Friday, October 31, 2008

Wordplay: radio ephemera

Last Sunday I sat down with young poets Abby Wendle and Jenn Dumbrowski. They read some fine work and we shared a great conversation about their visions of poetry, their practice as poets, and a range of other topics (the crowd for a Sarah Palin rally was lining up in front of the Asheville Civic Center next door, and I'm sure we mentioned that). Sadly, as has happened several times before, the automatic archiving system at WPVM broke down, and the show didn't record. Argh. Oh, well. I'll try to get them on again.

The bottom line: the show featuring the musical Lee Ann Brown remains accessible for another week via the Archive page for streaming and podcast.

This coming Sunday's show occurs during WPVM's fall fundraiser, and we'll be pitching along with the rest of the station's volunteers.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another Goodbye: Merl Saunders, 1934-2008

Merl's MySpace page has some good tunes. I saw him just a couple of times with his Funky Friends, but both shows were dance marathons and extraordinary fun. He loved to engage his audiences and share moments from his lifetime of experience in music with fans, and emanated a generosity of spirit from the stage that could hardly have been just part of his act.

As he liked to say, "Save the Earth so we'll have someplace to boogie."

I've borrowed the photo of Merl from his website, which promises a statement from the family in the days ahead.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wordplay this week: Lee Ann Brown

This past Sunday we celebrated the work of New York (and Marshall, NC) poet Lee Ann Brown. I drew on several recordings of Lee Ann, the first from 2002, when she came to Asheville for the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center's "Under the Influence" festival. It was her first North Carolina reading, and she was in high spirits - but, then, Lee Ann seems always to be in high spirits. The reading took place at Malaprops, Asheville's wonderful independent bookstore; it was recorded by Adam Johnson.

The Museum + Arts Center itself furnished the venue for the second reading, a celebration of the East Coast Beat poets. Lee Ann performed, among other things, lovely versions of a poem by Allen Ginsberg and of Ginsberg's and Ed Sanders' arrangements of William Blake songs. The Jar-e Jazz Quartet provided musical support and sonic texture. The reading took place on February 11, 2005, and Jason Brady recorded.

This past January Lee Ann was in Marshall for the holidays, and met me at the WPVM studios to read some recent work and talk about the directions she's currently exploring. I've used a substantial portion of our interview in the show's final segment.

I opened the show with an Iraqi folk song performed by Beth Brown, Lee Ann's sister, and her husband Ra'ed Rawawey at Malaprops for the 2002 reading. At the first break you'll hear Pentangle performing the old Child ballad "Omie Wise," from their 1989 release A Maid That's Deep in Love. The second break features Ronald and Anna-Wendy Stevenson performing "Lady Charlotte Campbell," from their 2005 release Gowd and Silver. The show's outro has Charles Lloyd performing another old old classic, "The Water Is Wide." I'm not sure which of his collections the track originally appeared on, but it's now on iTunes, where I found it. If you listen to the interview, you'll know why it was just the right piece on which to close.

Thanks to Lee Ann, and to all whose work made this show possible. It'll be on the station archive through October 26th, and will re-broadcast this Sunday, October 19th, at 2:00 PM, since I'll be at a funeral in Charlotte.



There are several shows waiting for me to upload them to the archive, and I'll do notes on those as I get them transferred. For the last six weeks or so, since the resignation of the station manager, I've been helping to manage WPVM, and it's involved many meetings, hours and hours of computer support, and many other commitments of time and energy. My apologies to the authors whose shows await the renewed light of day on the net.

Photo: Lee Ann Brown at her home in Marshall, May 2005.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Michael Rumaker reads ...

at the Spirit of Black Mountain College festival last month. Abby Wendle and I worked on her recording of Mike's session at the Hickory Museum of Art this afternoon, and she posted his reading of "The Fairies Are Dancing All Over the World" at her blog. We had to do a good bit of noise reduction, and the room in which he read was a cavernous space; given both facts, the recording came out pretty well.

Notwithstanding sideways rain and a gas shortage that had us checking out every station we passed to see if it might have working pumps, the Festival was a treat. At least that was my take. I really enjoyed hearing some of my favorite poets read, delving into the zaniness of Cilla Vee's Cage-derived "Modus Operandi", and listening to Mary Emma Harris illuminate the complex history of the college we all had come to honor, just for starters. And there was much more.

There'll be lots of audio to post in the weeks ahead, first from Abby's audience recordings, and later from the "official" recordings, most of them patched from the PA mixing boards. This clip from Michael's reading is just the start.


Photo of Michael Rumaker at the home of Rand Brandes by Abby Wendle, using Mary Emma Harris' camera.

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Maverick?" Whoa, Dude ...

Well, it's the season for politics here in the US, even in bucolic, New Agey Asheville. Why, just Monday Barack Obama, tucked away at the Grove Park Inn to prepare for his most recent debate with John McCain, stopped by my favorite barbecue place for lunch. Unfortunately, unlike Chall Gray, I wasn't there. Today, though, I came across a little news that might be of interest to Senator McCain, the would-be "maverick":

Samuel Augustus Maverick (July 23, 1803–September 2, 1870) was a Texas lawyer, politician, land baron and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. His name is the source of the term “maverick”

Lesley in comments over at TBogg, adds:

Follow up. A Different Jake H. in SadlyNo alerted me to this article in the NY Times on the infuriated Maverick family. A double dose of awesome.

“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick,” said Terrellita Maverick, 82, a San Antonio native who proudly carries the name of a family that has been known for its progressive politics since the 1600s, when an early ancestor in Boston got into trouble with the law over his agitation for the rights of indentured servants.

Terrellita Maverick, sister of Maury Jr., is a member emeritus of the board of the San Antonio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

Considering the family’s long history of association with liberalism and progressive ideals, it should come as no surprise that Ms. Maverick insists that John McCain, who has voted so often with his party, “is in no way a maverick, in uppercase or lowercase.”

“It’s just incredible — the nerve! — to suggest that he’s not part of that Republican herd. Every time we hear it, all my children and I and all my family shrink a little and say, ‘Oh, my God, he said it again.’ ”

“He’s a Republican,” she said. “He’s branded.”

Branded by now in several other ways - and hopefully, in about four weeks, to be branded decisively in yet another.


Photo: The original Maverick, Samuel, thanks to Wikipedia.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Another birthday for guitarist Steve Kimock

This clip has Kimock joining old friend Billy Goodman at The Concert Hall in New York, NY, on September 27, on Goodman's "Best Friend."

Happy Birthday, Steve.


Thanks to Kimock lister (and much more) Charlie Miller for the link.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Celebrations for the Fall

(Click on the image for a larger view)
Harvests are in, or soon to come. The air cools, here in the northern part of the orb, as the planet grandly wobbles in its orbit, taking us away from the sun. Nights grow longer, match the days, and then surpass them. Wondrous October, Asheville homeboy Thomas Wolfe's birth month (Happy birthday, Tom!) and the first full month of his favorite season, arrives. Oh, lost, and by the wind grieved ghost ... It's a season of endings and portents, when we look again, as we move inward, to the life of imagination and spirit to carry us through dark holy-days.

Two events in early October helped to get us off to a good start on the journey. They even happened on successive nights; perhaps, for all their apparent differences, they were two services in the same ceremony, the same cycle. One addressed the relation we folk have to the world, while the other offered a look at some complexities and struggles in other realms of human culture.

On the evening of October 2nd, Asheville's Blue Spiral 1 Gallery hosted the publication celebration of The End of Eden, a collaboration between two of our mountain world's rightly celebrated creators of complex imaginative forms, each working here in his own medium to find synergy. The book combines essays on what we call "the environment" by Tuckasegee's Thomas Rain Crowe and sketches and paintings by Celo artist Robert Johnson.

Poet/editor/translator Crowe, long active in the WNC environmental community, is probably best known now for 2005's Zoro's Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods; it won the Book of the Year Award in Nonfiction for the state of North Carolina and the citation as Best Book of Nonfiction on the Environment from the Southern Environmental Law Center in the year of its publication. His work has been a frequent topic here.

Johnson has also been active for decades in the environmental movement, and it was through their mutual involvement in environmental groups and projects that author and painter came to know one another personally, and to know one another's work; they've now been friends, Crowe says, for twenty years. "When I decided to put together a collection of essays, articles, and newspaper columns for a book, I approached him with the idea, pitched him on it, and he thought it could be a good project." Johnson then worked with Crowe to select the paintings and sketches included in the book; all are of vistas and locations he visited and studied in the southern Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

The book takes its title, The End of Eden, from what Crowe sees as the threat posed to mountain communities, to the way of life they represent, and to traditional farming communities around the world, by current models of development.

It's too late now to catch the reception (confession:I missed it too, though I spoke with Robert and Thomas afterwards), but Johnson's work from the book will be up at Blue Spiral through October 16th.

Last night, October 3rd, Asheville's Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center hosted the opening reception for "The Shape of Imagination: Sphere", the first of three shows over the next year that will feature the work of women at our area's very own, very extraordinary, Black Mountain College. Both the men and women who emerged from the college, whether they'd been faculty or students, worked to challenge and change the prevailing approaches to the visual, literary, and performative arts in the middle of the last century. Male Black Mountaineers, like Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham, to name just a few of the best known, gradually had profound impact on the aesthetic worlds within which they worked. The women of the college, though, often faced a more difficult path to impact and recognition simply because they were women; some of them, as you might suspect, went on to challenge the dominant sex and gender stereotypes that confronted them.

Novelist Francine du Plessix Gray, author of 1976's Lovers and Tyrants, for example, created female characters who were (and are) dynamically alive as sexual beings, and who bring womanly critical intelligence to bear on the world in which they move.

Ruth Hershberger, in her Adams Rib, published in 1948(!), directly addressed stereotypes of male and female roles, ranging her analysis along a frontier that stretched from biology to law and myth. It reminded me, when I recently encountered it, of Simone de Beauvoir's now-classic The Second Sex (some of the book is at the second link), a wonderful investigation of similar territory published in French just a year later. My girlfriend in the eleventh grade gave me a copy of de Beauvoir's book in 1961 -- hoping, I think, to help me learn (successfully, I can at least hope) not to be a benighted sexist -- at least not always, given the strength of gender training -- like most of her other male classmates; it was a revelation. Thanks, Susie, wherever you are! Hopefully, Hershberger's book provided as useful an orientation to a few other hapless males of the species.

Harriet Sohmers Zwerling, who went from the college into the bohemian world of New York's visual artists, wrote a frank, warm, very endearing memoir that she titled Notes of a Nude Model and other pieces; in it she writes fearlessly, charmingly, intelligently of her work as an objectified Other for artists, of her sexual adventures (and misadventures), her enduring relationships - determined, as she says in one piece, that she and her son should act as "celebrants of life in our own religion."

Not surprisingly, the women of the college who were visual artists explored innovative approaches in their work, just as the men did. The current show features work by Elaine de Kooning, Ruth Asawa, and Pat Passlof, among many others.

This afternoon (I'll be headed there as soon as I post this) a panel chaired by Black Mountain College scholar Mary Emma Harris will provide (no doubt) several answers to the question "What was it like to be a woman at BMC?" Joining Harris for the panel will be alumnae Patsy Lynch Wood, Alma Stone Williams, Vera Baker Williams, Cynthia K. Homire, and Marie Tavroges Stilkind; they were students at the college between 1942 and 1954. It should make for a fascinating afternoon.

It'll be held at UNCA's Humanities Lecture Hall.

The Center will offer additional programming in conjunction with the Shape of Imagination exhibits throughout the 2008-2009 season.

If You Go:

What: Work from The End Of Eden
Where: Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, 38 Biltmore Ave. in the heart of downtown Asheville
When: Thursday, October 2nd through October 16th.
Admission is free
More information: Contact The Blue Spiral Gallery at 828-251-0202.

What: The Shape of Imagination: Sphere
Where: Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 56 Broadway, Downtown Asheville
When: October 3rd through February 14, 2009
Admission: $3 / free for BMCM+AC members + students with ID.
More Info: (828) 384-5050 or
online at

What: What was it like to be a woman at BMC?
Where: UNCA's Humanities Lecture Hall
When: October 4th, 3:00pm. A reception will follow with refreshments by Green Sage Coffeehouse & Café.
Admission: $7 / $5 for BMCM+AC members + students with ID
Co-sponsored by the UNC-Asheville Women's Studies Program + History Dept.
Free for UNCA faculty + students
More Info: (828) 384-5050 or
online at

Update, 5 October: As you might expect, the panel members proved deeply insightful and articulate, never mind a cane or two among them. I recorded their discussion yesterday, and should be able to post audio of the event within a few days.

This post was originally written for the Asheville arts and culture publication Rapid River, but didn't appear there for reasons ... well, who knows? Did I mention Mercury is retrograde? Oh, well. I've patched up a phase or two, added some links, and modified verb tenses when writing of events that had already entered the gone world of the past by the time I posted, but not otherwise fiddled with its (somewhat) who-what-when-why-where journalistic style.
Robert Johnson's "Arthur's Pass" is featured on the cover of The End of Eden. If you're looking for its location here in the Smokies, though, you'll be disappointed; it's in New Zealand. Johnson did the painting on a trip to that fair nation in 2007.

Labels: , , , , , , ,