A Journey Across An Imaginative Landscape
In the late 1960's I often had occasion to travel via the Jersey Central Railroad from the Dunellen train station all the way to Newark, traversing the Hudson Tubes and eventually arriving at New York City. As an Art student enrolled in the New York Art Semester at Drew University, I was expected to visit museums and galleries, engage in class field trips to meet artists in their studio environments, and to keep a noteworthy journal of my thoughts, perceptions and observations. The Jersey Central provided a convenient method of commuting to NYC and I quickly became fond of train travel as an alternative to taking a car or bus to the City. The route began in Dunellen, traveled through Plainfield, Fanwood, Scotch Plains, Westfield, Garwood, and Cranford, finally reaching the great train station at Newark, a place of enormous overhead structures and miles of parallel tracks packed with passenger trains.
The View From a Train Window
There occurs a brief moment as you leave the train station at Fanwood heading East where the tracks curve slightly to the right and the train allows a view into the backyards of some vintage homes clustered along a stretch of wooded parcels of land to the North of the tracks. At this point the train seems to be at a somewhat higher elevation, perhaps as much as 10 feet higher than the backyards of the homes, giving the effect of looking downwards into a miniature canyon or autumnal valley. Just at this juncture of time and space, I would remember the lines from one of the songs by Judy Collins on her 1967 album "Wildflowers," a critically acclaimed album arranged and conducted by Joshua Rifkin. All of the songs on that recording are gems, but the one which keeps coming back to me is entitled "Albatross," one of the most beautiful works of art which Judy ever recorded. The first lines read, "The lady comes to the gate dressed in lavender and leather...," a poetic entry into a visual field of splendor. The song continues, "...She hears the steeple bells ringing through the orchard all the way from town." I do not remember if there were any gates that could be seen from the train windows, but there were certainly plenty of places that a gate might provide a beautiful entryway into these lovely homes with their petite backyards. Similarly one could occasionally view a church steeple briefly at some distance from the tracks, or imagine the bells heard in each neighborhood, or envision the neat topography of land laid out from the town center to the small wooded parcels dotted along the train tracks.
A Poetic Song with Evocative Images
Judy's song continues with vibrantly resonant language, pinpointing the grandeur of the human landscape as well as the natural landscape. "Many people wander up the hills from all around you, making up your memories and thinking they have found you." As I peer through the train windows I begin to see the history of the moment and the pattern of the events and the people in my life. From station to station, from track to track, from city to city....these thoughts and perceptions become the dialogues of a young art student transformed via time and the ongoing process of maturity. Judy speaks of "the embroidery of life" and then paints a picture which becomes indelibly etched in my artistic heart and mind. "...And in the night the iron wheels rolling through the rain, down the hills through the long grass to the sea." Joshua Rifkin's arrangement and orchestral conducting soar with an affinity for Judy's lovely voice during this powerful passage. There is a rise and fall of evocative feeling in this special music, conjuring images which remain impressively vivid.
Judy's song "Albatross" closes with some perceptive observations on the continuity of life. "Day and night and day again, and people come and go away forever." Who hasn't reflected upon our days of schooling or early family life or days spent working or travelling or interacting with others via relationships? Wave upon wave of events may occur as cycles existing in time, like the train excursions via the Jersey Central, peering out the train windows and recording the impressions one may encounter or visualize along the way. Then in the closing lines to the song, Judy so eloquently, so elegantly, quietly recites a marvelously resonant and poetic message, "Come away alone, ...come away alone....with me." This is the memorable language of love, a time and a place which can be viewed as a tender invitation, a noble passage, an everlasting entrance or an eternal gate.
A Colorful & Vivid Dream
Many years ago I awoke from a particularly vivid dream which I simply could not forget. Yet I did not think I could capture the full effect of this vision through drawing or painting or any other medium. In an attempt to graphically duplicate some of the dream's elements, I went into my studio and began to sketch on an artist's pad, trying to re-draw the forms and shapes and colors which I had so vividly seen just a few moments before. This sketch is represented here in a size closely representing the original 3" diameter pen & ink drawing.
An Atmospheric Landscape of Unusual Design
In my dream I visualized a brightly painted string instrument (violin, viola or cello) loftily sailing or silently floating above a large expanse of agrarian fields, allowing momentary musical notes to emanate from the instrument, each note gently descending into the cultivated soil below. Some of the notes disappeared entirely beneath the rust/ green fields while others almost seemed to become half-planted farm implements or scythes suited for agricultural harvest. There was a farmhouse in the distance which almost became a wooden music stand in my imaginative perception. A tree in the foreground appeared to be bright red instead of the usual earth colors we usually associate with the forest or hedges of greenery. The mountains in the left distance modeled a most unusual striped effect, exhibiting variations of orange and brown and almost seeming to become the feathered branches of the red tree in the foreground. The sky above breathed with a majesty of Prussian blue and a thousand small particles of ethereal light. From this elementary sketch I painted a more finished design in a 12" format via acrylic paint, a piece which now hangs on my living room wall. Both the original sketch and finished product come as close as I could have imagined in the capture and illustration of a vividly colorful dream.
Strings & Orchestral Sounds
This sketch reminds me of the evocative power of both the string orchestra and the symphonic orchestra, sounds which I have come to cherish ever since my first exposure to music in the 1950's. The string orchestra especially captivates my musical imagination in works such as Edvard Grieg's "Holberg Suite" Op. 40, Antonin Dvorak's "Serenade for Strings in E major" Op. 22, and Edward Elgar's "Serenade for Strings in E minor" Op. 20. All three of these marvelous compositions are performed by the Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra directed by Conrad van Alphen on Telarc. I also have the "Complete Music for String Orchestra" by Edvard Grieg featuring the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra led by Terje Tonnesen on BIS. Another superlative recording is entitled "Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride & Other Holiday Favorites" featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin on Naxos. Anderson's "Suite of Carols for String Orchestra (1955)" radiates a positive and enchanting glow which I never tire of, no matter how often I listen. There is great charm in Anderson's inventive style as can be heard in "Sleigh Ride," "Horse & Buggy," "Suite of Carols for Brass Choir," "A Christmas Festival," "The Golden Years," "Suite of Carols for Woodwinds," "Angels in Our Fields," "Bugler's Holiday," and several other holiday favorites. Such music becomes indelibly woven into the inner textures of our cultural character, producing notes which gently fall to earth from stringed instruments, offering a rich and bountiful harvest for future ages.
Pen & ink drawing, 15" x 19", on artist's board. Inspired by the many films and documentaries created by the noted French oceanographer, scientist, researcher & filmmaker Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997). The oceans of the world offer fabulous varieties of color, shape, form & intricate life. Artist: Glenn Tompkins
Remembrance As a Path Toward Understanding
After the young Martin falls off the spinning carousel, the effects of focused light and Bernard Herrmann's music add tremendous drama to the overall evocation of this scene in "Walking Distance." As the light fades away, one by one the children leave the darkened, now silently still carousel horses, revealing a brief gallery caught by the camera. A succession of wonderfully carved horses momentarily fills the screen, each one cast in motionless pose, as if suspended in frozen animation. Herrmann's accompanying music brilliantly underlines the emotional sadness of this powerfully reflective glimpse into the human heart. We sense Martin's coming-of-age as he grapples with these uniquely personal events, a time of intense introspection as well as a time of endearing compassion. As the music and dramatic lighting bring key elements to the foreground, Martin's father (played by Frank Overton) steps forward after meandering through the maze of carousel horses still visible in the distance.
A Father Speaks to His Son
The quality of Rod Serling's writing can be seen and heard in the next few moments of this luminous story. Martin's father finds his adult son sitting at the carousel's edge holding his hand to his head in anguish over the series of recent events. The dad sensitively approaches his son with the kindly spoken words, "I thought you'd like to know the boy will be alright." Here there are intimations of healing for both the physical and the hidden aspects of Martin's life. "I know who you are," the dad continues, revealing that Martin's license and identity have been confirmed through the wallet he accidentally dropped at his parent's home earlier that evening. "You've come a long way from here and a long time....How? Why? ....You know things that will happen. There's no room, no place. You have to leave here." Martin listens attentively to his father speak these heartfelt words, carefully measuring each phrase with an eagerness to fully understand his present predicament. "It was once your summer....It's his summer now," (referring to the young 11-year-old boy). "We only get one chance. Maybe there's only one summer to a customer." Instead of looking backwards, Martin's father suggests tenderly, "Try looking ahead." Martin agrees with his dad, beginning to sense the wisdom imparted to him through this intervention in time. As the carousel silently starts up, Martin hops aboard to gain another ride, this time with a smile, with renewed understanding, now on a transitional journey toward the closing scene.
Final Scene of "Walking Distance"
The last scene revisits the drug store/ emporium which first appeared at the beginning of this story. Martin discovers a lively perspective as he enters this crowded atmosphere in the store which features his favorite three-scoop chocolate ice cream soda. Now there is loud music, dancing teenagers, and a different soda jerk at the fountain. Initially desiring to order his favorite dessert, Martin strikes up a conversation with the fountain attendant, but then decides to forgo the treat. The attendant asks about Martin's slight but noticeable limp and difficulty in getting up from the counter. Martin says that he injured his leg when he was eleven years old and fell off a merry-go-round. The attendant says, "Merry-go-round? They tore it down....condemned it!" Rod Serling's closing narration speaks eloquently and endearingly about the almost universal desire to go home again, "...that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth."
"Walking Distance" - October 30, 1959
One of the most memorable episodes presented on The Twilight Zone was written by Rod Serling and first seen on television in October of 1959. "Walking Distance" features Buck Houghton as producer, Robert Stevens as director and George T. Clemens as director of photography. This finely written story stars Gig Young in the lead role along with a superbly chosen supporting cast, beautiful sets from MGM, and a superlative musical soundtrack composed by Bernard Herrmann.
Themes of Remembrance, Travel & Time
Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton, New York and fondly remembered his childhood experiences at Recreation Park, especially the magnificent carousel and ornate bandstand. There are moments of wistful remembrance enshrined in this remarkable episode, reflections upon travel & transportation, realizations of how distance and time may change our perspectives, and a yearning to rediscover the innocence & vitality of youth.
Cars, Territory & Memories
In the first scene of "Walking Distance" we see a sports car rapidly driving directly toward the camera, just about to bypass a country gas station in a relatively rural area. The driver comes to an abrupt halt off-camera and then quickly backs up to the vicinity of the gas pumps at the station. There is a bit of dust flying in the air as Martin Sloan (Gig Young) impatiently honks the horn for service, trying to gain the attention of the busy attendant in the background. We can sense this businessman's competitive spirit, his tight schedule of preordained appointments and his somewhat edgy demeanor in dealing with the tasks at hand. Rod Serling's voice-over speaks about Martin Sloan "looking for sanity up the road," seeking an "exodus" but finding something a bit different from what might be expected. The attendant says it will take about an hour to do an oil change and lube job, to which Martin responds "I'm not in a hurry." As Martin gazes toward a sign which says "Homewood - 1.5 miles" across the street on the side of the road, he rather wistfully states "Grew up there. Haven't been back in 20/ 25 years." 1.5 miles is walking distance from the location of the gas station, a trip which he decides to undertake while his car is being serviced.
The Vortex of the Past
The next scene features the soda fountain/ drug store which we associate with small-town America in the 1930's/ 1940's. While an overhead fan circulates in steady fashion, Martin enters this fascinating place, glancing at the fully stocked shelves, taking notice that he is the only customer in this magnificent emporium. A soda jerk emerges from behind the fountain just as Martin reminisces that the town still looks "exactly the same," a picture postcard of historic preservation. "It's funny, how many memories you connect with a place," says Martin as he enjoys an ice cream soda. He thought that everything would be changed, but it's as if he just left yesterday, "Just as if I'd been away overnight."
The Spectacular Sounds of the Band Organ
RCA Records issued a fabulous recording of band organs in 1975,
entitled "The Great French Carousel Organs," an album licensed
by Erato Records of France. This recording showcases the collections of Paul Bocuse and Marc Fournier, a remarkable assortment of 9 different band organs playing a fine variety of popular tunes in a naturally splendid atmosphere. Bocuse and Fournier started their collection more than 60 years ago, carefully restoring these instruments and perfecting their mechanical integrity of performance. The results, as recorded on this album, are nothing short of phenomenal, exhibiting all the power, joy and precision of the band organ's unique textures & voices.
A Splendid Sampler of Ebullient Tunes & Marvelously Preserved Instruments
The Gros Orgue Gaudin performs "Perles de Cristal," "Light Cavalry Overture," "The Thieving Magpie Overture," "William Tell Overture," "Jalousie," "Under the Double Eagle," and "Ain't She Sweet." This is a very large instrument which displays the formidable sound of quite a marvelous orchestra, offering wave upon wave of musical joy, mechanical precision and splendor of memorable character. The recording also features many varieties of Limonaire, Dussaux, Lemoine and Mortier mechanical instruments, each exhibiting its own delightful sonic signature so beautifully captured by the recording engineers. The Limonaire with 66 pipes plays "Valencia" in a remarkably upbeat and exuberant manner, showcasing its rather robust sound with beautifully integrated percussive effects. The Limonaire with 56 pipes and xylophone plays a lovely version of "Rose Marie," and the Mortier performs positively dazzling versions of "Boum" and "America (from West Side Story)."
Works of Art in Decoration, Wood-Carving & Colorful Ornamentation
The Limonaire with 52 pipes and xylophone exhibits three carved figures standing in front of the opening to the interior woodwork, flanked by drums, cymbal, decorative panels and a light color to the paint scheme. The Mortier reveals a nice set of red drums placed in front of wooden pipes with a neat Art Deco sign overhead. The Petit Limonaire offers a lovely painting on its front facade with drums encasing a set of pipes on its rather petite frame, while the Lemoine showcases its rich chestnut stained woodwork surrounding elaborate lettering, carvings and artwork. Many of these band organs also feature gilded lettering and ornamentation, attributes which allow these instruments to shine and glow when seen in the proper atmospheric condition.
The Carousel at the New York 1964-65 World's Fair
In 1964 and 1965 I attended the New York World's Fair with a couple of my friends from New Jersey, taking a bus and then the subway train to Flushing Meadows in Queens, NY. We marveled at the incredible variety of pavilions and international exhibits at the Fair and took in the fabulous sights along the adventures of the day. One of my favorite places at this event was called Carousel Park at the Lake Amusement Area, a unique site dedicated to the showcasing of a rather beautiful vintage carousel & band organ. The carousel had been assembled from two different structures, a frame built by William F. Mangels for the 1908 Stubbman's Beer Garden Carousel at Coney Island, and masterfully carved horses from Charles Feltman's 1903 Carousel also originally from Coney Island.
A Work of Art & Rare Examples of the Woodcarver's Craft
Feltman's horses were simply splendid specimens of a rare & imaginative art, including 71 horses, 1 giraffe, and 2 chariots decorated and hand-carved with exuberant flair and consummate skill. The horses and other animals were the handiwork of Marcus Charles Illions, a master-carver who had trained at Walter Savage's London wood-carving shop. All of these horses and animals were mated to the William F. Mangels frame, the original 1908 Stubbman's structure which had been rebuilt in 1923.
Military Band Organs & Their Joyous Projection of Sounds
Two military band organs were installed at Carousel Park to provide music for this historically preserved merry-go-round. The Valdkirch was manufactured by the Gabebruder Organ Fabrik in Germany and featured 450 reeds along with woodwind & brass sections. An on-location recording made by Quote Records featured some of the fabulous music offered by these impressive mechanical marvels. Some of the selections offered on this LP album are "Brother Can You Spare a Dime," a couple of waltzes & marches, "In Apple Blossom Time," "Over the Waves," "Light Cavalry Overture," "Sweetheart, Sweetheart," "Beer Barrel Polka," and Rossini's "Una Voce Poco Fa." In this rather atmospheric recording you can occasionally hear an airplane fly overhead and a couple of workman's voices apparently captured by the open microphones. On a good stereo system you can crank up the volume and momentarily relive the the power and joyous projection of these marvelous instruments.
Present Day Location of the 1964-65 NY World's Fair Carousel
A permanent home for this carousel was established at Flushing Meadows/ Corona Park in 1968. A restoration project was begun in 2012 to last the next 10 years. The location is now known as Fantasy Forest with the carousel taking the place of honor in the present Park's magnificently preserved space and design. May riders of all ages continue to savor the beauty of the dazzling lights, the thrill of the regal steeds and the majesty of the band organ's resonant reeds.
Visions & Memories From Storied Amusement Parks
Liberty at Olympic Park in Irvington/ Maplewood, New Jersey
The carousel at Olympic Park was named Liberty and quickly became my favorite merry-go-round, one of the primary joys of my early childhood. The Philadelphia Toboggan Co. assembled this carousel in 1914, a masterpiece of the wood-carver's art matched to a European band organ which played delightful marches, popular melodies and light Classical pieces. Liberty served from 1929 until 1965 when Olympic finally closed its doors after completing its final season. This carousel was housed in a beautifully constructed wooden pavilion which sported many small windows and a set of large entry doors.
The large enclosure area inside the pavilion allowed the music to reverberate and resonate amidst the tall wooden rafters, imparting a sense of extravagantly delightful music emanating from a spacious concert hall. The sense of light was almost overwhelming to the visual eye, with thousands of brightly lit bulbs decorating Liberty's impressive exterior. There were paintings and colorful decorations in the inner portion of the carousel and also completely surrounding the upper portion of the superstructure. The horses themselves were marvels to behold, shining steeds in bright and fabulous hues, offering a staggering array of reigns and saddles and decorative accouterments.
Perhaps the most endearing feature of Liberty was its fabulous band organ, a magnificently carved and decorated mechanical musical instrument which played fantastic tunes along with percussion accompaniment and miniature dancers. I always drew as close as I could to feel the brilliant vibrations sounding forth from the rhythmic music, sensing each brush of the cymbal and the thundering power of the bass and snare drums. This was high-spirited music which lifted the listener up to extraordinary realms of palpable joy.
Highway 260 - Panoramas of Earth, Sky & Marvelous Light
The highway system which connects Cottonwood with Camp Verde also exhibits wilderness tentacles stretching out toward Jerome and Page Springs, areas southwest of Sedona, Arizona. Years ago I traveled north from my home in Mesa to visit Fort Verde State Historic Park and tour the extensive beauty of this fabulous landscape. Highways 169 and 69 extend further south and west toward Prescott, once the territorial capitol of this state. On a bright and clear day, I drove along miles of Arizona highways, taking in the awesome spectacle stretched out on the open road before my very eyes.
An Intriguing Panorama For the Visual Artist
As I drove along Highway 260 after spending the entire day touring the area, the sky began to grow dark and the colors of the landscape subtly began to change, from vivid earth colors to subdued shadows mixed with a thousand desert/ mountain textures and hues. The night sky spread out in celestial grandeur, hovering above the palaces and hidden canyons of the Arizona landscape, like jewels upon an infinite sea. Here was a passport of observation for the traveler, a compass for the hunter, and a living map for the avid adventurer.
A Poem for the Open Road and Highways of Arizona
Whether as particles or waves,
once light illumines the view,
vision paints true perspective,
a cast of ebullience & spirit renewed.