Videos

DAVID HOCKNEY ON PHOTOGRAPHY AND OTHER MATTERS, documentary, 2010, 51min.

British artist David Hockney discusses the nature of photography as an artistic medium and the role it plays in his artistic practice.  BBC documentary, 2010

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HELGA PARIS: FOTOGRAFIE

NOTES FOR THE EXHIBITION OF HELGA PARIS’ PHOTOGRAPHIC WORKS, STREET LEVEL PHOTOWORKS, GLASGOW, 2014

Fotografie is a retrospective look at the work of German photographer, Helga Paris. Exhibiting a collection of photos taken in East Germany in the postwar period, Paris’s work is considered to be one of the most revealing and compassionate bodies of work reflecting life in Germany at that time. Going beyond a simple ‘social study’, Paris’s technique was simply to engage with her subjects, rather than take on the role of the distant street photographer. In making this connection, the result has been a collection of photos that give the viewer an insight into a moment of the everyday lives of an East German resident.

Starting in the 60s, Helga Paris took an interest in photography and began teaching herself the basics. Paris came from a fashion and art background, but it was her interest in the everyday lives of the East Berlin people, during the postwar period that made her want to capture that on film.

JONAS MEKAS: HARE KRISHNA, video, 5min.,3sec.

Jonas Mekas: Hare Krishna
5 min. 3 sec.

This was filmed on November 5, 1966 in New York City. It is with Srila Prabhupada, Barbara Rubin, Phil Corner, and many others. Sound: Chanting by the participants and Allen Ginsberg

Jonas Mekas‘ 1966 four-minute short documentary film featuring a kaleidoscope of images, anchored, to some degree, by Allen and Peter chanting Hare Krishna, is the next (seventh) in our series of Annotated Streaming Videos. Here’s Mekas’ note from the catalog of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative: “A “documentary” – one Sunday afternoon in New York – beautiful new generation – dancing in the streets of New York – singing “Hare Hare” – filling the streets and the air with love – in the very beginning of the New Age – Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky (on soundtrack) singing “Hare Hare”. Mekas incorporated this footage into his diary film, Walden, three years later – “Filmed 1964-68. Edited in 1968-69. Since 1950, I have been keeping a film diary. I have been walking around with my Bolex and reacting to the immediate reality: situations, friends, New York, seasons of the year…Walden contains materials from the years 1965-69 strung together in chronological order.

– The Allen Ginsberg Project, http://allenginsberg.org/2011/06/jonas-mekas-hare-krishna-asv-7/#!/archive/document

The End Of An Old Song, Appalachian Mountain Music Documentary by John Cohen, 25min., 1970

“The End of an Old Song” by John Cohen, is a movie about Dillard Chandler an American Appalachian Folk singer and the mountain people in North Carolina. Cohen himself is know for being a founding member of the New Modal Rounders and maker of the documentary “The High Lonesome Sound”.  Cohen’s recordings of Dillard Chandler were released by Folkway records and later reissued by Tompkins Square. –dying for bad music Continue reading The End Of An Old Song, Appalachian Mountain Music Documentary by John Cohen, 25min., 1970

George Landers : The Scotland Man, from The End Of An Old Song, documentary by John Cohen, 1970

Appalachian rural musician George Landers, was featured on musicologist John Cohen’s acclaimed 1965 album High Atmosphere, a compilation of appalachian music from North Carolina and Virginia. In 1970, Cohen followed up with the 27 minute film The End of an Old Song”, filmed in the mountains of North Carolina and revisiting the region where folklorist Cecil Sharp had collected British ballads in the early 1900s and focusing on the ballad singer Dillard Chandler. Within the film, Landers is featured, singing The Scotland Man while playing in his unique two-finger clawhammer banjo style. Continue reading George Landers : The Scotland Man, from The End Of An Old Song, documentary by John Cohen, 1970

Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson & Sunday Morning Coming Down: The Story Behind The Song

 “Actually,” Kristofferson told NPR last year, “it was the song that allowed me to quit working for a living.”

-40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time, Rolling Stone Magazine, Sept. 26, 2014

Kris Kristofferson wrote this song while living in a run-down tenement in Nashville when he was working as a janitor for Columbia Records – a strange occupation considering he had a master’s degree from Oxford University and risen to the rank of captain in the US Army. But Kristofferson wanted to be a songwriter, so he turned down a professor position at the US Military Academy at West Point and swept floors at Columbia waiting for his break.

In the military Kristofferson learned to fly planes and he worked as a commercial helicopter pilot in Nashville, and the story of how he got his demo tape of this song to Cash has become legend: He flew his National Guard helicopter to Cash’s front yard, where he landed and delivered the tape. The story is often skewed to imply that Cash had never met Kristofferson, but they had known each other since 1965. In a 2008 interview with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Kristofferson explained: “I knew John before then. I’d been his janitor at the recording studio, and I’d pitched him every song I ever wrote, so he knew who I was. But it was still kind of an invasion of privacy that I wouldn’t recommend.

To be honest, I don’t think he was there. He had a whole story about me getting out of the helicopter with a tape in one hand and a beer in the other.

John had a pretty creative memory but I would never have disputed his version of what happened because he was so responsible for any success I had as a songwriter and performer. He put me on the stage the first time I ever was, during a performance at the Newport Folk Festival.”

This song is about a hangover, with Cash singing about “coming down” on a Sunday morning after being “stoned” on Saturday night. Many of Kris Kristofferson’s songs deal with what happens after the fun, and it’s usually not pretty. In this song, our hero puts on his cleanest dirty shirt, drinks a few beers, and heads out to face a lonely day.

This song was #1 on the Country charts for two weeks in September 1970. It was Kristofferson’s first Country #1 as a writer.

In a 2009 Rolling Stone article about Kris Kristofferson that was written by Ethan Hawke, it explains that Kris made Johnny Cash listen to the song before removing the helicopter. After hearing it Cash said he “liked his songs so much that I would take them off and not let anybody else hear them.”

Cash recorded the song live on The Johnny Cash Show, and before the show, ABC censors asked him to change the lyrics, “Wishing, Lord, that I was stoned” to “Wishing, Lord, that I was home.” Cash sang it the way Kristofferson wrote it, and even stressed the word “stoned.”
The original version of this song was recorded by Ray Stevens in 1969. At the 2009 BMI Country Awards, where Kristofferson was honored as an icon, he recalled how Stevens took a chance on his tune, when he was still an unknown songwriter. “Nobody had ever put that much money and effort into recording one of my songs,” Kristofferson said. “I remember the first time I heard it – he’s a wonderful singer – I had to leave the publishing house and I just sat on the steps and wept because it was such a beautiful thing.”

Stevens added that he was drawn to the song because he felt Kristofferson had a “spark.”
“He was very talented, very smart and right on time with his style,” Stevens recalled. “A lot of people since then have copied those songs that he put out so at this point in time it doesn’t seem all that different. It still is of course. There are very few writers who get that spark at the right time.”
-from songfacts.com   http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3904

Bob Dylan: San Francisco Press Conference, 1965, video, 51 min

Bob Dylan’s 1965 San Francisco televised press conference in full. Recorded on 3 December 1965.

This is the only full length press conference by Dylan ever televised in its entirety. The transcript was made from an audio tape of the conference, and the only editing has been to take out statements concerning ticket availability and times of the local concerts – Ralph J. Gleason, Rolling Stone Magazine, December 14, 1967.

When Bob Dylan‘s five concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area were scheduled in December 1965, the idea was proposed that he hold a press conference in the studios of KQED, the educational television station.

Dylan accepted and flew out a day early to make it.

Continue reading Bob Dylan: San Francisco Press Conference, 1965, video, 51 min

DAVID LANG: THE PASSING MEASURES – CITY OF BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY CHORUS, FEATURED ARTIST, MARTY EHRLICH, CLARINET

 

The Passing Measures – for bass clarinet, amplified orchestra, and women’s voices – is an ambient and emotionally charged meditation on the passing of time.

“This heartfelt, mournful piece, a wordless, 45-minute quasi-concerto for women’s chorus, bass clarinet, and amplified orchestra, is a welcome surprise from a composer whose always deft and subtle work has often seemed ironic and arch. The clarinetist Marty Ehrlich, the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and members of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus, conducted by Paul Herbert, provide a dignified performance, giving gentle life to the work’s lustrous waves of color. [This is one of the] best classical albums of 2001.”
– Russell Platt, The New Yorker

“Sits and shimmers gently, like a jeweled pendant turning very slowly in the light.”
– Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle

“Lang has created a moody, moving 43-minute experience.”
– Bradley Bambarger, Billboard

 

David Lang on The Passing Measures

“I think one of the reasons our commercial culture likes all music to be fast and snappy is because in fast music it is much harder to recognize the passing of time. You listen to the tunes, to the catchy phrases, but you are not allowed to feel just how time slips away. Fast music is stirring, optimistic – that is why we are bombarded all day by active, energetic music that tries to make us buy things or do things or think things. Slow music, on the other hand, is good for contemplation but is terrible for business, so you don’t get much of it in your daily life. More and more I have become convinced that one of the noblest things you can do in a piece of “serious” music is to allow for an experience that can’t happen in your everyday life. The Passing Measures is that kind of experience.

My piece is about the struggle to create beauty. A single very consonant chord falls slowly over the course of forty minutes. That is the piece. Every aspect of the piece is on display, however – magnified, examined, amplified, prolonged. The soloist’s notes are impossibly long, requiring frequent drop-outs for breath and for rest. The players are all instructed to play as quietly as possible, and then are amplified at high volume, in order to make their restraint an issue of the piece. Four percussionists scrape pieces of junk metal from start to finish, as if to accompany the consonance of the chords with sounds of dirt and decay.

The Passing Measures is dedicated to the memory of Bette Snapp.

 

Shugendô & Japanese Mountain Asceticism, pt 2: Self-Mummifying Monks, the Sokushinbutsu Documentary, 50min

Sokushinbutsu (即身仏) refers to a practice of Buddhist monks observing Asceticism to the point of death and entering mummification while alive. This process of self-mummification was mainly practiced in Yamagata in Northern Japan between the 11th and 19th century, by members of the Japanese Vajrayana school of Buddhism called Shingon (“True Word”). The practitioners of sokushinbutsu did not view this practice as an act of suicide, but rather as a form of further enlightenment.

It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only 24 such mummifications have been discovered to date. There is a common suggestion that Shingon school founder Kukai brought this practice from Tang China as part of secret tantric practices he learned, and that were later lost in China.

Shugendō practice

A mountain-dwelling version of Buddhism called Shugendō emerged in Japan as a syncretism between Vajrayana, Shinto and Taoism in the 7th century, which stressed ascetic practices. This tradition continued through the Edo period. One of its ascetic practice was Sokushinbutsu (or Sokushin jobutsu), connoting mountain austerities in order to attain Buddha-nature in one’s body. This practice was perfected over a period of time, particularly in the Three Mountains of Dewa region of Japan, that is the Haguro, Gassan and Yudono mountains. These mountains remain sacred in the Shugendō tradition to this day, and ascetic austerities continue to be performed in the valleys and mountain range in this area.

In medieval Japan, this tradition developed a process for Sokushinbutsu, which a monk completed over about 3,000 days to ten years. It involved a strict diet called mokujikigyo (literally, “eating a tree”). The diet abstained from any cereals, and relied on pine needles, resins and seeds found in the mountains, which would eliminate all fat in the body. Increasing rates of fasting and meditation would lead to starvation. The monks would slowly reduce then stop liquid intake, thus dehydrating the body and shrinking all organs. The monks would die in a state of jhana (meditation) while chanting the nenbutsu (a mantra about Buddha), and their body would become naturally preserved as a mummy with skin and teeth intact without decay and without the need of any artificial preservatives. Many Buddhist Sokushinbutsu mummies have been found in northern Japan and estimated to be centuries old, while texts suggest that hundreds of these cases are buried in the stupas and mountains of Japan. These mummies have been revered and venerated by the laypeople of Buddhism.

One of the altars in the Honmyō-ji temple of Kyushu prefecture continues to preserve one of the oldest mummy of the Sokushinbutsu ascetic named Honmyōkai.

Related practices

There is the existence of at least one “self-mummified” 550-year-old corpse of a Buddhist monk named Sangha Tenzin in northern Himalayan region of India, visible in a temple in Gue village, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh. This mummy was discovered in 1975 when the old stupa preserving it collapsed and it is estimated to be from about the 14th century, well after Islamic rule had arrived in India, and Buddhism had practically vanished there. The monk was likely a Tibetan dzogpa-chenpo practitioner and similar mummies have been found in Tibet and East Asia. The preservation of the mummy for at least 5 centuries has been possible due to the aridity of the area and cold weather.

According to Paul Williams, the Sokushinbutsu ascetic practices of Shugendō were likely inspired by Kūkai – the founder of Shingon Buddhism, who ended his life by reducing and then stopping intake of food and water, while continuing to meditate and chant Buddhist mantras. Ascetic self-mummification practices are also recorded in China, but it is associated with the Ch’an (Zen Buddhism) tradition there. Alternate ascetic practices similar to Sokushinbutsu are also known, such as public self-immolation (auto cremation) practice in China, such as that of Fayu in 396 CE and many more in the centuries that followed. This was considered as evidence of a renunciant bodhisattva.