Thursday, October 02, 2014

on coincidences: an open letter to prince

Sonic Fabric Listening Skirt woven from cassette tape recorded with a single tone: 136.1 Hz, or C# in A=432 tuning.

Dear Prince, 

Last month I posted a blog entry upon discovering that your latest album cover depicts an image of yourself wearing a set of third eye sunglasses, and features your new band 3rd Eye Girl. I found this to be a fun coincidence, since I have been making and exhibiting third eye sunglasses for some time (the idea occurred to me during a visionary experience in the Peruvian rainforest, but that's another story). 

More here on the 3rd eye glasses coincidence.
I always find it curious and amazing when different people seem to be "tuned in" to similar streams of thought, and therefore arrive at similar ideas. Strangely enough, it would seem that we really are tapped in to a similar spring, because today it happened again...

This morning, via Death & Taxes, it came to my attention that you recently hosted a Q&A on Facebook, and that the only question you answered was in the form of a link to an article on theory pertaining to music tuned to A=432Hz. Oddly enough, I too have been interested in the idea that music tuned to A=432 may be more closely aligned with the vibration of the human body than standard western tuning (with A=440). As a result, in 2012 I created an edition of fabric woven from cassette tape recorded with a single tone: 136.1Hz, or a C# in A=432 tuning.

I have made several custom editions of this textile – I call it Sonic Fabric – woven from cassette tape recorded with site-, concept-, or artist-specific sounds &/or music. These two recent coincidences made wonder if a collaboration in the form of a custom edition of Sonic Fabric may be of interest to you?  If so, please do let me know


Every brain is like a satellite dish, each one attuned to a unique frequency, emitted by the Cosmic Infinity, where all that Is to Be Created, All that Can Be Created, EXISTS, woven into the energy particles of the universe, ready to be absorbed, translated, assimilated, manifested, by bodies that hear that feel the Harmony of the Spheres. Be tuned in. Reality is your oyster.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Soften the Glare of Mystical Illumination with High Performance Third Eye Sunglasses

3rd eye sunglasses

The idea to create sunglasses with a lens for the third eye came to me in 2002 during a visionary experience in the Amazon jungle. Here's the story as recounted in a 2009 entry on the (now-nearly-defunct) CHOOSE DETERMINISM blog:

In 2002 I traveled to the Peruvian rainforest to meet with an “ayahuascero” – a shaman who works in particular with ayahuasca, a very powerful vision-enhancing elixir. For me, the plant medicine provided a range of extremely intense experiences, mostly involving the procreative properties of sound. During one particular “journey”, I traveled to another planet where Jesus was debarking from a spacecraft wearing a white sparkly Elvis costume. He was also wearing sunglasses with an extra lens for the third eye. I said, “Nice glasses!” and Jesus replied, “Alyce, these are for you.”

I began collecting sets of interesting-looking sunglasses immediately thereafter in anticipation of this project, but it took until 2008 to actually get around to assembling the initial pair. Since then I have made and exhibited several sets of third eye sunglasses, all one-of-a-kind, cobbled together from glasses found at dollar stores and thrift shops.

Here's a set I created for a show at Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert Gallery in NYC in 2013:

The other day it came to my attention that Prince is about to release an album titled Plectrum Electrum with his band 3rd Eye Girl – on the cover he is wearing a set of third eye sunglasses. While I'm tickled to see Prince in a pair of third eye sunglasses, I can't help but wonder if Jesus offered this idea to Prince in a vision too? 

Really, that artists arrive at similar ideas comes as no surprise to me, especially in light of my strong belief in the power of the satellite dish hat:

Every brain is like a satellite dish, each one attuned to a unique frequency, emitted by the Cosmic Infinity, where all that Is to Be Created, All that Can Be Created, EXISTS, woven into the energy particles of the universe, ready to be absorbed, translated, assimilated, manifested, by bodies that hear that feel the Harmony of the Spheres. Be tuned in. Reality is your oyster.

If you are interested in owning a pair of Third Eye Sunglasses, I have just made three pairs available in the September Philosoprop Pop-Up Shop. Each pair is unique and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spring West Coast Tour 2014

My partner guitarist-composer Julian Mock and I will be on a multi-state book and music tour during the month of April. We will be performing/reading at small venues, salons, and house concerts in New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, and California, sometimes separately and sometimes together. Please check Julian's blog for the latest schedule. 

Alyce Santoro is a conceptual and social/environmental practice artist, activist, and writer with a foundation in marine biology and scientific illustration. Best known as the inventor of sonic fabric, an audible textile woven from recorded audiocassette tape, Santoro refers to her multimedia works as philosoprops – devices used to demonstrate a concept or spark a dialog. Alarmed by what she sees as the direct relationship between the detached mindset cultivated in scientific research (and widely adopted by Western culture) and the destructive propensity of the technology that results from it, her works often offer subtle and deceivingly playful critiques of the foibles of dualistic thinking. Santoro's visual and sound pieces have appeared in over 50 exhibitions around the world related to smart textiles and fashion, innovative musical scores, and social action and ecology. A regular contributor to and the author of Philosoprops: A Unified Field Guide, her written works often focus on the notion that by shifting some common assumptions about "the way things are" we can create a more just, healthy, and peaceful world.

Born into a musical family, Julian Mock is a perpetual student of the guitar as an instrument as well as the sounds it can produce. Having played in classical, jazz, and improvisational ensembles on both electric and acoustic instruments, designing listenable études for practicing difficult maneuvers led him, somewhat inadvertently, to create new compositions for solo guitar. Exploring old and new techniques, tonalities, and rhythms, and combining textures and ideas from different eras and places, Mock creates intricate, innovative, polyphonic mosaics of sonic possibilities. Sound Travels, Mock's 2002 album of solo compositions, was recorded on an acoustic steel stringed guitar. For the works on Ecstatic Mechanism, released in late 2013, he returned to his first instrument: the nylon stringed guitar. The compositions draw inspiration from Mock's diverse musical background, weaving together elements of dissonance and melody, tradition and experimentation, ranging from minimal to complex in rhythm and texture.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Liberty, Equality, Geography: An Interview with John P. Clark on the Revolutionary Eco-Anarchism of Elisée Reclus

I recently had the opportunity to interview communitarian anarchist philosopher John P. Clark on his new book containing critical analysis and new translations of the works of French geographer Elisee Reclus. The full interview is available at

"In reality, we have good reason to ask whether, if another world does not rapidly become possible, any world at all will remain actual. The impossible community, the Reclusian community of love and solidarity, is a practical and dialectical answer to this more than theoretical, more than rhetorical question. In the midst of a world-destroying epoch, the impossible community presents itself as a world-making and world-preserving community. In the midst of egocentric cynicism and moral paralysis, it is a charismatic community of gifts and of the gift. It is an ethos that inspires and reawakens the person, sweeping him or her into a new realm of deeper reality and more compelling truth. It is our ultimate hope for the world."

Friday, February 14, 2014

my grandfather, aka: the flying phantom, one of nyc's earliest bike messengers

My father (Nicholas John Santoro)'s father Nicholas Paul Santoro passed away today at the age of 99. He was born on November 7, 1914, the youngest of seven children and the only boy (an older brother did not survive past childhood). He and two sisters were born in New York City - his parents and four eldest siblings were born in Gravina in Puglia, Italy.

My grandfather's father lost a leg in an accident (he is wearing a prosthetic leg in the picture above), so, to earn a living, he and his wife embroidered tablecloths in their apartment in Manhattan. My grandfather dropped out of elementary school to dedicate himself to supplementing the family income, eventually earning a high school diploma by studying at night. He worked in Loft's Candy Factory in Long Island City (Queens) in the 1930's where he met my grandmother Anne Mamoliti, a fellow worker who was also from a family of Italian immigrants. They married once my grandfather secured a job with the US Post Office, where he worked first as a letter carrier, then latter as assistant postmaster, until he retired. During his early days as a mailman he was in charge of special deliveries on the Upper East Side. An avid cyclist, he realized he could deliver faster, and thereby earn a few extra cents, using his bike. So efficient was his technique, he earned the nickname "The Flying Phantom" from his fellow letter carriers, who took his lead and began making deliveries by bike.

In the 1950s my grandfather was able to get a transfer from the post office in Manhattan to one in Tenafly, NJ, a suburban setting well-suited for the raising of a family – they had two children, Mary and Nick. My grandmother, who had a beautiful singing voice and loved to cook using the best ingredients she could find, became a bank teller. She died from a stroke when i was 8 years old. 

My grandfather read the New York Times every day for 80-some years. On most days during many of those years, he worked on the crossword puzzle. In his late-80s he admitted that the early weekday puzzles were easier to complete - the Friday and Saturday puzzles were becoming more of a challenge. 

He also rode his bike avidly during his retirement, slowing down from 15 miles per day to 5 or 6 miles per day only once he reached his 80's. When he turned 90 and eye trouble prevented him from riding, he continued to walk, clocking himself diligently to make sure he was getting enough exercise. Only recently did my grandfather begin to slow down considerably.  For the past nearly 15 years he lived independently in an apartment, only needing outside help in the final months of his life.

Nicholas P. Santoro died on February 14, 2014 at home surrounded by family.

In 2007 I (granddaughter Alyce Santoro) conducted an interview with my grandfather, mostly concerning his lifelong relationship with bicycles:

From granddaughter Jennifer Pitts, daughter of Mary Santoro Pitts:

Grandpa was a wonderfully steadfast, reliable, and comforting presence in my life, especially from the time I moved from San Francisco to the East Coast for college, when he became my nearest family member and his house became a kind of home base for me. He was the one who dropped me off at college for the first time — we drove up the Merritt Parkway together, while he told me about his parents, his older sisters, and his early years in New York with my grandmother. A few years later, I lived with Grandpa in Tenafly for a few months when I worked for the New York City government. He’d see me off to the bus every morning, and we had dinner together most nights. He made terrific eggplant parmigiana, and he had an inexhaustible supply of stories along with an incredible memory for detail. It’s those stories and their details that I’ll always remember most fondly about him.

He especially admired his oldest sister, Lena, who in her teens was already the family’s main breadwinner. He liked to tell how she worked her way into a management position at Metropolitan Life by submitting winning ideas month after month to the company’s contest for employee suggestions until the downtown executives insisted on meeting the young woman from the Bronx office and gave her a promotion. Maybe it was her example that inspired him to study as hard as he did for the civil service exam that got him a position at the post office when he was about nineteen. He was proud that he had beat out what he called “college men” for what was a great, steady job during the Depression.

He had recently begun seeing my grandmother, whom he’d met at the candy factory and who lived at 124th Street in East Harlem. When he started working as a letter carrier on the Upper East Side, Grandpa would send her express-mail love letters. When he arrived at the station at 6 am, he’d use the pneumatic tubes that linked post offices up the East Side to get a letter to a friend who delivered mail in her neighborhood. That friend would hand her the letter as she walked to work.

Maybe his favorite moment working for the post office happened when a letter came in to the station late one night from President Roosevelt for Mrs. Roosevelt. He insisted on delivering it right away, despite the hour, and when he rang the bell, Mrs. Roosevelt in her bathrobe answered the door. He remembered the address — 65 East 65th Street — well into his nineties.

Grandpa was still playing the violin in those days when I was staying with him. And he knew every piece that came on the classical music station and would hum along as he cooked. Though he gave up playing the violin for good when he left Tenafly, he took his love of music in a new direction when he joined the Brookside Village choral group, led by Virginia Hakim, who has been such an important part of his life. 

My daughter Lucia, who is eight and learning the violin, enjoyed playing pieces for him over the phone and on visits to Brookside. Grandpa always had both praise and a few words of advice about what to work on. He liked to tell her the old joke he told us all as kids. A little boy carrying a violin case comes out of the subway and goes up to a man on the sidewalk. “Excuse me, mister,” he says, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, my boy, practice,” says the man. Lucia feels very lucky that she was able to get to know her great-grandfather, and during her last conversation with him about a week ago, she was eager to play him her newest pieces. She will really miss him. 

When my husband Sankar and I found out that our second child was a boy, I knew right away that I wanted to name him Nicholas after my grandfather. It meant a lot to me to be able to introduce the year-old Nicholas to his 99-year-old great-grandfather this past Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope he’ll inherit something of Grandpa’s steadiness and his affectionate nature — he’d be lucky, too, to get his Grandpa’s iron constitution and his great memory.

From grandson John Pitts, son of Mary Santoro Pitts:

My grandfather was such an intelligent, intellectually curious guy – not only was he not slowed by a lack of formal education, he was probably spurred on as a result.  He was so interested in and well-informed about world events.  At lunch two years ago, when I asked him what it was like growing up in the Italian-American community in New York, he rapidly turned that into a discussion of Italy’s politics, the timeline of key events in World War II and the Mafia’s secret collaboration with the government to help the Allies conquer Sicily!

When I graduated from UCLA, three friends and I drove around the US for 2 ½ months.  We were lucky enough to stay for two nights at Grandpa’s place on Serpentine Road where he cheerfully put us all up and fed and entertained everyone.  In addition to appreciating his great hospitality, my friends were amazed by his engagement with the modern world, definitely not stuck in the past like “grandparents they were used to meeting”.  His nearly 100 years covered probably the most pronounced, rapid development in history yet he perpetually seemed most interested by new events unfolding  He also asked a lot of questions about my friends, their families and their future plans – 20 years later, they still recall our visit with Grandpa with fondness as a real highlight of our trip.

His knowledge of and interest in the world was all the more remarkable considering he never had the chance to travel himself (and given the one area in which he remained decidedly “old-school” – he never personally had much use for the internet).  I’ve been living in London for over 10 years and he was so interested to hear about places that I’d traveled to.  Hearing about destinations he had read about but never visited himself seemed to spark his imagination.  He was instrumental in helping my mother achieve her dream of attending NYU and studying in France.  And although it was not part of his own experience, he was always supportive of me living abroad for similar reasons, something which I’m really grateful for.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

my great aunts, william hobart royce, & honoré de balzac

In my family, my maternal grandfather's sister Beatrice Larsen (on the left in the picture above) was referred to as Auntie Beatie. Her long-time best friend and partner in life was referred to as Dr. Abbie (on the right). Dr. Abbie was a general practitioner with an office on the ground floor of the Bay Ridge, Brooklyn brownstone they shared with Dr. Abbie's father, William Hobart Royce.

Beatie and Abbie both passed away when I was in my early teens, but I remember their loving and quirky spirits vividly. Family gatherings were often held at Twin Brooks, their 1950's-style ranch house and wooded property in the wilds of Katonah, NY. The small house was stuffed full of books and odd artifacts that fascinated me.

A week or so ago, while doing research on some philosophical concept or another, I came across the name Royce. Suddenly I remembered that Dr. Abbie's last name was Royce, and had a vague recollection that her father had been a Balzac scholar.

A quick internet search on "Balzac Royce" revealed the following.

From the Syracuse University Library:

William Hobart Royce (1878-1963) was an American author, bibliographer, book collector, and founder of the Balzac Society of America. 

Born on March 20, 1878, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Royce completed his formal education by graduating from the Springfield High School in 1897. Later he would write that his "only university has been the New York Public Library." 

After some bookstore experience in Springfield, Royce entered the booktrade in New York City, spending twelve years with the book department of the American News Company and seven years with the Lexington Book Shop. In 1917 he joined the Gabriel Wells rare book firm, for which he was manager for over 30 years. Wells and Royce shared a deep interest in Balzac (it was Wells who saved Balzac's house at Passy from destruction), and during this time the firm became the center of the sale of Balzaciana. Royce himself assembled a major collection of Balzac material, which was later donated to Syracuse University's Special Collections Research Center. 

Royce's published works ran to over a dozen titles. His books on Balzac include Balzac, Immortal (1926), A Balzac Bibliography (1929), Indexes to A Balzac Bibliography (1930), and Balzac as He Should Be Read (1946). Royce published over a half dozen volumes of his own verse; he wrote verse also under the pen name Willie Penmore. 

In 1940 Royce founded The Balzac Society of America. For over two decades he served as its president and edited its Bulletin. In recognition of his contributions to Balzac bibliography and collecting, Royce was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor in 1935 and was made an honorary citizen of Issoudun, the French provincial town which is the setting of La Rabouilleuse

Royce was married in 1908 to Eda Maria Wallin. They had two daughters, Eva Allen Royce and Abbie Anna Royce, M.D. He died on January 28, 1963. 

Royce was the subject of a "Profile" article in The New Yorker, Apr 1, 1933, pp. 18-21. For further biographical and anecdotal material, see Life, Feb 24, 1947, pp. 19-20, 22; and "Brooklyn Balzac" by Stefan Zweig in Who, vol. 1, no. 3 (June 1941), p. 48.

I searched through a stack of old family photographs, recalling a badly-faded one of a man standing in front of a bookshop. I believe this to be Mr. Royce himself:

According to the article in The New Yorker, Mr. Royce became so engrossed in his research that he sought out the same Syrian Latakia pipe tobacco that Balzac smoked (which, Mr. Royce found, had "an unmistakable effect in clearing and invigorating the intellect"), attempted to reproduce the Frenchman's preferred blend of coffee (and consume it in the same inordinate proportions), and even took to wearing similar robes and experimenting with napping in the evening, then commencing work at midnight as Balzac had.

If Auntie Beatie and Dr. Abbie were still around today, there are so many questions I would love to  ask them! How had they met? What was it like for Dr. Abbie to be a woman doctor in New York City in the 1940's? Though Mr. Royce died years before I was born, I remember visiting the Brooklyn brownstone, and being impressed by the stacks of books covering every available surface, including all but the middle of every step on three flights of stairways...

Whatever became of all the books?

The only poem by William Hobart Royce that we've thus far been able to uncover, included in an anthology called Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn by Julia Spicher Kasdorf:

It Happened on the Fourth Avenue Local, Brooklyn,
On My 77th Birthday, March 20, 1955

“Wake up!” the subway guard exclaimed
In no uncertain voice,
“For this is Seventy-seven’ Street,
And you are Mister Royce.”
“Thanks for your solicitude,”
I said, “but if I’m still alive,
I will remain upon the train
‘Til I reach Ninety-five.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2006 Talk as Visiting Artist at the New School's Lang College

Alyce Santoro on The Art of Science, The Science of Art at The New School's Lang College, August 29, 2005 from alyce santoro on Vimeo.

Many of the themes contained in my new book were touched upon during this talk on "the art of science, the science of art" for incoming interdisciplinary students at Lang College.