April 4, 2009

Allen Ginsberg: “On Cremation of Chögyam Trungpa, Vidyadhara.” Video: Patti Smith, Philip Glass.

Amazing. This video was just found by a bored yours truly on youtube, amazing video:

We’ve done a ton of posts on Chogyam Trungpa. And on Kerouac, and Ginsberg, and the Beats. Here’s one on both.

Excerpt via “Legends Perform Ginsberg Tribute”

Patti Smith and Philip Glass Honor the Late Beat Poet at Campbell

By Amy Silverstein

Most college students might assume that “hipster” is a recently coined term, but the late poet Allen Ginsberg wrote about “angelheaded hipsters” in “Howl,” his famous 1955 poem that celebrates the rebellious Beat movement. Ginsberg’s poetry — along with literature by other Beat writers like Jack Kerouac — was an important influence on American songwriters in the ’60s and ’70s, such as Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, who in turn still influence today’s sub-cultures and (wannabe) non-conformists.

It’s been 12 years since Ginsberg’s death, but legendary singer-songwriter and poet Patti Smith continues to tour the world to perform tribute to Ginsberg; her most recent stop brought her to Campbell Hall last Saturday evening. Accompanying Smith was pianist and film composer Philip Glass, who initially seemed like he needed a nap.

In between sets, Smith told intimate, sweet anecdotes about her friendships with Glass, Ginsberg, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and her late husband, Fred Smith. Glass, meanwhile, would lean over the piano and rub his face with exhaustion. I didn’t blame him. Poetry readings, especially if the poetry is by an intense writer like Ginsberg, are an exhausting experience for the performers and for the audience.

Smith took a break from Ginsberg to recite some of her own poetry, which seemed like a waste of her iconic singing voice. Smith, after all, is the so-called godmother of punk rock, and she spent the ’70s belting out sassy, powerful anthems.

But the second part of the show, in which Smith made the most use of her singing voice, was actually the dullest part, thanks to the slow-paced set list and the tedious playing by guitarist Lenny Kaye and mandolin player Jay Dee Daugherty.

Glass made a welcome return to the stage for the third part of the show to perform “Etude No. 2,” “Etude No. 10” and another song that he may have composed for a South African musical, though it was hard to be certain, because he mumbled a lot into the microphone.

It turned out that Glass was apparently not exhausted so much as just shy and endearingly awkward. While Ginsberg’s poetry once shocked audiences with its vulgarity and obscene language, Glass creates controversy with his instruments. Glass’ minimalist composition style, which features endless loops of arpeggiated minor chords marred with intentional mistakes, has many detractors.

These Glass-haters are perhaps brainwashed by the overwrought violin crescendos prevalent in work by cheesier composers. But the live performance explained Glass’ strong, hypnotic appeal. His performance of “Etude No. 2” was soothing and elegant, while “Etude No. 10” would have fit in nicely at a tribal sacrifice or a cult ritual. He ended his solo set abruptly by pounding one last chord, and he was subsequently greeted with enthusiastic applause.

Smith and Glass then reunited to perform Ginsberg’s “On Cremation of Chögyam Trungpa, Vidyadhara.” Glass and Smith first performed the poem together over a decade ago at Ginsberg’s memorial service, which may explain why this spoken-song electrified the theater in a way that none of the previous recitations…

…read the rest here.

And here’s the poem, detailing the cremation of Chogyam Trungpa (click here for a-mazing photos) at Karme Choling in Vermont. My mom was there. I didn’t go ’cause we didn’t have the dough (my choice).

On Cremation of Chögyam Trungpa, Vidyadhara.

I noticed the grass, I noticed the hills, I noticed the highways,

I noticed the dirt road; I noticed the car rows in the parking lot
I noticed the ticket takers, noticed the cash and the checks and credit cards,
I noticed the buses, noticed mourners, I noticed their children in red dresses,
I noticed the entrance sign, noticed retreat houses, noticed blue and yellow flags
Noticed the devotees, their trucks and buses, guards in khaki uniforms,
I noticed the crowds, noticed misty skies, noticed the all –pervading smiles and empty eyes –
I noticed the pillows, coloured red and yellow, square pillows round and round –
I noticed the Tori gate, passers-through bowing, a parade of men & women in formal dress –
Noticed the procession, noticed the bagpipe, drums, horns, noticed high silk head crowns and saffron robes, noticed the three piece suits,
I noticed the palanquin, an umbrella, the stupa painted with jewels the Colours of the four directions –
Amber for generosity, green for karmic works, I noticed the white for Buddha, red for the heart –
Thirteen worlds on the stupa hat, noticed the bell handle and umbrella, the empty head of the white cement bell – Noticed the corpse to be set in the head of the bell –
Noticed the monks chanting, horn plaint in our ears, smoke rising from astep the firebrick empty bells –
Noticed the crowds quiet, noticed the Chilean poet, noticed a rainbow,
I noticed the guru was dead,
I noticed his teacher bare breasted watching the corpse burn in the stupa,
Noticed morning students sad cross legged before their books, chanting devotional mantra’s, Gesturing mysterious fingers, bells and brass thunderbolts in their hands,
I noticed flames rising above flags and wires and umbrellas and painted orange poles,
I noticed, I noticed the sky, noticed the sun, a rainbow around the sun, light misty clouds drifting over the sun –
I noticed my own heart beating, breath passing through my nostrils
My feet walking, eyes seeing,
I’ve noticed smoke above the corpse, I’ve noticed fired monuments
I noticed the path downhill, I’ve noticed the crowd moving toward the buses
I noticed food, lettuce salad, I noticed the teacher was absent,
I noticed my friends, I’ve noticed our car, I’ve noticed the blue Volvo,
I’ve noticed a young boy hold my hand
Our key in the motel door, I noticed a dark room, I noticed a dream
And forgot, noticed oranges lemons and caviar at breakfast,
I noticed the highway, sleepiness, homework thoughts, the boy’s nippled chest in the breeze
As the car rolled down hillsides past green woods to the water.
I noticed the sea, I noticed the music – I wanted to dance.”
Allen Ginsberg; “On the Cremation of Chogyam Trungpa Vidyadhara” (1987)
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