Art by Matt Melanson
There is a new podcast in town, Weird Studies, hosted by Phil Ford and J.F. Martel –
As they describe it,
“Weird Studies” is a scholarly field that doesn’t and can’t exist.
The Weird is that which resists any settled explanation or frame of reference. It is the bulging file labelled “other/misc.” in our mental filing cabinet, full of supernatural entities, magical synchronicities, and occult rites. But it also appears when a work of art breaks in on our habits of perception and ordinary things become uncanny. The Weird is easiest to define as whatever lies on the further side of a line between what we can easily accept from our world and what we cannot. And it defines an attitude towards whatever lies on that side of the line: a willingness to remain suspended between explanations and abide in strangeness.”
In this episode the two connect the dots and discuss those connections and surrounding pathways into the origin of contemporary existential fear and how it manifests in recent works such as David Lynch and Mark Frosts’ ‘Twin Peaks – The Return’.
Along the way their map include signposts from Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer, Stanley Kubrick, Carl Jung, William Burroughs, Guy Debord, H.P. Lovecraft and many others.
A fascinating and thought provoking look into the abyss, to synchronous expressions of art, and the implications for modern life as we live under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.
This is a repost of Beth Orton’s beautiful rendition of Sisters of Mercy by the dearly beloved and departed Leonard Cohen. His poetry and his life spoke to and through so many who carried his words with them into their own work.
David Remnick in his profile on Leonard Cohen shares this coda as Cohen discovers his early career muse, lover and long time friend, Marianne Ihlen, is on her death bed.
In late July this year, Cohen received an e-mail from Jan Christian Mollestad, a close friend of Marianne’s, saying that she was suffering from cancer. In their last communication, Marianne had told Cohen that she had sold her beach house to help insure that Axel [her son] would be taken care of, but she never mentioned that she was sick. Now, it appeared, she had only a few days left. Cohen wrote back immediately:
Well Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.
Two days later, Cohen got an e-mail from Norway:
Marianne slept slowly out of this life yesterday evening. Totally at ease, surrounded by close friends.
Your letter came when she still could talk and laugh in full consciousness. When we read it aloud, she smiled as only Marianne can. She lifted her hand, when you said you were right behind, close enough to reach her.
It gave her deep peace of mind that you knew her condition. And your blessing for the journey gave her extra strength. . . . In her last hour I held her hand and hummed “Bird on the Wire,” while she was breathing so lightly. And when we left the room, after her soul had flown out of the window for new adventures, we kissed her head and whispered your everlasting words.
So long, Marianne . . .
I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit
But he does say what I tell him
Even though it isn’t welcome
He just doesn’t have the freedom
He will speak these words of wisdom
Like a sage, a man of vision
Though he knows he’s really nothing
But the brief elaboration of a tube
Without my sorrow
To where it’s better
Without my burden
Behind the curtain
Without the costume
That I wore
He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat
A cry above the suffering
A sacrifice recovering
But that isn’t what I need him
I want to make him certain
That he doesn’t have a burden
That he doesn’t need a vision
That he only has permission
To do my instant bidding
Which is to SAY what I have told him
I love to speak with Leonard
He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
He’s a lazy bastard
Living in a suit
“Most of us don’t want to change
I mean why should we
What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model
We keep on being ourselves
But hopefully better versions of ourselves
But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic
That you just change
Change from the known person to the unknown person
So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were
But the person inside the skin is a different person”
Please read Tanja Stark’s fascinating research into David Bowie’s emergence as a Jungian visionary artist.
“Jungian concepts are so inextricably woven throughout Bowie’s multi-decadal tableau of creativity that in Bowie’s synthesis of mythopoeic themes of the Unconscious with the zeitgeist of pop culture, together with his palpable struggle for meaning, catharsis and knowledge, Bowie has become a poignant contemporary representation of Jung’s ‘visionary artist’, potentially illuminating his deep resonance in popular cultural consciousness.”
(Art by Sarah Beetson)
Amanda Palmer assembled a troupe of musicians, artists, photographers, technicians, family, friends and supporters to feverishly within two weeks produce this tribute to David Bowie. Titled – “Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute” it features integral contributions from Anna Calvi, John Cameron Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, and her music partner in this enterprise Jherek Bischoff.
“We’re really, really, really proud of what we made, even though we cranked it out in a short time.
Music is the binding agent of our mundane lives. It cements the moments in which we wash the dishes, type the resumes, go to the funerals, have the babies. The stronger the agent, the tougher the memory, and Bowie was NASA-grade epoxy to a sprawling span of freaked-out kids over three generations. He bonded us to our weird selves. We can be us. He said. Just for one day.
It didn’t hit me until a week later, in the studio, why this was such a fitting project. We were immersing ourselves in Bowieland, living in the songs, super-glueing up some fresh wounds. Not just “knowing” the songs, but feeling the physical chords under our sad fingers, excavating the deeper architecture of the songwriting (especially with a tune as bizarre as “Blackstar” (which we realized was constructed like a sonic Russian nesting doll).
Bowie worked on music up to the end to give us a parting gift. So this is how we, as musicians, mourn: keeping Bowie constantly in our ears and brains.
The man, the artist, exits. But the music, the glue; it stays. It never stops binding us together.”
Listen below to all six songs preferably with headphones!
In an interview with Maria Popova, Palmer explains why the timing of this project was so crucial,
“When David Bowie died, I wanted to immerse myself in David Bowie and give myself a work project, because I had been so immersed in motherhood and was struggling with reconciling that with my identity as an artist. I wanted desperately to work, but had cleared my plate of projects because I didn’t know what my life as a mother would be like and I needed to make room for that. So I had this semi-vacuum of time where I was coming to terms with mother-schedule, but I looked at the Bowie tribute and realized I could do most of the project from home, on my computer, in collaboration with Jherek, and I could spend two days at the studio and find a babysitter. I looked at the entire project and thought it was manageable, I could do it right now, which is the way I like to work — fast and furious and surprising and very chaotic and manic.
Jherek was on board to go with the pace, and I knew that if we waited seven months to put out our David Bowie tribute, it just wouldn’t feel the same. It is of the moment, and it was of the moment to sit on the couch and listen to Bowie songs with Neil [Gaiman] and read my patrons’ favorite Bowie songs and go on hunts for obscure tracks and sit there with the baby between me and Neil, immersing ourselves in this artist’s world — because all that felt like part of the project, it felt like part of the patronage.
That was our way of mourning, and that became our ritualistic David Bowie funeral.”
Palmer is asking for a $1.00 donation for the price of streaming the music. As she explains,
“Since it costs me/us about $.54 ($.09 per song x 6 songs) in licensing fees to the bowie estate every time you stream for free, please consider donating that $1 on bandcamp. Any leftover money from the $1 will go to the cancer research wing of Tufts Medical Center (https://giving.tuftsmedicalcenter.org/give) in memory of David Bowie. listen on bandcamp: https://amandapalmer.bandcamp.com/album/strung-out-in-heaven-a-bowie-string-quartet-tribute “
Check out the website http://amandapalmer.net/strungoutinheaven to see more artist, musician and technical credit for all who made this happen so quickly and in such fine fashion.
“On DON JUAN’S RECKLESS DAUGHTER, I gave Jaco some instruction (the one and only time) and he took it without resistance.”
“The title song is a long song — around six minutes long. My guitar has a rhythmic drive to it, and Jaco and Alex Acuña (the drummer on the date) had locked up together and were pushing it along with a Latin feel. It made the song seem even longer. I decided to break them up and put them on one at a time.”
“I told Jaco, “This is a kind of surrealistic tune — a lot of Scorpio metaphors and Yagui Indian mysticism. It needs a tom-tom feel — but not 4 on the floor.” It needed a repetitive figure with space between figures to kind of half-time it against the drive of the guitar — something like . . . (and I sang a part to him, making sliding gestures with my right arm), “Ga-ga-ga-goom, ga-ga-ga-goom.” Jaco cradled the neck of his bass in his left hand. He tuned the strings to an open chord and he played the figures without any fretting. He banged the strings at the top of the neck with his fist and he slid to the bottom for the “goom.” Halfway through the take, his hand was shredded like he had run it over a carrot grater. We stopped tape, punched him in, and he finished the song playing with the heel of his hand. At the end of the song it was shredded, too. We wrapped his hand in a paper towel and played back the track. When the song was over, he turned to me and said, “That should’ve been on my album!” I said, “Who cares whose album it’s on? It’s you and it’s on tape.”
(Photo by Norman Jean Roy)
“Then it was Alex’s turn. I had the notion that he should jingle and thump — that pow-wow sound. I had some native ankle bells — big harness bells on leather straps. We tied them on him. We placed a baffle on the floor. It was slightly curved. Henry put a mike under it and one beside it and Alex danced a Peruvian salsa to the track. I loved it — jingle and thump. It blended into the guitars in an unusual way. It was a bent-knee dance and when the song was over, he limped off the baffle. He couldn’t straighten up for an hour, but he agreed it sounded great.”
“There was one more casualty on this record date — “the split-tongued spirit.” Boyd Elder, a painter from Texas possessing Cherokee blood and a native sounding voice, was to double my voice with spoken word. He stepped up to the mike and froze. We sent out for a bottle of tequila to loosen him up. Next thing I knew, he was lying on the floor by the mike — the bottle nearly drained and he was saying, “I can’t do it Joan.” His wife and I and his two daughters kneeled beside saying, “Yes you can. Yes you can.” After much coaxing, he was on his feet and the lines were on the song — shadowing the sung words! What a night.”
(Listen with headphones)
“The spirit talks in spectrums
He talks to mother earth to father sky
Self indulgence to self denial
Man to woman
Scales to feathers
You and I
Eagles in the sky
You and I
Snakes in the grass
You and I
Crawl and fly
You and I”
“See, when they got off the boat, they didn’t recognize us. They said who are you and we said we’re the people, we’re the human beings. And they said, oh, Indians, because they didn’t recognize what it was to be a human being.
I’m a human being, this is the name of my tribe. This is the name of my people. But I’m a human being.
But then the predatory mentality shows up and starts calling us Indians and committing genocide against us as a vehicle of erasing the memory of being a human being. So they used war textbooks, history books, and when film came along, they used film.
You go in our own communities, how many of us are fighting to protect our identity of being an Indian. And 600 years ago, that word Indian, that sound was NEVER made on this hemisphere. That sound, that noise, was never ever made, ever. We’re trying to protect that as an identity, see, so it affects all of us. It’s reached the point evolutionarily speaking, we’re starting to not recognize ourselves as human beings.
We’re too busy trying to protect the idea of a Native American or an Indian, but we’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people. We’re the human beings.”
John Trudell (1946 – 2015)