The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

January 10, 2015

Opening, Aural Architectures

Qin and shakuhachi, 2 pieces each w/varied parameters; cura,
1 piece

Playing in these environments (currently limited to 2 channel)
is a completely different experience - not because of delay,
but because of anticipation and spatial perception. For me,
the pieces are unique and calming in the midst of Sturm und
Drang; I hear and play the sirens of France, the guqin by a
mountain stream, shakuhachi of outer Zen outside Zen. Qin and
shakuhachi are difficult, sounding of breath and hands,
strings and bamboo, streets of ice, Special Forces, screams,
and serenity.

Rise up, mourn, meditate, and enjoy.

The Canyon Film Catalog / missing history

These films are probably still in the Filmmakers Coop; I haven't
heard from them, so I have no idea if they've been shown. I
think not, but at least one was shown (I received a catalog from
another organization), and I wasn't informed. For those who
might be interested, these are master prints - I showed masters
only, I didn't have money for duplication - which Canyon in S.F.
took on. They then changed their policy (for legal reasons I
gathered) and the films were returned. Now they decay at the
Coop, nothing is done with them - but if you want an idea of
their contents, read away on the seven sad jpgs. Most of these
are 16mm sound films, but there are 8mm and super8mm as well.
Why put these jpgs up? So that this minor history isn't totally
lost, so that someone might find value in the films, so that
they might even be restored or archived (hopefully they're still
there) - and because I just found the catalog shots, going
through other archives of my own.

Years ago, Kathy Acker and I made the Blue Tape and a parody of
the Blue Tape. The parody has disappeared; I imagine it's
somewhere in my archives at NYU Fales, or University of Ohio in
Columbus. It sits and decays. The current Acker revival places
the Blue Tape at a center; it's been the subject of PhD theses
and random shows. No one wants to see my other video or film
from that period; I exist as her appendage, as a diacritical
mark of no consequence. The last show of the Blue Tape was in
Brooklyn; I asked the curator if he would be interested in
seeing my other work, and there was no reply.

Among the other pieces, a 2000 mph. super8mm film made while
driving alone and non-stop from Dallas to Los Angeles, the
camera aimed out the windshield, film and batteries changed on
the fly. A 16mm hour-long sound film called Hollywood, about
just that; I flew in Jocelyn Doray from Montreal to star in it.
A 16mm 11 minute silent film shooting down the Sunset Strip,
waiting for something to happen, and something did. Film shot at
murder scenes and in burning buildings. Hour-long films such as
Sleazy and the Year 3000, shorter films such as Nuclear Winter,
sexualized films, narrative films like God, films made with
slit-scan techniques picked up from 2001: A Space Odyssey, films
dealing with male and female nudity, early conceptual 8mm films,
anti-Vietnam War films based on found North Vietnamese found
footage of napalm bombing, films made in New York, Rhode Island,
Montreal, Los Angeles, where I made a 16mm film a week for a
year, all of them numbered, most sound and edited in-camera, in
length from three minutes to an hour. So many sound-tracks were
magnetic-striped, probably all lost due to print-through and
flaking, so many splices were taped, probably yellow and
brittled, and the sprocket holes themselves probably chatter
uncontrollably in the projector. I haven't seen the films in
years myself, perhaps they're discarded, or overheated, curled,
perhaps the cans are rusted. For a long time they were shown at
Millennium in New York, thanks to Howard Guttenplan, but the
film community never came, there was no buildup of interest, I
wrote a few articles on them that were published, but I wasn't
part of the movement, I went to their films, I knew them, there
was talk of a twenty-four hour showing of my work, of a curated
night or nights, nothing came of anything. I imagine the color
stock slowly reddening, imagine fingerprints burned in, maybe
they've been stolen, what remains are these pages, I think maybe
a few video conversions, I'm not sure, just as the EIAJ videos I
made, including the Acker ones but so many more, are hopelessly
chemically decaying, sticking together, they can only play once,
NYU Fales hasn't been interested in reviving them, it costs too
much, maybe another twenty hours there, I'm not sure. Now I make
my little videos and put them up, YouTube has banned me without
recourse or due process thanks to Google, perhaps four or five
people watch them, they show at various places, but there's
still no community. The earlier films go back as far as 1977 at
least, and up through the early 1990s, and they're different
from my current work, they were also different from other work
back then, all that in-camera editing, fast processing, master-
showing, broken narratives, sound-sync and pseudo sound-sync,
wild theory, and no homage to or lineage from the male heroes of
avant-garde cinema at the time, I don't think I ever showed at
Anthology for example and couldn't understand Brakhage's appeal
and structural cinema bored me. Tony Conrad brought me out to
Hallwalls and mocked my work, there was no audience. I showed at
MOMA and in two Whitney Biennials and thought I was getting
somewhere. It just stopped. At different times I showed all over
the country. I never got a film grant and couldn't continue. I
improvised all sorts of optical arrays for production. Later I
did the same with 3/4" tape and went back and used Beta as well
and all that stuff's disappeared. I think the originals are at
NYU Fales but there are a lot also in Ohio. Tim Murray at
Cornell has about two terabytes of my video archives, but I've
written him several times about updating them (at least another
terabyte at this point), and he's never written back. I'm afraid
all my work, digital, analog, and physical, will eventually be
discarded, I'm not that important, at NYU and Ohio, there are
boxes and boxes, what's online like this text will disappear
after I die, obviously, I keep taking things down on the
alansondheim site because there's limited space, it's a site I
have to pay for, it's difficult to do, so those files will be
gone. What's left will be the Acker tape somewhere and maybe
those anthologies I made years ago because really important
people are in them, I have a good eye. But as for the videos and
music and films, and the films listed in the jpgs above, I don't
know, realistically they're probably still at the Coop, corroded
and split, sooner or later they'll be discarded as well. At
least I had a chance to make them, and wonder at their beauty
and intensity, and that's most likely the end of them, of it
all, of my work. If you're not canonic, if your genre slips,
your work is stillborn, here's the catalog, or at least its
imaginary, I dream the presence of these films, I dream your
presence, I dream the screen illuminated, I dream the screen
itself, your presence, the image, the sound.


where are evelyn and norman now
where are weiss and sondheim
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

do they talk to one another
do they talk to one another then
their backs are to each other now
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

are they yet together
are they yet together then
they are apart forever now
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

what do you say to them
what do you say to them now
i'd say you're forever joined apart
i'd say you're back to back forever
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

i'd say no prayer nor cry would aid
no book nor journey turned to dust
forever joined no voice nor name
forever silent forever bone
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

you're forever joined apart
in the ground
in the cold cold ground

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