Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spinning & Dyeing the Natural Way

Ruth Castino, Spinning & Dyeing the Natural Way (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1974). So awesome!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cleaning my office today. Admiring baggu postcards on my corkboard while listening to this. Brain-addled on Fantastik fumes. Everything is coming together.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Elf

Tape-slides from "The Elf," an audio-visual work created by a group of 5th form students at Madeley Court School, Telford, Shropshire, in the early 1970s. Here is John Paynter's description:

'The Elf' began as a classroom assignment in creative experiment. The boys in the group (playing trumpet, clarinet, guitar, percussion and saxophone) started with a rudimentary 'story line' about a group of elves living in an idyllic forest setting with little to do other than happily making music together. This tranquil life was to be disturbed by the coming of 'men'... When the music was finished the group took photographs in the locality -- pictures which not only 'illustrated' the ideas in the music but which also could be organised to complement the movement of the music... The boys themselves appeared in the first section as the happy band living a life of art and music in a woodland setting devoid of any reference to the progress of civilisation. By contrast the central section, suggesting the destruction of the idyllic life, has no human figures in any of its pictures. Instead we see only machines and buildings... All in all, 'The Elf' turns out to be not simply a piece of music which by chance had some photographs attached to it but a vivid and compelling 'essay' on the development of new towns. (from Music in the Secondary School Curriculum)

Here's another photo from the Paynter book:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Week in Daniel's World

I think I am the only person who browses the free books table at our local library. This book popped up recently -- A Week in Daniel's World by Sabine and Hugh Weiss. It's from a series exploring how children live in various parts of the world. Today I learned that French children occasionally have a drop of coffee in their milk and that on special occasions they are allowed a half-glass of wine. Sabine Weiss also did the photos for one of these books. Daniel's sister is named Christine.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Her What Would Sing

Ať Žijí Duchové - Jaroslav Uhlíř
Karjase pühapäev - Reet Hendrikson
Electro Gavotte - Adrian Wagner
L'hiver - Catherine Lara
Smiling - Darling
Fruit of Paradise - Zdenek Liska
Secrets of the Deep - P. Reno
Frogman - Reynold Weidenaar
The Guna Song - Ann Ree Colton
Mr. Fox - Mr. Fox
Kui mina alles noor veel olin - Reet Hendrikson
Μάγισσες - Lena Platonos
Longue Naissance - Claude Yvans
Rain - Eighth Penny Matter
La longue route - Claude Yvans
Maybe one day (version 1) - Band of Holy Joy
Interplanetary Broadcast - Reynold Weidenaar
Haunted Harpsichord - Reynold Weidenaar
Not Another Night - Sapphire Thinkers
Sound Images 15 - Wendy Cook and Alan Coggins

her what would sing to me

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pacific Film Archive

Well I'm back after a quick but super fun trip to the west coast. The weather, food and company in LA were almost comically good, and San Francisco, despite being cold and gray as ever, yielded many new discoveries. So great to see family and friends old and new. Really lovely in fact. There is much to tell, most of it food-related (Korean tacos really are as good as they say, whereas Mission Chinese is not). But more à propos to this blog was a trip I took last week to visit Jon Shibata of the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Jon had very kindly set aside some rare short-films from the museum's holdings, and last Thursday he and his wife and I settled into the research screening room for an hour and a half or so of educational programming. A completely amazing experience!

I had never heard of any of the films Jon selected even though all of them were firmly in the Toys & Techniques wheelhouse. They included experimental Kodachrome commercials for coffee and M&Ms directed by Jordan Belson, and Pieter Van Deusen's amazing "Percussion Sounds," a fading educational film from 1969 in which children make DIY percussion instruments out of found objects (wood planks, metal things found in the garage, etc.) and then explore a room full of Javanese instruments. I wish I had been able to tape-record the music! I believe that's Emil Richards with the mustache, and apparently the instruments being played were constructed by Harry Partch. Another favorite was a 1971 film about jumping rope produced by the Computer Image Corporation. Totally mindbending slo-mo images to the tune of woozy proto-Belbury Poly electronic music.

I had never heard of Carroll Ballard before, even though I had seen and enjoyed many of his later films. Jon cued up an early Ballard film from 1974 which uses photomicroscopy and polarized light to capture liquids transforming into colorful crystal sculptures and back again. Do I even need to say that the music was good? Jon's wife told me to look out for another Ballard film called "The Perils of Priscilla." It is about a cat.

Saving the best for last. Jon took us out with "Children Who Draw," a strange and beautiful portrait of a 1950s Japanese art classroom by Susumu Hani, also the director of this. It nearly brought a tear to my eye, as I started thinking about my own time teaching English in rural Japan, and about my mother, who grew up in Japan and would have been almost exactly the same age as the children on screen. What Susumu does here is frankly astonishing, pairing images of student work with vignettes of the kids' family lives and dealings with other students (often unhappy). One child, over a period of several weeks, draws simple single-family houses to the exclusion of all other subject matter. It is later revealed that his family occupies a single room in something of a flop house. Another girl, ostracized by the other children, initially draws lone flowers which eventually emerge into human forms, first solitary and then -- by some sort of imaginative wish fulfillment -- grouped in clusters. Life lessons for us all! And such haunting images. Thanks again, Jon!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

In transit between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I love this unintentionally profound airport shop. Seeing so many cool things -- will debrief once I'm back home!