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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

It may be a while before we find our way home again.

This blog has fallen idle in the past year or two because truthfully, I didn’t know what to say anymore. I wrote my first post on Christmas Eve, 2009, after something we never knew could fall did, and the message was that Art Matters. From then on I wrote about the crossroads of where Art and Life meet. There was no shortage of topics—just a shortage of time to cover them.

But as life around us grew more serious with events like Aurora and Newtown*—which occurred just 11 miles from where I was living at the time, and two days after I interviewed Kenny Loggins and the Blue Sky Riders—it seemed that art of all kinds began to recede into the background. Dare I say it—we became less relevant?

And now, on the first day of a very different world for all of us, it seems that the last thing on the agenda is art of any kind. Artists, musicians, composers, filmmakers, writers, etc.—we all seem to be quite beside the point.

But nothing is further from the truth.

What you do with your art in the next few years will be informed by the massive changes in the way we are coming to live and to think on a daily basis. We will all be challenged on our values, no matter what they are, because we now cohabit a world in a heightened state of disagreement, of conflict, and of confusion.

History does repeat, and looks at lot like the early 60s, a time that led directly into a creative explosion. Art thrives in adversity and finds its voice. Artists of all kinds are ridiculously brave in the darkness, willing to put fingers out into the unknown and explore whatever could be out there. What they show us about ourselves through songs and movies, in paintings and stories, will amaze us and open our hearts. It happened before and will happen again, and soon.

Of course, there is a unique lack of appreciation for any of the arts within the new administration, which has set as one of its first goals the elimination of funding to the National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH). Really? A world in crisis and the first order of business is to cut out the arts? But I do digress….

The arts are and have always been the soul of our entire way of life. Artists are now charged with preserving our culture, as they have been since the first cave drawings were made. We capture not just the facts, but the raw emotions of the smallest moment in time, protecting and projecting images of who and what we are that are likely to outlive any number of transitions in our government.

And in the middle of the chaos to come, the words, the pictures and the thoughts will be released from a collective creativity that will lead us to understanding, to empathy, and hopefully to peace of mind. The message today is the same as it was in 2009: Art Matters. And now it matters more…please keep at it.

So welcome again to the Arts Enclave Blog – Where Art and Life Meet!

*going right up to the biggest and most lethal shooting in Orlando in December of 2016

© Copyright 2017 – Arts Enclave.

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Take success where you find it, and call it yours.

Stan Lee, the most famous comic-book creator of all time, was born Stanley Martin Lieber. He started working as a teenager at Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) where he filled the inkwells for the artists. He planned to use the pen name Stan Lee for serious fiction. In 2008 he received a National Medal of Arts as a writer, editor and publisher—of comic books.

Dan Fogelberg and Joni Mitchell both planned on being fine artists. Oops.

As I write this, I am repeating the mantra to myself: take success where you find it. A lifetime of planning my career in the arts has taken me to many places I did not expect to go, and while the goal stays the same, the journey is not at all what I could have pictured. Through the years, I have worked in publishing, hospitals, advertising, art festivals, movie sets, corporate business, and even retail. It’s all good, because eventually, it all ends up in the book…

You can’t plan your journey in the arts…or in life. You can only prepare for it and then go where it takes you.

Very few will find the kind of success in their fields they dreamed of and others will find so much more. If you choose a life in the arts, then it’s about legacy. While money and fame are certainly possible, they are the rare rewards and to many a distraction from the actual work. Stan Lee, to my knowledge, has never published the novel he planned on writing, although, I suspect he’s pretty satisfied with what he has done.

Even in the business world, there are parallels. Only one person at a time is the CEO. The rest are all just hopefuls and minions.

Now there’s a term we have come to see differently: Minions. Defined as, ‘a servile follower or subordinate of a person in power,’ the connotation of this word changed with the release of the movie Despicable Me. Where once a minion was thought of as one of the faceless mass of followers, usually of ignominious stature, that movie created a whole world of individual minions who are fantastically happy being just what they are. In fact, the new movie “Minions” is based on the notion that they seek to be followers in the most zen-like fashion.

It’s a hard life to pursue the arts, and we are drawn to it because inside, we simply have no choice. Eventually it will call you out, and you know what you want to do. For most of us, it will mean working at other vocations to earn the moments we spend making art of any kind. Those moments are certainly precious, but the ones we spend in our other lives are what we bring to our art.

It’s what you do outside of your art that goes into it.

The secret is to appreciate the journey for what it is. Be a minion to your calling and accept the unique life it brings you.

Here they are, singing the Banana song. Enjoy.

 

BTW: Support Wikipedia with a small donation to keep it ad free. It’s the best FREE resource on the planet!

 

© Copyright 2014 – Arts Enclave.

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Georgia Middleman loves a great hook. Gary Burr looks for the North Star. And Kenny Loggins, he tries to find the truth of the emotion behind a song. Together, they are making music as Blue Sky Riders, and today they launched a CD of new songs crafted (mostly) by the three of them together, called  Finally Home.”

I have written about Kenny Loggins here before, as I am fascinated with his seemingly limitless facility for reinvention—or more aptly, evolution in to the next person along the way…it’s a life skill worth learning, and a creative process that keeps raising the bar on itself.  So I was thrilled to be able to interview the band by phone while they were working on the album in December.

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Seurat probably never said, “fuck-it.” Anyone who has seen his pointillist paintings becomes instantly aware that he just kept going, adding dot after dot after dot until the wee hours. But at what point (literally what point) was it time to stop? It’s really not clear that Seurat knew.

Here’s how it goes:  Anything in life is about perception, which is subjective, meaning completely clouded by the notions and emotional artifacts of the person doing the perceiving. That final impression—of a painting, a song, a movie, an event, even the way you spent Thanksgiving—is as much about the mind of the audience as it is about the creator.

Art needs to cut through this cloud in which billions of particles of debris are already floating to leave one single, fleeting impression. Seurat, who led the Post-Impressionist Movement, discovered he could manipulate the way the brain receives the message by breaking down the colors in the painting into separate points.

Seurat is the artist most associated with pointillism—although there were (and still are) others who practice it. The technique involves placing very specific dots of pure color in careful juxtaposition. Up close, they are DOTS, painstakingly applied, and appearing to have little meaning. But as you move away, the mind takes over, filling in the spaces for a more complete, unified picture. The further back you stand, the better it looks.

Georges Seurat

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Chicago Museum of Art)

Seurat painted about 240 paintings, often repeating the same subject. His most famous work, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” appeared in different forms over several years, as he “reworked” the painting, actually adding the points of color later in the process as his technique grew.

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With a nod to my friend Jackie who’s always involved with cool shows, I’m suggesting you check out her newest venture with Funk Therapy Productions. They have put together a pretty cool fall concert series designed to blast you into the past with some old school funk.

First up, Brooklyn-based funk band LETTUCE hits the stage in at Rhythm Dance Club in Norwalk (731 West Ave) tonight (Thursday). Lettuce just released a new album, Fly, and returns to Connecticut after playing the always awesome Gathering of the Vibes this past July.

…Never thought I’d write this sentence, but the time is right for a good old-fashioned funk sound. And tonight’s your chance to get your funk on with rulers of the genre. The seven members of Lettuce have been playing together for 20 years, after meeting at Berkeley School of Music. Other bands lined up in the Funk Therapy series include Mystic Bowie, Roots of Creation, and The Brew.

Check the Funk Therapy Productions site for tickets to all the shows.

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave.

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Glen Campbell may be the sharpest Alzheimer’s patient ever—although he forgets he has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis in early 2011, Campbell, now 75, has produced a final album of new songs with some of his best reviews in decades, and has embarked on a “Goodbye” tour of more than 80 cities scheduled through July, after which he heads for Australia. It all seems pretty ambitious for somebody in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that eventually robs people of the ability to recall or recognize their lives as they knew them. But Campbell soldiers on through moments of confusion by following the trail of music that has always guided him.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in eight older Americans will develop Alzheimer’s disease, and yet we still have no cure. Glen Campbell’s legacy may well be his confirmation of the notion that music can penetrate any mind, regardless of the state. Oliver Sacks wrote in his book, Musicophilia—Tales of Music and the Brain, that “the response to music is preserved, even when dementia is very advanced….Someone with Alzheimer’s may undergo a regression to ‘second childhood,’ but aspects of one’s essential character, of personality and personhood, of self, survive—along with certain almost indestructible forms of memory—even in very advanced dementia.” Sacks suggests that our individuality is so deeply ingrained in every cell of the central nervous system—which links the brain to every part of the body via the spinal cord—that the essence of personality persists even as the memory disappears.

With musicians of Campbell’s caliber, it is possible to see how his lifetime experience with music—going all the way back to his first guitar at age seven—would etch itself literally on every cell of his being. And so, when the conscious body cannot remember the words or the key of the song, his voice can still find the notes, and his fingers can still run the frets. Guitar playing in particular, requires that the musician practice until he no longer thinks about the notes, but plays them automatically. Guitar riffs often run so fast that the brain could not possibly instruct the fingers of both hands to strike each single note in time to play it, and so the brain develops a map that allows for the notes to be managed as one single, uninterrupted thought, much like a breath.

Early in his career, Glen Campbell was already a top studio musician. In fact, he was one of the elite Wrecking Crew of the 1960s who literally played 600 studio sessions in a year, for major albums by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Sonny & Cher, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkeys, The Mamas and Papas, and the Beach Boys, to name just a few.

His musical map is one of the most detailed in history and there are many well-worn paths for his brain to follow home.  As his wife of 30 years, Kim, explains, “Music is a natural memory aid, and it really works for him ’cause that’s what he does: music. So he’s able, most of the time, to remember and even learn new things because they’re set to music.” It’s no mean feat to do a concert under the best of circumstances, and to step on stage when you’re not sure of where you are or what time it is presents a challenge that takes a whole family to overcome. Campbell’s presence on stage is supported by his three youngest children, all in the their 20s, who play in his band and help keep him on track each evening, despite the wanderings of his mind.

Background

Glen Travis Campbell was born April 22, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas, and raised in Billstown, Arkansas, one of 12 children and son of a sharecropper. During a musical career spanning more than 50 years, he has released 70 albums and sold more than 45 million units, (12 Gold, 4 Platinum and 1 Double-Platinum). He has won Grammys in both County and cross-over pop categories and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

Now at 75, Campbell is touring for the final time before Alzheimer’s disease claims his talent for good. His personal life has also been colorful, and sometimes the stuff of tabloid fodder, including three previous marriages, as well as the infamously tempestuous and overwrought relationship with the much younger Tanya Tucker in 1980 that involved booze, drugs, and plenty of headlines. Campbell was an admitted and committed cocaine and alcohol abuser until he woke up in a hotel in Vegas unable to recall who he was—that amnesia may have been one of those really early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, like a road sign warning of falling rocks ahead. In retrospect, Kim views his DUI in 2003 as another, since he had been sober for 15 years at the time.

The signs of Alzheimer’s, his family members say, have been around for more than a decade. The Goodbye Tour is a brave and brilliant move at the same time, because the more he plays, the longer he seems to be able to hold on—and the proof is that they keep booking new dates, so the tour is currently extended through the fall of 2012. It’s hard for anyone to know just how far he will go, but I for one, am rooting him on. It’s bittersweet to watch him play. He forgets words and needs multiple teleprompters. He forgets what song they’re doing next, or the key of the song, or where he put his guitar, and his very talented kids are on stage to help him as he laughs through the rough spots. He shares his flubs with the audience who are so grateful to have this last chance with him. In the many interviews he has been giving with his wife at his side, it is clear that the man he was has already receded. He seems absent from the conversation, not really concerned about the things he gets wrong. But he gets one thing, that “he just plays guitar,” and when he does that, he’s still himself. And for Glen Campbell music may be the last thing to go….

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave.

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Sometimes when two artists come together, magic happens. Last night Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter hit the small stage at the Norwalk Concert Hall (which is literally in the City Hall Building) in Connecticut for a beautiful blending of their talents. They are playing a number of shows together, continuing tonight at Infinity Hall, also in CT, and other venues in around the country. But last night was their first show together, and that’s always special.

Music is a highly collaborative art, and the mixings of a particular performance are always unique. The chemistry between these two old friends who have lent back-ups to each other’s recordings over the years was so strong that it felt like we were hanging out with them in on the porch while they pulled out the old songs they always wanted to play.

A lot of it was covers from Tom Waits, the Backstreet Boys, and short references to everyone from James Taylor to Bob Dylan to Katy Perry. Shawn Colvin tends to provide comedy relief in her reminiscences from the road—and hopefully she will share her Sting guitar-tuning story again. Mary Chapin (her first name) Carpenter is the warm friend who rolls with whatever comes along and cracks jokes as they come to her. And while their patter includes references to loser boyfriends and hot flashes, their lyrics are mostly about small moments in life and love—the good and the bad, and what lies between.

 

There was someone in his past that he hasn’t gotten over yet

Each day’s like the last, he just misses what he can’t forget

It’s just an empty space where something used to be

Now he guards the gate, but he’s lost the key

So no one enters, but no one leaves

There’s a keeper for every flame

                           Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keeper for Every Flame

 

Sweetness and light, you were right,

Summers are getting harder

Days echo by–blood red sky

Chop wood and carry water

We only do what we can and there’s a natural plan, you know

I know that you understand cause you’re just that kind of man, you know

Oh we try and try and we cry baby cry and

Everybody knows we get nowhere

Again and again forever til the end and anwhere you go I will go there

                                   Shawn Colvin, Anywhere You Go

 

And, it should be noted they are both phenomenal guitarists.  While I lean heavily toward Shawn Colvin’s syncopated, rolling riffs,

 

it would hard not to appreciate the fine fingerwork of MCC’s delicately-laced songs.

 

They gave acoustic versions of their hits, MCC’s, He Thinks He’ll Keep Her, and what they referred to as a good ol’ murder ballad, SC’s, Sunny Came Home, but the real treat was the harmony they brought to each other’s songs—MCC’s deeper base filling in Shawn Colvin’s high register. It would have been nice to hear more of their better-known songs (like the two above), but maybe that’s for another tour!

It was one of those great evenings where the audience felt like they could easily talk to them on stage, and everybody had a good time. There is something to be said for experience, particularly among musicians, who appear to ripen with age—they are at once both sharper and more mellow. The comfort and enjoyment they so obviously derive from playing familiar songs is something that fills the air around us and we get to take home with us.

These are singer-songwriters in the folk tradition blended with county, rock and even a little blues, they play an acoustic tour with just four guitars on stage between them in a very pure set. They share stories from the road and their lives, opening just for a while, the window into how music—and why music is made. Both have albums coming out in June, SC’s All Fall Down and MCC’s Ashes and Roses.

Great timing, since we’re all waiting for something other than Adele (who is wonderful, but will need years of seasoning to be as rich as these two!)

© Copyright 2012 – Arts Enclave

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