ponedjeljak, 25. lipnja 2012.

Peter Blegvad - Stvaranje numinoznih objekata

Avant-pop glazbenik (mnogi samostalni albumi, bendovi Slapp Happy i Henry Cow, suradnja s mnogima: Faust, The Golden Palominos, John Zorn, John Greaves, Andy Partridge...), intelektualni stripaš (The Book of Leviathan), pisac - patafizičar/nadrealist (strojevi za izravnu komunikaciju s bogom), perpetualni amater, polimorfni perverznjak/ otkačenjak općeg tipa... i opet - jedva poznat. Ajajaj.



"Perhaps better known outside of avant-garde circles for his work as a cartoonist, Peter Blegvad was also a witty and articulate singer/songwriter as well as an alumnus of Slapp Happy. Born August 14, 1951, in New York City, Blegvad and his family moved to Britain in 1965. After relocating to Germany in the early '70s, he formed the self-described "champions of naïve rock" Slapp Happy with British composer Anthony Moore and singer Dagmar Krause. Upon releasing a handful of albums, in 1975 the group teamed with fellow avant-pranksters Henry Cow for a pair of LPs before splitting up.
After recording 1977's Kew. Rhone. with Henry Cow bassist John Greaves, Blegvad returned to Britain and mounted a solo career in 1983 with the Andy Partridge-produced The Naked Shakespeare. While in New York, he worked with Anton Fier's Golden Palominos before recording Knights Like This in 1985. Another hiatus followed before Blegvad resurfaced in 1988 with Downtime; King Strut & Other Stories appeared two years later, but when it failed to deliver him the mainstream success so many felt he deserved, he was left without a contract.
In 1992 Blegvad, whose artwork had long adorned his records, was signed to create a cartoon strip for Britain's Independent on Sunday newspaper; the strip, a surreal, referential work titled Leviathan, gradually emerged as the focus of his career, allowing music to fall by the wayside. Finally, in 1995 he returned to recording with two separate projects: the first, Unearthed, was a spoken word offering, while the other, Just Woke Up, was a more conventional musical work. Hangman's Hill followed in 1998 and Choices Under Pressure appeared three years later. 2003's King Strut & Other Stories found Blegvad assuming the traditional singer/songwriter role. Orpheus the Lowdown followed in 2004.- Allmusic

"Peter Blegvad's work contains some of the most oblique and poetic wordplay ever to make its way to song. An affecting singer and a fine guitarist, Blegvad has an uncanny knack for creating literate lyrics — a golden triangle of emotion, intellect and humor — and combining them with enduring melodies. A restless spirit that displays no patience for cliché runs through all of his work. And while Blegvad has hiked with many stellar companions, he has always blazed an utterly personal trail. It's a testament to his hard work and clear vision that, though his references can sometimes be too arcane, literary or personal to be widely recognized, his work is generally friendly and inviting. This is in no small part due to a dry wit and a voice which can bring forth everything from anger to vulnerability with a folkish naturalism. Which is not to say that Blegvad's a folksinger, just that folk music's dictum of celebrating the natural, honest resonance of everyman's voice is the path he follows. Further testimony comes by way of his songs having been covered by, among others, Fairport Convention, Leo Sayer and Bongwater.
Born in Connecticut but living in England, Blegvad started Slapp Happy around 1971 with Anthony Moore, whom he'd met at boarding school, and singer Dagmar Krause, Moore's wife. On the liner notes to the trio's first album, Sort Of, Blegvad wittily tags the band as "champions of Naïve Rock, the Douannier-Rousseau sound," which pegged them perfectly — sort of. With its slightly discordant guitars, deliberately simple lyrics and Dagmar's naturally doomy voice trying to come off winsome or chipper as the song may demand, Sort Of is willfully naïve and, at its worst, a bit affected.
At its best, though, the band was refreshing, diverting and sometimes moving. Nearly a decade after the release of Slapp Happy's eponymous second album — which contains the song "Casablanca Moon" but does not bear that title — the band issued its original demos as Acnalbasac Noom. It's a gem from start to finish. Blegvad crafts some wonderful, offhandedly literary lyrics while Moore provides sophisticated tunes to match. (As the group didn't contain a drummer or bassist, the group employed the rhythm section from Faust, not that you'd ever guess.) Although there are some songs in common, this is an entirely different album from Slapp Happy, which was recorded using anonymous studio musicians and features some ambitious (but odd) string arrangements. In 1993, British Virgin confusingly reissued Slapp Happy and Desperate Straights on a single CD as Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights, omitting Henry Cow's name — which had appeared on the latter's original cover.
Following those three records, Slapp Happy and labelmates Henry Cow — a symbiotic blend of art and politics united by equally offbeat sensibilities about musicmaking — joined forces to produced a pair of highly rated albums. It was a confederation from which Blegvad was ejected for not fitting in. (Slapp Happy had a reunion of sorts in 1991 when British television commissioned an hour-long opera, Camera, which had music by Moore, a libretto by Blegvad and was performed by Krause. It aired in 1993, but was not issued on either album or video.)
Back in the UK, Blegvad pursued a solo career. Andy Partridge's production of The Naked Shakespeare is entirely too slick and busy. Only the songs given relatively simple arrangements are delightful, particularly "You Can't Miss It," "Vermont" and the pensive title track. Also noteworthy is the chilling rape-nightmare of "Irma," a mostly spoken piece set to Eno-ish ambient synth.
Engaged by Virgin in an unabashed effort to sell Blegvad to UK pop radio, David Lord (Peter Gabriel, etc.) did a spectacular misproduction job on Knights Like This. (Shades of Phil Spector's off-base pairing with Leonard Cohen.) Like Cohen, Blegvad is an idiosyncratic writer whose songs work best in uncomplicated settings. Here, most of his luminous lyrics are lost amid the overwrought pop arrangements, full of strings, backup choruses and synthesized percussion.
Resident in New York in the '80s, Blegvad hooked up with various musicians working the downtown scene that eventually coalesced around the Knitting Factory. As a member of Anton Fier's floating Golden Palominos, Blegvad's songs helped shape the identity of 1986's Blast of Silence album. Blegvad also contributed to Syd Straw's 1989 solo album, long after they'd both flown the Palominos stable.
In comparison to Blegvad's first solo efforts, the folky and countryish rock settings (there's even a Louvin Brothers cover) of Downtime are much more apt for the intimacy of his music. Chris Cutler (ex-Henry Cow/Pere Ubu), Tony Maimone (Pere Ubu) and members of the Lodge (which includes former Henry Cow bassist John Greaves, Blegvad's brother Kristoffer), provide warm backing to a set of powerful songs, including the hilarious "Card to Bernard" and improved readings of two songs from the Palominos' Blast of Silence. This splendid album closes with the whimsical bossa nova of "Crumb de la Crumb," a self-deprecating poke at Blegvad's own obscurity.
King Strut puts it all together for Blegvad, combining the warmth of Downtime with the pop smarts of his first two LPs. Partridge produced three tracks (not two, as indicated on the label), including the unfortunate closer, an irritating reprise of the title track. The rest of the album receives sympathetic treatment from Chris Stamey (with whom he'd worked in the Golden Palominos), who brought in ex-partner Peter Holsapple, rekindling a collaboration that led to their 1991 album. The treasures of King Strut are five mostly acoustic pearls on Side Two, particularly the deeply romantic "Northern Lights" and "Shirt & Comb." (As part of its promotional effort, Silvertone issued Peter Who? , a disc of live and demo versions as well as an infuriatingly catchy jingle, sung and played by Andy Partridge, which teaches the correct pronunciation of the singer's name: "Peter Blegvad, rhymes with egg-bad.")
Performed as a trio with Greaves and Cutler (with notable help from Peter's guitarist brother Kristoffer and pedal steel player B.J. Cole), Just Woke Up is the first proper American release of Blegvad's solo career. A masterpiece of confident simplicity, produced with rhythmic intricacy but exquisite clarity and nuance, the album is a perfect introduction to Blegvad's work, rescuing three Knights Like This songs from under the layers of production that originally buried them and including a remake of the Golden Palominos' "(Something Else Is) Working Harder." Blegvad's easygoing delivery — now in line with thoughtful semi-acoustic artists like Simon Bonney, Leonard Cohen, Daniel Lanois and Peter Case, but with a bit of recent XTC around the edges — smoothly paves his reflective, philosophical musings. "It's a full- time occupation leaving well-enough alone" begins "You & Me," and what follows suggests Blegvad's incapacity for that intellectual job. In "Bee Dream," which ends in a shattering feedback freakout, he observes, "Each of us has in our soul / A portion of eagle, a portion of mole," while "Driver's Seat" asks "There are two kinds of people / Ask anyone you meet / Would you prefer to be a passenger / Or in the driver's seat?"
Blegvad has worked in Greaves' Lodge, with whom he recorded Smell of a Friend; the two also collaborated on Kew.Rhone, a dense song cycle, and Unearthed, a set of Blegvad's stories (many of them already published in a 1994 book, Headcheese) told over a variety of musical backdrops. In London, where he currently lives, Blegvad is less widely known for his music than for Leviathan, a weekly cartoon he draws for The Independent.
[Wif Stenger / Glenn Kenny / David Greenberger / Ira Robbins] - Trouser Press

The Naked Shakespeare (UK Virgin) 1983
Knights Like This (UK Virgin) 1985
Downtime (UK ReR) 1988
King Strut and Other Stories (UK Silvertone) 1990
Just Woke Up (East Side Digital) 1995
Kew. Rhone (UK Virgin) 1977 (Europa) 1977
Unearthed (Bel. Sub Rosa) 1995
Sort Of (Ger. Polydor) 1972
Slapp Happy (UK Virgin) 1973
Acnalbasac Noom (UK Recommended) 1982 (Cuneiform) 1988
Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights (UK Virgin) 1993
Desperate Straights (UK Virgin) 1975 (UK ReR) 1982
In Praise of Learning (UK Virgin) 1975 (Red) 1979 (East Side Digital) 1991
Smell of a Friend (Island) 1988

Strip Leviathan

On Numinous Objects and Their Manufacture

(Part One of a Potentially Endless Work)   by Peter Blegvad (Amateur)

Objects proliferate as never before, but they are mostly dead husks, the shells of things, wherein no daemon (1). resides. We own them merely, or covet them, we are not nourished. Meanwhile, the fundamental appetite for numinous (2) objects grows ravenous. Nevermind that it remains unconscious in most citizens and unacknowledged by the authorities. Only numinous objects can make possible the communication between people and so-called "dead matter" (3). which must be established if we wish to avert calamity.
I am not here referring to fetishes, which are a means to evoke a system of belief and not properly ends in themselves. Nor am I referring to fantasy constructs like, for example, a fine thing, but it is only feebly numinous compared to a block of sodium in a meadow, its edges mollified by the tongues of cows into a lopsided loaf like snow. And, while my more sceptical readers my scoff, it is a fact that if this salt-lick be removed from the meadow and placed in a confined enclosure or, better still, sealed into a lead container, its numinous charge will be boosted many fold (4). It may be, as some have theorized, that the object, "au naturel" or in its "accumulator" (5) is numinous to the degree that it functions as a "mirror of the spirit", to the degree that you or I can imaginatively see something of ourselves, something we do not ordinarily have a name for or an image of, made objective in it. That salt can function as a mirror of anything, especially when sealed in lead, will smack of blatant hocus-pocus to the sceptics - but it is in such unlikely ways that the imagination actually works.
A numinous object is charged like a condenser. It distorts induction and resonates ambiguously. In Surrealist parlance, it is "convulsive", with the power to abrogate definition from its surroundings and become the solitary and radiant focus, the omphalos or navel, of an entire world. An object with sufficient numinous charge can stop time.
The numinous objects which already exist in our environment are easily overlooked by our harrassed and addled species. Education is the remedy, teaching people of all ages to resist distraction and become sensitive to the subtle radiation emanating from these items (which often masquerade as common refuse on the street). I imagine students returning, bright - eyed and exultant, from expedition to dumps, factories, zoos, firing-ranges, hospitals, quarries, ships, farms, forests, cinemas, circuses, cemetaries, and recording studios with their eclectic spoil. Objects thus collected would be tested, graded and catalogued before being made available to the public from a chain of lending libraries.
Besides numinous "found objects", fresh numinous objects must be manufactured. To meet this need a new science is being evolved here at the offices of Amateur. The plates which follow illustrate the first phase of this work: discovering the morphologies or forms most conducive to numinosity, I am still compiling the list of materials of which these forms or objects might be compounded. The selection is vast, and the distinction is critical, in terms of numinosity, between a ball, let us say, of snow, and one the same size, made of, for example, soluble glass (6) - although both balls, viewed from a certain distance, might otherwise be twins.
How would an alchemist seeking the lapis or Philosophers Stone picture it in his mind? (The Tractatus aureus says the precious Stone is "altogether vile", but aside from that...) Would he imagine an amorphous lump, a perfect sphere, or brick? Would it be oily or dry, dull or polished, cold or warm to the touch? Would it be fused into a dense solid or porous, ventilated like a honeycomb? Such grossly materialistic speculations demean the spiritual associations the stone evokes, no doubt, but in seeking the recipe for numinous objects I have found it useful to ask myself such questions...
To return to the morphologies - I have deliberately restricted the choice to basic forms and objects, at least for my first tentative experiments. If an object can be inserted into the phrase "the object is _______-shaped", (e.g. cigar, bullet, barrel, or teardrop-shaped) it will usually qualify for selection. Other objects qualify as nearly archetypal "signs for themselves" (e.g. gallows or gibbett, coffin, and house (7) ). It is a basic "building block" quality that I seek. Certain forms, by their inclusion, automatically disqualify others. Hourglass, for instance, renders dumbell superfluous, because the latter is too nearly the former on its side.
I have seperated the forms and objects into three categories: those composed entirely of straight lines ("Straight"); those in whose lineaments curves and circles are involved ("Curved"); and, lastly, those indefinite units of matter, the humble blob, chunk, chip, lump, heap, hill etc which, while sometimes suggesting the quantity of matter involved, do not imply more than a very approximate form ("Amorphous"). The reader will notice that some two-dimensional figures have been included on the Tables, and even a few negative shapes (holes, cracks, and crenellations). They are there because it seems certain that an aperture or apertures could contribute to the numinosity of an object, and that a two-dimensioanal tattooo or other type of marking might do likewise.
Many forms and objects are missing that should be included. Some of the forms currently under consideration are pictured on the last page of this article. Should more letter-shapes qualify? L,T,V,O,S,U,X and Z now seem to me to be all basic forms, maybe the rest are too. Sometimes I wonder if a numinous object could not therefore be a word...
It may transpire that unless I find the appropriate context in which to place a finished object, it will not "convulse", it's numinosity will remain dormant. Conventional gallery design since the middle of the century would indicate that the aesthetic qualities of an art object are supposedly savored best in an antiseptic interior and under electric lamplight. But an object such as I propose to maunfacture, and which I do not think of simply as "art", might requuire a specific site, a specific hour of day or night, specific support "props", weather conditions, and so on before "its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance" (8) and it becomes numinous.

"A numinous object is one in which matter, form and situation combine to 'haunt' or otherwise fascinate the imagination." --Peter Blegvad, 'On Numinosity', The Amateur, date unspecified

But more recently, I encountered the wonders of 'numinometer' - a measuring device for exactly this thing Robert Graves said there is no yardstick for. An example of imaginary media, the numinometer can actually determine the quality of a metaphor (although primarily it is used for objects); it can measure charge. The veil lifts. I started to think that this is an attempt to nail the coffin shut on the whole 'God is in the detail' mentality.
As Deborah Rose describes on visiting the Amateur office, "The Holy Grail is a classic example of a 'numinous object.' But the Grail's numinous charge is invested by collective faith, i.e. it's 'sacred.' The folks at Amateur, the lady in the lab coat presumably among them, tend to concentrate more on secular objects. Alfred Hitchcock's glass of milk, for instance, with the light he put in it to make it luminous. Did I tell you the folks at Amateur are weird?"
Far from weird, I would consider this the logical step. Having monitored the rise of the non-divine explanations of rainbows, people and planets through the twentieth century, the present-day analyst should take it for granted that further exploration and invention should provide alternatives to the long-dominant religious myths about the world. As in the God Detector song, from Blegvad's 'On Imaginary Media' play (a 'son et lumiere' multimedia staging), in which a cartoon Levi (of leviathan fame) enters a brothel on a quest for the divine and discovers none, but ends up enjoying the service despite. (Some religious types would probably complain that a brothel isn't the best place to look, but then again, Jesus scored pretty well with Mary Magdalene.)
A further leap is taken in Blegvad's play: in one case, a machine invented to allow users to experience Virtual Death, in much the same way as Virtual Reality works, seems to provide users with a chance to actually commune with God. One journalist who trials the device, is quoted in a visually presented newspaper article, as reaching the light at the end of the tunnel and finding incredible beauty. The visual scrolls down the article and I read, "I met Christ and God..." and so on, but the voice-over unnervingly demands that the rest of her speech be skipped. The presentation is one of tabloid-mania, unreliability; the journalist's character created as slightly odious, both for her initial scepticism of the imaginary device and for her ensuing religious awakening through it.
The aesthetics do not shy away from the divine, they explore ways to deny it's presence. It is an assertion: if we have the new vocabulary, the secular expressions, scientific or otherwise, then it should be used; bring in the new, in other words. There is a celebration of the substance made substantial, despite the caveat of it all being imaginary, invented, not yet real. The art of Amateur is one of invocation and also celebration of the secular; a celebration of life as we know it, not as we layer it.
The sequence then:
- The identification of charge/substance vs. accidence
- The attribution of charge/instress to the spiritual
- The attribution of charge/numinosity to the secular
And the logical progression from this? Undoubtedly: the use of numinosity to disprove divinity. In a hundred years or so, we will probably see artists questing for the one lump of coal in the diamond pile.
The excessive drive to charge everything, to make the everyday special, from a cup of coffee to a pile of raw meat, from nothing more than a splash of random colour to the most mundane civic building, to every scrap of language, shred of scribbles, be it painted by animals, written by monkeys, or spoken by dogs; the madness of the internet in giving everything voice, recording everything ever written; in saying that everything should be archived and given value, that all is equal: this will necessitate backlash and, in order to preserve the hierarchy of emotional reaction that has kept us so securely divided through millennia, artists will begin to celebrate the banal, the awful. This will be the only proof left that there was ever any quality to begin with.

When I sleep me
body dissolves.
The bed looks empty.
But the steel frame
is an accumulator.
My soul-currents
coil in the springs.
Whoosh -
Through the floor
veins of ore
conduct me down
through chthonic strata,
to Hell.
Stumbling all night
over bones of the dead.
I'm a fume
without a mouth
to call her name.


Peter Blegvad Discography: Guest Appearances and Songwriting:

        Only information for tracks and/or articles featuring or co-written
        by Peter Blegvad is included, unless otherwise indicated.

Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin
Green and Blue

2009 March
        Peter Blegvad (narration)

    CD: 2009.03     UK Broken BRCDLP-05
                The Sweetwater Sea {Blegvad/Stewart}

The Golden Palominos
The Celluloid Collection

2006 March
  CDx2: 2006.03.13  UK Atom ATOM2043
          Disc 1:
                Angel Of Death
                Faithless Heart
          Disc 2:
                Brides Of Jesus
                I've Been The One
                The Push & The Shove
                (Something Else Is) Working Harder

In And Out Of Life

2005 April
        John Greaves (vocals)

    CD: 2005.04.11  UK Resurgence RES148CD
          4'28  How Beautiful You Are {Blegvad/Greaves}

John Greaves
Rééditions 2004

        Peter Blegvad performs on songs from Kew.Rhône..

    CD: 2004        FR Le Chant du Monde CDM 052 (promo)
          0'33  Good Evening {Blegvad/Greaves}
          4'09  Twenty-Two Proverbs {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'32  Seven Scenes from the Painting {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'06  Kew.Rhone. {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'41  Pipeline {Blegvad/Greaves}
          5'29  The Song {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'38  Swelling Valley {Blegvad/Greaves}
          5'26  Kew.Rhone. {Blegvad/Greaves}

Art Bears
The Art Box

2003 December
        “Coda to Man and Boy” recorded live at Cantu, Italy, during the
        Art Bears European tour 1980, other tracks from an unidentified live
        concert, probably Charleville, April 16, 1979.

        Peter Blegvad (bass)

  CDx6: 2003.12     UK Recommended ЯēR ábOX (box set)
          CD 6: (áb6):
                The Riddle
                First Things First
                March from The Dance
                The Hermit
                Coda to Man and Boy (live)

John Greaves, Sophia Domancich, Vincent Courtois
The Trouble with Happiness

2003 September
    CD: 2003.09.26  FR Le Chant du Monde 274 1199
    CD: 2003        FR Le Chant du Monde CDM 029 (promo, diff. p/s)
                How beautiful you are {Blegvad/Greaves}
                All Summer long {Blegvad/Greaves}

John Greaves
Little Bottle of Laundry/On The Street Where You Live
2 For One Series

2003 September
  CDx2: 2003.09.22  UK Voiceprint VP241002CD
          6'58  Solitary {Greaves/Blegvad}
          4'36  Le Garçon Vert {Greaves/Blegvad}

Tulips at Dawn
        Peter Blegvad (narrator)

  Beta: 2002        UK LUX ? (DigiBeta PAL)

Matthew Sweet
To Understand
The Early Recordings Of Matthew Sweet

2002 October
        Peter Blegvad (six- and twelve-string guitars)

    CD: 2002.10.01  US Hip-O/A&M 314 556 222-2
          5'05  The Golden Palominos: Something Becomes Nothing

The Golden Palominos
Run Pony Run
An Essential Collection

2002 June
    CD: 2002.06.04  US Varese 061205
                I've Been The One
                (Something Else Is) Working Harder
                Faithless Heart
                Brides Of Jesus

John Paul Jones
The Thunderthief

2002 February
        Peter Blegvad (cover art, words)

    CD: 2002.02.05  UK DGM DGM 0104 (digipak)
    CD: 2001.11.21  JP DGM (Pony Canyon) PCCY-01548
                Thunderthief {Blegvad/Jones}
                Ice Fishing at Night {Blegvad/Jones}

Pyle - Iung - Greaves
The Pig Part

2001 December
    CD: 2001.12.11  UK Voiceprint VP225CD
          4'10  Dead God Dog-Dingo {Blegvad/Pyle, Iung, Greaves, Casaÿs}

John Greaves
Loco Solo
Live in Tokyo

live album
    CD: 2001        JP Locus Solus LSR 004
                Photography {Greaves/Blegvad}
                The Bee Dream {Greaves/Blegvad}
                Always Be New to Me {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Kew. Rhône. {Blegvad/Greaves}
                22 International Proverbs {Greaves/Blegvad}
                How Beautiful You Are {Greaves/Blegvad}
                The Song {Greaves/Blegvad}

John Greaves
The Caretaker

    CD: 2001        UK Blueprint BP347CD
          3'31  In Hell's Despite {Blegvad/Partridge}
          5'07  One in the Eye {Blegvad/Greaves}
          4'46  He Puts Us Under {Blegvad/Greaves}

Golden Palominos
Surrealistic Surfer

2001 January
        Peter Blegvad (guitars)

    CD: 2001.01.30  UK Dressed to Kill ?
                Angel of Death
                Brides of Jesus
                Faithless Heart
                I've Been the One
                Something Becomes Nothing

Tom Robinson
Home From Home
Double Album: Live in Europe and Japan

        Recorded at Tom Robinson's New Year party for Castaway Club members
        in Europe, at: WETTEREN Zaal Nova (January 1998).

        Peter Blegvad (additional acoustic guitar - special guest at

  CDx2: 1999        BE Oyster OYS 0017-2
    DD: 2005?       UK Tom Robinson ? (MP3)

Tom Robinson
Castaway Club Volume 7

        Peter Blegvad (guitar)

    CD: 1999        UK Castaway Club CCCDV7 (promo, no p/s, photocopied b/i
                        and booklet)
          5'29  Power in the Darkness (live 1998)
          3'18  The End of the Rainbow

The Golden Palominos
The Best of the Golden Palominos 1983-1989

1997 October
        Peter Blegvad (guitars)

    CD: 1997.10.06  UK Music Club MCCD316
                Angels Of Death
                Strong Simple Silences
                Something Else Is Working Harder

National Health
Missing Pieces

        Peter Blegvad (guest R & B howling)

    CD: 1996?       UK Voiceprint VP113
    CD: 1996        US East Side Digital 81172
          0'25  Walking The Dog (extract) (live '79)

John Greaves

        Peter Blegvad (wordsmith)
        Kristoffer Blegvad (vocals on [1])

    CD: 1996        UK Resurgence (Voiceprint) RES112CD
    CD: 1996        JP Toy's Factory ?
    CD: 2004.09.24  FR Le Chant Du Monde 274 1198 (reissue, includes bonus
                The song {Greaves/Blegvad}
                Swelling valley {Greaves/Blegvad}                  [1]
                Kew. Rhône. {Greaves/Blegvad}
                Silence {Greaves/Blegvad}                          [1]
                The price we pay                                   [1]
                Gegenstand {Greaves/Blegvad}

Are My Ears On Wrong?

        Peter Blegvad on the phone from his sick bed in Shepherds Bush.

    CD: 1996        UK Resurgence (Voiceprint) RES110CD
    CD: 1996?       JP ?
    DD: 2008?       US Resurgence (Apple iTunes) 210587745 (AAC)
          5'08  A Grown Man Immersed in Tin Tin {Blegvad/Jakszyk}

The Golden Palominos
a history (1986-1989)

1992 July
        Peter Blegvad plays acoustic and/or electric guitar on all but two
        tracks, has co-author credit on four, and sings on [1].

    CD: 1992.07     US Metrotone (Restless) 7 72652-2
    CD: 1992.07?    UK Mau Mau (Demon) MAU CD 626
          3'18  I've Been The One
          5'08  Something Becomes Nothing
          4'27  The Push and the Shove
          5'19  (Something Else) Is Working Harder
          5'01  Angels
          4'40  Diamond
          4'04  Faithless Heart
          4'08  Work Was New                                       [1]
          4'19  Strong, Simple Silences

Art Bears
Hopes and Fears

        This track recorded live at Cantu, Italy, during the Art Bears
        European tour 1980.

        Peter Blegvad (bass guitar)

    CD: 1992        UK ЯēR Megacorp ЯēR abCD2 (reissue)
                Coda to Man and Boy (live)

John Greaves
La Petite Bouteille de Linge

    CD: 1991        FR La Lichère CD LLL 117
          6'58  Solitary {Greaves/Blegvad}
          4'36  Le Garçon Vert {Greaves/Blegvad}

Little Bottle of Laundry
        Peter Blegvad (cover art, words)

    CD: 1997.01.27? UK Blueprint (Voiceprint) BP232CD (reissue)
          6'58  Solitary {Greaves/Blegvad}
          4'36  Le Garçon Vert {Greaves/Blegvad}

The Golden Palominos
The Golden Palominos

    C5: 1991        US Oceana/Celluloid 4183-2QJC (promo)
                Something Becomes Nothing

The Golden Palominos
Thundering Herd
The Best of the Golden Palominos

        Peter Blegvad (guitars, vocals on [1])

  CDx2: 1990        US Oceana/Celluloid (BMG) 4105-2-Q
          4'58  Angels
          4'30  Diamond
          3'25  Brides of Jesus
          4'15  Strong, Simple Silences
          4'00  Work Was New                                       [1]
          3'17  I've Been the One
          4'54  Something Becomes Nothing
          5'10  (Something Else) Is Working Harder

National Health

        Peter Blegvad (voice)

  CDx2: 1990        US East Side Digital ESD 80402/412
         11'30  Squarer for Maud

Michael Penn

        Peter Blegvad (background vocals, masonic handshakes)

    LP: 1989        UK BMG ?
    CD: 1989        US RCA (BMG) 9692-2-R
    CT: 1989        US RCA ?
    CD: 2001        US RCA 07863 68099 2 (reissue)
          3'54  Evenfall

Syd Straw
Future 40's

        Peter Blegvad (acoustic 12-string guitar)

   12": 1989        UK Virgin America VUST 6
    C3: 1989        UK Virgin America VUSCD 6 (p/b p/s)
    7": 1989        AU Virgin America VUS 6
    CD: 1989        US Virgin America PRCD 2788 (promo)
          4'30  Future 40's (String of Pearls)

Syd Straw

1989 June
        Peter Blegvad (acoustic guitar on [1,4], acoustic 12 string
                guitar on [2,3], co-writer on [3,4])

    LP: 1989.06     UK Virgin America VUSLP6
    CT: 1989.06     UK Virgin America VUSMC6
    CD: 1989.06     UK Virgin America CDVUS6
    CD: 1989.06?    US Virgin America PD0CDSYD
    LP: 1989.06     US Virgin 7 91266-1
    CD: 1989.06     US Virgin America 91266-2
    CT: 1989.06     US Virgin America 91266-4?
    CT: 1989        CA Virgin America VL4-3070
    LP: 1989        AU Virgin America VUSLP6
    CD: 1989        JP Virgin VJD-32242 (promo)
    CD: 2000.03.14  US Koch KOC-CD-8038 (reissue)
          4'22  Heart of Darkness                                  [1]
          4'34  Future 40's (String of Pearls)                     [2]
          5'13  The Unanswered Question?                           [3]
          6'14  Sphinx                                             [4]


        Peter Blegvad (vocals)

    CD: 1988        US Antilles/New Directions 7 91026-2
    CD: 1996?       UK Resurgence RES117
          5'45  A Grown Man Immersed in Tin Tin {Jakszyk/Blegvad}

Victoria Williams
Happy Come Home

        Peter Blegvad (musician)

    LP: 1987        WG Geffen 924 140-1
    CD: 1993.12.07  US Geffen GEFD-24140 (reissue)
          2'56  Shoes
          3'30  Frying Pan
          4'23  Merry Go Round
          0'55  Happy
          3'50  TC
          5'06  I'll Do His Will
          3'33  Big Fish
          2'58  Animal Wild
          2'57  Main Road
          1'42  Lights
          2'51  Opelousas
          4'43  Statue of a Bum
          1'17  Poetry

John Greaves
How Beautiful You Are

    7": 1984        FR Europa JPS 2 (no p/s)
          4'30  How Beautiful You Are {Blegvad/Greaves}
          2'15  The Bee Dream {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'50  Always Be New To Me {Blegvad/Greaves}

John Greaves
Parrot Fashions

        Peter Blegvad wrote the lyrics.
        Kristoffer Blegvad (backing vocals)

    LP: 1984        FR Europa JP 2016
    CD: 1998.11.24  UK Blueprint BP233CD (reissue, remix)
  CDx2: 2003        UK Voiceprint VP241016CD (remixed, with Accident)
    CD: 2004.09.24? FR Le Chant Du Monde ? (reissue)
          4'25  Always be new to me {Blegvad/Greaves}
          4'45  How beautiful you are {Blegvad/Greaves}
          3'36  The Bee Dream {Blegvad/Greaves}
          4'43  Bad Alchemy {Blegvad/Greaves}
          5'08  Swelling Valley {Blegvad/Greaves}
          4'49  Jaloozy {Blegvad/Greaves}

Who's Fooling Who

        Peter Blegvad (voice on telephone)

    7": 1984        UK Stiff BUY 198
   12": 1984        UK Stiff BUY 198?
                A grown man immersed in Tin-Tin {Blegvad/Jakko}

Michael Zentner
Present Time

        Peter Blegvad (member of chorus)

    LP: 1983        US Red VR 22615 (MZ 1?)
    LP: 1983        NL CBS VR22615
    CD: 1993        US Ozone (Dutch East India) OZ006-2 (reissue)
                The Search

John Zorn
Locus Solus

        Peter Blegvad (vocals and lyrics)

  LPx2: 1983        US Rift Rift 007
    CD: 1991        JP Eva (Wave) WWCX 2035 (reissue)
    CD: 1995.09.19  US Tzadik 7303 (reissue)
          2'51  The Bass and the Treble
          1'30  The Acquisition and Control of Fire
          2'30  Honey-cab
          2'06  Switch
          2'07  Juan Talks it Out of his System
          2'00  The Wish
          1'53  A Case Arose
          1'37  The Elf

John Greaves

        Cover art and lyrics by Peter Blegvad.

    LP: 1982        US Europa JP2010
    LP: 1982        FR Europa 6313 408
    CD: 1997        UK Blueprint (Voiceprint) BP234CD (diff. p/s)
  CDx2: 2003        UK Voiceprint VP241016CD (with Parrot Fashions)
                Photography {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Irma {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Milk {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Accident {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Sad Emission {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Wax {Blegvad/Greaves}
                The Rose Sob {Blegvad/Greaves}
                Silence {Blegvad/Greaves}
                For Bearings {Blegvad/Greaves}

Art Bears
Coda to Man and Boy

        Recorded live at Cantu, N. Italy on cassette deck & 2 mics, 30.5.79,
        during the Art Bears European tour 1980, included free with
        subscription copies of the The World As It Is Today LP.

        The 1982 reissue was only released as part of
        16 Dance Party Smash Hits and was not available separately.

        Peter Blegvad (bass guitar)

    7": 1981        UK Rê Rê +h
    7": 1982        UK Rê Rê +h (reissue)
                Coda to Man and Boy

A. More
Flying Doesn't Help

    LP: 1979        UK Quango HMG 98
    CD: 1994        UK Voiceprint VP 177 CD
          4'23  War {Blegvad/Moore}

National Health
Of Queues And Cures

        Peter Blegvad (voice)

    LP: 1978        UK Charly (Pye) CRL 5010
    CD: 1989.07     JP Charly (Century) 29ED6031 (reissue)
    CD: 1996?       FR SPALAX SPALAX CD 14830
         11'30  Squarer for Maud

Anthony Moore

        Peter Blegvad (acoustic guitar)

    LP: 1976        UK Virgin V2057 (not released)
    CD: 1997        UK Voiceprint VP165CD (diff. p/s)
          3'10  Johnny's Dead {Blegvad/Moore}

The Words Into Matter Project
(A Proposal)


It is proposed that when a literary object is constructed and subsequently communicated it creates an equivalent idea form. This form may be thought of as an equivalent of Plato's ideal: an ideal form of which the literary object is merely a shadow (read, 'incomplete or improverished projection'.) Subconcious awareness of these forms might lead to the phenonemon we call numinosity.
If these meta-forms exist then we should be able to record evidence of them. To this end The Words Into Matter Project was initiated. Ultimately, its prime objective will be to create a machine (a real machine) capable of turning words into matter. Initially, however, the output of the first machine will be in the form of recordings.
An earlier project had been the construction of the software engine behind The Configurable Catalogue of Objects (a truncated implementation using the engine.) Now, that engine performed our present task in reverse and it was the results of the Configurable Catalogue experiment that has led directly to The Words Into Matter Project. The engine behind The Words Into Matter Project (hence refered to as The Word/Matter Engine) will consist of a number of modules dealing with: the functions of parsing words; interpretation; construction of symbolic representations and a rendering engine. The machine will also require large amounts (in a final version, at least) of knowledge (declarative and procedural.) The engine must also be able to learn - to expand its knowledge. The machine will be fallible. Not only because it is designed and built by humans but because that would seem to be an important function of such a machine - to be able to get things wrong.
The rendering engine will have to be able to interpret symbolic representations of objects. From these interpretations it will have to construct an internal model of the object and then, ultimately, to build it in 3 dimensions (real, not virtual.) Immediately, this suggests a problem: these internal constructs are likely to be multi-dimensional. How to make actual objects from such models is not yet clear. However, as already mentioned, the first objective of The Words Into Matter Project is to be able to show that these ideal forms even exist. To this end there is something we can do and something that may point the way forward towards creation of real objects - capture traces of these multi-dimensional forms. This might work something like a cloud- or particle- chamber.

This rendering engine by no means answers all the questions about how the machine will work, but it does show how projections of models of forms can be captured onto a 2-dimensional surface. The model does not yet include materials but we have already started building in the concept of relationships to it. The renderer does incorporate a method by which the models can be modulated through the written word. That is not to say that any semantic interpetation has taken place. That task lies ahead.


"His breasts are full of milk and his bones
are moistened with marrow" (Job 21:24)

Q: Is it numinousness, numinessence, or numinosity?

A: It's like luminous.

Q: You say numinosity?

A: I do.

Q: And when a thing is numinous it exudes an air of mystery, of sanctity?

A: Of energy. It appears charged.

Q: I see. And may I ask how you programmed the computer to recognize and measure the numinosity of these queer items, the "volatic piles" [1] for instance? A: Twenty of us toiled at it night and day for eleven months. Into the UNIVAC, known to us as Maud, we fed everything from arcana pertaining to Zahirs [2] to a catalogue of army-surplus equipage, from lavish colour-plates of fish lures to a tea-stained pamphlet on numismatics. 600 miles of magnetic tape we fed into her! Thank God Maud is a fast learner or we'd still be at it. One morning she was taken with a cadence we were feeding her of Gertrude Stein's: "a lightning cooky, a single wide open and exchanged box filled with the same little sac that shines." Her console went dark a moment, next thing we knew she was drawing up plans for the construction of Stein's sac and demonstrating by means of an elegant equation that once built, 69% of sac's numinosity would be attributable to the "potent triad" embodied in it, by which she meant its Familiarity, Diminution and Radiance. Despite the early hour we broke out champagne. What relief to know those eleven gruelling months hadn't been in vain!

Q: I understand the fourth and fifth months were particularly trying for Maud.

A: Indeed. During that time she was fed exclusively on case histories of insane persons. It was necessary she be taught to see even the most common objects become "smooth as metal, so cut off, so detached from each other, so illuminated and tense that they inspired terror." [3] It was some time before Maud was her old self again. As a kind of therapy she was tutored in the precipitation of that sequence of recognitions which culminates in what James Joyce called the "epiphany" of an object - when "Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance." Pride in her skill at this sport did much to restore her.

Q: Will you tell us what was the purpose of all this?

A: To enable Maud to design her own objects. Programming was planned to inculcate criteria by which she could select qualities most conducive to numinosity. And it more or less succeeded. Every evening for the past six months she has presented her selections in a succinct recipe describing a single object which I then attempt to realize in my shop. 

A: By a process of gradual division. Her first conception of the object may be no more than that its surface curves, that it is portable and compounded of some mineral substance. While "curved, portable, mineral" conjures a pretty nebulous image to the average consciousness, Maud senses only its potential which is naturally very high. The energy thus generated engages the next in a series of circuit "levels" on each of which Maud's choices get correspondingly more specific. After a tedious ascent through at least 20 such levels Maud prints out a finished recipe - for example: VII - a3. Mn. XXX B-43ff.22gr. HHf ++Pk. This code describes a manganese puck and specifies its circumference, thickness, weight, texture and temperature.

Difficulties may arise as an object approaches definition. Maud may decide that a hemisphere, say, of cellophane must not be empty. So the process begins again to determine precisely what it should contain.

Finished objects are presented to Maud for a critical "scan". 9 times out of 10 she can discern in them no virtú and so destroys them. Occasionally she senses numinosity latent in one and this is perctptible only to her. Twice we have had objects invested with charges so active that goggles and asbestos suits were required in order to stand in the same room with them. 

Q: Then why did you say earlier that the venture was only "more or less" successful?
A: We anticipated a whole line of numinous items and have had but two! The reason for this is clearly that we were constrained to ignore the absolutely central factor of context. The number of variables would have been too vast even for Maud. Therefore the objects are conceived of as existing in a vacuum or rather in the pure negation of context. It irks us all no end. In a comedy I saw as a child Harlequin is made to remark that something is "as out of place as a piece of cheese in a library." Whenever Maud destroys an object, one, it may be, that I've been a week or more in the cellar manufacturing, this line comes to mind. For who's to say but that an object which seems to lack salience here in the lab might be powerfully numinous in a niche, say, among dictionaries in the Bibliotheque Nationale?

1. These are stacks, from 6 1/2 in. to 12 ft. hight, of discs of diverse materials (yeast, lineolum, silver, wax, wool, etc.) all with a central perforation allowing access to a "spine" either of lead or zinc which runs the length of the pile and prevents it toppling.
2. "beings or things which possess the terrible virtue of being unforgettable and whose image finally drives people mad." - J.L. Borges.
3. "Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl" - M. Sechehaye 

 Selected pages from Amateur No. 2. New York, 1979.

A Visit to the Offices of Amateur Enterprises  by Deborah Rose

I arrive at the address in South London twenty minutes early. Normally, I wouldn't have rung the bell right away, I'd have killed the time by peering over people's hedges or into their windows, trying to imagine myself living their lives. (Which is normally my favourite recreation and why I became an investigative reporter in the first place). But, this is not 'normally.' Normally I wouldn't have downed three cups of coffee and a glass of orange juice before leaving home an hour ago. Normally, I'm not bursting.
In a rundown suburban neighbourhood like this one, a man might discretely relieve himself against a wall or into the bushes without offending decorum overmuch. But a woman? Ha! Bursting, I ring the bell.
There's nothing to indicate that this unprepossessing three storey building is the headquarters and main research facility of Amateur Enterprises, the organization whose website has been intriguing and baffling me for several weeks now, and whose articles I'd occasionally stumbled across long before the Internet existed - in the era, if any of you remember it, of print. Clenching, I ring again. The doorbell's shrill signal deep in the house's bowels is less urgent than the signal from deep in mine. For a quarter of a century, the folks at Amateur have been quietly engaged in the exploration and mapping of a territory which can be described both by what it is not: ("not science, not philosophy, not art, not literature") - and by what it is: (here the word 'weird' comes to mind, and 'preposterous'). Take, for instance, Amateur's obsession with 'numinous objects.' These, the website helpfully explains, are objects 'charged' with sufficient 'immanence' to "rip a rent in the fabric of normal awareness." A rent in the fabric of my bladder is imminent! I ring again. The Amateur website catalogues and grades the numinosity of hundreds of objects, ranging from "a yolk of leather in a tobacco egg" to, in fact, a common doorbell.
There's nothing numinous about the bell I lean on again before, at last, the door is opened by a middle-aged lady in a lab coat. She takes one look at me and knows. "The loo? First on your left," she says with sisterly sympathy. The word Amateur derives from amor - love. I already love my sister in the white lab coat.
There's nothing numinous about Amateur's toilet facilities either, though my feelings on attaining them are to my mind on a par with Sir Galahad's on attaining the Grail. (The Holy Grail is a classic example of a 'numinous object.' But the Grail's numinous charge is invested by collective faith, i.e. it's 'sacred.' The folks at Amateur, the lady in the lab coat presumably among them, tend to concentrate more on secular objects. Alfred Hitchcock's glass of milk, for instance, with the light he put in it to make it luminous. Did I tell you the folks at Amateur are weird?)
Within minutes I'm relieved, transformed, restored to normal, the immanent rent invisibly mended. While washing my hands, I resolve to keep an even firmer grip than normal on my sense of normalcy while on this assignment. I suspect that Amateur Enterprises will turn out to be a cult of mystagogues concerned exclusively with the exceptional. I've always been suspicious of the exceptional, perhaps because it's a quality I spectacularly lack. Mystagogues try to bamboozle us with their tawdry 'marvels.' But I'll take the everyday over the marvelous, anyday. Actually, it's not a question of preferring one to the other, the everyday is inseparable from the marvelous. Or, as Walter Benjamin put it:
"...histrionic or fanatical stress on the mysterious side of the mysterious takes us no further; we penetrate the mystery only to the degree that we recognize it in the everyday world, by virtue of a dialectical optic that perceives the everyday as impenetrable, the impenetrable as everyday."
Montaigne maintains that:
"Tis the taste of effeminacy that disrelishes ordinary and accustomed things."
But the flagrantly effeminate Oscar Wilde pointed out that
"The commonest thing is delightful if one only hides it."
And G. K. Chesterton, in an essay called The Logic of Fairyland, makes the point that:
"Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense."
Amen to all that!
Musing thus, I flush.
The lady in the lab coat is waiting for me when I emerge.
"Call me Polly" she says when I've thanked her and introduced myself. It says Dr. P. Phelps on her name tag. What is she a doctor of? I ask. She's a vet, she says, specializing in dairy animals. Aha! I say, milk! Alfred Hitchcock's glowing glass! I read all about it in Sight and Sound! Yes, Polly says, so had she. That's what had drawn her to Amateur in the first place, seven years ago. Polly leads me through a slightly forlorn reception area. I notice a couple of folding chairs, an unmanned desk scattered with papers, a dusty succulent, and a Mr. Coffee machine in need of cleaning. On the wall, some vaguely diploma-like documents and a group photograph dated 1977: six people standing around an excavation staring irritably at the camera as if they resented the distraction. In the corner of the room I spy a rubber ball, coloured blocks, and other evidence of child's play. Polly confirms that the reception area is occasionally cordoned off as a crêche. No, she has no children herself. I gaze around with interest. So, these are the 'offices of Amateur' frequently mentioned in the articles published by the organization in their 'sporadic fascicles .' I've often imagined them, and now here I am observing them. Before long, no doubt, I'll be remembering them. In fact, I am even now not observing them so much as imagining how I'll remember them when the time comes. When I report this to Polly she rewards me with a warm smile.
Thus encouraged, I go on to declare that I've been so impressed by the Amateur articles in which these three modes of perception, Imagined, Observed, Remembered, are compared and contrasted that I often use the technique in my day-to-day life. It's very good for killing time when arriving early for interviews, for instance, or when standing in a queue. Polly smiles on. Why, only yesterday at the post office I'd been imagining the face of the man the back of whose head I'd been observing for about a quarter of an hour. Like a speculative map of the dark side of the moon, I'd constructed a detailed mental picture of an idealized face, a face I could love, when suddenly the head turned on its neck and fixed me with a basilisk glare. It was my ex-husband! Polly laughs in a delightfully unguarded way which endears her to me even more. I tell her I adore making people laugh, but that it doesn't happen much anymore. My husband, the current one, and I like to reminisce about the days when our children were young and our jokes were still new to them. Our little home rang with laughter. Alas, nowadays, any attempt at levity is met with scowls from the sullen teenagers we've somehow spawned...
Polly is still smiling, but her smile is looking a little 'fixed' I think, so I stop and allow her to proceed with the guided tour.
Swing doors lead to a stairwell and as Polly precedes me up she provides a commentary: "The Numinosity Research Centre has been housed in this building since 1985. On the first floor are a classroom, a library, a computer room, and a workshop where objects are designed and built. Then there's the kiln, the cryogenic chamber, the accelerator, and the vault where objects in various states are stored." The classroom is in use, but a sign on the door is plain: DO NOT PERTURB. The work, no doubt, of the same wag responsible for the notice on the library wall: DISQUIET. On the shelves I notice a large section devoted to poetry; a pile of yellowing copies of Popular Mechanics (an American DIY magazine from the 1950s); books by Gaston Bachelard, sets of old encyclopaedias - The Everyman (1937), the Britannica (1934), the World Book (1963)-and several of Jules Verne's 19th century science-fantasy novels. The whole place has the shabby-genteel air of an under-funded institution offering Adult Education evening classes. This reminds me of all the resolutions I've made and broken to improve myself. Why is my resolve so weak? Why am I so afraid? I don't want to be me! Suddenly I have the ominous and all-too-familiar sense that my mood is about to 'swing.' My depression, the 'black dog' which has been steadily getting blacker since my children stopped laughing at my jokes, is breathing its mephitic breath in my face. Help! Do something impulsive!
"Quick, Polly!" I blurt, "Show me something numinous!"
And she, bless her, recognizes my need just as she had earlier and rushes me along the corridor to a door marked with a black lightning bolt.
Access to the vault where the objects are stored is gained through a small changing room. First I have to don a lab coat like Polly's and then both of us belt on waistcoats the weight of which, Polly explains, is due to their lead lining. Her voice is soothing. I find that if I concentrate on it, the self-critical hectoring in my head is muted. "We don't know if exposure to high concentrations of numinosity is actually dangerous or not, but we don't want to repeat the tragic mistake the Curies made with X-rays," Polly says. She recommends that I remove my wristwatch. "People have long known that numinosity affects our subjective perception of time. Usually the experience is of time slowing down or of moments becoming 'specious.' But we were surprised to find that numinous objects can permanently affect the accuracy of chronometers as well."
The watch Polly removes is a fancy-looking job with multiple buttons and dials. I decide to keep my cheap but dependable Cassio on as an experiment. We both put on clear goggles and quilted gloves like oven mitts. As Polly opens the door to the vault I make a note of the time: 9:56 exactly. I've forgotten myself, a wonderful liberation.
The vault I'd imagined had been a conflation of a walk-in bank vault and a decompression chamber. The vault I observe is a small domestic sauna just like the one my sister-in-law recently had installed in her basement in Basingstoke. On two tiers of cedar slats where three people could sit and sweat (four if they didn't mind dripping on one another), two dozen dull metal boxes of various sizes are grouped together. Some no bigger than a jeweler's ring-box. Some the size of a steamer trunk. Polly reaches for one that's somewhere in-between, about the size of my sister-in-law's bread-bin, and flips the catch. There's a hissing inrush of air as the lid is lifted and the box exhales a delicious 'odour plume,' an olfactory 'chord' in which my sensitive nose detects the mingled participation of chicory, burnt sugar, talc, beeswax and freshly cut grass. I crane my neck for a glimpse but Polly blocks my view. "Shut your eyes" she says. Pleased to be teased, I comply. "Now," Polly says, "imagine a numinous object."
Me (sarcastically) : "Is that an order?"
Polly (sincerely) : "An invitation."
So I try.
After concentrating for awhile, an image comes to mind, inspired by a song from my youth. I picture 'the jar by the door' wherein Eleanor Rigby keeps her face when she's not wearing it. The jar's made of unglazed grey clay, with a lid, and it looks thousands of years old, like the canopic jars in which the ancient Egyptians preserved the mummified viscera of their dead. It's pretty spooky and I'm thinking it might well be numinous when, powerless to stop myself, I imagine it morphing into a bejeweled toilet, a conflation of the loo downstairs and my conception of the Holy Grail. I can't suppress a giggle.
"Concentrate!" Polly admonishes, a new severity in her tone. "For this to work, you must apply yourself."
"It's hard," I confess, "to take seriously."
Polly : "Don't despair. Join the search."
Me : "The search?"
Polly : "The search is what everyone would undertake if they were not afraid. To be aware of the possibility of the seach is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair."
"I knew it!" I gasp, "Amateur Enterprises is a cult!"
"It's a business", she says levelly, "manufacturing. The object in this box, for instance..."
"It smells nice. Show it to me!"
"You're not quite ready. First you have to remember a numinous object from your own experience. A memory of something you observed or imagined."
She adds that a numinous object evoked by the written or spoken word qualifies as imagined.
I'm thinking of an appropriate response-something along the lines of "show me what's in the box NOW, godammit!" -when I suddenly remember the stone of a slightly unusual hue which I picked up on a beach on the Suffolk coast and named Flook after a cartoon character I adored. That was the summer of 1961. I was six. I tell Polly all about it. "That stone for me was alive! I swear it had a pulse."
Polly approves. Then she asks what I'd thought of earlier, when she'd asked me to imagine a numinous object.
I blink. I can't think. I draw a blank. It's gone.
She smiles. "In that case, I think you're ready. But, before you observe it, let me tell you a little bit about this object, and about how it was manufactured, so you can imagine it specifically." As she speaks her eyes, bright behind her goggles, close. To be cut off from her gaze like that, I don't like it. So I close mine, too. Now we're in sightless communion, connected by her small bold voice.
"The object you're about to see is the translation into matter of a literary object, one invented by Gertrude Stein in her book, Tender Buttons, written in 1914. She evokes it in six words: The same little sac that shines. That's all we had to go on. Our readers recorded high levels of numinosity on reading and re-reading those words. But could the word be made flesh? Would the numinous charge carry over from the imaginary sac verbally evoked, into a real one manufactured in our laboratory?"
I can't help it. I burst out laughing. The spell is totally broken. "Of course it wouldn't. It's impossible! Ridiculous!"
Polly : "For each of us, the limits of our language define the limits of our world. At Amateur Enterprises we're interested in exploring those limits, the drifting border where the impossible and the possible, the sublime and the ridiculous overlap."
Me : "You can't be serious."
Polly : "And the serious and humourous. Our work amuses us. If it didn't, we'd abandon it immediately. Our botched attempt to translate Emily Dickinson's poetic image, 'Doom's electric moccassin' into matter, for instance, was not without its hilarious moments."
She closes her eyes and recovers her gravity:
"Everybody is separate, alone, enclosed in an envelope which comes between us and our desire for intimate communion with other beings and things. In the act of reading, as Marcel Proust recognized, we're able to temporarily transcend this limitation. Phenomena evoked by words in a text are realized internally, in an act of apprehension unmediated by our limited senses.
Translating a literary object from words into matter means therefore to convert it from an unfixed entity which readily fuses with the imagination and which, crucially, adapts itself to suit each reader, into one that offers resistance. (The german word for object, gegenstand , literally means counter-stand or resistance). Given all that, how could Stein's same little sac that shines be reified without it losing its numinous charge?
We felt we owed it to ourselves to try."
I'm watching her, thinking how great she looks standing in her protective gear with her eyes closed in their binocular vitrine delivering herself of this strange spiel. I'm thinking it's maybe not so strange. After all, translating a literary object into matter is only an extension, or exaggeration of what a book illustrator does when translating a verbal description into a retinal image, for instance. The attendant danger of reducing the imaginative possibilities of the image by making it specific reminds me, too, of why people say they prefer radio to TV: "the pictures are so much better." And then there's the human tendency to value what we want more highly than what we have. The 'ideal' is necessarily remote, what we can't have, which accounts for its poignancy. Attempts to materialise it are doomed. But I don't interrupt. Instead, I close my eyes and listen to Polly describe how Stein's little sac was materialized:
"We began by imagining the nature of the sac itself. We noted that while a sac in this context is numinous, a sack would not have been. The dictionary defines sack as 'a large bag oblong in shape and open at one end, usu. made of coarse flax or hemp.' But the sac we were looking for was 'little.' The word sac is perfumed by an etymological association with sachet- 'a small perfumed bag, wallet, or satchel.' But initial tests indicated that the sac was a natural one, either animal or vegetable, not man-made.
After weeks of dissecting flora and fauna we discovered that, although at this point it didn't shine and wasn't yet 'the same,' the exact sac we wanted was the amniotic sac of an armadillo."
Deep down, I objected to the preposterousness of this, but the impulse to protest was overruled. I didn't want to open my eyes or stop the flow of her voice, which was bigger now:
"The search led us next to the nature of its shining. As you probably know, incandescence is light produced by heat, while luminescence is 'cold light.' Right from the start we all agreed, whatever the source of the sac's shine was, it was luminescent not incandescent. Somethings you just know. One day, while looking up the different categories of luminescence I came across a description of Pelagia noctiluca, a jellyfish which secretes a luminous slime. Pliny the elder was quoted as saying that 'a staffe so rubbed or besmeared with it, may serve instead of a torch to give light before one.'
A specimen of this jellyfish was obtained from a leading bio-supplier. A thin coat of its slime was applied to the amniotic sac and, when the lights were dimmed, we saw it shine for the first time. A moving sight. But, it wasn't like anything else in the world and, in order to be numinous, 'the little sac that shines' had to be 'the same.'
So, we made a duplicate, as exactly like the first as possible. And this one was, finally, the same little sac that shines. And it was numinous."
Her peroration at an end, Polly rewards me for my attentiveness with her wonderful smile and reaches into the box.
While attending to her I'd formed a vague mental image of the object, but when Polly holds it in her quilted mitt before my eyes I'm stunned by its sheer otherness. The sight of it gives me a somatic thrill, neither physical nor mental and yet both; my skin tingles and I feel slightly giddy with an oddly langorous excitement, as if I'm simultaneously hurtling forward at enormous velocity and standing still. (Which I suppose we all are ...) My eye travels to my wrist. My cheap but dependable Cassio has stopped at 10:02. In the light of this small envelope of luciferous tissue. An object I know without doubt is charged with sufficient immanence to rip a rent in the fabric of normal awareness because it has just ripped one in mine. Polly sees it. The two of us stand there beaming at each other through our goggles. Then we fall into each others arms.
As I write this, Polly sits opposite me at work on a new object. A week after my first experience I returned to the offices of Amateur Enterprises. This time to stay. My husband and kids have been very understanding. They're sure my conversion is a temporary aberration, that I'll soon come back to my senses, back to my home. I don't want to disillusion them, but I am home.
St. Paul speaks of the descending fire on the road to Damascus as having killed the frivolous child in him. In a similar way, the subtle gegenschein of the numinous sac annihilated my inauthentic self. For weeks I was in an exalted state, like the pathetic child in the Kathleen Mansfield story who speaks the devastating last line in a transport of ecstasy, oblivious to her actual deprivation: "I seen the little lamp!" Sure, I've lost a lot - my family, my livelihood, some would say my sanity. But it was worth it to see the same little sac that shines.
The epiphany the object provoked has changed my entire orientation - philosophical, sexual, vocational. The categories of objective and subjective, reason and imagination, matter and spirit no longer impress me as mutually exclusive. Already, I've designed and manufactured a variant of the object Polly showed me, replacing the amniotic sac of an armadillo with the nocturnal mucous envelope secreted by the Rainbow parrotfish (Scarus guacamaia). It's not as numinous as Polly's, not yet. But, when I make the duplicate...
Peering over people's hedges or into their windows, trying to imagine myself living their lives didn't give me half the buzz that I get from designing and manufacturing numinous objects. I'd recommend Amateur Enterprises to anybody looking for a pleasant way to kill the time, before time returns the favour.
No longer afraid, I have joined the search.


Though this interview was conducted by email, Peter Blegvad and I met briefly a few months later in New York, when he participated in a conference on “The Word-Image Problem” at the New School, organized by Ben Katchor to celebrate the work of Swiss cartoon-strip pioneer Rodolphe Töpffer. In a lecture hall that may have been the least rock-friendly venue imaginable, Blegvad sang solo electric versions of “God Detector” (from 2001’s Choices Under Pressure) and “Bee Dream” (first heard on John Greaves’s 1984 album Parrot Fashions), accompanied by a PowerPoint show of his own charming, cryptic illustrations. It was the first time I had seen him perform since the mid-1980s, when he toured Southern California with Anton Fier’s group the Golden Palominos.
These appearances give some measure of the varied company Blegvad keeps, and of the difficulty of placing his artistic output on a high-low continuum. The scope of his visual and graphic work makes “cartoonist” a misleading label. An online search for his essay “On Numinous Objects and their Manufacture,” with its accompanying “Morphological Tables,” may explain why. Still, he may be best known for Leviathan, an allusive, frightening, and funny take on the “imaginative child” trope of comic strips from Peanuts to Calvin and Hobbes. The strip ran weekly from 1992 through 1999 in the London Independent on Sunday; a selection published by Sort Of Books was reissued by Overlook Press in the US last year.
Similarly, “singer-songwriter” fails to capture the range of a musician whose associates have included Slapp Happy cofounders Dagmar Krause and Anthony Moore, Marxist prog-rockers Henry Cow, and John Zorn, as well as the dB’s Chris Stamey and XTC’s Andy Partridge. Kew. Rhone. (1977), credited to Blegvad, Greaves, and singer Lisa Herman, takes an Oulipian approach to what might be called “The Word-Music Problem,” while such solo albums as The Naked Shakespeare (1983), King Strut (1990), and Hangman’s Hill (1998) raise the bar for “literate songcraft” to Empyrean heights. Recently, Blegvad has turned to non–song-based recordings, including Orpheus—The Lowdown (2004), a collaboration with Partridge, and audio essays (“eartoons”) for the BBC. In 2007, Loudon Wainwright III’s version of “Daughter” (from 1995’s Just Woke Up) was featured in Judd Apatow’s film Knocked Up, exposing an unsuspecting blockbuster-sized audience to his writing.
Blegvad currently lives in London; on top of his other activities, he teaches creative writing at Warwick University and helps direct that school’s International Gateway for Gifted Youth.
Franklin Bruno
THE BELIEVER: Which came first for you: music, writing, or drawing?
PETER BLEGVAD: Hand in hand, since I was a teenager. For decades I’d flit from drawing table to typewriter to guitar with no sense of strain or contradiction. They all exercised the same psychic muscle (the Imagination), and working in one medium refreshed my appetite for the others. These days I’m less supple and more entrenched, so it’s a wrench to switch. But writing and drawing a Leviathan strip, say, isn’t all that different from composing a song. They both involve a text embedded in another medium. My father, Erik Blegvad, is an illustrator—he’s at work on his 107th title—and my mother, Lenore, was (she died last September) an author/illustrator/painter, so this symbiosis seems perfectly natural to me. My favorite artists, Marcel Duchamp being perhaps the paradigm, deliberately flouted the decree that art must not be “literary.” The musical heroes of my youth were John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Captain Beefheart, all of whom drew/wrote/painted when they weren’t composing/performing/recording. I recently learned the word liminal: “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.” That’s where I feel most at home, for better or worse.
BLVR: I can’t think of many singer-songwriters who have combined an interest in songwriting, in a fairly traditional sense, with what most people would call “progressive” or “experimental” music to the extent you have. How did that balancing act come about?
PB: Songs came first. I started out in 1965 trying to copy the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Stones, like most kids I knew. I’m still trying. Songs are hard to beat. They’re spells, for one thing. Chant is the root of incantation. Even something as slickly manufactured as the Archies crooning “Sugar sugar, honey honey” is potent voodoo. Songs have a synesthetic appeal to me—objects of various shapes, colors, and weights constructed of words and music. Portable, flexible, adhesive; appealing to mind, heart, and body as required. They can unite a community or touch the solitary in each listener or both at once. No mean feat. A song can be reduced, too, to maybe just a loop and a word or two.
Surely my liminal tendency has its source in having been plucked from Connecticut at fourteen and sent to a progressive, co-ed, Quaker, vegetarian establishment in Letchworth Garden City called St. Christopher’s. It wasn’t as radical as Summerhill, but there was very little academic pressure. By about 1967, Anthony Moore and I were being “experimental” there. We were hippies, beads and kaftans, the whole bit. At a school dance we performed a number called “Your Hair is the Swimmer’s Nightmare,” which consisted of me playing “Walk Don’t Run” in C over Anthony slashing away on an F# minor chord. We kept at it until one of the teachers pulled out the plug of our Vox AC 30. I remember us using the name Jumpin’ Jonah & the Wails, which I stole from Mad magazine, but Neil Murray, who played drums with us, says we were called Slap Happy. (The “Slap” got an extra “p” later, when we were cutting our first album, Sort Of, in Hamburg. Neil wasn’t with us by then—he went on to be a bass ace for Whitesnake and Black Sabbath, among others.)
BLVR: How did you come to return to the States? Were there particular musical or nonmusical opportunities in New York?
PB: I thought I’d follow in my father’s shoes and try to make a living in New York City as an illustrator. I arrived in summer 1975 with a slim portfolio and began making the rounds in a rather desultory way. I did a few drawings for Steve Heller at the New York Times. (I was still drawing for him, thirty years later, for the same money, more or less). At the same time, I studied poetry with Gilbert Sorrentino at the New School and made friends with Ammiel Alcalay and other inspiring types.
I wanted to be a poet and/or an artist, but I was very lazy (frightened of failure, I guess) and drank too much. I spent years in the Forty-second Street library planning a book about how to freeze time, and began an encyclopedia of everything in the world depicted thrice. That’s a project I’m still working on.
BLVR: I had no idea that you’d known Sorrentino, who was better-known as a poet than a novelist at that point. How did that come about?
PB: In 1973 I met Clayton Eshleman in Paris while he was teaching at the American College, where the girl I was in love with was enrolled. The text he used in class was the Rothenberg/Quasha anthology America, A Prophecy. That and Clayton’s magazine Caterpillar were eye-openers. Clayton didn’t think much of Bob Dylan or other songwriters as poets, but I remember telling him that I thought poetry and song might be reconciled, and that I planned to investigate the matter. He wished me luck. I visited him and his wife Caryl in the Dordogne the summer they began exploring Paleolithic caves (the immersion that led, thirty years later, to his book Juniper Fuse). I remember him praising a line in the Slapp Happy song “Europa”: “lupine nipples squirted infant Rome.” It seemed a significant validation at the time.
I’d been taken with “Coast of Texas,” a poem of Sorrentino’s in Caterpillar, which treated of erotic obsession: “In the pale light he sees her mouth / open and the tongue come out / in her heat.” So when I saw his New School course advertised, I signed up. Actually, I took the course under my girlfriend’s name, for credit toward her Parsons degree. (I think I earned her a B.) As a teacher, Sorrentino was a lovely combination of serious and funny. In response to a particularly mawkish student effort, he buried his head in his hands and groaned, “Tell it to the Marines” in a way that didn’t seem merely cruel. One entire class was taken up by him reading us Flann O’Brien’s essay “A Bash in the Tunnel” with contagious glee. I remember him mocking what he called “New Yorker poetry,” intoning portentously, “I dreamed I was an oyster on the shore of life.…” Another week he brought his pal Hubert Selby, Jr., in to talk to us.
BLVR: Were you still writing songs during all this?
PB: Until Greaves arrived in the summer of ’76 to make Kew. Rhone., I kind of forgot about playing music, though I listened to a lot. I was discovering jazz. I was investing most of my energy into a tempestuous relationship with the person who became my first wife. I wrote “gegenstand” for Sorrentino’s class and he remarked approvingly that it wasn’t something that could be set to music and sung. When I repeated this to John Greaves, he set it to music and Lisa Herman sang it.
BLVR: Kew. Rhone. was released on the very same day as Never Mind The Bollocks; one could hardly name two more different records. Within the scenes that you were involved in, what was the attitude toward the advent of punk?
PB: Those two records came out on the same label, too. A decisive and divisive day in the history of Virgin Records, which up until that time had been an “alternative” label, losing money on projects like ours. I missed the British punk scene, living in NYC, but I was a fan of the bands I saw at CBGBs. (While we were composing Kew. Rhone, John Greaves jotted down David Byrne’s phone number on the flyleaf of my battered copy of Fear and Trembling. We were going to give this talented unknown his big break, invite him to sing on our Virgin record. But then we auditioned Lisa Herman and realized we needed her.) Like most of my downtown peers at the time, I was under the spell of Marcel Duchamp. I sometimes joshed (or was I serious?) that, just as Duchamp’s Large Glass had “killed painting,” our record would kill rock and roll, or the concept album, or maybe just our own past effusions, especially the confessional songs I’d written. I wanted to disavow all that.
BLVR: Do you have any set way of working on a song? (Fiddling with the guitar, finding a vocal hook, writing down phrases…)
PB: I’ve tried all those. Rhyme is the constraint I’m most addicted to. A lyric like “Special Delivery” is an exercise in rhyming. I had no idea what I wanted to say before I lost myself in the process of composition. Until fairly recently, I regularly experienced an almost physical appetite to make music, to strum and mumble until something shapely evolved from it. That doesn’t seem to happen much anymore. I remember Bob Dylan saying in an interview that at a certain point he’d had to learn to do consciously what he’d previously done unconsciously or automatically. That resonates.
BLVR: What guides whether you’re going to work with abstruse subject matter or imagery (“Special Delivery” or “King Strut,” say) or something closer to the singer-songwriter tradition (“Stranger to Myself” or “Say No, Now”)?
PB: I’ve written a lot of wordy, erudite, pretentious songs, but believe it or not, I’m usually doing my damnedest to resist the temptation to be overly “clever,” and trying to keep things as accessible—and singable—as possible. As the song evolves, so does the sense of what it needs lyrically. Sometimes it’s Here are two gentlemen and a lady contemplating a length of dug up pipeline and sometimes it’s Your stink is on my finger till the end of time. Some songs seem to achieve the quality of a geometric object—a ball, box, or cone—and I don’t mess with ’em. “Stranger to Myself” was built around its guitar riff and was part of an attempt, stimulated by working with the Golden Palominos, to feel my way into American roots music of various kinds. I wanted to emulate country music’s way with outlandish metaphors and narratives that don’t seem bookish or elitist. I met someone the other day who said he’d quoted my lyric “I gave myself to you intact / but you gave twisted wreckage back” in his divorce proceedings. Always glad to be of service.


BLVR: Your recent records have turned away from songs in favor of something closer in my mind to the German hörspiel [radio drama] tradition. How did that change come about?
PB: It seems unecological to add to the glut of unwanted music. Does that sound like self-pity? It’s partly pragmatism as well. There being so little demand for that line of product, I started to channel my efforts into developing another. I’ve been experimenting with spoken-word tracks since “Alcohol,” a Slapp Happy curio recorded in 1973. All that, and eight years of drawing a regular comic strip, combined to inspire the idea of the “eartoon.” For the past six years I’ve been writer/actor/producer of short radio routines I call “eartoons” for a weekly magazine program about language on BBC Radio 3 called The Verb. They’re three- to seven-minute-long dialogues between the two halves of my divided self—with occasional guests. I’ve done about sixty. The subjects have included “Words of Power” in early rock and roll (“Poppa ooma-mowmow,” “Wop bop a loobop,” “Diddy Wah Diddy”), initiation ceremonies, the Phraselator translation device used by the US Army in Iraq, universal languages, book burning, and screams. They aspire to strangeness and comedy, in the vein of Ken Nordine’s “Word Jazz,” but they’re quite didactic as well—there’s an aspect to them of the illustrated lecture. Teaching is a form of show business, as Steve Martin says in his memoir.
Drawing a Leviathan strip (or doing the Peanuts books in the ’70s), backgrounds often seemed to take a lot of effort and time. One of the beauties of working in radio is the way a whole setting can be richly evoked simply by the addition to the track of a little birdsong and a church bell in the distance. In other words, the sorts of sounds traditionally provided by the technicians known as Foley artists: “Writing on air,” as Gregory Whitehead called it. Or painting. Or illustrating. Anyway, it ties in with my interest in mental images, and my love of Cocteau’s film Orphée, in which Jean Marais takes dictation from the radio in Death’s Rolls-Royce: “A single glass of water lights the world.”
BLVR: Do you share that Orphic sense of being a conduit for “your” writing?
PB: I’m not a visionary, but I’ve spent half my life drawing things Imagined, Remembered, and Observed, comparing the differences between them, and my study confirms that “the difference between night and day / is not as great as people say.” We’re dreaming all the time. When I was writing lyrics for John Greaves back in the ’70s and ’80s, I didn’t want to take responsibility for what I wrote, so out of insecurity and boredom I developed an elaborate form of displacement activity, a self-estranging technique, creating what I called “angel trap stationery”—paper painted with symbols and impregnated with scents designed to attract various powers and dominions of the air to aid me in the act of composition. I wanted to be dictated to, like my poetic heroes—Yeats, Rilke, Cocteau, Jack Spicer. It worked, in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way.
Peter Blegvad, Angel Trap (Blue), 1977.
Ink and watercolor impregnated with Suze (liquor made from blue gentian).
BLVR: What about drawing and visual imagery? Does it “come to you” the same way?
PB: At art school, around 1970, we were exhorted in life class to “draw what you see, not what you know.” We were taught to take a step back, to “look at looking.” I remember the first time I “got it.” I’d done a drawing of the model using only peripheral vision, looking at a spot on the wall to the right of where she sat. It wasn’t really a drawing of her I produced; it was a drawing of the cloud of lights and darks she dissolved into when I focused on the spot. You could look at my drawing of this cloud and read it as a nude female figure, though a little translation was required. A certain investment. But you wouldn’t resent having to make this—it would add to your pleasure—because by making it you, too, could “see seeing” a little clearer, or from a new angle. The exercise made one feel creative. A little less dead. With effort we learned to observe processes we hadn’t been conscious of before. It’s all nicely encapsulated in Paul Valéry’s famous remark: “To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees.”
Like most kids, I loved pressing on my closed eyes until they blazed with kaleidoscopic mandalas. And anyone who grew up in the psychedelic ’60s probably experienced their share of hypnagogic fireworks. Just as sex got me hooked on anatomy, so drugs were probably what first got me interested in entoptic phenomena, phosphenes, and hypnagogic imagery. In drawing from imagination and memory, an interior kind of “seeing” is involved, which is trickier to look at. I’m trying to develop ways of looking at the looking we do with the “mind’s eye.” The data we scan with it seems to be a hybrid of word and picture. This probably wouldn’t impress an expert, and that’s the next step—to involve other people, professionals, in all this. If my floating eyes and flashing hair don’t scare them off.
To not answer your question.
BLVR: Going backward a bit, just what did you do for the Peanuts empire? Did you do it for peanuts?
PB: Ole Risom, an editor at Random House who was a fellow Dane and a friend of my father’s, gave me the gig. Actually, it was pretty well-paid. Beginning with It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown, I did backgrounds in gouache and pencil for five or six books based on the Peanuts TV specials, from 1976 to 1983 or so.
BLVR: Did that involve any personal contact with Charles Schulz?
PB: No, alas. The books were based on the animations, which he had to approve, though they were much cruder than Schulz’s own work. I assume he must have seen the books, but I never heard what he felt about them. It seemed odd to me that my backgrounds were in a completely different style to the figures, but no one objected. (Early Disney and other animated films often had richly shaded and detailed backgrounds while the characters had to be simple and flat, so maybe those famous precedents enabled me to get away with it.) I was so inexperienced: I learned a lot doing them, but I never thought of them as comics.
BLVR: Have you had a look at David Michaelis’s recent biography of Schulz? It paints him as more tortured and conflicted than his audience might expect.
PB: No, but I assume it’s pretty unanimous Schulz was a driven genius and that what readers respond to in Peanuts is partly the fear-and-trembling-and-the-sickness-unto-death he depicted so winningly decade after decade. It’s no surprise to me that he was no saint. I’d be surprised if it were otherwise. In my experience, the usual image of a cartoonist is that of the tortured artist and occasional bastard. I’m more the tortured bastard and occasional artist.


BLVR: Your own comic strip Leviathan made use of a good deal of philosophical and scientific material, in a form (and in its original newspaper publication, a venue) in which such things aren’t normally expected.
PB: Yeah, the Levi strip offered another opportunity to be liminal. It amused me to subvert what I imagined readers’ expectations might be. As a young wannabe writer, I was blown away by the swottish erudition Flann O’Brien employs to such devastating effect—de Selby’s Golden Hours and all that. S. J. Perelman is good at it too. And it’s all very pataphysical—Jarry is maybe the daddy of this technique. The learned, pompous, and highfalutin tone I use is usually meant to provoke a dry laugh, though I know it doesn’t always succeed in being funny.
Peter Blegvad, Leviathan strip (part three of a four-part story).
From the
Independent on Sunday, November 21, 1993.
BLVR: Do you ever think that you’re avoiding commitment by switching among different media? PB: I don’t deny it. I’ve always had an immature horror of being defined, so that’s part of it too. Would I have made more progress or been more successful if I’d devoted myself to just one form of expression? Who knows? I’m not thus constituted. I’m a dilettante, “polymorphously perverse,” a perpetual amateur. But let us not forget that amateur derives from amor. The miracle is that at fifty-eight years old, I’m still being paid to do things I love doing and no one’s ordering me to change it to fit some target audience.
BLVR: As far as I know your visual work, it’s in graphic, reproducible forms. (I include cover art.) How did that become your métier?
PB: My father, as I said, is mainly a children’s book illustrator (an appreciation I wrote of his work came out in the last issue of The Ganzfeld). Partly because of his shadow, no doubt, I’ve always wanted to take the concept of illustration somewhere else, to find a form in which images and texts participate in a new way. It’s less true these days, but when I was younger, illustration was despised by “fine” artists and critics, even while they genuflected in front of Duchamp’s Large Glass with its accompanying boxes of notes.
BLVR: Have you ever thought about working more seriously in more durable, singular media?
PB: I fantasize about devoting a period to getting my act together as a visual artist, although I think I’d be more inclined to create work that would appear as pictures in a book rather than as paintings to hang on the wall. Although they could be both, of course—a liminal book. In March 2007, actually, I showed work from the past thirty years at the Fumetto Festival, a comics festival at the Lucerne Kunsthalle. In this context, too, handsomely framed in this luminous space, my stuff was kind of liminal. Fumetto is a comics festival and purists might have objected that I didn’t show much that could be called “comics.”
BLVR: How did you select what to show?
PB: Most of it was related to the project I’ve been engaged with for thirty years: “Imagined, Observed, Remembered,” an encyclopedia of everything in the universe depicted thrice. First, as I imagine it to be; second, as I observe it; and lastly, after a suitable interval, as I remember it to have been. It’s amateur ontology, or “pataphysical” epistemology. It’s also an attempt (in the remembered and imagined images) to pin down and depict mental imagery. Which is a bit like trying to taste your own tongue, as Ken Campbell said.
Peter Blegvad, Lion — Imagined, Observed, Remembered. Ink and watercolor, 1984.
BLVR: This sounds uncompletable in principle, like something one of Borges’s protagonists would have come up with. PB: Yes, it’s an impossible project. The only kind I’d be able/willing to pursue. I began in 1975 or so, very much with the sense of it being a lifelong labor. Its form would be a sprawl, a constellation, fragments, a sparagmos—anti-forms in vogue at the time. Borges confirmed my distaste for “the madness of composing vast books,” and I eagerly agreed that “the better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them.” But I needed some monumental encyclopedic mission to distract and protect me from the void—my “self”—and maybe to precipitate a “second birth,” because the first hadn’t quite done the trick.
Over the last thirty years, the project has taken various forms. Exhibitions, articles, cartoons, radio pieces, a play with live music and projected visuals commissioned by De Balie—an arts center in Amsterdam—for a symposium called “Imaginary Media” in 2004. There’s a CD-ROM of that version available. Earlier this year I led a ten-week workshop at Warwick called “Imagine, Observe, Remember,” which culminated in a student production of the same piece. That can be viewed on the CAPITAL Centre website. CAPITAL is publishing a slim volume of what purports to be my teaching notes for workshops on mental imagery, memory failure, and imagination, and the loci system of mnemonics.[1] I need a couple of years of isolation in which to assemble and make sense of all this material. One of those country-club prisons white-collar criminals get sent to, or a nice clean clinic on Magic Mountain.
BLVR: Supposing that you had the chance to put it together, what would the “final” form look like?
PB: My original idea was that it would be an encyclopedia: a vast bildungsatlas, which would be an expression both of humility and defiance. On the one hand, it would acknowledge my ignorance and my desire to learn. On the other, it would demonstrate that poverty of knowledge could alternatively be seen as wealth of ignorance. Ignorance was not nothing. I decided, therefore, to make two encyclopedias. My ignorance would require a volume to itself. Between its covers would be preserved a record of the spurious model of all creation I had in my head, a prelapsarian construct, uncorrupted by the facts. When this volume was finished, I’d begin work on the factual version, in which would be recorded, from “Aa” to “Zymotic,” the progress of my enlightenment, or as far as I could get before my time was up. Both volumes would feature the same entries, in the same (alphabetical) order, based on the contents of the Everyman’s Encyclopaedia (1931–32), which I’d come across in an old house in Cornwall.
BLVR: But now it’s grown beyond that?
PB: Gradually, the project became even more ambitious. My interest shifted from the object observed to the subject observing, or rather to “the mysterious operation by which the same organ, perceiving in the same surroundings the same object, discovers in it a growing number of things.” This last phrase is from Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory, in which he describes perception, as he perceives it.
My reasoning went something like this: let’s say that before an object is revealed to me, I try to imagine it. I am, in effect, trying to imagine the future. In order to observe it, the object must be present. Later, when it’s gone, I remember it in the past. Both the thing imagined and the thing remembered are versions of the thing observed. They are new objects. To make my encyclopedia more comprehensive, therefore, I decided it would be in three volumes: Imagined, Observed, and Remembered.
BLVR: Is some (or all?) of your other work also part of this larger project, whether explicitly labeled as such or not?
PB: The goal of all my work is essentially the same: demonstrating that magic is real or that reality is magic, by paying attention, and finding compensation or consolation for what is essentially a tragic existence. Or something like that. - The Believer Nov/Dec 2009

1 komentar:

  1. Really, is it true? No one has thanked your for this generation act of true curation?

    Then, by all means, please allow me to be the first!

    Thank you!