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Ben Patterson Live in Texas

by Damon Smith & Sarah Ruth Alexander

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  • Poster/Print + Digital Album

    A puzzle poem of lunch with Ben Patterson + the download.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Ben Patterson Live in Texas via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $5.95 USD  or more

     

  • Full Digital Discography

    Get all 98 Balance Point Acoustics releases available on Bandcamp and save 90%.

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of Balloon of Ruin JOB 001, Live in Somervile, The Cold Arrow bpaltd19019, [Five Lines Indecipherable], Hum IMR001, A View From The Gutters Could Be A Vision Of the World, Back Catalog Bundle!, Rune Kitchen, and 90 more. , and , .

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      $59.34 USD or more (90% OFF)

     

  • Deluxe Cassette + Puzzle Poem Artwork
    Cassette + Digital Album

    Pro dubbed tape with deluxe 8 panel insert with the full text of an interview of Ben PattersThe 8 panel J card & puzzle poem drive up the price and effort - you are buying an art multiple.
    Edition of 50. In stock & ready to ship.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Ben Patterson Live in Texas via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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  • Fluxkit Version with standing Zippo Lighter
    Cassette + Digital Album

    A plastic box lined with double bass sheet music with the tape, puzzle poem, an unused vintage Zippo lighter in its original box, a tin of smoked oysters, crackers, a packet of hot sauce, a vintage clothes pin & a hand tied fishing fly with a feather from a feather duster owned by Ben. Edition of 2.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Ben Patterson Live in Texas via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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  • Fluxkit Version!
    Cassette + Digital Album

    A plastic box lined with double bass sheet music with the tape, puzzle poem, an unused vintage Zippo lighter in its original box, a tin of smoked oysters, crackers, a packet of hot sauce, vintage clothes pin & a hand tied fishing fly with a feather from a feather duster owned by Ben. Edition of 7.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Ben Patterson Live in Texas via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Sold Out

1.
2.

about

Seeing Ben Patterson’s exhibition, and
subsequently performing his work Varia-
tions for Double Bass (1962) as part of it,
was a life-changing experience for me. Of
course, Ben being a double bassist is a big
part of my interest in his work. I also started
to study visual art early on in a search for
answers regarding abstraction in music. Art
soon became a strong secondary inter-
est and part of my work. Ben’s exhibition
presented paintings, scores, objects, sound,
texts, actions, and even “a normal life” all
as his body of work. It gave it me a much
clearer way to proceed.
When he returned to Houston for a
performance at the Contemporary Art Mu-
seum Houston, we split a bucket of crawfish
and dozen raw oysters at the Ragin’ Cajun
before moving on to one of Houston’s best
coffee shops, Greenway Coffee.
In your early Fluxus years, were you
crossing paths with a lot of the differ-
ent new music people and improvising
musicians and free jazz musicians at the
same time?
Yes. In the early Fluxus years, the very,
very, very beginning, it was presumably
new music that we were presenting. And
my first pre-Fluxus things—beginning
in Cologne in the ’60s. It was a seminal
meeting with John Cage and David Tudor,
Christian Wolff, and that focus was on
music, although it expanded afterwards
into other things. I was always reasonably
close to musicians, perhaps more than
many of my Fluxus colleagues, who were
not necessarily musicians. And then later
when I became, shall we say, not so fully en-
gaged with Fluxus, around ’66, and worked
more administratively in arts organization
situations, the program I developed for the
state council called Composer Performance
covered, by my insistence, everything
from Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor to
Milton Babbitt. I don’t think that there were
that many, with the exception of La Monte
Young—although he had sort of backed off
Fluxus—and Henry Flynt, who never really
claimed to be Fluxus. But the rest were not
really that focused on music. Certainly not
free jazz.
Do you think that the bass specifically
opened you up to the kind of art that
you started to pursue with Fluxus?
That’s an interesting question. Probably
yes, because when I was in university, I took
composition courses also, but I never wrote
anything for bass. There were a couple en-
semble pieces for various instruments but
the bass was never in that. I remember the
first piece I wrote for bass was Variations for
Double Bass. And that was after, of course,
encountering John Cage live. The variations
began as my answer to the prepared piano,
of course. And the preparations became
more elaborate and then at some point I
discovered that they didn’t have to be on
the strings and it became an instrument
for, in simple terms, theatrics. It became an
object that could be manipulated. It’s hard
to do a lot of those things with the flute. So
perhaps if I’d been a flute player, I wouldn’t
have made variations for a flute that would
have led eventually to the other things.

You did early things in Wuppertal, right?
You’re talking about the Galerie Parnass. It
was in June of 1962 and George Maciunas
had been invited to present a lecture about
what he considered then to be Neo-Dada.
It wasn’t Fluxus yet. Fluxus was just the title
of the festival that was going to happen.
And I was asked to make a music demon-
stration: it was not the first performance of
Variations for Double Bass, but it’s the best
documented performance of it from those
days. And from the first two or three years,
I kept adding new variations, but that was
the most complete. After that, I’m not sure
there were any major variations added to it.
Well, the Wuppertal thing... My activity
there was based around this gallerist Jean-
Pierre Wilhelm, who was very open and
very aggressive in promoting avant-garde
stuff. And Pina Bausch already was there,
and then there were a couple of other
names that I don’t remember right now.
But in terms of that area I think it was the
most progressive.
A lot of your work in the last couple of
decades seems to exist in a psychologi-
cal place rather than on the wall or even
in sound.
Part of my interest had always been in
the notion that the market corrupted the
artwork. And the simplest way would be
to dematerialize the work. In other words,
there is no material there and you can’t
market it. And music fitted into that role.
Well, I guess you could say brain manipulions, working with the whole thought
process, for what is thinking?, how do you
think?, and so forth. That all fitted into that
pattern. So the Museum of the Subcon-
scious, of course, belongs to that, and the
latest work, which I will be performing on
Sunday, called A Penny for Your Thoughts.
And this company I established called Pat-
terson’s Interiors. We’ve been decorating,
renovating, remodeling minds, great and
small, since 1934. And so we will decorate
your mind with tidbits and leftovers. There’s
a sort of parody on radio advertisements
at work: “Call now for free estimate. Or
just sell your old mind for cash now!” So it
has a playful aspect, of course, but it’s also
a way to make you aware that thinking is
a willed activity or something that you can
manipulate.
You’ve had a recent period of making
objects again—how do you feel that mu-
sic and the interior design of the mind
feed back into making objects?
A work that I recently just finished, which
is now in Amsterdam, makes use of text
also—well, information, which in this case
can only be conveyed by words. One
piece has a midnight-blue background,
and then there’s a series of white circle-y
things like stars, with the names of various
cities in Europe. And the whole thing is
called Beethoven Slept Here. [Laughs] All
the places where Beethoven overnighted
for whatever reasons. You have to work out
the map in your own mind, just from the
clues there. But the object is there. And so that’s a piece which goes beyond just the
visual aspect of the work. Another piece
is about frogs. [Laughs] Well you saw that,
Pond. I recently discovered an internet site
on which they have listed how people try to
imitate frog sounds in 68 different languag-
es. [Laughs] The English is ribbit, ribbit.
But the Chinese have their own—Russians,
Afghans, and so forth. So you have the vi-
sual, but also you have to make the sounds
yourself in your head, if not out loud, to
make the thing work. So I use that kind of
text information a lot in the work, because
it adds another dimension to it beyond the
color and the shape and form.
One of thing that was striking about the
big retrospective you had at the Con-
temporary Arts Museum Houston was
how you didn’t leave anything behind.
It wasn’t a linear thing—like you played
bass and then went into Fluxus and then
stopped. You even had landscape paint-
ing at one point. And I thought that was
really beautiful, that you were ready to
use whatever you think you need to use
to make the piece. And that’s a different
attitude than a lot of people have.
Well it may be because I wasn’t a quote
“trained artist.” I didn’t go to art school.
The only creative courses I took would have
been in music composition, which was
leading to the serial school—and cut off
that with Cage, and everything was open
after that. So all the visual material is all self-
taught. So there was no dogma that I had
to break away from or stay with.
I think one of the things that music
education starts with is to give us mate-
rial to relate to each other and that it’s
primarily a social activity.
It’s a social activity. You can sit in your
studio and paint all day long and in the
end you have ten paintings done... But
you can’t really have a finished piece of
music until you’ve presented it in a concert.
You can rehearse it all day long, but it’s not
finished until it’s performed for somebody.
And that’s the social aspect of it. So it’s very
different, I think. I mean okay, every artist
wants to see [their art] go into a gallery
some place, but it doesn’t have to go.
It doesn’t have to. Keith Rowe said he
used to think improvised music was this
living music that always happened. But
now he realizes that after you do an im-
provisation it’s dead, unless you record
it and then maybe it can live there. But
every time a string quartet plays a Shas-
tikovich string quartet, they’re bringing
it to life. And so this composed music
can have this life beyond other music
because it can just be brought to life by
real people.
By real people. Right. The improvisors, yes,
unless it’s recorded, it’s gone. It’s an experi-
ence that’s changed them somehow or
another, even if it’s something infinitesimal.
But they couldn’t sing it back to you.
Special thanks to Valerie Cassel Oliver and
Alexandra Irrer Originally published in SIgnal to Noice #65
Thanks to Pete Gershon

credits

released July 22, 2022

Damon Smith - double bass
Sarah Ruth Alexander - voice

Recorded by Stephen Lucas
September 22, 2021 at Rubber Gloves, Denton, TX
Mastered by Weasel Walter
Photographs by Pete Gershon
props that belonged to Ben were used, thanks to Valerie Cassel Oliver
balancepointacoustics.com
Tapes by Cryptic Carousel
A digital booklet of the interview with extra photographs is included with all purchases.
BPA S1

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