Sunday, December 14, 2008

Experimentation in all things


In the 1960s we were open to experimentation in all things from natural to unnatural to supernatural. I believed that knowledge acquired from instinct and observation was as valid as an academic search for factual verity. Parsing everything was not a path to discovery - it was a deterrent. It wasn't that I was against study and excavating for information, but I believed that overanalyzing was harmful and interfered with the ability to see. I was wary of entering a tunnel of thought that ignored the surrounding terrain and the weather above it.
Those words from Suze Rotolo's 'A Freewheelin' Time' remind us of how new approaches to the creative process produced remakable results in the 1960s. Here are four examples of the notable new music that was composed in one year alone - 1968

Roger Sessions - Eighth Symphony
Harrison Birtwistle - Nomos
Luciano Berio - Sinfonia
Luigi Dallapiccola - Odysseus

But instinct is not always a good thing. In 1972 the self-styled black activist and friend of John Lennon and Yoko Ono Michael X was found guilty by a court in Trinidad of the murder of a fellow black revolutionary. John L. William's excellent biography of Michael X has recently been published, see cover below. Here, from that book, is a salutary reminder of what happens when the heart rules the mind. This is the open letter sent by 1960s icon, poet, and sometime Philip Glass librettist Allen Ginsberg after Michael X's conviction.

I last saw Michael X in London 1967 at elegant parties with Mick Jagger and William Burroughs and Alex Trocchi on Hanover Terrace, there was social ferment, new music and poetry, an artistic furore and flower-powered new consciousness wave that swept halfway round the planet, new awareness among poets, blacks, musicians, ladies and even police that we all on the same boat of Change, that the world was facing new horrors and new glories as a result of vast population technologically armed to create Eden or Hell's fiery gardens on our little ball rolling through the Solar System, Michael X was part of that communal effort to work out our local destiny... I pray with him that Mercy be the last judge of the world and not our own cruel confused hearts. And in this context and the context of his karmic nobility I here plead for his life ~~ Om Ah Hum ~~ Allen Ginsberg.

Despite, or perhaps because of, that letter, Allen Ginsberg was enshrined as one of the most influential people of the hippie era.
Power to the people' poster from Paris 1968 credit to Victoria University Library. The atmospheric front cover illustration on the Michael X biography is by Nicolas Castellanos. Suze Rotolo is the lady with Dylan on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Both A Freewheelin' Time and Michael X were borrowed from Norfolk Library Services. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

2 comments:

Pliable said...

Instinct versus excavating for information.

After uploading this post we went to a social function in the village junior school. To reach the hall we had to pass through a classroom. It contained eleven computers, each with a child sized chair. There was not one single book in the room.

Garth Trinkl said...

Welcome home, pliable, and thanks for all the nutritious new food for thought!

As to the above post, I'm wondering if you -- and your readers -- recall who conducted the world premiere of Luigi Dallapiccola's Odysseus/Ulisse? (Ah, to be young and of one's own cultural time and place!)

Also, some may not realize that Session's Eighth Symphony is based on music from his Montezuma opera (premiered in W. Berlin four years before Ulisse received its premiere in W. Berlin.) [I own both the Ulisse and Eighth Symphony scores.]

Here is a link to the Dallapiccola Ulisse sketch (and Wayne Shirley's essay about the sketch) in the Library of Congress:

http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/moldenhauer/2428125.pdf

*

(I also recall that the Pulitzer Prize winning American music critic Tim Page once wrote that he had examined the Sessions Montezuma score in the Library of Congress, and found it not worth reviving ...)