So this is the missing link in the OX sequence -- Outsider XMAS 3: HIPMAS Vol 1, consisting of artists whose outsider status is earned not from developmental differences, a weakness for novelty, or alienated immersion in specialized branches of Christianity that embrace ventriloquism, but from just being too effin' cool.
Weirdly, this was the hardest volume to curate. Ten years in the making, and only 3 songs from the original lineup made the final cut. That percentage may increase with the second volume -- necessitated by the fact that I just couldn't whittle down the repertoire very easily. I let Can's Little Star of Bethlehem and Cale's Child's Christmas in Wales go because I couldn't tell what the hell they were going on about, or if it had anything to do with the birth of our Redeemer.
But there's so much quality material from junkies, perverts, communists, tax collectors, and intellectuals that it needs to be capped at two before it takes on a life of its own. But whatevs. Just dig it. Tracklist in comments.
It's been a couple of years since I shared these Outsider Xmas mixes, but they're still available! It's 3 CD-length anthologies of Holiday-themed outsider music (songpoems, celebrities, novelty, developmentally different, amateur, etc). No promises, but if I get a few minutes, the long anticipated Vol. 3 (Hipmas) may be forthcoming...
"You may order your pastels from Alaska,
Imported, as the Igloo, in review"
- Evelyn Christmas (songpoem, Vol 2 track 4)
Just ran across Michael Holingshead's autobiography online, and located this great account of trying to mount a musical about trepanation in the prison chapel after he was busted...
"One of the highlights of my stay at Leyhill was the production of a physio-psychedelic musical called Paradise Lost — The True Story, which had been sent to me by Joey Mellen, friend and former associate from Pont Street, who had decided that the best way to stay permanently 'high' was by trepanning a hole in his head the size of the old sixpenny piece. The play was a strange mixture of Milton and Mellen, with lyrics in praise of trepanation or 'getting the hole'. I reproduce one of the songs below, called 'The Great Brain Robbery':
THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY
By Joe Mellen
Up stood the ape—down came the drag—
The beginning of the blues—
Can't talk your way out of it adult
Daddy there's a drag on you.
Oh adult the mistakes you make
You ignorant little man
Adult oh the liberties you take
You mistaken little man.
Between your meals you make your deals
And send your sons to war
Talk all you want but don't you know
We've heard it all before.
Adult will you never see
All you want is to agree—
The lies you tell to save your face
Constitute your grave disgrace.
You're losing and you think you're gaining
It's just your ego needs maintaining
Adult d'you know what is true ?
The drag is bearing down on you.
What you're trying to regain
Is blood belonging to your brain
Will you know before you're dead
That paradise is in your head ?
You was robbed—so you made belief—
It's gravity—we've caught the thief
All you prayers won't save your soul
Adult you need a hole.
Another song, called 'Brainbloodvolume', has been set to music by Julie Felix in her furthest-out number yet.
It was lost and now it's found again
Don't drive it underground again
They call it love and heaven above
Some take it for the hell of it
It's you it's me it's good
It's what the poets have written for
Painters have painted for
Priests have prayed for
Prisons have filled for
Soldiers have killed for
It's what the pipes have been smoked for
Witches have been cloaked for
Headstands have been done for
The whole thing was begun for
It's what the world was made for
The price must be paid for—
It was necessary to approach the Governor to obtain permission to stage it in the prison theatre, perhaps even before an invited audience of students from Bath and Bristol universities. I decided to plug the Milton section at the expense of the rest, feeling that the Governor would be more sympathetic to it than the modern additions.
The Governor was most attentive during my outline of the play, and wrote a memo to the Prison Chaplain that he should consider staging it one Sunday in the Church.
Accordingly, I met with the Chaplain, a nice, easygoing man with a strong sense of Christian vocation, who had been at Leyhill for four years and had a good understanding of prisoner psychology. I introduced the matter by suggesting that there is a mystery in the story of Paradise Lost that lies at the heart of all our lives. And this is older than that of Oedipus. In the play there are overtones of the great four stories of the world's various religions, and specifically of the Hebrew-Christian tradition. Guilt and Sin are pretty powerful themes of the Christian Church, and any attempt to understand their place in the world and their relevance to contemporary man was, I assured him, a matter of concern to today's criminal. One begins by depicting man as some kind of "hairless talking ape" who is unable to benefit from the possibilities of his own existence, who then has a revelation, in this instance, through piercing a small hole through his skull to increase the volume of blood to the brain.
The Chaplain looked puzzled. 'But what has Paradise Lost got to do with making holes in your head ?' he asked.
'Well, the theory is that by increasing the amount of blood to the brain the surface of the capillaries—millions of them—increases, which in turn release glucose from the blood into the brain cells. This is the physiological secret of "getting high". So the "hairless talking ape" who does not know that his "fall" (loss of brainbloodvolume) has a purely physiological cause. Thus he lives out his simple life or death without ever realising his golden future, truly the parable of fallen man.'
'It sounds all rather godless to me.'
'Well, the modern writer uses myths and metaphors in order to get his message across. And in the case of this play, he has found modern counterparts to the story of the Fall in poetry, science, and music to express an awareness that we all have, however obscurely, that there are vast capacities in man which he continually fails to realise. The message of the play is simple. If things are not right inside yourself, then change them. The evolutionary leap in being from monkey to man produced a new kind of animal, a creative animal, an animal with imagination, who could devise ways to regain the lost paradise of lost brainbloodvolume.'
'But why trepanation ?' the Chaplain persisted.
'Because trepanation offers a solution on a manageable scale.'
'A solution to what ?'
'A solution to the problem of staying "high".'
'But what has staying "high" got to do with putting on a musical play in my Church?'
'The Governor and I thought that because of the religious themes you might… '
'But I find the whole thing utterly "godless", and I could never allow such a production to be shown. And now that you have explained it to me, I doubt whether I could allow it to be performed in the theatre. Prisoners are very suggestible you know, and we could not risk wholesale trepanations. It is just what the Daily Express are looking for. I really think, Hollingshead, that you ought to concentrate instead on more practical plans for your own future than try to launch a social movement based on people putting holes in their heads. Have you ever considered the profession of the church ?'
'I'm sorry you don't like the play. I thought you would. What we are seeing today is merely the visible aspect of a universal neurosis, and the Fall myths, in whatever language, illustrate humanity's unconscious awareness of human suffering, which is the failure of humanity which Paradise Lost symbolises. God is simply a creative power which is part of human life in the Garden. A voice within man tells him that he can and should regain the lost brainblood of childhood—should exercise some degree of control over his own consciousness, in other words, which is the message of the new developing religions in the West. The problem facing the established Church is that if man lived up to his full creative capacities, there would be no religion.'
We decided to go ahead anyway, and started rehearsals. Hugh Landsdowne, a poet and magician, who had been imprisoned for growing half an acre of marijuana at his farm in Essex, linked in the I Ching; and together we made a huge stroboscopic mandala with an electric motor we pinched from one of the machines in the tailor's shop. The play was never performed in either the church or the theatre, due to the misunderstanding as to what the play was actually about; but it was seen by most of the inmates at some point in its actual unfolding; and helped keep our minds off more dangerous matters."
F's only gig of 2017 was a great success, and the debut of percussionist Kane Lafia went without a hitch. We played a 35 minute improvised set ranging from a wall-o-noise to delicate ambient soundscapes, while a specially-crafted artisanal psychedelic lightshow was projected over us, and a live video stream of the performance went out online and was rear projected onto the Odd Ark Gallery's frosted window, allowing the considerable crowd that couldn't squeeze into the actual space to follow along. The cassette didn't quite sell out, so text Machete if you're jonesing! Here is a gallery of images from the event, with video to follow, hopefully...
Here are a couple of shots of the neighborhood we're supposed to move to in 3 weeks, after 20 years in the Wilson house on Benton Way -- just inside the evacuation zone of the Creek Fire, one of four major conflagrations currently devastating LA. It's a horse community just south of the 210 freeway, called Shadow Hills, and it recently escaped from the La Tuna Fire from the other side.
This is from the Sepulveda Fire to the south - the biggest -- the Thomas Fire -- is wiping out Ventura and Ojai - here's a shot from a video from some one's morning commute on the 405.
And returning to the Creek Fire, I'm not sure this FB friend was paying attention to the details of the algorithm-generated map that accompanied his good news...
(Just found the Exploratorium posted the pdf catalog (including my essay) for Tim's 2015 installation online...)
"What the heck is a bosun’s whistle? OK, something’s coming back—a deep childhood memory of strongly desiring and eventually obtaining a Cap’n Crunch plastic two-note whistle from the bottom of a cereal box. I was an experimental musician even then, and explored the humble instrument’s potentials extensively around the family home for several weeks, before it mysteriously vanished. I was inconsolable. But I got over it and moved on to the family turntable, which is a whole other story.
When Tim Hawkinson decided to use a bosun’s whistle as the model for his ambitious kinetic sound-sculptural installation at the Exploratorium, he was tapping into a curious nexus of pop cultural and historical reference—an auditory trope that most of us would recognize, but whose original meaning and function are probably lost in the fog of technological obsolescence.
Familiar through countless mass-media depictions of nautical life (and, as I recently noticed, extraterrestrial escapades in the form of the Starship Enterprise’s electronic PA system on the original Star Trek series), the harsh, teakettle tones of the non-diaphragm type whistle have a loose semiotic charge—navy-something—but very few parsable details.
In fact, although it is now limited to ceremonial use—an idiosyncratic vestigial indicator of a “traditional” identity which has been completely subsumed by a homogenized global military culture centered on computers—the bosun’s pipe (aka whistle, call, or pippity-dippity) represents a functional language devoid of words; resembling whistlelanguages found in indigenous cultures around the world and probably inspired and based on some ancient maritime culture—the Greeks supposedly used pipes to time the oar-strokes of their galley slaves.
While a traditional whistled language such as Silbo Gomero—used by inhabitants of the Canary Islands to communicate across their jagged terrain—bears a direct, if convoluted relationship to the regular spoken language of its host region, the same cannot be said with any certainty about the language of the bosun’s call. Instead, seamen have, over the course of time, reverse engineered the whistles with phoneme substitutes of their own devising, nonsense phrases or ironic vernacular translations, such as “The officers’ wives eat pudding and pies, the sailors’ wives eat skilly” for the officers’ call to mess (dinner).
There’s something about this inversion and simulation of an organic communication system—and the improvisational, collaged translation that unfolds from it—that seems very reminiscent of Tim Hawkinson’s creative process. On an immediate level, the bosun’s whistle dovetails with a number of recurring themes in Hawkinson’s oeuvre..."
F will be performing as "F for Fortissimo" at ODD ARK Los Angeles 7101 North Figueroa Unit E, in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, 90042 on Saturday, December 9th from 4 - 6 PM, with psychedelic lightshow.
Admission is FREE!
This performance celebrates the release of their limited edition cassette F for FF on Redacted Records. Each cassette is numbered, hand stamped and sealed with red wax, and the edition is strictly limited to 52 copies. Also available at the event will be a few remaining 12” LPs of their debut album Faüxmish, as well as screen-printed t-shirts.
F is a Los Angeles art-rock supergroup whose motto is "Simplicity Through Noise" and who have developed a practice rooted in improvisational ensemble playing using electric guitars (played with rubber mallets and other extended as well as traditional techniques) and vintage synthesizers, in various combinations of three. F are Daniel Hawkins, Marnie Weber, and Doug Harvey, and this event marks the debut of new member Kane Lafia on percussions.