COLUMNS

  • Downtown 81

    DOWNTOWN 81, A “LOST” NO-BUDGET FILM shot on location in Manhattan some nineteen years ago, finally had its debut last month, at Cannes. Directed by Edo Bertoglio and written by Glenn O’Brien, this lighthearted document of the East Village scene stars a twenty-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat as himself, with countless hipster cameos, including hip-hop pioneer Fab Five Freddie, ’80s Fiorucci designer (and the film’s producer) Maripol, record-label guy Marty Thau, and Blondie chanteuse Debbie Harry as the fairy princess.

    But the real star of the film is the gritty milieu of a New York long gone. A

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  • Fischerspooner

    You may not actually have known any of the songs, but with their pleasingly familiar New Romantic techno-pop beat, you felt like you should. In any case, by the time you filed out of Gavin Brown’s Fifteenth Street gallery—filled to capacity for every performance of Fischerspooner’s five-night run—you were more than ready to shell out twenty bucks for the CD. And weeks later, it has become your sound track. Every time “Fucker” or “Invisible” comes on you’re back in the strobe-lit, sweaty heaven of Fischerspooner’s synching and dancing extravaganza.

    Transformed by black fabric and a series of

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  • Charlemagne Palestine

    HUGE POOLS OF SOUNDS coming from one undifferentiated tone: This is the dizzying, precision work of Charlemagne Palestine and a Dutch organ, stretched out for seventy-one minutes. The single note sounded gives rise to more notes, a sustained single chord, that in turn establish their own spatial existence, even some aural architectures. Perpetual performance. By consumer-culture standards the thing is unlistenable, yet at the same time it is ready to teach you some kind of deep listening. Only, it won’t teach anything. It just does what it does, and those who listen become involved in the acoustic

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  • Lunapark 0.10

    Lunapark 0.10, released as part of the “Aural Documents” series by the Belgian label Sub Rosa, is more like a séance than a CD. Compiled by Marc Dachy, this spoken-word anthology begins with the ghostly voice of Apollinaire declaiming his poem “Le Pont Mirabeau” in 1912 and ends with Caetano Veloso performing the Brazilian poet de Campos’s work in the late ’70s. In between, Dachy includes scraps of recordings by Mayakovsky, Joyce, Artaud, Duchamp, Stein, and others, piecing together a personal survey of twentieth-century sound art. To those for whom the historical avant-garde constitutes a living

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  • Martha Graham

    THE PLEASURE DERIVED FROM WATCHINGRichard Move reincarnate Martha Graham isnot the same kick to be had from a conventional drag show. The irony is there, at its highest, threatening-to-transcend-tamp level, as it is with a performer like Jim Bailey, who does Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand almost as well as they did themselves. But there is another pleasure here, something akin to the thrill of Jurassic Park or Godzilla: An extinct, or at least endangered, species is brought startlingly back to life. Richard Move is Martha Graham, the performer, the diva, the guru/choreographer. Onstage he

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  • Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg

    GUSTAV MAHLER’S Kindertotenlieder and Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire are dark song cycles written in the first part of this century. The former is a meditation on the death of children, the latter, a hallucination of insanity. Not exactly cheery subject matter, and at only a half-hour apiece, these morose musical journeys wouldn’t seem especially promising as stage productions. This winter, as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers’ “New Visions” series, two separate presentations turn to unconventional means as a way of unpacking an evening’s worth of theater out of these haunted

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  • Dusty Springfield

    AT CERTAIN TIMES nothing makes more sense than listening to a Dusty Springfield record all day. In the past you could just leave the arm on the phonograph and let the album replay over and over. Dusty in Memphis was particularly suited for this. You could play it all night (getting high), turn it down while you went to sleep (nodded), and turn it up again when you woke up Sunday morning (coming down). With the new Rhino edition of Dusty in Memphis, containing an additional fourteen songs (many previously unreleased), it's almost as easy, even if we're older now, trying not to stay up all night,

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  • David Toop

    “ARCHITECTURE IS FROZEN MUSIC,” Friedrich Schelling remarked at the beginning of the nineteenth century, signaling both the distance between these two arts and their proximity. In some respects, they lie at opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum: Music is the most ethereal, immaterial, and temporal of arts, architecture the most earthbound and palpable. Yet they have always shared a secret affinity. With rare exception, Western music is played and heard indoors and has always had to respond to the shape and stuff of its constructed environment. It’s no accident that the Gregorian chant—with

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  • Steve Reich

    NO FORM OF CLASSICAL MUSIC has exerted so enduring and pervasive an influence on pop culture as minimalism. Kellogg’s commercials and John Carpenter movie sound tracks, New Age schlock and abstract hip-hop all overtly cop such minimalist trademarks as repetitive keyboard vamps and hallucinatory vocal cut-ups. Indeed, from its inception in the early ’60s, musical minimalism actively blurred the boundaries between “high” and “mass” art, “classical” and “popular” music. Breaking with the confines of academic serialism and the decorum of the concert hall, the minimalists forged connections with the

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  • Stephen Prina

    WHY AREN’T THERE MORE debut records like Stephen Prina’s genteel Push Comes To Love (Drag City)? Backing the LA-based artist and sometime Red Krayola keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist are those Chicago don’t-call-them-postrock guys—Jim O’Rourke, Sam Prekop, John McEntire, David Grubbs, Rob Masurek—making subtly envelope-pushing, saw-assed, laid-back grooves. It’s totally the band you want to book when you go make your first record: Intuitive players, they can handle backing and lead roles without too much ego fuss (it doesn’t hurt that there are geeks the world over who will buy any record they

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  • Glenn McKay

    GLENN MCKAY PIONEERED the ’60s psychedelic light show, a somehow instantly tacky “art form” responsible for everything from Tom Wolfe having images “projected . . . on the back of [his] eyelids” while researching The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to the Pink Floyd–scored Laserock freakouts I attended at the Hayden Planetarium as a seventh-grader. Like a creaky wave machine dusted off and set Into motion again, McKay’s work has been resurrected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art under the rubric “Altered States” (until June 1). McKay, who founded his company Head Lights (get it, man?) In

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  • Hermann Nitsch

    THE STUNNING SCHEDULE of events for Hermann Nitsch’s Six-Day-Play, a happening held last August at his Schloss, in Prinzendorf, Austria, reads like a cross between death-metal theatrics and harmonic-convergence hippiedom. The day begins, “5:32 AM: Sunrise. Slaughter and disembowelment of a bull.” This kicks off a tight lineup: Primal Excess, Primal Beginnings, Matricide, Patricide, Fratricide, the Murder on the Cross, and the Fall. There’s a lunch break—nothing like fratricide to work up an appetite—followed by “Partial mounting of the mythical leitmotif,” with a unison hooting of all

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