Writing Soundtrack Of A Photograph for a few years now has left me with a lot of older posts in the archives. Though I like to usually share a new monochrome photograph I have taken with you all, older ones I have used from other posts in the past sometimes come to mind. Especially if they are a favorite, which is definitely the case here. If I could choose to keep only 10 of my own photos, this would surely be one. I took it one night after work coming home on the subway. Though I passed this building every day at my old subway stop, for some reason on that particular night, the way the twin buildings were lit up really struck me, and I pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots. This turned out to be the best one, and what you see is exactly how it looked. This photo comes with no adjustments or cropping whatsoever. Enjoy your Monday everyone!
Hello again! Since this week leads into Saint Patrick’s Day, I decided I would share another photo of Ireland today. Readers of this blog from the start will know that I have written about Ireland and Irish music before. Here on Monochrome Mondays I have also featured some shots of Ireland, but I think those have all been shots along the fabulous coast of Donegal. This one is different though. It is still Donegal, but it is a photo of a wonderful old tree on the land where my mother and her siblings grew up. Seeing it again set against the sky on a beautiful summer day it reminded me not just of the actual tree roots that have kept it alive all these years, but also of family roots. Last year most of us gathered for a special event (which I wrote about here) but one evening a smaller group of the immediate family had a dinner at the old house. Looking around at this gathering I was struck by the contrast between the two. Strength of nature, strength of family. Tree roots, family roots. Irish roots. Nothing else like it!
For the first time here on Monochrome Mondays I am cheating slightly with something that is not a monochrome shot. Well…it actually is, but it isn’t at the same time. You see, most of these shots in this series have been fairly recent ones taken with my digital camera, when monochrome is a menu option. A few were shot on actual black and white film. Today’s choice was shot in digital…but in color. The monochrome on this Monday comes from the subject itself being (or appearing in black and white). Kind of a cool distinction to monochrome photography that the end result can appear that way, even if actually photographed in color. Anyway, this shot was taken in one of my favorite old buildings in New York City-The Customs House, which is near Battery Park. It now houses the Smithsonian National Museum Of The American Indian, but the building itself dates back to 1907. It is an absolute gem of a building, with lots of wonderful architectural features. Best of all for me is this elliptical rotunda, one of those structures that begs having a photograph of it taken every time I visit. Hope you all can get there yourself someday!
I have to come right out and say that I have been off my game with writing so far this year. It isn’t that I have run out of things to say, or music to listen to, or photographs to take. I just…have not been myself lately and feel a lack of focus or desire to sit down and write. But awhile back I had an idea that I have decided to pursue in this post, and while fresh air, exercise, or a good night’s sleep are all good cures for getting yourself out of a funk, there is one other key-laughter. I am aware that this blog might sometimes come off a little heavy handed as I recount the emotional lure that photography and music have for me. But laughter does too, so I wanted to write something that shared my bent over in stitches, shrieking with laughter side as well.
Comedy is a subjective thing of course. There are many types and styles to choose from. Everyone from the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare incorporated comical elements in their stories to loosen the audience up and maybe add a few seats to the arena. Writers like P.G. Wodehouse mastered the art of comic stories with the lovable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves. The early days of cinema were comedy heavy with the greats of silent film like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Television got in on the act almost immediately and some of the most successful early TV shows were comedies such as I Love Lucy. Later it became even more absurdist with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and other shows of pure silliness. At some point stand up comedy became both ground breaking and lucrative for the best performers. In the last 30 years or so, animated shows like The Simpsons exploded in popularity. With all of the above you can certainly find something to match your style-everything from slapstick to raunchy humor and everything else in between.
One aspect of comedy I have always enjoyed and appreciate however are sketches that combine music and comedy. Though there are countless plays and musicals that accomplish this, I especially enjoy the more modern form. I could cite dozens of examples, but the videos here represent some of my favorites. I wanted to focus on some moments of pure humor. Perhaps I should say humour because I have long had a particular devotion to British humour. Here are just a few of my musical favorites to watch.
First up is an absolute classic from Monty Python-The Lumberjack Song. What I came to realize over the years watching the original series is an admiration for how ridiculous the sketches must have been when conceived and discussed before filming. How on earth do you come up with ideas like the Fish Slapping Dance, or mountaineers scaling the sidewalks of a city street? How does one sell the idea of The Ministry Of Silly Walks, Dead Parrots, ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ or men named Raymond Luxury Yacht (pronounced Throatwobbler Mangrove), to name but a few memorable sketches to TV executives? The same holds true for the Lumberjack Song, as you sing…Sing…SING……
Next up is a classic from the sketch show A Bit Of Fry & Laurie with Stephen Laurie and Hugh Fry. No wait…Fry Stephen and Laurie Hugh. Blast it…I mean of course, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie. When you get annoyed with life just remember to kick some ass!
Now we go to a scene from the show Black Books. Credit to my wife for turning me on to this show with the worst shop keeper (with the best bookstore!) ever-Bernard Black. This scene features Bill Bailey as the much maligned and overworked assistant Manny, figuring out that despite being forbidden to learn piano as a child he has long hidden talents on the instrument (showcasing the very real talent Bill Bailey has on the instrument).
Next is a clip from the wonderful Lenny Henry, featuring some very real tasty guitar work by Jeff Beck. There is a huge body of Lenny’s work I have not seen, but you don’t need to see much to know that he is both a gifted comedian and not too bad of a singer either. His role as the master of the verbal put down Gareth Blackstock in the series Chef! (who you must never, ever ask for salt on one of his dishes, or worse still, incur his wrath which might lead to a request to see your blood outside the body) will probably always be my favorite. Lenny fully takes on the persona of the characters in his sketches. Just like he does so convincingly here as a blues singer, replete with a ‘great’ harmonica solo.
Finally, having just seen the recent David Brent-Life On The Road mockumentary, I had to include the classic song Free Love Freeway, first performed on one of my favorite shows ever-The Office. The show has many cringe worthy moments between the employees of the office, but none more so than Ricky Gervais’ portrayal as David Brent.
The thing I realized in putting this post together is that the best musical comedy songs make one laugh at their ridiculousness, while still conveying a sense of being a real song. This is actually the crucial element. The Lumberjack song would not work without the Canadian Mounties choir. The Fry & Laurie sketch would not have the same impact if Hugh Laurie had not decked himself out in shades and slicked back hair. The Black Books scene is so great because Bill Bailey is actually a really gifted musician, while the Lenny Henry sketch had much greater impact with the talent of Jeff Beck. Lastly, Ricky Gervais shows how difficult a skill all of this really is. He had to believe in the song, and pull it off as David Brent performing it, not as Ricky Gervais the actor. Not at all easy to do when you really think about it.
I’d love to hear some of your favorite comedy moments of all time-be it from a TV show, stand up, or movies in the comments below.
Well we are just a few days away from March now, which is a sure sign of spring here. Speaking of signs (what a clever transition huh?), I have a thing for old signs like this one. No matter where you go in the city, you inevitably come across an old building that has a faded sign like this painted on the building itself. This particular one is around the corner from our apartment, and the building does not contain an Iron Works anymore. I’m not quite sure what is there actually, but whatever is there, I’m glad that the old sign remains in place for me to take photos of and preserve. So much changes in this world today, and I think that is why I like to seek out shots like this.
After weeks of bleak, cold and snowy weather, we had a nice preview of spring this past weekend. Heavy coats, gloves, hat and scarf were ditched and traded out for lighter clothing. Windows were opened for the first time in awhile. Moods seemed to brighten as well, and everyone seemed to take advantage of it. Now we all know that winter is not over of course, and many a hope of early spring are dashed once March comes around, but for this weekend, we could sense it. When we get a tease like this our minds race forward to budding trees, lush grass and bright colors after months in the ‘darkness’ of winter. I know mine certainly does but then I am reminded that winter really does have a unique beauty to it as well, despite the darkness and the cold. The starkness of the background, contrasted with the silhouette of the tree branches in this photo is appealing to me. The twists and turns of the branches can really only be viewed like this in winter, and they appear almost like the veins in your hands. In a month or so buds will begin to blossom and the starkness will be replaced with vibrancy. But as a photographer, I have learned that they can both be equally beautiful.
‘Surround me with music, I’m not ready for the silence’
Just over a week ago, while walking home from work one night, I had an idea I thought about exploring here. Actually it was more of a question. And although it was dark and cold out, before I forgot what the question was and my reason for asking it, I reached into my bag, pulled out my notebook and jotted it down. It was a simple enough question on the surface but after making my note and resuming the walk home, I thought there could actually be something more to it. I started thinking of what my own answer to the question might be, but quickly I realized that this entire blog has been doing that right from the start. Every time I write about how music makes me feel, about the emotions, thoughts and memories it evokes for me it answers that question. But I thought it might be interesting to hear how other people might respond, so off to Facebook I went.
The question I posed was simply- ‘Why do you listen to music?’ But in explaining my reason for asking it, I added-
“I want you to think about it for a minute and not just say ‘because it makes me happy, it makes me want to dance, etc’. Those are great reasons, but is there something else, deep down that makes you want to hear music, whether it is Beethoven, Black Sabbath or Beyonce? ”
I was quite frankly surprised at the depth of ways people answered the question. Though some answers were direct and to the point, others were very detailed, specific, and personal. A few people mentioned how music was a calming influence. A balance between both good and bad times. A decompression from stress and a way to make them feel better. Music helps them get there. For others it was a time stamp of sorts, a direct link every time a song comes on to who you were with and what you were doing the first time you heard it. Some found a deep connection with the lyrics especially, with a realization that the words helped them through difficult times. Continue reading “Why Do You Listen?”→