Watch "Zen for Film" (1965), a film about nothing, and everything

Video artist Nam June Paik's "Zen for Film" (1964) is a projection of clear film leader. The image changes over time as dust and imperfections become visible. From the Bard Graduate Center gallery:

Inherent in the work’s material and conceptual aspects are notions of chance, trace, changeability, boredom, silence, and nothingness. With Zen for Film, the projection of a film leader creates an image of apparent nothingness that oscillates between the immateriality of projected light and the material traces, which slowly obliterate the leader’s transparent surface. Zen for Film shares meaningful aspects of chance, silence, and nothingness with such works as composer John Cage’s 4”33” (1952) and artist Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting (1951).

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Fellow brushes his teeth during Japanese noise music concert by Merzbow

As Japanese musician Masami Akita (aka Merzbow) performs live in Taipei in 2013, one concertgoer demonstrates that enjoying noise music does not preclude you from practicing good dental hygiene. Full clip below.

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Avant-garde drummer Art Tripp talks about working with Zappa, Beefheart, John Cage, and others

I love the video interviews of composer and music educator, Samuel Andreyev. He shares an obsession with Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica and he has so far conducted one-to-two-hour interviews with Magic Band members John French (Drumbo), Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo), and Mark Boston (Rockette Morton), all specifically on the making of Trout Mask. He's also done a brilliant half-hour analysis of the Trout track, Frownland.

In this installment of the Beef series, he talks with Zappa and Beefheart drummer, Art Tripp, about working with the crazed Captain, Frank, John Cage, and other avant-garde composers.

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Douglas Rushkoff on Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (1950-2020)

It was 1993. I was working on my book Media Virus, and about to return home to LA from San Francisco, when Timothy Leary called to ask if I could make room for a “friend in need” who needed a ride. That friend turned out to be Genesis P-Orridge.

I had known of Gen through his music and reputation alone, and was frankly a little afraid to meet him. If the “coyote” boys I knew in the Temple of Psychick Youth were modeling themselves after him, I could only imagine how fierce Gen might be. But when I pulled into the parking garage where we supposed to meet, and saw the diminutive Genesis P-Orridge standing there with his two gorgeous young daughters and all their suitcases, my perception of him changed entirely.

And over the next eight hours, so did my perception of world.

Gen had just been quasi-exiled from England after a video he had made for Channel 4 (in which he carried out a mock abortion and ate the fetus), went viral in the tabloids. While Gen was in Thailand, the authorities ransacked his place, seized his archives, and made it clear he was no longer welcome in the UK. So he flew to California instead, essentially homeless, and was feeling pretty out of sorts as we drove. As his two daughters fought in the back, he told me, “If only people realized I was also a regular dad with two kids fighting in the back seat.”

The rest may as well have been straight from the tweets of QAnon. Read the rest

Ten great, groundbreaking avant garde records

I hate the horse-racing of art. I could never bring myself to declare "THE" ten most groundbreaking of anything. And especially something as subjective as avant garde art and music.

I look at this list and immediately think "What, no Glenn Branca? Magma? The Residents? SOFT MACHINE?" I could go on. And I could easily come up with ten more records that I think are as groundbreaking as these. But that said, this is a very good list of very important records. I have most of these in my collection.

The 10 most groundbreaking avant-garde albums of all time

I assume Boing Boing readers will have their own candidates and look forward to seeing what your choices might be.

Image: Screengrab of Henry Cow album cover. Read the rest

Celebrating Captain Beefheart's birthday with a look at his masterpiece, Trout Mask Replica

Today is the birthday (1941) of the late Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, one of then most fascinating, confounding, and creative artists and musicians of the 20th century. Let's celebrate by taking a look at his 1969 record, Trout Mask Replica, widely regarded as a masterpiece of modern sound art.

And here's a bonus track. Imagine seeing this ad on late night television in 1970.

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Listen to this strange and compelling mix of field recordings, cut-ups, and sound art

Composer Janek Schaefer drew from the work of John Cage, DJ Shadow, The Orb, Marina Abramović, Steve Reich, Chris Watson, and so many other greats to create this powerfully evocative and weird 90 minute mix. A former architect, Scahefer has masterfully designed a haunting, expansive environment of found sound. This is the way, step inside...

Schaefer also prepared a complementary essay and annotated tracklist for the mix. From The Vinyl Factory:

I loved how sound creates images that you cannot see, capturing an impression of spaces and places that can only be revealed again thought playback over time...

This C-90 style mixtape, entitled ‘New Dimensions In Time, Space and Place’, is a meander through my physical collection of works that have inspired me over the last 36 years, and I still enjoy. The loosely connecting themes explore found sound, ready-mades, collage, samples, sound design, sculpture, performance, field recordings, sonic art, appropriation, alteration, and accidents. The context of these sounds brings meaning to the works, and our understanding of that context brings the work to life when listening to it.

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Watch Laurie Anderson's fantastic "What You Mean We?" (1986) from PBS's Alive from Off Center

Alive From Off Center was PBS's pioneering TV series that featured experimental video and performance pieces by artists like Ann Magnuson, the Brothers Quay, Jonathan Demme, Bill Irwin, and Laure Anderson. For me, the program, which aired between 1985 and 1996, was a wonderful introduction to many avant-garde artists and filmmakers. Above is Laurie Anderson's "What You Mean We?" that first aired on September 6, 1986.

Here's a New York Times article about the episode from the time: "TV: Laurie Anderson Performs"

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Music that inspired 1980s Japanese environmental music composer Yukata Hirose

Yutaka Hirose is a Japanese composer who was a key figure in that country's ambient/environmental music scene of the 1980s that in recent years has been rediscovered by crate-diggers around the world. Hirose's "NOVA" (1986) is a classic of the genre, a soundscape that Misawa Home Corporation commissioned as a "soundtrack" for the prefabricated houses. While original LPs have sold for hundreds of dollars, WRWTFWW Records have recently reissued the record as an expanded double LP and double CD. (For a further exploration of Japanese environmental music of the 1980s, Light in the Attic Records' "Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990" is a perfect portal.)

To celebrate the NOVA reissue, The Vinyl Factory asked Hirose to create a mix of music he was listening to and inspired by in the 1980s Listen above. It's a beautiful, sometimes-jarring, and totally compelling journey through avant-garde sounds of the time. Here's the tracklist:

1. Jan Steele – All Day 2. David Toop – Do The Bathosphere 3. Gavin Bryars – 1, 2, 1-2-3-4 4. Joan La Barbara – Poems 43, 44, 45 5. Meredith Monk – Waltz 6. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Stimmung 7. John Cage – Seven Haiku 8. Throbbing Gristle – Almost A Kiss 9. Robert Ashley – Yellow Man With Heart With Wings 10. The Flying Lizards – The Window 11. Henry Cow Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road 12. Faust – Faust 13. CAN – Future Days 14. Tangerine Dream:Rubycon 15. Michael Nyman – Decay Music 16.

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This dark and amazing animation about the end of humankind aired on Ed Sullivan in 1956

Joan and Peter Foldes directed this incredible animation, titled "A Short Vision," in 1956. The couple created the film -- based on a poem by Peter -- in their kitchen. It was funded by a grant from the British Film Institute's Experimental Film Fund. From Wikipedia:

Ed Sullivan saw A Short Vision in England, and promised an American showing. He said his motive was a "plea for peace" However, he may have shown it because of his relationship with George K. Arthur, A Short Vision's distributor. Ten days after he saw it, Sullivan showed A Short Vision on his popular Sunday night show The Ed Sullivan Show on 27 May 1956. Sullivan told the audience to tell their children in the room to not be alarmed, because of its animated nature. The film was very popular, and it was shown again on 10 June; Sullivan told parents to take children out of the room.

More on the film's history here: "A SHORT VISION: Ed Sullivan’s Atomic Show Stopper" (CONELRAD) Read the rest

Far-out Estonian animation from 1974

Esteemed Estonian animator Rein Raamat created this groovy short, "Värvilind," in 1974. The music is by composer Rein Rannap who was also the founder of Estonian prog rock band Ruja.

(via ObscureMedia)

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Documentary about the 1980s SoCal underground art happenings with Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, etc.

In the 1980s, Stuart Swezey was at the epicenter of Southern California's underground culture. The co-founder of Amok Books, Swezey was also known for organizing extreme industrial and avant-garde outdoor happenings in remote locations like the Mojave Desert that featured performances by Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten, Survival Research Laboratories, Minutemen, and many other experimental and transgressive artists. Now, Swezey has made a documentary about those extreme experiences. Above is the trailer for Desolation Center.

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"Meet David," an unintentionally weird educational film clip from 1959

Context is everything, especially when it's missing.

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Mesmerizing 1980s experimental Japanese film using video cut-ups to deconstruct architecture

In 1982, Japanese avant-garde filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto used video cut-up techniques to deconstruct a single residential building into a disorienting architectural puzzle. The short film is titled Shift (シフト 断層). Music by Yasuke Inagaki.

From a 1996 interview with Matsumoto:

We have to do more to irritate and disturb modes of perception, thinking, or feeling that have become automatized in this way. I did several kinds of experiments from the 1970s to the 1980s that de-automatized the visual field. But when image technology progresses such that you can make any kind of image, people become visually used to that. That's why there's not much left today with a fresh impact. In this way, the problem is that the interpretive structure of narrating, giving meaning to, or interpreting the world has become so thoroughly systematized that one cannot conceive of anything else that is largely untouched. We have to de-systematize that.

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Listen to BBC Radio 4's "New Weird Britain" audio program

John Doran, founder of the excellent music news site The Quietus, and producer Alannah Chance have created a fascinating audio documentary series for BBC Radio 4 titled "New Weird Britain." Over four episodes, Doran explores the UK's cultural interzones where hidden scenes of experimental musicians and transmedia artists are keeping the avant-garde alive. From The Quietus:

(Each episode focuses) on the urban fringes of major cities and post-industrial towns, as well as the rural and coastal underground, to find the people responsible for making innovative 'weird' music outside of the mainstream music industry.

New Weird Britain will feature interviews with musicians such as Gazelle Twin, Richard Dawson, Guttersnipe, Sophie Cooper, Hawthonn, AJA, Rhodri and Angharad Davies, Natalie Sharp, Kelly Jayne Jones and many others. There will also be guest appearances from Cosey Fanni Tutti and Jennifer Lucy Allan during the series.

The first episode, Urban Hinterlands, is now available online. Read the rest

San Francisco: Kronos Quartet's Kronos Festival 2019, May 30 - June 1

San Francisco: It's time again for the always-outstanding annual Kronos Festival, several days of fantastic global and experimental music curated by the seminal avant/classical/global Kronos Quartet. Every Kronos Festival I've attended has turned me on to a spectrum of new sounds, artists, scenes, and regions. From KQED:

At SFJAZZ on June 1, singer-composer Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté of Malian group Trio Da Kali performs her new Fifty for the Future piece inspired by tegere tulon, the impromptu hand-clapping songs and dances Malian girls create in the countryside. Ethnomusicologist Lucy Duran, who specializes in African music, will give a pre-show talk contextualizing Diabaté's performance.

On May 30, the quartet will also premiere a Fifty for the Future piece by Stanford professor Mark Applebaum, whose playful compositions have been known to include junk-as-instruments, non-musical players such as florists and even a piece for three conductors and no musicians. Plus, there's a new work Fifty for the Future work by Missy Mazzoli, a boundary-pushing rising star of the classical world and the Chicago Symphony's current composer-in-residence.

Also on May 30, Kronos Quartet pays homage to the work of left-wing historian Howard Zinn. Ethio-jazz singer-songwriter Meklit, cultural critic Rebecca Solnit, folk musician Lee Knight and poet/actor Michael Wayne Turner III will accompany the musicians with readings from works by Zinn and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Zinn's A People's History of the United States highlights how abolitionists, labor organizers, feminists, civil rights leaders and other dissenters shaped American history.) Meklit performs with Kronos once again on June 1.

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Watch clips from Breathe, a lovely "water opera" in a pool

A few weeks ago at Appleton, Wisconsin's Lawrence University, a group of experimental musicians, dancers, and performance artists staged "Breathe," a "multidisicplinary water opera" in the college's swimming pool. (The video above is from a previous performance at Middlebury College's Natatorium). From Fox Cities Magazine:

Lawrence University’s Margaret Sunghe Paek, professor of dance and curator of Dance Series, will work with music director Loren Dempster and director/choreographer Gabriel Forestieri to bring (the performance) to life...

“I wanted to see if I could make sound underwater,” Dempster says. “I experimented with microphones underwater, I bought a hydrophone, I [even] played the cello underwater.”

Dempster will be the only underwater musician in the entire opera as he will be in the shallow end, playing his cello while underwater microphones transmit the sounds above the surface.

Forestieri choreographed the opera, combining the practice of dance and free diving, called dancing in apnea, to create the water visuals.

“[I’m] taking cues from the space and the people in the space and how they relate to each other,” Forestieri says. “The choreography is a mix of [dancing] on deck, sometimes in the pool, partner dancing in the shallow end, and dancers floating with float belt.”

(via Weird Universe)

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