Wednesday, 13 August 2014
This fourth entry in the phonograph series features Franz Kafka. The original top label featured the artist Fred Heltmann, who has here became 'Fred Haltmann' - the perfect person to sing 'I Waited at the Gate (A Lament)', which sounds just about right for the writer of Before the Law. The 186 words of licensing legalese written on the top of the original label - from 'No license whatever is granted to anyone to use this patented record for making duplicates nor for any other purpose except the reproduction of sound upon an Edison phonograph by means of an Edison reproducer' to 'any violation hereof or of the license agreements of our licensees is an infringement of our patent rights for which every person concerned therein is liable' - are astonishing in that they take up fully half of the label but are still printed so small that they are illegible without magnification. With a nod towards the travails of Kafka's various characters trapped in impossible bureaucratic neverlands, I've changed the wording around to make it both slightly less comprehensible and slightly more nonsensical than it is already. I have however made it a little more legible. The original phonograph type was ' Edison Blue Amberol Record,' whose title I have changed to 'The New "Paterfamilias" Record' which seems fitting. Kafka had one or two problems with his father in his lifetime, but he is the daddy now.
The latest tale from the 'fables' series. In this particular case, first the full stops went, then the commas, then the apostrophes, then all other punctuation, until nothing was left but the bare comic tale of Ash, who one day just stops in the street. As passers-by turn him into a fetish figure, draping him with the adornments of their predilections, and the authorities decide what to do with him, worrying that he constitutes a fire hazard, Ish, Ash's inside other, is left harried and frantic, rushing around trying to kick-start his engine, but to no avail. A pretty pass, all told.
The second in the series of writers on altered phonograph cylinders commemorates the German writer and organ-builder Hans Henny Jahnn, especially his dark, fantastical 1962 novella, The Night of Lead. The cylinder is lead lined and contains a snuffed-out stub of candle, whose wax has seeped through the packaging. Hidden on the cylinder are the words, 'we walk the streets until our love turns bad'. As you might imagine, the 'sacred' on the top label - left on from the original - is ironic.