Archives for category: Art

Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” reports that today is Woody Guthrie’s birthday. He may be America’s most beloved and most often sung folk singer. Everyone sings “This Land is My Land,” but not usually with all the lyrics. Guthrie was radical in his politics, having experienced the hard times of the Depression. At one point, he lived in an apartment in Queens owned by Fred Trump, and he wrote a song about how Trump didn’t rent to black people.

Today is the birthday of Woodrow Wilson — aka “Woody” Guthrie, born in Okemah, Oklahoma (1912). Woody Guthrie never finished high school, but he spent his spare time reading books at the local public library. He took occasional jobs as a sign painter and started playing music on a guitar he found in the street. During the Dust Bowl in the mid-1930s, Guthrie followed workers who were moving to California. They taught him traditional folk and blues songs, and Guthrie went on to write thousands of his own, including “This Train Is Bound for Glory.” In 1940, he wrote the folk classic “This Land Is Your Land” because he was growing sick of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

Woody Guthrie once said: “I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good. […] Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.”

Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” notes that today is Frida Kahlo’s birthday.


Today is the birthday of Frida Kahlo, born in Coyoacán, just outside Mexico City (1907). She was born in her parents’ home, La Casa Azul — the Blue House.

When Kahlo was 18, the bus she was riding collided with a streetcar. Her collarbone, spine, and pelvis were fractured. She was bedridden for several months, and it was during this time that she first took up painting. Her mother rigged up an easel that would fit over the bed, and, using a mirror, she painted her first of 55 self-portraits. She showed her early efforts to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, who encouraged her to keep at it.

Kahlo said: “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” She first met the painter Diego Rivera in 1923, when she was 15. He had been commissioned to paint a mural at her school, and she would watch him work for hours. In 1929 they were married. Rivera was notoriously unfaithful and even had an affair with Kahlo’s sister Cristina. The couple divorced in 1939, but they remarried soon afterward and remained together until Kahlo’s death. They led largely separate lives, and both artists had affairs throughout their marriage.

Kahlo’s work was championed by surrealist André Breton and painter Marcel Duchamp, who arranged exhibitions of her paintings, which often combine brilliant colors and striking images from Mexican folk art. She said: “[Critics] thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.”

I chose to include this link on my birthday because it gave me an hour of aesthetic joy, following its links.

Maria Popova is a Bulgarian-born polymath who lives in Brooklyn and reads voraciously with deep understanding and love of knowledge.

On June 26, she wrote about the artist Keith Haring and his love of life and art, and how his art inspired her and others, and how his life demonstrated “the courage to be yourself.”

As I began reading, I started opening links, one of which sent me to her archive (not easy to find), and I was soon reading about Mary Wollstonecraft, the world’s first radical feminist, who died giving birth to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who survived the death of three of her children and her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Reading Maria Popova is sheer bliss and an invitation to share her joy of reading. I signed up to send her a small monthly gift, to sustain her as she pursues knowledge and shares its fruits.

This is a wonderful song and dance performed by the cast of HAMILTON in 2016. There is a bonus: Lin-Manuel Miranda performing “Alexander Hamilton” at the Obama White House in 2015.

It’s perfect for the moment.

Enjoy this beautiful rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, performed by 300 people from 15 countries.

Here are the liner notes:

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 300 people from 15 different countries came together to participate in a virtual rendition of the beautiful song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. Please share this video to help spread a little hope during this time!

“I left New York City on March 14, anticipating a short absence. The Brooklyn College Choir had been preparing for performances with the New York Philharmonic, and then that was gone. Arriving home in Iowa, I found comfort in playing the beautiful song from the musical Carousel, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ I embarked on collaborating online like so many others are doing. What started to fill the void of music collaboration has evolved to new meaning for me with the lengthened quarantine. Hopefully, the words, ‘you’ll never walk alone,’ along with the visual of 300 people joining together offers the audience some comfort and peace during this time. Stay safe and healthy my friends!”

– Harrison Sheckler
Brooklyn College M.M. ’21 Piano Performance

Audio Mixing and Mastering:
Josh Meyer and Grant Bayer of Zated Records in Cincinnati, Ohio

Video Editing: Harrison Sheckler

Instagram: @harrisonsheckler
Twitter: @HarrisonSheckl1
Facebook: @hsheckpiano

This is a special virtual performance by the New York Philharmonic, playing Ravel’s “Bolero,” to honor the city’s brave healthcare workers.

Enjoy!

SomeDam Poet warns:

The trolls are waiting under bridge
To pounce upon the passing kids
Disguised as broads and billy goats
With candy and with diet kochs

This is another of the great Internet discoveries that everyone else in the world seems to have discovered.

A friend sent it, and I was mesmerized by the quartet of talented performers.

You will be too! I promise!

Mitchell Robinson is a professor of music education at Michigan State University. He has been remote teaching, and he is not pleased with it at all.

He begins:

A friend asked me how I was doing during this pandemic, and I thought I’d share my perspective as a teacher who has struggled to find my footing in our new reality…

How am I doing, you ask?

To be honest, not well. I’ve been a teacher for 40 years now, and I really love teaching. I love the interactions with my students, and colleagues. I loved teaching high school band for 10 years–I couldn’t believe I got paid to make music with kids–and I really get a thrill now out of helping my college students find their voices as musicians and teachers, and helping them to realize their dreams; whether that’s being a middle school chorus teacher, or an early childhood music teacher, or a freshly minted college professor.

But I didn’t go into teaching to invite students to a Zoom meeting, wear a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and talk through a mic to a Brady-Bunch-style laptop screen where my most frequent advice is to remind my students to “unmute” their microphones. It feels artificial, and stale, and impersonal. Few of my favorite teaching “moves” translate very well to online instruction–no one has figured out how to rehearse a band virtually, and I simultaneously kind of doubt they will, while hoping they won’t.

Because teaching isn’t about the mere transfer of information, like some sort of antiseptic banking transaction. The best teaching is messy, and loud, and unruly, and chaotic, and unpredictable.

And I really, really miss it.

So, not so well.

Now, if there is a silver lining in this situation, I dearly hope that everyone currently struggling with our temporary reality, juggling “homeschooling” (it’s not homeschooling–it’s emergency teaching) with working from home, and mostly failing, will somehow come to understand the real value of public education. That when done well, it’s about much more than just teaching and learning, and about a whole lot more than obsessively testing every student from kindergarten to graduate school, until we’ve beaten the very last drop of joy and wonder out of learning.

If you love Broadway shows, if you love Sondheim, watch “Take Me to the World,” a celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday, featuring great Broadway stars.

I don’t know how long it will be available—for a day, a week, or forever.

I’m watching now. Join me!

Don’t miss it.