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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

This Sunday morning’s musical selection is tied somewhat to a group of new work that has been rekindling my fire here in the studio. I’ve shown a couple of images of new paintings here and on social media of what I might call my Mask pieces.

Each has been a group of faces that is done in quick strokes from a single brush, starting from one point and filling the canvas. It is unplanned in almost every way. No color plan. No theme. Just intuitively and roughly formed faces that stem from a lifelong collection of faces that have been stacked in my head, culled from looking intently at clouds, woodgrains and patterns of all sorts through the many decades. Seeing them spill out in this way has been energizing in a way that I know from experience will spill over into the rest of my work even if this particular work remains for me privately.

I haven’t been thrilled with how the camera is catching the images thus far. They have been quick photos that don’t fully capture much of the subtlety in the closer parts of the painting. So when the musical selection came up this morning, this section of one of the paintings jumped out at me. I thought showing it in detail would better show how I am seeing the work.

The song selection is the jazz standard Born to Be Blue, written by Mel Torme in 1946. It’s been performed by scores of singers over the years but it became a signature piece for the late Chet Baker.which is the version I am sharing below. In fact, a 2015 film biography of his life starring Ethan Hawke as Baker uses the song title as the film’s title. This version highlights his vocals rather than his horn work and features great piano playing from Bobby Scott.

Hearing it made me think of a blue face that I consider a central character in one of these pieces. At least my eye always lands on him first before roaming across the rest of the picture. The image at the top is a detail featuring him and shows better some of the surface and textures that compose the painting.

That being said, I am eager to get back to work on a new piece in this same style. Enjoy the song and have a great Sunday.

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Not much to say today, feeling a little rundown. Looking for a spark in some way, something to get the engines running at higher rpm’s, but can’t find anything in the music I’ve been listening to this morning that does the job. So I’ll resign myself to just holding on until that livelier spirit comes again.

The song that seems to jibe best with that feeling is the old Creedence song, Long As I Can See the Light. Here’s a nice version from the late Ted Hawkins, a name most likely unknown to most of us. He was one of those incredibly gifted artists who was always just short of meeting Lady Luck. Oh, he saw her a few times but it was just in passing as she gave him a flirting glance.

Here in the States, he was primarily a street performer who was “found” a number of times by record producers who could never quite put it all together for him. He gained much more recognition headlining shows in Europe, moving at one point to the UK. He was deported back to USA and reverted to being simply a street busker. He finally achieved a bit of a breakthrough when Geffen Records signed him and produced what might have been his breakthrough record, The Next Hundred Years. I say might have been because Hawkins died from a stroke at the age of 58 in 1995, only months after the release of the album.

Lady Luck is a fickle flirt, indeed.

But here’s his powerful version of the CCR classic. Enjoy.

The painting above is a new piece, Prodigal, that is included in the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery that opens this coming Friday, February 8.

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We live in a time of chaos and confusion, amidst a constant bombardment of information and misinformation, an indecipherable babble of yelled opinions and enough stupidity to fill all the oceans and flood every coastline of this planet.

And that’s on a good day.

This morning I found myself longing for something, some music or reading, that would take me away from this maelstrom of madness. I came to the music of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt whose piece Tabula Rasa was a big influence on my early work.

His work is the antidote to the turbulence of our time. It is what I would call slow music. It is the sort of music that requires you to pause to hear it fully. Doing so slows down the elevated heartbeat, syncs it to a pace that seems to be a meditative drone that has long resided in us though we have long forgotten our ability to find it within ourselves.

For quite some time I have enjoyed Pärt’s adaptation of My Heart’s in the Highlands, which is a 1789 poem/song from the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Listening to it reminds me of the time spent alone wandering in the woods and fields in the hills around our home as a youth. Those times had that same pace, that same heartbeat and silence that made it so memorable in my mind.

Many times I have found my mind wandering back to those times and the spaces and silences that created a sense of home within me. Burns’ words speak a truth for me especially in these times so filled with sound and fury.

Allow yourself to pause for a moment and give a listen. Perhaps you will find your own heart in the highlands…

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer –

A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North

The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;

Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,

The hills of the Highlands forever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover’d with snow;

 Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;  

Farewell to the forrests and wild-hanging woods;

Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer

Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

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Snowing like made still. Been out plowing for a couple of hours already this morning, just trying to keep the driveway open, and there is definitely a few more hours of plowing ahead. But I thought I’d take a break, drink some coffee and try to throw out some music for a snowy Sunday morning.

Came up with an old song, Valley of Tears, written and performed originally in 1957 by Fats Domino and covered by a number of other artists over the years. Buddy Holly did a version that charted in 1961 that had a skating rink/ magic organ quality to it but I really like this version from the late great Solomon Burke accompanied by one of my favorites, Gillian Welch, and her husband David Rawlings.

Solomon Burke was one of the early greats in the transition period between R&B and Soul. He was a real preacher and blended the spiritual and the physical aspects of soul– the sex and the salvation– into his music. He never got the acclaim as some of the other big names of 60’s Soul but he is is revered.

This is a great, heartfelt performance of the song. Give a listen while I get back to my own valley of tears. If you consider the falling snow tears, that is. Have a good day.

 

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Before nodding off last night, I began watching the 1942 movie Casablanca for what might be the the nine hundred and fifty first time. It’s one of those films that is easy to jump in and out of because there is always something to relish at any given moment– a memorable scene, shot, line or piece of music. It is chock full of small pleasures that totally add to a greater whole.

Perhaps the greatest of these pleasures is the performance of Dooley Wilson who plays Sam, the star performer at Rick’s Cafe Americain. His musical performances light up the screen, most notably the song As Time Goes By which has taken on legendary status.

Watching and listening to it last night made me think about how it was a fitting song for the end of the year, a wistful looking back as the clock marches on.

The song was written in 1931 by Herman Hupfeld for a Broadway show, Everybody’s Welcome, that had a short run. It went on to have modest success as recording by a number of record labels and orchestras. Herman Hupfeld was a minor songwriter of the era who you wouldn’t think would be the composer of a song that would turn out to be one of the great classics of the American songbook. He wrote some popular songs of the time that have long faded into the dustbin of history. I’ve included one at the bottom just to give you a taste.

As Time Goes By almost didn’t make it into the movie. The musical director, Max Steiner, was opposed to its inclusion but was overruled by the movie’s producers. Then in post-production they considered dropping it but because star Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for another part, they couldn’t possibly reshoot the scenes that already contained the song. So, it remained and became one of the most memorable parts of a true classic.

I wonder how the the film would have felt without it.

So, for this New Year’s Eve day, here’s the original along with that other Herman Hupfeld classic, , When Yuba Plays the Rhumba on the Tuba. Have a good New Year’s eve.


 

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Mad Rush

End of year blah.

Too much of some and not nearly enough of others.

Gray light and the clock races to an endpoint in a mad rush.

Then the new year. Tick tock.

Thought this might be a good point to play Mad Rush from Philip Glass as the last choice for this year’s Sunday morning music selection.  It has an ethereal, almost cosmic feel that seems appropriate for the frantic race to the end of one year and the transition to the subdued and tenuous beginning of the next.

It’s a gorgeous piece which was written for the Dalai Lama‘s first North American address back in 1979. Written originally for organ– it was written on the organ at the Saint John the Divine Cathedral in NY– it was meant to be a open-ended piece that could be shortened or extended without the audience noticing to accommodate the vague timetable of the Dalai Lama’s scheduled appearance. It has been recognized over the years as an iconic piece of modern music. Glass performs it here in Montreal from 2015.

The image at the top is a painting of Glass by Chuck Close who has painted the composer several times including one done solely with fingerprints that I featured in a favorite blog entry that I’ve run a couple times. If you look closely, you can see how this painting is a great example of  Close’s unique style of pixelation.

Enjoy the last Sunday of this mad year. Have a great day.

 

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I was listening to some music early this morning and came across this song, one that I hadn’t heard in a number of years. Thought it might be a good one to share if only to show the painting that adorned the album cover from which it came.

The painting is from Pieter Bruegel the Elder from 1559. It is titled Netherlandish Proverbs and contains depictions of at least 112 proverbs or idioms used by the Dutch at the time. Some are still in use, such as “Banging your head against a brick wall” which you can see in the bottom left hand corner. Others have faded from usage, like”Having one’s roof tiled with tarts” which indicates that one is very wealthy.

If you go to the Wikipedia page for the painting there is a great list of the the proverbs along with the imagery for each. I am enjoying it as I work my way through the list. Even without the list, looking closely at a Bruegel painting is always a great pleasure.

The painting was used on the cover of the Seattle based Fleet Foxes‘ self-titled 2008 first album. The song is White Winter Hymnal which works well for this time of the season. The lyrics are actually kind of nonsensical but the song is lovely and the video is interesting. The song has also been covered by the acapella group Pentatonix.

So, take a look at the painting and hopefully you will enjoy the song and video. Have a good day.

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