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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Part of the charm of baseball for me are its mythic elements, the stories that captured my imagination as a kid.  For instance, Babe Ruth allegedly pointing to the centerfield fence to call his home run. Or Satchel Paige supposedly throwing strikes using a single gum wrapper laid on home plate as the strike zone.  Willie Mays’ fabled but very real over the shoulder catch. And Jackie Robinson stealing home in the World Series. Too many more to mention here.

This year has brought a player who may enter into that pantheon of mythic baseball lore.  Rookie Aaron Judge of the Yankees combines a physique that seems right out of tall tales with Paul Bunyan size and strength. He’s 6′ 8″ tall and weighs in the 275 pound range, the largest player by sheer body mass to ever play the game. But it is not a lumbering, heavy mass.  He is athletic and quick with a powerful and accurate throwing arm.

But it is his potent bat that has made him the big news of NY and the rest of the major leagues. He leads the American League in home runs, runs batted in, runs, batting average and walks.

All are amazing stats but it is the way in which he strikes his homers that has thrilled the crowds and made his every at bat must see viewing. His pregame batting practices are already legendary with balls flying to the deepest parts of the park where they have scattered bartenders and shattered television screens. The excitement has people coming to the games wearing costume powdered wigs and he even has a section of the stands named in his honor– the Judge’s Chambers.

He hits the ball with incredible power and the crack of the bat is startlingly sharp, with a thunderclap to it unlike almost any other player. His home runs leave the park at ultra high velocity and go ridiculous distances. Yesterday, he hit a ball at Yankee Stadium close to 500 foot that had the other players as well as the announcers in sheer awe.  He is simply hitting balls to places where they have never been hit before, even in batting practice. As Paul O’Neill said, it’s like he’s a big man playing in a Little League field.

I have to say that he has ignited that excitement in the game that I had as a kid where every game, every at bat has the possibility of the amazing or the transcendent taking place. Something that would tie your experience of it to the great myths of the game.

Now, the realistic part of me, that awful adult part, knows that the odds are that someday soon this torrid pace may slow and he will return to the ranks of the merely good ball players. Baseball is a humbling game for players and fans alike. But for know, Aaron Judge is playing the game like he’s in a comic book, like he’s King Kong swinging Thor’s Hammer at the plate. And that makes this middle-aged boy very happy. It’s a great diversion away from these troubling times.

Whenever he comes to the plate, I always think of this song from the 60’s. It was a minor hit in 1968 from Motown’s Shorty Long, who died the following year in a boating accident. I was just a kid at the time, idolizing Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson, himself a mythic character, but I remember this song well. Can’t go wrong here, Motown soul with the Funk Brothers laying down a great backing track. Courts in session, here come the Judge…

 

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Quiet morning and I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what I want to play today for this Sunday morning music break. Spent a lot of time listening to a lot of different things. I would say it was too much time spent but it’s been enjoyable just taking the time and focusing on the music rather than having it as a background sound while I work.

And I think there are benefits in just really zoning in on the music without distraction, hearing the edge of the notes and the path of the rhythm. The individual elements become clearer and stronger, something that is often lost when there are a thousand other thoughts and sensations running through the mind. When I’m in the studio sometimes the sounds in the background become a drone that becomes a thread that interweaves with whatever thoughts are guiding the task at hand.

And that’s a shame because I know that I often miss the crucial part of the music in this miasma of thought, the part that inspires, that takes you to another place and time. The transcendent part.

This morning I’ve chosen the jazz standard ‘Round Midnight performed by its composer, the legendary Theloni0us Monk. I’m no jazz aficionado. Can’t tell you a lot about the history of the genre or the importance of different tracks or performances or even who ranks highest among those who do know. But I do know that Thelonious Monk has iconic standing in jazz, as does this song. This is a performance by Monk and his quartet from 1966.

I can only say that I like what I like. It’s my main criteria for judging most everything. Sometimes it goes along with the consensus of the experts and sometimes it just suits my own tastes. Here, I think it’s just plain good stuff that I can listen to with pure focus. Have a listen and hopefully you will have great day afterward.

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My Buddy Chase in front of the work

Back in the studio after Friday’s opening of Truth and Belief at the Principle Gallery. Without hyperbole, I am saying it was a good show and a good trip. As smooth and easy and satisfying as any of the previous 17 shows there. Just plain good. Good crowd. Good conversations with good people. Good feelings about the work.

So when we left yesterday, I can honestly say I felt pretty good about the whole thing. Still do, which is new territory for me. Usually by this morning I am filled with second thoughts about things I could have done differently, words I could have said differently and so on. But for now, I am standing pat with the whole of what happened.

It was good.

I have to send out heartfelt thank yous to everyone at the Principle Gallery. They are a very special group of people. Affectionate thanks to Michele, Clint, Pam, Pierre and Haley for their friendship and encouragement. There’s so much I could say but I think they know how we feel about them.

Plus super thanks to my canine friends, Ash and Chase, who always brighten my visits with their high energy.

I think this show was as honest and transparent an expression of what I hope to be as an artist and a person as I could have mustered. I don’t feel like I am masked behind the work, that I am presenting a facade that misrepresents me. I am hoping that means I am closing in on some elusive and unconscious goal. Can’t say I will ever truly reach it. Might not even know if I do. But for now, the mask feels like its off.

For this week’s music, I have chose a song that sort of fits with that last sentiment.  It’s This Masquerade written and performed by the late great Leon Russell. It is probably best known for the George Benson version that was a huge hit across all of the charts. But I like this version from Leon alone with his piano.

Enjoy. Have a good day.

 

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There are colors that really trigger reactions within me. Most people would no doubt think that the color red would be the main one and perhaps they are right. The Red Tree is certainly the thing that would come to mind for those who know my work. And Red Roofs and Red Chairs.

Or maybe one might think that it’s the Indian yellow, a warm color that was the basis for much of my early work. It creates a most satisfying peaceful feeling in me still, after all these years. It would n’t be a bad guess.

But for me, I always come back to the blues along with the purples that spin off of them. They excite, mesmerize, tranquilize, intoxicate and pacify me. They take the melancholy and anxiety of existence and mix it with the sheer joy of living and feeling to create an aura that surrounds our life. I don’t even know if that sentence makes any sense but it sure feels like the color blue to me.

An example of this might be found in this new painting that is part of my show at the Principle Gallery that opens a week from today, June 2. This 12″ by 12″ painting on canvas is titled Passing the Blues.

It’s a piece that I have been coming back to in the past few weeks, just hovering over it as I take it in.  There’s a feeling in it for me that I would describe as sweet sorrow. Kind of like the appreciation you might have for the melancholy that sometimes comes with this life. It’s not joy but it lets you know that you are are a living and feeling person.

And that, in itself, is a wonderful thing.

And that is how I see the blue colors.

Here’s a song that has that same feeling of sweet sorrow for me.  It’s a great song originally written and performed by Dolly Parton. It’s Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind and is performed here by a favorite of mine, Rhiannon Giddens.

 

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Race the LightSunday morning. It’s quiet which I like immensely. Early mornings are my favorite time, when there are fewer people stirring, fewer yahoos who feel it is their right and profound duty to create as much sound as they can in order that the universe might know they are alive. Those rare times when traveling, I like to get up early and prowl the streets of wherever we might be, taking in the landscape and buildings in a much quieter setting. The few people who are there are either early morning folks like myself who gladly soak in the quiet or they have somewhere to go and are still quietly dazed from being dragged from their bed.

Either way, they don’t make much noise.

I wish I had more time to prattle on endlessly but even though it’s Sunday, it’s still a work day for me.  And a very busy one at that as I continue my prep work for my show that opens in less than two weeks. Still so much to do but I am enjoying seeing it come together. I find it exciting to revisit each piece as I frame them, seeing things that may have slipped my mind since I put the touch of paint to them and set them aside.

Take the painting above, a simple 6″ by 12″ piece that employs a boat motif I have revisited a number of times over the years. My challenge when doing that is to find something new within a narrow compositional parameter with but a couple of elements and little space to add more. The new has to come in the form of color and strokes and texture. And I think this piece, Race the Light, feels new and different than its predecessors. It has its own oomph, its own life and it draws me in anew.

So, in keeping with the boat theme for this week’s Sunday morning music I am going back to some 1980’s music and a song from World Party called Ship of Fools. The song was used in a much different form, much darker and menacing, near the end of the most recent episode of the great TV series Fargo. But the original is a good tune, a great bit of 80’s music. Plus the video is really of the time which sometimes might inspire a chuckle.  The lyrics may pertain to today and tomorrow as much as they did 30 years ago.

You be the judge. Enjoy and have a good day.

 

 

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Today and the next several days ahead are busy for me as I do prep work for the June 2 opening  of my solo show at the Principle Gallery. Even though it’s really hectic it’s not a disorienting kind of chaos. I’ve done this so many times that I understand the rhythm and timing that is required for these preparations.

That knowledge takes care of some of the anxiety but certainly not all of it. Every show has a level of trepidation as you worry about how it will be received. That particular anxiety will never go away and is actually, at least for me, kind of reassuring.  I tend to think that when I stop feeling that tension before a show I will have become complacent.

So, I am currently busy, anxious and worried. In other words, things are going about as good as can be expected.

I thought I’d share a nice video I found of the work of Van Gogh set to Don McLean‘s lovely ode to the artist, Vincent. It’s a very pleasant combination for a bustling Monday morning and definitely eases the nerves.

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Sunday morning and I just want to hear some music, something that will make me think, maybe move me a bit. I didn’t know what I was really looking for when I came across this John Prine song from his 2005 album,  Fair and Square. Even though I say it’s his song it was actually written by songwriter R. B. Morris. John Prine just sang it in that way he has that can either make you laugh or cry depending on the song.

This is one that doesn’t make you laugh. It might not make you cry but it will make you think a little bit and no doubt recognize yourself or someone you know in the lyrics of the song. The first verse dragged me in. Here’s That’s How Every Empire Falls. The lyrics are below.

Have yourself a good Sunday.

 
Caught a train from Alexandria
Just a broken man in flight
Running scared with his devils
Saying prayers all through the night
Oh but mercy can’t find him
Not in the shadows where he calls
Forsaking all his better angels
That’s how every empire falls

The bells ring out on Sunday morning
Like echoes from another time
All our innocence and yearning
and sense of wonder left behind
Oh gentle hearts remember
What was that story? Is it lost?
For when religion loses vision
That’s how every empire falls.

He toasts his wife and all his family
The providence he brought to bear
They raise their glasses in his honor
Although this union they don’t share
A man who lives among them
Was still a stranger to them all
For when the heart is never open
That’s how every empire falls

Padlock the door and board the windows
Put the people in the street
“It’s just my job,” he says “I’m sorry.”
And draws a check, goes home to eat
But at night he tells his woman
“I know I hide behind the laws.”
She says, “You’re only taking orders.”
That’s how every empire falls.

A bitter wind blows through the country
A hard rain falls on the sea
If terror comes without a warning
There must be something we don’t see
What fire begets this fire?
Like torches thrown into the straw
If no one asks, then no one answers
That’s how every empire falls.

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