Former REM frontman reflects on the images that haunt America
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Image: Douglas Coupland

With a small, powerful set of images, Douglas Coupland actually manages to playfully (how did he pull that off?) remind us of our collective 9/11 moment – the act that unzippered the 21st century in most of the world, and changed my notion of home and safety forever. Coupland’s at first seemingly Op Art paintings are just black dots – abstract, weirdly familiar. But then you look at them on your iPhone (because you’re going to take a pic and post it … this is 2014, after all) and you have the ahhhhhhh moment when a chill runs down your spine and you realise that it’s them: the jumpers. It’s him: the boogeyman. Doug offers us the choice to either see or not see these deeply internalised images. Having that choice is what enables us to survive from day to day without going nuts. (more…)

The British Association for Modernist Studies invites submissions for its annual essay prize for early career scholars. The winning essay will be published in Modernist Cultures, and the winner will also receive £250 of books

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John Coltrane. Photograph: Jim Marshall.
John Coltrane. Photograph: Jim Marshall.
Sam Stephenson discusses biographies of the tenor saxophonist in The Paris Review

A few years ago I found a used, first-edition hardcover of Dr. Cuthbert Ormond Simpkins’s 1975 book, Coltrane: A Biography, online for $150. I had long admired its feverish, street-pulpy story about the saxophonist John Coltrane, whose powerful music increasingly seemed capable of altering one’s consciousness before he died in 1967, at age forty. Posthumously, the mythology and exaltation of Coltrane, as well as his musical influence, only grew. But by that point, Simpkins had already researched and written Coltrane’s story, expressing an uncompromising, unapologetic black voice rarely found in the annals of jazz before or since. (more…)

Critics past and present reflect on the legacy of Miles Davis’ landmark jazz-fusion record

From Langdon Winner’s 1970 review in Rolling Stone:

Miles Davis
Miles Davis

Miles’ music continues to grow in its beauty, subtlety and sheer magnificence. Bitches’ Brew is a further extension of the basic idea he investigated in his two previous albums, Filles De Kilimanjaro and In A Silent Way. In a larger sense, however, the record is yet another step in the unceasing process of evolution Miles has undergone since the Forties. The man never stops to rest on his accomplishments. Driven forward by a creative elan unequaled in the history of American music, he incorporates each successive triumph into the next leap forward.

The wonderful thing about Miles’ progress is that he encourages others to grow with him. Within the context of his sound there is more than enough room for both his musicians and his listeners to pursue their own special visions. Looking back on the history of Miles’ ensemble, we find the likes of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter. He always seems to select the best young jazzmen in the country and then gives them the freedom to develop their own unique modes of playing. Miles is known to be a stern disciplinarian, but never a tyrant. When a man has performed with the group long enough to gain a firm footing, he leaves as a recognized giant on his instrument. (more…)

Ivan Hewitt (The Telegraph) reviews David Cooper’s biography of the twentieth-century Hungarian composer
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David Cooper, Béla Bartók

Of all the great modernist composers who shattered the musical consensus in the years before the First World War, Béla Bartók is the most mysterious. He had the lean features of an ascetic, and his frame was as spare and angular as his music. Agatha Fassett, a Hungarian émigré who knew Bartók well in his final sad years in the United States, said that when Bartók made music he seemed absolutely alive; when he stopped playing he seemed to vanish into some silent, private space.

Unlike Stravinsky, who seemed to know absolutely everybody from Charlie Chaplin to Pablo Picasso, Bartók’s circle was narrow. He gravitated towards the Hungarian musicians who championed him, and the Hungarian poets and writers who, like him, were obsessed with finding a true national identity. He was an avowed atheist, insisting that the only immortal part of human beings was the atoms that made up their bodies, yet his passionate attachment to the soil bordered on the mystical. [Read More]

Through exclusive interviews and previously unseen photographs, a new documentary offers an intimate portrait of the relationship between translator Barbara Bray and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett

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london-beckett-seminar
Design: Rhys Tranter

The London Beckett Seminar at the Institute of English Studies will bring together national and international scholars, researchers and postgraduates to discuss issues arising from the prose, theatre and poetry of Samuel Beckett that pertain to aspects of literary, philosophical and historical analysis with particular attention to translation studies, performance and practice, digital humanities and visual cultures. Inherently interdisciplinary in approach, the seminar will establish a vibrant research network for postgraduate students, early-career researchers, and established academics on a national and international level. (more…)

A new title from Harper Perennial
The Essential Ginsberg
The Essential Ginsberg, ed. Michael Schumacher

Featuring the legendary and groundbreaking poem “Howl,” this remarkable volume showcases a selection of Allen Ginsberg’s poems, songs, essays, letters, journals, and interviews, and contains sixteen pages of his personal photographs.

One of the Beat Generation’s most renowned poets and writers, Allen Ginsberg became internationally famous not only for his published works but also for his actions as a human rights activist who championed the sexual revolution, gay liberation, Buddhism and Eastern religion, and the confrontation of societal norms—all before it became fashionable to do so. He was also the dynamic leader of war protesters, artists, Flower Power hippies, musicians, punks, and political radicals. (more…)

Music & Literature, No. 6.
Music & Literature, No. 6.

Music & Literature no. 6 champions the work of three artists poised to break through on the international stage: Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik, Ukrainian composer Victoria Polevá, and Croatian writer Dubravka Ugrešić.

An aura of almost legendary prestige surrounds the short life of Alejandra Pizarnik, who, though haunted by doubt and depression, left behind an oeuvre by turns searing, tragic, playful, and erotic. Her portfolio brings into English 100 pages of previously untranslated prose, diary entries, and letters, as well as appreciations from, among others, Enrique Vila-Matas and César Aira, who writes that Pizarnik “was not only a great poet, she was the greatest, and the last.”  (more…)

27 – 30 April 2016, University of Antwerp

About the Conference

Beckett and Modernism
The Second Annual Conference of the Samuel Beckett Society

Samuel Beckett. Photograph: John Haynes
Samuel Beckett. Photograph: John Haynes

The year 2016 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Journal of Beckett Studies (JOBS), founded in 1976 by James Knowlson and John Pilling. To celebrate this occasion, we are proud to announce both of them as keynote speakers at the second conference of the Samuel Beckett Society, dedicated to Beckett and Modernism. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Last Modernist’, Beckett has also been situated within the postmodern canon. After a long critical debate, the term ‘modernism’ has recently been reframed by a vibrant field of what is sometimes called the ‘new modernist studies’, and the term ‘Late Modernism’ seems to be gaining currency in Beckett studies. (more…)

Richard B. Woodward (The Paris Review) pays tribute to the Oscar-winning sound designer who helped create the otherworldly environments of David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Blue Velvet
Alan Splet
Alan Splet
“It’s too bad Ronnie Rocket never got made,” says Alan R. Splet about one of several David Lynch scripts still tied to Dino De Laurentiis’s bankruptcy. “There was lots of heavy electricity, amplified power in the script. It went back more toward the Eraserhead side of things. Maybe David feels he’s moved beyond that.”

Splet starts to laugh nervously, almost maniacally, as he recites all the kinds of electricity he could produce if called upon by Lynch. “There’s snapping, humming, buzzing, banging, like lightning, shrieking, squealing …”

As the sound engineer who has worked with Lynch since The Grandmother, their AFI student film completed in 1969, Splet saves up noises that he thinks his friend will like and sends them along on cassettes for Lynch to use or enjoy. (more…)

Robert McCrum (the Guardian) travels to New York and interviews American writer Don DeLillo. Ironically, for an article about ‘manipulating reality’, McCrum is vague and even mistaken when trying to summarize DeLillo’s career, but the article redeems itself when the conversation begins. DeLillo discusses the inspirations behind his work, the contemporary political landscape, and his place in American literature
DeLillo now lives in Westchester County in New York State with his wife, Barbara, a landscape designer, but he has not completely left his childhood neighbourhood, a place he insists still “looks the same, though the people are different”: an influx of new immigrants, Serbs, Croats and African-Caribbeans. Every year, he goes back to meet old school friends from the streets of his childhood. “We meet on a major street and have a meal together and a laugh,” he says. Inevitably, the conversation will turn to baseball, DeLillo’s first love – what he calls his “second language”. Baseball, he says, “was just so natural, because we all grew up with it. We played it; we listened to it on the radio, and then we went to Yankee stadium. It was a taken-for-granted pleasure”.

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MERL, University of Reading · 28-29 October 2015

Beckett and Europe
28th – 29th October 2015 – MERL, University of Reading
Abstract Deadline: 22nd June 2015
Keynote Speaker: Dr David Tucker (Chester University)

Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett

The Beckett at Reading Postgraduate group is pleased to announce a new postgraduate and Early Careers two-day conference with the theme of Beckett and Europe. We will be hosting two on-site archival workshops on manuscripts and performance during the conference. There will also be a public lecture on Happy Days by Professor James Knowlson. This will be followed by the Beckett International Foundation Seminar on the 30th of October.

We invite postgraduates and Early Career Researchers to submit abstracts under the general theme of ‘Beckett and Europe’. The aim of the conference is to engage postgraduates and ECRs in research exchange with an interdisciplinary and cross-media focus. Born in Ireland in 1906, Beckett wrote in English, French and German and directed his own theatrical work in London, Berlin and Paris. The span and influence of Beckett’s work in 20th Century Europe is essential to many questions that inform Beckett scholarship: How do we frame Beckett nationally/internationally and has this changed? What influence did Beckett have on European artists, writers and thinkers? How has Beckett’s work entered the European tradition? (more…)

An excerpt from a 1994 interview with jazz saxophonist Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson in October 1963. Photograph: Francis Wolff.
Joe Henderson in October 1963. Photograph: Francis Wolff.

A broad freedom of expression was available in the jazz vocabulary. And Henderson says he misses it these days.

“I’ve done some free things because there’s a part of me that is a bit of an iconoclast and was especially so at that time. Part of the spirit then was just to reject all that stuff like bar lines and key signatures. We didn’t want to know about it.

“So part of the thing then was just to get up on the bandstand. I became a little self-conscious about people coming in with their own music and parts written out for everyone to play and totally displacing what others might want to bring. I just said, ‘Let’s play’ and didn’t want to interfere by even suggesting a title for a tune. (more…)

Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
Geoff Smith interviews Arvo Pärt

At a time when publicists worldwide are clamouring to apply the media driven rules of popular culture to sell ‘high’ art, the music of Arvo Part seems particularly vulnerable. The ‘minimalist’, ‘mystical’, ‘contemplative’ tags and their tired associative meanings abound, as does the continuing image of Part the pious pontiff. (more…)