Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Weaver's Bonny:

My dear friends and co-conspirators Aubrey Atwater & Elwood Donnelly just released a new recording titled The Weaver's Bonny.
This in itself would be a reason to rejoice, because their music is always wonderful, but what I find particularly thrilling about this release is that it includes 2 songs that I composed, and 2 traditional songs that I meddled with.

Aubrey sang in The Secret Commonwealth Ensemble, the group of musicians assembled to perform the dance operas of The Secret Commonwealth, starting back in the mid-90s. And that's where she learned Morning Song (from Part II; The Road), and The Angel's Part (from Part III; Love & Time). She and Elwood have made these songs their own, and they've assembled a wonderful group of musicians to help them perform them.

I suggest that you head on over to & snag yourself a copy. You can download them directly there.

The 2 traditional songs are ballads ~ I composed a new tune and harmonization for "Two Crows" & wrote some new lyrics for "Gypsy Johnny"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Bush:

The Bush:

Herve’ tells me sure, it’s mystical, a transcendental
Place, somewhere in the jungle, behind the mud-brick
Dwellings that face the road in his village, thatched the old way
with palm fronds, or, if possible, sheet metal.

The reason, bro, he says, that anyone would go there,
Is for initiation, for power to heal, and there are rites
with plants. The ones you encounter there are the
Dead, who can be seen, but not heard, or touched.

Just like us ~ our words fly onto respective screens,
Our heads, the little images of ourselves, sit beside
To illustrate who writes. He’s chosen himself crouching
In a baseball cap and blue t; me, green zippered sweater.

There’s a road, what we’d call a path, a worn
Cut up a hillside bank in deep forest. And there’s the
Rooster, red hackles, scratching about in the duff,
And even the earth exposed is red, just as it is said to be

In the visions told by those who’ve returned.
I’m aware, as I dream, and remember, that I’ve arrived
at some destination, near something, but
Cannot tell if it is home, or death, or both.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Download the Music:

Jeckyl & Vibes, the Deathslab record duo, now have a download page for two of my musical projects ~ Oft the Loner, and The Faun. http// & they're free!

Oft the Loner; Songs of Solitude is new (2009). The title song is my take on The Wanderer, one of the oldest poems in English. The Faun, was composed for the 2008 performances at Morlan Gallery, Lexington, & 21C Museum, Louisville, (both in Kentucky, USA).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Isaac & Boone:

Isaac Benitez & Boone Williams during the saturday workshop session for You'll Always Come Back.

Recovered statue of Colonel Sanders leads The South:

Japanese news reports The Curse is unbroken.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Mathematic Imitation of Painting & the Proliferation of Digital Artifacts:

The First YACB Workshop:

Monday morning & my head has finally stopped whirring from all the wonderful sensory overload of the first workshop for You'll Always Come Back. (It took some leftover white sangria to accomplish the whirr stoppage ~ thanks Sarah!)

But it was both fabulous and a tad overwhelming ~ 18 of the most talented and lovable people imaginable converged in dandyland to begin 11 months of work on the performance. (& there are still a few left to join us!) I thought there was a lot to think about BEFORE this workshop - now that I've seen and heard a bit of what the performers bring to the table, I realize my mental cup runneth over.

The photo (taken by Sarah) is of Shane Gilmore. Shane's being is functioning as the center of the images and stories related to Pete ~ whose life on Dutton Hill forms the historical frame of reference (1845 ((he arrived here when he was 8)) to 1931 when my dad dug his grave. Working with Shane has been one of the great pleasures of the past few months, & I'm looking forward to many more.

The workshops are being sponsored by the International Foundation for Contemporary Art & 21C Museum.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This coming weekend will be the first workshop for You'll Always Come Back. 18-some of the artists, thinkers, dancers & musicians that I've asked to participate are coming to dandyland, so there's a flurry of getting ready. This morning I finally made the diagram that I've been plotting in my head for several weeks, and tacked it up on the conference room wall. (old studio)
I'm hoping that it will help everyone make some sense of how the mythic, personal and historical intersect in YACB.

As Little Edie said, "I've got to get it all coordinated in my mind."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oft the Loner ~ (looted images:)

Heckle & Vibes new Deathslab recording, "Oft the Loner" (songs of solitude) is complete, and soon there will be a website of it.
I was shuffling through the stacks in the studio, looking for drawings that have to do with the Loner songs to use as icons on the site, when I landed on the illustrated book version of The Approach of the Mystery. As a couple of the Loner songs, Glass Steps and A Kite, were in the Approach sequence, I started to wonder if the images might be recycled for the website to be.

The Approach book is accordion style, with 16 paintings, one for each dance in the opera. Here's 10 of those:

Dabbing completed:

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Banjo Player:

I thought I'd sworn off tesselation until I saw some sequined and beaded flags in "The Sacred Arts of Haitian Yodou" (Donald J. Consentino, editor). Now I have days of bead-sized dabs ahead. At least it isn't quite pointillism.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An extract from Wole Soyinka's essay "Tolerant Gods":

I count myself lucky in having the honor of corresponding a few times with Wole Soyinka; a child, if I'm not mistaken, of Ogun, and one of the world's great playwrights, a poet and champion of human rights. Here's an extract, much to the point of You'll Always Come Back:

"Between fanaticism and Community, we choose Community, and orisa is Community. Community is the basic unit, the common denominator and definition of humanity - this is the lesson of the orisa. And in the strategies for regulating and preserving community, the orisa have ceded the right of choice to humanity and to the deductions of its intelligence - not to intuitions and their interpretations by any self-serving priesthood. Even the collective manifestation of faith is constantly selective and exclusive, unlike the secular order that necessarily embraces all - this Ifa recognizes, and this it is that nerves us to say, go to the orisa and be wise. Religion, or profession of faith, cannot serve as the common ground for human co-existence except, of course, by the adoption of coercion as a principle and, thus, the manifestation of its corollary, hypocrisy, an outward conformism that is dictated by fear, by a desire for preferment, or, indeed, the need for physical survival. In the end, the product is conflict and the destruction of cultures. Let this be understood by the closet champions of theocracies where religion and dictatorship meet and embrace. Let us resolve to say to them: you will not bring our world even close to the edge of combustion. The essence of orisa is the antithesis of tyranny and dictatorship - what greater gift than this tolerance, this accommodation, can humanity demand from the world of the spirit?

And thus, for all seekers after the peace of true community, and space of serenity that enables the quest after Truth, we urge yet again the simple path that was traveled from the soil of the Yoruba across the hostile oceans to the edge of the world in the Americas - Go to the orisa, learn from the orisa, and be wise."

Haystack Tango:

Haystack Tango:

Anyone who loves grazing animals
Loves haystacks. In the white glare of midday
They cast humped shade on the glowing emerald
Of the fields, densities of time spent thatching this way
And that, combed like a giant’s shag, stacked by forkfuls
To the searing sky, straw flake dust
Shimmers gold in a cloud, grasshoppers whir, buzz, and unfold
pied wings as they
Leap into flight. One’s picked off in a mockingbird sweep.
I’m mesmerized by haystacks ~ leaned back
Under an oak
With a dipper of spring water. I let the coolness
Pour down my throat
As I swallow.

Some hay in a barn, once the work is done –
Sometimes men sprawl on it
And talk quietly. I remember.

The hay, we watch it grow. Spring it’s an
Enlivening of color barely emerging – soon long, full
Of water and soft, easy to bruise – too much of it
Isn’t good for cows to eat ~ they gorge and scour.
By summer the stems are long enough to
Wave when they bend, the breeze undulates them.
When it’s just in bloom, or nearly, that’s the time to cut it.
That’s right. The energy is at its peak just then – you watch
It close and if the weather’s good and your timing too,
The haystacks will be perfect. On a twinkling midsummer eve,
Shakespeare’s Bottom would rhapsodize on sweet hay like this, viewing the orange
Orb of the full moonshine rise in a sky of black tree shapes and aqua ~
Wouldn’t that be something?

Lovers may discover it ~ A gypsy lilypad floating in a meadow
of nocturnal fiddlers. Fingers linger on a zipper, the hay's perfume, and
nearby there’s even an owl, thrumming a steady soft round note.
Who doesn’t love this sort of haystack,
even if it feels itchy later, gazing into the infinity
of pinprickly stars in silence?

In the winter you walk by them, crusted with snow,
Just as twilight sets their straw aglow
And it reminds you of the tumbled hair.
And you go back, growing warmer as you go
Deeper into the evening. What I wouldn’t give to hold
You again.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009


All the rainy weather has brought slews of mushrooms. Just in, these chanterelles, found in the woods behind the house.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fashion Check Nigeria:

Sign / Index / Symbol (stuff I use every day) ~ the cartoon:

You'll Always Come Back ~ concerning transcendence:

I'm plowing my way through a difficult text, one that is proving to be very helpful with You'll Always Come Back ~ "African Writing and Text", by Simon Battestini. Here are some extracts:

He quotes Levi-Strauss:

"Having eliminated all the criteria proposed to distinguish barbarity from civilization, one would at least like to retain this one: peoples with or without writing, the former capable of cumulating past acquisitions and progressing faster and faster toward their goal, the latter powerless to retain the past beyond individual memory, captive to a fluctuating history, ever lacking an origin and lasting awareness of a goal."


Then responds: " The incapacity of a savant of Levi-Strauss' stature and followers', to conceive other coherent, necessary and satisfactory - for a given culture - systems of thought conservation is rather tragic."

A little further on he prefaces another quote with: "Certain texts discuss the question of cultural representation through writing, and therefore of the legitimacy of the relation between writing and the object it tries to represent." (then this, from Tyler's "Post-Modern Ethnography" ~)

"The ethnographic text is not only not AN object, it is not THE object; it is instead a means, the meditative vehicle for a transcendence of time and place that is not just transcendental, but a transcendental RETURN (my emphasis) to time and place. Because its meaning is not in it but in an understanding of which it is only a consumed fragment, it is no longer cursed with the task of representation. The key word in understanding this difference is "evoke", for if a discourse can be said to "evoke, then it need not represent what it evokes..." Ethnographic discourse is not part of a project whose aim is the creation of universal knowledge. It disowns the Mephistophelian urge to power through knowledge, for that, too, is a consequence of representation. To represent means to have a kind of magical power over appearances, to be able to bring into presence what is absent, and that is why writing, the most powerful means of representation, (??? - question marks mine*) was called "grammarye", a magical act. The true historical significance of writing is that is has increased our capacity to create totalistic illusions with which to have power over things or over others as if they were things. The whole ideology of representational signification is an ideology of power."

I would posit that we conduct a variety of ethnology ourselves when we attempt to imagine our Ancestors, become classic examples of "the Others" (just as Africans so handily have been for "the West" ~ sheesh, sigh!) ~ especially and the more so by also being "the Dead". The power we seek in doing so is a stable identity, to combat the ever-present fear of flux that inevitably leads us to join those we would prefer to stay "Other" - our kin in the grave. The Ancestors are also handy, they are like us in every way that we prefer, different from us likewise. At this point I'm not sure what theater can do with this lop-sided negotiation, beyond the Brechtian device of making a sign that reads "magic act of power acquisition in progress" & directing a spot light onto it. At least then we're made aware it's happening.

(* ~ I would say that dance opera is the "most powerful means of representation" - but that's just me.)