picture tuesday – special

It’s rare to come across someone who sees and experiences the world in much the same way you do. That they’re able to clearly capture and convey it in a way you instantly recognize is magical and rare. And while certain details may not be identical, it doesn’t really matter. It’s as if they’ve been able to reach deep into your heart, memory and imagination to conjure up the treasures sleeping there.

I felt this way yesterday when I stumbled across this video by accident.

I always felt that one of the greatest pleasures of living Montréal was exploring the city on foot. To me at least, Montréal seemed to have slipped  from another world and a different age, directly into the consciousness of the immediate present. And for the curious pedestrian the city always made good on it’s promise to show you how it happened.

I can never explain the feeling of wonder and expectation I’ve always had while standing on the rise of Duluth somewhere near Coloniale. Like standing on the edge of the Prairie with the open wilderness of the entire country extending outward before me.

Or the ever present ghosts of collective history while walking past rural architecture at the bottom of the Rue de Grand Pré.  Or the heat in your hands while drinking watery hot chocolate from a paper cup in the Chalet du Mont-Royal before stepping out into the frigid snow, to descend into the forest and emerge full into the heart of a frozen city below.

And while he doesn’t capture every detail I can imagine, a huge ‘bravo’ to the person who managed to so elegantly relate an experience I believed to exist only in memory and dream.

 

 

darkroom notes -sunil ganguly

161023-sunil-gangulyOver the many years and countless hours of darkroom work, I was always accompanied by shortwave radio and music. The work being in parts demanding, tedious and time consuming; there was plenty of time to intently listen. And this meant that music that wasn’t very good was quickly discarded and music that stood the test was played over and over again. Some of it so deeply ingrained that I began to enjoy it outside the darkroom and it still accompanies me today.

The other aspect of having the time to listen at length and depth meant that exploration of a subject was a welcome affair. Given that music resources were not what they are today, the dross generally fell to the bottom  while good radio presenters, critics and liner notes often lead you down interesting and interwoven paths. The original resources being manageable, and roughly accessible to both listener and musician alike.

Amongst other things, I developed a lasting interest in film composers and arrangers. Two immensely creative areas that managed to have been washed out with the swelling tide of singer-stars and international commodification.

Bernard Herman, Quincy Jones, Henri Mancini, Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone; they all became companions and friends. It was easy to search out their music and always a deep pleasure to hear.

I don’t really want to write about film music here as much as I would like to share. Because there is one album I return to again and again. And while rightfully Sunil Ganguly is not so much a composer, he was a masterful critic, arranger and musician.Not to mention my introduction to Indian film.

Not having grown up with Indian music I find it too vast a repertoire to know. But to roughly quote Duke Ellington, it comes down to the fact that there are two kinds of music in this world — music that is played well and music that is not; and the music that’s not played very well is generally the music that’s not very good.

Personally I would argue this makes Sunil Ganguly excellent. And why I’m leaving it for you too decide. A good listen change your week for the better as for decades it’s managed to benefit mine.

friends of distinction

friends-distinction

We don’t turn on the radio very often any more. In fact, recently I’ve encountered quite a few people who’ve never turned on a radio ..Much less heard a song like this one.

It’s a shame actually. For a brief period, popular music managed to cut across all sorts of boundaries and brought some needed fun into an ugly world.  We could do with more of this right now, but I don’t hear much music in public. It’s gone from stores, homes, buses and street along with the celebration of life it can be.

For a short time, hits like this were commonplace before music became an industry. And what’s gone missing is the genuine verve, sophistication and audacity of this music.

You might want to get outside, kick off your shoes and turn this one up ..jes sayin’.

 

 

 

eroica

beethoven-eroica

In my mind, there has always been a sense of something truly revolutionary flowing from the area between Leipzig and Prague. Over the years it has somehow become a comfortable and burnished home for much of my thought and served to deeply inspire me since my early years as an adult.

Never having been there, I have little desire to visit. I would rather it remain the collected wealth of cultural experience and inspiration that I have cobbled together over the years.

I have no idea why I feel so at home with Bach, Wagner, Schumann, Mahler, Weber, Goethe, or even Hus. But over time I have come to understand, just a little, the genius and revolutionary greatness of Beethoven.

The ability of any individual to tap deeply into their cultural surroundings and wrestle out a single work that presents them unsullied to the future, is a feat of astonishing brilliance and talent. Especially when that world is being torn apart and transformed in powerful and unimaginable ways.

The  sudden, forcefull, mass upheaval of ideology in Europe at the turn of the 19th century – with it’s pervasive repudiation of the known universe – set the stage for the world we inhabit today. Deeply complex, violent, and often incomprehensible in rational terms, it’s a world we’re still vainly trying to understand and tame.

Beethoven felt and understood the passion, torment and necessity behind the cries for freedom, equality and ability to gather together freely. A witness to the riotous birth of a new idea andexpression of a fervent hope, his Eroica Symphony captures this and more.

Eroica_Beethoven_title

I saw this film by accident nearly a decade ago and it has haunted me through the years. Especially the sound of the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique under Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

By the end – open jawed – I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen. I had no real idea how powerful this piece must have been when it was first played. And how contemporary and meaningful it could remain today.

“Released on an unsuspecting world in 1804” is an understatement.

I’ve been searching constantly over the last ten years in order to see it again. I only recently discovered it online and suspect it’s life here could be brief. Even though it’s long, I urge you to take a look before it disappears again. This may be the last and only chance you’ll get. There are no guarantees it’ll stick around, so I urge you to find a big screen and some quality sound before it disappears for good, and the ideas along with it.

shake the dust

shakethedust

Gaining and sharing a new perspective on the world is one of the blessings of mankind.

I believe it’s one of those fundamental things that allow us to flourish. Properly named, it could be art.

More important though is the culture from which it springs. Culture made from the not so special lives of very ordinary people going about their every day business. Surprisingly and more often than we think; many of these very ordinary people are capable of taking a talent for something they love and sharing it freely with those around them. Often managing to transcend their small personal situations and teaching us about freedom and the need for it’s expression.

This is the very best of culture. At heart it’s who and what we are and it’s this that deserves our protection and respect.

http://www.shakethedust.org/ for more info

What he thinks he’s doing.

vadar

It seems there’s been a lot of kidding about old people having fun recently, and having the perspective of youth makes it easy to do.

How we sense ourselves seems to constantly grow and change over time and unfortunately others don’t get to see this from the inside even at the best of times. So when things begin to bubble over the edges, it seems ridiculous.

But when you get to a place where you can produce things like this; it doesn’t matter what we think he’s doing

…we’ve been schooled.

Sometimes the less said the better.

dubFrontBigIt’s always wonderful to be confronted with jaw dropping talent. Especially when it comes at you straight out of the blue.

I was sent this link the other day and specifically asked to take some time for a well constructed song. To say I was impressed would be a serious understatement. What I heard and saw was definitely not on my map, but sure is now and I’d urge you to take a couple of minutes to watch this to the end and judge for yourself.   (thanks Simeon)

LET’S DANCE

nile-rodgers-02

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a long time fan of the Bee Gees. From the time they formed in 1958, they seemed to regularly pop in and out of my life. The harmony in ‘Massachusetts’ never left me, and their entire songbook has been part of me ever since.

Like Miles Davis or Bob Marley, they managed to change the world I inhabited and everything in it. Using sheer talent, musical genius and a profound connection to the culture they lived in, they explored, shaped and created wonders we take for granted today.

And then there are the giants we never knew existed. Giants like Nile Rogers. The Nile who isn’t exactly a household name but still manages to shake the core of our universe.

Together, Nile and his best bud Bernard Edwards, created one of the most powerful sounds in popular music. As easily recognizable as Glen Miller and big enough to spawn the only credible threat to rock and roll, the two of them turned out to be the most important, single, musical force in the past sixty years.

Once you realize who he is and what he was up to, you suddenly understand the seventies, the eighties, and even the nineties.  And what he’s up to now.. well it’s just as good.

I stumbled across a review of his show last week in The Guardian. Here was a guy returning after a two year struggle with prostrate cancer to climb on the stage with his band and for two solid hours, create an extraordinary and powerful tribute to disco. Why would someone do that in this day and age? And why would they bother I wondered?

After a little digging around I began to realize in fact because he was IT. This whole disco thing, it was him. And it doesn’t just stop there.

A classically trained jazz guitarist he started playing funk on the original Sesame Street and R&B at the Apollo Theatre where he met Bernard in his early twenties. From fusion jazz to creating a sound that transformed into hip-hop thanks to the Sugarhill Gang. This guy knew what he was doing. And apparently he still does.

Not to mention Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, or INXS. And then there’s Chic. It seems it all was family.

I soon discovered there are very few people who have the ability to touch and galvanize every area of the culture they inhabit. But this guy is the real deal. Not because he has an affinity for industry politics or a select group of friends but because he is good. Real good!

With his huge smile and the generous heart that marks all genuine talent and genius, he continues to give. But don’t trust me, hurry on down and catch the entire story for yourself on this wonderful documentary produced by the BBC. And then make up your own mind.