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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

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Bollo presents … Eliane Radigue (& The Lappetites) *

* (restored)
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Eliane Radigue is one of my favorite composers. I listen to her music a lot when I’m working, reading or thinking. Its one of the things that helps me focus and gives me space in my head, maybe because her focus is so intense it helps me. I really love her work, hope you have the time and chance to enjoy it also.

Eliane Radigue is a French electronic music composer. She started her work in the 1950s and her first creations were presented in the late 1960s. Until 2000 her work was almost exclusively created on a single synthesizer, the ARP 2500 modular system and tape. Since 2001 she composed mostly for acoustic instruments.

A portrait of Eliane Radigue, produced by the Austrian IMA (Institute for Media Archeology), which observes Eliane in her workspace, operating the ARP and talking about the process of composing and recording. French audio with English subtitles, 15 minutes.The DVD can be purchased on the IMA’s website here:

http://ima.or.at/?page_id=858

Eliane Radigue was born January 24, 1932 in Paris, France. She studied electroacoustic music techniques at the Studio d’essai at the RTF, under the direction of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry (1957-58). She was married to the artist, Arman, and devoted ten years to the education of three children, deepening classical music studies and instrumental practice on the harp and piano at the same time. In 1967-68 she worked again with Pierre Henry, as his assistant at the Studio Apsome.

Radigue worked for a year at the New York University School of the Arts in 1970-71. Her music, its source an Arp synthesizer and medium recording tape, attracted considerable attention for its sensitive, dappled purity. She was in residence at the electronic music studios of the University of Iowa and California Institute of the Arts in 1973.

Becoming a Tibetan Buddhist in 1975, Radigue went into retreat, and stopped composing for a time. When she took up her career again in 1979, she continued to work with the Arp synthesizer which has become her signature. She composed Triptych for the Ballet Théâtre de Nancy (choreography by Douglas Dunn), Adnos II & Adnos III, and began the large-scale cycle of works based on the life of the Tibetan master, Milarepa.

In 1984 Radigue received a “bourse à la creation” from the French Government to compose Songs of Milarepa, and a “commande de l’état” in 1986 for the continuation of the Milarepa cycle with Jetsun Mila.

Notoriously slow and painstaking in her work, Radigue has produced in the last decade or so on average one major work every three years. Very recently, in response to the demands of musicians worldwide, she has begun creating works for specific performers and instruments together with electronics. The first of these was for bass player Kaspar Toeplitz, and more recently the American cellist Charles Curtis.

Performances of her music have taken place at galleries and museums such as the Salon des Artistes Decorateurs (Paris), Foundation Maeght (St. Paul de Vence), Albany Museum of the Arts (New York), Galerie Rive Droite (Paris), Gallery Sonnabend (New York), Galerie Yvon Lambert (Paris), and Galerie Shandar (Paris); at festivals including the Festival de Como (Italy), the Festival d’Automne a Paris, Festival Estival (Paris), International Festival of Music (Bourges, France); and at the New York Cultural Center, Experimental Intermedia Foundation (New York), The Kitchen (New York), Columbia University (New York), Vanguard Theatre (Los Angeles), LACE (Los Angeles), Mills College (Oakland), University of Iowa, Bennington School of Music, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the NEMO Festival (Chicago 1996). She has appeared on many broadcast programs including France Culture, France Musique, distribution via satellite covering over 50 stations in the U.S. including special programs on KPFK (Los Angeles) and KPFA (San Francisco).

Radigue currently lives in France, where she continues to compose electronic music and study the teachings of the Tibetan lamas. She returns to the United States periodically to present programs of her electronic works.

 

SOME WORKS

 

SOME SCORES

 

INTERVIEW

Max Dax: You grew up in Paris, in the direct neighborhood of Les Halles – the old market halls. I never saw them before they were torn down, but you have. What were they like?

Eliane Radigue: The memory still lingers on. It’s pretty sad that they’ve destroyed not only this quarter but also this integral chapter of Paris. I lived on a street that doesn’t exist anymore. There is still a house with a plaque that says Rue de la Lingerie—that’s the name of the street where my parents lived, but that is all that’s left. There are many books about Les Halles—with old photos and corresponding texts.

I ask because when I travel I always try to visit the big fish, fruit and meat markets to record the sounds—I do field recordings of the market criers and the environmental noise. Whether it is in Athens, in Los Angeles, in Rome or in London, these places seem to have a very specific sound. And since you deal with sound, with music and musique concrète, maybe you’ve noticed it as well.

When I was younger, Paris only started to be alive at around midnight. Where I lived it used to be full of people selling vegetables and fruit and people yelling and all that. I remember when I was an adolescent, when I came back at night I had to cross all of that just to go into the house.

It sounds like paradise to me. I mean, we are talking about real sounds that probably no one had thought to record back then.

This would have been paradise for you, obviously, but honestly? I didn’t like it that much. Already back then there were a lot of tourists coming to Les Halles, just for fun. When I was a young girl these people were whistling my way which I disliked completely. I didn’t much like to live in this neighborhood. Of course, this place hasn’t existed for 40 or 50 years now. It has been transferred.

You’ve worked with one instrument, the ARP 2500, over many years. I saw a TV documentary about you where you prominently say, “I have music in my head as an idea before I start”. Did you feel that you were at one with your instrument?

I cannot start a piece if I don’t have an idea of what it would become, what we may call a theme, but what I would call the spirit. The spirit of what I wanted to do should be there before because I am a very poor improviser! And I keep that spirit, that theme in mind, quite often several months before I start to do something. So, when I come to make the sounds it’s already there, I know…

… how I can get it out of the machine?

To a certain extent, yes. Not at the beginning of course. I have been living with my ARP for more than forty years now, so it’s a very long marriage! At the beginning I had to be more careful but after a while it was quite alright.

So it takes a long time for you to write a piece of music?

Oh yes, it takes quite long. When I started to be more familiar with my instrument I made pieces that were of a very long duration, which, of course, could not be made in one move. This meant I had to prepare a lot in advance. The first move was to make some sounds where I could say, “this could be for the beginning, this for the end, this for the middle,” but after that it was made out of mixing and overlap, and a final piece would have at least thirty to forty elements to make the mix. What’s more, when I had made the first sounds for the piece I’d leave them for two or three months in order to listen to everything with a fresh ear—intentionally, to decide which to throw away and which to keep. Then, when I arrived at the final mix, it was a kind of climax because all the tape had to be ready and in a chronological order. From there I had to manage it, stopping one tape, bringing one in and one coming out, I had no Pro Tools whatsoever [laughs], I had to do the whole thing manually. If something was eighty minutes long and something went wrong at minute 74 everything had to be redone from the very beginning!

I want to come back to your quote. It sounds almost like a meditative approach—the idea that you ruminate and think over a piece in order to really hear the music before it exists.

It could be so. I have been involved in the meditative process but this music had been called meditative before I started the practice myself. It was always there. Maybe I was more meditative then than I am now. Who knows?

When you work on a major piece you said that you do the parts separately. How do you know one part belongs to the same piece?

It goes with what I call the spirit of the piece. Let me give you a practical example of the Jetsun Mila piece, which is about the life of the great yogi and poet Milarepa. As far as I remember nine or ten men pass through his life, his birth, his ordeals. It has a spiritual or mental color and I have to translate this into certain kinds of sounds. Therefore, I made the sounds that fit with every shade. Sometimes, when this was too complex, I did some premixing to avoid being left with all the separate colors at the end. This was a framework, these pre-mixed pieces, which helped simplify my work. Jetsun Mila was the first piece of my trilogy on death and featured the six intermediate stages of consciousness, three during lifetime and three between death and rebirth, according to the Tibetan tradition. The story was there, I just had to follow it. I still work the same way now, although not so precisely, if I may say so.

Can you give a recent example?

A good example is my very last electronic composition L’île re-sonante. I had this island in mind—the title always refers to what it is—and L’île re-sonante belongs to Rabelais, the French Renaissance writer. The idea came when I was at a venue ran by David Vessel. The place was on a slope and, to me it looked like an island—in French: “île”. I’d also been thinking about the Lac du Bourjet in France—a lake that is very deep at a certain point, as deep as the mountain next to it is high. The piece refers to all these dimensions. The first part was to try to figure out how to represent the island and the mountain, the second part was about the water on which it reflects and the third part dealt with the inside, the depth. Every element had to have its own sound, so it sounds different even if it’s about the same thing. This is one of my main purposes of all the music I have been doing— it is somehow the same and also different. Here I would quote Verlaine, the French poet: “Et qui n’est, chaque fois, ni tout à fait la meme / Ni tout à fait une autre, et m’aime et me comprend.” It’s from “Mon reve familier”.

What they say in America, albeit less poetically: same same but different.

Yes. This is to explain what I mean by having something in mind before I start. There’s another funny story from one of my very good friends, Michèle Bokanowski, who is a very good composer and who asked of me for some sounds to use in her own composition. One day she arrived asking me to do some sounds that would represent the silence of the stars. Very nice, huh? So I went to my synthesizer and I tried to figure out something. I put the sound on, and she said: OK, that’s it. Bingo. We obviously had the same wavelength. Through music you can reflect anything. Sounds always reflect something from the mind.

Perhaps because the human mind, much like music, possesses a mathematical component and a very irrational component. You cannot explain how or why a piece of music affects you.

I think I am much more instinctive than that. I had been going for a while before I met Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry and their work with twelve tones. That was intellectually very interesting, it was like a game for me, but I was not very happy with the sound, I was not fond of it.

Twelve tone was one element of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry’s work but another was the way they included sounds recorded from tapes in the streets, enriching the music and, by extension, saying that these sounds were music too. Musique concrète became a revolutionary thing and, likewise, you worked with tape too.

I haven’t been strictly following Pierre Henry or Pierre Schaeffer. They didn’t much like what I was doing because I was not faithful to their musical principle. I was happy to work with them and I have learnt quite a lot about musique concrète and how to splice tape through them, so I’m very grateful to them for that, it was a real pleasure. I respect them and I like their music. I like them as people and musicians. But I have my own music. There was some music I wanted to hear and to hear it I had to make it. It’s as simple as that.

When I was preparing for the interview I listened to a lot of pieces of yours that are accessible through YouTube. It’s funny to read what people write as commentaries because, of course, this being the Internet everyone can comment on anything. Here’s an example: “Sounds like my old refrigerator but it helps me sleep and contemplate about life.”

[laughs] That’s nice. I have a comment on the comment: There is a way of listening to every sound and making music out of it. The motor of an aeroplane, not from now because they’re too strong, but from years ago, had a very interesting sound that you could really make a symphony out of just by how you listened to it. So, I’d say: Yes, the way of listening is very important, so I agree with that person. Ideally, in order to avoid being annoyed by any kind of sound, you just have to make some music out of it through your ears, through the way of listening—if it is not too aggressive, of course.

It’s interesting that you say you didn’t follow Henry or Schaeffer because what you just said about every machine, every noise, becoming music, it could have been them who said that.

I think my meeting with Pierre Schaeffer was very important because it opened my life to that idea. When I expressed my dislike I was referring to the twelve tones music, I was unhappy with that. One thing about listening: when you listen to classical music there is a way of listening by reading the score at the same time. It’s very interesting intellectually if you want to make an analysis but the best way to listen is to just, you know, let the music go, be invited by the music. This is something important within my work because I’ve always worked very much alone, except for my cat for an assistant but she didn’t say that much. So I had several ways of listening—this is why it took a lot of time —from listening freely to technical listening, that is to say listening to the technical problems. You can listen to something ten ways at least. Everything I’ve ever done has been submitted to the different ways of listening, including distracted listening.

What attracted you to electronic music? When I listen to your pieces I feel drawn to these abstract soundscapes you’ve created, they’re very long, very calm and modulated. As a composer you seem very patient with your music. It forces you to really listen.

Of course you get more if you really listen. My music is always changing, and if you listen you can hear it. It comes from the first access I had to electronic sounds which was the wild sounds coming from feedback. When one sound is coming from one loudspeaker and one microphone it means that when you go too near to the speaker with the microphone everything collapses and when you go too far it disappears. If you find the right place, which is very narrow, then you can move it very slowly and it changes but that requires a lot of patience. The same with feedback through two tape recorders; just by touching one knob on a recording you may have some slight alteration, but if you go too far everything disappears. Even with my synthesizer I only had to move the knobs very, very slightly.

This reminds me of the image of the river. It’s always the same river but at the same time always a different one.

That’s true. I use this river image myself to represent one of my Adnos, of which I made three in the seventies. If a stone in the river moves, the river is not changed, but after a long time it becomes something completely different. Likewise, my music will always be changing but slowly. It’s rarely making great changes from one thing to another.

You’ve started to work acoustically, which is quite a change. Do you ever perform anything on stage? Or are you simply playing a composer role?

I don’t play any instrument. And if I was giving a concert on tape I would never be onstage. Once someone has claimed to have seen me onstage—but that person is a liar! I was always backstage. The final product has to be on tape because the mixing was so complex that it was impossible to reproduce it in a live concert setting. So, what’s the point of being on stage when everything is on tape? What I do is I insist on checking out the acoustic response in the venue, but I can do that in the rehearsal. Once that is done, that is it.

Why did you start working with acoustic instruments? Acoustic instruments ask to be played, or else there would be no sound. It’s almost the opposite of what you were doing with your work with tapes.

I am very grateful to Kasper Toeplitz who plays the electronic bass and who insisted for a long time on asking me to do a piece with him—which I enjoyed very much. It’s a wonderful experience to work with someone because, believe me, to work just alone can be very ascetic. I am grateful to him because it meant that when Charles Curtis, this great cellist, asked me I was able to say I’d give it a try. Since then I have only worked with acoustic musicians. There’s the same difference between acoustic and recording as there is between analogue and digital. There’s always something missing with digital, even if it is somehow cleaner and clearer. With acoustic instruments, let’s say a bell, when the first gong stops there’s a lot of different sub-harmonics that happen to make the music. Or, if you’ve just got the attack of the bell at the beginning you have a beautiful music just floating like that. This is a natural sound, nobody has tampered with it, it is just intonation all by itself. All acoustic instruments have that. Why would I do something which is quite difficult and painful if, at the same time, I have the privilege of having these wonderful instrumentalists asking to work with me? Particularly when I enjoy it so immensely. We can choose to work within a very narrow branch of music, but music is really so very, very large.

 

DISCOGRAPHY

Naldjorlak I II III, shiiin, 2013
Ψ 847″, Oral, 2013
Feedback Works 1969–1970, Alma Marghen, 2012
Transamorem / Transmortem, Important, 2011
Jouet electronique / Elemental I, Alma Marghen, 2010
Vice Versa, etc., Important, 2009
Triptych, Important, 2009
Naldjorlak for Charles Curtis, Shiiin, 2008
Chry-ptus, Schoolmap, 2007
Jetsun Mila, Lovely Music, Ltd. CD2003(2 discs), 2007
L’île re-sonante, Shiin, 2005
Before the Libretto (with The Lappetites), Quecksilber, 2005
Elemental II, Records of Sleaze Art, 2004
Geelriandre / Arthesis, Fringes Archive, 2003
Adnos I-III, Table of the Elements, 2002
E = A = B = A + B (2 x 7″ limited edition), Povertech Industries, 2000
Songs of Milarepa, Lovely Music, Ltd. CD 2001(2 discs), 1998
Trilogie de la Mort, Experimental Intermedia XI 119(3), 1998
Biogenesis, Metamkine, “Cinema pour l’oreille” collection, MKCD019, 1996
Kyema-Intermediate States, Experimental Intermedia XI 103, 1992
Mila’s Journey Inspired by a Dream, Lovely Music, Ltd. CD 2002, 1987 (out of print, included on CD 2001, Songs of Milarepa)
Jetsun Mila, Lovely Music, Ltd. CA 2003, 1987 (cassette out of print)
Songs of Milarepa, Lovely Music, Ltd. LP 2001, 1983 (LP out of print)

 

THE LAPPETITES

The Lappetites are a laptop group of woman from different background and different generations playing with digital and sonic linking.

Regularly active as solo artistes all over the world they have come together to research ways of live sharing and poaching sound and data from each other as a means of composition.

Previous and guest Members

Eliane Radigue (France)
Blanca Regina Perez-Bustamante (Spain)
Ikue Mori (USA)
Zeena Parkins (USA)
Marina Rosenfeld (USA)

http://lappetites.com/


The Lappetits 2006 in Kaffe Matthews Sonic Bed in her Studio


Lappeties in 2011 in London during rehearsals for the Eliane Radigues Retrospective.

 

SOME WORKS


Trailer – Fathers


Birken


Disaster


Elemental II

Kaffe Matthews & Ryoko Akama @ Cafe OTO


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*

p.s. Hey. ** JM, Hey! Thanks, man. Getting by up here, slightly more than getting by, not bad. I hear your part of the world is in pretty good shape. Keep relative normalcy warm for the rest of us. ** h (now j), Hi. Thanks about the post/Blecher book. It’s a find. I’m going to see what I can score at the market for possible homemade nachos. Luckily the markets’ ‘Mexican’ shelves keep expanding. My day was okay, went out and about, bought some books. I hope your today is a total winner. ** David S. Estornell, Bonjour to you! I live in the 8th but right on the edge of the 1st, very close to Place de la Madeleine. You? ** David Ehrenstein, My pleasure, naturally. Everyone, FaBlog’s new add is a ditty called ‘Fait Diver: Rodent Redux’. Go find out what that entails here. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Yeah, Terror House is problematic. The work it posts is often quite good, and it’s cool that your story will be there. That context in and of itself is solid. But the editorial backstory is ugly. Far right leaning, anti-trans, pro-Trump, etc., etc. I refused to do an interview for them recently. Weird. ** Dominik, Hi, D. Huh, that’s true about the thematic connection between those posts. I didn’t realise that. Accidents are where the genius spouts, they say. Love’s unrequitedly crushed out friend secretly replacing the heroin in its hypo with a powerful aphrodisiac, Dennis. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. That sounds like quite a good deluxe version. Huh. Not sure if I’ll spring for it, but it’s such a great album. He was on such an incredible roll there for a while, from ‘TYM’ through ‘Imperial Bedroom’ or maybe even through ‘Blood and Chocolate’. At the moment, given the intense hunger for the return of live music, I’d probably buy a ticket to see Foreigner at this point. Well, maybe not, but … I will do what it takes to avoid ‘Host’, thank you very much. ** Brian O’Connell, Hey, Brian. For me, Surrealist fiction is much more interesting than Surrealist paintings. Carrington’s great. Apollonaire too, although I think his poetry is better than his fiction. I just read a very good short novel by Leonor Fini. Very happy news about the widespread negativity. Whew, hopefully. Well, now they’re saying we might not get re-confined. They seem very confused about what to do. A 6 pm curfew is pretty much certain, and hopefully not too much worse than that. But I am going to max out the city while it’s alive just in case. Seeing art today and checking out this new donut shop across town that appears to actually make great donuts. Generally, the French haven’t got a clue about how to make a decent donut. So that’s me. Enjoy the city if you went. What’d you do? ** Okay. Years ago d.l. Bollo who is better known to the world at large as the artist Jonathan Mayhew made a post about the great composer Eliane Radigue. It got a bit decimated by time and the dead blog’s data transfer, so I’ve had to kind of revamp/enhance it a bit, but he still he gets all the credit. Check it out. See you tomorrow.

Spotlight on … Max Blecher Occurrence in the Immediate Unreality (1937)

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‘Max Blecher’s meteoric life was one prolonged surreal adventure. He was a Jewish Romanian writer and poet of unusual talent and vision, whose literary legacy remains invaluable. His life and creativity time was very short, less then a decade. He had correspondence, among many others, with André Breton, André Gide and Martin Heidegger. He was praised by Eugene Ionesco, Mihail Sebastian, Geo Bogza and Sasha Pana, many of them comparing his prose to Franz Kafka, Bruno Schultz, Robert Walser or Thomas Mann, but his work fell into bleak obscurity during Romania’s communist regime.

‘Blecher was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis at the age of nineteen and spent the remaining ten years of his life mostly bedridden and practically immobile in a sanatorium in France, in a mummy like sarcophagus of plaster. But actually his imagination ran wild and Blecher often fantasized having sex, even if incased in plaster casts as if doing something impossible and forbidden. His narratives usually verge on romantic-memorialism but transcend into surrealism, almost accidentally.

‘In spite of his illness, Blecher continued to write, and during his lifetime published a volume of poetry and two novels, along with a number of short prose pieces, articles and translations. He published only three books: Transparent Body (poetry, 1934), and two novels, Scarred Hearts (1936) and Occurrence in the Immediate Unreality (1937). His writings received much critical acclaim when they were first published in Andre Breton’s literary review Le Surréalisme au service de la revolution.

‘His death at the age of 29, (31 May 1938) in Roman, Romania was a “non-event”, unworthy of an obit or a short notice in a local paper. Since the fall of the communism in 1989, Blecher’s stature and renown as an author have grown steadily with the publication of new editions and collections of his writings, in new critical studies in Romania and outside Romania, such as translations in German, English, and Spanish.’ — Valery Oisteanu, Big City Lit

 

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Further

Max Blecher @ Wikipedia
Max Blecher Website (in Romanian)
‘Reading Max Blecher’ @ Some Blind Alleys
‘Max Blecher: The Harlequin versus the Nothingness’
Max Blecher @ Goodreads
Clive Sinclair on MB’s ‘Scarred Hearts’
‘Tribute to Max Blecher’ @ VETIVER
Buy ‘OinIU’ @ U. of Plymouth Press

 

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Media


The house of Max Blecher


Miriam Rasch bespreekt Avonturen in de alledaagse onwerkelijkheid van Max Blecher


An evening dedicated to Max Blecher at the Salmagundi Club, part 1

 

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The Immediate Unreality

by Alistair Ian Blyth

 

In childhood, Max Blecher suffered “crises” or “attacks” of unreality, in which he experienced rupture both from the outer world of objects, and from the inner world of the self. These crises, narrated in Occurrences in the Immediate Unreality, might also be likened to the haunting moments of Stimmung evoked by Giorgio de Chirico in his pittura metafisica, as well as in his oneiric novel Hebdomeros (1929), moments during which inward disquietude is experienced as outward atmosphere, submerging the world in ineffable strangeness and enigma. In psychopathology, this is the eerie atmosphere of heightened but empty significance also experienced by sufferers of dementia praecox during the so-called ‘aura’ that precedes complete rupture with reality. Psychiatrist and neurologist Klaus Conrad referred to such states of exalted dread as the “Trema”, employing a piece of German theatrical slang for stage fright. In this respect it is notable that many of de Chirico’s paintings depict the vertiginously tilted boards of theatre stages. Likewise, as we shall see below, Blecher’s occurrences in the immediate unreality are also pervaded by a menacing sense of theatricality.

During the state of Stimmung, external phenomena are thus imbued with a sense of intense but ineffable significance, which hovers tantalisingly beyond reach. Like de Chirico, who saw the world as a “vast museum of strangeness”, Blecher too locates his crises out there in the world; they are intrinsic to various places, “sickly spaces”, which thereby become menacing “invisible traps”. These crises, which Blecher defines as the “profound sentiment of the world’s pointlessness”, are thus precisely the anti-epiphany or empty transcendence of Modernism: an anxious, heightened sense of meaningfulness, but one devoid of cognisable content, like the “Anwandlungen eines Fast-Nichts” (fits or attacks of an Almost-Nothing) described by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in Die Briefe des Zurückgekehrten (Letters of Those Who Returned) (1901). Like the cast of the inner ear whose image obsesses Blecher, people and things are nothing more than the negative image of an immanent emptiness.

Although in time Blecher’s crises as such abate, they leave behind them the same “crepuscular state” that used to presage them. As in de Chirico’s cluttered paintings of his later metaphysical period, Blecher then discovers in heteroclite, seemingly insignificant objects an “essential nostalgia for the world’s pointlessness”. Such states, which oscillate between melancholy and exaltation, are also closely intertwined with the ambiguous, confusing, even dream-like, experiences of his sexual awakening as an adolescent. He experiences occurrences as disturbingly artificial and theatrical, while other people are like automatons or mannequins, oblivious that “the certitude in which we live is separated by a very fine pellicle from the world of uncertainties”. The world itself becomes an eerie stage set, and many episodes in the novel occur in settings of inherent theatrical artificiality, such as the cinema, a waxworks exhibition, or the prop-cluttered basement beneath the stage of a theatre, where Blecher finds refuge and which thus becomes a symbol of the tiers of conscious and unconscious mind. Blecher himself dreams of being an inanimate waxwork, or else he is haunted by his own photograph, which he chances to see mysteriously displayed in the booth of a travelling fairground photographer and which then takes on a life of its own, threatening to subsume his own existence. In one of the most remarkable episodes in the book, Blecher attempts to escape from the agony of his exacerbated awareness (the “Bewußstseinswelt”, as it is called by Gottfried Benn, who similarly yearns to escape the pain of consciousness by regressing to the condition of mindless protoplasm) by descending to the ontological level of amorphous, primal mud.

 

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Book

Max Blecher Occurrence in the Immediate Unreality
University of Plymouth Press

‘This autobiographical fiction offers an intimate and unsettling account of Blecher’s ideas of self-identity and the body. He explores the ‘crisis of unreality’ in relation to the human condition and shares his adolescent experiences of physical infirmity, social isolation and sexual awakening.

‘A poet and prose-writer, Blecher offers a harrowing account of the ‘bizarre adventure of being a man’ drawing upon his experience of being diagnosed with tuberculosis of the spine in 1928. He was treated in various sanatoria in France, Switzerland and Romania where he spent much of his time corresponding with Geo Bogza, Mihail Sebastian, André Breton, André Gide, Martin Heidegger and Ilarie Voronca, and sporadically collaborated with Le Surréalisme au service de la révolution and Les Feuillets inutiles.

‘What makes Max Blecher akin to Kafka, Bruno Schulz or Robert Walser is above all the faculty of inhabiting misfortune… Things emerge from their neutrality and besiege him, seeking to fascinate or terrorise him. ‘ — UoPP

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Excerpt

“I pant, I sink, I tremble, I expire.” — P. B. Shelley

When I glance for a long time at a precise point on the wall, I sometimes forget who and where I am. At that particular moment my identity vanishes, and I feel, for a second, no more, like a totally different person. This abstract character and my real self are fighting for my awareness with equal forces.

But very soon after my identity recomposes itself, like in those stereoscopic views in which sometimes the two images are being separated by mistake and the operator reunites them, offering, all of a sudden, to the viewer’s eye, an illusive relief. My room appears in those instants of a freshness never before existent. It regains its precedent consistency and the objects flow wisely into their places, just like a clod of soil thrown into a glass of water lays to its bottom in layers of different elements, well defined and of various colors. The room’s elements stratify in their own contour and in the coloring of the old memory I have of them.

This feeling of remoteness and loneliness during the instants when my daily being is dissolved into inconsistency is tremendously different from any other physical sensation. When it lasts longer, it converts into the pure terror that I might never again regain myself, and an insecure silhouette lingers in my brain, surrounded by a strong and profound, almost tactile light, as certain distant objects seen in the fog.

The terrible question “Who am I?” lives by its own in me, like a totally new entity, a mere excrescence from my body, made out of new and totally unknown skin and bones andorgans. Its solution is being asked for by a sort of clearness, more profound and more essential than that of the brain’s. Everything capable of motion in me begins to stir, to move, to struggle, to revolt, more strongly and elementary than in my daily life. Everything begs for a rapid solution. I sometimes rediscover the chamber as it usually is and as I know it, just as if I simply closed and opened my eyes; and every time the space is clearer, just like a certain landscape appears through the field glass, better and better organized, while, setting the distances, one’s eye sails through all the veils of intermediary images.

I finally recognize myself and my room, and I feel a slight feeling of drunkenness. The chamber is unexpectedly condensed in its inner matter, and I’m implacably back to the tactile surface of things: the deepest the wave of obscure misunderstanding, the highest its peak; now I have the clear certitude that every object must occupy its inherent place in the universe and that I must be the one I truly am.

Thus my awkward struggle in the midst of uncertainty has lost all its denominations, it becomes just an untainted regret that I had found nothing in the depths of my efforts. I am only surprised by the fact that such a complete lack of meaning could ever have been attached so profoundly to my intimate matter. Now that I found myself and I try to express my feelings, these appear to me like totally impersonal, simple exaggerations of my identity, grown up like a cancer from their own substance. Like a jelly fish’s tentacle, stretched immeasurably, having desperately explored the waves’ entrails before returning safely under the gelatinous sucker, I traversed all the certainties and uncertainties of my existence, in order to come back, irrevocably and painfully, under the opaque shell of my solitude, which all of a sudden becomes infinitely pure and pathetic …

The feeling of remoteness of the world is clear, and more intimate: a lucid and tender melancholy, like a dream which comes back into one’s mind in the midst of the dark night.

Only this melancholy reminds me something of the mystery and the slightly distressing charm of my childhood crises.

Only in this sudden vanishing of my identity can I revive the past fallings into cursed spaces, and only in the seconds of immediate lucidity that follow the return to the surface does the world appear to me in the light of its unusual inutility and desuetude, which grew around me when my hallucinatory trances had overthrown me.

My crises were always provoked in the very same places, a street, the house, some garden. Every time I was overrunning their borders, I was overwhelmed by a state of swoon and dizziness. Invisible traps placed at random through the town, differing in nothing from the surrounding atmosphere, they were ferociously waiting for me to fall a prey to their special substance. A step, one single step was enough to enter deep in one of these cursed spaces, and the crisis was inevitable.

One such place was in the town’s central park, in a small clearing at the end of an alley, where nobody was ever walking. The ring of bushes and wild roses and dwarfish acacias surrounding it opened tightly towards the desolating landscape of an empty field. In the whole world there was definitely no other place so sad and so deserted. Silence was setting down, opaque and condensed, on the dusty leaves, in the summer’s musty heat. From time to time one could hear the echoes of the trumpets from distant regiments. Infinitely poignant were those long callings from the desert… Far away, the air heated by the sun was trembling, vaporous like the transparent steam flowing above the boiling water.

The place was wild and isolated, of an endless loneliness. There, the day’s heat wasinfinitely more tiresome, and the air heavier by a long way. The yellowish dusty bushes were burning in the sun, in a scenery of an absolute seclusion. A bizarre feeling of uselessness was flowing above the clearing, which was living its own outlandish existence somewhere in the world, where I had come without any purpose or reason, in a certain summer afternoon, useless as well, an afternoon chaotically lost in the warmth, anchored through the bushes in the tangential space. At that particular moment I was feeling, profoundly and painfully, that I didn’t belong to this world, that I had nothing to do in it but wander through lost parks, through their dusty, heated clearings, deserted and wild, wild and deserted. And this wandering was finally breaking my heart to pieces.

Another cursed place was at the other side of the town, between the high and hollow shores of the river in which I was bathing with my playmates.

The shore was sunken on a side. Up on the bank there was a sunflower-oil factory. The seeds’ hulls were thrown between the edges of the sunken shore, and in time the pile raised gradually, until it became a long slope of dry hulls, uniting the bottom of the coast to the bank of the water. My playmates were descending towards the water on this slope, carefully, holing their hands, stepping deep into the carpet of rotten vegetable fabric.

The walls of the high shore, on the two sides of the slope, were abrupt and fantastically irregular. The rain had sculptured long stripes of delicate fissures and intricate arabesques, but hideous like the badly scared wounds, true rags into the mud’s wet flesh, horrible and unwrapped cuts.

I had to descend as well amidst these walls which impressed me tremendously, towards the river. When I was still far away, long before getting to the shore, my nostrils were filled by the smell of the rotten hulls, which was preparing me for the crisis, as a short period of incubation: this smell was unpleasant, and, at the same time, sophisticatedly suave.

Yes, my crises were all like this …
—-

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Huh, when I recently found ‘Elephant Man’ I thought it sounded familiar, and that must be why. Being a confusion fan, I think everything we know about science and politics is undoubtedly wrong. ** Misanthrope, Based on some of the swiped OnlyFans stuff I’ve come across, it does seem like hog heaven (or hog hell or something). Welcome “back” to Twitter. It must have been that interview, ha ha. you were really pushing the limits there, man. I feel like people get this delusion that they own FB or its equivalents when they’re just graffiti-ing on private property. Enjoy the Zooming, and good luck to the no doubt starry-eyed hires. ** David Ehrenstein, For me, I feel like drugs bought me time, but I mostly did uppers and psychedelics, the former of which is a notorious liar and the latter of which makes time seem irrelevant. ** h (now j), Hi. My pleasure. I hope you liked some of it. No avocado?! That’s a serious breach. Veggie nachos … now you’re killing me, ha ha. I guess i could make some. I only have a microwave, but there must be a way. No, I don’t think you told me about your new art of study. Great area, obviously. I’m a big fan of Nathaniel Mackey. I did a spotlight post on one of his books not too long ago. Here. And I like Fred Moten’s poetry a lot too. His newest book is sitting close to the top of my to-read pile. I think he teaches at NYU, doesn’t he? ** Dominik, Hi, D. Cool, glad that love got a warm welcome. Wow, I didn’t know who Charlie Plummer was until just now. Thank you! I feel an epic poem coming on. Here’s my epic Charlie Summer poem better known as love, Dennis. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Must be a relief to know the blurriness is natural at least. Everyone, Mr. Erickson has reviewed the documentary MLK/FBI here. Right, about ‘Elephant Man’. Time Cow’s stuff is excellent in general. There are Seppuku Pistols records, although, based on a listen to the new one, I had the distinct feeling that they’re a live experience mostly. How’s the deluxe ‘Armed Forces’? Tangerine Dream has a concert here this summer. I wonder if that would be anything. Yeah, ‘Brass’ is great. Moor Mother is one of the most interesting music makers out there these days in my opinion. ** Bill, Hi. Nice you like Leyden Jars. They’ve been around doing things in a kind of sleepy way for a long time. New Ashley Paul … I don’t think I knew that either. Okay, I’ll head straight for it. Thanks, man. ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. This blog is weird, or has weird habits vis-a-vis visibility or something. Mystery to me. The only reason the Cycle isn’t already in a single volume is because Grove Press thinks they’ll make more money selling the books individually. Thanks about ‘I Wished’. I’m excited for it to come out. Yeah, the defacement thing was an ugly, ugly thing that I probably shouldn’t get into for various reasons. Here’s highly hoping your tests keep coming back neg. I hear you about feeling depressed. Those are very good reasons, and it’s hard not to fall into despair even without the immediate problems besetting you and your family. Things’ll get better, just …when oh when. Quickly on your part, I sure hope. I’m with you on how to evade the darkness. Or those are my ways out. I hope your week gets rich. It’s weird here because it looks pretty certain that we’re going to go back to strict continent in the next days, and it’s exhausting to even contemplate. So I hope to run around town seeing and doing what I’d like to do this week in case everything gets shut tight again. Urgh. ** Okay. I think I did a post about this odd and interesting book on my old, murdered blog, but I couldn’t find it, and so I made a new post to cradle it. Give it a look maybe? See you tomorrow.

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