Written and presented by Max Tobin.

Death is a trip

Farewell, Julee Cruise
June 9th, 2022

Today the beautiful, fabulous, highly intelligent, courageous, and incredibly creative Julee Cruise passed on. Her husband said that she "left this realm on her own terms. No regrets. She is at peace [...] I played her [The B-52's song] Roam during her transition. Now she will roam forever. Rest In Peace, my love."
I had the great pleasure meeting Julee Cruise several times, in New York and in Cologne while she was working on two Pluramon albums with composer Marcus Schmickler. Every conversation with her was deep and light at the same time, and wherever she went she worked her program. Julee continues to be a huge inspiration for me. She was a giant.

“Easy, easy, and you are doing this willingly and consciously and beautifully—going forward and up, light and free, forward and up towards the light, into the light, into complete love.” –Quote from Laura Huxley's beautiful letter about Aldous' death

Via aoen: "Over the past several decades, scientists have began to better understand dying as a biological process – whether it happens over the course of weeks or appears to occur in an instant. In this short video, the UK filmmaker and presenter Max Tobin deploys a heavy dose of gallows humour to investigate a groundbreaking series of studies that may offer hints at what the stage between clinical death (cessation of vital functions) and brain death (cessation of brain activity) actually feels like. In particular, he looks at the biological and experiential similarities between near-death experiences and taking the hallucinogenic drug DMT, in discussion with Chris Timmermann of the Psychedelic Research Group at Imperial College London, who led the research."

[ Latest additions ]

Marcel Dzama made some new large drawings that he is showing in Miami at David Zwirner & Sie & Höke Gallery at Art Basel Miami.

Empowerment

Author and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estés
January 26th, 2022

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D. in Women Who Run With The Wolves – Myths and Stories of the Wild Women Archetype:

"0-7 age of the body and dreaming/socialization, yet retaining imagination
7-14 age of separating yet weaving together reason and the imaginal
14-21 age of new body/young maidenhood/unfurling yet protecting sensuality
21-28 age of new world/new life/exploring the worlds
28-35 age of the mother/learning to mother others and self
35-42 age of the seeker/learning to mother self-seeking the self
42-49 age of early crone/finding the far encampment/giving courage to others
49-56 age of the underworld/learning the words and rites
56-63 age of choice/choosing one's world and the work yet to be done
63-70 age of becoming watchwoman/recasting all one has learned
70-77 age of re-youthanization/more cronedom
77-84 age of the mist beings/finding more big in the small
84-91 age of weaving with the scarlet thread/understanding the weaving of life
91-98 age of the ethereal/less to saying, more to being
98-105 age of pneuma, the breath
105+ age of timelessness"

Thanks to Swantje Lichtenstein!

[ Latest additions ]

Henri Cartier-Bresson Brie, France. 1968

This is water

Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926-2022)
January 22nd, 2022

Via Plum Village: "With a deep mindful breath, we announce our beloved teacher Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh has passed away peacefully on 22nd January, 2022."

"We are a wave appearing on the surface of the ocean. The body of a wave does not last very long – perhaps only ten to twenty seconds. The wave is subject to beginning and ending, to going up and coming down. The wave may be caught in the idea that I am here now and I won’t be here later. And the wave may feel afraid or even angry. But the wave also has her ocean body. She has come from the ocean, and she will go back to the ocean. She has both her wave body and her ocean body. She is not only a wave; she is also the ocean. The wave does not need to look for a separate ocean body, because she is in this very moment both her wave body and her ocean body. As soon as the wave can go back to herself and touch her true nature, which is water, then all fear and anxiety disappear."Thích Nhất Hạnh

Via The New York Times: "Thich Nhat Hanh dismissed the idea of death. 'Birth and death are only notions,' he wrote in his book No Death, No Fear. 'They are not real.' He added: 'The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is.' That understanding, he wrote, can liberate people from fear and allow them to 'enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.'

Please also consider, the new Heart Sutra translation by Thích Nhất Hạnh, and the only commencemnet speech ever by David Foster Wallace, This is Water.

[ Latest additions ]

New favorite record

Kirtan: Turiya Sings by Alice Coltrane
September 9th, 2021

Via Pitchfork: "Turiya Sings was the first album she made alone. Having left the commercial music industry behind, she released these uncanny compositions based on Hindu devotionals, or bhajans, on cassette through her Vedantic Center’s publishing imprint, Avatar Book Institute. Luxuriating in every prayerful syllable, naming deities like Krishna and Ramachandra, Coltrane made a small number of the tapes available to her students and Vedantic Center visitors. Though she used relatively spare components—the subtitle of the original album cover read, 'Devotional Songs in Original Composition with Organ, Strings and Synthesizer'—they contain an unusual, self-contained grandeur. In the aching shimmer of these hymns, which evoke both South Indian classical music and the Black church, you can hear Coltrane’s life coursing through: her journey from gospel accompanist to jazz prodigy, the drama of the European classical music she loved, the soulful melodies of her Detroit youth, grief and exaltation. Yet the power of this music is elemental. The tone of the original Turiya Sings is as certain and spectral as anything associated with the Coltrane name. Her voice hovers distantly above the mix as if she’s floating, or astral projecting—which she wrote about extensively in Monument Eternal—like a woman actively inhabiting a higher dimension.

The recordings of Coltrane’s ashram period have taken on a mythical status in her catalog over the past decade, particularly Turiya Sings, which has circulated online and on bootleg cassettes, never officially re-released. The 2017 Luaka Bop compilation of Coltrane’s ecstatic music included no tracks from Turiya Sings. If there is reluctance to make those particular recordings commercially available, it’s understandable: The music emerged at the very moment Coltrane was trying to divorce herself from the material world. On a more technical level, according to a label representative, the original Turiya Sings remains formally unreleased because the Coltrane family has never found its master synthesizer recordings.

What Coltrane’s son Ravi did find—around the time of his mother’s final album, 2004’s miraculous Translinear Light—were 1981 recordings she made of Turiya Sings featuring only her voice and Wurlitzer electric organ, an instrument that she once said came to her in a divine vision. ('In one meditation… the precise instrument I should get was revealed to me,' she said in an interview. 'I didn’t need to do any research; it was just conveyed to me.') These pared-back tracks of Coltrane’s most minimal music are now released as Kirtan: Turiya Sings, like seeds of the cassette that also, in some sense, expand it. As Ravi Coltrane writes in a producer’s note, this is 'functional music,' meant to guide the practice of chanting: creating vibrations inside of oneself in order to transcend, like embodied meditations. During a call-and-response kirtan performance, the leader sings devotionals, typically with a harmonium pump organ, and the audience joins in collectively. Despite the surge of interest in kirtan in the U.S. in the 1990s—and Coltrane’s groundbreaking fusion of gospel and jazz elements into the form—her spiritual music remained little known in the U.S., as scholar Franya J. Berkman notes in her 2010 Coltrane biography, in considerable part because she didn’t perform it outside of her ashram.

Where before, the stately music of Turiya Sings had evoked celestial bodies, inquisitive synth lines whirring as if in accordance with their own cosmology, now there’s the tactility of earthly reality. The click of the organ on Jagadishwar makes its soul-stirring melody—which Coltrane reimagined unmistakably on Translinear Light as well—feel newly intimate, and she enunciates each word with enlightened precision. It puts you in the room, into electric air. By this point, Coltrane had been playing the Wurlitzer for a decade, having first used it on 1971’s mind-bending galactic trip Universal Consciousness. Her subtle flourishes of extra notes make the compositions bloom and groove anew. Her mystic organ lines seem attuned to the drone of the universe. [...]

Listening to the Kirtan: Turiya Sings recordings feels less like discovering a hissy cassette lost in time than what it must have been like to experience Coltrane leading the songs at one of her legendary Sunday services."

Thanks to Frank Dommert @ a-musik, the best record store on this planet !

Also, check out this 16mm color film print. A "short documentary made for a segment of National Education Television's Black Journal television program. The segment focuses on the life of Alice Coltrane and her children in the wake of the death of her husband, famed jazz magician John Coltrane. This film was shot sometime during 1970; three years after the death of John Coltrane."

[ Latest additions ]

Can't Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part BBC documentary television series created by Adam Curtis. It was released on BBC iPlayer on 11 February 2021.

Can't Get You Out of My Head

An Emotional History of the Modern World by Adam Curtis
February 13th, 2021

Via The Guardian: "Examining the power structures and political intrigue that have shaped our world, the filmmaker’s new BBC documentary series is a dense, ambitious triumph. [...]

The power dynamic, how it shifts, how it hides and how it is used to shape our world – the world in which we ordinary people must live – is Curtis’s great interest. He ranges from the literal rewriting of history by Chairman Mao’s formidable fourth wife, Jiang Qing, during the Cultural Revolution to the psychologists plumbing the depths of “the self” and trying to impose behaviours on drugged and electro-shocked subjects. He moves from the infiltration of the Black Panthers by undercover officers inciting and facilitating more violence than the movement had ever planned or been able to carry out alone, to the death of paternalism in industry and its replacement by official legislation drafted by those with hidden and vested interests. The idea that we are indeed living, as posited by various figures in the author’s landscape and (we infer from the whole) the author himself, in a world made up of strata of artifice laid down by those more or less malevolently in charge becomes increasingly persuasive.

Whether you are convinced or not by the working hypothesis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is a rush. It is vanishingly rare to be confronted by work so dense, so widely searching and ambitious in scope, so intelligent and respectful of the audience’s intelligence, too. It is rare, also, to watch a project over which one person has evidently been given complete creative freedom and control without any sense of self-indulgence creeping in. It is always exciting to be in receipt of the product of a single vision. Not quite singular, perhaps: I suspect a lot of men born, like Curtis, in the 1950s, harbour many of the same concerns and would make a lot of the same arguments, although most would lack the ability to enshrine them so accessibly or attractively. But nevertheless, a triumph. For Curtis, of course, but also for publicly funded broadcasting. No commercial channel would have touched this thing. Unless, of course, that’s just what Auntie wants us to think."

Watch it here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

On top of it Can’t Get You Out of My Head features music by fabulous composer Natalie Beridze.

[ Latest additions ]

This might be the most important talk of your life.

The Basics of Nonviolent Communication

by Marshal Rosenberg (1934-2015) in San Fransico 2020
August 30st, 2020

Via Wikipedia: "Nonviolent Communication (abbreviated NVC, also called Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is an approach to nonviolent living developed by Marshall Rosenberg beginning in the 1960s. NVC is based on the assumption that all human beings have capacity for compassion and empathy and that people only resort to violence or behavior harmful to others when they do not recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs.

NVC theory supposes that all human behavior stems from attempts to meet universal human needs, and that these needs are never in conflict; rather, conflict arises when strategies for meeting needs clash. NVC proposes that people should identify shared needs, which are revealed by the thoughts and feelings surrounding these needs, and then they should collaborate to develop strategies and make requests of each other to meet each other's needs. The goal is interpersonal harmony and learning for future cooperation. [...]

Rosenberg invites NVC practitioners to focus attention on four components:

• Observation: the facts (what we are seeing, hearing, or touching) as distinct from our evaluation of meaning and significance. NVC discourages static generalizations. It is said that When we combine observation with evaluation others are apt to hear criticism and resist what we are saying. Instead, a focus on observations specific to time and context is recommended.

• Feelings: emotions or sensations, free of thought and story. These are to be distinguished from thoughts (e.g., 'I feel I didn't get a fair deal') and from words colloquially used as feelings but which convey what we think we are (e.g., inadequate), how we think others are evaluating us (e.g., unimportant), or what we think others are doing to us (e.g., misunderstood, ignored). Feelings are said to reflect whether we are experiencing our needs as met or unmet. Identifying feelings is said to allow us to more easily connect with one another, and Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable by expressing our feelings can help resolve conflicts.

• Needs: universal human needs, as distinct from particular strategies for meeting needs. It is posited that Everything we do is in service of our needs.

• Request: request for a specific action, free of demand. Requests are distinguished from demands in that one is open to hearing a response of no without this triggering an attempt to force the matter. If one makes a request and receives a no it is recommended not that one give up, but that one empathize with what is preventing the other person from saying yes, before deciding how to continue the conversation. It is recommended that requests use clear, positive, concrete action language."

The Nonviolent Communicator is "an online tool to help you create a communication that honors the NVC structure, and helps you identify the emotions you are feeling. Based on the The 4-Part Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Process model developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D."

Thanks to Michael Beil!

[ Latest additions ]

"in Pursuit of Venus", the panoramic video by Lisa Reihana, is a moving image interpretation of the French scenic wallpaper "Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique".

In Pursuit of Venus

by Lisa Reihana
August 21st, 2020

Via In Pursuit of Venus: "In Neoclassical France, entrepreneur Joseph Dufour used the latest printing innovations to produce Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique (1804), a sophisticated twenty panel scenic wallpaper. Mirroring a widespread fascination with the Pacific voyages undertaken by Captain Cook, de Bougainville and de la Perouse, the wallpaper’s exotic themes referenced popular illustrations of that time. Two hundred years later, Maori artist Lisa Reihana employs twenty-first century digital technologies to animate Les Sauvages de la Mer Pacifique. Enlivened with the sights and sounds of dance and cultural ceremonies, a vast video panorama is populated by a myriad of people drawn from across New Zealand and the Pacific.

Separated by two centuries, both the wallpaper and video are set against an utopian Tahitian landscape. While Dufour’s work models Enlightenment beliefs and ideas of harmony amongst mankind, Reihana’s reading of the past is darker and more nuanced. The artist foregrounds the complexities of cultural identity and colonisation by including scenes of encounter between Europeans and Polynesians."

Listen to Lisa Reihana talk about her work.

Thanks to Miriam Stein!

[ Latest additions ]

Aretha Franklin in the concert movie Amazing Grace.

Aretha Franklin

Watch Amazing Grace on Whitsun
May 31st, 2020

Via The Hollywood Reporter: "In 1972, the director spent two days in a Watts church filming Franklin recording her historic gospel album. But he forgot to sync the sound. Now, after 43 years, the film is finally ready to be seen — if Franklin's lawsuit doesnt stop it."

Via The Guardian: "So, after nearly five decades, does the film stand the test of time? Hallelujah, yes! Despite being both unforgivingly overlit and tantalisingly truncated (this trim 88-minute cut abridges or omits some classic tracks), Elliott’s Lazarus-like resurrection of Pollack’s movie captures both the hive of musical activity and fervour or religious ecstasy that thronged through that church all those years ago."

Via Wikipedia: "Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com enthused, 'Whether you're religious or not, you owe it to yourself to see this movie if the chance arises. You'll see how much love and feeling went into the construction of the resulting album.' Variety's Owen Gleiberman noted, 'The movie reveals how the fundamental distinction between rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues was not only racist at its core, but a way for the consumer culture to slice the God out of music that was invented as a way to talk to God.' Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian wrote, 'The film is almost wall-to-wall music, with Franklin barely acknowledging the audience between songs.' The Los Angeles Times' Justin Chang wrote: 'Aretha Franklin didn't transcend the gospel or gospel music; as first her album and now this marvelous documentary remind us, she did more than most to fulfill its potential for truth and beauty, devotion and art.'"

Thanks to Sarah Szczesny!

[ Latest additions ]

Alice Coltrane

A translinear light
May 30th, 2020

Via Wikipedia: "Alice Coltrane (née McLeod, August 27, 1937 – January 12, 2007), also known by her adopted Sanskrit name Turiyasangitananda or Turiya Alice Coltrane, was an American jazz musician and composer, and in her later years a swamini. One of the few harpists in the history of jazz, she recorded many albums as a bandleader, beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s for Impulse! and other major record labels."

Via National Museum of African American History & Culture: "16mm film. This film opens with a collage of photos of jazz musician John Coltrane with a voice-over of a male narrator communicating the musical genius and personal demeanor of the renowned music artist. The voice-over ends with an open-ended statement on John Coltrane's family; leading into an interview with his wife, Alice Coltrane. Alice Coltrane discusses the influence her late husband has had on her life, both musically and spiritually. She speaks of him being a spiritual person, although not tied to one organized religion, his vegetarian diet, and the how he carved time out of his days to meditate. There is footage of their children playing in the yard and walking with their mother. Alice plays the harp and talks about how her music is a manifestation of her spirituality. She discusses her musical career and how she balances that with being a mother and paying tribute to her late husband, but also not wanting to be defined as an extension of John Coltrane's music. Instead, when she finds herself playing some of the music he wrote, she sees herself as sharing in what he produced throughout his career. Footage of her playing the piano at a small jazz concert with a few other musicians plays for two minutes. In the final minutes of the segment, Alice Coltrane explains her relationship with a higher power and the personal enlightenment she has felt and gained through meditation. The film ends with a dolly-out/zoom-out long shot of Alice Coltrane and her children waving from their home."

Thanks to Sarah Szczesny!

[ Latest additions ]

Photo by Swantje Lichtenstein. Taken in March 2020 on a bike ride through Berlin during Corona crisis related lock-down.

Alvin Lucier

I am sitting in a room, 1969/1970
March 26th, 2020

Via Wikipedia: "The first performance of the work was in 1970 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In collaboration with his partner Mary Lucier, the performance featured projections of Polaroid images that had been degraded like the voice. [...]

The text spoken by Lucier describes the process of the work, concluding with a reference to his own stuttering:

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have."

Every year since 2005 I play this piece to my students and ask them to not leave the room for its duration. Every year I experience something new. Every year I come out of the experience really happy.

Thanks for introducing me to the piece, and for reminding me of its birthday today, Marcus Schmickler!
Thanks to introducing me to Alvin Lucier, Phillip Schulze!

 

[ Latest additions ]