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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Morning Music’


“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain


These certainly is a time of mental pain.  a It’s time with a lot of moving parts, so many things with so many repercussions all going on at one time. Everything, every emotion and passion, feels heightened.

And that can be overwhelming. After all, most of us devote our lives to avoiding pain and difficult emotions.

Unfortunately, there are times when it can’t be avoided.

This is such a time.

We will all have to dig deep into our inner reserves and call on whatever courage and strength we have accumulated there. And if our reserves feel lacking, don’t despair alone. As C.S. Lewis points out above, mental pain is hard to bear and trying to go it alone makes it even more difficult. Everyone–and I mean everyone–needs help now and then so in these times of super stress, reach out and let someone know.

The exposure is often purifying.

On that note, here’s song from someone who, several years ago, I never thought I’d be playing here. It’s Sign of the Times from Harry Styles, who came to fame as part of the manufactured British boy band phenoms, One Direction. But going out on his own, he has proved himself quite a talent and this song has stuck with me from the first time I heard it a few years back.

Give a listen, reach out to friends and family and have a decent day.


 

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I don’t need to be forgiven
For something I haven’t done
Nor for wanting my family
To find their place in the sun
If you keep this pressure on
Just don’t be surprised
If I can’t summon up my dignity
While you’re roughing up my pride

There will be a reckoning
For the peddlers of hate
Who spread their poison all across this estate
And a reckoning, too, for the politicians who
Left us to this fate
There will be a reckoning

Billy Bragg, There Will Be a Reckoning


Since we’re in the midst of another Labor Day weekend, albeit one certainly not in normal times, I was listening to some Billy Bragg, the British singer who has picked up the mantle of Woody Guthrie to become the voice for workers and the downtrodden. In fact, his Guthrie connection includes the fact that he provided most of the vocals for one of my favorites albums, Mermaid Avenue. It was a collaboration between Bragg and the group Wilco to set to music and record a group of unreleased Woody Guthrie songs that were just lyrics on paper.

The result was what I consider a brilliant album. But that’s one guy’s opinion.

I came across this song from Bragg that has been bouncing around for a while but seems to have relevance for these times. It’s called There Will Be a Reckoning. In different performances Bragg has talked about how since WWII and the defeat of the fascist forces that were threatening to overtake the planet, generations of politicians have neglected to honestly address the big issues that affect the majority of the population on this planet– financial inequality, social injustice and racism, food insecurity and adequate healthcare.

They usually just kick these concerns down the road in acts of expediency.

Expediency is often just another name for cowardice.

As a result, it has created a vacuum in which those with fascist tendencies and objectives can once again begin the rise to power through the division of the population through campaigns of fear and hatred. They see the neglected problems and, though they have no plan on ever correcting the deficits, use it as a prybar to separate the masses and set one group against the other.

And quite often they succeed. And fascism gains a strong toehold and takes power. And this leaves another generation to have someday fight to stop its spread.

Yeah, if it’s not stopped, there will definitely be a reckoning.

Here’s a live version of the song from several years ago. I am playing it to let you hear Bragg’s cockney accent and a few words on the song as he introduces it. The painting at the top is my A Time For Reckoning which is still at the West End Gallery and was part of my recent show there. I think it pairs well with this song and these times.

Have a good day.


 

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We starve, look at one another short of breath,
Walking proudly in our winter coats,
Wearing smells from laboratories,
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy,
Listening for the new told lies with supreme visions of
Lonely tunes.
Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of
Greatness.

— The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In), Hair

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The new painting above, World O’Wonder, is part of my new show at the West End Gallery that opens this week. It’s a 36″ by 36″ canvas that has a lot of oomph, a bold presence on the wall that proclaims the day. For me, I see it as a symbol of innate strength, the Red Tree serving as a fearless greeter of the new, one who see the beauty that abounds even in times of great difficulty.

I think it might be one of the more optimistic pieces from the show. Having works that have a forward looking stance, a sense of hope despite the prolonged battering we’re enduring at present, was important, both for my vision of the show and for my own attitude in the studio. Like anybody, I need to believe that, even though each day seems to bring a wave of foreboding darkness, there is some form of good, now and in the future. Something that tells me that we have the strength to endure the forces of hatred, cruelty and ignorance that seem so publicly on display in recent times.

I do believe we have that strength and I see it all over this painting. Beauty and goodness exists in this world, much more than the ugliness that rules the day. Like the lyrics above say: Somewhere, inside something, there is a rush of Greatness.

Before settling on this week’s Sunday morning music, I did the normal run down the rabbit hole, going through all sorts of artists,genres and time frames before finally coming to this song, The Flesh Failures ( Let the Sunshine In) from the 1968 Broadway hit, Hair. It matched up well with what I was seeing in World O’Wonder.

It’s an interesting song for me. It’s such a powerful song yet it hasn’t been covered by other artists nearly as much as many other songs from the Hair soundtrack. There are only a few covers out there and none match the original for my tastes. When I was reading the lyrics along to the song it struck me that David Bowie would have crushed this song. The cadence,rhythm, and phrasing of it sound as though it could have been one of his songs. Too bad we’ll never get to hear that.

Anyway, keep your eyes to the beauty around you, stand strong and actively fight for a better future. And have a good Sunday. Give a listen.

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“I’m not sure this will make sense to you but I felt as though I’d turned around to look in a different direction so that I no longer faced backward toward the past but forward toward the future. And now the question confronting me was this: What would the future be”

― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

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This small painting that is hanging as part of the Little Gems exhibit at the West End Gallery (opening Friday, February 7) is titled Memoir.

The thought behind that title was that that while the future seems uncertain as we look forward, our pasts as we recall them are often just as uncertain.

Our personal histories are a patchwork, like the sky in this painting, of half memories and dimly lit stories. Faces and names fade. Words once spoken are lost in the void. We have grainy snips and snaps of what we recall as significant moments and some surprisingly sharp images of insignificant moments that puzzle us, leaving us to wonder why they remain so clear.

Do they mean something more and we just don’t see their true meaning?

I looked at this small piece and wondered what I would include in my memoir. What would I pull from that haphazard patchwork that I would want to share now and into the future?

After sifting through the shards of broken memories, I come to the conclusion that I don’t want to write a memoir. Let my memoir show itself in my work, let my story be told in paint and line and shapes, a crude group of hieroglyphs that will no doubt go untranslated in generations to come.

Let the future, if it is so inclined, write my past. That shall be memoir enough for me.

For this Sunday morning music, here’s a song to go along with this painting. It’s the Nick Lowe pop classic, When I Write the Book.

Have a good Sunday.

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When it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.
You sit on your fence and you scream about justice.
Between the have and have-not’s only one feels the difference.
And when it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.
When it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.

Rival Sons, Get What’s Coming

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This is a little raucous for a Sunday morning but I think that’s just the way it has to be this morning. Just warning you.

Over the past few years, we have been subjected to reports of constant wrongdoing by this administration, ranging from ridiculous amounts of lying about things both monumental and trivial to corruption and abuses of power to actual atrocity.

This administration knows no bottom.

There is just so much wrong taking place that it’s hard to keep track of all the wrongs without losing sight of some.

Take for example, this week reports surface that the number of children detained by this administration is upwards of 70,000 now and that babies born to women in ICE detention are taken away without any way for independent child welfare observers, or the mother for that matter, to know their whereabouts.

Is this what we want to be now?

Or take another example, the president* grants a pardon to a soldier who is accused of war crimes, killing innocent non-combatants. This pardon goes against the advice and wishes of the Pentagon and its internal justice system. Nine members of this criminal’s own company testified against him and none backed him up in any way for his actions. This gives this nation and the military a black eye and makes the job of our troops even more dangerous.

Is this what we want to be now?

Or in Syria, reports last night of massive attacks against the Kurds, our longtime allies who we abandoned with little notice. There are reports of U.S. military officials expressing that they are ashamed and sickened by our treachery. While we have prided ourselves as being the “good guys” to the rest of the world, we are quickly becoming the “bad guys.” Our word is no longer our bond. Why would anyone trust us now, especially when being asked to sacrifice, to fight and die on our behalf?

Is this what we want to be now?

I could go on and on. Wrong after wrong after wrong after wrong, ad infinitum. Countless lies and deception. Abuses of power and a twisting of our laws and the Constitution. Massive amounts of corruption and self-serving. Every act seems designed to punish the public in general in some way while only benefiting those with great wealth or power.

Is this who we want to be now?

I don’t think it is. There have been points in these past three years that have been depressing and deflating, where it looks like we won’t be able to stop the fast slide we are on into real authoritarianism or at least a system of where wealthy connected oligarchs run everything behind a wall of sham democracy. Some of those days, the present and the future has looked very dark especially when you see family and friends eagerly accept the lies and deceptions without actually giving any real thought to future repercussions.

But there are signs that it does not have to go that way, that we can regain our footing once again. That we can be the nation that we want to be, the nation that we believe we are. There are cracks forming and the recognition by the general public of the great wrong before is starting to take hold.

Karma, my friends. What goes around, comes around. And those who know better, who knowingly are complicit to the corruption and deceit that has and is taking place, to the disassembling of the American system of governance and justice, had better either have a come to Jesus moment soon or brace themselves for a hard fall.

Because when it comes back around you’re gonna get what’s coming.

And it’s coming back around soon.

Okay, here’s the song for this Sunday, an electric Get What’s Coming from Rival Sons.

Brace yourselves.

And have a good Sunday.

 

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Stopped in at the West End Gallery yesterday to see how the work from my new show, Moments of Color, looked on the walls.

I was pleased.

You can only get a small sense of how the work for a show will hang together when it’s still in the studio. The paintings are scattered all over, some in different rooms and some obstructing others. Almost none of them are in frames. I never get to see them fully presented, hanging clearly in direct relationship to one another.

So it’s always interesting to see how the show comes together on the walls, to see if a unifying theme emanates, and to see what pieces jump forward. In this case, the color mentioned in the show’s title is made abundantly clear. It is a show filled with color.

I’ve written here before about coming to painting because I wasn’t seeing the paintings I wanted to see, wasn’t experiencing the colors I wanted to feel. This  show comes close to meeting that desire for color, especially the fully saturated deep tones. They show themselves well on the gallery walls and actually serve as the unifying theme for the show. Even in the Multitudes pieces that feature masses of faces, it is the color of those pieces that binds them to the other works in this show.

One of the pieces, along with so many others, that seemed to jump off the wall for me was the piece shown above, La Belle Vie. That translates from French as the good life or the beautiful life. Either works for me. With its clarity of line and color in its skies, hills and flowerbeds along with its size, 36″ high by 18″ wide, it is a piece that has a real presence on the wall for my eyes.

As an artist, sensing that presence in a piece is an extremely gratifying feeling. It’s a feeling of completeness, as though I have done as much as I am capable of in this piece at this point in time. And that makes it a statement of who and what I am as an artist– and a person– at this point. I guess that kind of sums up my feelings on this painting.

Jesse and Lin have done a tremendous job hanging this show. Hope you can make the opening reception at the West End Gallery this coming Friday. It begins at 5 and runs until 7:30 PM. If not, hope you can stop in and take a look.

For this Sunday morning music, I have chosen a song called Beautiful Tango sung by Hindi Zahara, a Morocco born singer that is based in Paris. Love the feel and pace of this song. It seems to jibe well with La Belle Vie above. I could see the Red Tree dancing a tango here. Give a listen and have a good day.

 

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And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop, but they push you back in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outta that hole and back up on the street…

–Bruce Springsteen, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City

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The other day, I was working on another of the Multitudes pieces, a 12″ square canvas that was featuring a halo or at least a gold orb hanging over one of the faces. The painting started with this central haloed character and the rest of the faces grew out from it. The faces other than the one with the halo were originally going to be many shades of blues and purples but while I was working, a song from Bruce Springsteen‘s first album in 1973, Greetings From Asbury Park NJ, came on.

I could lie here (as I have been known to do on occasion) and say that it was It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. That would make for a nice tidy little tale.

But it was actually Spirit in the Night. At first I thought that maybe I should use that title for this piece. It would work pretty well, especially with the dark blues and purples. But  instead I instantly saw in my head the title from another song from that album, It’s Hard to Be a Saint. It fit even better. The painting already had a saintly halo, for god’s sake. So I decided to go back at the surrounding faces and give them a green, jaundiced tone. Give them a uniformly alien appearance that would contrast against the lightness of the haloed one.

It works for me, at least. You may or may not like it and, again, that’s okay.

Anyway, here’s the song that gives this painting its title. It’s early Springsteen so its densely worded in its lyrics, the thing that really attracted me to his work at first. Many of the songs from his first albums felt more like short stories or novellas than songs. As his work evolved, his best work moved from this sense of literature with intimate, wordy description to one that felt more cinematic, with broader, sweeping vistas. I like both styles but this early work still appeals deeply to something in me.

Give a listen and have a good Sunday. And a good Father’s Day.

 

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All over the place this morning as I looked for a piece of music. Went from the 1970’s funk of Curtis Mayfield to 1990’s Tom Waits to Pete Townsend at the Secret Policeman’s Ball to Tom Morello and Rage Against the Machine to early and late Warren Zevon to a William Burroughs spoken word piece (Seven Souls) set against an electro beat. There was also some Jimmy Reed blues and some Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

It was fun, as always, one of my favorite parts of doing this blog. I like sliding down those rabbit holes, moving from one thing to another connected by some vague association recognized by an algorithm that is well beyond my comprehension.

But despite it all, nothing hit the spot that I wanted to hit this morning. I felt all out of rhythm in a way. Then I somehow fell on this bit of music.

I don’t exactly know what connection led to this piece, a classical guitar performance of a composition, Oblivion, from the late Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla. It is performed by contemporary Ukrainian guitarist Nadja Kossinskaja and it just seemed to fit the feeling of the morning at this point in time.

It finally got me back in rhythm and back on track, regardless of how I got to it.

Give a listen. It’s good stuff and a good way to kick off a Sunday whether it’s wet and gray, as it is here, or sunny and warm. Have a good day.

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The moon, like a flower

In heaven’s high bower,

With silent delight

Sits and smiles on the night.

—William Blake

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Finished this new painting just the other day. It’s a very quiet, almost meditative piece that I am calling Moon Flowers.

It’s a piece that I find myself looking at a lot these past couple of days. While it is simply constructed, there are some there things taking place in it that keep my eye occupied. The relationships between the beds of flowers, for example, with their individual color vibrations and shapes. Or the relationship between the moon and the path below. There seems to be a connection between the two.

These relationships and the organic quality of the lines within it give it an abstract quality that I like very much. If I just let my mind go where it desires, it allows me to move beyond what seems to be represented and see something quite different.

Or rather, feel something quite different.

And ultimately, that is what I hope for in my work– to move the viewer beyond the representation of the image presented. How that’s done, I do not know. Maybe the answer is somewhere on that path under that moon. Maybe that is what I am seeing in this picture that is pulling me in.

Only time will tell.

So, for this Sunday morning music let’s go with a piece with an apt title, Moonflower, the title track of a 1977 album from the great Carlos Santana. Hard to believe this piece is over forty years old now. Time!

Have a great day.

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Want to keep it short this morning as I want to get right to work on a piece that is on the easel. And that desire to go right to the brushes is a good thing, an indicator that a groove is coming.

So, for this Sunday morning here are a couple of noir-ish photos to accompany one of  my favorite songs, Stolen Car, from the 1980 album ,The River, from Bruce Springsteen. The mood of this song, especially within its organ and piano lines, always moves me.

Good painting music.

Have a good Sunday…

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