from Mark Bingham, (from the liner notes, recalling the magical circumstances of the original):
“Hal Willner had a plan. Choose musician / composers to read through Allen Ginsberg’s big book of poems. Have each musician choose 3 poems to score, then assemble players and record with Allen reciting (not singing). Each composer chose from the pool of players; there were duets up to full ensembles, plus Lenny Pickett made a piece where he played all the parts. The guitar section of me and Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, Arto Lindsay was an exercise in skill levels and diverse backgrounds. The sessions at A+R studios in NYC went late. Summer of 1987, 9th avenue in the 40s was home to hundreds of roving crack heads, which made getting a cab home an adventure, with guitar cases becoming weaponized.
The composers were prepared, the sessions couldn’t have gone any smoother. Joe Ferla was the engineer, always a calming presence. Allen was all in. I talked to him about doing Kral Majales. I went home after the first night and wrote a piece for bass clarinets. Hal gave it his blessing. We met the next day at Sorcerer Sound. Ralph Carney layered the bass clarinets, Allen spoke the poem. That night at A+R, we added the entire ensemble on top of Ralph and Allen with Bill Frisell playing lines I had never dreamed of.
Biggest personal thrill for me was playing with drummer Beaver Harris, a huge influence despite not being too well known. Having the steadying presence of Steve Swallow to balance the crazed energy of Gary Windo was a masterful Willner move.
Over the next year, we continued working on the record at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, where Joe and Hal mixed. These sessions begat “Hadda Be Playing On The Jukebox” which didn’t make the record, being too much of a rant. During the session, Allen spilled a cup of honey laden green tea into the SSL console, so we had a down day.
The record took another year to come out, with controversy over “C’mon Jack”.
For years after, when I’d see Hal or Allen, I’d say, “Ah, Robertson, it’s you.”
and Bill Frisell:
“When I was a little boy, growing up in Denver, in the 50s, I had dreams. My father was a scientist who spent his whole life experimenting with chemical reactions. One time he went away on a trip to San Francisco and brought back stories of beatniks and modern art. I still remember clearly now how this fired up my imagination. Got me thinking about what all might be out there. On the road. Dreaming. Possibilities.
Allen Ginsberg gave voice.
Twenty some years later along comes Hal Willner. There must be angels. Michael Minzer and Hal. An extraordinary cast of characters was assembled. Chain reactions.
Vision, faith, and trust.
I am so thankful.
Here is strong evidence that good things are possible. There are such things as harmony and compassion. Dreams do come true.
and kudos to the project’s overseer, Kramer (another angel!)
Jonah Raskin, the author of the biography of the poem, “the first full critical and historical study of “Howl”, American Scream, is interviewed in Simon Warner’s Rock and The Beat Generation Substack See here – (and here)
James Schuyler Centennial Celebrations in New York this weekend
The celebrations begin tomorrow (Saturday 4th November) from 9-2pm EST at NYU –James Schuyler: A Morning for The Poet – Speakers include scholars and poets, among them John Koethe, Stephanie Burt, Peter Gizzi, Tracie Morris, Tonya Foster and Nathan Kernan
Later in the day from 5-7pm at Dia Chelsea – It Goes, It Goes: James Schuyler Centenary Celebration, the celebration continues, Simon Pettet introduces Wayne Kostenbaum, Chad Morgan, Eileen Myles, Funto Omojola, Tony Towle and Teline Trần
and on Monday, 8pm at the Poetry Project – Hymn To Life – readings (from that exemplary long poem) by Alexis Almeida, Douglas Crase, Will Farris, t‘ai freedom ford, Mary Manning, and Charles North, and music by David Grubbs
More on the remarkable and under-appreciated Schuyler (1923-1991), in a week or so’s time, November 9, the date of his official 100th birthday