“Countryside”: Jim Henson’s Word Jazz

Would love to know how Jim Henson, so early in his career, was able to get Frank Sinatra to conduct the orchestra backing him on his first single, a playful word jazz piece entitled, “The Countryside”:

Jim Henson’s first (and only) 45 – released January, 1960

“Tick-Tock-Sick”, the B-Side, would seem to presage Henson’s Academy Award-nominated experimental short film 5 years later, Time Piece, a surreal and bizarre  stream-of-consciousness meditation on what just might be the fourth dimension:

I was rather taken by Henson’s Time Piece when I first viewed it several years ago at the Smithsonian and was surprised to find how “bold” and “fresh” (including those parts that might not be wholly suitable for young children) this film still is.  At one time I was able to find the entire work online, but it would appear that only a small excerpt is what folks can view freely on YouTube.  Says the Museum of the Moving Image:

“In 1965, Jim Henson made Time Piece, an experimental nine-minute short film that tells what he called ‘the story of Everyman, frustrated by the typical tasks of a typical day.’  The film opens with a man—played by Henson—in a hospital bed.  A doctor takes his pulse.  The pulse turns into a drumbeat, which becomes the percussive soundtrack for the film, in a syncopated score created by Don Sebesky.  Through a series of jump cuts, we follow the man as he walks through city streets, then suburban streets, and then the jungle.  Playfully surreal sequences are bridged by short passages of stop-motion animation.  As Henson described his filmmaking goals:  ‘In Time Piece I was playing with a kind of flow of consciousness form of editing, where the image took you to another image, and there was no logic to it but your mind put it together.’  While the film retains his trademark sense of humor, it is also a bold example of nonlinear editing.

Time Piece played for a year at the Paris Theatre in Manhattan, along with the French art-house hit A Man and a Woman.  Henson’s film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film.  It remains fresh today as both a time capsule of 1960s experimental filmmaking, and as a brilliantly conceived and edited example of Henson’s creativity.”

Zero to 180:  Approaching the Two-Year Mark

Nearly one year ago Zero to 180 celebrated its one-year anniversary with a special “Howard Dean” remix of a Muppet-related release, “Mad” by Little Jerry & the Monotones.  Click here to link to this exclusive muppet remix that is accompanied by a brief essay – “Zero to 180:  Not Yet Potty Trained” – that humorously recounts the tragic math surrounding the blog’s original date of launch:  12/12/12.

‘Sounds in Space’: Ken Nordine Revels in Stereo’s Wonder

This early stereo demonstration record by the fine folks at RCA Victor features spoken word parts by Ken Nordine (the maestro of “word jazz” – check out this ‘kinetic type’ animation clip for “Green” from Nordine’s Colors album) as between-song stereo banter.  The recordings, which feature mainly orchestral works (pop, swing & classical) are all from RCA’s catalog, naturally.

Sounds in Space LP

 

 

 

 

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“A stereophonic sound demonstration record for use on stereo orthophonic     high fidelity ‘victrolas'”

 

One fun track shows Nordine reveling in stereo’s wonder before showing the listener the pop science behind “Rag Mop” – the new stereo version by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra:

Rag Mop – Ralph Flanagan Orchestra

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play “Rag Mop” by Ralph Flanagan’s Orchestra.]

This 1958 album was produced in cooperation with Robert Oakes Jordan Associates, who also released that same year, Concert-Disc Stereo Demo with Exclusive “Bouncing Ball” Balance Control Signal Plus Excerpts from The Outstanding Concert-Disc Stereo Library.

Ken Nordine - Word JazzKen Nordine - Colors