Thursday, 30 July 2009

Biting Tongues: New Live Recordings on MySpace

Graham Massey has been busy mixing the multichannel recording made of Biting Tongues’ closing performance at the Moon Landing Party on July 19 and has now posted three tracks on the Tongues MySpace page. These were taken from the early part of the set and include new opener ‘Glorious Stranger’ as well as live standards ‘Where the Bird Lands’ and ‘Evening State’. ‘Glorious Stranger’ was a special one-off piece to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Apollo XI’s landing in the Sea of Tranquility: it features a reworked version of a text I originally wrote for the Dutch composer Huib Emmer back in 1999 for a televised concert that took place at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. On that occasion the text was delivered by Doug Wimbish: an experience not unlike having Jimi Hendrix start talking to you in your sleep. The choice of title was Huib’s: I hope he doesn’t mind our retaining it. ‘Where the Bird Lands’ has been a regular feature in recent Biting Tongues sets but was one of those pieces that never made it into the studio. There are, by contrast, at least two recorded versions of ‘Evening State’, one of which is an extended 12” version that can be found on After the Click, the Tongues retrospective CD available from LTM. There was also, so I’ve been reliably informed, a hard-core Techno mix of ‘Evening State’ put out by Antler Records in the Benelux countries, but I’ve yet to hear it. One day maybe...

Top image: KH and Eddie Sherwood during a break in rehearsals July 18, 2009 – photo by Graham V Massey

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

In Memoriam Merce Cunningham 1919 - 2009

Merce Cunningham and John Cage would both speak of dance as having to ‘stand on its own two legs’, of how it must exist without ‘musical support’.
Maybe that’s because of the memories contained within each dancer’s muscles.
‘It would always astonish me,' Cunningham recalls, 'how when we put a dance away for two months or so, dancers would remember what that dance was and also how accurate their timing would be. Say it’s a 25-minute piece: they’d come out at 24 minutes and 58 seconds.’
Recently the company revived
How to Pass, Kick, Fall and Run: one of the rare works in which Cunningham himself still appears onstage. Rather than dancing in the piece, however, Cunningham now reads from a selection of Cage’s original stories, usually accompanied by the company’s sprightly archivist, David Vaughan.
‘There are now two readers,’ he says. ‘Each reads twelve stories and can choose when there should be silence. John said it’s more like music when two people read the stories together because you can’t discern the words.’
And was Cage a good dancer?
Cunningham smiles and shakes his head.
‘Oh no,’ he says fondly, ‘No.’

The above is adapted from my piece WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE LISTENING TO?: Merce Cunningham in Conversation, NYC July 2006, originally published in The Wire, issue 271. I had the pleasure of working with John Cage and Merce Cunningham on separate occasions - and the privilege of learning a great deal from both of them.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Manchester Is A Summer Festival

To complete the round of events that has been taking place in Manchester over the past four or five weeks, there will be a screening of ‘Lonely Creatures’ at the next Burst Couch night taking place on August 1. This is the cycle of short films that Howard Walmsley and I have been working on for some time and which had its premiere as an extended live performance at the Manchester Green Room in June. This time the films will be screened in their original format but without the live accompaniment of music and texts. Heading the bill for the night are titans of industrial noise Triclops, plus visuals by Albino Mosquito, who did the amazing 'Flightless Bird' video for Hot Bone. Check the flyer above or the Google Calendar posting opposite for more details – it should be a great night.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Moon Landing Enjoyed By All

Despite three consecutive days of black clouds and heavy rain, which made the completion of a replica Lunar Module all but impossible, the Moon Landing Party still managed to shine. High points included Mayming, backed by the Sisters of Transistors, giving their all to an exquisite reading of ‘Lunar Rhapsody’ from Les Baxter’s Music out of the Moon album, Paddy Steer’s bug-eyed-monster reinterpretation of Joe Meek’s I Hear A New World, and the multiplex Apollo Mission video projections that seemed to fill the entire space. I was given the run of an entire upstairs studio at the Islington Mill, which proved to be ideal for presenting my Welcome to Mars reading, giving the piece the feel of a staged installation.

Pictured above: Semay Wu and Seaming To of Mayming getting lunar, KH paying humble tribute to the late great Walter Cronkite, foremost anchorman of the American Century. Images courtesy of Graham Massey.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Text for the Lunar Module Ceremony

I have been asked by Graham Massey to come up with text to accompany the Lunar Module Ceremony for the Mood Landing Party taking place on July 19. A replica of the Landing Module is being constructed as I type this, and it will be the centrepiece of a ‘cargo cult’ re-enactment of the Eagle’s approach to, and final touchdown in, the Sea of Tranquility. What I have come up with is a call-and-response chant based on the Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal, focussing on the exchanges between Houston and the Moon from 102:44:02 to 102:45:58 in mission transcript. The result is a kind of assisted readymade, edited for any pauses or hesitations. I have taken, wherever possible, the best scholarly advice on the garbled parts of what was originally said, and I have broken down some of the longer individual entries to make it easier for participants in the Ceremony to respond. Anyone wishing to prepare themselves beforehand are welcome to print off their own copy – otherwise the text is posted here as a fortieth-anniversary reminder of an event that continues to haunt our memories and imaginations. See you at Tranquility Base on the 19th.

Okay. Looks like a good area here.

I got the shadow out there.

Two-fifty, down at two and a half, nineteen forward.

Altitude velocity lights.

Three and a half down, two-twenty feet, thirteen forward.

Eleven forward. Coming down nicely.

Gonna be right over that crater.

Two hundred feet, four and a half down.

Five and a half down.

I got a good spot.

One-sixty feet, six and a half down.

Five and a half down, nine forward. You’re looking good.

One-twenty feet.

One hundred feet, three and a half down, nine forward.

Five percent.

Quantity light.


Seventy-five feet. And it’s looking good.

Down a half, six forward.

Sixty seconds.

Light’s on.

Sixty feet, down two and a half.

Two forward. Two forward. That’s good.

Forty feet, down two and a half. Picking up some dust.

Thirty feet, two and a half down. Faint shadow.

Four forward. Four forward. Drifting to the right a little.

Twenty feet, down a half.

Thirty seconds.

Drifting forward just a little bit. That’s good.

Contact Light.


Okay. Engine Stop.

ACA out of Detent.

Out of Detent. Auto.

Mode Control, both Auto.

Descent Engine Command Override, Off.

Engine Arm, Off. Four-thirteen is in.

We copy you down, Eagle.

Engine arm is off.

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Moon Landing Party At Islington Mill

I shall presenting a reading from my book Welcome to Mars and also performing onstage with Biting Tongues as part of a special Moon Landing Party being held at Islington Mill on July 19. It should be an amazing night. Here is the press release for this historic event:

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Mission

BITING TONGUES – back from their own 30 years in deep space
You sent them out there –now hear a full mission report

We have invited various artists to address the music of the space pioneers.
May Ming reinterpret Les Baxter’s Music Out of the Moon (chosen as Neil Armstrong’s personal cassette on the Apollo 11 mission)
Paddy Steer recalibrates music from Joe Meek’s I Hear a New World
LA77 rewires Dick Hyman's Moon Gas
Matt Halsall plugs in his trumpet for some Classic Space Jazz
Ken Hollings connects suburbia to outer space in his lecture Welcome to Mars
Massonix will perform Pulsars, a suite for radio waves from the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope

We have invited various model makers to reconstruct “The Eagle”. But will she fly?
“You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue!”
The Mercury Seven a DJ team brought together from a rigorous selection process of clinical, endurance and psychological testing. Who will be first in orbit: Kelvin Brown, Graham Massey, John Mc Cready, LA77? Only four survived.

Aware of the fact that NASA’s free footage has been used to death in trippy visuals from the 1960s through to the present day, we will celebrate its overuse by using it to death.
It’s all we’ve got left!

Visuals by Soup Collective –Royal College of Art Moving Image Collective
Conspiracists and doubters: we provide a room for your turgid debates (the anechoic chamber at Salford University).

For more information please click here

The Islington Mill, James Street, Salford. Sunday 19th July, 8pm ‘till Late. £5/8

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

In Memoriam John Keel 1930 – 2009

Born Alva John Keel March 25 1930 - died John Alva Keel July 3 2009

Thomas Alva Edison
Febuary 11 1847 - October 18 1931

Friday, 3 July 2009

Wrestling Midgets Are Killed By Fake Hookers

Making a joke at the expense of the British press has always struck me as one of the lowest forms of wit. I am, however, indebted to Matt Jones for these two pictures taken while I was breakfasting with Russell Davies at the Shepherdess CafĂ© in Old Street this morning. Although the conversation ranged over many fascinating topics, as you would expect when dining with the man who is currently making plans for Interesting 09, this headline from page three of today’s Metro set the tone for some of the meal’s liveliest comments.

This has to be the greatest news headline there has ever been – and I say that as someone who has the deepest respect and love for la Lucha Libre. There is, for example, something respectful about its inclusion of the word ‘are’ that suggests the deaths of champions are being announced – remove it and the statement becomes terse and sensationalist. The story itself is a sad and sordid one, involving the administering of unfeasibly large quantities of prescription drugs to public performers by professionals who really should have known what they were doing – a state of affairs that is not without precedent at the moment.

As a further mark of respect, the Metro should elect to run this same headline on the front page of every issue it publishes for the rest of the year, no matter what the main story might be. There are, I suspect, very few that would not be improved by it.

Above: RD and that July 3 newspaper headline: RD and KH reflecting on its implications. Breakfast at 10.00am, pictures sent by Matt at 11.33, blog post at 12.27. What an age we live in.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley

In response to my previous post about Bubbles and Scatter I have had one or two requests for copies of my essay ‘Electronically Yours, Eternally Elvis’, from which the featured extract was taken. The piece was an early attempt to frame some of the themes and ideas that would become part of my novel Destroy All Monsters. It also analyzed the close relationship between Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson as sovereign virtual presences, as alarming in their contrasts as in their similarities. Shadowed by recent events, the Michael Jackson image of the early 90s seems eerily familiar and yet utterly strange at the same time.

Every pleasure that a king can gratify through his body can also be inverted or denied to more or less the same effect. Elvis took pills, getting so whacked out on prescription opiates that he could barely move: Michael Jackson, however, swallows vitamins by the handful.
Elvis gorged: Michael starves himself.
Elvis abused his vital organs, his liver smashed to a pulp by the time of his death: Michael Jackson obsessively takes care of himself and follows a macrobiotic diet.
Both of them, like true kings, have chosen, after their respective fashions, to have their myths reside completely within their flesh.

Now it has become clear that, as well as sharing Elvis’s fondness for prescription painkillers, Michael Jackson also went on to do extensive damage to the outside of his body as well its inner organs: his extensive plastic surgery, heavy make-up, wigs and sunglasses being a way of preserving the royal head as a holy reliquary. It’s strange to find myself writing about MJ again – I decided to stop after ‘Electronically Yours...’ made it into print, my author’s copies of The Last Sex , in which it first appeared, arriving the same day that reports of the first raid on Neverland were flooding the media. The persistent accusations and denials that followed effectively ‘completed’ the MJ myth in a way that made any further analysis rather redundant. I still followed MJ’s career closely, however, and was probably the least surprised person on the planet when it was announced that he had married Lisa Marie Presley. A marriage made in a snow-storm paperweight, it also rendered any further comment unnecessary – except there’s something about the sight of MJ and LM reconstructing Maxfield Parrish’s ‘Daybreak’ (see above) in a pop video that may require further scrutiny at some point.

‘Electronically Yours, Eternally Elvis’ was first published in the St Martin’s Press anthology The Last Sex, which is still in print, but anyone wishing to obtain just a copy of the text as a PDF can email me directly by clicking on to the ‘View My Complete Profile’ link to the lower right of the page and using the email facility there.

In the meantime let us continue to mourn the passing of kings. Salve valeque