Nakatani Gong Orchestra

1 07 2017

Gong program

Real Art Ways presented a performance of the Nakatani Gong Orchestra recently and it was a unique experience. Acoustic sound artist and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, originally from Japan, conducted and performed “improvised-experimental music, free jazz, and noise, while still retaining the sense of space and beauty found in traditional Japanese folk music” (according to his website). Frustrated by the limited sound produced by striking a gong with a mallet, Nakantani discovered that using a bow (similar to that used on a stringed instrument) along the gong edge could extend the sound. He developed a handmade bow, using a variety of woods as handles, to produce this sound.

Nakatani was also interested in expressing the Japanese concept of Ma, a term that can be used related to time or space. In art, it is sometimes regarded as negative space, that which is imagined between what is presented. In that way, it exists only when experienced by the viewer/listener. It is the space between the trees or the silence between the notes, for example.

gong director

The RAW program began with a solo piece by Nakatani. He used a traditional drum set, augmented by a large and eclectic collection of percussion instruments, including gongs, singing bowls, sticks, and other objects that could make noise when struck. Clashing cymbal plates onto drum head rims, Nakatani fervently worked his tools. He filled singing bowls with metallic objects and swirled them to make a cacophony of sound.  At one point, I could imagine trains coming into a station, their wheels screeching along the rails and rumbling along the tracks.  Nakatani, always in motion during the piece, used a double bow technique that made his playing resemble Aikido or dance-like movements. His forty-minute piece ended with quiet, tranquil resonance.

gong group

The second piece was performed by the Greater Hartford Nakatani Gong Orchestra, comprised of local community members. These dozen-plus musicians gathered the previous evening to learn the skill of bowing a gong, practiced again before the performance, and then shared their competence. With bows and mallets on gongs, the group followed a series of hand signals from Nakatani that were reminiscent of a mixture of American Sign Language and modern dance. Their sound ranged from haunting, eerie, and nerve-jarring to exciting, motivating, and energizing. It was impressive to see how skilled players could become in a relatively short time.

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The audience, too, was eclectic and representative of the greater Hartford neighborhoods and comprised family, friends, and Real Art Ways members, among others. A short personal aside: I attended this concert because a local friend was performing. The morning of the concert when I was still uncertain but hopeful I could attend, I received a phone call from a friend from Atlanta who was driving back there from Massachusetts. She wanted to spend some time at my house and I gave her my parameters: I would be away for the morning and wanted to leave at 6:30pm for a concert. “The Gong concert,” she said! I was astounded she knew about it, and, yes, she would be there. She’d been to the previous night’s rehearsal and intuitively knew I’d be there, before I did. One of her long-time friends was also playing in the orchestra. I love it when my worlds collide!





Gypsy Moth Tonglen

27 06 2017

27 June 2017

We are being eaten alive by gypsy moths in my area. Droppings all over the driveways and porches. Gathering clusters of leaf parcels clipped off and wasted. Trunks of trees lined with crawling caterpillars. Long black lines of final instars inching along leaves and stems of trees…oaks and maples, apples and beech, almost any green thing and every kind.

I look into the canopy and I see sky when I should see leaves. My heart aches for these trees, some in areas previously devastated by hemlock woolly adelgid, and now this. I know how important trees are for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide; we breathe in O2 and out CO2, while trees do the opposite and we form a complementary respiratory cycle. I can feel them struggling to get enough food and oxygen to survive.

UCONN Summer 2015 006.jpgAnd then I remember tonglen meditation. It’s a Buddhist practice of “give and take,” an opportunity to support those in pain. I stand under the trees, I inhale and take in all their pain, suffering, and difficulties that these gypsy moths cause. And I exhale my strongest wishes for the good health and continued sustenance of the trees. I do this multiple times until I have no more to give, or I feel I’ve done enough, or I run out of breath. I’ve asked groups of people on my hikes to do this. Twenty-plus of us standing under a group of gypsy moth-stricken trees, all breathing with them, supporting the trees that help us breathe.

I encourage you to do the same.





People are Creative; Art is Subjective

8 05 2017

NB Art Show generalAPRIL 30, 2017

My friend invited me to see her art piece in the Nor’easter exhibit at the New Britain Museum of American Art. I was happy to oblige and attended the award presentation this past Sunday afternoon. Museum Director Min Jung Kim, describing this 47th annual juried show that highlights emerging artists in all media, noted that more than a thousand artists entered and eighty-eight were chosen. What competition! I am impressed by those accepted.

Sarah Fritchey, writer and full-time curator/gallery director at Artspace New Haven, was the juror who reviewed and selected those to participate. Her approach focused on seven common themes among the artists she chose: consumerism, violence against minorities, expression of time/discipline, power/oppression, reflections of major art works, craft works, and modernity.

Both Kim and Fritchey invited prize winners to the podium to be acknowledged and receive their award. The room was filled with artists, their family, and friends and we filtered upstairs, after enjoying some refreshments. I was excited to see the results.

NB Art Show CarolMy friend’s piece, United We Stand, was in the first room of the exhibit. She explained that fiber art has only recently been accepted in this type of show. Curator Fritchey had specifically commented earlier that she encouraged quilting and ceramics (both previously considered more hobbies than art). I realized there was much more politics to this than I had ever imagined.

NB Art Show visitors

I roamed the gallery, taking in a wide array of art forms and eavesdropping on conversations with artists. It was sweet to watch connections and reactions on people’s faces as they examined the works. Here are two of my summary ideas from the afternoon.

People are Creative

The variety of art forms and the ways they were used astounded me: an old tool box, filled with cloth replicas of tools; a stunning orb of color on opaque acrylic glass; a nostalgic and poignant video; a collage of small photo scraps; digital renderings; clothing mixed with poetry; Braille letters; an old student desk; bricks and arrows, just to name a few.

 Art is Subjective

Juror Fritchey included United We Stand as a testament to craft work, but to me it’s about addressing oppression (support of the union). The juror also categorized the third prize winner, Shoe Scribe, as consumerism. But, as I heard the poem written on the soles of the shoes in the work read aloud by another viewer, it sounded so poignantly focused on loss and endings.

NB Art Show MedussaMy favorite piece (no offense to my friend) was Medusa, a collage of snippets shaped into a stunning tree (probably why I was drawn to the piece initially). Only when I looked at the label did I realize how it was produced.

Which brings me to note how subjective art (and poetry) can be. Artists have an intention (sometimes) and understanding of their piece. What we, the viewers, get from it may be something so very different. I hope there is enough space for us to maintain our views and interpretations without offending the creator and not losing what is being offered.

Just a PS: I found it an interesting piece of strategy that one must be a member of the New Britain Museum in order to enter this exhibit. A sure-fire way to increase membership!





Abundance

1 04 2017

For the sixth year, I am participating in the April A to Z Blog Challenge (I encourage you to check it out, if you’ve never seen it). My overarching theme is A Good Life and this year’s focus is on Affirmations: a daily post with an affirmation to contribute towards a Good Life. Affirmations are simple messages of truth and love that provide a positive atmosphere in which to live. They describe a desired situation and, when repeated, can impact us in a positive way.

If you go to my site, you can sign up to follow this blog and get an email each day of April with an affirmation. Here’s today’s:

Source: Abundance





A Cup of Tea

24 03 2017

meditaton]

24 March 2017

Meditation is a practice where an individual trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content, or as an end in itself (Wikipedia).

The value of meditation has become commonly known and accepted, with centers springing up around the country. Some of these are focused on particular religious beliefs, while others are nondenominational. A meditation practice can have a number of positive physical and psychological impacts.

mediaton-centerMediation is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialized communication and negotiation techniques. All participants in mediation are encouraged to actively participate in the process. Mediation is a “party-centered” process in that it is focused primarily upon the needs, rights, and interests of the parties. The mediator uses a wide variety of techniques to guide the process in a constructive direction and to help the parties find their optimal solution. (Wikipedia).

Mediation has been used in legal cases, particularly those involving family issues, and in business situations. Schools have trained peer mediators to help resolve conflicts between students; generally, mediation is considered a way to resolve conflict in a less adversarial manner than through litigation and the legal system.

cup-of-tea

Recently, I noticed that, although they sound quite different, the only difference between the writing of MEDITATION and MEDIATION is the letter T. T, I mused, tea. Hmm.

If you were involved in a conflict with another person, and you both were to spend some time in meditation, you would be able to clear your mind, calm your emotions, and bring some compassion and empathy to the issue. Then, if you poured yourselves a nice cup of tea to sit down for mediation, perhaps the results would come more quickly and be more equitable and amenable. Just a thought.





Family Stories

3 03 2017

March 3, 2017 I’ve been doing some family genealogy research and I enjoy the detective work, putting together pieces and tidbits into a tidy whole (at least when I can). In the process, I’ve uncove…

Source: Family Stories





Family Stories

3 03 2017

barnett-family-1900ish-005
March 3, 2017

I’ve been doing some family genealogy research and I enjoy the detective work, putting together pieces and tidbits into a tidy whole (at least when I can). In the process, I’ve uncovered some information that has left me wondering about the value of this work.

Several years back, I learned that a great-grandmother from Connecticut had died in New York City in early 1929. When I received her death certificate, I was shocked to discover that she had jumped out an apartment window. She and her husband had been in NYC only a few weeks. Why were they there? Was her issue emotional? Some family lore indicated that she had cancer. Perhaps it was to escape the pain and inevitable? We may never know.

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My great-grandmother who lost her infant son

Recently, I discovered that my grandmother had a younger brother who was still born. Her parents lived on a farm miles from a hospital and the cause of death was listed as “pressure effects and prolonged labor.” I hated the vision of my great-grandmother out in the country going through a long and fruitless labor. I wondered if he were buried somewhere; I’ve seen no record of it in the cemetery where this family is interred. Did they ever speak of this child? How would he have changed the family?

Then I learned that this same grandmother had a niece (half-niece actually) whom I’d not know existed. Her death certificate indicated she died from intestinal tuberculosis at the age of 24 in 1927 in my home town. Her mother, my grandmother’s half-sister, had died eight years earlier (angina pectoris) and her uncle, my grandmother’s father had passed (chronic intestinal nephritis and pulmonary edema) five years before that. Two years later my grandmother’s sister, with four young children, lost her husband in a plane crash at the Chicago World’s Fair.

jennie-kaplan-gordon-tombstone

These years in the early twentieth century were fraught with danger that impacted these ancestors, my people. They had left a dismal Eastern Europe and forged lives here in America that likely were immensely better than they would have had. But how do people handle these losses of family? How do they move on, under the cumulative uncertainty of who might be next? And why do I think I need to know this, to pass this on to future generations? Some of these facts were likely intentional family secrets. Couldn’t I have left them unearthed and allowed them to fade into nothingness? Or do they need to marked, noted, and honored?

Last month, I was waiting for the microfiche machine at the library to look for obituaries for some of the family mentioned above. A (handsome) young man was researching the 1938 hurricane and we started talking. He really wasn’t interested in the storm, but more how people shared information in those days. We discussed my genealogy research and he asked me, “Why are you doing this?” I managed to give him some type of an answer at the time. But since then, I’ve learned some of this other family history. And the truth of why I do this?

I really don’t know.