“…in the same way he helped to reinvent western culture in his own time.”
Thus spake my friend Lily Wen: DJ, Lindy Hop champion, and now record label entrepreneur, regarding the late great Alan Watts.
I feel like I’ve always been vaguely aware of this British philosopher-hippie who helped bring Eastern provocations to the West, but I felt a spike of connection with his work last week, at the pre-release party for the vinyl EP Face the Facts, out today on Lily’s Figure & Ground label.
The record takes the occasion of what would have been Watts’ 100th birthday to present four “spoken word” tracks taken from hundreds of hours of his seminar recordings, set to music by New York woodwind musician Jas Walton.
Figure & Ground’s website describes the original material as “psychedelic Californian ruminations, intriguing incantations, and compelling thoughts on existence.” When I heard some of them at the party (held at the wonderful and cozy Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books in the West Village), I did feel as though I were sitting in Watts’ houseboat living room, awash in mind-stretching inducements to alternate ways of viewing the world.
It was very cool.
Lily’s gotten some great press for her efforts, including write-ups in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wax Poetics, and Elephant (which I suggested she pitch to—yay!).
The record goes on sale in stores worldwide starting today, via Fat Beats distribution. If you’d prefer to stay in the living room, you can order a copy in digital or vinyl format from the Figure & Ground website instead.
Cheers, Lily! And cheers, Mr. Watts.