Saturday, September 24, 2016

Studs Terkel Interviews Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass on WFMT, Chicago, 1990 - part 1

                                                            [Studs Terkel]

[Jewel Heart Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Philip GlassGelek Rinpoche & Allen Ginsberg, November 17, 1989] 

                                                                [Philip Glass]

                                                                        [Allen Ginsberg]

Studs Terkel Interviews Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass, 1990

We featured, a week or so back, Studs Terkel's hilarious 1959 radio interview with Allen, Gregory Corso, and a mostly-silent Peter Orlovsky. Here's another Terkel interview with Allen (alongside composer-collaborator, Philip Glass), this one recorded over three decades later. Ginsberg and Glass are in town (Chicago) for a benefit performance for Gelek Rinpoche's Jewel Heart organization (as Terkel periodically reminds his listeners), an event to take place the following day at the Centre East (part of the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie).   

ST: ….Philip Glass, certainly one of the most celebrated contemporary composers today and Allen Ginsberg, need we say more.They're performing tomorrow night at Centre East, that's in Skokie, 7071 Lincoln, and the place, you know, is going to be jammed, and you wonder what are the poet and the composer (that is Ginsberg and Glass) doing together. I say to myself this is not a performance (it's) an event, because they're forces of nature. You've worked together.. We know about Philip Glass' opera one of the most dramatic, exhilarating openings the Lyric Opera Company had in years, Satyagrahahis impression of Gandhi, and that was a great opening night, and it was a great run for that, as well as some of his other works we'll talk about. 
Allen, you and Philip Glass, how does that combination come to be?

AG: Well, we meditate what it boils down to. We're both practicing Buddhists, tho' he's probably a sharper practitioner than me, or more steady.
PG: Oh, I don't know
AG: did we get together? You know somebody invited you...
PG: Well, I think the first times we got together was the Poetry Project, which is an instiution in the East Village of New York and has on New Years  Day a benefit every year to raise money. And I ' a lot of performers, I've come to donate my services to that. And we've often been on that program together
AG: With John Cage and.. Lou Reed and..
PG: All kinds of people show up for those things. It happens every New Years in New York, and so… And we live in the same neighborhood, we live in the East Village of New York City, so…when did.. when we started actually working together was that we knew each other from these meetings. But I had been asked to do a piece for a Vietnam Veterans theater (company) called VETCo (Vietnam Veterans Ensemble Theatre Company). They asked me to do a performance-piece, and I ran into Allen in the St Marks Bookshop,  and I said, "Allen, I've been asked to do this piece, would you do a piece with me. And he said.. and he reached up and picked up from his poetry off the shelf  (that was convenient about.. the poetry was right there) and we picked a poem out which was a poem about the Vietnam War.
AG: Did they ask you for something about the war?
PG: Yes, they wanted that..
AG: And they mentioned that Wichita Vortex Sutra thing, specifically?
PG : Yes, and then you picked out a section of it, right at that moment, and then what I did is I wrote a piece of music to play as a kind of a musical support for Allen's reading, and that was the first piece we did together
AG: And then we did a lot of benefits for various Buddhist organizations or meditation centers, and so we began thinking in terms of , "Well, maybe we should have a more varied evening and have a couple of pieces to play".  And so I said, "Let's do "Howl" ", which was like biting off a big chunk of meat. And then (Philip), I think you got an invitation to do a chamber opera..Spoleto..?
PG: YesI did. I was doing a chamber opera in Spoleto and I asked Allen if he would do the libretto. Now the libretto really is poems drawn from..oh, I guess the..
AG: Collected Poems
PG: Collected Poems and that goes back over about forty years
AG: I think our first piece was 1958 or something like that..
PG: Oh, okay, so it's...
AG: Dating from 1958 to 1988 or so…to (19)90, no, it's this year.
ST:  So, out of it, out of it comes an opera that you're both working on.
PG: That's right.
AG: Yeah.
PG: Well, it's been written. It's been written. It's in rehearsal right now and it will open at the Spoleto Festival in South Carolina
AG: And they'll have a chamber version in Philadelphia..
PG: And they'll be a little orchestra
AG: ..on May 6th
PG: May 6th, yeah, they'll be ..(oh) shit, I think it starts around the 2oth..
ST: Now that's called what? - I'm trying to..
AG: Well, Hydrogen Jukebox, at the moment.
ST: Hydrogen Jukebox?
AG: Yes, it's a phrase from "Howl", combiniing rock n' roll "jukebox ", and the hydrogen bomb
ST: Oh, so this is out of "Howl"? 
AG: No, that one phrase, the title is.
PG: But it kind of worked out well, because we ended up doing twenty.. what I call "Twenty-One Songs from Hydrogen Jukebox"
ST: Will some of that be heard tomorrow night?
PG: One of the pieces, the piece we talked about, the Wichita Sutra piece..
ST: You know what you should do? Set yourself up. I want to hear about Allen's adventures and his ventures, and certainly his missions (of which there are plenty), and some must be talked about too
But about the operas, and the way of Philip Glass.. hearing it.. when was that Satyagraha opening here? - oh..about three seasons ago?,
PG: Yes, that's right
ST: Suppose we  hear.. what? You suggested, from that, the Evening Song.
PG: It's the very last thing we hear of Gandhi, just before the end of the opera. Here's Doug Perry singing the part of Gandhi. It's the very last, oh, five or six minutes of the opera
ST: And.. this was the.. the singer who did Gandhi
PG: Doug Perry
ST: Who?
PG: Douglas Perry
ST: Douglas Perry/ It's his voice we hear
PG: Yeah
ST:, and we're going to talk about that, how that differs from Wilson on the Beach… not Wilson on the Beach, Einstein on the Beach and.. You worked with a guy named Wilson..
PG: Yeah, that's right
ST:  ...who did the libretto, as Allen does the Hydrogen Jukebox
AG: Hydrogen Jukebox
PG: Right  

[Beginning approximately five-and-a-quarter minutes in, and concluding at approximately nine-and-three-quarter minutes in, Terkel plays the recording of Douglas Perry singing the Evening Song from Philip Glass' opera Satyagraha] 

ST: You've been hearing the Evening Song from Satyagraha The repetitive, the repetitive theme is there. Now,, I don't know the meaning of these words, they call you a "minimalist". What does that mean?

PG: Oh, I guess that.. Well, I guess it really means that I don't write the kind of complicated abstract music that dominate a lot of new music and was mostly European-based because I came after the Second World War, and my generation of composers decided that it had just gotten kind of out of hand. And we were interested in doing pieces, writing music, that people would listen to and that was still part of our time. So "minimalism" was a way of describing it..
ST: Now, it appears that, apparently, your generation (those who are most in the public..) are Americans, aren't they?
PG: It.. this was an American-based…
ST: (Terry) Riley, and the guys who wrote for the Quartet..
PG: The Kronos
ST: The Kronos
PG: Yes, this is really an America movement, a musical movement that began in America, And we, you know, sometimes think that the only real American music was jazz but that's not completely (true). We also have a great pop tradition, of pop music with people like (George) Gershwin and (Irving) Berlin
AG: So when did the minimalists rise? What was it? What was the beginning, the seeds of it?
PG:In the middle of the..
AG: Sixties?
PG: Mid-Sixties
AG: Now what relation did that have to the introduction of the Indian raga
PG; It had a lot, because I was working with Ravi Shankar in 1965, I was his assistant.
ST: Now we come to something, Allen, it's interesting you raise that subject...
AG: Well, at the same time (that) Ravi Shankar (or, a little earlier) was working with The Beatles, with George Harrison..
PG: That's right.
AG: And at the same time, (Charlie) Mingus and (John) Coltrane were working on monochordal sequences. So this was going off the classical..
ST: See, what you guys are hitting right now - is something happening today? - back in the Sixties we're talking about..
AG: Yes. A scene.
ST:  ..the connecting links here, aren't we?  - The youth -  well, who knows better than Allen, the various movements amongst students and others, internationally, and so culturally. You said Ravi Shankar. He is the Indian sitar master. At the same time you studied with (Nadia) Boulanger

                                                             [Ravi Shankar (1920-2012)]

                                                             [Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)]

PG: Yes, that's right. In fact, at the very time I was working with Ravi Shankar, I was studying with Boulanger. This was in Paris in 1965, yeah. 
AG: Really  
PG: In (19)65, yeah
ST (to AG): And you were around here
AG: I was around the United States chanting monochordal mantras
PG: And you were actually also in Paris too, because I ran across some of your work there.
AG: Well, I'd been there in (19)61
ST: Yeah, and as that happens, I have a picture in my mind - it is the Lincoln Park, in (19)68, the Democratic Convention,  and here comes the tear gas and the cops and everybody is running to a place called the Lincoln Hotel, a sweet little lobby, the Lincoln Hotel. And there's the Esquire crewGenet, Jean Genet
AG:  William Burroughs
ST: …and there's Allen Ginsberg - he's singing OM - and Allen is singing something obviously exotic and Asiatic in the middle of Chicago! - and the cops (are in) in this little gambler's hotel, and it's quite a remarkable scene…
AG: Well, actually, we were… 
ST: The essence of everything crazy  crazy and wonderful
AG: Well, it was, actually, it was out in the middle of the park, and everyone was panicking, and the cops were throwing tear-gas and we had a little group of about a hundred people sitting in a circle chanting OM (which is a minimalist mantra) and that was, like, a little pool of quiet in the middle of the chaos.  So..nobody bothered us, actually.

ST: ..I was thinking of the combination of Glass and Ginsberg, the combination, the poet, Allen, more than the 'Sixties, (his) own growth and development, but breaking through, Glass, as composer, breaking through. And now you meet. What will this be like?
AG: Well, the idea, partly, generically, genre, was the idea of writing a kind of cultural history opera, and the original title was "The Fall of America"
ST: The Fall of America?
AG: The Fall of America, which was the title of a book I had.
PG: We wanted to… I wanted to use a title from one of Allen's books, and I liked "The Fall of America". I remember calling him up in the morning and saying, "Allen, what do you think of this as a title?" -  (to AG) Do you remember (Allen) what you said?     
AG: I didn't think of it that much..
PG:  But, at the time you said "I don't know, hasn't it already fallen?" - something like that.
AG: Well, so, a lot of.. some of the subject is exhaustion of empire, relaxation of empire, and at the same time, a certain post-coitus triste, a little sadness at the death of empire
ST: Yes
PG: There's also a lot of social revolution involved in it.
AG: Yeah - What we did is chose a number of themes like actual revolution, psychedelics..
PG: Anti-war movements
AG: Anti-war movements, meditation, Buddhism.. what other things did we have?
PG (to AG): The thing was we derived from your own life too. We allowed ourselves to be..
AG: Personal stuff..
PG: Biographical stuff about Allen
ST: I was thinking in Allen's writings (and I assume in your music too) as serious critical themes are discussed, there's always a whimsical air, there's an air of humor underneath. Do you.. Does your music…
PG: I think this is in this piece, the Hydrogen Jukebox piece. I think that it, actually, turns out to be very funny. 
AG: I think the reason is we don't know what we're doing and so we have to accept chance. So chance provides us with lots of whimsy and seriousness
PG: But it's also in the poetry too and  there are funny juxtapositions. That also part of (it).   

ST: Now you two have been.. what you're doing tomorrow night at Center East, you two have done this before?
PG: Yes. We've done this concert. In fact, this..for Jewel Heart, who are the people we're doing it for.
ST: Jewel Heart, I take it, is what?, a branch of.. what, a sect? of the Buddhist…
PG: No, it's a study center, basically.
ST: A study center.
AG: And a meditation center.
PG: And a meditation center. And there is a main center in Ann Arbor and..
AG: The study center's here…in Chicago..
PG: ..and there's some in other parts of the world. And the head of the center is Gelek Rinpoche , and he.. I met him a couple of years ago and he asked me if we would.. if I would come and do something, and I asked Allen if he would join me, and we did our last concerts in last November.. 
ST: So, tomorrow night at Center East (that's in Skokie) , 7701 Lincoln, 8 o'clock.. I suggest.. You know it's going to be a sell-out..I suggest to get there early.
AG: And if anyone wants to find out any more about Jewel Heart, Buddhism, Buddhist meditation, there'll be some information, there..
ST: Oh, sure there will.
AG: ..where people can pick up and follow, take the, take the thread and follow it through.

ST: Let's pick this up with Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg after this pause.

                                                                          [Gelek Rinpoche]

ST: And so resuming..  By the way, it seems, on picking up, it seems like I was meditating. I merely closed my eyes to make sure I left enough time for the break, and.. call it meditation..
AG: Right
ST: …with Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg. And you will do… I know that Philip Glass is going to play.. 
AG: Solo piano
ST: The solo piano. We'll hear some of that in a moment. What (since you also), what would you be doing, Allen?

AG: And I'll be reading poems, what I can figure out to read on the spot, to keep Philip Glass, and Gelek Rinpoche, who'll be there, entertained, not repeat things that I've done before..

ST: Yeah.
AG:..and then, at the end, we get together and do a duet.
PG: And we'll do that Wichita Sutra that we talked about, the piece that started this  whole thing off, where I set up a musical  kind of environment for a reading that Allen does of this poem, and we end the concert with that piece.

ST: Well, I'll ask Allen..Is that something you think of at the moment? Do you work wholly improvisationally then? There is an idea. No, you do know some things (that) you're going to do. Within that framework, you improvise?
AG: Who me?
ST: Yeah
AG: Well, no, it's just that I have nine hundred pages of poetry to choose from and it's a question of what is appropriate, what's interesting, at the moment, what's in the news, what's on my mind
ST: Oh, what's on your mind. There might have been an item in the papers that day...
AG: Yeah..
ST:  or something you heard on radio..
AG:  Like, the other day, the sort of fanatical head of the Lubavitcher Jewish sect sort of sabotaged the Labor Party government of (Shimon) Peres by telling his disciples to withdraw. So that I have a long poem called "Jahweh and Allah Battle", which is part of.. about the Middle East crisis..
PT: ..which is actually part of our opera..
AG: Part of our opera, so probably I'll read that, because it's on my mind what..
PG: And maybe I'll ask you to read a poem that I like  (in fact, I often do!)

ST: I'm going to ask you about that and the opera but, what comes to your mind at this moment, say?
AG: Well, right at this moment, I'm really involve in battling with Senator Jesse Helms and putting on a show for the FCC, in Washington, this Wednesday (I'm going to be part of a big symposium of lawyers from the American Bar Association FCC section and we're going to have a symposium with some of the extreme neo-Conservative fundamentalists and some of the members of the FCC over the new Senator Helms regulation that bans all so-called - quote "indecent" - unquote - language off the air, twenty-four-hours-a-day). So, what I'll probably do… That reminded me of Helms and an "anti-smoking non-commercial" that I've done quite often, "Don't Smoke", so I'll probably do that tonight. In fact, I'll do it right now. 
ST: Could you?
AG: Do a piece of it right now
ST: You are just..  I reckon... you're going to be part of this panel..
AG:Well, I make it up as I go along. 

                                                                          [Jesse Helms (1921-2008)] 

[From approximately twenty-and-a-quarter minutes in to approximately twenty-and-three-quarter minutes in, Allen performs a brief excerpt of his "Don't Smoke" poem - 
"Put Down Yr Cigarette Rag"]
I have a long poem (this) which rhymes, which goes on (like that), and I usually dedicate it to Helms because most of his money for his moral, moralistic, crusade comes from..cancer tobacco, heart-attack. So, that's on my mind at the moment.
ST: Yeah. So you might indeed do that tonight, tomorrow night
AG: Tomorrow-night I'll be doing that., yeah. That and a "CIA Dope Calypso", 
which is also part of our opera.
ST: Now, what is that? the way, I'm remember.. It's called the.. what Calypso?
AG: Well, I've changed it to "National Security Dope Calypso"
ST: Yeah, when I first  heard it, it was "CIA Calypso"
AG: Well I've added a whole bunch of stanzas recently that covers..
ST: They've got that up here?
AG: Yes, and that's part of our opera, so I can, actually..
ST: Oh, that's fantastic.
AG: I can, actually..
PG: This'll be the non-operatic version..
ST: So now we have the..
AG: This is from the opera..
ST: Now we have the West Indian touch
AG: Well, Philip has done a much different job on it than my own sort of..
ST (to PG): Oh, with some of your music?
PG: Well..
AG: I sing my own.
PG: I did a setting of this for the opera, Hydrogen Jukebox, which doesn't sound like his version of it 
AG: Do you want to hear a piece of it?
ST: Of course.

[Beginning at approximately twenty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in (and concluding at approximately twenty-four minutes in) Allen  begins reciting a version of  "CIA Dope Calypso" - "Richard Secord and Oliver North hated Sandinistas whaever they were worth.."…"..and Bush is in the White House of the USA" ]

                                        [Oliver North at the Iran-Contra ("Contragate") hearings, 1987]

ST: Too bad Allen Ginsberg didn't take part in the Contragate hearings.
AG: Well, don't worry, this'll be a part sooner or later..when they write the history books.
ST: So it's going to be everything. so...
AG: The Fall of America entire, yes..Hydrogen Jukebox somewhat
ST: Tomorrow-night
AG: So, tomorrow night, tomorrow night..
PG: You think you might do the "CIA Dope Calypso" song?
AG: Oh yeah - I sort of do it all the time these days..  So I hope so
PGSo this is the "CIA Dope Calypso"

ST: So you'll do that. And it figures in the opera?
PG:  Well, first there's an operatic staging, Now, when we talk about the opera, there's..

AG: How does it work in the opera? How do you do that?
PG: Well, I've written, I've written for six voices, an ensemble of six voices and a whole group of instruments (like my own ensemble). There are six instrumentalists and six voices (three women and three men) and they sing it together. I use a different rhythm, I use a seven-eight rhythm of.. one-two-three-four-five-six-seven, one-two-three-four.. [Glass demonstrates] so I'm using a slightly different standard calypso rhythm, and, it comes out…
AG; It fits. It fits great.
PG (to AG):  And what I did, I took another of your poems, which I.. the one called "Violence", I think, or "Mugging"
AG: Yes
PG: And I inter-cut it as a refrain that comes through it..
AG: Right 
PG: Because my idea was.. I know there's a(nother) poem about mugging on the Lower East Side, and my idea was that, you know, everyday city violence is connected to dope. I mean the reasons our cities are so violent, a lot of it has to do with the drug business. So it seemed to me very appropriate that thr poem about violence should be part of the poem about dope and be very much connected.
AG: What has all this got to do with meditation?  and peace of heart, equanimity saving America..?

ST: By the way, since you've raised that, I'm going to be provocative, mildly so..  Meditation, how does meditation, since you're both members of Jewel Heart Center
AG: Well, we're friends of Jewel Heart Center (and share their) meditation techniques.
ST; How do.. We have problems, I realize (I'm joking too), but you mention.. well, there's homelessness, there's poverty, drugs, there's all..nationalism in a horrendous sense, how does meditation..It helps the individual, is that it? - but can it help.. so it helps the individual means it helps the world.
AG: Well, the world is made up of individuals.

PG: You know Gandhi used to say.. (I was thinking about,when you were talking about that).. Gandhi always felt that it had to begin with a person, that each individual person had to.. I mean, we coouldn't talk about changing the world until we change ourselves. 
Krishnamurti said the same thing. Shakyamuni said the same thing...Jesus Christ said the same thing. They all said… The idea is that imperfect people are not going to make a perfect world. I mean.. people who have a lot of problems create even more problems. 
So this is kind of a big problem. So one of the things that, I think.. I personally think that the thing that brings people to a clear idea of, a sense of who they are, (being even more comfortable, being just simply, you know, being a little more comfortable with who they are), it, it has to affect everything.

ST: Well now, a Chinese poem (Allen may know it). There's no..I remember reading (it) in a book of young boys poetry. It's a classic. It's about  father, son, and then the circle spreads and then its the family and then it's the neighbor… 
AG: Oh, that's the old Confucian thing - If you want to make order, put your own heart in order, and, having put one's heart in order, one can regulate the family order, the family order then can regulate the….
ST: And the last line is that "it all begins with me".
PG: Yeah.
ST: I think that's the last line, something like that.
AG: That's an American version! It's an American version of...
PG: Well, that's a good prescription for..for the kind of practice that we're talking about, sure. These are very practical. It's actually a very practical thing to do, probably one of the most practical

AG: So it's the opposite of most of the twentieth-century ideology, like Capitalism and Communism, which begin with order from the yop, you know, a trickle-down effect of order..
ST: And this is trickle-up, you're talking about
AG: Yeah
ST: Or flow-up
AG: Trickle-up rather than trickle-down. Instead of a command economy, or command from above from whoever (from the Pope, or from the President, or from the Commissar)
that everybody behave, rather than an awareness on the spot

ST: And, so.. the works both of you do (Philip Glass in music and Allen in words and poetry) really has the same base, don't you (think?) - almost everything you do has that as a sub-text, doesn't it Allen?
AG: I think we both have the same (motive)
ST The very thing we're talking about. And then in your case too (Philip)?
PG: I've made operas out of subjects that seem to be about that, you know, whether it's Satyagraha, or, in a way, a great scientist like (Albert) Einstein, or a religious performer like Akhenaten. But, yeah, I think social.. I think..I think we're both similar in a way that we..that social ssues are very much a part of the subject of what we do. It's been very.. always been easy for Allen and I to work together because..
AG: We're old-fashioned Jewish intellectuals (with an over-view.. veneer of Buddhism!)
PG:We think of all of the same things

ST: So, in fact, all of your operas, (there are differences, obviously) have this as a base. Einstein on The Beach, that you wrote with a guy named Wilson
PG: Robert Wilson
ST: Robert Wilson
AG: The director
ST: The director. Now, boy, that's a five-hour non-intermission.
PG: Yes, that's right.
AG: I saw that 
ST: Did it hold you five-hours?
AG: Where was that? in New York? Paris?
PG: You could have seen it in Paris or New York
SY: You suggest people can wander in and out?

PG: Yeah, that was, you know, a very forgiving piece, in a way, and people did. In fact, I used to wander in and out. I remember someone told me once they had seen Einstein twice and I said "you saw it twice more than I did", because I, actually, don't think I actually saw it. I used to take an intermission too. But the idea that then… I picked three subjects, the idea of a scientist who changed the world (that would have been Einstein), Gandhi who changed the world as a politican, and Akhenaten who was a man of religion. I was always interested in portraits of people who had changed the world through the power of ideas.

AG: What did Akhenaten? do, I don't know.

         [Head of Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) (1351-1334 BC) - Photograph of  bust in the Luxor Museum, Egypt] 

PG: Oh, he was the first monotheist, he declared... 
ST: He was a Pharaoh?
PG: Yes, that's right.
ST: And he was the first monotheist?
PG: Yes and he was.. (Sigmund) Freud, in his book, Moses and Monotheism, traces it (I don't know historically whether that's held up over time, but) he is the first monotheist that we talk about. But the idea was that I wanted to do portraits of people that had changed the world through the power of ideas. In other words, a real history is a history of culture, not a history of generals and politicans but things that we remember about Italy, about France , about America, will be our culture. It won't be.. it won't be the (Douglas) MacArthurs and it won't be the (Harry) Trumans

ST: That's a.  you're.. that 's a trilogy then.
PG: Yeah
ST: Satyagraha - Gandhi - an idea of a passive..
AG: Non-violence, yes
ST: Non-violence.
AG: Active non-violence
ST: Active non-violence, I should say. And there are disciples of his - (Martin Luther) King, for one. And then you have the idea - science - the humanist scientist - Einstein. And a guy, revolutionary religion..
PG: That's right
ST: Egypt - Akhenaten, Akhenaten. That connects. Everything is connected. 
(By the way, everything you do with Allen is not unrelated either.)
PG: No. By the way that trilogy's going to be done in Stuttgart, that's a trilogy in June. They're doing all three, on three successive nights
AG: That's amazing.  That'll be a Wagnerian cycle  

PG: You know that thing about  these people who change the world with their ideas. It came up in a funny way. One of my children asked me who Major Deegan was. Well, in New York there's an expressway called the Major Deegan Expressway
ST: Major Deacon?  
AG: Deegan?
PG: Major Deegan Expressway, and my son asked me, "Who was Major Deegan?" - and I didn't know. I found out he turned out to have run a munitions dump during the First World War. But that got me thinking  "Why do we name our highways about… after people who we don't…
ST: Oh well, but Chicago's a great… Every corrupt politician in town has a street named after him.
PG: And then a generation later, your children are going to ask you who they are, and  noone will know. Well, you know, I sort of…
AG: Akmatan highway
PG: We actually have now. We have an Edgar Allan Poe Plaza in New York. We actually have a..we have a Duke Ellington Avenue in New York, but, basically, you know, the Italians have a Leonardo da Vinci airport, but we.. we, I think have been slow to recognize, as Americans, our real history is a history of culture, it's not a history of violence. 

ST: So we're talking to.. Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg, and that's tomorrow-night at the Center East. As you can see, it's performance, thinking out loud, talking out loud, playing out loud, and the audience, perhaps, you would react one way or another, you will, yourself at 7710 Lincoln, that's in Skokie.
AG: What time is it?
ST: Eight o'clock
PG: It's eight o'clock
ST: I left off that hour to get all the vital statistics in - and we'll hear some more…
AG: Today's the sixteenth or something?  So it'll be the seventeenth..
ST: It's tomorrow-night 
AG: It'll be the Tuesday-evening, the 17th,  at eight p.m., in Skokie. And what's the name of the place? 
ST: See..
AG: I'm not a.. I'm not a…
ST: Center East
AG: Center East.. I'm not a Chicago boy.   (I have to) get it straight and clear.
ST: Allen Ginsberg. You would think he fools around and improvises but there he is, on the button , doing.. and so.. More of music (then)..
AG: Appropriate name - Center East
PG: Right, that's right.

to be continued tomorrow

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and continuing until approximately thirty-four-and-a-quarter minutes in]

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday's Weekly Round-Up - 286

       [Allen Ginsberg and his life-long partner, Peter Orlovsky, New York City, 1977 - Photograph by Gordon Ball

The Beat Generation exhibit at the Pompidou Center draws to a close
with a number of specially-scheduled events - a colloquium and a series of films. Last chance to catch this extraordinary exhibit in its Parisian manifestation. 

Here's Joseph Nechvatal's review in Hyperallergic 


et aussi à Paris
Next week sees the publication of Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Krista Halverson with a foreword by Jeanette Winterson - 400 pages celebrate 65 years of the legendary Parisian Anglophone bookshop, with contributions from Anais NinEthan HawkeRobert Stone, Allen, (all sometime habitués), and many many more. 

          [Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso on Avenue C, New York City, Fall 1973 - Photograph by Gordon Ball

New York in the late '70's - Allen's ubiquity: 
Steve Buscemi and Elliott Sharp in conversation:
SB: It's funny to think about it now, but we used to see them [the Beats] around. You'd run into Ginsberg at, like, you know, at like a Polish diner or something
ES: Oh yeah, like everywhere.

and fashion-photographer, Bruce Weber (in Time magazine, no less):
BW: When I came to New York, I got to know Allen Ginsberg, and he was in his 70s then and he was, like, the youngest person I ever knew. So then I thought, it's kind of wonderful to be like that.

[Allen Ginsberg inscribes his Collected  Poems for Daisy Ball, Jackson, Mississippi, May 31, 1986 (Daisy's cheek was scratched in a roller-skating fall) - Photograph by Gordon Ball]

and more recollection - William L Morris remembering Allen (& Peter)'s (early 70's) visit to his poetry class in Attica prison  (in a recent issue of the Buffalo News):

"Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky almost didn't make it to Attica. On a two-lane road between Buffalo and Attica, we ran into a blizzard. Ginsberg was in the back seat chanting Hindu ragas and Orlovsky was in the passenger seat fighting off the flu with garlic cloves. I had no idea where the road was. Orlovsky had taken too much LSD [editorial note - speed?]  the previous year. What he lacked in conversational skills, he made up for in concentration. He discovered that the car's wake revealed a yellow line on the road's edge. Looking down, he recited, "You're on the road, your on the road, you're OFF the road, you're OFF the road, you're on the road", until we reached the valley where Attica is. For weeks after that my car smelled of garlic but I didn't care.
Ginsberg talked to the class about writing. He took out a little red book he always carried. When he had a Zen moment he wrote it down. He didn't look at it again for 30 days. If it still worked, he used it. Otherwise, he abandoned it. Then he said, "Enough. You guys don't need advice on how to write poetry. You need to learn (Zen) (Buddhist) breathing to deal with living in a place like this."   

[Heather Ann Thompson's Blood In The Water: The Attica Prison Uprising And Its Legacy,  published this month, on the occasion of the 45th-year anniversary of the riots]   

Nathan Gelgud on Diane Di Prima

Pat Thomas, curator and mind behind Allen's Last Word on First Blues CD collection, was interviewed on Paul Metsa's Minneapolis-based Wall of Power Radio Hour last weekend. You can get the free app to stream from anywhere and hear the show on-line - here 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Campion's Rose-Cheek'd Laura - 2

         ["Rose-cheek'd Laura, come/Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty's/Silent music.." (Thomas Campion)]

AG: (Basil) Bunting would probably do it [Campion's "Rose-Cheek'd Laura"] much slower - "These dull notes we sing.." Discords need for helps to grace them" - The form here is.. what? Sapphic?  Anacrenotic? - or something like that, some Greek form 

Student (Pat): No this is what he calls the English iambic (curiously enough, since it's trochaic)

AG: ….da-data-data-data - counted by four, counted by accent.. 

Student (Pat): (These are) experimental.pieces from the Observations in the Art (of  English Poesie)

AG: Okay, now.  So this would be an iambic or trochaic, but based on a count of syllable rather than.. of quantity rather than accent, or is he still..

Student (Pat :  No this would be definitely quantitative

AG: Okay,  So here then..   Here's the crux piece that's explainable in both directions.. that he's trying to apply the count that we already know, iambic or trochaic, that we already know as accentual count, he's trying to apply that count to vowel length and construct a poem on the basis of length of syllable rather than accent length. So it irons irons down the stress, to some extent, and by ironing out the stress, it lengthens and smooths out the tongue of the pronunciation. Yeah? 

Student (Pat): But "either other/Sweetly gracing"..

AG: That's great 

Student (Pat): ..seems a strange way to put it. Is that, like for construction of the poem or is that..? 

AG: Well that would be a …   I talked, I think earlier of Ezra Pound's division of melopoeia, thanopoeia, and logopoeia (thanopoeia, the picture). So this would be melapoeia - "Silent music, either other" - "Silent music, either other"  (or) "Silent music, either other") -  "Silent music, either other" - But it's also

Student (Pat):  I don't know what it means.. Seems a very strange way to

AG: Yes, it is strange, purposefully, it's funny. So that would be melopoeia - the making of melody - but also logopoeia - the making of funny language work

Student (Pat):  Is it the making of melody because "either other"..?

AG:  "Either other" - It's some sort of assonance, internal rhyme? - "either other" - "Silent music either other" - Silent music either other" - See how funny that is! -  And imagine singing it! - [AG attempts singing it "Silent music either other"] - It's so funny. You've got the  vowels for it. 
Student:You've got the "i"s.
AG: Pardon me?
Student: Isn't there a breath in there, though?
AG: Yeah, sure. I was just emphasizing. I was just emphasizing there, not the rhythmic aspect but the..what do you call it?..melodical..melodical part.
Student: Would you mind telling us what the "either other" refers to? 
AG: Oh..
Student 2: Each other.
AG: Each other. Each one graces the other one.
Student 2: Each one of…
Student 3: Laura and music.
AG: "Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty's" - her beauty..
Student 3: Beauty in the music.
Student 2: Oh, I thought Laura, Laura's beauty.
AG: No, Laura sings. It's actually all about our subject, singing, and music and poetry and art, and he's got this really beautiful girl who's singing, I think, here - Isn't that correct? - whose mind is so exquisite that it's trained in high art and delicacy of syllables as well as the beautiful music of her own person, that is, her "beauty's silent music" - and she's singing. So, the singing graces the physical beauty and the physical beauty graces the singing - "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come/Sing thou smoothly with thy beauty's/ Silent music , either other/Sweetly gracing" 

"Grace notes". It's also a musical pun. In fact, all through it, we have - "Discords need for helps to grace them" (which) is also part of musical terminology - disc(h)ords and grace notes. What's a grace note?
Student: A grace note is a very quick note, I think, only a fraction of a second..
AG: Yeah, that was what I was saying  - "revive" - da da-da  a little extra curlicue in the..pig-tail..
Student: He doesn't have any  time
AG: Yeah, so " discords need.. " "These double-notes, we sing ""Discords need for helps to grace them"
Student: It just sounds like a discordant line. 
AG: Well, that's it. He's doing what he's doing. This is considered, you know, one of the great lyrics of the language, because of all the internal wit, because of the pun on the subject, because it's like a diamond crystal with the subject and the doing of the subject are identical
Student: Yeah, amazing
AG: It's all about music and beauty - and is just pure beauty, actually  

The poem.. I had one poem I tried taking off from this called "The Rune" (which I've been singing down here) - "Where the years have gone, where the clouds have flown/Where the rainbow shone/We vanish and make no moan" . It was just from that "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come", that caesura there,  or that gap, that silent spot. "Rose-cheek'd Laura", that rest, that rest (would that be a rest?)  - "Rose-cheek'd Laura, come" - and dig what that does to the rhythm - "Rose-cheek'd Laura -  come". So there's that whole universe going on invisibly, a whole wheel of time moving in between, in between "Laura" "Lawra" (L-A-W-R-A) , "Laura come " - And, actually, if you hear it, there's not too much trouble in figuring out how long it should take.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately forty-and-a-half minutes in and concluding at approximately forty-six-and-a-quarter minutes in]