Way back in April, 2013, I sat down to read Point Omega (2010), a novel by
the noted American author (& native New Yorker) Don DeLillo. DeLillo has
been awarded numerous national & international prizes for his books, but I
had never read a word of his & decided to rectify that omission immediately.
The narrative starts out in an art gallery, probably in a big city I
figured, due to the presence of a security guard. In the middle of the room is
a large free-standing movie screen, “about ten by fourteen feet.” People
come in randomly, usually in groups of twos & threes, stay for a minute or
two, then leave. But in the back, standing alone against a wall, a man
watches the screen intently. Occasionally, staying against the wall, he moves
around to the other side of the screen, where he can see the images in reverse,
since the movie is shown on both sides. A man holds a knife in his right
hand—on the reverse side, his left.
The man leaning against the wall is watching a slowed-down version of
Alfred Hitchcock’s famed Psycho. The man holding the knife is Norman
Bates. Janet Leigh is in the shower. We know what is about to happen, as
the movie creeps along at about 1/12 th its normal speed, taking exactly 24
hours to show the entire film. There is no sound.
Reading, I imagine the man in the gallery, his eyes widening, watching
Bates, watching Leigh. The camera is inside the shower, & through the
shower-curtain we see the bathroom door open. A dark figure enters, holding
a big knife. All in excruciating slow-motion.
I recall being shocked by this scene in the book, imagining a real-life
psycho watching the movie, delirious w/ pleasure, experiencing vicariously
every cut & thrust of the blade. I had to find out if this slo-mo Psycho was a
So I conducted an ad hoc research project & found out that, yes, it was
real. In 1993, a Scottish artist named Douglas Gordon devised the fiendish
film he called 24 Hour Psycho. The gallery show in DeLillo’s book was
from September, 2006, at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
Whether DeLillo was actually there to see the film I don’t know.
In the next chapter, the narrative veers off to the American Southwest,
Arizona or New Mexico. The connection w/ the 24 Hour Psycho is tenuous,
although there is a knife & either a murder or a suicide, no one is sure which.
In the final chapter, the man is still watching the film. The detective
Arbogast is falling down the stairs, having been fatally stabbed by Bates.
It’s the sixth & final day of the showing, & the man has been there for all six
days. Children enter the room, look around in curious confusion, not sure if
they’re supposed to be in there, then leave. Arbogast is still falling down the
stairs. The man meets a woman. They talk. They leave the gallery together,
through the revolving doors onto the night sidewalk. Abruptly, the woman
goes off alone. The man returns to the lobby, pays for another ticket so he
can watch the final half-hour of the film yet again, one last time. As the book
ends, he’s alone except for the guard, immersing himself in the slow action,
experiencing every glance & motion, wishing that the film could be slowed
down even more, even more.
Interview with Jenna Clute
John Berbrich: When did you first start to write songs?
Jenna Clute: I began to write songs when I was around 11 or 12. I always had the desire to start writing my own lyrics and figuring out a melodic line to sing along with them, but never got around to putting it to music until I was about 16 years old. From there I started to expand on the lyric writing and assign basic chords to each part of the song I had written. I still struggle with that aspect of songwriting, so now seek to collaborate on my songs when it comes to the production and instrumental aspects.
John: Who were your major musical influences at the time?
Jenna: I am very inspired musically by artists who have had an impact on my own personal and musical experiences, such as Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Alanis Morissette, and Lana Del Rey. I enjoy music that is kind of unique enough as to where it cannot be defined by one specific genre, but rather crosses into blends of multiple genres.
John: Can you describe the inspiration you get from Alanis Morissette, for example?
Jenna: Alanis is one of my newest inspirations musically, and what really made her stand out to me that I wanted to include in my own music is how she writes lyrics in such an authentic and raw way. I also really feel her uniqueness is what I strive for as well. I know when she first started out as a musician she often got a lot of negative comments made about her in the media because she didn’t fit into the box that society at the time had wanted her to. I often relate that to myself, in my own judgments and backlash I receive by the risks I take with my music.
John: I remember when Jagged Little Pill first surfed the radio waves in the early 90s. It was shocking, “raw” as you put it. You’re right; Morissette didn’t fit into any box. That takes courage.
Jenna: I definitely agree. I was lucky enough to see her perform live recently and I think that even now her newer music is unlike any other. She maintains a uniqueness that is consistent to her. It’s so lovely to see. It motivates and encourages me to trust in my own individuality and what makes my work unique as well. I often fall into cycles of comparison, as I think we all do, but artists like her really allow me to reflect on my own approach to my art and recognize that it exists separate from others ideas or judgments.
John: I’ve listened to two of your original songs on YouTube & one or two covers. The music & the videos complement each other very well. I think that at least part of the message of “Satisfied” & “Broken Record” is fairly universal, although the songs are very different.
Jenna: Definitely! I find whenever I write a song, it has to be authentic to myself and my life experiences. While the songs tend to have universal messages, the music videos I make for each song is where the personal stories become more evident, and the metaphors I use within that to portray what it means to me. However, I still leave that up to audience interpretation.
John: Tell me about writing “Satisfied.” Was there some real-life trigger that inspired it, or is it rather the result of a lengthy accumulation of discouraged frustration?
Jenna: “Satisfied” is largely about my experience with creativity and success my whole life. Just the continual pursuit to want to feel proud and content with yourself, your work, and life in general. For me I always feel like I can see my next goal, and I expect once I achieve it that I will feel a monumental sense of relief and pride, but rarely does that ever happen that way. More often it feels mundane and still not enough. I think that with most of what I do, especially in the performance arts, I become hyper-fixated on the perception of my work rather than the gift that expression through creation can offer even on a small scale.
John: So do you then craft the song based on the expected perceptions of your listeners rather than just letting your creativity romp?
Jenna: No, I definitely don’t have the ability to create in that way. Everything I do has to mean something to me first and foremost. But when it comes to the actual lyrics I tend to lean on writing in a way that can be relatable to others as well. I’m keen on metaphors, as they may mean something to me that someone else may interpret in an entirely different way. That’s my favorite part about any art form in general.
John: What does “Broken Record” mean to you?
Jenna: That song was very cathartic for me to write, as it was my way of releasing the bitter feelings I had for those who had taken advantage of me in the past and continue to resent me even now. It is very much an anthem of “revenge” but for me the vengeance is knowing that I no longer allow these feelings to reside in me. The music video for this song my director and good friend, Ryan Hutchins, and I spent hours strategically mapping out the symbols and meaning that would add layers to the story and message I was trying to emulate in the song.
John: “Broken Record” is a powerful song. I’d like to hear Alanis Morissette do a cover of it. The video & music for each song is really different, yet absolutely true to the message. Besides writing the words & the music, what instruments did you play?
Jenna: In my two singles I actually didn’t play any instruments. I worked closely with a producer from New York City who goes by the name A-GO. He’s magnificent. He really heard me out and took the time to make sure my vision was brought to life. It was nice to be able to collaborate as I don’t personally know much about the world of music production. I was very glad we were able to find each other through the internet during the pandemic in order to create these two songs together.
John: That’s inspirational, working against adversity like covid to achieve your goal. Well, Jenna, we’re out of time. Thanks very much for participating. Can we expect something solid, like an actual CD or an EP, in the future?
Jenna: I am hoping to release an EP within the next year if my schedule allows. Regardless I will always be creating in some way; there is so much to be explored through allowing yourself the freedom to create. Thanks John.
*also published in Up North Magazine
Jenna Clute, 23, is a queer singer/songwriter from the Akwesasne Reservation in Northern NY. She is a recent graduate from the State University of New York at Potsdam with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Theatre. Currently she works as the Marketing Coordinator of SLC Arts, and is a very active beginner social media influencer. She largely focuses her content around music, the LGBTQ+ community, and mental health awareness. You can find Jenna’s work under her name, Jenna Clute, on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok.
The Sounds of Silence
Most people have heard of John Cage (1912-1992), intrepid musical explorer & innovator, seminal influencer of rockers as disparate as Frank Zappa & Paul McCartney. In fact, Zappa said that “Without John Cage, much of what happens in modern music and art would not be possible.”
But not everyone was a fan. Acclaimed music critic Virgil Thomson (1896-1989), considered Cage’s effect to be more pernicious, an attempt to destroy the “beauty and distinction” of the music of “Renaissance and post-Renaissance Europe.” Cage delighted in noise, & in a 1937 manifesto, he proclaimed that he believed that the “use of noise to make music” would continue & increase. In this he was following in the sonic footsteps of the Italian Futurists, active primarily between the time of the two World Wars, who advocated speed, technology, & the restructuring of life. Yes, Cage experimented w/ sound, but he also experimented w/ silence.
Many people have “heard” Cage’s famous “song,” 4’33”, written in 1952. What this entails is four minutes & thirty-three seconds of silence, “played” on any instrument. In live performance, the pianist or cellist or whatever, would sit w/ his or her instrument in silence, the only sound being a cough or some foot-shuffling from the audience or perhaps a bird outside the window or a wayward breeze rustling the curtains. Exactly four minutes & thirty-three seconds later, the audience would clap & shout “Bravo!” after the performer had presumably bowed or otherwise indicated that the “song” was done. This innovation had its many proponents & opponents. But not many people know the next chapter in this story.
Enter Mike Batt (1949- ). Batt has been a prodigious musical force in the UK for a half-century as a musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, director, arranger, & more. He was also the musical force behind The Wombles, a sort of UK version of Sesame Street. (Wombles are cute, fuzzy creatures who “Trundle the litter away,” according to the song, very much favored by my kids when they were young.) In the very early 2000s, Batt wrote & recorded a song titled “A One Minute Silence.” The problem was, he credited the composition to Batt/Cage out of deference to 4’33”, written 50 years earlier. However, this allowed the John Cage Trust to litigate against Batt for royalties, since Cage was listed as co-composer.
Now, I’ve heard several different accounts of this story. One is that Batt had bought the copyright to all the silent “songs” from one second to ten minutes in length, excluding the 4’33”. That would allow him to sue for copyright infringement if anyone playing the 4’33” went over or under the allotted time by even one second. Of course, this was a jest. Another version of the story attests that Batt was somehow required to pay 100,000 English pounds to the John Cage Trust. This never happened, according to Batt, who says that he gave the Trust 1,000 quid as a donation which ended the matter.
And the Truth of this curious story?
Well, as is well-known, Truth is often silent.
Interview with Amanda Mason
John Berbrich: I understand that you’ve recently been hired by the St. Lawrence County Arts
Council. What are your responsibilities there?
Amanda Mason: Yes! I was recently hired as SLC Arts new Programs Coordinator. As
Programs Coordinator I am in charge of our various events throughout the year as well as our
inaugural North Country Arts Festival. From creating the foundation of the event itself, to
booking musicians and artists, I am very hands-on when it comes to our programs. I just
graduated from SUNY Fredonia with a degree in Music Industry as well as Arts
Administration—so one of my main goals as Programs Coordinator is to create more events that
are more inclusive to all the arts, including music. I think that a lot of the time, the performing
arts are overlooked when it comes to art forms, because they are not some kind of physical
inanimate object that you can buy at an art sale. In my new role at SLC Arts, I want to create
more inclusive events as well as opportunities for all types of art.
John: Are you a musician?
Amanda: I am a musician! I play the Baritone Saxophone, and I also sing as an alto/tenor. I am
currently trying to learn how to play the Ukulele as well as the piano on my own. In high school
I taught saxophone lessons to younger students, took saxophone lessons at Crane, as well as
participated in Crane Youth Music’s summer camp. I was frequently in All-County Band and
All-County Jazz Band throughout Junior High and High School. The last eight years I have
played in Jack Kelley’s Little Big Band with my brother, and in college I played as a part of the
John: So, how does one organize something like a music or arts festival? What needs to be
Amanda: There are a lot of different pieces that are involved in planning an arts festival. Firstly,
you want to be inclusive of all types of art forms, so you have to come up with ideas for events
that do that for the community. Then you have to go through the process of booking the location
you are envisioning having the events at, as well as take weather conditions into account. Once
you do that, you have to reach out to the various artists and musicians that you would ideally like
to participate in your festival, gather all of their information you need, and keep in constant
communication with them to answer any questions they may have, as well as officially confirm
they will be there. After you get the ball rolling on this, you then have to look for businesses to
sponsor your festival, so that you can have the funding you need to purchase merchandise, pay
bands, pay for sound and equipment, advertising and marketing, as well as having catering if
necessary. The day of the event, you can only cross your fingers that everything goes to plan!
John: So you learned all this at Fredonia?
Amanda: I learned a lot of things regarding Music law and copyrights while at Fredonia through
my classes; however, I had learned a lot of the Event Coordinating on my own through my
Musicality Fundraiser I put together when I was in high school. In Seventh Grade, I put together
Musicality—a Music Fundraiser full of performances, booths, vendors, raffles, etc.—in order to
prevent the budget cut of Parishville’s music department. I held Musicality 5 years in a row, and
donated over $14,000 to the Parishville-Hopkinton music department, saving the department from being cut. While at Fredonia, I was the elected Event Coordinator and Vice President of the Music Industry Club at Fredonia. Through these positions, I coordinated a multitude of
different events centered around different themes, genres, locations, and different types of
ASCAP and BMI licensing. Having an important role in the club, I worked directly with
organizations, performers, and campus. So I learned a lot from being so hands-on with events
since I was twelve years old.
John: What events have you planned for the near future?
Amanda: Well, I am currently working on putting together SLC Arts inaugural “North Country
Arts Festival” happening throughout September, which has a bunch of events incorporated into
it. These events include: Potsdam and Canton PorchFest, the Ives Park Concert Series, Artist’s
Studio Tour, Remington Arts Festival—as well as a completely new concert series I’m putting
together at Windy Point Stables in October called “Songs at the Stables.” All of these events and
dates are listed on SLC Arts Facebook page, Website, and will be in our festival booklet!
John: You sound busy! Any other big events in mind for the far future?
Amanda: In the future, once SLC Arts has their new Arts Center and the North Country Arts
Festival is over, I plan to put together a Coffee House music/poetry/comedy hour hosted in the
arts center. We will also host various art workshops, rehearsal spaces for bands, a gardening
space for those who have a green thumb, while showcasing different art pieces from the area
such as through our upcoming exhibit—the Creative Partner Showcase. Next summer we also
hope to put together an Arts Day Camp for the local youth to enjoy and explore different types of
John: Thanks, Amanda. Enjoy the rest of your summer.
Amanda: Thank you for your time, John, and thank you for helping to spread awareness of the
local arts! Help keep music and the arts alive in our community!
Amanda Mason, 22, is from Parishville, New York. Recently graduated from SUNY Fredonia
with a degree in Music Industry, minoring in Arts Administration as well as
Communications—she discovered her passion for music at a very young age. She adopted a
stray kitten and named him “Crookshanks” in reference to her favorite book series—Harry
Potter—as well as started a new hobby of collecting Vinyl Records. When not doing something
music-related, she loves spending time with her family and pets, playing basketball, and road