Être Dieu: Dalí versus Wakhévitch

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Or should that be Wakhévitch versus Dalí? The so-called “Dalí opera”, recorded in 1974, is more an opera by Igor Wakhévitch (music) and Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (libretto) which is interrupted from time to time by Salvador Dalí’s shouts, squeaks, impromptu lectures and even occasional snatches of song. (Dalí couldn’t sing.)

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Être Dieu has always been the least accessible of the Wakhévitch compositions, difficult to find and an uneven listening experience that sprawls over three discs. But the (deleted) Eurostar reissue looks very nice: three gold CDs and a thick booklet with a translation of the rambling cosmic scenario, all packaged in a blue felt box. I’ve been rewatching the best of the Dalí documentaries over the past couple of weeks so I’ve felt more accommodating towards Être Dieu than usual; I’m a Wakhévitch cultist, so any Wakhévitch is good Wakhévitch, but I still need to be in the mood for this one. The immediate pleasures are mostly peripheral: Igor’s synthesizers, Delphine Seyrig as one of the celestial components of Dalí’s “divine” character, plus Didier Batard and François Auger from Richard Pinhas’s rock outfit, Heldon, on bass and drums. The Heldon duo get to rock-out properly on the third disc. Buried somewhere in the intersection between this recording, Jean-Christophe Averty’s Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dalí (1970) and José Montes-Baquer’s Impressions de la Haute Mongolie (1976) is an intimation of how Dalí might have appeared (or misbehaved) as the Emperor in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unmade film of Dune.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Dalí’s discography
The music of Igor Wakhévitch

Weekend links 499

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Wild Things – Hachilympic, a poster by Tomoko Konoike for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

• Hidden Jewels in ‘The Garden of Orchids’: Steve Toase on Der Orchideengarten (1919–1921), the German magazine of fantastic art and literature. Since the article doesn’t mention it, I’ll note again that the first Anglophone appraisal of the magazine (and also the place where it was drawn to the attention of myself and 50 Watts) was in Franz Rottensteiner’s The Fantasy Book (Thames & Hudson/Collier, 1978).

• “In its furtive, sotto-voce way, Gorey’s work is in conversation with gay history, gay literary influences, and, now and then, the gay-straight tensions of his time.” Mark Dery on the attempts by Edward Gorey’s readers and critics to ignore the obvious signs of a personal sexuality in his work.

• The Apotheosis of the Grotesque: illustrator Sidney Sime interviewed by Arthur H. Lawrence in The Idler, January 1898.

Goff would experiment with form, material, structure and ornament to almost absurd degrees. Materials he used in his buildings included aviation parts, goose feathers, oil rig equipment, orange artificial turf (on the roof), lumps of coal, and any kind of glass he could get his hands on. His 1948 Ledbetter House, also in Oklahoma, features a recurring motif of vertical lines of diamond-shaped glass studs set into doors and columns. In fact they are dime-store glass ashtrays.

Steve Rose on the restoration of “outsider architect” Bruce Goff

• At the BFI: Adam Scovell on where to begin with Delphine Seyrig; Kat Ellinger on giving Fellini’s later films their due; and Matthew Thrift on 10 great Acid Westerns.

• RIP Ivan Passer and Neil Peart. A reminder that John Patterson described Passer’s Cutter’s Way as a cinematic masterpiece. So it is.

Geeta Dayal on musician/composer Arthur Russell and yet another posthumous release.

Haunted And Known, a new recording by Six Organs Of Admittance.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Hidden.

2112 (1976) by Rush | Xanadu (1977) by Rush | La Villa Strangiato (1978) by Rush

Made To Measure

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When you’ve sated yourself on a group’s back catalogue there’s always the solo albums. In the case of Tuxedomoon there are a number of these to choose from, thanks to several of the band members being both multi-instrumentalists and talented songwriters. Some of the more offbeat solo outings may be found among the albums released as part of the Made To Measure series, an offshoot of the excellent Belgian record label, Crammed Discs. Crammed have been Tuxedomoon’s label for some time, and seem increasingly unique in a world where independent labels tend to cater to narrow genres and small, select audiences. Crammed’s roster of artists is extremely eclectic, ranging from the expected Euro-pop and dance releases to a wide range of traditional and contemporary music from around the world.

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Made To Measure Vol. 1 (1984). Painting by Fernand Steven.

From 1984 to 1994 the Made To Measure series released over 30 albums that represent the more esoteric side of an already fairly esoteric label. All of the early releases were numbered, and Tuxedomoon happen to be on the first release, Made To Measure Vol. 1, together with Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, and Aksak Maboul. The series title refers to all of the music being “made to measure” some pre-existing work—film, theatre, dance performance, etc—although some of the later releases were simply an excuse to put out new music by an established Crammed artist. In addition to the first release, Tuxedomoon members Blaine L. Reininger, Peter Principle and Steven Brown were regular contributors to subsequent albums. Two of the Steven Brown albums, A Propos D’Un Paysage (MTM 15, 1985) and Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour (MTM 16, 1988) are marvellous instrumental collaborations with Benjamin Lew that are very different in tone to Tuxedomoon but well worth seeking out. Brown also recorded a soundtrack album, De Doute Et De Grace (MTM 22, 1990), with readings by actress Delphine Seyrig. The series has been discontinued in recent years but the MTM numbering was resurrected for the latest Tuxedomoon album, Pink Narcissus, which is MTM 39.

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Desert Equations: Azax Attra (1986). Photography by Georg Gerster.

I’ve still not heard all of the Made To Measure series, and I don’t like everything I have heard—I have to be in the mood for Hector Zazou’s quirkier moments. Aside from those mentioned above, the notable releases for me would include Desert Equations: Azax Attra (MTM 8, 1986) by Sussan Deyhim (here credited as Deihim) & Richard Horowitz, an album that led me to acquire almost everything Sussan Deyhim has recorded; If Windows They Have (MTM 13, 1986) by Daniel Schell & Karo; Nekonotopia Nekonomania (MTM 29, 1990) by Seigen Ono; Water (MTM 31, 1992) by David Cunningham; Sahara Blue (MTM 32, 1993) by Hector Zazou; Glyph (MTM 37, 1995) by Harold Budd & Hector Zazou. Sahara Blue exemplifies in miniature the eclecticism of Crammed Discs, being a tribute to Arthur Rimbaud featuring (among others) John Cale, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Gérard Depardieu, Khaled, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Lisa Gerrard, Sussan Deyhim and Tim Simenon.

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For those wishing to explore further without shelling out on mysterious, unknown quantities, I’d recommend The Made To Measure Résumé (1987), a compilation of tracks from the first 16 MTM releases, and an ideal introduction to the series.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Tuxedomoon designs by Patrick Roques
Pink Narcissus: James Bidgood and Tuxedomoon

Dalí’s discography

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Lonesome Echo (1955) by Jackie Gleason.

Not a definitive list, I was merely browsing Discogs.com out of curiosity. For an artist eager to infiltrate every medium you’d expect there to be more involvement from Dalí with the music world. The Jackie Gleason is included here as the earliest entry for which the artist apparently provided a cover painting and a sleeve note. There’s a nice shot of the back cover on this page with its photo of Salvador and Jackie shaking hands.

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L’Apothéose Du Dollar Racontée Par Salvador Dalí (1971).

Next up is a panegyric to one of the artist’s obsessions—money—recorded on a flexidisc for Crédit Commercial de France. Difficult to imagine any bank today promoting themselves with someone dropping phrases like “divine diahrrée“. A scarce item which can however be found on Ubuweb.

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Je Suis Fou De Dalí (1975).

Here the artist extemporises (in French) to a trio of dutiful journalists. Ubuweb again has the entire album, together with a handful of other recordings. This page has some details of the discussion.

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Etre Dieu has been mentioned here before owing to its connection with that cult composer of mine Igor Wakhévitch. Described as an “Opera-Poem: Audiovisual and Catarrah in six parts” it propels Dalí’s megalomania to cosmic proportions with the artist portraying a godlike version of himself. In attendance are an angel and two further Dalís, the male and female halves of an androgynous avatar with the female component being voiced by the great French actress Delphine Seyrig. The libretto is credited to Manuel Vázquez Montalban. The performance was recorded in 1974 but not released on disc until 1989. Not the best of Wakhévitch’s works at all, you’re better off with Logos or Docteur Faust.

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Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The album covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dalí
Mongolian impressions
Hello Dali!
Dalí and the City
Dalí’s Elephant
Dalí in Wonderland
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
Dirty Dalí
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie revisited
Dalí and Film
Salvador Dalí’s apocalyptic happening
Dalí Atomicus
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie