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RE/Search #15 Incredibly Strange Music Vol. II Excerpts and Reviews

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Interview with Ken Nordine:

RE/Search: Were you part of the beatnik movement?

Ken Nordine: I was a great memorizer of poems by T.S. Eliot, Omar Khayyam–all kinds of things. I was working in a little joint and ran out of poems I’d memorized so I had to make up new ones. The jazz pianist, bass player and I would get up and ad-lib stories because the same people came all the time and you couldn’t keep repeating yourself. But the beatnik movement happened in San Francisco. I met some of the people when they passed through Chicago, but I never considered myself a beatnik.

R/S: You do a stream-of-consciousness reflection upon society-

KN: Right now I’m re-doing an album of mine called Colors. The idea came from a series of radio commercials I did for the Fuller Paint Company in San Francisco. They said, “Do whatever you want–just mention our name.” So I wrote, “The Fuller Paint Company invites you to stare with your ears at Yellow.” And then you’d hear very strange music, and I’d continue, “In the beginning–no, long before that–when light was deciding who’d be in–or out–of the spectrum, Yellow was in serious trouble. Green didn’t want Ken Nordine, thenYellow in–some primal envy, I guess. Things like very bad for Yellow until Blue came along and said, ‘What’s the trouble?’ and Yellow explained…so Blue went to see green and told him, “Look–if Yellow and I get together, we can make our own Green. We won’t need you.’ ‘Oh.’ So Green saw the light, and Yellow got in. It worked out fine: Yellow got lemons and Green got limes.” I liked this project so much I thought, “Hey–I’ll do these colors as an album.”

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Interview with Robert Moog:

Moog with Theremin

RE/Search: Is it easy to build a Theremin?

Robert Moog: You can build one that’s sort of a “hobby” version of a Theremin, but it’s harder to build a real musical instrument–it’s just like somebody who’s an amateur woodworker building a guitar! You can build something that looks like a guitar and plays a little like a guitar, but you can’t make a musical instrument that easily.

R/S: When you were a kid, did you go to a Theremin concert?

RM: No, but I heard them on the radio once or twice. My knowledge of the Theremin as a kid was primarily as a hobby project. This was before rock n roll and the whole ’60s thing; Benny Goodman and Ralph Flanagan were still on the radio–it really was a different era. I never watched TV, so any awareness I had of technological advances in pop music was what Les Paul and Mary Ford were doing–their advances in recording techniques were new and exciting.

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Interview with Juan Garcia Esquivel:

RE/Search: There is an intriguing sentence on the back of To Love Again: “As for Esquivel’s romantic life, fortune has amply blessed this good-looking young Latin American–there has been a long and uninterrupted succession of names of beautiful and famous women mentioned in connection with him, and it does not seem very likely that the end is in sight.”

Esquivel: I know, that was one side of my life. I loved music, cars (my last one was a red Cadillac El Dorado) and women–not necessarily in that order! That was one of my weak points. I don’t think it would be right to mention names if they are still alive and active. I can say that some of those relationships cost me money and gave me experience–both. There’s a famous opera, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and my friends used to call me by the name of the hero, “Don Juan Tenorio.” I was very lucky, not for my facial features necessarily, but because I was young and played piano. At first I was involved with one or two ladies, very famous and very successful, and that gave me a kind of “halo.” Curiously enough, this would attract the attention of other beautiful ladies who would be very nice when I approached them…Let’s just say that I had many relationships with beautiful and very well-known names, but I don’t dare name them!

R/S: What was your first big break?

E: A very popular radio comedian, who had a program at 8 o’clock at night, asked me, “Do you think you could use an orchestra?” Of course, I said “Yes!”–I never said no to any proposal! He asked me to supply little pieces of music as a background for his comedy skits.

The comedian was very pleased with the musical backgrounds I invented. He might say, “I want background music for a Frenchman walking in Russia.” [laughs] I would think, “How can I describe that?” This is how much imagination started developing. Fortunately, I had all these instruments to experiment with: five trumpets, four trombones, five saxes, and the rhythm section, plus violins, violas, cellos and a harp. The radio station became interested in experimenting or in being imaginative. They would buy “stock music”: orchestral arrangements printed in the United States, and all the orchestras sounded the same because no one would write original arrangements.

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