space, but when David Wax encouraged everyone to get up, for their own circulatory health, one girl sauntered to the front and there she stayed, dancing, spinning, arms out and up Ed Grimley style. It was fine when she wasn’t in the way, but when she moved to the front and center of the seated crowd the guy behind us in the second row, who had committed his own transgression with loud and boring conversation about his pets’ diarrhea and a discourse on the relative hardness of bluestone vs. slate. (My son Joey asked me “What’s it like being an adult? Does your conversation have to turn boring?”), shouted “Crazy person here.”

“Over there, or do you mean me?” dancing girl answered with a sneer. “I’m having a great time.”

That’s the issue. It’s not only that she blocked our view but she clearly felt her level of enjoyment was superior because she was dancing and we weren’t. And there’s so much attention gathering – front and center, talking to the band, not in typical shout out fashion, but conversational.

“Sue,” she began, as if she and the band’s fiddler/singer/donkey jawbone percussion player Sue Slezak was interested in a mid-show tete-a-tete. Or when David Wax said this was the second show of the fall tour and I t was exciting.

“It is exciting!” the dancer agreed, as if this were a one on one over coffee.

Towards the end of the show, the girl, still right in front of us, grabbed Joey, who wasn’t sure what to do but, good sport that he is, he got up and twirled her around. Later he told me her breath reeked of alcohol.

The hostility the dancing girl engendered reminded me of a similar situation. A trippy girl put herself right in front of the expensive seats at a Bob Dylan/Paul Simon, antagonizing everyone to the point where people threw shit at her.

It’s not simply pure enthusiasm, “happy feet” as Steve Martin used to say. If it was, no one would have a problem with it. It’s the smugness, the “Hey, look at me!” vibe that is either understood or said flat out, the in-your-face attitude that the lone dancing girl is better than the rest of the audience, because she gets it and we all need to see what she gets. That’s what pisses people off, always.

 

About the author:

Jeff Katz is music editor of Ragazine.CC.  Born in Brooklyn, Katz now writes about music, baseball and whatever else he’s obsessing on from his home base in Cooperstown, New York. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

November 2, 2013   Comments Off on Jeff Katz/Music

Soundscene Europe

Mary Ocher -Eden cover

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EuroSounds

by Fred Roberts

 

According to some random statistics I found online, there’s an average of 80,000 album releases each year in America. Mathematically speaking, this amounts to “80K + n” releases counting Europe. Whatever “n” finally turns out to be – Google wouldn’t tell me – the chances of anyone in America finding any one of those “n” European titles surrounded by a wall of 80,000 records will be 3, which by a grand coincidence happens to be the number of releases I’m covering here. Not being good at introductions, this introduction is hereby ended. Let the reviews begin!

 

Felix Kubin “Zemsta Plutona”

Gagarin Records, Release date October 2013

This is Felix Kubin’s first solo release since “Matki Wandalki” (Mothers of Vandalism) in 2004. In between there felix-kubin-zemsta-plutonahave been various collaborations, sound experiments, theater and radio projects. His collaboration with Pia Burnette was reviewed here last year. “Matki Wandalki” is an album I’ve listened to frequently over the last eight years, usually on the way to work near Hamburg’s harbor district. It seemed like music of the machines and harmonized well with the industrial scenery. The coup of that disc is a cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” which depending on perspective could be the first thoughts of a robot becoming self-aware, or the final associations of a human whose mind is dissolving.

“Zemsta Plutona” (Pluto’s Revenge) picks up where Matki Wandalki left off, with a cover of Klaus Nomi covering Lou Christie’s “Lightning Strikes” metamorphosized into a surreal electro-storm. The previously released video took home the 2010 MuVi award. The album goes on to justify its name, introducing electronic grooves that are not of this world, yet rhythmically compelling to the human senses (“Atomium Vertigo” & “Flies Without Memory”), the former with a text in French spoken by Nicolas Ekla, resembling an emotionally detached radio announcement. “Nachts im Park” is like a verfremdung of techno. “Restez en Ligne” suggests a 23rd century waltz, retro of the future. The same can be said of “Swinging 405”, a futuristic rediscovery of swing. “Speed” was fun to listen to – sounding like a pair of robots pounding each Felix Kubinother to pieces and afterwards hammering themselves back together again. “Piscine Resonnez!” on the other hand is scary. The vocals (in French) by Meryll Hardt and cyndiesynthie convey an uber-attitude that combine with the intensity of the accompaniment, and would fit well to the soundtrack of a nightmare. On “Der Kaiser ist Gestorben” (The Kaiser has Died) Herr Kubin does what he does best, combining a surrealistic track with deadpan vocals, together conveying a disturbing undertone, the repetition of a madman in shock, and in the end veering away into some unspecified horror.

Altogether “Zemsta Plutona” has a sophisticated feel to it. Sometimes it seems post-Kraftwerk, with intended or unintended nods to records like “Computer World” or “Radio Activity” – the vox-distorted utterance of “Atomium Vertigo” or the rhythmic counting of “The Rhythm Modulator Cont’d”, in other tracks it justifies its name, Pluto, Plutonic, distant, detached, in an unpopulated corner of the universe, many sounds that are impossible to place. That’s what I felt listening to the album. Though I’ve been interested in electronic music since the early 1980s, I never find anything quite like the music of Herr Kubin.

Robert Deckker Photos of Felix Kubin
Website: 
http://felixkubin.com

 

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Mary Ocher “Eden”

Buback, June 2013

A number of emotions swirled through my mind the first time I listened to Mary Ocher’s “Eden;” Captivation. Disbelief. Religious awe. I felt the definite presence of a strong artistic personality. The initial track “Wake Up” sets a mystical tone, of waking up on the verge of disaster, and fleeing into the arms of Vena, presumably the evil Hindu King. It’s a simple combination that brings goosebumps: Middle Eastern chords strummed on a guitar, a moody cello, Mary’s voice in an ebb and flow of intensity.

Mary Ocher by Cristina SunbeamMary’s voice. One will either fall in love immediately, or hate it with a passion. She sings with a rare unconventionality, letting out a rage of emotion in one sudden burst, calming the next, varying the expected intonation, ranging from a deep bass to a near scream, and sometimes calming into the cleanest English ever. To the uninitiated the closest comparison is Nina Hagen. The accompaniment is generally sparse, guitar, piano, or synthesizer. That is what you’ll hear on the fourteen tracks comprising “Eden”. There is a strong stylistic cohesion, although some of the themes vary from religious mysticism, “No Lesson Learned” asking the question “Is [Lady Madonna] both a mother AND a demon?” to worldly concerns, “The Road”, indifference to a break-up. “Android Sea” is stunning, Mary on piano, the words “A thousand dreams are haunting me / like walking on a thousand knives / and every step is anguish” – that goes under the skin.

The song cycle “Thunderbird/Eden Parts I-IV” concluding the album overshadows everything up to that point. It’s like the music to a sacred liturgy rooted in ancient memories just beyond the grasp of the collective unconscious. Again it’s an ebb and flow, of the thunderbird, the phoenix, the rise and fall into ashes. It is solemn, mysterious and unbelievable.  

Mary is a Russian-born Israeli who finally settled in Berlin where she is gaining attention in counterculture circles as a musician, singer, poet and visual artist. According to interviews I’ve read, she has no formal voice training. She is a firm believer in the DIY approach, is also a member of the international art collective Autodiktat. She has a previous release “War Songs” (2008). The only word I can find to describe her music is one that doesn’t exist: avant schräg. German word: Schräg (adj): deviating from the norm, from what is customary, from expectations.

Website: http://www.maryocher.com

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Dear Sasquatch - Director's Cut cover

 

Dear Sasquatch “Director’s Cut”

Ljup Records, June 2013

Something is going on in the small town of Kristianstad, Sweden. Some kind of secret music society or a hideout for new bands. It’s home of the indie label Ljup Records and of Club K, which I reviewed earlier this year. It’s also home to Dear Sasquatch: Mårten Bendroth, Andreas Åberg, Robin Frostensson, Tim Persson and Filip Johansson, five boys just of high school, who formed a guitar band and brought out their debut this summer. “Director’s Cut” is a fine collection of songs with a fresh alternative sound to them, vivid, upbeat, alive and immediately endearing. The riffs are pleasing and have a slight edginess to them. The ultra-intense opening track “This is the End” reminded me of The Jam. That’s followed by the title track, describing a moment out of a film with boyfriend and girlfriend finding their way back to each other. The lead singer (Filip Johansson) tells the story counterpointed by the band’s backing refrain “I think I’m coming back to you.”

Dear SasquatchThe songs cover post-adolescent angst and a variety of intense feelings of confronting the realities of adult life. It’s something like scenes from a movie, hence the title. “Push Me Out” is about getting totally wasted and the practical problem of getting home afterwards. “Egocentric Ways” shares the feelings of crashing into life, that point of no return when you start to grow old, “can’t you see what I don’t want to feel?” Another song “99 Celebrities” with the impassioned refrain “leave me alone now” captures a complex emotion of realizing that much of life is an illusion. I tried hard to find one song that I didn’t like or thought was weak, but had to give up. All stand out in one way or another. My absolute favorite is the ballad “Anna Knows All” which I invariably wind up listening to on repeat.

Some months ago I found the band’s Facebook page and clicked like. A few weeks after that one of the band members messaged me to say they were playing in Hamburg at a club called Maria’s Ballroom, sharing the bill with another band. It was a Thursday night. I turned up on time to get a good spot near the stage, but as time progressed it became apparent that I was nearly the entire audience, along with the sound crew, the other band, and some persons connected with the venue. So it turned into something like a private concert, though that didn’t diminish the performance in any way. The band played their hearts and souls into the music and their frontman Filip Johansson sang with the intensity of a man imploring the Universe. After the last song, he quickly left the stage and the room. I talked to the band, got a cd, and their autographs, with only Filip’s still to collect. They told me that after a concert he usually goes off to be by himself. I could understand that, after all he’d put into it. A bit later I found him in one of the back rooms, sitting quietly in an armchair. It was like a moment out of a film.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dearsasquatch

Bandcamp: http://ljupmusik.bandcamp.com/album/directors-cut

 

About the reviewer:

Fred Roberts is a contributing music editor to Ragazine.CC. Originally from Ohio, he lives in Germany. You can read more about him in “About Us.”

 

November 2, 2013   Comments Off on Soundscene Europe

Fred Roberts/Music

record player

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Gramophone Days

by Fred Roberts
Contributing Editor/Music

When I returned from work the other day my son (16) was waiting to ask me something. He sat on one end of the sofa, on

Hank_Williams_Promotional_Photo

Hank Williams Promotional Photo

the other end was a record we’d brought back to Germany from a stateside visit in March. A 78 rpm single of Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me” b/w “A House Without Love” (1950). It’s an item I got at Everybody’s Records, one of those outstanding traditional record shops known in the region of Cincinnati. Still, it is not often that one finds 78s in shops like this. It happened to be out on display, the only one of its kind in sight, and marked at just a few dollars, so I couldn’t resist taking it with me. My son had gotten curious about the old records, and asked if we could play it. The record player had been put away for the last ten years or so, a portable Phillips model from around 1960, found at a Dutch flea market in the early nineties. It had cost five gulden and despite the assurances of the boy selling it, did not play. Not straight away. But after taking it apart and spraying the spindle with some rust dissolvent it was fine.

I placed the Hank Williams record onto the turntable, pulled back the arm to switch it on. The motor rattled a bit, but it still worked. Then we listened to the Hank Williams disc for the first time in all its glory, that rich, booming sound that only vacuum tubes can deliver, the inherent scratchiness accompanying the 78 rotations racing against the minute, adding character to the sound but never overwhelming it. This is the experience of music that anyone born before 1950 grew up into and which quickly vanished once vinyl was introduced.

I tried to play some 78 records for my son years ago, but he wasn’t interested.

“What made you want to listen now?” I asked him.

“They played some music on ‘The Great Gatsby’. It sounded so different.”

I never liked vinyl. I was ambivalent to it at best, yet in 1985 when I bought my first stereo setup, I had so many records I decided to stay with the technology. But I disliked the imperfections, the pops and skips that eventually crept into the sound, the constant worries about dust, the lack of durability. I wanted perfection. A few years later I switched to CDs, and in 1995 I sold most of my LPs, except for the ones I thought were too rare to ever part with. At the same time I started collecting 78s.

Django_Reinhardt_(Gottlieb_07301)

Django Reinhardt Gottlieb

Now my son and I sat beginning a tour through the records I had amassed a few years before he was born. We played “J’ai Ta Main” by Charles Trenet with its mournful trumpet opening, then guitar and piano coming in with happier notes leading up to a swinging vocal and orchestra, all in all capturing the innocence and optimism still alive in Europe in 1937. That was a record I found in Holland, where pre-war recordings like that were readily available. The elderly gentleman selling them made frequent forays to a market in Brussels, he claimed, and brought back the wares to resell in Arnhem at the weekend market. Most of my best swing records originated from his booth.

We played “Portrait of Jenny” by Nat King Cole, a dreamy sound that brought us into the forties. The early, jazzier Nat King Cole Trio is great on 78. I found several in Netherlands, including “Straighten Up and Fly Right”. Next I put on “Smoke Rings” by Les Paul and Mary Ford. When my son was just a few months old that was the song I played when it was time for him to sleep, unconcerned that it was a song about smoking. I’d rock him in my arms while the record spun and by the time it was finished, he was fast asleep. It worked every time! Now he listened intently, but couldn’t say that it sounded familiar. So much for primal memories.

My dream when collecting had been to find some of those seminal recordings of Coleman Hawkins with Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. I wound up locating a few of Coleman Hawkins, including “Woodyn’ You” with Dizzy Gillespie (1944) and various of the Hot Club, but never those particular recordings. We listened to Django’s lively “Les Yeux Noirs” (1940), and then I put on something truly special. An early release on the French label Swing, which had issued those 1937 Coleman/Django recordings. This was Garland Wilson on Swing #19 “The Blues Got Me” b/w “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön” (recorded 1938). We listened to the B side, an incredible piano interpretation of that Yiddish standard, starting with a couple of slow, deliberate variations of the melody, then exploding into a wild improvisation. What a disc! “Beale Street Blues” (1931) by Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti was a worthy tune to follow it, with Jack Teagarden and an early (uncredited) Benny Goodman. I never saw my son paying such enraptured attention to something.

Paul_Robeson_1942

Paul Robeson, 1942

We turned to a stack of German records. The most interesting music in Germany was before Hitler seized power in 1933, that great decadent music of the Weimar Republic. I have a couple of records of Claire Waldorff with songs written by Friedrich Hollaender – who played piano in the classic film “Der blaue Engel” (1930). I never found a record by Marlene Dietrich, and I suppose those would be the scarcest titles in the world. The immensely popular Richard Tauber is easy to locate, and never the same record twice. He was a Jewish-Austrian tenor who fled to England after Hitler annexed Austria. His renditions of German folk songs are timeless. Lotte Lehmann, of operatic fame, was banned early on in Germany and is harder to find. We played a silly song interpreted by Bernard Ette’s orchestra “Die süße Minna (wird immer dünner)” – Sweet Minna is getting thinner and thinner – sounding like a tongue in cheek song about bulimia. Then a raucous mid-thirties schuhplattler version of “Die Dorfmusik”. Fun songs, even if the former is in somewhat poor taste.

Though jazz and swing were banned in Germany during the Hitler years, there was some decent popular music produced. A singer who stands out is Rosita Serrano, originally from Chile, who began performing in Germany in the mid-thirties. She had a lovely voice, often compared to that of a nightingale. Performers like her and Zarah Leander (from Sweden) kept up the illusion of a multi-cultural society under fascism. We listened to two songs by Rosita. Her rendition of “Mein Herz sehnt sich nach Liebe” (My heart yearns for love) is stunning – combining hope with a trace of melancholy. Whenever I hear it I get the image of German soldiers on the front, listening via shortwave, and escaping for a moment the futility of war. It gives me chills. “It sounds so WWII” my son commented. “Onkel Jonathan” with music by Victor Jary (1938) is as close as one could get to jazz in the Third Reich. Rosita sings an incredible scat vocal, revealing unexpected blues sensibilities. Her fate was not so happy. In 1943, on tour in Sweden, she learned that she was to be arrested upon her return, accused of spying. She escaped to Chile, but despite several attempts, never recaptured the success she had enjoyed in Germany.

rosita serrano 2

Rosita Serrano

My son was interested in the set of Russian records. I had obtained most of those from a lady who’d been a journalist in East Berlin, and later a professor of art. Married to a Russian, she often visited Moscow, and returned with the odd record each time. These she had sold to me. There were some folk songs, some popular singers, all of it unique glimpses into the Soviet period, but also several records of Paul Robeson. She had seen him perform live in Moscow and spoke glowingly as she recalled it to me. I was ashamed to admit I had never heard of him, but later understood why. He had become an un-person in America: blacklisted during the McCarthy era and his passport confiscated, he was unable for several years to tour outside of the USA. It was misguided to believe in Stalin, as Robeson had done, but at least it shows how kindly our democracy handled dissent as opposed to the way it was under fascism.

Finally we had worked our way to the end of swing and the beginnings of rock and roll. We listened to the entertaining “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” by the Four Lads, then that massive hit record by the Platters: “Only You” b/w “The Great Pretender”. Next a set of discs on Belgian labels, found at a record dealer in Bielefeld who said he had gotten them in Holland: “Where You At?” Lloyd Price b/w “Let Me Give You All My Love” Roy Milton and Orchestra featuring Camille Howard on piano, then sides with Earl Dennis and his Rock n Roll Five, The Matys Brothers, Joe Hough and the Paraders, Big Edgards, The Jitters. Although I’d never heard any of these songs or artists, they brimmed with authenticity, rock and roll in its formative years. Finally we got to the best record of all. Elvis Presley: “Blue Suede Shoes” b/w “Tutti Fruiti”, discovered at a Dutch flea market at the price of one gulden. “Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go!” As it played we felt the revolution that Elvis Presley ignited. Amazing that a spinning shellac disc can convey so much charisma! We played it twice.

The next nights I looked into the living room to see my son on the couch, studying for school, while systematically working through the old records. He’d pause when a song finished, Fats Waller “Two Sleepy People”, place it back in its envelope, then put on the next one, returning again to his notes. It was sweet.

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Playlist:

Hank Williams “Why Don’t You Love Me”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVc3lfrKGkg

Charles Trenet “J’ai Ta Main”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL4RQGPXCV4

Nat King Cole “Portrait of Jenny”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVFwGtFiTCE

Les Paul and Mary Ford “Smoke Rings”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bK3APtfqp5Q

Django Reinhardt “Les Yeux Noirs“   : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua-MWLJvGvM

Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti  “Beale Street Blues”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF3f1G8xUaA

Rosita Serrano “Der Onkel Jonathan”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0XtCzblMx8

Rosita Serrano “Mein Herz sehnt sich nach Liebe”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob7E2NAI6jA

Four Lads “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st5F_MP_Bmg

The Platters “Only You”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZs-e_x0PGM

The Platters “The Great Pretender”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gBxeslnd0Y

Lloyd Price “Where You At?”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2r2AVSGMo

Elvis Presley “Blue Suede Shoes”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1Ond-OwgU8

Fats Waller “Two Sleepy People”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb_-NsrKP5c

 

 

August 31, 2013   Comments Off on Fred Roberts/Music