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Andrew Pekler, Cover Versions

April 4, 2014 | by

Andrew Pekler is an electronic musician based in Berlin; Resident Advisor has described his music as the “cold alien groove of a midnight jazz café reemerging in the world of clicks and bleeps.” I came to him by way of a video, “Composition No. 1 for Electronic Toothbrush, Voice, and Synthesizer,” in which he plays a Philips Sonicare toothbrush—with his mouth, in the usual way—to harmonize with a Moog Prodigy synthesizer. It’s an entrancing wash of beautiful, dentally hygienic sound.

Pekler works primarily from found materials. His latest album, Cover Versions, draws from the music and imagery of postwar exotica records—those kitschy aural forays to faraway lands, rife with congas, vibraphones, and theremins. With an eye toward a certain aesthetic, Pekler bought dozens of secondhand records and appropriated their music and their covers for his own work. Cover Versions was printed in a limited run of three hundred (all of them, alas, long since spoken for), each with its own individually designed cover; featured here are thirty of Pekler’s favorites. He explains his process: Read More »

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Take a Mental Vacation—Listen to Travel Writers

March 24, 2014 | by

Theroux on Train

Paul Theroux on a train, doing what he does.

What do Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuściński, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan Morris have in common? All four have advanced the art of travel writing, or writing that foregrounds a sense of place. And over the years, all four have been interviewed at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, where The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Now, 92Y and The Paris Review are making recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review.

As yet another cold front shunts frigid air in our direction, it’s especially nice to hear smart people talk of exotic climes and faraway places. So you can listen to Paul Theroux, who spoke to our beloved founder, George Plimpton, in December 1989:

I came from, not a small town, but basically not a very interesting place. I felt that the world was elsewhere and that nothing was every going to happen to me, or that I wouldn’t actually see anything, feel anything, any sense of romance or action, or that my imagination wouldn’t catch fire until I left home. So it was very important for me not to rebel but simply to get away, to go away …

Or a conversation with Jan Morris, who appeared at 92Y that October:

I resist the idea that travel writing has got to be factual. I believe in its imaginative qualities and its potential as art and literature. I must say that my campaign, which I’ve been waging for ages now, has borne some fruit because intelligent bookshops nowadays do have a stack called something like travel literature. But what word does one use? … I think of myself more as a belletrist, an old-fashioned word. Essayist would do; people understand that more or less. But the thing is, my subject has been mostly concerned with place.

Or Peter Matthiessen, another cofounder of The Paris Review, from 1997:

It’s broad daylight, good visibility, yet mountains move. You perceive that the so-called permanence of the mountains is illusory, and that all phenomena are mere wisps of the cosmos, ever changing. It is its very evanescence that makes life beautiful, isn’t that true? If we were doomed to live forever, we would scarcely be aware of the beauty around us …

Or Ryszard Kapuściński, from 1991:

If we write about human beings, in the most humanly way we are able to, I think everybody will understand us. I find humanity as one family. People really are very much the same in their reactions, in their feelings. I know the whole world. I can’t find much difference in the way men react to others’ unhappiness, disasters, tragedies, happiness. Writing for one man, you write for everybody.

These recordings are the next best thing to a vacation. Their release is made possible by a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, who worked in the art department at The Paris Review and volunteered as an archivist at 92Y’s Poetry Center.

 

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John Ashbery Reads “A Boy”

March 18, 2014 | by

thunder lay down in the heart

Today the composer Christopher Tignor releases a new record, Thunder Lay Down in the Heart, whose title track is a twenty-minute work for string orchestra, electronics, and drums. The composition is named after a line from John Ashbery’s 1956 poem, “A Boy,” and it begins with a haunting new recording of Ashbery reading the poem in his Chelsea apartment, which Tignor has graciously allowed us to feature here.

Tignor says:

“A Boy” rang out to me while I was writing “Thunder Lay Down in the Heart.” My song titles usually come in response to the music, and I often find myself looking through books of poetry to turn my mind on in that way. When I was a student at Bard, I studied poetry with Ashbery—he was my advisor—and when I read this poem, I responded right away to the conflict between the protagonist and the visceral narrative tension of the storm: the sound, like thunder, of falling “from shelf to shelf of someone’s rage,” the rain at night against the box cars, the inevitable flood.

It’s precisely that kind of unfolding I hoped to embody in my musical work, with its own flooded lines, dry fields of lightning, and cabbage roses. A reviewer recently described the work as its own “vast electrical disturbance.” Hard to disagree.

 

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Welcome to Paradise

March 5, 2014 | by

The sounds of Key West.

Key West 3

Photo: Ann Beattie

Key West 5

Photo: Ann Beattie

Key West 2 Spiderman

Photo: Ann Beattie

Key West 4

Photo: Ann Beattie

Key West 1

Photo: Ann Beattie

What do writers want? (Forget whether they’re women or men, Uncle Sigmund. Forget money and fame.) They want quiet. Where do they go? They gather in Key West, Florida.

Sure, the subtlest sounds—the personally groaned sounds—begin with deep sighs, as other people discuss pools being dredged by the jackhammering of coral next door, leaf blowers switched on at eight a.m., drunks on the sidewalk talking to themselves even more animatedly as the police car pulls to the curb. Last night I hung over my balcony to hear a staggering gentleman informing the officer that he did have a destination. He was “gonna shuffle off to Buffalo.”

In the background, birds express opinions from people’s shoulders on late-night walks (“Pretty but what else?”—a bird clearly meant to call one’s life into question). All around the island cell phones go off, their ring tones arias from operas or a hip-hop version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Dogs bark, cats hiss, and the bird on the shoulder of the guy in the trilby continues to wonder aloud what to expect after “pretty.” Maybe the fire truck, or the ambulance that makes just a few high-pitched noises, as if the vehicle itself is dying. As it races away, it’s sure to set off a car alarm. Read More »

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Unconscious

November 4, 2013 | by

On this day in 1899, Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) was first published. Sales were initially dismal, but the rest, of course, is psychoanalytical history. In honor of its birthday, we bring you the only known audio recording of Sigmund Freud, made by the BBC near the end of his life, in Hampstead, London.

 

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Frederick Seidel’s “Widening Income Inequality”

August 30, 2013 | by

Jobless-Men-Paris-Review

Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (based on a WPA photo by John E. Allen)

At our last issue launch party, Frederick Seidel, looking over a throng of people, turned to me and asked, “What do you make of all this?” There were summer thunderstorms that night, which kept people from going home and in turn encouraged a sort of athletic drinking.

Before I could answer him (not that I would have even had the gall to answer), a stranger embraced me in a very sudden, shapeless goodbye.

I turned back to Mr. Seidel, who scoffed, “There you go like all the ‘other girls,’ sticking your butt out as you hug a poor fellow, god forbid your pelvises touch!”

“But that’s what I make of it, Seidel! All of my goodbyes are hinged at the waist.”

Strangely enough, Frederick Seidel is what brought me to The Paris Review. I was asked to do a reading of his poems in honor of Bastille Day, which I am sure he found too crass of an idea to actually attend. I was told it would be a “big deal” because they were all “debuts,” as Seidel never reads his poetry out loud.

Of course, I reveled in the bawdy reality of a young girl reading the poems of Fred Seidel. I still do. This may seem like I am campaigning to become Frederick Seidel’s exclusive reader; make no mistake, that is exactly what I am doing. So here I am, Fred, hinging at the waist, bawdily reading your poem. What do you make of all of that?

 

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