Friday, 25 July 2014

Salma & The Snake

This is THE standout scene from an otherwise uncharacteristically drab and unimaginative Quentin Tarantino film From Dusk till Dawn (1996). Whilst it is loved by many as a cult classic, it rightfully bombed at the box office. I suppose even Tarantino is entitled to a bellyflop now and then.

By North Utsire

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ernst Haeckel: Art Forms in Nature (1899)

Kunstformen der Natur (German for Art Forms of Nature) is a book of lithographic and autotype prints by German biologist Ernst Haeckel. Originally published in sets of ten between 1899 and 1904 and collectively in two volumes in 1904, it consists of 100 prints of various organisms, many of which were first described by Haeckel himself. Over the course of his career, over 1000 engravings were produced based on Haeckel's sketches and watercolors; many of the best of these were chosen for Kunstformen der Natur, translated from sketch to print by lithographer Adolf Giltsch. Kunstformen der Natur was influential in early 20th-century art, architecture, and design, bridging the gap between science and art. In particular, many artists associated with Art Nouveau were influenced by Haeckel's images, including René Binet, Karl Blossfeldt, Hans Christiansen, and Émile Gallé.

By North Utsire

George Galway

Skip to 11:46 on this 2nd clip

Not flautist James Galway, not firebrand politician George Galloway. George Galway is well used to being described as the “younger brother to flautist James” but I wanted to give him a shout out as a musician in his own right. He taught me clarinet, and some sax as a peripatetic music teacher for several years, and acted as a mentor and friend in those growing up years. My first “gig” was with George in his band, from playing jazz in smoky night clubs, to Sunday concerts in pristine florally arranged and straightened churches. I have never met a more unassuming and good humoured musician; one who does it for the music, not the limelight.

I was in a lesson with George, getting drilled to death on clarinet arpeggios, when a slightly older sax player, student of George, and fellow band member happened to be walking by and dropped in. After the preliminaries, the young saxophonist gets talking about drugs and music:

Sax Player: George, I heard they were all at it; John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz. What do you think of cannabis?
George: Can- of- what?
Sax Player: Cannabis!
George: Sorry, Can- of- what?
Sax Player: They used to take it for time dilation, to feel the beat and fit in more notes to a riff… do you think it works?
George: Can- of- what?
Sax Player: (looking unnerved)
George: Can- of- what?

Funny, funny talented guy.

By North Utsire

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

In The Garden

Pissing about in the garden, the day after the party. Music by Heron (1971) called Goodbye- recorded live in a field.

By North Utsire

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ustad Rais Khan: Raag Nand Kalyan

Raga Nand, known variously as Anandi, Anandi Kalyan, Nand Kalyan, has attained considerable popularity in recent times. Although the provenance of the raga is not easy to pin down, it is thought to have been conceived in the early 1900s. This beautiful raga is product of the highest musical imagination, a masterful synthesis of melodic calculation and aesthetic imperatives. The contours of Raga Nand do not obtain from simple, linear arohi or avarohani tonal ribbons. There are tantalising chhayas of 3 or 4 ragas but its has an independent personality all its own. Mastery of this melody requires assimilation of its kernel and its lakshanas. From Rajan Parrikar Music Archive.

By North Utsire

Willie Dixon & Memphis Slim‎: Willie's Blues (1959)

Dixon left Mississippi for Chicago in 1936. A man of considerable stature, at 6 and a half feet and weighing over 250 pounds, he took up boxing; he was so successful that he won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937. Dixon turned professional as a boxer and worked briefly as Joe Louis' sparring partner. After four fights, Dixon left boxing after getting into a fight with his manager over being cheated out of money.

In his later years, Willie Dixon became a tireless ambassador for the blues and a vocal advocate for its practitioners, founding the Blues Heaven Foundation. The organization works to preserve the blues’ legacy and to secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who were exploited in the past. Speaking with the simple eloquence that was a hallmark of his songs, Dixon claimed, "The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits. It’s better keeping the roots alive, because it means better fruits from now on. The blues are the roots of all American music. As long as American music survives, so will the blues."

In 1977, unhappy with the royalties rate from ARC Music, he and Muddy Waters sued the Chess-owned publishing company, and with the proceeds from the lawsuit set up Hoochie Coochie Music. In 1987, Dixon received an out-of-court settlement from Led Zeppelin after suing them for plagiarism, in relation to their use of his music for "Bring It On Home" and his lyrics from his composition "You Need Love" (1962) for their track "Whole Lotta Love".

By North Utsire

Franz Liszt

As a pianist, Liszt was, from all reliable accounts, among the greatest, if not the greatest, there has ever been. His compositions have taken longer to win a rightful place, but they are now recognized as occupying a high place for their own virtues as well as for their undoubted influence on Wagner, R. Strauss, and subsequent composers. The piano works are in a category of their own, the symphonic poems developed a new art form, the symphonies are compelling and imaginative, the religious works are moving and visionary, and the songs hold their own in high company. He remains a romantic enigma of a musician, a genius with the touch of the charlatan, a virtuoso with the flair of an actor- manager, a man generous to colleagues and to the young. His championship of Wagner (unlike Mendelssohn) in the Weimar years, with its subsequent effect on Brahms and Schumann, thereby causing the great schism in 19th century music, had incalculable results on the art. (From The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, Michael Kennedy).

Liszt’s hands were long and narrow, and lack of webbing between the fingers allowed him to take wide stretches with comparative ease. Because his fingertips were blunted rather than tapered, they gave maximum traction across the surface of the keyboard. Another physical advantage for Liszt was that his fourth fingers were unusually flexible, and this made it easier for him to play shimmering textures with several things going on inside the same hand simultaneously. His keyboard textures often assume that the player can stretch a 10th without difficulty. Liszt’s fingerings are of absorbing interest. They arise naturally from the keyboard and from the anatomy of the human hand. The layout of the double-3rds scale in the Sixth ‘Paganini’ Study seems perverse, until we consider the alternatives. Liszt forms the hand into a two-pronged fork (second and fourth fingers only), an unusual shape which permits him to move across the keyboard at high velocity.

In autumn and winter 1834–35, Liszt made the acquaintance of George Sand (the same George Sand who also had a relationship with Chopin). And rumours soon began that Liszt and George Sand having an intimate affair with each other. Later that same month, in order to defend herself George Sand tried to get Liszt to vouch for her innocence, but he had disappeared and two letters to him were not answered. In letters to the Abbé de Lamennais and to Marie d'Agoult of January 14 1835, Liszt had announced that he would leave Paris for a voyage the following day. Afterwards, for the whole period of January 15 until the end of February 1835, he seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth. 

By North Utsire

Thomas Paine on Monarchy

Monarchy: A System of Mental Levelling

We have heard The Rights of Man called a levelling system; but the only system to which the word levelling is truly applicable is the hereditary monarchical system. It is a system of mental levelling. It indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short, every quality, good or bad, is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other, not as rationals, but as animals. It signifies not what their mental or moral characters are. Can we then be surprised at the abject state of the human mind in monarchical countries, when the government itself is formed on such an abject levelling system? It has no fixed character. Today it is one thing, tomorrow it is something else. It changes with the temper of every succeeding individual, and is subject to all varieties of each. It is government through the medium of passions and accidents. It appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude, dotage, a thing at nurse, in leading- strings or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature. It occasionally puts children over men, and the conceits of nonage over wisdom and experience. In short, we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government, than hereditary succession, in all its cases, presents.

Thomas Paine (1737- 1809), from The Rights of Man
by North Utsire

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: Zig-Zag Wanderer (1967)

The members of the original Magic Band had come together in 1965. At this time Van Vliet was simply the lead singer of the group, which had been brought together by guitarist Alex St. Clair. As in many emerging groups in California at the time, there were elements of psychedelia and the foundations of contemporary hippy counterculture.

Thus, it seemed quite logical to promote the group as "Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band", around the concept that Captain Beefheart had 'magic powers' and, upon drinking a 'Pepsi', could summon up "His Magic Band" to appear and perform behind him. The strands of this logic emanating from Vliet's Beefheart persona having been 'written in' as a character in a 'teenage operetta' that Zappa had formulated, along with Van Vliet's renowned 'Pepsi-moods' with his mother Willie Sue and his generally spoilt teenage demeanor.

By North Utsire

San Francisco Diggers

Director: Jean Pierre Zirn, Celine Deransart & Alice Gaillard
Producer: Jean Pierre Zirn
Genre: Documentary
Produced In: 1998

Synopsis: "Do your own thing". This could have been a slogan in Paris '68. This had been written four years earlier by the San Francisco "Diggers", a reference to XVIIth century’s egalitarians English revolution. In San Francisco’s parks, free meals and concerts, happenings: "Death of Money" were held. Poems on such issues as: overthrowing society, gratuitousness, and free love circulated. A mid-way between Berkeley’s students uprising and Haight Ashbury’s psychedelic révolution, they toughen their movement, abolish money, declare "Haight Hasbury a free town", and greet hippies. From 1966 to 1968, the street becomes the stage of their guerilla theatre, meals distribution, free stores…. Thirty years later, they are scattered all over California and committed to the green cause. The myth still lives through San Francisco and the undergound culture. Those who carry on the "digger" spirit, tell its legend. This documentary uses as much the records as the Diggers’ present account.

By North Utsire

Psycheground Group: Easy (1970)

The Psycheground Group was an obscure progressive rock group from Italy, so obscure in fact that their exact makeup is not entirely known. Psycheground was a nom de plume used as a contractual dodge as behind the names of both The Psycheground Group and The Underground Set hid the musicians from their contracted project with the record company, Nuova Idea. But without doubt the mastermind behind them all was composer Gian Piero Reverberi, who was also the producer of Le Orme and wrote most of the tracks on these albums under the nickname Ninety. Getting to the bottom of who was behind this music is like peeling layers of an onion. Which is the secret name of my next musical ensemble.

By North Utsire

Guru Guru - It's Your Turn (1975)

Guru Guru's live performances in the late 1960s and early 1970s were politically left-oriented. They organized concerts together with the Socialist German Student Union, read political texts between the songs, and sometime played at the jails. Their shows were extravagant and anarchistic, some of the musicians lived together in a commune in German Odenwald region, and experimented with hallucinogens (one of their songs is titled The LSD March/German: Der LSD-Marsch).

By North Utsire

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Jane Fonda vs Sandra Bullock

I have tried to replicate these scenes for myself in the tumble- dryer wearing a sprayed- silver shell suit with sequins, and it’s not as easy as it looks. If you ask me, Barbarella wins hands down though. Space Glam over Space Man! 

By North Utsire

Psychomania (1973): Retro Zombie Biker Movie

Synopsis (from An annoying devil-worshipping British biker gang calling themselves "The Living Dead" decide to take their moniker to heart when their leader commits suicide and is brought back from the dead in an occult ritual, thanks to a Satanic pact. Realizing that becoming zombies could be even more fun than the usual day-to-day hell-raising, most of the gang follow suit -- throwing themselves off buildings, into traffic, walls, etc. Without the annoyance of death to contend with, the Living Dead become even more obnoxious than usual, leading to a pat solution from their leader's peeved mother (Beryl Reid). Outrageously dated and featuring loads of unintentional laughs, this is still the finest movie ever made about British zombie biker gangs and features the stately Reid turning into a GIANT FROG.

Two of John Cameron's pieces from the score—"Witch Hunt (Title Theme from the Film Psychomania)" and "Living Dead (Theme from the Film Psychomania)"— were released in 1973 as a 7" single on the Jam label, using the artist name "Frog." It wasn’t until 2003 that the cult status of the film and it’s iconic soundtrack were recognized and the film's soundtrack was released on LP and CD by Trunk Records. The original 1973  This Frog record was also reissued in 2011 by Spoke Records as a limited edition vinyl 7".

The film was released in the US under the title The Death Wheelers, also in 1973. There are two pretty good reviews of the film here and here.

I don't think that 2nd piece got on the soundtrack album. Probably the session musicians played it through and thought nothing of it, finishing up on a bit of dope as was their want in the 1970's. I do find it hauntingly beautiful though. That is, until you wake up from your dream to find veterinary Siegfried Farnon in the shape of a badly dubbed Robert Hardy by your bed. "Hallow.. Darrowby 385....."

By North Utsire

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Scottish Smallpipes

By North Utsire

Eivør Pálsdóttir

Eivør Pálsdóttir is a Faroese singer/songwriter with a distinct voice and a wide range of interests in various music genres spanning from rock, jazz, folk, and pop, to European classical music. Her roots are in the Faroese ballads. From the age of fifteen Eivør has dedicated her life entirely to music, and her roots in the remote and astonishingly beautiful Faroe Islands have been the source of her musical inspiration ever since. She is equally at home as a solo singer, accompanying herself, or with her own band, performing a mixture of traditional songs and her own compositions, or collaborating with musicians from many different backgrounds. Many of her songs are in Faroese, some are in Icelandic and the most recent tend to be in English. Her music covers a wide musical and emotional range, with themes of love, loss, memory, freedom, nature.

By North Utsire

Николай Ооржак

Nikolay Oorzhak, is a Hereditary Tuvan Shaman, and Master of Khoomei Throat Singing. Overtone singing, also known as overtone chanting, or harmonic singing, is a type of singing in which the singer manipulates the resonances (or formants) created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody. Another name for overtone singing is throat singing, but that term is also used for Inuit throat singing, which is produced differently. All styles of Tuvan Khoomei involve controlled tension in and manipulation of the diaphragm, throat, and mouth. However, there are great differences between the different types of throat-singing; for example, some styles are multiphonic whereas other styles are not. Even this description must take into consideration the hearing, or conditioned hearing of the listener as much as the intention and execution of the singer. The Tuvan overtone ensemble Huun-Huur-Tu - Prayer track from the album The Orphan's Lament (1994) highlights the outstanding voice of Kaigal-ool Kovalyg.

By North Utsire

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Bram Stoker's Dracula: I have crossed Oceans of Time

Coppola was attracted to the sensual elements of the screenplay and said that he wanted portions of the picture to resemble an "erotic dream". These three scenes show the seduction sequence of Mina by Dracula, culminating in the marshmallow romantique of the absinthe reverie. It was only in preparing this blog that I realized how essential the music composed by Wojciech Kilar is in striking the mood. The acting of Gary Oldman (and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing) pretty much carry the weaker cast to a dark and exultant conclusion. If Dracula can seduce the wooden spoon of Winona Ryder, he is masterful indeed. She always seemed a bit limp to be a love interest of Dracula.

UPDATE Dec 2015: In their infinite wisdom, Youtube have disabled my original compilation movie on the grounds of copyright infringement. With about a million different clips of the movie out there and given its age, its moronic to go around squashing clips that amount to free advertising. So instead of my original movie you'll just have to put up with the next best thing (above), and we'll both wait for that to be taken down too. Soon we'll live in a formless retail park of formica and polystyrene, with microchips in our foreheads wringing out money into the greedy hands of the coorporations for the sake of it. 

By North Utsire

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Winston Churchill & the Bengal Famine

Churchill & the Bengal Famine
“The final judgement on British Rule in India

India still had to face the greatest disaster to befall the country in the 20th century: The Bengal Famine of 1943-44. This was the product of food shortages brought about by the war. Imports of food grains from Burma were cut off by the Japanese occupation and the system of distribution for domestic supplies broke down. For the peasantry, a large number of whom lived at or below subsistence level at the best of times, the consequences were catastrophic. In Bengal, the price of rice rose from 7.5 rupees (Rs) a maund in November 1942 to Rs29.7 in May 1943 and by October that year to as much as Rs80 in some places. The poor could not afford to feed themselves and began to starve. Tens of thousands trekked to Calcutta, only to die on the city streets. The British administration in the words of one historian responded with a “callous disregard of its duties in handling the famine”. Not only were no steps taken to provide against famine, but India continued exporting food grains to Iran at the rate of 3000 tons a month through 1942. The result was a terrible death toll from starvation and disease in 1943-44 that totalled more than 3.5 million men, women and children. This was as Nehru put it, “the final judgement on British Rule in India”.

When Lord Wavell succeeded Linlithgow as viceroy, he was appalled at how little had been done to provide famine relief. Part of the problem was Churchill, “who seemed to regard famine relief as ‘appeasement’ of the Congress”. On one occasion, when presented with the details of the crisis in Bengal, Churchill commented “on Indians breeding like rabbits”. As far as he was concerned “the starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis is less serious than sturdy Greeks”, a sentiment with which Amery concurred. Wavell himself informed London the famine “was one of the greatest disasters that has befallen any people under British rule”. It was, he warned, doing “incalculable” damage “to our reputation”. The government was unmoved. Later, when he was attending a cabinet meeting in London (April 1945), Wavell had brought home to him “the very different attitude towards feeding a starving population when the starvation is in Europe” rather than India. When Holland needs food “ships will of course be available, quite a different answer to the one we get whenever we ask for ships to bring food to India”. The previous September, Lord Mountbatten, the British commander in chief in South East Asia, had made available 10% of his shipping allocation to carry food to India. Churchill had responded by cutting his allocation by 10%.

Churchill’s attitude was quite explicitly racist. He told Amery “I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion.” On another occasion he insisted that they were “the beastliest people in the world next to the Germans”. Amery was bemused by his “curious hatred of India” and concluded that he was “really not quite normal on the subject”. Indeed, Amery was not sure “whether on this subject of India he is really quite sane”. Provoked beyond endurance by Churchill’s bigotry, Amery on one occasion said “I didn’t see much difference between his outlook and Hitler’s”. Amery, it is worth reminding the reader, was not a liberal or progressive, but a hard- nosed right wing imperialist. And it was not just to Amery that Churchill made his feelings clear. In February 1945 he told his private secretary, John Colville, that “the Hindus were a foul race… and he wished Bert Harris could send some of his surplus bombers to destroy them”. Somewhat predictably, Churchill’s part in the failure of famine relief in Bengal, one of the greatest cries in the war, is not something that his innumerable biographers have been concerned to explore. This is really quite disgraceful. Let us leave the last word on Churchill with N B Bonjaree, the district magistrate who had loyally helped suppress the Quit India revolt. In memoirs he writes bitterly of how in the Viceroy broadcast of 13th May 1945 Churchill had thanked Australia, Canada, and New Zealand for their contribution to the war effort, but could not bring himself to mention India “although she provided more in men and material than the rest put together”.

Text by John Newsinger
From The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (Bookmark Publications, 2006)

By North Utsire

Oil 101

Click the images to watch the documentaries. 
North Utsire


Arrest Blair
Court finds Bush and Blair guilty of war crimes
Kuala Lumpur tribunal: Bush and Blair guilty
War crime case against Tony Blair now rock-solid

By North Utsire

Arlo Dodges the Draft

A youthful (1969) Arlo Guthrie manages to dodge the draft in the Hipsploitation film Alice's Restaurant, and go on to record the outstanding song Meditation.

by North Utsire

Classic Pilger

Click the images to watch the documentaries. 
North Utsire

For the Fallen

By North Utsire

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Poem: Wilfred Owen, 1917
Artwork 1: Zdzislaw Beksinski
Artwork 2: Stormtroops Advancing Under Gas, etching & aquatint by Otto Dix, 1924
Video: Human cost of Battle of Verdun, 1916

By North Utsire