“Zeppelins”

April is National Poetry Month, and for the occasion Frank Hudson’s Parlando Project has been producing a series of “Lyric Videos” based on audio recordings of the poems done previously. The month is not even half over, but (so far) Hudson’s performance of “Zeppelins” by F.S. Flint is my favorite, though “Dunbar” is not far behind.

And of course, the poem is also so very appropriate to what is once again happening in Europe these days, not to mention elsewhere in the world none of which I’m not going to mention as I’m sure to shamefully leave somewhere or two off the list…

The term “lyric video” is also new to me though the practice is… not new. As a concept, though, it wraps up and gathers together poetry as oral interpretation and poetry as literature. As a bonus, one can throw in ancillary aspects like music, musicality, concrete poetry just to name-drop a few. Is pretty cool concept, methinks.

Shadow Pools

Photo by Roman.

It’s another classic image: the darkling city street in contrast to a brilliant sky. The only aspect remarkable is that it was late morning when the image was captured, but winter often leaves stubborn pools of shadow in Chicago’s avenues, much like my beloved mud-puddles.

We may as well be at the bottom of a puddle: Here we are, our dizzy gaze upward toward the light, a heavenly glow that beseeches our devotion with memories of warmth. Truly, haven’t some theologians described Hell as the absence of God? Where else to find enduring darkness but winter’s big city streets? And yet, isn’t Lucifer described as the bringer of light?

Never mind. All this is magical thinking far beyond me. After all, what do I know? And why do I know it?

Never mind. Leave me here, swaying gently in the middle of the sidewalk, making sugar from light, a dim and muted contrast to the glory above.

Like falling stars from the universe we are hurled
Down through the long loneliness of the world
Until we behold the pain become the pearl
The pearl
The pearl

— “The Pearl” by Emmylou Harris

“Shadows in the Sky”

This is incredible. This is stunning. Or at least I think so! This is work that Mike Olbinski posted back in April of 2021, but if you’ve not yet seen it… It’s powerful. Lyrically, the music really has nothing to do with the weather; as best as I understood them, the lyrics were ominous and seriously creepy. But Olbinski’s great weather videography is superbly edited into the melody for a profoundly beautiful and unsettling affect and effect. Within seconds, I was prepared to head for the basement. Full screen and headphones recommended and — heads up: strobing lightning. See for yourself:

The music is the song “The Last Goodbye” by Eric Kinny, featuring Danica Dora.

On the video’s web page, Olbinski explains:

“Sometimes it takes you months to find the correct song for your next project and other times you find it in about three minutes. When I heard The Last Goodbye, the haunting melody and gorgeous vocals, not to mention the cinematic feel leading to a pulse-pounding finale, I knew instantly I wanted to use this for a black and white film.

“Interestingly enough, while I love making these monochrome films, I’ve had this newfound love of color in storms, the variety, the stunning tones of greens, blues, oranges, reds and everything in-between. So as I was making this film entirely in black and white, I kept getting this unsatisfied feeling. I decided to try something new about halfway through, when the song’s pace slowly increases, and I hope it’s something you enjoy!

“I love this song, I love these clips and I love chasing storms. The scenes in this film have appeared before, and I cannot wait to get out and get some new stuff to share down the road. It may be two years of collecting footage again before I create something new, so I had to put something out now to tide me over until then and also to fire me up for storm season! Hope you enjoy!”

Fugue

This oddly satisfying short item is from Optical Arts:

“The film is a set of exactly repeated actions, but each time using different objects. It uses the structure of the fugue to create the films narrative, playing on the fugues characteristic of stating the subject in different voices.

“Fugue in A major by Dmitri Shostakovich is a very interesting piece as it contains no harmonic dissonance at all. The Fugue was an outlier in a larger collection of Preludes and Fugues which at the time was panned by critics for being very harsh and dissonant.

“The piece was written in 1950’s Russia under Stalin’s regime and might have been a veiled criticism where any less subtle forms of criticism could have been very dangerous. Shostakovich had already been denounced for political incorrectness in 1948 by the communist party chairman, Andrei Zhdanov and lived under a persistent fear of the numerous purges that were taking place across Russia at that time.

“The piece is performed by Sviatoslav Ricther in 1956 in Prague.”

“The Ballad of Holland Island House”

You know I’m not hip. How many times have I told you that I’m not hip. I’m not hip. That’s why it took six years for me to discover this lovely, soulful animation by Lynn Tomlinson. And you can find more like it at Lynn Tomlinson’s Vimeo channel.

“The Ballad of Holland Island House is a short animation made with an innovative clay-painting technique in which a thin layer of oil-based clay comes to vibrant life frame by frame. Animator Lynn Tomlinson tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay. Told from the house’s point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.”

Metnong: Live!

Well, they were at the time. Alive, that is. The time was 1980s experimental jazz in Chicago. At least, I think “experimental” is what one would call it, but I am sure about jazz, Chicago and the 1980s. Metnong: Live! (that is the title, I think, though the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful) is one of two albums released by Metnong, the other being A Vast Orbital Kiss. You can find a copy of that at the Internet Archive.

Since the cassette cover is remarkably unhelpful, this post will have to serve as its liner notes.

Very well, then. Though I am mostly unsuitable for the task. I am not a musician nor a tribal follower of musicians and music. But I was a friend of the band, having known Steve Owens from years long before Metnong. We had been distant neighbors (same wing, different floor) with an overlapping set of friends in the same university dormitory complex. We both hung out with the Ozone Ranger, for example.

But you won’t find Steve Owens listed on the cassette cover. For Side A, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, harry lenz, and yuri. For Side B, the list is jab weird, steve ivan, and harry lenz. “steve ivan” is my friend Steve Owens. “harry lenz” and “jab weird” were introduced to me as Richard and Julie Kovacs… another pseudonym as the name was actually Theodore. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.

Why all the pseudonyms? I simply can’t tell you. You see how I fail as a liner notes raconteur? Being secretive might have some entertainment value, but I can’t even offer that: I don’t know.

Neither Richard nor Julie are around to ask. Richard died more than a decade ago and Julie years before that. When asked, Steve vaguely waves and mumbles something about the law but I suspect he’s being both diplomatic and dramatic. Musicians, after all… I mean, some of the places they played may not have had an entertainment license, but really.

Posting these recordings is not a nostalgia trip for me. I think there is work and history worth preserving here. When I spoke to him about posting these recordings, Steve was a bit startled when I told him that I was more into these recordings now than I was at the time. Possibly I’m a bit more inclined to listen now than I was then…

The thing about experimental art is: It’s experimental. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it works in unexpected ways. And that is the always unexpected pleasure in just listening. Judge for yourself:

Side A (43:31) recorded at batteries not included february 14, 1988, by fred

Side B (37:21) recorded on mars a week later (time warp over warsaw) by dick teddy

metnongcover
Metnong: Live cassette cover. Photo by Roman.