Jon Hassell, live 1989


Jon Hassell’s 1990 album City: Works Of Fiction was reissued by All Saints recently in a smartly packaged three-CD/double-vinyl set. The highlight of the additional material was an hour-long concert by Hassell and his ensemble—Gregg Arreguin, Jeff Rona, Adam Rudolph and Daniel Schwartz—recorded at the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center in New York City on 17th September, 1989. It’s a great performance that sees the group running through some of the pieces that would later be recorded for the City album. Brian Eno was offstage mixing the sounds of rain forest creatures into the music.

Having listened to this concert regularly since the summer it’s been a surprise to find a video recording of what appears to be the very same performance. The tape has the date as the 16th but the music is an exact match for the CD; according to the NYT the group played three nights in all. The reduced lighting makes for gloomy visuals, and the musicians are much more concerned with playing than leaping around the stage. For me the attraction is simply seeing Hassell and company working their magic with such authority; some of Hassell’s pauses show his use of digital loops, something that’s never been so obvious on record. These performances, and the album that followed, saw a shift in the evolution of the “fourth world” concept, Hassell’s term for a “coffee-coloured classical music of the future” that would blend the first world and the third world, the past and the future, into new hybrids. The sleeve-notes for the City album began: “Spirit: not only in the forest but in the carwash, too.” Bringing palm trees and jungle sounds into the heart of Manhattan develops that idea. Hassell talked to The Wire about the album in 1990.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins

Power Spot by Michael Scroggins


I was going to post this anyway but there’s a coincidental connection with yesterday’s post in the person of Richard Horowitz whose keyboards can be heard on the soundtrack. The music is Power Spot, the opening number on the album of the same name released by ECM in 1986. Also present on the album are Brian Eno (who co-produces with Daniel Lanois), Michael Brook and others. I’d tell you that Power Spot is a great album but then I like everything Hassell does so I’m rather biased. But it is a great album.

Michael Scroggins’ video was commissioned to accompany the release of the album, and if it looks of its time today it’s still an impressive piece, not least because Scroggins says it was created through live improvisation. That puts it in a different class to earlier abstract accompaniments for music which are either animated frame-by-frame or created independently with the music added later. (Thanks to Paul Schütze for the tip.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney