Category Archives: Beat Studies
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.
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”.
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!”
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”
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.
“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!)
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
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
“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?
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 Nacht – here’s Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic), and Karlheinz Stockhausen‘s Kontakte, complete the survey.
[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).