After the Rain

Rainy days in New York City
A walk through Central Park
to soak in the Smells o’ rain-brewed-earth
and the Chartreuse green leaves of Spring….

(click on any image to start slideshow)


This video has been taken from the rustic pavilion that punctuates Wagner Cove – a secluded spot at the edge of The Lake in Central Park.

(Geeky facts: The Cove, formerly known as the Cherry Hill boat landing, was renamed after former New York City three-term mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. who was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and known for disrupting the Tammany Hall structure ending the reign of clubhouse bosses in city politics and leading to a stronger city democracy.
His father – former NYC mayor Robert Wagner I was known for his support of the labor movement and FDR’s New Deal, and was instrumental in writing the Social Security Act.)

These are the some of the tucked-away spaces in the big noisy city where one can find moments of calm and solitude, of peace and serenity and just an avenue away from the harsh cacophony of traffic – bask in the nook of a welcome relief: the sounds of birds singing joyously….after the rain.

 


For music for a rainy day, here’s Bill Evans’ piano solo “Here’s that Rainy Day” from his Album “Alone” (Verve Records 1968) – an instrumental jazz interpretation of the popular song composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke published in 1953.

 


Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts 2

A short video with glimpses of the first four tracks of the album, including two time Juno-award winning North Indian ghazal/folk style as well as classically trained Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia; also Turkish kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi along with other members of New York Gypsy All Stars; members of the group Raza Truncka from the small agricultural community of Salto playing Argentine indigenous drums; and members of the Brooklyn-based world music group House of Waters. Stay tuned till the end of the video. Artwork and editing by moi  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ncMQRiX44

The first track is of course for Planet Earth and includes a small homage to Carl Sagan, whose wisdom, philosophy and Science communication skills have been one of the greatest influences in my life since childhood.

Last night was the album release party in New York City at The Meridian 23 with performances by nearly a dozen of the 27 musicians of the project. We are so grateful to all who attended despite the chilly temperatures in the city. The project was also featured in an article in yesterday’s Village Voice newspaper.

For more excerpts of the musical tracks check out my previous post: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/planetary-coalition-album-excerpts-1/


Album Release

New York, New York, 11/11/2014. “Planetary Coalition” – a world music album I feel very happy to be part of officially released today! This date also marks the centenary celebration of the end of World War I.

As I often say here – Make Music, Not War.

Planetary Coalition’s musicians represent over two dozen countries and five continents and numerous ethnicities.

From its inception in Union Square on summer solstice day, June 21st, 2012 – Planetary Coalition has now grown into a truly global music project.

A collective of diverse musicians from all over the world, Planetary Coalition is driven by the acoustic guitar of Alex Skolnick, whose work spans jazz (Alex Skolnick Trio), metal (Testament), and world music (Rodrigo y Gabriela).

In the virtuoso’s own words from the upcoming album’s notes:

“It started with a lone, handwritten sentence on a notepad, describing a musical vision: “An ethnically flavored collective of musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands.”

The reality: coordinating over two-dozen musicians from five continents.

Yet despite the numerous logistical challenges, Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky. And I must confess that with respect to all prior musical collaborations, this is the album I feel most proud of. It’s hoped that in the future, these pieces can be performed not just in concert venues but as audio-visual presentations in galleries, museums and classrooms.”

Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition

“I am grateful to all the incredible artists who eagerly took part, some from across the world, others a few subway stops away; some eluded by mainstream recognition, others who worked on their parts in between sold-out concerts and national television appearances; a few from regions that have long been politically at odds yet refusing to let politics or ideology dictate art, music and humanity; and all of whom are the type of musicians I’m most inspired by – master players for whom technical virtuosity exists, but never at the expense of artistic expression, emotion and collaboration……”

We are grateful to all who have contributed, supported and appreciated this project. Please support the Arts by getting your copy of the album today and/or spreading the word to your friends and families.  Here’s a sneak peak into some pages from the album. All artwork, designs, documentaries by yours truly. Enjoy!


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Go Hypatia!

New York, March 8 & 9, 2014.  Twas a treat to watch today a marathon showing on NatGeo of my favorite childhood TV series – PBS’ “Cosmos” with the timeless Carl Sagan. As well, beyond excited to see this series getting a 2014 reboot to be telecast tonight at 9:00 pm EST hosted by the great Neil Degrasse Tyson.

Episode 13 from the original series. Timeless words of wisdom indeed. Watch it to see the reference to Hypatia – a woman way ahead of her time. Truly inspiring and one of my personal heroines.

This final episode of the series is one of Sagan’s best – beautiful words on philosophy, life, love, evolution, our place in the Universe, the push for peace, the futility of war – and a special appearance 10 years since this was first broadcast. Please take the time to watch it if you haven’t – it is a gift your brain and heart will thank you for.

When we are kids growing up, we often have a favorite teacher – either a mentor, a speaker or a guru – a person we unabashedly look up to. I did adore a couple of my female teachers, in my all-girls strict French Catholic Convent school – but Sundays were the day I looked forward to the most. For that was the day my favorite teacher of all time, my self-appointed guru, the one whose words and wisdom captivated me from a young age, and who – in my opinion, was not just a great man, but a genuinely good man – would speak to me through the television screen – his soulful Ashkenazi eyes beseeching his viewers to think rationally, learn voraciously, and explore with uncompromising curiosity. If I can look back in time and say who the most influential self-chosen teacher had been for me – it was, and still is – this incredible, humble, extraordinarily intelligent astronomer and Cornell University professor – Dr. “Cosmos” Carl Sagan.

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Below, one of Carl’s last interviews before his death in 1996.

How true he was about the impending spread of pseudoscience….as near-extinct diseases  like measles, mumps, whooping cough have resurfaced in the first world in the past few years due to the mass-hysteria caused by attention-whore idiots like Jenny McCarthy (aided by “The Secret” and Tolle-worshiping pseudoscience queen Oprah) and the anti-vaccine brigade, the new stint of hordes of women who are quite lucky and wealthy to suddenly falsely demonize and leave great caring husbands in a quest to “eat, pray, love,” the rise of many more dangerous male writers who promote veiled and jargon-laden hogwash in the name of “intelligent design,” and many more stupid self-centered platitudes and strange movements that have sprouted up.  

As Harvard professor Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling Upon Happiness  (who I’ve met a few times and he’s a genuinely good person) had once mentioned – the stance of  denial of both climate change and Evolution is to extreme-right wingers what anti-vaccine and anti-GMO and pro-pseudoscience has become to extreme-left wingers. In both cases, hysteria without evidence; paranoia without facts. This is the 2010s and it is easy to see that Sagan had (as always) been correct even back in the ’90s, and was way ahead of the curve in predicting how, despite scientific evidence and facts, both fundamentalist religiosity and pseudoscience would continue to spread in dangerous doses.

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Related Posts:

Billions of stars, billions of sports fans

Carl Sagan, always

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Life, Love, Logic, Legends and PLanetary CoaLition

New York. December 24, 2013. In an earlier post I had given details about a new world music project being undertaken by versatile guitarist Alex Skolnick.

Details of the project, its introduction, aspects, and what the participant gets is all explained here: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/world-music-project-planetary-coalition/

To directly go to the ArtistShare website of the project to participate, donate or become a part of this wonderful creative process go here. We need YOUR help: http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

There are many exclusive videos made specially for the project – from the music writing process, interviews with the musicians and artists, scenes from the recording studio (something a participant will have direct access to in-person if they choose to become a producer or higher-level participant), credit listing on the CD, VIP passes to shows and much more.

Along with all this, there are also audio-visual tours and commentaries – and one in particular is my favorite. Alex Skolnick’s “10 world music inspirations” represented by picturesque videos capturing the “essence” of the musical pieces along with his live commentary. The musical pieces he has chosen cover several countries from Turkey to Mali, from India to Argentina, from Austria to Mexico and many more.

One among these, is the second video on “musical inspirations” which yours truly has worked on. Exclusively available on the Gipsy Geek site for one month, you can watch it here, to get a sense of the experience. This video (among others of this series and many more on different topics) is available only to ArtsitShare Planetary Coalition project participants, so this is an exclusive peek here. After a month, I will password protect this video and any new or curious readers can e-mail me at gipsygeek at gmail dot com to get access to the video, or directly participate in “Planetary Coalition” on Artistshare to unlock all the other goodies and personal artist access a real participant can get and many more videos and interviews on other topics.

The two pieces featured in the video below, along with commentary by Skolnick on why these were important inspirations, are: Joe Zawinul’s “Patriots” and Peter Gabriel’s (yes, that’s right – if you listen to the commentary you will see why he was a proponent of world music) “Of These, Hope Reprise.”

I really enjoyed making this music video, the first piece – a celebration of life, love and everything that makes human existence, evolution, innovation and our planet so unique; the second, starting at minute 11:22 – a contemplative minimalist one with images that capture the spirit of perhaps one of the most influential and legendary figures of history who his followers commemorate this month. (Although historically, 25th December was the celebration of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)] or, as some historians say, it was the day of celebration of the God Mithras, which the Romans then adopted when they embraced Christianity, but I will not get into those facts and controversies here.) Either way, the second piece in this video is from Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Last Temptation of Christ.” And the first, of the inimitable Joe Zawinul is my own labor of love when I compiled, collected and edited the images and clips to celebrate his one-of-a-kind musical masterpiece.

Please full-screen it for better viewing.

Once again, we really need your help to make “Planetary Coalition” possible.

The direct link to support us through the ArtistShare website is here:  http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

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And my blog post explaining the project is here: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/world-music-project-planetary-coalition/

Happy holidays!

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Suddenly September

New York, September 15, 2013. It seems September slithered in all too soon, and summer passed by e’er so quickly. But amidst the incipience of the tender-crisp Autumn air that wisps in hesitantly unto the city streets and parks this week, it gives me great pleasure to announce that a new exciting world music project is afoot, and it needs the help of those who like exploring new cultural soundscapes and landscapes. 

This new project is called “Planetary Coalition.”

Alex Skolnick Planetary Coalition

(1) What is “Planetary Coalition?”

Conceptualized by versatile guitarist and writer Alex Skolnick, Planetary Coalition is an ethnically flavored collective of diverse musicians from all over the world. Its mission is to tie together the virtuosity of jazz, the power of metal and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian, African, Latin and other indigenous lands. Through the universal language of music, Planetary Coalition intends to bridge the gap between different cultures, increase ecological awareness and explore the threads that connect musical expression with regional identity.

But there’s more, as people from all over the world can participate, either by being directly involved in the project as supporters or producers, and/or by sending in essays, artwork, postcards etc. It is open to all. I’ll let the man himself explain in detail:

(2) What are some of the sounds and textures of Planetary Coalition?

Besides Skolnick, other global musicians will include several well-known instrumentalists from different regions of the world. These will include, for the first CD, artists from Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Iraq, China, Cuba, India, Ghana, Ireland, Palestine, the Canadian Arctic, and other places. The following video gives an idea of only some of the sounds and “feel” of the project. (And yes, the piece “Sleeping Gypsy” is composed for yours truly as outlined in an earlier post on this blog). There is a separate video (available for participants only) which explains the process of composition of the tune.

(3) How can I participate in the production as well as experience of Planetary Coalition?

To be a participant and get personal access to the artists and to the creative process, go to the project on ArtistShare.com http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

You can participate at various levels up to being an Executive Producer.

As well, as explained in the Welcome Video, you can participate in other ways by mailing in your letters, essays, experiences, photographs, artwork, which will be included in the final multi-media presentation.

Tune in for updates at http://planetarycoalition.com/  or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as seen on that site.

Depending on the participation level, you can have access to the artists through in-depth interviews, videos made especially for you, or direct personal contact with them in the recording studio, during their music sessions, VIP access to their shows, personalized music lessons and much more. Each level explains what the participant can get access to, including credit listing in the final CD of the project.

There are many short films and mini-documentaries that are regularly sent out to participants – some outlining great world music inspirations, others’ on the composers’ creative processes. This one is a trailer of the music writing process of the project creator, showing a tiny glimpse of a mini-series.

For those curious to know more about Sklonick and his background, you can read his memoir “Geek to Guitar Hero,” which as outlined by many amazon reviewers is very inspiring and revealing, whether you are a musician or not. The story of a shy, awkward, geeky kid of Ivy League parents who ended up being, to quote Guitar World Magazine editor-in-chief Brad Tolisnki, “one of the most remarkable guitarists in hard rock history.” Few (and especially his metal fans who often see the “rock star” persona) know that in his private life, he is an avid classical and world music listener, and his mornings almost exclusively begin with Bach, Mozart, Debussy et al playing in the background, while his evenings are filled with jazz and world music. He is also a long time avid book reader, with Vonnegut, Hesse, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Gilbert and many, many others practically spilling out of the shelves of his Brooklyn home.

Many of the intimate views participants will get through Artistshare include the behind the scenes glimpses into the lives of the musicians involved in the project.

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Planetary Coalition Alex Skolnick

Planetary Coalition represents a global collective of musicians, listeners, artists, architects, ecologists, researchers, writers and everyday citizens coming together for the sake of our own planet Earth.

We hope you’ll join us! Also, spread the word around to friends you think may be interested.

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(p.s If there is a glitch in the project link on artishare and it takes you to Maria Schneider’s project instead, click of the Planetary Coalition project videos on the sidebar. http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1)

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Art ‘n’ August – 3

The only attitude (the only politics–judicial, medical, pedagogical and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning, that is, an effective and thus transforming questioning.–  Jacques Derrida.

New York, 2013. Labor Day weekend. A section from a giant paper collage. “The Grid” – based upon the way there is a thrust to create some sort of orthogonal “order” on our organic, sinuous landscapes and geographic contours, without consideration of natural processes, landforms or the fractal geometry and elaborate intricacies with which ecology and ecosystems work. Instead, planners in North America superimpose “The Grid”  – a network of roads, by-laws, zoning ordinances with little understanding of far more environmentally-conscious alternatives which could instead take the matrix of Landscape Ecology into consideration. And all this is done to appease the almighty Automobile and creating an illusion of “order” while enormous amounts of environmental waste is produced.

The collage was 3-dimensional with layers of images and cut-outs which could be lifted to reveal the layers within. I’d made it as part of a university urban planning art project in Canada. The following picture is a segment of the total piece.

"The Grid." Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

“The Grid.” Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

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Art ‘n’ August – 1

Art ‘n’ August – 2