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Music, good music SOUNDS good, of course. But we’ve noticed that the best music also LOOKS good.
That’s Edythe Turnham and her Band up there, lookin’ good. photo Dorothy Hilbert Collection seen here
Small music groups, particularly, seem to have great visual appeal. This is something like a family portrait–the resemblance is there–but where everyone has their own special piece of equipment and job to do. Found here.
When we go to see live music, we go to watch as much as to listen. What we experience at the time, and what we take away, has a lot to do with what we looked at, what we saw.
Artists of every era have used musicians as subjects. It’s just natural.
Fernand Leger, two performances, same band, new look. See here.
Jan Miense Molenaer painted this portrait of a family musical event in Haarlem, Holland, in the 17th century.
Lots of paintings of musicians at work here
This scene of how to walk like an Egyptian while playing a tune is from the Metropolitan Museum collection, found here
In our time, some of the most eye-appealing performances, we think, are given by the string quartet.
Performers at the Kairos chamber music festival, go here.
But for our money, nothing quite beats the genius solo performer deeply in tune with the music and the moment
Miss Holiday, the song, the look, none before or since quite like that.
Mr Hendrix was an eye magnet as well as an incomparable musician. Fine photograph by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, lots more here
Glenn Gould, Joni Michell. Music like no one else. Looking like no one else.
Listen up and look on.
The world is (still) full of wild things, plenty of them pretty weird in appearance and habits. Yet we humans have never been satisfied with nature’s menagerie. Since way back when, we have imagined things even more wild and more weird. Like this unnerving critter photographed by Nhung Dang (spotted here).
No surprise the Japanese have been heavily into conjuring up unusual creatures from the imagination. There was a whole show of them in London.
The USA can claim many producers of eye-poppng imaginary animalia, sometimes under the banner of Folk Art, sometimes Outsider Art, sometime…Art. This wild dog was here.
And in the USA, there is no shortage of well produced, well attended shows featuring objects and drawings of creatures who have never actually roamed the earth, but which are very much alive in the minds of some artist.
And then there is England, which might hold the all time record for the number of its citizens who have turned their imagination and their natural skills to the rendition of new life forms. The above drawing is a collaboration of two sisters born in the 1840’s with time on their hands and wonderful, playful minds. Here’s the story.
Kate Bradbury, a current artist from England, emerged late, blossomed quickly, makes things no one else could never dream of. This is her Angel. More
Let’s give the last word and image to the Asians. Eunmi Chun is Korean, and she makes animal figures out of dried intestinal skin and human hair (sometimes gold-leafed), beautiful forms sewn together, see here.
Wild. Thing. You make my heart sing.
Nature is the crucible, churning out an infinite variety of living things. And still, some of us turn our heads and minds to the invention of things that, so far, never were.
Gotta thirst at the end of a day? Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here). Cocktails are back. Lucky us.
The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.
Funny how things come and go. Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice. Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.
But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.
They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house. Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.
Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.
Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…
The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.
This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).
Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.
Or at least someone you used to think was swell. This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.
Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.
OK, so back to the here and the now. Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.
If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.
Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town. Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.
At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.
Why? it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)
Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.
If you write, you know him and you owe him something. If you don’t, you surely know his face. Above photo by Dmitri Kasterine
Beckett reduced language to its bones while charging those bones with an intensity that carves deep lines in the head and heart. Silence. Waiting. This is how we spend most of our lives, but no one had the audacity and wisdom to try an make literature from them. Until Beckett.
His plays are what brought his name to the world.
Two photos above by John Haynes
They gave him the Nobel Prize. He did not refuse the honour, but declined to make a speech and did not attend the medal ceremony. Photographed by Richard Avedon.
Samuel Beckett, born in Dublin, lived and died in Paris. Photo found here.
Along with the gift of his genius for understanding us and putting it into words, there is that unforgettable face–and head. Photo found here
His only rival, we think, as a writer of influence and a face of riveting attraction was this other famous resident of Paris:
Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, writer, provocateur,and arguably, one of the primary creators of what we call feminism.
Her most influential book, the Second Sex, caused a sensation. The Vatican disapproved harshly, all the more since Mlle De Beauvoir was born into a Catholic family in the French countryside.
Her series of memoirs, especially the first (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter) are as full of humanity as they are philosophy.
Like Beckett, her life and her writing changed things for us and the influence continues.
When we see these photographs now, we can’t help but recognize the unique, intense intelligence in these faces. It’s there around the eyes and the mouth. How could these heads not produce world-changing thoughts?
All of us are born with more than enough imagination. It is not exclusive to people who go on to write novels, paint pictures, make movies, design buildings, or start a fashion label. Just look at any child under 10–look at what they are doing.
Middle photo, children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909 b7 “F Carpenter”. Top photo and lower one, kids on the street in New York, by Helen Levitt. Lots more here.
But if you ask people over 20 about their imagination and how they use it, you’ll find them frowning while they try to come up with something that won’t sound stupid.
It seems that once we get it into our heads that we are grown ups, most of us abandon the inventive use of our imagination and only call on it when hankering for something we don’t have: a tropical vacation, possession of a winning lottery ticket, a cigarette, a cheesecake, a white Christmas, dream girl/guy.
Fine, but isn’t there something a bit more useful you could do with this amazing tool that takes you beyond the here and now and the run of the mill?
It doesn’t have to be the invention of an alternate reality or a re-imagining of the modern metropolis. It could be your choice of an outfit for a walk downtown.
Like this inventive and still playful woman. The Japanese, bless their hearts, take their imaginations to the streets as a matter of course.
And they are not alone.
Above The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas of NYC, photo by NPR found here
More than anyone (as we at the RofL noted before) we have the amazing Bill Cunningham to thank for finding and photographing people who set their own standard every day in New York.
These are people who wouldn’t be caught dead in some other persons clothes. Above from here
But, hey, public displays of originality aren’t for everyone, of course. And plain clothes have been the choice of some of the most imaginative humans who ever lived.
Mr Einstein at the beach, almost blending in, seen here
The point is: somewhere in all our lives there is an opportunity to do what feels right to us and what we strongly suspect is not what most people are going to do.
Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to do something, sometime, that is all our own, a demonstration of our DNA writ large?
All we need is the courage to let loose our imagination, our playful side, and put it out there.
Start small, start with lunch. This is a sandwich, a baby grandwich. Bravo, and bon appetite. After lunch, maybe go outside and paint the house, pushing yourself beyond taupe with charcoal trim.
Nice building, personalized, and you won’t have any trouble finding it again. It was given a lick of paint by Stanley Donwood, pen name of an artist and is the London office of XL Recordings. More here
Tired of hauling a spruce into the house or the landlord just won’t let you?
We all have an oceanful of ideas–some bright, some wacky, some spooky, some great–floating around in our heads. Giving ourselves permission to dip into that ocean a bit more often would make the world a bit more interesting, don’t you think?
Paris, the 1920’s, letting it loose, 24/7. Photo from here
Happy New Year. Go play