Monthly Archives: August 2020

Undead Music

Zombie Musicians (clockwise from left: Brad Capshaw, Lisa Lipton, Rob Busey, Toby Loftus)

Early on in these unusual and turbulent times, I suspected some great art would be produced. I need only be reminded of the music and art that came out of the anti-war and civil rights eras of the late 60s, the great swing era borne out of WWII, and more.

I was approached a few months ago by a man from my home town and friend of my parents who had an usual request: he wanted an arrangement of “Begin the Beguine” played by zombies. Would I be interested?

Would I?

He is nearing completion of a film, “The Veil of Secrecy 2020.” It’s a parody, horror film:

The project is a full length science fantasy film which features people who have survived the Covid 19 pandemic, but are now neither fully alive nor fully dead. And they are angry!

After some fits and starts, I completed an arrangement for clarinet, trumpet, viola, and bass and with the help of some talented friends, completed the music video. It will be part of the finished film.

To learn more about the production click here:

To support the creative folks dedicating their time to this work, please consider donating to the production’s Patreon:

Napalm, the Air Force, and LeMay

I recently finished listening to a multi-part series of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” podcast, Season 5, Episodes 4 through 7. In it, Gladwell traces the invention of napalm, the ascension of air power in modern warfare, and a U.S. general in the middle of both stories: Curtis LeMay.

It is inarguable that LeMay helped lead the U.S. to victory over Japan during WWII. But like debates over the dropping of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we should question the methods LeMay espoused.

Perhaps we might concede his was the least worst choices. Perhaps not. Regardless, we should know this history and let it inform our decisions in peace and war going forward.

I’ve written a bit more about this podcast and history on my Finding Ojiisan, Finding Myself blog.

First Live Music

This has been a long, difficult time for musicians. All concerts and gigs have been cancelled and all orchestras and theaters have ceased operations at least through the end of this year. For those whose primary income derives from performing, this has been extraordinarily challenging.

I have been sheltering in place for 6 months, rarely venturing out, and always wearing a mask and maintaining my physical distance. That means I have not hosted friends over to play chamber music, one of my favorite things to do. The ache of not being able to make music with my friends has been acute.

Casey, Marya, Julie, me, and Barbara reading Mozart’s Quintet #3 in C major

Yesterday, I hosted an impromptu “Driveway Quintet Concert.” I invited several supremely talented friends over to read quintets with me outside on our driveway. I also invited friends and neighbors to listen, and we enjoyed a couple hours of live string quintets at distance and masked.

It was the first time in six months and one week since I had played music with anyone else – and it was heaven!

Here are the works we played:

Mozart Quintet #3 in C major K 515, first and final movements
Dvořák String Quintet #3 in Eb Major Op 97 in its entity
Schubert Quintet in C major Op 153, first, third, and fourth movements

Excerpt of the Scherzo from Dvořák’s String Quintet #3 in Eb Major Op 97

Although it was pretty hot out (around 87 degrees F/30.5 degrees C), the sun had just dipped behind the trees, and a light breeze kept us from overheating – while also sometimes giving us the extra challenge of wrangling self-turning pages.

One young audience member, a talented high school student, sketched us while we were playing:

Musicians and audience members alike seemed delighted to experience the joy of live music after such a long absence.

I predict we will be doing this again.

Portland’s Guernica

The daughter of a friend of mine, A’ishah Mokrani, has painted her interpretation of Picasso’s famous Guernica inspired by recent city and federal police action in downtown Portland. She calls it Portland’s Guernica.

Portland’s Guernica by A’ishah Mokrani

Mokrani’s work is acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches, and follows a long line of artists inspired by Picasso’s masterpiece.

Pablo Picasso – Guernica

Picasso’s Guernica is one of his best known works. The massive 11’5″ x 25’6″ (3.49m x 7.76m) black and white painting shows the chaos and horror of war. Picasso painted it in response to the 1937 bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Rebel Nationalist faction leader Francisco Franco requested the bombing, which was carried out by his allies, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Franco later ruled Spain from 1939-1975 as a dictator.

Guernica in ruins, 1937

Living in Paris under German occupation during WWII, Picasso saw news reports of the bombing of Guernica and was horrified. He worked on the painting for 35 days and completed it on June 4, 1937. A Nazi Officer allegedly saw a photograph of Guernica and asked Picasso, “Did you do that?” to which Picasso replied, “No, you did.”

Guernica on display at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain.

Paintings Inspired by Guernica

Guernica has inspired works by other artists for decades.

Ron English – The Ghosts of Guernica

Contemporary street artist Ron English created a series of paintings based on the work
recently displayed at Allouche Gallery in New York City.

Spanish contemporary artist, Mercedes Lagunas painted her interpretation, Pop Guernica (Lux) just last year.

Spaniard Lluís Barba created Guernica, 2013 which is displayed in the Cynthia Corbett Gallery in London.

Portland’s Guernica by A’ishah Mokrani

Mokrani is a Portland artist, a Berber Muslim, and has personal experienced living under authoritarian rule in Algeria. Her grandfather and great-uncle both fought against French colonial rule in the Algerian War of Independence. She left Algeria just as the peaceful rebellion (also known as the Rebellion of Smiles and the Hirak Movement) against the authoritarian, military-backed government was building.

She views the struggle and protests in Portland similar to those for equality and freedom worldwide. Many Algerian Americans in France have joined protests there in support of Black Lives Matter. As in the U.S., they too face oppression and racism.

The artist perceives parallels between experiences of American Muslims and the greater BIPOC community. She stands with and supports Black Lives Matter and the BIPOC community’s struggle for equality.

She hopes her work will serve as a message to all about the dangers of authoritarianism and divisiveness. She supports and encourages continued peaceful protests and unity across all groups for freedom, equality, justice, and peace.

Long live the hirak!