Monday, November 1, 2010

"Gone Solo" Video Interview

I recently spent an afternoon with Tim Sullivan talking about his influences and experiences in music. With over 90 minutes of footage, including a question-and-answer section along with live acoustic performances, I created this video (primarily for a production class grade, but then spruced it up for a Tea Room post). I wanted to focus on the sincerity of the artist, his intellect and overall talent in writing and creating music. It wasn't very hard to capture -- all I had to do was press record.

And now all you have to do is press play!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010


It was over three months ago when I traveled to New York City by means of the ever famous, often dangerous Fungwah Mega Bus. My bags were packed and ready for a weekend of first timers: the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death, the first A-list celebrity spotting (that being Adam Sandler), the first taste of ARTICHOKE pizza (found in East Village and highly recommended) and the first time ever in an early morning conga line at a 24 hour diner in the meat-packing district (this was not planned, I swear). Out of all these “firsts”, I most simply cherish my first live jazz concert seen at The Jazz Standard between Park Avenue South and Lexington Ave. As the closing act of New York’s Carefusion Jazz Festival, a remarkable quintet played a smooth and chilling forty-eight minute set that, without any idea that this would happen, sent me into a sort of mind play, with various images in the style of a 1940s silent film, directed by my thoughts and masterfully sounded by Ambrose Akinsimure (trumpet), Mark Turner (alto-saxophone), Jason Moran (piano), Justin Brown (drums) and Harish Raghaven (upright bass).

Out of the entire performance, I was completely transfixed by their second song. Noted as the newest of Ambrose’s composition, Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto was definitely a turning point in my personal recognition and appreciation for Jazz. Unlike those who have been naturally converted by the compositions of John Coltrane or Miles Davis, Charlie Parker or Louis Armstrong, it was the living, breathing Ambrose Akinsimure who converted me into this artistic faith. Throughout Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto, the Ambrose Akinsimure Quintet magically illustrated a tranquil story full of depth and human emotion. I wouldn’t classify my experience as a sort of inception, but rather a moment of reaching a deeper level of consciousness. This was a trance that can only be revisited by pressing the repeat button over and over again, each time walking away with a greater reflection: a suffocating cry for humanity, while swallowing pills of sadness. It was unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and being able to witness it live only enhanced my chilling imagery of a broken girl and the men who composed sounds of her final moments on earth.

For this, I have attempted to re-illustrate what I saw through improvisational writing (edited and restructured together below) while listening to this song over and over again (literally over and over and over again). For Allen Ginsberg once used Jazz music as a forum for his poetry and prose, it only seemed appropriate to do the same. So as the wine glasses clunked and the silverware clicked and clanged, and Ambrose’s eyes reached the ceiling in one fierce intimate stare, I was released into this story upon a long exhale into his first piercing note of Tear Stained Suicide Manifesto. This is what I saw, in present tense to be read with music streaming in the background (coming soon, I promise):
Press Play.

The horns blow steady. The cymbols crash and the wind stays calm. Silence ignites her ever changing emotions. The piano chords sting scores of beautiful thunder and she sits alone on a train headed toward an unknown destination. Her face remains solemn, with her jaw clenched shut and her eyes dolled open. A woman with no baggage, she carries just the clothes on her back and a hole in her heart.

Cymbols clash for freedom, drums roll for progress
and the train continues down the track.
Bada ba bada ba bada ba
beautiful, dissatisfied, alone

A trumpet blows a sorrowful yet cryptic tune: one of loss and hardship that is instantly enlightened with the cool mystical thoughts of the present. The journey she has taken several times before now seems as real as the pressed cushion on her back and the intercom running through her ears. She stares into a lifeless image of leather seats and metal shelving. The windowpane looks clear out to her escape: a distant view of cold, empty, dried-out land. Passengers ignore the lonely scenery in exchange for an equally lonely gadget. The conductor travels through the aisles like a prisoner pacing back and forth in his cell. She looks forward neglectful of what she has witnessed several times before.

The train stops and the conductor exhales harshly through his tired whistle. The passengers exit in one long single filed line, like a zipper linking one by one until its silver edges are no longer apart. She wanders around the dirty, unpaved roads into a town of desperation. The trumpet and saxophone hum towards the sadness in the eyes of the hopeless followers exiting the terminal and continuing down to a valley of leather skinned children and metal headed country folks. The breeze settles the shuffling dirt upon her bare feet. Once hungry for life, her appetite has dwindled into the arms of her forgetful soul. She feels nothing.
bada ba bada ba
famished, insecure

Drained of light, her intestines are filled with toxic sorrow – the chemicals that outweigh rationality with the burden of disappointment. She walks along in search of a dull horizon and a ledge of freedom, walking away from the man she once loved and entering into a relationship with Mother Earth. A piano plays alone while she passes through civilization into the clear breeze and sounding trees, toward that horizon of her fixation. Strands of long brown hair come lifted off her shoulders and she smiles, hopelessly.

She stands upon the ledge, tears sliding down her pale cheeks, one after the other her pupils blackened and her lips dark blue. Her palms face outward with wisdom, her shoulders rest forward delicately showing signs of a tired lonely woman defeated by life’s existential angst.
She inhales.
Ambrose exhales.
Her feet creep forward with every inch bringing her closer to her last step.
She lifts her body forward
as she commits a beautiful.....

Clash, clash, clashes of hope
Cymbols slamming into an encore of movement
The bass drum rolls as the piano man gives birth to the textural setting.
The trumpet moans tranquilly and
the saxophone howls for the loss of a woman in a man's world.
Settling in and out, note after note,
sinking deeper into a mystifying understanding of human suffering

Horns hold steady after she has passed
Mister saxophone gives up his last breath for her tears
Sir trumpet gives up his blow for her pain
And together they create stillness in the crowded woods of purgatory,
in the welcoming gates of heaven, and the dark chambers of existence.
Together they bid farewell
And the piano man sings to her


Sound, Rhythm, Theory. Misuc, Msuic, Music.

For some people it is important to study music history because it categorizes who they are as musicians and where their influences are rooted. But why should a studied interpretation of albums released by Billy Holiday or Jimi Hendrix shape who we are as listeners? Aren't we all tuning in for the same reasons: a common interest and pleasure in sound? A smooth way to spend your afternoon should not be justified by autobiographical citings and trivial facts. What makes music so beautiful is its ability to universally connect. Music is art and, with art, we are all linked to the same colorful language. With that being said, open your heart to the sound and you will find yourself sitting in front of blank pages waiting to be filled by your own musical interpretation.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mike

To a man who needs no introduction,
a drummer, brother, role model and friend
with nicknames varying in syllables
(short like slim
long like smidge-a-el-a-cul-la--)

You are one of the greatest people I know and am so lucky to have as my brother.
Watching the roads you've traveled to make it to where you are today serves as an inspiration for anyone who comes along your path. So as one who has also been inspired, I, with the help of Shaina, decided to recreate stages of your life through photographs. This is my virtual present to you. With love, art and liberation, I hope you enjoy!

As I remember quite vividly,
you never seemed to like sports very much growing up. Instead, you were rocking to your own beat and rolling with that sweet rebellion.
This was what you were meant to do and your contributions never fail to bring all those melodies home.

As the only actual male actor in our home videos (not counting myself, Jade or Shaina as the cross dressing fools we played in half the skits), you always brought comedy, creativity and darkness to each scene.

Infamous for your role as Mr. Norman Bates, your leading lady has returned from the dead for another psycho scream!

So there it is; your casual, crazy, exciting personalities compiled into a two day shoot by your two favorite cross dressing fools. After viewing this, I want you to grab some (organic) chocolate syrup, shoot some patron off of Stella's beer belly at the Motherload and celebrate the first day of your twenty-third year flying on Planet URTH!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

MCCLUMP: being very small


“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small..”1 When Alice was tiny she’d get along quite well with the works of Charles LeDray! His works in many ways are all about dimensions, small ones, but considerably more. New York based LeDray creates perfectly scaled objects from incredibly detailed clothing to a really wild range of ceramic vessels.

His most recent work in his survey show at the ICA in Boston is Throwing Shadows, 2008-10. This is, in many ways, an unbelievably complex work that features more than 3,000 vessels around 2” high made from black porcelain. The works are arranged on a large, rectangular, white surface enclosed in glass with multiple light sources casting overlapping shadows. As much as I tried it didn’t seem as if I could find any two alike! The details on these pots were obsessive to the point where he may need help…! The overall effect is very disconcerting as if one was 25’ tall looking down and in on a display of actual vessels.

Charles LeDray, Throwing Shadows (Detail), 2008-10, Courtesy of the artist and Sperone Westwater, New York.

He showed three other similarly sized works of these types of ceramics displayed on a stacked series of square glass shelves with steel supports, each about 3’ square standing a total of around 6 feet high, these though were in full color! One was Untitled, 2002, glazed Ceramics. Again each one looked unique among thousands. Here was a very wide range of shapes, round, elliptical, spotted, wavy, some with loops and handles, others with spikes. I saw a number that looked like miniatures of ones I am convinced I have seen and handled before! Once again his distinct skills for the creation of these was fantastic. I was consistently remarking, “How did he do that?”

Charles LeDray, Untitled, 2002, Sperone Westwater, New York.

LeDray’s skill and vision is by far not limited to the ceramic medium. He showed many other scaled down objects from furniture, to intricate structures, various multiple arrangements and lots of clothes. One of the primary pieces in the show was Men’s Suits, 2006-09, shown here for the first time in the U.S.A. In a separate gallery were three scaled tableaux of sections from second hand clothing stores, maybe at ¼ scale. We are looking down [again] into the store in two and the storeroom in one. We are seeing these from above the suspended ceilings; years of dust and grime are obvious on the top of the hanging tiles that could only be seen from this vantage point. Just one example of his unwavering eye for inclusion of details. Everything is scaled down, the racks, the hangers, light fixtures, tile flooring and the amazing clothes of course. In the storeroom there is a canvas cart full of jumbled and unfolded clothes just as one might see in the back of such a store.

Charles LeDray, MENS SUITS (installation view), 2009. Courtesy of the artist nd Sperone Westwater, New York. Photo: John Kennard.
LeDray’s work goes way beyond scale. One of the aspects of many contemporary works I have seen is just about scale such as wall size photographs that while massive have no substance other than their size. Charles LeDray scales his objects down but instills in them a communal meaning; an inherent quality that speaks to the obsession modern society has with possessions and the acquiring of more “Stuff.” One comes away thinking about what it means to have all the objects many of us have in our homes and questioning the need for so much.
1 White Rabbit, Grace Slick, 1965-66

WORKWORKWORKWORKWORK Charles LeDray, at the ICA – Boston till October 17th.