Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Adrian Kosky is an Australian musician who plays American music rooted in blues with stretches into country and various styles of playing. Four years or so ago he traveled around America getting acquainted with acoustic musicians along the way. The picture above was made in 2006 at Cullowhee NC at a dulcimer workshop. He doesn't play a dulcimer like anybody you see at a fiddlers convention playing dulcimer. He plays it his own way. He goes at it like you would a guitar or banjo, though holding it on his lap. He finds new sounds, new ways of playing it.
A year or less ago he found my blog online in Australia. He wrote and introduced himself. He is a busy man. He has created something of an artist colony for musical and visual arts. It's in south central Australia. We wrote back and forth a bit. I recently found one of his cds called Dirty White Blues and like it. It's playing now. Finally, today it occurred to me to look him up at YouTube and there he was, playing dulcimer, taking it seriously as an instrument, making it sing. I could see him at the Front Porch Gallery in Woodlawn on a Friday night. Scott could work with him musically very well. Australia is a bit of a journey to make for gas money. Hearing so much live music in these mountains I've come to appreciate musicianship more and more as years go by.
This evening I searched "galax banjo" at YouTube and listened to all of the top 10 bluegrass banjo pickers this year. All I could think was I'm glad I'm not in a position to judge them. They all sound equally good to my untrained ear. It seemed like #8 was a perfect match with #1. The one I enjoyed the most was #4. Stevie Barr was #1 and he was awfully good. His performance was flawless. The music flowed with him. All I could figure on why none of the others got first was probably a missed note or loss of the rhythm for a split second. I tried to listen to why Linwood Lunsford got #8 and didn't feel like #2 was really better than him. But I don't know what judges listen for, and I hope all judges are musicians. I listen to music uncritically now.
I listen to musicianship, which is good in everyone in these mountains who dares record. When I say a band is among the best, that's what I mean. In every region there are the better musicians who tend to play with their equals. In these mountains there are so many good musicians it's hard to say good, better, best about them unless it's somebody like Benton Flippen playing a fiddle. It's easy to say the best about him. But every region has its equal to one of the best in our area. We have Richard Bowman, Jacob Bowen, Eddie Bond, Lynn Worth, Thornton Spencer, Kilby Spencer, Wade Petty, Jeff Michael, Henry Mabe among the fiddlers of our region. I can't say one is better than another. Maybe they could, but I can't.
I hear different styles of playing, and that's what I listen to now. Mountain music has improved my ear for all other musics I listen to. I appreciate musicianship more than ever. I live among so many people who are such good musicians it's humbling. I'm of the notion that mountain music is of the spirit of these mountains, of the old ways people lived before electricity. Though the culture may fade away, the music will be carried on for probably a long time to come. As long as the music is alive, the spirit of the mountain way of life continues, and much of it is recorded.
I love it when I discover new (to me) music. Josh Willis, whose parents live in Winston-Salem and own the next farm, the Willis Farm in Air Bellows, was passing through here last week on his way from a couple years in Philadelphia where he played open-back banjo and bass with a band called TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb. You can find them on YouTube. He also made a cd of his own band he calls Jubel Jenkins. It's on YouTube too. fHe left a cd with me of each band. What I hear of what he's doing is interestingly understated. He doesn't put his banjo out front, uses it for melodic rhythm. Josh is a good musician.
He's on his way to New Orleans via Chatanooga to see his brother, Hank, then to below sea level to the city where he spent a couple years before Philadelphia, after Katrina. I think he wants to be a part of the new music scene that starts up in New Orleans after the city was swept away, people shipped to other states, the music world there history. It can never be the same, because the elements that made New Orleans a music capital are not there anymore. Some of the musicians are coming back and new musicians are coming in. I think Josh feels some interesting musical energy generating there. I wish you the best, Josh.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
He's a good entertainer and a good banjo picker and everything about his demeanor says he's a good man. His wife was along. She was so comfortable with him it told me he's as good a man at home as he appears out and about. I had the feeling loud and clear that what I was seeing of him is who he was. The man inside is the very man on the outside. He was interesting to me in that way, a man open and friendly other people tend to like, and it's all from who he is, not what he thinks he ought to be or putting on fakery. His wife sang a song with him and when they were singing she was looking at her best friend. I felt good for both of them. They seemed truly happy they're together. I can't help but admire what I see as genuine love between two people who have been mates a long time. It's not particularly common. Or, anyway, it's not common in my experience.
As I'm painting Willard now, I find I'm thinking more about what Willard has done musically in his time in Galax. He's made several albums with the Highlanders, 2 albums with Skeeter and The Skidmarks, 4 albums with Alternate Roots, 2 with Bobby Patterson of their duo. He's done countless performances on stage, has been a bluegrass singer all the way along. He writes good songs. All these bands have a foundational sound that runs through all of them that is the Willard Gayheart sound. Willard and Scott, his son-in-law are intuitional partners in music. Most importantly, they inspire and encourage one another, make music together as one. It's family music with a guest artist each week.
Next week is Butch Robbins, from Pulaski, Virginia. He's played quite a while with Bill Monroe and is one of the better respected bluegrass banjo pickers up there with Terry Baucom, meaning he's that kind of good. Getting Butch Robbins there is as good as getting Jeanette Williams there. These are people who command pretty fair rates for musical performances. They play at the Front Porch for gas money. It's a fun jam with good musical friends who play so well it's a joy to make music with them. All the musicians who have played there love making music with Willard and Scott, because they're such seasoned musicians, so good at making the music flow, and so generous musically in that they support the guest artists, not outshine them.
Good show tonight. It felt like a band playing tonight. They made good music together and worked well together passing the music from one to the next. I took Josh Willis along from the Willis farm next door. He's passing through on his way from Philadelphia to New Orleans via Chattanooga to see his brother Hank. Josh is a musician with an old-time banjo and a bass. He came away from the music tonight saying it inspired him. I'm willing to spend my gas money to drive to Woodlawn and back every week to hear this music that is among the best in the central Blue Ridge by musicians playing for gas money. There is something very real about this music and the people that make it.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
In case you're wondering what this image is about, earlier I was surfing YouTube looking for videos of shows by particular artists I like a lot, but don't get to see much of. Mangold I went to first. Then Barnett Newman, who largely painted vertical stripes on a field of a given color, and the vertical stripes will be of a given color. Example: In the modern art museum in Amsterdam was a Newman something like 15 feet long and about 7 feet high. At least this size. The surface is painted a gorgeous red the likes of which you only find in China where they really know red. A vertical stripe on the left side in blue, maybe 7 or 8 inches wide. On the right side a vertical stripe of yellow maybe a couple inches wide. It was heralded as one of the great pieces of art of that period of the modern era. Some mentally imbalanced mess, no doubt a drug casualty, walked the length of it with a knife slicing a gash all the way. A glitch in civilization. Art restorationists have never, as of the last I read about it, years ago, been able to bring it back to the original luminous color. I think it died.
Last time I was in NY, a long time ago, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the 20th century area with a friend who knew NY. She freaked me out. We came around a corner and stood face to face with an upright slab of steel standing straight up without visible assistance, maybe 7 feet wide and 5 feet high. This is memory coming up with these measurements. I'll have to say it's ballpark, approximately, margin of error, 30%. It was attributed to Ellsworth Kelly, an artist I think a very great deal of, a very great deal. She set out on a harangue about expecting her to believe that's art when it's nothing but a slab of steel. It went on and on. I went and sat before a Pollack that knocked my sox off. Another harangue, it's nothing but slung paint. Anybody can do that. My thought response I kept to myself, then why isn't anybody else doing it? We didn't have much fun that day. I wanted to go to the Egyptian section and see sculptures and one thing and another. She'd wait outside. She's Jewish. Egyptians are enemies of the Jews. Ok. Whatever. They're also the source of Western Civilization, but what does that matter? It was good to get back to the mountains. That's my Ellsworth Kelly story.
Found a video of Barnett Newman, the one who does vertical stripes, the 12 paintings of his in the National Gallery in DC called The Stations of the Cross. They were mostly vertical white canvases with a vertical black line on it, different places on different ones, then a wide black line and a narrow black line on white. Then it went to a canvas of off-white paint with a white vertical stripe. Then one with 2 white vertical stripes. I've stood in that room, a whole room devoted to these paintings, next door to a room full of Mark Rothko paintings that glowed on the walls. I remember those two rooms and forget almost everything else in there except a Robert Motherwell Ode to the Spanish Republic, big black forms on white, and a thing by Robert Rauschenberg that looked like a small cardboard box, maybe a foot and a half square, memory dimensions again, smashed flat and hung on the wall. That's exactly what it looked like because that's what it was. Until I looked behind it and saw it was made of clay. I went back to look at the front and it was still a cardboard box. I think 2 of them hung side by side.
I found a video of an exhibition of color field artists, including all I've mentioned here and several others. I knew I liked this kind of painting an awful lot, but never saw a show of several, just one in art magazines at a time or art books. It's not like I have access to museums, so I'm finding YouTube a magnificent resource for art of the 20th century. I've just begun to tap it. Looked up some RB Kitaj, too. In fact, it was a show of his at the Met that my friend and I went to see, because she wanted to see it, likes him a lot. It was incredible. Until I wanted to see some more abstract sorts of things with the abstract expressionists and minimalists. I suppose I had her along as an anchor to keep my feet on the ground instead of having an ecstatic experience surrounded on all walls by art I love in a great big way. Kelly most often puts two colors in relation to each other. He uses shapes like circle, rectangle, triangle, square, vertical lines, horizontal lines. I was looking at a few places on YouTube of exhibitions of Kelly that I can only say moved me emotionally. An intake of breath and a feeling of joy looking something like the one above by Robert Mangold, whose work isn't a whole lot different from Kelly's and at the same time very different.
After that, I swore off going to museums any way but alone. I'd had other museum experiences with somebody along that were never satisfactory. I don't even like to go to movies with somebody any more. It's fun to take a kid to see Ninja Turtles 1, 2 & 3, or watch Weird Al videos with kids. That's a lot of fun. Kids get tickled at funny skits or whatever and laugh like crazy. Now with netflix I don't have to miss everything. I heard this morning or yesterday on the news that Blockbuster has declared bankruptcy and netflix stock is going way up. Last time I was at the video store in Sparta, I brought one back one day late and had to pay over $5. I could have walked out the door, because it was my first thought when he told me that. He looked like maybe 17 in a heavy metal tshirt, a bit overweight--sign of a video game nerd. Maybe 2nd or 3rd day on the job. When I paid it I didn't want to say anything dramatic like you'll never see me in here again, though that was my meaning when I said, "Netflix is gonna put y'all out of business." "Huh?" "Never mind." When they sell out here, I'm not going to go looking for bargains on dvds. They've never had much I wanted to see. Bruce Lee about covered it for foreign films.
In many ways I can call this the best period of my life. Free to paint as I want to paint now that I know what I want to paint. Netflix for movies I love, nearly every one. All my adult life I've loved what are called foreign films. This doesn't mean I don't like any American films. It only means I like foreign films, movies in other languages and stories in other cultures, as well as my own. I've heard it enough times in response when I confess I like foreign films, What's wrong with American films? Like this is the Rush Limbaugh show, Wimp! Whatever. It's like that country song from some time ago, If you don't know, I aint a-gonna tell ya. From now on it's up to you, baby. Today's Kitano film was Kids Return. I'm glad I found Kitano. I like every one of his films. That can be said of many others, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, too many to list. The joy of it is films from everywhere in the world; Senegal, Thailand, Denmark, South Africa, Brazil, just a few in a very long list. Painting what I want to paint as I want to paint it, seeing 2 and 3 movies a week of the best films I've ever seen, hearing whatever music I want to hear, writing to you every day, reading what I want to read in my Blue Ridge Mountain home.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Today's film was Dolls by Takeshi Kitano, Japanese, 2002. Kitano is one very interesting director. This film opened with a Japanese puppet show of a man and a woman in some kind of drama. It's a professional puppet troupe, masters at handling the dolls telling the story by their movements in relation to one another. Someone sings the story and someone plays a shamisen, something like a 3 string Japanese banjo. After the puppet dance came the a story acted out by two people in a kind of complex relationship. They were in love. He promised to marry her, then turned and went to marry someone else. Girl 1 attempts to kill herself. It didn't take, but left her in a vegetative state. Boy feels terrible, goes and takes her with him. He tied a red rope around each of their waists and they walked dragging the rope that allowed 10 or 12 feet between them. They spent the entire film walking. It became a film of beautiful clothes they wore, different from scene to scene, and colors of the seasons. Not much goes on. They just walk.
About all the time not watching the movie I was painting. Smearing paint onto a 2'x2' canvas covering it up. I'm feeling good about the direction it's taking. That's a good sign. It's becoming quite colorful. The colors bring to mind RB Kitaj, though only the colors. That's because I tend to primary colors like he does. It feels good painting with zeal, wanting to, In this one the figure is almost life size so the folds in the shirt are long and casual, fingers more manageable. All I want to do now is paint. It's fun playing with colors. I need to find sleep. Will end here for today and go lie down til morning.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
As promised, I've put on Einstein On The Beach. It's something I love I play very little because it is 3 cds long and requires stillness on my part the whole time. Sitting here looking at the monitor wondering where to start, I remembered yesterday's promise to listen to Einstein On The Beach this time. See what happens. It was recorded 20 years ago and has not dated the least little bit. It's reminding me I don't listen to Philip Glass enough. I have a lot of his music and seldom think to listen to it. YouTube has a lot of short scenes from the performance, which is so expensive to produce I think it's only been put on in one place. I'd like to see a film of the whole thing. Surely it was filmed or there wouldn't be YouTube excerpts.
It's one of those stage productions that is site-specific NYC. It's one many reasons I've wanted to live in NY in the past. It's a city that has some of the benefits of a city, a lot of art in every form, to balance the horrors of living in a city. But it wasn't in my cards, it's not in my nature, obviously not in my karma. Big consideration: why live in a target? Why be a target for random violence? I'm too lazy to live in a high energy place like that. The lonely crowd comes to mind. It would be like living in a bee hive. I'd have to make a lot of money and have a lot of free time for all the reasons I'd want to live in NY. If I did live there I'd probably not do 1/100th of what I'd want to be there for. So I live on Waterfall Road with netflix and YouTube supplying my desire to see performance art, great films from all over the world. When it comes to blessed, I think of the Friday night music at The Front Porch Gallery, the best music in the area, and netflix. For somebody who loves a good movie, there's no better deal than netflix.
Josh Willis called from the next farm. He's in transit from Philadelphia to New Orleans, after being in Philly a few years after New Orleans for a few years after Katrina. He says he loves New Orleans and is on his way back, stopping here at the farm for a vacation where he intends to teach himself trombone anticipating playing it in New Orleans. I went over there and we talked over a couple of bottles of wine until it was late. It was fun talking with somebody whose only experience is city. It's a different culture all together from country culture, let alone mountain country culture. I was listening to somebody talk who the mountains have not yet put in his place, as Ralph Stanley said of the mountains. They do put you in your place. They put you in proportion to the bigger picture, by which I mean God, not Big Brother Government or whatever is presently correct.
Josh played some interesting jazz from the fifties, Zoot Sims and Duke Ellington. We talked of this and that. He swore he was going to get me on Ira Glass's This American Life, which made me laugh out loud. I laughed and he was serious. I'm of the mountains where words don't mean antyhing until action bears them out. He's of the city where words are everything, meaning not much. Yet he's a guy of meaning, so it makes me not want to write him off as absurd, though that's how I receive it. I've no interest in being on tv esp on This American Life, the freak show. It's the kind of thing where it sounds like he's serious, but I hope it's bullshitting with a head full of wine, "I'm gonna." Anyway, we had a good visit once we got off that subject. Somebody trying to talk me into something I'm not going to do, like go to New Orleans, like I gotta, and I had to say I don't cross the county line without knowing I'm going to be back to sleep in my own bed. I'm not going to New Orleans. it takes people a while sometimes to catch on that I'm a Taurus, I really am. You don't know what stubborn is until you set out to get me to do something I'm not going to do. My attitude is I'm in control. If I'm not going to, I aint gonna.
I'm so much a Taurus that just reading the general description is me specifically. We were sitting across the table, wine glasses between us, him telling me I'm going to New Orleans and me letting him talk. I'm not flying anyplace and not driving that far. My reason for flying is not fear of dying, but refusal to subject myself to fascism in airports. For all I know, I'm on the no-fly list. I ought to be just because I believe they're the enemy, making me their enemy. The time in the Navy threatening to blow the hell out of Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, another helpless nation for the bully superpower to attack, because Communists were a problem. Communists in Latin America. Unthinkable. Not permitted. 57 Communists in Washington DC, 57 Communists in Chapel Hill, 57 Communists in High Point. Are they the same 57 or different 57s? Now we have terrorists undercover FBI men fire up to make some revolutionary statement on tape and zap them into prison when they were no threat at all. Just the thrill of putting somebody away. All of which is to say, I aint going to no damn New Orleans. I have all I have to do right here where I belong.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Hearing the so-called news cracks me up any more. Got into a day of several hours before a canvas getting a new one going. NPR talk radio on, Diane Rehm, World Have Your Say, The World and some others I didn't pay much attention to. The soothing quality of white noise, human voices talking nonsense syllables in the background, what I'm doing with the brush in the foreground. So far, it's ok, but it needs a lot of work. I laughed like it was comedy central. The recession, the worst since the Great Depression, is "officially ended." My first thought: is this the next Mission Accomplished? Makes good tv. Except nobody who works for a living believes it. Because it's so difficult to believe I suppose they had to give it the label, "officially." Thus Spake Propaganda Central. If you believe this, it doesn't really matter if you do or if you don't, I tell myself, it's a leap of faith. And I don't have that much faith in the people who make such pronouncements we're expected to believe just because They said it.
Often today I heard the word change batted about like a tennis ball. Much of it had to do with democracy Iran. The various people talking, "activists," in Turkey for democracy, fighting for democracy in anti-democratic places, they'll be beating their heads against prison walls soon, questioning if it was, not to mention worth it, anything other than stupid. I expect in a Turkish or Iranian prison as a political prisoner they'll come to the conclusion they were stupid before the end of the first day. I don't get this notion that Democracy can be enforced by military take-over against a people's will to the point the people become the enemy, especially when it is the anti-democratic forces back home in the US of A that are spreading Democracy by killing as many people as possible, calling people fighting for their own country insurgents and terrorists. It's become something of a b&w John Wayne movie with a heavy metal soundtack. Talking about change. They want change. Change is good.
I'm hearing "change" more and more from people talking in the news. This is how it happens. When the need for change reaches the point of civil unrest, the measure of the given dictator is recorded by what comes next. Whichever way it goes, it's change. I am in the midst of a culture that has faded away before my eyes, and I see that all over the world. In Mongolia the people that herded sheep, camels and lived in the grasslands, one place in winter, another in summer, in balance with the natural world, have had to move to the cities, because that old way of life doesn't work anymore. But the cities don't work either. Desert is taking over Inner Mongolia under Chinese supervision. Plenty of change there. I live among people who don't want change, who want to hang on to the old ways that were moral where people seemed to have some use for one another, very different from the culture that is moving in, changing the culture such that kids dress like California kids. Walmart. Corporate culture informed entirely by corporate sponsored tv.
Another news item that held my attention, a prosecutor someplace charged with texting the wife of the man he was prosecuting, "Meet me at an autopsy wearing high heels." That's not all, just the one that executed his credibility. Either the guy has a zany sense of humor or he's severely twisted. I'm inclined to suppose the latter. Things are changing fast in his life about now, caught being stupid. A couple days ago I saw on YouTube a scene from an elevator camera of a young Asian girl with a backpack getting on and punching the button for her floor. A guy comes running and gets in just in time. When the elevator arrived at her floor and the door opened, he punched the button to close the door and set about attacking her with rape his intent. She pummeled the hell out of him. When the door opened he scrambled to get up and out of there. He ran down the hall. She ran after him. One of the many great YouTube moments like the dog dancing merengue with a smile on her face the whole time, doing what she loved doing most, dolphins blowing bubble rings, the Rolling Stones doing King Bee live, Joy Division doing Transmission live.
A lot of talk about the internet making changes, because an individual voice has great possible distribution, talk about the democracy of the web. So one side of a given argument can be presented well on the internet. It's counter argument has the same forum. Where is the advantage? It strikes me as the ideal entertainment. I can fuss with it for hours, watching something 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, and the time goes by. I find comedy on there almost as funny as the news. You can see Lyndon Johnson lying with a straight face to the American people about the Gulf of Tonkin non-incident. At least he left office in disgrace. I think when I paint tomorrow I'll play Philip Glass's Einstein On The Beach. I heard enough news to last me awhile. It was a humorous day, laughing at the lies I'm expected to believe, lies I would make myself believe if I were on the climb, but I am comfortable with no status and surely don't want to get in the climb up the assets ladder where everyone is known by their net worth and pretend self-image. Like David Bowie said in a song, "Gonna be some strange changes." Things are changing so fast now I don't know what to but hang five and see where it's going.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Nothing comes forward today. Been sitting here waiting for so long there's nothing to do but shut down and read. Spent most of the day in bed. Wake from a nap, take another, wake from it, take another. This has been such a busy week I've got little of my own work done. Go here and there, meet here and there, something every day. None of it objectionable, just that there's so much of it. Every day. Today, Sunday, was shut-down day. I didn't do anything today. A few emails and that was it. The only thing my mind is doing today is looking for the composition of the next painting, the size I want to use, setting the figure in the frame in a way that makes an interesting picture no matter who the figure is. Of course, it's about who the figure is, but if there comes a time it turns up at the Hillville flea market, I want it not to matter who it is, for the picture itself to have its own value.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Just now heard Etta James sing, I'd Rather Go Blind. The woman could sing a song. YouTube is an amazing thing. I even found a b&w video of Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Recently on NPR was a human interest story of the writing of that song. The lynching happened in Indiana, yet the song starts, "Southern trees bear strange fruit," the strange fruit being black bodies hanging from ropes. Here's a lynching the other side of the Mason Dixon Line then it's told as a Southern lynching. I can't help but bring up a statistic I read in a historical journal of a lynching in Missouri. In Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia the population was half black, half white. Of the lynchings that occurred in those states, one of ten was black. This says 90% of lynchings were of white men, maybe some women too. This tells me lynchings were a populist way of dealing with crime in a time when law enforcement didn't have much of a budget. It looks to me like more heaping blame on the South from outside the South where people know nothing whatsoever of what's going on in the South.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
It's a time now of wildflowers yellow, white and purple, the same as the colors of spring. The colors that are first in the blooming cycle are the same as the last in the cycle. Looking at the blooming cycle as a circle, the two ends meet as half the circle while mid summer flowers make the other half. Watched a Japanese samurai film this afternoon that only had on actual sword fight. It wasn't a slasher samurai extravaganza with blood spewing on the camera lens. It was a love story that took a very circuitous route, speaking of circles. A coming back to the beginning in a new way, setting out at the end on the next cycle. Beautiful Japanese interiors of vertical and horizontal lines, exteriors that flow with the landscape in color and design. The Japanese artist's eye is very different from the Western even doing the same things, like visuals in Japanese films, like abstractions, and colors, there's nothing like the colors Japanese artists find. Like Jr said of Earl Scruggs, he could find every note there was in a banjo. Japanese artists consistently find new tones of colors never seen before in the West.
For as long as I can remember I've been attracted to the Japanese eye in art. American art goes back a few hundred years and it's a step above stick figures. Japanese art goes so far back we have to ally ourselves with European art to have a history that goes that far back. When they join their Asian origins with China, it goes back to the pyramids, as does Western art. Then there was the Asian art from India to Persia going that far back too. Different cultural origins that weren't aware of each other for a very long time, and then only slightly, Marco Polo's Italian interpretations of what the Chinese were about. I believe he was in the time of Kublai Khan of Coleridge's acid poem. What I think I'm getting at is back at the origins of the various directions visual art took throughout the earth were very similar in their origins.
Folk music, the real old-timey kind barely remembered from all around the world sounds awfully similar all around the world. First time I heard Greek folk music, there it was. Not too far from American old-time. Egyptian. I have an idea the music played to King David's hymns (psalms) wouldn't be as foreign sounding to us now when we hear music from all over the world if we want. Egyptian and Ethiopian were the musical worlds of perhaps his people as they came to Egypt slaves from countries south of Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia. My guess is the music as it was played then in and around Jerusalem, just a few generations after leaving Africa still had plenty of Africa in it. This was Isaac Hayes's point with Black Moses. Moses was an African. His people came from south of Egypt where the roots of their music would be too.
Scholars know what the instruments were in that time, and whatever they were, there is something the same or similar played somewhere in Africa today. A one-string violin, and people who played them became masters in their old age of manipulating the sound with one string. The rhythms would still be African. Their caravans went back and forth to Persia and India. I suppose caravans in the desert navigated by the stars as mariners did. They had a lot of cultural interaction. I remember the scene in the whore house with Mary Magdalene and all the men of different races, languages, cultures going by what they wore, in The Last Temptation of Christ. Jerusalem as a place where caravans came and went had every kind of people probably from Africa to Asia this side of the Himalayas.
They didn't have suburban middle class laws about getting drunk. These were tough people and among them bandits and thieves galore. It was wild times. Look at the parties King David threw for his men after a battle. I'd say it would be a good guess that they had drums going on too with black men playing them. The girls would be every race and nationality from Marrakesh to Calcutta. There would probably be several dead of various reasons in the morning. These are guys good with knives. Drunk. Stupid. The knives come out on Saturday night. Celebrating surviving another battle, something not everybody does, and there's no knowing going into it who may return. I doubt the wine they drank was 10%. I doubt a movie could be made to duplicate the scene. The smells must have been overwhelming. BO from hell, literally. I don't think they had locker rooms then with showers for after the game. Everybody smelling so bad nobody notices. When we from tv world go to places on the globe where deodorants aren't quite the vogue they are here, it gets our attention.
In that place and time after all day on the battlefield, hacking, stabbing, spearing, shooting arrows, probably covered in blood something like a pickup after a mudsling covered in mud. And the babes love it. Harley men without restraints. Telling stories all night long, drunk, of Bruno getting his head lopped off, Igor run through with a spear, and the guy whose guts fell out. Everybody laughs. The hos in awe of these Arnold / Rocky / Chuck Norris bad guys that kill for the thrill of not being dead. Get stupid til you drop and wake up on the floor around noon. It would make Las Vegas look silly, prim and ridiculous. We tend to think of the time and place as Bible Times, therefore really special, God's chosen people on a serious killing spree like Genghis Khan did later, destroying population centers, doing like the ones with the most powerful armies do in all times, destroy defenseless villages and towns and have a party afterward. They destroyed all that went before them.
Genghis Khan destroyed and looted from Mongolia to Afghanistan with an army no army could defeat. Men that rode horses all-out day after day, lived their lives on their horses. It was a very different life from the American soldiers in Iraq doing the same thing, big superior Army destroying a defenseless country, and then we'll leave, except for bases set up all over the country, that our troops went in to establish. We don't do slasher war any more. We do video game war. Push a button in the video game in your tank and shoot a direct hit on another tank over the horizon out of sight. Those drones they nab the enemy with that direct a missile to a specific spot, like when Ahab is sunbathing on the flat roof they have where it doesn't snow, somebody can be operating the drone from a computer anyplace, Memphis, FtWorth, Anchorage, doing it like a video game. That's really weird.
If you're still with me, you're as surprised as I am at what a turn this took, Surrealism in everyday life. Good. I've been wanting to be able to skitz off into the unknown and see where it went. I tend to want to anchor myself in what makes sense. That was fun to just let go and see whatever happened. I hope it didn't bore you too much. I haven't read it yet and probably won't before it's posted since I'm so often drained by the time I'm done writing these entries, I just spell check and wait til morning to see if any sense was made. You see, what I'm doing at this end is having a ball. That's why I give it 3-5 hours a day. It's my time to dance the only way I know how. I write about my experience because it's the only experience I have access to. I don't care anything about writing fiction, because even a direct account of an experience is fiction. It's told from one perspective of many possible, interpreted, filtered through mind and personal associations, comes out in brief paragraphs devoid of context.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
This afternoon I applied name to the Ralph Stanley painting. After the name is on it, I don't do anything else. Whatever flaws or flubs are on it when the name goes on remain. The most important result I want from a painting is that it have life. The people seem to be breathing. It's also important to me that when Dewey Brown, the fiddler, sees it he won't be ashamed and wish he never saw it. I wanted every one of them in the band to be as close to his likeness as Ralph, as he might like to see a picture painted of himself. One thing about it I like is what I think of as my flaws turn out to look like a style. That's convenient.
When I see this or that detail a little bit off, somehow it sets off a visual strobe effect, subtly, of course. The eye knows the shape of a perfectly round banjo head, so when it's a little bit off, because I only do circles free hand, the eye sees that and the mind's eye sees what it thinks of as right roundness, then the outer eye sees the slightly off round, and it goes back to mind's eye. It keeps on going like that. When there's a bunch of those slightly off places scattered about more or less randomly, it seems to me to give it apparent life, makes a subliminal sense of motion. When I sit back and look at it, paying no attention to flaws I found too late, receiving it as is, finished, the best I can do, the parts where I felt like I didn't quite get what I was after vanish so I can't even find them. It looks like somebody's style, I like to believe.
This is how I justify not seeking "perfection." Like Henry Miller said of enlightenment, there's nothing left but to go on and leave the body, there's no use for it here on earth. People who reach it don't make sense to people this side of that divide. Besides, once one has reached perfection, whatever that is in anything, that's it. Maxed out. Like when To Kill A Mockingbird was your first book, how do you write something else? Perfection is not my goal. I want my people to have the illusion of living beings in motion. I don't mean like you can see them move around. Something to make the first time viewer double-take subconsciously. There again, that back and forth subtle strobe effect. I might be making much of very little, but I have become convinced enough of it to use it when it's needed.
I find I like a sense of flatness on a 2-dimensional work, flatness like silkscreen. I also like roundness, and a sense of depth. I like both at once. That, too, gives me that back and forth visual tension. Today I looked at Robert Motherwell's Ode To The Spanish Republic, abstraction with black forms, my inspiration where composition is concerned. Google him and click on images for a treat if you like abstraction. Whenever I've seen one of his works in a museum, I've felt awe, inspired in the sense that I breathe inward a refreshing oasis kind of breeze for the tired lungs. A rush of oxygen to the brain that wakes up to see it as it really is.
Consciously left out all the microphone stands and wires. They are so incredibly distracting at shows. I don't like painting long, narrow straight lines. The image is about music and the joy in the music. A fence of straight lines all the way across the front, crossing each other at sharp and pointed angles that I take visually for expressions of anger. Anger is often expressed visually with pointed straight lines. I don't want to put a barricade of straight lines and sharp angles across the front of the band. At a concert they're necessary, but in a 2-D image when there's no sound, mics are not needed. It feels to me like the people on the stage are emitting a happy feeling to the illusion of an audience. I don't want to fence in that joy. I want it to go straight to the people listening without filtering. At a concert, the band connects with the audience through the mics, but in a 2-dimensional silent situation, seeing what we hear, they're not part of the picture.
Maybe this could be called a tribute to Ralph Stanley. It's a reverence for Ralph Stanley. It's music that connects with my heart, because that's where Ralph Stanley sings it from. I like to believe I paint from the heart. Searching for a likeness in a face I have to go way deep down inside and pull it up, like diving to the bottom for the oyster with the pearl, digging it out, taking it to the surface. It is definitely a sense of going deep within, searching for the life force I want, look at the eyes until I see how I want to in a way that you can't really see the eyeballs, but the eyes see. That's what I dive for. I do the same writing, looking for the right word, the right image for a given feeling. Go in, look at the feeling and find a way to define it in a way that it feels. Somehow. I suppose everyone who paints or writes has his/her own way of finding feeling going within. Maybe it could be called an inspired, or inspiring place, because when it's found it's accompanied by that inrush of a breath sending oxygen to the brain to get its attention.
I apologize if I sound like I'm bragging. I don't think I am. Just trying to find ways to help you see what I think I'm up to. It gets into subtle stuff going inside looking at feelings, like looking up words in a dictionary. It's a whole lot of fun to paint pictures. I used to want my painting to be "contemporary," go along with the mainstream of the moment. A fabric artist friend in Miami told me easel painting is not mainstream. I said, Good. By the time a style or school or whatever of painting becomes mainstream it's over. Something else is going on. I live in the mountains, paint for the mountain people, want to make paintings to honor mountain people, painted in such a way they believe they understand what they're seeing, someone they know. I'm not interested in putting a nose on one side of the face and eyes on the other side. That can make an interesting image, done right, but it's not what I want to do. I want to spend the rest of my days uplifting the self-esteem of the mountain people, my way of thanking them for letting me live among them as happily as I have, and for all I've learned from the people I've known.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Tapo has clung to me since the dog went away. She snuggles into the crook of my arm when I'm reading, on my lap watching a movie. She waits while I'm on my feet for me to sit down. Here she comes. Caterpillar has wanted more attention too. She's become quite vocal, which she's never been. I'm beginning to think I did all the communicating with TarBaby. She's opening to communicating. We had to learn how. Now we're getting it. Tapo too. With TarBaby not here, they both get more attention. Martha still comes by during the day, but they're not afraid of her any more. They're used to her being around. She's not a threat, but I don't want the cats to let down their guard where dogs are concerned. Martha is all the dog I need. She's around during the days. This is her hangout place.
Saw a documentary film today by French director Louis Malle, And The Pursuit Of Happiness. It was a series of brief interviews with immigrants to America; Vietnamese, Laotian, Iraqi, Mexican, Nicaraguan, Egyptian, Ethiopian, what have you. It amounted to looking at why different individuals came to America. Often they don't like to think about where they came from, because they are here now. They like what we take for granted. There was a Vietnamese doctor in a small town of western Nebraska. We went into the home of General Somosa of Nicaragua, which seemed to be in Los Angeles. He did not look like he was particularly happy about gringos in his house filming him and his son who did the talking. His wife seemed nervous and his son seemed nervous. It felt like major reserve with a film crew in his house not knowing what was going to come of this project. He looked wary as a cat with a dog in the house.
One of the themes of my life has been making sense of America, the whole hog, what makes us the way we are as Americans such that Europeans say they can spot an American a mile off. It's the way we walk. We waddle. It's called the American Waddle. I saw it in the Charlotte airport after returning from a week in Europe. As soon as I left the plane, everyone I saw was waddling. Everybody. Curiously, we walk on sidewalks like in Greece. We tend to walk in lanes when it's busy and we watch where we're going. London sidewalks are mayhem. Somebody in front of you will suddlenly stop. Everybody it seems is in their own little world of themselves alone. In America we're very much aware of the people around us. We're so social we run our mouths nonstop when we get together. We don't like to bump. It's such a bother when we bump cars, police, insurance, estimates, getting it fixed, so we tend not to bump into each other walking either. Same with grocery carts. We'll do anything to avoid bumping. When we do bump, it's followed by apologies from both sides.
I've even become emotionally involved in issues American, politics, and have followed politicians with skepticism until by now I don't trust any of them. I don't know if it's because I've paid enough attention until I came to that end, or if it's because they're so much more transparent now in their self interest. One thing I've found in examinations of my homeland is we are the most racist people in the world, maybe next to the Chinese and Japanese and all of Africa. The whole world is racist. We are too. We pretend we're not. Ban a word and everything is ok. There's no reverse racism. Only racism. I trace it to our egoic need to be superior to somebody, especially when we can't do it by merit. It doesn't just run white to all races. It runs all races to all races. American Indians don't have a great deal of use for white people. White people don't have much use for them. We keep them in concentration camps a century after Sitting Bull was killed. If it weren't for the liberals in the cities back east, the Indians would have been wiped completely out. It was genocide, period.
I like living in a place where racism isn't an issue except where political correctness is concerned. People have their own beliefs about race. But there are no issues here. No black part of town no white anybody dares enter, ever. No gang violence here that's out in the open yet. It's the South. I have no argument with the South as itself. Yankees are every bit as racist as it is in the South. Not everyone in the South is racist, either side of the color line. Look at all the great Southern writers of the 20th Century, Faulkner, Welty, McCullers, Penn Warren, Ransom, Tennessee Williams, and the list goes on, none of them racist. They wrote about racism, because it was the world they lived in, but they didn't write about it as racists. I've known a great number of non-racist Southerners. Personally, I don't care if somebody is a racist. I'm not totally free of it, myself. If I were cocktail party talking, it would be, I'm no racist. But when I pay attention to myself, I see I have some. No big deal. I'm not ever going to disrespect somebody over race or nationality, ever. Or so I intend. I don't know that I ever have. If so, it was unconscious. I do a lot that's unconscious. So far I'm keeping it in the road.
I think what I'm getting at in a digressive sort of way is my study of the USA has come to a place where I'd rather not concern myself over it politically any more. I can't concern myself with so much that's "out there" anymore. I want to pull my attention more "in here." At home. Where I live. The road I live on. The roads I drive. The people I know. Daily social interactions. These are the places I want to put my attention from here on. The experience of the world I live in, which is the people I see in the course of a day, has become the extent of my concern. I don't mean to say I'm withdrawing from civilization. The people we live among is civilization as we know it. Mine is a very different experience from someone in Burma. I can't concern myself any more with laws in Arizona, executions in Texas, preachers on tv, who wins what election, or even whether or not 911 was an inside job. The news is for other people to wrangle, fuss and have opinions about. It's got to the place when I think to turn on the news, I pretend to barf and don't push the button. I hear some of it, but it doesn't move me one way or the other. I'm at home in my peaceful mountain schoolhouse in a world of people I care about personally. Please don't misunderstand that I mean anything absolutely. I'll listen to news from time to time. Just not like before when I cared about it.