Nachleben

The Jazz Loft Project was invited to contribute to Nachleben, a three week exhibition which opens tonight at 6pm at the Goethe-Institute Wyoming Building in Manhattan. Organized by Fionn Meade and Lucy Raven, the extraordinarily promising exhibition runs through May 29 and includes tonight’s opening event plus six interesting and free events featuring several of the participating artists. We present three extended audio selections from W. Eugene Smith’s audio recordings as our contribution. Nachleben makes for an excellent experience before or after viewing the Jazz Loft Project exhibition at the New York Library for Performing Arts.

Meade and Raven organized this collection of art and events around the concept of Nachleben, meaning both “afterlife” and “survival,” two concepts which resonate with W. Eugene Smith’s work and the work of Jazz Loft Project at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. And for that matter, there is resonance with these concepts and the Speakers for the Dead May 9th event that Sam described in his recent post.

We picked substantive fragments of audio that will hopefully stand on their own, while reflecting on these ideas of afterlife and survival. And hopefully be in the spirit of Smith’s recordings as “fragments I have shored against my ruins.”  And in the bewildering realm of Nachleben, as Smith once wrote: “LIGAN!”

One recording features a loosely started improvisation from a jam session led by Roland Kirk. He’s counting the tune’s time out to fellow saxophonist Jay Cameron with Edgar Bateman and Eddie DeHaas on drums and bass. Somewhere during this recording, Paul Bley arrives and eventually joins them, on January 4, 1964.

There are excerpts from a Smith recording wherein he calls into the late night WBAI radio show hosted by Bob Fass, Radio Unnameable, and then joins the show in progress while he continues to tape it. This show features folksinger Peter La Farge. The premise for Smith’s visit was that he had an out of print Peter La Farge record that wasn’t at the radio station. Smith had met La Farge before, too; most likely when he photographed his parents Oliver and Consuelo in Sante Fe in 1946.  La Farge is perhaps most famous for writing “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” (made famous on Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears album) and other songs about Native American experiences and issues, including a song he wrote with Bob Dylan called “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow.” This recording as made in 1965. Peter La Farge is persuaded to sing live after some sort of self imposed hiatus from performing. It’s unclear from the recording if La Farge would have done so without Smith’s presence in the studio. This was also the year of La Farge’s tragically early death.

We also feature W. Eugene Smith with Carole Thomas talking to two unidentified interviewers about his views on art and photography, layout, and a moon over Pittsburgh. Here’s an excerpt from this illuminating artifact of a dialogue, but you’ll have to visit the Nachleben exhibit  and events to hear what they’re talking about, and more:

Smith: I’m saying it very badly. When I’m a visionary I’ll say it very well but nobody will understand it.

Thomas: People in the future will.

Smith: In your future or my future?

Thomas: In our future, if you think about it.

Welcome to our future, past and present.

-Dan Partridge

1 Comment

  1. Sandra Schulman Said,

    May 9, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    I am working on a project on Peter La Farge and have been trying to access the WBAI tapes for years. How can i get to hear the selection you have in this show?
    Thanks
    Sandra Schulman
    http://www.peterlafarge.com
    914-216-1482