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”.

(more…)

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…)

Personally I’ve never met any intellectuals. I’ve met people who write novels, others who treat the sick; people who work in economics and others who compose electronic music. I’ve met people who teach, people who paint, and people of whom I have never really understood what they do. But intellectuals? Never.

— Michel Foucault, Ethics

In a 2014 review, Larry Rohter (New York Times) takes a look at David L. Lewis’s documentary

Early in “The Pleasures of Being Out of Step,” a documentary about the writer, critic and record producer Nat Hentoff that opens on Wednesday, Mr. Hentoff declares that “the Constitution and jazz are my main reasons for being.” That may seem an odd pairing to anyone unfamiliar with the man or his work, but Mr. Hentoff has nurtured those twin passions since the 1940s. (more…)

Excerpt from a 30-minute audio interview
His language like his life is free flowing, a stream that follows the lay of the land and rushes forward from a source of nature. He is full of joy and enthusiasm and his ideas often run ahead of his speech. Thus a conversation with Don Cherry is not a linear, organized event. It takes many contours, and it describes the journey of a remarkable mind and spirit. Just as his music encompasses the ethnic expression of cultures as far flung as the hills of North Africa and the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles, the New York art scene of the ‘50’s and the free community of the diggers in Sweden during the ‘70’s, Don Cherry has always played his own way, a very personal music. Starting as a trumpet player and then moving to the “pocket trumpet” which he made famous while working with Ornette Coleman’s band, Don moved on to flutes, double reed instruments, African string instruments (such as the “hunter’s bow”) and even became a singer in order to set free his musical voice. Don Cherry is a pioneer in the field of “world music”, which, ironically, has lead him back to the classical jazz scene in the United States. [Listen]

Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
An excerpt from a 2011 interview with Chris Richards (The Washington Post)

Mature, precocious, cultured and determined. Aside from a few summers in Maryland, Rollins spent his childhood in Harlem, a cultural epicenter that would shape him into a jazz icon who would steer the trajectory of the genre and the concept of improvisation writ large. As Rollins looks back, the chapters of his life often slice into neat little halves — separate realities where he toggled between success and struggle, renown and solitude. He apprenticed with the bop gods (Charlie Parker, Miles Davis) while battling the dark forces of addiction. At his highest levels of acclaim, he took mysterious sabbaticals that felt like vanishing acts. Today, Rollins says he gets through “this world full of problems” by reaching for higher spiritual plateaus that he “can almost touch,” but never quite does. (more…)

Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt speaks to Tom Huizenga (NPR)

Arvo Pärt is one of the few living composers to find popularity beyond the borders of classical music. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Bjork are big fans. Although the 78-year-old musician usually shies away from acclaim and the media, he is currently attending a festival of his music in New York and Washington, and he made time to talk about his music, bike riding and bells.Pärt is a major composer, and I was a little nervous meeting him. So I brought along a bell for good luck. I set it on the table between us and gave it a little tinkle. (more…)

European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts · Malta · 15-18 June 2015

A call for papers from the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu):

This year’s conference is dedicated to the theme of Scale. In one way or another, scale is an issue deeply embedded in every discipline and every aspect of scholarly and scientific research. As the Call for Papers puts it, in the grand scheme of things Scale is the scheme of things itself. We do very much hope, therefore, that you will be as excited by the prospect of an interdisciplinary conference on Scale as we are. We are very pleased that the location of the conference will be Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean with a rich history and culture, where effects of scale have exerted intriguing and complex energies for centuries, and which provides a particularly fitting and appealing venue for this year’s event. (more…)

Over the past few years I’ve become more and more interested in the music of Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. Here’s an extract from an excellent interview published in Music & Literature

Jordi Savall: I find your situation especially interesting. Early on, you were composing within various traditions of the avant-garde, according to those systems. Then suddenly you decide it’s time to ask questions. You went through something like a renaissance as a composer… Since then, have you used the knowledge that you had acquired during your earlier period, or did you say: “I will never again do what I’ve already done”? Are your early works completely separate from those you’ve written since?

Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt

Arvo Pärt: Of course. We learn from the mistakes we’ve made. But unfortunately, it’s not possible to change everything we would like to change within ourselves. We lack the ability of the old masters to take off and soar. Why? I can’t say. We must adapt to our conditions. Each person must search for and find his own solution. Ideally, I would be able to write a melody with an infinite voice, a voice that carries on forever. Music that would be like speech, like a flood of thought. Thought is never pure, it’s often pierced by lightning, from without as from within. Thought is fragile. This means that our music also flows from our fragility and our inadequacies. And all this is reflected in the melody that has one voice, which is like a blood test. In music, one could say that a voice or a melodic line is like a man’s soul. In this sense, polyphony would have more to do with the idea of a crowd. The richness of the music of many voices is, however, the sum of the wealth of each of these melodic lines—as was the case in the polyphony of the great masters of the past. [Read More]

Stumbled across a 2011 interview with Arvo Pärt, conducted by Tom Service (The Guardian)
d949a-arvopart
Arvo Pärt

[…] I’m in a hotel in Tallinn, a city that’s full of Russian tourists making the most of their Christmas and new year in the beautiful Estonian capital. I’ve been here to interview Arvo Pärt, the famous Estonian composer, and someone who has a reputation as a shy recluse; a seeming paradox given that his music is celebrated all over the world.

He talked to me in the building that houses his archive – a half-hour drive through the snow, forest and flatness of the landscape outside Tallinn, a journey that felt like a pilgrimage to a mythical musical hideaway – and I found Pärt to be the exact opposite of the forbidding, taciturn figure that looms out of some of his photos. There was laughter, humour and generosity in the way he spoke about his compositional and existential struggles, and even his religious feelings. […] [H]ere are a couple of things Pärt revealed about his music, especially from around the time of his consolidation of the technique of “tintinnabulation”, which has defined his music from the mid-1970s to this day.

In one of the rooms in the house, there was a row of plant pots. It turns out they were more than mere decoration: they were painted by Pärt in 1977, because working with riotously festive colours was one of the ways he got through the hard years of writer’s block. “You have to do something to keep your creativity going,” he told me. But the real epiphany that set Pärt on his course of what sounded like a radical simplicity in the mid-70s, producing works such as Tabula Rasa, Fratres, and Passio, which poured out of him later that decade, was an encounter with a street cleaner outside his house in Tallinn. Searching for a solution that would connect his emotional, musical and spiritual lives together, Pärt, at a loss for inspiration, went outside into the snow one morning and asked the cleaner: “What should a composer do?” “Well, he should love every note,” was the reply. “No professor had ever told me something like that,” Pärt said, and this single sentence crystallised his thinking. He realised that to really love every note, to really understand the connections between even a tiny handful of musical pitches, could be the source of lifetime of composition and contemplation. [Read More]

“Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certainty that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. Here I am alone with silence. I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me. I work with very few elements – with one voice, with two voices. I build with the most primitive materials – with the triad, with one specific tonality. The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I called it tintinnabulation.”

— Arvo Pärt