Weekend links 536

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Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island. An illustration by Mervyn Peake, 1949.

• “Since it was 1967 when I became a teenager, I suspected that the Now would stir together rock ’n’ roll bands and mod girls and cigarettes and bearded poets and sunglasses and Italian movie stars and pointy shoes and spies.” Luc Sante on hs youthful search for The Now.

• “…in response to listener requests to play ‘more music like This Heat’, [John] Peel responded that he couldn’t because ‘nobody else sounds like them’.” Alexis Petridis on the mighty This Heat, the band who tried to change everything.

• “While I hesitate to deploy the overused and near-devalued word shamanic here, it does smell right. Or rite.” Ian Penman on the polychromatic delirium of Parliament and Funkadelic in 1970.

Anyway, we knew this new culture was there, we knew this phenomenon was occurring, centered in the Haight-Ashbury, so after this event, we dramaturges sat together and tried to think it out. What is this, in terms of breaking down the fourth wall? How is this a historical follow-through for Antonin Artaud on one hand and Bertrolt Brecht on the other? How did these two come together in this? What do you call this, when you provoke riots and use the audience as members of the cast? When you can stage events that brings the audience on the stage—but there is no formal stage? But it’s a theatricalized event…? It’s all new. So I called it ‘guerrilla theater.’ And Ronnie heard that phrase, and wrote an essay about doing Left provocative theater. That wasn’t what I saw. I saw it as being deeper than that. And I began writing plays that now were for sure plays except that a lot of the dialogue was spontaneously derived from the performers—we had some really great performers at the Mime Troupe at the time, I’d say there were at least a dozen good performers, and a couple who were really brilliant. Anyways, put these people together, I gave them a context, and we began improvising dialogue.

Peter Berg of the San Francisco Diggers talking to Jay Babcock for the sixth installment of Jay’s verbal history of the hippie anarchists

• “I love improvisation. I still do. For me it’s the way I like to be acting, you see.” RIP Michael Lonsdale, talking in 2015 about Jacques Rivette’s Out 1.

• “Would you find this bookstore beautiful or terrifying? Or both,” asks Jonny Diamond.

Yukino Ohmura uses stationery store stickers to create dazzling nightscapes.

• At Spine: Penguin Books celebrates 85 years with original artworks.

Strange Selectors by Various Artists on Werra Foxma Records.

Daisy Dunn on the gentle genius of Mervyn Peake.

• This Heat: Rimp Ramp Romp (1977) | Repeat (1979) | Makeshift Swahili (1981)

Weekend links 526

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La Cathédrale Engloutie (1952) by Ithell Colquhoun.

• Many of the recent lists of “where to start with the music of [x]” aren’t filling an urgent requirement, but in the case of Sun Ra—whose discography runs to 95 albums—any guide is a useful one: Sean Kitching chooses 10 recordings from the Ra galaxy. I’m not unacquainted with Sun Ra’s music but there’s so much of it that almost all these suggestions are news. Related: Namwali Serpell on the life and work of a cosmic visionary.

• Coming soon from Strange Attractor, Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of The Fern Loved Gulley by Amy Hale, the first book-length study of the life and work of the British Surrealist and occult artist.

• I doubt I’ll get to see it but I’m pleased to know that the prematurely shuttered Aubrey Beardsley exhibition is returning to Tate Britain. You’ll need a Decadent face-mask.

• And speaking of music lists, Alexis Petridis compiles a ranking of all the songs by a little-known post-punk band from Manchester.

The Last Arcadian (Process Mix): more psychotropic nougat from Moon Wiring Club.

• Kill Me Again… Ken Hollings on Ennio Morricone and the music of the future.

Mervyn Peake‘s visual archive has been acquired by the British Library.

Anitra Pavlico on the fantastic world (and music) of Maurice Ravel.

Stanley Stellar‘s photos of the New York gay scene in the 1980s.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Fetish.

• RIP Judy Dyble.

Wikidelia

Chelsea Morning (1968) by Fairport Convention | I Talk To The Wind (1968) by Giles, Giles & Fripp feat. Judy Dyble | Morning Way (1970) by Trader Horne

Peake’s Insects

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Having recently watched Jan Svankmajer’s self-reflexive film of the Capek Brothers’ Insect Play I was intrigued by a mention in one of the Mervyn Peake biographies that Peake had created costumes for two stagings of the play in London in 1932 and 1936. “Mr Mervyn Peake’s costumes could not be bettered,” said James Agate in the Sunday Times, but my sole book of Peake artwork doesn’t mention the play at all, and these drawings are the only examples to found after a web search, not the photos I was hoping for. The one below is a more original conception than those used by the amateur actors in the Svankmajer film.

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My own workload is gaining momentum just now so posting here may be sporadic for a while. I’m also recoding my website from scratch which doesn’t help when you already have more than enough plates spinning. Having refreshed the blog with a flexible template that resizes itself for different devices I decided it to do the same for the rest of the site. I last attempted anything on this scale in 2005 so I’m having to educate myself all over again in the mysteries of cascading style sheets. And I have hundreds of pages that need working on… This will take some time.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Bookmark: Mervyn Peake
The Web by Joan Ashworth
Peake’s glassblowers
Mervyn Peake in Coronation Street
The Worlds of Mervyn Peake
A profusion of Peake
Mervyn Peake at Maison d’Ailleurs
Peake’s Pan
Buccaneers #1
Mervyn Peake in Lilliput
The Illustrators of Alice

Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges

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Given the time of year, and last week’s Quays-themed post, this seemed like a good follow-up. Opera North’s production of Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges was broadcast by the BBC during the Christmas holiday of 1989. The opera isn’t quite as saccharine a Christmas entertainment as The Nutcracker Suite but the libretto is still light-hearted fare, being based on a Neopolitan fairy tale in which the son of the King of Clubs is afflicted by melancholy after reading too much tragic poetry. The King stages an entertainment to cheer the Prince but the only thing that makes him laugh is the witch, Fata Morgana, falling over and revealing her underclothes. This humiliation provokes the witch into cursing the Prince to fall in love with three oranges. These he immediately sets off to find, and thereby hangs the tale. Richard Jones directed the production, with the English Northern Philharmonia providing the music. The opera is also sung in English, the translation being by David Lloyd-Jones.

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The stage decor for the Opera North production was designed by the Quay Brothers, one of several operas they worked on around this time. The opera may be a comic one but the design emphasis is on gloom and decay, a feature that extends to Sue Blane’s costumes, many of which seem to have been styled with the Quays’ films in mind. In addition to a Nosferatu-like Leander (the sinister Prime Minister), a company of children appear from time to time wearing masks which make them look like the Quays’ doll-headed puppets. The chorus, meanwhile, wear antique gas-masks of a style which people would now refer to as steampunk. The most overt reference to the Quays films occurs during the King’s entertainment when a vast mutant creature is wheeled onto the stage, the creature’s head being the colossal cousin of the twitching cyclops from Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies. The cumulative effect of the grotesquery combined with absurd comedy is of an opera equivalent of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, all of which makes me wonder what the BBC’s Gormenghast might have been like if the corporation had hired the Quays and Sue Blane to work the same magic they do here. (There is a Gormenghast opera by Irmin Schmidt but I’m not keen on the music and what I’ve seen of the staging it looks a lot less like Peake than this one does.)

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Decor aside, the most notable feature of this production, and the broadcast itself, was the scratch-and-sniff card which was provided to every member of the audience, and to any viewers who bought a copy of the BBC’s Listener magazine before the screening. Each time a numbered card appeared on the stage the audience had to scratch and sniff the relevant panel. The scents—which include orange, of course—are less offensive than those for John Waters’ Polyester (1981) although the audience is still surprised into sniffing the farts of the demon, Farfarello.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Punch and Judy, Michel de Ghelderode, and the Brothers Quay
The mystery of trams
Inner Sanctums—Quay Brothers: The Collected Animated Films 1979–2013
Holzmüller and the Quays
Unmistaken Hands: Ex Voto F.H., a film by the Brothers Quay
Animation Magazine: The Brothers Quay
The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer, a film by the Brothers Quay
More Brothers Quay scarcities
Eurydice…She, So Beloved, a film by the Brothers Quay
Inventorium of Traces, a film by the Brothers Quay
Maska: Stanislaw Lem and the Brothers Quay
Stille Nacht V: Dog Door
Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets
Brothers Quay scarcities
Crossed destinies revisited
Crossed destinies: when the Quays met Calvino
The Brothers Quay on DVD

Weekend links 394

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Britain’s Royal Mint acknowledges this year’s bicentenary of the publication of Frankenstein with a commemorative £2 coin.

• A trailer for The Green Fog, a film by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson, which uses clips from over 200 films set in and around San Francisco to create a collage companion to (and critique of) Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. John DeFore reviewed the film for The Hollywood Reporter.

• Downloadable sound files and utilities for the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument. Should you require it, the file containing the orchestra stab that was a feature of so much pop music in the 1980s is ORCH5. (Click on the “Library/Disk” listing then click “Extract” to download the samples.)

• Radio at the Internet Archive: the BBC adaptations of Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan and Gormenghast (both adapted by Brian Sibley in 1984); and 554 Sherlock Holmes radio shows.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 523 by Scanner, RA Podcast 605 by Chris SSG, and Secret Thirteen Mix 241 by Jaroska.

• At Discogs: a list of “Experiments, gimmick and concept albums, bands and labels“.

Patrick Cowley The Ultimate Master Megamix

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Karen Black Day.

Events In Dense Fog (1978) by Brian Eno | Fog Animal (2005) by Deaf Center | In The Fog I (2011) by Tim Hecker