Lip service

One month:  Corelli to Handel to Brahms and Faure to Jensen to Patootie to sereda to Kurt Cobain via Drew Wright.  In between some work re-arranging songs by JTaylor, Norah Jones, Kris Delmhorst and other specials for cello and voice.  Or just cello, or just voice.  And thumb piano (note to self:  revive and nourish friendships with sweet tasteful drummers).

Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s.  Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me
Our Band, Catchpenny, somewhere in Toronto, sometime in the 1980s. Aruna Handa, Frank Klaassen, Michael Klaassen & me

This sounds urgent, but it’s not.  It’s more like breathing.  Or working out, with the intention of finding muscles that haven’t been used for a very long time, and… using them again, even if it takes a rebuild.  And yes, yes, all that about pain and gain, too.

wild carrot
wild carrot

I believe it’s important to Do the thing that you feel compelled to do.  There’s a reason you feel so compelled, after all – you can probably trust it.

If there are obstacles to your Doing of the thing, don’t waste time blaming them, just remove, or find a way around.  Complaint and self-defeat have never once written a song or painted a picture:  dump them.  You’ve got better things to do with your time.

St Lawrence River.

Jump in.  Do the work.  It’s warm.

Oh, and if you see someone else who’s doing the work, love them for it.

Vigil, crack, restore

It’s a mighty fine tunnel we’ve just got through.

A storm on Saturn in 2011.  This already happened, and now we see it.  Why do I find that comforting?
A storm on Saturn in 2011. This already happened, and now we see it. Why do I find that comforting?

I am later in the day after the day of find my head get to town rehearse find-a-piano rehearse perform rehearse perform perform so-grateful-for-good-friends enriched pleased cold-outside walk to pizza drive home bed and I now <breathe> find myself finished with ordering, tallying, pitching and filing hundreds of string quartet parts in binders and accordion folder.

After six weeks of paper piled on every flat surface in this studio I have my work tables back …

… and I feel nothing but a sudden and violent urge to write doggerel.

 as in – cleverly rhymed, cliche-ish rhythmic poems that describe with finely-honed, irony-tinted compassion the minutae of everyday life – very very difficult to do well & definitely beyond my capacity in this moment…

This for me is a reliable indication that I need a good solid dose of absurdity.   If there were an audio track I could publish on this blog, it would be the laughter that goes with a John Cleese silly-walk.

Toulouse is definitely concerned.  Ready, bless him, to help in any way he can...
Toulouse is definitely concerned. Ready, bless him, to help in any way he can…

I know – Ah! – I’ll go to watch Daniel Craig and Judi Dench fortify the Bond Franchise.


When Christmas is over I get to paint and paint and write and record and dig deep into these pieces I want so badly to learn.  No little Drummer Boys, no Silver Bells, no Tannenbaums or Herold’s Angels.
Ahh, like a clean bath in a spring-fed lake.

That said, I must, for my own sake and in honour of the storm on Saturn be careful and clear:

I love all of this.  I especially love playing music with dear dear friends who also ride the roller-coaster of rehearse-perform-teach-promote & Say-What-You-Are, no matter what.  It makes me a better painter, a better musician, and a better human being, every time.

More mighty fine tunnels a-comin & I’m in, with (silver) bells on.

Happy December 2012, everyone.


The Great, Resounding Green

South of the house from the quarry – always at least ten degrees hotter there – the sun heats the bedrock, which radiates up. We are so thankful for the shade from the upper deck…

…trees like green walls out every window, on every floor.  This happened suddenly, when the ash leaves opened – about 3 weeks ago.  Now the air tastes still and green and humid-heavy, builds in a dark blustering crash to thundering rain on our metal roof, then abates and burns with full sun again.  Even the cats run outside for a shower, then come in to melt on the slate floor when the heat returns.

Northwest side of the house – you can see the wind coming up, tho the skies are still clear. They get increasingly broody, then dump water, make loud booms & cracks and move on in an hour. Such is June this year, 2012…

I’m at my studio now, fan at my back pulling air in from the open window, and throwing it (warm, even), at my skin.  It’s dark, even at 8pm with the sun still full outside – I dare not turn on the studio halogens for fear of broiling my mind into stupidity.  The light table also will be impossibly hot.  So I write.

The light of the day will be gone in an hour, and by its reflection I can see my shovel and my axe paintings on the far wall, emerging nicely into what they will become.  These two paintings are like backward-method sculptures as they develop, very interesting to me.  It’s as though the illusion of depth is growing around the image, so they appear and disappear, then appear again.   Painting is additive and sculpture subtractive, but I imagine the process of listening and responding to what’s happening to the piece is the same.

Pics soon for this studio stuff.  My camera’s in the (hot) car, and I don’t want to go down and get it.  I’ll add them here & re-post.

In addition to the visual depth that is increasingly apparent, there is history and personality embedded in them.  The stretched canvases they’re on have been active tools in my cello teaching these past six months or more.  When things get too intense in a lesson (always there are many ways around a physical or psychological obstacle to success!)  my students put down their instruments and draw big swooping lines there – anger, fear, frustration, release, joy, growth.  So Shovel and Axe will forever be twinned in music as well as in earth and wood. Full credit to my students – those are some incredibly communicative lines – full of energy.

This cello student participation behooves me to write and record a cello/ voice soundtrack to go with the installation of these pieces. Hopefully my students can add their voices to it.

Oh – and there will be a pitchfork too.  A couple of hammers.  A clamp, a crowbar, and a wrench.  A scythe.  Each of these tools is incredibly, impossibly old – some prehistoric, in their usefulness, at least.  Each one is a work of imagination and engineering – the more I dig into the research, the more enamoured I am.

It’s good to be back.