"Strings On Holiday" - 12 inch diameter format on pressed wood, acrylic paint. From an original sketch completed in 1986, currently in the artist's collection. For a time this painting was featured in an art show at Mountain View Station, one of the branches of the US Postal Service at Mesa, Arizona.
I posted a picture of the original sketch for this finished painting in the blog-post entitled "Strings, Dreams and Orchestral Visions" published on 11/21/2013 (still available in the archives). In that post I indicated the story behind this rather imaginative set of images. Previously I did not believe that I could fully or adequately illustrate the visual content of my dreams, but completing the first sketch and then the final painting convinced me that the subject was within grasp. This entire scene was set out before my eyes in a vivid dream sequence which stayed with me for hours, days and weeks after first viewing. The main subject which dominated this imaginary landscape was a floating violin or cello which seemed to slowly advance across a wide agricultural field and then to just hover in front of my vantage point. The instrument seemed to glow with a white light infused from within, emitting musical notes all the way along the richly colored fields below, some notes also hovering above the ground, others disappearing beneath the field, and still others remaining partially submerged like scythes or farm implements skimming the surface. The sky above seemed to suggest a mixture of both daytime brilliance and night-time wonder. What seemed to be a farmhouse in the distance also looked like a music stand from which more notes were emanating and joining the chorus in successive waves. To the left stood an enormous red-branched tree with a fine display of sinewy extremities. In the left distance what appeared to be a striped orange and brown mountain also seemed to become part of the foliage of the red tree, suggesting a colorful bonnet or regal canopy of fantastic size and character. Surprisingly I do not remember hearing any explicit forms of music in the midst of this dream, yet there was dynamic motion, color and possibly just the mysterious sound of a solo violin. At this time (1986) I was working full time as a letter carrier for the US Postal Service and had not played a musical instrument since 1965. In 2000 some friends gave me a beautiful vintage Scandalli accordion which transformed the way I thought about music. Then I joined You Tube in 2009 and began to post some videos of accordion music including some improvisational pieces and folk and classical standards. In some respects I think that the dream of the floating violin and the imaginary landscape helped to re-ignite my passion for seeing and hearing the wondrous beauty of acoustic music. Despite my initial reluctance to try to capture this dream via visual Art, I found that the image came quickly and fairly easily once the process had begun. Correspondingly, the practice and study of music also came along so naturally with the gift of an accordion. It seems that we are only away for a short time and then we are ready to explore anew our musical or artistic roots. Once those notes are planted in the ground, we have only to look up to see the full picture.
Usery Mountain Recreational Park, just north of McKellips Road in Mesa, Arizona. The unique coloration of these mountains may have inspired some of the images seen in my original dream. The finished painting suggests the various stripes of tan and brown, transformed into the brown and orange pattern in the imaginary scene.
The original three inch diameter sketch on artist's paper, composed just after I experienced that unusual dream of the floating violin and imaginary landscape. I used color pens and tried to work quickly in order to fully capture the essence of the scene. The colors differ somewhat from the final painting but remain true to the spirit of the original vision.
A traditional Scottish folk tune with words written by Lady Nairne (Carolina Oliphant) who lived from 1766-1845. The words are from a Scots poem also known as "Bonnie Charlie," with the song first published as part of the collection entitled "The Scottish Minstrel" (1821-1824). Performed upon my Hohner musette accordion, a 4/5 reed instrument in LMMM configuration. The sheet music is from the collection entitled "The Folksong Fake Book" published by Hal Leonard. This song appears in the classic 1939 film "Gunga Din" produced and directed by George Stevens, starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. When the British Army is sent to rescue several missing soldiers, this song is sung by the troops marching to save their comrades. Interestingly enough, the film was shot on location in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. Author Dave Holland tells the story behind this film and many others in his fascinating book "On Location in Lone Pine." The scenery certainly suggests the rugged wilderness of colonial India, and Holland indicates where each segment was filmed (including the Temple of Kali location just off Horseshoe Meadow Road, the remarkable British Fort near Indian Springs and the wonderfully exotic Tantrapur Village). Holland's book was published by The Holland House in September 1990.
Cover of the DVD for the 1939 film "Gunga Din" directed by George Stevens, starring Cary Grant as Sergeant Cutter, Victor McLaglen as Sergeant MacChesney, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Sergeant Ballantine. Other stars include Sam Jaffe as Gunga Din the Regimental Bhisti, Eduardo Ciannelli as the Guru, and Joan Fontaine as Emmy.
The cover of Dave Holland's book "On Location in Lone Pine," a comprehensive list of all the films made at the scenic location of the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. Holland gives a detailed account of all the memorable locations for the 1939 adventure film "Gunga Din" and relates many interesting stories regarding the production of this cinema classic.
An American folksong from Kentucky performed upon my vintage 1950's Iorio accordion, a 4/5 reed instrument in LMMH configuration. The sheet music is from "The Folksong Fake Book" published by Hal Leonard, a collection of over one thousand folk tunes from around the world. I remember listening to this song during the early 1960's Folk Revival, a time when so many folk artists were just coming into prominence. Some favorites from that era are Peter, Paul & Mary, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, Dave Van Ronk, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Phil Ochs and a host of other notable performers. I first heard Pete Seeger and the Weavers in the late 1950's and still marvel at their fantastic ensemble sound captured via historical recordings.
I remember the Folk Revival era from the late 1950's and early 1960's when folk music became such a popular style within our culture. The Kingston Trio had a series of hit singles and record albums just as new acts started to come onto the stage. My beautiful friend Gail introduced me to the folk music of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, artists who were just emerging during the new decade of the Sixties. Previously I had been immersed in Classical music, Country music (Bluegrass), and Latin and European music. It was a startling sound to hear those glorious acoustic guitars and an occasional banjo accompanying the soloists and folk ensembles heard on the radio or via concerts or LP albums. There were many college and commercial radio stations in the New Jersey/ New York metropolitan area which broadcast folk music and featured shows highlighting the new acts as well as showcasing the more familiar names of that time. Gail loved Joan Baez and raved about the folk style which Joan perfected at that time. The lyrics were meaningful and poetic, words which stayed with you and spoke volumes to the heart and inner spirit. When Bob Dylan entered the scene with his first album, his songs became folk standards which captured the heart of an entire generation. Dylan's book "Chronicles" echoes some of the excitement and experimentation which occurred during those eventful years. This American folksong was one of the tunes I first heard during the early Sixties, and one which still manages to evoke the flavor and atmosphere of that remarkable era. I would like to dedicate this song to my friend Gail for revealing to me the lasting value and poetic richness of folk music.
Wasn't that a time....