Weekend links 203

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A Dune-inspired piece by Joshua Budich for In Dreams: an art show tribute to David Lynch at Spoke Art.

• “[Montague] Summers was a friend of Aleister Crowley and, like [Jacques d’Adelswärd] Fersen, conducted homoerotic black masses; whatever eldritch divinity received their entreaties was evidently propitiated by nude youths.” Strange Flowers goes in search of the Reverend Summers.

• More Jarmania: Veronica Horwell on the theatrical life of Derek Jarman, Paul Gallagher on When Derek Jarman met William Burroughs, and Scott Treleaven on Derek Jarman’s Advice to a Young Queer Artist.

Robert Henke of Monolake talks to Secret Thirteen about his electronic music. More electronica: analogue-synth group Node have recorded a new album, their first since their debut in 1995.

This hypertrophied response to decay and dilapidation is what drives the “ruin gaze”, a kind of steroidal sublime that enables us to enlarge the past because we cannot enlarge the present. When ruin-meister Giovanni Piranesi introduced human figures into his “Views of Rome”, they were always disproportionately small in relation to his colossal (and colossally inaccurate) wrecks of empire. It’s not that Piranesi, an architect, couldn’t do the maths: he wasn’t trying to document the remains so much as translate them into a grand melancholic view. As Marguerite Yourcenar put it, Piranesi was not only the interpreter but “virtually the inventor of Rome’s tragic beauty”. His “sublime dreams”, Horace Walpole said, had conjured “visions of Rome beyond what it boasted even in the meridian of its splendour”.

Frances Stonor Saunders on How ruins reveal our deepest fears and desires.

Gustave Doré. L’imaginaire au pouvoir: Four short films from the Musée d’Orsay to accompany their current exhibition, Gustave Doré (1832–1883): Master of Imagination.

• At Dangerous Minds: Remembering Cathy Berberian, the hippest—and funniest—lady of avant-garde classical music.

• “Merely a Man of Letters”: Jorge Luis Borges interviewed in 1977 by Denis Dutton & Michael Palencia-Roth.

Luke Epplin on Big as Life (1966), a science-fiction novel by EL Doctorow which the author has since disowned.

The Psychomagical Realism of Alejandro Jodorowsky: Eric Benson talks to the tireless polymath.

• A video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz for the 10th anniversary of David Milch’s Deadwood.

Eugene Brennan on Scott Walker’s The Climate of Hunter (1984).

Dune at Pinterest.

• Prophecy Theme from Dune (1984) by Brian Eno | Olivine (1995) by Node | Gobi 110 35′ south 45 58′ (1999) by Monolake

A playlist for Halloween: Orchestral and electro-acoustic

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Bluebeard (1982) by János Kass.

I thought I might not be able to do a fresh playlist this year, so much has already been covered by the previous lists (see the links below to earlier posts).

The search for new tonalities and timbres in 20th-century orchestral music led many composers to produce works that sound like—and have been used as—horror film soundtracks although you’ll never find critical discussion acknowledging such a vulgar reaction. This is a very masculine list although some of the performers are women. I might have included Diamanda Galás but she was in the first list, as was Delia Derbyshire with her associates in White Noise, the subject of a longer post here.

The Isle of the Dead (1909) by Sergei Rachmaninov
Mentioned here a few days ago, Rachmaninov’s suitably sombre piece is one of many compositions to borrow the medieval Dies Irae hymn for one of its themes.

Bluebeard’s Castle (1911) by Béla Bartók
Frank Zappa once said that his initial response upon hearing the music of Edgard Varèse was “These chords are mean; I like these chords.” I feel the same about Bartók’s music which can get very mean indeed. The obvious piece to mention would be the Adagio from Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste which Stanley Kubrick used in The Shining. Instead I’ve selected Bartók’s only opera, a psychodrama for two performers and orchestra in which Bluebeard’s new wife, Judith, explores the castle (which also represents her husband’s character) only to find everything there stained with blood.

Visage (1961) by Luciano Berio
In which Berio records his wife and frequent collaborator, Cathy Berberian, then dissects her vocalisations to disturbing effect. “Visage contains no singing, and virtually no words,” says Martin Butler. “The product of days of gruelling recording for Berberian (leaving her physically damaged), it instead consists of her laughter, moans and groans, snorts and wheezes, and gibberish, all brilliantly edited, filtered, distorted and mixed with electronic backing. It is a remarkable demonstration of the power of the wordless voice. The effect is shocking and extreme, but also hilarious and touching – and often all these things simultaneously.”

Bohor (1962) by Iannis Xenakis
In addition to making some of the most thrilling and advanced new music of the 20th century, Xenakis chose great titles for his compositions, frequently unusual words. Bohor is a recording of layered sound sources that include a Laotian mouth organ, prepared piano, Iraqi and Hindu jewellery, and should ideally be heard with the sounds surrounding the listener. Intended by its composer to represent “the onset of madness”.

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Design by Paula Bisacca.

Uaxuctum: The Legend of the Maya City, Destroyed by Themselves for Religious Reasons (1966) by Giacinto Scelsi
And speaking of great titles… The Italian composer uses orchestra, a choir and an Ondes Martenot to convey an ancient apocalypse. Part III was selected by Robbie Robertson (along with works by other composers listed here) for the Shutter Island soundtrack.

Lontano (1967) by György Ligeti
Stanley Kubrick used Ligeti’s music in three of his films. Lontano‘s piercing harmonics and growling chords prowl through The Shining together with pieces by Bartók and Penderecki.

Black Angels: Thirteen Images from the Dark Land (1970) by George Crumb
Many of the pieces here jangle the nerves but none more than Crumb’s composition for string quartet, glass and metal instruments, a part of which is used in The Exorcist. Composed “in time of war”, it’s a howl of despair whose opening manages to be even more disturbing than Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The 1990 Kronos Quartet recording is essential.

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Logos (Rituel Sonore) (1970) by Igor Wakhévitch
“Sound ritual for pop group, mixed choir and magnetic tape.” The first album by the elusive French composer, a composition for a ballet, described by Alan Freeman as “a soprano singer, strange orchestral textures and percussives (drums, cymbals, gongs, etc.) blended with effects and processing. As the ominous percussion sets off with drum-rolls and ritualistic tension, the mood is of a looming anticipation of what is to come. Here we go through phases of weird swirling effects, vivid reverb and atmosphere. The tension becomes overpowering, yet we are led on…”

The Dream of Jacob (1974) by Krzysztof Penderecki
The Polish composer wrote for film soundtracks as well as the concert hall so it’s no surprise that his work can be heard in The Exorcist, The Shining and Shutter Island. The atmosphere of sustained malevolence in this piece is perfect for Kubrick’s haunted house. Whatever Jacob was dreaming about, it wasn’t pleasant.

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Design by Heung-Heung Chin.

Necronomicon (2004) by John Zorn
A five-part composition for string quartet from Zorn’s Magick album.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Powell’s Bluebeard
A playlist for Halloween: Drones and atmospheres
A playlist for Halloween: Voodoo!
Dead on the Dancefloor
Another playlist for Halloween
A playlist for Halloween
The music of Igor Wakhévitch

Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife

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Dilettantes by You Am I (2008). Illustration and design by Ken Taylor.

Dilettantes is the eighth studio album from Australian band You Am I which is released this week sporting a very creditable Beardsley pastiche by illustrator Ken Taylor. Sleevage has more details about the creation of the CD package, including preliminary sketches. Those familiar with Beardsley’s work may see in the cover drawing references to The Peacock Skirt and the colour print of Isolde. I like the way Beardsley’s peacock has been exchanged for a more suitably antipodean lyrebird. This isn’t Beardsley’s only influence in the musical world, of course. A few more examples follow.

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left: The Peacock Skirt from Salomé (1894); right: Isolde (1895).

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Revolver cover by Klaus Voorman (1966).

The over-familiarity of Klaus Voorman‘s collage/drawing for the cover of Revolver by The Beatles tends to obscure its Beardsley influence but that influence is certainly present in the stylised faces, the figure details and the rendering of the hair. The Beatles themselves were enthused enough with Aubrey to put his face among the pantheon of “people that we like” on the sleeve of Sgt. Pepper a year later. I’d thought for a while that Voorman might have been inspired by the landmark Beardsley exhibition which ran at the V&A in London from May–September 1966. Some correspondence with Raymond Newman, author of Abracadabra, a book about the album, disabused me of that when Raymond confirmed that Voorman in 1966 had already been a Beardsley enthusiast for a number of years.

As well as being possibly the first Beardsleyesque album cover, I wonder whether this was also the first major album release to drop the name of the artist from the front of the sleeve.

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Everyone went psychedelic in 1967, even tough mods like The Who. This Hapshash and the Coloured Coat promo poster for I Can See For Miles (incidentally my favourite Who song) is one of Hapshash’s more overt Beardsley borrowings. The sun (or moon) in the background is a variation on Beardsley’s The Woman in the Moon from Salomé (the face is Oscar Wilde’s) while Pete Townshend’s florid sorcerer’s cloak owes much to Aubrey’s incredible cover design (blocked in gold on the book) for Volpone.

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The Woman in the Moon (1894).

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Volpone (1897).

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From the sublime to the ridiculous. Cathy Berberian was the mezzo-soprano wife of avant garde composer Luciano Berio, with a long career as a singer of serious classical and contemporary classical works. Her rendition of Berio’s Thema (Omaggio a Joyce)–an electroacoustic setting of the “Sirens” prelude from Ulysses–was one of the tracks on the 1967 electroacoustic compilation Electronic Music III discussed here in April. She also had a separate career as an operatic interpreter of pop music and this collection of Beatles songs dates either from 1968 or 69, depending on which source you choose to believe. Whatever the year, the designer pulled off a decent enough copy of the Revolver sleeve. For a taste of the Berberian style, there’s a sample here. And if you’re desperate for the entire album, this page has a copy.

I’m sure this doesn’t exhaust the Beardsley influence in sleeve design, there must be others between 1968 and 2008. Once again, if you know of any further examples, please leave a comment.

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Humble Pie by Humble Pie (1970).

Update: Added Humble Pie’s self-titled third album. The illustration this time is Beardsley’s own, The Stomach Dance from Salomé.

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Dreams by Gabor Szabo (1968). Design by David Stahlberg.

Update 2: Therese discovered this great sleeve for an album by the Hungarian jazz guitarist. Closer in style to John Austen’s illustrations for Hamlet 1922) but Austen’s use of black-and-white at the time was very influenced by Beardsley’s work.

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Witchcraft by Witchcraft (2004).

Update 3: Another addition, the debut album from Swedish metal band Witchcraft which uses Beardsley’s Merlin vignette from the Morte Darthur. Thanks to Cyphane for the tip.

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Molly Moonbeam by Coach Fingers (2007).

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Ballade Of Tristram’s Last Harping by The 17th Pygmy (aka 17 Pygmies) (2007).

Update 4: Added a couple of new discoveries. The 17th Pygmy album apparently includes further Beardsley pieces in its booklet while the Coach Fingers single also has a label featuring designs by Beardsley’s contemporary, Sidney Sime.

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La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard. (1894).

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Come Hell Or High Water by The Flowers of Hell (2009).

Update 5: Added the Flowers of Hell cover which is based on La Beale Isoud at Joyous Gard. from Le Morte Darthur. The band also has a video which works variations on the same picture.

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Procol Harum by Procol Harum (1967).

Update 6: Another one I’d missed, Procol Harum’s debut album doesn’t have a credit for the cover art which is perhaps just as well since it doesn’t stand comparison with some of the works above. The same artwork appeared on later reissues when the album was re-titled A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Look presents Nigel Waymouth
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
The New Love Poetry
The Avant Garde Project
Beardsley’s Salomé
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
A splendid time is guaranteed for all
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé