Compost and Height is pleased to announce the publication of Patrick Farmer’s new book, Yew Grotesque.
Farmer has been working on this book for the last year as part of a joint commission from Sound and Music and Forestry Commission England. It was developed during a series of week-long residential trips to Grizedale Forest, Cumbria, where Farmer resided in a log cabin and spent time walking the forested area between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere. This direct relationship between the forest and the book is veiled, though the underlying presence is integral to its makeup.
Yew Grotesque completes a series of works, comprising Farmer’s previous books try i bark and wild horses think of nothing else the sea. Together the three books offer both a direct and indirect textual engagement with listening. The relationship between these publications is typified by the words of Jack Spicer, a poet who felt that his own works “echo and re-echo against each other”, “create resonances” and can’t “live alone anymore than we can”.
The undertow of Farmer’s preceding books, found in the knots and temporary dichotomies of the external and internal, now find their opposite in the publication of Yew Grotesque. The new book’s underlying personality and its observation of the many divergent angles and qualities of listening was prevalent from its conception, but its role in sealing and joining the three books together was only made apparent towards its end. It is a perverse book of praise that attempts to lay itself out flat by concerning itself with the tools that can make the object, rather than the object itself.
Yew Grotesque opens on the morning of a symposium, observing the protagonist as he moves through a series of exercises in a hotel room, whilst intently listening to his inner speech rehearse a speculative conversation between two dead artists.
Patrick Farmer – Yew Grotesque (Book)
“This is the prize-winning history of the music known as Enka, one of the dominant forms of postwar popular music, that rearranged everyone’s understanding of the history of postwar pop. Love it or hate it, Enka is a necessary background for anyone hoping to understand the music of Japan. With a new introduction by the author and full color printing (unlike the Japanese original), this is a must-have for your collection.”
Creating Enka: The “Soul of Japan” in the Postwar Era by Wajima Yusuke
Published by Public Bath Press, paperback & CD, 312 pp, 2017
The English translation of legendary folk singer Mikmai Kan's autobiography is now available. The book comes with a CD of Mikami live in Sapporo in February of 2017. The book is a complete translation of Folk ni Ikiru, with additional autobiographical writing and interview material added.
Clive Bell writes in The Wire 412: "Hopkins has done a great job with a wild text. He has fleshed out the story by including extracts from Mikami's 1973 writings, plus an interview reviewing the ten records he made in the 1970s when Columbia tried repeatedly (and failed) to make him a star... The lasting impression is Mikami's passion in everything he tackles, and his thoughts about his spiritual and artistic path as he approaches his 70th birthday: 'In order to keep your essence pure, you have to become dirtier than the thing that tries to foul your pure essence'."
A Life In Folk (And Other Bitter Songs) by Kan Mikami
Published by Public Bath Press, paperback + CD, 244 pp, 2019
"The acclaimed collection by Seiichi Yamamoto with all new art, photography and a new CD of remixed and new music by Omoide Hatoba and Suido Megane Satsujin Jiken." - Publisher Public Bath Press
"Of course, Seiichi Yamomoto is famous as the visionary guitarist of The Boredoms, Omoide Hatoba, Rashinban, Live Under The Sky, Most, Para, Novo Tono and many, many, more projects. His solo work is extensive. He is also proprietor of live house Namba Bears, home of the most interesting shows in Osaka. In the mid-1990s, when Boredoms mania was at its peak, Yamamoto-san was asked by Guitar Magazine to write a regular column. This book represents the best of that writing, with added poetry, fiction and art.
"Less well known, at least overseas, is that he is also a fine artist and photographer, having been featured in several solo shows at galleries.
"Yamamoto-san has an enigmatic, opaque way of speaking/writing that can feel simultaneously very warm and somehow off-putting. He is basically a very shy person who yet seems to spend most of his time on a stage in the spotlight.
"Ginga is the Japanese word for Milky Way, but here it is written in katakana and not its customary kanji (meaning silver river) so who knows if it means anything. He asked me if Gitabarrio, the repeating title of his column, meant anything to me. I said that I could see Gita, the song of the blessed one, and with a stretch, guitar, coming from his own barrio??? He merely smiled. Now it's your turn."- Translator Kato David Hopkins
Ginga by Seiichi Yamamoto
Edited by Lawrence Kumpf. Contributors and featured artists include Onyx Ashanti, Amy Cimini, Marcia Douglas, Kazuo Imai, Werner Durand, Peter Gente, Heidi Paris, Robert Ashley, “Blue” Gene Tyranny, Spencer Gerhardt, Adrian Rew, Paul Cummings, and Walter De Maria.
Taking its name from Maryanne Amacher’s visionary, unrealized opera, the fourth issue of Blank Forms’ journal, Intelligent Life, features a select group of unpublished, newly translated, or otherwise rare texts that augment our organization’s concerts, publications, exhibitions, and archival initiatives. The issue opens with a short literary essay by the author Marcia Douglas, in which a deep bass riddim guides a deaf narrator and a reincarnated Bob Marley through important sites in Rastafarianism’s development. Next come two interviews with crucial (though very different) figures in postwar avant-garde music: the Japanese guitarist Kazuo Imai and the American composer Robert Ashley, along with pianist and frequent collaborator “Blue” Gene Tyranny. The previously unpublished interview with Imai was conducted by Blank Forms’ Editor and Artistic Director Lawrence Kumpf during Imai’s first trip to the United States, in 2018, and finds the artist reflecting on recent work with the collective Marginal Consort as well as his foundational experiences playing with two other titans of Japanese experimentalism, Takehisa Kosugi and Masayuki Takayanagi. The interview with Ashley and “Blue” Gene, meanwhile, first published in German in 1984 on the occasion of a staging of Ashley’s opera Atalanta, was translated for the first time into English for this publication.
Intelligent Life continues with a series of longer pieces showcasing a diverse set of complex practices and histories, beginning with that of Detroit-based artist Onyx Ashanti. Onyx contributes his own Octavia Butler-referencing “sonocybernetic manifesto,” first published online in 2016, which exists simultaneously as theoretical treatise, memoir, and practical guide to his idiosyncratic technology-based practice. The manifesto is bolstered in this issue by a rare and extensive interview, conducted by Blank Forms’ Curatorial Assistant Adrian Rew in 2018. Following this exploration of Onyx’s life and work, the issue dives deeper into mathematics, with a comprehensive essay on Catherine Christer Hennix’s engagement with intuitionism and other esoteric approaches to math, written by the mathematician and musician Spencer Gerhardt. Gerhardt’s lucid, previously unpublished essay serves as a necessary complement to Blank Forms Editions’ forthcoming collection of Hennix’s abstruse, mostly unpublished body of writing, Poësy Matters and Other Matters.
The issue continues with a sort of titular essay, a rich analysis of Amacher’s Intelligent Life—the first such piece on this work—by Amacher scholar Amy Cimini. An incredibly prescient work that sought to upend any remaining vestiges of traditional operatic form and staging, Intelligent Life tells the story, set in 2021, of employees at Supreme Connections LLC, a futurist sonic entertainment corporation that formed following the collapse of a failed algorithmic music recommendation service. Cimini traces the technical and theoretical innovations with which Amacher imbued the work, situating it amid a detailed explication of Amacher’s still-overlooked practice. Intelligent Life—the journal issue—then concludes with a lengthy interview with the artist Walter De Maria. One of the few interviews De Maria gave in his lifetime, this one, created for the Archives of American Art in 1972, sheds significant light on De Maria’s early intellectual and artistic development as well as his work as a musician. Although he largely stopped playing music by 1970, and although few recordings of his efforts exist, De Maria played alongside musicians ranging from Lou Reed to Don Cherry to Henry Flynt, establishing himself early on as a force in jazz and avant-garde circles in both the Bay Area and New York City.
Taken together, the texts compiled here present a kaleidoscopic view of the last fifty years of experimental art and music in the United States and beyond, mining the conceptual, technical, historical, or otherwise marginal details undergirding artists’ lives, ideas, and approaches that may otherwise remain buried.
Blank Forms – Journal 4: Intelligent Life book
"In May 1977 Derek Bailey gave me a press ticket for Company Week - a series of concerts of improvised music in London. I made some notes at the time, but there seemed to be nowhere suitable to publish the extended commentary I eventually produced. So I wrote it into a dummy book and it to Derek. Most of it is reproduced here." Peter Riley 1994
Original copies of this rare and invaluable document.
Peter Riley - Company Week
Published by New DocumentsEdited by Will Holder, Alex Waterman.
American composer Robert Ashley (born 1930) has taken contemporary opera beyond the opera theater and into the television screen. Ashley’s operas draw an elegant cosmology of American consciousness out of storytelling, short phrases, ranting, chanting, profanity and the linguistic textures that make American speech musical. Working with the same four speakers/singers (Joan La Barbara, Sam Ashley, Tom Buckner and Jacqueline Humbert) for 30 years, Ashley has developed a collective, operatic form of storytelling whose production is almost entirely oral. Little exists on the page by way of a fully notated score, leaving the singers to fill in musical nuance and inflection through a process of “character development” that exists more off the page than on. Yes, But Is It Edible? is the culmination of activity and research around Ashley’s notational style that the editors have developed through a series of “rehearsals” and public readings ongoing since 2009.
Robert Ashley - Yes, But Is It Edible? Book
5 x 7.5 inches
Paperback Edition of 1,000
'One of the world’s most singular guitarists, Loren Connors is among few living musicians whose prolific body of work can be said to be wholly justified in its plenitude. On more than 100 records across almost four decades, Connors has wrung distinct shades of ephemeral blues from his guitar, its sound ever-shifting while remaining unmistakably his own. From his early, splintered take on the Delta bottleneck style through his song-based albums with Suzanne Langille and on to the painterly abstraction that defines his current work, Connors has earned the admiration of many, leading to collaborations with the likes of John Fahey, Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino, and Kim Gordon.
In the mid-80s, Connors took a partial break from music and focused instead on the art of haiku, for which he received the Lafcadio Hearn Award in 1987. With his wife Suzanne Langille he also co-wrote an article on blues and haiku, “The Dancing Ear,” published in the Haiku Society of America’s journal. It was during this period that Connors penned the material that appears in Autumn’s Sun, a chapbook first published by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley’s Glass Eye in 1999. The text features diary excerpts from 1987, lyrically fragmented observations interspersed with haiku-like poems that paint an idyllic impression of the passing seasons in his home of New Haven, Connecticut. With synesthetic perception, Connors gazes from tranquil domestic streets. Sycamore, elm, and catalpa trees are activated by the breeze and made to rustle in unison with their natural and artificial surroundings, including the howling dogs from which Connors derived his ‘Mazzacane’ moniker. As summer fades to winter, Connors portrays death as an undramatic certitude, the flux of his own maturation reflected in musings on his son’s. Like his music, Autumn’s Sun is tender without being sentimental, conjuring those rare, delicate moments when time stands still.
This edition includes “The Dancing Ear” and an introduction by Lawrence Kumpf.' - Blank Forms
Loren Connors – Autumn's Sun