• Cover art for a new album by John Foxx which will be released on CD in March. This catches my attention for being based on Walter Benjamin’s compendious collection of esoterica, with the music being solo piano pieces. If the latter are anything like the albums Foxx recorded 20 years ago with Harold Budd then this is all very promising. Is the cover design by Jonathan Barnbrook? The typography and formal treatment of the photo suggest as much.
• “The new game was not providing access to everything but finding out how many expensively licensed properties you could cull from your service before people started to question how much they were paying a month.” Sam Thielman on the sudden unavailability of hundreds of classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Regarding his comment about the unplayability of Internet Archive videos: you download them and put them on a USB drive.
• Frost Flowers on the Windows (1899) is a book that documents “the extraordinary power of windowpane frost to take ‘ice photographs’, images capable of expressing the ‘vital qualities’ of life forms close to the glass,” according to its author, Albert Alberg.
• New music: ev THe norTH, “a sound journey through the winter of the far north” by Lorenz Weber. (The encoding of the album title won’t display properly on this page.)
• RIP Yukihiro Takahashi, singer, songwriter and drummer with the fabulous Yellow Magic Orchestra. The space-disco video for YMO’s Rydeen never gets old.
• “I want an indescribable feeling”: composer Kali Malone on her search for the sublime.
• Old music: Roundtrip by Don Cherry & Jean Schwarz, a live performance in Paris, 1977.
• At Spoon & Tamago: Glass artist Genki Sudo crafts tentacle earbuds.
• At Unquiet Things: The Incandescent Otherworlds of Gervasio Gallardo.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Acid Westerns Day.
• Arcade (1987) by Chris & Cosey | The White Arcades (1988) by Harold Budd | Arcade (2018) by Philip Jeck
Photo by Roger Phillips, 1977.
• “…these films seem decidedly more modern than the films that followed close behind them.” Pamela Hutchinson on pre-code Hollywood.
• Space travel is time travel: NASA shows us galaxies as they were billions of years ago.
• Reverb Machine explains how Brian Eno created Ambient 1: Music For Airports.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Spotlight on…Yukio Mishima Confessions of a Mask (1949).
• Mix of the week: The Chill Out Tent Kosmische Mix by Tarotplane.
• Old music: The Glastonbury Experience (Live 1979) by Steve Hillage.
• Deep Space 13: Stephen Mallinder’s favourite soundtracks.
• Sex and pathology: David Robb on 80 years of Cat People.
• New music: Expo Botanica by Cosmic Analog Ensemble.
• Behind The Mask (1979) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Red Mask (1981) by Cabaret Voltaire | A Ritual Mask (1983) by Peter Hammill
The Wire, July 2004. Illustration and design by Non-Format. Christopher Cox’s interview with Lucier is available to read here.
• “I went into experimental overdrive. Lyrical motifs became literal imagery. A hammer shattering a plate of glass. A lyrical maze of geometric tunnels and formations.” Chris Mosdell talking to Aquarium Drunkard about writing lyrics for Yellow Magic Orchestra and others (you can hear his voice on YMO’s Citizens Of Science), plus the recording of his own debut album, Equasian.
• At Public Domain Review: “…this short, odd book confronts a question that has vexed naturalists for thousands of years: how do we account for the precipitation of animals?” Odd Showers; or, An Explanation of the Rain of Insects, Fishes, and Lizards (1870) by George Duncan Gibb.
• “…few writers on our list could have functioned in the culture that, today, sees literature as a profession for which you prepare like any other: going to the right school, meeting the right people.” Francine Prose on her encounters with the literary strange.
• “Where was glass first fashioned? How was it worked and coloured, and passed around the ancient world?” Carolyn Wilke presents a brief scientific history of glass.
• RIP Antony Sher and Alvin Lucier. In 1969 Lucier was sitting in a room different to the one you are in now. Elsewhere: Alvin Lucier at Ubuweb.
• New/old music: Zeitgeist: Ambient Music from 2012 to 2020 by Marco Simioni & Mattia Saviolo.
• James Balmont on five unmissable films from the Japanese New Wave movement.
• At Spoon & Tamago: Illuminated paintings of Tokyo after dark by Keita Morimoto.
• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 724 by Laura BCR, and Isolatedmix 115 by HVL.
• At Strange Flowers: part two of James Conway’s Secret Satan end-of-year list.
• “Jony Ive’s first major design since leaving Apple isn’t what you’d expect.”
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Yasuzo Masumura Day.
• Glass (1968) by Sagittarius | Glass (1979) by Joy Division | Glass (2009) by Bat For Lashes
Eva und die Zukunft (1898) by Max Klinger.
• “It is no exaggeration to say that MAD invented the modern, postwar American takedown.” Thomas Larson reviews Seeing MAD: Essays on Mad Magazine’s Humor and Legacy.
• At the Internet Archive: Cartoon Modern: Style And Design In Fifties Animation (2006) by Amid Amidi, a book which has been made available as a free download by its author.
• New music: A preview of Metta, Benevolence by Sunn O))), recorded live in the Mary Anne Hobbs’ radio show in 2019; Veils by Víz; The Mountain (Blakkat Dub) by Ladytron.
• At Public Domain Review: Claude Mellan’s The Sudarium of Saint Veronica (1649), an engraving made with a single continuous line.
• “For Harry Houdini, séances and Spiritualism were just an illusion,” says Bryan Greene.
• TheStencil is Steven Heller’s font of the month.
• At Dennis Cooper’s: Derek Jarman Day.
• Nicky Mao’s favourite music.
• Mad Man Blues (1951) by John Lee Hooker | Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Mad Keys (2002) by Al-Pha-X
In the week that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon here’s a cosmic flashback from 1984. (I wrote about my own memories of the Apollo era in July, 2009.)
Mind Of The Universe was an ambitious outdoor performance of music by Isao Tomita for the annual Ars Electronic Festival in Linz, Austria. I’d known about this event ever since the release of the subsequent live album, and always wondered if there was more of a visual record than the one or two short clips to be found on YouTube. This 65-minute documentary from NHK TV was made following Tomita’s death in 2016, and features a much longer recording of the concert, together with a look at the preparations undertaken by the composer and his Japanese team. The documentary is in Japanese throughout, but I’ve had Tomita’s albums on continual play for the past couple of weeks so it was a welcome discovery. The Linz footage is bracketed by a short studio discussion of Tomita’s work and the concert itself with two of his assistants, Hideki Matsutake and Akira Senju. Matsutake is better known for his programming work with Yellow Magic Orchestra, and his own albums under the name Logic System, but he began working with synthesizers as Tomita’s studio assistant in the 1970s; Senju is a composer of anime soundtracks. The documentary includes some all-too-brief film footage of Tomita’s studio in 1974, and a sequence (with Tomita-san on a motorbike!) concerning the Dawn Chorus (1984) album which incorporated recordings of the electromagnetic “Dawn Chorus” phenomenon.
Part of Tomita’s Moog system, the backbone of his early electronic recordings.
Mind Of The Universe (or Tomita’s Universum as it was advertised to the citizens of Linz) comprised a nocturnal performance spanning the River Danube, with Tomita combining some of his earlier recordings with new pieces created for the event, including an extract from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. This was conducted by the maestro and assistants from within a transparent pyramid suspended by crane on the river bank. Speakers were positioned on both banks of the river, and there was a lavish lightshow with fireworks and lasers, all of which was somehow meant to depict the entire history of the Universe, from Big Bang to the present moment.
Discussing Dawn Chorus, and a visit to a radio telescope.
If this wasn’t ambitious enough, Tomita had musicians and a choir floating on boats and platforms in the river: Goro Yamaguchi played a traditional Japanese piece on shakuhachi while seated in a perilously small craft being towed behind a larger vessel; the bigger boat provided a stage for violinist Mariko Senju whose excellent performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending is the musical highlight of the concert. This was followed by a violin rendition of the five-note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a nod to Tomita’s UFO-themed Bermuda Triangle album, which introduced one of the less successful aspects of the event in the noisy arrival of a helicopter bearing a platform laden with lights and speakers. The helicopter provided the booming response of the Close Encounters mothership although this isn’t obvious on the live album where all you have is the music and the noise of the rotors. Tomita’s concept of “pyramid sound” is more evident in the TV documentary than on record.
Continue reading “Tomita’s Mind of the Universe”