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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Despairing.

It’s the first word that comes to mind this morning. I wanted to turn to other things, wanted to crow a little about the Yankees’ victory last night. Maybe talk about painting, music, the weather.

Anything.

Anything but face the ugliness of what one infinitely weak man’s decision has unleashed on people who saw the US as their ally and believed the promises and assurances we gave.

But it’s something I can’t turn away from and still believe that I have an iota of humanity left in my soul. I see the reports and videos of men being shot while being on the ground along the roads in northeast Syria with their hands tied. Of mothers crying over dead and severely injured children.

Of the report of the rape and stoning death of the Hervin Khalef, the Kurdish human rights activist. The image above on the right is from a tweet that includes a video with a boot kicking at her to see if she is alive. Her body is mortified and simply rocks from the push of the boot.

Or of the reports from our forces still on the ground there ( huh, is it possible that the president* lied when he said they had been withdrawn?) that the situation has deteriorated rapidly and that they are being bracketed with shelling from the Turks. Bracketing is a term for using artillery fire to either move opposing forces in a desired direction or keep them from moving at all. It was severe and close enough that the leadership on the ground requested permission to respond with fire. It only subsided when US planes approached the Turkish artillery positions and set the lasers from their missile guidance systems upon them as a warning that we would soon be firing on them.

Or of the mass escapes of ISIS fighters from the prisons where Kurds once held them. Or of the emerging reports that Russian planes have been specifically targeting civilian hospitals in Syria in recent months.

Or so many other reports, all while the cretin slumps around one of his golf courses for the umpteenth time then later in the evening whines about how he is so unfairly treated, all the while heavily slurring his speech while threatening those who dare to hold him accountable. And the idiots of his audience cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t care. It is 7000 miles a way after all and maybe these people, these Kurds, need to finally stand up for themselves. What have they done for us lately? That’s what you hear on social media from those who are willing to turn their backs on our promises and throw away all the credibility of this nation as a loyal ally to any other nation.

People who can somehow believe that atrocity committed on any person anywhere because of our inaction is somehow okay. People who can simply shrug and say it doesn’t affect them.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe that’s the reason I feel compelled to air my despair and anger this morning, again. I am not willing to let people shrug it off and ignore it. I want to keep it in your sight and in your mind. I want you to see that dead Kurdish woman whenever that horrid creature opens his vile mouth because he is complicit with his inexplicable actions, if not directly responsible, for these atrocities and must be held accountable.

You must consider that if he is willing to tolerate and ignore the suffering his actions have inflicted on these people, it is not a stretch to believe that he will do the same when and if it comes to this land. He is not moved by the suffering of others, doesn’t have the ability to see himself in the faces of those less fortunate than himself in any way.

He is devoid of humanity.

Maybe that’s why I do this thing this morning– because I need to know that I do possess humanity, know that I am a creature of compassion and refuse to close my eyes to the horrors we have wrought upon the lives of others.

I don’t have much. I am powerless in many ways to affect real change. But I am a fucking human being and I will not turn away from atrocity or try to make it less than it is. I have eyes and ears and a mind and a voice that won’t be silenced.

So do you. Use them.

Here’s this Sunday morning music selection. It’s from the Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan who is considered a cultural icon who is keeping the traditional music of the Kurds alive. It’s quite a beautiful piece. While I don’t understand the words, it translates.

Have a day.

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As much as I want to scream about the travesty and tragedy currently at play within our executive branch I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was on this day way back in 1964 that the Kinks released their first album, Kinks.

Led by the inimitable Ray Davies, they have withstood the test of time with songs that cover a wide range of the musical spectrum, songs that are almost beautifully crafted and insightful. They often are bitingly humorous and dealt with a knowing wink and a nod to the listener.

I have followed their progress for most of my life and there are dozens of favorite songs from them that I could play here today. But I am going to one of my favorites, from their 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies. Every song on this album is wonderful but I am playing the title track here today. Just a brilliant song with a chorus and lyrics that have been bouncing around in my head for 40+ years.

Cause I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
But my heart lies in Old West Virginia,
Though my hills are not green,
I have seen them in my dreams,
Take me back to those Black Hills,
That I have never seen.

So, today keep calm and listen to the Kinks. All hail the Kinks!

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Over the last couple of weeks, I watched the documentary series, Country Music, from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. As is the case with most of Burns’ work, it is extremely well done and deeply researched. I can’t say I learned a lot of new info from it but it was fun to again see many of the old films from the early legends.

Every documentary takes a position and holds its own perspective on its subject in telling its story. This one certainly did and I imagine a lot of fans of the current country music scene, which to my ear is more akin to the pop/rock music of the 1970’s and 80’s, were disappointed that Burns didn’t focus on their contemporary heroes. But Burns showed the continuum of country music, which carries that expression of authenticity that marked country music in its truest earlier form, moving into the genre we today call Americana. As a fan of that raw expressive quality found in the real traditional country music of years ago, I was glad to see this observation from Burns.

One of the lessons I learned from this series is that if a majority of people in the country music industry tell you to not do something, you must really be on to something big. Two of the primary artists they focused on, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, both fell into this category. I’ve talked about my affection for Cash many times here, including his amazing late in life work that was the result of working with Rick Rubin, a rap/hard rock producer who encouraged Cash to be true to his authentic self in these late recordings. Cash’s family and many in the country music field warned him not to work with Rubin but Cash went ahead and made several successful, both commercially and artistically, albums. I believe they are as close to real art as you will find in country music and they remain an incredible final testament to his life.

A great songwriter with an unusual vocal delivery, Willie Nelson was always a poor fit with the country music industry in Nashville. In the 50’s and 60’s, he tried to conform but it just never came out right. He was the perfect round peg in square hole world. He wrote a number of songs that became hits for others but he himself released a series of mediocre, standard country albums that did not sell well or open any eyes anywhere.

So he retreated to Texas and just began to be Willie, recording and performing in a completely natural manner without any thought as to how he should look or sound compared to others. His work from that time on had that authentic feel that’s the defining quality of real country music.

I’ve been a fan since The Red Headed Stranger, sparse concept album that, with its cinematic feel, tells the story of a cowboy who kills his wife and her lover then goes on the run in a search for redemption. It came out in 1975 and there wasn’t anything that was like it in any way. His songwriting and choice of material was pitch perfect and he harnessed that unusual voice in a way that perfectly captured feeling and emotion of the songs.

Since that time he has continued to make great music, even now in his mid 80’s. He’s worked with a wide variety of artists from many different genres of music and has released a number of great albums including one of my favorites, Teatro, from 1998.

This is really just a long excuse for me to play one of my faves from that album, Darkness On the Face of the Earth. Oh, what the heck, let me throw in Can I Sleep In Your Arms from The Red Headed Stranger. I can just shut up now and, if you like, you can give a listen. If you get a chance, take a look at Ken Burns’ documentary on the PBS site. Have a great day.


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I breathe a deep sigh of relief this morning.

Another Gallery Talk in the rearview mirror, this one at the Principle Gallery. Many, many thanks to the many folks who came out yesterday to spend an hour with me on perfect end of summer day in the Capital District. It was wonderful to see new faces along with the more familiar faces of the many older friends there who I was able to spend a few minutes catching up with.

This was my 17th Gallery talk there and while it is somewhat easier after all those times, it still is a daunting thing to stand in front of a crowd and talk off the cuff. I wasn’t as smooth yesterday as I had wished and didn’t hit all my intended points. I always fret a bit in the aftermath of these talks about things I have said, worrying that I wasn’t clear or spoke with the wrong attitude for what I was trying to get across.

Or just said something plain dopey.

But I also worry about those things left unsaid. Sometimes there are little anecdotes I mean to tell that get lost in the the brain while I am standing there in front of the group.You would think that in 17 hours of yammering on in these talks over the years, everything would have been said, that everything would have found it way out by now. But I know that’s not the case, that there are still a lot of stories yet to be told and potential secrets to be revealed. I guess I’ll have to start now on getting these things into next year’s Talk which I am aiming to make the best yet.

But this year’s talk ended up as a pretty good talk, even with my own critical take on it. It certainly ended on a high note.

Again, my eternal gratitude to those who came out and especially to the whole staff at the Principle Gallery– my good friends Michele, Clint, Owen, Leigh, Pierre and Josh— for the very hard work done in making it possible. They had a large opening the night before, hosting the 14th annual exhibit of the International Guild of Realism with artists coming from around the country to attend. To turn around in a little over 12 hours and host this event is quite remarkable. I am filled with appreciation and affection for these folks.

So, like I said, mark it down now. Next September– best Gallery Talk ever. Promise.

Here’s this Sunday’s music. I thought I’d show one more piece that went down to the talk yesterday, Eyes of Night, shown above. This song lines up nicely with this piece for me. It’s Field of Diamonds, one of Johnny Cash‘s works from his final years. It was period of great expression and artfulness at the end of his time here on earth. It’s an interesting chapter for an artist with a very long and memorable career.

He saw his career in the future rather than in the past. Wished I had said that yesterday.

Have a good Sunday.

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Couldn’t let the day go by without mentioning that today Otis Redding would be celebrating 78th birthday if he were still alive. Unfortunately, he tragically died 52 years ago in a plane crash. Only 26 years old and filled with a world of talent and a quality in his voice that so many singers try to emulate but seem to always come up short.

I still get chills sometimes listening to his music.

The painting here, The Lost One, is included in my Icons & Exiles show now hanging at the Octagon Library at the Patterson Library in Westfield, NY. I will be giving an Art Talk there this Thursday, beginning at 6 PM.

The Lost One was painted several years ago and was an effort to revisit the Exiles series that was painted back in 1995. While I feel that this painting fits into the series, it doesn’t have the same base of emotion as the others in the series which were painted at time of personal grief. It tries but comes out on a different emotional level.

It seems you can’t simply replicate deep emotion.

But even so, I like and appreciate this piece. It has its own forlorn sadness.

That being said, let’s listen to some Otis. Here’s Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) from Mr. Pitiful himself.

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**********************

Sorrow and solitude
These are the precious things
And the only words
That are worth rememberin’

Townes Van Zandt, Nothin’

*********************

A kind of gray and glum Sunday morning, wet and cool. It has the feel of the season turning, of the green of the leaves to be soon fleeing. The deer outside my window are taking on their new dark winter coats, the beautiful rich reddish coats of summer gone leaving them to look like they have rolled in coal dust, grimy and gray.

But they carry it well.

Myself, I feel as gray and glum and grimy as the scene and I fear I don’t carry it as well as my dear deer.

But that’s okay.

These gray days aren’t pleasant but there is something of value in them. They make you feel something and that is an important thing. It sometimes feels like we live without feeling the moment. And even if the moment isn’t a glorious moment of elation, to feel anything– even sorrow and solitude– at any given time may be the the only gift we have in the precious time we spend in this world.

Like Townes says in the lyrics at the top. Or maybe Warren Zevon said it correctly in Ain’t That Pretty At All:

Going to hurl myself against the wall
‘Cause I’d rather feel bad than feel nothing at all 

On that note, let’s get to this Sunday morning music which is, of course, the song Nothin’ from the late great singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt. His voice is a bit of an acquired taste but on songs like this, its flat simplicity and plaintive tone are absolute perfection. One of my favorites from many that he wrote. I have also included a bit of a different version from the Grammy winning collaboration of Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. Plant’s falsetto set against the heavy crunch of Krauss’ electrified fiddle make it a powerful version.

Have a good Sunday.

PS: The painting at the top Exiles: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a reminder that I will be giving an Art Talk this coming Thursday, September 12 beginning at 6 PM, at the Patterson Library Octagon Library in support of my Icons & Exiles exhibit that hangs there until September 20.


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GC Myers- Night Comes On

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I went down to the place where I knew she lay waiting
Under the marble and the snow
I said, Mother I’m frightened, the thunder and the lightning
I’ll never come through this alone
She said, I’ll be with you, my shawl wrapped around you
My hand on your head when you go
And the night came on, it was very calm
I wanted the night to go on and on
But she said, go back, go back to the world

Leonard Cohen, Night Comes On

*********************************************

I finished the painting above earlier this week, a 20″ by 20″ canvas piece that really spoke to me as I was painting it. All the time I was working on it, I had a song running in my head– Here Comes the Night from Them, the Northern Irish band of the 1960’s that featured Van Morrison. Great song with a memorable chorus that really seemed to align with what I was seeing in this piece. Here Comes the Night was the title I mentally attached to this painting while working on it.

But after I was finished with the painting and spent a few days looking at it in the studio, something about the title gnawed at me. For some unknown reason Here Comes the Night as a title just didn’t feel right any more. But I knew there was something in this painting that jibed with a song in my mind, some song that used night in its title and resonated with me personally.

I strained for a couple of days going through night songs that came to mind but none of them were right. It was one of those times when you come across the right answer you will immediately know it.

That time came early this morning. I came into the studio with the title Night Comes On stuck in my mind. I was pretty sure it was from an old Leonard Cohen song that I hadn’t heard in years and had mostly lost in the mossy mire of my brain. But as soon as I put it on, the lyrics flooded back to me, reminding me that it was a song that always cried out to me whenever I heard it.

I knew immediately that it was the right choice. And not just for the lyrics.

While listening to the song and looking at the painting, I realized that the sky and the moon in this painting related directly to a dream that I had several years ago. I am hesitant to share the dream, as its personal and there’s a small superstitious part of me that fears I will weaken the power of that dream if I tell it aloud.

I will say that it came to at a point where I was filled with uncertainty, especially about my place in this world as an artist. I was in between my two annual shows and felt absolutely worthless and creatively impotent. I felt hopelessly paralyzed.

But one night this dream came to me with sense of great calmness and a wisdom that I most certainly never knew in my waking life. I was instantly soothed, my immediate worries evaporating. In the years since it appeared, this dream has remained a source of calm when I am stressed out. This dream marked a change in how I saw myself and what I do. A change that brings with it a calmness and acceptance.

There is something in the sky of this painting that is pulled directly from that dream. I didn’t see it until I heard this song this morning and then that was all I could see. It gives me chills– in a good way.

Here’s the Leonard Cohen song. Time for me to go back to the world.

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