Portland, OR
Portland sonic institution Mississippi Records has just re-issued Harry Smith's seminal Anthology of American Folk Music in its complete, original 1952 form. Like everything Mississippi touches, this four-part set has all kinds of love poured into it. The series is dressed in sturdy cloth-bound gatefold sleeves and housed in a hand-crafted wooden box; an object of serious beauty.
To celebrate the reissue of this still under-sung masterpiece, the label’s dedicating tonight’s Music & Film Series at Hollywood Theatre to Smith’s work and legacy over the decades, with Michael Hurley, Marisa Anderson, Dragging An Ox Through Water, Jessika Kenney, Lori Goldston and Jolie Holland re-imagining a set of songs from the collection. 
For more information on tonight’s event, visit Hollywood Theatre’s website.

Portland, OR

Portland sonic institution Mississippi Records has just re-issued Harry Smith's seminal Anthology of American Folk Music in its complete, original 1952 form. Like everything Mississippi touches, this four-part set has all kinds of love poured into it. The series is dressed in sturdy cloth-bound gatefold sleeves and housed in a hand-crafted wooden box; an object of serious beauty.

To celebrate the reissue of this still under-sung masterpiece, the label’s dedicating tonight’s Music & Film Series at Hollywood Theatre to Smith’s work and legacy over the decades, with Michael Hurley, Marisa Anderson, Dragging An Ox Through Water, Jessika Kenney, Lori Goldston and Jolie Holland re-imagining a set of songs from the collection. 

For more information on tonight’s event, visit Hollywood Theatre’s website.


Harry Smith and Rosebud Feliu Pettet, whom he considered his “spiritual wife,” circa 1979 during a Stimulators show in the Green Room at Max’s Kansas City. Photographer unknown. See Rosebud and other loved ones of Harry Smith read, tell stories and recollect about Harry tonight at Ace Hotel New York, celebrating Harry’s 90th birthday.

Harry Smith and Rosebud Feliu Pettet, whom he considered his “spiritual wife,” circa 1979 during a Stimulators show in the Green Room at Max’s Kansas City. Photographer unknown. See Rosebud and other loved ones of Harry Smith read, tell stories and recollect about Harry tonight at Ace Hotel New York, celebrating Harry’s 90th birthday.


Harry Smith’s painting of Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie.
Though rightfully well-known as an archivist of American music traditions, Harry Smith the conservator never staked out a static position on the musical spectrum. He started his polymath’s journey into the universal languages inherent in music as a young, conspicuously crewcut kid recording the songs of a Lummi ceremony. 

Harry Smith photographed by American Magazine in 1943, recording songs on a Lummi reservation.
At the dawn of bebop, he was at Jimbo’s Bop City in San Francisco, painting Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca stroke-for-note and creating experimental films to sync with the flight patterns of Charlie Parker’s saxophone. In the 50s he recorded a fifteen LP set of liturgical songs by Orthodox Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia. In ‘65, he produced The Fugs First Album, one of the earliest documents of garage rock. By the 80s you could catch him at punk shows around the East Village. 

His was a life lived steadfastly out of place, always avoiding the paths worn by less wanderous feet. He paid a price — it was the life of a hermit, a true starving artist and visionary from another time. Yet he was recognized during his lifetime — for the influence of his Anthology of American Folk Music on 60s culture and of his experimental films, which you can still see shades of today in, say, the stage show of Flying Lotus. 

Harry Smith with Harley Flanagan, later of the Cro-Mags.
It’s hard to imagine his grapples with esoterica, his obsession with the inscrutable systems underlying things, if you aren’t wired the way he was, and probably not many of us are. His life itself and the cultures that shine through in his work though stand as an exemplar of polyculture in action. He was never prone to mass monoculture from above or provincialism from below. The cosmogony he left behind is like some vast temple where you may never unlock the mysteries of the rites but the door is open to all. We’re celebrating his too-brief stay on this planet next Wednesday at Ace Hotel New York — on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday — with music, reading and reflections by some people who knew him and some of the many more changed by his work.
 
Typewriter drawing by Harry Smith.

Harry Smith’s painting of Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie.

Though rightfully well-known as an archivist of American music traditions, Harry Smith the conservator never staked out a static position on the musical spectrum. He started his polymath’s journey into the universal languages inherent in music as a young, conspicuously crewcut kid recording the songs of a Lummi ceremony. 

Harry Smith photographed by American Magazine in 1943, recording songs on a Lummi reservation.

At the dawn of bebop, he was at Jimbo’s Bop City in San Francisco, painting Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca stroke-for-note and creating experimental films to sync with the flight patterns of Charlie Parker’s saxophone. In the 50s he recorded a fifteen LP set of liturgical songs by Orthodox Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia. In ‘65, he produced The Fugs First Album, one of the earliest documents of garage rock. By the 80s you could catch him at punk shows around the East Village. 

His was a life lived steadfastly out of place, always avoiding the paths worn by less wanderous feet. He paid a price — it was the life of a hermit, a true starving artist and visionary from another time. Yet he was recognized during his lifetime — for the influence of his Anthology of American Folk Music on 60s culture and of his experimental films, which you can still see shades of today in, say, the stage show of Flying Lotus

Harry Smith with Harley Flanagan, later of the Cro-Mags.

It’s hard to imagine his grapples with esoterica, his obsession with the inscrutable systems underlying things, if you aren’t wired the way he was, and probably not many of us are. His life itself and the cultures that shine through in his work though stand as an exemplar of polyculture in action. He was never prone to mass monoculture from above or provincialism from below. The cosmogony he left behind is like some vast temple where you may never unlock the mysteries of the rites but the door is open to all. We’re celebrating his too-brief stay on this planet next Wednesday at Ace Hotel New York — on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday — with music, reading and reflections by some people who knew him and some of the many more changed by his work.

 

Typewriter drawing by Harry Smith.


Of his many feats of daring, Harry Smith is likely most well known for his Anthology of American Folk Music, an act of assemblage that threw back the gray flannel curtain of the fifties and offered a glimpse into a weirder America, inspiring a generation of songwriters and listeners. Here’s Charley Patton’s growl like the plea of a ravaged crop on ‘Mississippi Boweavil Blues.’ Uncle Dave Macon is unhinged if not ingenuous, pledging, “Won’t get drunk no more…” on ‘Way Down the Old Plank Road.’ The Alabama Sacred Harp Singers are ethereal, like ghosts trapped in wax. Here’s the fatalism and syncretic religion of an America where strange spirits roamed the land from the Dockery Plantation to Appalachia. This isn’t an America you can straitjacket into the fifties forever, not when conjurer Mister Smith reincarnates the armies of what we were. Upon accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammies, he said “I’m glad to say my dreams came true. I saw America changed by music.” And so he did. Because he changed America with music. We’re celebrating the life of Harry Smith — a one-time resident of the building that has now become Ace Hotel New York — later this month on his ninetieth birthday, with music and readings by people who knew him and people he changed.

The songbook picture was lovingly defaced by Harry Smith.

Of his many feats of daring, Harry Smith is likely most well known for his Anthology of American Folk Music, an act of assemblage that threw back the gray flannel curtain of the fifties and offered a glimpse into a weirder America, inspiring a generation of songwriters and listeners. Here’s Charley Patton’s growl like the plea of a ravaged crop on ‘Mississippi Boweavil Blues.’ Uncle Dave Macon is unhinged if not ingenuous, pledging, “Won’t get drunk no more…” on ‘Way Down the Old Plank Road.’ The Alabama Sacred Harp Singers are ethereal, like ghosts trapped in wax. Here’s the fatalism and syncretic religion of an America where strange spirits roamed the land from the Dockery Plantation to Appalachia. This isn’t an America you can straitjacket into the fifties forever, not when conjurer Mister Smith reincarnates the armies of what we were. Upon accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammies, he said “I’m glad to say my dreams came true. I saw America changed by music.” And so he did. Because he changed America with music. We’re celebrating the life of Harry Smith — a one-time resident of the building that has now become Ace Hotel New York — later this month on his ninetieth birthday, with music and readings by people who knew him and people he changed.

The songbook picture was lovingly defaced by Harry Smith.


If you’re in New York before November 12, consider making the trip to Gowanus to see Cabinet Magazine's exhibition of Harry Smith's string figures at their studio gallery space. Harry was a legendary artist, filmmaker and ethnomusicologist who resided at length at The Hotel Breslin where Ace now makes its home, and he holds a special place in our hearts as well as our lobby at Ace New York.
An avid student of the metaphysical aspects of geometric shapes and patterns, whose mysteries have entranced mystics and polymaths from the Pythagoreans to Kabbalists to the Five Percent Nation, Harry created intricate webs in which you can see a connection to other works in his vast oeuvre, from his animated films — timed precisely to bebop scores — to his mandala-like Tree of Life collotypes. 
The exhibit is accompanied by a video program of some of his seminal films, including his masterpiece, “Heaven and Earth Magic,” and a handful of short films about Smith and the string figure art form. In a short survey of Navajo String Games, the narrator weaves elaborate mazes resemblant of animals, spirits and constellations, then dissolves them with flicks of the wrist. In another, a young boy didactically, adorably walks you through the creation of Jacob’s Ladder, stopping to illustrate the swift proximity between Jacob’s Ladder and Anansi, just a couple of manipulations away from each other in either direction. We can only hope the video heralds a new generation of Harry Smiths.

If you’re in New York before November 12, consider making the trip to Gowanus to see Cabinet Magazine's exhibition of Harry Smith's string figures at their studio gallery space. Harry was a legendary artist, filmmaker and ethnomusicologist who resided at length at The Hotel Breslin where Ace now makes its home, and he holds a special place in our hearts as well as our lobby at Ace New York.

An avid student of the metaphysical aspects of geometric shapes and patterns, whose mysteries have entranced mystics and polymaths from the Pythagoreans to Kabbalists to the Five Percent Nation, Harry created intricate webs in which you can see a connection to other works in his vast oeuvre, from his animated films — timed precisely to bebop scores — to his mandala-like Tree of Life collotypes. 

The exhibit is accompanied by a video program of some of his seminal films, including his masterpiece, “Heaven and Earth Magic,” and a handful of short films about Smith and the string figure art form. In a short survey of Navajo String Games, the narrator weaves elaborate mazes resemblant of animals, spirits and constellations, then dissolves them with flicks of the wrist. In another, a young boy didactically, adorably walks you through the creation of Jacob’s Ladder, stopping to illustrate the swift proximity between Jacob’s Ladder and Anansi, just a couple of manipulations away from each other in either direction. We can only hope the video heralds a new generation of Harry Smiths.


From Stringing Along: Harry Smith Figures

From Stringing Along: Harry Smith Figures


TRANSFORMING MILK INTO MILK

Harry Everett Smith was an American archivist, ethnomusicologist, experimental filmmaker, artist, bohemian, magician, and mystic. He was born in Portland, Oregon in 1923, and lived at Ace New York when it was The Breslin Hotel. So we’re pretty fond of him.

OMFGCo and resident artist Johnne Eschleman designed and installed this photograph of Harry shot by Allen Ginsberg at The Breslin in 1985. Harry dubbed it “Transforming Milk into Milk.” Come by the lobby sometime and see it.

And many thanks to Rani Singh at the Getty Research Institute.


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