Weekend links 594

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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.

• “For Harry Houdini, séances and Spiritualism were just an illusion,” says Bryan Greene.

• At Public Domain Review: Claude Mellan’s The Sudarium of Saint Veronica (1649), an engraving made with a single continuous line.

Alex Merola on the radical legacy of Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe.

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

Tomita’s Mind of the Universe

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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.

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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.

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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”

Weekend links 471

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Pink Floyd, Lee Michaels, Clear Light (1967) by Bonnie MacLean.

• Electronic musician Mort Garson has been subject to a revival of interest recently, with reissues of his works as Ataraxia (The Unexplained), and Lucifer (Black Mass). The latest reissue is Mother Earth’s Plantasia (1976), an album released under Garson’s own name, and one of several works of plant mysticism from the 1970s (see Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, and Green by Steve Hillage).

• “It is striking how much of this work sounds like a missing link from the art world to the popular groups of the time, such as the Detroit techno pioneers Cybotron and the Japanese electro legends Yellow Magic Orchestra.” Geeta Dayal on the reconfigured Speak & Spell machinery of Paul DeMarinis.

The cost of free love and the designers who bore it: Madeleine Morley meets the women of psychedelic design.

For the transhumanist anarchist Wilson, the neurological relativism revealed by his own learning and personal deprogramming experiments called for a form of ‘guerrilla ontology’ that lampooned, rejected and transmitted much needed interference into the ‘reality tunnels’ that attempt to control much of contemporary society and individual behaviour. In the Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, characters are repeatedly placed in positions of cognitive dissonance, where they are forced to reevaluate their own belief systems due to experiences that they are unable to accommodate.

Sean Kitching on the 40th anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy

• They said books were dead, they were wrong: Adrian Shaughnessy on a decade of Unit Editions.

• Mixes of the week: Xianedelica by Jesús Bacalão, and Kosmische Mix By Tarotplane.

• Swinging 60s surrealist Penny Slinger: “Collectors thought I came with the art”.

• Cabaret Voltaire: Chance Versus Causality (Teaser).

Luc Sante on postcards of American violence.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Peter Whitehead Day.

Computerwelt (1981) by Kraftwerk | Speak And Spell (1984) by Christina Kubisch | Time Space Transmat (1985) by Model 500

Weekend links 427

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Inside an O’Neill Cylinder, an orbital megastructure. Painting by Don Davis, 1975.

• RIP Lindsay Kemp: dancer, actor, choreographer and (if we have to drop names) mentor to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Kemp’s work has been featured here on a number of occasions, particularly his landmark productions of an all-male Salomé, and Flowers, A Pantomime for Jean Genet. There was also considerable overlap with Kemp’s troupe and the films of Derek Jarman via appearances by Kemp himself, David Haughton and the irrepressible Jack Birkett. The Genet production was filmed in 1982, and is now available on DVD. (There’s also a rougher copy with unmatched audio and video.) From 1970: Pierrot in Turquoise, or The Looking Glass Murders, a Commedia dell’arte performance for Scottish TV featuring David Bowie. And reversing roles, Mick Rock’s video for Bowie’s John, I’m Only Dancing featuring Kemp and company.

• At Expanding Mind: Erik Davis in conversation with activist and writer David Nickles about “the DMT Nexus, psychedelic militancy, extraction tek, the Statement on Open Science for Psychedelic Medicines, MAPS, and the trouble with for-profit psilocybin companies”.

• From the end of August to January 2019: Spellbound at the Ashmolean; “Spellbinding stories, fascinating objects…from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets”.

On Earth, as on the International Space Station, the collective misperception of a flat plane helps build community and culture. We are all equal in our geometric relationship to one another. The reality, of course, is that we do not stand parallel. Each of our bodies corresponds with a distinct radial vector on the surface of a sphere, pointing away from a common center that we can never perceive or occupy. Our vectors diverge by imperceptible angles.

In “inside-out” worlds like the Bernal Sphere and the concave Earth, the situation is reversed. Our feet all point outward, into an inaccessible, but technologically habitable void, while our heads point inward, some of us apparently “upside-down.” Standing, we rise toward a visible center, which can be reached simply by climbing a hill, strapping on wings, and jumping into the air, as low-tech as Icarus.

The Shape of Space by Fred Scharmen

Michael Moorcock again, interviewed this time by Bernard Braden in 1968. I think this one was for a Braden TV series which was never broadcast.

• “Stupid things are best”: Neil Fox on Conny Plank: The Potential of Noise, a documentary about the great music producer.

• Mixes of the week: XLR8R Podcast 556 by Helios, and An Ode to Eris with An Other Ode to Eris by The Ephemeral Man.

• A monstrous primer on the works of HP Lovecraft by Emma Stefansky. With illustrations by Michael Bukowski.

Silent Agents by Julius-Christian Schreiner: photographs of hostile architecture from around the world.

• Back to the Futuro: Mark Hodgkinson on the spaceship house that landed in Yorkshire.

• The Great Chinese Art Heist by Alex W. Palmer.

Rhizome: a new recording by Drew McDowall.

The Starman Tarot

Mad Pierrot (1978) by Yellow Magic Orchestra | Spellbound (1981) by Siouxsie And The Banshees | Sphere (2011) by Emptyset

Weekend links 414

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Czech poster for Robert Bresson’s Une Femme Douce (1969) by Olga Polácková-Vyletalová. There’s more about Polácková-Vyletalová’s striking poster designs (and this one in particular) at Mubi. See also the Polácková-Vyletalová collection at Terry Posters.

• “I heard that in Japan the tendency is to hammer down the nails that stick out. I think that Haruomi Hosono is a nail that sticks out. And has maintained that.” Van Dyke Parks on Haruomi Hosono, best known in the West for being one third of Yellow Magic Orchestra but a prolific artist in his own right. Hosono’s early solo albums are being reissued by Light In The Attic later this year.

Hua Hsu on The Spectacular Personal Mythology of Rammellzee. “Rammellzee will always feel like part of the underground,” says Geeta Dayal in a review of the Rammellzee exhibition currently showing in New York.

• Mixes of the week: Hassell’s Children, a Fourth World mix by Ban Ban Ton Ton, The Island of Bright Tombs by SeraphicManta, and a Radio Belbury mix by The Advisory Circle.

• More Robert Aickman: The Fully-Conducted Tour, a complete short story. Related: Matthew Cheney reviews the new Aickman collection, Compulsory Games.

• Another Kickstarter bid, this time for a reprint of Art Nouveau designs and illustrations by Carl Otto Czeschka.

Oliver Burkeman reviews How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan.

Art/design/architecture magazines online at the International Advertising & Design Database.

• Tonedeaf in our nose: Gerri Kimber on the musicality of James Joyce’s writing.

• More William Hope Hodgson: Greydogtales examines Hodgson’s poetry.

• The Art of Elsewhere: Jed Perl on the world of Edward Gorey.

• At Dennis Cooper’s: Records.

Beat Bop (1983) by Rammellzee vs. K-Rob | Equation (1989) by Material ft. Rammellzee | No Guts No Galaxy (1999) by Ramm Ell Zee & phonosycographDISK