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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

One thing people might not know about me is that as an adult I learned how to play the harmonica. I’d never played an instrument before. The class was in part an opportunity to do something different and also an homage to my father who played the harmonica when I was a child. I have a very nice harmonica tucked away somewhere. I haven’t played or thought about playing for years until I came across a 1975 recording of Babylon is Falling Down sung by Deacon Dan Smith with Nick Hallman & the Georgia Sea Island Singers. The music is on the disc, Shall We Gather at the River, highlighting Florida’s African American religious music. This song and 14 additional tracks can be accessed online via the following link: https://www.floridamemory.com/audio/cd3.php  Well worth a visit to that page and the larger Florida Memory site to learn about the diverse history of the peoples that have shaped a place that is an important part of the American puzzle.

 

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… I would paint what I hear in this piece of music, Rhapsody No. 1 in D Flat Major by Herbert Howells.  The entire piece is only five minutes and 35 seconds long, but it is the segment between 1:30 and 3:00 that moves me most. I first heard it being played a few weeks ago at Trinity Church in Copley Square.  The organist, Colin Lynch, was rehearsing for Sunday services. I appreciated the beauty of his playing but at first the music itself did nothing for me … and then something happened. I was hooked.  And then released. As he kept rehearsing the piece, I wanted to dash into the church and stop him to ask what in the world was he playing but that seemed inappropriate.  I thought I’d catch him at the end of his rehearsal but I missed him.

Time passed, lots of traveling took place but I could still hear that music.  I tried to describe the piece to other musicians and people who knew classical music far better than I. Keep in mind I have no language for music (which is why I want to paint what I’m hearing). I kept saying, “It’s the kind of music that, you know, leads you someplace,” and other not especially helpful phrases.  I was about to give up my search when I did chance upon the organist. This time I stopped him in his tracks and asked, “Hey, Colin, what was that piece of music you were playing two weeks ago?”

He lifted an eyebrow but he indulged me.  He helped me find the language to describe what I’d heard. And as we narrowed down the possibilities of what he may have been playing, he finally asked, “Was it loud? Did it get really loud?” “Yes!” I said, and so he nodded and then wrote down the possibilities.

It was Herbert Howell’s Rhapsody No. 1 in D Flat.  Imagine my pleasure when I found this Youtube recording by Nigel Potts. Listen at your leisure. And that’s my random story this bright Monday morning.  Have a good day, folks. 😉

 

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… there was a school and on the campus there was a chapel and inside the chapel there was a stained glass window known as The Singing Window.

photo by Carol M. Highsmith

photo by Carol M. Highsmith

 

Sources and Additional Readings

Learn more about the photographer Carol M. Highsmith on the Library of Congress website: Carol M. Highsmith Archive.

Learn more about Tuskegee University including its tours and the history of the chapel.

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I tried to explain to my brother, who needs an alarm clock in the spring when you have these little fellows singing in the trees outside your window.

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Between fish in the previous post, the rain today and reading a book set in coastal South Carolina, well, I guess there’s plenty of reason why Wade in the Water came to mind as I worked with this image.  If you’ve never heard the song, this is a pretty good link.  Have a good evening, folks.

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Recently, a family of swans swam past me. As they did so, several spread their wings in the sunlight.  Slow movements that made me think of motion and music.

I took many photos, and I wondered what am I to do with these images? Then, I listened to a particular piece of music and suddenly wanted to put the images and that music together somehow.

 

I’m going to give it a try. I’m not sure that I will be successful, but it is good to have a goal. I’ll let you know what happens. But until then, here are a few images of the beautiful birds.

p.s.  As for the music that moved me? Just one of those very popular pieces out there in the world, Adagio in D Minor by John Murphy, composed for the film, Sunshine (2007). So many variations on the theme available online, but here’s a link to a nice one. Enjoy.

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Lazarus and the Rich Man by Gustave Dore

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Gustave Dore

“No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood. … Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”

Words spoken not today but nearly fifty years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr during  this talk at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC on March 31, 1968.  In this day and age of soundbites and tweets, it might be a challenge to read in entirety but I hope you have the opportunity to do so.  I chanced upon it while researching Dives and Lazarus.  I was curious about the parable that inspired one of my favorite pieces of music.

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus by Ralph Vaughn Williams I play to help me unlock a part of my brain when I am stuck on a writing project.  The music moved me long before I truly understood the story at its core.  A friend explained the story of the rich man, Dives, and the poor man, Lazarus, a parable appearing in the Gospel of Luke.  He recently summed it up as a story of inequality and early trickle down economics.

The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1625

The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1625

I was curious who else may have used or been inspired by such a perspective of that parable.  Thus, I found Dr. King’s talk from 1968.  During the talk, of Dives and Lazarus he wrote:

“… Because our expressways carry us from the ghetto, we don’t see the poor. … Jesus told a parable one day, and he reminded us that a man went to hell because he didn’t see the poor. His name was Dives. He was a rich man. And there was a man by the name of Lazarus who was a poor man, but not only was he poor, he was sick. Sores were all over his body, and he was so weak that he could hardly move. But he managed to get to the gate of Dives every day, wanting just to have the crumbs that would fall from his table. And Dives did nothing about it. And the parable ends saying, “Dives went to hell, and there were a fixed gulf now between Lazarus and Dives.”

There is nothing in that parable that said Dives went to hell because he was rich. Jesus never made a universal indictment against all wealth. …  Dives didn’t realize that his wealth was his opportunity. It was his opportunity to bridge the gulf that separated him from his brother Lazarus. Dives went to hell because he was passed by Lazarus every day and he never really saw him. He went to hell because he allowed his brother to become invisible. …”

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Fyodor Bronnikov

Lazarus and the Rich Man by Fyodor Bronnikov

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, throughout the talk there is a sad timelessness to King’s words about racism, injustice, economic inequality, and silence.  But there is also a beautiful timelessness about the power and potential of people to make a difference. Near the end of his talk, he says:

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.  In a few weeks some of us are coming to Washington to see if the will is still alive or if it is alive in this nation. We are coming to Washington in a Poor People’s Campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are going to bring those who have known long years of hurt and neglect.  … We are not coming to engage in any histrionic gesture. We are not coming to tear up Washington. We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. … We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that it signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic nonviolent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible.”

 

 Sources/Additional Reading

Rich Man and Lazarus

Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution by Martin Luther King Jr, 1968

More on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 1968

More about Ralph Vaughn Williams and his composition

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus on Youtube

 

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