Friday, August 12, 2005

The Arts

I have an affection for the arts. Music, Art, Literature. All kinds. I wanted to major in fine arts when I was in college, but I never finished. Most everyone in my family is artistic in some way.

My oldest brother, while he is in the ministry, is an excellent writer.

My next oldest brother is an accomplished musician and singer. He teaches music at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. He is a musical genius. Hand him a musical instrument, any instrument, and in five minutes he will be playing it as if he's been studying it all his life. I've seen him do that. It's incredible.

One of my 2 sisters is a singer, too. She used to be a music teacher in Kansas but not anymore. A few years ago she had a stroke and hasn't taught since. She has sung Opera with the great Sam Ramey, now with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. I was there, I saw her. Not at the Met. Sorry. When they were both in college at Wichita State University.

All three of those siblings graduated with honors from their respective colleges.

My brother just 2 years older than me is an artist. He graduated with a degree in graphic arts. He works for Boeing Military Aircraft division now, in the CGI department.

My point is this: I have a special fondness for the arts. Let me tell you what I like and what I don't like.

I like classic country music and classic rock and roll. I also like folk music and bluegrass. Lately, since I have discovered my Scottish roots, I have also discovered Scottish and Irish folk music. Call it Celtic. I love it. I like classical music, too. I also like pop music, like Sinatra and Dino, etc. I like some modern rock, even punk rock. Like I say, just about all kinds.

I don't like Rap. That isn't music, in my opinion. I also don't like Opera or modern jazz. Or ballet. Too boring for me, or maybe, too sophisticated. But then again, I think the only people who like those kinds of music are pretentious elitists. And if the pretentious elitists were honest, they would probably say they don't like them either.

Those are the kind of people that have a lot of letters behind their name and wear the letters as a badge to display for all the world to see and envy.I don't wnat to imply that everyone that has letters after their name are pretentious elitists. Of course they are not all that way. My brothers and sister are not pretentious elitists. Neither are a lot of others, but the ones that are, well, all I can say is, "If the shoe fits..."

Jazz is too discordant. It assaults the ears like garbagemen banging trash cans in the early hours of the morning when you're trying to get some sleep.

I tool a guitar course in college, and my teacher was a world renown Jazz guitarist named Jerry Hahn, He wrote a monthly column in "Guitar Player" magazine on jazz guitar. He couldn't sing a lick. Us class members used to tell him we couldn't get the tune right on songs we were working on just to get him to try to sing. It was funny. He couldn't sing a lick.

Not a lick

Opera? Who wants to hear music sung in a foreign language? If I can't understand it, I'm not interested. Ballet is just boring.

But I, like the pretentious elitists, do enjoy classical music, like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, Brahams, etc. Not because it's "classy" to like it, but because I appreciate the intricacies of the parts coming together in such perfect harmony, and the talent it took the great composers to put 126 different parts together in one hour long composition. Incredible. I think I got that appreciation from my brother and sister.

I got my appreciation for Country music from my dad. He wasn't who my siblings got their talent from. He was just a simple country preacher. We used to tease him about his love for country music. He once explained what kind of music he liked best and why. This is what he said:

"I like songs that tell a story."

Me too. My dad's 2 favorite songs were, "Long Black Veil" and Six Times a Day". I like them too.

"Six Times a Day"

Six times a day, the train came down from Frankfort.
Six years she waited, never missed a train.
Six times a day the people saw her waiting.
He never came, she never missed a train....

Great, huh?

I like art, too. I had some art talent, but according to my preacher dad, I lost the talent because I didn't use it for God's glory. I agree.

I don't care for modern art like Jackson Pollack or Jim Dine or Pablo Picasso. You could hand a chimpanzee a brush and some paint and get as good a painting. You want to see art that takes real talent? Look here: Those are not photos, they are paintings. Incredible, aren't they? The style is called Photo-realism. I fell in love with this kind of art when I went an exhibition of Photo-realism long ago. One painting was 10 feet high and 8 feet across. It was a black and white painting of the face of a freckled boy. Just the face. And you had to get within 1 foot of it to tell it was a painting. As I said, Incredible.

I like literature also. Mostly I like fiction. But when I read non-fiction it is usually a Biography or History, especially old west history, my favorite subject in that are the gunslingers. My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut Jr. You may see his influence in my writing style. You may not. I don't know, but I like him and I don't care if he is a liberal.

I have read a lot of books that the pretentious elitist say they like. I read Catcher in the Rye, for instance. It was just OK, as far as I'm concerned. I've read Updike, and Sinclair, and Steinbeck, and Hemingway, and Langston Hughes, the author that is so popular with the pretentious elitists lately. I am not impressed, regardless.

Kurt Vonnegut says there are only two themes in all of his books. One is, "Cleaning shit off of practically everything" and the other is, "No Pain." I happen to think that's brilliant. But that's just me.

Anyway, these are some of the things in the arts that I like and some that I don't like. And now, I've wasted enough of your time, and mine, pretending that anyone besides myself is really interested in what I like.


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Mark, I wish I had musical talent, but I don't.

I don't mind opera. Don't know much, but some of it is very beautiful. And I don't have a problem at all with music in foreign languages. Listen to the Okinawan folk song, Hana, and tell me it isn't beautiful in its native language. Bear McCreary composed a gaelic hymn on the new Battlestar Galactica season one cd. I like that and it is basically foreign, right? Should speak to your Scottish roots. Try listening to Sabat Mater in Latin, by Paul Schwartz. It has a very religious, spiritual feel. And have you ever listened to Loreena McKennitt? Much of her music has a very celtic flavor, so that should also appeal to your Scottish sensibilities.

I think we have some commonality in musical tastes. I listen to Johnny Cash; I do like some country music, for the storytelling. Same with folk songs. It's why I like many of Springsteen's songs. I also like listening to John Denver, which I grew up on. Hard to list everything I like.

I had a natural talent at drawing, which was never developed. Those art paintings are amazing! I recognized the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey and had no idea that it wasn't a photograph. Incredible!

I have a romantic love for Arthurian themes; so my favorite paintings are mostly by the Pre-Raphaelites...images having to do with knights and damsels.

The black author....Toni Morrison? Maya Angelou? I was an English major, and these were among the authors I often had to read in American Lit.

Today, among kids, I began discussing the Chronicles of Narnia, which I read decades ago, as a kid. With the new movie getting me all excited, I've also been nostalgic about that series of books. Tolkien's The Hobbit I am very much fond of. A good place to come along in my life. Really opened me up to literature. I also got into Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan series. No movie or tv show has ever done these books and the character justice. Great storytelling. Les Miserables and Three Musketeers are also favorites. Like music, there's really too much to list.

These days, I read all political and historical stuff. Nonfiction. Haven't picked up any fictional works in many, many years. Since college, really, about 15 years ago.

My artistic talents now get poured into paperfolding of all things. Don't have my website up yet, but you can see a photo album of things I've folded (creators are credited) here:

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Oh, and as far as reading goes....I can barely keep up with all these blogs, and with all the news and opinion articles floating around out there. The links are endless!

Mark said...

I remember his name now. Langston Hughes. I changed it. Now no one will know what you're talking about, Wordsmith.

Mark said...

Oh yeah, Wordsmith. I like the classic masters of Art too, Caravaggio is my favorite of the old masters. His mastery of light and the qualities of it were amazing.

MadMustard said...

Mark, great post, those paintings in your post are really amazing. I would have never guessed they were anything other than photographs. I don’t have a lick of talent myself, but I do appreciate the arts.

I agree with you on your music preferences. Good music should tell a story. May I suggest an old Eagle’s album that I believe would suit your tastes? You may already have it in your collection, but if not, buy it. Eagles – Desperado (1973), its good stuff. Every song tells a story.

FrenziedFeline said...

I love the paintings. I have a creative bone or two, but not the patience to do any painting like that!

Poison Pero said...

Eeeeegads..........You turning into a Renaissance Man, Mark?

I wish I had time for the arts......Between work, kids, wife, 4 blogs of my own, reading all you guys/gals blogs and fantasy football, I barely have time to sleep.

It's a good life.

Erudite Redneck said...

We're pretty close, tastewise, except that I do like jazz.

Pretty hard on the pretentious elitists, ain'tcha?

Poor souls. Most of 'em are caught in false realities of their own making, drawn from their own groupthink, and are more to be pitied than censured.

Mark said...

ER, I don't think I was making a judgement on them at all. I was just stating my opinion.

Lynn S said...

I love opera. I'll let you decide whether or not I'm a "pretentious elitist" but if I am that's fine. I'd rather be a pretentious elitist than miss out on opera. I don't care so much for recordings of opera though. I like to see it live. It was meant to be performed on stage in front of an audience. If you're not experiencing it like that you're not really experiencing opera. Other classical vocal music, besides opera - masses, requiems, etc. - I don't care that I don't understand the words. For me it's all about the music. The human voice is just another instrument. I guess that all sounded really pretentious, huh?

About the paintings - amazing!