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Hammer Museum Director Annie Philbin has an appreciation for emerging artists that goes beyond the art world. From the Arcade Fire track that captures her feelings about childhood to the Anthony and the Johnsons song that breaks her heart, she shares her favorites. The Hammer Museum’s latest exhibition is “All of This and Nothing,” which highlights the work of both Los Angeles-based and international artists.
For More: http://hammer.ucla.edu/exhibitions/detail/exhibition_id/197
1 – Kiss and Say Goodbye - Kate and Anna McGarrigle
2 – O Superman - Laurie Anderson
3 – Cripple and The Starfish - Antony and the Johnsons
4 – Rebellion - Arcade Fire
5 – Firecracker - Frazey Ford
Jeremy Sole: Hi, this is Jeremy Sole from KCRW and I’m here with Annie Philbin who is the director of the Hammer Museum at UCLA. Today, we’ll be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Annie what is your first song?
Annie Philbin: I started with a song from 1975 by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” Probably most of your listeners know that Kate McGarrigle is Rufus Wainwright’s mom. I used to go every summer to something called Mariposa, which was a folk festival outside of Toronto and it always had remarkable people playing. Kate and Anna were always there and I just fell in love with their music. They used to play with a woman named Roma Baran an amazing guitarist. Their songs are sad, and I guess moody, but just remarkable songwriters and musicians.
AP: I think there are definitely musicians’ musicians. And maybe a lot of people don’t even know who they are, but if you ask musicians they’ll know who they are, kind of thing. Those are the kind of artists I like too – artists’ artists that may not be quite famous but are influential.
JS: We just heard Kate and Anna McGarrigle with “Kiss and Say Goodbye.” Annie, let’s just jump into song number two.
AP: I moved into the ‘80s. Laurie Anderson’s “Oh Superman.” To me, this song is really kind of the anthem of the art world in New York in the 80’s because it was the first time I think that an artist – Laurie was known as a visual artist before she did this, really – she brought together music, performance, and art and made this sort of remarkable unique song that somehow leapt out of the art world into the larger world.
I’m not sure that this became something that kept happening. In other words, I still think it’s kind of unique in that way. And she was just an incredible performance artist. In this song she would put this microphone – this tiny little microphone - in her mouth and it had a violin – I think it was a violin track on it – which she then manipulated with her lips and her tongue.
And then she also put something on her head that made her head an instrument. She played it like the drums. And she got the most amazing sounds out of her own body using technology. It’s a very primitive way, but really just - it sounded very futuristic. Anyway, I think it’s an amazing song. It blends everything – the politics of the time and it’s just extraordinary ability to be creative with technology and instrumentation.
JS: That was a portion of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” Now let’s dive into selection number 3, a track from Antony and the Johnsons.
AP: I chose a song from 2000, because that’s sort of when I started listening to him. He used to perform in this tiny little club that was in a loft in Williamsburg called Arcadia that would put on music performances in the evening, and we would go hang out. And Antony was one of the repeating acts. He was a – I mean, he just broke your heart. I think I love music that breaks your heart and almost every one of his songs kills me.
AP: It’s so sad, but it’s about love and how when you have your heart broken it’s like one of your limbs is taken off. The notion of a starfish that grows back a limb and you will go into it again no matter how painful it was – it’s a lovely idea.
JS: That was “Crippling the Starfish” from Antony and the Johnsons. This is Jeremy Sole sitting with Annie Philbin on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Let’s dive into the next one.
AP: Well, I chose the song “Rebellion” from Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” Album. I saw them 5 years ago – it was the first time I saw them. I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see David Byrne, actually, and I think the place was full – I think all 18,000 seats were full. I came to realize, as we were leading up to the concert, that a lot of people were there for the front band, which I had never heard of – which was Arcade Fire. And they were a revelation to me.
I love the fact that they are an ensemble – I don’t even know a single one of their names. And that’s a wonderful thing too. And there’s all kinds of incredible instrumentation – accordions, and the violins, and the fiddles, and the lead singer, of course, is mesmerizing. But it’s still clear that they’re all in charge. And I think that’s a wonderful thing to see too in a band that large. I mean, I don’t really even know their story but it looks like a lot of fun.
AP: The other thing that I love about Arcade Fire is that there’s something that really good artists do that has to do with capturing a feeling and the complex nature of childhood. That kind of memory of childhood that we all have but it takes an artist to articulate it in a certain way to make you really feel it and Arcade Fire does that really well. They sing about being young and they remind me of my childhood growing up in the suburbs and they just capture it so brilliantly.
JS: That was Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion,” a selection from Hammer Museum Director Annie Philbin on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. It looks like we’ve come to your last song. What’s your final choice?
AP: I selected Frazey Ford’s song “Firecracker.” I realized that I wanted to select a young emerging artist because the truth is that over the last 25 years that’s kind of what I do in the visual art world – I discover emerging artists and that’s a really important part of my practice and what my institution does.
I had the same experience with her that I do when I walk into a studio and I go, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen this before.” Which is always the greatest feeling in the world.
I think with voices – I mean, you’re a music professional – but it’s probably the same thing. You think you’ve heard every possible voice and then all the sudden this voice comes along and you think, “wow, where did that come from?”
AP: I think her lyrics are also really interesting. She kind of inhabits different characters and somehow really makes you feel like that’s who you’re listening to. And they’re all quite different so she’s a little bit of an actor inside her songs.
Song: Frazey Ford – Firecracker
JS: That song is called “Firecracker” from Frazey Ford a selection from Annie Philbin off of the 2010 record Obidiah. Jeremy Sole with you here this is KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. So Annie, thank you so much for joining us on KCRW.com.
AP: My pleasure, thanks for letting me do this.
JS: I love it. For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject.