Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chelsea Girl

Nico
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.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Philip Corner

Philip Corner and Phoebe Neville
pencil on paper, 11 x 9 inches, 2016
signed by Philip Corner
Philip Corner, accompanied by dancer Phoebe Neville, together with members of Sonic Combine and faculty from FSW Music Department, performed a memorable rendition of Corner's notorious Metal Meditations (1973) this afternoon. Corner was a founding member of the seminal art conglomerate Fluxus. In good Fluxus fashion the audience was invited to create their own piece using the metal instruments used in Metal Meditations that were scattered throughout the space. Then, in tribute to Ben Patterson, also co-founder of Fluxus who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, Corner orchestrated a performance of Patterson's piece Paper, in which an unlimited supply of paper is given to the audience, the only instruction given to them was to play with it. They did play (myself included), they altered the gallery installation of musical instruments significantly and, to Corner's wishes the alterations continue to be part of the exhibit that runs through August 13th at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery on the FSW campus.

In Memoriam: Benjamin Patterson, May 29, 1934 – June 25, 2016

Philip Corner
oil on canvas, 8 x 10 inches, 2016

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Crying and Singing

Anjali, oppari singer in Ayodhyakuppam, Chennai.
Oil on canvas, 24 x 12 inches, 2016.
For many years I have collected examples of cry singing from around the world. Known as keening in Ireland, the tradition of cry singing, as a mourning ritual at funerals, was once widespread throughout the world, and across religions. The latest addition to my collection are some recordings made in the state Tamil Nadu in India. The cry singing tradition in Chennai, formerly known as Madras, is called oppari and is still widely practiced among the fisherman caste of the Tamil population, one of only a few locations in the world where the tradition has not died out. Oppari was brought to my attention through the website Excavated Shellac. Blogger, collector, and musicologist Jonathan Ward recently excavated a disc by a certain Krishnasawmy recorded in Madras in 1916. He was amazed that a recording of oppari was actually recorded and published one hundred years ago. I'm amazed with him but I've learned throughout the years not to be too surprised by the strangeness (to our Western ears) of music put on disc a long time ago in far away places. Oppari singers are typically women, some professional mourners, but Krishnasawmy is a man. Quoting from Ward in the Excavated Shellac post of April 16: "Ethnomusicologist Paul Greene stated that 'Even when men perform it, oppari is a performance of women’s emotions.' He suggests that despite the long-standing tradition of men performing oppari, men’s embodiment of women’s grieving in an oppari performance steals women’s own voice, in a way." The state of Tamil Nadu is also known for its annual transgender and transvestite festival, in which participants act out the ancient myth of the marriage of Lord Krishna, who takes the form of a woman, with Lord Koothandavar.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

La Monte Young

La Monte Young
oil on canvas paper, 20 x 16 inches, 2016
 Alright then...here's the real thing.

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.