Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Germ Requiem

The Germ Requiem is the ecstatic emotional core of the Sun Palace, and is intended to accompany archival movies about TB and various gruesome medical procedures. Perhaps the entire cast will be asked to sing in harmony with what they hear, in long overlapping length-of-breath tones, ahhh. That will illustrate the idea of breathing, respiration, and infinite vs constricted lung capacity. People will float out of the show, deeply oxygenated.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Lungers

Ever wondered what the doc hears when putting a stethoscope to your lungs? Here is a mostly-untreated audio collage of sick people (and one healthy breather) breathing. Some of them are saying 99, some 1,2,3. Interestingly if those numbers are intelligible through the stethoscope that means there is a solid mass or tumor in the body; if muffled, then everything is still fleshy and hunk dory. The less sense you make the better in this case. You also don't want to hear wheezing, crackling, or rattling (rales).

As the audience enters the space they will hear this. Some of them will have impromptu tests, perhaps amplified (with contact mics) into the mix, or a chorus of aaaahhhhs and numbers. Those arbitrarily selected to be sick will get a bell to wear around their neck for the duration of the performance.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Solar Laryngoscope by night

The Solar Therapeutic Laryngoscope was invented at Cragmor. It took the form of two concave mirrors that could be attached to the back of a chair. When a patient with TB of the larynx (such as several vocal stars of Broadway in the 1920s) sat reversed in the chair, with the sun behind her, light was directed into the back of the mouth for those healing UV sun rays to reach where they otherwise never could.

Here the device appears as a constellation or aurora over a night time long exposure shot of early Cragmor, over its roof, where so much heliotherapy took place.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sousa and the Cragmor Vision

There were several unbuilt Cragmors arising from Dr. Solly's dream. Each plan was scaled back by the architects to fit the available budget. Here is the original, poised on the hill to catch the healing sunrays, while the John Philip Sousa Orchestra (which played for san residents at least in Saskatoon) raises the spirits for a hypothetical opening ceremony on the future lawn.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Audio: Macleish

HERE is a short segment that may end up in the piece somehow. It is the voice of poet Archibald Macleish whose sister Ishbel was at Cragmor in the bungalow Village around 1924. It describes the creative process, something that many of the artistic residents had plenty of time to consider as they developed their own poems, photos, paintings, and writings.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Garden of the Gods

Uncle Russell's painting of the Garden of the Gods (1918) with a photo (mirrored) from the same spot and a sunbathing boy from a public health campaign poster. Heliotherapy meets flying naked angels with clean lungs.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Audio segments

HERE is a link to some of the musical elements in progress that may end up in the production of the Sun Palace. Some will have action, live music, dance or video associated with them

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Uncle Russell self portrait with nerves

Russell Cheney, self portrait with added (1896) woodcuts of bronchial nerve trees. Interior and exterior at work again, the skull beneath the skin... Even the alveoli look like bunches of delicious grapes.

Hope he wasn't coughing too much in France in the 1920s when he presumably painted this.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Sun Palace: Hyperopera Tribute to Cragmor TB Sanatorium

Here begins some blogging about the giant work in progress celebrating the peculiar history of a tuberculosis sanatorium in Colorado Springs about 1905-1940ish. It was where the 1% went to chase the cure or die in the process. My great, great Uncle Russell Cheney was there and the building eventually became the campus of UCCS where my dad taught English for 35 years.

The main cures were sunbathing (heliotherapy, ironically the only thing they happened to get right since vitamin D does help the immune system), fresh air, and food (28 raw egg yolks a day and gallons of milk). Drug treatments were poppers (nitrite of amyl), heroin, codeine, tobacco, creosote, and chalk. Confined to bed or deck chairs for months or years they had plenty of time to look at the view of Pikes Peak, read, paint, take photographs, write poetry, compose, or just go 'cousining' on the roof if they felt equal to it. Thus, long before 'Art Therapy' became a term in the 1940s, the rich consumptives of Cragmor were producing artworks. The patients who recovered often stayed in the town, endowed institutions, and led to its dramatic rise in population. This is the story of how a germ built a city.

The Sun Palace will be a multi-media performance event with UCCS students, faculty, and community members in November 2012. It will also have a life as a standalone experimental video. As I develop the various components of the work I will post samples.

Here are some remixes of artwork and media from those times, all related to TB patients — "Lungers" — and their inner (and outer) lives; facing uncertain medical outcomes (50:50 at best).

You will see my montaged reworkings of pieces that relate to Russell Cheney (painter), Laura Gilpin (photographer), Dorothy Smoller (dancer with Anna Pavlova, model), Vincent Youmans (composer), Henry Varnum Poor (painter), and Ruth Draper (monologuist). There will eventually be parallel treatments in audio and video form...