15 Years of Prattle and Din

Throughout the years I’ve put together collections of my recordings to inflict on my friends. Most of these people are still talking to me though we avoid certain subjects, such as my art. In March 2011 I thought it was important to assemble a collection celebrating fifteen years of audio production, so I made another CD/booklet package to hand out to friends (this time including my children): 15 Years of Prattle and Din.

To put this particular title into perspective I think I need to give you a little more background on my development as an artist. As far as I’m concerned it starts in the spring of 1983 when I’d come to the conclusion that I needed to do a book of poems and erotic drawings. I called it Laughing Water . In my memory this was a simple, decisive moment. In fact it had been evolving for at least a year prior and continued to transform for at least another eighteen months until it settled into something long term and open ended. Laughing Water became for me what Leaves of Grass became for Walt Whitman, it never seems to end (there will probably be some vague deathbed version for me), is constantly being edited, and seems to engulf all my artistic output.

A brief synopsis: I’ve been drawing all my life and started to explore oil paints during my last semester of high school (graduated in 1975). After graduating I started to read everything in the public library on the subject of painting, discovering the concept of glazing and finally finding Robert Vickery’s New Techniques in Egg Tempera, circa 1977, where I saw some examples of how it was done. Also influenced by Vickery, sometime around 1981 I started to hatch and then crosshatch to produce drawings as finished objects rather than preparatory sketches. Beyond these detached influences I consider myself self-taught.

Illustrations for a planned fantasy story circa 1976. Graphite, colored pencil, India ink.
Illustrations for a planned fantasy story circa 1976. Graphite, colored pencil, India ink.

 

A sphinx, circa 1976. An early work in oil paint.
A sphinx, circa 1976. An early work in oil paint.

 

A pin-up nude. My first attempt at using oil glazes, maybe July 1977. All the darker areas are made up of layers of transparent paint. Almost all the colors are pure out of the tube, mixed with copal medium.
A pin-up nude. My first attempt at using oil glazes, maybe July 1977. All the darker areas are made up of layers of transparent paint. Almost all the colors are pure out of the tube, mixed with copal medium.

 

An entropometer, which evolved into my image of the Apostle of Need. Drawn circa 1981 or 1982 as I was teaching myself to draw with hatching (eventually crosshatching).
An entropometer, which evolved into my image of the Apostle of Need. Drawn circa 1981 or 1982 as I was teaching myself to draw with hatching (eventually crosshatching).

 

The only finished portion of an attempted self-portrait circa 1983-4. Graphite, India ink, and acrylic paint (white highlight and ochre wash).
The only finished portion of an attempted self-portrait circa 1983-4. Graphite, India ink, and acrylic paint (white highlight and ochre wash).

 

Drawing number xxix-29 from Laughing Water. 4"x6". Graphite and acrylic. One of the few drawings from the collection permissible for most audiences.
Drawing number xxix-29 from Laughing Water. 4″x6″. Graphite and acrylic. One of the few drawings from the collection permissible for most audiences.

 

I’ve almost always worked within the confines of realism but not necessarily naturalism. By 1980 the imagery was almost exclusively sexual, mostly female nudes, but I felt like I was skirting the issue. Since coming to realize, in recent years, that art is primarily a matter of thinking rather than an act of producing esthetic objects, it was very important for me to tackle sexuality head on. I’ve come to see sex as a bridge for human contact and a focus for intimacy, as the supremely sensual experience—more than anything, it’s about skin—and I’ve long had an extreme dissatisfaction with our society’s interpretation of our sexual being (even the more sexually open philosophies such as Tantric Buddhism  and Hinduism seem dehumanizing).

Not long after I started to explore paint I also started writing science fiction/fantasy (a total mistake). By 1977 I was writing poetry. Math and art were my natural element until I finished high school, then I found words. Actually, since graduating I’ve found almost the whole human endeavor: I didn’t really begin to come to life until I was eighteen.

Almost immediately I fantasized about producing books with both my poems and visual art. Back then printing was very expensive, not something you’d do on your own, and the digital world was barely the dream of a few thousand techies (and not at all as rich as it’s come to be). But for several years I played around with how I could make this happen. So, my original plan for Laughing Water was that it would be grayscale—all drawings—and therefore somewhat affordable to print on my own. Maybe a couple dozen drawings and, say, fifty poems. Within a year I’d gotten fed up with the limitations of graphite, decided the actual book would be left to the future, and started using acrylic paints on the drawings.

When I began recording in 1996 it was as an extension of Laughing Water. It has always been my goal to have words, images, and recordings in a single package. The earliest releases on cassette were just the recordings but as soon as I could I started to put together slightly better artwork (illicitly using my employer’s copier). These were still basic cassette liners. When I got my first computer around the end of 1999 I spent a lot of time archiving my art and producing CD/booklet packages. I don’t know if any of these editions even added up to fifteen copies handed out to friends. They all had titles playing on the parent project Laughing Water: First Drafts of Water, Another Draft of Water, Up to Our Ears in Water, or something like that. As soon as I got this stuff on the computer the booklets came in full color and were filled with my sexually explicit drawings. If the weirdness of my recordings and poems wasn’t enough to make most people cringe then my visual art would clinch it, the average person tends to find my work perplexing and discomforting.

Which is where one of the choices for 15 Years of Prattle and Din comes in. I decided that it would be for a more general audience, including my children (at that time aged twenty and fifteen). Instead of using my drawings I would fill the book with photographs—landscapes, my studio, my face—most of which are washed out and used only as background to the text.

The more difficult choice was selecting the recordings. Usually my collections are of recent works (except for a collection put together in 2002 which had all extent recordings, all finished official drawings (numbered and signed with my first name, about 120 at the time), and the text to all recordings—this left out about 90% of my written work, which I consider to be part of Laughing Water, and thousands of drawings and paintings which I do not think of as part of the project). 15 Years of Prattle and Din is still dominated by newer works. To represent the older material I included things that had recently been recreated in the computer, all compositions from 1996. 1997-2003 are not represented. (The booklet does give original draft dates for each recording.) “Music, the Beginning”, “Evil 1”, and “Night Rain” were all originally recorded in 1996. The versions in the retrospective are all more recent recreations produced in ACID Pro on the computer. “Coverage” and “Effigies” (though some of my notes say “Effigies” was only started then but finished in 2009) are from 2004 and “Miasma” is from 2009. “Hello, Earth” is from 2010. “Passing”, “Work Yourself to Death”, “Sunday Morning”, and “World Without Prayer” were all completed in February 2011, a couple weeks before the album was put together. Instead of going for something truly representative—that is, something stylistically incoherent—I tried to put together a fairly cohesive album. I also chose compositions that I liked, except for a couple of the newer pieces. (I actually like listening to this collection the way I would someone else’s album.)

The version of 15 Years of Prattle and Din I’ve uploaded to Bandcamp contains newer mixes of all the tracks than on the disc I distributed in 2011. I suppose technically they should be called mastered, since I used iZotope’s Ozone mastering software to enhance the mixes (primarily to make my voice more audible). (If you really want to hear how a composition changes you can go through my annual playlists or, sometimes, my primary narrative for a composition will have alternate versions. The page of chronology can be used as a table of contents for all the compositions and almost all the other posts for this site. In the table as each composition is listed for the first time (that is, draft 1) the title has a link to that article. The year links to an annual playlist. Often the notes on the right hand side link to a post as well.)

The album can be downloaded for free, if you want to hear it or read the booklet. You are given the option to pay but I suggest you don’t.

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