Saturday, 29 May 2010

Then He Took Up Golf

the course, plotted all over these plains, extending far beyond Tomalin, through the jungle, to the Farolito, the nineteenth hole...The Case Is Altered. Under The Volcano

The morning, I was looking something up on Chris Ackerley's wonderful on-line annotation of Under The Volcano. when I came across Chris's reference to the above mention of the nineteenth hole in Under The Volcano. Chris noted that Frank Crumit recorded a song called The Nineteenth Hole. I have searched everywhere but I have been unable to find Crumit's 1922 recording on Columbia.

However, I did find two other songs recorded by Crumit about golf called Then He Took Up Golf and Donald The Dub which will have to suffice until I find the Nineteenth Hole!

You can also read another feature on Frank Crumit on my blog here.

Benjamin Lew Men With Coats Thrashing

Benjamin Lew Men With Coats Thrashing Snippet

I have just come across Benjamin Lew's take on Malc's poem Men With Coats Thrashing.

Here is a blurb from the Crammed Record site about Lew:

An enlightened amateur -in the noble and almost Renaissance-like sense of the word- Benjamin Lew dabbles with equal grace in photography, writing, visual arts ... he worked part-time as a cocktail mixer in a tropical bar which was one of the favourite watering holes of Brussels' thriving artistic community of the early '80s. Tuxedomoon had just moved to Brussels, and Steven Brown was among the many musicians, designers & artists who patronized the bar. Benjamin had a secret passion: he wasn't a musician, but had acquired a small analog synthesizer, with which he had started creating these strange mysterious little pieces. Benjamin played them to Steven and asked him if he'd agree to record with him. Steven was taken with them and accepted. Benjamin and Steven's bar-room conversation led to a fully-fledged album, largely created in the studio by both protagonists with the help of Gilles Martin and myself in the spring of '82, and entitled Douzième Journée (a reference to anthropologist Marcel Griaule and his famous study of the Dogon people of Mali). Benjamin had a unique talent for creating evocative and poetic atmospheres. Listening to his albums (he went on to record three more with Crammed) is like embarking on a dream journey to the Sahara or the Far East. You'd think that some of the pieces feature non-European musicians or samples but: no... this is just Benjamin's imagination, his old synth and his friends...

You can download the full track or the whole CD from Crammed Records

You can find out more about Benjamin Lew's music at his My Space page.

I came across the track below called Dans Le Jardin and for some reason thought it might have been a good sound track for the Consul's visit to his garden in Under The Volcano.


Expanded Literary Practices in Vancouver 1954-1969

I have only recently come across the above exhibition held in Vancouver early this year. The above is an image entitled Untitled sculpture installed in Dollarton Mud Flats from the show by Tom Burrows, an artist I have already featured on the blog.

The exhibition was curated by Michael Turner who was a fellow contributor to Malcolm Lowry: From The Mersey To The World with a chapter on his former club in Vancouver called The Malcolm Lowry Room.

The show encompassed work by Bill Bissett, Tom Burrows, Judith Copithorne, Stan Douglas, Maxine Gadd, Gerry Gilbert, Ray Johnson, Roy Kiyooka, Gary Lee-Nova, Glenn Lewis, Malcolm Lowry, Michael Morris, Al Neil and Ian Wallace amongst others.

You can see some of the images from the exhibition and read Michael Turner's commentary at Expanded Literary Practices in Vancouver 1954-1969

Here is an extract:

It could be said that modern Vancouver writing began in two places: atop the bluffs at UBC, with English professor Earle Birney, and in a seaside shack at the city’s eastern edge – the Dollarton home of ukelele-playing Malcolm Lowry.

But the distinction does not end there. Although both men were known for their adventure writing, Birney’s best-remembered poems — the silky smooth “David”(1940) and the thoroughly modern “Bushed”(1951) — take place in mountains, on the vertical axis, while Lowry, known for his jagged-wave prose style, set his masterpiece at the base of a volcano, or in the case of his first novel, Ultramarine (1933), at sea level, on the horizontal plane. In temporal terms, what Birney was doing in the forties and fifties had little in common with the first iteration of UBC’s TISH poets (1961–1963) — but the same could not be said of Lowry’s Dollarton successor, the musician, artist and writer Al Neil, whose bricoleur approach to music, sculpture and text had much in common with Lowry’s “Through The Panama”(1954), one of Vancouver’s first examples of collage fiction.
Read more

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Epilogue To The Lighthouse Invites The Storm

New Brighton Lighthouse by David Ward

June too soon.
July stand by.
August look out you must.
September remember.
October all over.

Epilogue to The Lighthouse Invites The Storm in The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry

I am continuing with my look at Lowry's sources in his poetry. The above epilogue is often referred to as a seaman's or mariner's proverb. The proverb refers to the hurricane season in the Caribbean. I was interested to identify Lowry's original source for the quote. It is possible that he read the phrase in his many nautical readings though I haven't discovered a source from the likes of Conrad, Masefield etc. He may have heard it during his association with sailors in Liverpool or Birkenhead or on board Pyrrhus during his voyage to the Far East in 1927.

Another possible source is from a book called Weather Lore by Richard Inwards published in 1898- "a collection of proverbs, sayings and rules concerning the weather". Inwards quotes his source for the proverb about "hurricanes in the West Indies" as Admiral George Nares. Nares wrote a book called Practical Seamanship for young officer cadets to keep the skills of seamanship alive in the days of transition from sail to steam in case the skills were required if steam failed. Nares's book was adapted by the British Admirality and became a standard work on the subject.

Lowry may have had access to Inward's collection in the family library at his home in Ingelwood or at his schools Caldicott and The Leys. He may have also read the proverb in a magazine or newspaper as he was a prolific reader of both as his sources prove.

One other possible source is his brother Wilfrid, as he was a part time naval officer with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the latter part of WW1 on HMS Eagle seen above in Liverpool, who may have had a copy of Nares's book. If Wilfrid did have the Nares book, I am sure that an inquisitive young Malc would have taken a peek inside as he was fascinated by all things nautical as a youth. By coincidence, Nares was Acting Conservator of the River Mersey in the years before his death in 1915. The Mersey was the river that Lowry crossed many times and sailed out of in 1927 to the far east.

I can find no details whether Nares sailed to the Caribbean during his time with the Royal Navy. Again, he may have picked up the proverb from mixing in naval circles.

According to Malena Kuss, in Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: an encyclopedic history, the actual source for the proverb is from the Anglophonic Caribbean. Kuss details how sea shanties originated with in the Anglophonic Caribbean:

Shanties performed in call-in-response style are relics of the past and still sung in some parts of Anglophonic Caribbean and, according to Abrahams, thrived in areas where different ethnic groups (Europeans, African Americans and European Americans) were brought together to perform a common task. In Deep Water, Shallow Shore 1974, he (Abrahams) traces representations of this tradition in 19th Century English travel chronicles, probes the co-ordination between song-patterns and tasks, and differentiates local repertoires from those influenced by the international sea trade.

Songs might be improvised to suit the occasion or come from a repertoire of shanties "associated with the sea trades in the days of large sailing vessels", and both the local and international types exist side by side. As an example from Nevis whose distribution remained limited to the Caribbean. Caesar, Boy Caesar was one of the local songs most commonly used to haul boats out of the water. The strength required for the task used to congregate men at the beach before the hurricane season and often a big drum ensemble was brought to provide further encouragement, along with vast quantities plenty of rum. The lengthy strophic text which provokes fun at the drummer, is sung without much variation to a simple "western" type of tune whose regular phrase structure is subverted by an "African" call-and-response performance style. The principle of complementary opposition built into the task and established between the leader and the followers is encode in the alternation of shantyman solo with group response.

Both the the tune and the text of Caesar, Boy Caesar were transcribed by Abrahams (1974) but musical notation does not do justice to the rhythmic subtleties in the chanter's performance that he and Lomax recorded on Nevis in 1962 in Nevis and St. Kitts Tea Meetings, Christmas Sports and The Moonlight Night. Instead of sea shanties, short "routines" also were used for heavy lifting as in the following "mnemomic rhyme" also sung to haul boats out of the water before the hurricane season:

June too soon.
July stand by.
August look out you must.
September remember.
October all over

I cannot find the above rhyme in a musical form but here is Caesar, Boy Caesar:

You can buy Caesar, Boy Caesar on a CD issued on Rounder Records called Caribbean Voyage: Nevis & St. Kitts: Tea Meetings, Christmas Sports, & the Moonlight Night

Lowry's work has other references to sea shanties such as Seraphina in his short story Goya The Obscure which I will post about at a later date. You can imagine the young Malc reading Melville or Dana and dreaming about singing songs in the fo'c'sle on Saturday night as seen in the above drawing.

I soon got used to this singing; for the sailors never touched a rope without it. Sometimes, when no one happened to strike up, and the pulling, whatever it might be, did not seem to be getting forward very well, the mate would always say, "Come, men, can't any of you sing? Sing now, and raise the dead." And then some one of them would begin, and if every man's arms were as much relieved as mine by the song, and he could pull as much better as I did, with such a cheering accompaniment, I am sure the song was well worth the breath expended on it. It is a great thing in a sailor to know how to sing well, for he gets a great name by it from the officers, and a good deal of popularity among his shipmates. Some sea-captains, before shipping a man, always ask him whether he can sing out at a rope. (Herman Melville, Redburn: His First Voyage, 1849)

A song is as necessary to sailors as the drum and fife to a soldier. They must pull together as soldiers must step in time, and they can't pull in time, or pull with a will, without it. Many a time, when a thing goes heavy, with one fellow yo-ho-ing, a lively song, like "Heave, to the girls!" "Nancy O!" "Jack Crosstree," "Cheerly, men," &c., has put life and strength into every arm. We found a great difference in the effect of the various songs in driving in the hides. Two or three songs would be tried, one after the other, with no effect,-- not an inch could be got upon the tackles; when a new song, struck up, seemed to hit the humor of the moment, and drove the tackles "two blocks" at once. "Heave round hearty!" "Captain gone ashore!" "Dandy ship and a dandy crew," and the like, might do for common pulls, but on an emergency, when we wanted a heavy, "raise-the-dead pull," which should start the beams of the ship, there was nothing like "Time for us to go!" "Round the corner," "Tally high ho! you know," or "Hurrah! hurrah! my hearty bullies!" (Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, 1840)

Lowry's own experiences, at sea on the voyage to the Far East, fell short of the camaraderie he had dreamed about as a boy. His first novel Ultramarine chronicles his disappointment that Pyrrhus didn't have a fo'c'sle and no one sang sea shanties either!

I couldn't find a drum ensemble from St. Kitts but I did find this ensemble from Haiti:

If we take the description of Kuss's above of the "mnemomic rhyme" about the hurricane season then I presume it may have sounded similar to the Haiti video.


After posting the above, I returned to the The Collected Poetry of Malcolm Lowry and noticed that Chris Ackerley had included a reference to Hart Crane's poem Eternity in his annotation for the Epilogue to The Lighthouse Invites The Storm. Hart Crane wrote the following as an epilogue to Eternity:

September - remember!
October - all over.
Barbadian Adage

Hart Crane wrote Eternity following a hurricane which hit Cuba during his stay on the Isle Of Pines (now called Isla de la Juventud)on October 18th 1926. Hart Crane may have picked up the adage from fishermen on the Isle Of Pines or he may have heard it from one of his sailor friends or acquaintances. Lowry himself was familiar with Crane's poetry and probably picked up a copy of Crane's posthumous Collected Poetry published in 1933 which included the unpublished Eternity.

Below is a postcard of a steamer similar to one Hart Crane refers to in Eternity as being wrecked by the hurricane.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Stout Cortez

Lowry uses the phrase "stout Cortez" in his film script for Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.

Lowry's reference to "stout Cortez" comes from "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" a sonnet by English Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) written in October 1816. It tells of the author's astonishment at reading the works of the ancient Greek poet Homer as freely translated by the Elizabethan playwright George Chapman.

The poem has become an often-quoted classic, cited to demonstrate the emotional power of a great work of art, and the ability of great art to create an epiphany in its beholder. Wikipedia

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet never did I breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Lowry has brought the reference into the dialogue to link to a discussion by the characters of Homer's Mediterranean as they look out on the beauty of the sea at Antibes the location of the beginning of Tender Is The Night. Antibes's beauty was appreciated, mainly because of the light, by artists such as Monet whose Sea At Antibes is shown above. This reference to Homer's Odyssey comes after discussion of a Guy de Maupassant short story called Madame Parisse in an earlier scene of the film script. I will return to de Maupassant's story in a future post.

In the film script, Lowry was returning to Cortez's exploration and conquest of Mexico which pervades Lowry's novel Under The Volcano (See Chris Ackerley's Annotations to Under The Volcano.

Lowry must have also known that George Chapman was born in Hitchin where Lowry went to school at Caldicott which adds to the many "correspondences" in Lowry's work and life. Lowry was also interested in Elizabethan drama which provides another link.

One irony with the poem's reference to Cortez is that he was not the first European to view the Pacific. Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1474 – January 15, 1519) was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Crack Up In Antibes

"Abe North plays In A Mist furiously on the piano. As the weather worsens, the music, says Lowry, merges from In A Mist "into a cross between something like Prokofiev's music before battle, or a gathering storm in Peter Grimes."

The above quote is from The Cinema Of Malcolm Lowry: A Scholarly Edition Of Lowry's "Tender Is The Night" edited by Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen. Lowry's musical suggestions for his proposed film script of Fitzgerald's novel underpins a climatic scene set in the Antibes in the South of France.

In the Mist refers to Bix Beiderbecke classic which was recorded in New York, September 9, 1927:

In 1938, Prokofiev collaborated with the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein on the historical epic Alexander Nevsky. For this he composed some of his most inventive dramatic music. Although the film had a very poor sound recording, Prokofiev adapted much of his score into a cantata, which has been extensively performed and recorded.

Here is an excerpt of the "battle on the ice" sequence from the Alexander Nevsky:

Peter Grimes is an opera by Benjamin Britten, with a libretto adapted by Montagu Slater from the Peter Grimes section of George Crabbe's poem The Borough. The "borough" of the opera is a fictional village which shares some similarities with Crabbe's, and later Britten's, own home Aldeburgh, on England's east coast, around 1830.

It was first performed at Sadler's Wells in London on June 7, 1945, conducted by Reginald Goodall and was the first of Britten's operas to be a critical and popular success. It is still widely performed, both in the UK and internationally, and is considered part of the standard repertoire. In addition, the Four Sea Interludes were published separately (as op. 33a) and are frequently performed as an orchestral suite. The Passacaglia was also published separately (as op. 33b), and is also often performed, either together with the Sea Interludes or by itself.

Here is the Storm sequence from the Four Sea Interludes performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Bernstein, conductor (From the album The Final Concert, live recording 1989:

Willard Robison

As I have mentioned in previous posts on Lowry's film script to Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night Lowry infuses the script with jazz music to fit the "Jazz Age" in which the novel is set.

In one of the early scenes of the script in Antibes, Lowry originally wanted to use music by Bix Beiderbecke. However, while he was writing the script, Michael Curtiz's movie of Bix's life was released. Lowry became conscious that the piece he wanted to use In A Mist may have been used in Curtiz's A Young Man With A Horn. Instead, he suggested using a piece by Willard Robison. He doesn't mention one in particular so I have chosen I'm More Than Satisfied from 1927 featuring Bix Beiderbecke (c); Frank Trumbauer (Cms); Don Murray (cl); Frank Signorelli (p); Eddie Lang or ? (bj); Vic Berton (dm/harpophone); The Deep River Quintet (voc.

Willard Robison (September 18, 1894 - June 24, 1968) was an American composer of popular song. Born in Shelbina, Missouri, his songs reflect a rural, melancholy theme steeped in Americana. Their warm style has drawn comparison to Hoagy Carmichael. Many of his songs, such as "A Cottage for Sale", "Round My Old Deserted Farm", "Don't Smoke in Bed", and "Old Folks", have become standards and have been recorded countless times by jazz and pop artists such as Peggy Lee, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Mildred Bailey. "A Cottage for Sale" alone has been recorded over 100 times.

In the early 1920s, Robison led and toured with several territory bands in the Southwest. He met Jack Teagarden in this period, whom he befriended. In the late 1920s, Robison organized the Deep River Orchestra, later hosting a radio show entitled The Deep River Hour in the early 1930s.

During the 1920s, Robison recorded extensively for Perfect Records, with scores of vocal recordings accompanying himself on piano (displaying his rather eccentric stride piano style), as well as "Deep River Orchestra" recordings using standard stock arrangements. In 1926-1927, Robison recorded an interesting series of 6 mood pieces with the umbrella name of "American Suite" (for example, "Tampico" was American Suite no. 5). Between 1928 and 1930, he recorded for Columbia, Harmony and Victor. He also recorded a session in 1937 for Master Records.

Jack Teagarden recorded a critically-praised album of Robison's songs in 1962 entitled Think Well of Me. Robison died in Peekskill, New York in 1968, aged 73.

Gershwin's Somebody Loves Me

From a window in the tower - doubtless still a barracks - we hear a gramophone playing jazz music very faintly: Gershwin's Somebody Loves Me. Tender Is The Night - a film script by Malcolm Lowry

Lowry's film script of Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night opens in Antibes. As stated by Miguel Mota and Paul Tiessen, in their excellent The Cinema Of Malcolm Lowry, A Scholarly Edition of Lowry's Tender Is The Night(1990, Lowry's film script is less an adaption of the Fitzgerald book "than an extension of Lowry's own fiction."

As Rosemary Hoyt, one of the characters of the novel, wanders around Antibes, we are given by Lowry a cinematic journey around the town.

There have been many versions of Gershwin's song. Here is a delightful one:

Below are some postcards which compliment Lowry's descriptions of Antibes that you can browse as you listened to the above.

I don't think Lowry ever visited the town. This is unusual in that most of Lowry's fiction is autobiographical though I suppose we have to realise he was adapting Fitzgerald's text.

Japanese Sandman

Dick half picks it up, reveals another old record, of Japanese Sandman, replaces it.
Tender Is The Night - a film script by Malcolm Lowry

In my last post I wrote about the other record Smile that Dick picks up in this sequence from Lowry's film script of Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night.

The Japanese Sandman is a song from 1920, composed by Richard A. Whiting and with lyrics by Raymond B. Egan. As with Smile, there have been many versions of the song.

The song is about a sandman from Japan, who exchanges yesterdays for tomorrows. The number has a very Oriental atmosphere, and is similar to many other songs from the interbellum who sing about a dreamy, exotic setting.

The song was Paul Whiteman's first record and sold over two million copies. It has been subsequently performed by several musical artists like Benny Goodman, Bix Beiderbecke, Artie Shaw, Earl Hines, Paul Young, Django Reinhardt, The Andrews Sisters, and Freddy Sunder.

Additionally, the song was recorded by the Nazi-German propaganda band Charlie and his Orchestra. For propaganda reasons, the lyrics were changed through references to the Japanese Empire.

Here is a list of all the 78 recordings of Japanese Sandman

Here is Paul Whiteman's version:

One version not mentioned in Wikipedia is the Frankie Trumbauer version which I think would have been to Lowry's tastes as Frankie was another one of his jazz heroes.

As I stated in the last post on Smile, I think that Lowry had the film Rose Of Washington Square in mind as both Japanese Sandman and Smile are featured in the film.

Lee Roberts and J. Will Callahan Smiles

Dick's eye falls on an old dusty American jazz record, of the tune. Tender Is The Night - a film script by Malcolm Lowry

One of the things I like about Malc's film script for Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night is that it is littered with references to films and jazz music which give us an insight into Lowry's cinema and jazz favourites.

Smiles was written by Lee Roberts and J. Will Callahan in 1917 and was recorded by a number of artists including Campbell and Burr on Columbia.

I have yet to find a definitive list of who recorded the tune. A more jazzy foxtrot version can be heard here:

Joseph C.Smith's Orchestra Smiles RCA Victor 1918

The above contains some great photos of old gramophones which also fits in with the scene painted by Lowry:

In the corner, the camera sees an old fashioned gramophone with a horn. Tender Is The Night - a film script by Malcolm Lowry

You can read an account of how Roberts and Callahan wrote the song here:

The Rotarian July 1951 Page 51

The most famous version of the song was sung by Helen "Smiles" Davis. Her career as an entertainer began before World War I. Soon after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, General Pershing issued a call for performers to travel to Europe to entertain American troops. Helene was among those selected to go. As a dancer and singer, she took with her several current tunes, including one so new that it had not been published. She took a lead sheet written in pencil with just single notes of "Smiles." She sang it for the troops and for the rest of her life was known as "Smiles."

There was even a version by the The United States Army Ambulance Service Jazz Band. This has a certain resonance given that Dick was a captain in the Us Army Medical Corps in the novel!

An early version I like the most is this one I found at the UC Santa Barbara Library's Cylinder Preservation and Digitisation project by Harmony Four:

The Harmony Four on Edison Blue Amberol

Here are the lyrics to the song so you can sing along:

Verse: 1

Dearie, now I know
Just what makes me love you so,
Just what holds me and enfolds me
In its golden glow;
Dearie, now I see
’Tis each smile so bright and free,
For life’s sadness turns to gladness
When you smile on me.

[sung twice after each verse]

There are smiles that make us happy,
There are smiles that make us blue,
There ae smiles that steal away the tear-drops,
As the sunbeams steal away the dew,
There are smiles that have a tender meaning
That the eyes of love alone may see,
And the smiles that fill my life with sunshine
Are the smiles that you give to me.

Verse 2:

Dearie, when you smile
Ev’ry thing in life’s worth while,
Love grows fonder as we wander
Down each magic mile;
Cheery melodies
Seem to float upon the breeze,
Doves are cooing while they’re wooing
In the leafy trees.

(CHORUS 2 times)

The song also featured in the famous The Passing of 1918 show.

The Passing Show of 1918 was a Broadway musical revue which opened in the Winter Garden Theater on July 25, 1918. Playing for 142 performances, it closed on November 9 of the same year. The show was produced by Lee and Jacob J. Shubert.

The show featured music of Sigmund Romberg and Jean Schwartz with book and lyrics by Harold Atteridge. It is noted as an early appearance of Fred Astaire and the debut of the hit songs I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles and Smiles.

Apparently, the song has featured in at least 25 films to date. Lowry probably knew the song from when he was a youth but it is also possible given that he is including the song in the film script that he had a movie in mind. The song features in the 1939 Rose Of Washington Square and the 1943 Is Everybody Happy?

It is more than likely that if Lowry had a film in mind then it would have been Rose Of Washington Square as another record that Dick looks at in the film script is Japanese Sandman which is featured in the same film.

Canadian Spy Scare in La Mordida

The bus went around the square past the booths where they sold coconuts and threaded through the boys selling Chiclets and newspapers that made him, even though Primrose was not wearing her white fur coat, look straight ahead for they announced a Canadian spy scare. La Mordida

Lowry was in Mexico when the Canadian Spy story broke in February 1946. Lowry doesn't document which newspaper he read about the story. It is possible that he read the story in the Montreal Gazette though the story did have international coverage. However, the above article dated February 16th 1946 can be read in full at the Google News site does give us some indication of how the story was reported. Lowry must have subsumed the story into his notes for La Mordida.

Lowry's La Mordida was a draft of a novel based on his journey to Mexico in 1945-46. This journey became a nightmare as he and his wife Margerie ran into problems with the Mexican immigration authorities.

An air of paranoia pervades the La Mordida manuscript. There are echoes of Lowry's previous visit to Mexico and the rabid anti-Communism and fear of spies of the 1930s. This fear forms a major part of Under The Volcano culminating in the death of the novel's hero the Consul at the hands of fascists because they believe him to be a spy.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Six Brown Brothers Peter Gink

And later Grieg, and later still the six
Brown brothers, hot forerunners of the riffs.
Let the pun pass, remembering Peter Gink;
And so make way for Mr Peter Gaunt.
Peter Gaunt and the Canals - an extract from a poem by Malcom Lowry

Lowry is referring in the above poem to the track by the Six Brown Brothers called Peter Gink which is a humorous take on the Grieg classic Peer Gynt:

Other than a copycat act, the Six Brown Brothers were the only saxophone ensemble to make commercial records between 1911 and 1917, and they ushered in the "saxophone craze" that had the country entranced in the mid-1910s. From the group's start in 1908 playing in the Ringling Brothers' circus until their final breakup in 1933, the shifting personnel of the outfit always included leader Tom Brown and at least one of his five brothers. On records for U.S. Everlasting, Columbia, Victor, and Emerson, the Brown Brothers set feet a-tapping to their joyous sound and comical routine. Read more at Hungry Tiger Press

You can hear more of the band's music on a CD Those Moaning Saxophones. You can also hear most of their music on Internet Archive.

The Source for "In Memoriam Ingvald Bjorndal And His Comrade"

Just thought I'd give you a taster of my latest Lowry research.

I have been diving deeper and deeper into Lowry - I was reading Chris Ackerley's excellent "Explanatory Annotation" in the The Collected Poetry Of Malcolm Lowry. I was sitting there thinking of what Chris had written and how my own "encyclopedia" was growing. His essay could have been a preface to what I am trying to achieve! I was thinking that the more I delved the more I was connecting with Lowry's sources.

As I leafed through Chris's annotations to the poems, I noticed that he had been unable to discover the source of Ingvald Bjorndal in the poem In Memoriam Ingvald Bjorndal And His Comrade. I thought let's have a try and behold Lowry's source rises from the deep of the Net in the form of a Montreal Gazette newspaper article from January 29th 1941 as seen above.

Lowry has virtually used all the words of the article for his poem. This discovery does shed some light on how Lowry scooped up material and "assembled" it into his own work. He may have written down notes or, as you can see in the University Of British Columbia archives, he cut out articles and pasted them into notebooks. The best published example of how he "assembled" his work can be read in La Mordida which was only published in 1996.

In both the above article in the Montreal Gazette and Lowry's poem, you are left with the impression that Ingvald Bjorndal perished. However, I did turn up the following possibility that he survived.

I found this extract on the War Sailors website concerning the last voyage of a Norwegian ship Thorstrand:

Captain Anthonius Stave. Thorstrand departed Liverpool alone on Febr. 27-1943 with about 1500 tons general cargo for St. John, N. B. She was torpedoed and sunk on March 6 by U-172 (Emmermann), position 41 23N 42 59W. Page 4 of the archive documents gives the time as about 19:17 (J. Rohwer gives time as 23:07). The torpedo struck on the port side in No. 3 hatch, destroying the port midships lifeboat. 4 died while 35 crew and the 8 passengers survived.

The next morning, the motor lifeboat took the other 2 lifeboats in tow, heading for the Azores. 1 of the lifeboats had to be given up due to leaks, and after 3 injured men had been transferred to the motorboat it was ordered to go on ahead. It was located on March 14 by an American ship and its occupants landed at Casablanca on the 21st, while the lifeboat continued sailing for 11 days until they on March 17 were taken in tow to Flores by a motorboat which came out ("Nortraships flåte" gives the sinking position as 41 23N 42 50W).

Listed in the survivors was one Ingvald Bjorndal a mechanic - I wonder!

Boulogne to Folkestone Ferry 1930's

During the late 20's and early 30's, the above three ships - Maid Of Orleans, Biarritz and Isle Of Thanet were operating the ferry service for the Southern Railway company on the Boulogne to Folkestone route. Passengers would board a train in Paris travel to Boulogne cross the Channel before disembarking at Folkestone Harbour and transferring directly onto a train at the harbour before continuing to London.

Lowry details a Channel crossing from Boulogne to Folkestone in his short story 30th June 1934 based on a similar journey he made the same year. Most of the story is set aboard a ship in the Channel in which the protagonists Bill Goodyear and Firmin share drinks in the bar and talk about the First World War and what the future holds for mankind. Lowry would have travelled on one of the three ships above.

"Frère Jacques"

Anyone, who has faced a constant noise while trying to rest or sleep, as Lowry would have experienced on board the ship Pyrrhus, while the engines constantly throbbed as it made its way across the ocean, may have turned the noise into a song.

Lowry may have originally turned the noise of the Pyrrhus's engines into the French nursery rhyme "Frère Jacques" and this nursery rhyme repeatedly crops up in his work when he is writing about being aboard a ship.

He probably uses the "Frère Jacques" the most in his short story Through The Panama which is included in Lowry's posthumous collection Hear us O Lord from heaven thy dwelling place.

The use of "Frère Jacques" becomes part of a Lowry soundscape including songs and noises which sit alongside Lowry's "cinematic" way of writing as the audience settles into the "ethereal upper circle" of Malc's imaginary flea-pit cinema.

The original French version of the song is as follows:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

This is the ship's endless song Through The Panama

The song is traditionally translated into English as:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping
Brother John, brother John?
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

A literal translation of the French lyrics is:

Brother Jake, brother Jake,
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Ring the morning bells! Ring the morning bells!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Given that some maintain that nursery rhymes have serious themes when they are examined in detail (this might not always be true, however, one might infer some morbid undercurrent to the French version of this song. Admittedly, if the song originally was created to commemorate some negative event, it might have greater cultural resonance and be more likely to be incorporated into the canon of cultural elements that are transmitted from generation to generation. Once a memetic unit like this song reached sufficient familiarity and social penetration, it presumably would continue to be passed on as part of a tradition even though its original meaning had been forgotten. If one subscribes to this line of reasoning, one might expect Frère Jacques to refer to a well known figure and a well known event.

Another piece of evidence that appears to support a dark interpretation of this song is the fact that in some places such as Austria, it was at one time commonly sung in a minor key, rather than a major key, giving the song the quality of a funeral dirge.

In this vein, some have suggested that this verse might not refer to sleep, but to the death of a friar or monk, or perhaps a member of one of the religious military orders. For example, it is widely believed in France that the renowned Frère Jacques de Molay of the Templar Knights, who was executed in 1314, is the subject of the Frère Jacques song.

This claim should probably be approached with an air of caution, because there are many alternate interpretations. For example, the poet Jean-Luc Aotret has written a poem suggesting that the subject of Frère Jacques is the excommunicated Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi (1236–1306).

Another candidate for Frère Jacques is Frère Jacques Clément (1567-1589), a Dominican Friar and the assassin of Henry III of France. The letters of Clément's name can be rearranged to form the famous anagram, "c'est l'Enfer qui m'a créé", which can be translated as "it is Hell that created me". Clément was drawn and quartered for committing regicide, but some believed his actions were defensible. This theory does not appear to be as popular as some of the others in the literature.

Here is Aldo Lopez Gavilan playing "Frere Jacques" in a piano solo

In the video below is another version of the song from a recording made, in 1973, by the Westview Centennial Secondary School Stage Band (Toronto, Ontario.) The musical directors were Paul Minor and L. Donskov.

Folkestone 3 West

Red and green lights flickered past as the train gathered speed, metal acres stretched and contracted, dilated, narrowed. Folkestone 3 West. 30th June 1934

I managed in a previous post to squeeze in my love of soul music into my Lowry research. I have now used my love of railways to run amok in this post!

Lowry is always associated with sea journeys which pervade his life and work but he also detailed the many railway journeys that he made in his early life. One of his earliest stories A Rainy Night is set on a train. You can imagine the young Malc dreaming up stories as he travelled backwards and forwards to his schools in Hitchin and Cambridge from home in Caldy. Lowry later used these journeys as a source of material for his story Enter One In Sumptuous Armour which includes a detailed description of one of theses journeys from home back to school.

Yet another rail journey which Lowry himself made in 1934 from Paris to London forms the basis for the short story which began life as Metal and is know known as 30th June 1934.

In 30th June 1934, Lowry details the journey made by his alter-ego Bill Goodyear from Paris to London. As often with Lowry, we get a slew of references to what he has seen from the carriage window. One such set of references relate to the railway workings themselves which fascinated me as a rail enthusiast. The above quote relates to one of the Folkestone signal boxes.

While researching this post, I found a series of scenes to delight an old rail enthusiast like myself, shot at Folkestone and Dover in the late 1920s. If you go directly to the Youtube you get more details on the video.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Pabst's Don Quixote 1933

Built on an incline above them a cinema was showing Chaliapin and George Robey in Pabst's Don Quixote.... Malcolm Lowry 30th June 1934.

Lowry mentions Pabst's film in his story, as the protagonist Bill Goodyear returns to England from France arriving in Folkestone. Goodyear sees the film playing in a cinema near to Folkestone Harbour railway station.

Adventures of Don Quixote (1933) is the English title of a film adaptation of the classic Miguel de Cervantes novel, directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, starring the famous operatic bass Feodor Chaliapin. Although the film stars Chaliapin, it is not an opera; however, he does sing three songs in it. It is the first sound film version of the Spanish classic. The supporting cast in the English version includes George Robey, René Donnio, Miles Mander, Lydia Sherwood, Renée Valliers, and Emily Fitzroy. The film was made in three versions -- French, English, and German -- with Chaliapin starring in all three versions.

Read more at Dennis Grunes

Pudovkin's Deserter

In her book Inside The Volcano Jan Gabrial, Lowry's first wife, writes about a visit to see the above film in 1934 in London.

In 1929, four years before making this film, V.I. Pudovkin and Sergei Eisenstein had collaborated on a Sound Manifesto that called for a radical use of asynchronous sound effects, which would be used in counterpoint to the screen image, rather than supporting it, as is normally the case. In DESERTER, Pudovkin put this theory into practice. Starring Boris Livanov as German dockworker Karl Renn, the film focuses upon a politically unconscious figure who learns the error of his ways. Renn becomes involved in picketing and demonstrating on the dock but walks out on his comrades one day, doubtful about the value of this kind of political activity. A kindly communist offers to send him to the Soviet Union as a member of a German delegation, and he eagerly accepts. When the delegation returns from the Soviet Union, Renn chooses to stay behind, finding a secure job as a specialist in a factory. Not long thereafter, he learns that the police have killed his closest friend, revolutionary Ludwig Zeile (Vasili Kovrigin), and he realizes that he must return to Germany and rejoin the fight. The soundtrack, which Pudovkin wrote at length about in FILM TECHNIQUE AND FILM ACTING, has an unusual density and complexity because of the technique of asynchronous montage; it could serve as an early example of musique concrete Rotten Tomatoes

Jan Gabrial's book is a useful source of what films Malc was watching during their time together.

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood

The young Lowry had all the usual youthful heroes of other children brought up in the early part of the century. In notes deposited in the University of British Columbia archives Wilfrid Lowry, Malcolm's elder brother, recalls taking his younger brother to see Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is the first motion picture ever to have a Hollywood premiere, held at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre on October 18, 1922. It was one of the most expensive films of the 1920s, with a budget estimated at approximately one million dollars. A huge castle set and an entire 12th century village of Nottingham constructed at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio in Hollywood. Some sets were designed by Lloyd Wright. Director Allan Dwan later recalled that Fairbanks was so overwhelmed by the scale of the sets that he considered canceling production at one point. The story was adapted for the screen by Fairbanks (as "Elton Thomas"), Kenneth Davenport, Edward Knoblock, Allan Dwan and Lotta Woods, and was produced by Fairbanks for his own production company, Douglas Fairbanks Pictures Corporation, and distributed by United Artists, a company owned by Fairbanks, his wife Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. This swashbuckling adventure was based on the legendary tale of the Medieval hero, Robin Hood, and was the first production to present many of the elements of the legend that became familiar to movie audiences in later versions, although an earlier treatment had been filmed a decade before in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Wikipedia

Miss Gwen Farrar

"What'll I do? wailed the woman, just like MISS GWEN FARRAR The Woman Who Buried Cats - a poem by Malcolm Lowry 1926

The deep-voiced, cello-playing comedienne Gwen Farrar (1899-1944) was best known as the on- and off-stage partner of Norah Blaney (1894-1984) throughout most of the 1920s and 30s.

I imagine that Malc caught her act during the 20's in a theatre in New Brighton, Birkenhead or Liverpool. This is yet another example of Lowry referring to "low brow" cultural icons in his work which sit alongside his more literary and esoteric references.

The silent Pathe short below of revue stars Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney fooling around on the golf course seems appropriate given Malc's love of golf. This silent clip is accompanied by their 1922 recording of "Second Hand Rose"


The most in-depth biography that I can find on Gwen Farrar can be read at John Culme's Footlight Notes

They all fall in love - Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney:

Moanin' for you - Norah Blaney and Gwen Farrar:

Jacques Laruelle's Alastor

'Jacques means the film he made out of Alastor before he went to Hollywood, which he shot in a bathtub, what he could of it, and apparently struck the rest together with sequences of ruins cut out of old travelogues, and a jungle hoiked out of In dunkelste Afrika, and a swan out of the end of some old Corinne Griffith ... while all the time the poet was standing on the shore, and the orchestra was supposed to be doing its best with the Sacre du Printemps. I think I forgot the fog.'Under The Volcano

Lowry's Under The Volcano has many cinematic references. One of the most intriguing is the one above. I have taken the ingredients mentioned by Lowry and tried to concoct an impression of what Laruelle's film may have looked like - all tongue in cheek of course and following Malc's humorous touches.

The first clip of film is from a movie detailing a cruise of the S.S. France and a 2500 mile trek by motor across Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.Transferred from original 35mm nitrate print. The second clip is a theatrical trailer for the first Republic Pictures' serial, starring Clyde Beatty and Manuel King.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the sequence out of the Corrine Griffith movie but I have found a delightful Youtube clip of sequences from The Garden of Eden which featured the swan sequence.

The music which accompanies the above clip is appropriate in that it features a track by one of Lowry's jazz favourites Django Reinhardt playing Minor Swing

Inspiration for this post must go to Chris Ackerley whose superb reference work to Under The Volcano contains a host of material to understand Lowry's master work. Chris explains that many of the details of Jacques's film, only slightly modified, can be recognised in Shelley's poem Alastor.

Here is the soundtrack for Laruelle's film:


Chris Ackerley suggests on his website, that the film Lowry may be referring to as a source for In dunkelste Afrika, could be the 1927 film by Harry K. Eustace's Through Darkest Africa: In Search of White Rhinoceros.

Another possibility is the now distasteful film called Africa Speaks a 1930 American documentary film directed by Walter Futter narrated by Lowell Thomas. Explorer Paul Hoefler leads a safari into central Africa and what was then called the Belgian Congo, in the regions inhabited by the Wassara and the famous Ubangi tribes.

You can view the entire documentary on the Internet Archive.

Following the success of the 1927 adventure Bushman, Paul Hoeffler, a renowned adventurer teamed up with Harold Austin, a Californian and set off in search of "a land of giants, pygmies disk-lipped women and other curiosities found in Africa." This film records their daring adventures as they traverse the great African continent.

This thrilling film documents live action from the first ever trans-African journey by motor truck from the Indian Ocean to Central Equatorial Africa. Along the way adventurers Paul Hoefler (himself) and Harold Austin (himself) come across some of the most fascinating and largely unknown tribes and wild creatures that inhabit the great African plains. They cross paths with huge four- ton bull elephants, edgy and unpredictable white rhinos and a monstrous swarm of dreaded locusts. None of these however, prepare them for their encounter with a pride of lions, which, without apparent cause or warning, attacks the adventurers. Will Paul and Austin live through this horrendous experience to witness another splendid African sunrise?
The Actor

Norwegian Travel Movies

Malcolm Lowry visited Norway in 1930 in order to meet his literary hero Nordahl Grieg. I came across the above travel movies on Norway from this period of Lowry's travels whilst researching material for a project on Lowry's early life.