Harry Hears Everything

In times like these, direct action furthers. And theurgic action is “more like” chalk marks scratched on the suddenly emitted space in front of Everything by a firm and rapid muscular hand than the subtle energetic projections of subtler and less volatile momentary epochs. Epochs, let us remind ourselves, are abstract numeric extensions-they span nanoseconds or millennia, indifferently. But their shifts and shenanigans fuel alertness for all players congenitally wary. It behooves that the mind step out of its own milieu and move instanter along trajectories yet of its own engagement-things are tough and getting tougher, man, and even Harry hears it in his panoply of elsewheres, his timeless backcountry research habitats, his strange transcosmic zoos. There is hay to be made fore the moon shines for the magus who sidesteps the general panic and conflagration.

These words themselves intend to sidestep all trivially general economies. Any world, malgre its material provenance and epochal scale, will only die once.

Charles Stein, Barrytown, NY, 15.10.08

Harry Made Me Do Them (07.07)

Ch. 154

Dog Star

“Heaven & Earth Magic”

Conceptional Geometry

Medicine Buddha


The Ghost Outside the Machine

The One of the South and the One of the North

Urine Analysis

 from Robert Kelly:

The One of the South and the One of the North

He put down his measuring tape
and stalked off through his eyeglasses
into the amber world

Yes, I am here again
he said when he got there

men swinging hammers
a flock of purple finches bothering the trees

So that’s what they mean by ritual
he thought and thought again

there is no ceremony but the skin.

 from Charles Stein:

Inceptional Geometry

Oh sable night and toroidal celerity; Inceptional is Exceptional. That is to say, we seem to have entered the Chambers of Singularity, or one of them. When particles collide and Night is Light.

Reprove all “natural” chromatology and it is evident how the end of genealogical identity is to be countenanced; that is to say, by way of quoting one David Leahy: “the End of the End and the Beginning of the Beginning”; ie, no more whining about lost anything. Nature turns another loop such that what is super and what is trans (vis a vis IT) are wrought in the same self-evaginating function, and Being’s latest appears as sleek as Bialy’s dream jaguar–pronounced Jag-You-Are, present past and future but a time jag? As the World Turns [the World! mind you] it seems no longer the case that there’s only more and more of what has always been. However. It is not propitious to get too cozy with any fixed hyperdimensional articulation whatever. The multifarious elsewheres do not necessarily form a system. “The owl, the bat, and the bumblebee / down yonder in a holler tree.” We beat AROUND the bushy singularity. And we ourselves are excerpted tautologically from our own law.


Homage to Harry Smith in the Manner of the Denizens of the Cedar Tavern

Once a White Flower

We have found the mothering darkness, the dark retreat, the edgeless happiness that is nevertheless a circle, a sphere, a hyper-sphere, a sphere in however many dimensions as you will. But the edgeless darkness is situated in its own relief, its own happiness. Quiet beneath the mothering groin of ageless being, as if the wheel of some universal Car.

And the color temperature of happiness is the precise cyanity that dreams here, as dawn flowers arising from somatic loci not correlated with any conventionally virtualized trajectory of desire. The mind of DL has returned to its own rapture, the recrudescence of that in He that has never required concentration, gathering, focus.

The Nostos-the Homecoming-itself is overcome. The paradox that rules the “plotting” of the Odyssey-that the states that might have been the very symbols and means of every homecoming-seduction (the rapturous music of the Sirens), erotic enchantment (Circe, Calypso), pharmacological ecstasies (Lotus Eaters, Circe again)-remain diverse from the “true” direction home (Penelope, Athena, the doubled double of Odysseus’s true nature)-the paradox is resolved. There never was an Ithaca to have been departed from, never a Troy to maul with exorbitant ruses, never a wine-black ocean over which to traverse a course of mighty nemeses, or a system of overweening, neurotic, anthropomorphic gods. Only the mothering darkness and its color. Only the tiny word that opens the void whose secret name is possibility, whose public face is is.

It doesn’t matter at all what the figure is. This blackness exceeds all blackness, this lordship all hegemony, this omneity all inclusion.

Paris? Paris? “Her grey towers groan, and the bastile trembles.”

Charles Stein
Barrytown, NY
28 July 2006

Homage to Harry

What comes across? Does not necessarily stay across. When the mists come in colors-and we love to tease ourselves with the volubility of “others” that fog the nearmost happentance. You are alone in the room, certainly. There is little ambient noise, white or articulated. Nothing to stimulate the sense that a crowd of entities muffles the crispness of a presence that is only your own.

But in this weather, it is clear that a trap has been set to draw them from inexistent sources: a diamond, with the shape of a mouth, a tissue of membranes, a colossus like the Dark Lord, though pulsations of colored auras occupy his body so that, the function of the DL being cast in doubt, the existence of him flickers off the “monitor.”

Just why are they here. For instance, there is no sense of yearning, hunger, need, conjuring presences from vacuity. Is it a feature of attention itself, that before it achieves pristine acuity, it must pass through a careful range of distractions peculiar to the discriminatory intelligence that will be its own prerogative and provocation?

Ask them to speak? They only gesture. Ask them to identify themselves, and they morph into other identities. It is night, or early dawn, or tomorrow, or time is not. It is a revenant or a trolley car, an amoeba, or a morphism. It matters not. Being has extracted itself from the ambit leaving trails and traces, a foretaste of membranes to come, a painted mind.

Actually it is the idea of “homage” that stimulates this great waffling dubeity. For you ought not be able to pay homage to one to whom you would render yourself transparent. Such is the drift of the matter.

Charles Stein, Barrytwon, NY, 8.1.2006

A Monkish Momento Mori in between the Beats

She turned down the sheets and sighed. There he was, His dark eyes howling through the strange granules whose advent marked her personal sector of the astral skedocosm-his prominent and unaccountably handsome proboscis; his undeniably frank horned appendages; his mirrors, his emblems, and his robes, with another sigh-quite welcome. One more page and she’d safely have traversed the “cold companionable” tiles to the little benches, but that was not to be. And now? An ocean and a vast itinerary: An encumbrance of twelve thousand worlds; Queenship and/or Priestessdom-at all events a new regime. She was prepared. “All praise,” she muttered, “to Eternal Egypt and the astonishing lie of the Hellenes announcing Egypt’s ‘passing’- and the incomprehensible expostulation that by one of the more curious folds in the historic (so-called) record (so-called) had survived the sands (so-imagined) of time (so what?)… Oh Asclepius. Oh Tahuti. Oh my Black Diamond, inside of which the Invisible Temple even now remains to be hollowed out once more-most satisfactory.”

I raised my unkempt right eyebrow, a feat of which the Master was incapable. It never failed to provoke him.

Charles Stein, Barrytown, NY, 1.6.2007

The Road to Mount Maha-Maya (02/2008)

Harry’s Cosmic Milk Bottle

Harry's Cosmic Milk Bottle


one of the earliest conjurations was inspired by and made for, the late great and one and only never to be repeated Harry Smith, in the form of a two minute slideshow.

the resolution is not terrific, but it can be safely (at least safe for your computer’s operating system…no promises regarding your own) viewed here.

4.13.2005 1:42pm
the crystalline is torsionable n-tuple times in all dimensions.
the paracrystalline is not.

the object of the original photograph and the photongrapher are densely connected

therefore the photongraph that ‘develops’ is likely to be one that no one else could have made

[one takes a photograph and makes a photongraph

[photographs capture, photongraphs map, etc

[poetry has its roots in the greek for making – poesis

the self that speaks with beings who are where harry is takes over

4.16.2005 4:20pm
In 1985, Harry was living at the Breslin Hotel, a short distance from the (Nature) Bio/Technology offices, and that turned out to be the best perk that came with the cushy scientific editor job.

Among other things, i could bring Harry as many back issues of nature as he wanted, as well as review copies of expensive, unreadable (by anybody but him and the copy editors) scientific tomes on astrophysics, seismic activities, aboriginal weaving patterns, etc. During that time, i befriended the young editor of Grove’s Dictionaries (a sister Macmillian pub that had offices in the same building), and through him i was able to obtain over the course of two years a complete Groves classical in which each volume is only very slightly, cosmetically defaced, or has a mislabed spine, and so was returned. Jonathan thought i was ‘odd, but nice’. (Years later, the greatest office manager in the universe, Angie Rice, managed me a new edition, two volume (bright red) Groves jazz.

But neither of these two wonderful perks come even close to the one from Harry. In return for these arcanic journals and books, which i would deliver once a week, Harry would play a 90 minute cassette he had recorded especially to educate me about the astounding varieties of music in the world from his really big library. He would command me to sit and not move and not say aaaaanything and would proceed to put the tape in his quality deck. After we would smoke and talk, and before i left he would give me the cassette.

I will place, from time to time, pieces that even today with all the music available to almost anybody are still rare, or still remain the finest examples of the type being illustrated.

The first of these is lithophones from Togo (Harry never gave the exact recording details…anyone who might know is more than welcome to supply the missing data)

4.19.2005 6:24pm

Water Drumming by the Baka of Cameroun

(from :: The Hotel Breslin Tapes)

4.28.2005 4:13pm

Brought to you by Harry Smith, Lionel Ziprin and Lionel’s grandfather, the last Abulafia Rabbi, Zvi Margolies (from The Rabbi’s Basement Tapes, NYC 1953)

5.2.2005 1:59am

Precious Possession Number 43

The object in the photograph was given to my son, Ezra Thelonious Edet, by Harry in 1985. Harry received it from the individual in the photograph at the time the object appeared to commemorate a certain cover of Time magazine that elicited the famoso “I’m famous, ain’t that a bitch” when it was shown to him.

Ezra gave it to me some years ago for safe-keeping

5.2.2005 4:25am



A very, very Nutty and Misterioso 23rd birthday to Ezra Thelonious Edet

5.3.2005 7:37am



More of Shel Silverstein’s songs for children of all ages from The Hotel Breslin Tapes

The Ballad of the Dying Beatnik

I know she’s going to get around to me

Same tune, different verse. [i was one of the youths it sings abt]

5.4.2005 12:19pm



Another kind of story-song for children of all ages from The Hotel Breslin Tapes

This one is a version of the hare and the tortoise from the Shona of South Africa

5.4.2005 4:22pm



The composite photograph of this poem of Harry’s (written in 1976 and revised in 1977) is from a xerox of page proofs marked by our very dear friend, William Breeze, in 1985 for The Equinox, III/10 that he edited.

Although The Equinox did appear, Harry’s poem was not, for reasons you do not wish to know, included.

The title of the poem, Think of the Self Speaking was used after Harry’s passing as the title of a slim book of selected interviews published by Cityful Press a few years ago and that is now out of print and expensive.

Here is the previously, unavailable (corrected and correct) text.

5.8.2005 8:49pm



One thing does lead to another, and i just received from the most estimado of senors, Eric Malone, editor of the always-changing-its-name journal of post-Olsonion pata-pata-physics, and first incarnated as Hornswoggle, the following transcript he made of a tape recording of Harry interacting with students at Naropa in a film class in the summer of 1990, and which appeared in the journal’s first number.

Harry Smith with students at Naropa, 1990

[somewhere about 2/3 thru, harry sings a few bars from the shel silverstein song above that i titled i know she’s going to get around to me (with some deliberate, or not, changes)

5.9.2005 1:50pm



not long after sending the transcipt above, eric sent this Imaginary Dialog Between Oscar Wilde and Denis Diderot, thinking i “might enjoy it”.

i think (almost) everybody will, especially harry to whom i have dedicated it, as i imagine the interplanetary traveller senor malone intended.

5.9.2005 2:39pm



fondest memories of my favorite uncle, for harry

— Original Message —
From: Bialy, Harvey
To: ‘Eric Malone ‘
Sent: 09/05/2005 03:52 p.m.
Subject: i say you mas re my late crazy uncle ray

it is because of ray that i have my name, harvey. this is the story.

ray golden married my father’s only sister, babs, against the wishes of my grandfather and mother who did not think him a proper match for a good, first generation post-ellis is. jewish girl (especially a looker like babs was). this was mostly because ray was a show biz person, and such types, even of ray’s ethnic persuasion, almost never made a dime.

not so uncle ray…he invested what little he and babs had saved in ‘harvey’ and made a bundle about the time i was born. my parents named me for the gin-soaked pookah and the luck of the one financial succcess that had befallen the family.

uncle ray took all the money and put it into a show he produced, directed and wrote (script, lyrics and a good part of the tunes as well). the show was a musical comedy abt the united nations
building…the building, not the un itself…it was a musical comedy abt the building of a building.

i remember my parent’s coming home from the opening and my father loudly wailing oy vey what a schmuck my sister married and then bursting into guffaws with my mother. the show closed the same night.

a few months ago, i was telling charles stein this story and realized i remembered the lyrics (in part) to the show’s title song …There’s a Building Going Up

it goes like this

there’s a building going up
going up
going up
going up
and it looks like the others east and west
same old lumber same old steel
but you look at it and feel
like a glory drum
is pounding in your chest

o the chrysler and the state may be high even higher
but hallelujah how can they compare
with that building
going up
going up
going up
where the flags of all nations are unfurled
hey you rubbernecker there
take your hat off as you stare
at the most important building in the world

and goes on like that for a while.

i used to perform it in grade school talent shows and un day assemblys.

[should anybody be so foolish as to request it, i will place an mp3 of me performing these few bars in my best broadway.

5.12.2005 5:14pm



o yeah. it had an intro that i just remembered

i went down to the river to see what i could see
i saw a crowd of people standing round
just leaning on a railing
and looking down like me
at another excavation in the ground

the rest is tatters

5.12.2005 5:24pm



it is maybe not without a little interest to note that mel brook’s famous play, the producers, not only features a character named max bialystock made immortal almost by zero mostel, but max’s partner is named bloom.

my mother’s maiden name was bloom. her parents came from moscow, and her father was a violin maker named max.

5.12.2005 5:33pm




Harry (mail):

Well, I wanna hear it.

5.14.2005 11:27am



not sure you qualify as an “anybody”, but because of you, there’s a song in my heart. so here it is.
5.14.2005 11:33am



now here is something from The Hotel Breslin Tapes you definitely do want to hear, and that i might have when i was a baby.

[it originally arrived via radio waves in 1945.

5.14.2005 12:28pm



when Ezra Thelonious Edet was four or five, he began referring to me as Captain Froggy (i have since been self-promoted to the highest rank in the froggy corps, colonel).

this version of Frog Went a’ Courting from The Hotel Breslin Tapes, was a favorite when he was little. we laughed at the ending, ezra possessing, even then, a very acute sense of humor in addition to many other fine qualities.


[here is an inside the camera double exposure i made in 1987 shortly after returning from a trip to thailand (remembered in Thai Sweet). he was three, and very angry.

5.15.2005 8:06pm



although he was the one who made me a frog,
it is ezra who jumps like one as can be discovered by typing ezra bialy into google.
5.16.2005 3:34pm



Another Harry transcipt
from Boulder courtesy of Eric Malone and the
transmuted Hornswoggle 1 aka Whooskow #7



Smith’s Introduction to American Folk Music

According to Harry, there are exactly 19 versions (and approximately 35 variations of them) of the most famous Scottish ballad ever to become a quintessential American folksong, Barbra Allen.

All 19 (from The Hotel Breslin Tapes) can be heard here. Number 3 is by the same unforgettable voice that so entertained Ezra and me (and i hope you) with her froggy song. Number 11 is the closest to the version made popular by Joan Baez, and which was the first one that most people of my generation heard in the late 1950s.

Barbra Allen 1 Barbra Allen 2 Barbra Allen 3 Barbra Allen 4
Barbra Allen 5 Barbra Allen 6 Barbra Allen 7 Barbra Allen 8
Barbra Allen 9 Barbra Allen 10 Barbra Allen 11 Barbra Allen 12
Barbra Allen 13 Barbra Allen 14 Barbra Allen 15 Barbra Allen 16
Barbra Allen 17 Barbra Allen 18 Barbra Allen 19

5.25.2005 1:21pm



Thinking of Dr. Stein in the bowels of the Coliseum, and Mr. Harold on the shores of Shreveport ::

A Veda of the Black Yagur from The Hotel Breslin Tapes

5.29.2005 10:02am



michael harold writes me abt vedas yesterday / his vedas come from my writing chuck “accoding to one dr. j. needham, sometime master of gonville and caius college, cambridge, vol. 5/2 of science & civilization in china (a birthday present), ‘one g. h. wasson, has thrown the problem into a completely new perspective with his investigations’. and the golden flower, accordingly is none other than our old pal somahaoma, with the translation into metallurgical metaphor coming later.” (and copying michael) — chuck and i visited wasson once at his hse in conn in 1972…very, very kind man….we did not know of course that he was at the time, along with the bell of bell helicopters, harry’s biggest patron

James Joyce, John Cage and Eric Malone

Yesterday was not, in Mexico, a national holiday and reason for picnics in graveyards (that is Nov. 1), and the post office delivered five privately issued cds from the Marsupial Sonogram label containing assorted audio works by Eric “Hornswoggle” Malone. When i questioned him about the one that can be heard above, he wrote:

The Cage reading of the first paragraph of FINNEGAN’S WAKE from “Was You Ever Bit by a Dead Bee?” comes from a Giorno Systems “Nova Convention” LP from 1978. Cage read that Joyce & then his Mesostics on Joyce’s name.

I play all of the instruments: assorted reeds, a little trumpet, guitars, drums & percussion, and also use assorted sound sources, many of which I transform in simple ways, via tape speed, EQ-ing, & the like. And I have a special coupled oscillator that was built for me by a wonderful guy named Tim Adams who lives in the peanut dust wilds of Akworth, GA.

On that particular piece you ask about I played a nylon string guitar into a very cheap keyboard triggered sampler (since gone kaput, sigh) & gradually altered it so that it wasn’t just an ongoing repetitious loop. There’s some light percussion and I took some field recordings of public places–restaurant ambient chatter,etc.–& mixed those in.

5.31.2005 9:31am


Some Breath Songs of the Far North (from The Hotel Breslin Tapes)

6.1.2005 10:38am



Harry sometimes included sounds from nature in the Breslin Tapes. He recorded the brief selection below on side B of the 19 Versions of Barbra Allen for reasons that will be clear when you listen to it.

Eastern US Green Frog at Sunrise in the Spring

6.2.2005 4:46pm



Smith’s Introduction to American Folk Music II

Kindlin’ Wood :: The True Story & The Song

The selection above (from The Hotel Breslin Tapes) originates in the Georgia Coast Islands.

6.3.2005 10:50am


Eric Malone:

HARRY SMITH TAPE, Naropa 1989 from Absquatulate #2

Eeeuuuh, I’m supposed to give a lecture on whatever was announced, which I’ve made a point not to pay any attention to. Are there any revolutionaries present, will you raise your hands? No?

Joseph Stalin couldn’t boil an egg, but — does anyone know — he invented a children’s game called Simon Says, apparently stolen from the British [prolonged coughing]. The British invented the bagpipe and then gave it to the Scots, telling them it was, apparently, a musical instrument…

Uuuh, I’ve been accused all week long now, of “saying things for effect.” It seems to me I’m surrounded by people who have endless questions about the kaballah, without even having read Gershom Sholem. Now, wouldn’t the questions be more interesting if Sholem were at least looked at? [Inaudible, from audience]. That’s just [a] terrible [question] — did you get dressed by yourself this morning? I… No more questions until I talk for a while, come on!

Since this is a very stuffy room, with low ceilings and no windows, I’m going to light a cigarette, in this case a particularly stale one…

Alice Roosevelt Longworth — anyone? I didn’t think so. Alice Roosevelt Longworth was one of, if not the first woman, to smoke in public. She was the first child of Theodore Roosevelt, actually she was an only child by his first marriage… She was on very good terms with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her husband, Nicholas Longworth, was a U.S. Representative, serving two terms, and he was also Speaker of the House. The… IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO LISTEN, GO TO ALLEN GINSBERG’S CLASS AND TALK, HE LIKES THAT! [prolonged coughing fit]. I should be wearing a gas mask, and this ashtray should be amplified [stabs cigarette in ashtray, lights another]. In her day, the press called Alice Roosevelt Longworth “Princess Alice.” Now, all of you have been, eeuuuhh, doing your own thing an awful lot, being freakish, not ironing your clothing, and so forth, so I want you to attempt to imagine what it must have been like for someone such as Alice Roosevelt Longworth, to be seen in public, smoking. Coco Channel hadn’t done it yet. You’ll have to do a lot of work to appreciate the effect. — Franklin Roosevelt was the 5th cousin of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. — When we went off the gold standard, Princess Alice appeared at the White House wearing a gold necklace and a pair of gold earrings that were shaped like coal scuttles! Being asked about this, days later, Princess Alice told the press such things as [imitates her voice] “When you have a good time, you really don’t remember details.” She was thought to be the unofficial leader of the Republican party, the most knowledgeable person in Washington… During Prohibition, she publicly referred to Congress as “incipient drunkards.” She said various things about the plight of Native Americans, which just wasn’t done at the time. Well,
Will Rogers was the only other person who could…
If you’re not going to read Gershom Sholem, at least look at Princess Alice’s book, it’s called Crowded Hours… She wrote it for money, after her husband died. If you’re going to talk or think about what you call revolutionaries, this is a good book to do it with. I can tell by looking at all of you — when I have to — that you’ve had plenty of experience, eeuuuh, doing it with [laughter].

The successful revolutionary would be someone that no one has ever heard of. In other words, a “cult following” means, not enough people to constitute a minority. Obviously, you have to go through the bad poets, who you’ll have to read first, to get to the better ones, who you won’t much hear about at all, until you find them. If you find them. In this respect, I hope you all remember that Allen Ginsberg, before he was really a poet, was a pretty good market researcher.

Anne Hutchinson is interesting… her trial transcripts have survived. You should all remember that Anne Hutchinson studied scripture and attended sermons like all of you listen to popular singer-songwriters and go out to the movies. Find a copy of The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay, by Thomas Hutchinson. It’s two volumes, published in 1767

[break in tape]

[When] Captain John Cooke landed, on the Pacific Northwest, he happened upon an elaborate native culture adapted to a mild, rainy climate, abounding in timber, fish, sea otters, whales… Some 200,000 population didn’t have to develop horticulture… They were divided into six language groups, and probably a few hundred villages, all of which shared complex social hierarchies, elaborate ceremonies, and very highly stylized wood carving traditions. Trees were a great part of the native poetry. There were a great deal of Douglas Fir [tape blanks-out]…. [the] tools were stone axes, chisels, [used] to fell, split, and work tree trunks. Solid plank houses were built from this, as well as food trays, storage boxes [inaudible]… All the so-called religious art developed from carved masks, house ridgepoles, totem poles… Also, the, eeeuuuh… all the clothing came from the inner bark of spruce and cypress trees, combined with wool, the wool of mountain goats. In those days of Cooke, very strict economic trade existed; the whole notion of “culture” as not your own, but someone else’s that you compare to your own or do whatever with — this developed very much along lines of, eeuuuuh, it’s called, economic determinism… “Culture” [inaudible] a kind of indoctrination within which it was, and is, permissible, to say the least, to superimpose your own by way of even being aware of others’…

Historical, eeuuuh, surveys of the revolutionary, are, uuuuuh, if you’re going to have some sort of context for what you might agree on as revolutionary — you have to pinpoint, somewhere, and tease out, all of the elements, and [then] go forward and backward maybe a couple of hundred years…

[Inaudible question from audience:] I wouldn’t suggest copping out on the Black Panthers or the Symbionese Liberation Army just yet, ok?

Early, — early Virginia was settled mainly by bachelors. New England Puritans would not permit single persons to live as bachelors. Puritan New England was settled by families, and you had to live within a family… Eeeuuuuh, and from there, you had to live within a specified distance of the church. This will give you some idea of the uproar, what a terrible pain in the ass was Anne Hutchinson, she just wouldn’t shut up! [laughter]. She came from a very prominent family, which is why John Winthrop didn’t put her in the catapult with a sack of rocks and shoot her off immediately… [inaudible][laughter]

The revolutionary can be identified, there are certain things: B.O., halitosis, [inaudible] fingernails [laughter]… Eeeuuuh, pretending to know less, or more, than one really does… Mao never brushed his teeth, he just gargled with green tea in the morning. He didn’t much care to wear underwear. He was responsible for spreading a great strain of syphilis about the provinces. He made very good soup. Not a great deal is known about it. [laughter]

If any of you happen to go for the Alice Roosevelt Longworth book, you might want to look into Agnes Surriage [and] how she became Lady Frankland. It was a great scandal in Boston in the 1740s. Legend has it she rescued Sir Henry Frankland from an earthquake in Lisbon, having gone there with him as his mistress — he met her when she was a sixteen year old barefoot servant, at a Tavern in Marblehead. She became a darling in Boston society, being [as] witty, clever [and] just as well-liked, as Princess Alice. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote a ballad about her. Sir Henry built her a mansion. This relates to aspects of indentured servitude which I’ve decided not to discuss. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Naropa doesn’t pay much, and all the food tends to be mashed, and has too much raw garlic, raw bean sprouts, and lemon juice in it [laughter].

[Inaudible question from audience] Artists, generally, will sell [?] anything to get attention. It’s a mistake, to be underwhelmed by Grandma Moses, or Mardsden Hartley… If we do this all over again, maybe I’ll begin with James Joyce. No one asked any decent questions, so, that’s it. Will someone buy me a coca-cola? I just like to hold the [cold?] can, maybe I’ll open it next week…

6.13.2005 3:46pm




Perhaps you would be so kind as to provide a bit more information about the circumstances surrounding the recording and transcription above?

“Curious minds want to know”.



6.14.2005 12:37am


Harry (mail):

eeeuuuh, and “feeble minds, potentiated by the hope of art”, want to know too.
6.14.2005 11:40am


Eric Malone:

The tape from which I made the transcription is labelled in small letters on the back – “Otis B. Driftwood, in homage to Harry Smith”

Hope this helps.

6.15.2005 1:49pm



Happy Bloomsday from The Breslin

The selection hyperlinked here is from the well-known recording of James Joyce reading the end of Book I of The Wake segued into two selections by The Chieftans that Harry put on the B side of the Shel Silverstein Songs for Children, and which i think must have been recorded at about the same time (ca. 1962) as he marked them modern Irish.

The ones here are from another Hotel Breslin Tape, and are also chieftans, tho’ not Irish ones. The harp-lute is a kora and the chiefs are Mandinka from Gambia.

6.16.2005 2:58pm


The Hypersonic Effect: A Tribute to Prof. Tsutomu Oohashi

The piece of music and the scientific paper hyperlinked below are two things that like the Hotel Breslin Tapes came my way because of Bio/Technology.

In the late 1980s, we had a representative of Kenkyusha Publishers in Japan, named Tetsuo Kuroshima, working out of the Bleecker Street offices.

Tetsuo and i became friendly, and one day he asked me if i would be kind enough to look at a manuscript by his university professor, and if i would fix the English syntax and grammar so that it could be submitted to nature.

i did, and about a year later, a Fed Ex. package arrived at my house with all 100 of the JVC CD World Sounds collection, which was compiled, recorded and annotated by the remarkable professor (now retired) of Japan’s National Institute for Multimedia Education and the Department of KANSEI Brain Science, ATR Human Information Processing Research Laboratories, Kyoto.

The paper was predictably rejected by nature, but was eventually published pretty much as i edited it in the much better Journal of Neurophysiology just a few years ago.

Its abstract is reproduced below, and the hyperlink above will produce a pdf of the complete paper.

Inaudible High-Frequency Sounds Affect Brain Activity: Hypersonic Effect

Oohashi, Tsutomu, Emi Nishina, Manabu Honda, Yoshiharu Yonekura, Yoshitaka Fuwamoto, Norie Kawai, Tadao Maekawa, Satoshi Nakamura, Hidenao Fukuyama, and Hiroshi Shibasaki. Inaudible High-Frequency Sounds Affect Brain Activity: Hypersonic Effect. J. Neurophysiol. 83: 3548-3558, 2000.

Although it is generally accepted that humans cannot perceive sounds in the frequency range above 20 kHz, the question of whether the existence of such “inaudible” high-frequency components may affect the acoustic perception of audible sounds remains unanswered. In this study, we used noninvasive physiological measurements of brain responses to provide evidence that sounds containing high-frequency components (HFCs) above the audible range significantly affect the brain activity of listeners. We used the gamelan music of Bali, which is extremely rich in HFCs with a nonstationary structure, as a natural sound source, dividing it into two components: an audible low-frequency component (LFC) below 22 kHz and an HFC above 22 kHz. Brain electrical activity and regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) were measured as markers of neuronal activity while subjects were exposed to sounds with various combinations of LFCs and HFCs. None of the subjects recognized the HFC as sound when it was presented alone. Nevertheless, the power spectra of the alpha frequency range of the spontaneous electroencephalogram (alpha-EEG) recorded from the occipital region increased with statistical significance when the subjects were exposed to sound containing both an HFC and an LFC, compared with an otherwise identical sound from which the HFC was removed (i.e., LFC alone). In contrast, compared with the baseline, no enhancement of alpha-EEG was evident when either an HFC or an LFC was presented separately. Positron emission tomography measurements revealed that, when an HFC and an LFC were presented together, the rCBF in the brain stem and the left thalamus increased significantly compared with a sound lacking the HFC above 22 kHz but that was otherwise identical. Simultaneous EEG measurements showed that the power of occipital alpha-EEGs correlated significantly with the rCBF in the left thalamus. Psychological evaluation indicated that the subjects felt the sound containing an HFC to be more pleasant than the same sound lacking an HFC. These results suggest the existence of a previously unrecognized response to complex sound containing particular types of high frequencies above the audible range. We term this phenomenon the “hypersonic effect.”

Of the 100 volumes in the JVC World Sounds collection, gamelan music is not surprisingly over-represented, accounting for 9 separate cds.

Two are Jegog – bamboo as distinct from the more familiar metal gamelan orchestras. Even Harry did not know they existed, although he said that the neurophysiological results were to be expected.

Here are seven + minutes of The Bamboo Ensemble of Sangkat Agung Village (JVC C321, recorded 1984)

6.20.2005 9:30pm


6.25.2005 4:26pm


Oddbird & Yardbird

For many years, Harry kept a quasi-clonal, uncaged parakeet called Birdie. Once he removed a tray from the freezer in his expansive room in the Breslin to show me a collection of Birdies.

Yesterday, Simon Pettet (who is well acquainted with our parrot, an Amazonian named Attila) sent me an email that had some information about African Greys and the concept of nothing, and i remembered the two pieces hyperlinked below. Attila was one year old at the time. Shortly after the recording session he began to say Om Mani Peme Hung.

Oddbird and Yardbird (25.07.02)


Ghost of a Chance

The piece in the photograph hyperlinked below is entitled “A Birthday Present from Harry, (2001)”, and was made very soon after i obtained my first digital camera (a Kyocera 1.1 megapixel device). The original inkjet print is an apparently paradoxical “one of a kind digital image” because the colored bands, emanting from either Harry’s palm or third eye, were caused by a never before (nor since) millisecond glitch in the printer.

Here is a photograph of the piece, and here is its musical accompaniment recorded in NYC in 1957.

7.22.2005 10:53pm


Sacred Music of Kurdistan (from the Hotel Breslin Tapes)

An introductory composite from “The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians” (1980). The highlighted text did not have the dark connotations that it does today.

Example 1.
Example 2.

8.17.2005 3:29pm


Songs and Sounds of the Parchman Prison Farm (from “The Hotel Breslin Tapes”) :: In memory of the Gulf Coast dead



‘Black Annie’ at Parchman Prison Farm, Mississippi
from “Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice”, by David M. Oshinsky, New York Free Press, c.1996

www.corpun.com : Regulations : US prisons MS 20th c.

There was more. The true symbol of authority and discipline at Parchman was a leather strap, three feet long and six inches wide, known as “Black Annie,” which hung from the driver’s belt. Whipping had a long history in the South, of course, and not only on the slave plantations. It had been legally, often publicly, employed against white criminals for a host of minor crimes, and it had survived long after other forms of corporal punishment, such as branding and ear cropping, had been abolished.

Yet whipping had strong racial overtones because it had been used so frequently against slaves. “Punishment on the plantation was, essentially, physical punishment,” wrote one historian. And the lash “was the correctional instrument of all purpose.” When ex-slaves recalled their experiences, whipping was rarely overlooked. “Ole Marse was good, but when yo’ made him mad he wud hay’ yo whupped,” a Mississippi freedman recalled. “He would come out in the mornin’ an’ want to whup everything he seen,” said another. One ex-slave remembered the whipping of his mother and the retribution he had planned: “I sed to myself ‘iffen I eber get free I wus gwine to whup dat overseer. His name wus Silas Jacobs. But he died not long afte’ de war an’ I neber got to whup him.”

By 1900, corporal punishment for prisoners had been abandoned — in law, if not in practice — by most states outside the South. (The glaring exception was Delaware, a border state, where thousands of public whippings were inflicted upon lawbreakers well into the 1950s.) Arkansas, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana all used the lash on their convicts without serious public opposition. It was part of the regional culture, and most prisoners were black.

At Parchman, formal punishment meant a whipping in front of the men. It was done by the sergeant, with the victim stripped to the waist and spread-eagled on the floor. What convicts most remembered were the sounds of Black Annie: the “whistlin'” air, the crack on bare flesh, the convict’s painful grunt.

J.S. They whupped us with big wide strops. They didn’t whup no clothes. They whupped your naked butt. And they had two men to hold you.

WB. Four!

J.S. As many as they need…

A.L. Did they ever injure anybody that way?

J.S. Wooo!

WB. Yeah!

J.S. Kill um! Kill um!

WB. They’d kill um like that.”

The most common offenses — fighting, stealing, “disrespect” to an officer, and failure to meet work quotas — were punishable by five to fifteen lashes. Escape attempts carried an unspeakable penalty: a whipping without limits. One superintendent recalled a mass breakout in the 1930s in which a trusty-shooter was killed. “To get confessions,” he said, “I had whippings given to the eight we caught who weren’t wounded. Before the young ringleader confessed, I had him lashed on the buttocks, calves, and palms, then gave him fifteen lashes on the soles of his feet. This cleared his mind.”

The number and severity of whippings depended on the sergeant in charge. “Book rules” meant little in the field camps, which were fiefdoms unto themselves. The sergeants worked in relative isolation. Some of them were alcoholics; a few were sadists. “They beat hell out of you for any reason or no reason,” an inmate remarked. “It’s the greatest pleasure of their lives.” Above all, the sergeants were under pressure to make a good crop, and that meant pushing the men. “What can you expect in the way of judgment at fifty dollars a month?” asked one prison official. “What kind of foreman on the outside [is] employed at fifty dollars a month?” They usually pay foremen more than anybody else, the man who works the men, but that’s what they pay here — fifty dollars a month!”

There were sergeants who saved the lash for serious infractions, and sergeants who whipped all the time. There was little supervision, despite the pompous claims of the superintendents, because whippings were viewed as the best way to keep the men working — and afraid. It was not unusual for a convict to be lashed for breaking his shovel in the fields, or for several dozen convicts to be whipped for the theft of a single postage stamp. “There is no telling what punishment will be used in this prison,” said a gunman in the 1930s, “It all depends on how mad the sergeant is, as to whether you get 15 or fifty lashes.”

When asked to defend Black Annie, Parchman officials did so with pride. The lash was effective punishment, they insisted, and it did not keep men from the fields. “You spank a fellow right,” claimed a superintendent, “and he’ll be able to work on.” Most of all, Black Annie seemed the perfect instrument of discipline in a prison populated by the wayward children of former slaves. There simply was no better way “of punishing [this] class of criminals,” said Dr. A. M. M’Callum, Parchman’s first physician, “and keeping them at the labor required of them.”

Public opinion in Mississippi strongly supported the lash. Prison officials and sheriffs, politicians and judges, church groups and newspapers — most seemed to favor its use. “The whip makes no appeal to hidden virtue,” said The Jackson Clarion-Ledger,” but it is a sure and effective means of planting fear … in the hearts of [criminals]. It is retribution, and retribution hurts.”

No one knew this better than the convicts who had felt Black Annie’s clout. Their fear and pain were heard across the fields.

Ridin’ in a hurry

Great Godamighty!

Ridin’ like he’s angry

Great Godamighty!

Well, I wonder whut’s de matter?

Great Godamighty!

Bull whip in one han’, cowhide in de udder.

Great Godamighty!

Well, de Cap’n went to talkin’,

Great Godamighty!

‘Well, come on here an’ hol’ him!’

Great Godamighty!

‘Cap’n let me off, suh?’

Great Godamighty!

‘Woncha ‘low me a chance, suh?’

Great Godamighty!

‘Bully, low’ down yo’ britches!’

Great Godamighty!

De Bully went to pleadin’,

Great Godamighty!

De Bully went to hollerin’,

Great Godamighty!

. . .

White convicts were said to work less and complain more than black convicts, and to consciously reject their lot. “When I tell one of these young [whites] to take a hoe and join the field squad, I am often met with a haughty refusal . . .,” said Tann. “We have tried the dark cell, a bread-and-water-diet, standing them on a barrel. Such methods don’t work. I’ve tried them all. When persuasion fails, I order the rebel stripped and whipped. Then I give him a day to think it over. The second morning . . . he is whipped again. Perhaps the third day, the same program must be followed, but not often does the man hold out longer than that.”

9.4.2005 3:18pm



Smith’s Introduction to American Folk Music III

Barbra Allen / Inverted

This gothic transformation of the ballad of Barbra Allen, complete with necrophiliac and vampirish over and undertones is of course from the Hotel Breslin Tapes, and is rendered by the same unforgettable voice from Arkansas that is featured in version 3 of the 19 versions of the classic above.

12.11.2005 10:25am



The Adoration of The Monk (Monterey Jazz Festival, 1963)

This one of a kind photograph is from Jim Marshall’s remarkable collection entitled Jazz (Chronicle Books, 2005.) i found it in the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver last week and when i came to the photograph above, i was compelled to lay out the measley 40 bucks this beautiful book sells for in the stores. i hope Mr. Marshall will not send me an email demanding money for enshrining it in Harry’s gallery.

12.27.2005 1:30pm



The Rabbi’s Basement Tapes Out of the Closet

Yesterday Jon Kalish sent me a link to the following 7 wonderful minutes that contain (as far as i know) the only available recordings of the rabbi’s grandson, Lionel Ziprin (now 81), discoursing in his inimitable style on the history of these legendary recordings.

A 30 min CD of the piece as it aired over NPR this past Sunday can be had for a small sum by writing Mr. Kalish at jonkalish@earthlink.net

Selections from the tapes have previously appeared in this string ( 1/ 2 ), and a third can be heard here.

1.4.2006 6:58am

Remembering The Fugs

(Harry recorded their First LP)

4.15.2006 4:07am


From :: The Hotel Breslin Tapes

Swiss Alps :: :: Gabon Rain Forest

just in case you might have thought that was all there was, here are a group guranteed to make you think (almost) everything i might think to write about them apart from their titles

Alps II
Gabon II
Gabon III

5.4.2006 6:21pm
Lionel Ziprin reads “Exudation /12” (9/11/2002, NYC)
5.17.2006 5:26am

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