I was a fan of the band The Police in high school—to be fair, I still am—and hungry for everything they’d made, including their solo work individually. I got Andy Summers’s experimental albums with Robert Fripp, I listened along with half the world to Sting’s solo debut, but Stewart Copeland was always my most compelling draw.
The Rhythmatist, released in 1985, was a kind of encapsulation of Stewart’s trek across Africa, visiting musicians and tribes from East to West, recording their music and composing songs as he went. I got the album on cassette (it was my preferred format just before I started collecting CDs exclusively) as soon as I knew about it. I loved just about all of it, and consumed it obsessively as I do everything I love. I hoped desperately to see the film that was attached to this weird, wonderful soundtrack, but it never came to Tucson theaters or video outlets, and I let go of the idea of ever seeing it. Until today.
The film was a strange avant garde film project, something he said he wanted to resemble a music album, with no clear plot or story that people would want to watch repeatedly in the way they listened to music. I chanced on an upload of the film to YouTube, and threw it on the living room TV immediately.
It’s a bit like Stewart himself: strange, goofy, intense, energetic. It’s full of infectious and odd low-bit percussive synth melodies layered over recorded African drums and voices as well as Ray Lema’s vocals and Stewart’s own drumming. He spends time with African residents, drumming with them, dancing with them, taking in ceremonies and rituals. It feels a little exploitative for me now, with Stewart feeding us interpretations of his experiences, and no Africans get to talk about their music or their lives. That could be my own sensitivity coming into play. But it’s a product of its time, and not a documentary proper.
There’s another video of Stewart being interviewed about the film and music, which is also worth a look if you’re at all into either or both.
The above video is pretty much a wine commercial, if you remove the voice over. That captured the imaginations of many a fan and potential convert. The latter because so many of us imagined a TV series consisting solely of Patrick Stewart walking through his vineyards, looking thoughtful, tending to the watering drones, and contemplatively bottling and boxing his wares. Maybe once in a while someone shows up for a short conversation or a dinner.
The upcoming Star Trek series probably won’t be as languid as all that, but I think it speaks to the frantic nature of both media and internet communications that such a restful, unadorned concept seems intensely appealing.
I keep thinking there are lessons to be learned in the opposite direction of any trend. Like, what can we do to bring more calmness into the world in the face of so much that seems metaphorically—or actually—on fire?
Miles is an often overlooked part of the striking design of many Blue Note jazz albums, having designed hundreds of them during his time with the label.
He designed, sometimes photographed, occasionally drew, and exhibited a seemingly endless capacity for clever juxtapositions and flashy, effective, bold colors and typography.
The simplicity and contrast of image and color influenced design for years, maybe still does. Reid contributed an essential component of American culture that went hand-in-hand with the scintillating sonic brilliance of the music inside those wonderful covers.
What did I latch onto for comfort viewing the past two nights? Star Trek: The Original Series. Gosh, what a wonderful vision of daring and exploration into the unknown. Of course, this effusion is helped along by my sticking to several opinions of the [insert arbitrary and fawning superlative here] episodes of the original series.
In many cases, they’re a group of, well, adventurers, D&D/RPG-style. The rough & tumble nature of their whimsy is all in service to the story they’re telling week to week. Even so, the best moments focus on the relationships between. Insight into these characters is what makes them so compelling, and the show relevant and even inspiring.
There are so many moments that touch me. The earnest desire to understand the unknown, the sheer bravado. I’m kinda moved by a lot of these 60s teleplays.
So what’s this got to do with art? Art is an adventure, of course. If requires we feed our desire and expand our horizons, to outer space if need be.
I’ve written before about how poetry is a too-often overlooked literary form, so it was with NO END OF DELIGHT that I feasted my eyes on Trefology, which popped up in a completely unrelated web search.
And This Day in Music is one of those nice listy landing pages that sparks the feels.
When you live in New York or any big city, it is easy to fail at growing up. The city is designed to keep you in a state of perpetual adolescence. You never need to learn to drive if you don’t want to. And even if you do drive you can go back to that bar you went to when you were twenty-one, and it will still be there, and it will still be called Molly’s, and the older waitress there will still remember you and let you sit where you want. And feel be years later, when she is no longer there, when there is just a picture of her above the bar on a place of sad honor, and you know what that means and you don’t want to think about it, guess what: you do not have to. Because no one is driving home, and you’re back again, listening to “Fairytale of New York,” which is still on every jukebox, falling into the same conversations you had with the same friends in the ’90s: about how the internet is going to change culture, and what you are going to do when you grow up.
A recent episode of Note to Self (I highly recommend subscribing) was a repeat, but also a really, really good one. It’s an overview of the ways social media companies are driven to manipulate us, honing algorithms that ever more selectively push our buttons.
Our psyches are exploitable, and even with no malice intended, we’re taken advantage of without even knowing it. It’s more important to take time out for perspective, for reflection, for people face-to-face and hand-to-hand.