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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Came across a blogpost from back in 2009 had a piece of music that I couldn’t remember. Playing it this morning fascinated me and I listened to it a few times. It’s a big loud choral piece with ominous sounding Latin lyrics and a thumping percussion rhythm that drives it forward in a way that makes it feel as though it is absolutely unstoppable.

It’s a piece called Dies Irae from a 2005 work, Requiem, from the contemporary Welsh classical composer Karl Jenkins. Dies Irae translates as Day of Wrath and the tone of this piece has that feel, without a doubt. Powerful stuff.

It certainly woke me up this morning. I found myself wanting to be able to paint with that kind of feel. It’s something I can;t explain fully. I see big slashes of color and full sweeps of the arm across the surface with my feet set wide apart in front of the easel as though I was delivering body blows to the canvas. Primal. No delicacy here, no up close touches of paint. Every stroke a deep mark, a bruise, on the surface.

Like I said, I can’t really explain it.

But here it is along a video comprised of apocalyptic imagery, most from the artist Alfred Kubin who I have featured here in the past. The piece at the top, Into the Unknown, is from Kubin. It may startle you awake or, at least, stir  something deep within you.

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… With your majestic and superior cackling hen 
Your people I do not understand, 
So to you I shall put an end 
And you’ll never hear surf music again

–Jimi Hendrix, Third Rock From the Sun

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It’s said that that the final line from the spoken word section of Jimi Hendrix’s Third Rock From the Sun in 1967 was a response to hearing that Dick Dale, the King of Surf Guitar, was gravely ill with colon cancer. Well, Dick Dale got past that dangerous episode and continued his reign for another 50+ years, passing away yesterday at the age of 81.

His background hardly pointed to his rise as the King of Surf Guitar. Born in Boston, Dale (the name he adopted for the stage– his real name was Monsour) was of Lebanese descent and was raised playing Middle Eastern instruments which provided the basis for his style of playing. You can really hear it in his most popular song, Misirlou. It was revived with its prominence in the film Pulp Fiction.

Dale had a great run promoting himself as the King of Surf Guitar through the years, even as surf music faded into a its niche as a nostalgic reminder of its popularity in the early 1960’s. But Misirlou had staying power beyond nostalgia. It’s just good stuff that can still get people on their feet.

So, here’s to you Dick Dale. Your music will live on. Here’s a performance of Misirlou from Dick Dale in 1995.

 

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For this Sunday morning music, it would be hard to not feature a bit of the Irish. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all. So I thought I’d share a beautiful version of old Irish chestnut, Raglan Road, performed by actress Cristin Milioti. Hardly an Irish name but this is a lovely version of a beautiful tune. (You can click here to see the poetry of these lyrics.) You might recognize her from her work on the second season of Fargo where she played Betsy Solverson, the cancer stricken police chief’s wife.

I thought I’d also replay a post from a few years back about one of my Irish ancestors. As I say in the post, it’s story of many immigrant families. Have a great day. You, too, St. Patrick.

GC Myers- Icon: Mary TOne of the things I am trying to emphasize with this current Icon series is the fact that we are all flawed in some way, that we all have deficiencies and stumbles along the way. Yet, uncovering these faults in my research, I find myself holding affection for many of these ancestors that dot my family tree. Perhaps it is the simple fact that without them I would not be here or perhaps I see some of my own flaws in them.

I’m still working on that bit of psychology.

The 12″ by 12″ canvas shown here is titled Icon: Mary T. She is my great-great grandmother. Born Mary Anne Ryan of, I believe, Irish immigrant parents in the Utica area (though some records list her as being born in Ireland) she married Michael Tobin, an Irishman ( it is thought that he was from County Kerry but the research is still up in the air on this) who came to the States around 1850, right in the midst of the Great Irish Immigration.

Michael worked on the railroads being built throughout central New York in the late 1800’s. Following the progress of the railroads, the couple and their growing family worked their way down through the state towards Binghamton, NY where they eventually settled. Mary Anne eventually ended up as a housekeeper in a prominent home in the area. Michael died around 1890 although records are sketchy on this and Mary died at my great-grandmother’s home in Elmira in 1914.

All told, they had seven daughters and three sons. Most worked in the then booming tobacco industry of that time and place. Most of her daughters worked as tobacco strippers and some worked as cigar rollers, as did her sons.

That’s the simple telling of the story. Looking into the back stories provide a little more depth which can sometimes change all perceptions.

None of her sons ever married and all had desperate problems with alcohol. One son was listed in a newspaper report from some years later as having been arrested for public drunkenness around 40 times over the years, seven times in one year. He was also arrested for running a still more than once during the prohibition years. Two of her sons died in institutions where they had been placed for their alcoholism.

A Silk Spencer

A Silk Spencer

I came across a story in the local Binghamton newspapers about Mary and two of her daughters, who were also working as domestics with here in the prominent Binghamton home owned by a local attorney and nephew of the founder of Binghamton. In 1874, the story reports that a number  of items came up missing, including a “forty dollar silk spencer,” which is a sort of short garment like the one shown here at the right.  Neighbors informed the owner of the spencer that Mary had a number of the stolen items in her possession and a search warrant was sworn out.

Detectives came to the Tobin home and made a thorough search but turned up nothing. They then, acting on a hunch, tore up the carpets which revealed a trap door that led to a small hidden basement. There they found many of the stolen items but no spencer. But they did find a silk collar that had been attached to it. Mary and her two daughters were arrested.

Mary did finally claim to be the sole thief and her daughters were released. I have yet to find how this particular story ends and how Mary was punished but based on the futures of some of her children I can’t see it being a happy ending.

Doing this painting, I was tempted to make my Mary a bit harsher, a lit more worn. But as I said, there’s some sort of strange ancestral affection at play even though I know she was obviously a flawed human. She’s smaller and more delicate looking in the painting than I imagine she was in reality. But maybe that’s little payback for the information her story reveals about the future of my family.

This is a simple painting because, as I pointed out, this is a simple story at its surface.  It’s the story of many, many immigrant families.

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Daylight Savings Time! Woke up late this morning so I am hustling around trying to get to a piece on the easel that has been gnawing at me overnight. I just realized yesterday that in all the time I’ve been doing his blog and sharing some of my favorite music I hadn’t played  any Jimmy Reed, the late great bluesman. Going to rectify that today. I came across his albums when I was teen and some of his songs from the 50’s and early 60’s remain among my faves including Big Boss Man (You ain’t so big/ You just tall That’s all), Baby What You Want Me to Do ( You got me runnin’/ You got me hidin’), Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby, and the song I’m sharing below, Bright Lights Big City.

Thought the painting above might fit. It’s fairly new and is one that I am still taking in mentally. There’s a lot going on and I thought the idea of being taken in by the movement and bright lights of the big city as one approaches it was a nice complement to the song.

Take a listen, give a look and have a good day.

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GC Myers Exiles-Bang Your DrumThe switch to Daylight Saving Time really cuts into my prep time this morning. So I am going to share my musical selection for this Sunday along with a rerun of a post that originally ran ten years back. I reran it once four years back but I think it’s worth sharing again. Plus the painting fits the song. So here it is along with The Beat Is Rhythm from Club Des Belugas. As is the case with much of their music, it’s heavy on the beat which is as good a way as anything to give a kick to a dragging Sunday morning.

This is another piece from my early Exiles series, titled Bang Your Drum. This is a later piece, finished in late 1996.  

Initially, I was a bit more ambivalent about this painting compared to the feeling I had for the other pieces of the Exiles series. It exuded a different vibe. For me, the fact that the drummer is marching signifies a move away from the pain and loss of the other Exiles pieces. There is still solemnity but he is moving ahead to the future, away from the past.

Over the years, this piece has grown on me and I relate very strongly to the symbolism of the act of beating one’s own drum, something that is a very large part of promoting your work as an artist.  

For me and most artists, it is a very difficult aspect of the job, one that is the polar opposite to the traits that led many of us to art. Many are introverted observers of the world, passively taking in the world as it races by as they quietly watch from a distance. To have to suddenly be the the motor to propel your work outward is an awkward step for many, myself included. Even this blog, which is a vehicle for informing the public about my ongoing work and remains very useful to me as a therapeutic tool for organizing my thoughts, is often a tortuous chore, one that I sometimes agonize and fret over. Even though my work is a public display of my personal feelings, this is different. More obvious and out in the open.

There’s always the fear that I will expose myself to be less than my work. The fear that people will suddenly discover the myriad weaknesses in my character that may not show in my paintings, forever altering their view of it. The fear that I will be  revealed to be, as they say, a mile wide and an inch deep.  

But here I stand with my drumstick in hand, hoping to overcome these fears and trusting that people will look beyond my obvious flaws when they view my work. Maybe they too have the same fears and that is the commonality they see and connect with in the work. Whatever the case, there is something in the work that makes me believe that I must fight past these fears and move it forward, out into the world.

What that is, as I’ve said before, I just don’t know.  Can’t think about it now– I’ve got a drum to pound…

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Finisterre is a peninsula at the westernmost point of Spain. In Roman times, it was thought to be the end of the known world.

Thus the name: finis/end + terre/land.

Finisterre.

It is also the title of a lovely song from English folk singer June Tabor that I am featuring for this week’s Sunday music. Very atmospheric.

The accompanying painting at the top is a piece I came across this past week in an old sketchbook from back in 1994, when I was just starting to paint. I hadn’t seen it in some time and was pleased that it had aged well, that it had a completeness that was not the norm for the work I was doing at that time. The rest of the sketchbook, for example, is filled with landscapes that are cringeworthy enough that this piece seems out of place.

I chose it to accompany this song because it also has an atmospheric quality, one that speaks of open space and emptiness. Pauses and the quiet rush of the wind through the grass. It might not be Finisterre but it feels like it might be the end of the world for someone.

Have a good Sunday.

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Want to keep it short this morning as I want to get right to work on a piece that is on the easel. And that desire to go right to the brushes is a good thing, an indicator that a groove is coming.

So, for this Sunday morning here are a couple of noir-ish photos to accompany one of  my favorite songs, Stolen Car, from the 1980 album ,The River, from Bruce Springsteen. The mood of this song, especially within its organ and piano lines, always moves me.

Good painting music.

Have a good Sunday…

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