Can you take a break from your very busy day that is filled with things you just have to do, the deadlines you must meet, the commitments you must keep? I invite you to do just that here with this blog right now.

In Providence, RI a few nights ago. A Philip Glass concert. Just Glass playing a  gorgeous sounding Steinway Grand in several solo pieces and then some duets with a young virtuoso violinist named Tim Fain. A most wonderful experience. Ah music. So important. For you too, I bet.

A blurry picture of the Steinway piano Philip Glass played in Providence.

Music has been crucial to me my whole life. Music can save you, perhaps like a religion or faith. I am not religious but I am grateful for the incredible music in my life as I believe it has helped pull me through some seriously tough times. I would not call myself a musician but I have been a piano/keyboard player since I was about 8. I play, I improvise and I compose.  I record too but what I play is mostly not made to share with others. For someone like me who always wants to be the best at everything I do, it is comforting to have something that I do where I am definitely not as good as I want to be and never will be. I like to think that in my next life, if there is one, I will be a musician.

Music has been one of the larger influencers and informers of my life as a visual artist. Different music for different periods, of course. So what music? Short question, big answer. Earlier days as a young artist: Keith Jarrett solo piano, principally the Koln and Bremen concerts, Joni Mitchell, the Fauré Requiem, any Bach, but specifically St. Mathew's Passion and the Goldberg Variations, Stravinsky, Dvorak chamber pieces, Brahms, Sibelius, Jean-Luc Ponty, Mozart Requiem, The Story,  Laurie Anderson, all Steve Reich but particularly Music for Eighteen Musicians, Philip Glass, Aaron Copland. Later: early career Pat Metheny, the ECM artists such as Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek, Jarrett as a jazz musician, John McLaughlin, the solo pianist and composer Philip Aaberg, Beth Orton, Notwist, early Radiohead, Fiona Apple, Mindy Smith, Sufjan Stevens, Tori Amos, Arvo Paart, Gustav Mahler, Haushka, the Beethoven symphonies, and on and on and on. I have left out many more than I have included.

The ceiling at the Veteran's Auditorium in Providence

If you are old enough to remember before CD's when there was vinyl you also remember that listening to music was different then. We listened, we devoted our- selves to really listening. Now it seems like music is folded into our lives. I listen to music with more dedication and concentration on road trips while driving than I do at home or in the studio. I do not usually listen to music while I am photographing, although sometimes when I am out in the wheat fields, off by myself, I will keep the headphones on. I see two sides here. When we would sit and listen, using the best equipment we could afford, we heard everything or tried to. If the recording was from a performance, we worked at finding the best reading, the best interpretation and we listened for differences. Now, I listen less critically but music is folded into my life more, there when I work out, or drive someplace, or perhaps when working on digital files and making prints.

From the late 80's until about 2003 my darkroom was a separate room in the main lab at Northeastern where I taught. Most of those years I was working in 8 x 10 and the amount of labor required was positively ludicrous. I would print often on weekends, arriving early before the lab was opened by work study students or maybe a former student or volunteer. Behind my closed door, I would crank the music and as the day wore on students working in the gang darkrooms could hear me in there. I had a sign on the closed door to my darkroom that said, "If I am here, I am not available. If I am not here feel free to ask all the questions you like." Sometimes in class students would ask me what I had been listening to last weekend. One of my favorite students during those years was majoring in architecture and engineering. He was quite intense, brilliant,  and the son of a very highly regarded chemistry professor at school. I could always tell how our conversation was going to go as he began with the question, "What are you listening to, Neal?" If I answered with something light we could talk about inconsequential things, but if I answered something like Schoenberg or Messiaen I knew we were going to go deep.

Ah music. So important. For you too, I bet.

Topics: Commentary,Music

Permalink | Posted March 2, 2015