Hydrogen Jukebox and Solace

The soul yearns for peace in a time of crisis…

A chance encounter between minimalist composer Philip Glass and beat poet Allen Ginsberg results in the collaboration, Hydrogen Jukebox

Hydrogen Jukebox is a chamber opera, taken from a phrase coined by Ginsberg, from his poem Howl.

‘…listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox…’

Of the project, Glass said:

“In 1988…I happened to run into Allen Ginsberg at St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York and asked him if he would perform with me. We were in the poetry section, and he grabbed his book from the shelf and pointed out Wichita Vortex Sutra. The poem, written in 1966, reflected the anti-war mood of the times, seemed highly appropriate for the occasion. As a result I composed a piano piece to accompany Allen’s reading, which took place at the Schubert Theater on Broadway.

The reading went so well they decided to collaborate by creating a full-length work. A small orchestra and six voices with text compiled from Ginsberg’s catalog of poetry.

According to Ginsberg, “Hydrogen Jukebox signifies a state of hypertrophic high-tech, a psychological state in which people are at the limit of their sensory input with civilization’s military jukebox, a loud industrial roar, or a music that begins to shake the bones and penetrate the nervous system as a hydrogen bomb may do someday, reminder of apocalypse.”

The crisis state of Syria and the pending talks with North Korea that fills our airwaves compels the music of our heart to find solace and meaning from this past work. My personal mission today is to listen to and comprehend Hydrogen Jukebox. 

May the past genius of Ginsberg and Glass bring the soul peace.


Meredith Monk’s Spiritual Muse

“I work in between the cracks, where the voice starts dancing, where the body starts singing, where theater becomes cinema.” – Deborah Jowitt (ed.), Meredith Monk (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997)

Meredith Monk creates multi-disciplinary works which combine music, theatre, and dance. She is a pioneer in “extended vocal technique” and “interdisciplinary performance,” Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in efforts to discover and weave together new modes of perception. She has recorded extensively for ECM Records the past 32 years.

I have accessed her catalogue of performance art that is available online via Spotify, YouTube, WNYC (New Sounds) and her well designed Website.

Her voice strikes a resonant chord within the music of our heart that embellishes the human spirit. I find myself becoming enchanted with the spiritual muse Meredith Monk crafts with her focused conviction.

I  have just begun to scratch the surface of what Meredith Monk’s vision offers through her commitment, passion and sincerity.

My next step is to explore these Meredith Monk core building blocks.

1) Music Recording

I will start my collection of Meredith Monk’s recordings and buy Songs of Ascension. This work has tremendous appeal to my psyche through the interwoven sounds that echo in and around me from the samples I have heard. It is also very integrated with the film and the book I mention below. I am tempted to get them all at once,  I think I will update my amazon wish list. 😉

Meredith Monk and Vocal Ensemble voices
Todd Reynolds Quartet string quartet
The M6 voices
Montclair State University Singers

2) Documentary

Inner Voice

Inner Voice is a documentary that follows Meredith Monk during the process of making her latest piece, Songs of Ascension, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and at Ann Hamilton’s Tower in California.  Together with her Vocal Ensemble, we also follow her on a concert tour of Italy.  Impermanence is a leading subject matter evolving in the documentary.

Laurie Anderson’s Ever Increasing Artistic Landscape

The main building of the School of Visual Arts...
The main building of the School of Visual Arts on East 23rd Street in Manhattan, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Laurie Anderson continues to break through to new plateaus in the artistic landscape where art meets technology defined by minimalism and expression.

I recall that in the early 80s I was just beginning my 30 year technology career as a programmer/analyst. I was looking for new musical horizons and intellectual influences. Laurie Anderson hit the music scene with “O Superman” and her début recording, Big Science. My music psyche gained a new dimensional level with the sounds and textures she created on our behalf

Big Science (reissue) cover art

I am impassioned to learn that Laurie Anderson was  the commencement speaker for the School of Visual Arts Class of 2012  which took place at Radio City Music Hall today. It wasn’t that long ago that our son, Matthew graduated from SVA(2008) as a graphics design major. His commencement was also held at Radio City Music Hall.

Her companion project is an art exhibition coördinated with the School of Visual Arts and Vito Schnabel. This will be the first exhibition of the Laurie Anderson’s paintings in New York. On display will be a new series of paintings that bring the scale of the theater onto the canvas. I hope we can get down to NYC to see her visual art on display.

MAY 12 – JUNE 23, 2012

Painting is like improvising in music. Making these big gestures feels like playing the violin. So many of my projects lately have become screen based or extremely theoretical. I wanted the physicality and scale of painting. Making paintings is the closest I’ve come to making songs. Even though they take up a lot of room I love them as unwieldy things. Much of my work comes from the theater world where sets are enormous. In fact, these paintings seem a bit on the small side.

Boat is based on the art project when Laurie Anderson stayed in A Room for London, a one-bedroom installation above the River Thames, from 24 – 25 March 2012. On the last night of her residency, she made a new sound piece, a radio show streamed live from the Room.

This week also brings another significant recognition of Anderson’s work: she has been named the first-ever distinguished artist-in-residence at EMPAC, the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. The residency provides Anderson with access to space, technology, and support for creative experimentation and brings her into ongoing dialogue with students and faculty at Rensselaer.

Laurie Anderson first came to EMPAC as a resident artist in 2009 to complete work on Delusion, a complex series of stories about longing, memory, and identity commissioned by the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. Elements of the piece are featured in Anderson’s latest album,Homeland, released on Nonesuch Records in June 2010. At EMPAC, Anderson was able to try new ideas and integrate the diverse, multidisciplinary elements of the work, including music, visuals, altered voices, and electronic puppetry. Based on the success of the extensive working relationship between Anderson and EMPAC, founding Time-Based Arts Curator Kathleen Forde and Director Johannes Goebel proposed this new opportunity.

“It’s such a great honor to be the first distinguished artist-in-residence,” says Anderson. “Working with the crack technical and production teams and having access to EMPAC’s spectacular spaces and resources is such a dream. I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity.”

Laurie Anderson, Delusion / Image: (c) Leland Brewster

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