Filler By Proxy LXXXI: Great Moments In Medical Research, or Life Imitates Derp

Sunday 23 October 2011

This was the front page of the paper last week.

Finally someone’s paying attention to this doctor’s advice.


Friday 4 March 2011

You really can find anything on Google these days. In their mania for completeness, Google Books has scanned in the Cunt Coloring Book.

Or rather, someone scanned in the first few pages of the book before either they lost interest, the scanner died, or they could resist temptation no longer and had to go break out the Faber-Castells.

Filler By Proxy LXXIX: I’ll Chop Your Head Off!

Sunday 23 January 2011

What could be more exciting than an action comic strip written by a 5 year old boy and drawn by his 29 year old brother? Nothing! You are commanded to read Axe Cop.

Please Mister Please (Filler by Proxy mashup)

Saturday 5 June 2010

Esquerita, “Esquerita And The Voola” (1858?)
via Phil Milstein.

Filler By Proxy LXXVIII: We connect August Strindberg with John Cage

Sunday 7 March 2010

Few outside of Sweden know that the playwright August Strindberg had periods of intense engagement with painting and photography in the 1890s, when his literary creativity had reached a deadlock. In an essay from 1894 called “Chance in Artistic Creation,” he describes the methods that he employs, speaking about his wish to “imitate […] nature’s way of creating.”* …

Strindberg distrusted camera lenses, since he considered them to give a distorted representation of reality. Over the years he built several simple lens-less cameras made from cigar boxes or similar containers with a cardboard front in which he had used a needle to prick a minute hole. But the celestographs were produced by an even more direct method using neither lens nor camera. The experiments involved quite simply placing his photographic plates on a window sill or perhaps directly on the ground (sometimes, he tells us, already lying in the developing bath) and letting them be exposed to the starry sky.

More about Strindberg’s Celestographs can be found at Cabinet, along with a translation of “On Chance in Artistic Creation“. (Found via

* A quote remarkably similar to John Cage’s “The function of Art is to imitate Nature in her manner of operation,” a thought to which he returned throughout his later life. Cage got this idea from reading Ananda Coomaraswamy’s The Transformation of Nature in Art. I don’t remember Cage making any references to Strindberg, and I don’t know how far east Strindberg extended his interest in exotic forms of spirituality.

Filler By Proxy LXXVII: The Turner Prize and the Super Bowl

Thursday 4 February 2010

I care even less about gridiron than I do about any other type of football, and I would have happily ignored that Super Bowl match the Americans are having on Sunday until this popped up at Modern Art Notes. Museum directors in the home towns of the two rival teams are betting their art on the result, and the stakes keep getting higher.

On Monday, Indianapolis Museum of Art director Max Anderson proposed wagering an IMA loan of an Ingrid Calame painting to the New Orleans Museum of Art, should the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.

That was a nice choice… but apparently Anderson wasn’t too worried about having to pay off the bet: “We’re already spackling the wall where the NOMA loan will hang,” he tweeted.

Over the past few days, the two directors have been locked in a cycle of calling and raising their bets, with plenty of trash talk about each other’s teams, cities, and taste in art. The full coverage is here.

Filler By Proxy LXXVI: Poème Electronique

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Philips PavilionJodru at ANABlog went to see the virtual recreation of the Philips Pavilion from the 1958 Brussels World Fair, and has posted a fascinating summary of little-known aspects of the project.

The design of the pavilion, which housed a presentation of Edgar Varèse’s tape composition Poème Electronique, was attributed to Le Corbusier at the time. The title was in fact Le Corbusier’s idea: “I shall not create a pavilion, but a poème électronique. Everything will happen inside: sound, light, color, rhythm…” He then got Iannis Xenakis, his assistant, to design it for him.

At ANABlog you can see a photograph of the World Fair site, showing the size of the Philips Pavilion, compared to those of the USA and the USSR, along with surprising photographs of the pavilion other than the iconic image on the left. There are also more details about how Varèse tried to exploit the acoustic properties of the pavilion’s interior to the fullest, creating an immersive, spatialised sonic experience (and nixed Le Corbusier’s plans to lecture the audience over the top of his music.)

Plenty more goodies at the Virtual Electronic Poem site, including a Dutch documentary made at the time of the pavilion’s construction, and photographs of the other pavilions at the fair. There’s a lot of retro-futuristic architecture, but there are also the names: Atomium, the USSR, the Tobacco Pavilion, Kodak, Pan Am. Watch the film, and see the world in which the pavilion was built, and the fact that this all happened over a half a century ago really hits home. This temple to modernity was planned by hat-wearing men, built by workmen driving creaky lorries and spraying asbestos like it was whipped cream. It’s a future that never happened, but it’s amazing that it got as far as it did.

Filler By Proxy LXXV: What the Hell Mouth?

Monday 16 November 2009

After the ceremony there’s a dinner hosted by the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, whose name is Rocco. He wears handcrafted alligator cowboy boots with his black tuxedo. Marcel [Proost] asks him about the boots, which are, of course, a major conversation piece.

“You wrassle that ‘gator yourself?”

No, says the Chairman. He bought them in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I had not known that they had alligators in Jackson Hole, but it could be they’ve migrated there to work in the hotel or food service business.

The Chairman is reputed to be a very wealthy man and a fan of theater, baseball, horse racing and country music, in other words our indigenous American beaux arts, our native Kunstwerke. Someone there tells me he contemplated buying the Cincinnati Reds but thought the asking price of one billion too high. Perhaps he could just buy the NEA for half that amount and not have to deal with the flamers in Congress. That would be an exemplary form of the great American tradition of privatizing.

That’s an excerpt from a recent entry in John Adams‘ blog, Hell Mouth. Yes. John “Nixon In China, Short Ride In A Fast Machine” Adams. (Note to self: check out some music he’s written in the past fifteen years or so.)

Filler By Proxy LXXIV: Percy Grainger’s Electric Eye Tone Tool

Tuesday 22 September 2009

A short video of Warren Burt and Catherine Schieve playing the last of Percy Grainger’s free music instruments, the Electric Eye Tone Tool:

Between 1954 and 1961, Percy Grainger and Burnett Cross worked on a machine called the Electric Eye Tone Tool. Years later, I was looking at the diagram of the Electric Eye machine in the Grainger Museum and I said, “That should be fairly easy to rebuild.” Well, it turns out it’s not fairly easy to rebuild but it was rebuildable.

The Electric Eye Tone Tool seems to be the first light-controlled synthesizer. Its oscillator circuits were transistorised (more stable than the old valve technology) and could be controlled graphically, simply by painting a score onto a transparent plastic sheet which could then be passed over the instrument’s array of photoelectric cells. Take that, UPIC.

Burt has written a brief study of the history of experimental music in Australia, reprinted at the Australian Music Centre website.

(Hat tip to Mr Graeve.)

Filler By Proxy LXXIII: Round The Worst In A Tall Canoe

Monday 10 August 2009

Can’t blog too busy watching this stuff over and over.

Filler By Proxy LXXII: You Passed Too Bad Gas!

Monday 3 August 2009

Hooray! StSanders, the genius who gave the world so many excellent shreds of the world’s finest guitar heroes, has raised the stakes in a new video that’s gonna make the people sway and rock and clap their hands to the beat. Hooray!

Because YouTube kept taking them down, the complete gallery of shreds can now be found here.

Filler By Proxy LXXI: So It’s Come To This, A Post About Cats

Sunday 2 August 2009

These videos have been doing the rounds, but I feel obliged to link to them because of my obsession with reworking Schoenberg’s Opus 11. An exemplar of how the internet wastes your time, Cory Arcangel has produced a performance of Schoenberg’s Three Piano Pieces on his website. The angle? It’s made up entirely of snippets of YouTube videos of cats on piano keyboards.

It’s not quite an infinite number of monkeys, but…

first I downloaded every video of a cat playing piano I could find on Youtube. I ended up with about 170 videos. Then I extracted the audio from each, pasted these files end to end, and then pasted this huge file onto the end of an audio file of Glenn Gould playing op11. I loaded this file into Comparisonics. Comparisonics, a strange free program I found while surfing one night…

Full details, and the videos, on his website.

Filler By Proxy LXX: Apology Accepted

Sunday 7 June 2009

Kyle Gann has been reading the latest collection of Morton Feldman interviews, and discovers that Feldman is a gift to the musical world that keeps on giving. Now, I can listen to Feldman’s music and opinions for hours on end (in the case of the music, it’s kind of mandatory), but then Gann quotes the following passage where Feldman compares the composers Stefan Wolpe and Ernst Krenek:

Wolpe was in the midst of a musical revolution in New York. He was in the midst of the rising young, fabulously talented people coming up in Europe, and he knew it. Krenek never knew it. There’s not an ounce in Krenek’s music, in things that I’ve heard of his late style… But nothing existed, nothing happened. It’s music where nothing happened. It’s the kind of music somebody might write some place in Adelaide, Australia.

Speaking as a native I’d object to that comparison, except I left Adelaide many years ago and so my criticism might look a teensy bit hollow. I wonder why Feldman’s mind alighted on my home town in particular?

Gann comments, “Fascinating and endearing stuff (apologies, though, to any composers in Adelaide).” Mr Gann, you have nothing to apologise for. Mr Feldman, on the other hand…

Filler By Proxy LXIX: This post has made me hungry

Saturday 6 June 2009

It’s been a bastard of a week, so no time for lovefun online. I’m firmly relocated back in East London, the world capital for dodgy chicken shops. It’s good to see I’m not the only one with a fascination for these establishments. Now here’s a musical tribute we can all sing along with! (Found via Floccinaucinihilipilification.)

Filler By Proxy LXVIII: The Stockhausen Football League

Sunday 24 May 2009

It’s the last day of the English football season, so The Guardian is giving minute-by-minute updates on its website, tracking the fates of teams facing relegation. Naturally, reporter Scott Murray is decribing the action through an extended conceit of likening the tail-end of the Premiership season to the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (with some John Cage coming in for stoppage time), right down to the concluding section of his epic opera cycle Licht: “Sunday Farewell”.