There are windswept days in the Arizona Desert where seemingly every color of the spectrum may be examined upon close inspection. This particular area is just north of McKellips Road and Crismon Road in East Mesa, an area where Usery Mountain Regional Park stands adjacent to Tonto National Forest. After a period of seasonal rain, it is amazing to see how green this area becomes, bursting with lime-green, yellow-green, emerald green and dozens of other varieties of spectacular hues. When the desert is dry, one notices the rust-colors, the tans, the yellow ochres, the bleached greys, faded green hues and ashen rocks. The wildlife also exhibits great variety of color, from flashy iridescent hummingbirds to motley colored songbirds and rustic desert quail. Once I visited a Park nearby and witnessed Harris hawks sailing high overhead, looking like noble black falcons on a cerulean blue sky. I am reminded of a phrase coined by American artist Wolf Kahn, a gifted painter and fantastic landscape artist. Kahn once told a group of Drew University art students that he was intrigued by "the tangles of nature," those outdoor spectacles we notice when we truly study and observe the natural environment which surrounds us. The Arizona Desert is indeed such an environment, filled with tangles and colorful spectacles stretching from the desert floor all the way to the blue-grey, purple and lavender mountain peaks.
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.
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.
Driving Through Arizona's Rim Country
Payson offers some splendid scenery for the artist, photographer or nature observer. The Mogollon Rim extends from Strawberry and Pine at the western edge to Heber, Show Low, Lakeside and Pinetop at the eastern edge of the Rim. The Coconino National Forest stands to the north, with Tonto National Forest to the south, Sitgreaves National Forest further east and the White Mountain Apache Reservation to the southeast. One may explore Knoll Lake, Bear Canyon Lake, Woods Canyon Lake or Chevelon Canyon Lake along this scenic corridor surrounded by miles of magnificent pine trees. Highway 87 runs north & south while Highway 260 traverses an east-west course through the forests.
A Night of Camping Upon the Rim
Years ago I camped with a friend who went fishing at Chevelon Lake, about 15 miles west of Heber (altitude 6,376'). We broiled some freshly caught fish over an open fire, added some rice & vegetables and enjoyed a splendid meal in the cavernous confines of the pine forest. When you leave the city behind, the forest becomes your new environmental home, far afield from the noise, clutter & maddening pace of the urban lifestyle. There is a compelling spirit of divine rest & unmatched quietude in such a majestic setting, from listening to the wind aloft to hearing the muted cries of myriads of wildlife scattered throughout the forest.
The Image Drawn by the Artist
I wanted to memorialize the vertical thrust of the pine trees guarding the road, envisioning the green and rust colors spread across the regal mountains inhabiting the horizon. Such greenery becomes a verdant paradise.