September 24, 2010

“No Format”

The origin of this collection lies in a statement of fact, the evidence of a refusal.

No Format. You can't be more explicit.

For the very simple reason that, either too fragile, too radical, too singular, too typecast, too elitist, too popular, too adult, too puerile, too mature, too immature, too crossbred, too recognition-demanding, too melodic, too improvised, too modern or too timeless - all the kinds of music published here would never have found room in the false musicscape manufactured by the taste-formatting logic today reigning over the record-industry. Too much, too much, too much - the average is out of scope ! Where is it, then? For, finally, it exists : that luxuriant diversity brimming over from its categories, exploding all systems.

And at the other end of the chain, you exist also, as "short-cut" music-lovers - all of you different in your confused desires for the unheard-of and the unexpected, and all similar, too, when the unknown asserts itself and, as if by magic, reveals itself the object of your most deeply-embedded fantasies...

It is precisely because you never know what you desire in advance that No Format exists today.

With no precise aesthetic orientation, but with true artistic demands; without ideological racism, but against all forms of uniformity - in an authentic spirit of curiosity with regard to others, open to all visions of the world, all poetries, all experiences and all musical expressions, No Format, a genuine breath of fresh air, does not so much fill a void as it opens a breach.

Let it carry you away !

That Manifesto is a refreshing contrast to the usual music industry PR @%*&. No Format is a French label; I don't need to tell you much more about it as their own words coupled with one of the best music websites I've seen for some time says it all.

one of my favorite albums

September 17, 2010

The visual world of Edgar Allan Poe.

There is a world of mystery along the Hudson River, where picturesque mansions perch on tiny islands, and rainbows arch across the county’s most romantic river.  Here, dark fortresses brood on hilltops overlooking the wide river.

Along the 150 miles between New York and Albany, you find a spectacle of old buildings.  Vine-drenched gates hide splendor, untold luxury, and ghost stories.  There are hundreds of these historic estates, many still owned by descendants of the families who built them, centuries ago.

Originally, these vast tracts of land were granted by the British crown the Livingston family. It was Robert R. Livingston, chancellor of New York, who began the estate-building era in the Hudson Valley. In 1755, his property, Clermont, was passed on to his descendants, and it is now owned by the State of New York as a historic park.

The Livingston heirs have carried on the family’s traditions for nearly three centuries, and the Hudson Valley is the epicenter of their world. Although their names have passed from public attention, they value their lineage and ancestral homes and continue to pass on their descendants vast collections of crystal, china, paintings, and silver. Today some of the descendants of Dutch patrons and English land barons who remain on these estates have outlived their fortunes. Many are farming their lands again.

The largest and most impressive concentration of historic estates is located in and around Rhinebeck, New York, along eighteen miles of the east bank of the Hudson, where time seems to hover between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Everywhere houses rise dramatically from trees of fast overgrown parks, where deer and sheep graze and the past is still alive.

Though there is an air of departed glory, it has entered an age of appreciation and restoration.  Most of the properties in the Rheinebeck district remain in private hands and are considered to be among the most historically significant in the country.  Common among these grand old houses are enormous libraries, filled with thousands of rare books.  It has been noted, that the Livingston descendants have privately published more books than any other family in America.

It is hardly surprising that (according to the proud owners) many of the manor houses are haunted.  Restless phantoms may glide quietly among the ruins, reaching out to those who believe they can feel and see them.

 “House of Dark Shadows”(1970) picture from private collection

On the river, there are endless tales of phantoms who appear at night and depart in the morning.  It is a virtual graveyard for old ships and rotting scows.  River men say that you can hear orders shouted by long-dead captains of The Flying Dutchman.  The old Dutch vessel sank near Bannerman’s Island in the early eighteenth century.  At low tide, the spars from her hull can still be seen below the water’s surface.

High on the east bank of the river, in Irvington, stands a rare eight-sided Victorian manor house, aptly called the Octagon house.  Its resident ghost is said to be that of a beautiful French girl who, in defiance of her parents’ wishes, escaped and ran off to marry the man she loved.  Together they boarded the river ferry, but as the boat raced to New York, the boiler exploded, killing everybody on board.  The would-be bride’s body washed ashore, still glad in a wedding gown.  Legend holds that every year, on the eve of the tragedy, the faint specter of a young girl in a luminous white gown runs across the lawn toward the river.

What does the future hold for this enchanted but endangered world? It will always be a place beloved by painters and challenging to psychics. More important, funding has begun to bring about changes, and many of the neglected houses are at least being stabilized and protected from further damage.
Few places left on earth are blessed with as many surprises and mysteries as the Hudson Valley. It is a historic area, home to legends, ghosts, and banshees, as well as breathtaking architectural achievement. There is much here to be treasured.

For many years, I had the pleasure, and privilege, of visiting a good friend in the Hudson Valley.  I spent many hours photographing what remained of the great estates.  Here was a visual world worthy of Edgar Allan Poe.  There were poetic secrets at every turn: back stairs leading to deserted attics, hidden passageways, and faded treasures tucked away in old steamer trunks.

Many of these houses have remained vacant, untouched, and unchanged, for many years. These seemed the most fascinating, for in their neglegted condition they were no more than lost specters of what they had once been. However, the real dramas of these centuries-old estates manifested themselves after I spoke with owners many who were still in residence. I am grateful for their time and stories from which I have drawn so much inspiration.

Alas, our friend Elsie has turned into cosmic dust. This weekend’s visit is a found remembering of many things past.

In the words of the immortal Elsie: “Vhat vould Schtooby do?”

September 10, 2010

First Client.

One sunset early in May found me looking out of my bedroom window at the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. I was the lucky winner of a choice design project, my first. The contract stipulated a live-in clause (guaranteed excitement, especially if the client is a Hollywood diva). She was beautiful slightly tinged with madness, that obligatory ingredient for a diva. Most of the time she was calm and practical, but then out of nowhere she could rear up like an untamed filly. A funny, beautiful, capable thoroughbred (we met at the LA equestrian center, hence the comparison), but suddenly prone to sobbing breakdowns. This usually was my cue for  long beach walks.

With the house came a neighbor, the proprietress. Without warning, she would appear at the terrace bearing gifts- usually a plate of homemade cookies that vanished into “La Divas’ ” bedroom, instantly. I never realized the magic of the cookies, until Bijela (dog) ate one. I found her sprawled out, all four legs spread out, dreaming blissfully for hours. I don’t believe she ever was the same after. 

Madame proprietress' blue eyes would blaze at me. “Have you seen him?” “Whom?” I ask. “My husband”, she said. No, I had not. “Was he living with us”? “No, he is dead. He died in your bedroom, but he is still with us.”

There was definitely a strange atmosphere there. Bijela felt it, and sometimes in the night, I would wake and see her looking intently at the air, her eyes a liquid black, ears slightly raised and her shiny nose flexing in silent dialog. For all that, it was an enchanted place. Lying in bed, with the windows open was like being on a raft on the high sea. The breeze swept through the room carrying on it the crash of the waves, the benediction of “husband”, and all the mystery of death and love.

Like all “beach cottages” at the Malibu Riviera, it was obscenely overpriced. Apparently, a ‘former’ member of the British royal family had rented it before us and had rather aptly told the exasperated proprietress that it was like the seven dwarves’ cottage. “Can you imagine?” she retorted. “Who is she? Not Snow White, that’s for sure.”

When I presented the colors and textures to the client, she was delighted and announced that we would go shopping immediately. I then witnessed the complete Hollywood star machine, the grandeur of Hollywood in transporting its livestock. We would fly by private jet. Gates opened by magic, carpets rolled out, cars waiting to whisk us away. We would sip our drinks as we sped through the world. Huddled together in the back of limousines and on the plane, she chatted intensely on subjects that you can only discuss with another woman, or a man who was not nursing a hidden erection. There is a male quality to the female superstar. I suppose there has to be. If a woman is going to survive in Hollywood on the journey to becoming a star, she must develop special “people skills”. She had them, in spades. Suppliers rallied to accommodate our wants without a second thought. I have not since got such undivided attention, or shopped with such ease. Life stood still.

I finished my project, she loved it, and I still love “Snow White's” cottage, with a passion.
Alas, “Snow White's” cottage became another victim to the McMansion craze. R.I.P.
But :-), I still have a box of those home baked cookies in the freezer. I’m saving them for a special occasion. Maybe for the day after “the big one”?

September 09, 2010

Isn’t cyberspace marvelous?

…”I'd like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company”. …

Yes, you can watch 50 years of Coke commercials via the Library of Congress (LOC) site right here.

No, I'm not going to take any cheap shots [since when?] but, the LOC has a retrospective collection of Coke commercials available in (what?) RealG2 format. From the Hilltop to Mean Joe Greene to the polar bears, they are all there (well, almost all).

September 07, 2010

To blog or not to blog (is that a question)?

“I resolved to keep my Journal faithfully, never letting a day pass without recording what I had seen and heard: to wit, the peculiarities and nuances of speech of such persons as I might engage in conversation, no matter how trivial or exalted they may be; the impressions made upon my eye by the architecture of houses, churches and public buildings, etc., no matter how mean or exalted they may be; the manners and mannerisms, and the dress and costume of all I may encounter, the rustic and the sophisticated, wherever I find them; always keeping uppermost in my thoughts Bacon’s sound words of advice: ‘Hunt more after choiceness of phrase, and the round and clear composition of the sentence, and the sweet falling of the clauses.’ ”
Charles Dickens, age 19, on embarking on a life as a writer.

On the floor of the British Museum's entrance, a beautiful engraved quote by the poet Tennyson celebrates eternal knowledge...

It has been two years this months since I started this blog. As I write this post, everything around me is reminiscent of  those days. I began with a specific purpose. Then it "morphed" into an excursion of random thoughts and ideas. How long do I keep this up? I do not know.

Since Twitter and Facebook have taken over with their quirky one-liners, have blogs become passé? I do not think so. I do enjoy Facebook, it serves as a convenient interaction and quick communication with friends and family, especially if they are far away.

But, I do enjoy sharing ideas and thoughts. Keeping in touch with loved ones, and especially the journey of Anja and Clive. If anything, a blog is still a good way to journal those experiences.