Sunday, 30 June 2013

Allen Ginsberg ‎• The Lion For Real


producer notes:
During the summer of 1986 I met Michael Minzer who runs Paris Records in Dallas. Michael always had a major interest in literature and produced many concerts and recordings of poetry and music. He was looking for someone to produce an album with Allen Ginsberg for his company - Michael had already recorded Allen performing Blake's "Nurses Song" with Steven Taylor and the Garland Chamber Symphony for a compilation album "Made Up in Texas"(1986) and was ready to record a full album with Allen. Familiar with some of my multi-artist tribute productions, Michael thought I'd be the right person to do this project.

I knew much of Allen's work. I've seen him read from his works a number of times and owned a few of his recordings including "Kaddish" (1963) on Atlantic Records, "First Blues" (1982) a double album on John Hammond's label, and "Howl" (1959) on Fantasy. Those records worked wonderfully in their own way (basically documenting the moments) - but I felt that this record should be something different. Ken Nordine's "Word Jazz" records were spoken word LPs, yet came across as music albums. I wondered if an album with Allen could do the same thing. It was a challenging project and always looking to get involved in potentially dangerous situations, I took Michael's offer.

At the first meetings, Allen seemed suspicious. He obviously had gone through some strange experiences with making records before, and that I had only some general conceptual ideas didn't really help. A few months later an album that I produced for Marianne Faithfull ("Strange Weather") was released and Marianne played the record for Allen at the Naropa Institute in Colorado where they were both teaching. Allen liked the album and with some encouragement from Marianne, he became enthusiastic about our project. Shortly thereafter an approximate recording period was scheduled.

To start, both Minzer and I read Allen's complete works, now easily available in two volumes by Harper & Row. We each made a list of about twenty poems that we thought would work well with music. Allen picked about eighty. One night he read almost all these to me in his apartment accompanied by a neighbor screaming out of his window to shut up. We then decided on about fifty poems to consider. Next I called about a dozen of my favorite composer/musicians that I felt would be right for the project, gave some his collected poems, and invited them to A&R Studios in New York to hear Allen record.

Ginsberg read poems that we picked out, with additional requests from the musicians, for about six hours in the studio while we sat in the control room - an amazing night. We gave the evening's tape copies to musicians and invited them to pick about three poems and compose music. We met separately later that week and picked the best poems for each to work on.

The week that we spent recording went extremely well. Each night everyone would arrive between seven and eight in the evening and pieces would be presented by the composer, rehearsed and recorded with Allen reading the work live. Then we'd go to the next composition. After the first performance broke the ice ("Refrain"), everyone's nervousness disappeared and the sessions went by quickly and smooth. We averaged four poems recorded each night. Character contrasts were great, from an insane Gary Windo arranged number to a beautiful Steve Swallow composition within a few hours; personalities from Beaver Harris to Arto Lindsay would float in and out of songs. Allen, who was never quite in a situation like this before, adapted quite well and kept everyone's spirits high. At the end of the week, we had twenty-one numbers recorded, of which we decided to complete all but one.

Chris Blackwell and Kim Buie of Island Records heard the results and immediately wanted to release it to start a series of spoken word great poet/musician collaborations on their newly formed Jones label. After a few sequence changes and interesting debates on what tracks to delete, the record was finished.

Thanks go to everyone associated with this project. Of special mention is Joel Tornabene who put Michael Minzer and myself together, Joe Ferla for being alive, Fran Tose for her help at the start of the album, Marianne Faithfull for her valuable friendship, and especially Allen Ginsberg for putting himself and his art in our world and taking the chance. I still don't know what the reaction will be, but hope the enjoyment that went into the record shows.

I'll be seeing you.
Hal Willner

1. SCRIBBLE (: 48)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Blair)
Casual note, a long melancholy affectionate 1956 thought about the late irascible Bay Area anarchist Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, might be 4 AM in the soul that Michael Blair's music mirrors.

2. COMPLAINT OF THE SKELETON TO TIME (3:02)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: G. Windo)
1949 lyric influenced by Thomas Wyatt's My Lute, Awake! & Wm. Butler Yeats' Crazy Jane-part of The Shrouded Stranger of the Night concept conceived same time as Kermac's Dr. Sax. Gary Windo's free jazz sounds a variant of drunken Mexican Day of Dead dancing skeleton band.

3. XMAS GIFT (1: 49)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/M. Bingham)
The calm Princetonian world of XX Century science, a hint of Psychedelic Cosmic Consciousness discussing the Universe's origin (as Buddhist wd say 'Unborn'), a flash of comfy Country Club and odd awakening to the Bomb 1972. I was too Shy to rebuke kind Mr. Einstein for this hideous karma. Mark Bingham's strains carry this literal dream.

4. TO AUNT ROSE (3:29)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Ribot)
A memory flash 1958 Paris. My favorite Aunt Rose (19009-1940) took car of me weekends when my mother was ill-Books named are my late father Louis Ginsberg's. It was a big event to publish a volume of poetry those days! Rose Gaidemak died of septicemia. Note delicate music box time travel invention by Marc Ribot.

5. THE LION FOR REAL (5:44)
Sound effects by Richard Fussco (thanks to WDST; Woodstock, NY)
'Be mute for me, Contemplative Idol': epigraph from Tristan Corbiere's last stanza, Rhapsody of a Deaf Man. Retrospective account of a .mystical experience' 1948 described elsewhere (Paris Review interviews: Writers at Work 3'd Series, Penguin, NY 1986), the Lion representing Divine Presence. I then thought it necessary to break thru the wall of reality & confront God Eternity Death face to face. Five years later Tibetan Lama Dudjom Rinpoche advised me, 'If you see something horrible, don't cling to it; if you see something beautiful, don't cling to it.' Ironic Quatrain structure switching to prayer last stanza roughly follows Corbiere's poem's dynamics. Gary Windo's circus sax announces the poem's burlesque symbolism, Beaver Harris's drum follows the drama.

6. REFRAIN (3:29)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: Michael Blair)
Among the earliest writing in this suite, echoing late Yeats' style. "Shadow changes into bone,"was my Kerouackian motto 1948, intending to say that eternal prophetic intuition (shadow) will turn out to be real (bone). Having heard Blake's voice I was headed for the booby-hatch for a season. Michael Blair's arrangement's midnight reflectiveness fits this rhyme's mood & meter.

7. THE SHROUDED STRANGER (3:1 5)
A Blakean Lyric, drawn from a childhood boogeyman sex dream under Paterson, N.J. choo-choo train Broadway overpass, my best 1949 rhymed poem, Kerouac liked the genius of "I hide & wait like a naked child/Under the bridge my heart goes wild." Marc Ribot's setting captures the railroad shufflebones wispy phantom rhythm - rill this version I never realized the stranger's gasping graveyard groan was a Hungry Ghost's hopeless cry for sexual help.

8. GREGORY CORSO'S STORY (2:17)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: Bill Frisell)
A little anecdote the poet Corso told me around 1951, Bill Frisell's delicate setting turns around this memory of buried innocence.

9. CLEVELAND, THE FLATS (2:58)
(Words-- A. Ginsberg/Music: R. Carney)
Spoken originally to tapemachine driving thru ephemeral Cleveland's Industrial flats June 1966, bewilderment at 'The Fall of America' in Vietnam Wartime, what will future generations think? The collage concludes with Mantra to Buddha's human aspect as Sakya family wiseman, followed by Highest Perfect Wisdom Mantra: 'Gone gone totally gone totally gone over the top, wakened mind, So, ah! ' -Ralph Carney's setting fits free-verse open form modem poetry style to variable melancholy cadenced musical phrasing.

10. THE END (2:04)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Ribot)
A psychedelic condensation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, scary & somewhat theistic in conception, in continuous rhythm as if there were a great being like Father Fisheye at the end or bottom of the 1960 Universe. Marc Ribot's music's appropriately eerie.

11. STANZAS: WRITTEN AT NIGHT IN RADIO CITY (5:07)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: L. Pickett)
I was working graveyard shift 1949 as copy boy Associated Press office writing midnight stanzas, Thomas Wyatt mode, analyzing money, sex, hipness, heroism etc. somewhat uncannily prophesying 'back to the Land' & Beat fame. Lenny Pickett built sophisticated multiple wind instrument cadenzas timed around my one-shot solo recitation he took home from studio to work with.

10. THE END (2:04)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Ribot)
A psychedelic condensation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, scary & somewhat theistic in conception, in continuous rhythm as if there were a great being like Father Fisheye at the end or bottom of the 1960 Universe. Marc Ribot's music's appropriately eerie.

11. STANZAS: WRITTEN AT NIGHT IN RADIO CITY (5:07)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: L. Pickett)
I was working graveyard shift 1949 as copy boy Associated Press office writing midnight stanzas, Thomas Wyatt mode, analyzing money, sex, hipness, heroism etc. somewhat uncannily prophesying 'back to the Land' & Beat fame. Lenny Pickett built sophisticated multiple wind instrument cadenzas timed around my one-shot solo recitation he took home from studio to work with.

12. SUNSET (1:42)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: L. Picket)
Written riding on Susquehanna train N.Y. to New Jersey, newly out of mental hospital visiting home in Paterson in 1949 one dusk, realizing a sad gentle fact that night here brings day elsewhere on the Planet. Bill Frisell muses into sunrise with clear birdsong.

13. HUM BOM! (4:00)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: S. Swallow)
Written at Atlanta 1971 interracial Vietnam Peace Protest, based on Shivite ganja-smoker mantra to Creator/Destroyer, performed as sound poem 1984 at Folk City. Don Cherry alchemized my complaining downer cry 'Whom Bomb?' by turning it around, "You don't wanna bomb! Who Said Bomb?" & I picked up how to transmute the bomb fear mode to straightforward constructive suggestion: "We don't bomb.' Steve Swallow surprised me, sophisticating raw paranoia into laid-back disco propaganda.

14. KRAL MAJALES (5:11)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Bingham)
I was elected King of May 1965 as poem describes, I was kicked out of Prague, wrote this on airplane to England; same week found myself in Croyden Hotel room with Dylan & the Beatles, later stood on Thames Embankment watching poet Dylan flash Subterranean Homesick Blues key phrases on display cards for his historic Dont Look Back movie camera.

This poem's closest to poetic ideal of a majestic cadenced proclamation. Ralph Carney's Circle of Fifths continuously evolves in horns' circular breathing (like Australian Aborigines' Didgerey Doo) matching voice-text power to make the most perfect poetry music recording I've done- unobstructed exaltation, every syllable chanted conscious.

15. GURU (3:30)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: S. Swallow)
Brief poem writ rising from a summer afternoon nap on Primrose Hill's grass, overlooking London's misted skyline 1965. Steve Swallow's music suggests the same galactic vastness of Space & Time. Listen hard, we buried the 'Guru' in the music.

16. ODE TO FAILURE (2:45)
(Words: A. Ginsberg/Music: M. Blair)
The most recent poem (1980) on this record. Michael Blair's music changes with shiftings of thought, & punctuates my phrasing. Whitman from Song of Myself: "Vivas to those who have fail'd/And to those whose war-vessels sank in the sea!...Not a mutineer walks handcuff'd to jail but I am handcuff'd to him and walk by his side,/I am less the jolly one there, and more the silent one with sweat on my twitching lips.' Vladimir Mayakovsky: "Die, my verse, die, like the rank & File,/as our unknown, unnumbered, fell/in storming heaven" (At Me Top of My Voice, 1930. Tr. Herbert Marshall). Yes I failed, everyone born dies, accepting failure makes success of life. 

Allen Ginsberg
with
Mark Bingham, Michael Blair, Ralph Carney,
Bill Frisell, Beaver Harris, Arto Lindsay
Lenny Pickett, Praire Prince, Marc Ribot,
G.E. Smith, Steve Swallow, Rob Wasserman,
Gary Windo, Garo Yellin
and others

Produced by Hal Willner


Buy here

Label: Antilles ‎– AN 8750
Format: Vinyl 320
Country: UK
Released: 1989
Genre: Classical, Pop
Style: Spoken Word, Contemporary

17 comments:

  1. Thanks Stylo!

    I didn't realize (or had forgotten) that this is a Hal Wilner affair.

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    1. Welcome, will put my other Wilner produced tribute albums up

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  2. Wow, a Hall Wilner album I somehow was completely unaware of, many thanks in advance!
    Just a remark though about FilePost, of all the various up/download sites I have used over the years this certainly ranks among the worst, but maybe that's only me.

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    1. Sorry to hear Filepost makes your piles erupt...that was your point, right?

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  3. Never heard of this one, but I would like to check it out alas the link is gone.. Any chance of reup for relief of my piles? Since I discovered the Monk tribute in a library I dam a sucker for Willner's productions & tributes as well as his live shows! I own the original vinyl and cd editions. Except this and
    "Stormy Weather: The Music of Harold Arlen"(soundtrack for the film with the same name), which doesn't seem to be available anywhere for listening in the ether, despite a stellar cast!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stormy_Weather:_The_Music_of_Harold_Arlen

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    1. Link is still working, if whingeing Koen can find it I'm sure you can.
      Hope you enjoy the format.

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    2. "Stormy Weather" is new to me but you can get it for peanuts on Amazon.

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  4. How ya doing?
    Funny I'd never heard of this either but link does seem to have been removed
    Regards/

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    Replies
    1. Doing fine thanks, re-up it later today, stay tuned...

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  5. Hello , Great post, but I can't find a working link. Thanks.

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  6. Thanks for the post. I think the link be dead.

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  7. Thank you for taking the time to post a working link!

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