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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

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It’s obvious that the removal trial coming before the Senate is being rigged by the GOP leadership to have no witnesses, no press coverage and as little evidence as possible. It is a travesty that mocks the entire concept of law and justice. It is a slap in the face of all citizens.

It’s infuriating. But I didn’t want to write about that today. So, I won’t.

However, I did come across a great quote from the late Kurt Vonnegut that allows me to use it to somewhat comment while moving on to something else. Vonnegut reminds us that while the coming days may mark the end of the Great American experiment as we know it, we have made some great music. Hopefully, that part of us will not change.

It reminded me of a post from several years back that I am running again today:

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GC Myers- American Music 1994Last week I wrote about going through some old work and coming across work that had been lost in my memory, work that I seemed to recognize but couldn’t quite remember the how or why of it. Didn’t have that recollection of the moment that I usually have with my work where I can recall the emotion of that time, recall the instant it excited me and came to life for me. You know it’s your own work but it remains an enigma, a question. This is another that I came across last week. It was marked as being from 1994 and was titled American Music across the bottom.

I have looked at this piece a number of times over the year and know that it came from a time when I was experimenting on an almost constant basis, trying to capture that thing in my mind that I couldn’t quite identify but knew instinctively was there. All kinds of things poured out, most eventually set aside like this one. And through the years, looking at this piece always makes me question why I wrote  American Music across the bottom of the sheet it was painted on. I don’t know if I saw some rhythm in this that reminded me of a generic American music or if I had been listening to some old music. The Blasters, fronted by Phil Alvin, had a song of that name in the early 80’s that I always liked so maybe that played a part.

But the fact is that I just don’t know. And there’s something interesting in that, that I get to look at a piece and try to figure out what the artist was thinking without really being sure. It’s not too often that you get to do that with your own work. And I think that’s why I gravitate to this piece whenever I go through my old stuff.

An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in paint.

Maybe you can figure it out. Here are The Blasters with the original version of their song, American Music.

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I wrote an entire entry just now for this blog and, after reading it over, I decided to chuck the whole thing. Just didn’t hit the mark, didn’t feel right.

Sometimes it’s better to just go back to square one than try to cobble together something that is rickety from the start. Or just do something altogether different.

So, this morning I am just going to say ‘To hell with it’ and play a song that soothes me in some small way.

It’s a Lou Reed song, Sunday Morning, from his days with the Velvet Underground in the 1960’s. The late model/singer Nico, best known for Andy Warhol transforming her into a Pop Art icon, does the vocals here but you can hear Lou’s voice in her vocals.

It has that familiar Velvet’s drone that I think gives it that soothing quality I am looking for this morning. Plus, this is kind of a neat video.

Have a good Sunday, okay?

 

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The Australian wildfires are still raging. Sheer devastation. Well over 18 millions acres (think about it as every single inch of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts being burnt to the ground) up in flames along with dozens of lives, thousands of homes and a staggering amount of wildlife. The current estimate that the number of animals and birds is that well over a billion creatures have perished. Those that survive face a grim future with an environment that will take years to rebound.

That is, if it ever can.

It’s heartbreaking. No, it’s more than that. Heartbreaking seems almost too trivial a word for the holocaust taking place. It’s more like a jagged rip in the very fiber of our souls. As helpless as we feel here on the other side of the globe, as hopeless as it seems from such a distance, we must not turn away.

Their horror may well be the future for many of us.

We have been warned for decades that this time was fast approaching but hubris and greed made us ignore and even scoff at the suggestion that we were destroying the environment that had once been so hospitable to us.

I don’t know what the answers are for climate change or even how to properly help our animal and human friends in Australia. But I know I can’t ignore the problem, can’t just shrug and say that my time here is short now that I am well into middle age and that it’s a problem for those younger than me. It’s that sort of ignorance and carelessness that allowed this to happen in the first place.

I am looking for answers, even if they are small. I can’t save Australia with my small donation but maybe it can help one small displaced creature, plant a tree or two or do anything to alleviate the pain caused by our treatment of this earth.

I hope you will look for answers as well.

This Sunday morning music is a song from the great Dinah Washington from back in 1960 called This Bitter Earth. I am also including a version of the song that combines her original vocals with a musical piece from contemporary composer Max Richter, On the Nature of Daylight, which is  a piece of music that I have played here before. The two combine to create a powerful statement that is fitting for this subject and this time.

I hope you’ll listen to both. And don’t turn away. Do even one small thing to help someone on this bitter earth.

 

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It’s interesting how an artist sometimes severely views a piece of their own work. Even more interesting when that same piece of work that fell under their critical eye becomes extremely popular. In the case of the great Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, that piece became arguably his signature piece of music.

This came to my attention last night when there was a question on the current Jeopardy Greatest of All Time Tournament (big fan- been watching Jeopardy since the 1960’s when Art Fleming was the host on the daytime version) that made me laugh out loud.  It had to do with Grieg’s work that he was composing as music for Henrik Ibsen‘s epic verse drama based on a Norwegian fairy tale, Peer Gynt. His work for the play was meant to be just incidental music but turned into 26 pieces for the long five act drama, much more than he had anticipated when initially agreeing to work with Ibsen. It was obviously a very trying collaboration and Grieg was not impressed with some of his work.

He wrote the following to a colleague about one of the pieces, part of which was also the question ( or answer, as the format requires) on last night’s Jeopardy:

And I have done something for the hall of the troll king in Dovre which literally I can’t bear to hear, it reeks so of cow-turds, ultra Norwegianism, and to-one’s self-enoughness! But I am hoping that the irony will be able to make itself felt.

The answer (or question) was : What is In the Hall of the Mountain King.

That he thought that this piece which is now so associated with his name reeked of cow turds just made me laugh. Maybe it was just the idea that he used that term. Okay, maybe that’s a little sophomoric but, hey, he said it first!

You most likely know the piece in question here. It is surprisingly short and has been performed and used in many ways over the years. It always makes an impression. I am sure it was used in a Warner Brothers or Disney cartoon at some point and I liked a version from the early 70’s from the Electric Light Orchestra.

Here’s a performance of the In the Hall of the Mountain King section from the ballet Peer Gynt from the Zurich Ballet in 2008. Great visuals to go with the music.

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I was going back through some old things on this site and came across this piece of music that I shared here several years ago. Listening to it took my mind far way from the subject I had intended to write about this morning.

So far, in fact, that I can’t even recall that original thought stream. It must not have been too important.

So, forget what I was going to say and, if you’re so inclined, give a listen to that piece of music. It’s called Miss Sarah off the album Blues Twilight from jazz trumpeter Richard Boulger.

Maybe it will distract you from something you intended on doing, as well.

PS: The painting at the top is a fave of mine, Pause in the Moonlight, which is at the West End Gallery.

 

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Zurab Martiashvili- Couple in Love

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I hear babies cry

I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more

Than I’ll never know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

–Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, What a Wonderful World

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On a morning when it would be so easy to focus on the many wrongs of this world, I think I want to just listen quietly to a song and ponder the small things that make living in this world worth all the trouble. The song is What a Wonderful World, originally performed, of course, by the legendary Louis Armstrong.

It was written in 1967 by Bob Thiele and George Weiss in response to the tensions, anger and division that the Vietnam War  and race riots were spawning here. The songwriters chose Armstrong to perform the song because of what they believed was his ability to bring people of different races and backgrounds together.

The song as performed by Armstrong, as you most likely know, became a classic. But it wasn’t an instant hit. While it was the best selling song of 1968 in the UK, it went pretty much unnoticed here at the time. In fact, its original pressing as a single sold only around 1000 copies here. But it is the kind of song that doesn’t just fold up its tent and leave town. It had staying power and over the coming decades gained great popularity. Twenty years later, in 1988, it’s use in the Robin Williams film, Good Morning, Vietnam pushed it into our collective consciousness, here and around the globe.

A lot of other artists have recorded it but the Louis Armstrong version is the gold standard, the crème de la crème. It seems almost sacrilege to play any other version but I am playing a lovely version by Mark Knopfler and Chris Botti. Hope you’ll take a few moments to give a listen and focus on some small things that make your world a decent place.

For me, right now it’s looking out my window at the snow coating the tree branches backlit brilliantly by a cool sun. As I’m looking, a doe slowly crosses under the taller trees and disappears into the dark green of the pines below.

For the moment, it’s my own peaceable kingdom.

The whimsical artwork in this video and at the top of the page is from artist Zurab Martiashvili, an artist born in Tbilisi, Georgia in 1982 and now working in Ukraine. Wonderful work. Wonderful world.

Have a good day.

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The world has moved to a position of extreme danger, far more perilous than its normal state which is often pretty damn dangerous. The inmates have taken over the asylum.

As you can see, I want to rant and rage this morning.

But I won’t. I will try to find something peaceful, something soothing.

Maybe something from Vivaldi? And since I am looking out the window of the studio and there is a light coating of snow on the ground and the sky is a cold and dull gray, how about the Winter section of his concerto, The Four Seasons?

This works for me.

Here’s a performance from renowned violinist Cynthia Miller Freivogel and the Baroque music group, Voices of Music.

Try to find some peace in this piece and have a great day.

 

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