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but the shame of sentencing the man to prison, and it endures today

Henry Cowell at the Forest Theater, Carmel, 1913 (we were all once very young)

Henry Cowell, born in the last years of the 19h century, was a brilliant composer, one of the wildest, most original of the 20th century, and his work remains radical today in the 21st. He was also a magnificent pianist, in great demand all over the world while still in his 20s. Two months after his 40th birthday he was arrested in his Menlo Park home on a 'morals' charge, and two months after that he began a 15-year term in San Quentin prison. He was paroled after four, and pardoned two years after that.

Joel Sachs' short 2013 account of Cowell's public martyrdom is essential reading on the subject. The year before Sachs had published a major study of the composer, musician and theorist: "Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music".

I have not read the book. As someone very much on the outside of musical theory, even outside of musical practice, I'm not likely to, and yet, as a fan and as a queer, I feel very connected to Cowell's story.

I was born the year Cowell's family, friends and many major composers and musicians were finally able to persuade the California authorities to release him early. Unfortunately, for the rest of us the nightmare was still not over. I remember very well the era of entrapment, prison, and violence that continued for another generation, and beyond. Brutal laws and brutish attitudes warped the personalities, aspirations, careers, dreams and loves of millions, when they did not actually physically cripple or murder the victims. I was lucky to have escaped physically, but there was serious internal scarring. Some of my friends were less fortunate.

Sadly, the hatred and the violence continues all over the world, and it has not disappeared in the U.S.

Note: I published this post after hearing a piece by Cowell this morning on the excellent internet station, Counterstream Radio. "Atlantis" was composed for dance; it includes a small ensemble and three singers moaning wordlessly in sexually explicit ways. The mission and the operations of both Counterstream and its parent, New Music USA, are described by their names. Cowell's music lives today; it's still going against the stream and it's still new.

[image from OUPblog]

Leo Borchard (b. March 31, 1899, Moscow - d. August 23, 1945, Berlin)

On this day in 1945 the conductor Leo Borchard was killed by an American sentry in occupied Berlin while the musician was being driven home after conducting a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic. His British driver had misinterpreted the sentry's hand signal to stop.*

Three months earlier the artist had been appointed to replace the somewhat-compromised, and now-exiled Wilhelm Fürtwangler as musical director of the orchestra. At the time of Borchard's death he had conducted 22 hugely-welcome and greatly-acclaimed concerts, wining the affections of the traumatized population of the shattered city.

Born in Moscow to an ethnic German family in 1899, Borchard grew up in St. Petersburg, studying there before moving to Berlin, after the Russian Revolution, in 1920. In the German capital he was enjoying an increasingly important conducting career, which included promoting the music of young composers, when he was declared undesirable by the Nazi regime in 1935, for protecting Jewish musicians and for being "politically unreliable".

He remained in the city, hiding his identity, and gave music lessons in his apartment. He also became a member of the German resistance, and, along with his stunningly-beautiful partner, the author Ruth Andreas-Friedrich, formed the humanitarian resistance group, Onkel Emil ("Onkel Emil" was their warning signal), a secret network which committed sabotage, destroyed Nazi propaganda materials and broadcast their own leaflets - and those of the tragic "White Rose". They expertly created fake medical certificates which would enable the bearer to avoid military service. They rescued war resisters, political enemies of the regime and, above all, Jews, finding hiding places, procuring food, supplying false identity cards, and supporting families which would otherwise be without resources or protection..

I first heard about Borchard years ago while reading the memoirs of various members of the Widerstand, some of whom referred to him, always with love and admiration - for both the man and his art. At the time I could find very little information about either. Although even now very little has turned up, there are a precious few recordings, and at least one video.

I've also learned about the two memoirs** written by Andreas-Friedrich, one about her experience during the war, the other about Berlin in the years immediately following. I expect to read them both.

Borchard wasn't the only victim of American security forces in Europe that year: Anton Webern was killed three weeks later in Mittersill, near Salzburg, on September 15th. The composer had gone there from Vienna to be safe, but that night, just before the military curfew, when he stepped outside his house in order to smoke a cigar, he was shot by an American Army soldier, in circumstances which are not really clear to this day..

"Berlin Underground, 1938-1945", and "Battleground Berlin: Diaries 1945-1948"

[image from Discogs]

graduating Piggy Artists celebrate the breakthrough which made the Brucennial possible [from left to right: Ian Lassiter, Liz Olanoff, Joe Kay, Maria Dizzia, Matt Nasser]

Last night the earnest, tuneful sounds of the Bruce High Quality Foundation's production of Animal Farm: A Musical further enlivened the halls of an already almost-impossibly-vigorous second edition of the arts collective's Brucennial, first visited upon the unsuspecting city in 2010.

The fable, based only very loosely on Orwell's allegorical novella, describes the redemptive journey of "the graduating Piggy Artists of the class of 2012" (from the BHQF site) after their confrontation with their school's alleged penury; its chicken trustees' incompetence, cowardice, and stinginess, and their move toward charging tuition for the first time after 150 years; its greedy dog financial-advisors, and the dispersal, for a time, of the collective creative energy of the porcine members of the class itself.

While somewhere in BHQF materials there's a reference to the group's own institution of higher arts learning, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, the real story of the high-spirited lets-put-on-a-show production is that of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the handful(s) of former Cooper students which founded the collective in 2004.

Following the conclusion of the show one of the Bruce's made a very straight appeal to members of the audience, asking them to help ensure that the college on Cooper Square not betray its legacy as a pure meritocracy: It was founded by the self-made industrialist Peter Cooper to give young people the opportunity of the good education he never had, a tuition-free school whose facilities were open to anyone who applied.

We were asked to go to for more information, and to spread its words. Those of the Bruce High Quality Foundation University anthem, printed inside Sunday's handsome "Playbill", offer an inspiration:

Every Pig is an artist.
No pig flies alone.
Teaching others is our greatest work.
We can't do it on our own.


[second image, the program cover, from GalleristNY]


I had wanted to do my own text for this reminder of the benefit for Issue Project Room being held in the West Village this Saturday, Octobber 1, but I think Barry has already said it all. We're both committed to this art and performance center - its a great program - and very excited about this event.

The only thing I'd like to add is to make it clear that the event is being held, not in either the group's temporary or future homes, but in the West Village, at Industria Superstudio, 775 Washington Street (between W 12th St and Jane).

This is Barry's announcement, except for edits switching my name to his (we're really not always so interchangeable):

Most people expect Barry and me to only be interested in the visual arts for some reason, but we're also fanatics about any "new" art, be it music, theater, dance, etc. Since 2003, one of the places to hear and see new things, especially multi-disciplinary work (why isn't there more of that?) has been Issue Project Room, founded by artist Suzanne Fiol.

They are now raising money to make capital improvements to their new home in an amazing space at 110 Livingston. Their benefit this weekend (Saturday, October 1, 2011) includes a special performances by Steve Roden and A^ction: Kim Gordon, Tony Conrad, and John Miller, plus an amazing art auction. Artists include: Peggy Ahwesh, Jo Andres, Paolo Arao, Kenseth Armstead, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Donald Baechler, Paul Chan, Tony Conrad, Ethan Cook, Wayne Coyne, Peggy Cyphers, E.V. Day, Devon Dikeou, Daniella Dooling, Shawn Dulaney, Devin Elijah, Rochelle Feinstein, Suzanne Fiol, Neal Franc, Isa Freeling, Michelle Handelman, Joseph Holmes, Mi Ju, Art Kane, Robin Khan, Todd Knopke, Jutta Koether, Lauren Luloff, Christian Marclay, John Miller, Paul Miller (DJ Spooky), Stephen Moore, Ulrike Muller, James Nares, Yoko Ono, Tony Oursler, Carissa Pelleteri, Tristan Perich, Barbara Pollack, Lee Ranaldo, Brett Reichman, Steve Roden, Julia Rommel, Kevin Ryan, Cindy Sherman, James Siena, Gary Simmons, Jude Tallichet, Mickalene Thomas, Stephen Vitiello, Andy Warhol, Martynka Wawrzyniak, John Waters, Alyssa Taylor Wendt, Robert Wilson and Marina Zurkow.

Barry and I will be there, and hope you will join us in supporting this important organization. Tickets are only $125, or $50 if you are already a member. You can also bid online for the silent auction artworks. However, if you don't attend you will miss the performance and Ned Sublette as the live auctioneer!

show sidewalk shingle

I wanted to get this post published before it was too late to send anyone to see this wonderful short-run (only ten-days) group show of sculpture in Williamsburg. Barry and I stopped in at Vaudeville Park last Sunday to see "Anomalistic Urge." intrigued by the siren of a new space and a new curator. Some of the artists were very familiar to us; some of them were not (although maybe we should be embarrassed to admit that).

Courtney Tramposh, whose work we had not encountered before, gathered together gorgeous and exciting pieces by some 30 sculptors for this show. Tramposh is a sculptor herself and for this show she created the room environment as well as the unconventional but aesthetically sympathetic platforms on which the works are displayed. She describes the installation as "a tabletop sculpture show." For a large group sculpture show, it's contained within a fairly small space, but it all works. "Anomalistic Urge" is her first outing as a curator, and it's a doozy.

Courtney was anxious to point out all of the other artists's work, but never mentioned she had a piece of her own in the show. I thought we had already stayed past closing time, so unfortunately we didn't quite see everything, and I didn't snap an image of her own work (outside of its supporting roles).

The complete list of artists includes Justin Adian, Michael Berryhill, Shawn Bluechel, Strauss Borque-LaFrance, Sung Jin Choi, Tania Cross, Ben Dowell, Stacy Fisher, Jashin Friedrich, Joachim "YoYo" Friedrich, Gerald Giamportone, Susana Gaudencio, Hiroshi Tachibana, Rachel Higgins, James Hyde, Kristen Jensen, Michael Johnson, Tom Kotik, Denise, Kupferschmidt, Emily Noelle Lambert, Colin O'Con, Jonathan Peck, Courtney Puckett, Nathan See, Emma Spertus, Madeleine Stern, Jennifer Sullivan, Raphael Taylor, Courtney Tramposh, and Austin Willis.

Vaudeville Park is as much a (very interesting) music and performance space as anything else, and so we're not surprised to hear that there will be a closing party and "sound performance" this Sunday, April 10, from 6 to 9 (not to mention some quirky contemporary classical music tonight, and "feral chamber music" on Saturday).

James Hyde OR 2008 Parex on wood 24" x 12" x 12"

Jennifer Sullivan Borrowed Confidence 2008 gouache, ink, collage on cardboard 10" x 16"

Nathan See The Triumph of Logic 2011 clay figurine, wood, cardboard, paint, paper

Joachim "YoYo" Friedrich Untitled 1976 oil on wood 2' x 4'

Emily Noelle Lambert Flock 2010 paint on wood

Denise Kupferschmidt Vase, Bowl, Block 2011 cement, plaster, paint, string, plexiglass, wood

Hiroshi Tachibana untitled 2009 hand-cut plywood, latex paint and oil pastel 16" x 24" x 6"

Courtney Puckett Bug 2010 wood, wire, string 5' x 1' x 1' [with detail of Raphael Taylor's "Designer 737 02/21/11 13:11, #1"]

very sharp

I'm not sure what we're in for tomorrow (April 1), but when I heard Elliott Sharp and Steve Horowitz were involved, I was already half there.

Over three days this weekend, beginning with a Sharp-curated evening of performance on Friday at 8 pm, the Electronic Music Foundation (EMF) is presenting what it calls "The Extended Piano Festival: Works for the Disklavier." It looks like the music, in addition to its considerable performance art elements, may be accompanied by a certain amount of visual art throughout the Festival.

Some of the other names in the press release include, but are not limited to, Claudio Ambrosini, Dan Becker, Anthony Coleman, Nicolas Collins, Michael Evans, Fred Frith, Annie Gosfield, Seth Horvitz, Dafna Natali, Veniero Rizzardi, Frank Rothkamm, Carl Stone, and Hans Tammen.

Many of these have works being performed tomorrow (and/or will be performing it themselves), including Sharp, R. Luke DuBois, Jenny Lin, Stefano Bassanese, Viniero Rizzardi, Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, Nicolas Collins, and Lukas Ligeti.

Steve Horowitz, has the space pretty much to himself (and the Disklavier) for a CD release performance the next night, Saturday.

Meanwhile, during daylight hours on Saturday and Sunday (April 2 and 3) people will be able to visit "a body of installed works for the Disklavier" curated by Sharp and Horowitz, composed or "performed" by Claudio Ambrosini, Dan Becker, Anthony Coleman, Diego Dall'Osto, Carl De Pirro, Fred Frith, Annie Gosfield, Seth Horvitz, Dafna Naphtali, Veniero Rizzardi, Frank Rothkamm, Carl Stone, Paulo Troncon and Hans Tammen.

I have to thank a good number of the artists whose names I've mentioned above for finally pulling me to New York from Providence in the 1980s; the other half may have been born after I arrived, and for that none of us can take any responsibility. By 1985 I had already assembled a huge collection of recordings by the giants of what at that time I and others called New York "downtown music," or "noise music." There was also the designation, "experimental music," but none of these terms seemed to help much when it came time to approach a record store's bins. When I moved to Manhattan I was shocked to often find myself sitting (sometimes standing) in live performances where there might be as few as ten other people in the audience - this when I might have half a dozen of that performer's records at home - and everyone but me seemed to be a musician and friend of the performer(s)!

All Festival performances and music installations are at White Box, 329 Broome St. Yes, the music is still pretty much downtown.

For more information, go to EMF or White Box.

The Dependent, where boundaries blurred (here the New York Fine Arts room)

I've found my art fair. "Armory Arts Week" worked this year: Institutions often don't age any better than people, and maybe the secret of life for old art shows is in the spawning of the new.

The Armory Show itself was, well, armorial, although there were pockets of real humanity.

Independent, which was such a hit last year on its first outing, was definitely more cerebral than both the Armory itself and even its own first manifestation. But there was little eye candy or energy, and it felt surprisingly stiff and corporate. I'm certain many individual conceptual projects would open up if only I could hang around some more, but on a frustratingly-short weekend of compelling attractions there's almost never enough time.

Speaking of candy, Daniel Reich hosted a modest, slightly roguish party inside his gallery on Friday afternoon. A salute to the 60s and the current gallery installation, Jack Early's Ear Candy Machine, it included continuous live music performances. it will probably remain one of my personal highlights of the week, and only partly for its odd folksy character (and Daniel's inimitable conversation).

The Dependent was the event I had most anticipated since I first heard about it, and I wasn't disappointed. Last night the Gramercy Fair (The Gramercy International Contemporary Art Fair), the 1994 progenitor of the modern Armory Show, was resurrected for a few hours. This was no sterile reproduction however, but a brilliant, exciting original. On the basis of the magic created last night, may have already created its own legend. It was "let's put on a show," and the results were pretty compelling, beginning with the contagious enthusiasm of the crowds on both sides of the "proscenium," and continuing through the marvelous blur of boundaries between art, environment, artists, viewers and listeners. The dozen or so exhibitors were given one hour to arrange their installations inside an equivalent number of smallish rooms (inside the Sheraton Hotel on West 25th Street) before the doors were opened at 4 pm. The show was supposed to end five hours later, but the crowds were still lined up outside when we left at nine o'clock.

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