Friday, January 11, 2019

Out Demons, Out

Barbara Kraus (as Aloise Schinkenmaier)
14 x 9 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2019
Here's an odd one for you. The source image is a still taken from the video Out Demons Out, in which Austrian dancer and performance artist Barbara Kraus acts as the also Austrian medium Aloise Schinkenmaier. In one of the most ridiculous videos I've ever seen Kraus, as Schinkenmaier, meets her old friend Satan, a man in a bear costume played by Martin Leitner. It's not Kraus but Schinkenmaier who is featured in the top 100. I could not positively identify Schinkenmaier herself in any of the many photos associated with the German album Okkulte Stimmen – Mediale Musik: Recordings of Unseen Intelligences, 1907-2007. On the second of that 3CD-set Schinkenmaier is heard as a medium picking up an unknown language while being recorded in 1967. Later the language was identified as a dialect of a little known Polynesian language. Schinkenmaier herself could not possibly have been aware of that language let alone speak it as if it were native to her. The recording clocks a dramatic two minutes in which Schinkenmaier narrates an emotional scene in this Polynesian language. I became interested in this recording in the context of something about memory that travels on a plane usually hidden to us (call it the astral plane,) the key to my hypothesis on the origin of music. In the zine Ach Ja #10: The Origin of Music (2) I wrote a paragraph headed "Dreams." 
Dreams contain images, sounds, and words that must be contained inside one’s being. Curiously the material contained in dreams might consist of features that were never experienced in one's life; places never traveled, languages never learned, sounds never heard, times of yore or future.  Where does this material come from? Archetypes, shared memory, or can the unconscious travel beyond our bodies to different times and different places? It’s known that our DNA contains of up to 3% denisovan, 5% of neanderthal, and a whole lot of early homo sapiens.  Along with DNA there would also be a memory, a trace of consciousness from our early ancestors.  We normally can’t access this information as it is stored deep down in our subconsciousness.  There are however atavisms, and there are still pre-industrialized (illiterate) people whose memories exist on different planes then ours. Oral traditions, counter-intuitively perhaps, can subsist through hundreds, even thousands of years. 

While it's easy to dismiss certain unexplainable phenomena as fake or trickery, I am not convinced that things that aren't easily explained, or don't fit known workings of the physical world, are therefore non existing. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Andaman Islands

Andaman Islands, Port Blair
14 x 9 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2019
In November 2018 John Allen Chau, an American missionary, set foot on the northernmost of the Sentinel Islands. His mission didn't last long as he was speared by the indigenous Sentinelese. The Sentinelese inhabit the least visited of the Andaman Islands that are located in the Bay of Bengal east of India. The latest Indian census counted only thirty-nine inhabitants. The Indian government used satellite imagery to count because visits are prohibited. Chau traveled illegally. Since 1700, as far back as recorded history goes on the Andaman Islands, the Sentinelese have only been in contact with the modern world a handful of times, usually very brief as they either flee into the bushes or kill the visitors. The Indian government has decided to leave them alone. The Onge, who inhabit the largest of the Andaman Islands, are related to the Sentinelese but only rarely are in contact with the Sentinelese. The inhabitants of the Andaman Islands are believed to be members of the first wave of migrants out of Africa of our species some 60,000 years ago. The Sentinelese, moreover, are believed to have been completely isolated from contact since 30,000 BCE when they inhabited the island they're still living at today. Not only visiting is prohibited but also photography is not allowed, even from a great distance. There are only a handful of images of the Sentinelese known, all taken from a distance. Their language is unintelligible. There are no sound recordings whatsoever. The related Onge share their territory with Indian settlements and are also left to their own. I was surprised to find a sound recording made by the Indian Institute of Anthropology in 1960. The recording may be the closest analogy to the music of prehistoric men that exists. The recording was made in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and features a chorus of boys and girls performing a turtle hunting song.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


Three women from the ensemble Kiighwyak 
introducing the song Ay-ay-amamay
14 x 9 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2019
Ay-ay-amamay is a song posted by OPOS (Open Planet of Sound), a music program at the University of Basel, Switzerland. We see and hear seven singers who form the group Kiighwyak perform a pic-eine'rkin (a style of throat singing specific to the Siberian Chukchi). The song, as is shown in the video linked to above, comes with a set of hand gestures. The movements of the hands, with an occasional clap in there, belong to the song. Traditions have withstood the ages, even when musical traditions have been repressed by political events. The Chukchi women seen in the video wear ordinary modern clothing. That traditional music isn't just performed by those peoples who haven't been in contact with civilizations, and that ancient musical traditions are performed in buckskin, or reindeer pelts belong to the world of myth. The pic-eine'rkin songs however, are performed today by only a few Yupik and Chukchi women. The style is related to the Inuit katajjait and the Ainu rehkuhkara traditions.  Recorded between 1991 and 1993 in Siberia. 
The small painting took me almost a month to complete. The central figure featured in the painting from the beginning, unchanged. The other other singers depicted did change their positions and sizes a few times. The portrait of Lenin, in the background gold-on-gold, appeared, disappeared, and reappeared several times, as did it's position and size.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Strange instruments from Vietman

Duo a'reng
14 x 12 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
The paintings represent the 1 & 2 listed below: The A'bel and A'reng - Co Tu and Ta Oi Pako peoples of Hue Province, Vietnam. Both tracks are from a video uploaded to YouTube in 2013 by angklung eds, using footage from The Vietnamese Institute of Musicology, Hanoi, Vietnam. One man sings into a reed the other end of which ends in a woman's mouth that functions as a resonance chamber. The A'reng is a simple reed instrument with one hole that is traditionally performed by a mixed couple but the traditions is now extinct. The second tune shows a man playing a one string instrument, a dan k'ni, with a bow and uses his mouth as a resonance chamber. Information found on Rare and Strange Instruments by Nicolas Bras.
Strange instruments from Vietnam: 1.  The Dan k'ni; The players mouth is the resonance chamber of this string instrument. 2. A'reng is a simple reed instrument by two players, one blows into the mouth of the second (who features as the resonace chamber. 3. The dan-bau is a one-string instrument (like a diidley bo). 4. Dan-da is lithophone, like a xylophone but made fro stones. 5. Dan klongput is a giant panflute. 

The history of instruments

The oldest instruments ever found were two flutes made of mammoth bone and tusk. They're about 42,000 years old, slightly older than another flute also found in Southern Germany next to the oldest figurative sculpture known. We know humans decorated themselves and the world around them long before that time and they made music as well. Before there were instruments humans used their voices and bodies to create music. Like the origin of art, the origin of music is to be found on a different plane from the everyday experience. Music (and dance too) are an excellent means to escape that everyday consciousness and enter a plane of altered consciousness that would provide a reality more real than empiric reality. A reality of timelessness and placelessness, in other words "the sacred." The voice of music is distinctly different than the voice of language. It appears music came before language, which is utilitarian. To become sacred the voice must be distorted, one must become someone or something else. Instruments were initially created as an extension of the body or voice. The first instruments were likely found in nature, a conch shell, hollow wood, or stones that would provide a range of different sounds. Reeds could mimic, like the later trumpet and wind instruments, the sound of animals by blowing on them between your thumbs. Your hands are the resonating chamber. Try it! Later instruments were man-made either to perfect the nature found materials or to substitute the body. A drum sounds better and doesn't hurt as much as pounding on your own body. A resonance chamber, like the bag of a bagpipe, substitutes for vocal chambers as it is much easier to store air in than in your own body using the strenuous techniques involved in circular breathing. String instruments at first, obviously, consisted of one string only. The mouth was used as the resonance chamber. Only later the chambers were built outside the body and more strings were added.

There are no cultures without music, music is universal, but there are cultures without instruments.
Duo a'reng
14 x 12 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Popular Music (sort of)

Inger Lorre
14 x 9 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
I don't listen to popular much anymore, sure, the radio is on sometimes and Maria, my wife, plays a tune now and then, but other than Cat Power I'm not selecting any. What I have been playing most are ethnographical field recordings, a bit of (modern) classical music, free jazz, and also a bit of word-jazz. The last category is directly related to two exhibitions at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery celebrating the work of Jack Kerouac. I listened to a number of Kerouac cds, some spoken word and some with a jazz accompaniment. One cd in particular I've played several times; a tribute cd that features a host of well known (popular) musicians and (beat) poets. On it are the poets Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Kerouac himself, and William S. Burroughs. The musicians include expected names for a compilation on Kerouac such as members of Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, and Lydia Lunch but there are also REM's Michael Stype, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, Eddie Vedder, Juliana Hatfield, John Cale and other notables from the music scene. Inger Lorre (depicted above) teams up with Jeff Buckley for a performance of Kerouac's poem Angel Mine set to music. It's my favorite track. Inger Lorre, btw, is a singer and painter from San Francisco, she once led a band named The Nymphs.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Grinding Corn, Pounding Maize

Ana Caraballo
14 x 9 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
Another work song (see Ulahi) that is featured on the CD The Origins of Music (see post from November 23.) Every track on that CD is part of this year's top 100. From Magarita Island in Venezuela comes a recording of Ana Caraballo made by Francisco Carreño and Miguel Cardona in 1949. When I painted the same image in 2013, I must have missed the information concerning the identity of the singer when I tagged the painting as Venezuelan Girl (I should have named her woman instead of girl). I assume that the photographer responsible for this tiny black & white image in the liner notes of volume 9 of The Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music would be either Carreño or Cardona. What's different too is that I have the recording listed as Corn Grinding Song whereas five years ago it was Pounding Maize. Maize is the staple of the inhabitants of Margarita Island as Sago is the staple of the Bosavi forest people to whom Ulahi belongs. The authors also credited Asuncion Caraballo as musician but I have hard time making out a second person on the recording.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Father and Son

14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2018
Musicians often come from musical families. This is true in popular music, classical music, folk music, but nowhere as pronounced as in traditional music. Often traditions in music hinge on the transmission from parents to children. It is rare, however, to find two generations independently featuring in a top 100 of mine. I can't think of a single occasion until this year, when Mongolian tsuur players Gombojav and his father Narantsogt, who had learned to play the instrument from his grandfather, are separately listed. A tsuur (shoor in Tuva) is a simple flute with three finger holes typically made from a hollowed out larch or willow. The instrument mimics, rather than imitates, the sounds of nature. Legend has it that spirits possess the instrument. The shoor has completely vanished and the tsuur tradition in Mongolia has nearly died out. The instrument was forbidden during Soviet occupation in both Tuva and Mongolia. Gombojav and Narantsogt are two of only a handful of players knowing how to play the tsuur and both have now passed. Narantsogt died of old age and Gombojav of cancer at age thirty-five. The first painting presented here is of the son, Gombojav. The more eccentric looking Narantsogt will follow soon.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Wonderful Ainu

Two Ainu women performing "Rehbuhkara"
14 x 11 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
Rehbuhkara is a vocal style closely related to the Chukchi pic-eine'rkin and the Inuit katajjaq typically performed by two women. The three vocal styles form the backbone of a new issue of Ach Ja. It is the tenth issue and the second titled The Origin of Music. Katajjait are performed in the north of America and in Greenland, an area of land that is supposedly isolated from the old world at the end of the last ice age 14,000 years ago. The vocal styles of all three (ethnically related) peoples form yet more striking evidence that there must have been contact between the new and old world. Either that or these styles were already practiced before the separation of Chukchi, Ainu, and Inuit, in which case the traditional singing styles are older than 14,000 years. The Ainu, considered the indigenous people of Japan, live on Japan's northernmost large island Hokkaido. The island is connected to the Kamchatka chain running to Kamchatka in Russia. From Kamchatka run the Aleut island chain all the way to Alaska. The Ainu use their hands as a resonance chamber. The Inuit, as lore has it, use to sing so close together that each others mouths serve as resonance chambers. The source image from the painting is a still from a video uploaded by ainuworld. 
 Ach Ja! #10: The Origin of Music (2) is a zine published in an edition of 25. 8.5 x 5.5 inches, 16 p. It comes with a CD featuring 32 tracks from my collection (I don't own the rights to any of them) and can be purchased for $15 + shipping. Just shoot me an email.

Track listing
  1. Inuit:  Katajjait with geese cries (Canada)                 2:45
  2. Inuit: Katajjait on "Hamma" (Canada)        `        1:29
  3. Inuit: Assalalaa (Canada)                        0:38
  4. Inuit: Qiarpa (Canada)                        3:34
  5. Annie Kappianaq / Jeanne Arnainuk – Vocal And Throat-Games "Pirkusirartup" Huangaahaaq (Inuit, Canada)                0:41
  6. Ainu: Rekuhkara, throat singing (Japan)                0:27
  7. Kiyo Kurokawa, Teru Nishizama – Horippa (Ainu, Japan)        2:23
  8. Utekn, Yuimuk – Women's Wu-unka songs (Aborigine, Australia)             2:04
  9. Kiighwyaq, Sivugun und Nunana – Pic-eine’rkin: Ay-ay-amamay (Cukchi, Russia)         1:59
  10. Anna Dimitrievna Neostroeva – Throat Song                0:52
  11. Nowaylethi Mbizwenti And Nofirst Mbizweni – Duet With 'ordinary' Umngqokol    (Xhosa, South Afrca)                    1:39
  12. Antonia Vasil'evna Skalygina – Alterateur de voix Kal'ni (Even, Rus.)    1:02
  13. Mergen Mongush – Alash (Tuva)                    1:14
  14. The 1898 Torres Strait Recordings: Death Wail (Aborigine, Australia)    2:12
  15. Papua New Guinea: Wame Igini Kamu                 1:43
  16. Shipobo Song (Shipobo, Peru)                    2:09
  17. Ashaninka Songs (Ashaninka, Peru)                    1:15
  18. Ulahi and Eyo:bo Sing with Afternoon Cicadas (Bosavi, Papua New Guinea)             2:47
  19. Ulahi Sings While Making Sago (Bosavi, Papua New Guinea)    1:26
  20. Ana Caraballo & Asuncion Caraballo – Canto Para Pilar Maiz (Venezuela)                 0:54
  21. Gumbojav – Running Horse (Tuva)                    0:36
  22. Deux Femmes Ngozi – Ubuhuha (Ngozi, Burundi)            2:00
  23. Pako Tà Ôi peoples – Duo A'Reng (Pako Tà Ôi, Vietnam)        1:02
  24. Pako Tà Ôi peoples – A'bel (Pako Tà Ôi, Vietnam)            2:16
  25. Te Bow with Two Women's Voices (San, Namibia)            3:03
  26. Princess Constance Magogo KaDinuzulu – Helele! Yiliphi leliyani? (Zulu, South Africa)  3:31
  27. The Indians of the Gran Chaco – Instrumental, strings (Argentina)    0:57
  28. Avdo Mededovic – Bosnjacke Gusle (Montenegro)            1:23
  29. Tin Can Bow Solo (San, Namibia)                    1:44
  30. Marija Nikoforovna Ceculina – Chant et Jajar (Koryak, Russia)    0:57
  31. Chukchi Shamanic Ritual (Chukchi, Russia)                3:57
  32. Kittoro (Roro, Papua, Indonesia)                    1:20

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Golden Paintings

After many years of random formats I decided to, once again, choose the serial approach to the new top 100 that started in August. Tempted to seriously study abstract painting I would create a series of 100 abstract works on an 11 x 9 canvas with a golden acrylic lining. Over the next few months I created a number of such painting but then the urge came to paint musicians once again (on 11 x 9 canvases with golden backgrounds.) Now they exist side by side. I still want to make one hundred abstract works—for abstract work to be valid, quantity is needed. The abstract works so far seem way too specific to add figures too, as intended, later on. What do you think?


14 x 11 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
Ulahi starts a song and Eyo:bo repeats. Eyo:bo is an echo as it were of Ulahi, but her voice is different. The echo, together with a chorus of cicadas in the background makes for a spellbinding musical recording. Steven Field recorded it in 1977 in the Kulali area of the Bosavi rain forest in Papua New Guinea.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Cat Power (after Ryan Pfluger)
11 x 14 inches, oil and acrylic on canvas, 2018
Wanderer is out now. I had preordered a copy that came with a 45. My first Cat Power 45. The record is great and my favorite thus far is the title track Wanderer. The song appears at the beginning and the end of the album and my preference is the latter version. The source for the image of the painting was provided by a September 23 New York Times article with a photo by Ryan Pfluger. A painting often paints itself and in this case it meant staying true to Pflugers photograph. All 100 for the current top 100 will be painted on a golden acrylic ground, some with an abstract design, some with none. The blue rectangle in the background here makes it look a cover for the National Geographic.

Sunday, October 28, 2018


14 x 9 inches, oil and gold acrylic on canvas, 2018
Ulahi is heard cutting sago, a staple for the inhabitants of the mountainous Bosavi rainforest in Papua New Guinea. It's a work song. Indeed singing makes work go faster, makes it easier, less tiresome. The cutting of the food becomes rhythmic as if it were a game. As a new mother Ulahi carries her child with her wherever she goes. When she has to work, the baby must be set aside. The baby cries, Ulihi sings, the baby stops crying.