Monday, November 17, 2014

"All art is regional"

In a recent exhibition entitled 'The artist's landscape', Jamtli museum in Sweden explores various modes of being tied to locality, and how 'landscapes' can be expressed through diverse media.

Anders Thorén (1860-1923). Winter scene from Åre, Sweden. Around 1900.

The exhibition cites art historian Carl-Göran Ekerwald, who says that "All art is regional", and that through socialization, artists are "tied to a particular region, geographically, biologically and mentally", which influences what they create.

However, the exhibition distinguishes between two different modes. One type is 'inner landscape', which artists carry within themselves through either memory or imagination, and finally express through their art. The other is inspiration of external landscapes, where one attempts to recreate one's surroundings using a static medium. 'The artist's landscape' shows both, using works from the Jamtli collection and workshops in collaboration with the county art association.

Friday, September 26, 2014

From Sligo to the Big Apple

One hundred years ago, in October 1914, Irish fiddle player Michael Coleman left his native County Sligo to travel to America. He first got work performing at music halls in the Boston area, but eventually moved to New York.

Michael Coleman had a great influence on Irish music - not only because he was a great musician, but also because he was one of the first traditional performers to reach a mass market. During the 1920's and 30's, Coleman made nearly eighty 78rpm records on various labels that got wide distribution in both the USA and back home in Ireland. Many of the tunes Coleman recorded have later become standard repertoire at Irish sessions anywhere around the world.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Adriatic in Hungary

How does the culture of the Adriatic tie in with the western border of Hungary? Savaria Museum in Szombathely is currently exploring those ties with a series of 8 exhibitions on art, ethnography, history and archeology at their various locations.

Earlier this week, there was lots of media attention for the opening of "Village on the Adriatic", a collaboration between Savaria Museum and the Ethnographic Museum of Istria, Croatia. The opening on Thursday attracted three television networks, as well as numerous other journalists.

The event was especially successful in engaging the Gradisce Croat national minority, who's ancestors first came to the region in the 1530s as refugees from the Ottoman wars. Gradisce Croats that I spoke with said they appreciated that institutions are now taking an interest in subjects relevant to THEIR history.

Another exhibition in this series will be shown at the Szombathely Keptar gallery until the end of August 2014. It focuses on Hungarians in the Croatian Adriatic seaport of Rijeka before the first world war. Postcards, photos and publications from 100 years ago are the primary elements:

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The kora

One of the most famous instruments in West Africa is the kora - a 21 string bridge-harp traditionally played by poet/musicians known as 'griot'. Koras are generally made from large calabash gourd halves, with skin soundboards and nylon strings going over a double bridge then being fastened to a long neck in front. One plays with the thumb and index finger of each hand.

Kora player Solo Cissokho & his son Ibou Cissokho are originally from Senegal, but moved to Oslo, Norway in the 1990's. Solo Cissokho has been active in promoting West African culture to Scandinavians for a generation, and his son is also now involved in concerts, not least through tours for the Norwegian organisation 'Rikskonsertenë́'. Here they are playing a wonderful piece together, recorded at their home.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A great metaphor

In May 1814, representatives came from near and far for the national congress to draft a constitution for Norwegian independence from Denmark. On May 16th, delegate Gustav Peter Blom made a diary entry commenting on the marching band performing there: "There was particularly good music played by the Nordenfjeldske Janissary Band, where the virtuoso Hedenstrøm shined with his trumpet, and excited our intellects. If only the trumpet of truth could give such wonderful tone in every misled mans ear. If only the Congress could create music, so free of the dissonance of evil and slander, and the whole area would resonate with the harmonic chords of Norwegian society!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mr. Bones

It was at an Irish bar South of San Francisco one evening in 1978. I had been playing flute for a Step Dancing group, and afterwards started talking to one of the customers. And he looked familiar. Of course! Percy Danforth, better known as Mr. Bones. I had seen him performing the year before in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Percy liked the attention I gave him. He took a set of bones out of his coat pocket, and gave me a lesson:

Percy had worked as an engineer all his life, and was still active in engineering at the age of 78. His engineering knowledge influenced also his musical work. The set of wooden bones that I got from him that evening was a design that he had made out of many different materials - both wood and metal.

The secret of bones playing is in the balance, he said. If you are holding the bones correctly, they will almost play themselves. Then you can play for a whole evening without your wrists wearing out...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Tune at Trinity

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to visit a Dublin exhibition named "In Tune: A Millennium of Music in Trinity College Library".

The exhibition shows many of the most important preserved manuscripts and printed Irish sheet music from the last four centuries.

Using a combination of posters, original documents, lectures and concerts, In Tune covers a wide range of musical sources. That it has a large number of visitors comes as no surprise, as Trinity College Library's Book of Kells and Ireland's oldest Harp are two of the country's most popular tourist atractions

"In Tune: A Millennium of Music in Trinity College Library" is open until April 2014.