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Learning to Count
1. Hippys Are Living Proof, 1971 (3:31)
2. Every Man, Woman, And Child, 1972 (7:53)
3. Fight It Out, 1972 (11:46)
4. Bubble Blower, 1972 (5:08)
5. Straight Razor, 1972 (9:14)
6. Mama Bear, 1972 (8:50)
7. Power Poles, 1973 (3:31)
8. Swoops Down Outta The Sky, 1975 (12:33)
9. Cadillac, 1973 (5:52)
10. Store Up Your Treasures in Heaven, 1974 (7:29)
11. Whatcha Doing Down There Boy, 1975 (7:32)
12. Whatsda Matter Wid Jew, 1977 (5:33)
13. Lucky T's Texaco, 1975 (6:17)
From the LP Learning to Count (Hard Line, 1982), Produced by the Morgan Art Gallery, Shawnee Mission, Kansas
I first started doing the tapes while living in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. The sixties were ust over and Americans had polarized themselves completely on political, economic, and racial issues. I had traveled all over the forty-eight main States by then and realize now that the audio work is indeed d summation of travel in the sixties, viewed through a seventies reality that (although I did not know it back then) predicted conditions for the eighties that are starting to appear.
My primary work has been in the Visual arts working through the museum exhibition system. The sculptured narrative installations I was doing at the time of the tapes were composed in part with actual "human condition" packets. These were pinned up solidly, shoulder to shoulder, and covered entire walls of these participating museums. These narrative (readable) fragments of a rapidly changing culture were torn out of newspapers, received through the mail, removed off poster Walls and, in general, taken from all sources. They were then sewn up in clear plastic for protection and installation use. A visitor to the museum could spend time reading about thousands of recent incidents that, when viewed in total, accurately represented to my satisfaction the human culture condition at the time. These packets were literal evidence of our cultural goings on" taken from sources available to all. In short, they were for public, by public, but offered me a chance to juxtapose content at Will and thereby imply and seek d change of context. In contrast to this impactual sculpture, the audio tapes were an opportunity for me to explore private thoughts about "felt" evidence taken from sources that were not so readily available.
Most of the early work had me in d suppose/ remember situation which I would describe and recount via the microphone and it is this work and the total body that developed from 1971 to 1976 that form the basis for this double stereo-record set of thirteen separate selections.
The body of work started with early recordings of 1970 and ended with the last pieces I did in 1977. All of my audio tapes are similar in several respects. There is no cropping except the start and the end; all runs are intact with no cuts or edits within the narrative body. All are single voice with no sound overlay, musical accompaniment, or special effects. I did use a one-point stereo microphone, however, which allows a sing-song to occur from one speaker to the other -- a way of pacing the voice. The five-year body of work has been analyzed and separate pieces slotted into four sequential categories as follows: #1. "Human Condition" #2. "Self Help" #3. "Revelations" and, #4. "Back On Track." All of my taped narratives fit into one of these categories. The objective of finalizing this particular selection has been to evenly represent a total range within the categories of concern that index the total body.
"Human Condition" is represented by three cuts on side one and these were accurate summations of the polarities I could see and feel around me as the decade of war, civil rights, and liberation came to a close and the Johnny-can't-read, me-for-me decade began. I remember the early seventies as a go-get-it-for-the -moment time, when visual artists started being media specialists, and a handful of artists struggled with narcissism aesthetics. Their work, often narrative, serves as a foundation for the "performance artist" so highly visible in this new decade.
"Self Help'' explores implied violence as a catalyst for change. "Bubble Blower" and "Straight Razor" were done back to back with only a momentary pause as tape between them and the incidents they describe serve to threaten first (cut one) and then follow through (cut two). "Mama. Bear" was recorded before these first two and reviews d trip to Alaska where a bus ride and d climb to view Mt. McKinley brought the disparity between man and natural wildlife into sharp focus.
''Cadillac'' was done in 1973 and, like much of my audio work that year, made special effort to describe 'n detail a visualized sculpture that I could see quite clearly, but had not yet built. In those days I would propose exhibitions to museums via audio tape, sending them first a narrative description of the sculpture I wanted to do, and then awaiting their response. The tapes at this time became more fluid, and the sculpture became larger with more components and Juxtaposed symbols. In fact, all four cuts on the ''Revelations'' side are composed with distinct visual images laced close together. ''Power Poles'' and ''Treasures In Heaven- both compare boyhood memories and elder warnings with a current reality of fast pace, and Competitive professions. "Swoops Down Outta The Sky" is the middle selection of the total thirteen and embodies for me in a single piece some of the best I have to offer at this time and it was, for sure, one of the hardest to do. "Swoops..." reaffirms my basic, instinctual faith in the power beyond man. Jesus Christ and his teachings are ingrained in my life and man's collective maltreatment of the natural world that God provided is a blue chip sin I've looked closely in this 1975 selection. "Swoops..." shares with some of my other works the personal notion that Jesus controls the animal kingdom and may send them forth someday as instruments of retribution to affront man's cancerous consumption of everything, including himself. For example, "Whatcha Doing Down There, Boy" describes a situation where the animals come up, grab, tie you down, and Wait for the word from above that its time to eat. While Jesus questions, you about past wrongdoings, mean-looking, big things lick their chops as creepy -crawlers snip around your toes.
The last category, "Back On Track," has two selections similar to radio church services that you might hear broadcast over the low-watt stations of rural America.
I did very few tape works from late 1975 through mid-1977, perhaps five of value, and then completely stopped audio recordings of any kind. Some of the last works approached total. phonic with phrases of actual words but with recognizable vowels, inflection, and pace, nonetheless. But still, to a die-hard content pusher, this was too much and I just put the microphone away.
Now, in 1981, it's eleven years since I started the tapes, four years since I finished them, and here I am, still trying to figure out where they fit into the rest of me.