Monday, August 30, 2010

The Third Eye

Through none of my own doing, you can now find the whole catalog of Third Eye TV serials from the early 80s on Youtube. The Third Eye was a Nickelodeon program that cherry-picked children's TV shows from the UK and New Zealand. Often the shows would involve an unusually sentient child or some element of pre-Christian folklore. "Children of the Stones" was the most famous, and the one that you're maybe familiar with. But the other shows -- "The Haunting of Cassie Palmer," "Into the Labyrinth," "Under the Mountain," and "The Witches and the Grinnygog"-- are special in their own right.

I didn't watch these shows the first time around, too busy watching Sesame Street and 3-2-1 Contact, but maybe I'm grown up enough now to handle them. They are creepy for sure. "The Witches and the Grinnygog" is especially good. It's all about a haunted rectory and the way its pagan past comes back to bite it in its ankle. REALLY good music by James Harpham which you can listen to with your third ear. (I've pasted in episode 1 part 1 below, but the opening is cut off so check episode 2 for the uninterrupted magic of Harpham's olde witche folke.) "The Haunting of Cassie Palmer" is also brilliant, with a lovely radiophonic theme of its own. Anyway check them out -- if you've read this far then you'll probably be into it. Here are the first parts of the first episodes of all the shows except "Children of the Stones."

Friday, August 27, 2010

F for Fake

Orson Welles and François Reichenbach's "F for Fake" (1974). Extremely meta history of hoaxing featuring art forger Elmyr de Hory. Some great footage of Welles wearing a cape and drinking wine in Ibiza. Cool soundtrack by Michel Legrand. You can watch it here, but it's such a beautiful film that I recommend the Criterion DVD. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Been looking through some more French library records and thinking how rad they are. Somebody really needs to spread the gospel of Unidisc music/movement LPs. It's hard to describe but the music always seems to fit seamlessly with the sleeve art, together conjuring up some parallel art school universe where the children of Marx and Coca-Cola get together and do calisthenics. One Unidisc record I keep returning to is Patrice Sciortino's Gymnorythmies. There's something very Stereolab about the twinkly mallet-propelled pop art abstractions on this record. It's all very crisp and echo-y and inside-out and floaty, and surprisingly accessible for an avant garde percussion record. Below is my favorite track "Exercices Avec Cerceaux, No. 2" (half the tracks are intended for exercises with hoops, the other half for baton-work). Sounds like the weird instrumental prelude to a song off of Stereolab's Sound Dust, right before the bass guitar part kicks in, and in this respect it's a useful track to play for friends who don't know or care about library music ("No seriously, you'll like it, it sounds like Stereolab"). I also love the stick-figure graphics and Miami Dolphins color scheme. See Lunar Atrium and Continuo for more info on Unidisc, and see here for some great images of Unidisc LPs. I have heard a disturbing rumor that Sciortino is an arch conservative who composed fanfares for the gendarmes but I have yet to verify this and so probably shouldn't even be saying anything about it. That would suck though.

Technicolor Cèilidh

By Caleb Churchill.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dívka na Koštěti

1972 Czech teen witch comedy caper, also known as "Saxana." Watch here. I need that polar bear poster!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

La fleur de vie

This record reminds me of going on school field trips to see Mummenschanz, who for some reason often toured through the college town where I grew up. It's intended for children's music and movement exercises, but being French and from the 70s it fires off very different associations than the post-war British things I've been posting. More stretchy unitard than plimsolls and shorts, if you know what I mean. I always seem to find one of these Unidisc records when I visit Montreal. Never all at once, just here and there like buried treasures in record and book shops. This is one is my favorites. It's like a sound college of ethnic percussion, winds, narration, field recordings and electronic effets aimed at conjuring up magical forests and "tourbillon dans l'espace." Here's the side-long track where everything comes together as a kind of mini radio-play.

*soundclip taken down*

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hear and Now

I'm going out of order here. This is John Paynter's second book about children's music education, circa 1972. I'll post the first one in a bit. Who is John Paynter? There's a nice obit in the Guardian explaining how Paynter, like Carl Orff, revolutionized the music curriculum by moving away from rote learning and towards an emphasis on creativity, imagination and improvisation. Instead of teaching kids the proper way to hold a bassoon he was more interested in meeting them on their own ground by connecting sounds (not just musical sounds but noises, etc.) to feelings and felt experience. In another book, for example, he speaks of a successful music lesson about the idea of "vastness." "If possible we'd try to have some first-hand experience: going out on to a hill-top or a moor if we lived in the country; to the top of a church-tower to survey the landscape; to the beach to look at the vastness of the sea. If we lived in a town we might look at and talk about the canopy of sky above the roofs of a city, or the vast stretching-out of tall factory chimneys." Paynter also seemed to have a good sense of music's place in a broader spectrum of creative endeavor, and so his books always include lots of photos of sculptures, paintings and the like -- a bit like Kurt Rowland's Looking and Seeing series, not to mention Ghost Box releases. I love the photos in Hear and Now. The one with the crouching kids and Count Dracula figure is, I believe, a photo of Paynter's friend R. Murray Schafer, which somebody also posted up on Found Objects. There is a companion record to this book that I desperately need.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brion Gysin

Brion Gysin and co. with the dreamachine. On view at the New Museum.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Some pamphlets and prescriptive lit from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Department of Labor, and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. All from the mid to late 70s. The graphic designers aren't credited by name, which is a shame. I have a vision of some recent art school grads laboring away in a windowless room. Some of the pamphlets aimed at nature preservation are really beautiful in their mix of landscape photos and clunky graphics (more of this later). The drug prevention material is a bit weirder, and like a lot of anti-drug rhetoric has the unintended effect of making drug use seem very fun. The discrepancy between the stunning artwork and the moralizing, paternalistic prose makes for a very strange reading experience. The "fact sheet" on drugs is hilarious: "A person under the influence of marihuana finds it harder to make decisions that require clear thinking."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dream Song 29

John Berryman in 1967.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Story adaptation and sleeve design by Rachel Percival, 1967. Music by Peter Wishart.

Band 5: Mother of Grendel. Slow, twisted and grotesque movements in all directions (especially backwards), stopping in different shapes...always listening. Practise holding different shapes.

Band 6: Battle II. Slow, strong movement in all directions using the whole body. Slow motion fighting with swords. For Beowulf's Magic Sword, use both hands on the handle: practise body slowly curving and arching in all directions; balancing on one leg, lean over in different directions; keep the sword slowly swinging all the time. In pairs, choose either Beowulf or the She-Monster (sword against claws), all in slow motion.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

John Latham

Too bad I'm nowhere near London, but if I were I would go see Blow Up: Exploding Sound and Noise (London to Brighton 1959-1969), a Wire Magazine sponsored show curated by Tony Herrington and David Toop. The show is loosely organized around the time-sensitive or "auto-destructive" art that flourished in the basement happenings of Better Books on Charing Cross Road during the 1960s. John Latham is the animating figure here -- his hard-to-find "skoob" films will be screened -- but the show also maps out the concentric circles of artists, poets, and musicians surrounding Latham, including Toop himself, Syd Barrett, free jazz guru Joe Harriott, Anna Lockwood, AMM, Jeff Keen, Gustav Metzger, etc. Latham's entire filmography looks amazing, and used to be available for viewing here. I believe a DVD is in the works. The film I'd really like to see is a paper disc animation number called "Speak," partially owing to the rumored existence of not one but two lost soundtracks (one by Pink Floyd, and the other by, I think, Lockwood.) Apparently Pink Floyd used to play in front of "Speak" at live gigs.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hi again! Nice to be back after spending a beautiful but all too short July in Berkeley/San Francisco. The month just flew by. It was a working trip but all the same it was great to reconnect with friends and family out there. We rented a quirky, no-frills bungalow from an English professor with an amazing library (not surprising) and record collection (surprising!). One day as I was leafing through her records I emerged from absentmindedness to discover I was holding some extremely rare avant garde electronic and percussion LPs -- original promo Iowa Ear Music, Gravity Adjusters Expansion Band, etc. A lot of records from the Creel Pone catalog. Anyway, it turns out the professor's father is a very famous French percussionist and music theorist, who I now noticed was name-dropped on the liner notes of many of the albums themselves. What a treat to have access to his personal collection, if only for a month. One private press record by Pierre Marietan, especially, left a deep impression. I'll try to blog about it soon.

Music-wise, we also made it out to a show/happening at the Berkeley Art Museum, featuring an installation piece by Grouper. Liz Harris channeled Popol Vuh with some looped, treated guitar and ethereal wordless vocals accompanied by her own wall projections cast through a huge chandelier. Here's a video shot by someone with a much better view than mine. Some great people watching was to be had, since nobody really knew what pose to cop or how to react to the evening's aggressively slow and deliberately monotonous soundtrack. The audience was also forced to negotiate Thom Faulder's large orange floor sculpture in the middle of the performance space, which we were encouraged to sit or recline on (no shoes!) on as Grouper performed.

Pretty amusing seeing students and even a few middle-aged Berkeley folks closing their eyes and blissing out to the music as the sun went down. I was also pleased to see the museum devoting an entire exhibit (curated by Scott Hewicker, the guy from The Alps) to the idea of "Hauntology." Nice to see some unexpected figures dealt with in that context (Bernard Maybeck, Diane Arbus, Francis Bacon, recreations of 12th c. Japanese prints) Also the ghosty boat image above -- "Ship drawing" by Paul Sietsema. I wonder if Scott Hewicker is a fan of Ghost Box, Simon Reynolds, etc.? For more of the curatorial side of The Alps check out this compilation mix on their label's website.

Anyway, it's good to be back. Here is a picture of me waiting for dim sum.