LEE BLOG


 

January 8, 2021
Alan Licht-Lee Ranaldo – Anthology Film Archives at 50 – A Conversation

To celebrate Anthology Film Archives’ 50th Anniversary, they’ve been reaching out to filmmakers, artists, scholars, and others to bear witness to Anthology’s value – to the influence AFA has had on their own work, its significance within the history of avant-garde cinema and art, and its place in the sphere of contemporary culture in NYC and beyond. Alan and I filmed our conversation as the new year began, about a place that’s been quite important to both of us. We performed there with our Text of Light group, and Sonic Youth has performed at benefits for Anthology as well, and made a benefit album: SYR6: Koncertas Stan Brakhage prisiminimui.

There are many illuminating videos to watch on their site: https://vimeo.com/showcase/afa50?page=4. For more info about the anniversary visit this page: http://anthologyfilmarchives.org/about/50th. To learn about and support Anthology’s expansion project – the next phase in their history – look here: expansion-anthologyfilmarchives.org/

 

December 24, 2020
2020 Lists

Lee Ranaldo 2020 list

#BLM – first and foremost, the Black Lives Matter movement – the most important event(s) of the year, wipes away everything else, including covid-19 fear. it’s time for changes, for neccessary conversations. let’s see them happen.

books
Alison Mosshart – Car Ma
Cosey Fanni Tutti – Art Sex Music
Richard Powers – The Overstory
Allen Ginsberg – The Fall of America: Poems of These States – revisiting Allen’s auto-poesy (much recorded direct to tape recorder during cross-country trips thru late 60s amerikan scenarios. Oddly relevant this year.
John Giorno – Great Demon Kings
Kenneth Goldsmith – Duchamp Is My Lawyer

audio
Morton Feldman – his work provided a huge amount of covid at-home music this year. Listening to his long-duration music was perfect for the endless hours stuck inside. Such a body of work! Such a character too.
Magik Markers – 2020 – a most welcome return!
Thurston Moore – By The Fire
Espers – s/t and The Weed Tree reissues
Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters – one of the most inspired albums of the year, a feat.
Perfume Genius – Set My Heart on Fire Immediately
Michael Morley – The Never Quartet – although a flight snafu prevented me from seeing the early February Brooklyn performance, I love the IG vids, recordings, and installation concept of this piece.
Taylor Swift – folklore – I spent a week infatuated with this album, especially The Last Great American Dynasty, the lyrics of which unfold like an updated F. Scott Fitzgerald story, great writing.
Sarah Hennies – The Reinvention of Romance – feels a relative of Feldman, similar durational pleasures.
Einsturzende Neubauten – Alles in Allem
Cluster/Cluster and Eno
Harmonia – Musik von Harmonia
Alison Mosshart – Car Ma Sound Wheel LP – collagist spoken word movies, inspired and inspirational.
Yo La Tengo – We Have Amnesia Sometimes – a covid gift, direct from their Hoboken rehearsal space.
Steve Gunn & Cass McCombs – split single (my cover art for Steve’s side)
Beabadoobee – guilty pleasure. “the early stuff, man.”
Oh Petroleum – Disco 2020 – my friend Maurizio Vierucci from Puglia
Richard Youngs & Raül Refree – All Hands Around The Moment
Oneohtrix Point Never – Magic
John Luther Adams – ‘Become’ Trilogy – ambient orchestral environments.
Joni Mitchell – Archives Vol. 1 – The Early Years – finally an official release to these much bootlegged recordings.
Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways – a radical adult licks godhead
Bob Dylan – Murder Most Foul. What a surprise single, what a monument!
The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majestey’s Request
Caetano Velosa – Araçá Azul – a perennial favorite
Lou Reed and the Tots – Alice Tully Hall 1973 – supposedly Lou’s first show in NYC since the VU ended. dunno if that’s true but it’s a raver!
Grateful Dead – The Angels Share, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty
Neil Young – Archives Vol. II: 1972-1976

ciné
early Fellini study, discovery of actress Giulietta Masina, so captivating in Nights of Cabiria! Also La Strada, I Vitelloni, La Dolce Vita
The West Wing and Shitts Creek – late-comer to both, totally obsessed w WW, Shitt’s Creek oddly pandemic in feel, and among the most generous of comedies.
Uncut Gems – Josh and Benny Safdie
The Cribs – Be Safe and I Don’t Know Who I Am – I participated in both of these covid-period songs and videos. I’ve known these guys quite a while now and it’s always great to do something with them. They’ve been very kind to me.
Isolation – I posted my video for this John Lennon song, which Epic Soundtracks and I recorded in 1991, in response to our strange times, with ‘isolationist images’ sent in by friends from all over the world – my small attempt to cope with the uncertainty of the moment.

livestream
CIrcuit des Yeux – Takeaway Show (072220) and Sad Songs (103120) the first of these, a captivating show both focused and rambling, each in the right degree, remains the best use of the ‘livestream’ concept that I’ve seen to date. with good sound and screen, no interruptions. so easy to stay with this one. Sad Songs also so well staged and concise.
Yo La Tengo – ‘The Night After the Last Night of Haunukkah’ stream – great to see them continue their annual tradition this year, even even in truncated form. Their lo-key set was a perfect elixir. Music zooms w/o good audio for listening aren’t worth much.
Neil Young – Fireside sessions
Patti Smith and her Band – A Birthday Performance, Dec 30

art
feb 6 – a return visit to Robert Smithson’s 1971 work Broken Circle Spiral Hill, out in the landscape in Emmen Holland. SY visited twice in the early 80s.
Shuzo Azuchi Gulliver’s Cinematic Illumination at MoMA – this multi-panel slide and audio work from 1969 was an absolute gift, as was the re-opening of MoMA, which felt like something magical. To visit those empty galleries, free of the normal crowds, was a further strange treat.
(Nothing But) Flowers, Karma Gallery NYC July-Sept. luminous, marvelous highlight of the year. A feel-good show in a feel-bad year.
Jenna Gribbon – The Artist Eroticized Journal Gallery TriBeCa, dec 4-19
– what a great painter.
Amy Sillman – Twice Removed – Gladstone Gallery, sept 30-nov 14 – Amy’s bold spirited abstractions, and especially her flowers, have set me straight this year
To Jonas With Love – exhibition at 2 NYC gallery locations in tribute to Jonas Mekas. Leah and I contributed a video/sound work, Magnolias for Jonas, and particiapated in Brooklyn Rail’s livestream conference about Jonas and the show on dec 8.

my live 2020
feb 7,8 – Grauzone Festival, NL Short set with Leah’s films and a set with the Dutch group Wild Classical Music Ensemble with whom I’ve been playing with occasionally over the last couple years.
feb 21 – Names of North End Women, album launch party and performance-little did Raul and I know this would be the only opportunity we’d have to present even a portion of our just-released album before everything shut down and all touring was cancelled.
march 2,3 – For two days in early march cellist Leila Bordreuil and I had the keys to Issue Project Room’s reverberant vaulted space in downtown brooklyn, which was about to be shut for 2 years of acoustical renovation. we locked ourselves inside together for 2 afternoon-into-evening sessions, recording more than 8 hours of music and soaking in the loooong reverb that great space provided. I didn’t play ‘out’ much this year, but this stands out as the most magical live encounter for me.
march 5 – rehearsal performance at Pace Gallery, NYC with Dutch Studio Drift’s work Ego, a sculpture that moved in space like some animate creature. I wandered the space with guitar, interacting with the form and filling that great white windowed space with my sounds. the performance on march 12 would be cancelled and I would mark our lockdown from that day…

shout outs
cycling – really all i want to do was ride my bike. cycling kept me sane this year.
watercolors – i’ve spent most of my covid time (when not biking) paintings flowers – blooming, dying, dead – in watercolors. the other half of keeping sane this year.
bandcamp – this community-building service has been keeping it real for quite some time. I’m a happy latecomer and enthusiastic fan.
fuck off and goodbye – Tramp defeated. Amen. Four years of terror, chaos and treason finally coming to an end.

RIP
dear friend Hal Wilner, among many… His death in early April, after a year when I’d seen more of him than in ages, really drove the corona-virus crisis home to me.

 

December 2, 2020
MAGNOLIAS FOR JONAS

A film tribute to our friend Jonas Mekas. Re-working imagery from our 2005 work Drift, Leah Singer and I created this film to honor Jonas. First projected at a memorial evening not long after his passing in early 2019 at 96, with live accompaniment by me, it has been re-edited with a new soundtrack. It is being presented at Ki Smith Gallery, 2 locations in Manhattan, as part of the group exhibition To Jonas With Love. 197 E 4th St and the larger 181 Mott St (where our piece is) November 18-December 20, 2020. Jonas was an inspiration to both of us, the model of a consumate artist, always inspirational! The original material is Leah’s unique technique of 16mm film loaded and shot in a still camera and projected in special analyzer projectors at variable speeds, forward and reverse, a body of work that was in progress when we first met in 1989.


November 19, 2020
CPJ INTERNATIONAL PRESS FREEDOM AWARDS

In November 2020 I was honored to be invited by CPJ-The Committee to Protect Journalists-to perform my song ‘Thrown Over The Wall’ as the closing musical number to their International Press Freedom Awards benefit, which was a streaming event this year that went out live around the world on November 19. CPJ does important work, protecting journalists in hot spots around the world and working to insure press freedom. With lyrics written in collaboration with author Jonathan Lethem and pulled directly from the headlines, it seemed an appropriate choice. We truncated the song somewhat to fit their time constraints.

This was the first stage I’ve been on (w limited, covid-safe crew, no audience) since back in February; it felt both surreal and beautiful.

 

August 20, 2020
FOR STEVE

Leah and I created this short film for an online series, ‘The Steve Circuit’, in tribute to our late friend, poet and music-lover Steve Dalachinsky (1946-2019), presented by Issue Project Room in NYC. I met Steve in my first year in NYC, 1979 or 1980, where he could be found for years, selling books in front of his apartment on Spring Street in SoHo. I got to know him then and bought a couple rare Kerouac titles from him that I’d been searching for, and a nearly 40-year friendship began right there. Whatever gig you attended you could be sure to find Steve there, he was a voracious listener. It was great to see his poetry activity grow over the last decade, as he was a fine writer. We love and miss you Steve!

voice: Steve Dalachinsky
image: Leah Singer
audio: Lee Ranaldo

For more information on this project: https://issueprojectroom.org/program/steve-circuit-downtown-new-york%E2%80%99s-subterranean-spirit-yuko-otomo-matt-mottel

 

July 01, 2020
LIGHT YEARS OUT (Live at NeueHouse, NYC 022120)
Today Rolling Stone posted a live video of our LIGHT YEARS OUT – from our album release party back in February. As it turned out, it remains the only live performance to date in support for our album before everything shut down. We were working towards an experimental duo set-up that would challenge us to be as inventive as possible with our interpretations of the songs from the record. We were just getting started… Directed by Fred Riedel.

 

June 20, 2020
AT THE FORKS (Short Circuit version)

Lee and Raul created this video for Mute’s Short Circuit (at home) program, which aired on Record Store Day, June 20, 2020. The recording and filming was done remotely with Lee in New York City and Raul in Barcelona. The original version of At The Forks is on the Names of North End Women album.

You can see the entire Mute program here, Lee and Raul are around the 47 minute mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PscK…

 

8th June 2020
LEE JOINS THE CRIBS FOR BE SAFE (LOCKDOWN LIVE)

The Cribs have shared a special lockdown performance that sees them remotely reuniting with past collaborator and former Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo to perform ‘Be Safe’. The Wakefield trio say they feel the title of the song “is quite pertinent at the minute” and is their first performance as a band for nearly two years. The Cribs’ remote reunion with Ranaldo to perform their 2007 track ‘Be Safe’ from ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ has now been shared online, and you can see it in full.

 

May 22, 2020
INTRO TO THE MAKING OF AMARILLO RAMP

This is my 5 min video introduction to Nancy Holt’s The Making of Amarillo Ramp, about the construction of Robert Smithson’s final work, Amarillo Ramp, in Amarillo, Texas. It was made for The Holt/Smithson Foundation’s Friday Film Series, May 22, 2020. See the film The Making of Amarillo Ramp at @holtsmithsonfoundation or on youtube.

 

May 13, 2020
ISOLATION 2020

During this time of enforced global confinement – the ‘planetary pause’, as I’ve been calling it, I’ve been sorting thru some old releases, and came across my version of John Lennon’s ‘Isolation’, which was recorded back in 1991 and released on the 1998 album Amarillo Ramp (for Robert Smithson). Our dear, departed friend Epic Soundtracks (Swell Maps, These Immortal Souls, Crime and the City Solution) played drums on the track, and I’ve always loved both the original and the version of the song we made, almost 30 years ago now… I thought it could be timely to re-present this track as relevant to our current moment. For video accompaniment I sent a request to friends far and wide around the globe, asking for brief personal video clips of the confinement from wherever they were – what they saw out on their streets, in their living spaces; whatever subjective view on our current situation they wanted to send me. I cut them all together to the song as a sort of informal, intimate record of this moment.

Stay safe out there, and hope to see you again once this is over, no matter how long it takes. You can listen to the track and the album it comes from on my Bandcamp page: leeranaldo.bandcamp.com

Lee Ranaldo
New York City

 

April 25, 2020
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?!

Funny doppelgänger Worm Hole/Easter Egg video segment by director Vice Cooler for Earthquaker Devices ‘Show Us Your Junk’ series. My episode filmed 11/13/18, Ed Rodriguez (Deerhoof) episode 04/13/20. For this short section of Ed’s episode, they used mine-talking about the same object-as a score of sorts.

Little did I realize when I pulled out that 20+-year-old performing tool in 2018 that it would figure heavily in the recording of my new album w Raül, Names of North End Women, released in February 2020.

 

April 13, 2020
WXPN VIDEOS

Three new videos live at WXPN studio in Philadelphia are now up on their site and below, here. This was the first time Raül and I had played anything from the new album in front of anyone, and it went pretty well. The following night we played these 3 songs live at our album release party and then everything shut down… We look forward to presenting all of the Names of North End Women material for you when it’s possible, it feels like it will be a long time from now…. Hope everyone is saying safe… For more info check namesofnorthendwomen.com

FROM THE WXPN page:
Indie Rock Hit Parade Live Session: Lee Ranaldo + Raül Refree
April 3rd, 2020
Joining us in the studio for this Indie Rock Hit Parade live session is a pair of expert experimenters whose collaboration defies categorization. Lee Ranaldo first worked with Raül Refree on his 2017 solo album, Electric Trim. The former Sonic Youth guitarist and the adventurous producer/multi-instrumentalist hit it off and the pair released a full-length collaboration, Names of North End Women, earlier this year. While rehearsing for their (now-postponed) European tour, Ranaldo and Refree brought all manner of noisemakers to our studio for a one-of-a-kind session.

For all the sessions I’ve recorded for this show over the last six or seven years, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like Ranaldo and Refree’s performance. Some of the sounds you’ll probably recognize, like the bowed acoustic guitar on opener “Alice, Etc.” While the album (intentionally) features only fleeting glimpses of Ranaldo’s signature instrument, in this session we’re treated to several moments where his and Refree’s unusual approaches are in the spotlight. Chiming bells and singing bowls punctuate “Words Out of the Haze,” which also heavily features a custom-built, percussive string instrument called a railtrack kalimba. Developed by instrument inventor (and frequent Ranaldo collaborator) Yuri Landman, the sparse apparatus creates an otherworldly ringing when struck with mallets. Finally, there’s “Light Years Out.” For this piece, Ranaldo shows off his collection of found-sound cassettes, played forward and backward on a vintage tape machine sourced from the Library of Congress for use with early audiobooks. With evocative spoken-word and harrowing soundscapes, Ranaldo and Refree bring their session to a thrilling conclusion.

Watch Lee Ranaldo + Raül Refree’s full Indie Rock Hit Parade performance via NPR Live Sessions, stream the session audio and check out some photos from the studio, too, HERE.

 

April 8, 2020
Lee & Raul WORDS OUT OF THE HAZE (extract)
Neuhouse NYC, February 21, 2020

Another short clip, shot at Echo Canyon West during rehearsal and at Neuhouse, Feb21, 2020, as below…

 

April 7, 2020
LEE at BOB DYLAN CENTER, Tulsa, Oklahoma
The Bob Dylan Center out in Tulsa Oklahoma filmed this short interview with me when I was out there in May 2019, and just published it this month, almost a year later. I’ve an ongoing relationship with the Center at this point, and have spent some time there researching various things Dylan-related!

 

April 6, 2020
MEARA O’REILLY: HOCKETS FOR TWO VOICES
This review was published today on Talkhouse.com about one of my favorite albums of 2019.

March 26, 2020
New York City

This is on me, that this review is so overdue — should have been turned it in December! Too many things happening at once, as happens. The release of my own record and the ramp up to that, making videos, etc — and then THIS, this virus. Isolation. Introspection. Confusion. We are living in historical times, let’s hope we get out the other side.

Thru all this, there is this RECORD that has had me enchanted since I first heard it late last year. There are times when words are useless to describe WHY something moves you — we can try, intellectualize it, define the attraction, try to nail it down. But is it enough, once in a while, to say that it just sends you, moves you, destroys you with beauty? I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about this record. It seems to me a combination of something very instinctual — emotional, innate — with something very precise, learned, mathematical. Harmonical. An entire arc, rivers crossed, in its deceptively slight 10 minutes total running time. A quote from Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth (who knows something about hockets himself) seems to nail it: “It sounds like Bach and Blade Runner at the same time.” And it does!

The first thing that prompted my curiosity was an Instagram post of the cover art (created by Tauba Auerbach) which fits this music as perfectly as any album art ever could. An enigmatic image of clear blown-glass tubes on a deep dark blue-sky ground, it could be some strange TV antennae against a cloudless sky; it could be some kind of computer chip or electrical grid, or vintage science lab gear; it’s a drawing-in-glass, looking both modern and timeless by turns.

The album is seven movements, each lasting less than two minutes. The whole album is about 10 minutes long, cut to fat grooves on the 12” vinyl Cantaloupe records sent over (I had the tracks but wanted the object — it’s a strikingly beautiful LP, and both hard-copy versions come with a booklet with some brief notes from the composer and graphic scores which illuminate the tracks). I had opportunity to do some driving upstate recently and put the record on repeat for an hour or so. The songs are so intricate and mysterious that I could never figure out when it was starting over again. It was hypnotizing, it all seemed new and different each time it came around. It seemed, on repeat, to have no ending and no beginning. I have not tired of listening to it for extended periods since.

I endeavored to understand a bit more about what exactly a hocket is. A simple description might be: two (or more) interlocking parts or melodies that create the illusion of a unified whole. I’ve long loved the gamelan music of Java and Bali — in fact, some gamelan instruments that Sonic Youth brought back from Jakarta in the ‘90s just ended up on my latest album. One thing among many that I love about this music is its complex rhythm patterns, which are put forth in what seemed to me a very sly way when I first found out about it: Two players, often facing each other, each take half the complex pattern (both rhythmic and melodic) and, to hear one part isolated, it’s a reasonable pace. When both are combined it can be an almost impossibly rapid slurry of notes, animated and excited af. The two players create one voice between them to get all the rapid-fire taka/taka/taka rhythms found in gamelan music.

I was reminded of another parallel recently during a performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians at the Winter Garden in NYC. I first heard this piece at Town Hall in NYC at its first public performances in 1976. This magisterial work was an announcement to the world of Steve’s arrival as a major composer (already with the essential and ground-breaking tape pieces, and Drumming behind him). And there on the stage, paired players — in fact, many pairs of players on marimbas and many different instruments — stood facing each other, each taking half the pattern to create one unified voice, playing together rhythms that would be hard if not impossible for a single player to achieve. In a similar time period (end of ‘70s), when I first started working with maverick composer Glenn Branca, he was also utilizing the same technique in his early Lessons for Electric Guitar. In Lesson #1, you hear it: two guitars playing on the beat, the other two playing the half-beat in between. Takatakataka (w amps up full blast).

A hocket is, in essence, a form of mathematics made audible, it has the same precision and specificity. The form can be traced to the 13th and 14th centuries in Europe; also found in pygmy music in Africa. Contemporary composers like Herbie Hancock (Watermelon Man), Louis Andriessen (Hoketus), Meredith Monk, Robert Fripp, and Animal Collective (and Dirty Projectors) have also made use of the form. Whenever I hear this call and answer praxis, I get goosebumps. It’s the most intimate relationship in the music world, two becoming one. And although hocketing can involve more than just two voices, the magical characteristic is that you often can’t tell how many interlocked parts you are hearing. Certainly, on Hockets for Two Voices, Meara O’Reilly’s magnificent work, I often believe I’m hearing three or four or more voices where only two are actually present. It’s an audio illusion, quite magical.

On the album, Meara has taken both vocal parts herself, overdubbing one on top of the other. I’d love to hear this music in performance. I imagine it would be difficult to perform, but exquisite to hear. It is simple and primary music. Elemental somehow — the sound of human voices, unaccompanied. It’s in a class by itself and unique in my recent listening experience. Play this music on repeat, especially during these long indoor days, and fall under its spell.

You can find out more about Meara’s work on her blog. Lee’s latest album, with Raül Refree, Names of North End Women, came out February 21 via Mute Records.

 

April 6, 2020
Lee & Raul LIGHT YEARS OUT (extract)
Neuhouse NYC, February 21, 2020

A short excerpt of Light Years Out as performed at our album release-day party, February 21, 2020. First time we tried to play any of the songs from Names of North End Women in public. (And, with the advent of Covid-19, only time so far as of early April….)

 

February 13, 2020
WORDS OUT OF THE HAZE:
The third track from forthcoming album Names of North End Women

 

January 13, 2020
LIGHT YEARS OUT
The second track from forthcoming album Names of North End Women

 

November 13, 2019
NAMES OF NORTH END WOMEN
The title track from forthcoming album Names of North End Women

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tYRA2WAapg&feature=youtu.be

Comments are closed.