Friday, December 6, 2019

A Qiarpa

Group of Inuit Women
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
The Qiarpa (chorus) this painting represents was recorded at Eskimo Point by Ramon Pelinski in 1980. It can be found on the cd Canada: Jeux Vocaux des Inuit (Inuit de Caribou, Netsilik et Igloolik (Disques Ocora, 1989). The performers on most of the 90(!) tracks on the cd are credited by name but not this particular track. The chorus of the heading appears to be a class of young students being instructed on the traditional singing styles of the Inuit, demonstrating just how much the indigenous culture is alive in contemporary times. The painting shows half of a group of female throat singing (kattajaq) singers who were invited to perform in Strasbourg, France for the occasion of an exhibition of Inuit sculpture in 1984. A video of the performance is embedded on a site selling the cd.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Torres Strait Expedition

Malo Ceremonial Dance
14 x 11 inches, oil and spray paint on canvas, 2019
The Cambridge Anthropological Expedition (also called Torres Strait Expedition) was led by Alfred Cort Haddon in 1898. The objective was to record the customs and sounds of the indigenous Australian (aboriginal) peoples. Haddon was well aware that his work would be important because aboriginal life would soon be overwhelmed by encroaching civilization and zealous missionaries. The yearlong expedition yielded many papers, artifacts, and sound recordings now mostly housed in the British Museum. The wax cylinders, on which the music and other sounds were recorded, are now part of the BBC Sound Archive, all available to anyone interested in listening (and downloading) these valuable early recordings. The masked dancer in the painting is featured in one of several films Haddon recorded during his stay in the Torres Strait Islands.

Sunday, December 1, 2019


From the cover of Aboriginal Music from Australia
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
Continuing the playing card format using the mirroring in two directions/diagonal symmetry (see previous post) I now added the element of weaving. Not using a linear axis of symmetry the arms of the figure continue as if they embrace its own mirrored image. The image of an Aboriginal preparing food I used comes from the LP Aboriginal Music from Australia on the Phillips label. The source of the music this image represents is a cd however, a reissue on UNESCO's Collection of Traditional Music now named: Australia: Aboriginal Music. The cd has the texts and music of the original LP but not the photographs. I can not identify the images on the LP cover. I'm not certain about the gender either but the breast shown seems to indicate a woman. There is only one track sung by women on the record but it does not necessarily mean that a photo on the cover illustrates a song on the record. The song is a type of Wu-unka song sung by Utekn and Yaimuk in the Wik-ngatara language in northern Queensland. The song was recorded in 1966 by Alice M. Moyle, who I assume was also responsible for the photograph on the sleeve.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Kmhmu Highlands

14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
The image here was sourced from the cover of the cd Bamboo on the Mountains (Smithsonian, 1999.) The original photo was taken by Frank Proschan in the Song Khwae district of northern Nan in Thailand in 1996. The teum singing by Ya' Ak ang Ya' Seu Keodaeng the painting represents comes from the same district as the source photo but the woman most likely isn't either of them. (Two other musicians from the same photograph—there's five of individuals—I've painted before to represent the same song. I'm again not quite sure concerning the gender of any of them.) The recording was made by Proschan in 1992. The symmetry of the painting is neither around a vertical axis nor a horizontal axis but is both, a diagonal axis perhaps. As in a playing card you can turn the painting around to get the same image. I played around with this concept first in a stencil print of Alvin Lucier and I will experiment further on this concept. Possibilities galore but not enough to create a full deck.

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Mary Sivuaraapik and Audia throat singing
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
The track Katajjait on "Hamma" features three examples of katajjait, traditional game songs of the Inuit. The word "hamma" is a syllable of the Inuktitut language, the songs represented have no words but play on the sound of hamma. The songs appear on Canada: Inuit Games and Songs on UNESCO. The performers, in order of appearance: Elijah Pudloo Mageeta, Tamegeak Pitaulassie, Marie Apaqaq, Soria Eyituk, and Napache Semaejuk Pootoogook. Recorded in Baffin Land at Cape Dorset and Sanikiluaq between 1973 and 1975 by Nicole Beaudry and Claude Charron. Katajjait are secular song but were banned by encroaching Christianity for a hundred years. Many cultural traditions Inuit have disappeared and exist only in museums and literature but katajjaq vocal games somehow survived and are now practiced widely in Nunavut, the semi-autonomous state under Inuit rule in Northern Canada.

Sunday, November 10, 2019


Cover of Sibérie 8, Évenk (Savelij Vasilev?)
oil on canvas, 2019
Je chevanche mon rêne (I'm riding my reins) is a traditional Évenk folk song from the "narrative song" section on the cd Sibérie 8, Évenk: Chants rituels des nomades de la taiga on Buda Records by Henri Lecomte. The Evenks have been living on their ancestral lands in the south of Siberia near the Mongolian border since neolithic times. The culture is shamanistic and remains so to this day. Depicted is an Évenk shaman who appears on the cover of the cd as photographed by Lecomte. Since five out of six recordings in the section "shamanic chants" are of Savelij Vasilev I must assume it is he. While working on this painting for some but no particular reason I was uncertain about the gender of the individual. The same uncertainty has come upon me a number of times in recent months, enough so that I must ask myself questions: Does it even matter which gender an individual belongs to? Does the gender of an individual influence how I paint? Why does this question even come up and how does it reflect me? A number of associations come to mind when attempting answers. First is my approach to painting. I usually aim for a personality to come through, a person's spirit. The race of a person is often ambiguous in this process—I paint a person of color with the same colors and intend as I do non-colored—thus it would only make sense the same approach is used in the issue of gender. Perhaps a person's gender isn't as important to me as it once was; getting older and producing less testosterone may just take away the sexual aspect when considering an individual. I believe that genders aren't as binary as culture conceives. That any individual has a certain masculinity as well as femininity, that there is a spectrum within which each of us occupies at different times different places. That no individual at any time as it the very extreme of this spectrum. (Genghis Khan perhaps approached ultimate masculinity.) The shaman, in cultures around the world, is often preordained because of ideosyncrasies of character, including gender ambiguity. The shaman becomes a shaman because of an even distribution of feminine and masculine aspects. The male shaman could recite in falsetto while the female shaman could use the technique of throat singing (a technique where there's no distinction in gender characteristics.) Shamanism is not gender specific in the same way early childhood and perhaps old age isn't gender specific either. While painting the male shaman here the melody of the folk song by Oktjabrina Vladimirovna and Svetlana Naumeva (who sing with distinct feminine voices) continued to be in the back of my head.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Throat singing in the shower

Dumagat woman and child 
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
"While singing, the Dumagat woman in this recording vibrated her throat with her hand" are the liner notes to the Dumagat Throat Song by David Blair Stiffler on Music from the Mountain Provinces (Numerophone 2012). The record was intended to be released on Folkways but while recording it founder and director Moses Asch had died. There are a great many throat songs on the year's Top 100 list and I've tried to imitate some but I can't get the particular breathing done. Little did I know that I had performed, as a youngster, the kind of throat singing described by Stiffler all along. I never practiced much as because it's a painful technique and each performance only lasted 20 seconds at most. The recording on the Dumagat lasts for one minute and nineteen seconds and must have been so painful, unless I did it all wrong or Dumagat throats are stronger than mine. The mountain provinces in question are situated in the Philippines where Stiffler recorded in between 1986 and 1988.

Monday, September 16, 2019


Ubuhuha, Rundi Women
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
 From the liner notes by Michel Vuylsteke: "The ubuhuha (literally 'to blow') which were formerly performed by by women during wakes, have practically disappeared today." This was written in 1967 when Vuylsteke recorded these two Rundi women in Burundi. The women use their hands as an instrument, like a trumpet, "The resultant sounds vary in pitch, timbre and volume according to the position of her hands and the tension of her lips." From the LP Burundi: Musique Traditionelles on Ocora. 
Talking with my friend Jade before the Cat Power concert last Friday he mused that most of the musicians I painted would be unknown to her. I told him that I wouldn't be surprised if Cat Power would be much more familiar to these ethnomusicological recordings than one would expect. During the concert Cat Power used her hands to alter her singing voice on several occasions very much like the Rundi women, most poignantly during a cover of Bob Dylan's Hard Times in New York City (perhaps to mimic Dylan's nasal voice). One of my favorite tunes she performed that Friday was Robbin Hood from her latest Wanderer. The following drawing done during the concert then becomes the official illustration for the song in the Top 100.
Cat Power
12 x 9 inches, pencil on paper, 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019


Ganbaararyn Khongorzul
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
The River Herlen featured on a cd tucked into the excellent book Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Musica and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond by Theodore Levin with Valentina Süzükei (Indiana University Press, 2006.) Unlike the other tracks on the cd Xongorzul, the singer of The River Herlen, is not photographed or discussed as an individual but functions as a sound example of the Mongolian 'long-song' tradition. The song is one the beyonds in "Beyond Tuva." The long in long-song clearly doesn't reference duration as the song only lasts a little over two minutes but rather the extended syllables in the text. "A four-minute song may only consist of ten words." [Wikipedia]  The Xongorzul on the disc is likely Ganbaararyn Khongorzul born September 12, 1974 in Mongolia. Ganbaararyn Khongorzul performs with Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble and performed at the opening ceremony at the 2002 World Cup.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Wake in Mindanao

 Manobo-Dulangan (Bagobo) mourners
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
Two mourners from the Manobo-Dulangan tribe sing Kanta para sa patay (Song for the dead) recorded by Jenny de Vera in Mindanao, Philippines on the occassion of a wake for her departed father, Benjamin de Vera (1946-2007). Two mourners from the Manobo-Dulangan tribe sing Kanta para sa patay (Song for the dead) recorded by Jenny de Vera in Mindanao, Philippines on the occasion of a wake for her departed father, Benjamin de Vera (1946-2007). The names of the performers are not provided, they my be professional mourners hired by Jenny de Vera, but they shed real tears in the video uplaoded on YouTube. The image is based on a screenshot of the video. Benjamin de Vera was the leader of the Philippines Communist Party (CPP-NPA).

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

Fiona Apple
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2019
#100 in the top 100, #1 in the last top 10 (of 74) for the year, Every Single Night—the more you listen to it, the more of an anthem it becomes—brings Fiona Apple back into the list. The singer-songwriter is steadily becoming a mainstay in my music appreciation endeavor. Thus it's time for a short biography (Wikipedia reference): Fiona Apple was born September 13, 1977, in Manhattan, classically trained on piano she started wrtng songs at age eight and released her first of four albums at seventeen. Every Single Night comes from her fourth and last The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do of 2012.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Nothing Really Matters

Cat Power
14 x 11 inches, oil on canvas, 2014
"When I see your face in the crowd/With a look of obsession" are the opening lines to Cat Power's Nothing Really Matters from 2018s Wanderer. In ten days she will be performing at the Ritz in Tampa, close enough for me to go. It'll be the fifth time I see her live beating Townes van Zandt and (Dutch band) The Fatal Flowers for most concerts visited. It's the sixth painting this year of her and for sure I will draw from life when I see her in Tampa. The backgrounds now have shifted from golden spry paint botanical designs to abstractions that were done on a golden background about a year ago. These abstractions (see The Golden Paintings) were always meant to be painted over with portraits.