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John Clellon Holmes, Recordings, 1949-1951 and 1968


INVENTORY
Prepared by Barbara Rodriguez
27 November 1996
1 LP storage box + 1 record storage box (contains audiocassette duplicates)


Scope and Content

The recordings made by John Clellon Holmes are a valuable addition to the Department's extensive materials by and about the Beatnik generation. The content of these recordings includes musical selections and spontaneous "riffs," as well as Allen Ginsberg reciting selections of his own poetry, a conversation between Jack Kerouac and Ginsberg, and a recitation of two scenes from Hamlet by Kerouac.

Ann Charters' compilation, A Bibliography of Works By Jack Kerouac, notes a description by John Clellon Holmes on the making of the recordings:

...Seymour Wyse, an old friend of Jack's from Horace Mann days, with whom he shared an interest in jazz, was working (in 1949-50) in a record shop on Eighth Street, west of Sixth, owned by another old friend, Jerry Newman, who in early 1940 had made a classic series of records up at Minton's in Harlem, featuring the work of Charlie Christian and the then almost unknown Thelonius Monk, Dizzie Gillespie, Kennie Clarke, and others who came to prominence in the bop revolt a few years later... Anyhow, my then brother-in-law had left in my apartment one of those massive, ungainly and also unreliable recording machines of the late 40's, weighing over one hundred pounds with a cutting arm that had the heft of a good-size hammer. All of us, then, were a bop-mad, indefatigable, stone-broke, and full (we imagined) of ravishing jazz-ideas. One night, Seymour brought to a party of mine several demonstration discs, only one side of which had been used, and, pleasantly mulled on beer, which in those days we always bought in enormous quart bottles, and never more than four at a time, after which someone was delegated to go down to the deli below and purchase more. Soon I got Jack to read the two slight selections from Town and City (both of which were considerably thinned in the published version), after which our exuberance quickly outran any such "literary" projects, and we got down to making records of ourselves, riffing over recorded solos. One of our passions just then was the work of pianist Lennie Tristano, who was, perhaps, the most avant-garde of the younger jazzmen of that year, and who, just a month before, had recorded, the first attempt at total, freeform, atonal improvisation, a record called "Intuition", not yet released, but played occaisionally by Symphony Sid on his all-night radio show. We decided to attempt a similar thing, and the "Three Tools" were born, flourished briefly, and passed away. We made other records, none of which was really successful, and on other nights, with other discs that Seymour brought, I managed to get Ginsberg recorded, reading his then tightly-metaphysical-Yeats-like poems, and Jack doing selections from Hamlet, which he felt he could interpret best while a little muddled on beer, eschewing too much gravity, and adopting a musing, and sometimes amusing, tone... A few months later, my brother-in-law reclaimed his equipment, and the early attempt to establish Caedmon Records came to an end. When, some years afterwards, I got a tape recorder, I taped a long conversations with Jack and Allen and Peter, and joint, giggling poetry readings, and even late-night confessionals. All these tapes, lamentably, are now lost.
[Charters, Ann. A Bibliography of Works By Jack Kerouac. New York: Phoenix Bookshop (1967): 109-110.]

The last two sound discs of the collection (21 and 22) are entirely different entities from the first 20 sound discs. Not only are they dated much later and are physically different, they were not instantaneous recordings by John Clellon Holmes. Entitled Avant Slant: A Twelve Tone Collage, the two records are actually one-sided recordings of one sound disc by the John Benson Brooks Trio in collaboration with Milt Gabler. John Clellon Holmes wrote the program notes in which he describes Avant Slant as a "collage-in-sound, in which fragments of poetry, pop tunes, radio broadcasts, and Feiffer-like babble intermingle to form an aural history of Right Now." He continues, explaining the importance of this "listening experience" which includes "...that black humor which is so often our last defense against the confusion and sheer noise of a technological civilization that seems increasingly to measure its nerves in decibles..."

All of the recordings will be valuable to scholars on many levels. They offer an intimate view of the past and of the personal lives of individuals who through literature, poetry, and essay would go on to shape and define a generation lost in a post-war, technological society. In addition to the unique recitations and conversations recorded, these tapes catalogue the musical tastes and influences of the Beats during their early conception. Although several classical pieces and popular songs are included, the primary musical form recorded is jazz. Several jazz pieces are mimicked in a spontaneous, free-form expression called "riffing" by several of the individuals recorded on these tapes including Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes, himself. Specifically, the jazz influence on the artistic creations of the Beats is evident in John Clellon Holmes' The Horn (1958), a novel about a jazz saxaphone master loosely based on many of the artists recorded on these sound discs. According to Richard K. Ardinger, Holmes stylistically mimics the riffs in his prose descriptions of a Beat artist, "...capturing the long improvisational, increasingly intense, emotionally driven rhythms" found in the essence and spontaneity of jazz. [Ardinger, Richard K. An Annotated Bibliography of Works by John Clellon Holmes. Pocatello, Idaho:Idaho State U. Press (1979): ii.] The influence of jazz music can also be seen in his first novel Go, in which he states:

In this modern jazz, they heard something rebel and nameless that spoke for them, and their lives knew a gospel for the first time. It was more than a music; it became an attitude toward life, a way of walking, a language and a costume; and these introverted kids (emotional outcasts of a war they had bee too young to join, or in which they had lost their innocence), who had never belonged anywhere before, now felt somewhere at last. [161]

The Holmes Recordings collection contains 22 sound discs (commonly referred to as records) that have been transferred onto 2 sets of 5 audio tapes and a set of 8 reel-to-reel master tapes. The actual sound discs vary in dimension, material, and speed: five of the sound discs are monaural acetate of 10" (1-4, 12), there are nine monaural shellac-coated metal discs of 10" (5-11, 13-14) and one of 12" (15), then another five (16-20) are 8" monaural aluminum base sound discs, and the last two (21 and 22) are pre-recorded 12" monaural shellac-coated metal discs. The actual material compositions are estimations made by the cataloguer. The speeds are inconsistent, between 78 rpm and 33 1/3 rpm. Due to the age of the recordings and the resulting structural breakdown, the recordings are not of high quality, with some background static and occasional skips. However, they remain audible.

There is a discrepancy in the actual dates of the recording of these sound discs. Purchased from Pharos Books, they were dated by the company ca 1949-1950, however only four of these sound discs have dates written on their labels [7a and 15b are marked March 30, 1951, while the pre-recorded sound discs (21 and 22) have May 24,1968], so they are grouped into two separate categories: 1949-1951 and 1968.

Biographical Sketch

John Clellon Holmes was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on March 12, 1926. As an author, he spanned the genres of essays, poetry, and novels. Although not as prolific as many of his contemporaries, Holmes was often regarded as the spokesman for the Beat Generation, defining Beat culture in two of his essays, "This Is the Beat Generation" (1952) and "Philosophy of the Beat Generation" (1958). Some of his earlier works include: Go (1952); The Horn (1958); Get Home Free (1964), the sequel to Go; Nothing More to Declare (1967), a collection of essays about the Beat generation phenomenon; and The Bowling Green Poems (1977), written while working at Bowling Green University. Holmes also lectured at Yale University (1959) and gave workshops at the State University of Iowa (1963) and Brown University (1971). He was a professor at the University of Arkansas from 1976 until a year before his death in 1988. Some of his later works include a memorium to his old friend, Visitor: Jack Kerouac in Old Saybrook (1981), Displaced Persons: the travel essays (1987), and a final book of poems, Dire Coasts (1988). John Clellon Holmes died of cancer at age 62 in Middleton, Connecticut, on March 30, 1988.

In addition to these recordings, Special Collections also houses correspondence and other papers of John Clellon Holmes.


Sound disc entry format: Each sound disc is divided into sides A and B. The titles are taken from the actual labels where they were either typwritten or handwritten (in pencil and ink). Every new line is separated by a slash (/). Notations made by the processor complete names where possible, as well as provide spelling corrections, and are indicated in brackets ([ ]). The notes briefly describe the contents on each of the sides, while a short physical description of the entire sound disc can be found at the end of every set of entries.

1A: John Clellon Holmes - / "Testimony of / Unwitting / Totalitarians"
Notes: John Clellon Holmes recites poem [unpublished].

1B: Riff singing: / "Out on a Limb" - / "Blue Boy" - / [Lennie] Tristano / "What a Little [Moonlight] Can Do" - / B[illie] Holiday / C[harlie] P[arker] / D[izzie] G[illespie] / Shaw Nuff
Notes: one voice [John Clellon Holmes?] riffing and singing to music.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural acetate; blue "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label on both sides.
2A."Marionette" (2) / "Blue Boy" (2) / "Little Moonlight" / (2)
Notes: several voices riffing to music.

2B: "Blues" - / part 2 / "Only Have Eye" / (1&2)
Notes: one voice riffing to music; several voices riffing and singing to music.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural acetate; blue "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label on both sides.
3A: Riff singing: / "Only Have Eyes" / (2) (2) end / "Blues" / 1 and 3 / Charlie Parker / C[harlie] P[arker] "This Is / Always"
Notes: several voices riffing and singing to music; music from a radio transmission.

3B: Riff singing: / "Can't Get Started" / [Lennie] Tristano / "Keep Smiling" / [Billie] Holliday / "Salon Got bucket" [?] / "T for 3" B[ud] Powell
Notes: one voice riffing and singing to music.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural acetate; blue "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label on both sides.
4A: J[ack] K[eruoac] R.C. [?] / Riff singing: / "Judy" - [Lennie] Tristano / "Sept. in Rain" - [George] Shearing / "Speculation" - [Lennie] Tristano
Notes: several voices riffing to music from a radio transmission.

4B: Riff singing: / "Marionette" - [Lennie] Tristano / "To Be or Not to Bop" - / [George] Shearing / "Atonement" - / [Lennie] Tristano / C[harlie] P[arker] "Repition"
Notes: several voices riffing to music.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural acetate; blue "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label on both sides.
5A: "Fine Thing" / Vocal: Hal Derwin
Notes: recording of "Fine Thing."

5B: [label missing]
Notes: several voices riffing to music and a cappella; "Laura" instrumental.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white with green image and "Associated Recording Studios" on label, side A; missing label, side B.
6A: What's mine is yours
Notes: recording of "What's mine is yours;" several voices riffing to music.

6B: (label missing)
Notes: several voices riffing a cappella.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; labels removed on both sides, white sticker with "What's mine is yours," side A.
7A: From the record / collection of / George Simon / "Don't!" / Music By Joe Riacardel / Words by George Simon / Sung and played / by Buddy Weed / March / 30, / 1951 / Birdland / C[harlie] P[arker] / D[izzie] G[illespie] / D[avid] I[zenzohn] / "Mysterioso"
Notes: recording of "Don't;" several voices riffing to Billie Holiday's "I must have that man;" instrumental jazz recording.

7B: When You Are Gone, / etc. -LEE [?]
Notes: recording of "While you are gone"; several voices riffing to recorded riffing.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white label, "From the record collection of George Simon," side A; label mising, yellow masking tape with "When You Are Gone," side B.
8A: "Windshield Wiper" / Lyrics - Joe Lilley / & Dick Peterson / Music - Joe Lilley
Notes: recording of "Windshield Wiper;" voices singing to recording of "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby."

8B: Seymour Wyse / (Bank Dick)
Notes: conversation including several people; Seymour Wyse tells about a W.C. Fields movie, "Bank Dick;" riffing

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white with green image and "Associated Recording Studios" on the label, side A; missing label, side B.
9A: Allen Ginsbe[rg] / Poems with / Background- / C[harlie] P[arker] / D[izzie] G[illespie] / BII [?] / "Anthro"
Notes: Allen Ginsberg recites his own poetry [begins: ...these are the images of Allan Ginsberg...]; variations on: "An Eastern Ballad" [1945-1949, approximately 30 minutes into CD; AG introduces...an early poem of mine...]; "Stanzas: written at night in Radio City" [New York, March 1949]; "Fie My Fum" [also related to "Pull My Daisy" - New York, Spring 1949; AG introduces as Fie my fum...]; "A Mad Gleam" [New York, January 1949; begins,go back to Egypt and the Greeks...]; "Crash" [Patterson, early 1950]; "A Western Ballad" [Patterson, August 1948; begins, poem...]; "The Voice of the Rock" [begins, I cannot sleep, I cannot sleep...]; music from radio transcription.

9B: [label blank]
Notes: recording of "Early Autumn."

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; yellowed label, "For Reference Recording Only / Audio Devices, Inc., New York," on both sides.
10A: Jack [Kerouac] Seymour [Wyse] Lee [William Lee? - pseudonym of William Burroughs] Riff
Notes: recorded music; no riffing.

10B: Jack [Kerouac] Seymour [Wyse] / Lee [William Lee?] / Riffs
Notes: several voices riffing.

Instantaneous sound disc; 78 and 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; black "Playback Soundcraft" label, side A; no label side B.
11A: [Jack] Kerouac - T. & C. ["The Town and the Country"] / Convers[ation] - [Jack] Ker[ouac] & Gins[berg] / Gins[berg] & [John Clellon] Holmes
Notes: Jack Kerouac recites from "The Town and the Country;" followed by conversation: Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg speak about a piccione (Italian word for pigeon) and classical scholarship; continued conversation on ...corporeal immortality... and ...do poets hear the voices of the poets they are reading...; several voices riffing; recorded music.

11B: [label blank]
Notes: recorded music, begins: My heart is back in Sleepy Hollow...

Instantaneous sound disc; 78 and 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; black "Playback Soundcraft" label, both sides.
12A: [John] Clellon Holmes: / "Instructions to Lovers" / "theorums and para." (imp.) / "Palpable Elysium" / "Fragment of Attila" / "Les Italienne" / (imp.) / G[eorgie] A[uld] / Flying / Home / G[eorgie] Auld / J.J.[Johnson]
Notes: John Clellon Holmes recites own poetry: "Instructions to Lovers" [title unpublished, begins, Go and waylay spring like a reporter...; "theorums and para." ["Theorem of Paradoxes,"Voices 137 (Spring, 1949): 40-42]; "Palpable Elysium" ["The Palpable Elysium,"Poetry LXXVI, 3 (June, 1950); 139]; "Fragment of Attila" [title unpublished, begins, Fragment, Tiresias I (fear) we are rotten, the empire dies slow...]; "Les Italienne," ["Les Italiennes," Poetry LXXIII, 4 (January, 1949): 203-205]; recorded music.

12B: Stravinsky: / "Firebird Suite" / N.Y. Philharmonic / Stravinsky: con. / "Nite in / Tun[isia]" / C[harlie] P[arker] D[izzie] G[illespie] / D[avid] I[zenzohn]
Notes: recording of Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; one voice riffing to "I Only Have Eyes for You;" recording of "Night in Tunisia."

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural acetate; blue "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label on both sides.
13A: "There's A Great Big Moon / Over Texas" / Hometown Music / 1619 B'way
Notes: recording of "There's a Great Big Moon Over Texas."

13B: Stan Getz: / "running water" / Three Tools: (J[ack] K[erouac], S[eymour] W[yse], / J.H.[?]) / "logic" / Stan Getz: / "Diaper Pin"
Notes: recorded music; several voices riffing acappella with introduction, ...Three Tools present, logic; recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white with green image and black lettering "Associated Recording Studios," side A; missing label, has rectangle piece of paper taped onto the disc, side B.
14A: Where The Old Red River Flows [hand-written] / "Red River Flows" [typewritten; crossed out in pen] / Vocal: Jimmie Davis [typewritten]
Notes: one voice riffing to "Body and Soul;" two voices riffing a cappella; one voice riffing to "Body and Soul;" recorded music from a radio transmission.

14B: J[ack] Kerouac / S[eymour] Wyse blow / "Body and Soul" / "Always" and / ?
Notes: recording of "Where the Old Red River Flows."

Instantaneous sound disc; 78 rpm (side A) and 33 1/3 rpm (side B), 10" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white with green image and black lettering "Associated Recording Studios," side A; yellowed label, "For Reference Recording Only / Audio Devices, Inc., New York," side B.
15A: J[ack] Kerouac / S[eymour]Wyse & / J[ohn Clellon] Holmes blow / "The Absolute" / Same group blow / a fugue (double) / "Can't Get Started" / "Ghost of a Chance"
Notes: voice [JK?] at the beginning states, Yasha At-kito [?] presents the Three Men of Music doing "The Absolute"; several voices riffing a cappella; voice [JK?] states, ...is called the Three Fugues Get Started; several voices riffing a cappella; recorded music from a radio transmission.

15B: Jack Kerouac / reads / two selections / from / Hamlet / (in a new manner) / part of "Intuition" by / [Lennie] Tristano / "Conception" by / [George] Shearing / March 30, 1951 / "Anthro" / C[harlie] P[arker] / D[izzie] G[illespie] / B. I. [?]
Notes: Jack Kerouac recites from William Shakespear's Hamlet with music in the background; first selection begins at 1.2.64 (act.scene.line) and ends at 1.2.159; second section begins at 2.2.548 and ends at 2.2.609; recorded music.

Instaneous sound disc; 33 1/3 rpm, 12" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white label, "For Reference Recording Only / Audio Devices, Inc., New York," both sides.
16A: Tito Schipa - "Katari" / - "Primavera" / B. Gigli "Mama"
Notes: recorded music.

16B: Sarah Vaugh[a]n - "Lucky Old Sun" / Woody / Herman / - / "More / Moon" / Miles Davis / "Boplicity"
Notes: recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc, red; 33 1/3 rpm, 8" Monaural aluminum base; gold, white and black "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label, both sides.
17A: Side I / Hayden [Franz Joseph Haydn] - / Quartet - Op. 64 / No. 3 / Pro Arte / Quartet
Notes: recorded music.

17B: Side II / Hayden [Franz Joseph Haydn] - Quartet / Op. 64 No. 3 / Pro Arte / Quartet
Notes: recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc, red; 33 1/3 rpm, 8" Monaural aluminum base; gold, white and black "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label, both sides.
18A: Charlie Parker: / "Stupendous" / "[G]oose the Mouche"
Notes: recorded music.

18B: Charlie Parker: / "Ornithology" / Woody Herman / "Four Brothers"
Notes: recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc, red; 33 1/3 rpm, 8" Monaural aluminum base; gold, white and black "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label, both sides.
19A: "Beraza" - William Bliss / Intro. "Le Coq D'or" - / Rimsky Korsakov / Pierre Monteux / San. Fran.
Notes: recorded music.

19B: Herb Jeffries - "Twilight" / De Valdes [?] - "Flute Concerto" / (excerpt) / [Johann Sebastian] Bach - "The / Sicilian Sonata" / (flute and / clavier)
Notes: recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc, red; 33 1/3 rpm, 8" Monaural aluminum base; gold, white and black "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label, both sides.
20A: Jack Kerouac / & / Seymour Wyse / "Hothouse" - / "Grovin' / High"
Notes: two voices riffing a cappella.

20B: Dizzy Gillespie / "52nd St. Theme" / Billy [Eckstine] / "Goodbye" / (bad) / [Linton] Garner / "Turquoise"
Notes: recorded music.

Instantaneous sound disc, red; 33 1/3 rpm, 8" Monaural aluminum base; gold, white and black "Wilcox-Gay, Recordio Disc" label, both sides.
21A: Avant Slant / Side I / May 24, 1968
Notes: Avant Slant sound recording: a twelve tone collage; by the John Benson Brooks Trio; jazz improvisation and narration; "a twelve-tone jazz concert, an electronic poem composed in several media" --Container (from OCLC record); program notes by John Clellon Holmes (not included).

Single-side recorded sound disc, 33 1/3 rpm, 12" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white "Decca" label, one side only.
22A: Avant Slant / Side II / May 24, 1968
Notes: Avant Slant sound recording: a twelve tone collage; by the John Benson Brooks Trio; jazz improvisation and narration; "a twelve-tone jazz concert, an electronic poem composed in several media" --Container (from OCLC record); program notes by John Clellon Holmes (not included).

Single-side recorded sound disc, 33 1/3 rpm, 12" Monaural shellac-coated metal disc; white "Decca" label, one side only.

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