Archive for albums

The Artist

Dan,

I grew up in a house filled with music and voices discussing said music. I grew up in a house filled with laughter and doors opening and closing as my family wandered in and out of our vast backyard. I grew up in a house that smelled like coffee percolating and vegetables being sautéed. And I grew up in a house where the walls were never bare, a house filled with art that remains vibrant in my memory

I can play piano (not particularly well anymore but still), I can write a story or a poem with some ease and I can even break into song on occasion. But I have zero skill when it comes to the visual arts. This fact bothers me because I love art; I have a decent collection of original pieces for a 28 year old even.

I would love to draw the images I see in my head, capturing the essence of how a view inspires me or leaves me with my jaw dropped. Unfortunately I can only admire the work of others or attempt to capture the image with my words. Perhaps this is why I’m drawn to poetry, it allows me to paint a picture of a moment using the most beautiful words my vocabulary has to offer. This doesn’t quench the thirst I have some days to sketch a face though.

I’m lucky to have artists in my life, people who make my photos into oil paintings or take instruction so I’m able to have a unique image on wall. People who don’t see sketching as complicated and messy, but as second nature. I cling to those people in the hopes to have the pictures in my head eventually put down on paper so I can share them with the world.

Yes I could probably take classes to develop a basic skill, but I would never capture things as beautifully as I see them in my head. I would end up disappointed. So instead I will leave the visual arts to the skilled people who can make simple things beautiful and I will do my best to create a masterpiece with my words.

Typing along,

Adair

Once in a Lifetime

And you may ask yourself
Well…How did I get here?

Dan,

Last weekend I found myself having a post event meal at a table filled with friends and strangers who would become friends by the end of the night. I love that this experience is part of a pattern here in Seattle, people brought together by the arts enjoying food, drinks and conversation. In the midst of the discussion a song came on, my immediate response was saying it was from my favorite album. The words came out of my mouth so immediately that I was surprised by the truth in them. The song was “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads.

For as long as I can remember, the words of David Byrne from the album “Stop Making Sense” have filled my life. In my childhood his lyrics were framed in my bedroom and I was even known to choreograph dance numbers to “Take Me to the River” in my living room. Our first DVD as a family was even the filmed version of this record.

The album in its entirety has filled my various homes with the constant of Byrne’s very distinctive vocals and I am filled with comfort when I recognize a Talking Head’s song on the radio as I drive to work. I love when I hear the familiar beats that open “Burning Down the House.” I get a feeling of nostalgia when my sister begins singing “Psycho Killer” in our kitchen. But my favorite has to be when I hear “Once in a Lifetime.”

I recall listening to this song in my dad’s car as we sat in a parking lot long ago in Missoula. I remember the look of pride he had as he watched his ten year old daughter exuberantly sing the chorus. I felt like my love of the Talking Heads connected us in a way that only my obvious physical similarities to him had ever done prior. It was clear to him that I was his child and that some part of his personality had rubbed off onto me.

This album represents not only who I was but who I have become, it’s a continual thread that has woven through my life. Often I identify myself as who I am here in Seattle and who I was back in Montana but this part of me has never changed. I am that woman in a bar who is laughing and talking about books and I am also the girl in a car singing with her father wanting nothing more than to make him proud. The love of this album reminds me I can and will continue to be both.

Following the thread,

Adair

Another National Anthem

Damn my soul if you must,
Let my body turn to dust,
Let it mingle with the ashes of the country.
Let them curse me to hell,
leave to history to tell. What I did, I did well
and I did it for my country.

-Booth, from “Assassins” by Stephen Sondheim

Adair,

Many albums and songs have left impressions on my over the years. From AC/DC in junior high, to Wilco in college, I have gone through phases of obsessed listening to an artist or album. And once I have listened through a good hundred times, I suddenly drop the album from my life and don’t listen again for at least two years.

This boom and bust approach to music keeps me out of the conversation in music discussions. I’m not following many current artists, waiting for the next mix tape or single. I’m not very interested in most popular music, but that doesn’t mean I live in silence.

As you well know, I love to perform. Musical theater was my primary experience for most of my life, but in the past few years I’ve moved more into plays and writing as my preferred artistic expression. But that doesn’t diminish my love for good musical theater, and especially the work of Stephen Sondheim.

Sondheim has a long and carried career as a lyricist and composer. “Into The Woods,” “West Side Story,” and “A Little Night Music” are some of his works that I’ve performed in, all of which I truly enjoyed. But one piece by Mr. Sondheim stands out in my mind as a powerful, provocative, and unflinching look into the heart of America and the minds of forgotten madmen.

I first heard of “Assassins” at school. It had been suggested to me to look at the songs sung by the balladeer to add to my own repertoire. What I found was an album that would change what I thought musical theater could do, be, or strive for as art.

“Assassins” is a show told from the perspective of every person who either attempted to or succeeded in killing a US president. Their lives, wants and dreams are held up to the audience along with the proposed motive of history. From Booth to Oswald and everyone in between, a balladeer and his band of criminals examine the American dream, fame and being remembered by history, and of course death and power. All the issues my twenty year old brain was grappling with.

Every song plays like a political dissertation from a common person. The balladeer fills in the history and what objective facts the assassins leave out about themselves. And the result is a musical trip through the lives of people we thought we knew and arguments we thought were over until you realize that all of these monsters were in fact people who thought they were doing right.

The song I quoted at the beginning is The Ballad of Booth. It is early in the show, but it is also my favorite song in all of musical theater. The honest want to do what you think is right serves as Booth’s guiding light. He is outraged that people would view him as a cutthroat or hired assassin. He decries the illegal actions of Lincoln and regrets nothing as he hides in a barn surrounded by Union soldiers, and eventually he kills himself saying “the union is not what it was.”

The power in this piece comes not from the rhetoric, but from the reminder that everyone in history thinks they are the good guy in the story. Every monster thinks they’re the savior but that’s too messy for most of us.

I’ve never had the honor to be in a production of Assassins, but the music and the haunting look at America has stuck with me. This year I was reminded of my love for this album by our political system, which has seemed more like a show than a process for choosing a head of state. And supporters on all sides have lost sight of the basic facts that Mr. Sondheim showed us in his masterpiece. We are each of us humans, no matter what opinions or beliefs we tout and no matter what horrors we commit.

I hope you’ll give it a listen and think on the people we all think we know from history and especially politics and give them the consideration that Sondheim gave these cold blooded killers,

Thinking on the flag,

-Dan