Will Marion Cook’s advice to Duke Ellington

He [Duke Ellington] had begun to record and managed to sell some of his tunes to the publishers of Tin Pan Alley. But he was still not satisfied, and he confessed his unhappiness to his friend Will Marion Cook, a classically trained conductor and Broadway composer.

During long taxi rides through Central park, the two men talked about music. Cook urged Ellington to get formal training at a conservatory. Ellington didn’t feel he had time for that. “They’re not teaching what I want to learn,” he said.

“In that case,” Cook told him, “first find the logical way. And when you find it, avoid it. Let your inner self break through, and guide you. Don’t try to be anybody but yourself.”

It was advice Duke Ellington would follow all his life.

“Duke Ellington knew how to take what could be and make it what is. He understood what it took to make something invisible visible.”


From the second episode of Ken Burns’ monolithic documentary, Jazz.

“But who made animals of them?”

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai remains a perennial critical and popular favorite. Set in the late 1580’s in Japan, a group of farmers hires seven masterless samurai to defend their village from bandits.

The three-hour masterpiece is streaming on Netflix right now. Apparently Criterion or somebody else is going to release a new, remastered collection of Kurosawa’s work. Most of his catalogue is streaming. Snow day off work? Time to revisit Kurosawa.

I find his films take on the complexity and ambivalence of violent behavior quite truthfully, for a fictional medium. Additionally his post-war films become a long consideration of Japanese identity both during and after American occupation. All ripe territory for my minor obsession, the poetics of annihilation.

The impassioned speech in this clip speaks to the consequences of war. The film’s historical moment : ongoing lawless strife. The farmers ~ that nourishing class ~ besieged by the process of violence again and again become animals …

using the weapons of destruction to create instead

John Whitney created the Catalog 1961 animation reel using a WWII anti-aircraft gunsight. He reconfigured it to be an animation-creation machine …

from youTube : John Whitney’s demo reel of work created with his analog computer/film camera magic machine he built from a WWII anti-aircraft gun sight. Also Whitney and the techniques he developed with this machine were what inspired Douglas Trumbull (special fx wizard) to use the slit scan technique on 2001: A Space Odyssey