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Paradise Lost

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Aeon; Rome 1597

Above, someone else’s idea of life on earth, Rome, 1597

... purity or loyalty to the origins of man’s never tarnished, never exhausted or made banal nostalgia for lost paradise!

-Leo Bronstein, Kabbalah and Art

If a good friend, a long-time studio sound engineer (thank you, George!), hadn’t asked for liner notes for my recent CD release, Portraits, I would not have yet seen that my prayers to have a world-view of my own had been answered - at least for now ... at least in part.

Sometimes it is impossible to see one’s own art, to have any perspective. I get wrapped up in technicalities, self-critique, expectations of others, self-praise. How can I see what’s really in there? Writing helped me, in this case, work out what I’m seeing or hearing (and maybe time has helped, too).

With shovel and pail while the sun was still high,
I built my kingdom there,
Tide’s creeping up, castle-keepers beware,
Oh, what a day it’s been ...

from Oh, What a Day it’s Been. This is the disc’s opening track with idyllic childhood beach imagery as an analogy for lifelong longing for paradise.

Watched the clock click a quarter to twelve, couldn’t take it anymore,
Thought real good about the Cap’n Kirk on the back of my door ...

Turned tail, bustin’ out of the house, runnin’ cryin’ in the rain,
Thought I’d never stop a-runnin’, guess I never stopped my runnin’ again

from Way Back in ‘77. An account of the moment in youth in which paradise is lost (don’t I love Star Trek?).

Can you remember? It’s important that you do,
Will you remember as you’re making your way through?
You must remember ’cause he told you so, it’s true,

When he told you he’d be coming home.

from Sleep Like a Baby: comforts that paradise will be restored in the end.

I ask the executioner, “are you free of any crime,
Don’t you hear that last train pulling out for the very last time?”

from The Very Last Time. A mark made at a point of desperation when it’s easy to forget the old promises.

Like a child’s repeated asking and he will not be denied,
Have I tried to still the calling of the wilderness inside,
‘Cause it’s not sane, it’s not pretty, but an untamed, giddy ride
That’s still open bare wide, like it was in my youth,
When I wanted more from life than just a life that’s got that ring.

from Ring of Truth. The journey comes full-circle with a redemptive remembering.

I see the sunlight sparkle around and the feeling I’m guessing is blessed,
I watch the pond lilies bob up and down and I’m guessing the feeling is blessed.

All’s well, yeah, I’m doing swell,
All’s well, I hope you’re well as well

from All’s Well. The arrival in a Eden-like paradise.

I wasn’t conscious I was telling a story with this disc - these and other songs were recorded over the course of three years - I chose the songs I thought sounded best.

And the song order sounded right to me.

Maybe they sounded best and right in order to tell my paradise-lost world-view to myself.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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Norman Rockwell's The Connoisseur

Taking his ideological fight to the people, in this 1962 Saturday Evening Post cover Norman Rockwell skewered “Action Painting” which may itself have been an argument against the state-sanctioned art of the USSR.

Are ideologies born of arguments? I’d like to think not, but I can’t say for sure. And that’s the very problem: I can often see an argument from both points-of-view. Which means it takes an awful lot of effort to remember which side I’m supposed to be on. And if one builds a whole life on rationale - won’t that need an awful lot of reassurances?

So the question becomes: how can I really know what’s important? And more specifically, how can I really know what’s important to me?

And, aren’t we tricky things? We’re always fooling ourselves: sincere resolutions (raise your hand if you have dumb bells gathering dust); crushes are real love; this whim (fad) will make the difference in my life.

Art helps. Time helps. Reflection helps (Andre Rochais’ PRH’s writing method has helped me reflect). Prayer helps.

What books, musical compositions, films, paintings, sculptures move me?

Time gives perspective; it lets me ask: what themes/interests do I keep going back to in art and life?

Irma Gendreau (of PRH) taught: it is not enough to be taken by something, but to learn why. (Today I found myself marveling at a tree’s exposed root when I realized how much it reminded me of my own reaching hand.)

Prayer for me is reaching for help from outside myself and outside humanity; I am aware of my limitations and disappointments, and maybe more aware how others of my kind are limited and disappointing, and so I reach (sometimes) ...

I’d like to learn what helps you really know what’s important to you.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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War And Peace

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Good Ship Earth 1

Above, William A Dwiggins’ 1944 drawing of the ship, earth.

In 1944 with a lot of the world at war, in Boston W. A. Dwiggins self-published a pamphlet that asked everyone to get along. Dwiggins, used his worry as the basis of his artwork (text and illustrations): “figure ourselves as part of the crew of a very small ship on a hazardous voyage across unknown seas.”

Another Dwiggins depiction of earth as a ship

In the 1960s Gene Roddenberry transmuted this idea into a positive message: in the future mankind will figure it out - no greed, no money, no racism, no nationalism, no interference (”the prime directive”), and no religion, too. The Starship Enterprise was to be a harbinger of earth-yet-to-come, as is more evident in the early globe-with-rockets sketches, below.

Early sketches of Gene Roddenberry's Enterprise

In October 2011 I found this connection between Dwiggins and Roddenberry - both the similarities (earth as a ship) and differences (current state/utopian future). And I knew the work that resulted from their world-views.

So how could I help but wonder about my own world-view?

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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Songmaking and remaking in performance (of the folk-rock-type I know something about anyway) seems like the start of a wild river, and I ride those waters with sung phrases to delight in (or at least not drown in) that water way.

[I’ll] sing it anyway, if the guitar is gonna play this fast, I’ll just stay with it. Never let your hands think you don’t know what you’re doing.
-Roger Miller in concert, 1991

I recorded in October, completing an album I envisioned three years ago: just me and my guitar. Guitar II, 2002When I used to think about playing, it was always in bands, where I could hide my lack of technique. But me and my guitar has been my recipe for most nearly reaching how I really feel about something. And what more did I ever want?

Well, I wanted to be a Beatle. Who didn’t? I didn’t see myself as a junior fifth member, but essentially creating similar imaginative journeys. Picture yourself in a boat on a river. Picture discovering wild ways, following those courses and reporting the journey so others could go along, too.

In John Gililand’s Pop Chronicles, John Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas) related:

[when] I met the Beatles, I had long talks with Paul and John about the fact that at the moment rock ‘n’ roll was not an art form … and [there] was an unspoken promise between us to raise it to the level of an art form.

And what more did I ever want than to make art? Art (with thanks to R. Henri): remaining in a clairvoyant state (a time of clearsightedness apart from ordinary time) long enough to document how it seems.

J’ai fait ce que j’ai vu (I made what I saw)
-Edouard Manet

My paintings are generally small/my songs are generally short: I do not feel able to sit long with a single idea/feeling, before my feelings shift and I am somewhere else.

My paintings/songs are simple: I was surprised when hearing a demo of the CD; the CD player returned to track 1, and I heard again the strummed G chord that ends the album.

Throughout the recording I’ve kept as my first criterion for judgment: is it a journey down a wild river?

During the recording period it happened that I reconnected with an old friend, and she wrote me as a comfort, “it is in the wilderness that God meets us” (a reference to the Torah’s description of the Jewish people’s forty years in the wilderness).

Is the wilderness (and by extension the wild river) then the (way back to that) Garden of peace and connection?

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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George Gershwin approached Arnold Schoenberg for composition lessons. “Why do you want to be an Arnold Schoenberg?” the Serialist supposedly responded, “you’re such a good Gershwin already.”

-NY Times, Edward Rothstein, November 20, 1991

Someone told me recently that we’re too hurried, and that great work takes great time.

I’ll concede the point that Americans are a generally nervous, short-attention-spanned people, but some of the most moving (to me) art is not (apparently) labored over: “My Generation,” a Koksochka self-portrait, Picasso’s “Woman Ironing”, almost any Bach work (look at the carefree play in this violin sonata score, below. Hear it here.), Lascaux.

BWV1001.jpgLascaux hunters

Isn’t it amazing the kinship of the cave paintings and the Bach score?

It looks like art is not work, but play. Isn’t that why we have a hard time considering art as a profession? Do we feel some need to labor, to punish ourselves? To justify ourselves?

I returned to art-making after seeing the natural inclinations of my child, which reminded me of my younger self. I still find myself trying to justify my worth by effort versus by delighted discovery. The latter — as seen in these examples — seems pretty powerful to me. I hope I’ll someday soon be actually convinced.

–lawrence

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a
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