A new entry for the Department of Retro Technology Put to Use for Futuristic Novels:
The publicist for the James Renner’s novel, The Man From Primrose Lane, sent me an old 8-track tape cartridge player along with a few different tapes, including one with the first chapter of the novel. My kids were fascinated by the device, and I enjoyed pressing the spring-loaded lever to switch programs on the tape. The clunking sound it makes when it switches programs is deeply satisfying.
This might be a good time to mention Mr. Renner has a tumblr about time travel.
From an interview with WIll Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever:
Q. One thing that, for me, was really striking about [the early 1970s] was that everything was happening underground, as you were saying, but also in the context of a total decline in living standards in New York City, economic decline, the city going bankrupt, the theme you keep going back to of buildings burning down for the insurance money, crime everywhere. What’s the relationship between this pretty grim atmosphere and the explosion of creative, wonderful music at the same time – is there even a connection?
Will Hermes: In some ways it’s a perfect storm of things. Part of the result of the economic collapse of the city during those years was cheap rent, and cheap rent in former manufacturing districts which meant loft spaces that were large enough to rehearse in and for lots of people to live in for very little rent. That was certainly one factor. I think another factor was that the ‘60s had happened, because while people sometimes look at punk or disco or whatever as being complete breaks with the ‘60s, I try to make the point in the book that these movements were direct offshoots of the ‘60s. The first disco parties that David Mancuso and Nicky Siano threw in the early to mid ‘70s were largely fueled by LSD, they were very specifically about peace, love, tolerance, equality. There were mixed crowds, gay, straight, black, white, which was very much coming out of a ‘60s aesthetic sensibility and ideology, although it evolved from there. Punk rock too – Patti Smith and Television, Tom Verlaine, talked about their indebtedness to ‘60s artists whether it be the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, or the Stones, who Patti and Lenny Kaye were championing and sort of bowing down to. Television were huge fans of Coltrane and Albert Ayler and even the Grateful Dead – Tom Verlaine has mentioned that he knew some songs, particularly “Dark Star,” and was very intrigued by that even though he wasn’t a fan of some of their other stuff.
So yes, I think it was part low rent, part the creative ferment of the ‘60s still fermenting, and the other factor is probably just New York – New York is always a magnet for talent and people coming from all over the world to get up on the New York City stage and make an impression, so I think that’s a constant theme of the city.
Did you know Langston Hughes wrote a children’s book about jazz?
Hughes covered every notable aspect of jazz, from the evolution of its eras to its most celebrated icons to its geography and sub-genres, and made a special point of highlighting the essential role of African-American musicians in the genre’s coming of age. Even his discussion of the technical aspects of jazz — rhythm, percussion, improvisation, syncopation, blue notes, harmony — is so eloquent and engaging that, rather than overwhelming the young reader, it embodies the genuine joy of playing.
Will Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever, is damn near the perfect writer for Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes; his list is all over the music map.
For instance, this is Hermes on the New York Dolls classic “Trash”:
In all its incoherent, hook-barbed groping, this was proto-punk’s greatest pop moment: the short-sharp-shock tune-whoosh of ‘50s pop-rock and the glammy brutishness of Nuggets-style ‘60s garage acts. Its greatness might not have saved them even if it hadn’t fallen on deaf ears, commercially speaking. But it inspired the birth of punk on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. And they’ve yet to make it into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of fame? What the fuck?
(His description of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is even better.)
Exciting news for fans of Alex Ross (and music): The Rest Is Noise Festival. Headed up by the Southbank Centre in the UK, this year-long celebration of contemporary and classical music begins in 2013:
“The festival will be divided into 12 chronological themes, from The Big Bang: A New Century, a New World in January to New World Order: No More Rules in December; other themes include Berlin in the 20s and 60s Weekend: the West Does Revolution. It will be accompanied by a TV series on BBC4.
“Speaking at the launch of the Southbank Centre’s 2012/13 classical music season, director Jude Kelly said the festival was initially conceived four years ago, when she read a proof copy of Ross’s book, which was published in 2007. Kelly said the festival would take in several art forms and aim to involve audiences ‘hostile to 20th-century music’ while giving those already highly committed to it ‘another route in’.”
“Ten years ago I was thinking of making an album whose song titles were all named after established American publishing houses. I don’t know why, it was maybe based on the idea of rejection, or social failure. Also, they all sounded so archaic to me, like books themselves, and therefore pretty mysterious. I was into enclosed sets of terms back then, though I was coming out of it, which is probably why I ditched the idea. The album ended up being called Streethawk: A Seduction, and the song titles were all over place, though FS&G stuck. I now just generally call it by its parenthetical title “(Sea of Tears).” I guess ten years later I like things in their simplest, saddest terms. Still think Farrar, Straus and Giroux rolls off the tongue real pretty, though.”
-Dan Bejar of Destroyer, from Work in Progress