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The Detroit Artist's Workshop: Roots And Branches A Tenth Anniversary

The Detroit Artist's Workshop: Roots And Branches A Tenth Anniversary image The Detroit Artist's Workshop: Roots And Branches A Tenth Anniversary image
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On November lst, the Detroit Artist's Workshop, now defunct, celebrated its tenth anniversary . Not exactly an earth-shattering event, this anniversary, but one with great significa nee for those of us whose daüy cultural practice sterns largely from that which developed during the post -beat. pre-hippie days of the early 1960s. Back before the 1967 Summer of Lovemass cultural explosión, which forever changed the face of this nation, there were only a few meccas of alternative consciousness in the midst of Ike Easyhower America. Most EVERYBODY back then was straight, immersed in the P.R. of Bob Hope and JFK, using Brylcreem, and certain that what was good for General Motors was good for the USA. Being a freek back then was REALLY being an oddity, the object of mixed amusement, scorn and of ten dangerous hostility. There weren't any gathering places for those like yourself , you couldn't cop marijuana in your high school lunchroom (if you had ever even heard of the weed), there was no In Concert to watch on tv, no anti-war demonstrations, and nobody had hair longer than John Wayne's (except some women, most of whom spent life working to emulate Liz Taylor). But even in the midst of all that conformity the seeds had been sewn for the culture that has become so widespread, I so accepted, and in some cases so co-opted today in 1974. Seeds like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Diane DiPrima, William Burroughs, Litte Richard, beats, poets, reeferheads, and jazz musicians. In Detroit there was the Artist's WorkIshop co-operative, which eventually grew to six houses on a block near Wayne State University, where lived, wrote, smoked, fucked and played a variety of artists and, for back then that is, utter weirdoes. The Workshop was founded on November lst, 1964, by John and Leni Sinclair, Charles Moore, Robin Eichele, George !Tysh and about 1 1 others, who together pooled their resources to the tune of S5 each, which was put up as the first month's rent on the first house. There began regular poetryjazz programs every Sunday, a place to be together that hadn't existed before exeept in the homes of a small group of conscious people, and the Artist's Workshop Press. The Press first published the writings and poetry which we are reprinting here in commemoration of the ten years I which have passed since. At first the "Press" consisted of stolen supplies and a borrowed mimeo machine at Wayne State, which spewed forth inspired editions of pamphlets and books in print runs of 500 copies. Activities at the Workshop thrived for some time, but eventually the spectre of organized inter-racial weirdoes proved ! extremely intimidating to the forces of law and morality in Detroit. The first reefer busts started coming down in 1966 t on the community, under the watchful eyes of Lieutenant Warner Stringfellow of the "Narcotics" Squad. John Sinclair i was busted and spent six months in the Detroit House of Corrections. The busts and general despairatmosphere of Detroit drove some of the more creative people to the east or west coasts, and the Workshop eventually was no more. IBut nothing ever dies; rather, everything becomes transformed. About the time Sinclair was released from the clink the j new cultural seeds that sprouted with the Workshop and places like it were spread across the land by the likes of Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and the San Francisco acid revolution. The culture was no longer j an "in" group, an isolated phenomenon; it was every where the radio could reach. With the poems, pieces and reviews printed here we celébrate the Artist's Workshop of Detroit, one of the first alternative institutions of America's new age. where "changing your politics" became defined as actually changing how ; you lived your life. In these days when our cultural practice is, especially in an easy-going and highly tolerant place like Ann Arbor, so much taken for granted, we feel there is much use in examining the roots and branches, the sacrifices and I the struggles which have brought us to where we are today, and which can guide us further along our collective journey . 5TATEMEÁNT It is our belief that jazz musical forms must be extended I to meet an entirely new set of artistic, social, cultural and ■ M economie circumstances. It miglit seem strange to some to 9 see the word jazz mentioned in context with such cold W hard realities as society and economics; yet it is undeniable fact that the very origins of the music itself and all its subsequent development was rooted in societal forms. The field holler, the spiritual, the blues, each served a definite function and grew out of very real, very painful ' experiences. We know today that the lyrics of the spiritual sometimes served as an alarm, a cali to arms, or an angry cry to be done with suffering and rid of the oppressor. Much of the blues is an extensión of this argument. Later on as musical instruments replaced the human voice, poetic directness and social commentary began to give way to a "purer" musical form. This musical form developed at a much faster pace than the lyric. It was due in large part to the plasticity and ambiguity of notes over words that a folk art became transformed into a national art and later into a universal art. It was now possible for a listener to hear just the music without the ambivalence that words elicit. One could identify with whatever one chose and reject wliatever one chose. Thus the Negro (through jazz) has lent America a somewhat uneasy reprieve and, in the bargain, developed an art form which it could be said is more nearly "american" than any other. It is a knowledge of the past and a precarious nationality which is the crux of our consciousness. For us, music is functional as well as aesthetic. The artist presumes to judge life, to assess it for all people, to accept it, to reject it. Both as people and artists in a complex, oftentimes grievously unjust world we accept the challenge this society poses and we project an answer through our music, one which sings a New America. We take our place beside those poets of the field. Only the nuances of language have changed. The same essential longing for dignity over despair is still with us. -Archie Shepp CHANGE1 FallWinter 1965 dear Únele Sam, We fucked on the American flag tonight. There wasn 't any sheets and the mattress weren 't none too clean, neither. f hope it's okay witli you. Be cause ij' it isn 't. all heil is going to break loo se, sur e as shooting, and you 'il be the one wit h the badge and the gun. Love, Torn á Grace -Torn Mitchell YUPITIS Workshop Books 19 Summer 1967 i M - - 41 m ■ (a C. T. song) A meat song, for every body's meat. That we can feel the body, as energy, 500 micrograms chant through the meat I have been blessed with. Why do my friends need to deny it? That they can "make it" witli the spirit only, that their bodies are unfortunate flesh only, & to be "transcended," got rid of, this is bad enough, bul that we all have to feel it the same, oh No you don't baby, I mean I am my self, just feel me, I am here as meat energy & bone, the force of the universe moves through me, AS me, I mean we are not ' Two," & the language will not let me say it, goddammit, I mean what "I" am is my body & breath, & I am here right now in front of you to say tliis, with my meat, that there is no way words will say it all, not with the language we all have as common to us all, as our bodies are common, as we live & breathe, the poet IS the fucking poem & speaks to you as EVER Y BODY would speak - gesture & grace are our natural state, our bodies live there as they are born, our selves ARE our selves, I mean just LOOK at me now, meat & energy activated, by the forcé that is ours in common, O FUCK IT scream & dance, the body is the self, Every Body is Every Body, all song moves through us, we come together in the dance of flesh, flesh is spirit, take enough acid & the self decomposes into live meat charged with love energy sustained right here on earth in its rightful place. Every Body is right where it belongs, The earth is the term we share in common. Ah yes, the earth. AND the body - Every Body for Cecil Taylor & for a new year December 31, 1966 Detroit Jolin Sinclair, in WORK4 Summcr I Fall Winter 1966 Photos From left to right: Archie Shepp; Some of the oíd Crew; The First Workshop House; John Sinclair & Charles Moore. Photos: Leni Sinclair POEM#1 wc 're here! the celestial city the shining light is here, right here on earth, inside us the som and daughters of men and women, the flesh and blood, the moving gods. & we do move, move as we must thru the changes in fear and delight, we come and go. the moon comes up every night, she comes when she must she comes when i 'm able when i'm cain. it's all all right there is no wrong. joy is the fruit of the garden of love pain is the flesh that feeds it. thru the valley of the shadow of death runs a river of light. the sun the moon the valley the riverthey are pieces of us we are part of them. not partiële - wave. no rest but piece by peace flowing in a sea of light Ufe IS the universe, Y AH WEH, & it beats systole diastole rhythm FLUX is the word. if you don 't like the weather wait a minute, if you don't like your self dissolve añd make it again. all dissolution prepares, fear is the friction of change. love the lubricant. april in the first year of acid dissolves. -Mike Lytle THE JOURNAL, Summer 1967 CKN AMAN.. CIA MAN Who can kill a general in nis bed Overthrow dictators if they're Red Fuckn A Man CIA MAN Who can counter counter agents quick Specially the ones themselves have picked Fuckn A Man CIA MAN Who can plan a riot Viet Narr Who can have the troops restore the calm Fuckn A Man. . .CIA Man j Who can buy a government so cheap Change a cabinet without a squeak Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Man Who can get a budget that's so great Who will be the fifty-first state Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Mam Who has got the greatest secret service The one that makes the other services nervous Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Man Who can cipher anything to zeroes Not well known but simply well-paid héroes Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Man Who can take the sugar from its sack Pour in LSD and put t back Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Man Who can train guerrillas by the dozen Send em out to kill their untrained cousins Fuckn A Man . . . CIA Man Who's the agency well known to God Who copped his staff & copped his rod Fuckn A Man . . . CIA MAN (O1965 Tuli Kupferberg FUGS SONG BOOK, September 1966 SLAVCRY A Dutch slave ship sailed up the quiet James River to anchor at the new English settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. It had on board twenty strong negroes who had been stolen from their homes in western África and were for sale. The owner's house sits like a latent poll tax. It is hidden behind heaw trees that shake a little. The slave shacks are below & off to the left. Then are the acres of cotton. Then is the cotton ing press ana the cotton ■ ginning mili. Then is the boy hauling baled cotton to shipping points I on the River. King I Cotton is continued on 1 _ Page 12 I Artist Workshop continued from page 11 dressed ín white suit and bas a white moustache and red face. He's in rocking chair on his front porch & drinking a cool glass of amphetamine solution. "Niggers," he called & then the curtain came up, One nigger limped out across the stage in plaid shirt, green pants and ate some watermelon & shuffling his feet around and scratching his head. Then a nigger carné out driving a Cadillac and two niggers were fucking in the back seat and listening to blue music. A nigger came out with a knife scar on his face. A girl with a red bandana on her head come out an say she'll frenen King Cotton for five dollar. King's eyes light'up like Dixie and gírl come off stage and she french him on the spot. "Oh, baby, that's good,"said King Cotton witli beads of sweat on his forehead. After, he gave the gir! a ten dollar bill and said he'd see her again. Then he thought about things. He thought about the feud between the North & the South and how Aboütionists in the North wanted to end slavery. He wondered what was wrong with people in the North. Slaves had it good where they were now. They liad cabins and food and clothlng. Why those niggers in the North work ín cold factories with no fresh air and low wages. '"Niggers," he said and the curtain raised again and the oíd Negro came limping out and ate the watermelon and the cat came out in hts car with the people in the back seat fucking and listening to meiodies sounded like blue saloon in tëartém and the niggei kids came out & played stickball and there was 3 Cakewalk and the girl came out and - yes! - she gave tlïè white asshole head again, and his eyes were up in the air like terrible parachutes. "You ntggers are good niggers." said the man to the girl and the people on the stage. "Why , shit, they're talking up in the North about freeing the slaves, say they've got a fellow up there running for the presidency wh o's gonna end it all. But I got locks on you people and even if they do free you youil still besiavês." He flip a switch by hí&síde and a pomographic Film of two negrees fucking appears. Then it cuís to a sliot of a Negro man buyíng a washing machine and trying to move into thesuburbs. There were scènes of Negroes using hairstraighteners and watching white televisión, and diggiiig white 0icks. Shots of Southern sheriff s stupid grins and stuffirjg fuckinü tobáceo in their goddamned mouths. Then shots bf Negro woman sc#red to death of wlúte reporters & not wanting to say nothing, "So you see," ud King Cottor. 'it wpn't make no diffeíence what they do. IfU be too !ate, the damage was done when tlie. first one of you agreed to bend over and piek íhat piece oí coíton. Har, har." King laughed and ?rank a , littlé more of tfeeamphetammesoiution. "Wfiatyou sJiould xtone was to fight us right tUen, You shoulda refused i work. Shit. slavery was a new thing tiie ff you'd ashowed us it didn'tjip( í we'd have let youg! fciRit a bad investment. Öar, har. yenfre just sturidJ ey say." "Now. "he said .snapping his fingclH gji The oldi'man eame out an aflppPW''ut,it wasn't watertneíon lie was enting it was the whiteman's heart. The peopfé camë out and fucked but they were giving it to King Cotton in the ass with poison ends and the kids came out with livers and kidneys toenails eyeballs on the end of their sticks. The girl came out with the man's head on a beautiful platter came over from Englsmd years ago, and in the back of the house was a raging fire and the air rent with beautiful calis of Hallelujah! -Bil) Hutton A History ofAmeridH-1Artist's Workshop Press ? 1 96Í THE JOHN COLTRANE QUARTET PLAYS ChtmChim Cheree, Song ofPraise, Nature Boy, Brazilia. Impulse AS85. Jotin Coltrane, soprano saxophone ouChim Chim Cheree, tenor saxophone on others, McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Carrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums. Add Art Davis, bass, on Nature Boy. It seerfis to me that there shouldn't need to bc much said about John Coltrane's music anymore - a new record's released. Impulse puts its ad in DOWNBEAT, & then everybody just goes out to the store & brings the record back home & listens to it. It should be as simple as that. Like, anyone with ears knows (or at lenst, should know) what Johti's been doing all these years, what a tremendous & singular beauty he's been creating. & how this beauty increases daiíy. Bufcfolks are so obtuse that literally thousands & thousands of words still have to be written "about" John's music, & till huge confusión & misvmderstanding exists as to thesejmen's motives, needs, & actual music. Which fact speakl clearer than anything else - even more clearly than say,lhe music itself -- of the jungle of chaos this world we "tijte" in has become. When even the most benevolent & illqyninating voices out here are taken for something otherithan what they are - words of love, sounds of beauty. L i I write out of need - 's that simple - I frite because I need to write. on whatever level, as it makes living in this world possible. John Coltrane's music likewise cèmes out of that need, & likewise makes a life. possible, foFhún. as maker, as well as for me, listening. here, wherever I am. John Coltrane's music suggests possibitities of feeling, emotion, thought - of lifc finally - that we all of tis can make use of - and should. Any.other use of hïs music ís speciGus. lohn's total commitment to himself '.$. his art - his music - of which we have the most concrete evidence imaginable, i,e. his recordings & his njgritly work before audiences everywhere is one of the most vaUiable (i.e. tiseful) tools we have. "John Coltrane can do this for us". '■'■■■?% teach us tö stand S . I Hke men and women I 1 in the face of the most de . 9 '■"f W:' " "' P "tivity. can touch us Jlw 1 where the hand ör mouth or Èfe Jft eye WÊÉL can't go. can see. can be miG. a Man. make a love ffom centuries of unplumbed music & a common metal tool anyone can misuse. The tooi John Coltrane has made of his music is as accessible to us as our selves are. As, say Chim Chim Cherce is, which serves - like Archie Shepp s Girlfrom panana - as a valuable lesson in the use of whatevei materials exist, in wahtever form, for one's own . _ poses Or, as Walt Disney made the song available. as ' music SW one of his obscene films, John Coltrane found H & made actual living music out of it. As we all can. from whatever álly objects we find in front of us, in this world. ■. Nature Bov too, had already found an èxistence for ïtself in this world,' & made itself useful to us before as a thing of rather simple beauty, e.g. in Nat Cole's & Miles Davis' songs of it. "Once there was a boy a very strange en chanted boy ," &c. Then John Co'.trane took this boy . be ca me this boy, & ■■' 'f. disappeared into the actual jungle of that boy 's "nature" hear Art Davis & Jimmy Garrison invenf this nature, this jungle, make it real, as Elvin & McCoy do, as Trane does, as he explores it. the "jungle of ernotion. feeling,judgments," the ■'. mind of this boy, his nature, that of all of us Nature Boy is some of, the most amazing work this group has ever made. Brazilia & Song o) ' Praise too. & let me herejust advertise Jiriimy GarriSon's bass work on the latter - he plays there, as he does so much now, as if on a guitar,his instrument is that accessible to lu'm. As his mind is. As our selves are. : Enough. But let me just say that if you know $ love John Coltrane's music as I do, this latèst recording wil! come as no surprise to you, & you wil! take it to heart - straight to heart - as l have. If you don't know Johrï Coltcane's music, ytu can start here, or anywhere. If you don't love JohnColtrane's musk, then, W caíí teil yc m_ this far. iiow dityoü ':';$? ever make it. ■■'m Detroit, {September .'l 965 from FIRE MUSIC: a recj&d" Workshop Books8 . 1966 -Wfím - ' . . ■ ■ ■ ■