Saturday, September 24, 2016

Raymond Scott

Raymond Scott
9 x 9 inches, oil on canvas, 2016
Not many people today know about Raymond Scott (1908-1994) but some of his music will be recognized by many. In the 1943 Warner Brothers bought the publishing rights for his music and used it in many of its animated cartoons. Powerhouse, originally recorded by the Raymond Scott Quintette in 1937, was used multiple times in Loony Tunes and Merrie Melodies, most notably in Bugs Bunny. It has been used four times in The Simpsons, in The Bernie Mac Show, The Drew Carey Show, and in many other TV productions. Raymond's Toy Trumpet became famous as In the Army Now from the cartoon Ren and Stimpy. His frantic jazz theme of Powerhouse is known now as the Assembly Line music in animated cartoons. Raymond Scott was an early electronic music pioneer who recorded a number of experimental records. Soothing Sounds for Babies is an odd but groundbreaking recording collaborated with The Gesell Institute of Child Development.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Dick Higgins
18 x 24, oil on canvas, 2016
Many of the paintings seen on this site have been created on top of older paintings. Some were my own, often demos for painting classes, others are done on found paintings. The reason for this is economic and practical rather than aesthetic. Economic because amateur paintings can be found at thrift stores for a fraction of the money it would cost to prepare your own, practical because starting a painting is easier when something is already there than on a blank canvas. When making a mark on an existing painting it becomes dynamic. The act of violating a painting by someone else creates a tension between two realities. Until this week I had never used a portrait painting by someone else. My intention was to maintain a lot of the original painting in my own. At the end only the eyes of the original remained visible. The following image shows the process. I started with pastels.
The finished painting is a portrait of Dick Higgins, part of my renewed interest of the sound recordings by artists from the Fluxus movement. This interest was raised by the exhibition Re:Sound, featuring the work of Philip Corner, at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in Fort Myers, Florida. The Higgins song in this year's top 100 is In Memoriam from 1961. It's the second time the track is in the top 100, and thus my second painting of Higgins ten years after the first. In Memoriam is made available for anyone to listen to on the fantastic site UbuWeb. The following are the words introducing In Memoriam: "In Memoriam was made of assembling loops a dub a phonograph record of 16th century dance music. The dance is heard, simultaneously, up to sixteen times as fast and sixteen times as slow as the original, backwards as well as forward, giving a sort of cinematic effect." 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bajabula Bonke

Hugh Masekela
Oil on canvas, 5 x 5 inches, 2016
The Promise of a Future is a 1968 record by Hugh Masekela that introduced the world to the ubiquitous tune Grazing in the Grass. Hugh Masekela is a South African trumpet player who began his career playing for Albert Herbert in 1956. He joined the Manhattan Brothers in 1958 before joining the orchestra for the movie King Kong. At the end of 1959 he formed, with Dollar Brand and others, the Jazz Epistles, the first South American group to record a jazz LP. Masekela, always vocal in opposition to the apartheid regime, fled the country in 1960. He ended up in Manhattan two years after being a Manhattan Brother, married and divorced Miriam Makeba, all before his smash hit Grazing in the Grass made him a rock star at 29. The Promise of a Future is a great Afro-Jazz album and the Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song) my favorite track.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Ann Hirsch performing as Caroline in Scandalishious 
to Donna Summer's Last Dance in 
Caroline's Official Goodbye Video
Oil on canvas, 7 x 5 inches, 2016
It's time to announce a textbook I've written, not about music this time, it's about art. You are an Artist! An Interactive Approach to Art History will soon be issued in a digital format and a few months later in print. There are a few places I allow my art work to be shown. These are small portrait illustrations in the margins next to a discussion of an artist. This one here of Ann Hirsch is the last one submitted. The portrait may double for the Top 100 2015/16. As part of my 'research' on Ann Hirsch, I watched about twenty of the 200 videos Hirsch posted, while still an art student, on her Caroline's fun fun channel on YouTube. These videos, created between 2008 and 2010, are five to ten minutes each and are fun to watch. They're actually kind of addictive. In most videos she introduces a song to which she will dance. The introductions are great. In her sweetest innocent voice (she plays an 18 year old character called Caroline—Hirsch was 23 at the time) she addresses her audience and talks about topics ranging from feminism, haircuts, art, her clothes, love, literature, and online bullying. Hirsch managed to get an enormous online following and over two million views. She directly addresses her audience, and interact with many through the commentary board. She dances to a wide range of music in her videos. The Smiths, Animal Collective, the New Pornographers are a few. In one video she dances laying down to Freda Payne's Band of Gold and cries. In the last video Hirsch posted in the Scandalishious series, Caroline's Official Goodbye Video, she dances to Donna Summer's Last Dance. She had to stop as Caroline because she soon would be found out. A bit later she featured as herself ("I'm Ann, and I'm an artist") on VH1on national television, in a reality show called Frank the Entertainer.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Man Comes Around

Johnny Cash
Oil on canvas, 7 x 5 inches, 2016.
“It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture. An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Jesus’ words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.” 
(Copyright 2002-2016. Got Questions Ministries.) ...I always wondered what it meant.

The Fugs

Ed Sanders of the Fugs
Oil on canvas, 7 x 5 inches, 2016
Frenzy is a song from The Fugs' second, a self titled album from 1966. The song features, like their name, not so subtle references to the act of making love. They are also known for their not so subtle political satire. Frenzy was written by Ed Sanders, who together with Tuli Kupferberg, headed the band. Liner notes on the LP The Fugs were written by Alan Ginsberg.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Russian Enigma

Nadya Tolokonnikova
oil on canvas, 7 x 5 inches, 2016
Over the last few weeks this site enjoyed a spike of visitors, nearly all from Russia. I've been trying to figure what caused this sudden interest. To no avail. The only music coming from Russia in this year's top 100 wasn't painted yet, until today. May it serve as bait. I like to know ho or what linked to this site. There have been a number of Russians in the top 100 the past few years, I've painted portraits of Alexander Scriabin, Dmitri Shostakovich, Reet Hendrikson, a portrait of a Chukchi shaman, and no less than five Pussy Riot paintings. Well, here's number 6. The that's being illustrated by this painting is Kill All Sexists! in a version from the HBO documentary film Punk Singer. Can I add that Nadya Tolokonnikova is one of the most beautiful women in the world?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mountain Oysters

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Oil on wood, 9 x 5.5 inches, 2016
Years ago I was totally into 1940s and 50s R&B but the Top 100 has been skipping this era for a number of years. If it comes to R&B from that era, the King Records label from Cincinnati provided some of the best. Henry Glover was the executive producer for King Records, the first African-American in such position. He is also the singer on the track Mountain Oysters by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. The tune is a classic and also features, beside Davis and Glover, the Bill Doggett  Trio. Mountain Oysters was  recorded under Davis' name in 1949 and appears on the King Records compilation LP Risky Blues from 1971. As the title indicates the record is filled with songs with suggestive lyrics. Henry Glover himself seem to have specialized in such lyrics as he penned It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion), I Want a Bowlegged Woman, and the iconic Rocket 69. The credits for Mountain Oysters however go to Henry Bernard. Many of the songs on Risky Blues also appear on similar compilations such as Copulation Blues, Straight and Gay, and Risque Rhythm. Sex sells is the motto of the record companies, and there's enough suckers like me who fall for it. "Cause the folks in Georgia, way back home, They love that meat that ain't got no bone! Oysters, those good old mountain oysters!" Mountain oysters, btw, is a dish of fried bull or hog testicles. Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chelsea Girl

12 x 5.5 inches, oil on wood, 2016
Fairest of the Seasons appeared to me three times within the span of two weeks. First iTunes on random play mode (there are about 6,000 titles in my folder), then my wife decided to watch The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001) again, then I ran across a copy of the LP Chelsea Girls (Verve, 1967) at a thrift store (I did not have it yet). Coincidence, a sign? I have always liked the song, a lot. I was going to see Nico in concert in the Netherlands in May of 1988. I didn't get tickets ahead of time because I figured it wouldn't be sold out, I'd buy them at the door. The concert was canceled because of a lack if interest. Two months later she died, on my 24th birthday!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lithuanian Americans

Members of the Alice Stephens Singers
Oil on paper, 12 x 9 inches, 2016
The most interesting traditional Lithuanian music I know of was recorded in the United States, in Gary, Indiana in 1949, to be precise. Folk traditions have vanished in many countries around the world, older traditions often kept alive only by immigrants, who, with a nostalgia for the old country are the only ones practicing the old ways. These displaced traditions too, now in the hands of second and third generation (or fourth or beyond) immigrants, are rapidly disappearing. Throughout the twentieth century American musicologists have recognized the importance of recording traditional music for prosperity, and have recorded a wealth of traditional music from peoples originating from all over the world. Baltic-Americans, Mexican-Americans, German-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans, Jewish and Irish immigrants, but also Native Americans living in the US, all had their traditions documented because of the zeal of a handful of enthusiasts with a mobile recording device. Moses Asch, the founder of Folkways Records, chiefly among them. As part of a small collection of Lithuanian music, I picked up the 1955 Folkways release Lithuanian Folk Songs in the United States, at a thrift store in Florida. Of the five records in the collection it's the only one with an authentic feel to it, the only one not orchestrated and not embellished for commercial gain. A tradition is not truly lost if it's documented.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Another Stencil

Nina Simone
12 x 9 inches, stencil print, 2016
The stencil assignment continues to be a part of Art Appreciation at FSW. As I am teaching yet another section this Summer, 26 students created a stencil print in an edition of ten. They trade, one with me, nine with fellow students, and they keep an artist proof in their sketchbook. For the occasion I create a stencil in an edition of the class size +10. The subject of my print should be relevant to the young students as well as my Top 100. This semester I chose Nina Simone (1933-2003). While none of the students had ever heard of Nina Simone, the biographical movie Nina, that was just released, as well as her relevance in the civil rights movement, much discussed these days in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, I found a teachable opportunity in choosing her. Recently I purchased my 10th and 11th Nina Simone records, about a third of her discography, mostly from thrift stores. As far as I can tell there are no bad Nina Simone records out there. If anyone is interested in owning a copy of the print (edition 37), I sell off the remaining 10 prints for $50 each, just respond to this post and we'll make arrangements.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Re: Sound

Glenn Branca
oil on found painting, 5 x 6.5 inches, 2016
The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery that shows work by Philip Corner (see previous discussion) also features a series of beautiful large drawings and altered instruments by composer Glenn Branca. For the occasion I pulled the LP Ascension (a valuable collector's item) from the shelves. The cover of the album (1981) was created by Robert Longo and one of the (many) resonant droning guitars that can be heard on the record is played by Lee Ranaldo, who in the same year went on to form Sonic Youth.