Category Archives: Social Commentary

Giving Voice: It Was Children – and – It Was Intentional

Andrew James MurrayMy blogger-poet-friend, Andy, is a native Mancunian. These are excerpts taken from his account of and reactions to this attack of the innocents.

Quote symbolAround the time I went to bed the bomb went off.

I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.

There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.

The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep…

…Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted.

It was children. Continue reading

My SwS Project: from there to here

My blogger-buddy Anna visited Las Cruces, New Mexico for the first time a few weeks ago and posted a few photos and thoughts on the desert.  What a treat to see the familiar through her newbie eyes.

How serendipitous!

Mama Goat, Tater & Kids

Final Goat Family Portrait: Larry, Terry Scape, Mama Goat and Tater

I’ve been immersed in that period of time during our between homes journey lovingly referred to as living ‘on the compound in the desert outside Las Cruces, New Mexico’.  Place where my Goat Suite Saga was born.

In less than two weeks portions of my Swimming with Swans project are going to be presented for the first time to the general public. MamaGoat, Tater, TerryScape and little Larry along with all of us humans and critters of the compound will be introduced to a group of locals as far away from life in the desert as one in the US can get. I often joke that we came from a Mile High here to the Swamplands…but we also came by way of the High Dry Desert.

Most readers of this blog know that I received a Puffin Foundation Grant for the recording of my Swimming with Swans: the music. One of the requirements for gaining the grant involved the pre-securing of a venue in which to present completed grant-proposal material.

Here’s the thing, The Goodwill Cultural Center found me.

Goodwill Parochial School with restoration sign

Goodwill Parochial School becomes The Goodwill Cultural Center

If not for Camden Writer and author, Brenda Bevan Remmes, I would have never known of this special spot nestled within an isolated area between Mayesville and Sumter, South Carolina*. Steeped in a long history of struggle, nurture, and yes, healing – The Goodwill Cultural Center aka The Goodwill Parochial School was recently restored to serve as a local heritage and arts center – offering historical, cultural and educational events to the public.

Brenda introduced me to this gem in the swamp about two years ago when the GCC held one of their first sponsored events by the Magnolia Singers from Charleston – shortly after the Emanuel AME Church shootings. I was amazed at the group’s desire to reach out in their hurt and offer insights into their culture while spreading a healing balm through their talented singing.Goodwill Cultural Center logo

WINDOW TO THE WORLD

REFLECTING ON OUR PAST AND ENVISIONING OUR FUTURE, WE AFFIRM THE RICH HERITAGE OF THE GOODWILL SCHOOL THAT OPENED DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY IN 1870, AND THAT IS A WINDOW TO THE WORLD TODAY THROUGH THE GOODWILL CULTURAL CENTER.
(mission statement)

I don’t pretend to understand the South. However, I have found a slice of something I like to call the ‘true spirit of a southern community’ in the Goodwill Cultural Center.

Over the course of these two years in attending various events at the GCC, I’ve observed the interactions between the locals. It’s obvious to this outsider the love and commitment these individuals have towards each other and towards working through its own healing-path. A sort of living reconciliation rooted in historical interconnectedness which touches me deeply.

This is a slice of the South I admire; a slice of the South not often seen by outsiders.

As such, I am both humbled and honored to be a small part in the GCC’s continuing legacy as a featured guest on Saturday, June 3rd.

 *about a 45 minute drive SW of FloTown

Giving Voice: “Das eigene Haus”

Sarah from Art Expedition

Sarah from Art Expedition

Sarah of Art Expedition graciously gave me permission to post her photo and essay on my Giving Voice series.  We both stand united against the indifference towards those displaced populations within our respective countries (in addition to the wider world scenario) – and do what we can within our (he)art to Give Voice…

Sarah is a German artist and art historian whose creations delight my senses. As a guest artist for The Strix collective, the following is her interpretation of the given theme: ‘authentic’.

“Das eigene Haus” – “Your own Home”
by Sarah

~ Das eigene Haus – Your Own Home; photo by Sarah, street photography Berlin, 2016 ~

~ Das eigene Haus – Your Own Home; photo by Sarah, street photography Berlin, 2016 ~

The meaning of art is slightly different in art than for instance what it means in philosophy. Everything I do is authentic, because it was me who did it. Therefore, all I create is authentic. The photograph I choose for this topic reflects what is, to me, authentic in society nowadays.

I took this photo last summer and it has disturbed me ever since. Continue reading

Peace Post: Max Richter, Herbie Hancock and Today’s World

Like many others, I feel at a loss to shape words into coherent phrases expressing outrage, sorrow, compassion and balanced thinking in the midst of our current flood of events in today’s world.

In light of this, as always, my medium of choice is music…and music as protest/social statement has a long history. Yes indeed I, myself, did the singer-songwriter scene in my early adulthood.  Coming of age in the midst of another time of social unrest – I still embrace that genre.

Life goes on and in today’s world, my own current brand of compositional expression tends towards instrumental music. Personally, I feel it allows for individual interpretation, un-dictated by lyrical suggestion.

Which leads me to Max Richter, a favorite contemporary composer of mine.

Some time ago I stumbled upon an interview-article with Max published on Fifteen Questions. This on-line journal engages “production experts, performers, journalists, scientists and composers to discuss what music means, how it’s made, where its limits lie, and why it affects us all so differently and yet remains universal” rather than discussing the private lives of artists or their latest releases.

Here are a few of his thoughts to which I relate and are relevant to the subject of this blog post. I encourage those of you interested in musical composition and the driving forces behind it to read the full interview.

Max Richter – interview excerpts and short musical clip

Recomposed: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Spring)

What do you usually start with when composing?

Music for me is storytelling, so I usually start with an intention or something I want to say. From there I kind of struggle around in the dark, trying to find ways to say that. Sometimes it’s a linear thing where I have an idea and then go about trying to find ways to express it. Other times I will discover things along the way and the idea ends up turning into something else altogether. It’s a mixture between intention and chance.

I think the reason I write music is because I’m trying to say things that I find difficult to encapsulate verbally. Music is its own kind of language and it’s very good at saying things that words struggle with, so that’s often the impulse for me.

The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?

Music is a social art, kind of like talking, but in a way, music as a vehicle for political critique has evaporated in the last 20 years and that’s disappointing.

I think if we’re talking about something in music, we should be talking about the big things that are worth talking about and those things are: the state of the world; how we live and how we spend our time. That’s something that really drives me. For example, the track The Shadow Journal on Blue Notebooks, for me, is a protest song. It was composed and recorded the week after the first big anti-Iraq war march in London. And even though Czeslaw Milosz’s words are actually describing the Second World War, the imagery he used resonated with me at that particular moment in time and so social comment was most definitely the primary motivation behind this piece of music.

Generally speaking though, people are not thinking about music in those terms anymore, not if you compare it to the counter-culture movement of the sixties, when social commentary was one the absolute driving forces of music. It’s a shame and a lost opportunity in many ways.

Herbie (and the Headhunters) Hancock – interview excerpts and musical clip

And then there’s Herbie. Rummaging through some of my paper files a few weeks ago, I came across a Music and Musicians (June 2010) article I kept on hand entitled, “Herbie Hancock: Imagining the future with a plan, a piano and a vision of peace.”

I first heard of him as Herbie and the Headhunters in 1973 during my second year of college (University of Colorado at Boulder, 1972-1977). I fell in love with his ‘new’ funk sound while listening to his Chameleon on the then ‘underground’ Denver radio station KLZ FM.

Give the piece a listen as you continue reading excerpts from that article.

What did you set out to do with this (The Imagine Project) record?

I wanted to make a global record. Although I’ve recorded with artists from other countries at various times, this truly was about emphasizing global collaboration as a path toward peace. I started thinking about America basically being an immigrant country.

Most of us have ancestors who were not from these shores. So we have these issues that are happening now about immigration and closing the borders and locking things down. I understand the motivation – the fear from 9/11 and terrorists. If you couple that with the insecurity that has come about because of the economic downturn, it’s drawing people into a state of chaos.

They’re trying to find ways to blame something, to put it on somebody. I think it’s time to stop looking outside for who to blame…now is the time to proactively begin the process of creating the kind of future we want for our children and for our children’s children.

How did you translate those ideals into music?

The first thing you have to do is be willing to be open and to embrace cultures outside of our own. The second thing is respecting the cultures and the people of those cultures. What other ways can we show our respect for other cultures? One of them is through language. It’s why I decided that if I truly wanted a global record, the record couldn’t just be in English…

Today’s World – in conclusion

Max and Herbie’s comments reveal the motivation behind much of an (he)artist’s work.

Communication – whether of a personal social statement or expression of some inner emotional response to life’s experiences – is often the result of a composer’s work; intentional or not.

For most musicians, even if performing non-original pieces, interpretational nuances shape one’s own message to be received by the audience as a gift from the heart.

For myself, my Swimming with Swans project is one such work…to give voice to the fact that those of us who have experienced or are currently in the midst of a period of displacement in a living situation or even state of mind, are not defined by that but live day-by-day and create works of beauty regardless.  And share it with all who will listen.

That’s just who we are and what we do – we count, we matter and we make a difference.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NIV

Teaser Quotes from my forthcoming Peace Post

I look forward to sharing the entire article (entitled – Peace Post: Max Richter, Herbie Hancock and Today’s World) with you in the next few days.

“I think the reason I write music is because I’m trying to say things that I find difficult to encapsulate verbally. Music is its own kind of language and it’s very good at saying things that words struggle with, so that’s often the impulse for me.”
Max Richter, composer

“Most of us have ancestors who were not from these shores. So we have these issues that are happening now about immigration and closing the borders and locking things down. I understand the motivation – the fear from 9/11 and terrorists. If you couple that with the insecurity that has come about because of the economic downturn, it’s drawing people into a state of chaos.”
Herbie Hancock, musician

Giving Voice: Cancer, Survival and the New Year

note: I came across this post and felt it needed to be passed on as ‘giving voice’ to someone who needs to know that their voice counts.

Survival

There is nothing funny about cancer. Continue reading

Hurting for Home

in honor of all those displaced due to all manner of circumstances

“Roots are best planted in the hearts of people rather than in a place.”
Mary Lou Mawicke Bruno (Ma)

(Andrew York, ‘Home’)

3rd year Blogiversary: 3 quotes, 3 categories, 3 past posts

Thank-you readers, from newest to first-to-follow, for marking this milestone with me. This year, I’m commemorating my third year blogiversary by offering the following quotes and links to past posts for you to peruse. Enjoy!

Quotes: 3 Very Different Men, All on the Same Page

original score - Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon

my original hand-scored “Goats in the Garden at Midnight by the Light of the Full Moon”

 

I am in the world only for the purpose of composing. Franz Schubert


 

 

 

 

 

Al Bruno - promo photo circa 1940 - 1950

Dad (Al Bruno) ~circa 1945 (?)

 

 

Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. Charlie Parker

 

 

 

 

Cesar Chavez in Community Garden-photo by Cathy Murphy

Cesar Chavez in Community Garden-photo by Cathy Murphy

 

When we are really honest with ourselves we must admit our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines the kind of [wo]men we are. Cesar Chavez

 

 

Continue reading

Giving Voice: JANE’S STORY

note: still visiting with Dad and Up a Creek, but wanted to send this on in the interim.

It’s just not going away, people. Joblessness & Homelessness is still an on-going reality.

Jane is a blogger-buddy of mine. She is an Everyday (American) Canadian*.

Like you. Like me.

This lady speaks candidly and with more courage than I ever could during our own between homes journey. Her journey-details differ from our own, but the pattern is rote: no job – no home. The experiences and feelings felt are similar if not the same in some instances.

I stand with you, Jane. Continue reading