“Teaching someone how to make a film is like teaching someone how to smell a rose.”
– Filmmaker Robert Flaherty
“The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things.”
– Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee,
when asked about allowing transgender service people
“Maybe there are some things that ordinary humans are not supposed to figure out.”
– Old man on street to much younger man and woman
Phone rings. I’m half asleep. It’s early morning and my seventh day of dealing with a severe kidney stone. “Hello.” “Is this Steve?” “Yes.” “Wow you’re as hard to get hold of as a pickle in a pickle drive.” (New one on me.) “What is it you want?” “This is Vanessa of AC Services.” I hang up. What does this have to do with what I’m about to launch into? Nothing, actually.
Try to catch Ronald Reagan in Juke Girl, an enticing migrant worker-type film with Willie Best as Jomo, the token African-American running around trying to sell Jomo to everyone in town. Get it? Jomo = mojo.
In July, The Drawing Center kicked off its series Drawing Sound with three days of concerts by drummer/percussionist/composer Billy Martin. It included an exhibit of his graphic scores and a piece that Billy’s wife Phaedra describes as a “scentstallation,” “encompassing sound, scent, and visuals,” and titled after one of Billy’s pieces, Stridulations for the Good Luck Feast. The concerts were at the same time as the Vision Festival, and though both venues are close to my apartment they are in opposite directions. I explained to Billy how conflicted I was, so he suggested I catch the rehearsals, and I did every day. The “mini-Martin-fest” showed every facet of his work, from solos to string quartets to large percussion pieces. It included John Medeski, Annie Gosfield, Anthony Coleman, Ikue Mori, and Billy himself interpreting his graphic scores. Alarm Will Sound showed up along with Hal Wilner, Paul Auster, Yoshiko Chuma, Chris Cochrane, Ned Rothenberg, Cyro Baptista, and John Zorn. If what I glimpsed at the rehearsals was any indication of what the sold-out evenings were like, I’m sure they were nights to remember.
Alexandre Pierrepont, professor, scholar, author, poet, surrealist, and founder of the Bridge, states: “Jazz has always been an unmatched medium that allowed the sounds and music of different worlds to express themselves with passion and singularity, shaped by a musical art dedicated to collective invention and reinvention.” What Pierrepont and others have helped shape is just that, a bridge between some of the foremost French and American musicians, forging a musical and “socio-musical” reality of counterparts, allowing for a growing mutual admiration and mutual knowledge of each other’s ideas and craft. The Bridge, now in its third year, establishes “a network for exchange, production, and diffusion by building a transatlantic bridge that will be crossed on a regular basis by French and American musicians as part of collaborative projects.” Concerts take place four times a year between France and America, and the musicians have a big say in who they get to play with. At present, the concerts in America take place in Chicago and the Midwest. Pierrepont, it must be said, is a scholar of Chicago’s musical history and is currently writing a book on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).
In France, the range of cities and gigs, including festivals, is broader. Tours rely on the network of clubs and festivals that have partnered with the Bridge. An objective of the organization is to create future projects among all its participants in varying combinations and situations and to strengthen the links between individuals and communities by having dialogues, workshops, conferences, and cumulative archives including everything from interviews to recordings. It has so far attained all its goals, and in the past year has expanded to many new venues. This year it has also taken the music into the studio, and has begun its own label, the Bridge Sessions, the goal of which is to record each ensemble during its initial tour and produce a disc in order to help support the next tour, and the ones beyond that. The first CD, Sonic Communion, consists of the first group brought together under the Bridge’s umbrella, French musicians Jean-Luc Cappozzo (trumpet/flugelhorn), Joëlle Léandre (double bass/voice), and Bernard Santacruz (double bass), and American musicians Douglas R. Ewart (woodwinds, sound objects) and Michael Zerang (drums/percussion). It is an album I highly recommend. More information can be gotten
As I mentioned briefly in a recent article, JACK is one of my favorite venues. Founded by Alec Duffy and others in 2012, it is a multi-disciplinary performance space in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. In Duffy’s words: “Since opening, JACK has presented over 750 performances with over 6,000 visitors per year—filling the neighborhood with cultural activity and presenting some of the finest performing artists in the city.” The modest space is decorated with industrial tinfoil, which Duffy told me cost very little. He says their goal/mission is to present performance work by experimental artists in theater, music, dance, literature, and poetry and to thread the work of these artists into the surrounding neighborhood, expanding the reach of their work beyond the “artistic bubble.” Another wonderful attempt, like the Bridge, to reach out to the community by, in this case, getting involved with local community centers, senior centers, and churches. JACK’s main focus is theater (I recently caught a weird version of a Beckett piece), but they’ve presented some terrific music, featuring concerts by top improvisers and ensembles such as Mark Dresser, Nels Cline, Pauline Oliveros, Evan Parker, Henry Kaiser, Peter Evans, William Parker, ICE, Jooklo Duo, Ava Mendoza, Isabelle Duthoit, Franz Hautzinger, and Mary Halvorson. Music events in October include Sean Ali, Mudbath String Orchestra, and Patrick Breiner’s Double Double. Some of the curators are Kevin Reilly of Relative Pitch Records, Steven Leffue, and Michael Foster (who I featured here). Duffy named the venue after his grandfather, Jack Duffy, who was a labor activist, minister, and great lover of the arts.
I recently caught an extremely interesting gallery show at 80WSE Gallery, the bizarre sculptures of Mississippi Delta blues musician James “Son Ford” Thomas. If it’s over, check online to view his work and his music.
Brando: “You are your memories” and “Everything is about acting and the key to its success is to make it seem as real as possible.” But there’s nothing like trying to be deep and failing. Even deep people sometimes try too hard to be deep.
Albert Ayler: “It is about leaving the approach to notes. It’s not about notes anymore. It’s about sound, to be free of the boundaries of music. To live fully as a human being.”
Zachary Wallmark: “When listening to a sound we are actually participating in that sound.”
Again from Flaherty: “The close up is not about details but to make the viewer want more.” So get as close as you can to the music.
I dedicate this to my friend and collaborator, saxophonist Abdelhaï Bennani, who passed away in August in Paris. May his quiet breath continue to sing.
Poet/collagist STEVE DALACHINSKY was born in Brooklyn after the last big war and has managed to survive lots of little ones. His book The Final Nite (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006) won the PEN Oakland National Book Award. His most recent books are Fools Gold (Feral House, 2014), A Superintendent's Eyes (Unbearable/Autonomedia, 2013), and Flying Home (Paris Lit Up Press, 2015), a collaboration with German visual artist Sig Bang Schmidt. His latest CD is ec(H)osystem with the French art-rock group, The Snobs (Bam Balam Records, 2015). He is a 2014 recipient of a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His poem "Particle Fever" was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize.His most recent books are Black Magic (New Feral Press, 2017) and Frozen Heatwave, a collaboration with Yuko Otomo (Luna Bisonte Prods, 2017).