Category Archives: Beat Studies

>Allen Ginsberg on Charlie Rose 1995


Lisa Phillips 1995 Beat Culture and the New America show at the Whitney Museum in New York has already been spotlighted here but it was an important show and a significant moment – “the scroll” (on display to the public for the first time), Jay Defeo’s “The Rose” (in all its immensity) – an important contextualizing of both a West Coast and an East Coast cultural explosion and avant-garde.

Allen was alive then and more than happy to participate in the publicity surrounding the event, guesting on Charlie Rose’s PBS talk show. His appearance is announced thus:
“(Tonight), a conversation with Allen Ginsberg, the poet who helped to shape The Beat Generation. He is joined by Steven Watson, author of “The Birth of The Beat Generation”, Nat Hentoff , a columnist at The Village Voice and George Herms, the California artist whose art exemplified the Beat aesthetic. The group reflects on the importance of the Beat Generation in American History.”

Unfortunately, this lively conversation has been sandwiched in between two absolutely unrelated segments – a (relatively) long opening segment on contemporaneous child welfare scandals in New York City and an interview with former NBC and PBS executive, Larry Grossman. Allen and company come in approximately 22 minutes in, if you’re willing to wait -or fast forward – and the discussion lasts for about twenty minutes.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beat History, Beat Studies, Beats, Charlie Rose, George Herms, Jay Defeo, Lisa Phillips, Nat Hentoff, Steven Watson

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 24


[Allen Ginsberg on the Yangtze River, China, November 10 1984. Allen had traveled to China with Gary and Masa Snyder, Maxine Hong Kingston, Francine & Cleve Grey and others as part of an American delegation of noted writers in exchange for hosting notable Chinese writers in the States a few years before. photo. c. Allen Ginsberg Estate]

Angela Sorby’s piece in the current Chronicle of Higher Education, “Snapshots of a Semester in China” is an interesting read – “I decide to teach my students Allen Ginsberg’s famous countercultural poem, “Howl”, Sorby writes. “Before I came to China, I thought there might be restrictions on what I could teach or say, but I’ve learned that the authorities are more sophisticated than that. As a Fulbrighter, as long as I don’t try to actually organize anything I can say whatever I want”.”I worry, though, that the poem’s explicit homosexual images might alienate my students. In China, homosexuality is still barely discussed and only very recently decriminalized. So I craftily tell students: “back when “Howl” was published, many people in the United States were ignorant about homosexuality. They even thought it was a choice or a psychiatric condition! Isn’t that outrageous! My students shake their heads, assuming an air of cosmopolitan outrage, and I feel a twinge of triumph..” For more of Sorby’s article, go here.

Allen’s upcoming birthday gets ever-closer. Two on-going registers of it that we’ve mentioned before, Claire Askew’s Edinburgh bash and CA Conrad’s special Jupiter 88 Allen Ginsberg Edition (a video contribution to New York City’s “Howl Festival”), continue to develop. The latter has now followed the original Mark Nowak posting with videos by Fred Moten, Guillermo Parra, Nicole Steinberg, Michael Hennessey, Paul E Nelson, and Greg Bem (all fervently, and gratefully, singing the praises of Allen).

Would you like a one-time visit to Allen’s old 13th Street East Village loft? (the one that he bought following the sale of his papers and archives to Stanford, and the one that he was, tragically, scarce able to inhabit (he died less than a month after moving in). The Allen Ginsberg Estate and The Adaptations Project are co-hosting a special “Benefit Reception and Launch Party“, a one-time-only event, this upcoming May 20, for Donnie Mather‘s “Kaddish: The Key In The Window – Based on the poem by Allen Ginsberg” – tickets are $50 and $100. “This premiere marks the 50th Anniversary of the poem’s publication and the Inaugural Production of The Adaptations Project”. The evening will feature a special “sneak preview” of the production that will debut in Manhattan in the Fall.

Beat Encounters – if you’re not making use of our “Comments” feature (and, come to think of it, why aren’t you making use of our “Comments” feature?), you might well have missed this –Jack Miller’s memories of his encounter (encounters, actually) with Allen, including (just back from India, “new Shiva trident in hand and freshly shorn of his beard”) a visit to New Orleans in October 1971.
Thanks, once again, Jack, for sharing.

and Mike Harman, in the Charleston Daily Mail, recalls:
“Once I asked Allen Ginsberg to autograph his “Complete Works” collection that I had borrowed from the library, and he wrote, “Please don’t steal this book from the Kanawha County Library – Allen Ginsberg”
Inside of a year, the book was missing!”

then there’s the Howler Drone Self-Modulating Synth Patch (the what? – well, maybe you should go here to find out all about it!)

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Angela Sorby, Beat Studies, Donnie Mather, Fred Moten, Greg Bem, Guillermo Parra, Howl, Kaddish, Michael Hennessey, Nicole Steinberg, Paul E Nelson, The Adaptation Project

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 21

> Richard Prince, Untitled (hippie drawing, Allen Ginsberg), 2000–05.   Crayon and marker on paper.

[Richard Prince – Untitled (hippie drawing, Allen Ginsberg), 2000-05 crayon and marker on paper]

Richard Prince’s show, American Prayer, which recently opened at, what shouldn’t appear so unlikely a location, the National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale) in Paris, includes, among other works, this work – and a self-professed Beat bibliophile fetish theme. Go here for videos of the show and of the artist. (Richard, incidentally, was, at one time, during the ’80’s, a downstairs neighbor (in Allen’s building on East 12th Street), (which, just conceivably, might be memorialized here, and is certainly – “My landlord informed me that I was moving in next to Allen Ginsberg” – recollected here). Poets Simon Pettet, John Godfrey, Larry Fagin, Richard Hell, Greg Masters, Lorna Smedman, amongst others, still reside in this (NYC, East Village) building.

The latest issue (Volume 5, issue 1 – April 2011) of The Beat Review, “a review of new Beat scholarship and other Beat works”, put out by the Beat Studies Association, is now up. We would draw your attention to Marc Olmstead’s review of the Peter Conners Ginsberg-Leary book, but there’s plenty there, besides, to get your teeth into. And check-out the back issues too. We’d recommend from the previous issue (December 2010) Kurt Hemmer’s review of the Howl movie and Jonah Raskin‘s reviews of the Letters ( June 2010 – Kerouac/Ginsberg; January 2009 – Ginsberg/Snyder).

September 201o features a review, (by Tom Pynn), of The Typewriter is Holy. Another review of Bill Morgan’s simultaneous chronological history of the Beat Generation can be read here. “I’ve been having entirely too much fun lately with The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete Uncensored History of the Beat Generation by Bill Morgan”, writes the author, Ben Steelman. Not a bad opening!

Big movie news! – Yes, more Beat movies! – Barry Miles’ book on The Beat Hotel has just been optioned by producer Pamela Dickerson as a narrative feature film. Here is the press release. Rex Weiner has come on board as co-producer. The press-release speaks of a “stylistic bi-lingual cultural reve (rave?)”. We shall see.

David Cope, who we mentioned last week, is profiled here.

Lawrence Ferlighetti may be 92 but he’s still happy to speak to the Scottish Big Issue.

Speaking of Scotland, Ginsberg-enthusiast Claire Askew, is already eye-ing June 3rd, Allen’s upcoming birthday. What are your plans for June 3rd?

& speaking of birthdays, thought you all might like to know (or be reminded) today is Bessie Smith‘s birthday.

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Filed under 437 East 12th, Allen Ginsberg, Barry Miles, Beat Hotel, Beat Studies, Bill Morgan, David Cope, Jonah Raskin, Kurt Hemmer, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Marc Olmstead, Peter Conners, Richard Prince

>Beat Atlas by Bill Morgan

Bill Morgan’s new book is just out from City Lights. Rick Dale of The Daily Beat, one of the earliest reviews, gives it an enthusiastic “thumbs-up” – “I absolutely love this book.It’s quirky, interesting, and practical..Beat Atlas has my highest recommendation”.

Nancy Peters, in her introduction, writes “Bill Morgan provides a comprehensive birds-eye view of the proto-Beat presence across America, and this alone illuminates an important area of literary history and geography. But even better, he also maps the complex, ever widening nexus of poets and visionaries who, for half a century, wrote to each other, performed together, supported one another’s work, and sustained a movement that was dissident, controversial, and, ultimately dominant”.

The author himself explains: “This is the third book in a series from City Lights. The first two cover the Beat Generation in New York and San Francisco, respectively, and were organized as walking tours to those cities. This volume mentions only a few locations in those two places, but, unlike those, this one is not designed to be followed in any predetermined sequence. It is organized first by region and then by state and town within each region. No attempt has been made to put the towns in any order other than alphabetical. Within each section, one location has been selected to highlight a notable place of interest. Lowell, Massachusetts, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, introduces the book for no other reason than its importance as a Beat site. Other towns within that state follow in alphabetical order. By working with this guidebook in one hand and a trusted map in the other, you can plot your own tour around the country, just like Jack, Neal, and Allen did more than sixty years ago. Grab your rucksack and hit the road!”

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Filed under Beat Atlas, Beat History, Beat Studies, Beats, Bill Morgan, Nancy Peters

>Friday’s Weekly Round-Up 16


[photo/ephemera collage by Althea Crawford for Holy Soul Jelly Roll box set insert]

Bibliographic Notes

The current presence of Howl the movie has summoned up a few complimentary bibliographic articles. Gilliam Orr in The Independent proposes a reading list that begins, as everybody would suggest, with the poem itself, followed by such titles as, James Campbell’s overview, This Is The Beat Generation, Ronna C Johnson & Nancy M Grace’s Girls Who Wore Black, and Harold Chapman’s photographic documentation, which, as they carefully note, is “currently out of print”

An equally maverick selection was proposed last year by Courtney Crowder in the Chicago Tribune. Taking for granted the poem itself as the starting point, she recommends Bill Morgan’s biography, I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg; the Ginsberg-Kerouac letters; Susan Edwards’ book-length memoir, The Wild West Wind: Remembering Allen Ginsberg; and Chris Felver’s photo book, The Late Great Allen Ginsberg

This, to quote our friend Michael McClure is just “scratching the.. surface”

Cinematic Notes

Another Allen on Film – Ruth Du’s short, Six’55 (featuring Roger Massih as Allen) – “a historical interpretation of the first night Allen Ginsberg recited his famous “Howl” in the Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955” – just won the prize for “best undergraduate cinematography” at NYU’s Fusion Film Festival.

Lawrence Kramen’s

“David Amram: The First 80 Years!” gets a “sneak preview” this weekend in Lowell

and – didn’t we mention? don’t think we did – footage from last year’s Peter Orlovsky Memorial at St Mark’s Church is now up on The Poetry Project‘s web-site (actually, it’s been there now a good long while!)

Kerouac at Lowell

Yes, Lowell – don’t forget Jack Kerouac’s birthday tomorrow! (Saturday March 12th) – His home-town is once again celebrating with a birthday-bash. As acknowledgment of the 75th anniversary of the 1936 Lowell Flood, there’ll be readings from Doctor Sax, (wherein he describes the flood,

as he remembered it, still a boy, only 14 years old). There’ll be a showing of the film Whatever Happened to Kerouac?, and an evening of jazz and blues – and poetry – at The Back Pages Jazz and Blues Club,”an evening of words, music and improv”, hosted by, and featuring David Amram

Amram notes:
“Kerouac was one of the first writers to understand the relationship of Formality and Spontaneity, and how the treasures of the Old World (the classics of Europe) had a relationship to the treasures of the New World (USA jazz, blues. Native and Latin American and Immigrant American musical forms that combined tradition with improvising. Growing up in Lowell, he had a sense of community, family, the church, the beauty of everyday life and respect for every person who crossed his path; especially people that entered the gyroscope of his life, wherever he went in his endless travels. He never lost his hometown roots or relinquished his values in order to attempt to be cutting edge or trendy. Like all great artists, he followed his heart and
remained true to himself”

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beat Studies, Beats, David Amram, Howl, Jack Kerouac, Peter Orlovsky, Ruth Du

>Allen’s Classical Jukebox (Notes on Music Notes 1)


Following up on yesterday’s post, here’s a few additional notes to the auctioneer’s notes and a few further superficial notations.

So, Clement Janequin (1485-1558) and his “Chant des Oiseaux” (Song of the Birds). Allen is drawing here on his knowledge of Ezra Pound’s work on early music and sends the reader to Pound’s Canto 75 (“Out of Phlegethon!/out of Phlegethon,/Gerhart/art thou come forth out of Phlegethon?…” – ”Phlegethon”, from Greek mythology, one of the five principal rivers in the realm of Hell (Hades). It flows with fire and burns but does not consume. Gerhart – German composer, Gerhart Munch, who escaped from the war, bearing music manuscripts (including a handwritten transcription, for violin and piano, of Francesco da Milano’s lute transcriptions of Janequin’s choral setting).

“Clement Janequin wrote a chorus…when Francesco da Milano reduced it for the lute, the birds were still with the music. And when Munch transcribed it for modern instruments the birds were still there’, writes Pound in his ABC of Reading

Alonso Mudarra (1510-1580) (mis-transcribed by Allen as Alphonse De Mudurra)’s David’s Lament (Triste Estaba el Rey David) – Spanish composer – A performance of this piece (by the Kings Singers) can be accessed here

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – AG (and/or his transcriber) surely don’t mean Mass in 5 minor (sic), but Mass in B minor and for Partita #2, here’s the legendary Glenn Gould playing it . For a performance of the St Matthew’s Passion (this exquisite performance by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Soloists), can be found here

Ludvig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) Grosse Fugue, as performed by the Alban Berg Quartet in 1989, can be found here. His Piano Sonata Opus 111, performed by Sviatoslav Richter, may be listened to here

“Quarter op. 116 (?) , the one so strained” – Quartet (sic) Opus 116. Any idea what Allen is referencing here? – Beethoven’s Opus 116 is this, but does he really mean this Terzetto:Tremate, empi, tremante”? perhaps he has his numbers wrong?

Missa Solemnis, Opus 123, yeshere’s the Kyrie

Sviatoslav Richter can also be heard playing here the work of (Franz) Schubert’s that Allen cites (the auctioneer doesn’t enumerate), the Schubert Sonata in A Major. For (Johannes Brahms, we’ll send you to Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern, and Leonard Rose playing the first movement of Brahms Piano Trio No.1. (the composition, Allen’s choice). Prokofieff’s famous film-score to Sergei Eisenstein’s masterpiece Alexander Nevsky is where he leads us with Prokofieff (pointing out that this was a favorite piece of music for Jack Kerouac). Pieces by Arnold Schoenberg (Verklarte Nachthere’s Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic), and Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Kontakte, complete the survey.

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beat Studies, Ezra Pound, Music

>Allen’s Spiritual Jukebox (Notes on Music Notes 2)


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[The Heart Sutra – Chinese (6th Century)]

Regarding Allen Ginsberg Music Notes At Auction

Allen’s notes were written pre-his serious engagement with Tibetan Buddhism, (the date of these music notes, February 10 1971). He nonetheless recommends (and this selection begins with) the classic chanted teachings, the Prajnaparamita Sutra – or more specifically, the shortened version, the Prajnaparamita Hrdaya (the Heart Sutra). As he notes “so chanted in Sino-Japanese presently in USA by S(an) F(rancisco) Soto Zen Temple – by Roshi Suzuki & Disciples“. Roshi Shunryu Suzuki is well-revered and well-remembered. His earliest transcribed lectures on the Prajnaparamita can be found here. A recording of Allen (accompanied by Ed Sanders) chanting the sutra (on the occasion of the passing of his friend, Carl Solomon, can be found here. You Tube, of course, has several orchestrated (and illustrated) versions (Ani Tsering Wagmo’s Tibetan manifestation, among them. Others can be found here and here).

Turning to the “Hare Khrishna” (sic) Mantra (“Hare Krishna”, Allen corrects himself in the second spelling), and the “Fugs record on which I sang” – that would be the 1968 studio album, Tenderness Junction – “track 5: Hare Krishna” – (not only Allen, but Gregory Corso, appears on this track, alongside The Fugs; sitar is played (giving it the necessary “Indian” feel) by Jake Jacobs).

The ubiquitousness of the mantra barely needs remarking on, but, to follow some of Allen’s leads, here’s George Harrison and friends devotional rendition. And here’s Indian musician Jagit Singh & Chorus. Rare audio of ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada chanting it may be found here. And lets not forget Allen’s own renditions (most famously on the William Buckley tv show, Firing Line, but also, less frequently-viewed, as the hero of, and soundtrack to, Jonas Mekas’ 1966 film, Hare Krishna. George Harrison’s re-working of it (in “My Sweet Lord”) may perhaps best be sampled here (in performance at the famous 1971 “Concert for Bangladesh”). Beatles minutae and trivia – they play around with it (lovingly?) here. “Swami Bhaktivedanta” is, of course, another name for Prabhupada.

Scott Joplin and “Maple Leaf Rag” – here‘s a vintage piece of audio, a recording of the piece, on a pianola roll, played by Joplin himself – and here‘s a brief selection from a recent (2008) production of Treemonisha

Blues singer Ma Rainey‘s 1925 version of “See See Rider Blues” (“C.C.Rider” – “Easy C.C.Rider Blues”, Allen refers to it) can be listened to here. The lines that he quotes (“See, See what you’ve done” and “I’m gonna buy me a pistol..” are both from that rendition.

Turning to Bessie Smith, You Tube can provide us with “Empty Bed Blues” (sic), “Young Woman’s Blues“, “Give Me A Pigsfoot..” and, even, “At The Christmas Ball” (with a backdrop of Christmas decorations!)

And here’s the Leadbelly selection (incidentally, if you haven’t seen the 1935 March of Time newsreel featuring John Lomax and Leadbelly, it’s well worth a viewing), “Irene” (“Goodnight Irene“, “Irene Goodnight“), “Boll Weevil“, and, the variously named “Black Girl” (aka “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” aka “In The Pines“) – Regarding the latter, we wanted to slip in a plug for Alice Notley‘s book-length meditation around the song – and not forgetting Kurt Cobain!

“Ray Charles version of “Feel Alright” – not quite sure what Allen is referring to here? Might it perhaps be this, “It’s Alright”, a 1957 cut from Atlantic Records. Possibly not?. We all know “(I) Got A Woman“, right?

Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young, usher us, delightfully, into the realm of jazz, “Classic American Music”, as Allen declares it. Here’s an Allen jazz jukebox – Billie (Lady Day)’s “Strange Fruit“, “Fine and Mellow“, “I Got A Right To Sing The Blues” and “Easy Living“; Monk’s “Mysterioso” and “Round About Midnight” (there are another couple of versions of it here and here); “Bird”‘s “Ornithology“; and Lester Young’s 1939 recording, “Lester Leaps (In)“.

“Opera. Bertol(t) Brecht/Kurt Weil(l) Mahagony Greatest of xx Century Operas. Perform as much of it as possible” – this is surely Harry Smith‘s influence. The incomparable Lotte Lenya singing “Alabama Song”, (one of the opera’s most famous songs) – “show me the way to the next whiskey bar” – can be accessed here and here (and another performance, with a scholarly introduction by Aaron Copland, can be found here).

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Filed under Allen Ginsberg, Beat Studies, Buddhism, Harry Smith, Music