Title - At Reed College: First Recorded Reading Of Howl
Artist - Allen Ginsberg
For those unaware, Allen Ginsbergs first public reading of his epic poem Howl took place at San Franciscos famous Six Gallery in October of 1955.
Along with Ginsberg, the evening included readings by Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. Poet and anthologist Kenneth Rexroth was the emcee, and Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady were in attendance.
Unfortunately for literary history, no one recorded the Six Gallery reading, and it was long-thought that the first recording of Howl was from a reading at Berkeley in March 1956.
Before visiting Berkeley, however, Ginsberg had traveled to Reed College in Portland, Oregon, with Gary Snyder to give a series of readings. Snyder and Philip Whalen had been students at Reed and had studied under the legendary calligrapher Lloyd Reynolds.
Other attendees of Reed have included Steve Jobs, James Beard, Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento), Barbara Ehrenreich, Ry Cooder, Mary Barnard, Lee Blessing, Del Hymes, Arlene Blum, Eric Overmyer, and Max Gordon (founder of the Village Vanguard jazz club in NYC).
On February 13th and 14th, 1956, Snyder and Ginsberg read at Reed, with the Valentines Day performance recorded then forgotten about until author John Suiter, researching Snyder at Reeds Hauser Memorial Library, found the tape in a box in 2007.
Suiter immediately recognized the significance of the recording. Its discovery made headlines after it was verified in 2008, but the recording itself was never made widely accessible until Reed named its 16th president, Dr. Audrey Bilger in 2019; it happens that Bilgers wife, Cheryl Pawelski, is a Grammy Award-winning record producer and co-founder of Omnivore Recordings who has long been interested in Ginsbergs writing and performances.
In collaboration with the Ginsberg Estate, Omnivore Recordings had previously released two Ginsberg projects, The Complete Songs of Innocence and Experience (2017) and The Last Word on First Blues (2016).
Excited by the prospect of making the historic recording of Howl available on Omnivore, Pawelski obtained permission from the Ginsberg Estate to release the recording and the original tape was sent to Grammy Award-winning engineer, Michael Graves, for transfer, restoration, and mastering.
The recording will be made available a little over 65 years from its original reading, April 2nd, 2021, on Allen Ginsberg at Reed College The First Recorded Reading of Howl and Other Poems; formats include CD, Digital and LP, with a special Limited Edition color variant Reed Red vinyl available only from the Omnivore Recordings web store and the Reed College Bookstore (while supplies last).
& Other Poems:
1. EPITHALAMION (Later published as Love Poem On Theme By Whitman)
2. WILD ORPHAN
3. OVER KANSAS
4. A DREAM RECORD
5. BLESSED BE THE MUSES
6. A SUPERMARKET IN CALIFORNIA
7. THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL (Later titled Transcription Of Organ Music)
10. LINE PICK UP
11. HOWL (Part II)
Opening with the :90 second EPITHALAMION (which was later published as Love Poem On Theme By Whitman) and the :70 second WILD ORPHAN, Ginsberg backs those up with the much longer storytelling of OVER KANSAS, the retelling of a drunken night in his own house within A DREAM RECORD, and then we get the :14 second (and a lot of that is page turning) BLESSED BE THE MUSES.
Allen is expertly captured here, his vocal tone crisp and concise, his volume never fluctuating throughout, his enunciation clear, his rhythmic timing perfect. Thus the man with the classic North Jersey Jewish accent, intelligent and passionate, continues onward with the fun A SUPERMARKET IN CALIFORNIA, before bringing us a touched THE TREMBLING OF THE VEIL (later titled Transcription Of Organ Music).
After a brief Introduction from Ginsberg, the near-14 minute HOWL is then unleashed upon us. Widely regarded as a seminal literary work with a profound influence on the Beat Generation and the counterculture movement of the 1960s and 1970s, that is then backed by the almost lyrical LINE PICK UP, with the recording coming to a close on the :70 second (Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!) HOWL (Part II).
Official Allen Ginsberg Trailer
Official Purchase Link