musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Author: julie (Page 1 of 102)

Kirk Starkey Pays Homage to Ancient Acoustic Traditions and the Digital Age

KirkStarkey

The cello is one of my favorite instruments. In fact, of all the stately orchestral instruments, it may well be my most favorite. Mournful, soulful, melancholy — it’s often heard at times of sadness, to commemorate a dark day or to mark someone’s passing. In the case of Hamilton, Ontario session cellist, composer and producer Kirk Starkey, the cello is an orchestra unto itself, with many moods and personalities. His latest recording with George Crotty, Vidi Aqam is distinctly modern, yet also timeless. It’s classical. A little jazzy. Computer literate, yet deliciously steeped in tradition. Mournful, yes, but also hopeful and upbeat.

The merging of old and familiar with new and surprising extends to Starkey’s instrument and his method of performance. He plays a Bohemian cello (c.1775) which he then samples and uses to accompany himself. It’s a very cool concept, and not one you’re used to seeing with a traditionally classical instrument. You can see how elegantly this can be done in a 2016 performance for 93.3 CFMU, in their first episode of Sound + Silence, a showcase for local Hamilton artists. Starkey performs with his ‘cello of multiple personalities’ at McMaster’s Convocation Hall.

For Vidi Aqam, all tracks were written and produced by Kirk Starkey and George Crotty. It was recorded and mixed at the Wolftone Music Laboratory in Hamilton, Ontario.

Kirk Starkey: web | twitter | instagram | bandcamp | soundcloud
George Crotty: web | soundcloud | facebook | youtube

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Amanda Palmer Takes a Powerful Stand for Motherhood and Compassion

Amanda Palmer - Mother video

Let’s face it, compassion is hard. Mirriam-Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” One naturally feels compassion for obvious victims — a child who is killed by an assassin’s bullet, sporting event participants being indiscriminately mowed down by an angry foreigner or poor people who are marginalized by greedy corporate interests. But what about the perpetrators? Do you ever feel any sympathy for them? If you’re like most people, probably not. After all, they’re hateful, depraved individuals who carry out horrible acts of violence and injustice. It takes an objective, godlike view from way above to begin to have compassion for those who do harm to others. Or, at the very least, it takes an insatiable curiosity about what drove them to their behavior, and a desire to do something that stops hate and violence at its source.

Amanda Palmer is no stranger to controversy. She obviously has no interest in living a safe, non-confrontational life. In my opinion, that’s the very definition of an artist. From early on in her career, she engaged in what might be considered risky behavior, such as standing on a box in the middle of Harvard Square in a bride’s dress, handing out flowers. Years later, she wrote “A Poem for Dzhokhar,” a contemplation about one of the Boston marathon bombers. She was hacked. She was threatened. It didn’t go well. And why? Because she had a highly unpopular take on those tragic events in 2013. Amidst all of the grief and anger, Amanda wondered what might have caused Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to do what he did.

In her latest artistic offering, a beautiful cover of Pink Floyd’s song “Mother” (from their epic album The Wall), Amanda is joined with a cast of gifted musicians and actors. The video is powerful and poignant, with her eagle eye focused like a laser on our current president and his administration.

Watch the video first, to the very end (that’s important; you’ll see why), and then read her ‘straight up, no bullshit’ Newsweek interview.

Tyrants and murderers aren’t born that way. Something happens to them in their lives to turn them from innocent young children into people whom most of us feel aren’t deserving of our love and compassion. I strongly believe, as does Amanda Palmer, that until you get to the source of an illness, you will never truly rid yourself of the symptoms. Depravity is a disease that is fast overtaking the world we live in. At its core, no doubt, is a lack of proper nurturing, which all plants, animals and especially humans require to live healthy, productive and loving lives. It’s something that a mother innately understands.

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1971 Honor a Friend in “Anxiety (In the Depths of Northwestern Ontario)”

1971

Before introducing you to the music of Northwestern Ontario-based band 1971, we first must delve into this area’s rugged beauty. For that, we defer to Montreal artist, musician and writer Kate Erickson, who reviewed the band’s self-titled EP in 2010. She begins the piece with this introduction:

The landscape of Northwestern Ontario has a weight to it; from the ancient mass of the Canadian Shield underfoot to the ponderous silence of the boreal forest, there’s something about this region that naturally conveys a sense of heaviness.

It is from a place of heaviness and great beauty that 1971 releases the song “Anxiety (In the Depths of Northwestern Ontario).” It was written for their friend, bassist and founding member of the band, Cameron Glen Cranston, who passed away in February at the age of 25.

Artistic grace can arise from tragedy and loss. The music and video begins serenely, driving down a foggy road. Casually filmed home movies show friends on a nature-loving road trip through beautiful mountain vistas, Canadian countrysides and pristine lakes. But then the reality of their friend’s affliction comes screaming through, in memories and in music, forever woven into the idyllic scenes. Their song builds into a driving punk-laden anthem with the inescapable truth, “all our bodies, all our bodies will decay, before you find your answer.” The unrestrained angst ebbs and flows, ebbs and flows, as it does through the lives of its sufferers. The effect is powerful, and it’s a poignant tribute.

This song is being released along with two others as their last recordings with Cameron. This EP, titled “No Matter Where You Go, There You Are,” will be available on December 1. The EP features two demos they recorded for a grant and one of their lost friend’s songs. “Anxiety” was written for their beloved bandmate during a difficult time, when he was still here. This EP can be preordered on bandcamp as a 7″ vinyl record, or it can be ordered as a physical cassette from Art of the Uncarved Block. You can also preorder it on iTunes.

We really hope this release properly puts this band to rest and we hope it touches some people who might have experienced something similar to what we went through. Cameron was a great musician and an inspiration to a lot of people he knew. He deserves to be heard and remembered. – 1971

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CHANCES takes us on a modern journey to the Himalayas

Chances2

Rishikesh is a city nestled in the Himalayan foothills of northern India, known as the “Yoga Capital of the World.” It is one of the holiest places for Hindus, visited by saints and sages since ancient times as a place to meditate in search of higher knowledge. “Rishikesh” is also the latest single from CHANCES, a Montreal trio that blends indie-pop, a touch of electro and distinctly Indian melodies. To listen to their hypnotic music is to take a pilgrimmage to the Himalayas in a high-powered spaceship.

This clever animated video, a Nintendo and ancient India mashup, is by Philippe Blain. As for the inspiration behind the song:

It’s about choice and intention. The intention to trust your instinct, and to align action with thought. The song’s driving rhythm continually pushes forward, the vocals play off each other in a sort of call and response, the synths spark up a colourful chaos. All of that is built around a loop of voices recorded on iPhone on the banks of the Ganges in the holy city of Rishikesh, India.

The Ganges River and an iPhone. A mysterious, ancient culture and our curious, technological future meet at a strange crossroads, centering around the human experience and the human voice. The repeated refrain “How you gonna decide, how you gonna choose?” suggests a crossroads and a quandry. What to do? The musical meditation — part dance track, part Hindu mantra — advises the listener to “say what you mean, mean what you do” and to move “out of the fog, into the flow.” It’s good advice.

Chances

It’s tempting to say that this band came together just last year in Montreal by chance, though their fruitful collaboration was more likely fated. Connecting old and new, Chloé Lacasse and Geneviève Toupin, singer songwriters and pianists, plus drummer Vincent Carré, have created something magical. The unique blend of cultures and influences in their music likely arises from the English, French-Canadian and Metis backgrounds of the trio. Their first two singles, “Shine” and “Leave the Light On,” were released earlier this year.

As the Hindus’ sacred elephant Ganesha disappears into the mist, CHANCES leaves us with these words of wisdom:

Trust the flow.

Don’t think about the odds.

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::: BUY or LISTEN TO Rishikesh :::

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Lavender Child searches for truth amid ‘Happy Illusions’

LavenderChild

“Happy Illusions” by Lavender Child is inspired by unsettled feelings bubbling up from a feel-good outdoor music festival. Among lush forests, magical trails, enchanting art installations, nature and music, the narrator wonders about the honesty and integrity of those in attendance. What happens when you take a utopian setting and add the human element? Confessions of love flowed in this idyllic scene, but were they to be believed? And how did the unknown nature of people’s hearts affect the natural environment? Lavender Child’s search for authenticity comes across strongly in this examination of human interaction with each other, and with nature.

Lavender Child is the project of Caitlin Comeau-Jarvis, a Toronto-based artist. She creates ethereal dreamscapes while guiding her listeners to “reconnect with nature, community and themselves.” In “Happy Illusions,” gentle piano, strings and percussion set a reverant tone, while the artist’s otherworldly voice plays delicately at the edges and then soars like a bird. For the video, she worked with Toronto director Dylan Mitro, who conceptualized the stunning video.

Comeau-Jarvis explains the song’s inspiration:

The unsettling ambivalence of the place came from the juxtaposition between the people and the peaceful surroundings. My head spun from the irony both in relationships to nature and each other. I heard so many people say that they loved one another, which conceptually was beautiful but realistically had me questioning the authenticity of the community… ‘Happy Illusions’ is a song about the experience of love and the human connection to nature and whether that connection can be genuine when under the influence.

“Happy Illusions” is the debut single from her forthcoming EP, Reflections.

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On Your Birthday

MomRosesAndBabysBreath

It’s still your birthday, even though it’s dark now. But birthdays don’t matter anymore, do they? You are ageless and timeless now, fixed in amber.

If you were still here, I would have made you a card, filled with my lousy artwork. You never cared for store-bought cards. They were too easy, too automatic. Pick it out, make a purchase, scribble a tossaway line, “thinking of you” yadda yadda, and sign it. Address it, send it, and the person is quickly out of sight, out of mind. There are no lingering thoughts, no emotional commitment.

I made the emotional commitment that you treasured, and I would frequently be there to deliver it in person and hug you while you examined it. Though my artistic ability displayed no measurable improvement from when I was 6 to when I was 56, you appreciated those haphazardly pieced-together cards just the same.

So, where are you now? I often contemplate this, strange as it seems. My friends who are mediums, spiritualists, would possibly say that you’re watching over me — perhaps even now as I write this. It’s odd, but I never told them. I’ve typically been very open and honest with people, but for some reason, I suddenly became very private, secretive, withdrawn. It felt like the right thing to do at the time. Until, of course, I want to announce it to the world. But isn’t that me, the writer, always interested in good material?

With earth and her inhabitants in such abysmal shape — and you, the eternal caregiver — in my mind’s eye I see your spirit rushing from trouble spot to trouble spot, trying to restore peace and compassion, bringing comfort to those in pain and emotional turmoil. It seems like something you would want to do. You were never very comfortable being on the receiving end of care.

As a young girl, you cared for your family after your mother died, though it wasn’t something you chose for yourself, and it was too heavy a burden for an 8-year-old. You did, however, later choose to serve in the Navy, become a registered nurse, raise a child, collect old clothes for the poor, volunteer at the local blood bank and make frequent visits to an elderly neighbor whose own family had abandoned.

Free of the body that betrayed you in later years, are you now visiting parts of the world where your kind spirit is most needed? You never liked to travel, but no longer burdened by physical concerns like packing, luggage, planes, missed connections and stress, perhaps it’s different now. Maybe you’re guiding lost souls in the Middle East or in Northern parts of Africa, giving comfort to children who are homeless and hungry or to people in Puerto Rico who still struggle after the storm. Maybe you’re visiting one of the recent sites of a mass shooting, comforting the victims.

Is it silly for me to think that?

I was struck by what an expert in astral travel said on a friend’s radio show, that we hold our loved ones back from continuing on their soul’s journey. We summon them in spiritualist gatherings and keep them tethered to the earth plane so that they can help us and guide us. Is it our own attachment to forms that keep us from progressing here as well? Perhaps I have created an artificial distance as a form of protection. But I can’t help feeling, as much as I’d like to connect with you and feel your presence, that it’s a selfish desire and not driven by love.

Even before you became so frail, you said that you had enough of this life. Apparently life had not had enough of you! But now you are free. How can I mourn for you, when you were so ready to move on? I would only be mourning for myself and others who loved you, who must now muddle through on their own.

For you, I will honor and celebrate a beautiful life, in service to others and full of goodness. May I find the courage and strength to use whatever gifts I have to do as you did.

Happy birthday, mom, wherever you are.

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The Rebel Light asks, “Where Did All The Love Go?

The Rebel Light

And that’s a damn good question. In The Rebel Light’s latest video for “Where Did All The Love Go?”, the Summer of Love Magical Mystery Tour Bus takes a drive through the treacherous landscape of a nasty co-dependent relationship. It’s all peace, love and painful existential inquiry, set to a ’60s summery soul vibe.

Oddly (or perhaps not), we seem to check in with The Rebel Light every year or so, in darker, drearier months. I imagine it’s because the New England winter is rough and we need their California easy-breezy sunshine. We first introduced this L.A. indie pop band in January 2013, passed along their song “Strangers” in December 2015 and marveled over their “Goodbye Serenade” newsreel in late November of last year. It’s been a rough haul in 2017, so I guess that’s why we’re a bit early.

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A Conversation with Myself

A Conversation with Myself“Are you awake?”

“Uhhhhh”

“Get up! You have a lot to do! In every second you let slip by, you could be having an inspirational thought that could be developed into a breathtaking essay, or maybe even a novel!”

“I seriously doubt that.”

“Why are you so negative all the time? And why are you so tired?

“Those are two separate questions. And I haven’t even done my yoga or had my tart cherry juice and my tea yet.”

“So, what are you waiting for? Get up!”

“Shut up and leave me alone.”

“What’s the problem today?”

“I had those dreams again, about driving my car down a deserted highway and not knowing how to get home — hell, not even knowing where “home” was. And then that other one, about searching for something to eat, and everything is horrible fast food.”

“The last time, you were in a restaurant and everyone at your table got up and left you there eating.”

“That wasn’t a dream. That actually happened. I’m a slow eater. I always have dreams about being lost. Lately, I’ve also been dreaming about having some kind of procedure done on me. I have thoughts in my dreams that aren’t mine.”

“Maybe you’re being abducted by aliens. I still don’t understand why you’re so depressed and miserable. You have a lot to be thankful for.”

“Don’t you think I know that?? Thinking that makes me feel even worse!”

“You’re a pathetic basket case.”

“I know that also. But sometimes I don’t understand how so many people can go along and be so absorbed and perfectly content in their own lives, and not be disturbed by all the violence, pain, misery and suffering in this world. How do they do that?”

“You have to focus on the positives in life and on those people who are doing good deeds and helping others.”

“Well, that sounds marvelously New Agey. Hang on, let me grab my Tarot cards and my affirmations. Oh damn, I spilled water on them and they got wet.”

“You’re so cynical.”

“How can you not be? Nothing really changes. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, mankind continues to shit on the planet that we depend on for our survival, corporation executives are greedy, politicians are self-serving and college students design artistic signs and protest. Nothing ever comes of it. Well, I suppose more people are protesting now.”

“A lot more people are protesting. People are slowly waking up.”

“Perhaps. I’m just so damned frustrated, and I feel like I’m doing nothing to contribute to anything that’s useful.”

“Well, you sure as hell aren’t by lying in bed and bickering with me.”  

“Yeah, you’re right there.”

“So, tell me what’s really bothering you and let’s get this done and over with so you can seize the day. Or at least, get your butt out of bed.”

“Do you really want to know? Fine. Can I tell you my worries and anxieties without you turning all judgmental and self-righteous on me?”

“Yes. Go ahead.”

“I feel burdened with many things in my life — not progressing in my writing, not having the time to read and do my yoga and meditation as much as I should be, problems with finances despite working all the time, deeply rooted family issues, my own stupid stress-enhanced health problems, the need to be alone for what I want to accomplish and yet gnawing loneliness, always feeling anxious and on edge. Sometimes I feel as old as Methuselah, and as knowledgeable as a baby. And then I feel guilty for feeling bad, because I’m so incredibly fortunate, compared to many, many others. And this, of course, makes me feel worse.”

“Sounds like first-world problems.”

“There you go again, you snarky bitch.”

“Sorry. Those are real problems, to be sure, and all problems are relative, aren’t they? You do sound like you have a lot going on right now, and important things you want to be doing. Maybe you should focus your efforts on what’s most important to you, don’t get fixated on the financial problems, and see if you can come up with some creative ideas on how to make enough money to pay the bills while still having time to do what you want to be doing. Don’t take on other people’s problems (at least, not until you have to). Don’t compare yourself to other people and don’t worry about this vague notion of “being happy.” Choose to chase after your life’s purpose instead. Remember when you would always tell me that you felt more “yourself” when you were writing and you were going to make something happen? What happened to that?”

“I got old and tired.”

“Ha. But all these tedious product descriptions and nutty things you do now to earn a bit of money, that’s made you a better writer, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it has.”

“So, it hasn’t been a waste of time.”

“No, I guess it hasn’t. You’re right.”

“And you have a pile of literary journals to read, and a few essays you can submit.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“You’ve been through some challenging times this year. You dealt with it and here you still are.”

“True dat.”

“You should give yourself more credit. You truly care about other people, which is why you’re deeply upset with all the killing, all the wars, all the innocent children caught up in adults’ stupid, dangerous games, all the inequality.”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe you should write more about that. Be angry. Be yourself. But don’t despair.”

“Yeah, you’re right. OK, I’m getting up now.”

“Good. Finally!”

“Ow, my neck hurts. As usual.”

“Go do some yoga. That usually helps, right?”

“Yeah, it does.”

“Oh, and happy birthday.”

“Heh. Thanks.”

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LegPuppy and their Nasty Masterpiece: Selfie Stick – Narcissistic Prick

LegPuppy

Selfie Stick — Narcissistic Prick. Well, isn’t this a timely piece of social commentary. And, much like the object of their vilification, the ubiquitous selfie stick, their deeply disturbing video for this scathing assessment of our narcissistic national pastime is something you can’t seem to turn away from, despite your better judgement.

LegPuppy is an electro punk quartet from South London. To get the inevitable “how did they get that name name” question out of the way, it was at a house party in Wales, with attendees name-dropping band monikers. Darren Laurence (songwriter, synths, drum machines, sampler and vocalist) tossed out “Leg” and Claire Jones (songwriter, vocalist, keyboards and acoustic guitar) fired back with “Puppy.” Fortunately, an equally acerbic band followed.

Claire is a classically trained guitarist, published author and solo artist. Oh, and she has a doctorate degree. Darren, no slouch himself, is a freelance designer with a radio show on Artefakto Radio and DJing experience for some of London’s premiere clubs. The other two band members? A former touring artist and label executive and a trainee actor and performance artist.

Traveling around London and looking to give your twisted inner child a well-deserved night out? LegPuppy has some shows coming up in the U.K., so follow them on Facebook for more information. Word has it that they’re an amazing live band, and how could they not be?

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Introducing… Minor Birds

Minor Birds

To give yourself over to the music of Minor Birds is to feel yourself in graceful flight across a wide expanse of open sky. Make that a sky under the cool, watchful eye of a full moon, with a crisp autumn breeze. Their Alchemist EP is a hypnotic weave of baroque-style classical piano, mournful cello, minimalist percussion and soaring, supple vocals that beckon you to follow them into a magical soundscape.

Minor Birds, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is the artistic project of singer-songwriter/pianist/multi-instrumentalist Chelsea Wilde. This classically trained pianist is self-taught in other instruments such as guitar, banjo and accordion. Since childhood, she has composed and performed music. Tragic life events in 2008 was the catalyst by which Minor Birds was hatched, exploring life’s darkness and myticism. Her music spans various genres, including baroque pop, folk rock, electronica and even grunge. Her expressive voice can be sultry, theatrical and explosive, refined and sophisticated, dreamy and solemn.

Earlier Minor Birds releases include Live at Metate Hill Lounge, Light as a Feather/Straight as an Arrow and Hold Back All My Dark.

The Alchemist can be purchased on Bandcamp, either as a digital file or as a 3-song EP CD, with 3-D glasses (a digital download is included). It is also available on iTunes. As we enter into the darker half of the year, stretch out and luxuriate in Minor Birds’ haunting, mesmerizing music, and enjoy a most delightful journey.

As hypnotic and otherworldly as “The Alchemist” is, Wilde says of the title track, “When I wrote this song… I had come to this conclusion that ‘magic’ is a thing we grow out of. I didn’t want to be looked at like magic anymore,” Wilde explains. “I wanted to be looked at like a person with faults. Not some mystical entity.”

Minor Birds will be performing at the Ivy Room in Albany California (near Berkeley) on November 11, and at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles on November 27.

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