Approving comments are heard from the murmuring throng of concert organizers, technicians, the press, fans and other musicians. No one could have realized that this performance was, among other things, an allegory for the meteoric rise and fall of a megastar. Jimi Hendrix was to become an absolutely unique icon in the history of rock and came onto the scene just as it was beginning its hero-making, self- destructive phase.
The next day, the Los Angeles Times wrote that when the black singer and guitarist left the stage in Monterey, a rumor had become a legend. The realization was beginning to sink in that the magnificent virtuosity of the guitar playing, the movement of the body that itself bordered on artistic expression, the patterns of sounds arising from alienating echo and feedback effects and the staged orgies of de- struction were a direct attack on the harmonic sweetness of pop music.
Hendrix, an American, first began his career as an extraordinary musici- an in the innovative music scene of London, blending elements of blues, rock and jazz in entirely new ways. Discovered in New York by the ex-Yard-bird Chas Chandler, he had, within just a few weeks, forged his own style and, with his furious riffs, caught the attention of the most talented of the British guitarists such as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend. Most of their reactions were similar to that of Mike Bloomfield, a young and eager American guitarist.
For all the obvious virtuosity, the name Hendrix is inseparable in rock hi- story from the drive for destruction. The audiovisually shocking performance at Monterey, which many requested to see repeated, often with- out success, had become a sensational image of the rock idol lodged permanently in the minds of many. It was his rival at Monterey.
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The speaker was an artist known only to a few small circles. Fifty slides were shown and elaborated on.
One made quite an impressi- on on the young art student. The slide showed Murakami, his arm outstretched, his hand bal- led up in a fist, jumping through a paper wall. The pose struck Townsend. There would be few appearances by The Who later on that would not feature Townsend bopping around on stage with his arm raised. This dramatic mannerism would become one of the trade- marks of the eccentric band from the mod scene. There are several legends surrounding the origins and eventual development of that moment in Who performances when the instruments would be smashed.
Excited, Keith Moon knocked over his drum kit and started mutilating it. The crowd liked this quite a bit; the reaction was overwhelming, and the famous Who stage show was born. Townsend himself tells quite a different story. I really believed it was my responsibility to start a rock band that would last only three months, an auto-destructive group. The Who would have been the first punk band except that we had a hit. The Who was a band with a sell-by date built into its conception.
The influence of the idea of an auto-destructive art work on Town- send is clear; it must have seemed an exemplary concept on which to found a genuine rock band of his time. Total conception: When the disintegrative process is complete, the work is to be removed from the site and scrapped. Metzger thought it was important to show such art works in public spaces and, whenever possible, outdoors. The idea of the isolated artist working in his studio was for him sheer horror.
Anyone should be able to have access to the art work without having to pay for it. The art work must not be allowed to become an object for the market; it cannot be bought or sold. Metzger would later emphasize again and again that, for him, November 4, , was a point of no return.
Since that day, he never ceased thinking about the idea of auto-destructive art. Just a few months later, he presented his second manifesto. Auto-destructive art mirrors the compulsive perfectionism of arm manufacture-polishing to destruction point. Auto-destructive art is the transformation of technology into public art… Auto-destructive art is art which contains within itself an agent which automatically leads to its destruction within a period of time not to exceed twenty years.
On June 22, , he made his first presentation in the Temple Gallery in London. With a brush, he painted a web of nylon which shortly disinte- grated before the eyes of the audience. The demonstration that sparked the most public reaction took place on July 3, , at the South Bank in London. Wearing a gas mask, he sprayed hydrochloric acid on three nylon screens of black, red, and white, stretched over a construction of metal pipes.
Bit by bit, the material dissolved, falling in strips before it had disintegrated completely.
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The goal is to create works of art with the help of a computer. The movements of these works would be programmable and self-guiding.
Objects become valuable and material honorable. That is an art form for artists. The masses recognize modern art fifty years after it is created.
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His attempts to reclaim historical legitimacy for the work of art are founded in the question of whether or not it is possible after Auschwitz and Hiroshima to create aesthetic objects whose form has not already been impugned by the course of history. The depth and breadth of his project is made clear in the paradox inherent in the desire to create an art work that destroys itself, in the integration of the potential for destruction in modernity into the object in order to set into motion a process that successively dissolves the object and, in this way, demonstrates the temporality of its existence.
He seems subject to some perpetual impulse to repeat in the aesthetic sphere what has been burned into his skin in his own life.
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Only once Metzger has integrated into the art work the hideous potential for destruction and threat revealed so clearly in the twentieth century — this at least is his hope — does he believe he can free it from its involuntarily ideological tendencies and to realize its inexorable autonomy in its production. In a certain sense, he is a modern nomad, agile and full of ideas. He is the first to direct his artistic work to the motif of destruction with such unmatchable rigor.
But he is hardly the only one. The art of destruction plays a remarkable, and in some ways, even spectacular role in the avant-garde movements of the sixties. Metzger followed these parallel and, at times, competing currents from a distance, but sympathetically and always closely. He took the initiative, founded the committee, took on the role of secretary and began preparations in the spring of He gathered most of the names of the participants from the book.
Except for John D'Angelico and his small crew, the New York luthiers of the early sixties all made guitars in the "spanish style"-- what, according to the New York Classic Guitar Society, had been termed "classic" guitars on the pages of their magazine, the Guitar Review, for the first time barely a decade earlier. The Spanish Guitar hailed from a five hundred-year tradition of small shops and individual producers. In stark contrast, the steel-string guitar was a creature of the Machine Age, of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.
Their clout was so enormous, that no one in their right mind would ever think of making them one at a time for a living. There was no tradition in America of individually-handcrafted steel-string flat-top guitars. At least, not until the mid-sixties, when several Tennessee woodworkers, some New York craftsmen, and a Serb from Chicago began one.
In Tennessee, a furniture-maker and classic-guitarmaking buff called Hascal Haile began to make steel-string flat-top guitars using many of the Spanish-method techniques he knew. At about the same time, a small band of skilled craftsmen and guitar-freaks coalesced in New York's Greenwich Village.
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They started taking Martins apart, fixing them, changing them. Following San Francisco repairman Jon Lundberg's lead, they cut the tops off old arch-top Martins oddball, unsatisfying instruments that these were and re- topped them with X-braced flat soundboards. These guitars were picked up by popular blues-ragtime fingerpickers in New York City the form was later recreated by Martin as their M-series.
After having dissected, evaluated, and reassembled many, many Martins, these dedicated, Martin-loving craftsmen started, by the end of the sixties, to make finely-wrought, personalized recreations of Martin designs on their own work tables. About the same time, on Grand Street also in New York , Michael Gurian began producing classically-inspired steelstrings in a small five-worker studio.
Coincidentally, an immigrant yugoslavian instrument maker, working as a repairman in a large Chicago music house decided he could build guitars better than the ones he was repairing. His name was Bozo Podunavac.
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The field of flat- top steel-string luthierie had begun in earnest. Before long Gallagher, Randy Wood, Bernardo Rico, Michael Gurian who had relocated to New Hampshire , Augie LoPrinzi, Stuart Mossman, Bozo Podunavac who relocated to California then others, were producing Martin-inspired instruments-- and novel new designs of their own-- in small production shops all around the country. None of these shops survive today, yet they paved the way for their now-well-established modern counterparts: Santa Cruz, Taylor, and Collings.
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