Perambulating the Bounds

Monday, September 18, 2006

Jon Langford at TAG

Got a press release from TAG that Jon Langford (Mekons, Waco Brothers, etc.) is doing a one-night thing at the gallery from 6-8 this Thursday. A one-person media empire, apparently he's got some new paintings to show, a book of art work and "remarks on his life in music" for sale, and he's going to play some songs.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Banksy in Disneyland

Not that this dude needs any more publicity (NPR had a long piece on him this week), but this is priceless. Thanks to Scott Marshall for sending this link.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

If you're in Nashville this weekend

Downtown Pres is doing another DIG art show, with an opening 7-9 Saturday night. That's this Saturday, the 16th. (DPC is at the corner of 5th and Church, and you will enter on the 5th Avenue side Saturday.) Based on the people involved, it should be very good. This includes current and former users of the church’s studio space like Richard Feaster, Todd Greene, and Beth Gilmore, and some friends. Heather Thompson has a piece, and the piece she did for DPC show last Spring was one of the most successful things I’ve ever encountered that integrates religious experience and contemporary aesthetics. Erika Johnson is also in the show, and I always look forward to seeing her new work—she progresses and grows before your eyes, and is engaged with important issues and experience. Rocky Horton from the Lipscomb art faculty also has a piece, and it’s good to see a connection developing between the art program there and DPC. He participated in forum at last Spring’s show.

The best thing about the show is the title, "Found Objects in Ordinary Time." Ordinary Time is the term that describes the time on the church calendar between Pentecost (the last event in the Easter season) and Adevent, when there are no major holidays in the Christian year. It's like the workplace between New Year's or MLK day and Memorial Day when most places don't have a lot of days off. You chug along, gettting work done until the summer season starts. In the church, this period between the major holidays is when you just go to church, work through the lectionary, sing hymns not associated with particular holidays. Just live. In honor of that kind of ordinariness, Beth, Tom, Geoff and the others asked for works that incorporate found objects, everyday stuff for ordinary days that are as rich as the days endowed with special pomp and ceremony.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I Wish I'd Written It

This post brings together two people I admire very much: Amy Pleasant, an artist from Birmingham, and Frederic Koeppel, who reviews art for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Amy has shown in Nashville several times and I’ve enjoyed looking at her work and writing about it. Currently she’s got a show at Rhodes College, and Frederic did a tremendous review of the show. You expect the arts writing in daily newspapers to be non-existent or severely limited in its critical dimension. That’s not true with him. This review is a good example, economical, descriptive, perceptive, and touching.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

If you are in New York next weekend

Philip Gayle is playing a show at the Downtown Music Gallery on Sunday Sept 17 at 6:00. He hasn't played out much lately as far as I know. I guess you could say this performance is "in support" of his CD The Mommy Row, but that was done in the studio with layers of overdubbing. This will be him and some guitars and waterphone, or something like that. Although there's obvious differences between this sort of live deal and what he can assemble in the studio, it's definitely the same voice.

The thing about Phil, well there's many things about Phil, but about his music is that he has a remarkable ability to extrapolate a universe of music from any single sound. One noise, generated however (with him the sources are always acoustic as are most of the manipulations), immediately suggests more and more sounds to him, and quickly they explode into polyphony and counterpoint. It doesn't matter what he uses to make the sound, although the fact is he has great guitar technique, which means that some of the options open to him involve things like being able to pick notes on a stringed instrument. And his technique never, ever devolves into something hackneyed.

Friday, September 08, 2006

New Yorker cover

Check out the cover of the new issue of the New Yorker. All white, except for a little drawing of a man holding a long poll. Oh yeah. Philippe Petit. You fill in the rest of the scene that's not there.

This is on the magazine's outer cover. You turn the page and the tightrope walker is overlaid on a painting of the WTC site today, still suspended in mid-air. But the second picture is redundant. The one on the outside captures the loss -- people and buildings, but also the world that produced the WTC. The reference to Philippe Petit, who made his walk in 1974, reminds you that the WTC was a phenomenon of the 70s, and Sept 2001 maybe was the final chapter in a process through which that world was obliterated. Even though NY was falling apart in the 70s, the city still had its character as a place where everyone mixed it up. It's a point you get in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam too, nostalgia for what by all rights we should think of as good riddance. But it was a time when there seemed to be a lot more room in the culture for pleasure, for change, and for goofy stuff like Petit's stunt.

The other thing about the picture is that the figure could be falling through air.

It's a brilliant illustration, distills all this loss to one image.

You can see the cover in a flash box on the New Yorker main site, next to the box you click to subscribe.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Wendell Berry poem

Been browsing around in some Wendell Berry poems, from A Timbered Choir, poems which arise from his practice of dedicating his Sunday mornings to walking meditation. Found this short one that struck me. I won’t grind on, but the idea of locating the loss of the great forests and grasslands inside our own bodies is powerful to me.

It is in the destruction of the world
in our own lives that drives us
half insane, and more than half.
To destroy that which we were given
in trust: how will we bear it?
It is our own bodies that we give
to be broken, our bodies
existing before and after us
in clod and cloud, worm and tree,
that we, driving or driven, despise
in our greed to live, our haste
to die. To have lost, wantonly,
the ancient forest, the vast grasslands
is our madness, the presence
in our very bodies of our grief.

1988, II
A Timbered Choir, p. 98
(Counterpoint: NY, 1998)

It’s probably illegal to post this, but maybe these credits will satisfy. Oh yeah, here’s the Amazon page for the book. Maybe that will fulfill my obligation.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Leonard Slatkin in Nashville

So the Nashville Symphony is opening its new hall, which really should mark a new era for the orchestra. The group will sound better in this building. They’ll be able to hear themselves better, and presumably any weaknesses will be audible. And it may bring in larger audiences. The LA effect.
The next step is to fill the music director’s slot, a process that takes a long time in symphonies. Kenneth Schermerhorn died in April 2005, leaving the orchestra without a leader for the next season. The search continues this year, but the symphony just announced that they have signed up Leonard Slatkin as “musical adviser” for 3 years. According to Jonathan Marx’s article on it, he’s going to help with the director search and with some of the key music director duties: “programming future seasons, hiring musicians and selecting guest artists and conductors.”
Getting Slatkin involved with Nashville is a coup. They hired him for a recording, then the opening gala, and then got the idea for this extended relationship. Slatkin has a reputation for having built up St. Louis and continuing to improve the reputation of the National Symphony (that was my orchestra as a kid, and in the pre-Rostropovich days it was definitely in a tier below groups to the north).
My first thought is they are trying to pull a Gordon Gee here. Gee had only been at Brown a year or so when the people at Vanderbilt contacted him for advice. Apparently they got to talking and decided he was the man for the Vandy job, offered him a lot of money and he got here in 2000. Is the Symphony trying the same thing? Sidle up to Leonard Slatkin to ask for advice and then try to convince him Nashville is the place he needs to go next.
This seems like it would be a harder sale than getting Gee to leave Brown for Vanderbilt. Brown and Vanderbilt are much more comparable in reputation than the 2 NSOs. There are fewer orchestras and thus a more well-defined hierarchy. So I imagine it would take more work to convince Slatkin to come here permanently. Maybe after he has “assisted” in hiring some musicians and seen what the group sounds like in the new hall, he’ll see big enough possibilities here.
Or they’ll do what they say they’re doing and hire someone who's making what seems more like a parallel move or a clear step up.

Update, Sept. 4: The New York Times weighs in about Nashville's hall. The tone is a little more skeptical. The Times arts pages are funny. They'll tease kind of provocative in their titles and then turn much softer and accomodating in the body. The title on this articles makes it sound like the piece says these halls are wasteful boondoogles, but it doesn't quite go there.