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”
~ 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. It shows an impromptu homeless camp under a bridge. The thing is, as sad as it is, that´s not what disturbed me. What did, was the poster that had been recently been added to the wall, although this is a well-known place for the homeless since it´s in good area in the city and thus a bit safer than others.
The poster titles: “Das eigene Haus” – “Your own Home” – an advertisement for an exhibition about housebuilding. I´m still speechless at the thoughtlessness that made those men put it up there… That´s how society is nowadays: the poor and the rich side by side, with the latter mocking the former. That´s what is authentic in society in my mind…
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
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.
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 Swansproject 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
The promised update on the results of my project4now experiment follows, but first a photo of the completed project is in order.
Now then, as a reminder, I decided to challenge myself by using different materials and assembly methods in this project. Those challenge-experiments are presented here with results noted in italics. Continue reading →
The officially stated theme for the 2016 Camden Writers Anthology #2.
Starting in January, I pulled about four pieces from my stash of vignettes relevant to the 2016 anthology theme – some started but unfinished, others already firmly written and in need of my critique group’s keen insights and suggestions, still others with germinal ideas and notes-to-self on how to proceed.
I discovered early on during critique presentations that even the one piece I thought was 99.9% ready to go, wasn’t. And that really was fine with me. I decided I’d use the submission deadline as the catalyst for getting those pieces and ideas in shape for publication.
Meanwhile I was deeply ensconced in a regular routine spent on the practice stool prepping in anticipation of upcoming recording sessions for my Swimming with Swans: the music project.
Progress towards both project milestones were rolling along smoothly. However, I didn’t factor in the possibility of Dad entering into hospice care in April.
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
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
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
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
This coming Saturday morning, I leave for my third and quite possibly, last, scheduled trip to Colorado to visit with Dad (note-operative word here is scheduled). With it comes the usual deliberation on what to pack; most of which is rote routine. But those few variable items that require more thought on just how to pack along for the trip are often troublesome.
As a musician, it’s always about the music.
Yes, I have my NOTION software available to me on my laptop if the muse tickles my fancy, or I feel the need to work on compositional works-in-progress. Heck, I’m so old-school I consider it a badge of honor to whip out my staff paper notebook and jot down ideas using archaic graphite dots.
But that’s not what I’m meaning. And I’m not talking about iPod, streaming or even radio station music, either.
I’m talking about how does one pack that part of your essential being that doesn’t fit into a suitcase, in the overhead bin on an airplane, or be safely transported as general baggage without risk or costing a fortune? This common question faces all instrumentalists, yet there is no one-size-fits-all answer to it.
Coping with life – the good, the bad and the ugly (to borrow a phrase from a fav Spaghetti Western) – has always been reflected in my music. Prayers, supplications, questions, acceptance; hurts, healings and happy dances; all the dialogue, working through, pouring out – done with my instrument.
Rental ‘beater guitar’ placed across scrap quilt I made for Ma & Dad ~ 1983
Borrowing or renting a classical guitar is not as easy as say, a violin. I won’t go into the technical details of why, but suffice it to say that the “beater guitar”* I scouted out to rent during my first extended visit, while hard to procure, did deliver as a sort-of security blanket instrument during that five week time span.
My second visit lasted two weeks, a doable length of time to go without direct instrumental contact so that counted as an easy fix.
But…those were solutions for then. What about now?
This time around, I’m slated for a three week stay. As much as those visits are a precious blessing, they are also very intense; filled with tender moments alongside heart wrenching end-of-life realities.
This time around, hubby booked my flight on another airline, one which allows 1 bag and 1 personal item for free as carry-ons.
This time around, I’ll stuff the computer bag with my wallet, snacks and paperback mystery novel as usual, and tote my UKE as the other carry on.
After all, George Harrison composed ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ on his UKE when his primary instrument was unavailable for use.
*”beater guitar” is a term used by cgers and acoustic guitarists alike that refers to an instrument that can be taken anywhere without fear of ruining it…case in point: around the campfire during wilderness treks.
One of my fav renditions of this piece follows and indeed, inspired several of my students at the time to ask me to teach them the UKE…thus forcing me to pursue a certain level of mastery over this little gem of an instrument -
Our front porch Golden Orb, spinning a ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ addition to its web base
The first full summer we lived in the South we encountered massive and prolific webs of this indigenous species of spider, the Golden Orb.
The spiders themselves get to be quite large and are wickedly beautiful…meaning, these are gloriously colored arachnids that come equipped with some seriously sharp and long legs.
What I found most intriguing was the amount of detail in their webs. Many spiders offer intricate designs in their web-construction, but these Golden Orbs use those as a base on which to further weave additional layers of web construction.
please, enjoy the music while you read the following, I promise it is related to the main thrust of this blog post…and since there are several guitar solos, well, you don’t really need to watch the lyrics up on the screen
Okay, so I’ve been starting and stopping in the writing of several blog posts.
I need to feed the blog, yes, but I gotta say my focus has been a bit wonky since returning from my five weeks visiting Dad. I started to write about that in a post entitled “Spider Webs, Jacob’s Ladder and Losing the Strand” but could only get so far when I’d lose the strand…(to befinished and posted at a later date).
Then on to a relatively easy Shoutout about the great Maestro Ricardo (and my friend) receiving a prestigious award at the annual GFA Convention in Denver, held just one week after I left. I wanted to attend, but those plans got trumped (don’t know if I like that term anymore…) with the Dad-card. No regrets at all, but it does leave the “Shoutout: In Honor of the Maestro Ricardo” in the queue to be sent sometime whenever I can do a final edit on it…again, the focus thing is the limiting factor here. It may never get finished and sent out since it’s more (out)dated news.
I discovered early on that I didn’t have the energy required to return to my current Swimming with Swans projects. This of course lead to frustration because I needed something to do in the realm of creating while navigating this new pattern of four weeks here and two weeks there; along with the emotional stuff that goes along with end-of-life and long distance elder care.
So I picked up the needle…that phrase is loaded, eh? I first mentioned this phrase in my post “The Rusty Quilter” that describes my history and re-introduction to quilting and fiber art.
Whole-cloth quilt top basted and ready for straight stitch machine-quilting
That said, I began in earnest my new ‘now’ project totally unrelated to anything other than as a pleasurable creative outlet: the whole-cloth quilted throw; which will be discussed in greater depth in yet another WIP blog post, as yet unnamed.
During today’s immersion in some straight line machine quilting, I listened to an Amazon Prime Classic Rock Song List.
When ZZ Tops’ tune, The Sharped Dressed Man came on full blast in my earphones and into my brain, I remembered my Jo-Jo and his new obsession with dressing snappy for work.
Joe Lilly is the Sharp Dressed Man
Here’s Joe in his Tuesday morning duds, posing in the dining room of my folks’ house, with the telltale cleaning supplies and messiness in the background. One of the fantastic things I got to do while visiting Dad was to make dinner for our kids. Some of Ma’s cooking stuff is still in the kitchen and so I was able to throw together some makeshift family favorites.
Since Joe still lives in the Denver area, he purposely carved out time to stop by after work and/or pick me up for doing fun stuff together during ‘down times’.
One such outing was going to his gig at the Oriental Theatre. Actually, my sorella-amica Lisa and I went to see our sons* at this wonderful venue. Like most musicians, he’s in several bands/ensembles. This one, Heavy Medicine**, added a horn section recently, of which Joe is their main sax-guy.
The Sharp Dressed Man with his Heavy Medicine Bandmates playing the Oriental Theatre, Denver, CO 6/2016
Me and my son – the sharp dressed man
Lots more of this mother-son stuff is in the future with each trip back to visit Dad.
Oh and on the marquee behind us is the name Leon Russell, significant in that another blog post in the queue needing to be finished is called, “The Buena Vista Social Club, Leon Russell and Dad”.