The Right Time

Music…My friends and family know how much it truly means to me. Those of you reading these posts have almost certainly surmised how important it is to me by this point as well. I think what it all comes down to is that music can be entirely frivolous, powerful, political, sad, thought provoking, challenging, fun, heartbreaking, and angry by equal turns. To me, every one of those ideas is a valid reason to listen. Not just to one artist or genre, but to anything and everything that  you like and feel a connection and respond to. Music takes me on a journey every time, and the destination is always new.

Other people might not entirely see it that way. They have little time or inclination to seek out new music and new performers. The subtle nuances of that Pink Floyd album may go unnoticed. The heartache and heartbreak of a George Jones ballad might be easily dismissed as maudlin. The mesmerizing singing of Billie Holiday or Nina Simone might pale in comparison to Taylor Swift. However YOU feel about any of the above to use them as examples is irrelevant. Not everyone wants to be a music historian. Not everyone wants to be able to tell you why they like the cover version better than the well established original. To use the standard phrase, they like what they like and that is all that matters. Fair enough.

Except when it isn’t. One observation I have made about music is how inevitably there are places and situations where music outside of your normal comfort zone just seems so fucking right for that particular time. Even if that song or genre of music is something you proclaim to loathe. So cue Journey coming on the stereo at a crowded bar and everyone singing Don’t Stop Believing. Or maybe it is anxiously waiting for the da da dah part to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Perhaps one might completely dislike anything called country music, but finds themselves singing along to Tammy Wynette on Stand By Your Man, or gleefully singing ‘I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die’ along with Johnny Cash. Yes, there are even times when you are sitting in a bar that Piano Man by Billy Joel really resonates, even after hearing it for the 4763rd time.

What I am thinking about goes beyond the ‘guilty pleasure’ however. What I mean are those moments when music hits you, grabs you, moves you at precisely the right time, even when you don’t know much about the music. But you feel it…because its the right time. A celebratory classical music piece you hear at a wedding. A bagpipe tune played at a funeral. A sing along song that seems just right for a road trip down some back country roads. Maybe a lone accordion playing a romantic song as you walk hand in hand with someone special. Or a jazz standard as you sit and sip a cocktail imagining you were in a black and white film noir movie.

The opposite of that is when you actually know the song but it takes on a new meaning for you. It might be a song you have known for years until one day it  knocks you over senseless at a moment of vulnerability, or sadness in your life. Perhaps it comes on when you are driving and that one lyric makes you pause at how beautifully written it is and how fitting it seems for you.  So no matter whether you know the song or not, when something comes on at the right time you feel inspired and strengthened by the experience. This idea of ‘the right time’ is something I have thought about for years, but it really came to fruition yesterday when I was out for a run.

2 years ago at this time I was gradually building up  endurance and on the weekends was comfortably going for 5 or 6 miles, something I hadn’t done in years. Since then, I don’t know what has happened. Maybe something in my head, maybe the wrong kind of shoes, maybe excuses, excuses. I just have not felt as comfortable. But an item on the 50 Things @50 bucket list is to run a 5K, also something I have also not done in years. So I started back up again once things settled in my personal life. As the days and weeks have gone by, I am slowly feeling more comfortable again and headed towards that goal. Running, like any exercise is about pushing  as you tell yourself-come on..don’t stop now! One more mile…don’t stop until you pass that gas station…now you passed that gas station so keep going…keep pushing. That is how I challenge myself to go further. No big surprise I’m sure, but the music really helps do that for me too. And none more than this song by The Scissor Sisters.

Those piano chords start off with that  mid-tempo groove you know will lead to something more upbeat. You just have to wait for it to get there. And when it does, and that big bass beat comes in and the music becomes more insistent, I feel like The Flash instantly. My pace speeds up, I feel stronger, my form is perfect. I feel like I could run around the world and back again. All because a song came on at the right time and all was right with me, if only for those few moments of the song.

I liken it to moments in my photography at times. Sometimes I see something I know would make an interesting subject matter as a photo. Usually something I see or pass by regularly. But I know as a photographer it isn’t ‘the right time’ usually because of the lighting or other distractions in place. When the elements fall into place it all comes together. Case in point the photo I am using in this post. One thing or another defeated it for me until one day I was walking past and the elements all came together and I knew it was the ‘right time’.

What are some songs that come along at the right time for you?

Fire With Fire-Written By Scott Hoffman, Stuart Price, & Jason Sellards

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle







Where Do We Go From Here?


Every once in awhile you find yourself propelled into a musical universe that didn’t exist for you just moments before. But just a few notes in you get it. You get the vibe. You sense where the music is going, feel familiar with the songs even though it is actually new to your ears. Right away you get a feeling as a listener you are witnessing something you want to nurture and support, however small the contribution might be. These are exactly the feelings I had last month when I came across a new band to my ears-Jules & The Jinks.

I was at a favorite local spot in my neighborhood, a big open space barbecue smokehouse joint that has music on the weekends. It was the last night of my week long 50th birthday celebrations and I wanted to close it out with some good barbecue food and some more live music. Now I have seen bands at this place before, and I have heard some decent stuff, but (no slight intended) most of the music there has been pretty standard Saturday night bar music. Fun at the time, but not necessarily memorable afterwords.  And as I saw the band setting the gear up, I had a similar feeling. But then the music started off tight and funky. And then…the voice, oh that voice of lead singer Julissa Lopez came booming out. And it was then that I knew that this was a new happy addition to my musical universe.

Within just a few notes I was held spellbound by both the music and Julissa’s vocals and stage presence, not to mention a lot of hair! They wound up playing three sets, and I stayed for all of them. I could tell that they were also playing all original material, though a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On was totally bad ass. More impressive was the fact that the songs ran the range from soulful ballads, to hard driving rockers, propelled by a band well versed in the music. A friend who joined me part of the way through made a comment that you could hear the band down the block, probably no surprise.

A few days later I bought the band’s self-titled EP on Itunes and started checking out some videos on YouTube. One song they had played that night stood out in particular to me-Where Do We Go From Here.  Not only because Julissa really belted it out with great accompaniment by the band, but it also resonated with me for more personal reasons. In the few weeks I have been listening to it, these words-‘Where Do We Go From Here’ really gave me pause. Yes it is a common phrase, but I really thought about it in different contexts. When you really think it is a very powerful question.

First I really love what the group did here with this video. Visually it looks terrific, but it also drives home a serious point. That is one way of thinking about where do we go from here as a society. How we discard, destroy, and demolish with little thought to the future. Is ‘progress’ really worth it if we bulldoze every thing both literally and metaphorically that lies in its path? As I watched the video a few times I drew a parallel of sorts to what I have always wanted to do on this blog. To ask the questions without truly having the answers, letting the visual of the photo speak for the song, or maybe letting the song become clearer with the visual.  I don’t know where we go from here in that regard but I do know we need to keep asking ourselves the questions.

Second the song made me question my own life the way the special songs do. Some of you know what has been happening to me personally the last few months. I don’t want to recount that here, suffice it to say it has me spending a lot of time thinking. And it is not simplistic on my part to say that the driving question throughout this process has been-what next? When I heard Jules & The Jinks the question quickly changed to where do I go from here? What do I want to do? What makes me happy? Where do I want to live that makes me happy? And on and on like that. Right now I do not have the answers…but I have the question. And questions are good things…

Please spend some time listening to the music of Jules & The Jinks wherever you get your music. Big news for them is that just a few days ago, they were crowned winners of the coveted Battle Of The Bands slot for the AfroPunk Festival. They are a band on the rise, and just like with Jackie Venson another artist I wrote about not long ago, I want you to remember where you heard it first!

Where Do We Go From Here-Written By Julissa Lopez and Erik Rosenberg

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle



Waves crashing in…waves crashing out…

Funny thing this. Last year at this time I remember thinking once my best of the year posts were published, I would take a few weeks off and recharge the batteries for the new year. But I felt I had to write one more post in the week between Christmas and New Years. Once again I think… I feel I need to do that once again this year. Maybe all the pressure about shopping and gifts and visiting people that comes this time of year freezes me up from finding space to write about a topic and once the New Year is upon us I find it again. Maybe I do just need to tell myself-shut up Doyle, as one acquaintance famously said to my wife and I once in a lighthearted jab. In any event on Christmas Eve I took a few photos that seemed to sum up my year on many levels.

This year seemed to be defined for me by one word-waves. Waves along the river where I enjoy walking. Ocean waves at Rockaway Beach where I visited twice this year. Waves at Coney Island, on the shore of Lake George, on the New Jersey shore, on Long Island. That rhythmic push/pull of actual waves seemed to define my year on many levels.

For whatever reason I have not taken advantage of taking photos from the roof of my building but on Christmas Eve I did because I saw a particularly epic sky looming in front of me. But instead of skylines and colors what I saw was a pattern that looked like waves crashing over the nearby buildings. And it made me think that maybe I should work on one more post. And it would involve that so simple yet so meaningful symbolism of waves.

Waves crashing in-new friendships made or rekindled, old friendships continually strengthened.

Waves crashing out-friendships lost out to sea for various reasons.

Waves crashing in-physical health of those nearest to me in good shape

Waves crashing out-mental health of those nearest to me not in such good shape

Waves crashing in-good things to look forward to in 2018

Waves crashing out-2017 not a particularly good year personally for no particular reason

Waves crashing in-this place, my creation doing better than ever yet…

Waves crashing out-audience and friendships seem to be drifting out to sea for reasons I cannot define.

Waves crashing in-feeling that my words and art are becoming more defined yet…

Waves crashing out-wishing it could be so much more

Waves crashing in-continually inspired by the art of others but…

Waves crashing out-struggling to capitalize on that inspiration in my own voice

Waves crashing in-learning after almost 50 years to speak up for myself

Waves crashing out-wondering why the fuck it took me so long to do it

Waves crashing in-having ideas to break out of this introvert cloud

Waves crashing out-seeing those ideas collapse because of it.

Waves crashing in-happy with the growth in my photography this year

Waves crashing out-wondering where I go from here with it.

Ideas like this are not really new or unique of course, and I’m sure most of us play this game in our minds. I truly did have some good times this year and shared a lot of laughs and quite a few glasses of beer or wine with my wife and friends. But there just seemed to be a fog, or malaise over 2017 as a friend of mine recently pointed out. Politics, economics and news cycles may play a part, but I’m not sure it is the only cause. The temptation is always to say “I’m going to start fresh in the new year” with promises of losing 30lbs, changing jobs, travelling the world. Great if you can manage to do a few of those things, I am not so cynical to say it will never happen. But life gets complex sometimes and for some of us, the best we can manage is one or two of those goals. And that’s okay too.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about how when I get in a photography rut that it helps to do the opposite essentially and I used a song lyric to prove that point. It actually did wonders for me. And as I sat in an amazing new coffee shop just now trying to come up with a way to end this, I realized that I need to do the same thing with life this coming year. Turn it all around and where what I wrote above starts with the positive and goes negative, waves crashing in and crashing out, I need things to go in the opposite direction. Waves crashing out taking away the negative. Waves crashing in bringing the positive. And that cycle that continues every day, every month, every year will bring good things with it.  Now how about a happy little song to close this year out here at Soundtrack Of A Photograph? Here is a song from Thea Gilmore’s excellent album ‘The Counterweight’ released earlier this year. Happy New Year everyone!

Sounds Good To Me-Written By Thea Gilmore

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle