project idea

if sarah palin strikes terror into the hearts of liberals and fosters fear among her followers, is she, ergo, a terrorist? must explore…

what i want to do this week 2.6.10

This week I want to get on wit it. These seem like excellent places to start:

‡ Sky Pape Water Works: Surface Tension at June Kelly Gallery. I got a preview of this work in person this summer and Sky showed me the portfolio online for the show last week. This work is gorgeous. I missed the opening night, but I’ll get a less obstructed view this week — my consolation prize.

‡ Single Man. I heard Terry Gross‘s outstanding interview with Colin Firth about his latest role. Firth takes understated to a new level of intensity, and this film seems like a perfect showcase for it.

Corporate hooey

Though I appreciate economics, business, and the rule of law, our lawmakers failed to see the implications of the law that gave corporations protections without requiring of them responsibilities beyond making profit. This situation has to change if the world is to ever move beyond its status quo of greed-based life.

corporation ≠ person

The Wall Street Journal reported in September on Justice Sotomayor’s swearing in:

But Justice Sotomayor suggested the majority might have it all wrong — and that instead the court should reconsider the 19th century rulings that first afforded corporations the same rights flesh-and-blood people have.

Judges “created corporations as persons, gave birth to corporations as persons,” she said. “There could be an argument made that that was the court’s error to start with…[imbuing] a creature of state law with human characteristics.”

There is a facebook cause, Abolish Corporate Personhood. Check it out.

what i want to do this week 11.27.09

‡ MoMA New Photography. I’ll certainly see more, too, as always with MoMA. It boils down to endurance. ‡ john hollenbeck. this coming week provides a chance to catch me up with my friend John Hollenbeck. John’s jazz/new music big band and his smaller group, the Claudia Quintet are stellar and there’s a chance to see both at le poisson rouge, which I have yet to check out. What takes John’s music to another realm for me, beyond the compositional prowess and musicianship of his world class groups, is his efforts to find answers to the “big questions” via his art.

The poisson show features three of John’s projects in one show: the Claudia Quintet with music from their new release, “Rainbow Jimmies;” a reimagining of music by Meredith Monk (John is her percussionist) called “Future Quest;” and a set from the big band featuring three premiere’s from their new new CD, “Eternal Interlude.”

ready, set, go!

‡ my kirtan. Ok, self-promotion, but i’ve wanted to lead a kirtan for a while and here it is: 7:30, Dec. 5, ISHTA Yoga. MP3 samples of the chants I’ll be leading are available here.

what i want to do this week 11.21.09

‡ LeeSaar: Prima at P.S. 122
I met director/choreographers Lee Sher and Saar Harari in 2008, when their piece Geisha was wowing New York City dance lovers. We spent some time together in Poland and I got to watch a class in which they introduced the concepts of the technique that drives their creative process. If you can imagine a world in which every action is a pure gut motivation — not clouded by insecurity or other emotional baggage, you’d have an inkling of the workings of the “Gaga” technique, a movement language developed by Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance. In the hands of lee and saar, it leads to work that is sexy without being pornographic; supersonic without being chaotic; and poetic without being precious.

Visually, the work emerges from an undulation that often starts at the second chakra and fires up in the third (that’s the pelvis and the navel for you non-yogis). Which is not to say this is a stylized movement; rather there is a through-line that may result in a hip grind or may be just a passionate finger solo. The four dancers are credited as Creating Dancers; each has her own dance personality in the work, and introduces herself by name only at some point in the show. They are Jye-Hwei Lin, Hsin-Yi Hsiang, Hyerin Lee, and Candice Schnurr. A picture’s worth a thousand words; here are some rehearsal clips. The second gives a better sense of the final performance. I saw this last night. It plays through today. Catch it!

home decorate: hang some art! Ah, the last bit of moving takes so long…


I never gave up on the LP (that’s “vinyl” to you young hipsters) and have amassed a pretty sizeable collection as a result of my reputation as the person one could give his/her records to when doing a digital mutiny. While many of these records are classics of various genres, some are just mysteries to me. The worst part is that I’ve never listened to them all. This disconnect between wanting to hold onto something and never using it (aparigraha in sanskrit ;-) seems like a fruitful matrix for artful play. SO, I’m going to listen to and make something in response to each record, one per day until I’ve listened to them all.

Here’s the link to the set. You can also get it daily from the right sidebar.

what i want to do 11.11

theatre of the eighth day. i’m planning to go see an historic polish theater group this week in a recreation of one of their classic communist era pieces, Wormwood. Banned in 1985, it’s a look at life under marshall law. I wrote previously about the group here, or check out the Polish Cultural Institute’s promo here.

‡ Also, bending the rules to include my own project in what I want to do this week: I’m launching a new art project called, record-a-day. I never gave up on the LP (that’s “vinyl” to you young hipsters) and have amassed a pretty sizeable collection as a result of my reputation as the person one could give his/her records to when doing a digital mutiny. While many of these records are classics of various genres, some are just mysteries to me. The worst part is that I’ve never listened to them all. This disconnect between wanting to hold onto something and never using it (aparigraha in sanskrit ;-) seems like a fruitful matrix for artful play. SO, I’m going to listen to and write something in response to each record, one per day until I’ve listened to them all. We’ll see what emerges. The record for the day will show up in the right column of and I’ll post my daily reports here as well.

shawn colvin 11.2.09

Shawn Colvin at City Winery
Shawn Colvin at City Winery

I’ve always thought about the place in art making and art experiencing that parallels my pursuit of what might traditionally be called the “spiritual,” a place where the practice of art moves us to transcend the everyday and lets us tap into a greater experience of who we are and what is.

I’ve always been involved with spiritual practices and have even seen yoga become a major part of what I do with my life. It’s trickier to figure out where the line of the spiritual is in art. Kandinsky and Blake approached the topic directly, but to me, what’s interesting are those occurrences when the sheer act of creating or feeling work is the spiritual event. I’ve been exploring the topic with two photo series called “Does Love Show?” and more to the point, “Does Bliss Show?”

Which is all to preface my feelings about last night’s concert by Shawn Colvin and her longtime collaborator, John Leventhal at New York’s new venue, City Winery. Everything else I’ll say is technical information. The important piece of my review is simply this: Shawn Colvin’s voice makes me cry. Just thinking about writing that line got me a little choked up. And I can’t figure out what it is. It’s like a tantric tool in which the universe congealed to put a link between my ears and bliss and it’s Shawn Colvin’s voice. Thank god the room was dark last night; it would have been embarrassing.

The show was incredibly intimate, just two guitars and one voice. The venue’s acoustic are very good and the guitars sounded like you had your ear at the sound hole (or amp, in the case of Leventhal’s processed acoustic); Colvin’s voice was in its classic effortless form. The set began with a Donovan cover (Catch the Wind) and swiftly moved to a good long, chatty, informal show. I felt as though we’d dropped in on Colvin and Leventhal’s rehearsal, or a party they met at after a while apart. They replayed an intro when Colvin noticed he had started a fancier arrangement over her more standard version, they argued about playing a jazz classic that drew cheers from the audience and made her say, Okay, I guess I’ll be like Rod Stewart and … make a torch album,” they ad libbed the Jackson Five’s “I’ll be there” and a Minnie Mouse version of “Stop the Love You Save …” in some stratospheric key. In short, this was just about having fun. And the audience could not get enough.

Part of what drew me to Colvin’s music is that it adds a beautiful complication to the classic folk chord progressions, dabbling in the redneck jazz territory Nashville musicians love. But the New York in the girl makes for really tough-yet-poignant lyrics and a wry sense of humor that you could worry borders on depression if she weren’t so quick to smile and joke (“my sister and I were in the suburbs with her kids and my kid and we were watching tennis on TV and looking at the hot guys on the court and realizing we weren’t hot any more — that’s pretty much where this song came from”). Plus her taste in covers is just awesome. Her album “Cover Girl” contains the coolest version of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place,” I can imagine, and a deceptively dark version of Steve Earle’s “This Town.” Last night she covered what she called her favorite Tom Waits song (“Hold On” — it’s hard to dance when it’s cold outside and there’s no music), the aforementioned Jackson’s (Levinthal drew a line in the fun when Michael’s name came up, but recapitulated when she started a Jackson Five song) and one alt-rock song that escapes me right now that was such a surprise choice that she stopped at the reaction from the crowd and said, “Oh, you just didn’t expect that,” and picked it up again.

I felt a kind of bittersweet loss when another of my favorite songwriters, Aimee Mann, went from under-appreciated to ubiquitous. I’d actually be glad to see more people listening to Shawn Colvin. I’d miss feeling like part of an in-crowd, but I’d like to see if more people experience the crying thing. I’m guessing they would. I took a good friend to hear a concert in DC a decade ago. She had never heard Colvin before, and after the first song, turned to me and said, “if I sang like that, I could die happy.”

what i want to do this week: 10.21.09

Up to my ears in boxes, but there’s one thing I’m going to fit into the move schedule. As promised, for Oct. 24, I’m headed to Dance New Amsterdam for the 25th Anniversary Gala Concert featuring Monica Bill Barnes & Company, Laura Peterson Choreography, Shannon Gillen, Tami Stronach, Christopher Williams and more. Here are all the details:

And if you like to dance, you can get free classes all day and see why most contemporary dancers in the City speak so highly of DNA classes. See you there!

khoomei-taiko ensemble

Picture 16I heard a fascinating fusion this week from American and international musicians:

from Japan,

  • Koto and taiko drums

from Mongolia,

  • khoomei throat singing, urtiin duu long song singing and morin khuur horse-head fiddle.

The natural question in a fusion is why? What brought the disparate musicians together? And what does a listener expect? I bumped into a friend there who had come for the long song style. I imagine people came into the mix for all kinds of reasons. The World Music Institute and Asia Society presented the concert — that support seems appropos. But it was interesting that the onstage leader of the group, the Khoomei-Taiko Ensemble, Kaoru Watanabe, both a taiko drummer and a flutist, had the same question: ‘why are we doing this?’ His answer: we’re looking for that answer.

The answer lies with a venture dear to my heart: cultural exchange. Without recounting the entire history, which you find on the Ensemble’s web site, this group is the result of the work of Teddy Yoshikami and Aziz Rahman, both of whom produce cross-cultural programs. Funded by exchange proponents like the Trust for Mutual Understanding and the Asian Cultural Council, the work of these producers and their six superlative musicians (the Mongolians are all recognized by their country as national treasures) makes the world a bit more closely knit and finds the points of conversation between peoples who would otherwise see each other as simply “other.” Mr. Watanabe is finding that the conversation is revolving around their various traditions’ focus on the importance of the natural world.

None of this would matter beyond diplomacy if the resulting music were not interesting. In fact, this was a superb concert that served as a two-set introduction to the various musical traditions involved and a jazz-like exploration of the potential interactions between the sounds and personalitites of these masters of their artforms. The concert included a solo or duet piece showcasing the sounds and traditions of each of these unique voices and instruments. Several ensemble pieces meshed the powerful Taiko drumming with dexterous and sonorous improvisation on the koto, flute, fiddle and voices.

I almost began this review with a rant about how great these musical traditions are compared to what we fill our airwaves with. I was going to juxtapose the introductory “rapped” magtall praise song by Tserendorj Tseyen

The Khoomii Taiko Ensemble is introducing delightfully
With heavelnly colored blue ribbon raised upon in the highest
Spirited is this traditional praise gifed by our great ancestors
Originated from Great Mongol Empire of Lord Chingis Khan

May all the people on the world live peacefully
May this blessed praise grant us eternal tranquility

May worldwide people reserve our mother nature
May all the nations unite in full convenant
By Olympic games, cultures and future developments
Oh, may all the countries neighbor in peace and gain full achievements …

with something from some prominent rapper, maybe Snoop Dogg. But when I went looking for something in the Dogg style, I remembered why I like Snoop; he’s literate, intricate and sometimes very similar to what’s written above (see A Word Witcha), so I’ll leave it at this: the Khoomei Taiko Ensemble have their hearts in the right place and manage to bring respect for nature, culture and each others’ musical forms into a powerful, accessible, exciting, uplifting show. If this is how they sound having only met in September, I look forward to how this group evolves.