Piranesi record covers

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Title page for the Carceri d’Invenzione (second state), 1761.

Continuing an occasional series about artists or designers whose work has appeared on record sleeves. Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) is a cult figure here so this is an inevitable post even if there isn’t a great deal to look at. Many of the record covers that use Piranesi etchings are for classical releases, which isn’t so surprising. The prints that comprise the Vedute di Roma were Piranesi’s most popular works, and remain so today despite their exaggerations of the true size of Rome’s monuments and ruins. But I thought the Carceri d’Invenzione (aka The Prisons) might be more popular, especially in the metal world where dark and gloomy imagery is de rigueur. There may be more examples, of course, since I’m having to rely on Discogs which doesn’t always note the work of uncredited artists. I suspect that architecture alone isn’t attractive enough for the metal hordes, however vast and tenebrous that architecture might be. The covers I’ve done for metal bands have always had to incorporate figures—human or otherwise—or some kind of occult symbolism. The most prominent musical piece based on Piranesi’s Prisons is also a classical work, one of the Bach cello suites recorded by Yo-Yo Ma in 1998. Ma’s album, Inspired By Bach, was accompanied by six films from different directors; the film for Suite No. 2, The Sound of the Carceri by François Girard, shows Ma playing the piece inside a CGI rendering of Piranesi’s colossal spaces. Copies of Girard’s film come and go on YouTube so this one may not stay around.

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Luigi Dallapiccola: Il Prigioniero (1975); National Symphony Orchestra Of Washington DC, Antal Dorati.

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Palestrina: Missa Aeterna Christi Munera / Oratio Jeremiae Prophetae / Motetti (1976); Pro Cantione Antiqua, London.

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Tartini: Concerti Per Violino E Orchestra / Sonate (1981); P. Toso, I Solisti Veneti, C. Scimone, E. Farina.

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Captivation (1994) by Tefilla.

Continue reading “Piranesi record covers”

Weekend links 553

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The Unknown Room by Gina Litherland.

• “He admired abstract painters like Mark Rothko, but also derived inspiration from the far less hip Pre-Raphaelite artists of the mid-1800s, especially the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Budd’s dreamy early breakthrough Madrigals of the Rose Angel, which featured a segment titled Rossetti Noise, was deliciously out of step with the hard-edged music of the 1970s.” Geeta Dayal on the late Harold Budd.

• “Here the experience is transformed into something more fabulist, and much more interesting than the memoir. In the novel, delusions of grandeur become real powers.” Elisa Gabbert on Leonora Carrington and The Hearing Trumpet.

• “The Japanese especially loved 3-inch CDs and there are many different examples throughout the 90s and 00s of them being used to great effect as promos.” DJ Food begins a series of posts devoted to one of my favourite music formats.

• New music: Viia, 24 minutes of live synthesis by Kikimore; Music For The Open Air, a free album of ambient music by K. Leimer (Soundcloud login required to download tracks).

• Sensory, Imaginative, and Psychic: S. Elizabeth interviews artist Gina Litherland.

• Puppets, Birds & Wycinanki: Clive Hicks-Jenkins talks to Anna Zaranko.

• Mix of the week: a 3-hour tribute to Monolake by Funky Jeff.

• At Wormwoodiana: The Flint Transmissions.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Watery, Domestic.

• At Strange Flowers: 21 books for 2021.

Edge Of The Unknown (1973) by Nik Pascal | Unknown Passage (1999) by Robert Musso | The Unknown, Part 2 (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd

Giger’s first alien: Swissmade: 2069

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You wait decades for an obscure HR Giger-related film then two copies turn up at once. Swissmade: 2069 (1968) was the last of the short films from Giger’s pre-Alien career that I’d been waiting to see, and is of note for being a 40-minute work of science fiction rather than a documentary about the artist and his art. All the other Giger films have come and gone on YouTube over the past few years although none seem to have had any recent official release apart from Passagen, Fredi M. Murer’s Giger documentary from 1972 which is now available for rent with English subtitles. Swissmade: 2069 was directed by Murer prior to Passagen and is also available for rent at the same site. Alternatively, there’s a fuzzy VHS copy at YouTube with no subtitles. Murer’s film is more properly titled 2069, Swissmade being the umbrella title for a compilation feature that comprised three films by Swiss directors. 1980 (Der Neinsager) by Yves Yersin and Alarm by Fritz E. Maeder were the first two films; 2069 provided the conclusion:

The theme of Fredi M. Murer’s contribution to the episode film Swissmade is “Switzerland after us”. Murer’s episode takes place in the year 2069. An “integrated citizen with a latent tendency to become an unintegrated citizen” is commissioned by the “Brain Center” to produce a film report about the unknown mission of a foreign being. The alien being is an extraterrestrial designed by HR Giger long before Alien with a built-in camera and tape, which travels across the earth in the year 2069 to explore current conditions. The film reporter is Murer himself. Without exception, the performers in real life were authentic 1968 activists, some of whom later made political or artistic careers.

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As science fiction this is typical of the period, with the world of the future represented by the most “futuristic” features of 1968 which means Brutalist architecture, Space Age fashion and institutes filled with advanced technology. The most surprising thing about the direction is how casually Murer treats Giger’s alien visitor. The being (played by Tina Gwerder) has a camera in its head and a working tape recorder in its chest but we only see the tape reels turning when the film is halfway through. Another director would have made much more of this, and of the carapace that Giger made for a dog to wear which is only seen in a single shot at the very end. Giger himself has a wordless role, appearing with some of his drawings, as does his partner, Li Tobler. It’s unlikely that many people would be interested in 2069 today without the Giger connection but it’s a well-made curio that points the way to another extraterrestrial with an elongated cranium. (Thanks to Jason for the tip!)

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Stills from HR Giger’s Film Design (1996).

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Previously on { feuilleton }
HR Giger’s Passagen
Heimkiller and High
The Man Who Paints Monsters In The Night
Hans by Sibylle
Giger’s Tarot
HR Giger album covers
Giger’s Necronomicon
Dan O’Bannon, 1946–2009
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
The monstrous tome

Mr Sandman

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The last cover reveal of the year isn’t my last cover of the year, two more will follow this one but they won’t be made public until next year. As before, I’ve only done the illustration this time, PS Publishing having an in-house designer who does the rest. Mr Sandman by SJI Holliday is another hardback novella, a horror tale with a sense of humour and a Monkey’s Paw-like warning about careless wishes:

Sophie is bored with her perfectly nice but deathly dull boyfriend Matthew. Sensing he’s about to lose her, Matthew takes her on a last-ditch attempt trip to the seaside, hoping to rekindle their dying flames. But things take a dark turn when Sophie visits Mr Sandman, a Haitian priest, who claims that he can change Matthew into the boyfriend that she wants. But does Sophie really know what she wants? Never has the phrase “be careful what you wish for” been more apt. Because Matthew does change…just not in the way that anyone could’ve predicted.

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Worthing is a seaside town on the south coast of England that’s generally regarded as a poor relation of nearby Brighton. Despite this status the town does possess an award-winning pier which is the main focus of SJI Holliday’s story, so this seemed an inevitable focus for the cover as well. My idea was for something in the manner of Tom Adams, an artist who specialised in arrangements of carefully-painted objects on vague or sketchy backgrounds, with the backgrounds often depicting the location of the story. Having grown up in another seaside town blessed with three piers I’m well aware that all these structures aren’t the same so the pier details have been properly researched. The Tarot cards are an example of artistic licence, however, since the novella doesn’t mention Tarot divination. But with a narrative that concerns a visit to a fortune-teller’s booth this didn’t seem like too much of a stretch, as well as being a convenient way of depicting the main characters. Pamela Colman Smith’s cards were the model for these; the two main characters look a little stiff but that’s the way the figures are represented on her Lovers card, and the awkwardness of the relationship is a dominant theme. As for the cupcakes, these are all very relevant to the story but you’ll have to read the book to find out why.

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Endpaper illustration.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Tom Adams Uncovered
Out of season

Weekend links 548

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The Aurora Borealis by Charles H. Whymper.

• “In 1829, when the celebrated Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai was almost 70 years old, he created more than 100 drawings of a dazzling array of subjects: playful cats, serene landscapes, even severed heads. Hokusai’s fame continued to grow after his death in 1849, and the suite of small, elaborate drawings was last purchased a century later, at a Paris auction in 1948. Then it disappeared from the public eye.” The British Museum now has the drawings which may be seen here.

• The week in cover design: Emily Temple compares US and UK covers for the same books, while Vyki Hendy collects recent titles with objects as the main feature of the cover designs. One of my recent covers (which will appear here soon) is less minimal than these but also features an arrangement of objects.

• The compilation experts at Light In The Attic Records have put together another collection of obscure Japanese music. Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds Of Japan 1980–1988 will be released in January.

“A Jamesian world is one of cursed artefacts, endlessly subsuming landscapes, forgotten manuscripts and tactile beings that punish the curious and intellectually arrogant.” Adam Scovell visits the grave of MR James.

• Dragons and Unicorns: John Boardley on the lost art of the Hieroglyphic Bible.

• I almost missed John Waters’ favourite films of the year.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Sade’s Castle, Cardin’s House.

Northern lights photographer of the year.

Aurora Hominis (1970) by Beaver & Krause | Aurora (1971) by Tonto’s Expanding Head Band | Soft Aurora (1979) by Tod Dockstader