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…)
To celebrate his 80th birthday, Anastasia Tsioulcas (NPR) offers an overview of the life and career of Steve Reich, enriched by conversations with the composer himself. She begins by acknowledging the profound influence Reich has held on fellow musicians and composers, from Brian Eno to David Bowie to Radiohead, and as a result the contemporary musical landscape. The legacy of his work can be traced through pop, ambient, and avant-garde music.
In 2011, Tsioulcas talked to Reich about his experimental work “WTC 9/11”, a commemorative piece that “intersperse[s] emergency calls from first responders and air traffic controllers with the recollections of his friends and neighbors”. “WTC 9/11” also records and documents “the recollections of Jewish women who sat with victims’ remains and chanted psalms and other Biblical texts”. Tsioulcas draws attention to Reich’s use of recorded voice in other projects, such as Different Trains, and the complex role that religious faith, specifically Judaism, plays in Reich’s life and work. (more…)
When David Bowie was 15 he read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, a Beat Generation novel that inspired him to leave the cloister of London suburban life. For Bowie, the paperback novel offered more than just escapist fantasy, it could affect and change the way someone lived.
Alongside the influence of music and contemporary art on Bowie’s creative development, the songwriter drew on literature as a fertile resource of possibility and transformation. For example, the lyrics of Bowie’s 1974 album Diamond Dogs adopted the ‘cut-up technique‘ of the experimental American writer William S. Burroughs, whereby existing passages are broken up and reassembled to create something new and original.
Barney Hoskyns (The Guardian) reviews a new biography entitled The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference. The book is written by former NME journalist Paul Morley, a music writer known for his deeply personal and associative reflections on twentieth-century music and culture:
“‘Everyone has their own Bowie,’ Paul Morley writes in this discursive, free-associating ride across the life and work of the Starman Who Changed the World. More accurately, perhaps, we all have our own Bowies, since there were – there are – so many of them, from mod opportunist to free-festival minstrel to ‘leper messiah’ to Thin White Duke to… well, where does it end?”
Morley makes the playful claim that Bowie, whose diverse hybrid persona drew from many cultural influences, is the missing link between Sammy Davis Jr and Samuel Beckett.
More at The Guardian.
While it is no secret that the chameoleon popstar was a great admirer of contemporary art, and indeed an artist in his own right, the upcoming exhibition and auction of his collection reveals a number of insights and surprises:
“The nature of the works that Bowie purchased make for a fascinating insight into his aesthetic inspirations — his collection is heavy on 20th century British art, including works by Damien Hirst, Frank Auerbach, Harold Gilman, Sir Stanley Spencer, Peter Lanyon, Patrick Caulfield, Henry Moore, and Graham Sutherland. There’s also an eclectic variety of other work, from a piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat through designer furniture to the very fancy 1950s record player pictured above, which was created by Italian designers Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni.”
20th century art has always been a formative source of inspiration for David Bowie’s music and visual identity. The cover for his Berlin album “Heroes” makes reference to the angular postures of Die Brücke portraiture; he went so far as to portray American pop artist Andy Warhol in the 1996 film, Basquiat. Bowie’s creative appropriation of modern art cannot be understated: at times, it can be hard to see where one ends and the other begins. I’m reminded of those lines in ‘Andy Warhol’, from Bowie’s 1971 record Hunky Dory: ‘Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, Silver Screen / Can’t tell them apart at all’.
“Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me has been scrubbed from the memories of many Twin Peaks fans, but it’s best not to forget that David Bowie was in the film, as Agent Phillip Jeffries. He appears as a dream vision in a weird montage to his former buddies Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and provides key information to cracking the case. It seems now that Bowie had signed on to reprise the role for Showtime’s upcoming revival of the show, though his passing in January came too soon for him to film his parts.”
More at Flavorwire.
“It’s hard to believe that Kemp, known for his extravagantly dramatic performances combining mime, kabuki and cabaret, could experience stage fright. Yet the man who famously mentored Bowie and Kate Bush before they were stars insists he stills feels terror at the thought of disappointing an audience. After a life more or less lived on or near a stage, he has no need to worry, but his desire to please an audience is what keeps him dancing, choreographing and touring in spite of his 78 years. “I don’t miss a day of stretching. As Isadora Duncan says, ‘Never rest, never rust’.””
More at AnOther.
Guernica: Why do you think David Bowie’s music has maintained its appeal for so long—and do you think it will last now that he’s gone?
Simon Critchley: It will. No doubt at all. On some level when you’re talking about music you have to be vulgar and be able to say, “This is just really good.” A lot of people did what Bowie did, a very few of them before Bowie (Tony Newley, Syd Barrett) the rest of them after, but no one for me came anywhere close to being as good. There’s something about the craft and quality of his work that just makes it better. The technical proficiency of what he did with his voice, given his vocal range (he didn’t think his voice was good enough, back in the day), is often overlooked, the amount of time he spent in the studio just trying to get the right effect. Robert Fripp shares this story about watching Bowie in the studio, trying for hours to get his voice to match the emotion in the music. That’s complete artifice, complete inauthenticity, and yet he’s able to hit those feelings in a way no one else could. And what you feel when you hear that is something simply strong, powerfully true. That’s where he achieved his magic. (more…)
I’m just an individual who doesn’t feel that I need to have somebody qualify my work in any particular way. I’m working for me.
— David Bowie
Few artists have excited me like David Bowie. As a teenager, the punk electronica of Low, the bombast of “Heroes”, and the angular anthems of Lodger helped me acclimatise to living alone in the city.
There was also the glacial paranoid chic of Station to Station, the throbs and screeches of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), a panorama of the 1980s New York, to say nothing of the postmodern murder mystery, 1. Outside. (I can still remember the thrill of hearing songs from the latter album opening David Lynch’s Lost Highway and closing David Fincher’s Seven.)
All of these records, alongside those by Bowie collaborators Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed, became the soundtrack to my undergraduate years. Neurotic, pulsing, existential pop.
I found in David Bowie a fantastic empty signifier, a blank canvas ready and waiting for me to impose and inscribe my obsessions. During these years he became my idol. Not simply someone to identify with, but an idea or an image that I aspired toward: a striking embodiment of the power of art to transform ourselves and the world around us.