Friday, December 17, 2010

My Top Ten

If you have not seen my Top Ten anywhere else, here it is...Enjoy.

New Releases:

William Parker Quartet, Uncle Joe’s Spirit House (AUM Fidelity)

Matthew Shipp, 4D (Thirsty Ear)

David S. Ware, Saturnian (AUM Fidelity)

Vox Arcana, Aerial Age (Allos Documents)

Dave Rempis and Frank Rosaly, Cyrillic (482 Music)

Joe McPhee, Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen and Mikolaj Trzaska, Magic (Not Two)

Wadada Leo Smith, Ed Blackwell, Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer (Kabell)

Hamid Drake and Bindu, Reggaeology (RogueArt)

Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys, Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity)

Odean Pope Ensemble, Odean’s List (In + Out)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Missing the Water

The form of water that has invaded the season is now snow. I do not mind snow. Because it is an insulator. What I do mind is missing the sense of flow that the motion of water conveys. Granted snow is a product of the flow of the weather and each snowflake changes with every second, especially in the melting of the crystals. But those changes are invisible to me on a microcosmic the grey days pass into sunny, bright ones and the wind gusts die down and the air is still.

Change seems to be invisible except as periods of time pass. I turned sixty this year. So far I feel the same as I did when I was fifty-nine, a day earlier than my birthday. Yet, in August of 2009, I had major surgery, which led me to the couch literally, for months. I could walk, yes; but I could not do as actively as I had before the surgery. So what happened was that over time, what would happen to any person happened to me. I gained weight and in all the wrong places.

My diet has been as effective as it can be. I bought a stationary bike. I use it as often as possible. I am actually in a good mood most of the time. But I have this one pair of pants that I wear for work pants that are tight. On some days, they feel less tight than on other days. It is discouraging. It seems that over that period of months and now it has been over a year and a half, I lost feeling good in my body.


Believe me, it is not easy using the best creative parts of me to transcend the physical. But, I have to. Even when the transcendence is delivered with a sense of humor.


Gazing at the water is a peaceful means to focus. The water is powerful. It has weight, but no meaning. The sound of the pounding excites me; I am inspired by that over which I have no control.

The belief that I can live out the rest of my life happily and pursue my personal fulfillment must be all-pervasive and that belief must ooze out of my pores and be filtered by them at the same time. I have no control over what happens for the rest of the day, much less the rest of my life. Casting away dread is a major step in letting myself go in the directions I need to go in. Then I have to make mistakes. Mistakes are vehicles for taking hold of what is possible, otherwise, how would I find direction? And be fearless about turning the corner, turning the page, whatever metaphor is applied to mean: going for it! So I can sleep at night, for heaven's sakes.

When I meditate, I am with the universe. I take no form as does the water or even my body. I am not even particles. I see nothing and breathe. Thinking of the sound of the water is a gateway to emptying my mind, which is itself a pathway to another time and another place that I knew nothing of before I meditated.

I am not missing the water, only the external physicality of it. I dream of being one with it. Now and now again. After all, water is part of my constitution. My dreams should be easy to come by.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Voice of the People: A Discovery

Not long ago, violinist Shem Guibbory introduced me to a recording which he produced through his project, Innovative Music Programs, Inc. Guibbory's intent is to bring attention to that which becomes hazy and under-recognized. Founder of the IMP in 2002, Guibbory used his organization to create a vehicle for music programming and to develop a network of venues and artists. "This network now [in 2007] empowers the Company in two ways: 1) to offer broad, powerful capacities to serve communities and organizations around the world, and 2) to help members more fully develop and express their own artistic and creative potential."

Consistent with the mission of IMP, Voice of The People, carries with it a theme common to members of every branch of the creative world such that deeply-rooted traditional culture can be revivified and translated into many forms in order to be appreciated within a present time context. That contemporary creative languages are easily accessible in a world that changes so rapidly embraces and supports the very idea that ancient cultures can be lost until someone stops for a moment and realizes how the pace of life is overtaking the maintenance of the human spirit.

The recording was released in the summer of 2010. Subtitled "Chamber Music for Violin, Soprano and Piano," it transcends the idea of casual entertainment. Underlying every piece is a subtext that concerns the oppression of originality and vital human forces. This music resuscitates the value of culture, its irreplaceable value, in the global context.

Represented on this album are two composers, the young and vibrant Gabriela Lena Frank (b.1972) and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

Frank's heritage is multi-faceted. Her mother comes from Peruvian and Chinese descent and her father, Lithuanian-Jewish. Already established within her approach to her art is an inherent recognition of the significance of the integrity of culture, whether or not her work reflects her own history. Latin American culture has been the source of inspiration for her music. She has crafted her knowledge of its folklore, poetry, music, mythology and history into a signature Western classical musical language.

On Voice of the People, are two of Frank's works. The first is based on a series of photographs by Peruvian photographer Martin Chambi (1891-1973). Written for piano and violin, "Sueňos de Chambi" (trans. "Dreams of Chambi") are precise and specific.

If the musical notes could be translated into words, they would describe accurately the motion, the human characteristics, the sobriety, and the joy in the photos which enliven her senses. Guibbory's adamant and certain strokes of his bow sometimes lead the piano played by Sonia Rubinsky into spaces which often allude to out of the ordinary rhythmic constructs for classical form.The violin and piano might diverge and connect as if two partners were going their separate ways in the same direction.

In "Sueňos," Guibbory's expressivity reaches those intimate places that exude strength and tenderness simultaneously. Similarly, Rubinsky's solo piano in "Adoraçion para Angelitos" does not shy away from allowing a minor key mood to shape the phrasing into a lullabye-like melody, evoking the photographic scene of the decorated pyre on which dead child lies in repose, ensconced in white and surrounded by floral wreaths and talismans.

In another piece, Guibbory's violin also calls from afar through the interaction of downbows coupled with pizzicatos. A bow action that rips through the high register or tends to a exuberant rhythmic tremolo conjoins with the piano as it was meant to, as the piano's partner and friend, perhaps in a lively traditional dance that has been practiced repeatedly, no doubt, for centuries.

That Chambi's photos have been translated to a new medium fulfills not only the composer's intentions but also allows the tension between pictures and words to be alleviated for a few moments and felt in ways that allow the listener's imagination to let go and move into a visual field. The seven photos, corresponding to the seven recorded works, as well as an explanation of the composer’s choice are viewable at the IMP website.

The second of Frank's compositions, “Cuatros Canciones Andinas” (1999) For Soprano and Piano, finds its roots in the poetry of Quechan Indian José Maria Arguedas (1911-1969). Words from the composer about her perceptions of the poet are also found at the IMP website. With the piano accompaniment of Craig Ketter, soprano Susanna Eyton-Jones conveys the bleakness of Arguedas view of the "civil" beast that inflicted itself on native Peruvian culture to modernize it.

Eyton-Jones’ inflections in her Spanish tongue add a dramatic component to the music that would not exist if she were not singing. This is evident in “I Am Nursing A Fly,” a song which talks about the paradox of feeding of a fly, which also is a purveyor of death. Her rendering of the text of “Yunca,” a lost Peruvian language dating to the 1600’s, is gripping to the core, the piano tolling intermittently like a bell behind her penetrating soprano tonality or being pounded with bass chords to emphasize her spoken words. Frank’s music speaks sensitively of the tortured existence of the poet, whose desire to remain pure in his Andean lifestyle did not succeed.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is well-known for his obstinacy in committing to his music, despite the unyielding barriers he struggled against during the Stalinist regime. According Laurel E. Fey, as told in the introduction to her book, Shostakovich: A Life, "...To an extent unique among his artistic peers, Shostakovich managed to survive successive Stalinist cultural purges to rise again to unparalleled heights of national and international acclaim...To many of his contemporaries his music extended a vital cultural lifeline, a latent 'chronicle' in sounds of the harsh emotional realities of their times." “Sonata for Violin and Piano” (1968, Op. 134) , written originally for David Oistrakh (1908-1974), is performed on this record by Guibbory and pianist Elizaveta Kopelman. “Sonata for Violin and Piano” is the only piece of its kind by the composer.

This duo’s phrasing of the piece emphasizes the music’s exquisite tempos, not unlike how words might be spoken or descriptive of how the meaning of words might be felt. There are breaths in between words. The inflections, accentuations and punctuation change as the bow travels over the strings, not so much ornamentally, but as a result of Guibbory’s technical facility; he is exacting when it comes to dissonance and double stops; he hints at melodic structure or melts into it as if he were one with it; he marches through or caresses pizzicatos without a hitch. The piano holds the ground for the violin to act freely. Its lower tone, even when played in the treble clef, lifts the violin’s lines into a plane of its own. The piano and violin blend in their differences rather the similarities of what they do in the same measures. The Largo and Andante of the last movement of the Sonata clears the way for an ultimate expression of both instruments, its close at once poignant and hopeful, the violin at its highest peak, the piano at its lowest and then the two together in a questioning mode at a mysterious end.

The voices in this recording are not only the voices of the composers, of the instrumentalists, and of the soprano, but also the voices of the silent ones. Those owned by the people in Chambi’s photographs; of the poet, who committed suicide, having spent his life making metaphors of cultural eradications; of the 20th century Russian composer, who echoed the personal pain of being silenced. Those are the voices that have laid the groundwork for what can be said now and the way in which it can be said. Those are the voices that no longer can be silent.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer

In the summer of 2010, Wadada Leo Smith asked me if I would like to do the cover art for a release of music that he recorded at Brandeis University in 1986 with drummer Ed Blackwell.

I said that I would be honored.

I did several drawings and sent the last image to him, thinking I had visually summarized the music.

But, he picked the very first one, which I had done off the top of my head, without really thinking about the music. It is called "Horn and Drums;" it was the most free and uninhibited image of all the drawings I created and has everything to do with the music.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Time Has No Edges

It takes courage to get out of bed in the morning and realize that everything is going to be new, just as yesterday, everything was also new, but today, is in the past.

We may think the same thoughts that we thought yesterday, but within a different frame work. I may go to the grocery store today with the list I made yesterday.
I may follow my morning routine, but eat and drink my coffee in an altered sequence from the one that I followed yesterday.
I may sleep in the same bed I sleep in every night, but have a sore back this morning.
I may want to write this blog entry now, whereas a few minutes ago, I had no idea that I was going to start writing.
I may do another drawing using the same kinds of lines that I used on a drawing last week, but the drawing has another way of being, another circumstance for viewing.

Within the last six months, each Sunday, I have been accompanying a close friend of mine, who is a photographer, to places I never knew existed. These places ooze with spectacular vistas, or overwhelmingly earthy smells, or exceedingly sensuous environments, or glass-like slippery rocks, or miles and miles of trails through thousands of trees. They are places to absorb the natural temporary circumstances, because tomorrow those circumstances will change. A lush waterfall will have become a series of delicate trickles or the leaves may have fallen off the trees or the temperature might have plummeted 60 degrees and snow will be where dusty footprints once were.

The passion which directs me to write these words to describe the aforementioned are meant capture the moment, not in a photographic way. Rather in a way that reveals the moments' transition into other moments, that reminds me to breathe and enjoy the air, that triggers endless ideas, opens my heart and mind to clarity and the pristine qualities of vitality and the fleeting notions which are only steps to other fleeting notions.

Writing occupies my time when I am exploring the truth of what goes...How is my everyday life, without psychology. The way in which situations present themselves. Without any premonitions, astrological explanations or calendars of events. More with acts of impulse that are ready to go within the subconscious.

Repeating myself is not boring. I am reviving whatever is repeated. I am giving it new energy. New color, new tone, new means to evolve.

How invigorating poetry is, not to be bound by editorial rules and guidelines.
Which poem is better than another?
Which take on a record sounds better than another?

Why do I tear up a drawing that has been hanging with a group of similar ones?
The group looks better... no diverging principles of content?
What are, in fact, the details that are a matter of concern? Too many squiggles; not much sense in the way the lines penetrate the plane; no means to balance the impact of the squiggles and the straight lines. The details must make a big difference. The drawing I dispensed with was dumb.

How is it that the music I am listening to grips me and infuses me with the will to move to the rhythms and dance with the resonance of the vibes? For what reason do I choose a certain kind of music to embrace me with a sense of time that comes only in this certain way?

How do I know that the breeze coming through the window is transporting a system of weather conditions that will cause me to cover myself with more blankets when I sleep tonight? I know because the temperature did drop about 30 degrees within the last hour and the window now needs to be shut.

A good way to derive satisfaction is to do something I have never done before. Like finally taking a camera with me, albeit a little dinky one, to all these glorious places my friend and I go to so that I can drink in the intensity of the way the leaves rustle in the wind, while my friend seeks his best camera shot within close proximity, within a distance where I can easily call to him, if I need to.

And tomorrow, which words will I choose to use for what purpose?
The answer escapes me.
I do not know.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Video: Abundance, copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Impetus for Agglomeration

Language has different meanings for everyone. Everyone speaks his/her own individual language even though the spoken parts are the same. But not everyone translates one kind of language into another. From speaking language to a musical or visual one.

Generally, the sequencing of words is antithetical to thought. This is the reason that grammar no doubt was designed so that some kind of uniformity be imposed on the way in which words come out so that, when assembled, they could be understood by those who can understand.

But, poetry, art and music are not about sequencing necessarily; they arise from the whole mind without any rules: they originate automatically.

I like combining words and pictures. Not in the sense, that a picture means a thousand words, but that pictures, stationary or moving, imprint concepts in ways that words cannot.

Maybe the combination of words and pictures is really my work. And that continually separating them is causing unnecessary struggle both in my writing words and my making pictures or drawings. Perhaps I am on to something here. Perhaps the natural basis for verbal and visual events is their combination, at least for me. Maybe I am fighting an internal battle for no reason.

But then, I have to consider that many of the words I write are about music rather than for the sake of being themselves. In the largest sense, I can deal with the combination of three languages. Many mixed media events. Yet, I sacrifice the purity of the three different, distinct languages.

So what am I after? I am after the space where the mind is at peace when involved with any one of the three languages on which I focus. When I am mindless in my mindfulness.

I am not a musician: I write about music. Apparently with a viewpoint that is oddly clarifying. Because the impulses the musician goes through every time he/she improvises or composes formally, bear striking similarity, I feel, to the ones I go through when I am pulling together strange visual marks on surfaces.

That water has come to pre-occupy me of late has everything to do with achieving mindfulness. To listen to the water's roar invests me with its power. Water can carve any path that it finds. A product of nature, not a result of the decision the water makes. No complaints, no worries, no emotions, no suffering. That the earth is partially water is a blessing. For us. Recognizing how fluid motion happens teaches me to let go.

To let the words move into space effortlessly, to let the marks in making art come from within without question, to interpret music as the moments allow and give the reader the poetry that the interpretation is.

Solo, in and out, a filter through miles of useless energies, to burn pure light and be essence.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Photo: Waterfall, copyright 2010 Lyn Horton
Image: Polyphasia, copyright 1990-10 Lyn Horton
Video: Mergeance, copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art as the First Course

Making visual art is easy for me. Writing is more of a challenge. I started writing when I began to immerse my life into music, because I was catapulted into solitude after my ex-husband left me, lo, these many years ago. My focal points had shifted. I turned inward. There was no one to talk to except myself.

Writing is a challenge because it is not my first language for expressing myself as visual art language is. That I have chosen to write mostly about creative improvised makes the most sense to me; it happened fortuitously.

That I would approach an art form that was relatively new to me and that required a real effort to become comfortable with is no surprise. My visual art is concerned with simplification-- boiling an idea down to its essence. Improvised music elevates that essence in clear view and expands on it within temporal, music-making parameters that are known only after the music is performed.

Every time I hear a recording or a performance from a musician I know or not, the music is totally unexpected. The performance space is like a blank piece of paper. The musicians are the vehicles for filling the space, like the artist who is responsible to that empty surface. Their instruments are the tools, just like pencils, pens, brushes, markers are for the visual artist.

I am giving a talk on my work in a couple of days, October 1, 2010, to be exact. In this talk, I will trace 40 years worth of work. At first, culling through hundreds of slides, I became so depressed. It was as if I was experiencing the processes of making the art pieces and then choking on endless repetitions of their object-ness.

William Parker once said to me that he never listened back to what he had recorded unless it was for a specific technical or mechanical reason. I can understand why. Why would anyone want to revisit the scene of the improvisation? Whatever one does later will always be different. The only possible explanation for returning to one's work after it has long been accomplished is out of curiosity, to find out how much integrity the work really has.

I find often that when doing new work, some of the old is reflected in it. To my amazement, the "old" part may be, as far as I am concerned, at the beginning of consciousness, when I began to know what it meant to wield a pencil or in a larger context, have an idea, for Heaven's sakes.

The idea seems innocuous enough, but the idea causes struggle. My mind is built a certain way; it is happy living in a routine, a realm of sameness. Pushing out of the routine is basically like pulling teeth without Novocaine. The amount of objectivity required to move the idea in a new direction is paramount to the evolution of the work.

How that idea plays out in the world is unimportant in the ideal sense. I have to keep reminding myself that it is more satisfying to do the work than to have it on the cover of Artforum or Art In America, for instance. In some ways, I would be lying, because that is all I want. That is what I vociferously told this "manager" I had years ago. Well, he was thrown in jail because he double-dipped in fees (he skimmed from duped clients as well as the artists) and his representation of artists was a fraudulent act or so the Attorney General of the State of New York at the time believed.

I have made many mistakes. I am hoping that the era of my life where I make the wrong choices is over. Because I am coming into the second cycle of my time here on earth according to the Chinese calendar. The mistakes I have made still irk me no end. Going through the "what if.." question and answer sessions consumes time and is useless.

My talk is supposed to involve the correlation between improvisation in art and music. The one to one correspondence does not necessarily exist. But the direct reason for my being able to write about music is that I do the art. I go through an automatic act. I feel every line. Then, after awhile, the experience subsumes the singularity of each line. I am in a kind of heaven. The problem is staying there and not being distracted, which I am, by other tasks. Perhaps, I would not do well in a retreat or an artists colony because I need to do dishes, or the wash. But maybe I don't. Maybe a retreat would calm me down and ameliorate my propensity for distraction. Like one long meditative process, where I have reached down into my soul and am relaxed and determined enough to stay there.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Video: copyright 2010 Richard Laurie and Lyn Horton

Image: copyright 2010 Lyn Horton, Detail from Strand Series, 2010.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


In creation, there are moments where the creator can see or hear that which has never been seen or heard before. These are types of epiphanies, I suppose. But at the same time, these moments mark measurements of growth that have occurred and, more importantly, the bases on which growth will spring.

Growth is a matter of change. No musician I talk with has ever not said that growing in the music requires listening to oneself and in a sense objectifying what is heard. I do not know how easy it is to turn music upside down, or sideways. I suppose it is done through knowing the musical language so well that inversions are easy.

One pianist I know turned around a piece of Chopin so that it was completely unidentifiable as Chopin's. The piece became a mystery and I appreciated it for how I heard it. Not knowing Chopin in every detail abetted my inability to recognize what the pianist had done in a tricksterish way. There is no doubt in my mind that such analysis and rebuilding of Chopin's work could have only influenced his own. Small measures of learning allow great steps to be taken in the next act of creation.

No one can invest in development without taking risks. I climbed two stories worth of rocks a while ago not knowing that I was going to do it; I only thought I was going to go up a few feet to reach a certain spot. I have never climbed rocks in my life, much less in my bare feet. Now I know that I can do it again.

Looking at a blank piece of paper is a scary proposition. I do not think people do that much anymore. Rather the object of gaze is a computer screen or some other unconventional surface. Visual artists will use anything, from pools of water to a pile of nails. For improvising musicians, the blank piece of paper is the time-space ahead of them and how they will use it with their instruments.

The question is what carries creative people to the next step when the gates open and a rush of doing occurs? It is so different and the same from person to person, no matter what the art. To note is that inside each person is some sort of storm of experience. As if the epicenter and simultaneous axis retains the core of existence of every creative being and the whirlwind that rotates from the center is filled with the varying life poetry whose influx is particular to each artist.

So as I write, I am speaking in a language of all time in which there are no words, no pictures, no sounds. I have known this language throughout my entire life on earth, throughout the suffering, the joy, the hardships, the personal internal triumphs. The smiles, the moods, the aloneness, the solitude, the false conclusions, the mental anguish, the revelations of the truths where superficiality is shed like the skin of a snake.

Although creation can be excused in a purposeful exercise in abstraction, abstraction is only a shadow of how it really happens. The creator lives to step away from those shadows. The shadows of the past, the shadows that outsiders imagine, the shadows of an inner being. Creation is a means of exploding out of how we are bound.

The result of the creative act can disappear as fast as it arrives. When it comes to music, the sound resonates to the point of extinction; when it comes to art, the art object may become stuck in materiality until it decomposes but the true idea of it will have moved into another place; because in the making of one piece of art, the next one is forming.

Creation is a means of aligning ourselves with everyone else no matter how resistant the artist may be to do that. It's gonna happen anyway. The individual on earth will de-atomize, as the process of art progresses, and radiate into the universal consciousness. The church of all, the apse of unity, the Rose window through which heavenly light penetrates.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Video: Matthew Shipp live at A38 in Budapest, Hungary, September 5th, 2008,
opening for Joe McPhee, Roy Campbell, William Parker and Warren Smith

Photo: copyright 2008-10 Lyn Horton
Ceiling of the Angel Orensanz Foundation Building

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creativity As Life Tonic

Asking the question "where does human creativity begin ?" is silly.

It is like asking the questions "what is art?," "what is God?," "what is the origin of the universe?" Answers to these questions concern definitions, which require parameters, demand objectivity and possibly deep analytical scrutiny. Answers to these questions defeat the phenomena to which the questions refer. But, the latter statement can only be declared when all three questions have been answered by those who believe they can answer them and, in fact, do. I am guessing that the number of qualified artists, art historians, theologians, physicists, astronomers and phenomologists have offered innumerable answers to these elemental questions and will in the future.

If I am going to be creative, I am not going to take a course in "How To Be Creative." Doing creativity is an act of consciousness in the same realm of awareness that guides daily automatic activities.

In a conversation with a photographer, I was discussing the tenet that creativity just is and that no number of 'how to' books could ever substitute for the actual doing of the art. He argued that in gathering technical information, it was necessary to learn from 'how to...' books in order to make the photographs he took close to how he wanted them to look. I am guessing that, in his art, it is detail that is of the utmost importance and framing the subject offsets any compositional issues. Through his lens, composition is a moot point. Nothing is set up; he pays attention, adjusts, and clicks.

His intentions are fulfilled. How he follows his intuition in order to decide whether he trashes the photo or not, only he can determine. He learns from every photo he takes. He see what works and what does not work and assimilates one photographic session in search of the next.

So I said in reply: Your looking through the viewfinder and choosing what you see is the same thing as my drawing the first line on a piece of paper. That first line tells me what to do in the rest of the drawing just as the first picture you take tells you what changes you want to make for the next picture.

Between the first line or the first photograph and the second line and the second photograph, the creative mind has taken over. No description in the world of this phenomenon can ever equal it. This phenomenon is ecstatic, irreversible, and done. Just done. It is a step toward newness. Art that is newer and edgier than the old art, which could have existed ten seconds ago. The phenomenon is also moving its owner into a plane of heightened, indescribable, meditative awareness.

There are those who never discover this plane of awareness, no matter how long they have worked in their medium, no matter what. Perhaps working within some media does not permit awareness to be a part of the work. Perhaps the choice of medium is a means to diverge from any possibility of achieving awareness. Perhaps sheer obstinacy destroys the state of mind that is required to attain awareness. Superficial pursuit of the "great statement" incorporated with an adequate delusion that it is achievable will always lead to emptiness, nothingness, zilch.

Pieces of art are not Masters or PhD theses. Pieces of art are the shining stars that lead artists to wherever they are going. Artists are never satisfied with what they do. Having finished one photograph, one drawing, one painting, one anything, they are looking to the next one because they were witnessing the process of the work in the present and can taste the future.

Sure, you gotta have the tools. But all the tools in the chest mean nothing unless they are used properly, applied towards an end that is merely a beginning.

Creativity is the water that springs from the fountain of youth. Seizing the moments when it functions injects artists with energy, life, light, and the will to carry on. They do not have to say a thing.

Copyright 2010 Lyn Horton

Top and middle: copyright 2010 Richard Laurie;
Bottom: "Across," copyright 2009-10 Lyn Horton.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grasping The Essential

On June 12, 2010, The International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven, CT, began its eighteen-day long series of events. One of the first was a lecture by Jock Reynolds, the Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, on the work of Sol Lewitt, specifically focusing on the 25 year retrospective of Lewitt's Wall Drawings at MASSMoCA in North Adams, MA.

Aside from urging members of the audience to go to MASSMoCA to experience the three-floor installation of one hundred and five drawings spanning Lewitt's art-making life within 1969-2007, the year he died, Reynolds focused on the installation process. The process for every wall drawing is extremely basic, simple and systematized though arduous and detailed-oriented. For
each drawing, there are few elements. How these elements are combined creates a finite number of possibilities. Sometimes the drawings have plans instead of instructions. The placement of every drawing is determined by the drawings in close proximity and always in relation to the architecture.

One example that Reynolds concentrated on to illuminate the idea of Lewitt's own act of conceiving was Wall Drawing #260. This drawing is done with oil crayon on a painted wall; primary blue happened to be chosen for this installation. There are twenty different components, made up of straight lines, broken lines, arcs, not-
straight lines. One hundred sixty combinations of those components create the wall drawing. The components vary according to their position within a square, e.g. a straight ruled line is positioned horizontally on center, vertically on center, or diagonally from each corner, left to right, right to left.

This drawing is as basic as the Periodic Table of Elements. It is quintessential. It addresses the elemental in creation. That it is so pure allows seeing it in imaginative ways. As Reynolds talked about this drawing, he described it as "lines dancing across the wall surface." And they are. The square by square layout of the combinations disappear and the eye can travel up and down, back and forth, across and around without constriction. The eye engages in an improvisational viewing process. Strange, unpredictable arrangements of the wall surface are demarcated by the placement of the lines.

But more significantly, the drawing uses repetition as a means to express that everything really is different in time-space even though it may look the same; the drawing shows change within specific parameters. One cannot appreciate it unless all preconceived notions of the structure of art are put aside. Then, realizing that the best art houses very simple statements that release the mind from complexity takes a step in the direction of totally surrendering to its impact. The act of looking becomes a process of absorbing and becoming mesmerized. Entranced. One with the art.

Later on that evening, a production of Lucinda Childs' "Dance" took place at the Shubert Theater. It is a collaboration among Childs, Lewitt and Philip Glass that originally was created in 1979. The piece spans sixty minutes; three parts each last twenty. Reynolds' words about Wall Drawing #260 revivified the "Dance" performance extensively by connecting the act of drawing with the act of the dance as accompanied by the music. Three separate art forms merged, evoking a spirituality that transcended tangible dimensions.

Seeing this work now, forty years later not only reinforces its sheer elegance, but also presents a picture of the texture of this type of art at its peak, when it was not yet beginning to lose its freshness in relation to its invention. The concept of maximizing slight moderation had evolved out of minimalism in response to Abstract Expressionism and all the gunk associated with painting with the exception of Jackson Pollock, who threw the act of improvisational painting into the public eye. Pollock was more of a conceptual artist than people realize. Rothko, similarly so, but at the opposite imagery pole. Ironically what followed Conceptual Art was an equally gunky era in the 1980s which aspired to self-involvement, self-importance, the bigness of big, the most sensational of sensational, money and the marketplace. Only a few artists represented the latter. But their activity gave permission to anyone to do art and call whatever they did art and this was not based on Duchamp's contributions to art's evolution. It was about the glut of artists who were coming on the scene and making a living off bunches of eclectic, derivative emptiness. The soul of art evaporated.

There is more soul in the spareness of the work of Lewitt, Childs and Glass at this point in time than one would expect. That soul was shared by many artists who came after 1979. But somehow, I missed them. I was trained in the era of purity of expression. My soul is deep, my compassion endless. My art is infinite.

Copyright 2008-10 Lyn Horton

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More than A Moment

Reading about music, in general, gives me the opportunity to soak in information, opinion, ideas about culture and develop a repository from which I can draw for my own writing. This is not unusual, I am sure, for many writers. If I stay within the well of a human history of time, it is without doubt that some shred of what is important to me will remain in my brain for use later on.

When I first started seriously reading about "jazz" and improvised music about ten years ago, some books I would slide through merely picking up the gist of the content. Which was ok, because even though I did not know the implications of what I was reading, I still knew where the information was located if I needed it for reference.

The dancer, Twyla Tharp, in her 2003 book, The Creative Habit, adamantly advocates for passionate involvement when reading. She claims that if a book has no markings in it, the reader has passively traveled through the book. Marking up a book means that the reader has noted revelations that are meaningful and has learned from the text. Tharp gave me permission to mark up books. Using dull pencils, I underline, write comments in the margins, draw stars beside important passages; I turn page corners to identify important passages that I have marked or fold an entire chapter's worth of pages in half to prompt me to read the chapter again.

After I finish a book, I put it on my bookshelves in the music section, which, needless to say, has grown since I dedicated a part of my life to the music about which I write. Interestingly enough, I have returned to few books to research information. But one of those books is As Serious As Your Life by Valerie Wilmer, which, I believe is the most important book on the beginnings of the recognition of improvised music that there is. I have returned to others but have found remarkably that I absorbed more than I thought and, when I write, whatever I absorbed just rolls onto the page when necessary.

At first, I had no context in which to place myself when reading or a basis for developing a viewpoint. Lo, these many years later, the niche for writing that I wandered around to find I have established for myself: creative improvised music. Although I can listen to traditional and mainstream jazz, I hear it for what it is and what it might mean. The filters that my mind applies in listening, do the job of allowing me to recognize immediately when music has some guts to it or something to understand and think about.

At the present time, I am reading The Blue Moment by Richard Williams. Although I am only partially through it, I can say that his approach to Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue," is absolutely extraordinary and blows all previous attempts to assess the significance of this record out of the water. Williams casts a nod to Eric Nisenson and Ashley Kahn for their books presenting information about this landmark recording. But what these books did not do is surround their central theme with the shape of the world coming into the time of the recording in a way that is so sensitive to culture and the consistency of culture that reading the book is satisfying and I feel as though I am visiting a museum, rather than a newspaper stand. With all due respect, the intentions of Nisenson and Kahn may have not been to surround their subject in the same fashion as Williams does.

My reading experiences of histories and biographies are memorable when the authors give me the richness of a whole world. Quentin Bell's biography of his aunt, Virginia Woolf, has done that. Diedre Beir's biography of Samuel Beckett has done that. Robin D.G. Kelley's biography of Thelonious Monk has done that and so has George Lewis' history of the AACM, Roxanna Robinson's biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, James Mellow's Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein & Company, editor S.P. Rosenbaum's The Bloomsbury Group, Jeremy Bernstein's biography of Einstein and the history of earlier 20th century physics.

These books, among many others, paint pictures of eras and invite me into the interpreted experiences of the creators of art, literature, theories, music. As someone who creates, I understand the words I read, not completely because I am not in the time period nor am I the person being written about. But I am in the books. I am part of the creative energy.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton
Photo: Lyn Horton, "Bicameral Lines," 2009 copyright 2009-10 Lyn Horton

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What A Blog Can Do

Blogs function like mirrors, the personal kind that are hidden neatly in a purse or a back pocket. A long time ago, I wrote a blog on MySpace. For some odd reason, a few thousand people read that blog. The specific subjects varied along with the days on which I wrote them. Those blogs were about healing from years of loss of those persons I loved. And they were also a means to practice writing and get my chops, as it were. Develop my writing muscles. The stronger those muscles are, the easier it is to write concisely, sparing readers of the fat that so often covers over the real time spontaneous honesty.

As my life became more busy with my work, I stopped writing the MySpace blog. I printed out all the texts and deleted them. Now every entry is a link to articles I have written for or I also have a Facebook page, a Facebook fan page, and a website.

This blog, I have yet to find a shape for...In other words, it will shape itself. Every day I post will be another day. Every posting will reflect what the mirror can reflect.

I am a minimalist. I appreciate decoration, only if it is attached to a clean skeleton.

copyright 2010 Lyn Horton
Photo: Studio Shot, 2009 copyright 2009-10 Lyn Horton

Is the Picture Big Enough?

Life poses many choices. I gotta pick something every now and again. Hopefully, the choice I make is the best one for the moment. But, how ...