Saturday, April 29, 2006

"Dot's Very Interesting...Vot Do YOU Tink?"

Went to the Austrian Cultural Forum last night, just down the road apiece from MOMA on 52nd Street (legendary, officially designated "Swing Street", boulevard of broken dreams, cradle of bebop. home of Black Rock, where I hung my hat for 13 years toiling in the vineyards of CBS Records). The ACF is where they were celebrating this year's Sigmund Freud centenary and a half with a diverse week of Austrian electronica/new music under the rubric "It's Not Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood".

Place's an oasis in the center of midtown Manhattan, one of those glassed-in townhouse galleries you might ordinarily pass by and never venture into, particularly if you happen to live here, forest-for-the-trees syndrome (maybe), and the fact that the Eulenspiegel-esque wags who program events there decided to transfer Freud's modernist imprimatur onto the current spate of Austrian DJs, improvisers, avant-rockers et al. they had imported for this series of concerts was a nice touch...

I've always had a soft-spot for Freud, not so much for his theories per se (Nabokov, one of my favorite authors, regularly refers to him as "the Viennese quack" in his pages, loudly discrediting him over and over again for fear one imagines that applying Freud's psychoanalytic approach to Nab's own writings might reveal perhaps a bit too much information viz. the various monsters lurking within the Nabokovian Id--preferring instead to publicly present himself to the world in his memoirs as a harmless butterfly collector/women's college prof/patriotic Russian emigre, who just happened to have written a charming little book called "Lolita")--

but Freud as a Jewish rager/upsetter of convention/radical modernist-transgressor, yes, that image has always appealed to me, particularly in the tradition of other great Jewish iconoclasts throughout history (there is a really really good book by John Murray Cuddihy I urge you to seek out called "The Ordeal of Civility", which posits the notion of Freud, Marx and Levi-Strauss developing their radical weltanschaungs/systems of subversive beliefs out of the pressure to conform within the over-arching Gentile society that surrounded/smothered them...topic came up over dinner here recently at Malatesta on Christopher Street with the lovely chanteuse Sabina Sciubba and keyboard whiz Didi Gutman of the Brazilian Girls, wifey Caroline, and Israeli cult director ("Sue") Amos Kollek--son of Teddy "former Mayor of Jerusalem" Kollek)...suffice to say, I can relate very well indeed to this radical Jewish cultural tradition (alongside fellow co-conspirators Zorn, Coleman, et al.)

Wyndham Lewis, another longtime inspiration, also puts the boot to Freud in tomes like "Time and Western Man", but again I sense that training the same sort of intra-penetrative scrutiny on Lewis that Lewis regularly applies to everyone else around him in his satiric novels and polemics (an intuitive, subjective intellection not so far afield from Freud's own analytic technique) might very possibly reveal some embarassing truths that could seriously shatter--or at least reveal gaping holes in-- Lewis' artfully contrived "Enemy" persona/armour.

Which is to say, Freud still rules/amuses (me, anyway) as a great, dare I say almost campy (he would have loved that description I'm sure) avatar... (remember Groucho's zinger to the Henry Armetta-ish contestant with 10 kids who came on (hahah) "You Bet Your Life"--"I like my cigar too, but I take it out every once in awhile..."). I used the image of Freud (splendidly impersonated by the great thespian/tragedian Ernest Rosenfelder) analyzing me on the couch to open my "Skin the Rabbit" video (available for yr perusal at in order to ironically consecrate the rich compost heap of materiel metaphysique (a libidinal cathexis juxtaposing the twin polarities of eros and thanatos, in a nutshell) that went into the creation of that particular ditty.

Yes, Vienna was undoubtedly the pre-eminent kaffee-klatsch hothouse of early 20th century European modernism in thought and deed (think of Schoenberg, Klimt, Berg, Schiele, Mahler, Werfel, Webern, Schnitzler)--at the very least giving Paris a run for its francs...and I have a particular penchant for that great cosmopolis going back to making my debut appearance in Europe there at the Konzerthaus as lead guitarist in the 1973 European premiere of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass", with the Yale Symphony Orchestra and assorted singers and dancers (a motley roadshow also featuring the hoofing and Jenny Lind-like warbling of Annette Insdorf, later Dr. Annette, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University/F.Truffaut paramour; also actor Bob Picardo, pre- "The Howling" and "Star Trek, The Movie")...o what a time we had strolling and lolling and cavorting in old Vienna then, at the Prater, the wurst stands, and at the American ambassador's pad in the company of such fun characters as (future Tony Award-winner) William Ivey Long...yep, bring on the Sacher (Masoch) tortes! Always enjoyed playing Austria, not only in Vienna, but also in Wels (The Schlacthof), Linz, Graz, Innsbruck, the great Saalfelden Festival...(shout-out to ORF's Klaus Totzler...)

And here at the Austrian Cultural Forum, the bespectacled bearded visage of that old headcase Freud made an appropriate Strangelovian totem (remember "I Want Candy"?), presiding benignly, avuncularly, over the I walked into the third floor panelled performance space last night composer Max Nagl was breathing wisps of ex-spectre-ant tones into his sax, cool Marina Rosenfeld was consubstantiating blips and bloops & dots and dashes of random electronic noise out of her turntables and laptop, Noel Akchote was rubbing up his guitar in a Frithian froth of frangible, fungible current/see, and tiny Margarida Garcia was whomping the hell out of a big-ass electro-acoustic bass...together they made a fine hypnotic splattered mist (pace Dylan) that hovered in ever-changing cloud (chamber) formations for an hour or so, and very compelling it was too...followed by the slow-motion guitar soundscapes of Mimi Secue, an excellent postmodern rock ensemble replete with filmed visuals of pastoral Alpine mountain vistas projected behind them that morphed into shape-shifting abstract imagery on cue (sorta like in the great Sonic Youth video for "Shadow of a Doubt"--name of this series appropriately enough was "Moving Patterns"), music a bit reminiscent of Red House Painters, and all the more welcome for that...

and then I had to go, but kudos to Peter Rantasa and Helge Hinteregger and Christian Scheib of Mica Music for bringing such musical wonderment to NYC via the Austrian Cultural if they can only convince the great contemporary writer/ Nobel prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek (author of "The Piano Teacher", "Lust", and "Women as Lovers"--and another suitable case for treatment) to bust a move here (right) it would be a wonderful thing indeed.

When I'm Russian On My Run Dept.--courtesy Tanya, here are some more photos of Gods and Monsters' recent foray into the heart of Mother Russia:

Jerry Harrison, Gary and Jason Candler make show at Brestkaya Club

Gods and Monsters go for the glory at Brestkaya Club

Jerry Harrison whuppin' the pearls at Chinese Pilot, Moscow

Gary cranks it up at OGI Club, Moscow

Gary and Jason get the word out at OGI Club, Moscow

Jerry soars in the spirit, OGI Club, Moscow

Gary and Ernie get down to the grit, OGI Club, Moscow, 4/16/06

photos by Ekaterina | click to enlarge (hosted by flickr)




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