Play Me, I’m Yours in NYC

7 07 2010

Play Me, I’m Yours is an art installation from British artist Luke Jerram. It’s a project he has been touring around the world since 2008. This Monday concluded the 2 week New York debut, which was the largest version yet with 60 pianos being rolled out all over the city. Subsidized by Sing for Hope, the pianos were refurbished and placed in various parks, plazas and on street corners throughout the 5 boroughs.

I love this idea and wished that I had stayed in NYC just a bit longer to see it first hand. It’s not just a great way to bring music to the streets of the city but it also brings the people together as they enjoy, share and participate in the music.  Keep in mind, these pianos are intended for the public, not just street musicians or seasoned professionals. The concept is that anyone is welcome to sit down and play, regardless of their ability. It’s an open invitation to share music with the people around you, whether it’s “Beethoven’s 5th” or just “Chop Sticks”.


In response to the NYC roll-out, Jerram has said, “I’m amazed at how well my artwork has been so well received. It seems like half of NYers know how to play piano!? I’ve always had the feeling that Play Me, I’m Yours was meant to be presented here. There’s so much talent here and people willing to express themselves. I’m so grateful to Sing For Hope in making this dream come true.” See more quotes

The response has been amazing, running the gamut of possibilities. Up and coming professionals have used it as a way to showcase their music in the public domain, something that usually requires a city permit, and the occasional “big name” has sat in unexpectedly to share their gift.  Street musicians have found it to be a great way to setup shop in new locales while complete novices have tried their hands at something they never even considered due to lack of access to a real piano. It’s a fantastic idea that should not just be perpetuated in cities large and small around the world but should absolutely be brought back year after year or perhaps even be considered for permanent installation during the summer months. At a time when the arts and, more specifically, music programs are being slashed all around us, it’s a brilliant way to keep music alive amongst the populous.

Hopefully you got to see some of this in action around NYC. If not, there are numerous videos that share the experience quite well. Below are a few but be sure to visit the artist’s website to see others, as well as some really cool photos and learn a lot more about this incredible project.

Visit StreetPianos.com to learn more. Click HERE to see the locations where the each piano was placed in NYC. Here is the LINK to learn about the origins of the project and how it is received by the public. Also, to read more about the piece, check out this New York Times article.

References:

More info on Play Me, I’m Your

More info on Luke Jerram

More info on Sing For Hope

YouTube Search Results

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From the Basement

2 06 2010

I was recently turned on to a pretty cool project dedicated to creating, fostering and recording great live music. Created by acclaimed producer Nigel Godrich (and friends), the concept behind From the Basement is to create an environment that allows artists to relax and feel comfortable. The idea is to coerce the most authentic performance from them in a small intimate setting free of distractions. In a world where TV production is often done on the cheap and can be very chaotic, it’s a place where artists can perform without feeling the stifling effects of the process or program structure. The resulting footage was initially intended to be a television series in the vain of The Old Grey Whistle Tests. Unfortunately, it could not be sustained in that form so it now lives on as an online destination. In explaining the overarching mission of the project, Nigel has said,  “My own personal goal is that in the future some of these performances might be seen as the truest representation of the state of their artists work, captured in a way that lets their talents speak without the interference of presenters, or audiences.”

The site features forty or so artists,  including Beck, Iggy & The Stooges, The White Stripes, Radiohead, Band of Horses, Sonic Youth, The Shins, Dead Weather, My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird and many more. It’s a nice blend of big icons and bright young act who are just having their moment. All the performances are shot in HD, and are well produced utilizing various camera angles. All the music is produced by Godrich. For those not familiar with his resumé, Nigel has worked with quite a few major acts. He has worked extensively with Radiohead, even be referred to as the “sixth member” of the band. He produced most of the band’s catalog, including OK Computer and Kid A, and won a Grammy for the latter. He also produced Beck’s Mutations and Sea Change, as well as Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard… and that’s just a small portion of his discography. Nigel is not just a producer but a musician and a composer. He has written for many of the artists he has worked with and is currently a member of Thom Yorke’s recent solo band Atoms of Peace. With credentials like that, it should be no surprise that he is working on something so cool. Be sure to visit the site and poke around. You will find A LOT of really great footage of some of today’s best artists doing what they do best and because of the recording techniques it all translates on a very personal level. You will not be disappointed…

Link: From the Basement

References:

More info on Nigel Godrich

More info on From the Basement

Nigel Godrick’s site

Nigel Godrich’s Discography

More on Atoms of Peace

More info on Radiohead

More info on The Old Grey Whistle Tests





Sgt Pepper’s: A Breakdown

28 04 2010

It’s so iconic and yet most people have no idea who or what they are looking at. The Beatles 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is known not only for it’s great music but for the incredible album art as well. If you’ve ever wondered who are all those people standing behind the Fab Four, today is your lucky day.

But first, a little background on this Grammy Award winning piece of rock n roll art history. The album’s packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth, and photographed by Michael Cooper. Fraser was a prominent London art dealer who had become a close friend of Paul McCartney. It was he who urged  that the group abandon their original cover design, a psychedelic painting by The Fool. Fortunately for The Fool, his design for the inner sleeve was still used, at least for the first few pressings and is now something of a collectible. Robert Fraser was one of the leading champions of modern art in the UK in the 1960s. He argued that The Fool’s artwork was not well-executed and that the design would soon be dated. So, he offered to art-direct the now famous cover. Fraser then suggested they use an established fine artist and introduced the band to a client, noted British pop artist Peter Blake. Blake, in collaboration with his wife, created the famous cover collage known as “People We Like”. The final result shows the Beatles, as the Sgt. Pepper band, surrounded by a large group of their heroes who are rendered as life sized cut-out figures. Also included were wax-work figures of the Beatles as they appeared in the early ’60s, borrowed from Madame Tussauds. The collage depicted more than 70 famous people; including writers, musicians, film stars and (at Harrison’s request) a number of Indian “gurus”. There were also a few controversial persona’s that were originally intended to be included but were edited out at the last minute, among them were Adolf Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ… perhaps too risky for even the Beatles. The collage was assembled by Blake and his wife during the last two weeks of March 1967 at the London studio of photographer Michael Cooper, who took the cover shots on March 30th in a three-hour late night session. The rear side of the cover had the lyrics printed on it with a small picture of the band near the bottom. It’s significant because it was the first time lyrics were presented in this manner on a British pop LP. The final product was a “gatefold” album cover, that is, the it could be opened like a book to reveal a large picture of the Fab Four in their custom-made military style costumes against a bright yellow background. The reason for the gate fold was that the Beatles originally planned to fill two LPs for the release. The designs had already been approved and sent to print when they realized they would only have enough material for one LP.

Ok. So, using the numeric outline of the original cover (below) you can dissect who is who, finally getting to the bottom of this age old question. Both the original and the outline are from larger sources. Should you need to zoom in, simply click the image to enlarge it.

The Breakdown:
  1. Sri Yukteswar Gigi (guru)
  2. Aleister Crowley (dabbler in sex, drugs and magic)
  3. Mae West (actress)
  4. Lenny Bruce (comic)
  5. Karlheinz Stockhausen (composer)
  6. W.C. Fields (comic)
  7. Carl Gustav Jung (psychologist)
  8. Edgar Allen Poe (writer)
  9. Fred Astaire (actor)
  10. Richard Merkin (artist)
  11. The Varga Girl (by artist Alberto Vargas)
  12. *Leo Gorcey (Painted out because he requested a fee)
  13. Huntz Hall (actor one of the Bowery Boys)
  14. Simon Rodia (creator of Watts Towers)
  15. Bob Dylan (musician)
  16. Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator)
  17. Sir Robert Peel (politician)
  18. Aldous Huxley (writer)
  19. Dylan Thomas (poet)
  20. Terry Southern (writer)
  21. Dion (di Mucci)(singer)
  22. Tony Curtiss (actor)
  23. Wallace Berman (artist)
  24. Tommy Handley (comic)
  25. Marilyn Monroe (actress)
  26. William Burroughs (writer)
  27. Sri Mahavatara Babaji(guru)
  28. Stan Laurel (comic)
  29. Richard Lindner (artist)
  30. Oliver Hardy (comic)
  31. Karl Marx (philosopher/socialist)
  32. H.G. Wells (writer)
  33. Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (guru)
  34. Anonymous (wax hairdresser’s dummy)
  35. Stuart Sutcliffe (artist/former Beatle)
  36. Anonymous (wax hairdresser’s dummy)
  37. Max Miller (comic)
  38. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  39. Marlon Brando (actor)
  40. Tom Mix (actor)
  41. Oscar Wilde (writer)
  42. Tyrone Power (actor)
  43. Larry Bell (artist)
  44. Dr. David Livingston (missionary/explorer)
  45. Johnny Weissmuller (swimmer/actor)
  46. Stephen Crane (writer)
  47. Issy Bonn (comic)
  48. George Bernard Shaw (writer)
  49. H.C. Westermann (sculptor)
  50. Albert Stubbins (soccer player)
  51. Sri lahiri Mahasaya (guru)
  52. Lewis Carrol (writer)
  53. T.E. Lawrence (soldier, aka Lawrence of Arabia)
  54. Sonny Liston (boxer)
  55. The Pretty Girl (by artist George Petty)
  56. Wax model of George Harrison
  57. Wax model of John Lennon
  58. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  59. Wax model of Ringo Starr
  60. Wax model of Paul McCartney
  61. Albert Einstein (physicist)
  62. John Lennnon, holding a french horn
  63. Ringo Starr, holding a trumpet
  64. Paul McCartney, holding a cor anglais
  65. George Harrison, holding a flute
  66. Bobby Breen (singer)
  67. Marlene Dietrich (actress)
  68. Mohandas Ghandi (painted out at the request of EMI)
  69. Legionaire from the order of the Buffalos
  70. Diana Dors (actress)
  71. Shirley Temple (child actress)
  72. Cloth grandmother-figure by Jann Haworth
  73. Cloth figure of Shirley Temple by Haworth
  74. Mexican candlestick
  75. Television set
  76. Stone figure of girl
  77. Stone figure
  78. Statue from John Lennon’s house
  79. Trophy
  80. Four-armed Indian Doll
  81. Drum skin, designed by Joe Ephgrave
  82. Hookah (water tobacco-pipe)
  83. Velvet snake
  84. Japanese stone figure
  85. Stone figure of Snow White
  86. Garden gnome
  87. Tuba

This is the historic back cover with the lyrics printed for each song.

Here is the inside photo that appeared on the gatefold.

The Fool’s original psychedelic design for the inner sleeve, available only on limited pressings.

Originally, the group had wanted the album to include a package with badges, pencils and other small Sgt. Pepper goodies but this proved far too costly. Instead, the album came with a page of cardboard cut-outs carrying the description:

SGT. PEPPER CUT-OUTS

  1. Moustache
  2. Picture Card
  3. Stripes
  4. Badges
  5. Stand Up

*Buy this LP online





Tim Burton @ The MoMA

5 03 2010

I went to the Tim Burton exhibit at The MoMA yesterday. It was really cool. It’s mostly made up of drawings and rough sketches of both early ideas from his adolescence and the initial concepts that would eventually become his films. There were some sculptures, props and set pieces there as well. They also had some of his early animated shorts and TV commercials screening in areas of the exhibit.  Overall, it’s worth checking out.

Burton offers a lot of great info in this Behind The Scenes footage. In this, you will see many of the pieces in the exhibit and a great narrative from Burton on some of the works.

If you liked that, there are a few more short videos about how they accomplished some of the installation pieces for the MoMA. The links are below:

Creatures & Carousel

Edward Scissorhands Topiary

Balloon Boy

Creatures Mouth

Here is just a sample of some of the drawings you can see. Everything at the exhibit captures every bit of  Burton’s amazingly unusual and fascinating point of view.

The list of films that Burton has directed is quite long and remarkable but there is one on said list that I was never quite a fan of. It always seemed more of a joke than anything else. Perhaps it was that Michael J. Fox was in it or maybe it has something to do with how overtly kitsch it was. This movie is, of course, Mars Attacks. Come to think of it, perhaps the turn off is a bit more personal. Yes, I believe it was this that spoiled it for me. This anecdote is a tad “inside” but enjoyable nevertheless: When I was in school, one of my teachers had a band called The Bossa Nova Beatniks. He always tried to claim they were legit by sighting a performance at CBGBs but as students we always thought it was incredibly lame. It was really odd because they would occasionally perform at school events and even in a few talent shows. I know,  it’s very weird. I believe what started it was that I had a no-name “actress” as a classmate (she will remain only partially nameless) who often used the Beatniks as her backup band in various shows. That aside, on their solo scholastic gigs, they would do this song called “Ack Ack”, which was their interpretation of the movie Mars Attacks. Sounds like a hit, right? Well, it’s amazing what a few years can do.  Don’t get me wrong, I still hate everything about the tune, but I have a new found appreciation for the Beatnicks… who are rumored to be big in Cleveland by the way. What this whole story amounts to is that I actually found a video of the Mars Attacks movie edited to the song “Ack Ack”. It’s just too good to leave out of this post. Enjoy…

Tim Burton’s official site

Buy The Illustrations of Tim Burton book

Tim Burton on IMDB

Tim Burton at The MoMA








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