The Wire

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In Writing

Peter Strickland's Portal

August 2012

Follow film maker Peter Strickland's top choice of the web, including sites devoted to favourite Soviet bus stops, visual music and more. Strickland and his film Berberian Sound Studio are the subjects of an article by Daniel Spicer in The Wire 343.

Soviet Roadside Bus Stops
A staggering set of bus stop photos spanning the whole of the former Soviet Union from the Baltic states through to the far corners of Asia. Designs range from the brutally functional to highly decorative Islamic art. It's a very evocative window onto a world where you're under the impression you could be waiting quite a while for that bus. There's not much evidence of timetables or anything man made nearby. In fact, these are the kind of bus stops that would've been built for the Thomas Jerome Newtons of this world. Too bad you can't find any equivalents of these bus stops in Reading... you probably wouldn't need to give the driver the exact change either.

A Sound Awareness
I came to this great blog quite late, but on the highest recommendation. It goes without saying that it focuses on music/sound, but there are plenty of posts on film, art and other arcane, hidden wonders. There's a whole pool of similar blogs: Toys And Techniques, Found Objects, Sparks In Electrical Jelly, Island Of Terror, Dispokino and many others. The writers behind most of these blogs know their stuff inside out and I bet they all get out of bed before 7am and systematically work through flea markets, charity shops or garage sales. I once saw a fight break out at a flea market over a communist era design manual, so this kind of job isn't risk free. The quest-like nature of it all is very inspiring and there's much more freshness and vitality in these blogs than in most music or film publications.

Something Weird Video
This is a US distributor of exploitation flicks, drive-in cinema commercials, educational scare films, burlesque, etc. Even if one doesn't have the time or money to sift through the huge library of DVDs, the descriptions, profiles, clips and links to other sites paint a vivid picture of both the Eisenhower era drive-in cinema days and the much darker, neon drenched world of the Times Square grindhouses in the 1970s. The links to periodicals such as Shock Cinema or Sleazoid Express by Michelle Clifford and Bill Landis continue the trail. Even though it's not listed on the website, Land Of A Thousand Balconies: Discoveries And Confessions Of A B-Movie Archaeologist by Jack Stevenson is worth hunting down.

Center For Visual Music
As the website states, "Center For Visual Music is a nonprofit film archive dedicated to visual music, experimental animation and avant garde media". Fans of Oskar Fischinger and Jordan Belson will not be disappointed. The website is crammed with texts, images and links. Belson's association with the musician, Henry Jacobs is mentioned in relation to the Vortex concerts that took place at San Francisco's Morrison Planetarium. Sadly, hardly any audio or images exist from that period, but this website is the closest one can get to imagining what it was like.

Jonas Mekas
For me, Jonas Mekas is the Pericles of underground/experimental cinema: incredibly courageous, multi-talented and highly eloquent both with the pen and the camera. His diary films are phenomenal, especially the epic Walden. Now we have a huge chunk of his life in one website and it is something you can dip into again and again.

The Book Of Days
"A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities" from 1869. Illustrations, oddities, poems and songs, customs and superstitions – an online treasure trove from the past. I came to this by accident fairly recently through a website devoted to Gilbert White's Selborne journals, which are essential for anyone interested in natural history.

Cymatic Soundscapes
Sonic vibration experiments by Hans Jenny using the spores of a club moss: Fantastic.

The National Sound Archive
An invaluable resource for sound enthusiasts, natural historians and ethnographers. I've come across remarkable insect and bird recordings by Jim Reynolds, David Ragge, Jean-Claude Roche and Alan Burbidge, many of which are unreleased. The last decade or so has seen a very welcome upsurge in field recording/ethnographic websites and labels such as Listen To Africa or Sublime Frequencies and the sound or music they're putting out is remarkably evocative. But the beauty of the British Library's National Sound Archive is that you can find unique recordings for sale at affordable prices. If you're looking for sounds for your film, why would you use a stock owl call that has been used in a hundred other productions when you can find something at the Sound Archive that is not generic or 'off the shelf'?

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