Monday, February 05, 2007

Relax and Float Downstream


It's been a long time since I simply sat down and listened to an album all the way through. I used to love to pop a CD on the stereo, pull out a drawing pad and let my mind go.

Back in Chicago, Linda and I used to make the monthly special posters for Hamilton's, the bar where we worked. I had to pencil, ink and color six of them every month. It was tedious work after the first one. In order to get through it, I would pop on Rust Never Sleeps and time would disappear. In fact, Rust Never Sleeps became the preferred album of my doodling; if I felt like letting go and just drawing, Neil and Crazy Horse were my soundtrack. Many years later, after I had first moved to new York, Alex gave me Oscar Peterson's Night Train and my drawing pads from that period are filled with whimsy inspired by Peterson, Ed Thigpen and Roy Brown.

But then two things happened. First of all, I began drawing rehearsals, and music--although present in most dance studios--became a lesser part of the inspiration. Trying to draw what was in front of me became the imperative, more important than letting my imagination go and seeing what would happen. Also, soon after moving to New York, along came Napster, the MP3 era and the shuffle option on my IPod and music-listening became an exercise in strolling through selections from my collection and songs snatched out of the context of their original album.

But.

Recently I received Joanna Newsom's Ys. I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about it on the blogs and I listened to the argument about it on All Songs Considered's end-of-year "Best Of" program, so I was intrigued. However, the thought of slogging through Five songs, averaging ten minutes or so each didn't really appeal.

Yes. I fight a serious shallow-streak. I am impatient and fidgety and agree with Carrie Fisher who once said, "The problem with instant gratification is that it takes too long." At least when it comes to music.

But.

Sitting in The Fall Cafe one day last week, I decided to listen to one of my new albums (on the IPod I named after my cousin Max who gave it to me). And I remembered I had just put Ys into the mix. I clicked on it it, got instantly lost in the music and started doodling away. It took three listens over the course of about a week to remind me of how wonderful it can be to just listen to some beautiful music and let the mind wander . . .

4 Comments:

Anonymous Sarah Sterner said...

wow...thats an awesome piece.

music is good :)

9:55 AM  
Blogger Jonny said...

I bet my old fashioned CD mix I gave you back when you gave me a Beta video tape also inspired a lot of beautiful drawings, right??????? Next I'm going to make you an album mix for the victrola.

2:21 PM  
Blogger jEFF said...

I recently listened to all of L-O-V-E with Michael Arthur esq. and it was quite a trippy experience.
There is something about getting a payoff to an investment.
I recently have listened to all of Sufjan Steven's Illinois, David Garza's Blind Hips in Motion and Jon Brion' Meaningless. And Michael, we recently listened to all of Neil Young Live at the Flmore East.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Michael Arthur said...

We did listen to the Filmore CD, yes. But that was in the car with stops hither and yon. Doesn't completely count.

By the by, Jeff is the guy you want to listen to an album with. He notices descending counter-melody lines and tempo stutters and out of tune moments of genius better than anyone.

10:02 AM  

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