I have a confession to make, I love music, not all of it by any stretch of the imagination mind you, but my love of music crosses many genres and styles and covers music made over many centuries. The second part of my confession is that I love music more than I do writing. The third is that listening to music while writing makes me a better writer; at least I perceive that it does. With this particular Blogbook entry, the thought crossed my mind to share with you the piece of music I have been listening to almost exclusively throughout my writing process. I suggest listening to the music selection I have provided while you are reading this entry; consider this particular song to be the soundtrack to my writing, and to your reading. For this reason, the link to the song I have selected does not come with visual accompaniment.
The piece of music I have been listening to while writing is Tomorrow, In a Year; this double album was released in March 2010 and was commissioned by a Danish theater company as a soundtrack to an opera-like stage performance shining a light on the life and work of Charles Darwin. The music was collaboratively written and performed by The Knife (Brother, Sister mine, duo Karin Dreijer Andersson (Fever Ray) and Olof Dreijer), Kristina Wahlin (Swedish born, London trained, mezzo-soprano), Mount Sims (US-born, Berlin-based performance artist, and DJ), and Planningtorock (UK-born, Berlin-based electronic musician, sound designer, vocalist, and songwriter).
The particular piece of music I have selected to keep you company while reading is Colouring of Pigeons. If I were to take a stab at describing Tomorrow, In a Year, I would call it operatic, shambolic, industrial, ambient, percussive, beat-driven electro-funk. If I were to attempt to describe Tomorrow, In a Year, to Baby Boomers and lovers of music from the 1970s and early 1980s, I would suggest imagining a collaboration between Laurie Anderson (think Big Science), Meridith Monk (think Dolmen Music), Diamanda Galas (think Wild Women with Steak-Knives), Dave Bowie (just because), Klaus Nomi (think his unfinished opera Za Bakdaz), accompanied by John Cage, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich. Please enjoy Colouring of Pigeons, consider chasing down Tomorrow, In a Year, and happy reading; Now on to our Blogbook entry.
What’s in a title? Titles should always mean something, at least they should mean something intrinsically to the author. To me, by intention, my chosen titles reveal more in a connotative sense, or cryptically, than they do in a literal sense. And the significance of my titles are sometimes more, and sometimes less than you might think.
We seem to be living in an age when time-tested certainties have become cruelly timeworn and no longer apply with absoluteness or without limitations, where the process of acculturation by the domineering is practiced without regard to present and future consequences, where in-person communication has been replaced by remote thumbstrokes on miniaturized electronic keyboards, and where the underlying purposes of life are catching constant fire, scrutiny, and are disgracefully undervalued. Theologically speaking, is existence indeed between God and humankind, or is humankind merely subject to the prerogatives of the divine, no matter what those prerogatives might be? Weighty considerations and questions indeed, but they will not be resolved within the context of this Blogbook entry, they are mentioned here merely to fuel further discourse between those of us who still give a damn about these types of things.
This Blogbook entry has nothing to do with the Four Horseman of the Apocolypse, although I do think the Apocalypse of John is fascinating reading. This entry also has nothing to do with Albrecht Durer’s series of fifteen woodcuts depicting the Apocalypse, one of which portrays the four fabled numinous Horsemen; although Durer’s Horsemen is unquestionably worthy of study in the way he examined and illustrated movement (To this day, Durer’s woodcut engraving of The Sea Monster remains a personal favorite). This entry is not an analysis of spirituality during the 19th Century Romantic Movement in France or of one of that Movement’s primary artistic achievements in this regard, Anne-Louis Girodet’s Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of French Heroes; although insightful exploration of this piece by someone more knowledgeable than myself would be welcomed by many.
Another thing this Blogbook entry is not is a comparative study of religions, nor is it an attempt to theologically dissect Rudolf Otto’s century-old Das Heilige (The Idea of the Holy) or his later work titled Mysticism East and West. If, like me, while in college, you studied Otto’s works, you would know perfectly well to never go down the rabbit hole with Otto in anything resembling or duplicating the crushing limitations of a blog post. You are probably wondering aloud where all of this is headed. Curiouser and curiouser, you say. To that, I ask why is a Raven [Vanguard] like a writing desk?
Speaking of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, take a listen to the track Electric Alice off of Grinderman’s self-titled release from 2007. How can any Band that features Warren Ellis and Nick Cave possibly go wrong? Acclaimed Austrailian film director John Hillcoat directed the David Lych-like video for Electric Alice. In 2005, Hillcoat, Cave, and Ellis collaborated on the gripping Austrailian bushranger film The Proposition, with Hillcoat directing, Cave writing the screenplay, and Cave and Ellis composing the score. Please excuse the brief commercial interruption that precedes this video; in this case, consider it a necessary evil and the unfortunate byproduct of today’s ever-changing world of electronic commerce
Those among us who have been fortunate enough to bear witness to Grinderman live can attest to the on-stage manifestation of batshit lunacy; most of you, who likely suspect I am talking about Cave, would be wrong in so thinking. Instead, the shamanistic, wild-bearded Warren Ellis, who himself is the antithesis of self-restraint, is Grinderman’s pied piper of harmolodic and euphoric mayhem, possessing a clear-eyed mastery of every instrument he plays, but who is an absolutely menacing and apocalyptic presence upon the stage.
Digression now complete. Now back to the significance of the title to this Blogbook entry. The title of this entry is merely a free-form randomization of the title to Mircea Eliade’s book, The Sacred And The Profane, The Nature of Religion published in 1957, which I recently finished reading. While reading Eliade’s book I had been reminded of the white marble sculpture I had seen in the Cornaro Chapel in Rome dramatizing the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa supposedly locked in the throes of the sacred erotic. Similarly, Guido Reni’s early 17th Century painting of Saint Cecilia came to mind. Saint Cecilia, whom religious historians believe was beheaded for her beliefs in the year 230, is considered the patron saint of musicians. In 1599, the Catholic Church commissioned Guido’s suppositious portrait of Cecilia in the spiritually ecstatic style often present in literature, music, and the visual arts at the close of the 16th Century and the beginning of the 17th.
The title is also a carry-over remnant of an unusually long passage I wisely deleted from the original unedited text of my January 2nd Blogbook entry. This passage dealt with judgment, forgiveness, and the role religion plays in these paradoxical archetypes. This same passage also examined whether humans are the embodiment of the divine or the profane, feminine autonomy in patriarchal religions, an ephemeral divine, and whether the idea of sacred eroticism was nothing more than a 16th Century religious construct conjured up by the Catholic Church to combat the influence of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and the Protestant Reformation movement.
No doubt you now understand why I eliminated this passage from our most recent Blogbook entry. The not-so-clear, but intended message here is one of religious tolerance, not intolerance; where all religions peacefully co-exist because they are underpinned by a belief system that is meant to foster enlightenment rather than hatred, and that is wholly forgiving rather than judgmental.
Please permit me another digression – this one has to do with the majestic Giant Panda and a reader’s hilarious comments to our January 2nd Blogbook entry. Instead of trying to paraphrase this reader’s comments at the risk of mischaracterization, I give them to you verbatim: “You hold women in high regard. I share that opinion. They are God’s greatest creation, other than the Giant Panda. The Giant Panda is perfect. You should cover the Giant Panda in your next posting. A lot of people like Giant Pandas.” Knowing well enough that I cannot improve upon our reader’s sentiments, no further elucidation is necessary. However, although the Giant Panda remains a species at risk of extinction, I will point out that in 2017, the Giant Panda’s status improved from endangered to vulnerable. Thanks go out to the World Wildlife Fund and the Chinese Government’s National Conservation Program for their collaborative efforts to restore the Giant Panda population in the forests and mountains of southwest China. Here’s to Women and the Giant Panda being deified in life; all in favor, clap hands! All opposed, go to hell!
I find Freidrich Nietzsche to be a purposeful writer. I am currently reading Beyond Good and Evil, Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, for the third time in recent memory. With each fresh appraisal, something different strikes a chord with me; this time it is Nietzsche’s calculated stylistic change in prose from Parts 1, 2, and 3 to that used in Part 4, titled Epigrams and entr’actes. Part 4 is filled with a collection of terse epigrams, aphorisms, and apothegms, 123 to be exact. I am familiar with Nietzsche making use of this method of writing because he used it previously in The Dawn of Day published five years earlier, in 1881 (Nietzsche also used a comparable writing technique in his Notebooks).
Among Part 4’s many aphorisms, I keep returning to number 146 – “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” To me, this passage addresses the potentially adverse consequences of influence; the intimidator becomes the intimidated; a Dorian Gray-like disintegration and giving way; the symbolic blurring of the line of demarcation between the admirable and the loathsome; and confronting the various aspects of self by stepping into the disorienting truth-versus-illusion effect created by a hall-of-mirrors. I plan to return to this subject in a future Blogbook entry.
Although our marathon Tom Wait’s listening sessions are well underway, they have not yet progressed to the point where we can offer any meaningful insight into the twelve albums we are listening to right now, much less attempt to determine our three favorite consecutively released LPs in the Wait’s discography. With a little bit of luck, we’ll get this finished before month’s end and wrap it up with another Blogbook entry elaborating on our experience.
Staying on the subject of Tom Waits, but another digression nonetheless, one of our readers recently suggested that the answer I have been looking for to the rapid passing of time is revealed in the Francis Ford Coppola film Rumble Fish. For those of you unfamiliar with Rumble Fish, the film, released in 1983, was shot in black and white by cinematographer Stephen Burum, directed by Coppola, he also shared screenplay credit with Susan Eloise Hinton, the production, and set design, with nods to German Expressionism, was by Dean Tavoularis, and the soundtrack was by percussionist extraordinaire, Stewart Copeland (yes, that Stewart Copeland).
In my opinion, Rumble Fish is not Coppola’s greatest filmmaking achievement by any stretch; that honor would go to either The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now – Redux (just edging out the original 1979 theatrical release of Apocalypse Now), or his screenplay for Patton. Although perhaps not on the same level as The Conversation, aesthetically and stylistically, Rumble Fish fits nicely alongside The Godfather Part III and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In addition to Tom Wait’s appearance in Rumble Fish, Waits also appeared in Coppola’s Dracula (playing Renfield), The Outsiders (as Buck Merrill), The Cotton Club (as Irving Stark), One From the Heart (as an uncredited musician), and Twixt (as the Narrator).
Rumble Fish is, in part, a rumination on the passage of time, both as clock-time and as experiential time; you see evidence of this in the film’s time-lapse photography, the movement of shadows, the inclusion of clocks in many pivotal scenes, and the impact of prior events overshadowing current happenings, but it is Waits’ character Benny who is used to drive this point home during a very brief monologue while he is wiping down the counter of his diner. According to Waits/Benny – “Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item. You see, when you’re young, you’re a kid, you got time, you got nothing but time. Throw away a couple of years here, a couple of years there…it doesn’t matter. You know, the older you get, you say, Jesus, how much I got? I got thirty-five summers left. Think about it. Thirty-five summers.” As always, Tom Waits has a singular way with both elocution and perspective. Maybe our reader is correct, perhaps the answer to my time conundrum is precisely as propounded by Waits in Rumble Fish. Only time will tell.
With this Blogbook entry, we are introducing a new feature called Raven’s Mind-Bending Jukebox, which we intend to fill with obscure, arty, outre, far-out, or beat-driven music, hopefully, music you are unfamiliar with. Our Jukebox will be stocked, and restocked, with music based on our interpretation of a 19th Century rhyme attributed to a marriage superstition belonging to English folklore. Most adults are familiar with this verse; “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.”
Our monthly Jukebox selections will be comprised of six pieces of music – something old (before the March 1983 launch of the compact disc, one of music’s low watermarks), something new (relatively speaking), something borrowed (usually, a cover song), something blue, or blew (usually, blues-based music or music that features players blowing into or over a mouthpiece, reed, or some form of resonator), and a silver sixpence in her shoe (usually, a piece of music originating in the United Kingdom at any point in time from 1551 to 1980 when the sixpence coin was minted and before it was outmoded by the decimalization of the UK monetary system). The sixth selection, intended to honor the bride, will usually be a piece of music by a female artist or music that positively relates to the subject of marriage. We aim to include music that is to some extent vaguely familiar, perhaps hummable, or an ohrwurm (English translation earworm), but at the same time, some individual tracks will be uniquely unlike any music you have ever heard (at least that is my goal).
Raven’s Mind-Bending Jukebox for January 2018 – Track No. 1, something old, The Lady Barber by Lynn Castle, released as a single in 1967 b/w Rose-Colored Corner -
Track No. 2, something new, Old Mary by The Dead Weather from their album Sea of Cowards released in March 2010 (also check out Hustle and Cuss from the same album) –
Track No. 3, something borrowed, came down to a coin flip between Electric Feel by Austrailian singer-songwriter Tash Sultana and Blue Monday by Orkestra Obsolete, so we decided to give you both.
Tash performed Electric Feel live in February 2017 covering MGMT’s Electric Feel found on their album Oracular Spectacular released in 2007; Tash’s version; and the original version by MGMT
Orkestra Obsolete released Blue Monday in March 2016 covering New Order’s Blue Monday which had been released as a 12 inch single on March 7, 1983, prior to the release of their 1983 album Power, Corruption & Lies; here is Orkestra Obsolete’s version of Blue Monday using instruments from the 1930s; New Order’s version goes something like this –
Track No. 4, something blew, Never Say Never by Romeo Void from their Extended Play Never Say Never released in December 1981; this track also appears on their sophomore album Benefactor released in August 1982 –
Track No. 5, and a silver sixpence in her shoe (music from the UK between 1551 and 1980), Facelift by Soft Machine from their album Third released in June 1970 (don’t quit on this before the 7:13 mark, imagine King Crimson jamming with The Mothers of Invention circa Uncle Meat, in particular, the King Kong suite taking up all of Side 4) -
Track No. 6, in celebration of women, Uptown Top Ranking by Althea Forrest & Donna Reid (teenagers at the time), released as a single in 1977 b/w Calico Suit –
We will announce Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month in our next Blogbook entry. So, along these lines, regrettably, I must confess that up until I received a message from a reader recently asking me to consider Alisa Gurova, dancer, and model, for Raven’s Cultural Vanguardist of the Month, I had never heard of her. Since I am entirely unfamiliar with her work, by our internally established criteria, I cannot consider her for this monthly recognition; at least not at this time. However, I can say that Alisa, now living in Kiev, Ukraine, is further proof that immense trend-setting artistry exists all around the globe. A gifted artist always delivers purity in performance regardless of the location in which the performance is taking place. In reality, some performances are made even more memorable when the artistry on display is so at odds with the lowbrow aesthetics of the performance space. Alisa’s performance here from February 2016 transcends the limitations of her performance space one million fold - Whenever you get a chance, do yourself a favor and check out the posts on Alisa’s Instagram page - https://www.instagram.com/gurovaalisa
No intoxicants of any kind, shape, or form were consumed (at least, not by me) at any point during the writing of this Blogbook entry. With hope, your experience will have been different than mine if you took the time to read this entry until its ending. Peace!
EPILOGUE (Mea Culpa, Blunder Corrected): Not surprisingly, Alisa Gurova has a fan base. A reader was kind enough to make me aware of the video linked to below of Alisa performing to the vocal section of Colouring of Pigeons in 2013 during the 5th Anniversary Festival of Tribal Weekend, the Gala Show, Phantasmagoria, which took place in Kiev.
Colouring of Pigeons is the piece of music I asked you to consider playing as an accompaniment to your reading experience. While I was writing this Blogbook entry, I had the idea to close it out with a powerful interpretive dance performance of some kind that took advantage of the mystical, rhythmic, and seductive qualities I find present in Colouring of Pigeons. All the same, I consciously did not want to include a video of the theater performance for which the music from Tomorrow, In a Year, was scored; taking that approach would have been too easily accomplished and would have undermined the meaning and experience I had in mind when conceiving and composing this minor opus. To this end, I spent considerable time attempting to find the right dance performance to reveal and accentuate both the complexity and simplicity of Colouring of Pigeons, but I could not find a single dance performance that did justice to the spirituality of the music. That is, until now.
I believe that most everything happens for a reason. Because of this, I am always acutely aware that connections exist all around us, all of the time, and I am usually very good at actively uncovering them and picking up on them. So not only am I good at connecting the dots, but I am also very adept at detecting the dots in the first place that connect us to one another. Unfortunately, I missed a golden opportunity to connect the dots in this instance. So, with our regards to Alisa, and without further adieu, here is Alisa spiritually connecting in her own way with Colouring of Pigeons -