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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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Like the dead sea
You told me I was like the dead sea
You’ll never sink when you are with me
Oh, lord, I’m your dead sea

–Dead Sea, The Lumineers

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Don’t have much to say today.

Oh, I have plenty to say. Just don’t want to say it and am pretty sure you don’t want to hear it.

So, I was looking at some paintings that are still out in the galleries that I could feature here and came across the piece above, Soul Boat. It’s from last year’s Multitudes series and is now at the Principle Gallery. There’s a certain clarity in it that I like but can’t clearly define.

After taking some time this morning to study it to see what that might be, I tried to find a song that might pair well with it. Of course, the first thing that jumped to mind were songs with titles like Ship of Fools. It’s a title used by many artists over the years and there were a lot of good choices from the Grateful Dead to Robert Plant to the Doors or a great piece of 80’s music from World Party that I featured here before. Then there was Nick Cave‘s brilliant Ship Song.

All of them would have worked perfectly well. Probably better than the song I ended up choosing but this morning, this song from The Lumineers jumped out at me. Plus I liked the video. Here’s their song The Dead Sea.

It might not be the perfect companion for this painting but who cares? They can coexist together on this page.

Give a listen and have as good a day as you can.

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Saddened this morning to hear that singer/songwriter John Prine died yesterday from the coronavirus at the age of 73.

As I’ve noted here in the past, I have been a big fan for nearly a half century and many of his songs are so deeply embedded in my psyche that they are often the accompanying soundtrack to many of the events in my life. His songs were witty and wise while often reaching into the deeper parts of the human spirit and emotion.

His is a voice that will be sorely missed especially in these awful days when we are seeking for something that gives us direction or reminds us of our our own humanness. But his legacy is a lifetime of music that will speak for him from beyond the grave.

I wanted to play one of his songs today and there are so many choices that would have been easy to make. Paradise, Angel From Montgomery, Hello in There, That’s The Way the World Goes Round, Sam Stone, and on and on. I wanted something that you might not have heard if you weren’t a fan over the years. My choice was one used here on a post several years back that was concerned with the importance of kindness. It’s title is He Was in Heaven Before He Died.

I am pretty sure John Prine fell into that category.

Give a listen and have yourself some kind of day.

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GC Myers- Raised Up Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.

Jack Kerouac

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I am not sure what to do with these words from Jack Kerouac but I do like them and think they deserve to be passed along. I am a firm believer of kindness in all forms and believe that it is a pathway to a better life here in this world.

When I was waiting tables I found that my own attitude and demeanor often dictated how others responded to me. If I smiled and acted congenially, more often than not the person I was dealing with responded in the same manner. We are reactionary creatures and we instinctively respond according to the tone we encounter– rudeness with rudeness and anger with anger.

And kindness with kindness.

It’s our choice. If we can fight against our reactionary nature and choose to act and react with kindness, we can shape our world and then perhaps realize that a form of heaven might be within our grasp.

I have never had the faith or certainty of those who believe that there is an actual heaven waiting beyond this world. I would like to but I just don’t have it within me. So, for me, if there is to be a heaven it is something to be sought in the here and now. By that, I mean creating an environment that is honest, kind and gentle.

A life that is peaceful and quiet–that would be heaven to me.

So, when you’re out there today and face rudeness and anger, make the choice to react in a gentler manner and be kind. Your world might be one small step closer to heaven.

This quote reminded me of a song from one of my favorites, John Prine. The title pretty much sums it up: He Was In Heaven Before He Died.

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Going forward, I think I am going to designate Tuesday as a No-News-Day. Just turn off the news and the social media. Whatever is there will catch up to me soon enough, that’s for sure. Listen to only music and try to focus on the work at hand.

So, Tuesday’s a No-News-Day.

And if this works out, maybe Wednesday, Thursday and a couple of others will follow.

Probably not Friday though. The masochistic part of me that seems beyond my control wants to go into the weekend at least a little pissed off.

So, I am starting this Tuesday No-News-Day with some comfort music. Well, at least, for me. It’s Darkness on the Edge of Town from the 1978 album of the same name from Bruce Springsteen, which was his long awaited followup to the classic Born to Run.

It was an interesting and dark period for Springsteen in the 3 years or so between the release of Born to Run and the making of Darkness. He had all these accolades for Born to Run which was hailed as an instant classic and seemed to be on top of the world. But he was in the midst of an ugly, protracted lawsuit with his former manager that stripped him of the rights to his music, left him broke and prohibited from recording. He survived by a heavy touring schedule with long epic shows that built up the base of hardcore fans that would support him for the rest of his career. This period of time was reflected in Darkness on the Edge of Town.

There was an HBO documentary from about 10 years ago about making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. In it, Springsteen talked about wanting to create a cinematic feel and sweep with the music, one that evokes a visual image with the sound. Sound pictures, he called them. I understood what he meant by that because I have always viewed my paintings in the reverse of this, as being visual music. As though the message or feel he (and I) wants to get across is caught somewhere in between the two mediums. Or maybe even more than the two.

I believe a lot of artists must see their work as a mixture and synthesis of multiple mediums. I certainly sometimes see my own work in terms of literature or poetry or cinema.

Anyway, this is an easy throwback in time for me. I am coupling it with an older small piece from 2006 that I think fits the song’s feel. This was from a series of small cityscapes that featured the outskirts set against skylines of tall buildings or industrial structures. I loved painting these piece and they still bring me a lot of joy when I revisit them.

Give a listen. Enjoy your own No-News-Day if you can.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0ekQBmzKs

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I was looking at this painting above this morning, one that resides with me now here in the studio. It’s from back in 2011 and is called Dissolve. It really spoke to me from the moment I realized it was finished and laid down the brush.

It still does.

It’s a simple piece with complex feelings, one that makes me immensely happy and slightly sad at the same time. It’s contented yet wistful and yearning, something mirrored in the beauty and solidity of the fields in the foreground set against the dissolving colors of the sky.

With it’s duality of feelings, it’s a very human piece, I guess. And that bit of humanness is what struck me this morning. While I have alternated between high and low emotions lately, looking at this painting for a bit seemed to modulate all of these feelings.  The lower ebbs are still there but there is a visible counterweight that takes away some of their depth, makes them more tolerable.

This modulating effect might be the most valuable aspect of my work, at least for myself. Without it, everything else that the work provides for me is worthless.

So, this morning I sit with this image in mind and feel… like a human. And, for the most part, that’s a good thing.

Hope you’re feelng human this morning and can find your way, perhaps with a little modulation of your own, to a good day. Here’s a song from one of my favorites, Neko Case, from a 2006 appearance on Conan. Here’s Hold On, Hold On.

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black coffee

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I’m feelin’ mighty lonesome
Haven’t slept a wink
I walk the floor and watch the door
And in between I drink
Black coffee

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In the studio early again and a little tired from riding the rollercoaster ride of recent times. Lots to do but it’s hard to getting the engine fully rolling. This thing grips tight and breaking free enough to really create is sometimes a tough task. I spoke with a gallery owner yesterday who said that one of their upcoming and much anticipated shows would be much smaller than they had hoped because the show’s artist had a hard time completing the pieces for the show because of the anxiety caused by the pandemic.

I understood that artist’s feelings completely and learning of their struggle gave me a little comfort in knowing that it wasn’t only me.

So, here I am this morning in the studio with the light outside struggling to emerge and a ball of anxiety in my gut just waiting to wake up. Much I can do but all I want to do is sip my black coffee and look out the window at the wind ruffling the limbs of the white pines above the milling deer in my yard. Maybe listen to a little Ella.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Gonna proceed with that plan now. Hope you have a plan to make your day a good one. Here’s part of a post about the song Black Coffee, along with Ella’s stellar version of it, that ran five years back. It also has a link to great poem that might help you through your day, so take a look. Or not. I don’t care about anything this morning except my cuppa black coffee.

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The sultry Black Coffee was written in 1948 by Sonny Burke and originally recorded by Sarah Vaughan and a few years later by Peggy Lee. There have been many, many covers of this song and most are very good. But there are four versions that really stick out for me, all very distinctly different. They are Vaughan’s original, the one from Peggy Lee, k.d. lang‘s darkly twangy version and the one I am featuring this morning from the great and grand Ella Fitzgerald.

Her version is elegantly spare with her voice and piano interweaving beautifully. It is darkly tinged but there is such strength in her phrasing that it keeps the song feeling surprisingly upbeat. Just a great, great song.

A little bit of trivia about this version: It was the favorite song of Nobel Prize winning poetess Wislawa Szymborska , who requested it be performed at her funeral. You might remember Szymborska from a blog entry here last month that featured her poem Possibilities.

So,give a listen as you sip the morning beverage of your choice. Maybe a little black coffee…

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Murder Most Foul

Last week, Bob Dylan released his first original song in eight years. Titled Murder Most Foul the 17 minute song is primarily focused on the 1963 assassination of JFK but uses it more a point of departure for a guided ride on a hazy time machine that moves through the decades that followed.

Over a slow paced backing with piano, drum and strings that gives it the feel of an elegy or requiem, Dylan takes the imagery of that dark November and weaves it together with a long list of wildly disparate references to musical selections and pop culture figures.

It all becomes a mesmerizing drone.

On one hand, it seems to be just a mishmash of words and references with no real meaning.

But on the other hand, it feels like it is pointing us to this moment as an endpoint for an arc that began on that day in 1963, with every moment and event since, large or small, pushing us forward to this culmination.

Like we’ve been on a journey since that day and this moment and situation was our ultimate destination.

And for many whose lives have spanned that time period, that feeling is one that makes a certain amount of sense. For these folks, that day in 1963 has cast a shadow over everything since and there is a constant groping through the detritus of the years to find the connecting strands that will somehow make sense of it all. For them, there seems to be something going on, a set pattern of small indiscernible nudges, that is just out of reach or understanding.

And this song somehow feels like it is bringing finality to that pattern’s path.

I can’t say whether that this is true or not or if I even believe what I’ve just written. Maybe it’s an epic. Or maybe it’s just a load of crap. I guess, like all art, it’s a subjective opinion.

For me, it’s just oddly compelling. I’ve probably listened to this song forty times or more in the past week, sometimes playing it on a loop while I have been stretching canvasses or working at some other simple physical tasks. I find it oddly soothing, especially after listening to it immediately after watching the news reports on the current situation. I find myself pausing at certain recurring moments in each playing of the song and catching a few of same couplets, out of the many that make up the song, again and again.

Maybe I am trying to find the pattern in this song that might somehow bring to light the pattern that has possibly spanned the past 56+ years.

I don’t know.

I’m sharing a version with lyrics so, if you have the desire and 17 minutes to spare, give a listen. It will give you something to think about in your time of isolation. Have a good day.

 

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I always play a bit of music on Sunday mornings here, usually trying to link it to whatever is going on in my little world of paint or out there in the larger world. You know, a relevant song for a new painting or for a current event that might be dominating the news.

But sometimes they are songs that I simply like, songs that have meaning for me. Songs that make me cry. Or songs that make me happy and maybe even laugh.

I didn’t want to go with songs that make me cry today. There’s been enough reason to cry lately without having to be prodded.

So, I am opting for a song or two that make me happy. Make me smile and actually chuckle. Plus, you can easily link both with the situation at hand.

Facing hardship is an integral part of the nature of being alive. Illness and injury, death, loss, failure, humiliation– we all face some or all of these things in our lives.  Some face fewer and some even more of these hardships, but none are completely exempt. While facing my share–which are no more than most– I have always found music and humor to be effective coping mechanisms.

For me, it helps sometimes to laugh at my misfortune, especially if it has come about at my own doing. Laughing makes the situation seem smaller, less momentous. Laughter actually belittles the moment. I know that in the aftermath of some of my most down moments that I have some soothing salve in laughing at myself and the moment as I lick my wounds.

So, let’s lick our wounds and have a couple of songs. Both are from Eric Idle of Monty Python’s Flying Circus fame. He wrote most of the songs that the troupe employed in their shows and movies. We were lucky enough to see him many years ago, I think it was 2000, at Carnegie Hall for a very enjoyable evening of his songs and some well known Python bits.

The first is  a beautifully shot film of a sing-along performance of Always Look on the Bright Side from the film, Life of Brian. The song has become over the years the go-to song in Britain when they are facing adversity, a screw you to the problem at hand.  In recent days, a tug on the Thames River has been blaring it from loudspeakers as it chugs up and down the waterway.

Plus, this version has pipers. What more could ask?

The song here at the bottom is The Galaxy Song from the film, The Meaning of Life. It puts the problems we face into a galactic and universal perspective.

So, give a listen. Maybe sing along and smile. But do try have a good day.


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