Monday, January 27, 2014

Adult Party Games and Bad Poetry

After Arthur Jarvinen's death in 2010 I decided that I needed to commemorate his life and work here on Mixed Meters. Today would have been Art's 58th birthday. Mentioning him like this isn't much. It is something.

Last summer an adventurous group of composer performers called Varispeed played selections from Art's piece Adult Party Games from the Leisure Planet. They did this somewhere in New York State at a place called Mount Tremper Arts.  Here's a picture (which I found on Facebook, there are more):

Each of the suspended cards you see is one of the 'games'.   These are short text pieces which Art described as:
a growing collection of works which don't fit conveniently into any particular category.
I don't know exactly which games Varispeed chose to perform but it looks as though they found a beautiful place to play them.  Here's the list of some Adult Party Games:
Eskimo piece --
Illegal music --
White painting for Robert Rauschenberg --
The valedictorian squats and scurries --
First principles of aerodynamics --
Haed --
Schematic --
For Bill Mullane --
For Giovanna Caicco --
For Mark Cunningham --
Zone --
No --
For myself --
For Linda Tadic.
Of course  Varispeed blogged about their performance.   They included one game called Advice for Young Composers:

Click on any picture for an enlargement.  The text to "Advice for Young Composers"
Tonight, astrally-project to Aaron Kernis's work place and plagiarize the last three measures he wrote.  Repeat as often as necessary.
The first game on the list, Eskimo piece, is available for you to watch online.  It is performed by another of these endlessly mysterious New York composer/performer ensembles, this one called thingNY.  thingNY is probably from Brooklyn.  (I'm told that anybody who's anybody in the new music world these days comes from Brooklyn.)

An excerpt from a performance art piece from a 1970s collection called "Adult Party Games from the Leisure Planet". This work was part of a string of fluxus-like sound and performance works composed by the late CalArts composer Art Jarvinen.
Eskimo Piece calls for loads of "Eskimos" to run around on stage while floor mics pick up their footsteps, creating feedback. Art originally thought of this work as absurd and chaotic, but we decided to "premiere" it in a pulse-driven style, letting the feedback ring out a bit after each clash.
It remains absurd though. There are no real Eskimos in this piece. There are no Inuits. There are a few Canadians

Closer to home and less musically, I discovered a small cache of "memorabilia" from the mid-nineties.  This was about the time Leslie and I moved into our current home. The cache, actually a basket, included a stack of old mail - things like birthday cards and invitations.

One invitation was to a party on January 27, 1996, at the home of Lynn Angebranndt and Arthur Jarvinen.  The occasion, although it doesn't say so on the card, was their shared birthday. Yes, Art and Lynn were a married couple both born on the same date.

First, here are quotes from the card:
O openers of the way, openers of the roads to bad poetry,
perfected in the house of Art and Lynn.
It's time once again
The event of the season:
May the divine beings, who make men to stand fast, cause my poetry to stink.
May my mouth be opened and pour out really bad poetry.
But the best part of the card was that it was a pop-up.  I remember Art once telling me that he had gotten into pop-ups, so I assumed this card was his work.  Recently, however, Lynn told me that the pop-ups were actually her idea and her work.  A lot of work.  And very cool work, to be sure.  Of course the two faces on the card are those of Art and Lynn:

I don't remember whether I was able to attend this particular Bad Poetry Soiree.  I did attend some of them.  At one of them I read from the works of William McGonagall.  Here, in honor of the Bad Poetry Soirees, is some bad poetry by that poet.  This one is about the eternal war between rich and poor:


Mr. SMIGGS was a gentleman,
And he lived in London town;
His wife she was a good kind soul,
And seldom known to frown.

’Twas on Christmas eve,
And Smiggs and his wife lay cosy in bed,
When the thought of buying a goose
Came into his head.

So the next morning,
Just as the sun rose,
He jump’d out of bed,
And he donn’d his clothes,

Saying, “Peggy, my dear.
You need not frown,
For I’ll buy you the best goose
In all London town.”

So away to the poultry shop he goes,
And bought the goose, as he did propose,
And for it he paid one crown,
The finest, he thought, in London town.

When Smiggs bought the goose
He suspected no harm,
But a naughty boy stole it
From under his arm.

Then Smiggs he cried, “Stop, thief!
Come back with my goose!”
But the naughty boy laugh’d at him,
And gave him much abuse.

But a policeman captur’d the naughty boy,
And gave the goose to Smiggs,
And said he was greatly bother’d
By a set of juvenile prigs.

So the naughty boy was put in prison
For stealing the goose.,
And got ten days’ confinement
Before he got loose.

So Smiggs ran home to his dear Peggy,
Saying, “Hurry, and get this fat goose ready,
That I have bought for one crown;
So, my darling, you need not frown.”

“Dear Mr Smiggs, I will not frown:
I’m sure ’tis cheap for one crown,
Especially at Christmas time –
Oh! Mr Smiggs, it’s really fine.”

“Peggy. it is Christmas time,
So let us drive dull care away,
For we have got a Christmas goose,
So cook it well, I pray.

“No matter how the poor are clothed,
Or if they starve at home,
We’ll drink our wine, and eat our goose,
Aye, and pick it to the bone.”

Mixed Meters has many posts about the life and music of Arthur Jarvinen. All of them can be found by clicking this link.

Last year I wrote at length about Art's massive solo piano piece Serious Immobilities.  This has become one of Mixed Meters' most popular posts.

Art's anonymous blog Mister Composerhead is still online.  (Art told me that Aaron Kernis, referenced above in Advice for Young Composers, was the original model for "Mister Composerhead")

Art's lavishly annotated surf-music opera was called The Invisible Guy.   Listen.

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