1. Larry Rivers "Nobody Home" (6:25)
Larry Rivers recalls that his interest in playing jazz preceded by quite a few years his interest in paint - I was born in the hills of The Bronx," he begins, "practically right outside the Bronx Zoo. Eventually, either my father did well enough or in the world was doing so badly that we were able to move to Pelham Parkway, which was kind of a middle-class neighborhood then." Rivers went to Evander Childs High School there and played saxophone in the school's marching band.
"I think that music led to a certain kind of adventure," he says, acknowledging that he had little to do with art at the time. "As a result, I knew a little bit about night club life at a fairly early age." While playing gigs and contemplating a career in music, though, Rivers experienced a change of heart.
"With music there was too much time on your hands when you weren't identified - you were neither playing nor practicing - and I think that there was something more total about being an artist."
While Rivers sat out the ritual poker game among band members during a tour of Maine one year, the artist Jane Freilicher, who happened to be married to the piano player, got him interested in painting. "The guys played cards, I made art. I was pretty bad, but it gut me interested enough to go to Hans Hoffman, who became my teacher."
Rivers was 19 at the time. And although his place in history was paved with a paintbrush rather then a tenor saxophone, he has continued playing jazz over the years with amateur and professional musicians, including the great drummer Elvin Jones. When pressed for a parallel between jazz and painting, Rivers has this to say: "When you're painting an object or a figure you give a version of it, wherein people sense that it's about a figure or structure. In the same way, a sung has a certain structure, and when you play a version of it, and take a solo on if, then that's about 'Indiana or 'Koko' or "Yardbird Suite.'"
As for his an career, Rivers counts as his biggest thrill "The Museum of Modern Art buying "Washington Crossing The Delaware" two years after I painted it. In a way, that launched my career, much as I've always hated to use the word 'career' in relation to myself."
Larry Rivers: Tenor Saxophone
Paul Brown: Bass
David Levy: Saxophone
Tom Artin: Trombone
Myron Schwartzman: Piano
Earl Williams: Drums
Howard Brofsky: Trumpet
2. Marcel Duchamp "Air de Paris" (1:49)
Given: 1. *Soundpiece
"Like Saint-Pol-Roux, who used to hang * inscription ' poet is working' from his door while he slept, Duchamp used to say that he was not doing anything except breathing - and when he was breathing, he was working. His obsessions and his myths were working with him: inaction is * condition of inner activity."
- Octavio Paz, Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare
2. *Graphic "In general * picture is * apparition of an appearance."
- Marcel Duchamp, Green Box
3. Connie Beckley "To Faust: A Footnote" [7:10]
Risk and sentimentality, two apparently contradictory aspects, may turn out to be the complementary notions that best define the qualifies of Come Buckley's work. "Everything I do has some element of risk," Beckley says, and the more obvious examples bear her out - for instance, her single-handed construction of a suspension bridge between two 24-toot-high towers at 1985's Paris Biennale. Another one of her works (for which the term "performance art" seems too tepid a description) involved the use of six different versions of "Ebbtide" as accompaniment to Ax fictional love letters. Beckley says that she used the "Ebbtide" records not ironically but "because I love them."
"People have told me that my pieces shouldn't work because I do them so straight," she says. Acknowledging that the style of the IN is to do things tongue-in-cheek, she adds, 'I gut I'm patient with having to not take the risk of doing it straight. I don't like any art that doesn't make you put your feelings on the line. I'm devastated when doesn't work, but I'd rather have it that way"
Beckley's pieces have included "Tip Toe," in which she shared a pair of high heeled shoes with a couple of stereo speakers; "Showdown," "which probably came from having nightmares about being strangled by extension cords," and others which revolve in same way around ha relationship to musical sound. Her work on this record is a tendering of part of a scientific text of Isaac Newton, accompanied by her drawing of Newton along with part of the text.
"I was extremely happy about the fact that Newton was an alchemist, which meant that he had another life than what the scientific world would like us to believe, and that life allowed him to become a great scientist. His excitement, the way he wrote about things, appealed to music" -an attitude which Connie contrasts to her feelings about most current writing on art. And she points out that Newton committed more alchemical writings to paper than he did purely scientific texts.
4. Cotten/Prince "Tiny Places" (2:11)
Back before it was hip to audition for rock 'n' roll bands by spending a few years in art school, to make synthesizers and videotape an integral part of the act, or to parody the more mindless cliches of the pop music business from center stage - in short, before there was a Talking Heads, a Duran Duran, or a Spinal Tap - there was a band called The Tubes.
The Tubes (as in cathode ray) were San Francisco art school dropouts who played it smart and nasty at a time when what was selling in rock was dumb and "sensitive." And although their stage shows were often better realized than their records, they did produce timeless gums of junk-rock such as "Mondo Bondage," "Don't Touch Me There," and the classic "White Punks on Dope."
Michael Cotten (synthesizers) and Prairie Prince (drums) were two of the seminal forces behind The Tubes' too-far-ahead-of-its-time for their own good mixture of art, rock, video, performance, and showbiz glitz. The two met in grade school in Phoenix, Arizona, and according to Cotten, "We've been friends and partners ever since" - in Prince's words, "practically brothers." Together, they faced the flying barbs of disapproval at Art Institute of San Francisco which, at that point in the late '60s, says Cotten, was closer to the spirit of the Lower East Side today: "The whole finger-paint, morbid angst art thing was very big. Consequently, they didn't like our style, which was more graphic, more hard-edged. more realistic. I mean, we were into air brushing..
But as far as Gotten is concerned, "There's nothing cool about being ahead of your time. Your idea of retro is already a year in the future" and so, not necessarily commercial. "I'm trying to parody myself now," he adds, although if isn't quite clear if this statement is wholly serious, either.
"Tiny Places," says Prairie Prince, reflects "the confinement that you feel in Japan, the small spaces that you have to reside in - hotel rooms, cars, any thing. We tried to use traditional sounds, like the Japanese flute, in combination with traffic sounds and synthetic sounds."
5. Mineko Grimmer "Tower With Garden" (2:55)
Mineko Grimmer, whose works have as much to do with sound and aleatory music as they do with sculpture, traces it all back to her home in northern Japan. Born in Hanamaki and educated in Japan and at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, Mineko makes sculptures of wood and metal, above which she suspends inverted pyramids of white or black pebbles frozen in ice. As the ice melts in the course of each daily exhibition, the pebbles fall with increasing rapidity striking the elements of bamboo, fir or pine, bronze or piano wire, and the pool of water, of which the sculpture is composed, creating a random series of sounds that are part of the work. In her home in northern Honshu, which she left eight years ago, Mineko says that she was able to watch "the icicles melt and refreeze all winter long," inspiring her current series of musical pieces. The basic materials and structure, as well as the tranquil if unpredictable sounds they generate, are, she says, "very Japanese," recalling the music of Japanese stringed instruments and percussion. She finds a similarity in the resonance of pebbles striking the bamboo rods of varying thickness to words being sung, and the occasional ring of stone on bronze to a "kind of punctuation" that interrupts the hypnotic effects of the sound of pebbles falling into the pool of water he recording presented here was made from a piece entitled "Tower With Garden," consisting of brass bar and water, and represents a continuous three-minute segment that occurred near the beginning of the process. Normally Mineko refrains from titling her works, feeling that each one has "many different meanings, different from viewer to viewer What artists say" she adds, "limits what viewers sue. I fuel that when I exhibit a work to the public, I give it up. It no longer belongs to me Be accompanying photograph of a tree trunk surmounted by a single pebble exhibits two key structural elements of her work.
But Mineko stresses the human scale rather than the mechanical construction of her sound sculptures. "Even though my works aren't figurative or referential," she says, "they are humanistic. Monuments to the victims of the atomic bomb and the Holocaust are powerful, overwhelming. I hope people will find as many deep meanings in my works, although they're gentler"
6. Philemona Williamson "One Day In May" [1:34]
Philemona Williamson refers to her recent series of figurative portraits, imaginary characters often set in exotic locales, as "Street Eccentrics." They don't fit info any convenient category but this doesn't surprise her particularly In the '60s, she had trouble in art school because her work wasn't considered avant-garde enough (for one thing, it wasn't abstract). For her senior show, she painted a group of nude Madonnas and Annunciation ("they were all black, and they all had my face", largely because, at the time, she liked Annunciations.
Williamson feels that "art should be as accessible as going to the grocery store," and she provides written narratives that describe the worlds of her "eccentrics" - the "Hat Woman," the "Plant Lady," "Balloon Lady " and so forth - in their own words. "I don't have specific people in mind when I'm painting, they're just made-up faces. Later my friends will point out similarities to people I know and then I'll realize that the fueling I was trying to get comes from them."
Another explanation may be that they are echoes of Philemona's childhood. Her parents worked for a wealthy Greek family in the Upper East Side's posh River House. "I didn't quite get the picture that my parents were employed there, I just thought I lived there. I had a very strange idea of who I was - for instance, in school I was the only black person there. And in the beginning I used to wonder why, at home, I would sometimes go in one door, and sometimes another When I was leaving by myself I could go out any door, but when I was coming with my parents I had to go in the back door"
For her recording, Williamson wanted to create an aural counterpart of the sense of place that exists in her paintings. "I want you to feel like you're in this place, this lush, warm, Caribbean fueling, and then going through that is this very hard-edged narrative of the street eccentric, who doesn't fit into this environment but moves through it." Williamson explains the unusual juxtaposition by saying simply that "I think they'd like that place-where there aren't hard edges and they don't have to be constantly assaulted.
7. Jeff Gordon "Everyone's An Artist" [4:47]
Jeff Gordon began his art career in the early '60s by drawing late square pencil portraits of Lincoln and Washington for his junior high school in the Bronx. Even then, he was aiming at a Me in art, "or something related to it -I just didn't want to do .... real work." When Gordon discovered that conceptual art was easier to execute than actual drawing, his career took a turn for the conceptual. Subsequently, while still is Music & Art High School, he was drawn to the music business and worked as a contract songwriter for CBS Music. Record production came nest, and then one day Jeff asked himself the fateful question, "Why can't painters and sculptors make records?" Gordon approached two Soho galleries and asked them the same question. One of the galleries decided to get involved and had its entire roster of 21 artists sign on to do a record.
The result, Revolutions Per Minute (The Art Record), the predecessor to this album, was a two record set that has gone through several pressings to date, and was also sold is a deluxe boxed editions containing signed and numbered prints from each artist. The RPM Touring Exhibions, designed by Gordon and his wife Juanita, toured the US and Europe for over tour years, including The Tate Museum in London.
When it was Gordon's turn to record, he naturally decided to something accessible. "I wanted to do something that everyone could listen to and dance to - electronic, west meets east, art meets anti-art."
Gordon says he couldn't do any of this without Juanita. She created the graphic designing and packaging for the RPM and this album, and also had an equal hand in the selection of artists for the project. "She's really vital to me because she's very opinionated. I basically make very few moves without seeing what she thinks. For instance, I brought home an early version of 'Everyone's An Artist' and she said, 'You've turned into a wimp - where's all the weird stuff?' I rely on that a lot."
Vocal Jeff Gordon and Mug Maruyama
Programming: Graham Hawthorne
Emulators/Keyboards: Jeff Gordon
Co-Production: Bill Heller & Bob Held
8. Tony McAulay "Collaborative Poem" (5:56)
Tony McAulay is an English-born multimedia artist who emigrated to America (Seattle, to be exact) in 1970 and now resides is Canada, where he divides his time among video art, sound-pieces, photography painting, and a live radio show called "Turbulence." On that show he interviews artists - particularly artists who work with sound - and plays their recordings along with his own. "I've been interested for some time in the connection between visual art and sound," McAulay says from his home base of London, Ontario. "I like what Joseph Beuys once said, that far him, 'a cough is sculpture.' And I've often thought that radio is much more visual, in a way than television."
The Turbulence program has led to installations in several Canadian galleries of sound-pieces that have aired, accompanied by photographic murals dealing with what he calls "intonation glut." One of those murals included a roll-call of famous and obscure collaborative teams which McAulay later updated and expanded for his recording on this album.
In addition, McAulay edited a magazine called TKO, one issue of which was devoted exclusively to his interest is collaborative art. An ad for the magazine, featuring a detail from the photo mural of the list of collaborative teams, makes up the graphic that accompanies his sound-piece here. In tact, TKO itself was a collaboration between McAulay and co publisher Sam Krizan, and grew out of a two-hour live radio show they once did on Turbulence.
"It's just something I was interested is at the time, the idea of people in partnerships," McAulay says. "There are many groups that have worked together, but I just wanted to focus so pairs. I've been interested is things like the Gilbert and George situation," Not referring to the famous team of performance artists, "how work can develop that way, sometimes coming out at the conflicts or complications of collaboration - that even that can be a positive sort of input" Over the last tour summers, McAulay has produced video versions of the Turbulence program, and recently began work on a group of paintings, his first in six years. "I've gone right back to how I started off, in a way," he says in reference to his training as a painter in England in the 1960s. "But the new paintings are about media and receiving information, particularly through television - so it's all linked together in the end."
9. Jonathan Borofsky "Take Your Dreams" (3:12)
"It comes dawn to the one and the many" Jonathan Borofsky says is accounting tar a career in which he has spread his abilities among painting, sculpture, music, video, and mounting installations, yet retained since 1969 the simple, obsessive procedure of "counting from one to infinity."
Borofsky still cherishes a review of his first exhibition in New York that said it looked like a high school art show, implying that it was the work of 10 or 15 different people. "That was the part I liked," he says, "That was what I was trying to get at even in the early '70s, that there were many different ways 'to make art, many different ways to live your life. And I was exploring as many of 'em as I could." Such as the "Prison Project," a series of videotaped interviews with California prison inmates which Borofsky hopes to air on public television.
Or the logo spot he designed for MTV. Or his songs, one of which occurs on this record. The background sounds were created by "taking a microphone, wetting my fingers, turning the volume way up and hitting the mic with my lingers to create static sounds." As for the wards, with their blues-like overtones, they "came out at nowhere."
The idea of recording a song didn't come out at nowhere, though. In fact, all sorts at sounds have been endemic to Borofsky's "visual" art for same time now -from the sounds at motors to the singing paintings (with tape recorders secreted behind them) to the chattering figures often sees talking to the paintings is his installations.
But if you ask Borofsky if he's likely to become one of those artists currently being referred to as the "rock stars of the '80s" he gives a pretty straight- forward answer. "I have no urge to get on stage," he says. "I'm a little too self-conscious. I create stages for other people to walk into - that's what my shows are - and they're on stage. That's what triggers their sensibilities, and that's why the shows are a success. They realize 'something's going on here and I'm in the middle of it."
"Of course," he adds with the aplomb of someone who realizes that there isn't just one way to make art, "I say I won't perform now, but in two years, who knows?"
Produced and Mixed by Ed Tomney
10. Les Levine "Hereditary Language" (2:54)
"You're probably going to tall off your chair and think that this is a ridiculous position," says Les Levine in his most casual voice, "but I do think that I'm part of the history of Irish literature I very much feel that my ancestors are James Joyce and Brendan Behan and those kinds of people." The statement is not so tar-fetched as if might seem. Levine - who was, after all, born in Dublin in 1935 - from Irish Catholic mother and a Jewish father - who worked as a cabinet maker - is known pre-eminently as a visual artist. But his billboards, photographs, posters, paintings and videos have always involved to some extent what he refers to as "an investigation of language" apparent to the casual observer in the presence of printed words is those works. The nexus of words and visual images sometimes give his creations the look of advertisements - indeed, his subway poster picturing an Oriental couple with the readout WE ARE NOT AFRAID could have been a teaser for a forthcoming film that never, in fact, existed.
Back in 1969, Levine began calling himself a "media sculptor," perhaps the first artist to use that terminology to imply that the media themselves had become a medium that could be worked with like metal or wood. "My work is primarily about media," he says now, "which I see as an extension of the body, a farm of extraterrestrial biology." Recognizing that "media is a real generator of major illnesses," he has used same of the tools of media to present alternative ways of thinking about information. "I'm one of those people," says Levine, "who's naive enough to believe that the world actually has been changed by art."
With his work for this record, he is "showing how kids respond to certain kinds of information. The piece is about the state your mind is in when you're a child and how that's affected by the kind of adult mind that's around you." The track concerns the way language is transmitted to the young and operates as a model in their lives, "the way kids become receptacles far information, and the kinds of expectations it creates and the levels of disappointment it generates.
11. Burton Van Deusen "Untitled" (1:50)
"The whale thing takes place is the cab of my pickup truck," Barton Van Deusen says about the track he has recorded for this album. "Some people sing in the shower. I found myself being able to tap little rhythms out on the steering wheel and the seat - it seemed like that was my instrument" That and the harmonica he plays in a bluesy style he traces back to the likes of Corky Siegel, Charley Musselwhite, John Hammond, Jr., Stephen Lukes, and of can" Sonny Terry.
Van Deusen, whose paintings and drawings aver the past few years have focused on storms as sees from his vantage point on the south One of Long Island, finds several parallels between his work and his harmonica playing. "I like the improvisational attitude of those storms," he says. "They exhilarate me. It's like playing the harp, getting off on some tangent, and working yourself out of it. Same thing with a storm - you just get yourself is trouble white you're drawing, and then suddenly you start to resolve it. That's pretty exciting."
But Van Deusen acknowledges that others do not always share his excitement. "Storms are good and evil," he says, "coming and going. I don't find them threatening but a tat of people do, and I guess that's the reason that my paintings aren't so successful in terms of selling storms to people. The last time I had a show, it was the day after hurricane Gloria hit."
After growing up by traveling the country with his parents, who worked as a vaudeville team known as Van & Arrvola, Van Deusen settled in Florida. Once out of high school, he worked on commercial projects, building sets for The Jackie Gleason Show, and floats for the Orange Bowl Parade, among other things. That was followed by a stay at Philadelphia College of Art and a series of institutional showings, although he has not yet had a gallery exhibition. But he made the decision to relocate to Amagansett, because he "really needed to get back to the water. Every day out here you can take a walk on the beach, and no two days are alike. When the stormy season comes I get my fishing pole and cast into the surf, and I can stand there for hours watching the weather. These drawings come from those times. That might be the picture of fifty storms all together"
12. Tom Wesselmann "Pictures On The Wall Of Your Heart" (3:11)<
The text that accompanies the well-knows coffee table book on Tom Wesselmasn bears the byline of one slim Stealingworth. In art circles it's generally known that Wesselmasn wrote the test himself. ("That way I figured I could get it right," he says. "And, of coarse, I could always deny it later on.") What isn't common knowledge is how he hit on the pseudonym. "One night a bum came up to me on the Bowery," says Wesselmaan with that characteristic wry Cincinnati drawl," and he mumbled, 'Slim Stealingworth?' At least that's what it sounded like. And I just thought, Yeah, that's me, Slim Stealingworth."
Tom Wesslemans's idea of hard work is painting is his Bowery studio while he listens to old Bob and Ray shows he's taped off the radio over the years. Stil, this makes sense. His art career began in the army when he drew cartoons inspired by the great New Yorker cartoonists of the day. "If was a great discovery that you might be able to make a living being funny." And it was humor that attracted Tom to country music. "The secret of country music," he says, "is that while it has humor - some of those titles am outrageously witty - at the some time they play it with absolute seriousness, so the humor is always played down."
When Tom was courting his wife, between 1959 and 1961, instead at writing love poems to her he wrote country songs, of which this track is as example. These days, he confesses, "I'm a terrific title writer, but I don't write whole songs anymore." Yet after spending hours in the studio honing this one to perfection, Wesselmann could be heard to say, "Now it's gonna be anti-climactic when it's over. I've gotten to look forward to coming down here every day. In fact, I've got another song I've started writing - this one is gonna be the hit, the A side."
Vocals: Barbara Beeman
Music Tracks: Buzz Gauss & Crew (Creative Workshop Studio, Nashville)
Harmonica: Tom Wesselmann
13. Marcy Brafman "I Can't Get Started/Communfx" (4:40)
"In my mind when I was a kid in Brooklyn," says Marcy Brafman, 'the Riviera was this incredibly beautiful place with steps going down tp the ocean, and exotic flamingoes languishing and talking With peacocks." That may be because Brafman's father made a living painting fanciful murals in people's homes before the advent ot wallpaper. Now those flamingoes show up, along with other "exotic" birds, in paintings Brafman describes as ''neither purely abstract nor purely figurative."
A relatively young artist who started showing my two years ago, Brafman still describes the experience at having someone "walk in off the street" and buy one at her paintings in a gallery as "quite a thrill." Formerly director at promotion for MTV - a job which came out at her background as a aides technician and editor and played on her interest in symbols and logos as primal forms at communication, she currently spends more time an painting.
Brafman's recording here "is about private communications and closed circuit radio, and chants and calls from the primitive to the modern." That includes everything from the muezzin's call to prayer in the Mid East to two way radios in taxicabs on the East Side. In my line of business, I spent a lot at time in radio cabs, and I started getting really interested in these private conversations that are going on between the drivers and the dispatcher."
Even the use at the song "I Cant Get Started" which originated in an era when one could hear line radio broadcasts beamed across the country - fits into place. "The lyrics refer to travel," Marcy recalls, "and a lot at the piece is about transportation."
Vocals: Marcy Brafman
Bass and Keyboards: Tom T-Bone Wolk
Drums: Warren Odze
Koranic Chant Consultant: David Brahman, Ph.D
(I. Gershwin, V. Duke / Chappell Co., Inc.)
14. Philip Johnson "Interview" (2:42)
Firm: John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson Born: Cleveland, Ohio July 8, 1906 Education: Harvard University A.B;, 1930; Harvard University B. Arch. 1943; Harvard University Graduate School of Design Positions Held: Director, Department at Architecture, Museum at Modern Art, NYC, 1930-36, 1946-54 Principal Works: New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, New York City; Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut; Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas; East & Garden Wings, Museum of Modern Art, AT&T Building, New York City; Fifty Third at Third, New York City; 101 California Street, San Francisco, California; United Band Center Denver, Colorado; Pennzoil Place, Houston, Texas; The Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas; MS Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Niagara Fails Convention Center, Niagara Falls, New York; National Center for Performing Arts, Bombay, India; Fort Hill Square, Boston, Massachusetts; PPG Building, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kline Science Tower, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
15. John Burgee "Interview" (2:40)
Firm: John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson Born: Chicago, Illinois August 28, 1933 Education: University of Notre Dame, B. Arch. 1956 Positions Held: Partner, C.F Murphy Associates, Chicago, III. 1958-67; Partner, Johnson/Burgee Architects, NYC, 196782; Partner, John Burgee Architects with Philip Johnson, NYC 198386 Principal Works: AT&T Building, New York City; Travsco Tower, Houston, Tunas; United Bank Center, Denver, Colorado; Republic Bank Center, Houston, Texas; 580 California Street, San Francisco, California; Atlantic Center, Atlanta, Georgia; Momentum Place, Dallas, Texas; Niagara Falls Convention Center, Niagara Falls, New York; New York State University Art Museum, Purchase, New York; Burden Hall, Harvard University; Garden Grove Community Church, Garden Grove, California; National Center for Performing Art, Bombay, India; Fifty Third at Third, New York 500 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts; 190 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois; Tycon Towers, Tyson's Corner, Virgin,
16. Italo Scanga "Untitled Piece" [3:31]
"I'm sort of a late bloomer, you know?" Italo Scanga says matter-of-factly. As a matter of tact, his first major show, at the Whitney Museum in New York, came when he was 40 years old, "Richard Wagner didn't compose any major pieces until he was 45 or 46, so..."
Scanga, who didn't come to this country until he was 16, traces his training in sculpture back to the local "falegname" or woodworker with whom he apprenticed in his hometown of Lago, Calabria, in southern Italy. "If was like a kindergarten, except you had to sweep the floor, get the water, turn the lathe for him," Scanga says.
After joining his father - one of many immigrants who helped build the B&D Railroad - in Rockwood, Pennsylvania, Scup embarked on a course that MA him to art school and a career in teaching and sculpting by way of the GM assembly line in Detroit and the US Army. But if he was known at first as a master teacher, it was his many successful students who eventually called attention to his work and led to his recent success, particularly in the wake of his "Fear" series. Sculpted in painted wood, like most of his work, those pieces addressed ancient and contemporary anxieties, from fear, fire, and thunder to fear of buying a house and fear of success. Their popularity helped overcome an earlier resistance to Scanga's representative work that dated from the '60s and early '70s, when, he says, "you couldn't be a figurative artist, you had to be abstract - it was like belonging to a union." Even now, though, he insists, "I'm not a big star. I'm still sort of an underground figure, but in a good sense."
In regard to the animal sounds heard in his sound-piece, Scanga says, "I'm not an animal freak; I always use them as a metaphor of us. When you see them in my sculptures they're usually upside down, they have a thorn in their feet, they're sort of helpless creatures. It's about vulnerability. I have always used animals visually, but never the way they sound. For example, I would love to hear the voice at Picasso, I would love to hear the way Leonardo Da Vinci would sound." The poem that is sandwiched between the animals "has to do with decision-making," he says, "because my work is always full of contradiction. Here I wanted to combine the vulnerability in the animals with the decision-making about our destiny."
17. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt "Rite Of Passage" (5:54)
"Children instinctively know when they see glitter that they want to use it on their book report cover until people start felling them that that's tawdry, that they should start using stencils with beige ink, or something." Tom Lanigan-Schmidt is explaining his choice of materials in his art, the florist's foil, colored plastic, Saran Wrap and yes, glitter that he says reflects the light of "the strip joint and Coney Island and the disco." To Schmidt its all at a piece, just as his obsession with the religious art and artifacts at the Catholic Church is braided into his art like so much gold thread an a priest's chasuble. But the very utilitarian nature and low cast at the materials he uses pays homage to the neighborhood he refuses to leave behind. That's the one in Linden, New Jersey, where he grew up and learned "to survive by drawing pictures for these tough kids whose idea of being a man was being able to tight and get a girl pregnant when you were 16. 'Gavons', they, used to call those kids in the old neighborhood. "That's what the Italian peasants called other peasants they thought were too crude to talk about," he explains in the control booth while recording his track.
In his recording, Schmidt has combined the elements at his childhood, rites of passage, art, sex, Holy Mother Church and pap culture in ways that can perhaps be explained but are much more fun to listen to.
"I wanted to make the story into a ritual to contain the event," he says at the accompanying graphic. The record itself multi-tracks an exquisite prose-poem in classic High Mass incantatory rhythms with a school bell, genuine mom bells, sound effects records, and background music.
"I like doing this," Schmidt says gleefully as he works an the mix, explaining that there really is no English equivalent for the Latin "Ego sum," the significance of "Arriverderci Roma" in the content of No paternalism, and the proper way to ring the sanctus bells. Catholic listeners will recognize echoes and fragments of the Liturgy, giving this piece the kind of mixture of peasant, pop and church that inform Schmidt's visual art. As he says, "This is a ritual on a record."
Vocals: Thomas Langian-Schmidt, Murk Helsgott, and Joan Schmidt
Sanctus Bells: Peter Occhiogrosso
18. Bob Gruen "When You're Smiling" (3:08)
A lot of photographers talk as if they'd grown up in a darkroom; Bob Gruen actually did. "Photography was my mother's hobby, and she used to develop her own film," Gruen says. "I was too young to leave alone in the house at that time, so she put me in the corner of the darkroom, And in the dark she'd explain what she was doing, to keep me amused." At been amusing himself ever since, Gruen started as "the family photographer," and now, as he puts it, he's just the photographer far all different families.
"The other day I saw same pictures I took way back of my cousin's Bar Mitzvah, and they're the same kind of shots I do of rack groups," he says. This is the secret of Green's apparently casual photographs - they were taken casually. He shot some of the most characteristic photos, classics of The New York Dolls, Elton John, Tina Turner, and John Lennon. He got to know them, he says, "by hanging out, living with the people for a while. I might spend the whole day with them and only shoot one roll at film. Most photographers do a photo session and shoot ten or twelve rolls in a couple of hours."
Gruen's debut in the music world came at the New York World's Fair in 1964 when his bond the Justice League played at the United States pavilion, "and I was the only one who knew all the words to 'Like A Rolling Stone' - a considerable feat even by today's standards. His main claim to musical fame since then was sounding the bugle call (a leftover from his Boy Scout days) for the Clash's concerts at Bond's an Broadway in 1980. So when it came time to select a song for this album, Bob says, "I knew everyone was gonna laugh when they heard me singing, so I decided to do a sang that was supposed to make 'em laugh."
My favorite image of Gruen is of him leaning over the talk back button and repeating to the musicians about to record the basic track for his sang on the other side of the studio glass, the famous lost wards of Indian savant Meher Baba, "Hey guys - don't worry, be happy"
Bob & Christopher Gruen - Lead Vocals
Wrecia Ford - Background Vocals
Joe Delia - Piano
Brain Koonin - Guitar
Tony Garnier - Bass
Tony Machine - Drums
James Coleman - Tap Dancing
19. Yura Adams "Dream Of Paradise" (4:37)
"Now don't pay attention to the audience," Yura Adams is telling her fellow performers on the video tape were watching. "Just pretend they're not there." Sound advice, except that Yura is talking to three robots - giant-sized toys she bought at Radio Shack and then altered to fit the needs other performances. Yura's themes delineate the often humorous plight of an imaginary society that is "technically advanced but socially backward." The performance pieces have titles such as "Housewives In Space," "Femme Futura," On The Hour," and look about as futuristic as vintage episodes from television's "Captain Video."
"I'm not really mechanical," Adams explains. "I basically find motors and gadgets that are already made and utter them." Electrical tie-racks, malfunctioning blenders, mechanical toy animals and robots named Zozo and Xenia are all part of Yura's world of homey sci-fi, where in the words of one other songs, "Satellites zoom into the living room..." She likes the smaller mechanical marvels because "you can tit them in a suitcase when you're touring a show." Her evaluation other songwriting goes like this: "I never studied music or composition. I just write songs." And she has been working extensively with the Fairlight synthesizer. "Dream of Paradise" is taken from her suite "Marvel's Paradise." Her photo of a '60s toy (known as Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots) against a San Francisco skyline illustrates a technique she calls "figural mechanics." it a kind of "unfound photography" that centers on set-up photographs of objects as opposed to the candid work at, say, Cartier-Bresson.
But increasingly Adams is investigating the potential of video for taping her performances and distributing them as an alternative to continual touring and live shows. "It's like having a visible soul after you die," she says with an infectious laugh, "you just keep sending it around."
Vocals: Yura Adams with Elsie McKercher
(Audio was produced in part by Harvestworks Inc.)
20. Jennifer Bartlett "Excerpt from 'History Of The Universe" (12:17)
The commonplaces concerning the We and work at Jennifer Bartlett are stilt among the most compelling facts about her: that while growing up in California et the age at five she announced to her mother that she was going to be an artist and live in New York; that she converted a depressing stay in the dreary French Villa of Piers Peel Read into a stunning series of artworks; that she gave an aquatic theme to one other most famous series at paintings under the mistaken notion that Atlanta was located on or near the sea; that years before the unset of an unorganized women's movement, she counter-terrorized her male art school classmates through the use of enormous, oversized canvas-stretchers; or that her first major gallery show at the age of twenty-five resulted in rare rave review on the front page at the Sunday Times Arts end Leisure section, and the almost immediate sale of the entire work.
Considering all that has been written about the "narrative" quality of much at Bartlett's painting, its not surprising that she should have produced a novel as well. Although the bulk of History Of The Universe was originally written in the '70s, it has since been revised and edited down to a fraction at its enormous length, and was published late last year. Following as it does the course of a successful woman artist from California to New York and Europe to the early Soho art world, it has been labeled autobiographical by some observers. "It's not completely autobiographical," Bartlett says in defense. "That's an accusation that's leveled against any first novel. Had that been my interest, I think it would've been written very differently." She chose the passage she reads on the recording, she says, "because it was the real topic of the book: the death at a parent and how that affects the whole family." Although Bartlett at one point considered illustrating the book, she eventually "began to realize it wasn't that interesting to do drawings," and decided an photographs instead. She quickly observes that she's "really not that interested in photography," using it mostly for note-taking. "The only camera I've ever used," she says, "is one of those automatic-focus, automatic-everything cameras that you just push the button. That is my photographic equipment and that is the extent of my commitment." Nevertheless, one can hardly fail to notice the similarity between her photographic images and many of the central themes of her painting and sculpture.
Thanks to Nimbus Books and Moyer Bell Ltd. Recorded March 1985-June 1986
Liner Notes: Peter Occhiogrosso
Curated by Jeff & Juanita Gordon
Philips 2x LP (420 273-1)