Films Like The Lighthouse and Joker Signal Postmodern Totalitarianism is Losing the Culture War

The Lighthouse: A Beacon, a Warning

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Most movies fail to achieve the status of art.

Film evokes a passive experience in its viewers. For a set period of time stimulating imagery washes over us, engaging on a superficial level, holding our attention by prodding our lizard brains with safely contained visuals of action, conflict, or eroticism.

Real art isn’t a transitory activity, relaxing while absorbing an overload of tricks and mock thrills. Experiencing real art is a slow, internal realization that grows and expands. It changes us. It takes us outside of time.

One of the main themes of this blog is that the ruling class establishment is working mightily to purge the experience of real art from our culture.  They’ve managed to make the enduring human activity of art into something isolated and irrelevant. Removing art from the people facilitates the elitist intent to lord over a befuddled, ignorant, and dispirited populace.

That being said, I don’t look to the film industry to deliver art. I like to be entertained too. But even that enjoyment has been harder to find over time. Mainstream movies have degenerated into virtue signalling wankfests, pandering to the sensibilities of woke critics and decadent yet sanctimonious industry insiders. The ruination of the movies is just another aspect of the Postmodern totalitarian gambit.

Hollywood is horrible these days. More and more productions are reduced to shrill leftist political proselytizing. It’s not like this is what audiences want either; this is a top down driven campaign. The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected are determined to shove their propaganda down our throats through every aspect of communications in their control. Thanks to the success of the Long March Through the Institutions, they pretty much control them all. Not only movies and art, but the media, government, academia, big tech, corporate boardrooms, and non-profit agencies are all in lockstep, driving the cultural Marxist agenda.

The market is glutted with homogeneous films, endless rehashes seasoned with heaps of obligatory politically correct posturing and diversity scoring keeping. It doesn’t even matter when the audiences reject the offerings. The globalist corporate studios are so huge they can afford to take a financial hit when their crappy agitprop movies fail. I’m very suspicious of book cooking and money laundering in the reported bottom lines anyway. How much of a contemporary movie’s box office comes from the manipulated Chinese marketplace? There a Hollywood movie may do well-if the ruling Communist Party wants it too. What should that tell you?

After seeing Star Wars in 1977, I spent most of my formative years dreaming of making movies. I still follow the film industry, keeping current with upcoming productions and results. It was only after I discovered painting in college that I found a better way to show my visions to the world without having to chase down expensive equipment and funding. Being a painter is an individual journey to a much more profound destination. It does not demand the compromises of working collaboratively. I recently stumbled across a small piece of evidence on how the movie producing scheme is now unfolding.

I follow film reviewer Chris Stuckmann on Youtube. I don’t always agree with him, but he presents his analysis with integrity, good humor, and a strong knowledge of film history and technique. Stuckmann wants to do more than just talk about movies. His channel covers his ongoing efforts to make his own films. I would love to see what would happen if he got a chance to apply his cinematic insights onto his own creations.

Towards the end of a recent review of a poorly made horror movie, Stuckmann gave a telling quote about what is happening behind the scenes. Pointing out an irrelevant #MeToo story line that was shoehorned into this cheap thriller, Stuckmann explains the feedback he’s been receiving from studios:

“This subplot has nothing to do with the movie, and I know exactly why it’s in there. For the past year I’ve had multiple scripts that I’ve talked to many studios about, and some have showed real interest…one of the biggest notes I’ve always gotten back is that if you included some sort of social commentary, or something that was in the news today, something that people are talking about a lot, that might make your script easier to sell.”

Forget about quality. The message is SJW posturing is mandatory if a creative is to get any major opportunities. Parroting the progressive line guarantees favorable reviews and support from fellow travelling film wonks. however there are signs the apparatchik monopoly may be slipping.

The non-stop ideological haranguing really soured me on film. For years I hardly ever went to a theater to see a new release, waiting for dvds or streaming. Now something is changing. In 2019 I actually went to the movies three times, which I probably haven’t done in at least a decade. I saw, and enjoyed, Midsommar, Joker, and The Lighthouse. These smaller releases, lumped into the niche genres of horror and super hero movies, show a pattern of defiance against the stifling status quo. I see how they indicate an evolving direction for the zeitgeist which is not following the political/media combine plan.

Once the spirit of an age turns against the powers that be, nothing can save their prestige and power. It’s only a question of how damaging their downfall will be.

So what was in these movies that made them different? Note: there will be some spoilers in the discussion below.

Stop, Children, What’s That Sound: Midsommar 

 

Midsommar was the most flawed.  I attended this one based on the director Ari Aster’s powerful first film, Hereditary. Midsommar couldn’t match the infernally machined plot of Hereditary, or actress Toni Collette’s fiery performance as a grieving artist and mother. Midsommar had the conventional horror trope of college student types lined up to be massacred, but in an unexpected setting: under the bright sunshine, in flower strewn fields. The villains are equally sunny collectivists, smiling as they dispense hallucinogens, torture and death. Midsommar worked best in evoking an uncanny atmosphere and showing off trippy visuals. Still, the movie exposes the nasty murderous pagan impulses underpinning Green New Deal style objectives. The fanatics seem so well-intentioned, right up to point when they commit acts of cruelty and slaughter; not the typical Hollywood attitude towards back-to-the-land commune dwellers.

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The Success of Joker is No Laughing Matter 

I dropped out of the seemingly endless and increasingly monotonous super hero movie grind ages ago.  Joker was different. It intrigued me with its gritty but luminous trailers. Joaquin Phoenix has turned in many intense performances before. But what got me to buy a ticket was the cancel culture frenzy which took aim at this movie.

A lot of hysterical commentary got vented about how sinister right wing incel violence was bound to erupt due to this movie about a downtrodden clown gone wrong. Well, the projections about bloodshed were baseless, but the SJWs were right to recognize the threat the movie posed to their dogmas.

Set in the 1980s, the film repeats beats from Martin Scorsese’s dystopian 1970s films. ‘ While contemporary critics are desperate to tie the Joker’s decline and fall as a symptom of Orange Man Bad’s America, a different comparison is more apt. Joker gives a depiction of Gotham as a typical Democrat run urban shithole, and the suffering of those trapped in the blue state model. The out of control crime, filth, decay, and discord is happening today in cities from San Francisco to New York, from Los Angles to Chicago. All these blighted places have been under corrupt progressive dominance for decades.

Joker skewers media malfeasance as well, another sore spot for the activists. They hated this movie, but their efforts at fear-mongering and boycotting failed. Joker is going to make a billion dollars. It’s the top grossing R rated movie ever.

In the case of Joker,  massive audiences ignored demands to obey the latest politically correct diktats. A gap exists between the cultural commissars and the people, and that gap is growing. It helped that the movie made corrosion look colorful through comely cinematography. There were enough hints of the Batman mythos to provide fan service. Phoenix delivers an engrossing take on gross humanity, a delusional villain who still elicits some compassion as he dances down as an engine of destruction.

But the strongest film I watched this year was The Lighthouse. It’s also the film that most effectively demonstrates an aspect of the new spirit which is stirring-which is actually very old spirit indeed.

The Lighthouse

Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Himself

On the surface, the story is about two men either going mad or being bewitched, fueled by isolation and drink. It works on that primary level very well, but there’s more to it. The Lighthouse is influenced by Western cultural information that has long been ignored or attacked by what are supposed to be our cultural institutions. This creepy little period piece draws power by partaking in the rich traditional stories society used to treasure. It echoes the great works of religion, mythology, and literature which formed the West, and informed the generations who built up an amazing civilization.

This isn’t an academic exercise, where you play spot the references to prove how clever you are. This is visceral, a gut level reverberation; archetypal frenzy channeled. The same spirit which drove the geniuses of the past is effectively evoked in The Lighthouse, telling its own unique variation on timeless themes.

Once the hinted heritages on display would have been kind of shared language, common knowledge for all. That has been stifled by our governing class, on purpose.

I was thrilled to see and hear moments that recalled classical myths, the Old Testament, Coleridge, Melville, and Shakespeare. There’s some David Mamet, Samuel Beckett, and H.P. Lovecraft in there too. Imagery took form like the artistry of Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and William Blake.

A viewer doesn’t need to recognize the ghosts of the canon crowding into the frames to be enthralled by the film. It stands on its own merits. It’s a visionary, tense work. But seeing those salutes to the accomplishments and knowledge of our forefathers adds potent nuance.

The movie also handles the past as its own distinct character. It doesn’t feel like today’s sensibilities just dressed up in costumes, which is the typical default Hollywood shtick. Another era seems present in every detail.

The Postmodern philosophy has been used as a bulldozer against our culture. The agenda has been for a great leveling to take place, to knock over the soaring achievements of Western civilization. Our elites are grinding our legacy into rubble under the treads of their reckless pursuit for power. But a new philosophy has emerged, to counter the planned destruction. Like always, this new direction first appeared in the arts.

In 2000, Billy Childish and Charles Thomson, two British artists, wrote a statement years ahead of its time. The Remodernism Manifesto delivered a compelling alternative to the lies and presumptions of the Postmodern contemporary arts-and by extension, the practices of the whole rotten establishment. They were the first ones I saw who declared what could come after the fall of the corrupt Postmodern ethos; a self-determining Remodern era, where the great advances of the past can be built upon, instead of trashed.

These founding artists inspired creatives around the world. They created an open source art movement for the 21st century. As I state in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization: 

 

Remodernism reboots the culture. Remodernism is not a style of art, it is a form of motivation. We express the universal language of inspired humanity. We do not imitate what came before. We find in ourselves the same divine essence of love and excitement which has inspired masterpieces throughout history. We are strengthened by drawing on traditions thousands of years old. We integrate the bold, visionary efforts of the Modern era into a holistic, meaningful expression of contemporary life. Remodernism seeks a humble maturity which heals the fragmentation and contradictions of Modernism, and obliterates the narcissistic lies of Postmodernism. Remoderism is disruptive innovation applied to the moribund art world.

What you have in the arts, ultimately you will have everywhere. The arts show us how to be. When Andrew Breitbart stated “Politics is downstream from culture,” he was reiterating what mystic artist William Blake knew: “Empire follows art and not vice versa…”

This model is upheld by the changes I’ve seen unfolding over the 20 years since Childish and Thomson wrote down their ideas about art. They called for a DIY, spiritually driven revolt against the status quo in the incompetent and arrogant well-connected art world. Extrapolate that, and the message is clear.

Our betters, are not. Our servants aren’t serving. They have squandered their credibility, and have no authority. It’s time for the rest of us to outgrow the limitations the elites try to force upon us. That message isn’t just about art anymore.

Postmodernism is a form of dysfunctional global tyranny that must be opposed. The Remodern hunger for renewal is driving the populist insurgencies remaking the world.

I also see some of the same stubborn insistence on expressing a unique voice in these three 2019 movies. If the covert independence these films represent continue make it through the establishment filters, I’ll be going to the movies a lot more.

The Lighthouse: Yo Ho Ho 

 

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a paintingPlease send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you! 

ARTICLE: A Call to Unionize Exposes the Art World’s Sense of Entitlement

Manhattan’s New Museum: A Precarious Pile Up Over Unionized Staff 

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“My problem with unions is they breed mediocrity.”

-Kevin O’Leary, Canadian Businessman 

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In today’s corrupt and isolated contemporary art world, mediocrity might be an improvement. One overpriced elitist cloister is about to have a chance to find out.

The New Museum is located in Manhattan. Founded in 1977, the New Museum rejects the whole antiquated “museum as a venue for significant works of high quality which have withstood the test of time” concept. Instead,  “New art, new ideas,” is their oh-so-bold mission statement.

A quick review of their history shows just how much they fail to deliver on this simply stated goal. Postmodernism’s predictable style, a fake approximation of culture, means the New Museum is infested with transitory, unskilled installations and pointless performances, all propped up with convoluted rhetoric.

Some exhibit “highlights:”

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But is it Art? 

 

It’s amazing such twaddle finds a foothold anywhere, let alone in the pricey environs of New York City. But the establishment’s ongoing efforts to subvert and destroy Western Civilization are very well subsidized. In fact, the New Museum is undergoing a major upgrade: $85 million to double its exhibit space, so it can feature twice as many transitory, unskilled installations and pointless performances. But wait: it will also allow them to expand “more experimental programs like its business incubator and the urban-policy think tank that it runs.” It’s the Postmodern mandate that every enterprise just serves as a front for social engineering activism, and the arts are particularly scarred by that presumption.

However, discontent is brewing in the ranks of the establishment’s ongoing psychological warfare against the populace. Some Millennials felt they weren’t receiving the Special Snowflake pay grade and working conditions they want.

Artnet reports:

“…current and former museum employees who spoke to artnet News often complained that entry-level salaries are unsustainable—around $35,000 to start—and that some departments discourage workers from accurately reporting their hours in order to avoid paying them overtime. A spokesman for the museum says it offers competitive salaries for its location and size. The spokesman also said the median salary for full-time employees who were eligible for the union vote is $52,000.

“According to three current and former staffers, turnover rates are high and the museum can take months to refill positions, leaving the remaining staffers to do multiple jobs on top of their own.

“’The low salaries breed turnover, so it’s just this constant flow of people that makes everyone burned out,’ said one former museum employee who asked to remain anonymous. ‘I took the job because I would’ve chopped my arm off to work there at the time, but it just wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t have a safety net, no support from my parents. A lot of people get to the point where they’re like, ‘I’m working a job meant for rich people.’

“Another concern is that there is virtually no consistent, designated venue to air professional problems…I think the general sense is there’s not much of an HR structure or grievance system in place,” Kopel says.

“Many of these issues are emblematic of problems that staff at other institutions are grappling with: low pay, long hours, and the absence of a clear reporting structure. But some employees say the environment at the New Museum is uniquely challenging compared to other places they’ve worked. What’s more, the museum—founded by Marcia Tucker in 1977 after she was fired from the Whitney Museum—has a reputation for forward-thinking exhibitions and programs.

“’It’s hard when you get hired by an institution with such progressive rhetoric and you don’t have a voice,” said one former employee. “The New Museum sets the standard for a lot of institutions, and they are setting a lower standard.’”

Art Critique chanted in support with an editorial piece, “Museum Workers in New York City Fight Back”:

“Art institutions need to take care of their workers plagued by high-cost city living, student debt, and hopes of a stable financial situation that allows them to work at an organization they are passionate about.”

 

Translation: This is not the glamorous, prestigious, and well-compensated future my Masters Degree in Intersectional Feminist Ceramics should rate!

These art museum workers are still stuck in their university mentalities. It’s probably because they switched one form of isolated elitist playpen for another; they expect to retain their inmates-run-the- asylum habits. Their career path seems to involve endlessly rehashing the contents of sociology term papers and asserting that is productivity. Observe some of their own quotes  on their inane exhibitions, which are uniformly dedicated to various leftist tropes and NPC talking points that have been stale for 50+ years. .

 

“…dedicated to providing pro-bono legal representation to undocumented immigrants and their families facing deportation…

The work…touches on urgent themes such as migration and displacement. Addressing trauma in the US as a consequence of the country’s foreign policy actions…

…ongoing explorations of the complexity of collectivity and the human and social consequences of imperialist ventures…

…reflect on racism and power, migration and national identity, and the layers of historical memory that comprise our sense of community and belonging…”

 

Since the wage slaves feel they are not being justly rewarded for lolling around in an institute that serves up such incoherent  academic gobbledygook, they get to indulge in another collegiate pastime: organizing resistance and socking it to The Man. Some of the lower caste drones of the collectivist hive mind decided they weren’t getting enough of a kickback on the culture racket. So they decided to bring in some union muscle.

Because working in an elitist pretend-museum is just like working on the line building Detroit rolling iron, the New Museum pussy hat brigades and soy boys voted to  join up with the United Auto Workers.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other 

Top: Staff at the New Museum

Bottom: United Auto Workers Strike

 

Another whole article could be written about how the management of the New Museum reacted. As true progressives you would expect them to be all in support of bringing in hired gun extortionist goons to explain how to better spread the museum’s wealth around.

 

Nice cutting-edge creative space facility you got ‘ere…

Be a shame if anything ‘appened to it…

 

Museum management did try to understand the hot water they were getting into by contacting a firm with a reputation for defeating union initiatives. The art world scolding and shaming was so intense the New Museum had to disavow any attempt to explain why a union might not work out.  A spokesperson groveled:

 

 “The New Museum is a relatively small institution with a strong mission—we have always worked closely and collaboratively. We don’t believe unionization is the best way to preserve what is special about our culture or advance change. We value the creativity and input of the entire staff, and we will do everything we can to maintain our distinctiveness.”

Good luck to the staff of the New Museum in getting a union to produce Manhattan sized results for a gaggle of expendable specialists in a useless boutique endeavor. At least the New Museum didn’t take the route renowned art world charlatan Jeff Koons did in 2016:

“Jeff Koons Lays Off Over a Dozen Staffers After They Tried to Unionize”

In a way, artsy Postmodern types may just make perfect union members. As I describe in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

“Postmodernists are parasitic. They are so other-directed, they can’t lead an independent existence. Postmodernists rely on a mob mentality to support and reinforce their irrational ideas and behaviors. As their intellects cling to group identification instead of independent thought, and their stunted emotions merely mirror groupthink expectations, Postmodernists are primed to sell their souls to fit in. They deny there is any such thing as a soul anyway, so it’s easy to give it up. The price doesn’t even need to be high. Postmodernism is a poverty-stricken ideology, so its practitioners have meager expectations. Most will never live the jet-setting lifestyle of their globalist masters. These influencers don’t have to operate within the perimeters they inflict on others. Postmodernists strive for the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of their controllers.

“As Postmodernists are in thrall to the limiting collectivist fantasies of Marxism, it makes them anxious followers. They want to be in with the in-crowd, part of what they are assured is the inevitable winning side of history. It is the dream of every progressive to join the most favored status clique, where their ilk gets to call the shots. This conceit plays into the leftist assumption that in the utopia to come, some animals will be more equal than others, as Orwell predicted. They acknowledge no God that created all men equal. Leftwing rhetoric of fairness for all is just hype designed to deceive. Once triumphant, the radicals will punish their enemies and reward their friends, just like Postmodernist President Barack Obama urged them to do. Postmodern minions want to make sure they are in good with these brutal inquisitors. Postmodernists will commit acts of senselessness and violence when top-down social pressure is applied.”

 

The Contagion Spreads: Protests at the Museum of Modern Art 

 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the state of the arts. 

Why Banksy’s Shredded Painting Gimmick Isn’t Actually Art

A Cunning Stunt: Banksy Strips 

 

There’s been a strange pantomime playing out over the news for the last couple of weeks. It’s brought rare mass audience attention to the bloated and corrupt establishment art market.

I’ve written about Banksy before, one the elite’s mascots. As stated in the previous article:

Perhaps English media figure Charlie Brooker summed it up best: Banksy gained such art world stature because “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots. And apparently that’ll do.”

 

So this anonymous artist supposedly pulls a prank at a glitzy auction, and partially shreds a work. We are meant to believe this was set up years before, and a blue chip auction house which specializes in archival handling of very expensive and fragile works of art managed to overlook a shredder embedded in a frame. Seems legit.

The picture itself is achingly banal. Finally, a work of art less insightful than an emoji.

She has a sadz 

It’s not even drawn well. It’s like she’s got a stubby little Tyrannosaurus claw right arm.

Due to the publicity stunt of the shredding, now this piece is worth even more than the final purchase price of over a million pounds. Almost as if the “surprise” maneuver was a calculated bid to drive up prices, and everyone was in on it:

 

“Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one,” Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art Alex Branczik wrote. “Following his surprise intervention on the night, we are pleased to confirm the sale of the artist’s newly-titled ‘Love is in the Bin,’ the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”

The anonymous buyer felt similarly, based on a quote given to Sotheby’s.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked,” the buyer said, “but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”

I would suggest that, while the buyer has purchased a curiosity produced in this particular historical era, it’s not actually art history we’re talking about here. Art did not partake in this gag.

To misquote a decent 1990s scifi action movie:

What if I told you everything you’ve been told about about art by the establishment is a lie?

Whoa 

The Postmodern elites don’t want people to have the experience of genuine art. Real art could incite individuals to manifest pesky traits like free will, idealism, and spiritual awakening. So a false version of art is hyped by the powerful, something that will keep the people befuddled and indoctrinated. Banksy is one of their henchmen, a willing cog in the disinformation machinery.

I wonder if Banksy is a mere individual, or more of a group effort. His pictures and shenanigans all have an odor of decision by committee about them. It would probably take a lot a groupthink to come up with such insipid offerings

With the fawning collusion of the media and establishment art world, Banksy gets to have his cake and eat it too. He gets to play anti-capitalist activist while selling shoddy products for millions. His globe trotting graffitied works are supposed to impart street cred, and conceptual anti-commercialism. But the same generic stencils are easily put onto canvases and sold off to the highest bidders. What is being bought isn’t the art, but a perverse species of ostentatious prestige.

Banksy’s content is the same old leftist slant that already monopolizes government, the media, technology companies, academia, corporate boardrooms, and the culture industries. How is Banksy supposed to be a rebel when he does nothing but echo the party line? His stuff is graceless propaganda, less nuanced than an editorial cartoon.

Banksy socks it to the running dog imperialist orange man!

Just like absolutely everyone else who is allowed to share opinions on a public platform. 

Banksy is a Non Player Character entity who  disseminates mindless graphics  instead of mindless chants. His followers claim he is speaking truth to power when all he does is reinforce the typical establishment narratives. He’s made himself rich while pretending to be down with the proletariat. It takes a deep coating of cognitive dissonance to be able overlook that festering mass of doublethink.

But most of all, Banksy is a name brand selling a product that has the psychical characteristics of art, but is not really art at all. He offers artifice, an approximation of art  that does not actually deliver on art’s most important aspects. He simply does not provide a credible artistic experience.

Banksy’s mock art displays no personality. It does not display advanced achievements in craftsmanship. It does not suggest a meaningful philosophy. It is not unique. It lacks real emotional resonance, spiritual awareness, a sense of contemplation. There is no awe, no sustainable experience at all, just a one liner summary of social engineering tropes. This type of empty, soulless junk is what the elitists have propped up to act as a decoy away from actual creative efforts.

The time has come, when our ruling class tries to shove an inert narrative down our throats and tells us it is art, that we shred their presumptive authority.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I describe how contemporary art has been weaponized into an assault on the culture:

“Unfortunately, a substantial disconnect exists between the widely held respect for art, and the alienation most serious contemporary art evokes when actually encountered.

Instead of being reverenced as a communion for all, contemporary art is being treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes. Officially sanctioned art is all too often based on theoretical formal matters and sociological notions designed to exclude, rather than engage, the general public.

Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, cultural institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in presumed sophistication.

Any art from outside this tight little cabal is treated as non-existent. Through their powers of finance and institutional control, this self-serving, out-of-touch elite presume to dictate art matters for the entire world.”

 

Banksy’s shredded painting is not art, but a con game, just another sting operation of the Big Store swindle.

It does, however, make for a nifty topical Halloween costume.

 

BOOKS: The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories-by Richard Bledsoe

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

“Blind Mugwump Johnson” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″ 

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“We were led away from the others and sat under the shade of trees in the cemetery. As he arranged himself, sitting rather irreverently on a crypt, it gave me a chance to consider the hardships he must have suffered to reach such a condition. He was exceedingly tall but thin to the point of gauntness. His coloration could be described like that of an albino’s but instead of a pinkish tone, his pallor displayed a greenish tinge, with mottlings of purple. His unseeing eyes were squeezed shut, bulging behind lids that almost seemed to be sealed over. Unmindful of facial expressions, as the blind often are, he seemed to have a terrible snarl always about his lips, exposing his gums and a surprisingly strong looking set of teeth.

“Once he started to play his talent was evident, but it was not to my liking at all. The sounds he produced on his guitar I can hardly credit as music; his voice fluctuated between an eerie falsetto warble and an impossibly low croaking or gasping sound. Many of lines were delivered in some harsh language or dialect completely unknown to me. Those words which he sang that I could discern have shaken me to my very core.”

From the short story “Blind Mugwump Johnson and the Cooloo Blues” 

August 20th is the birthday of horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). I have been a fan of his writings since I was a teenager. It’s amused me to watch his influence spread over the years, becoming mainstream commercial to the extent you could go on a Cthuhlu-themed shopping spree, if you wanted to.

Lovecraft invented an underlying myth for a series of short stories he produced during the early decades of the twentieth century. In his nightmare world, prehistoric Earth had been colonized by monstrous demonic aliens. These evil beings were still here, slumbering under oceans and desolate wastelands, waiting for their time to rise again. Encounters with these creatures or their human accomplices led to madness, death and destruction.

Many other authors have built on the haunted universe Lovecraft suggested. Here in Phoenix, H.P Lovecraft’s Birthday was a performance art event for many years, held at various venues. I took part in these shows, doing readings of a series of short stories I wrote, my contributions to the Lovecraftian Mythos.

These stories are collected in an ebook available on Amazon. The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories.

My wife and I made a book trailer for it, which had us shrieking – with laughter.

The painting currently on the cover is a Lovecraft inspired painting I made in 2001; “Tendrils of the Dreamer.” However, when Michele Bledsoe and I first conceived the book, I decided I was going to create a new painting for the cover design.

I was going to produce a portrait of the character Blind Mugwump Johnson, the mysterious and sinister Delta blues singer. I started right away. However, as Michele assembled the e-book, I couldn’t get the painting right. It happens sometimes. Here is an earlier version, long before I quit working on it:

 

I covered this base coat with purples and unbleached titanium and then piled on more green, and redrew the mouth. It just wasn’t happening. Rather than delay the book, we went with another image, and the work in progress hung on the wall of our studio for months, unfinished.

Recently Michele and I started collaborating on paintings. After we finished our first one, she had another idea of how we could share a work. She asked if she could put her hand to finishing “Blind Mugwump Johnson.” She didn’t want to change it, just tweak it a little. I loved the idea.

She brought it to a wonderful resolution. With a light touch, she brought substance and subtlety to the image, and made it complete.

My next book is going to be “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.”  We are in the final editing stages now, we want it out this summer if possible.

But once that’s all complete, I look forward to returning to the shadowy depths spawned by Lovecraft, and discovering some more stories to tell about them.

 

 

MUSIC: Remodernism Resonates with Composer George Pepper

MC Escher: Inspiration for a Perpetual Canon by George Pepper 

 

One of my sayings is, “if your life is not a spiritual adventure, you’re doing it wrong.”  It applies to music as well.  I feel connected to the Holy Spirit when I’m in the zone composing.

 -George Pepper 

A mighty wave is crashing through the culture. The elitist strategy of Postmodernism has gone stale, and people are tuning out the institutions it has corrupted. The crisis of relevance that the visual arts have been undergoing for decades has spread. Now the media, entertainment, sports even, are paying the price for converting themselves into virus-like Postmodern replication vehicles. In larger society, viewership and trust are way down.

A healthy art movement spreads its influence into positive developments across varied forms of expression. As I’ve written about Remodernism in this blog and elsewhere, many have reached out to me to share their stories. Many truly creative people have been exiled by an establishment art scene that promotes the falsities and facades of Postmodernism.

Music is the most visceral of the arts. It puts the outpouring of the human spirit into a form that can be physically felt. This is probably why the efforts to redefine serious music was one of the least successful areas of the Modernist gambit. Nobody wants to listen to the meandering, atonal noise offered up as a substitute for the thrilling beauty of great music. Listen to this selection by Anton Webern, if you want to be bored: Symphonie op.21. Like the old joke goes, if you get near a song, play it.

Postmodernism made things even worse, like it does. It brought us John Cage. His masterpiece was 4’33. Spoiler alert: it’s 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Watch it “performed” here, if you’ve got some time to waste. Such a gimmicky mockery of the artistic abilities of humanity.

Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, the co-founders of the art movements Stuckism and Remodernism, were both musically engaged. Childish, with his band Thee Headcoats and its many mutant offshoots, in particular spawned a whole subgenre of punky garage rock, such as Thee Oh Sees. But there’s more to music than thrashing guitars.

Based on what I’ve been exposed to, I assumed there was no one who was interested in creating music with the same ambition, scale, and profundity of traditional music. Thank God for the internet! It proved me wrong again. A link from Instapundit  led composer George Pepper to contact me.

He had an intriguing story to share about his own life. He responded to the spiritual emphasis of Remodernism, in contrast to the soulless stylings of most contemporary culture. George understands we need to build on the traditions of the past to create a vibrant contemporary culture. Best of all, he shared his work with us: graceful, soaring, inspirational music.

This is his five-voice Ricercare for symphony orchestra, the last movement of his first symphony.  It is filled with perpetual canons and was inspired by the art of M.C. Escher, who he had loved since he was a boy.

http://www.hucbald.com/Fugal_Science_01/FS_V2_N4.aif  (download)

This sonata he describes as a thought experiment: what if J.S. Bach knew the swing style?

Remodernism is rising to take the place of crumbling Postmodernism. Although it started in the visual arts, there will be Remodernist authors, film makers, and composers as well. Remodernism will reprogram and improve the efforts and expectations for the arts across society. Remodernism as a creative force is accessible to anyone who works with integrity to create the timeless, uplifting communal experience of art.

I asked George Pepper to share his experiences as he pursued his craft, moving against the ideological tides that have diminished our culture. It is a Remodern story.

Question: When did you begin your musical training? What was the first instrument you learned? Who influenced you? 

George Pepper: The first albums I asked my parents to get me were Meet the Beatles and Beatles ’65, so I was about six or seven when Beatlemania hit. Saw the movie Help at a Saturday matinee, and so I was a huge fan. Later I got into all the wonderful popular music of the 60’s. Everything from Peter, Paul and Mary and Burl Ives through The Mamas and the Papas to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Motown too. My taste has always been eclectic and fairly inclusive.

I didn’t start my musical training until sixth grade, when I took violin lessons for a year. That got me started with the basics of reading music and the mechanics of string instruments. Seventh grade I made an abrupt shift to trombone, so I learned how brass and wind instruments worked, and bass clef that year. Then in eighth grade I was at a school that had guitar classes, so that was that. We learned easy guitar pieces like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and others in that vein, so I learned the open chords that year.
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Q: How did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a vocation?
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GP: It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I realized I didn’t love anything in life as passionately as music. I had gotten pretty good on the guitar by then with the usual garage bands one went through in those days – I was just before the Wayne’s World generation, and of course I had the Frampton Comes Alive album, which came out my senior year – so my plan was to go to Berklee [music college in Boston -Ed.].  However, I decided to attend Texas A&M for two years to get the required courses out of the way. I didn’t want any distractions from music at Berklee. Then, a miracle occurred. Two guitar teachers from The Guitar Institute in California opened up The Guitar Institute of the Southwest in San Antonio, along with jazz guitar legend Herb Ellis.  It was a one year course, and I used it as a prep school for Berklee.  My earliest compositions that I’ve kept are from that time. A bossa nova that is an Aria in a sonata for two guitars now, a samba I’m planning to use for a guitar concerto, and a swing tune that is now the scherzo of my first sonata for solo classic guitar. Those were in the bag before I got to Berklee.
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At Berklee I took the Professional Music degree program, which was their, “build your own degree” offering. I was going to major in Jazz Composition and Arranging, but it required a portfolio of pieces, and I knew they would be half-baked if I was forced to check off boxes. Many people used PM to make an easy degree, but I took every theory and composition course Berklee offered. A swinging jazz fusion piece from that time ended up as the scherzo in my sonata for two guitars, so I throw jazz pieces into my classical compositions. It’s a natural part of me, and that’s that.
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Q: What were your experiences as you studied music in higher education?
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GP: Berklee was a 24/7/365 blast. Just a wonderful experience all around. I developed so much those years – I went every semester including two summers, fall of ’80 to graduation in May of ’83 – that I was an entirely different musician when I got out. It was a super productive whirlwind.
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After my rock band and electronic music days in NYC, I decided at 30 I’d had enough of that, and went to Texas State University (Then Southwest Texas State) for an MM (Master of Music) in traditional theory and composition. I figured a small program would allow me more freedom and would also allow me to rectify any shortcomings in my understanding of traditional theory and composition. As an aside, I began my voracious study of classical theory/comp when I was in NYC. Every week I’d go to Joseph Patelson Music across from Carnegie Hall and buy a theory or composition book. I was writing simple counterpoint pieces for classic guitar by then, and had eight keepers by the time I started at SWTSU. It was there that I first encountered some resistance to my quest, which I was quite firm about. But the school’s only composition prof was a fan of atonal music, which I always detested. It was a weird situation, because I was a professional musician and 31 years old, and I didn’t even consider him a peer of mine. But we got along well enough that I was able to earn the degree, but then another weird thing happened. When I got the degree, it was in Music Education and not Theory. A much more marketable degree than Theory! I never did get an explanation for that.
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During that stint, I composed my first keeper fugue, and another half-dozen guitar studies, plus six or so preludes.  So I was on a roll by this time.
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I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I wanted to get a PhD in Theory, a PhD in Composition, or a DMA (Doctor in Musical Arts) in Composition. The Composition PhD and DMA programs were the same except for the thesis; the DMA didn’t have one, but they both required a composition of about twenty minutes duration. I decided I’d had enough theory, and I just wanted to compose. So, I went to The University of North Texas to pursue a DMA in comp. It was there that I began to encounter more direct conflict. I’m kind of a larger than life character in some ways, and these comp profs were very strange people to me. A couple of them flat out didn’t want me to compose traditional music! I had to toe the line with their postmodern views, or they wouldn’t award me the degree. Well, again, I considered myself to be a better musician and composer than any of them, so I wan’t going to do that. I took all the coursework, and composed a lot more great music, and then I moved on to greener pastures. But before I left, I had to play a colossal joke on them. I composed a subjective bit of BS I called “Division.” It was based on random pitch wedges opening and closing, and it was just valueless as music. The comp profs loved it! I didn’t say anything, but it was hard to keep a straight face.
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I composed another set of guitar studies, more preludes, my first sonata process pieces, a fugue in J.S. Bach’s late Art of Fugue style – a huge breakthrough – and a fugue on a subject that is a twelve-tone row just like the atonal guys used, only it’s beautiful and not ugly.  Beating those guys at their own game was deeply satisfying.  So, I went on to other things and kept composing.
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Q: What are some of your favorite compositions you’ve created?  
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GP: I have a literal lifetime of pieces now, and they have to have, “the magic” for me to keep them, so it’s not an easy task to single out a few. I would say the traditional Scherzo I wrote while still in NYC was a breakthrough piece – it’s in a pre-sonata I call Sonata Zero now – and the fugue I wrote at SWTSU was another. The J.S. Bach style fugue for sting quartet I wrote at UNT is a biggie, as are the two super-fugues I call Ricercares; One that is the Finale of Sonata One for solo guitar (Composed in 2005 after years of prep work), and the other is in five voices for symphony orchestra (From 2013, again, after many years of research: Ricercare means a researched piece).
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But there’s also the electronic pop music I wrote in my twenties that is just otherworldly, and the jazzy pieces are also all gems. Those electronic pop pieces are arrangements of band pieces I did on the Synclavier, which was bleeding edge tech at the time.
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Q: How does music express spirituality?
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 GP: It always has for me. Even music by other composers moves my spirit. And lots of genres too. The first thing I learned to jam on was the blues, so Stormy Monday Blues is one I’d say moves my spirit. Then lots of Charlie Parker, Larry Carlton, Jimi Hendrix – “Rainy Day Dream Away/Still Raining Still Dreaming” always moves me – The Who – I wore Quadrophenia out in high school – many others.  In classical music, my single favorite piece in all of the symphonic literature is the Scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It is, in fact, my first musical memory. When I was really little, like three to five years old, that Scherzo was the intro music to the Huntley Brinkley Report news program. My dad watched it every night, and I would just stand there spellbound until it faded out. I remember it like it happened five minutes ago. But that piece takes me on a spiritual journey, as does the opening movement and the slow movement. The Finale, for some reason, doesn’t really work for me.  It’s a sublime masterpiece by any objective measure, but it’s stubborn or something. The vocals and chorus don’t help for me. In fact, I actually prefer Liszt’s transcription of the finale for solo piano!
As a composer, every genera I touch has to move me spiritually. Latin jazz was the first jazz I fell in love with and started composing. Then swing, bebop, and fusion. Pop in my band days in NYC, with electronic on the side. Finally, classical. The feeling of spiritual connectedness is the same in whatever genera I’m working in, and the sense of satisfaction is profoundly deep when I complete a piece. Larger forms are deeper, but the euphoria after creating a simple and novel tune is indescribable. Just last year I wrote a Waltz. It was inspired by a theory and composition book I was studying. One of the examples was of a melodic formula Mozart used in several compositions, that was already ancient when Mozart discovered it. I took it someplace entirely different, and it ended up as the Scherzo for Sonata Three, which is for solo guitar again (Sonata Two is for two guitars). I listened to it over and over. It’s just a pluperfect little gem.
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One of my sayings is, “if your life is not a spiritual adventure, you’re doing it wrong.” It applies to music as well. I feel connected to the Holy Spirit when I’m in the zone composing.
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Q: How would you describe the state of music today?
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GP: Awful. Symphony orchestras are unionized and sclerotic, playing the same music my grandfathers listened to. String quartets are the same. Pianists are the same, and forget classical guitarists; some of the most arrogant and opinionated musicians there are (Many are cool too, but not nearly enough). There are two other composers of guitar music I like, and both are friends of mine.
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How many recordings of the Ninth do we need? If I never heard a Beethoven piano sonata again, it wouldn’t matter, because I have them all already! In a vibrant musical culture, conservatories would be producing composers with real, actual technique, and orchestras would have composition talent scouts.
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Q: What changes are needed in the music world?
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 GP: Real requirements for composition faculty at universities and conservatories. If I took over, I’d demand first a simple 32 bar tune in AABA form with eight bar phrases. Just harmony and melody. If they couldn’t pass that test, bye. Then, if they want to head the department, they better be able to compose a four voice fugue, otherwise, hit the road, Jack.
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As I mentioned above, orchestras should be open to playing new music, but that’s the catch-22; if there isn’t any good music, and/or they’re not looking for it, nothing will happen. I just do my thing and shake my head a lot.
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Also, get politics out of music. If your music is a political statement, it certainly isn’t art and it’s probably not even music at all (Talking about instrumental music here). And if your politics makes you tell other composers what they should and should not write, you’re just a talentless scold who should probably have nothing whatsoever to do with music. Much less should these people have teaching positions.
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In three years at UNT I heard exactly zero faculty compositions that were musical in the slightest. None of them could really, actually compose real, actual music. And this was in the 90’s, it’s way worse today.
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This is why I only compose instrumental music. Absolute music’s it’s also called. No words, just music.
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Q: What are you working on currently?
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 GP: A lot of things have started to gel over the past several years. Sonata Zero and Sonata One for solo guitar are settled in their final configuration now. Sonata Two for two guitars is 90% complete, and Sonata Three for guitar has just come together over the past few months. So Sonata Two is occupying my thoughts right now.
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I have managed to rescue the electronic music I composed in the 80’s last year – from thirty year old 5.25” floppies! – by getting a Synclavier again, and I’m going to release that this year.
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I’ve been working on a symphony since I was at Berklee, and one movement of that is now finished, the Ricercare for Orchestra. Plus, there are always a few ideas I’m tossing around in my head at any given time. I’d say only about one in ten ever see the light of day.
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Here’s the title track to the electronic album.  I’ve decided to realize all of my music with the Synclavier now. It’s the only instrument I was ever a virtuoso with. Almost all of the sounds I programmed from scratch.
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Yes, it’s an AIFF file.  I think you can get QuickTime free for any OS or browser now.
Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ARTICLE: The Death of University Art Programs, Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

 

No “Social Practice” Art is complete without selfies 

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Mark Twain once observed ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same analogy can be applied to the almost right and right principles of “social justice” versus “justice.”

“Social Justice” claims to be about fairness, which is a highly desirable outcome. But the term is a manipulative Newspeak euphemism for envy, revenge and oppression.  What social justice actually does is crush people into group identities which have been assigned favored and non-favored status by  power hungry establishment elitists. Preemptively claiming group guilt or privilege is an abstraction which does not recognize the actuality that people are individuals, responsible and accountable for their own actions. It’s the opposite of real justice.

We have come to call this collusion against the values of Western civilization Postmodernism. Social justice ideas are the propaganda our corrupt governing class uses to distract and inflame their mob rule shock troops. These cunning perpetrators use art as one of the weapons in their arsenal to undermine the rule of law. The totalitarians utilize their money and connections to enforce the results they want. Our universities are willing accomplices to this abuse of the arts.

Artnet reports on their latest maneuver:  “Yale School of Art Launches New Art and Social Justice Initiative” . They positively preen about it:

“The program, developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art, Marta Kuzma, is funded by a recent $750,000 donation from an anonymous Yale alum. The money will be put toward research, scholarships, projects, and other academic resources across the graduate school of art, as well as a series of lectures and panels open to the whole university, aimed at exploring the intersection of art and social engagement.

“The initiative is largely a product of an ongoing conversation between faculty (Kuzma, in particular) and graduate students about addressing issues around artistic production amid the current social and political climate. This is, however, part of a larger trend, with numerous MFA programs reframing themselves around ‘social practice’ art.”

The fraud committed is exposed in the first line of the New York Times article Artnet linked: “Carmen Papalia’s M.F.A. project doesn’t look much like art.” A blind student led a bunch of virtue signalling lemmings on a closed eye tour. In true millennial style, the participants made sure to broadcast their  panic attacks and subsequent engorged wokeness.
Such gestures don’t look like art because they are not art. An exercise in generic consciousness raising  has nothing to do with a skilled and insightful personal expression of spiritual values. It’s a gimmick, a publicity stunt to advertise the politically correct values of the participants.
Postmodernists thinks they can use language and prestige to reprogram the fundamental needs of humanity. The establishment wants to redefine the timeless experience of art into knee jerk genuflections before the idol of Social Justice. In my upcoming book, “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,” I note the following:

“In the blind alleys we were directed into, the criteria being used to evaluate the works seemed on the surface completely arbitrary. But in fact, the feebler the efforts were, the more opportunities it gave to launch into peripheral diatribes regarding half-baked sociology, aggravated psychology, convoluted technobabble and the like. This was the kind of talk that got these teachers really excited, subtly reinforcing that this was where our attention ought to be focused. They were indoctrinating us into the Postmodern way.

“Rewarding certain behaviors encourages more of those types of behaviors. And so most students were dutifully herded into producing slapdash experimental works, and talking about activism, therapy and pedantic minutia, rather than trying to understand if an artwork functioned effectively on its own terms, as art. It was easier to adopt the lofty lecturing tone of the instructors, to curry favor by asserting the approved beliefs and attitudes.

“Encouraging attitudes of grievance and victimization, or highlighting incidental matters of process or technique, does not lead to powerful art. But it does lead to the generation of thought police, dependent personality disorder types, and detached technocrats—all useful cogs for the Leftist machine. The indoctrination continues.”

The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected are desperately funneling resources to maintain their current dominance. This anonymous Yale grant is just the latest example of Postmodernism’s key priority: controlling the narrative. It won’t work. Contemporary art is undergoing a crisis of relevance.  Pouring money into training a new generation to create non-art for the SJW scene will only make our current culture industries more irrelevant than ever.

See the previous articles in The Death of University Art Programs series linked below:

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED: Vintage Music Reviews-Rudimentary Peni “Cacophony”

*Update: Richard Bledsoe will be offline for an extended period due to an unexpected medical situation. I am Richard’s wife, Michele Bledsoe – and for the interim I will act as his hands and eyes. 

A few years ago, Richard used to write for the punk ‘zine AZKAOS. This was one of the vintage music reviews he contributed from 2010.

Rudimentary Peni “Cacophony” Album Cover Art by Nick Blinko

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Rudimentary PeniCacophony

1989

Outer Himalayan Records

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And then the matter of that phonograph record…It must mean something; whether animal noises deceptively like human speech, or the speech of some hidden, night-haunting human being decayed to a state not much above that of lower animals.

  -H. P. Lovecraft   

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Does genius lead to madness, or is the other way around? Mental illness in reality is usually a drab and frustrating situation. The romantic cliché of the brilliant lunatic persists though, supported by the occasional rise and fall of some inspired martyr; there is some truth to the template. When an inventive mind gets caught up in a wave of mania, astonishing creations can occur.

The Rudimentary Peni album Cacophony feels maniacal, as if it were recorded at the height of some delusional frenzy. A rare hardcore punk concept album, an obsessive riff on horror pulp author H.P. Lovecraft, it captures that writer’s atmosphere of melodramatic creepiness. The recording seems like an organic whole; songs blend into one another, connected by snippets of dialogue and sound effects, racing along at breakneck speed. It is one of those records to be played in its entirety, to better appreciate the story arc.

Rudimentary Peni (named for a biology class definition of clitorises) grew out of the busy London anarcho-punk scene nurtured by the musical collective Crass. RP’s front man Nick Blinko is the songwriter, guitarist and singer; he also produces the horror vacui outsider art that illustrates the albums-teeming landscapes of grimacing faces, skulls and religious icons. Blinko could be a character out of a Lovecraft work-a talented outsider whose mind was broken by the pursuit of arcane knowledge. Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Blinko has spent some time institutionalized for his condition.

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Nick Blinko Artwork 

 

Despite the burdens of Blinko’s mental state, and all the growling death rock themes explored, Cacophony is a rollicking, playful album, bursting with excitement at its own inventiveness. The lyrics echo Lovecraft’s quaint verbose style in a manner that is both tribute and satire. The content veers between Lovecraft’s biography, his works, and more oblique rants. The original vinyl fortunately came with a 6 page lyric sheet, because the elaborate, articulate poetry Blinko wrote is often buried in layers of distortion and noise, or is barely intelligible. Blinko produces literally dozens of accents in his vocals-he chants, mutters, shrieks, hisses, croons and babbles; it’s an amazing theatrical performance. “Things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl,” he croaks in one interlude. Some pieces are nothing but sounds-chattering teeth, rude squishy noises, wheezing or screaming; others are little collages of tombstone inscriptions or buzzing alien voices.

The music swings between tight little punk gems and ominous droning soundscapes. The catchy hardcore passages throughout the album suggest Zen Arcade vintage Husker Du. In “The Only Child, ” about a bad seed murderous little girl, the delivery is a snarling Exploited style stomp; “Arkham Hearse” swings with a Sex Pistols sneer. “Dream City” warbles like the Buzzcocks: “The weedy old spires like veins in marble/The old gold domes/were just ancestral homes/The citadels of yore with their broken bronze bells/ tottering towers/shadowy staircases/spiral like ammonites…”

Rudimentary Peni, despite some hiatuses, continue to release albums, though nothing has ever topped this perfect storm of cult influences. Cacophony works on many levels-it ranges from being sinister and aggressive to being literate and tongue in cheek. It presents horror with mighty impact but doesn’t take itself too seriously. This highly personal and entertaining experimental album is a neglected masterpiece.

More Nick Blinko Artwork