Podcast 19: Anaïs Nin’s Family with Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz

Gayle Nin Rosenkrantz was the daughter of Thorvald Nin, the middle child of the Nin family, between his big sister Anaïs and little brother Joaquín. She was born in Latin America during the 1930s and has vivid memories of not only her aunt, uncle and father, but also of her grandparents, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos and Rosa Culmell. Listen as she, like no one else can, describes the family dynamics, how Aunt Anaïs kept them at arm’s length to keep her bigamy secret, a humorous account of her grandfather calling her and her brother “savages” after they met him in Cuba in 1939, and her stories about her father and uncle, many of which are entirely unknown until now. If you are interested in Anaïs Nin, this podcast is a must-listen, for it contains some real treasures from one of the only descendants of the original Nin family.

Run time: 41 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

To learn more about the Nin family, click here.

This podcast is sponsored by The Quotable Anaïs Nin, which contains 365 cited quotations.

Opening track: Joaquin Nin “Suite Espanole II

Closing track: Joaquin Nin-Culmell: “Ball pla i l’esquerrana

 

NinfamilywithJuanManen

Thorvald, Rosa, Joaquin, Juan Manen, Anais Nin ca. 1920

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Podcast 18: Anaïs: A Dance Opera with Cindy Shapiro

Episode 18 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast is an interview with Los Angeles composer Cindy Shapiro, who, with director/choreographer Janet Roston, is launching a new stage production, Anaïs: A Dance Opera in August 2016. While reading the letters between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller collected in A Literate Passion, Shapiro was almost immediately inspired to write songs based on Nin’s life. Now, after years of composing, auditioning performers and rehearsals, opening night is coming soon. Anaïs: A Dance Opera is mix of singing, intricate dancing and video display. Amazingly, Nin’s story unfolds without a physical set—a character called “Eternal Anaïs” acts as an MC, narrating Nin’s life in song while a “Dancing Anaïs” and other characters interpret each phase of Nin’s life with dance. The video display, which includes the lyrics of the songs, is used to depict the era and atmosphere of each scene. Anaïs: A Dance Opera is a “young show” that is intended to appeal to a young audience, a new generation who may be inspired by Nin’s life and work.

AnaisADanceOpera

Run time: 35 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen without iTunes, click here.

Sponsored by Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947

Anais Nin Podcast 13: The Music of Anais Nin

When Anaïs Nin was born 113 years ago in Neuilly, France, her house was filled with the music of her pianist/composer father and classical singer mother. It is conceivable she heard music while still in the womb. Her brother Joaquín began the piano at a very young age, so even after Anaïs’s father abandoned the family when she was ten years old, music was still a constant in the house after the family relocated to New York. Rosa Culmell, Nin’s mother, had many visitors, including famous singers, musicians and composers…so while Anaïs never took up an instrument or singing, her life was infused with music. As time went by and she began her famous diary, music played a role in her writing, often symbolizing certain moods, events, themes, or phases of her life. In episode 13 of The Anaïs Nin Podcast, we will learn about which artists or songs were among the most important in Nin’s life and work—Debussy, Ravel, jazz, Latin music, and even electronica.

I would like to give a shout-out to Glory Days Magazine for inspiring this podcast, and thank them for presenting Anaïs Nin to their readership in New Zealand.

Music includes: Tonadas by Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Bolero by Maurice Ravel, Popo by the Shorty Rogers Quintet, Sonata for Violin and Piano by Claude Debussy, Chuncho by Yma Sumac, and Bells of Atlantis by Louis and Bebe Barron featuring Anaïs Nin herself.

Yma Sumac

Yma Sumac

This podcast is sponsored by Volume 13 of A Café in Space: The Anaïs Nin Literary Journal, available now.

Run time: 14 minutes

To listen to the podcast with iTunes, click here.

To listen to the podcast without iTunes, click here.

To order or find out more about A Café in Space, click here.

Anaïs Nin as Inspiration: a Nin concept album

Recently, we have described how Anaïs Nin has inspired other artists: there have been numerous paintings, sculptures, films, plays, and other forms of artistic expression that are rooted in Nin’s life and work. Now we can add an entire album of music to the list. Pam Shaffer, a Los Angeles based singer-songwriter, has just released her first full length album based on Nin’s Paris diaries, entitled As We Are (culled from the famous Nin quote, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”) which includes the songs “Henry,” “Gonzalo,” “Hugh,” “June,” “Nanakepichu,” among others. Upon listening to the album, I immediately felt that Shaffer captured Nin’s aura and has allowed it to inform her songs.

I asked Shaffer to comment on her album; her thoughts follow:

aswearecoverI have played the piano for just about as long as I can recall and wrote my very first song about a baby falling out of a tree (rather derivative in retrospect and an odd commentary on children’s songs). Music was always my favorite mode of expression but I also painted a fair amount as a child and enjoyed writing poetry as an adolescent. For the majority of my time as a teenager I was terrified to sing in public. On occasion, I would play a Tori Amos cover or one of my own songs for friends. Unbeknownst to me, people at my high school actually listened, which came as a great surprise to me when years later, I ran into classmates who asked if I was still playing. I began performing in earnest in college.

There’s a line in a Jewel song that says, “You can be Henry Miller and I’ll be Anaïs Nin/This time it will be even better we’ll stay together in the end.” I remember hearing that line and wondering who those people were. Though my interest was piqued, it took me a few years to actually buy and read Henry and June. By the time I was 18, I had read it through several times and had moved onto her other diaries along with some of her essays. Reading her words was much like seeing my own thoughts committed to paper though they were ideas I had never dared to have before. I read her work consistently through college and wrote my independent honors thesis about how her life and art merged in an ideal state in the 1930s.

Anaïs’s life and work has affected me in a myriad of ways. Artistically, she has shown me that I must persevere and work within my own style whether it is popular or not. She writes in such a particular voice and does not stray from her own intuitive expression. She was not “successful” as a writer for much of her life, but she kept writing regardless. Her style is beautiful and accessible to me, but it might not be to others. She made her life into her art, which inspires me greatly. Though I do not always agree with the choices she made in her life, it is illuminating to read about her successes and failures as she attempted to live her life to its fullest degree. Her work reminds me not to settle for half-measures and to pursue my passions with all my energy. Clearly, her writing greatly influenced my own as I love the fluidity of her prose and the way she lets her stories unfold. I strive to write songs that operate the same way, utilizing the unconscious material and blending it with the conscious content.

A few years ago, the song “Henry” simply popped into my head. I wasn’t setting out to write a song about Anaïs and Henry, but there it was. It stood out quite a bit from the rest of my material, which was mostly drawn from my own life. I started to think that perhaps Henry was “lonely” and that I should write about June. Having written a thesis on Anaïs’s diaries, the source material was fresh in mind. Over the course of two years, I wrote all of the songs for the album. At the time, I was also writing songs about myself and other topics, but the Anaïs songs tended to have a distinct feel to them, a cohesive character that set them apart from my other work. I had an inkling that they were meant to be a concept album, and by the time I was mixing my previous EP, I was talking with my producer about recording the Anaïs songs together as an album. We began recording demos based on my sketches from my laptop recordings in early 2009, and that was the genesis of the album. My source materials span her dairies and unexpurgated works from 1930-1938, though I have also read House of Incest along with Cities of the Interior, so you never know what might have snuck in there.

In a way, her most famous quote was a perfect album title, because each of the songs is a different character. The songs are coming to the listener as “they” are, and each listener will take something different from them, thus fulfilling the concept of the quote. I think that quote is universal and insightful but was far too long for an album title. “As We Are” can be interpreted in many ways, but I hope it accurately depicts the nature of the album.

I recall telling my friend Karin Tatoyan about my idea for an Anaïs Nin concept album while sitting outside the Echo Curio on the curb of Sunset Blvd in Echo Park. She herself is an astonishingly talented musician, and she looked at me with wide eyes and said my idea was brilliant. I laughed and recounted how hard it was to find a thesis advisor because none of my professors were versed in the works of Anaïs Nin and that I couldn’t have possibly found a more obscure topic about which to write. She told me that very few people would have a clue what I was doing, but those who did would be thrilled, and those who did not would at the very least be intrigued by such a mysterious subject. Writing an album about Anaïs Nin matches the general theme of my life, which continuously reveals that I am quite good at accomplishing unusual, eccentric tasks but mediocre at best when it comes to easy and practical ones. I was always the kid who could do a one-handed cartwheel but might stub my toe while walking in my own room. I could solve an algebraic equation in my head but I might not count our change correctly. I am aware that I likely should have written or released a more general album first, one that was perhaps more easily relatable and accessible to draw people in before I delved into the unknown. However, I’ve never done things the easy way, and at least now my listeners will be those who will hopefully follow me down dark paths as well as well-lit ones.

To hear songs from, or to purchase the album, click here.

Anaïs Nin’s Artistic Associations: Harry Partch, Musician

Harry Partch

Harry Partch

Anaïs Nin is not only noted for her associations with other writers, but with artists of all genres, in particular musical innovators, such as Louis and Bebe Barron, early electronic musicians. One form of abstract music that appealed to Nin was that of Harry Partch (1901-1974), whose approach was organic but definitely unique. Nin writes in her diary in 1955:

The first time I heard the music of Harry Partch…I had the same sensation as when listening to Balinese music…the sensation of fluidity.

[Partch] was an unusually handsome man…preoccupied with metaphysics, born in San Francisco and exposed to Oriental influences. He had designed his own instruments. He lived a difficult, independent, individualistic life. He had to sell his own records.

The instruments themselves had wonderful names: Marimba Eroica; Bass Marimba; Boo; Diamond Marimba; Spoils of War; Kithara 1; Kithara 2; Harmonic Canon One; Harmonic 2 (Castor and Pollux); Surrogate Kithara; Chromelodon 1. [Click here to see and even virtually play these instruments]

The recordings came from “Gate Five,” Sausalito.

At the beginning of his career, Harry found that the extremely subtle tones he wished for his music (he devised his own scale with forty-three tones to the octave) could not be reproduced by conventional Western instruments. To solve this, he not only designed his own instruments but constructed them as well, often using exotic materials like glass carboys or Plexiglas. But he said: ‘I am not an instrument builder but a philosophic musicman seduced into carpentry.’

He had to train gifted and devoted students to play each instrument. And again, because conventional music notation could not encompass the tremendous range of notes or the very complex rhythms, he devised his own system of notation…

The affinity with nature, the sounds coming out of Sitka spruce, Philippine bamboo, Brazilian rosewood, redwood, Pernambuco reeds, played with picks, fingers, mallets and felted sticks. The affinity with Oriental music, which has a flowing, enveloping, oceanic rhythm. Rhythm was an essential part of Partch’s music, a native, contemporary rhythm. The richness of it gave to contemporary compositions the depth and dimension which so far existed only in the music of the East. (Diary 5 240-2)

Nin followed Partch’s career for years. In 1959, she writes: “Rejoicing over the success of Harry Partch in New York. The Bewitched. Everyone writes me how beautiful it was, how he made beauty out of American folklore, how fluid and marvelous the music was” (Diary 6 189). She had an admiration for him that lasted for the rest of her life, one that she readily expressed in her diary, lectures, and her biographical film, Anaïs Observed, by Robert Snyder.

Today, Partch’s music, although still undoubtedly obscure, lives on, primarily because of the dedication of aficionados—one in particular, John Schneider, leads a group of musicians who play Partch’s songs with replicas of the original instruments. When I visited Los Angeles in the summer of 2007, I was lucky enough to catch one of the performances, a photo from which is below. Partch’s original instruments are kept at Montclair State University by the organization Newband, which maintains a Partch web site.

John Schneider (left) in Partch performance. Photo: Paul Herron

John Schneider (far left) in Partch performance. Photo: Paul Herron

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