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.
The First Human Be-In held in San Francisco on January 14, 1967, ushered in the Summer of Love. It was a pivotal conclave with an estimated 20,000+ people in attendance.
I love that the event served as the passing of the baton from The Beats Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure to the Flower Child generation. It is where Timothy Leary stated, “Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out”.
Today is the 50th Anniversary of that historic event, San Francisco, and the world will celebrate together!
If you’re going to San Francisco Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair If you’re going to San Francisco You’re gonna meet some gentle people there – Lyrics By: Scott McKenzie, Song: San Francisco
Talk about your collaborations, this one was special.
The single The Ballad of the Skeletons, was Allen Ginsberg’s last recorded release, it is his musical masterpiece and deserves to be considered one of the most passionate, powerful, and articulate performances in the history of rock.
Allen Ginsberg Raps on this recording. Refer to the Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney performance video below to get a fuller sense of the mutual respect and dignity each man shared for the other.
‘A Ballad of American Skeletons’ was performed by Allen Ginsberg and Sir Paul McCartney for an evening of poetry and performance at The Royal Albert Hall promoted by Goldmark entitled ‘The Return of the Reforgotten’ in 1995.
“Ballad of the Skeletons” with music by Philip Glass and Paul McCartney playing guitar. The recording was a follow up to Allen Ginsberg’s “Ballad of the Skeletons”
The book has rekindled my dormant flames of interest in folk music. I got the yearn for musicology when I attended the University of New Haven minoring in music. Thankfully that interest continues to guide my conscious flow. The first album by Dave Van Ronk that played endlessly on my hi-fi was Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger(Prestige). I had no idea until I heard the book how important Izzy Young‘s Folklore Center (pictured on the cover) was to Dave and the folk music idiom.
Which brings me to the folk music foundation classic, The Anthology of Folk Music by Harry Smith. I first learned about the uniqueness of Harry Smith from Patti Smith’s book, Just Kids. Patti Smith and Harry Smith (no relation) were neighbors and close friends residing at The Chelsea Hotel. Harry Smith was also friends with Allen Ginsberg who captured his image in the last week of his life.
“Harry Smith, painter, archivist, anthropologist, film-maker & hermetic alchemist, his last week at Breslin Hotel Manhattan January 12, 1985, transforming milk into milk.” – Allen Ginsberg, Photo by Allen Ginsberg, Courtesy of Allen Ginsberg Trust and Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles
After hearing Dave Van Ronk speak his praises of this essential box set I have to ask myself why haven’t I seen fit to add these essential recordings to my music collection. Arguably the most important release of all-time (1952), The Anthology is a collection of old-time music from the late 20′s and early 30′s that spawned the folk and blues revival of the 60′s and influenced everyone from Dylan to the Grateful Dead.
I must rectify that situation and trust me I will, soon ;). For the music of our heart is incomplete until I have the works by Harry Smith safely listened to and tucked away in my music library.
I love the time I get to spend between Christmas and New Year reflecting upon and renewing commitments to an ongoing pursuit of the arts. Its treasured down time from a perpetual teaching schedule that runs day and night, all year round. I try to spend the time productively, teaching myself new software, preparing for certification exams, etc. I also spend time listening to music that escaped my grasp during the year, reading through my significant music magazine and book pile, visiting Barnes & Noble to stay vibrant and aware.
As a result I have accumulated some meaty writing topics for the coming year. They represent more substantive research into genres/artists I want to explore more in-depth, hopefully across multiple blog posts. This is my revised approach to professional blogging in 2013, which I hope my readers will like and seek to learn along with me (or teach me something new they know in these areas).
The five 2013 art blogging projects are:
Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan – I just heard Billy Corgan‘s interview with Howard Stern on Sirius XM. Oceania is a recording I did not do justice to in 2012. I have discovered more about the Smashing Pumpkin/Corgan direction as well as the various side projects by past/current members. The Teargarden by Kaleidyscopeinitiative interests me greatly. Time to do some justice about the art of Smashing Pumpkins in the music of our heart.
I was leaving through the current newsstand issue of Uncut Magazine last week at Barnes & Noble when I discovered a review of Joni Mitchell‘s box set, Studio Albums 1968-1979.The box setis a UK import via Rhino that is presently stocked out on Amazon. Once I can get my order fulfilled and I have given these 10 CDs a thorough listening I will write a blog series about that experience.
I was browsing the music book section when I discovered the On The Road: The Official Movie Companiontrade paperback. This stirred my sentiment about The Beats. I realized very quickly I had not really delved effectively into the writings of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg. Patti Smith has galvanized the poetic pentameter in the music of our heart for this halcyon period of art. I resolve to see the movie On The Road in New York City before the wider theater release. I also make a commitment to read more of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs books (and of course Patti Smith’s poetry books until her new book(s) come out!). I also plan to get some of the books by the “authoritative” researchers/biographers of The Beat, most notably Ann Charters. I must follow through on this as my core initiative for the arts in 2013. The movie has become the impetus for renewing my kinship with The Beats.
I picked up another of The Ultimate Music Guide’s from the publishers of Uncut Magazine. This one is about The Kinks. The 146 page special collector’s edition covers each album in the Kinks discography, the solo albums from Ray and Dave Davies, rarities and singles. It is just the compendium I had looked for about The Kinks. I plan to summarize this satisfying publication in a later blog post article.
I am continually impressed by the quality and substance of the British magazine publications. I need to get that iPad 4 with Retina so I can electronically subscribe to Uncut and NME. The magazine I’ve had in my hands twice now at Barnes & Noble is the The Story of Joy Division and New Order. I readily admit I don’t know enough about this band. Realizing I should correct that problem makes this my fifth blogging project for 2013.
I really miss the late photographer Jim Marshall. I was very affected by his death. We never met in person but I knew of him through his photographic lens. The first photograph of Jim Marshall that caught my eye was of James Marshall Hendrix at Monterey Pop in 1967. I recall opening Rolling Stone then the newspaper and seeing this photograph speak so powerfully to me.
Throughout the decades more and more of Jim Marshall’s photographs became ingrained in my consciousness. Eventually I began to own autographed copies of his music photography books so I could hold and study his photographic art at close range.
First I purchased Proof, through Wolfgang’s Vault. It was a tremendous study of Jim Marshall’s camera proofs that spoke to me in intimate detail. I later saw his real proofs displayed at the John Varvatos Store in Las Vegas on the walls of the clothier.
Next I bought Jazz, which increased my knowledge of the great jazz artists I had wanted to meet through Jim’s friendship and trust with these great musicians. My favorite photograph in that book was the picture of Allen Ginsberg looking at Thelonious Monk in magical awe and wonder. I once met Allen Ginsberg in person at the University of New Haven (but that’s another story for another day).
I last bought Jim Marshall’s Trust through The Morrison Hotel Gallery on Prince Street in SoHo, New York City. That book spoke to me the deepest as I learned about how Jim Marshall earned the trust of each artist he photographed.
We had planned to go to see Jim Marshall at the original Pocket Cash event at The Morrison Hotel Gallery but God had other plans for our photographer of the stars.
The Blues Foundation will be holding their annual Blues Hall of Fame induction on May 4, 2011. It’s part of their annual Blues Music Awards event. I would love to go to Memphis, Tennessee some day with Rosemary and be an active part of this event. So yes, this is a bucket list item for me 😉
The Blues Hall of Fame Inductee who I am writing my daily blog post about is Samuel Charters. I was conducting research for a future daily blog post about the Albert King with Stevie Ray Vaughn In Session CD/DVD recording when I happened upon Samuel Charters name as the person who wrote the liner notes for this auspicious blues event.
I pride myself as an amateur ethnomusicologist. I graduated from the University of New Haven, minoring in music and ethnomusicology was my heart of hearts goal in 1974. I haven’t let go of staying in league with music study. I value music historians such as Alan Lomax and music journalists such as Peter Guralnick , Paul Oliver and Robert Palmer. It stands to reason that Samuel Charters would be on my radar screen as a blues music subject matter authority.
Samuel Charters (81 years young) is being deservedly recognized for his vast contribution to the study and promotion of the blues music idiom. Samuel Charters has written seven books about the blues. He is also a noted subject matter authority on jazz and has written six titles about jazz.
His book The Country Blues is a definitive publication that sews together the threads of blues history in a musical and cultural quilt. It was, in his words, “an effort to force the white society to reconsider some of its racial attitudes, although it was a cry for help” for the blues artists.
What I find very fascinating is the contribution Samuel Charters, along with his wife Ann Charters have made to the legacy of music and literature. The Charters have collected substantive information about the blues, jazz, and African diaspora music. Ann is a noted subject matter authority on the Beat Generation which is another developing interest of mine. She wrote the first Jack Kerouac biography (which received co-operation from Kerouac himself).
Samuel and Ann Charters split their time today between Sweden where they live (they grew disenchanted with the American political landscape and who could blame them) and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. They have unselfishly donated several large collections to UCONN’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center for ongoing scholarly research.
We spent an enjoyable evening with Patti Smith and special friends Wednesday night at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue in New York City. This event was rescheduled from January 6th which worked out in everyone’s favor, especially when you consider the blizzard we had in January. Last night was almost balmy as we walked around the area finding a restaurant and stopping in Crumbs Bake Shop for an Artie Lange cup cake 😉
This was our second annual event featuring Patti Smith at 92 Y. Last year we saw Patti in a dual reading with her friend, Sam Shepard, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. (Sam is a playwright, actor, television/ film director, folk singer and short story writer.)
As we found our way to our seat we were handed a blank 3×5 index card to ask Patti Smith a question for Q&A. I came up with a question, jotted it down and handed it to the usher just before Patti Smith made her entrance.
Patti Smith was delightful as her improvisational and comedic selves were in harmony. She started the evening with the song I was hearing in my head,”My Blakean Year” which aptly portrays her poetic soul. Patti then switched to readings from Just Kids, which recently won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction. I really love when she shares Robert Mapplethorpe and the time they spent together at the Chelsea Hotel. They have a beautiful, eternal friendship.
Patti then introduced Lenny Kaye through a passage of her book. Lenny Kaye has played 40 years with her as a member of The Patti Smith Group. Patti paid tribute to the late actress Maria Schneider by performing with Lenny a poignant, engaging version of “Redondo Beach” from Horses.
She then switched back to readings from her book, interspersing her poems, injecting fun with impromptu asides with the audience. She read another passage from Just Kids, which set the stage to introduce Sam Shepard who was a surprise guest. Sam played guitar with Patti and Lenny, as we saw Sam Shepard the folkie emerge.
Our favorite part of the evening was when Patti recalled that she had to do Q&A. Lenny Kaye took the question cards out of the front pocket flap of his sport coat. Much to our joy Lenny Kaye soon read our question. Lenny said, “Patti, this question is from Ed & Rosemary Jennings, who write, “What are your sentiments about Saint Francis of Assisi?” The audience chuckled at what seemed a random and obscure question. I had asked it purposely because I had read that Patti Smith’s next record will have a song about Saint Francis of Assisi.We love to know what influences artists to write and record their songs. Patti said that this was another commercial announcement (she lovingly promoted her friend and photographer Judy Linn’s book several times that evening.) Patti cautioned the audience that this was an important question as she graciously spoke about Saint Francis’s warm way with matter of the heart making significant contributions as an environmentalist and animal activist. Patti was fair in saying that people of various faiths have come to respect Saint Francis’s contribution to the planet over the centuries. We smiled at Patti’s answer as devout Catholics, who hold the saints of the church in high esteem.
A person in the audience then asked Patti, “When will the record be coming out?”. She shot right back at them, “When it’s ready.”
The music performed was a combination of poetry, as well as early influences. We especially liked the rendition of the first song Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye collaborated on in 1971, “Fire of Unknown Origin”.
My favorite moment was when Patti couldn’t find the eclectic passage in the book about her first meeting with Allen Ginsberg at the Horn and Hardart Automat. A fan finally yelled out, page 122. Patti replied. “You’re the best.” I love the beat generation and poet connection between Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg. I had the rare privilege of meeting Allen Ginsberg in 1973 at the University of New Haven. I sat next to him at a press conference before he performed “Howl” in our campus entertainment room. As Patty points out in her book, “I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard…”. That image Patti described is just how I recalled Allen Ginsberg as I watched him answer questions posed by local reporters in the student conference room.
Here is a color handbill of a memorial tribute to Allen Ginsberg held in Ann Arbor, Michigan that we keep in our home office 🙂
The evening was capped off by Patti Smith, Sam Shepard, Lenny Kaye and the audience, singing and clapping to “People Have The Power“. Patti dedicated it to freedom and Egypt.
OUR SOUL IN CAIRO
Brothers and Sisters
we are with you
The People have the Power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the united
the graces shower
It’s decreed the
We then got online to have Patti Smith sign Just Kids in paperback and the new Judy Linn photography book, that Judy Linn also signed for us. We were privileged to get the book before its March 1st general availability date. Great keepsakes for a beautiful evening of literary musical expression.
We thanked Patti for answering our question and she said to us, “I hope you’ll like the song when you hear it.” We have a feeling we will, Patti 🙂