It's Alive! IT'S ALLIIVVEEE!!!
“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”― Stephen King
Yes, I am a fan of Halloween. Really, of horror films…but hell, the horror of it all spills into our lives anyway, right? Might as well throw some horns on, a bloody shirt, and walk the walk (the horns and bloody shirt have been my costume sine the late part of the last century).
For this Halloween, I got to play a hand in project that got released yesterday. Through the non-profit that I helm, Reboot, we have released an 8-part series around one of the greatest of the silent horror films, The Golem—The Jewish Frankenstein. It is the 100th anniversary of the theatrical release of the film, and what we did to celebrate is cut the film up into 8 parts and have 8 different artists/ensembles rescore it. We brought in some incredible musicians/friends: EYE from the Boredoms, Steven Drozd from The Flaming Lips, Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, Michael Morley from The Dead C, The Threshing Floor with members of Wolf Eyes, Slumber Party, and Love Child, Meg Baird, Jeremiah Lockwood, The Threshing Floor with members of Wolf Eyes, Slumber Party, and Love Child….the list is long. More about it all here and here and you can watch the whole thing here.
Doing a deep dive of the film, which was inevitable given the project, was a nice way to dive into the German Expressionist Movement that produced so many incredible films in the silent era…many of the classic early horror flicks like Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary, The Hands of Orlac…the horrors of the big war that had just been fought played out on the silver screen with fear, rage, chaos. The Golem as a creature created to save a people who ultimately turned on them, going on a spree of destruction: quite the metaphor for a time lived in between living under two of the worst dictators the world has ever seen.
That time in-between the wars was a great moment in art, with people putting aside their differences to create beauty…to foster movements. Germany was one of the great exemplifiers of this, with a Bohemian atmosphere that flooded through the late-night club scenes (from which the musical Cabaret is based), the coffee houses, in the movie theaters. Jews and non-Jews working together, as with the Golem. The sad reality comes when each of the life-paths of the participants are tracked. In the Golem, within a few decades of release, some cast members and crew went to concentration camps, some escaped to America, some went on to make Nazi propaganda films, some just stayed on Germany as citizens who did not mind living in a country that was being led by Hitler. How realities can change; how horror can lurch from the shadows.
To me, horror films are cathartic, a way to settle into deep fears and bad dreams that are always there, even when hiding in the shadows. Which brings me back to the Golem. Yes, it is an old old film. And yes, it comes from a time past. But throw a new score on the moving images and what comes is a new emotional rush that flows right out of the film, into the soul. Watching the moment when the Golem goes ballistic to the manic score by EYE…it is horrifying. And yes, it also feels so good, even with the carnage all around.
Happy Halloween y’all. See you on the other side of the devil’s night.
Duke Ellington was, in my opinion, the greatest composer of the 20th century. Happy to be debated, and I know that sounds very hyperbolic. But it is true. And then there is Billy Strayhorn, his musical partner…not as well known, but so talented on his own right. His story is fascinating, his rise from poverty to being such a renowned artist. The Library Of Congress does just a fantastic job using their holdings to tell his story….
Moses Asch’s Folkways Records put out HUNDREDS (THOUSANDS??) of records from the late forties through the seventies. “Asch sought to record and document sounds and music from everywhere in the world” and the releases are all over the map in style and concept. Blues, folk…sure…but also spoken word, how-to records, hard-to-describe documentary-style records…it really is hard to get your head around the breath of the label’s output. So you need someone to curate the best of Folkways for you, and there is no one better than Josh Rosenthal, Tompkins Square’s head honcho, who knows this stuff better than anyone. This is a great playlist.
“With a career that spans four decades, includes 15 Oscar nominations, two wins, and credits on modern classics like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Blade Runner 2049,” cinematographer Roger Deakins’ work is some of the most recognizable in the business. But there’s a side of Deakins’ creative output that’s been less visible over his many years in Hollywood: his personal photography….”
Yes, I am a proud, longtime member of ARSC: “The Association for Recorded Sound Collections is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 ARSC Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. The awards will be presented at a virtual ceremony at ARSC’s annual conference, which will be hosted in May 2022. Additional information about the ARSC Conference and the ARSC Awards for Excellence may be found on the association's website.”
Illustrator Yoshimaru Sasaki created a series of haunted images around the local coffee beans that are wonderful…and the lore around them pretty great as well: “Oni Hitokuchi (The One-bite Demon above): Written during the Heian Period, the One-bite Demon’s name derives from its reputation to kill and devour humans in one bite. It can devour a large (concrete) apple from the row of apple posts along the train station embankment in one bite, and with its giant fangs, it looks like it can crush rocks.”
Fascinating interview with Garrett Morris: “He faced lots of resistance as part of the original cast of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but he credits producer Lorne Michaels for having his back, praises Richard Pryor and, when it comes to comedy, thinks everyone just needs to relax.”
The Haunted Palace
By: Edgar Allan Poe
In the greenest of our valleys By good angels tenanted, Once a fair and stately palace— Radiant palace—reared its head. In the monarch Thought’s dominion— It stood there! Never seraph spread a pinion Over fabric half so fair. Banners yellow, glorious, golden, On its roof did float and flow, (This—all this—was in the olden Time long ago,) And every gentle air that dallied, In that sweet day, Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, A winged odour went away. Wanderers in that happy valley, Through two luminous windows, saw Spirits moving musically, To a lute’s well-tuned law, Round about a throne where, sitting (Porphyrogene) In state his glory well befitting, The ruler of the realm was seen. And all with pearl and ruby glowing Was the fair palace door, Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, And sparkling evermore, A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty Was but to sing, In voices of surpassing beauty, The wit and wisdom of their king. But evil things, in robes of sorrow, Assailed the monarch’s high estate. (Ah, let us mourn!—for never sorrow Shall dawn upon him desolate!) And round about his home the glory That blushed and bloomed, Is but a dim-remembered story Of the old time entombed. And travellers, now, within that valley, Through the red-litten windows see Vast forms, that move fantastically To a discordant melody, While, lie a ghastly rapid river, Through the pale door A hideous throng rush out forever And laugh—but smile no more.