At some point a relative of mine worked on novelty recordings, including several haunted house records, and then made albums that supposedly capture the sound of these hybrid Ouija/keyboard instruments he built that played music and conjured EVP. We’re not sure how many of these he built or where they are, but the tracks that have been found (and sort-of re-issued) feature three: The Magic Tray, The I-D-O PSY-CHO-I-D-E-O-GRAPH, and The Electric Mystifying Oracle. No one’s sure if it was part of his Halloween or seance party recordings or something he took more seriously. Below are some photos and liner notes. Here’s where you can listen.

Notes:

The recording you now possess was created by an entity born in Eastern Kentucky as Allie Bob O’Robbie McClurg, called Allie by his family, and later known as Mus Mus. His birth brought together two clashing households–the O’Robbie and McClurg clans–and they decided that he should have both surnames. With a love of Tin Pan Alley tunes and cowboy ballads, he left home to pursue a career in entertainment. Never very successful (his early career involved providing sound effects on novelty records), he did manage a lifelong friendship with Toronto-born composer/arranger Percy Faith. They also shared the same birthday: April 7, 1908. 

Jake Wimly remembers the hard days: “We was all trying to get to the big time, you know. I had been to some wrestling matches at the Piper Domes when a pal of mine named Deuce Rogers asked me if I wanted to be in a movie they was filming about a cowboy band because the director didn’t like the look of the cross-eyed tenor. I had sidlined before so it was no big deal. That’s where I met Allie, that’s what we called him until all the ‘Mus Mus’ crap. He played a bar patron and did some lighting work from what I remember. He was always a little strange, but good people.” 

Murphey DePaul, a producer on the Ouija sessions has some Mus Mus memories as well: “He would only work by candlelight. One person was allowed at a time in the studio with him. He called them a ‘psychic battery’ for the session. No one would go in with him, so I volunteered. He shook my hand, strapped me down in a chair, and stepped behind the curtains erected around the instruments he designed. People always ask me about the boards and other instruments he built, and as much as I’d love to exaggerate their qualities, none of us were allowed to see them uncovered. One of the boxes was marked ‘The von Krieg Estate’ and that’s about all I can say. I just know something…something happened that night I can’t explain. That or he pulled one helluva Oz stunt there in the studio.” DePaul swears that any and all voices on these tracks were never heard during recording, but only during playback. 

While reading a De Quincey collection, I came across some lines of Shelley that I either hadn’t read or hadn’t remembered, but I immediately responded to them in this context:

With hue like that when some great painter dips 
His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse.

I genuinely enjoy Puritan writing, especially diaries and journals. I’ve discovering some interesting Victorian journals (not De Quincey) that I’ll write about soon. Some read like excerpts of the Psychopathia Sexualis, quite different from the Puritan journals.

One of the ways I celebrate the New Year is through music. For the past few years that has meant Thai music, especially phin and isaan music.

This year I’ve been listening to the Sons of Kemet record Your Queen Is a Reptile. The quartet of sax, tuba, and two drummers plays powerful, danceable, and reflective pieces. The music is about memory and celebration (at least one piece is dedicated to a family member), and while looking back, has an aggressive drive forward.

Sounds like a good way to approach a new year to me.

Happy New Year!

Sons of Kemet performing “My Queen Is Harriet Tubman.”

I’ll hopefully have more thoughts about this soon. I hadn’t played with a drummer in six years and I knew I was going to approach playing improv in a different way than I had in the past. I was full of monkey mind, but I’m happy with the results and look forward to more work with Stull and with a few other projects.

The Subversive Workshop

Stull is a long-running improvisational group with me on guitar and Tracy Harris on drums. Our friend Stephen McClurg joins us now on bass, and we’re putting some recordings of a recent get-together at The Subversive Workshop up on Soundcloud. Here are a couple for you to get into a deep space freakout with…

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Geese and ducks have returned with their young. We’ve been walking around the pond looking at greeny goslings, all fuzzy like they got stuck under a hair dryer. We’ve also seen ducklings swim behind their parents in those cute little lines that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in person–only on cartoons or in storybooks.

My own little one holds hands and walks around cast-n-boot. She gets tired faster than usual, but that’s to be expected. She told me, “Someone needs to tell them geeses not to poop where humans can see it.” After we passed the family of geese, we passed two more standing at the edge of the water. She said, “That must be grandma and grandpa.”

The older one runs ahead of us on the trail and back again, only to run way out ahead of us again.

Despite broken bones, boxes, and the bustling beginning of the end of another school year, these are good days.

I was really feeling that and then I read about new research on the spread of ticks and their pathogens.

Anyway, I wrote about Stump’s Quirk Out for my latest Lost Chords & Serenades Divine.

 

I’ve been meaning to re-read Black Hole for a while, but I came across his trilogy at the library recently and decided to read that instead. I devoured all three in a matter of hours. There are Tintin and Burroughs references, and an InterZone-like setting that sometimes feels like Moebius interpreting Cronenberg. I just swallowed the thing whole and really haven’t digested it. Burns is doing some cool stuff at the level of image (these grids that represent each part of the story among, obviously, a ton of others) and color.

There is a way that by the time I got to the end I felt like I was reading Burns’s blasted sci-fi version of something like the autobio comics that cover grief and loss. I guess that’s similar to how he explored the coming-of-age story in Black Hole.

I don’t really watch TV shows, much less binge-watch, but I inhaled these comics.

clarke
My ears totally rejected this the first time I heard it in high school. Too bright. Too clean. Too happy. Hearing it now, it reminds me of a lot of TV and film music I heard growing up. In college, I saw a concert video of Clarke on upright and he showed an amazing command of an instrument I was struggling with at the time. I listened to School Days again. Still didn’t like it.

There’s fantastic talent on this record. Plenty of fusion royalty. McLaughlin. Cobham. Gadd. George Duke! I don’t dislike it the way I did in high school, but it’s not something that excites me too much either. Gadd’s drum track on “Quiet Afternoon” is nice. I like hearing Clarke’s approach to upright on “Desert Song.” “Hot Fun” is well-titled.

The cover is pretty great. So is this video of George Duke jamming on “School Days” with a keytar. I first heard Duke on Zappa records. Music just pours out of him. He makes everything he does look effortless. There’s such a beauty and joy in that–even when I’m not particularly excited about the music itself.

Much of my weekend will be tending to children, grading essays, and writing curriculum. I might sneak in some other writing here and there, but I find that my school work often eats at those muscles and I tend to write less when the school year is fully flourishing. Plus, this is the second year in a row with two new classes that I’m building, which involves more work than simply refining a previously built course.

I’m excited that I’ll have a poem in a matchbook anthology made by Small Fires Press, a print shop and bindery in New Orleans. Their work is fantastic.

Nextdoor,” a continuing collaboration with Mark Ehling, is getting a new form of life in the GROW UP exhibition at Wild Goose Creative, a non-profit art and education space in Columbus, Ohio. I have some family roots in Ohio so I’m excited about this show for many reasons. I have to say thanks to Amanda Page who made us aware of the exhibit and who will now have to hang our art! Mandy continues to be…supportive…hee…

Recently, Jason Quinn Malott and I started volume two of the Outrider Podcast. We’re working with a few different structures, and this first episode may have even been the third in a series of recorded conversations about writing, reading, and life.

I’m drafting my next Halloween collaboration with artist Reed Randolph. Last year, we did The Coven of Lonely Gourds. This year’s project will maintain our indulgence in a kind of EC/MAD humor, but is also influenced by Ed and Lorraine Warren, whose demonology school I wanted to attend as a twelve-year-old.

Here’s some recent reading:

General Favorites 2017–So Far, Part II

Books that left traces.

Nonfiction

Auto/Biography
Two-Dimensional Man: Paul Sahre
Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002): David Sedaris

Psychology/Philosophy/Education/Religion
The Dhammapada
Taking the Path of Zen: Robert Aitken
The Book of Tea: Kakuzo Okakura
There Is No God and He Is Always With You: A Search for God in Odd Places: Brad Warner

Essays/Criticism
Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction From the ‘70s and ‘80s: Grady Hendrix
Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music: Michael Robbins
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments: David Foster Wallace

Film
Melinda Camber Porter In Conversation With Wim Wenders

Art/Comics

Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend: Winsor McCay

Poetry

Best American Poetry 2017: ed. Natasha Tretheway