Monday, June 30, 2008

Return from Toddstock

Much time and little posting has gone by. We made it to Toddstock (I really don't like the name...) and lived to tell about it. What an amazing experience. My wife Deb has done a great job blogging about some of the details. I'll probably get to some of those shortly. But the overall experience was one of peaceful recognition. It is rare I can be in the midst of people who share my interests and passion. Most of my interests are musical. And Todd Rundgren's music has been at the forefront of my musical interestsfor many years.

I believe a great poet/songwriter paves the way for others by helping them articulate and discover those things of value, and by reflecting their own ideas for others to catch. Nowhere was this reflection more apparent than at Toddstock. So many people described the event in "spiritual" terms. I'm one who doesn't place much value on spiritual or supernatural realms or dimensions. But I do put a lot of stock in how we seem to have archetypal behaviors that drive us and link us together. And I'm fascinated by how heroes can motivate us to become more of our true selves. I think Toddstock was an event that helped many of us interpret our place in the world, thruough the eyes of one who's music and lyrics have profoundly moved us over the years. I can't count how many people said that Todd's music had changed their lives. I've heard the same language in religious circles - very interesting parallels. I know lyrics like "Beat our swords into plowshares on the anvil of a pure heart" and "How can I change the world if I can't change myself" have made indelible marks on my psyche. And most every person there had similar stories to tell.

In spite of our time in paradise, I'm glad to be back in our own world, pursuing those things that make life full. At this stage of life, the familiar has great value. But I am reinforced by the personal insights of the time in Kauai, and the sense of peace I have drawn from being among people who "get what I get".

Friday, May 09, 2008

We're Going To Todd Rungren's Birthday Party

You can't be around me for long without knowing that I'm a major Todd Rundgren fan. I don't usually go for the "fan" label or get all excited over celebrities. But Todd has been one of the few musicians that has held my interest over the years. His "No World Order" CD is one my desert island list, so is in my top 4 all time favorites. There were some periods where I listened to it daily, just to pick up all the meaning, layers and musical nuances. It is a brilliant work. He has written some of my favorite all-time songs - among them "Hello, It's Me", "Just One Victory", "Love Is The Answer". And he has constantly pushed the technology envelope - interactive concerts, interactive CDs, computer graphics, direct connection with his audience via the Internet (Patronet). Perhaps one reason he isn't more widely known is that he's been far ahead of his time in terms of technology and presentation. I admire the heck out of the guy.

So imagine my surprise last Thursday when my trusty RSS reader pulled this heading from Roger Lindner's most excellent Todd Rundgren fan site:

Celebrate Todd's 60th

The link led to a bona fide invitation for friends and fans to join Todd and Michele for a birthday week celebration at their home on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Never in a million years would I have imagined my favorite musician would do such a wild, crazy thing. How could we not go?? So Deb and I will be heading back to Kauai in mid-June to celebrate Hawaiian style. We'll be camping at their newly constructed (still under construction apparently) home on the North Shore area. Apparently they have had smaller scale camping parties previously - having owned this property for 15 years. And the invitation assures us camping Rundgren style is more like summer camp than rustic camping - real showers and bathrooms, 24 hour kitchens, keg service, etc. The week will culminate with a concert to introduce his latest CD release - an "arena rock" flavored recording.

So am I excited? This video clip says it all - "I'm too excited to sleep..."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Joseph Arthur of the Month club

(I seem to begin a lot of posts these days with "sorry for the dormancy on this site". Life has been busy, and several post continue to brew in my mind, just haven't settled down enough to write them. So here come a few, I hope).

Joseph Arthur has been (and continues to be) my favorite musician of for the past several years, ever since reading about him on Bob Carlton's most excellent blog. I love (and probably have quoted) Arthur's description of his own music and visual projects - "someone struggling to heal over experimental folk-rock". His prolific output and constantly growing vision sometimes require some focus on the part of the listener to handle the shifts, but all in all his material is very satisfying and worth the effort.

So it is with great joy that I have purchased his two most recent releases - Could We Survive and Crazy Rain. These are two out of four planned EP releases being released mid-month between March and June. Both show more of a return to the production and songwriting approach of Our Shadows Will Remain, the first JA release I listened to. That album is on my desert island list, and I can't see anything supplanting it. It is one of the few recordings that grabbed me from the first listen and hasn't let go. So my standard for new JA releases is pretty high.

The two EPs thus far are much more of a return to the compositional and production approaches of Our Shadows Will Remain, with a palette of drum machine loops, layered guitars and vocals, as well as suprising anolog textures of unknown origin. Could We Survive is a bit more mellow and lyrical in approach, while Crazy Rain has more of a grunge/low-fi texture in several of the songs. My favorite tune to this point is probably Crazy Rain's "Dream of the Eternal Life", but I find most of the tunes especialy on Could We Survive hold up very well to repeat listens and analyses.

Can't wait for my next two Joseph Arthur of the Month installments in May and June. And word is he will have a full-length release in August. It's a good year.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Current Projects #2 - Creativa

I've posted announcements for our monthy creative "Free Slam" event in the past, and we've continued to have a great time getting to know and hear/watch/experience the creative types in our own back yard. We've realized we needed to make sure the event title communicated the scope of what is and will take place. We spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon last month brainstorming (interleaved with talking politics) and - enter Creativa!

The multitalented Cortney Haley has been hard at work creating the Creativa web site, with all the bells and whistles. The logo started with some designs from Jeff Nabors, and Cortney morphed them into the current design.

We gather the last Saturday of every month at Tanze Performing Arts Studio, 1044 Symmes Road, in Fairfield (Ohio, that is). Creativity in all its forms is honored - spoken word, music, visual arts, dance, video, whatever.

Check out Cortney's Creativa video - and stick around for the chicken at the end...

Current Projects #1 - R~U~Us and Bekka Live

Not a lot of blog posts lately, I know. The day job has been taking a lot of time/focus, and we also have a couple of creative projects under way. Most immediately, Monday night (Feb 11) is the debut of our new band, R~U~Us. We've been playing together for a while in various incarnations, but this round is our first public appearance with a name and new goal. This first gig is in support of our most excellent vocalist and songwriter Bekka Eaton. Her day job is as a theater prof at Miami University, and she has been asked to present some of her original music and creative material at the new Miami Hamilton Downtown storefront. So we've been working feverishly for the last couple of months - arranging and learning these challenging, atypical (in a very good way) tunes. I worked with Bekka on a larger production of her original material - entitled Bekkaland - a couple of years ago. It was one of the first events presented at our new local community arts center. This iteration is a smaller scale, more intimate experience, and the kickoff for our group of motley musicians - Deb, Bekka, Janet, Steve, Yvan and myself. We hope to play out and about perhaps a couple of times a month at most. Not a heavy commitment, but enough to keep us learning interesting music. One of the more enjoyable new experiences for me in this project has been writing cello parts for Janet. I know enough music theory to be dangerous, but typically don't use written music much these days. So it's been a healthy challenge to get back into that realm, with the able assistance of Sonar and a few other computer music applications.

Come see/hear us, ya hear!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I've been book memed

Julie apologized for including me - it's OK - mines a low traffic blog, so I don't get many of these. And books are one of my two favorite topics. So the meme instructoins are:

  • Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (No cheating!)
  • Find Page 123.
  • Find the first 5 sentences.
  • Post the next 3 sentences.
  • Tag 5 people.
Good thing there was a page limit - most books close at hand were software manuals - those books men never read - and I didn't include the index, so it kept the count low. At any rate, the closest real book was "That Distant Land", a collection of Wendell Berry short stories set in Port William. (I've posted about these stories several times.)

Page 123 happens to be the last page of the short story "Watch with Me":

"Let's go eat!"

"Oh, that was a meal that was a joy to set on the table!" Mis Minnie said. She and her nephew, Sam Hanks, had been telling Granny and me the story of Nightlife's spell and his long ramble through the woods.
And I will tag Deb, Jeff, Brian, Tammy Jo, and (crossing over to MySpace divide...) Randy.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

U2 3D = amazing!

I visited the nearby multiplex this afternoon with some friends to take in the film U2 3D. The Springdale Showcase Cinema happens to be the only theater in Ohio showing the film during it's prerelease dates (wider release occurs in mid-February). And it's only a few minutes from home - lucky me! This is a truly amazing feat of technology. I'll have to say it started off a bit slow. And I'm not completely sold yet on 3D movie technology. Thus far it seems to have more a series of layers rather than a continuous 3D feel. But the audio and computer graphics made up for any technical shortcomings. I especially enjoyed the stage background LCD screen matrices, and the film included computer graphic representations of many of these themes layered on top of the performances - it was amazing, especially due to the simplicity of many of the "drawings". They often merged the 3D graphics with the actual onstage backgrounds. The song reporitoire was well chosen. And as I mentioned, the audio quality was excellent (except for some of Bono's speaking parts.) My favorite moment was when during a closeup on Bono they dropped out all the reverb, giving me the sense he was singing directly in front of me. As the camera shot moved back, the reverb was gradually added back in until the "normal" ambiance was present.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Deb and I had seen the stage production of "Sweeney Todd" several times, but it has been a good while since the last viewing. Still I consider it one of the most fascinating, even courageous musicals ever written. Who would have thought such a story would capture musical theater audiences. So we were anxiously awaiting Tim Burton's big screen production. Still I must say I had a bit of an "approach/avoidance" think going, after hearing about the blood and gore and knowing how dark Tim Burton can get. (Danny Devito's role of The Penguin in "Batman Returns" still creeps me out.)

After a delightful sushi lunch with our friends Jeff and Cyndi, we ventured into the local cinema to take in the flick. And it was rather mesmerizing, I must say. I've appreciated Johnny Depp in many rolls, but can't say I've been a huge fan - now I am. He was fantastic in the title role - I thought his speaking and singing voice captured the part perfectly. The singing voices of some of the other cast - Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman - were less notable, but these were the only weak links in an otherwise amazing film. The blood did flow, and I turned my head a couple of times. But the film adaptation gave more depth to the characters, and made the story that much fuller of possibilities and tragedies. I actually didn't recall the specifics of the ending, so there were still elements of suspense up until the final frame.

Deb and I both picked up on one element that hadn't been predominant in the stage productions - how we consume one another metaphorically. The film in conjunction with the sad assassination of Benazir Bhutto were sobering reminders of how far we still have to go as a human race.