This Is What America Looks Like!

It's been a busy few weeks since Inauguration Day. Every week brings a barrage of consternating news, and then a protest in reaction. From the Women's March, to the anti-Muslim Ban protests, to Resist Trump Tuesday, to a protest in support of the LGBTQ community, every week offers opportunities to voice our dissent.

This is from the Women's March. Unfortunately I was feeling a bit under the weather—which turned out to be flu later!

I was completely astounded by the size of the Women's March. I was apprehensive that it would be a one-off and then everyone would go back home and move on with their lives. "Oh well, we protested that one time, and it didn't do anything." But the opposite has happened. As the weeks go on, I continue to be impressed by the number of people who come to stand in the cold on a Saturday afternoon, but also the diversity of people and the diversity of issues that they care about. At the Women's March, there were people chanting that black lives matter. At the LGBTQ protest, there were signs in support of Muslim and refugee rights. This is heartening to see. The only way a resurgence of the left will work is if we are all here for each other. 

At JFK Airport the evening the Muslim Ban Executive Order was announced.

At Battery Park in late January.  The Muslim Ban was especially reviled here in New York. As a city made up of immigrants of every stripe, we took the ban personally.

Going to a protest is a great way to be invigorated and to take heart from other people that share your concerns. It's hard to feel scared and alone when you're chanting " No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!" with a few thousand other people.

Also, it's fun! There are clever signs and people drumming and dancing and playing music. The LGBTQ protest was the best for fun signs. (Please note the sign that says "Never underestimate the power of a faggot with a tambourine.") The gay community is a politically active one that is not new to protesting, and it shows. 

For a week or two, I worried that all the protesting, while making me feel better, was just a sop to my feelings and was completely ineffectual outside my liberal New York bubble. But it seems that the protests have gained some traction, forcing the administration to walk back some of its crazier overreaches, hopefully giving comfort to the people that have been targeted by these Executive Orders, and putting our representatives on notice that we are paying attention. I hope that people stay engaged, reach out to others, and organize. We need to get in formation and then we need to VOTE!

I think my favorite chant was "Show me what America looks like! This is what America looks like!"

Bryant Park Birthday

I celebrated my birthday last week, and what better way to celebrate than to go out drawing with a friend? Evan Turk and I had a beautiful fall-like day, sunny and bright at Bryant Park. It's a great place to draw because it's a perfect mix of people, greenery, and buildings, and it even has a beautiful fountain and a mini-carousel. That day, I wanted to draw the fountain, and the people taking a little time out of the bustling midtown afternoon to enjoy the sound of the water and the breeze.

Night Parade II

You can be forgiven if you're asking yourself "where's Night Parade 1 if this is 2?" Well, it was way back in 2008 that I posted my last Night Parade. This one is the Main Street Electrical Parade, and it's a sweet one they've been doing at Disney off and on since 1972.

And a few details:

The New York City 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade

I went out with Evan and Siyeon to draw the St. Patrick's Day parade on Tuesday. Here in New York, we have a very robust celebration, with a big parade and a lot of onlookers cheering it on. It's always fun to draw all those bagpipers in their plaids.

 

Looking down Fifth Avenue, it just looked a like a giant crowd advancing with giant flags waving, which I guess is what it was.

Having to blow on those bagpipes for so many blocks must be pretty intense. We were all the way uptown by the end of the parade. I can only imagine from this guy's face how tired he was of blowing on those pipes!

These three were directly across from me. They must have been early in the parade and then stood by the finish to watch all their compatriots with obvious enjoyment and pride. I felt like they had such Irish faces, and in their dress blues, they were such an Irish-American New York story all by themselves.

St. Patrick's brought to mind some work I recently saw at the AFA Gallery in Scranton, PA where my teacher Veronica Lawlor currently has a show. Kevin McCloskey, one of the other artists featured in the show, created a series of prints about the lesser known miracles of St. Patrick. To me, their humor and storytelling embody defining traits of the Irish character. If you're in Scranton, stop by the gallery. Definitely also check out Ronnie's reportage of the parade as well.

Millions March Reportage

I started the day a little after 2 at Washington Square Park. The crowd was so massive, it was hard to get any distance on it. I was at the park until 3 or so, and people were still streaming up Fifth Avenue even though the march had started an hour ago.

As people marched around and through the triumphal arch, I wanted to make sure I included the statue of George Washington that stands against the north side of the arch. More on him, later, though.

At Union Square, the festive red and white striped booths of the holiday market made an incongruous backdrop to the protest. I'm not sure what the shopping tourists made of the protest, but I saw plenty of onlookers taking photos. The march took place on the same day as SantaCon, and I saw at least one Santa taking part.

There were a *lot* of cops lining the route of the march. These three were pretty jolly considering the chants marchers were directing their way. I guess I'd rather they be indulgent than aggressive, but their confident, even arrogant, body language said it all.

The march ended near Foley Square in front of police headquarters. The police had set up a dead end, so everyone was packed into a really tiny space. There was a constant stream of people moving in and out of the plaza as people were deciding to go home, to stay and protest some more, or to march to the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the bottom of the page there is a quote from George Washington inscribed on the pediment of the New York State Supreme Court Building in Foley Square, which I saw as I was leaving the march: "The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government." To me, it was a perfect summary of the point of the march, and since I'd started with a drawing of George Washington, it seemed apt to end with him as well.

If you want to see more reportage of the march, check out my friend Alex Charner's powerful work on his blog.

Eric Garner Protest Reportage

I went out to Foley Square last night with Carly Larsson, Evan Turk, and Chris Brody to reportage the protest surrounding the decision not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner. The first thing I noticed was how many people came out. I've seen estimates in the thousands, and that's just at Foley Square (here's a photo from above from Gothamist). It was heartening to see so many New Yorkers come out to protest, and I was especially glad to see how diverse the crowd was. Especially at the beginning of the protest, many of the protesters were very young, possibly college or even high school students.



Unlike the Occupy protest, some people had amplification, although to communicate with the whole crowd, the human microphone was in full effect.



The protest moved down to the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge (which is only a few blocks from Foley Square). Since I was hanging back a bit from the main protest group to draw, the cops formed their line right in front of me. They made an intimidating barrier. Their commanding officer was telling them "shoulder to shoulder!" as they lined up.



Since the protesters were denied access to the bridge, they started marching back to Foley Square. A lot of people carried signs saying "Black lives matter" and "End police brutality," but I found these paper cutouts really haunting. Each one had the name of a black man killed by the police: Sean Bell, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, among others.



The protest left Foley Square so quickly, I actually lost them for a bit. I found them again down on Canal Street, at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. The protesters had moved to try to block the tunnel, but again had been turned back by the police. If I was intimidated by the uniforms and the numbers at Foley Square, it's nothing compared to how I felt seeing riot helmets and batons.



After that, the protest moved on without me. I went down there feeling pretty down about the state of our democracy, but going home I felt buoyed by the turnout of so many people who care about what goes on. I don't know if there are more protests planned, but if you're upset, even just a little, by police brutality and the lack of accountability, I encourage you to go and see or participate.

24th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade

I went to the Halloween Dog Parade in the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run yesterday to check out all the adorable dogs in costumes. I should have guessed when I saw that they've been doing it for 24 (!) years that it would be crazy, but I was completely overwhelmed by the crush of people and dogs.

Of course, since it's New York City, most of the dogs were pretty small. There were many, many chihuahuas. There was only one little ram, but he was so cute, I drew him from a few different angles, until Mr. Bumblebee there got in the way.


I loved this dog's costume because it was so understated. The guy clearly had to go out and buy some dog shoes, but the rest of it was just kids clothes and beats headphones. And he looked great!

Again, this golden retriever's costume was simple, but made great use of a transparent cone. Bonus points for involving booze.

Disney princesses and Pixar characters were popular.




Of course, superheroes are perennial favorites.
These two were having some kind of conversation.


Wonder Woman, from the back, and taking a load off.

A few miscellaneous ones. What is this first one? A handsome fellow with a leather jacket and a white scarf. Anyone out there have any ideas?


A lot of people dressed up with their dogs, and this seemed to be one way to get into the honorable mentions or to show or place. The other way was to build a whole set for your dog(s). Gomez and Morticia Addams were there, with Thing perched on Gomez's shoulder. You could barely see their dog under his long wig and hat because he was Cousin It.

This Princess Leia and Jedi had built a whole Ewok village for their little Ewok.


Another dog you could barely see under her costume: a blue dress and blonde wig. The give away were the dragons perched on her (and the big dragon carrying her). Khaleesi!

There was another Khaleesi there with Khal Drogo, carried by one of his bloodriders. Unfortunately, I couldn't get around to the other side, so you only get the bloodrider holding his little Khal Drogo.



This one was the runner up, and I have to say, I thought it was one of the best. Full makeup, props, and a lot of skulls.

The winner was the Titanic complete with, well, the Titanic! Three dogs dressed to the nines pushed by a very proud captain.

I had my personal favorites, though. I think Barking Bad was pretty genius. The big dog was the RV and the little dog was Walter White. Their human was dressed in the yellow hoodie, so I guess he was Jesse Pinkman.

This couple went all out also. They were dressed as mushrooms and were carting their little caterpillar around in a little garden. When it came time for their presentation to the judges, the caterpillar transformed into a butterfly!

And there was even a sneaky cat (!!) disguised as, guess what? A dog!

And, last but in no way least, a little Yorkie chia pet. The owner told me that his wife and her mother had made the costume themselves. I love a DIY costume!

Mostly, I was impressed by how patient all the dogs were. They don't care about dressing up, or winning a contest. They just want to make us happy. And if we tell them they have to put on something uncomfortable, or perch on a toy horse (I missed that one, but he was there), they're willing to do it for us. I mean, look at how happy this
dog is:

If you can't get enough dogs in costume, go check out my friend Carly Larsson's hilarious blogpost on the Fort Greene Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest.

Nick Cave's Heard NY Part 2

As promised, I'm back to share the rest of my drawings of Nick Cave's enchanting piece, Heard NY. (Scroll down to see part 1.)

After stepping into the bottom half of their costumes (think colorful, layered hula skirts), one of each pair of dancers puts on the head of the horse, also covered in raffia.



The music begins with a dreamlike harp, and a playful, bell-like percussion instrument. The live musicians add so much excitement to the piece, I can't imagine the piece with recorded music.



The horses, newly awakened, sniff and nose each other, and playfully prance and high-step around. They notice the audience and come over to greet curious onlookers nose-to-nose.



Suddenly, a drum sounds. The dancers break apart and sway, shake, and shimmy. The raffia of their costumes make them look like friendly, magic muppets.



And just as suddenly, the drum fades and the harp re-emerges, and the horses reassemble themselves.

I had a professor in college who said that the ancients thought inbetween spaces and states were tricky. Places like crossroads—and train terminals, if they'd had them—could be unpredictable, and wise travelers sought the protection of Hermes to see them through the dangerous crossing. You would leave a trusted space like your home to go to some other known place, but until you arrived there, you were in a space unknown, a space where anything could happen. Nick Cave's piece really reminded me of that idea. At the crossroads, leaving the familiar and the known, we step into a magical place—perhaps unpredictable, but also beautiful and joyous. If you haven't already seen it, it's performed twice a day through Sunday, so definitely go see it!

Nick Cave's Heard NY Part 1

I went to Grand Central Terminal this morning to see Nick Cave's art/performance piece Heard NY. The first time I heard of him was back in 2011 when Mary Boone showed his Soundsuits in Chelsea. I clearly remember feeling that it was one of the highlights of the year for me. Every day this week, twice a day, his magical "heard" of horses are brought to life by Ailey students (of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) to parade, frolic, dance, and enchant the crowd of Grand Central Station commuters (and some New Yorkers in the know). There is a live harpist and drummer, and the effect of everything together is rousing.

I didn't get there early enough to beat the crowd–but drawing the crowd is part of the point! I only have a couple of drawings to share today, but I'll be posting at least a couple more once I have a chance to go back and finish them!


The horse suits waiting for the performers to imbue them with life. Even uninhabited, they project a lifelike presence, without being in the least tied to reality. That's what I love about art: how something can be completely untethered to reality, but feel so true. It's better than real!


The dancers becoming the "heard." Even though you see the transformation happen before your eyes—and you can see that it's as banal as tying on a skirt—it still seems magical once the suit is on.

Part 2 will be coming later in the week, as soon as I've been able to see the performance again. If you're in town, don't miss it! If you can't catch it, I'm posting a youtube video that will perhaps console you.

Occupy Wall Street

The Occupy Wall Street protest in Liberty Square isn't far from where I live, so I took some time last Thursday to go down and see for myself what was going on. For the most part, I'm going to leave the discussion of the protest and its agenda for other forums. I'm all for people exercising democratic rights at all times, no matter what their message and that's all I'll say about that. As a reportage artist, I love to draw a protest, although it's not something I often do. People that are passionate, that are committed to what they're doing are interesting, and interesting to draw. They want to talk, to communicate, and that's something I understand.




One of the first things I noticed was the number of very fancy cameras around. The protest isn't really getting too much press, so I can only assume these are just people who came out to take pictures.



Here's someone taking a picture with their iPad. The guy didn't feel like a protester either (although statistically, the 99% does cast a wide net).


I'm not sure what to think about the high-end video cameras.


Here's a protester whose opinion is pretty clear.


And it wasn't all young people (although there did seem to be a lot of students). Here's a member of the Granny Peace Brigade.


And who's this fellow in his striped button-down, tie, and suit slacks? Possibly a Wall Streeter on his smoke break?


The protesters are prohibited from having any amplification system, so they've worked out a way to communicate without one. Someone in the center would make an announcement, just a few words at a time, and the message would be repeated by anyone who heard it in a rhythmic singsong that would ripple out towards the edges. It was interesting, if not always perfectly effective.


If you agreed with the point being made, you could put up your hands and wiggle your fingers. Jazz hands, everybody!


And no protest reportage is complete, in my opinion, without the cops. I know they've behaved abominably at times, and have now been accused of luring people onto the Brooklyn Bridge roadway only to arrest them. While I was there, though, the cops were standing around the perimeter of the square, making sure traffic wasn't obstructed, being pretty unobtrusive.



Let's hear it for democracy in action!

Gasworks Park

Last month, I took a trip with the Dalvero Academy to Seattle and San Francisco. I'm just starting to go through those drawings now, and I just knew the first thing I had to share was my favorite place in Seattle, Gasworks Park. As some of you may have seen in past posts (like here) I love drawing big, dirty machinery. Basically, if it's industrial, I love to draw it - bonus points if it's old. Gasworks Park is the site of a coal gasification plant that closed down in 1956. Then the city of Seattle bought it and said, "So what if tar still occasionally oozes from the ground? Let's make it a park!" And so they did, and it's awesome!



Frisbee-players and bike riders frolic amongst the hulking machinery of a past era. (Click on the drawing to see it larger)


They even built a kite-flying hill. I love Seattle!


I might post some other studies of Gasworks Park another time. In the meantime, check out my friends here and here to see some of their Seattle drawings!

So Percussion and Dan Deacon at the Ecstatic Music Festival

Thursday night I went to Merkin Concert Hall to hear So Percussion and Dan Deacon play the first concert in the Ecstatic Music Festival. I'd never heard Dan Deacon play, although I've been to several So Percussion shows (see here and here). Their shows have never failed to surprise and delight. Beginning when you walk in and see something unexpected on stage - a cactus, like last time I saw them - or in this case, a stand holding several two liter bottles of soda. Turns out, if you wire it up right, you can percuss just about anything. But more about that later. Jason Treuting was absent, but he gets a free pass because his wife had just given birth two hours before! Josh Quillen called him on his cell phone from the stage so that we could all sing happy birthday to little Elsie. Sweet!

The first drawing is actually a conflation of a couple of the first So Percussion pieces, from Imaginary City and Amid the Noise. The video screen behind the band was playing a clip of Jason Treuting's baby niece playing with an orange balloon, so of course, music was made with an orange balloon. Of course! And just for fun, several orange balloons were tossed out to the audience. In another selection, DJ Schmidt of Matmos was featured, playing various...objects? I'm no musician, but I'm pretty sure there was a kazoo or two. His is the face that looms large over the band.


If you are wondering how there are five people in this drawing with with only three members of So Percussion, Eric Rosenbaum was filling in and Greg McMurray was accompanying on guitar.

For Dan Deacon's piece, entitled Take a Deep Breath, he explained that we were all going to create the piece together. A guide was passed out for the audience consisting of twenty four instructions for the audience to follow. Deep breaths were taken. Also there was a lot of humming, oooing, aaaahing, clapping, shuffling, calling friends on cell phones and having them sing on speakerphone, and many many blood-curdling screams. It was rousing and fun, although perhaps a tad long? Still, when's the last time I helped create a musical piece in a concert hall performance...um, never? Everybody wins!

After intermission, we heard the collaborative piece by Dan Deacon and So Percussion. The piece is called (I kid you not) Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler. And it featured the soda bottles being percussed - finally! It's like Chekhov's gun - I'm all atwitter since the beginning of the show to see how they'll come into play. The bottles were wired up to Dan Deacon's rig to make some surprisingly beautiful sounds, at least when played by very talented people. And just when I thought the possibilities of the soda bottles had been exhausted, the bottoms of a few were pierced and the escaping liquid hit a plastic bin underneath to make a sound like rain. Using everyday mundane objects is the surprise. But the delight happens when that everyday thing makes a sound that is so unexpectedly beautiful, even sublime. And then, when the liquid ran out, I never listened to soda bubbles so long and attentively in my life. Surprise and delight.




Here's Dan Deacon making the magic happen with his magic machine.





And the percussive finale!



My friend Julia has posted her review and her amazing drawings of the show on her blog. Be sure to check them out here!

Balzac at Cimetière du Père Lachaise

I have it on good authority that Père Lachaise Cemetery was one of Balzac's favorite places. When he wasn't feverishly writing, or drinking gallons of black coffee, he wandered the quiet lanes of Pere Lachaise. So I thought when we visited, it would be appropriate to look him up. I can see why he liked it. The outer arrondissements aren't bustling, but the quiet in Pere Lachaise is of a different quality, like you've entered a parallel city. The sounds of Paris are muffled, the light is filtered through the tall trees to become diffuse and soft. A curtain has been pulled between you and the world outside.



Fittingly, his monument features La Comédie Humaine at its base, and a dedicated soul had left some roses there.



Montmartre

Montmartre is one of my favorite neighborhoods of Paris. Since it's on the outskirts of Paris, it managed to escape the attentions of Baron Haussman, the Robert Moses of the 19th century, responsible for the homogeneity of many arrondissements. Montmartre became the refuge of those possessing a more down at heels aesthetic than those of the buttoned up, if grand, boulevards. It still retains the pre-Napoleonic charm of winding, cobblestone streets with their rich, mismatched jumble of buildings that lean against each other in long-established camaraderie. It's a tiny neighborhood, but all the streets are so twisty and hilly with surprises (a vineyard!) around so many corners, that you can easily spend a whole day exploring it.




This is the parenthetically aforementioned vineyard. Sadly, it wasn't open the day I visited, so I had to draw it from behind the fence. It looked like a little Rackham cottage up on a hill. I think I might have to make it into a wine label at some point, though, to appease the literalist in me.



I didn't get to finish this drawing of Sacre Coeur, glowing in the light of the late afternoon, but maybe I like it better this way? It seems to slowly grow out of the cloudy page (or screen), and in a moment, the mist will obscure it again and it will just be a memory of Paris.



Also, you can check out my friend and fellow Dalverian Julia's drawings of Montmartre.

La Tour Eiffel

What could be more iconic than the Eiffel Tower? As a symbol, it's ideal: beautiful, instantly recognizable, unique. As an experience, it leaves a little something to be desired. The sheer number of the tourists make the lines to visit the top an hours-long ordeal. Add to that the aggressive souvenir hawkers and the even-more aggressive beggars ("Speak English?! Speak English?!"), and I can skip it, thanks. But I love to draw it. From afar, it looks elegant, so tall and clean-lined. Up close, it changes. Looking up the open middle, it somehow becomes squat and awkward. And there are all these curliques on the arches that seem out of place on this utilitarian, steel paean to clean-lined modernism. It turns out that the arches (and the attendant curlicues) were added afterward to assuage visitors' fears that the tower was going to come crashing down on their heads any second. They weren't part of Gustav Eiffel's original plan and are completely extraneous. They are fun to study, though.








But the surrounding parks are my preferred spot from which to contemplate Paris' most famous landmark, by the picnickers and playing children, and, of course, tourists tired from all those stairs.



Le Tour de France

The peloton finally made it to the last stretch of the Tour, the Champs Elysées, around four in the afternoon. They came tearing down the boulevard, made a turn right in front of the Arc de Triomphe, and then went right back up the boulevard. Eight times. It's lucky for me they came by eight times, because they go faaaast! I'd have been hard pressed to draw them if they only came by once. The gendarmes, of course, looked less than impressed.





One of the cool things about the spot I'd picked is that after the race, the bikers all came down to have their team picture in front of the Arc. Before they made their tired way back to the bus, they came over to the crowd to shake hands and sign autographs. Since I was standing in a very, ahem, vocal section of the crowd, several bikers came by to soak up some love, which was my chance to make a few portraits.

Alberto Contador was the overall winner, and the proud wearer of the coveted yellow jersey. He looked exhausted, but found a smile for the crowd.



This is Andy Charteau, the King of the Mountains, in his polka-dot jersey.



And here's Andy Schleck in the white jersey that signifies him as the best young rider. He was favored to win through much of the race, until his brother and racing partner Frank broke his collarbone and had to pull out. Without Frank on his team, pushing him, Andy just couldn't get it done. Here's an interview (it's in English, so just keep watching past the introduction) from the middle of the 2009 tour. The circumstances of their near-win and Frank's accident earned my sympathy, but their fraternal devotion and charm made me a fan. Better luck next year, guys!


And here's an interview with the ultimate team player and my favorite biker ever, Jens Voigt. Around the 1:27 mark, you can hear what he says to his body when he's in the middle of a race. Hysterical!

Waiting for le Tour

It's taken me a little while to get back into the blogging groove, but I am back with a couple of drawings from the Tour de France, or more specifically, the looooong wait for the Tour de France. My friend April and I staked out our spot by the Arc de Triomphe pretty early, around 8 am. The bikers don't actually get there until around 4, so most of the day was spent drawing the people who were waiting with us, a small crowd of people waiting by the barricades. We traded stories about how far we'd come to see the last laps of the Tour. Next post, I promise, there will be some bikers, but for now, this post is for all those dedicated fans whose enthusiasm isn't dimmed by long waits, dense crowds, or even doping accusations leveled at their favorites.



I'm not a huge sports fan, but I did enjoy getting to know the Tour fans. Their passion for the Tour was infectious, and even made me a little excited for the bikers. This was the littlest fan I saw that day. He was maybe three years old and was having a great time playing on the barricades and making friends.



Like my little friend there, we mainly had to amuse ourselves. Luckily, we had the gendarmes there, who must have some kind of attractiveness requirement. They were so happy to be drawn, they were practically preening. If only the NYPD looked this good! Go and see my friend April's hilarious write up and drawings!



This is the crowd as it got later in the day. More dense, definitely ready to see some bikers.

Shakespeare in the Park: Richard III

Sunday night, I had another drawing outing with friends to see the New York Classical Theatre's production of Richard III. This event had many things to recommend itself to us, chief among them that it's free (!), that it's outside in gorgeous Central Park, and that it's Shakespeare. As a New Yorker, summer to me means Shakespeare in the Park, but I'm tired of the Public Theater's productions at the Delacorte Theater, where you wait in that giant line to see the latest Hollywood defector try their hand at mangling the Bard (here's lookin' at you, Julia Stiles. But I don't mean you, Jamey Sheridan! You, I totally heart). Last time, I got in line at 3 am (yes, in the morning!) only to *not* get a ticket! Outrageous! I shook my fist at Joe Papp and said never again! The NYCT's production is outdoors for reals, as in, no amphitheater, no seats, no concessions, no line to wait in. There are no biggie stars, but I like that better, 'cause then, in my mind, that actor can completely be villainous King Richard III. The actors are good (and are good at projecting), and for fun, the action and the audience picks up and moves every 10 minutes or so. It can be a little distracting, but it can also be a little fun.

It was a mild, balmy June late afternoon, and you could barely hear the car horns of Central Park West, when Richard made his power-grab.


I, that am rudely stamped, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them -
Why I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.




The Queen and Buckingham making up, though not for real, and not for long.


Richard slaughters pretty much his entire family, but comes off with the big prize.

And he'd have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those pesky ghosts. And Richmond.

Matmos and So Percussion at (Le) Poisson Rouge

I went with some friends to hear Matmos and So Percussion play a show at (Le) Poisson Rouge this week. Lichens opened for them. I've never heard of him, but he played an interesting set consisting of only one song. Although perhaps when a song passes the ten minute mark, you make some allowances. It was just one guy, whom the interweb tells me is named Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. I'd like to tell you more about how he made music, but all I can say is that it seemed to come from a box with a lot of wires coming out, which he would manipulate to different effects. And his incredible voice. It was an ambient swirl of sound with his otherworldly vocals on top. His visuals were extra trippy too, with brightly colored shapes dripping into each other.



I've seen So Percussion a couple of times (see my earlier post about them here), but never Matmos. While waiting for them to come on, my friends and I discussed the cactus sitting on a stool. It seemed to be wired up, but just how would it be "played" or "percussed?" Our only answer: very carefully.

So Percussion did not disappoint. They did indeed "play" the cactus, coming out one at a time, and gathering around it, plucking the spines in playful counterpoint. The cactus is a good example of the unexpectedness and the humor that I've come to associate with So Percussion. They seem like pretty quiet guys. They don't do a lot of stage theatrics and hardly any talking, but they always provide some surprises and a lot of their humor comes through in the music.







So Percussion moves around a bit onstage, but the duo who are Matmos pretty much stay put behind tables. From where I was standing, I had a hard time seeing them. Now that I've been introduced to their music, I'd love to hear more. Matmos makes music out of everything from pouring water to samples of heart murmurs. And it's not just an exercise in musical idiosyncrasy, they actually make it tuneful and exciting to listen to. They also seem like the Gilbert and George of the experimental music world and how can you not like that? Also, I read that Drew Daniel teaches at my alma mater, Johns Hopkins! Charm City, indeed. Despite my obstructed view, I managed one drawing of MC Schmidt as he told a ridiculously funny story.


Look and Listen Festival

This past weekend, I went the Look and Listen Festival to see and hear! The stated mission of the festival is to allow audiences to "simultaneously experience a stimulating visual environment for new music and a vibrant aural context for contemporary visual art. " That sounds about perfect for me, since everything I experience wants to come out of my hands as drawings. It was a varied program and first up was So Percussion, a group I had heard back in March at Carnegie Hall (You can see some of my iphone drawings of that performance in my friend Julia's blog) playing a piece by John Cage called "but what about the sound of crumpling paper." I could only see a couple members of the group, but here is Jason Treuting scribbling on paper during the piece.

The inspiration for the colors and shapes that surround him came from the paintings in the gallery by Beatrice Mandelman. They seemed to go perfectly with Cage's composition, with their playful and surprising swoops and blocks of color. The piece had a lot of quiet spaces, punctuated by the sounds of scribbling, or crumpling paper (for instance) and it's true what I wrote at the bottom of the drawing that sometimes I was afraid to make a mark because I felt shy about the sound it would make.
Between musical pieces, journalist Lara Pellegrini interviewed the gallery owner, Gary Snyder, who gave us some background on Beatrice Mandelman. I loved the paintings, and if you're in the neighborhood (26th and 8th Ave), you should definitely check it out.


Next, Phyllis Chen played three pieces on the toy piano, and if you think that sounds cutesy, then just check out the drawing I made of her while she played:

"Intense!" is what I wrote there on the side, and she and the pieces she played definitely are. While you might think the sound of the toy piano is sweet and tinkly, Chen's approach is more like an attack and she really fights that sweetness to create some surprising and stirring music. She debuted a piece by Karlheinz Essl, here where she reaches into the piano to stir the strings. A microphone inside the piano fed the sound into a computer which gave it back as an echo, a reverberation, a memory?


Here's the composer, Karlheinz Essl as he was being interviewed about the piece.

The choral group Meridionalis gave their debut performance. Their focus is ecclesiastical music from the colonial period of Latin America. Hopefully the drawing gives you an idea; it was just beautiful. They were all holding their music books, but I loved how gracefully they all held their hands. I think it was the sublime music directing their body language.

Later in the evening, the conductor of the ensemble, Sebastian Zubieta, was interviewed. Every sentence was accompanied by a flowing gesture, as if he were still conducting.


After the intermission, Jason Treuting of So Percussion played a piece called "The King of Denmark" which was one of the quietest pieces of the night. The program notes tell me that the composer, Morton Feldman, wrote it to only employ the performer's hands, fingers or arms as opposed to sticks or mallets. And the delicate gestures of the musician's hands were what I noticed most of all in this piece, which is why it's mostly hands.

And cropped and cleaned up to emphasize the hands.


The only drawing I didn't get to finish was for one of my favorite pieces of the night, So Percussion playing "an imaginary city," composed by Jason Treuting (below, during his interview) as a site specific work for the train stations of Brattleboro and Bellows Falls, VT. The piece was perfect, but I could wish it longer so I'd have time to finish the drawing!