Maclise, Angus

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Angus MacLise (1938-1979), American percussionist, composer, poet, occultist, and calligrapher.

From the description of Angus MacLise sound recordings, 1965-1978 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 775736570

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Angus MacLise was a musician, poet, artist, and counterculture figure who was a mainstay of the downtown New York arts scene in the 1960s.

Angus MacLise was born in Bridgeport Connecticut in 1938. He studied music and dance before moving to Paris in the late 1950s. In Paris he and his high school friend, avant-garde filmmaker Piero Heliczer, started the Dead Language Press in 1958. The press specialized in poetry and published early works by poets such as Gregory Corso. MacLise also published several of his own poems and manuscripts through the press, including the pamphlet "Year" that renames all of the days of the year-- a convention that MacLise and many of his friends used in dating correspondence or artworks.

MacLise and Heliczer moved back to the United States in the early 1960s, settling in New York and bringing the press with them. In New York, MacLise continued his publishing efforts, while also pursuing music and becoming involved in avant-garde theatrics and performance art pieces. He was a member of the Theater of Eternal Music, started and organized by composer and musician LaMonte Young. He was a regular participant in Fluxus events in New York City and appeared in many experimental films being made by his friends in the downtown arts scene at the time, notably Piero Heliczer and Ira Cohen.

MacLise was a founding member of the Velvet Underground-he was introduced to the band through his roommate John Cale and became the band’s first drummer. Though he helped to found the band, and may have even given it its name, his time with the Velvet Underground was short due to MacLise’s disinterest in creating art for profit or on a schedule dictated by anything other than his own inspiration. He does not appear on any of the band's recordings.

In 1967 MacLise moved briefly to Berkeley, where he joined the Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company, a street performance troupe that included the painter and illustrator Hetty McGee. McGee and MacLise were married in Golden Gate Park in a ceremony officiated by Timothy Leary. The two would later have a son, Ossian, who began living in a Tibetan monastery at the age of 4 and was recognized at 7 as a tulku-a reincarnation of a lama.

The couple moved back to New York where MacLise again collaborated with Ira Cohen, scoring and appearing in Cohen's film The Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda.

In 1970 Angus and Hetty began a tour of Asia that ended with their settling in Kathmandu, Nepal. In Nepal, MacLise opened the Spiritcatcher bookstore in Kathmandu which became a gathering place for the growing community of artist and poet expatriates living and working in the area. He founded a literary and poetry journal, Ting Pa, and in 1974 he and Ira Cohen started the Bardo Matrix publishing venture publishing poetry on handmade rice paper. They published work by MacLise, Paul Bowles, Charles Henri Ford among others.

During this time he was particularly interested in calligraphic art and works on paper. Much of his own work from his time in Nepal includes calligraphic illustrations in a made-up script. He was working on establishing a handmade paper company, Himalayan Paper, Inc. at the time of his death.

MacLise died in 1979 in Kathmandu, Nepal at the age of 41.

From the guide to the Angus MacLise Papers, 1956-2010., (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Angus MacLise was born on March 4, 1938 in Bridgeport, CT. He studied various genres of percussion and dance, performing with several ensembles before entering the downtown New York City music scene. In the early 1960s, he wrote and published poetry through Dead Language Press, which he co-founded with filmmaker Piero Heliczer. The press also published MacLise's combination calendar/poem, Year, which assigned names to each day of the year. MacLise was a member of La Monte Young's Theater of Eternal Music with John Cale, Tony Conrad, Marian Zazeela, and Terry Riley. In 1965, MacLise lived with Cale and along with him, Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison, formed the musical group The Velvet Underground. MacLise performed with them regularly throughout the year but quit in late 1965 and was replaced by Maureen Tucker. He played with them again for a few performances in 1966 when Reed was briefly hospitalized.

McLise was a student of the occultist and mystic Aleister Crowley and under the influence of his teachings, began to blend Tibetan mysticism with his music to create sound through various drone techniques. From 1965 through the 1970s, MacLise was active in the New York City underground music scene, integrating trance, improvisation, spoken word, poetry, and electronics into his performances. He collaborated with several notable artists on multimedia projects, such as Gerard Malanga, Yoko Ono, Jonas Mekas, and Jerry Jofen. In the late 1960s, MacLise married illustrator Hetty McGee, and together they played in the musical group, Universal Mutant Repertory Company. The group did a series of performances in New York's St. Mark's Church in 1970, titled "Epiphanies." In the early 1970s, he devoted more of his time to poetry and calligraphy, and also started a literary magazine, Ting-Pa .

Later in his life, MacLise traveled to study the ethnic percussion traditions in Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India with various local teachers and groups. He settled in Nepal, where he died of hypoglycemia in Kathmandu on June 21, 1979.

From the guide to the Angus MacLise sound recordings, 1965-1978, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Angus MacLise Papers, 1956-2010. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
creatorOf MacLise, Angus, 1938-1979. Angus MacLise sound recordings, 1965-1978 [sound recording]. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Angus MacLise sound recordings, 1965-1978 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bardo Matrix (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Cohen, Ira. person
associatedWith Malanga, Gerard person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Musicians--20th century
American poetry--20th century
Songs with percussion
Songs with instrumental ensemble
Avante-garde (Music)--United States--20th century
Avante-garde (Music)--20th century


Birth 1938-03-14

Death 1979-06-21



Ark ID: w6d81p73

SNAC ID: 53396070