high and low

I’m hiking on Via Serra di Musanego, in the Apennines, looking west at sunset, through an olive tree, out at the North Mediterranean, and thinking of something Annie D. says:

“I have always been sympathetic with the early notion of a divine power that exists in a particular place, or that travels about over the face of the earth as a man might wander – and when he is ‘there’ he is surely not here.” – Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

A fine collection of literary and musical loves present or conjured up here in my last week in residence at the Bogliasco Foundation: Annie Dillard and her quintessential pilgrimage –  also C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, also Joan Armatrading, Rush (listening to 2112 in particular), Pink Floyd, Dar Williams, and various incarnations of Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. Divine powers indeed. And the land itself and the sea itself here which I move up, down, and into so urgently in my creative wanderings – resonates in my work. I want to get high, high up in the mountains, and down low, low toward those wild dark waves. I want to get as high and as low as I can get.

C. S. Lewis’ characters cry, in the last battle “Further in, further up!”

There is, truly, urgency like that, in all of us, I believe, and most of the time we don’t know how to handle it, what to do with it. But the spirit wont to pour, and pour, and pour – like the waves crashing over the incredibly particular and individual formations of rock here on the Ligurian coastline. It lathers over us rocks like a good scrubbing, unchecked emotion over our textured bodies, Bailey’s over ice. Spring is here in Bogliasco already. I set off for a week of travel – Venice, Assisi, Florence – then home to Vermont.


Over the moon

My trip with Stefan to the west side of Ireland was: too short, just right, scantily prepared, charmingly improvised, and luny. When we headed over toward the west from Cork –  Stefan handling the whole other-side driving situation, manual car to boot, with aplomb – we stopped in Macroom for a farmers’ market. A lovely young woman selling olives strongly suggested we not skip West Cork. We bought a mass of extraordinary olives from her, most of which were sadly left in the rental car when we returned it ad hoc and haste the last day. I hope someone ate them. So, we didn’t go right to Killarney National Park as loosely planned, but detoured south to the Beara Peninsula and ended that rainy weekday night in Kenmore where we found ourselves passing the night most hospitably at Crowley’s Pub. Peter Crowley found out I was working on some songs, went upstairs to get his guitar, handed it to me and said, play something if you want. We passed around the guitar for the rest of the evening. That was really fun.

I knew the ocean coast would be beautiful. But I was stunned by the high lunar landscapes just inland. The size and depth and height and width of Ireland –  how does such a small island do it? Especially the depths – Ireland is deep, deep, deep. Plummeting mountains, ridges, cliffs sans trees –  a new experience for forest-clad Vermonters. Breathlessly low down in those deep valleys – houses perched like the sheep and goats. We even saw one unicorn eating an apple from a tree. Really.

The next night, in Dingle, we stumbled on another cold rainy weekday night into John Benny’s Pub where we were rewarded with such luck to hear Eilis KennedyGerry O’Beirne, and John Benny play a couple hours of traditional, folk/pop music (they tore apart Joni Mitchell’s Carey like a blazing brushfire). I was amazed by all of them but particularly inspired to hear Gerry O’Berne on guitar, as it is the instrument I aspire on!  The brilliance and inventiveness and breadth of his artistry on that instrument.  I listened with ears and mouth open: pure musical nutrition.

Now I’m into my first week in Italy, settling into a new rhythm of Mediterranean waves. More song-writing rolling in.


Live in Killeagh

Well, for three weeks, I’ve been able to say “I live in Killeagh” too – all because of Jessica Bonenfant Coogan and her husband Hughie Coogan who are launching Greywood Arts, a new multi-disciplinary artist residency center in the village Killeagh, near Cork in Ireland. So thrilled to see this massive longterm project of theirs take flight.

I’m a bit reluctant to leave Greywood and Ireland  –  but I hope to come back soon! What a lovely and productive time it has been. Killeagh is a small village; the Greywood residency house is right on the Main Street, so as I worked up in the third floor studio I could look out and see the Dissour River flow by next to the house; watch the weather (always changing! a bit cold for February, too, though cherry blossoms were out), passersby on the street, and churchgoers of St. John and Virgules Catholic Church just across the intersection. Great to wake up before sunrise, drink lots of tea, work through mornings and afternoons, cook meals in my own little kitchenette at night, or step out to The Thatch Pub next door for hearty dinners and a pint. I took walks up into the moss and ivy-coated oak and piney Glenbower Wood. My time there was very focused, very quiet time. Monastic. I had my new electric guitar, loop pedal, yoga mat, weights. I ran scales, vocals, yoga-d, ballet barred, hunted through journals from the last five years, created melodies for prose, wrote new verses, made dance phrases for song verses, extracted stories – and then linked some of what I had amassed into a sequence for the open house showing. There’s no shortage of song material. The question is if and how to use it all.

Lovely to do the Greywood open house last week – hundreds of people from the area streamed through the three-story house, as deep as it is tall, and a bunch of lovely folks found their way up to the third floor where I got to run my sequence twice and glean some feedback too. In such a small space, it was wonderfully interactive, especially with children jumping into the mix! Children shape and change context in an instant, if you are open to it. I’m not sure exactly what I have as I head to Italy, but it’ll be good to look it over on video. The question of what exactly it is I’m shaping it all into is still in the air. Happily I don’t need to figure it all out, yet. Or really ever.

Magical to be at Greywood at this moment in time, when the house is in a process of transformation –  all hands were on deck: volunteers Stephanie Guillette, a friend of Jessica’s from CT, her partner David, and Colm, a longtime resident of Killeagh, were also working with Jess and Hughie on the house in prep for the open house. I would come down from my rustic garret artist studio under the eaves and see new things each day: wallpapering, painting, sealing, flooring installed and varnished, movement of furniture, and displays of some of the treasures of the house. A particularly special moment to sit down for an amazing Irish Sunday brunch cooked by Jessica with a roast bacon from Hughie’s mother the day after the open house in the newly furnished living room.

I’m wrapping up my time in Ireland – already midway to Italy! I’ll continued combing and culling and dancing and songwriting at the Bogliasco Foundation near Genoa. Stay tuned.

 

 


Good to be here

Ireland: good to be here. Green, green on walks at dusk. Getting somewhere with the Song and Dance Man project. I’m rather surprised: I seem to be making songs and dances. Have a bunch of stuff I will keep pursuing, though not sure what I think about it. But – doesn’t matter at this point – time to just make, just do do do. Looking forward to showing what I’ve got thus far as part of an open house here at Greywood Arts this Saturday. If you are in the neighborhood, come by – tea and goodies will be served, and the impressive ongoing vision of this place will be on first and full display. I’m loving being here in every way.

Went to see a singer-songwriter in Cobh last week, Loah –  talented artist of Irish-Sierra Leone descent. Genuine, generous, beautiful songs. She had a wonderful presence and performed impeccably. Complex, multi-influenced, Joni-Mitchell-like songs. An intimate show at the Sirius Center in Cobh –  old yacht club turned art gallery right on the bay with steps leading down to dark cold tossing waves and a huge expanse of water, in which the Titanic last ported. The sea! The Irish sea. I thought – “where I am now is why I want to stand looking out on New England coasts in the first place “-  to feel for this place, across the ocean. Big and toss-y this sea, with a full-ish moon radiating it out the big windows of the Sirius Center. Cobh –  just my kind of place, a nitty gritty seaport town, a slightly squalid fun town. All the streets fan up steep hills from the harbor, tiny cobblestone streets, with a huge cathedral nestled in the middle. It’s lit up at night with a clock tower presiding over the wharf and pub scene below. I smile here in Ireland walking here alone – backroads, towns and cities. I like being invisible, hidden in journey, seeing the fronts and backs of places, and people being themselves.


Greywood Arts

Just beginning my residency for Song and Dance Man at Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Ireland. Today: a day to get oriented on all fronts: unpack, get my gear to the studio up in the third floor eves, slowly unspool myself out of airplane body, and pursue a few ideas. There are very large hares here in Ireland! This is like following rabbits, sometimes down holes. I’ll do it. Just listen, look, smell, pay attention to see where this piece wants to go, what shape it wants to be. Songs? Dances? Stories? All of the above? How do one put this thing together? I have no idea. Sniffing it out.

Greywood is a special place to be at on many fronts – how amazing to be here in Ireland – but a most special reason for me is that it is the brainchild of Jessica Bonenfant Coogan – whom I taught from 1999 – 2001 at the Bridgeport Regional Center for the Arts. Jessica has gone on to do great things: a career in dance and choreography, directing Lola Lola Dance Theatre, teaching in academia – and now, becoming an impresario for the Arts! She and her husband Hughie Coogan acquired  a 17th-century house in need of loving attention, which they are giving it – all sorts and manner of renovation going on – right on the main street in the little village of Killeagh. It is just what a town with three pubs, two grocery stores, one restaurant needs.  I feel so lucky to be here –  to be a little part of Jessica’s vision-in-realization –  and to get this zero-ing in time, for me.


Seed is planted

I can’t believe it, I have an EP album!

On October 16, 2016 I got together with six amazing musicians and recorded three of my songs. After three delightful months of mixing them with Gus and Ted  at Low Tech Studios – here they are, right on my website. May I introduce: a petite EP album Seed.

Really happy to get these seeds planted just before I leave the country for a while. And I really can’t express how grateful I am to the beautiful and talented people who have enfleshed, nurtured, watered, co-created, sparked, and made these songs come to life –  Ted Looby of Burlington on electric and slide guitar; Dan Strauss of Brooklyn on piano and backing vocals; Remy de Laroque from Brooklyn/Paris on acoustic lead guitar, backing vocals and hand percussion (Dan and Remy are Ink the Octopus, an indie folk duo in Brooklyn); Bridget Wheeler, a Barre native, on upright bass and backing vocals; Chris Scroth, a new Brooklynite, on drum set, and Gus Ziesing on saxophone. Remy also wrote and recorded beautiful lyrics en français for one of the songs, Child.

So this is phase one – get these songs in and on the ground. But wait for it…. Spring is coming! Save May 27th 2017 – 8:00 – 10:00pm on your calendars  – will be having a CD release event with Ink the Octopus at the Light Club Lamp Shop.

Until then, hope you enjoy.


January at New City Galerie

In a new mode of creative working – musicking and moving –  in one practice, one space. Here are tools of the trade – some old, some new, some borrowed and some blue. An old friend: a dance floor, a new hybrid guitar, various amps I’m borrowing/testing out, a loop pedal to create/practice by, the microphone, and in the blue bag, but a excerpt of the vast vault of writing/songs – in the form of notebooks and voice memo recorders. I’m going through journal/journey from the past five years – or more.

I’m at New City Galerie on Church Street in downtown Burlington wrapping up a solitary January residency. It’s heaven. Two art gallery rooms to move and music in, poised lightly above Church Street on these wintry days and evenings when the whole town feels like it’s resting, humming. The gallery itself is humming with a beautiful exhibit of photos  – “Eyes/Vermont” – only there for another few days. My eyes and ears pore over it as I embark on my own work. It is a wonderful way to take in art; the creative mind and body is a most absorptive gallery-goer. Why don’t we make galleries and museums into spaces to both make  – and take in –  art?

As with all work spaces, I fall in love –  enjoying the light and dark moods of the space, the wooden floors and walls and the large windows that frame their own living art –  roofs, trees, birds, sky, and the illuminated clock of City Hall. Wish I could be there forever – making dances, looping guitar riffs, ruminating on Joseph Pensak‘s beautiful piano and amps, singing, and gazing out at sparkling city scenes. But content just to have contributed a bit of my own hum.


chthonic egg

Beautiful to spend time at The Dragon’s Egg developing first inklings of a new dance work, with the working title “chthonic.” It was a cold few days outside; we gazed out on the starkly barren Connecticut fields and forest lands –  but in the Egg, all was warm, full of life, full of creativity. Lovely to work with a newly assembled group of Vermont dancers – Avi Waring, Marc Wennberg, and Bridget Wheeler – as well as Vermont musician and composer Randal Pierce, who was composing on the spot as we tried out movement material.

So grateful to be in the space with its march of light and shadow – its levity, depth, color, joy and silence – in the swing of light and dark –  at this time of year. And to work out some primal energies! Chthonic-ly, we ran, rolled, rumbled and resounded.

So helpful to show some material to a small wonderfully receptive audience on the last night, get great feedback –  and then end with a truly stupendous feast at Marya Ursin’s and Dan Potter’s house in Stonington. Thank you, Marya and Dan.

A last tag-note: please send healing and restorative energy to Dan, who just lost his work studio in a fire on Dec 27th. Thinking of you and sending love, Dan!


Falling toward Winter

Moving from the frenetic pace of the heart of the fall semester into the very beginnings of slowing down – for snow, winter, for artistic reflection and renewal time. A sabbatical beckons in the spring – my first ever!

Back in October, the first intimations of winter and precipitation moved strongly enough through the season to force Persephone Cryptogamae, the UVM student site work, inside to Mann Gymnasium on the Trinity Campus.

And in and around that event – lots of delicious dance and music doings: I played my songs for the Sweet Sixteen birthday anniversary at Radio Bean; facilitated a flashmob choreographed by my UVM composition class at the UVM airport, and chaperoned them to the third Vermont College Dance Festival at Bennington College; recorded overdubs and started mixing in my three-song “albumette” recording project; hosted two live music and dance improvisational Mixers at the Light Club Lamp Shop; hosted Eat My Art Out – my tri-annual work-in-progress showing event –  at New City Galerie in Burlington, with wonderful artists Christine Holt, Lydia Kern, Ula Klein, Mia Pinheiro, Hanna Satterlee, Marly Spieser-Schneider, Denise Townsend, Avi Waring.  I visited my family in North Carolina for Thanksgiving.

I am looking forward to the end of the semester – student showings and creative offerings aplenty! – and then a retreat – with a new group of musicians and dancers – to the Dragon’s Egg just before the holidays commence, in a first round of investigation into a brand new dance collaboration with composer Randal Pierce.

This photo I call “Laxmi’s World” – my beautiful goddaughter Laxmi Sade, queen of her world on the family farm in Bear Creek, North Carolina.


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