Blank Forms - 05: Aspirations of Madness
Brooklyn-based organization Blank Forms initiated this periodical in 2017 to bring together never-before published, lost, and new materials as a supplement to their live programs. It is envisioned as a platform for critical reflection and extended dialogue between scholars, artists, and other figures working within the world of experimental music and art. Indeed, it’s all about text, with very few illustrations.
For 05, contributors and featured artists include Masayuki Takayanagi, Louise Landes Levi, Joseph Jarman, Catherine Christer Hennix, Charles Stein, Henry Orlov, Maryanne Amacher, Alan Cummings, Bill Dietz, Peter Kastakis, Art Lange, Leo Svirsky, Satoru Obara, and Tomoyuki Chida.
Aspirations of Madness takes its title from a series of interviews with Japanese free jazz pioneer Masayuki Takayanagi that were published in Japanese in 1975–76 and are published here in English for the first time. The interviews provide a rare look at Takayanagi’s eccentric practice and personality, both long under-recognized by audiences outside (and often, inside) of Japan. In this respect, the interviews speak to the goals of Blank Forms’ publication enterprise, that is, to expand upon our work in performance programming, record production, and archival preservation, and to foster new dialogues on vanguard art and music from the past 50-plus years.
The postwar Japanese history that Takayanagi describes also surfaces in this publication’s opening piece, a poetic tribute by the writer and artist Louise Landes Levi to one of Takayanagi’s contemporaries, the poet Kazuko Shiraishi. Aspirations of Madness includes a second Levi poem as well, “A Deep River,” written while at La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House in 2003, while Charles Curtis was rehearsing Just Charles and Cello in the Romantic Chord, a composition by Young that Blank Forms plans to present in Spring 2020. Complementing this tradition of Japanese free improvisation and poetry is the republication of a 1977 interview with Joseph Jarman, the great composer, poet, and multi-instrumentalist.
Also featured are Charles Stein’s introduction to Being = Space x Action (Stein was a student of Hennix for a while), and Poësy Matters and Other Matters by Catherine Christer Hennix. In its specificity and rarity of focus, Stein’s text offers valuable information on a vibrant artistic network of the recent past, as well as an extended look at the evolution of Hennix’s complex practice. Further along, we have an excerpt from The Tree of Music, a cross-cultural treatise by the Russian musicologist Genrich “Henry” Orlov, the English translation of which has never been published before. The Tree of Music is a sweeping philosophical study of global music and cultures with universalist and spiritualist ambitions, excerpts of which are here selected and introduced by the composer and pianist Leo Svirsky. Aspirations of Madness closes with one of Maryanne Amacher’s final pieces of writing, “The Agreement,” from 2009. The text takes the form of a letter between Amacher and the Open Ended Group, with whom she had planned to collaborate on her final, unfinished project, Lagrange: A Four Part Mini Series.
Editors: Lawrence Kumpf and Joe Bucciero. Published in 2020, 244 pages, softcover.