FADE TO BROWN

Because so many people have been asking for some clarification as to Arthur’s future:

There are no further issues of Arthur planned at this time. We’re happy we got to do the three issues we did in 2013, while being able to pay our contributors for the first time ever and fulfill all those old outstanding subscriptions.

The online mail-order Arthur Store will be open until March 2, 2014. At that point, all unsold backstock will be chucked on the compost heap or into the recycle bin. Everything has been discounted. A number of items are now sold out and have been removed from the Store. Go here to grab stuff for cheep: arthur.bigcartel.com

This website, as well as the Arthur Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr pages/feeds, will stop being updated on March 3, 2014.

For many reasons, it’s now time for Arthur to go dormant. Perhaps the mag will sprout again in the future, perhaps not. In any event, we hope we’ve been of some use, and thank everyone who’s been so kind to us.

Thank you so kindly,

The Arthur Gang
Joshua Tree, CA * Portland, Ore. * Austin, TX * Northampton, MA * wherever you can hear your footsteps

undead

(Artwork by Arik Roper)

ECSTATIC UPHEAVAL: A conversation with artist David Chaim Smith (from Arthur No. 34)

Originally published in Arthur No. 34….

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DIAGRAMMING THE DIVINE SPARK
Is there a way to examine the nature of existence at its very foundation? Esoteric mapmaker DAVID CHAIM SMITH say yes—but there’s a price.
by Jay Babcock

I first encountered David Chaim Smith’s remarkable, bewildering work through Pam Grossman’s Phantasmaphile newsletter, a daily email bulletin spotlighting a contemporary or historic personage up to something witchy and beautiful, usually in the visual arts. Smith’s work was particularly striking in its unusual combination of diagrammatic composition, simple media (pencil!?!) and unapologetically rarefied Kabbalistic-Gnostic content. Generally that would be more than enough to warrant further investigation, but it was the work’s difficult-to-grok provenance that intrigued me the most: these pieces looked like plates that could have been included in Alexander Roob’s Taschen compendium of dazzling Medieval alchemical artwork, The Hermetic Museum (alternative title, courtesy of Adam Egypt Mortimer: The Original Face Melter Times A Thousand). They seemed like the kind of work that’s usually brought to light by accident, decades after the a recluse’s death or disappearance (or committal to a mental ward): strange, highly charged devotional work rescued from a trashbin, the details of its artist’s life and practice gone to dust, Iain Sinclair on the case.

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And yet, the author of these stupefying drawings is alive and well—David Chaim Smith [above] is a contemporary New York artist with an MFA, a publisher and (until recently) a gallery. Despite living a semi-monastic life, Smith seems eager to engage with a curious public. He has a website. He’s on Facebook. Dig a little and you’ll find a few occultist-oriented podcast interviews and accounts of public talks he’s given in the last few years around the publication of his two books—2010’s esoteric exegesis The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis: Commentary on Genesis 1-3 (Daat Press) and 2012’s massive art/text collection The Sacrificial Universe (Fulgur)—and a 2010 gallery show. And now, here he is on the other end of the telephone line in late January, just days after completing his new book, Blazing Dew of Stars, set for publication this springOctober 23, 2013 by Fulgur. A surprisingly garrulous fellow, Smith spoke frankly about who he is, where he comes from and how his day-to-day life and spiritual practice generates such artwork. What follows is a condensed version of our conversation. Continue reading

THE BIOPHONIC MAN: A conversation with BERNIE KRAUSE on the wild origins of human music (from Arthur No. 35)

Originally published in Arthur No. 35, available now in stores and direct from us

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THE BIOPHONIC MAN
Guitarist, composer and analog synthesizer pioneer BERNIE KRAUSE left the recording studio to find that really wild sound. What he discovered was far more profound.
by Jay Babcock
Illustrations by Kevin Hooyman

“…The entity’s life will be tempered with song, music, those things having to do with nature.” — Edgar Cayce, the 20th-century American psychic, from a ‘life reading’ given when Bernie Krause was six weeks old, as reported in Krause’s Notes From the Wild (Ellipsis Arts, 1996)

Has any single person—any entity—ever been better situated to explore music’s Biggest Questions—that is: what is it, what’s it for, why do we like it, where did it come from, why does it sound the way it does—than Bernie Krause?

Check the biography. Born in 1938, Krause grew up a violin-playing prodigy with poor eyesight in post-World War II Detroit. By his teens he had switched to guitar and was making extra money sitting in as a session player at Motown. In 1963, he took over the Pete Seeger position in foundational modern American folk band The Weavers for what would be their final year of performances. He then moved west to study at Mills College, where avant garde composers Stockhausen and Pauline Oliveros were in residence. Soon he encountered jazz musician and inventive early analog synth player Paul Beaver, who was introducing the Moog to psychedelic pop music. They formed Beaver & Krause, an in-demand artistic partnership that released a string of utterly unclassifiable acoustic-electronic albums in addition to doing studio work with adventurous pop musicians (The Doors, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, etc.) and composing and recording for stylish TV and film projects (The Twilight Zone, Rosemary’s Baby, Performance, etc.). After Beaver’s sudden death in 1975, Krause began to shift his attention towards field recordings of natural soundscapes.

This wasn’t such a great leap. In the late ‘60s, inspired by an idea from their friend Van Dyke Parks, Beaver and Krause had first tried to record outdoor sounds for use on their eco-musical album In a Wild Sanctuary. Now, Krause followed this thread more intensely, traveling to seemingly every far corner of the globe, innovating techniques and utilizing new technology to more accurately capture the sound of what’s left of Earth’s rapidly diminishing wild.

What Krause discovered there, and how it compares to what we now experience in daily life in the un-Wild, is the subject of his latest book, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, published last year. Writing with a scientist’s precision, an artist’s poetic wonder and a human being’s persistent outrage, Krause tosses in astonishing highlights from decades of field notes (elk in the American West are into reverb; the sound of corn growing is “staccato-like clicks and squeaks…like rubbing dry hands across the surface of a party balloon”; ants sing by rubbing their legs across their abdomens; the fingernail-sized Pacific tree frog can be heard more than a hundred yards away; “You can actually determine the temperature by counting the number of chirps made by certain crickets”; etc.) as he make several interweaving arguments about the aforementioned Big Questions of Music. One thesis is that the sound of animals in a healthy habitat is organized, a sort of proto-orchestra. What follows from this is the startling argument that gives the book its title: our music comes from early humans mimicking the sounds of the soundscapes they were enveloped in—we “transform(ed) the rhythms of sound and motion in the natural world into music and dance… [O]ur songs emulate the piping, percussion, trumpeting, polyphony, and complex rhythmic output of the animals in the place we lived.” And we developed our music(s) not just by imitating animals such as the common potoo, who sings the pentatonic scale, but also by mimicking other natural sounds: in one of the book’s most striking episodes, Krause recalls hearing the church organ-like sound of wind passing over broken reeds in Lake Wallowa in northeastern Oregon. “Now you know where we got our music,” a Nez Perce tribal elder tells him. “And that’s where you got yours, too.”

This past spring, I interviewed the entity Bernie Krause via the far-from-ideal set-up of two speaker phones. Ah well. Following is some of our conversation, condensed by me, and edited with additional thoughts by Bernie via subsequent emails. Continue reading

Oregon’s Willamette Weekly on THE RESURRECTION OF ARTHUR MAGAZINE

From the Willamette Weekly

The Resurrection of Arthur Magazine
November 21st, 2012
By ROBERT HAM

News of any import is quick to spread on the web. But even knowing that, the number of outlets reporting on the return of Arthur Magazine was pretty surprising, especially for a print publication that focused on various strains of the counterculture: music, drugs, magic, underground comics, and organic gardening. Yet everyone from The Wire to the New York Times expended a few lines of HTML to announce that, after a four year hiatus, Arthur would be returning to print starting on December 22nd.

“Frankly, the culture is in such bad shape that even something this tiny is being taken as something significant,” says Arthur’s editor and founder Jay Babcock. “If that’s become newsworthy, that’s kind of sad. But you’re the journalist, that’s your call to make.”

I’ll gladly make the statement that Arthur’s imminent resurrection is noteworthy. During its initial run, from 2002 – 2008, the bi-monthly magazine (released for free) covered an impressive amount of territory. Its debut issue set the template: featuring BMX icon Matt Hoffman on the cover, and carrying interviews with confrontational electro-clash singer Peaches and psychedelic drug enthusiast Daniel Pinchbeck, comics by Silver Jews frontman David Berman, music reviews by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and an advice column from comedian Neil Hamburger. The magazine gained so much attention and fans that they were able to put on music festivals in their L.A. hometown in ’05 and ’06, and released a batch of DVDs and CDs, including the Devendra Banhart-curated compilation Golden Apples of the Sun, which introduced the world at large to the burgeoning freak folk movement.

Read more: Willamette Weekly