Performance: from Iran to Morocco

perf

Another formative experience of frequenting late-night screenings at arthouse cinemas in the 1970s was the cult film Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg 1968/70). It remains totally mind-blowing.

trio

James Fox and Mick Jagger make mesmerising, disorienting presences, along with Anita Pallenberg (like Anouk Aimée, already a veteran of La dolce vita) and Michèle Breton. Watch the complete film here.

In an effective soundtrack, most brilliant use of music is the Iranian santur dulcimer accompanying the languid threesome of Jagger, Pallenburg, and Breton (from 43.17)—actually a most beautiful scene (and allegedly, um, method acting—I’m like, hello?), although it may not be quite the image that the Iranian Ministry of Culture envisages. Complementing the mood perfectly, it’s taken from a Nonesuch Explorer album played by Nasser Rastegar-Nejad.

On the somewhat remote chance that you would rather focus on the gradual unfolding of the melody without the distraction of watching the threesome, here’s his 1970 LP:

It’s also reminiscent of John Cage’s music for prepared piano. For more on Iran, see under west/central Asia, including Zithers of Iran and Turkey.

Left: Mick with Paul Bowles, 1989. Right: Brion Gysin and William Burroughs.

Of course Indian music was in the air by the 60s, and the spirit of experimentation also led to Brian Jones’s first trip in 1968 to the “Master Musicians of Jajouka” in the mountains of north Morocco. Early beneficiaries of the World Music craze long before the label had been invented, they were already playing for beat audiences in the 1950s, who were drawn by the likes of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs—and notably Paul Bowles, long-term resident of Tangier. Later, inevitably, schisms appeared in the village along with global fame. The wiki article, and this Songlines introduction, have useful links. If only this had led to wider appreciation of shawm music further afield…

Here’s the first of three parts from a 1989 Arena documentary, including Mick chatting with Paul Bowles:

Among many readings on Performance, as well as on the Stones in Morocco, Keith Richards’ autobiography Life is revealing, nay astounding. For the trail east, and Herat in the 70s, see here.

Nic Roeg died in November 2018—among tributes, this is very fine; see also under Bertolucci.

5 thoughts on “Performance: from Iran to Morocco

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