Sensitive Skin Magazine http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com Post-beat, pre-apocalyptic art, writing and what-not Tue, 23 Sep 2014 04:21:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Crossing Over: A Performance Adventure in Green-Wood Cemetery – Review http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/crossing-over-a-performance-adventure-in-green-wood-cemetery-review/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/crossing-over-a-performance-adventure-in-green-wood-cemetery-review/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 04:19:14 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=7034 A review of "Crossing Over," a Performance Adventure in Green-Wood Cemetery. Part of the BEAT Festival Tour by Atlas Obscura, led by Allison Meier, with performances by LEIMAY.

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Crossing Over: A Performance Adventure in Green-Wood Cemetery
Part of the BEAT Festival
Tour by Atlas Obscura, led and narrated by Allison Meier, with site-specific performances by LEIMAY: Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya, Shirel Jones, Sophia Schrank, and Elisabet Torras Aguilera.

I’m scheduled to arrive at the press tour by 8:30 pm, which should not be too much of a problem, since I live a ten-minute bicycle ride away. Fortified with a double espresso, I set off.

Now, this is a nighttime tour of Green-Wood Cemetery. So we’re going out at night in a creepy place with a lot of dead people (over 560,000 dead people).

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Whenever I think about cemeteries, ghosts, the spirit world, the other side, hauntings, and the like, I always remember the story my maternal grandfather told me. At about age 6 (we’re going back to the end of the Nineteenth Century) he and a friend snuck out one night and went to the local cemetery. This they did in a small town in Mississippi, a fairly haunted place. They saw a freshly dug grave with a white shape moving up and down in the grave. Petrified, the two boys hid until dawn, when they saw that it was a sheep that had wandered into the cemetery and fallen into the hole.

I arrive early. Entering the cemetery, we hear, coming from woods on a hill and out of the darkness, some ominous sounds, then a string instrument, and then opera singing.

The tour starts promptly; the tour leader, Allison Meier, from the estimable Atlas Obscura (be sure to check out their website), gives us a brief history. Green-Wood Cemetery was established in 1838 with the intention of being a different type of cemetery, a break from the crowded cemeteries of colonial America, with their grey headstones ornamented with deaths heads. Green-Wood was to be a destination where people would want to go while they were still alive. Laid out like a park, it stretches across 468 acres of some of Brooklyn’s hilliest and most varied terrain, part of the great glacial moraine that is Long Island. A lot of prominent people from the Nineteenth Century — Boss Tweed, for one — are buried here, and a few from the Twentieth, too, not least of all Leonard Bernstein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Albert Anastasia, who may have contributed a few corpses himself. Paul Goldberger wrote in the New York Times that it was often remarked “it is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon the Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood.”

The emphasis of the tour is the performance history of Brooklyn and New York as reflected in the persons buried here. We set out; our first stop is a monument marking the mass grave of 103 unidentified bodies from the Brooklyn Theater Fire of December 5, 1876. One of the worst theatre fires ever, there were at least 278 fatalities, possibly over 300; the performance initially continued while the fire continued, until a piece of the set fell onto the stage in flames, setting off a panic. Most of the dead, needless to say, came from the cheaper upper level seats, the so-called “Family Circle.” The unknowns are buried here in individual caskets, set vertically in the ground. It’s the sort of disaster one associates with the Third World nowadays, which reminds us that in the Nineteenth Century, the whole world was the Third World.

Continuing, we soon encounter a ghostly body hanging from a tree in a net. Further along, we see a line of white clad figures standing above a row of crypts set in the hillside. Looking up, we observe them standing upright, facing us, then falling back, then standing up, then falling back, over and over, to beautiful and disturbing electronic music backing opera singing. It’s a subtle reminder that we’re all going the way of the people buried here.

Next, we arrive at the Steinway family crypt, where apparently a fair number of the Steinways don’t want to be buried, and then we move on to the fascinating and garish William Niblo Mausoleum. Set in a landscaped sylvan setting that looks like a set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where one wonders if ambush by satyrs and wood nymphs is imminent, Niblo liked the place so much that he used to take his buddies here and throw parties. William Niblo made a lot of money in the theatre; in fact, his production, The Black Crook (book by Charles M. Barras; music by various composers), is considered the first American “book” musical, so he gave us a lot, or has a lot to answer for, depending on your taste. The Black Crook opened at Niblo’s Garden on Broadway on September 12, 1866, and, with a running time of five and a half hours (you heard right), the show continued for 474 performances. Set in the Harz Mountains in the year 1600, it featured, among other songs, March of the Amazons by Giuseppe Operti, and You Naughty, Naughty Men, with music by George Bickwell and lyrics by Theodore Kennick. There were subsequent British and other productions, but — so far — no revival.

The accompanying performance, called the “Somnambulance Trance,” is enchanting. We see a male and female dance a dance of attraction, then distance and disillusion, alternately tender and remote. Their movements evoke the setting and perhaps even the Niblo production.

Our penultimate stop before returning is the grave of Eliza Gilbert, better known to the world as Lola Montez, who lived a remarkable life, fast and short. Dying of pneumonia after a stroke at age 40, she was originally buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave; a fan, one of many, no doubt, had her exhumed and buried here with a headstone. Her career as a performer included the tarantula dance, where she pretended that a tarantula was crawling on her and ripped her clothes off to save herself; her career as a courtesan included an affair with Ludwig I of Bavaria, where she advocated for liberal reforms when not otherwise occupied.

The last stop is a walk-in crypt. Family names — Groesbeck, Wissman, Schlesinger, Martinez, and more, each no doubt with many stories behind it — line the hall, set above the doors to each family’s vault. The performance is a spirited flamenco dance. The sound of the dance reverberates in the stone chamber; and, I must say, it takes a lot of discipline to dance a flamenco.

Before leaving the cemetery, I have a chance to chat briefly with the Artistic Director and founder of the BEAT Festival, Stephen Shelley. I ask Shelley if it was difficult to arrange permissions with the cemetery; it was not. “They were game.” Recalling the extensive walking on stone pathways up and down hills in the dark, I ask if insurance was a problem. Shelley laughed and said their agent mainly wanted to know how long the tour was and how many people would be joining in.

A brief word about the BEAT (Brooklyn Emerging Artists in Theatre) Festival is in order. This is its third year. Check it out.

–Franklin Mount

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New Monsters: First Appearance http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/new-monsters-first-appearance/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/new-monsters-first-appearance/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 00:15:04 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6911 Harvey Pekar died just before we went into the studio to record these pieces. Harvey and I had recently collaborated on an opera, “Leave Me Alone!” He wouldn’t make anything up, so my idea of a story of a fictional Cleveland musician had to be about me instead. Unfortunately, there’s not much to my story.... Read more »

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Harvey Pekar died just before we went into the studio to record these pieces. Harvey and I had recently collaborated on an opera, “Leave Me Alone!” He wouldn’t make anything up, so my idea of a story of a fictional Cleveland musician had to be about me instead. Unfortunately, there’s not much to my story. I sit around at my desk, transcribing melodies onto a laptop, adding accompanying parts. Sometimes I use my cheap keyboard. I read books—in the backyard, when the weather is good. Novels, and the occasional short story collection. I’m the first to wake up in the household. I make coffee and a bowl of fruit, yogurt, nuts, and cereal for breakfast, I read the news online, and then I take our dog for a walk. During the school year I plan my lessons, and during the summer I worry about things. Excitement? One night, my wife found an opossum living in a box in our basement. That’s the cover photo. The story is told in detail in the opera.

Sometimes it all seems very precarious. Just getting to see all the nice colors and shapes of things: the garden hoses of El Cerrito, and the triumvirates of garbage cans, standing out there in front of all the houses, as though for a family portrait. The sunlight looks good bouncing off of things. I like how it glares around trees and back-lights the ferns in Canyon Trail Park. Melodies come into my head while I walk around, so I call it “Music of El Cerrito.” I call these “New Monsters” and number the pieces while I await the arrival of decent titles.

Steve Horowitz, who played bass on these sessions, was inspired to start a jazz quintet to play some of this music. He was kind enough to ask me to play in it, and someone [Editor's note: That would be us.] put out a CD called New Monsters, which also became the name of the group. I wrote 165 “New Monsters,” and my own large ensemble, Daniel Popsicle, has performed many.

Once it was opossums and raccoons, but lately I’ve been seeing a lot of skunks on my walks. Last night, our dog killed one of the skunks in our backyard when I inadvertently allowed her to get out. It was horrible. A fierce black cloud rushed through the house.

This spring I lost one of my best listeners: Chris Maher, a.k.a. Supermarky, my college roommate and fellow composer / artist / writer and most recently olfactory artist—he would have appreciated the skunk! Chris inducted me into the European-American avant- garde gang, but together we stepped away from the previous generation who for us were too classical, architectural, mystical, and above all serious: stern, severe, academic. I considered myself an adherent of a more global avant-garde. Chris was always out there, walking a crooked path, avoiding cliches of common drama, sentiment, officiousness, artificial expertise. Sometimes he employed random processes to move things in a perverse or subversive direction. My contribution to the revolution has been to eschew editing. We recorded every scrap that had been written, and now are releasing everything. As for choosing musicians, my old friends Jay Rozen and Tom Yoder were to be in town at the same time, so I invited everyone I didn’t feel too shy about inviting to these sessions. Many thanks to everyone involved, especially Steve Horowitz, for seeing both what I saw in this music, but also for seeing something else!

Listen here for free, but if you like it, you really ought to buy it from iTunes and Amazon. All purchasers are guaranteed entry to the afterlife, or double your money back!

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Musicians: Randy McKean, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Dan Plonsey, tenor sax, clarinet; Cory Wright, baritone sax, piccolo, clarinet; Michael Zelner, clarinet, organ, Chris Grady, trumpet; Tom Yoder, trombone; Jay Rozen, tuba; Murray Campbell, english horn, oboe, violin; Sarah Willner, viola; Lynn Murdock, organ; John Shiurba, guitar; Steve Horowitz, bass; Suki O’Kane, drums, percussion; Ward Spangler, drums, mallet instruments, percussion. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Myles Boisen.

Recorded July 12 and 13, 2010.

Let me know what you think. I’m at: dan@plonsey.com. My web site is: www.plonsey.com

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New Monsters – Live at 55 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/new-monsters-live-at-55-2/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/new-monsters-live-at-55-2/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 20:59:15 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6908 Presenting the first release from Sensitive Skin Music, The New Monsters Live at 55 Sensitive Skin’s inaugural release, New Monsters Live at Studio 55, highlights the role of jazz in the 21st century. Captured live at Studio 55 in Marin and featuring the compositions of saxophonist Dan Plonsey, this album echoes the ensemble’s roots in... Read more »

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Presenting the first release from Sensitive Skin Music, The New Monsters Live at 55

Sensitive Skin’s inaugural release, New Monsters Live at Studio 55, highlights the role of jazz in the 21st century. Captured live at Studio 55 in Marin and featuring the compositions of saxophonist Dan Plonsey, this album echoes the ensemble’s roots in traditional jazz, improvisation, and rock. The recording, produced by bass player Steve Horowitz, captures the magic of New Monsters’ vibrant live performance.

New Monsters brings together an impressive group of seasoned musicians, including Plonsey, who has played with Fred Frith, Tom Waits, and Anthony Braxton, Horowitz, a bi-coastal performer who has collaborated with musicians from Henry Kaiser to Lenny Picket to Elliott Sharp, pianist Scott Looney, who plays both the keys and the strings of his piano, and has worked with the likes of Oliver Lake, Gino Robair and Joe Morris, multi-instrumentalist Steve Adams, appearing on sax and flute, whose background includes performing with Steve Gorn and David Birkin, and drummer John Hanes, whose impressive career includes playing with luminaries such as Etta James and Bonnie Raitt along with a who’s who of San Francisco Bay Area legends from Boz Scaggs to Romeo Void.

Listening to the music, it’s easy to hear some of the greats of jazz, including Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders, and John Coltrane filtered through Plonsey’s strong compositions and Horowitz’s arrangements and the group’s vibrant musicianship. The music on this recording was refined through live performances before a wide variety of audiences on a West Coast tour that culminated at Studio 55, where the five tracks were captured on high end multi-track digital equipment. Download New Monsters Live at Studio 55 and enjoy the “you are there” atmosphere wrapped around the best of contemporary West Coast jazz.

You can read an interview with Dan Plonsey and Steve Horowitz from Sensitive Skin #8.

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Listen here free, buy it from iTunes and Amazon.

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Reviews

“the future of where melodic jazz is going” LucidCulture Magazine

“Inspired by rigorous but playful musical searchers like Sun Ra and Anthony Braxton, the dauntingly prolific East Bay saxophonist/composer Daniel Plonsey has a knack for writing tuneful, mercurial, and strangely affecting material.” —Andy Gilbert, NPR’s Best of 2012

“Simply stated “New Monsters” is an unanticipated surprise that should theoretically find its way on many best-of lists for 2012. Thankfully, Horowitz and associates tender a modern jazz refresh of sorts, providing a much needed contrast to the rolling waves of ho hum, kiddie bop”—Glenn Astarita, ejazz news

“…A freewheeling tour de force of pure sonic poetry, If this were a book, I’d be hard-pressed to put it down….” -Richard Warp, SF Examiner

“A harmonic feast for the senses that may just bite you back! New Monsters is a fresh post bop excursion into some uncharted waters that is well worth the trip.” —CriticalJazz.com

For More info about new Monsters, visit the websites of the members: Dan Plonsey, Steve Horowitz, Steve Adams, Scott Looney and John Hanes.

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ABOUT SENSITIVE SKIN MUSIC

Sensitive Skin Music marries the aesthetic of Sensitive Skin Magazine with artist-centric production, distribution and marketing. With releases current and planned that span jazz, singer/songwriter, and highly alternative rock, Sensitive Skin Music gives listeners an eclectic earful of exciting performances. For artists, Sensitive Skin Music breaks the old model of bleeding the talent, instead rewarding performers right from the start.

Using the Internet as the launchpad for distribution and marketing allows Sensitive Skin Music to bring new music to the listening audience without the costs of traditional physical music release. This in turn enables a faster and larger payout to artists than has been possible in the past. SSM markets artist music through traditional print and online channels including social media.

Press inquiries should be directed to Jeff Spirier – jspirer@sensitiveskinmagazine.com
Artist inquiries should be directed to music@sensitiveskinmusic.com

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Double Indemnity—A Review http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/double-indemnity-a-review/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/double-indemnity-a-review/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 03:33:11 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6885 As the film starts, we hear ominous music and see a man’s silhouette, a tall, broad-shouldered man, walking toward us on crutches. A car careens through the dark streets of sunny Los Angeles. Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) an insurance salesman, casually stops by to see a prospect, a man whose automobile insurance needs renewing, hoping... Read more »

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As the film starts, we hear ominous music and see a man’s silhouette, a tall, broad-shouldered man, walking toward us on crutches. A car careens through the dark streets of sunny Los Angeles.

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) an insurance salesman, casually stops by to see a prospect, a man whose automobile insurance needs renewing, hoping to make a sale. He has disdain for the man’s largish Spanish style house and trappings of wealth, but not for his spouse, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), a sexy/sleazy trophy wife. Walter admires her anklet, and classic double entendre ensues, not too obvious or burdened with tacky humor.

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Phyllis’s husband is deeply unappealing, a heavy drinker, and abusive. Phyllis just wants to live as a happy housewife in a big house and be able to buy shoes and dresses without being hassled by a drunk. And a tryst between Phyllis and Walter would be hot, the sort that any red-blooded American who doesn’t study the Bible every day would most certainly approve of. Add in a boatload of insurance money and you’ve got a marriage made in heaven. So why not kill Mr. Dietrichson?

Phyllis casually suggests murder by way of a few simple questions about life insurance. Walter says it can’t be done, and storms out, but he soon overcomes these initial qualms. Walter and Phyllis trick Mr. Dietrichson (we never learn his first name) into signing a life insurance policy, one with the famous “double indemnity” clause. Walter pushes for this, even though it’s risky. A double payoff in case of accidental death. Double or nothing, they’ve got to have it all. He then plots the murder. Phyllis proves to be an apt pupil.

At first the crime is accepted as an accident. Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) the insurance “claims man,” is initially not suspicious. Only the prim company president, Mr. Norton (Richard Gaines) thinks something is fishy, but his clumsy attempt to get the grieving wife to settle for less money results in his humiliation when Phyllis convincingly laces into him. She’s good.

But questions arise. Keyes gets on the case, spots an inconsistency, and we can see that the it couple of 1944 is doomed. As Phyllis tells Walter, in one of the movie’s great lines, “nobody’s pulling out. We went into this together and we’re coming out at the end together. It’s straight down the line for both of us.”

It’s a great story, a classic American story, and perfect for the movies. In 1935, when the James M. Cain novel (based on the Ruth Snyder/Judd Gray murder case) was first published, Cain’s agent sent copies to the major studios. All were interested, but it would take nine years to get Double Indemnity to the screen. Joseph Breen of the Hays Office deemed the material too indecent for Hollywood, writing, “The general low tone and sordid flavor of this story makes it, in our judgment, thoroughly unacceptable for screen presentation….”

He had a point. Double Indemnity depicts the characters’ base and ignoble motivations in an ordinary, matter-of-fact manner. The film accepts their actions as human, and we understand and sympathize with the murderers’ motivations and feelings. Probably half the viewers think they should get away with it.

Eight years later, when Paramount decided to make the movie (incorporating some changes to gain the approval of the Hays Office), Wilder’s usual collaborator, Charles Brackett, bowed out of co-writing the script, finding the story immoral. Wilder turned to the great noir author Raymond Chandler, in what proved to be a great professional opportunity for Chandler, and a boon for the film—a lot of the best lines come from Chandler and not the original text. Unfortunately, working with Wilder didn’t work out so well for him personally. Chandler was an alcoholic, desperately trying to stay on the wagon, and the pressures of collaboration with the irascible and provocative director, who viewed discord as a necessary part of the creative process, lead Chandler back to the bottle. Or, as Wilder admitted, “He was in Alcoholics Anonymous, and I think he had a tough time with me—I drove him back into drinking….”

Double Indemnity received seven Academy Award nominations, but garnered no wins—the decidedly more wholesome Going My Way won Best Picture.

This is a seventieth anniversary restoration, and it looks and sounds great. The cinematography of John Seitz captures darkness brilliantly. (Wilder later said, “He went to the limits of what could be done.”) The score, by Miklós Rózsa, is melodramatic without being trite. Seventy years later, and it is still discomforting to look at murder for money.

Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder, starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, at Film Forum, through Thursday, August 7, in a new restoration.

—Franklin Mount

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 13 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-13/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-13/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 03:41:24 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6830 When I awoke at dawn Gene Clark was driving and humming to himself. We’re going to take a side trip to see the folks, he said and then we have a show at Wayne State in Detroit. The car broke down; it would not go over thirty and the snow started again. Gene turned off... Read more »

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When I awoke at dawn Gene Clark was driving and humming to himself.
We’re going to take a side trip to see the folks, he said and then we have a show at Wayne State in Detroit.
The car broke down; it would not go over thirty and the snow started again. Gene turned off the interstate and drove the local highways as the snow piled up alongside.

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photograph by Ted Barron

We had another chance to flesh out my article.
I wished I could sell records, he said to me at one point, wistfully. I got a couple kids and a wife at home. It’s just sort of like a bargain with the devil. I can only do what I can do. If you want to write I would remember that. Don’t try to write like someone else. Try to write like yourself.
Do you wish you were still with the Byrds?
It was the worst thing I ever did to leave. But I had to. The part of me that wrote all the songs got eaten up by all that.
What?
The fame, he said. Just that one word, made his face look as old and expansive as a face on Mt. Rushmore.

He trailed off and I knew not to ask him anymore. A full hour passed and I spent it writing down everything that had happened.

In the gloaming we walked into Tipton and right up to his family’s house. He went around back to the kitchen.
Kitchen folks are always welcome. He sat down.
His mother called out, Look how long your hair is.
Aww mom.
We ate until we slept. Then we awakened to the sound of a gospel singalong before the fireplace in the living room. Gene’s sister played the piano and he stood off to the side and harmonized.

He came from such a big family and it was so awesome to see it all with Duke Bardwell because he took everything in from an artistic standpoint. So it was a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of. Another sister took me aside and said how Gene had learned to sing with a gospel group. She had pretty blue eyes and they all looked like him but he had the star quality. They all talked like him too and you could see that the men were not given to talking and while he was there, Gene deferred to his father. He was the second oldest of thirteen and one of his brothers just hummed and slapped his knee and had to be attended to constantly. Whenever the music stopped and they tried to take a break, this grown man would howl like a puppy. You could see that he was touched.
Diz sat with him and whispered in his ear and they calmed down. You could see that this was something the family had lived with.

It was weird to watch Gene; he was glad to be home, because he could be anonymous but at the same time he was pulling away. It wasn’t because he had a brother with challenges and it was because his brother’s challenges somehow in a nutshell if you will summed up all the hardship they must have faced, living in the wilds of the Ozark Mtns as a family of fifteen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuWDk2tb-HE&feature=youtu.be

Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 12 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-12/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-12/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 00:51:33 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6829 photograph by Ted Barron A true Operatic, Gene Clark could have sung stage, and his natural style was that of the Elizabethan ballad, songs that he had traded verses with his father since a bare lad. He learned to keep perfect natural time with his foot and add orchestra with his harmonica. Though again with... Read more »

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photograph by Ted Barron

A true Operatic, Gene Clark could have sung stage, and his natural style was that of the Elizabethan ballad, songs that he had traded verses with his father since a bare lad. He learned to keep perfect natural time with his foot and add orchestra with his harmonica. Though again with the harmonica, he was at best indifferent and never went beyond the early Dylan honking style. If he had a band, he preferred to strum along with his guitar, but often it was not even plugged in. He never took a lead. But he could get that Western swing thumb strum sound in a treehouse.

His classic songs started with Clark playing a chord, often a minor one and the band would join in once he established a key by singing a few notes.

He was hardly a front man in the style of Daltrey, Plant or Jagger anyway, it was his voice and the incongruent elegant words projected from his humble homespun demeanor that arrested the audience’s attention. While he was capable of singular performances, he was just as often way too drunk to perform. Then he was hit and miss, ranging from the sublime to the sub-professional. His shaky approach to performance that I and others witnessed on the ill-fated No Other tour was the rule throughout his career.

Most agree that this along with his overwhelming singular style killed any chance of commercial success. He refused to tour or play the radio station publicity game; he only did it when cornered and had no other choice. Even at showcase premiers at the Troubadour, he was often too drunk to perform creditably. Whether with Dule or earlier with Doug Dilliard he would show up so wasted for the showcase that any plans for a full-fledged tour were quickly scrapped by wary PR flacks.

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 11 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-11/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-11/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:27:45 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6828 That night in the dark van, as the stark winter night trees made shadows on the old winding and cracked highway, Gene told us of how writing songs and singing them, sometimes performing even made him feel something like he did as a child when he played Indian in the woods from his friends. He... Read more »

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That night in the dark van, as the stark winter night trees made shadows on the old winding and cracked highway, Gene told us of how writing songs and singing them, sometimes performing even made him feel something like he did as a child when he played Indian in the woods from his friends. He told us he was of Apache origin and that the name Clark was an English name given to an ancestor by an overseer, Like a slave name, he said.

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photograph by Ted Barron

According to Clark’s biographer John Einarson, Clark’s sister said that their father never pursued his heritage because, when I was growing up, Indians were just another form of nigger. His sister also believe he had a manic depressive personality. It was the hereditary thing, she said. The in-marrying.

Gene Clark, however spoke proudly of his Apache heritage. His celebrated & and infamous friendships with Keith Carradine and Jesse Ed Davis reputedly included knife-throwing exhibitions that never failed to make mixed company fearful.

Something else that Gene Clark told me about was what I want to call the whiteness of the spotlight (apologies to Melville) and what Gene referred to as the class or curse of 1966. It was not clear to me which word he used to refer to it, maybe he used them interchangeably. I could have asked him for a clarification but I never got the chance.

He told me he wrote Eight Miles High after a conversation with Brian Jones, either in Pittsburgh about England or in England, about Pittsburgh. This also wasn’t clear. I think we were both a little stoned on Diz’s old Thai weed and my notes reflect that. When he wrote the song anyway he was still a Byrd, for the moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuWDk2tb-HE&feature=youtu.be

Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 10 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-10/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-10/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 06:25:33 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6771 When I awoke at dawn Gene Clark was driving and humming to himself. We’re going to take a side trip to see the folks, he said and then we have a show at Wayne State in Detroit. The car broke down; it would not go over thirty and the snow started again. Gene turned off... Read more »

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When I awoke at dawn Gene Clark was driving and humming to himself.
We’re going to take a side trip to see the folks, he said and then we have a show at Wayne State in Detroit.
The car broke down; it would not go over thirty and the snow started again. Gene turned off the interstate and drove the local highways as the snow piled up alongside.

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photograph by Ted Barron

We had another chance to flesh out my article.
I wished I could sell records, he said to me at one point, wistfully. I got a couple kids and a wife at home. It’s just sort of like a bargain with the devil. I can only do what I can do. If you want to write I would remember that. Don’t try to write like someone else. Try to write like yourself.
Do you wish you were still with the Byrds?
It was the worst thing I ever did to leave. But I had to. The part of me that wrote all the songs got eaten up by all that.
What?
The fame, he said. Just that one word, made his face look as old and expansive as a face on Mt. Rushmore.

He trailed off and I knew not to ask him anymore. A full hour passed and I spent it writing down everything that had happened.

In the gloaming we walked into Tipton and right up to his family’s house. He went around back to the kitchen.
Kitchen folks are always welcome. He sat down.
His mother called out, Look how long your hair is.
Aww mom.
We ate until we slept. Then we awakened to the sound of a gospel singalong before the fireplace in the living room. Gene’s sister played the piano and he stood off to the side and harmonized.

He came from such a big family and it was so awesome to see it all with Duke Bardwell because he took everything in from an artistic standpoint. So it was a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of. Another sister took me aside and said how Gene had learned to sing with a gospel group. She had pretty blue eyes and they all looked like him but he had the star quality. They all talked like him too and you could see that the men were not given to talking and while he was there, Gene deferred to his father. He was the second oldest of thirteen and one of his brothers just hummed and slapped his knee and had to be attended to constantly. Whenever the music stopped and they tried to take a break, this grown man would howl like a puppy. You could see that he was touched.
Diz sat with him and whispered in his ear and they calmed down. You could see that this was something the family had lived with.

It was weird to watch Gene; he was glad to be home, because he could be anonymous but at the same time he was pulling away. It wasn’t because he had a brother with challenges and it was because his brother’s challenges somehow in a nutshell if you will summed up all the hardship they must have faced, living in the wilds of the Ozark Mtns as a family of fifteen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuWDk2tb-HE&feature=youtu.be

Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.

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Tambourine Man: Gene Clark – Part 9 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-9/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/tambourine-man-gene-clark-part-9/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 06:20:56 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6772 Roger White showed up in Champaign on his motorcycle, a good thing. Gene played all the new songs in a semi-fugue state. Like he was all alone up there, singing, testifying before God. photograph by Ted Barron Gene said, I wrote some new songs just recently. Lessee if they have the strength of strings. Well... Read more »

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Roger White showed up in Champaign on his motorcycle, a good thing. Gene played all the new songs in a semi-fugue state. Like he was all alone up there, singing, testifying before God.

part_9_11.2.10

photograph by Ted Barron

Gene said, I wrote some new songs just recently. Lessee if they have the strength of strings.

Well Goddamn, so that’s what the song means, said Duke Bardwell later and tapped my shoulder. Did you get that for the book? I had my own spiral notebook a little one that fit in the pocket of my coat with a pen for easy access.
Roger White pulled in the parking lot on his fancy motorcycle with his guitar strung across his back like some unsung hero, like some Easy Rider Captain America. And he was in his own mind. White was the hired gun. He could finger pick on acoustic guitar. He could also play the bottleneck style. This was featured on White Light, with Jesse Ed Davis, and No Other with Russ Kunkel and Skunk Baxter. Neither of these guys were up for a bare bones tour, but Roger White who did not have the session chops of the others, was available.

The bottleneck thing begs elaboration. It’s a special skill among guitar players as it requires a special amount of skill. The bottleneck is something that comes right at the heart of rock n roll, for those who believe the music is the real and true integration of white and black styles. You don’t meet a lot of white blues singers and fewer black folk players. The bottleneck was used by both as a semi-pro way to augment either sound. Where Muddy Waters meets Woody Guthrie and bore the love child Elvis Presley,
You can actually play it with the long neck of a whiskey bottle. This is hard because if you hold the bottle your hand is pretty far from the strings. You really have to watch what you’re doing, or be able to feel the neck of the guitar as an extension of your own body. You can also sit the guitar in your lap like a baby and play it like a country or lap steel guitar. Another way to do it, is to slip a small prescription pill bottle over one’s finger and slide on the strings that way. Also there are professional sliders made of metal. Glass is the best, though with a little wax on the strings to make them slippery. In fact Clarence White’s famous string bender was a variance of this.

What you get is a more versatile guitar sound, a whine that you can draw out and slide from key to key. This comes from using the bottleneck like a bow on a violin; it’s a totally different sound then pucking with a pick or even fingerpicking. A bigger sound, like the sound of leaves in the wind.
If tuned right with the harmonica, it’s a poor man’s orchestra.
Especially when a voice like Gene’s is added. David Crosby has gone on record about a lot of things. He’s the kind of fellow where everything he says is a bit of a proclamation. One thing he said is that Gene Clark had the most purest pitch of any singer he’d ever heard. This is interesting because by modesty Gene preferred to sing with others and to collaborate when he could on songwriting. He was famous for giving song credit to anyone who helped him the least bit. See Doug Dilliard and Bernie Leadon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWlth2csLNw&feature=youtu.be

Tambourine Man: Gene Clark is co-published with the East of Bowery blog.

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“Burning Bush”, directed by Agnieszka Holland – Review http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/burning-bush-directed-by-agnieszka-holland-review/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/burning-bush-directed-by-agnieszka-holland-review/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 06:45:24 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6820 I saw this movie (originally a three part Czech television miniseries directed by the Polish director, Agnieszka Holland, now being shown in two parts at Film Forum) on Sunday. I bought my ticket in advance, not that there was any chance of it selling out. But I have a deep affinity for films of tragedies... Read more »

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I saw this movie (originally a three part Czech television miniseries directed by the Polish director, Agnieszka Holland, now being shown in two parts at Film Forum) on Sunday. I bought my ticket in advance, not that there was any chance of it selling out. But I have a deep affinity for films of tragedies occurring in authoritarian states. It was a beautiful day, and, as my girlfriend pointed out, I chose to spend the day in a dark movie theater.

On August 20, 1968, forces from the other Warsaw Pact states invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress the reform Communist government of Alexander Dubček, which had come to power a few months earlier, in January, 1968, after Leonid Brezhnev withdrew support from the previous First Secretary, Antonín Novotný. The invasion ended the brief “Prague Spring.” But spring is always a short season.

burning_bush_film_still_1

On January 16, 1969, the student Jan Palach set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in central Prague to protest the Soviet occupation. The film follows these events and the following chain of events.

Setting yourself on fire is an extreme, shocking act. In December 2010, the same act, by a street vendor who had suffered police brutality, led to the fall of the long ruling Tunisian dictator, in a mere 18 days. In this case, that didn’t happen.

The first cop on the scene finds Palach’s letter, which states that he is part of a group who will start immolating themselves, one by one, if their demands are not met. The demands are, basically, the reversal of the Soviet crackdown. The letter gets out: the first thing a police investigator tells the cop is that he shouldn’t have opened the letter.

One thing that struck me is that everyone seemed to think that there could be such a group, that is, a group who will, one after another, by prearrangement, publicly set themselves on fire. This attests to the extremeness of the situation. All involved recognized that life under occupation might drive individuals to set themselves on fire in public. Student leaders think they can use the event; the police investigator’s superior officer fears the Russian reaction. He feels that the police must immediately find the other “human torches.” The investigator is stuck between his superior, who cares about his own job first, and his underling, who wants to move up in the chain of command.

We see the reaction of Palach’s brother, who is dumbfounded, and then grim, and Palach’s mother, who is grief-stricken, and then quietly determined. There is a funeral, a burial, a demonstration in central Prague, attended by thousands. Although there is one more self-immolation, apparently a copycat, the authorities cover this one up better. The legions of human torches never appear.

As one would expect with television, there are a lot of close ups. Fittingly. a lot of the photography is dark. The Prague we see is beautiful, but somewhat decrepit, and damp and dark. The countryside is greener and marginally more cheerful.

We see the ordinary events of life under military occupation: soldiers in a jeep, confronted by angry citizens, casually shoot off an AK-47; a passing train loaded with armored vehicles. We see people looking over their shoulders before talking with friends. (Good thing there were not as many video cameras back then as there are now in Manhattan.) We see Russian soldiers swilling vodka (Stoli, the good stuff) at the party headquarters. I thought this portrayal of boorish drunkenness was a bit gratuitous, until I remembered the depiction of the insane drinking of Czarist officers in St. Petersburg in the brilliant Brezhnev-era film of “War and Peace.”)

Several months after the immolation, a high-ranking Communist official, Vilem Novy, an older man who looks like an evil grandfather, gives a speech (at an election rally in a provincial hotel!) in which he outlines an absurd conspiracy involving “rightists” and a student leader, who supposedly duped a mentally disturbed Palach into committing the act. The mother and brother, outraged, decide to sue for libel. Amazingly, the regime allows the suit to proceed.

This really happened. And it shows the lengths to which authoritarian regimes will go to provide a pretense of legitimacy, and justice. Every nation nowadays must be a nation of laws and elections, it seems. The family finds a lawyer, Dagmar Burešová, who pursues the lawsuit, with seeming faith that justice is possible and can be pursued. One is reminded that Gandhi and Nelson Mandela started out as lawyers. (At the end of Part III, we learn that Burešová went on to become Minister of Justice in 1989, in Vaclav Havel’s government. One might ask how someone who seeks justice can become a Minister of Justice, but that’s a question for another time.)

Of course, the regime thwarts the lawsuit, through a combination of bureaucratic obstruction and veiled power. But pretenses are maintained.

Burning Bush is a fine addition to the emerging genre of movies about life under authoritarianism. Recently we’ve seen the superb The Lives of Others, The Counterfeiters, and Sophie Scholl, as well as the creditable Generation War (a German miniseries). The starting point is perhaps the two great Louis Malle films about life in France during the occupation, Lacombe, Lucien and the incomparable Au revoir les enfants, which will rip your heart out.

Holland’s career has encompassed “The Wire,” “Tremé,” “Bitter Harvest,” “Europa, Europa,” and numerous other efforts. She was a film student in Prague at the time of the Soviet invasion.

Also, it’s fitting that some praise be given to the estimable institution of Film Forum. The place means a lot. Quite simply, they show many films that would otherwise never be seen on a big screen. After an extended hiatus from movie-going to pursue other entertainments, a little over ten years ago I bought a membership. The first films I saw were Modern Times and Dr. Strangelove. This was followed by an over thirty film retrospective on Ingmar Bergman, which changed my life. I have not stopped going back.

Burning Bush, available streaming from http://www.fandor.com.

–Franklin Mount

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