Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sing, Paint, Create; Fever Ray and Horace Pippin

No matter where the eye or ear may guide us, everything we hear or see is derived from another person’s creative thinking. Songwriting, sculpture, architecture, videos and paintings are all means of portraying the artist inspiration and message to the world. Even artist with different ideas can feel connected to one another through their artistic work. The range of personal achievements through creative talent can be seen in many types of artwork. The video “When I Grow Up” by Fever Ray squeezes out its creative juice in the mystical statement of a girl dancing above a pool to the unruly vocals of Elizabeth Andersson. The painting “Lady of The Water,” by Horace Pippin takes on a similar affect, with its disorderly proportions and vibrancy of color. As the two pieces reveal themselves to the eye and ear, the connection between the two is an overwhelming surprise.
Horace Pippin originally from Pennsylvania, grew up in the hustle and bustle of New York City. As a child he attended segregated schools, the one thing that kept him sane was his constant drawing of racehorses. As his childhood passed he ended up serving during World War I where in an unfortunate accident he lost the use of his right arm due to a gunshot. After his eventful young life, he decided to strengthen his arm again. Ten years later at the age of thirty-six he began to paint. He quickly became an interesting self-taught African-American painter of the time. Pippin obtained and brought to the surface his naïve sense of style due to his lack of professional learning. Naïve art usually can be identified for its childlike simplicity in the subject matters as well as the technique of the medium used.  Through out his life, many of his paintings mainly focused on slavery and American segregation, such pieces are recognized at museums and exhibits around the country.
Lady of the Lake by Horace Pippin
            Horace Pippin out stepped his distinctive style as a painter in 1932 when he created “Lady of the Lake.” The distinctive oil painting by Horace is placed in an unusual landscape tracing back literary symbols of the Arthurian legends. The painting is his own interpretation of a character from the legends called Lady of The Lake, a Celtic goddess. She is immune to aging as well as disease; the water is her escape. In Pippin’s painting, she is portrayed at the edge of the water as her nude body is facing the sun. Looking up at the sun she naturally leans on one arm on a blanket covered in Native American symbols. On the edge of the water leans a native inspired canoe. In the left corner of the painting stands a small cabin, which by proportion could never fit the body of the sunbather. The water glistens in the sun, as in the horizon a stretch of mountains and blue sky is visible. “Pippin does have a very naive way of creating images that are not necessarily in scale… it’s the details of life that are really what’s important to him and so that’s what he puts into his art,” says Lisa Messinger who is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gingrich). The clear exaggeration of the perspective and scale in the painting leads as a portrayal of a self-taught artist. The focus on the details is seen through the artist’s pallet at the time. His use of vibrant greens and the bright red in the lone rose in the corner draw focus to the work.
  From painting to the art of music, inspiration radiates from many especially from an artist going by the name of Fever Ray. The music video for her song “When I Grow Up” is another celebration of an artist’s expression and rise from the unknown. In her mid thirties the native of Sweden, Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson, released her debut solo album in 2009 under the name of Fever Ray. Originally she was the lead singer of The Knife, an electronic duo. Straying away from straight flow of electronic beat, she added a new feel to her music. Her vocals both shrill and deep bring pitch shifting and distorted tones leading to an ambient and experimental feel to the music. “When I Grow Up” is the second song on the Fever Ray album with an intriguing vibe. The lyrics of the song can lead different paths in their meaning. The lyrics both innocent and serious at the same time, take on a child’s point of view in realizing how the world really is. When asked about her music Andersson replied, “I think its very interesting when you can remove yourself from the music, even if you are the one creating it. That’s the thing with music, it allows you the possibilities to erase yourself for certain moments”(Evers). In other words, she sees her music as an escape from reality, a way of infinite possibilities to try something unknown.

 In the song Andersson sings, “When I grow up, I want to be a forester,” singing as if from a child’s imagination. She now realizes how much she has actually grown up and wants to re-connect herself with nature once again. She brings in the idea of how her life could of been if she had taken a different path. “This song involves so many feelings. Lots of love and understanding about life, death, cycles, energy,” said a journalist from the LA News (Ohanesian). Such themes of alternate perspectives and age can be traced to most the track on her album.  She released this album after having two children, which must have also been an inspiration for this song. Maybe Andersson feels that now that she had two children she is a stranger in the new environment, but also by having two children she feels closer to the earth and the on going cycle of life. Therefore in the video, the idea is simplified to a domestic setting of a swimming pool in a backyard. A girl dressed in clothing symbolizing the Native- American culture stands on the diving board. She sings and dances while balancing on the edge. The girl in the video as many might interpret as the artist, is just an actress chosen for the part in order to play out the perfect vision of the song.  The mystic atmosphere and bubbling movement of the water make the feel more surreal as if the girl is connecting with the world and Mother Nature.
Looking at all the aspects of the music video as well as the painting, both overplay similar authenticity.  Even though the themes and era of the pieces is separated by decades, both works radiate an aura of similar nature related vibes. Leaning on the native feel, the girl in the video wears minimal clothing resembling native wear with the colors and feathers. The vocals of Andersson resemble the tones of Native American or tribal music. In the painting, the portrayal of the girls is nude and simple, while lying on a blanket resembling a native design. The revealed naked body is a simple connection to being one with nature, “This composition is simple but very direct and brings you in with its color and detail and the fancifulness of some of the images.” States Lisa Messinger about the painting (Gingrich).  The analysis by the museum creator could easily be used to describe the video as well as the painting. The simplicity of the environment in both pieces allows one to focus on the underlying meaning without much unwanted distractions.
In the song as well as the painting, the connection of the cultural appeal exemplifies the theme “being one with nature.” In the Fever Ray video, the right side of the girls face is painted with white paint while a black eye is drawn on her left palm. The eye is a symbol of all knowing in the Native American culture; in this case it might represent the idea that one has to be all knowing in order to have a stronger connection with nature. In the song she talks about being one with nature, escaping and re-connecting with the earth. She sings, “When I grow up, I want to live near the sea. 
Crab claws and bottles of rum
. That’s what I’ll have staring at the seashell. 
Waiting for it to embrace me.” In the video such energy is achieved by the unnatural effects of the pool, as if the pool was acting more as a lake or an ocean. The foggy appearance as well as the darkness surround the atmosphere in the last minute of the video, secluding the domestic environment into something completely unknown and mystifying like the earth itself. In “The Lady of the Lake,” the language of nature is literally represented through the drawn environment. The girl secluded in a natural habitat by the water, surrounded by the mountain range and trees.
As the atmosphere and the lyrics drown us in the video, the vibrant paint and simple childish appeal drowns us in the painting. An artist can originate independently in the style of their work. The most intriguing is the kind of eccentricity an individual can real out from their thinking into an art form. The art form leads viewers on a search for symbolism, leading to discoveries others might never notice. From an ambient Swedish singer to an African-American painter, the world is filled with stimulating art filled with priceless originality.

Works Cited

Cornel, West. "Horace Pippin's Challenge to Art Criticism." Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History (202): 321-29. ARTbibliographies Modern. Web. 6 Nov. 2010. The source is found on a database called ARTbibliographies Modern at the Claire T Carney Library. The source is a critical look at Horace Pippin and his artwork. The author of the journal entry outlines Pippin's traits in his artwork. The source is somewhat helpful; I didn't use much information from it in my essay.
Evers, Derek. "The Mystery Of Fever Ray: An Interview With Karin Dreijer Andersson." The FADER. The Tripwire, 3 Feb. 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. This is source is found on The Fader, a website with articles and information on music and art. The source provides a background of Andersson with many details focusing on how she grew up and what she had been doing. The background information is a good source for the meaning of her songs. Following the background is an interesting interview by Derek Evers. The questions asked give an insight to the mystifying character of Andersson's music and her choice of genre. This source is one of the most helpful I have found, reading words that came out of the artists is the most personal source which can be accounted for most accurate.
Gingrich, Jane. "Lady of the Lake by Horace Pippin- Modern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: N.p.1982. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. The source is found on The Metropolitan Museum of Art web site. The painting "Lady of The Water" is located at the museum, therefore the source is very in formative. It provides the basic background about the artist as well as the focus and reason for the painting. I would recommend this source to anyone, it is easy to access as well as read through. Every piece of information provided is useful.
Karen, Wilkin. "The Naive & the Modern: Horace Pippin & Jacob Lawrence." New Criterion 13.7 (1995): 33-38. Art Index. Web. 6 Nov. 2010. I found this journal source on the Claire T. Carney Library research site, the database is called Art Index. The journal article provides information about Horace Pippin's naive art style, which is a major part of his artistic qualities. The focus is on the style and theme of his work which is a big part when analyzing artwork. The source had parts that were helpful as well as a lot of useless information, forcing a lot of skimming through the writing.
Ohanesian, Liz. "Five Reasons Why Karin Dreijer Andersson Is Our Pop Diva - Los Angeles Music - West Coast Sound." The LA Weekly. N.p., 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2010. The article is found on La Weekly website, and it is a current insight to Andersson. The Source provides very current attention to Fever Ray and her music. In the article, comparisons are made between Fever Ray and other artists today. Her style and creative manner is admired. The source is somewhat helpful, it is mostly opinionated not factual based.
Yates, Steve. "Fever Ray- Biography." Fever Ray. N.p., 2009. Web. 5 Nov. 2010. The information is found on the original Fever Ray website. The biography provided gives great information on Fever Ray's life and how she became such an influential artist. It talks about her music and the road to her solo album. Other parts of the website are useful as well, there are links to current news about her, tour dates, and links to her music.

The Ghost Hunters

Since the beginning of the semester television hasn’t caught much of my attention. Today, first day back at on break I realized maybe it is a good thing TV lost most my interest. Stumbling through the channels on TV, I did not find anything worth watching for more than five minutes. I finally begin to watch Ghost Hunters on the Syfy channel, mostly for the wrong reasons. A few people I know take that show seriously. Even though it was my first time watching it I could not help but laugh at the cast members and what came out of their mouths. The episode took place at the Norwich Sate Hospital. As a fan of horror and ghost stories, it thought to myself this could be quite the entertainment since the abandoned hospital building is believed to be haunted. The show Ghost Hunters quickly turned this eerie place into a humorous showing.           
            The Norwich State Hospital was opened in 1904 in Norwich, Connecticut in an isolated space looking over the Thames River. The hospital remained opened until the late 1990s; today the entire building remains abandoned.  The hospital was a mental health facility for the mentally ill as well as those sentenced guilty by law due to insanity.  The hospital started off with one single building, over the years expanding into numerous facilities. Most the facilities are connected by underground tunnels, which were used to transport the patients from one place to another. Many believe those tunnels were also used to torture patients who became uncontrollable. The place was reported haunted by members of the staff. They believe the reason for haunting is due to the speculated tortures.
            The Ghost Hunters team consisted of four main members and the camera crew. At the beginning of their arrival to the abandoned hospital they took time setting up cameras and voice recording systems in different facilities and underground tunnels. The show consisted of a good twenty minutes of exploration of the empty buildings by two teams. One team was two men, the other two women. In my opinion, the team of the two young women is set for entertainment as well as their attractive appearance. As both teams explored the dark hallways and room, the scenery and commentary seemed very repetitive without much expected excitement. The supposed sightings of figures and recordings the “moaning, footsteps, and crying voices,” never were showed to the viewer, only talked about by the cast. As I found myself following the episode, the two women with done up hair and dressed as if they did not belong in such an environment searched for unfamiliar presences. “Are you lonely, is there anywhere you would like to go, we have a car upfront. You’re not in trouble. You don’t have to be afraid of us. We are not nurses or doctors,” said one of the women trying to talk to the ghosts. At that point, I could nor help but laugh at the words that came out of her mouth.
            I’m not much of a critique, but I think television has reached a point of no turn around. As millions of people follow the ridiculous airings on TV, there is no possible way changing the networks. It is the most ridiculous reality shows or the “make-belief” dramatic series that catch the viewer’s attention while making the producers billons of dollars. I can’t imagine what the shows will entail in a few years, as only a few intelligent and worth watching shows are still intact at the moment.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

The New Freedom of Sound

            Today’s musical culture is ignited by new sounds. The European electronic influence is even touching the base with the artists on top of the charts in U.S. As the new era of dub-step and techno flows through us, DJs rise to the top as they combine extreme sounds with influential songs to produce an impactful sound daze. The thirty-two year old Lorin Ashton from San Francisco California introduced his creative intellect and love for music long before the popular era of dub-fluential and techno music. Starting of surrounded by underground music in his teenage year, he quickly learned how to move on to the top. Going by the name Bassnectar, his creation of the nineties, the freeform electronic artist began his journey as an influential DJ and producer.


            Bassnectar describes his music as "A free-form project that merges music, art, new media, social involvement, and community values; dedicated to a constantly evolving ethos of collaborative creation, self reinvention, and boundary-pushing experimentation."  One of his mixes takes on the ambient style of Fever Ray in her song “When I Grow Up.” The mix begins with a low beat bass, which sets up the structure of the song. Not many people realize that the first beat is always the most outstanding; to me it becomes the constant part of the song distinguishable amongst all others.  Following right after is a “wobble” bass, which tends to be used by many dustep musicians. The sounds start of in intervals, what come in layers that add on to create the song. I noticed that once the beat comes in, it plays throughout the whole song, in this case until the drop in the beat comes in the end.  The sound drowns you me in with the soft clapping in the background. In reality the sound appears to be too distant to distinguish without the distractions of other beats. The artist makes the addition of whistling, this sound reaches out to catch the final attention of the listener. This reminds me of something a long the lines of tribal sounds. As one sound adds on top of another, Ashton’s flawless manner of creating strange sounds appeal in an ear catching harmony. His way of speaking is in the beat; he creates the rise of emotion within us.
The songs are impossible to describe, as the sound takes on a new meaning to each and different listener. The artist makes us decide on our own. Because whatever we really think about the song, we will always merely question what Ashton thought or meant to create through it. Where lies the purpose of that artist to build up such an emotional effect in the song? Maybe the purpose is to embrace each and every sound as it first appears in the song, to allow the listeners to drown in the song as they wait till the song builds up to the climax.  Or is it to allow the listener to acknowledge how Bassnectar actually came up with the over all song, as in some kind of blueprint. Perhaps it is his master plan to create a constant, a beat that just sticks in our minds automatically. Once the beat sticks in our memory, we will always reach out to listen to such song again in order to feed what our memory craves.
As if the complete adoration to Bassnectar’s technological mix wasn’t enough, he brings in the unexpected. Vocals that seems, as they shouldn’t belong in the collaboration are added to the mix. Bassnectar explores the basic beats of the song as well as the artist’s vocals in “When I Grow Up” by Fever Ray. The song is from her first album as a solo artist back in 2009. She strays away from just allowing the lyrics to take on all the meaning.  The Swedish native places the influence of the song in her tones, which can be seen throughout her whole album. “I already know what my own voice sounds like, so I think it’s much more interesting to treat it as an instrument and treat it the same way I treat other instruments. But with the vocals I cannot only change the pitch, but the gender,” said Karin Dreijer Andersson, the lead of Fever Ray. Her vocals both shrill and deep bring pitch shifting, as well as distorted tones lead to an ambient and experimental feel to the music. In simpler words, even the artists that Bassnectar chooses to collaborate with are flawless examples of intuitive and unheard of manner of tone. He takes on the mainstream ideal of the song, but creates an uncorking of the piece of music. This not only adds energy to such song, but also creates a mass appeal that drowns many in the intoxicating sound.
My iPod is filled to the brim with music from many eras, cultures, and genres. Even after exploring Bassnectar’s music with more attention to the sound, it is hard for me to describe him in a distinctive way. From day to day, I hear music that can simply be generalized as “country” or “rap” or “pop.” Bassnectar does not achieve his music in a single solution, but rather uses multiple techniques of composition to create his collaborations. The sudden shifts in the meters, as well as speeds of electronic tempo make up the composers music. The new sounds bring me a sense of a new perspective. With new perspectives come new ideas, followed by outburst of my creativity. I advise anyone who is not afraid of the thumb of the bass and inorganic sounds to listen to what Bassnectar calls, "an amalgamation of every sound I've ever heard, mixed with ultra wicked basslines."