Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Watermelon Man

Herbie Hancock
oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches, 2016
Rock It, Watermelon Man, 2 iconic tunes from jazz-man Herbie Hancock. Always liked the tunes but, until today, they never made the top 100 and thus Herbie Hancock I never painted before.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Mayor of Shiraz

 Moshir Homayoun
20 x 16 inches, oil on canvas, 2016
Any new post on/by Excavated Shellac is guaranteed to pique your interest and rekindle your curiosity in the exploration of music history. This week another jewel from the forgotten history surfaced. A 78 disc from 1933 by the Iranian pianist Moshir Homayoun was discussed and, as usual, greatly researched. Homayoun, aka Habibollah Khan, is known as the first Persian piano player who lived a storied and influential life as musician and politician. The following links direct you to, first the Excavated Shellac piece, and second the Wikipedia page on Mr. Homayoun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Music in the News

Giovanni Battista Granata
Oil on canvas paper, 12 x 16 inches, 2016
The copyright infringement lawsuit, filed by the estate of Randy California (from the band Spirit) versus Led Zeppelin, has gotten a lot of media attention the past two weeks. Indeed the iconic guitar intro to Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven sounds a lot like Taurus by Spirit which is two years older. Unfortunately for Spirit the case brought to light many more riffs that sound just like the two contested and are much older. Dave Graham used the riff in a version of Cry Me a River ten years earlier, but the chord progression also appears in Mozart, Bach, and—oldest of them all—in Sonata di Chittarra, e Violino, con il suo Basso Continuo by the 17th century Baroque composer Giovanni Battista Granata.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Horns of Plenty

Aluar Horns (Uganda)
8.5 x 11 inches, oil and pastel on paper, 2016
30 years ago I was introduced to traditional African music. A friend, Esther, had a record from the Nonesuch Explorer Series dedicated to ceremonial and folk music from Africa. I taped the record and still have that audio cassette. A recording made in Uganda near the border with Zaire (DR Congo) of about 60 horns, drummers, and singers, was one of the first tunes played by anonymous musicians to be listed in my Top 100. Last week I found the original vinyl and had to buy it. Ethnomusicographic records like the Nonesuch Series used to be plentiful but you don't see them much anymore. I hadn't heard the tune, called Aluar Horns, in twenty years.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hello Gallo

Vincent Gallo
oil on canvas board, 8 x 10 inches, 2016
As I was rummaging through some records on my shelves, my eyes stopped at a record by Bohack. I had never really listened to that record (It Took Several Wives, 1982) even though I've had it for 18 years. I bought it at the time, cheap, because of the cover that I (in 1998) immediately recognized as a painting by Francesco Clemente. I think I only played it once when I bought it, and not even all the way through. I guess I was not impressed and left the record in near mint condition on my shelf. So I pulled out the record and looked on the back where I spotted the name Vincent Gallo. And I knew of Vincent Gallo, not because he's so famous (which he is, especially after the cult classic Buffalo '66 of 1998, which he directed, played in, and provided the soundtrack for), but because he's a friend of Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and appears on many a photograph together with her. It was the Gallo of the song Mr. Gallo from Cat Power's first album Dear Sir (1995). So I found information about It Took Several Wives on the Discogs website and to my surprise I found that the record is heavily sought after, worth about $200. I played the record (all the way through this time) and really liked it. Of course the value, and reference to Cat Power, really helped me appreciate the music. The record now, with protective plastic jacket, has been moved to the "important" shelf. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Nina Simone!

Nina Simone
oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, 2016
To Be Young, Gifted and Black is a song written by Nina Simone with Weldon Irvine in memory of the author, and friend of Simone, Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin in the Sun). It was just released as a single in October of 1969 when Simone performed it live at the Philharmonic Hall in New York. The concert in front of a white audience (which Simone does not fail to mention in her introduction to To Be Young, Gifted and Black) was recorded and released on the album Black Gold of 1970. I found the album together with 'Nuff Said of 1968, at the local Goodwill Outlet Center—the last place items exist before being crunched in a giant garbage machine. The album existed on a shelf, or in a box, in someone's house for 46 years, hardly ever played, before being rescued from its destruction. And now it has a new life, and a painting dedicated to it. "Her picture is painted in my memory without a color of despair, and no matter where I go she is always there." (added lyrics to Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair.)

For those of you who ever visited the Koreshan State Park in Estero might recognize the background as being the generator building interior.

Friday, June 3, 2016

!Kung Bushmen of Namibia

!Kung Bushmen women singing
oil on acrylic on found canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2016
The !Kung Bushmen are a San people (see previous post) living in Angola and Namibia. The exclamation point marks a clicking sound that is part of their language. Miriam Makeba popularized the sound in her 1960 hit song The Click Song. For anyone interested in the music of the San peoples with their ancient roots I highly recommend the Folkways album Music of the !Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert from 1962. As always, and this is the great thing about Folkways, their albums are always available. On their fabulous website you can listen to outtakes of every song before purchasing.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The San of Namibia

San women singing
oil on on acrylic on found canvas, 30 x 40 inches, 2016
 The depiction of a human being, the only one found at Lascaux, is widely interpreted as an image of a shaman. A nineteenth century photograph of a (Californian) shaman clearly shows a similarity with the figure depicted in the caves of Lascaux some 17.000 years earlier. Literature accepting the shamanic interpretation focuses on the depiction of the man in an ecstatic trance state as opposed to the earlier interpretation as a man in the throes of death. A shaman symbolically dies before entering the spirit realm. Georges Bataille uses the term little death (la petite mort) in discussing the state the human at Lascaux. David Lewis-Williams and Jean Clottes, against the archaeological taboo of making inferences by ethnographical analogy, first forwarded their theories linking cave paintings with shamanic ritual in 1996.31 Lewis-Williams had studied the San since the early nineteen-eighties. Research by Lewis-Williams into trance ceremonies performed by the San people in Namibia has shown that the shaman in a state of trance figuratively dies. He collapses and his soul leaves the body and travels to the spirit world. Before the San were studied in Namibia they had lived near Drakensberg in South Africa until the late nineteenth century, when they were displaced by the South African Government. The San had a long tradition of cave and rock painting while at Drakensberg but in their new home in the Kalahari Desert this tradition ended. There are no caves in the desert and the San stopped painting but still live according to their traditions. South African rock paintings by the San peoples bear striking similarities with cave paintings found in Southern Europe. German philologist Wilhelm Bleek, together with Lucy Lloyd, studied the San people at a time when they were still active at Drakensberg. They left behind an enormous archive of transcripts of interviews, giving a detailed account of San customs, beliefs, and language. The assumed analogy of the San people and the Paleolithic cave painters provide us with valuable information on the lives and works of the latter, but shamanic interpretations of cave art are still disputed. Through an analogy with shamanic cultures, that have been studied in Siberia and North America in the early twentieth century, and with the San people of South Africa, researchers sketched an outline of the first known artists that existed in southern France  and Northern Spain about 40,000 years ago. Lewis-Williams and Clottes speculate that the shamans of southern France and northern Spain were the first professional artists. Individuals who have been designated to perform the function of artists within a community can be distinguished by their psychological traits, often at an early age. The individuals were chosen to be artists through their character of otherness. They could be men or women. 

The above is a section from my forthcoming textbook You are an Artist! For the very reason the text is included in an art textbook, the San are one of the most interesting peoples to look at, and listen too, in the context of musicology. Deemed unscientific to form any conclusion on prehistoric arts by inference of the ethnography of recent cultures, listening to San ceremonies one can nonetheless sense what music like was during Paleolithic times. Personally I don't see a reason why the traditions of the San aren't many thousands of years old. The tune in the top 100 is from a giraffe hunting ceremony found on Youtube. The ceremony is performed by five female singers surrounded by dancing males and children. All five singers are depicted within the smaller circles of the painting above, one of the larger ones I've made in a while. The painting is superimposed on a found canvas that was originally used to paint a family portrait on. Footsteps, hand prints, and the ages of the family members were painted and printed onto the canvas that also had a bunch of circles painted on it. The circles I used unaltered to paint the portraits of female San singers, the composition thereby was predetermined.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Internet Art

Princess Nokia
12 x 16 inches, oil on canvas paper, 2016
Internet Art, a movement in the tradition of subversive anti-art groups going back to the Dadaists, is a fairly recent development in art art history. Even though there already is now "Post-Internet Art," the artists associated with Internet Art (or Net-Art) are still young and vibrant. The most interesting artists to emerge from this movement are a loose conglomerate of women, all now in their early thirties, associated with third-wave feminism. Recently I presented a two hour talk at the Art Center of Bonita Springs on 21st century art which was centered around three of the artists involved in the group mentioned above: Genevieve Belleveau, Ann Hirsch, and Jillian Mayer. Other noteworthy artists associated with these include Angela Washko and Faith Holland. To my own surprise I found the latter included within my Facebook friends. I had met her in New York in 2008, when both of us had exhibitions at White Columns. While a nice platform to follow one's career, she also provides me with updates about what's new and interesting in cultural New York. That's where I found the video Tomboy by Princess Nokia.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Air Sitar

Zohra Bai (of Agra)
8 x 1o inches, oil on board, 2016
From a photograph that may depict Zohrabai Agrewali (1836-1913). Zohra Bai is from Agra, not to be confused with another Zohrabai, who was a classical singer in Hindi cinema. There are many pictures of Zohrabai Ambalewali (1918-1990) available. Zohra Bai of Agra has amazing long hands and in interpreting the photograph I purposefully left out the sitar to focus attention to her right hand. Later I also removed the toddler on her knee and held in place by her left hand. Not just air sitar then but also air baby. The left hand was left in place and feels strangely out of place (it still needs a little work but the position won't be altered). The song represented, Dadurwa Bolay Mor Shor Karat recorded in 1910, is of course not about her hands but about her voice, which as sinuous as her hands.

Friday, April 8, 2016

M.I.A. Stencil

M.I.A.
stencil on paper, 2016

A stencil per semester to trade with students, this will make it six. The second of M.I.A.