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Charlemagne Palestine


Label: Blank Forms

Format: LP

Genre: Experimental

In stock


DINGGGDONGGGDINGGGzzzzzzz!!!!!!! In the newest record by the iconoclastic Brooklyn-born composer Charlemagne Palestine (b. 1947), find two mesmerizing works for carillon, the keyboard-controlled bell tower derived in the 16th century. On side A, a new piece recorded at the artist’s studio in Belgium—a high-ceiling, stuffed-animal-packed paradise he calls Charleworld—among friends and “divinities,” his name for the thousands of plush toys he’s amassed since the ’60s. On the flip side, Blank Forms Editions’ very first and long-out-of-print release appears on vinyl for the first time: a cathartic street recording of the maximalist composer’s 2018 musical eulogy for his late friend Tony Conrad, performed on the bells of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, where the two first met. Two mesmerizing “klanggdedangggebannggg” sessions in the Quasimodo of 53rd Street’s inimitable, trance-induced style.

Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries in the bustling, cross-disciplinary downtown New York arts scene of the ’60s and ’70s, Charlemagne Palestine (b. 1947) has embodied the notion of the artist as playful polymath, testing and transcending nearly every creative form imaginable in his more than six-decade career. Originally trained in Jewish sacred singing to be a cantor, he began his artistic life as a musician, studying piano and accordion, accompanying figures like Tiny Tim and Allen Ginsberg on percussion, using early synthesizers as an assistant to Alwin Nikolais, and eventually landing a long-running gig as the carillonneur at Midtown’s St. Thomas Episcopal. This libertine spirit of experimentation soon led to adventures in other aesthetic arenas: making kinetic light sculptures with Len Lye, devising choreographed performances with Simone Forti, and producing a series of visceral videotapes with the Castelli-Sonnabend collection.

In the ’70s, he was particularly prominent on the burgeoning loft movement, becoming well-known for his sparse, intense, and exacting long-form piano concerts that seemed to bend the very nature of time and space. Beginning in the ’80s, he spent decades in self-imposed exile from the new music scene, living variously in Europe and Hawai'i and privately honing his hermetic sonic and visual practice. This was followed by a period of triumphant resurgence beginning in the mid-’90s, since which he has performed and exhibited globally. 

Cat. number: 064
Year: 2023

This release is on the occasion of Blank Forms’ sixth annual gala honoring Charlemagne Palestine. 

Mastered by Stephan Mathieu
Design by Alec Mapes-Frances

A1: Recorded on March 21, 2023, at CHARLEWORLDDDDD, Brussels, Belgium, by Lawrence Kumpf.

B1: Recorded on April 8, 2017, at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, New York, by Ben Manley and on May 7, 2017, at Saint Thomas Church, New York, by Adrian Rew. Mixed by Robbie Lee. 

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