[ Ken Montgomery & Frank Rothkamm Magic happens in Brooklyn ]

Sometimes magic does not happen. At all other times, magic happens in Brooklyn. Not any old part of Brooklyn, but in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, right across from the ‘White Castle’ hamburger joint. Yes, I am talking about the backroom of ‘Legion’, the hipster-only venue that doesn’t serve hamburgers, but you can always go across the street for that. ‘Legion’ serves what’s new in New York. And so it was on a starry night in the winter of 2017 that two old friends, and I mean old (as in advanced in years and receding in hair lines), met to make magic; and I mean as in improvising music live on stage and not making any elephants disappear. They are good, but not that good. But what is good music anyway? In the seminal “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Walter Benjamin boils it down to authenticity. The true self, devoid of alienation, shines. Although conditioned by societal norms of value, it is not afraid to express the true human condition, independent of surplus value or, what we call in the entertainment business, payola. This is the real big elephant in the room. But the two friends made it disappear. This kind of stagecraft does not come easy, certainly not overnight. I asked Ken Montgomery, the vocalist whose hairline has receded uncannily little over the years, about this: “When did you first start using your pleasant voice in the service of music?” He answered: “I was so convinced my voice sounded terrible that when people sang “Happy Birthday” at parties I would move my mouth so it looked like I was singing, though no sound was coming out. I believed I had no musical talent and certainly no musical training so it was a great surprise when at age 20 I first began making music from noisy toy electronic instruments and analog tape manipulations. Once I discovered tape delay and little effect boxes I began putting my voice into them and finally I could tolerate my voice. It took many years for me to begin to have confidence that my voice sounded good to other people. Wanting to be a better performer I took an acting class and on the first day of class the instructor asked each of us to stand up and sing a song to the rest of the class. I was so terrified and fearful that my voice, without all the effects, would sound embarrassingly bad that I broke down crying.” Let this sink in for a minute. "Strong men, also cry. Strong men. Also cry." said Jeffrey Lebowski in the Coen brothers’ motion picture ‘The Big Lebowski’. That was authentic in 1998, but now it is 2017. That is the reason why you won’t hear any whining here. Keep it together. Who’s your president? But this record is not about Ken, as much I like to tell you the story when John Cage personally made sure Ken got a grant for his Generator Sound Art gallery, the first and only in New York, but I’ll save that for another time. No, this record is all about me. So I asked Ken: “When did you first find out that I can play the organ?”. “When I heard ‘just 3 organs’”, he replied, “At that time I suspected you had 3 hands.” Truth be told, my CD album ‘just 3 organs’ (which is almost sold out -PM me) is the result of the studio trickery called overdubbing. Like the rest of you, I have only two hands to play my organ. That does not mean that magic cannot happen. Two hands can do a lot, especially if you add a big mouth to it. So here we have Ken Montgomery on vocals and me on the little red organ, demonstrating that the avant-garde can still offend when ‘Magic happens in Brooklyn’.


   
Catalog No: FLX93
Title: Magic happens in Brooklyn
Sound Artist: Ken Montgomery & Frank Rothkamm
Visual Artist: Nina Schneider,Holger Rothkamm
Label: Flux Records
Length: 10:02 (602s)
Composed: 2017
Location: New York
Instruments: Cheap microphone
Yamaha Reface YC
Release Date: 2/8/2017
Format: Digital
File Under: Avantgarde Camp



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