Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kenneth Patchen and the Journal of Albion Moonlight


I finished while home for Christmas in Virginia Kenneth Patchen's "The Journal of Albion Moonlight." The closest thing that I can say it reminds me of is some of Jack Kerouac's work mixed with James Joyce. There are points in the novel that are telling a story, parts of sheer poetry and imagery, parts of madness and of surrealities, and a complete stretching of form to the point of breaking. I think there is a lot to learn from this novel, and I'm thinking about trying to put some of it through a musical filter. Here's a couple of passages I found intriguing, before we get into the musical talk:

p. 156.

“Chapter II

He quiet and unseeing leave nothing to its fate. The useful dimension of the apple-bird-star-saloon-motorboat-naked cannibal-shadow-safety razor-arcade-jewelbox-baby’s ass-green cloak.

A. An owl in a wasp’s nest.

B. The next step is 1917.

C. Why can’t painting be done from inside the canvas?

D. Put this book on a glass-topped table and fire a bullet through it: it will drop a woman’s face in its own blood.

E. Advance the probably question now. Who put the used postage stamp on the milkyway . . . was it Friar Pierre?

F. The marvelous is in the seaweed’s milk: in the hastily devoured washing machine: in the fragile shudder of the bull dreamwolf.

G. It is all-important to know how you hold your hands in sleep.

H. A shoe made of alligator hid eating a poached egg while whistling to a one-lipped junior high school girl. I am jealous of the tent.

I. What crisis do you speak of? The gesture of fruit is not timid.

J. Keep your swaybacked rowboat. The hurricane lamp shall plaster from this explosive house.

Be quick and unseemly learns what he knows before his head gets around to it. Darling girl! Washed all away by the nasty rain . . . “

p. 162

“In future, men will write as though language were their only dull tool – Which is quite true.”

“When the book is finished, then will be the time to write.”

“The experience that is not impossible is no experience at all.”

“In sculpture the artist must learn the ancient law of his stone.”

“Music can only advance when every known instrument has been destroyed.”

“The painter will strive to exclude all living images from his canvases. He will paint only that which cannot be seen.”


I was thinking about doing a narration project with the first section, and adding some music to it, but I found two longer, more Walt Whitman meets Allen Ginsberg list sections that I want to combine and add music to. The first list is "an answer to my critics," and features a lot of "I am, I will, I may have..." all the while there is another text that is more prose based, that follows the list on the side, as if they are two thoughts going on simultaneously. The next list starts with "So it is the duty of the artist to..." and continues with all the duties of the artist, again with a prose that follows it along down the line.

I have a few ideas of how I want this to work, and with what instrumentation, and will be getting to it in the coming week. I will put it up in a misc. album on bandcamp and link it on a future blog post for anyone that is interested in checking it out. I would post the text from both sections, but they're too long (not that long) for me to re-write out, so you'll have to listen to my narration to hear it. For now, here is Kenneth Patchen reciting some excerpts from the Journal of Albion Moonlight.

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