Jonathan Halper, Who Are You?

I first saw this video a couple years ago, when my buddy Dylan told me about this new DVD he was borrowing, that i just had to see. Well he was right, this shit is pretty wonderful. I’ll let the wonderful WFMU blog take over from here. Similarly to Les Lunours, the story is as good as the product.

As my esteemed collegue Mike Lupica noted on the blog earlier, the advent of Fantoma DVD’s Volume One of the Films of Kenneth Anger is certainly reason to call the cows in. The full commentaries provided on Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954) and Fireworks (1947) among others are worth the price alone, though I can’t help but wonder why it’s all hush hush (no spoken comments, no credits except a brief “music by Jonathan Halper”) when it comes to discussing the amazing music of 1949’s Puce Moment. The two songs accompanying six minutes of actress Yvonne Marquis (who later went off to live in Mexico as their President’s mistress) are among the most zonked, fantastic bits of soundtrack juxtaposition ever. William Berger tells me he once read the uncredited song titles as “Leaving My Old Life Behind” and “I’m a Hermit”; if anyone has more light to shed on Halper, or how and when these songs were recorded (I am certain they were not made in 1949), I’d love to know more. They honestly sound like they influenced Alastair Galbraith, Simon Finn, Michael Yonkers, or mid-to-late 80’s Tall Dwarfs in their shambly, Barrett-esque presentation, complete with backwards primitive psychedelic guitar solos and the effect of lo-fidelity recording techniques to showcase the light and weirdness through undeniably twisted pop. As the You Tube clip of Puce Moment shows, the juxtaposition of these songs with Marquis’ rifling through classic dresses and getting gussied to walk the dogs around her solitary fortress in the Hollywood hills is even more fantastic. I’m surprised that no one (to my knowledge) has covered these tracks especially because I don’t think we need yet another New Weird America or trip-hop version of the Wicker Man’s “Willow Song”. Though these two songs need zero embellishment or enhancement. Would love to see someone dig up more Halper sounds and put together a Skip Spence or Todd Tamenend Clark-type reissue.”

Get the song here

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16 Responses to “Jonathan Halper, Who Are You?”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    It would be so nice if there were more recordings of the enigmatic Halper, unless, like Barrett, he never picked up a guitar again. It amazes me how some people are able to drop off the map so completely. I even checked the soc. sec. death index in case he’s died since, but to no avail. Maybe he’s gone off the grid completely. And maybe that’s not his real name, if he’s still alive.

    • LHAMO Says:

      yes,Jonathan Halper is still here ,trying to pursue his mystical path.he is blown away by the fact that BFI have released Kenneth Anger magic lantern cycle,with his sound track on puce moment.The track was recorded in Essex village in 1968 beginning after hallucinogenic experience.And he met Kenneth Anger at Samyeling and He is so grateful to him for preserving his music.

      • robbie Says:

        Hi there Lhamo! if you ever see this reply comment please write me again at robbiesimon@gmail.com, i tried to email you through your supplied address but it came back to me. I’d love to now more about Jonathan! Thank you kindly! Robbie

  2. 4ply Says:

    Rob dog. I just got word that Kenneth Anger is going to be making an appearance at the independent film festival in copenhagen this upcoming week. He seems to think that he is going to dies before the year ends, so he decided to surface for the festival. some info…
    “Kenneth Angers Technicolor Skull
    Under the heading Kenneth Angers Technicolor Skull, Anger will stage a musical art performance at Statens Museum for Kunst. The result will be an overwhelming, almost magical concert ritual filled with music, light and moving pictures. The ensemble will consist of Anger himself playing the electronic Theremin and Brian Butler on the guitar, various electronic instruments and laptop computer.

    Anger will also show a selection of his films, which have assumed the status of classics over the years, as well as his latest film Ich Will!, which will be screened for only the second time ever. In addition, the night is filled with a number of artist talks, where different protagonists within the film and art worlds get to talk to Anger, and the audience subsequently has the possibility to ask Anger questions and get records, books and films signed by him. ”

    I might have to catch a train/ferry over to the merry land of denmark next week.

  3. ieannex Says:

    i believe the liars did do a cover

  4. filmfanatic99 Says:

    Long before Kenneth Anger’s book Hollywood Babylon appeared in France in 1963, Anger had worked on a film script about the glamour, decadence, and decline of Hollywood entitled “Puce Women.” Only the first part of it, six-and-a-half-minutes’ worth, were actually filmed. The film opens with the camera soaring through an extraordinary array of costumes, finally coming to rest in the lair of a Hollywood starlet who knows how to wear them (played by one of Anger’s cousins, Yvonne Marquis). The camera focuses lovingly on the apparel, how it is worn, put on, and taken off; an early manifestation of an Anger trademark would find further development in films such as Scorpio Rising. For many years Puce Moment was shown with the Overture to Verdi’s opera I Villi, but in 1966 Anger added a newly made soundtrack consisting of an intriguing folk-rock score by the otherwise unknown Jonathan Halper. – David Lewis, All Movie Guide.

  5. filmfanatic99 Says:

    who is this Barret person you refer to? If you do a google search you can find this youtube video on halper. it contains song info.

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  10. I Says:

    Having worked quite closely with Jonathan for some years i may be able to shed a little light, though i knew little of his musical background, it was not hard to recognise his love of music, which tended towards the more bizzare and obscure.
    I dont know if he recorded any more tracks but i can tell you he is a most remarkable and enigmatic character.
    It took me some time to decide whether i enjoyed his company or not but once i decided i did, his presence was of great benefit and inspiration.
    Generous, genuine and deeply opinionated, if a man could be said to care too much it would be said of Jonathan.
    His efforts to ease the burdens of poverty and enable a life outside its harsh recime are most noble and im sure i barely scratched the surface of his generosity.
    Im sure he is at once excited and horrified by reading this as his generousity is equaled only by his humbleness and so i shall say no more lest I inadvertently offend him.

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