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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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The film Jojo Rabbit premiered on HBO over the weekend, which made me very happy. It hits a lot of sweet spots for me.

A great cast and a script filled with a beguiling mix of dark satire and tragic poignancy. Strong visuals. Big laughs and plenty of tears. Ridiculous (but still scary) Nazis.

Hitler eating a unicorn.

Yeah, you read that right.

There’s even some poetry from Rainer Maria Rilke as the film ends, a snippet from his poem Go to the Limits of Your Longing, which is shown at the top. Words that seem applicable to this time, for sure.

It also uses its soundtrack brilliantly. It begins with the Beatles singing their German version of I Want to Hold Your Hand over archival clips of Hitler’s adoring fans at huge nationalistic rallies that are chilling in their magnitude and fervor. Images from the infamous Nuremberg rally always puts a knot in my stomach. The film ends with the German performance from David Bowie of his always rousing Heroes.

Filmmaker Taika Waititi also makes brilliant use of the song Everybody’s Gotta Live. It’s a song from 1972 from a band of that era, Love, that is very underappreciated. Led by the late Arthur Lee, it was an interesting group, a multiracial group that dabbled in folk rock and psychedelia a la the Byrds. Their 1967 release, Forever Changes, is on the Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Rock Albums and was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2011.

Even so, I am sure most of us haven’t heard much of their work. But it shines in Jojo Rabbit and is certainly worth examining further.

Here’s a video with the lyrics and images from the film just to give you taste. If you get a chance to see the film, I recommend it highly. But be forewarned, that it is art and, as such, is a subjective thing. What I love may not move you at all.

Take a look and give a listen then have a good day. We all deserve one.

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Ah, some time off. It does a body good.

I enjoyed the time spent not writing the blog this week. It allowed me to readjust things a bit, put some things back into my personal rotation that I had let slip in recent times. It was time to examine things and think a bit without feeling the need to send it out into the world. Read a bit. Listen to some music that I had slipped by me.

There will be time in days ahead to talk about such things. Today, I am back briefly just to introduce this week’s Sunday morning music. It’s a song from the last album from Leonard Cohen just before his death in 2016 at the age of 82.

It’s titled You Want It Darker. 

With its ominous bass line and its focus on our mortality mixed with Old Testament imagery and a , it seems fitting for these times.

One of the words used in the chorus of the song is Hineni, the Hebrew word meaning Here I am. It was the response from Moses to God speaking to him through the burning bush. It was the answer from Abraham to the voice of God who then instructed him to slay his son. And it was the response from Isaiah when he hears the voice of God ask, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It is generally an indication of faith and total commitment without question while awaiting one’s appointed task.

Here, Cohen seems to be questioning God. He’s not asking the listener if they want it darker. Seeing the way the world has descended into darkness, he is grilling God, almost questioning whether this deepening darkness is somehow the desire of God. There’s an edge of anger when he asks and replies: You want it darker/ We kill the flame.

It’s a powerful song, one that haunted me this past week. It reminds me that we are in for some trying times in the months ahead and that we need to be fully prepared to endure whatever is thrown our way.

Ready to say, with total commitment, HineniHere I am.

Have a good Sunday.

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“Sovereign Solitude”- Now at the West End Gallery

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“10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.”

― Susan Sontag

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I was going to talk about some current events– the Portland protest moms, the opening of baseball and its integration of protest within it, the return of the term Death Panels in some areas to determine who gets or doesn’t get covid-19 treatments, and so on, maybe even share comedian Sarah Cooper’s brilliant treatment of the absurd Person*Woman*Man*Camera*TV episode– but I just can’t do it this morning.

Instead, I am thinking about the words above from author Susan Sontag and it has a ring of truth for me. Some are going to respond with cruelty in any situation– we all know someone like that, don’t we?— while some will always express a form of mercy and care. The rest of us hover somewhere in the middle, sometimes going back and forth toward the two extremes.

And so long as this stays in some sort of balance, that large groups of us don’t start moving toward the side of cruelty, it remains  a tolerable situation. Livable.

I worry that the acceptance of cruelty and the rejection of mercy has become too easy a choice for too many. Too many react without empathy, without the thought of others’ struggles and without considering how their own demeaning of others ultimately demeans themselves.

I would like to say if I am not merciful that I at least lean toward the side of mercy. Maybe just being aware of these poles of reaction is a start toward a world with a bit more mercy.

As always, I don’t know.

And the world keeps turning…

Here’s a lovely piece of new music from composer Max Richter that is custom made for this discussion. It includes a thought provoking video that I conclude must have been produced before the pandemic. I think we all notice things like people riding subways without masks or people hugging a little more now.

Anyway, please take a few moments and give a listen. It might help a bit.

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“One way or another, all the bridges between that time and this one have been burned. Time’s a reach, too, you know, just like the one that lies between the islands and the mainland, but the only ferry that can cross it is memory, and that’s like a ghost-ship – if you want it to disappear, after awhile it will.”

Stephen King, Dolores Claiborne

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I call this piece, at 16″ by 40″ on canvas, Carried Across. Included in my current annual show at the West End Gallery, it’s a painting that brims with potential interpretations for me. The ferry between the living and the dead is the one that jumps out, of course.

But the one offered up above, taken from a Stephen King novel, probably meshes best with my personal view of this painting.

We are always losing people as age takes its toll. Apart from just the loss of that person and all that that entails, we also lose a bridge to their experiences and the memories they held of them. Personal histories, lesser known details and larger myths are often lost in the void as this bridge collapses.

That came to mind in a very personal way the other day as I was able to visit my father for the first time in four months.His nursing facility had instituted a process that allowed one family member to visit a resident under very strict guidelines and I was able to see him in an outdoor courtyard, under an open tent. The process has since been put on hold as a staff member tested positive for the virus.

But sitting there with him was difficult. He was in a large reclining wheelchair and his head was bandaged in a turban-like manner to cover the wound and infection on the side of his head. He was way gone from the fentanyl and morphine he is given to ease the pain, his eyes only fluttering open for milliseconds at any given time. The nurse tried to point me out but he wasn’t able to move his focus my way.

I sat there for a bit just watching him. His hands went to his head covering in a rhythmic way, running his fingers lightly over the cotton mesh that held it in place. At one point he removed his mask and, with eyes completely closed, held it out in front of him while neatly folding it up. He then tried to out it in his pocket under the blanket that covered him. He then checked his wristwatch which was completely covered by the protective arm coverings he wears to prevent him from picking at the sores on his arms. He did this, too, without opening his eyes but seemed to be satisfied and let his head drop back to the one side where fell naturally.

I chuckled lightly at that. But having him there in front of me, still alive but so very far away at the same time, reminded me of all the stories and memories that are lost to us now. The good and bad, the funny and the tragic, the day to day reminiscences– all gone and inaccessible. I have known this for some time as we have witnessed the progress of his dementia but there was a finality in that visit.

It was like I had made that crossing on that ferry and had returned with a still empty chair.

Over the years, I have often regretted the lost opportunities in seeking out the stories and memories that bind us to our preceding generations. This is made especially clear when I work on genealogy and come across episodes or people that I would love to know more about. How they really were, how they talked, the little foibles and details that made them human that can’t be captured in documents or news reports.

That is the stuff of memory.

Maybe that should be the subtitle for this piece– Carried Across ( The Stuff of Memory).

Okay, here’s a song to go along with this painting, an attachment I made yesterday when the song came up on my playlist. It’s The Passenger from the godfather of punk, Iggy Pop. It’s a great tune, one that seems to be a staple for every alt-rock singer that comes along to cover.

Iggy Pop is an interesting and often downplayed character in the annals of rock music. One of my favorite memories of him was his appearance in 1977 on the Dinah Shore show where he sat down with the always hospitable Dinah Shore, David Bowie and Rosemary Clooney to talk about cutting himself with a broken bottle as part of a performance. It came out years later that he and Dinah Shore– who had an extremely long list of relationships and hookups through the decades– were an item for a bit. But seeing him on a show singing Fun Time on the same show where Rosemary Clooney sings Come On-a My House is everything you could hope for on a 1970’s daytime talk show.

One more little factoid: The sons of comedian Soupy Sales were members of Iggy’s band at that time. Younger readers are probably asking who the hell is Soupy Sales. Ask your parents or grandparents before those bridges burn down.

Anyway, here’s The Passenger. Have a good day if you can.

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Like much of this country, I am bracing for the heat we’re expecting today. I don’t have much to say this morning. Just want to veg out a bit. Read some things I haven’t been able to get to. Listen to some music I haven;t heard in a long time. Look at some photos.

You know, just avoid the sun and stay cool.

So, I am going to get at it. Here’s a little music for this steamy Sunday. It’s a song from Dwight Yoakam, someone whose songwriting and performance seldom disappoints. He holds a unique niche in American music, country but outside the popular genre. He did an acoustic album of his greatest hits all the way back in 2000 that’s a wonderful piece of work. Hearing the songs sung with only a stark guitar accompaniment really emphasizes the structure and strength of the compositions. This song, Throughout All Time, is from that CD. I am throwing in A thousand Miles From Nowhere from the same CD just for good measure.

I am including an image above from my West End show that I think fits nicely with this song. It’s one of my Baucis and Philemon pieces called Island of Bliss.

Have a good Sunday.


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A clammy Saturday morning and my mind seems a bit foggy and tired. I’ve sat here for awhile now and I don’t feel like writing a damn thing. Don’t want to talk about anything. Don’t want to gripe about the goings on in the world or hear any more news this morning. Don’t want to talk about my work or myself, that’s for sure.

Just want to let my mind wander a bit.

Or not. Maybe just stare at the wall.

Or play some mindless scales on the guitar.

Anyway, here’s an old favorite of mine from  Howlin’ Wind, the 1976 debut album from Graham Parker. Great album. This song is Don’t Ask Me Questions and has been a constant refrain in my head since that time whenever I come across those days where I am tired and don’t want to be bothered by questions and chit chat.

Let’s just say that it has received a lot of airtime in my head over those many years.

I am pairing it with a new piece at the top that’s part of my upcoming show at the West End Gallery. Hey, I may not want to talk but a guy still has to eat. It’s called Play For Light, something I am hoping to accomplish this morning.

Wishing you all a good day.

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And if your friends think that you should do it different
And if they think that you should do it the same
You’ve got it, just keep on pushing and, keep on pushing and
Push the sky away

—Nick Cave, Push the Sky Away

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I don’t have the energy or will to say much this morning. I just want to get back to work, prepping my show, From a Distance, for the West End Gallery that I will deliver later this week in advance of the show’s opening on Friday, July 17. The show is coming together well and I find myself more and more pleased as each piece is completed with its framing.

Much like my recent Principle Gallery show, this wasn’t an easy show for me. There was a lot of frustration and high levels of anxiety, both from my reaction to these times and to some other things taking place in my world. Lots of distractions and aggravations pulled at my attention and disrupted any semblance of rhythm I could find.

Just getting to work was work in itself.

But you just keep at it. Keep pushing. Turn it around and use the frustration as fuel.

Push the sky away, as the song says.

One of the new pieces from this show is at the top, one called Far Away Eyes. This was one of the pieces that helped me fight through the barriers that were there for this show. It was a struggle in itself to complete and there were times when I wanted to trash it. But I kept at it, kept believing that it held something for me.

And it did. As I worked, it began to fall into a rhythm that spoke to me and when it felt done, it felt right. The effort seemed insignificant at that point, a small price to get to where it was.

Just keep pushing the sky away, much as it appears the sun is doing to the sky in the painting.

Here’s a performance from this past December from Nick Cave at the Sydney Opera House. He’s singing his song, Push the Sky Away. It’s worth a listen.

Have a good Sunday.

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Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

–Let’s Go Fly a Kite, Richard and Robert Sherman

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I thought it might be time start showing some work from my upcoming solo show, From a Distance, that opens July 15 at the West End Gallery in Corning. There are definitely different takes on a variety of themes in this show so deciding which piece should kick off the process was tough. But given the many current events– or should I say disasters?– taking place in this country, I thought the painting here at the top would be a gentle starter.

The idea of flying a kite seems so much more preferable than going into the closet and screaming into the darkness.

The title of this piece is Let’s Go Fly a Kite, borrowed, of course, from the song of that name from the 1964 Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. It’s a wonderful song that aptly captures the idea of putting aside your problems and releasing yourself to soar with your kite high above and far removed from worldly problems. I hope that is what one gets from this piece, whose image is sized at 10″ by 16″ and framed and matted at 16″ by 22″.

I never saw Mary Poppins as a kid nor did I read the books. I came to both in middle age, actually. But even so, the magic of both remained intact.  a few years back I came across a large single volume that contained all of author  P.L. TraversMary Poppins books and decided that it might be worth reading. I am glad I did. It was funny and touching and engaging on many levels. Just a great read. Made me regret not being interested in them as a kid.

I thought I would share the song here but decided to not show the one from the film. Instead, I am taking the version from another Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. This film, starring Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, is the story of how Disney wooed the crusty Travers who was dead set against him making her book into a movie. She steadfastly opposed every and any change to her baby and thought the idea of a Disney musical treatment of her story was beyond the pale.

This version comes at a point in the Saving Mr. Banks film where she is near making a decision to withhold the filming rights from Disney. She is called into the work studio of the Sherman Brothers, the legendary songwriting team that wrote  many of the best known Disney tunes along with scores of other songs for other artists. Up to this point, Travers has been disdainful of their work that they have previously presented her for the film and in a final attempt to sway her, they perform the song Let’s Go Fly a Kite for her.

It’s a lovely turning point in the film and a nice version of the song as well. So, for a while at least, put aside thoughts of pandemics, of racial divides, of a treasonous and derelict president and all the other horrors that come as part and parcel of the current apocalypse, and think about the giddy thrill of watching your kite take to the air.

Soar with it for a bit. Or a little longer, if need be.

 

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“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

–Wendell Berry

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Man, I want to rage this morning.

It would certainly be easy to do so. We are going through multiple serious crises right now in this country and the ship of state which would normally lead and assist us through this is being steered by a creature whose attitude towards his duty is self-serving and neglectful, at its best, and traitorous, at its worst.

Maybe even treasonous, given yesterday’s revelations.

But I don’t want to go that route. Like the poet Wendell Berry’s words above, this president*** willingly lives his life in the realms of rats and roaches. Today, let’s focus on the flip side of that coin, the human side that lives under the laws of justice and mercy.

Where most of us are privileged to live.

Let’s have some hope that truth will overcome the many falsehoods and lies. That intelligence will prevail over stupidity and science over ignorance. Let’s hope that a sense of community and good will shall sweep away the hateful and selfish behaviors exhibited so often these days.

Let’s just keep a little hope alive and remember these days when they finally come to an end so that perhaps we can avoid them in the future.

That’s asking a lot, I know. For this Sunday morning music here’s a classic song from the great American songbook. It was written by Stephen Foster (who has local connections to this area) in 1854 at a time when America was going through equally hard times in those years leading up to the Civil War. This is Hard Times Come No More as performed by Mavis Staples. It’s such a great tune that there is a multitude of  wonderful versions out there but I just felt like Mavis’ version fit the moment for me.

Give a listen. Keep your head up and have a good Sunday.

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Hard Times Come No More

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh Hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

While we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more

— Stephen Foster

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Fe fe fi fi fo fo fum
I smell smoke in the auditorium

Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown
He’s gonna get caught; just you wait and see
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?)

–Charlie Brown, The Coasters, composed by Leiber and Stoller

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Busy today so I am going to make this short and sweet. As much as I would like to rub salt into the wounds of the president*** and his pitiful gaggle of attendees at the much ballyhooed Festival of Victimization and Racist Pride ( that would look good on a t-shirt, wouldn’t it?) that took place in Tulsa over the weekend, I am going to refrain.

Thought I would instead simply share a song. It’s an oldie from way back in 1959 from the joyful Coasters that just felt right this morning. With apologies to Charles Schulz, here’s Charlie Brown.

Have a good day!

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