Welcome to the Birds of Mars Portal
This is a good place to check for the recent information regarding the Birds of Mars. To contact Birds of Mars, please e-mail Chris Gentes at chrisgentesart at gmail.com.
The Birds of Mars Ensemble specialize in performing improvisational musical soundtracks over original projected movies. Since their earliest performances in 2016 the ensemble has consistently pushed the boundaries of musical invention.
Birds of Mars Digest
The Birds of Mars Digest is a quarterly publication including art, writing, movie scripts, and other topics related to the Birds of Mars film/video/music projects.
November 30 2019 7-11pm
Northampton Center for the Arts.
Films shown: Another Game of Pool, The Plague Doctor, Midnight, Selected Short, Friends & Strangers
T. Twilite – Lyricist, vocals, spoken word, percussion, harp
A. Fever – guitar, electronics, noise
J. Gipe – EWI, synths, gear
C. Gentes – Sax, synths, keys
R. Chaffee – Washtub bass, haiku
W. Ridabock – flute, percussion, electronics
Gundy – Guitar, electronics
“Four From the Deuce”
T. Twilite – Lyricist, vocals, percussion, harp
A. Fever – Guitar, noise
J. Gipe – EWI, synths
C. Gentes – Synths, keys
This collection of four singles culled from the four hour recording at the Feb 10 2019 session at the Deuce [also Birds of Mars Eleven] present, perhaps for the first time, a sizable digestible portion of music from the large archive of recordings by the Birds of Mars Ensemble. All of these tunes were completley created in the moment during the performance (including Twilite’s lyrics) with no prior discussion from the performers about what they were going to play. The projected silent movies created by Gentes were the inspirational well for the performers to draw inspiration from during the concert.
Ice Fishing Fool, Don’t Let Go, Line C, and I Must Consume are the four singles which comprise this release of music known as “Four from the Deuce”. Reviews by Dalton Sparks.
ICE FISHING FOOL (4:03)
This one starts with with buzzy electronics, phasing electronic sweeps and a catchy beat which sounds like steel drums a little bit. There are a lot of sweeping electornic sounds. Twilite begins an improvised monologue about glass and ice. There is a high pitched electronic siren over the pulsing beat. Twilite continues his meditation on glass and ice. There is an urgency. A sense of a mission. Ice fishing. Ice fishing fool. Too cool. To be ice fishing is to be an ice fishing fool. This song perfectly captures the essence of ice fishing.
DON’T LET GO (4:12)
Fever starts a guitar groove and Twilite jumps in. Gentes punches a slow bass line. This song has a sense of controlled impending doom. As Twilite repeats how he won’t let you slip, the feeling is that it is too late–whatever that grip through time and space is, has already slipped past the point of no return. Gipe enters with a perfect entrance on EWI and then begins a ride with Twilite puncuating his improvised lines with a continued incantation. In a recent interview Gentes said that when the Twilite is in one of his spoken word monologues (like this one) he feels like he can clearly see the musical line back to Jim Morrison’s albums of poetry with backing music by The Doors.
Line C (6:16)
Listening to this one and I am lost in a dream. The music is a floating bouncing bed lifting me into the clouds. Twilite’s soft harmonica punches out a plaintive melody and the beat bounces along. This one must have been performed while A Game of Pool (Gentes, 2019) was being shown at the concert as Twilite references the ‘red ball’. Twilite artfully references the old Doris Day song Que Sera Sera as he weaves a poetic narrative through the alphabet and an exploding volcano. The backing music is effortless perfection of complementing sounds and textures. What it means I do not know. But I do know that once you learn the D it’s all over.
I Must Consume (5:23)
This song sounds like it came out in 1978. A forgotten relic of a bygone era that never happened. If we are ever invaded by a hostile intelligent form of life, pray to God that this isn’t their theme song. It sounds like a slow rising tide that keeps rising. A controlled doom. At first a collage of electronics sounds assault the listener Then Fever’s is raw guitar scratches at the edge of reason. Gentes punches out the beat while Gipe takes an amazing lyrucal ride behind Twilite’s tortured lyrics. Metacool moment.
Birds of Mars Eleven
Tommy Twilite: vocals, percussion
Abortus Fever: guitar, electronics
Jim Gipe: Ewi, synths,
Chris Gentes: synths, keys
Recorded Feb 10, 2019 at The Deuce, Northampton, Mass.
Jim Gipe, Sound Engineer
Selected Past Events
The Birds of Mars Reader
The Birds of Mars Reader is a very rare book by Chris Gentes written in the fall of 2019. Collector inquiries welcome. The following excerpt is from the book.
A Viewer’s Guide To “A Game of Pool”
Watching “A Game of Pool” (2019) won’t help you understand it. In fact watching it may be the biggest mistake that you could make if you actually want to understand the video. That’s assuming there’s something there to understand. There may be no intended meaning. For those of you who don’t want any spoilers you should watch the video first to form your own opinion, and then come back to this guide to compare take-aways. Spoiler alert! The 7 ball goes in the corner pocket.
This guide will tell you which parts are important and which are boring. If you’ve gotten this far into reading the guide without having watched the video, then keep reading. There’s no actual benefit to be had by watching it. There is nothing to understand about this video. It can be described, but beyond that, any meaning comes wholly from the viewer, and whatever that meaning may be, has little to do with the video itself. There’s no rules on how to watch the video. You can just watch parts of it. I’ve watched it at least a dozen times.
The best way to not understand the video is to read a description of it. It runs a little over fifty-nine minutes. It begins with a title in white letters on a black background. “A Game of Pool.” For the first part of the video there is a person (#1) playing pool by himself. The camera is at one end of the pool table and #1 one walks around making shots by himself. The only color is the pool table itself. An off-shade of green. Everything is else is black and white and gray.
You might have experiences like this watching the video. At one point you’ll notice that the 8 ball is very close to the camera. But you won’t remember when that happened. It might be upsetting. You know it must have happened at some time, but you don’t remember when. You saw #1 break the balls. When did that 8 ball end up right there? There is a machine in the background that has blinking lights. It looks like a strange robot thing watching over everything silently. And throughout the video there are televisions and machines and lights in the background. If you watch those closely sometimes strange, strange things are seen.
I’ll describe what one views in the video, not what it means. It doesn’t mean anything. It is just a person playing pool. Practicing shots really. Then suddenly at around seven minutes in there is a cross dissolve to a new shot. Not a new pool shot, but a new camera shot—a new camera angle. But then there is a pool shot. Then there are many cross dissolves and after each pool shot there is a new camera shot. There is a sense of the passage of time, but nothing is different. Just pool shots and camera angle shots. The cross dissolves make it feel like time is passing quickly.
There is also more of a sense of the room the pool table is in. None of it means anything, just random real life things happening behind a real life game of pool. People walking in and out, and televisions playing in the background. Now the camera angles and the placements of the camera are getting more adventuresome. The camera is on the table, close to the cue ball. The camera is getting bumped by a ball. You get the sense that #1 is thinking about setting up cool camera angles. Close to twelve minutes into the video a second pool player (#2) appears. And so begins a succession of camera angles and pool shots with the two players. Sometimes the action slows, but at other times there is a quick succession of action.
As mentioned, the video has been in a monochrome green. But just those things that are green in real life appear green in the video. And on it goes. After fifteen minutes one is beginning to get bored. One realizes that there is no dialogue. One sees that it quite literally is a game of pool. The novelty of watching has worn off. It just seems to continue on and on. It doesn’t feel like a game of pool. It feels like a game of pool practice. And the pool players, well they miss a lot of easy shots. They make shots too, but they miss a lot of easy shots. One is beginning to feel ripped off. One feels that one’s patience is being tested, and it’s all a big put on.
Suddenly there is full color! The red rack used to set up the balls before a break is thrown on the table. And the table is a deep, deep green. The balls are set up. Then a quick succession of cross dissolves, the break, balls flying everywhere. At last, a game of pool has begun! And in full color!
A full color with the table illuminated by one of those hanging pool table lamps. It is an enchanting moment. From the dark background shadows the pool players emerge to make their shots. The camera moves here and there and the game has begun. Soon one realizes that any attempt at following the progress of the game in linear fashion proves fruitless. There is no narrative. The camera moves around from this place to that so randomly, that there is no frame of reference to follow a narrative of a specific game being played. Too many pool balls and new perspectives. It’s a pool game? What kind of pool game? Who’s winning? It becomes a jumble of images and you’ve already forgotten it’s in color. The color that amazed a few minutes before, now seems routine and goes unnoticed. But every once in awhile, you notice the color on one of the pool balls, and the color is beautiful. Purple-blue glows in the background from the lights in the bar, and the lights on the machines and televisions radiate. The exquisite red of the three ball. Did I imagine that?
Clever camera placements. Then at some point the editing stops and the camera speed slows down. It’s only twenty-some minutes into the video, and things slow down. Things slow way, way down. And they stay slowed down. And you, the viewer, become aware that things have slowed down. Painful aware. The concept of duration may enter your mind. Duration of watching and duration of what is watched. Ways to measure duration. Everything has become excruciatingly slow. Something happened. Nothing is happening. Each moment of nothing is a still shot of color. Pool balls on a table. Then the purple solid and the purple striped ball are next to each other. Another still life. Then then the purple solid gets knocked into the corner pocket, and after a few moments the 8 ball crosses the path of the camera and stops, blocking half the view.
The camera moves slowly, jostles and bounces. Stops over the corner pocket, and the cueball flies into view and drops a ball in the pocket. So it continues. No more edits for a long time. Just raw footage of a camera moving around the pool table at very slow speeds videotaping a game of pool. Time is slowly clicking away.
This continues until near the forty minute mark, when suddenly the action picks up. The video is playing faster. Finally. Something is released in our head. Ease. A valve has opened! There’s the 8 ball rolling past the camera and stopping. It’s the same footage we were just watching in slow motion. Now it’s happening again. We realize it, and then we realize we realize it. Dread passes through our minds. Not again! We want it to be over. It is excruciating. It’s the same footage we just watched in slow motion for fifteen minutes. Sure, now it’s being played faster, but it’s the same footage. One may feel ripped off again. You just want it to end. If you’re one of the lucky ones you didn’t notice any of these things; you’re just enjoying the moment. You don’t care how fast or slow it goes. You’re with friends, enjoying life. You’re having a good time.
Then suddenly at around forty minutes things start going real fast. And it is weird how fast things are going now. It’s zipping along, and you don’t mind that it is the same footage. Now you’re kind of happy that it’s the same footage. You try to see if you can recognize parts from earlier. You can remember that particular shot. You remember that close up of the 14 ball. Then the 14 ball again, and then the 12 ball.
Now things start going hyper fast. And this time around you’re looking forward to see all the things you remembered seeing the previous times. You’re waiting on them. You’re an expert now. How fast everything is going. You can’t follow things anymore. It is a blur. Too fast. Everything is reduced to images. The 14 ball again. Now what? Can it go faster? Yes. It is going even faster now. Just a blur of moments. Too fast to remember or to make sense of. The 14 ball! That moment! For just a second, and then gone.
Suddenly normal speed again. And new footage. Fifteen minutes left.
It’s probably best not to mention what happens in the final fifteen minutes of the video. I don’t want to give everything away. You might want to experience some of it yourself without my thoughts getting in your way.
So what are we to make of this video? Well, the first thing to recall is that it was made to be projected at a Birds of Mars concert. The video’s function is integral to the musical performance. The experience of seeing the video projected live while hearing the ensemble performing is the way to go. Yes, while it can be viewed in many different ways, with any music one wishes as the soundtrack, the best way is at a Birds of Mars concert. In conclusion, the meaning of this video is whatever you want it to be.
FRIENDS & STRANGERS (2018. QVGA) dir. Chris Gentes
VIDEO SEGUES BY SFAMA (2:43:45)
Words in quotes denote the beginning of a spoken word segment.
Most spoken word segments were usually followed by an instrumental section.
00:00 – START
02:00 – “Mother”
10:30 – “Once Upon a Time”
17:30 – “How’s Your Finger?”
20:00 – “Door”
24:00 – “Tommy”
29:00 – “Oh Listen to That”
30:00 – “This is what it feels like” + crew
38:00 – instrumental
43:00 – Haiku 1
46:00 – “People”
51:00 – Screaming
52:00 – “Four months to go”
01:00:00 – “Speed of light”
01:06:00 – “WTF?”
01:10:00 – Haiku 2
01:18:00 – “Stop”
01:25:00 – Instrumental
01:45:00 – “Anybody in There?”
01:53:00 – “Love What You’re Doing”
02:00:00 – “Where you going?”
02:14:00 – “Where the Boys Are”
02:17:00 – “Finale”
02:24 – END
Interview with Abortus Fever JANUARY 2019
Tell us about your musical career and interest in making sound.
For starters I was introduced to many different things growing up. My brother grew up in the 70s and he was interested in Led Zeppelin and things like that. In his collection he had Radio Birdland lots of almost psychedelic type rock. In the 80s (in his 20s) he was interested in electronic and almost goth music like Depeche Mode, Bauhaus, the Cure and things like that. But he also went to New York and he got interested in Hip Hop, so there was lots of early hip hop music in the house like School AD, The Sugar Hill Gang.
My sister, being much younger than him, she listened to Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Blondie, so there was a variety of stuff in the house. With my parents being the generation before that my father listened to the Beatles, and my mother listened to lots of MoTown. So I was very interested in lots of different music growing up in that environment.
As a teenager, taking my own steps, I started with my brother’s music. I was more interested in the English experimental or pop music. So I started with The Cure, Bauhaus and Depeche Mode. In high school I was listening to Joy Division. I found some other like-minded people in high school and we all were saying’ “Check this out, and check this out, and check this out.”
I got really introduced to a lot of other things. I even looked through my brother’s record collection, things I hadn’t heard him play, that he had there that were of interest to me. Bands like Cabaret Voltaire. People were telling me in high school, “Check out the Sex Pistols. Check out the Buzzcocks.”
My buddy Chris Sloan told me no, you should check this out early anarchist punk Crass. I loved the total dissonance of it and not even worrying about playing your instrument properly. It was totally beyond the Sex Pistols. I had already known at that time about Sonic Youth, and they had a commercial success and I was like ok, it was of interest to me. I learned of their background, and Lee Rinaldo and Thurston Moore playing in Glen Bronco’s early band in the late 70s doing symphonies with twenty guitars. It was very interesting to me. That with Crass.
Then Chris introduced me to Japanese noise, and noise in general. I had no clue. My first thing that I listened to that was of Japanese noise was Masami Akita album and his moniker Merzbow, Rainbow Electronics. And what somebody would have thought of listening to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, that’s how I felt listening to Rainbow Electronics. I thought, “Oh my God this is insane. That somebody can…that this is a physical recording, a CD that somebody produced, that is out there, and that people are out there actually listening to this. I thought this is amazing. Anybody can and should make sounds with whatever they have.”
So I went out there and found as much things that were beyond the scope of traditional radio sounds. I was fortunate enough to get, through my father, a short wave radio. I started listening to different broadcasts. Just the sounds between the static and the frequencies between each station appealed to me, so I recorded it with my little tape recorder. Then I got further into it and found things that appealed to me, and applied them to that whole aesthetic. I forget when it was exactly, must have been in my senior year, searching around the radio stations I found a station in Stores, Connecticut, the University of Connecticut broadcast, and this guy JD did a broadcast called Dead Sun Rising. Totally all about experimental noise, a difficult listening broadcast. I obsessively recorded everything.
I did my first tape with my friend who introduced me to this sound concept. I called myself Abortus Fever, because of my aesthetic of interest in the visual art world. Through Francis Bacon being interested in gritty looking things. Mostly with anatomical medical text books. I had a set of medical encyclopedia textbooks that I grew up with, and I started making collages and things like that with it. I found one part in it that was called Abortus Fever. Its an old term for undulant fever, which was something that happened to people who lived on farm land. If you were exposed to farm animals undulant fever would occur. Asides from that I thought it was aesthetically interesting, the term Abortus Fever. So I called myself Abortus Fever.
At the same time I had also read, via my girlfriend, that Robert Smith of the Cure had mentioned that he was interested in a book called the Gormenghast novels. The song on the Faith album, The Drowning Man, is attributed to that. I read the book with my girlfriend, and this one character in the book is called Nannie Slagg, and I thought that would be a great title for a project. My friend Chris used it as a project for he and I doing early proto-sound Fluxus-like experimental sounds, So we did our first tape, a split tape Abortus Fever & Nannie Slagg, and I sent it to the guy in Stores, Connecticut and he played it on the radio. And it was amazing. It was my first experience being a semi-legitimate musician.
And at the same time I learned about the Flywheel Collective. I was also playing with other friends, and we were invited there and we openly played experimental things. Just playing around, nonsensical, whatever you feel. Almost being like a religious experience, like a shaman. Taking an instrument or making a sound yourself and making it an experience. So it was amazing thing to have that experience in my early years. It is always to this day mutating and fluctuating.
I get frustrated now with the limitations and the constraints of what is considered something, what it is or what it is not. People go to see – even noise music to this day people go and expect a certain thing.
I played several shows being semi-known in this area under the moniker Abortus Fever, and I feel it is mundane now to be even doing the things I did before. If you’re under a label that’s what happens. I feel things should go beyond. That’s how I feel about artists in the visual world. Paintings, visual depictions of your inner self. We should not be painting or expressing things that have been done for the past 100 years. We have to go beyond that. The same thing with sound, but the tricky thing with sound as well as visual things, is to get the audience, to get the people to be kind of roped into checking it out. To have them check out the message you have to have an aspect of something that is familiar. And that aspect of the familiar is problematic to me, because I can only do so much and I kind of have an aversion to that familiarity. Now I know it and want to go beyond it. That is pretty much where I’m at.