Monday, February 28, 2011

Alwin Nikolais

Allow me to introduce Alwin Nikolais and his bells, gongs, cymbals, wood blocks, whistles, tubes, elastic bands, tin containers, rattles, and coils of wire. Nikolais is a pioneer in mixed media, the creator of what he called The Theater of Light-Sound-Color-Motion, for which he composed his own music -- initially percussion pieces performed live on children's toy instruments and automobile parts and later a full-blown concrète psychedelia spun through a huge reel-to-reel tape recorder. I love the liner notes for this album: "maze of colored bars before infinite vista", "a playful exorcizing of imps", "parts of people and things illuminated in glows of colored light", "large sailing and pulsing kite-like shapes"... There was recently a Nikolais retrospective at the New York Public Library but I didn't manage to make it. Anybody go?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

All Kinds of Music 4: Sound Patterns

Educational pamphlet by he who can do no wrong, John Paynter. This would be a great companion piece for Kurt Rowland's Pattern and Shape.

Make sounds with stones, draw sounds out of stones, using a number of sizes and kinds (and colours): for the most part discretely; sometimes in rapid sequences. For the most part striking stones with stones, but also stones on other surfaces (inside the open head of a drum, for instance) or other than struck (bowed, for instance, or amplified). Do not break anything.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Last Chapter

So excited to receive some BFI goodies in the mail yesterday! Just watched The Last Chapter (1974), David Tringham's adaptation of a John Fowles story about a creepy writer who gets his comeuppance. Highlights: English gardens basking in the sun, Denholm Elliott's fisherman sweater, 1970s typerwriters and office tchotchkes, and a possibly preternatural conclusion in a forest (?)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Video Wedding at the Freex

Singing in my Soul - John & Philipa Cooper
Tin Angel - Hearts and Flowers
Swirling Sphere - Tony, Caro and John
Didunia Yang Lain - Ariesta Birawa
El Duende - Vainica Doble
The Record Rejects - The Spoils of War
Aquarium - Melchior Alias
Lady With Bullets in her Hair - Chimera
The God of Wind - Far East Family Band
Chant du Ministère de l'Éducation - Les Alexandrins
Rose Colored Corner - Lynn Castle With Last Friday's Fire
Lifencave Book Two - Sigmund Snopek III
Jesenné litánie - Prudy
Genocide - Dickens
I've Been Over the Rainbow - Mort Garson
Moonsong: Pelog - Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies
You Came Away - George Edwards Group
Mansion of Cards - Trane
Circus - Kazuki Tomokawa
Su Herencia - Sacros
The Far Side of Your Mind - Fourth Way
Morning Way - Trader Horne
Down to the Sea - Tully
In Again Out Again - The Spoils of War


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elizabeth Swados/Faith Hubley

I watched some Hubley Studios films last week and decided that I much prefer Faith Hubley's solo work. There's a sort of earthy pan-ethnic left-wing quality to it that instantly fires off "New York" associations, or rather the mythical New York I learned about by watching Sesame Street. I also decided that the important collaboration wasn't between John and Faith Hubley so much as between Faith Hubley and Elizabeth Swados, who composed music for and wrote a few children's books with Faith in the late 70s/early 80s. Swados wrote some big Broadway hits like The Runaways, but it's her boho underground stuff (workshops for Peter Brook, crazy spoken word performances, open mics) that really interests me. Here is a homemade mix of Swados's music for Faith Hubley films. Lots of kalimba and other African instruments with choral shenanigans -- sort of like a more folksy Sun Ra. (The songs are ripped from a DVD collection of Hubley films.) And here is some Youtube action: first a Faith Hubley film called "Enter Life" (music by Swados) and then a few clips from a 1977 movie about Swados called The Girl With the Incredible Feeling. It seems like Swados really LIVES life.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Movement & Dance Education

Marion North, Movement & Dance Education: A Guide for the Primary & Middle School Teacher (1973)

The spell is cast as the climax of a build-up of magic. The magic is made by rubbing two cymbals together, and this can be practised by all the children with the flat palms of the hands instead of the two cymbals. The witches would lift their legs high, step onto the toes, bend the body and gloat over the victims.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Diane, 1975 TV drama by Alan Clarke. Bleak bleak bleak. But very beautiful. A dark secret seething beneath the surface of the nuclear family -- "Damp forces it up... something to do with pressure." The lead actor (Janine Duvitski) is "Angie" from Abigail's Party!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Serie Nature

A while ago I posted a strange little French record from the 70s full of the sounds of La Mer. This record has now made some friends! It seems Jean Humenry et al. cut a few more of these Auvidis 45s for nature documentaries of different sorts, including ones about the forest, birds, and farms. Lovely impressionist electronics and soft prog/medieval folk songs about barn owls warbling in the undergrowth. And the layers of ambient effects and field recordings phasing in and out lend an extra atmosphere that puts you right in the dark heart of the magical forest kingdom.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Norma Beecroft

Norma Beecroft -- the Delia Derbyshire of Canada? More here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Motyle (Butterflies) 1972. Daydreamy coming-of-age film from Janusz Nasfeter, who also did Nie Bede Cie Kochac. Same cast of kids in both films, here aged 11 or so. And the same soft focus impressionistic music by Andrzej Korzyński. Nasfeter and his wife Teresa made a number of films for Poland's Iluzjon studios in the 60s and 70s, and most of them seem to explore that shadowy twilight between childhood and adulthood. Watch Motyle here and Nie Bede Cie Kochac here. A good antidote for these dark winter days. Just drift off and imagine yourself riding a bike through a sun-dappled field of wild flowers...