Sunday, November 27, 2011

Metamusical Review…

Dear Friends,
Lo many years ago, I published my first article for pay. It appeared in “Mondo 2000”, a periodical that presaged “Wired” in reporting on the intersection of tech/science and culture. The publisher and gnome, R.U. Sirius, still owes me fifty bucks for the following piece of what might pass for journalism. Whatever. It’s just a brief review of the music of a fine old band, Rare Air, and an interview with one of its non-leaders, Grier Coppins.
Metamusical Notes: Experience Replayed  © Solomon 1989
Blasting out of the granite heart of the Berkshires on the bitter end of a three day burn, I was looking forward to some long-delayed sleep. Through daggered winds, blinding sleet and fog, I piloted the venerable Zephyr V8 out of the mountains and smack into the web of coincidence.
The cassette machine had just broken, disgorging my most precious Grateful Dead bootleg in ribbons of vinyl confetti onto the muddy cabin floor. I flipped on the radio to land on the AM band. Bigots, spinsters and cranks traded misanthropic bile and hallucinating mind sets on talk radio. Tuning in FM 109.9, I was treated to the worst hits of the past decade, all presaging the coming wave of ‘80s nostalgia. God help us.
However, low down on the dial in the NPR/College Radio ghetto, odds noises begin to percolate and rasp out of the tuner. It’s a proud stomping jig! Bagpipes and whistles are madly chasing over and ‘round each other as gongs, middle eastern goat hide and temple bells collide. KEE-RACK! There’s a percussive explosion that resolves into something improbably melodious and even sort’a pretty. Somebody is playing a guitar that sounds like the hormone-drenched mating call of an ancient lizard king. This is good. Good and weird.

Diverting, mind warping and appealing all at once, they make a sound like no other band. It’s a sound that launches the notion of World Music at a feverish, giddy pitch. As the bright music crackled into static and faded into the night across the mountains, the DJ reveals the source of the musical confabulation; Canadian born, world-bred Rare Air. Yes, this is what the planet needs now; the first and only Celtic bagpipe-middle eastern/asian/scat jazz-funk fusion band!
Shortly after my little journey, I took the time to get better acquainted with the arguably demented, perversely contented cabal of musical sorcerers behind the deadpan socio/acoustic brew that is their unique creation. I tracked down Grier Coppins, cofounder of this strange unit and wizard of the highland bagpipes, whistles, synths and bombarde. Following are excerpts from our interview.
Steven Solomon: The pipes have such a haunting sound. How would you describe it?
Grier Coppins: Obnoxious. Rude. Sometimes wispy or melancholy. Strange, though. That primitive tuning won’t really sit on a piano, if you know what I mean.
Steven Solomon: Now, how did you decide to play this weird blend of music? Did you wake up one morning and say, “Hey, guys, let’s start a bagpipe-funk-fusion band with Japanese gongs in the mix?
Grier Coppins: Actually, it began when we lived together in Brittany, France. I was a pretty isolated area. We wanted to learn Breton music, and that’s where I learned the bombarde. We were always open to learning whatever interested us. It’s never been really conscious, but the music just evolved this way as we did what we wanted to do. So, we tend to escape labels.
Steven Solomon: So, how does that relate to the commercial side of things? Yours is not a convenient attitude in terms of marketing and doing music as a business.
Grier Coppins: Well, one effect of the recent acceptance of what folks are calling World Beat, I guess is that it’s easier to make a living today. Just the same, we’ve never really thought about commercializing it. (End of transcript)
Indeed, how would one go about commercializing so strange and rare a thing, this Tonique Sonique? It is a thing of the heart, from the heart; vitally and purely human. The process might have gone something like this…
  • 30,000 BCE: Deep in the heart of Africa, Humankind discovers that hollowed tree trunks struck with stones make a sound that scares even the lions.
  • 10,000 BCE: In a shallow cave nearby the coast of what is now called France, spatular Cro-Magnon pluck a bison shank from the embers of a campfire and fashion a flute with tools of stone. A song goes up to the heavens, praying for a good hunt.
  • 3,000 BCE: High in the Himalayas, the eerie ringing of crude, bronze temple bowls heralds the coming of a total solar eclipse.
  • 600 BCE: Under a leaky sod roof, in a neighborhood later know as the Scottish Highlands, somebody sews a dried goat bladder to a reeded flute and thus creates the grandaddy of all bagpipes. A rude, obnoxious bleating noise ensues, meant to invoke a dispel some gloomy, grey-bearded northern god of foul weather.
  • Late Seventeenth Century through the 1990s CE: We see the eventual decline of the ancient Oriental and Islamic empires and the rise of the decadent west. Electricity is tamed, modern chemistry emerges, and the phonograph and radio are invented. Then comes, in a single generation, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard. The kids discover ever better methods of making their glands sweat, their feet jump, and getting their elders upset and concerned. Canada moves to the fore in the search for world peace and universal love with the advent of Rare Air. Fans across the globe throng to hear the music.
Just that easy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sort'a Like Art…

Dear Friends,

A little doodle from my iPhone4 and PictureMagic; altogether about two minutes of fiddling. I could fiddle with it more, but why bother? It seems to look good enuf to be sort'a like art.

Hic Finis Est,


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cleaning Out the Drawer…

Dear Friends,
In clearing out my digital desk drawer in down time amidst the book/movie project that I'm lately about, I've discovered that I had inadvertently got into the eulogy business. I suppose that will happen to a writer as he careens into his sixth decade on this terran orb. The bodies do tend to pile up.
The following first two remembrances are for two dear friends, themselves each other's best friend. They died at about fifty years and each within a week of the other. Yes, drugs and alcohol may have been involved. Whatever. Even if you never met Kenny nor Bill, know that the world would not have been complete without their brief stay on the planet. Likewise, this is so of my newer but no less sweet friend, Andy, also remembered here.
Res Ipsa Loquitor,

For Big Bill What's'name…
Big Bill What'is'name had the fix in on the ghost scam long before he became utterly invisible. He'd been squaring in on that con since before we knew him. He was a true professional. He went out of this world and perhaps to another on a bet made when he laid his head down one night with that big, sloppy grin. He likely made his last breath whispering "I love this place, but I gotta get goin'". Yes. He was, indeed, a true professional. Ghosts are very quiet.
He worked his craft, that ghosty thing, most all the while. He was mainly silent. How such a big man could be so quiet, so stealthy, I have no idea. How such a huge heart beat so steady as to barely make a sound, even under the sledge hammer of enough corrosive stimulants to crush or explode the chests of lesser men, well, that is just a marvel. Yet, his heart would not be still nor bereft of love, even as it ceased beating. I'm quite sure of this. This ghost was a man. He was a man and, as I said, a true professional and crafty in the Art of Being a Ghost.
Late in the morning, when the laughing children in the rafters had all climbed down and gone to bed or plotted to burn up the barn where the music finally had stilled, he would still be there in that Church of What's Happening Now. Never mind the falling, flaming timbers. A ghost no never minds much conflagration. He'd waft thru the smoke and the embers past the beleaguered, bewildered band and crew to pile up six tons of smoldering electronics and a good portion of the stage on his back to heave it a hundred yards into the old truck. The tires would explode, fairly reliably, but he gave no never mind. The drummers went next, and then the guitar players and those goddamn pianerists. Being a good ghost, he let the women folk with the pretty voices run away. Of course, the Hammond B3 and what was left of the incinerated old bar were something of a struggle, but not too much for a man who was a mighty ghost and now shall ever be.

Tonight, when we burn this place down, be welcomed to a big sloppy smile. Big Bill is smiling on your face. The ghost is in you.

Thank you Bill, for a real good time!

Solomon, September 26, 2006, 3:33PM

For Tina, Howie and Luella, the Conklin family and the many fine, fascinating friends of Kenny Conklin…

It’s been just about a week since I got the news about Kenny. Pretty soon afterward, everything was a swirl of phone calls and emails from friends all over the continent, and even as far away as the Korean peninsula.  Yeah, there’s a guy on the other side of the planet that knows the legend King Cong. He misses Kenny. Myself, I’m still adjusting to the reality of missing him.

Surprises. There are many that come with the recollection of a life lived and done. Although we had spent much time in intense, heartful conversation, the extemporaneous discussion of philosophical matters, it’s a little embarrassing that it took his passing to learn that I barely knew how crucial he was to one beautiful, beloved friend. He changed her life and development as a truly excellent Human Being. I think Kenny was unusually graceful in that capacity to lend spirit and true love to folks.

But, I did expect that the guy was indestructible, that he would always be there, year after year, for three decades smiling, loving, lending love and spirit, a core of our chosen family. He was a loving Man.

Kenny had such a big heart. In the Encyclopedia Galactica, under the entry for “Human Being”, there is a moving picture of Kenny, pumping his fist in the air, clapping out that Bo Diddley beat as the kids dance madly devoted and shake their bones. The fat guy with the guitar hollers to shake the rafters, “Love is Real, Not Fade Away! Love is Real. Not Fade Away… Not Fade Away… Not Fade Away!”

Kenny is irreplaceable. The Universe would not have been complete had he not been born. He was born, and we were so blessed. He will be missed. His spirit and love will not fade away. Not fade away…

Steve Solomon
January 12, 2006, 8:23AM

This last bit is for and to my pal Andy. He passed over just a few weeks ago. I was lucky enough to know this fellow during my time on the streets.

You were a fine man. Besotted and bedraggled, a rounder, bounder and down and outer. But you knew how to share and with whom to share what. When we met in the cot shelter down on Center Street, when I was ragged and worn out at the end of my rope, you offered me a swig of your contraband hooch.

I declined the offer, but was quite impressed that the good folks tending night watch who would otherwise have no tolerance for such poor behavior as yours found some forbearance in the illumination of your inherent sweetness.

Still, you were no innocent. You knew how to find a place to escape the rain in the city and the floods down by the river, the cops in the parks in the late night and early dawn. I cannot share those secrets, as I do not know them as well as you and, like you, would not want to give a friend a bum steer. But, I do thank you for pointing me toward that space under the old church one punishing night that fell upon a particularly hard day.

You gave me other gifts, as well. One afternoon after a hard autumn rain, I found you sitting in a muddy puddle under the trestle on Main Street. You were content, but would entertain some company. It was my privilege to join you. Skinny as your sorry butt was, you were the biggest fish in that pond, and I was made your guest. You honored me with a smile and some wry crack about proper people walkin' by. I don't recall what it was you said, it's now lost on the wind, but I felt at the time that there was some wisdom in your observation. I know it made me smile and to be proud to be sitting in that puddle.

That wit! You kept a tight grip on it, but you could fling it like a switchblade to tear the meat off the bones of the pompous and self-absorbed. A few moments later you would be dispensing more kindness to those folks around you who knew what to make of such.

Well, anyhow, in your hours 'tween blood and roses, you did stomp on the floor boards of what can pass for reality to most of us. Your clear eyes, no matter how drenched in that russian wine, never lost their shine until they closed one last time. Your voice is now silent, yet still on the wind. You don't need anymore change nor booze. So, in a way you won when that vein in your head finally blew out. But, your loving friends have lost a treasure.

Thank you, Andy.

Hic Finis Est,


Friday, November 18, 2011

Remembering My Father…

Dear Friends,

Here is a Man

In stumbling through an old scrap book of writings and photos, I ran across the elegy that I wrote for my Father. It is dated almost exactly twenty years ago, today. Above is a photo of the young man, the first fellow to enlist in the United States Marines on the morning after the Pearl Harbor attack. The following is my remembrance of him.

February 2nd, 1991…
For my Father, my Mother, my Sister,
Remember the way your tears smell? You probably have to go way back when you were very young and your senses were quite new; back to when you were three or four years old. Back then you could cry so hard that all you could smell was the salt. You cried so hard that you gave yourself the hiccups and forgot why you had begun to sob.
Daddy came along and picked you up, way up. His hands were so big that they spanned your ribs. He tossed you into the air and caught you on the way down. He was so strong. His smile was so broad. His eyes were as keen as the edge of the autumn wind. He had features as fine as he was trim and his hair was black. He was the most powerful force in the universe. He smelled like Old Spice.
Heartbeats later, the tears disappeared. Giggles chirped from your small frame and your heart melted into one joy, safe in Daddy’s arms.
Tonight, my mind and heart are ringing like a bell, ringing out for the memory of my Father. I have gone so many worlds since I was born, yet I come again to my one true place at the beginning of the future. This is now just as my Father told me it would be.
My Father traveled with two good dragons: his Luck and his Lessons. One was to learn from and the other was to teach. Tonight, I gather those two dragons ‘round. I dance in their circle. I honor them and my Father’s life. I would pray and today wish that I should make my life with such felicity and grace… that I should leave behind such good heart as my Father bequeathed to me and all those that he touched. I do not pray, but I do dance with my G-d and forever will dance with my Father’s spirit.
On his funeral day, January 26th, 1991, I went to his garden with his shears. By the brook, I clipped three twigs of evergreen: one was for his daughter Susan, one for his wife Barbara, and one for Steven. I put those twigs in his grave as we buried Sidney Solomon and said goodbye, forever.
For days on end, until my own heart stops, until I breath no more, I will endeavor to travel with my Father’s two good dragons. The way of my Father will be alive always and forever and in everyone that his spirit touched and who has the heart and some skill to pass it on.
Hic Finis Est,

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Little Night Music?

Dear Friends,

Here are mere men rising to throw down a righteous fire that falls into a Spanish Jam. There-in is a dragon chasing its tail in splendid madness amongst new worlds a'borning across the arc of heaven seen in the eyes of children who might imagine "what now"… Let's go, let's go! There is a place, a space where the strings of a fragile guitar can ring like steel hammered by The Gods, the drums shatter the very air and scare even the Big Cats, where some skinny goofball who plays the bass like it's a trumpet to make mountains explode, and the entire mess comes together with the velocity and ferocity of a train wreck. Shall we go, you and I into that transient nightfall of diamonds?

Looking Forward and Up,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Desolation Row, 3/24/90

Dear Friends,

Here's a fairly adequate rendition of a pretty good ditty. A fellow named Bob Dylan wrote it, and that outfit, The Grateful dead performed it on March 24th, 1990. It's titled "Desolation Row". Ever stop by that avenue down way by Shakedown Street? The trail is long and the weight you might carry can be heavy, but it's well worth the trip for some wisdom possibly earned.

Res Ipsa Loquitor,


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Little Art?

Dear Friends,

This little optical confection was produced with the cam on an iPhone4, ColorIt, a fine low cost alternative for basic needs to Photoshop, and PictureMagic, a free app that includes, among other things a mirror effect. Alas, the sign that credited the artist of the original sculpture of found gee-gaws, gyres, springs, cams and busted thermostats was lost in the cleanup from our freaky pre-Halloween blizzard in the Northeast. Thus I cannot credit him.

Looking Forward,