Archive for art

The Johnny Cash Project

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2011 by Weary Hobo

This is a video of the song is ‘There Ain’t No Grave’ by Johnny Cash. The video was developed by putting together snippets of footage from Johnny Cash’s life.

This footage was then uploaded onto a website that is interactive. Artists could and still can take individual frames as inspiration for their image. These images are then rated by other people – artists or viewers – and then the film gets woven together like that, frame by frame, person by person.

Here is a short clip explaining the idea and who helped make it happen.

Here is the website where you can choose which images you want in the video. You can also draw your own image for the film. I really like that the film is ever-changing as new images get voted as more popular.

The Johnny Cash Project

Johnny Cash was a great topic for the project. For me, his music and art was a process of finding himself through his audience. This is one opportunity for the audience to reflect what they saw of him back to him – or back to the ether at least.










Radical approaches to songwriting

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2011 by Weary Hobo

There are a myriad of ways to write songs. I was inspired this week listening to the chants of radicals in the London protests. ‘You say cutback. We say fight back’ and ‘Revolution, revolution’. Simple songwriting with a radical message.

Another approach is more formal. You can be a member of the ‘Australian Songwriters Association‘ or ‘Songwriting Society of Australia‘ or ‘Songwriters Across Australia‘ or ‘Australian Songwriters Official National Group‘ or ‘Songwriters, Composers and Lyricists Association’ (South Australia) or ‘Tamworth Songwriters Association‘ for a nominal fee. Up until last week you could have gone along to the ‘Australian Songwriters Conference‘ but 2011 has been cancelled because of not being able to get funding.

These associations and conferences out of my league. I joined APRA last year and was paid $5.40 after spending about twenty hours trying to get my songs recognised by their admin. What are your experiences with Songwriting Associations? Do you find them valuable? Today I’m writing about a radical approach to songwriting that makes sitting with friends and sharing personal songs the equivalent of singing in the shower.

Most people I know started writing songs by copying their favourite musician. I got it in my head that I could play along with a song called ‘Given to fly‘ by Pearl Jam. Then I tried writing like Jeff Buckley (after 4:30 the video is really good). After learning that Buckley as scared as I was of performing I went searching for songs.

Inspiration (hidden under mossy stones by the gentle stream that flows in your head and heart)

What inspires me for songs is whatever is real. If I’m at dinner with my family or talking with a friend. Maybe sitting on the steps of town hall waiting for a bus, it just has to move my head or my heart. I don’t have to work to write songs like this but I have to work to finish them. The song I am writing about was inspired by a close friend who has been in and out of hospital.

The inspiration came simply after having tea with her. She left and the song came pouring out.  A radical love song because it is on the boundary of what love is. In half an hour I had a bunch of lyrics and the guitar part. After two and a half hours I had knocked out a song that felt rounded. The next part of the process for me takes the courageous plunge.

Work (if you like steps to help you in songwriting check out this book by Naomi Wolf who also wrote The Beauty Myth)

First, I record it on my phone and then listen back to it critically, preferably after a sleep. I will listen and record over and over making slight variations. This is not always a rewarding process. It is very important because it cuts the excess from your song and leaves the shiny, bright core. Excess might be simply an extra ‘the’ or it might be that the chorus is actually the verse. Maybe you find that a word sticks out uncomfortably and this is connected to your emotional state at the moment.

At this stage in writing I might even try playing the song on a different instrument like a piano or guitar. Just singing it a lot while walking can help. Writing it down lets the words look up at you from the page in a new way.

Second, share with people. This could mean busking or write it out on paper and giving it to friends you run into. I used to upload it to a website and get feedback from around random passers. It was fun but I didn’t find this very valuable to hone my writing skills because they didn’t have a real concern for that. I like the songwriting collective better than other spaces because the feedback is more genuine. There is a music group at Jura Books on Parramatta Rd or you could set one up with your friends.

Normally, the third step is performance. Get it out to the world! Such a relief to feel free of this thing you’ve kept secret for so long. Try to avoid sharing your intimates at the noisy bar on the corner where the footy will be playing behind your head. Then the song is finished yes? Maybe.

The radical step I have found most important to finishing a song is performing it to people you love who you expect could be challenged by it. It could be playing a satirical religious song to the devout or funny environmentalist song to the convener of the australian student environment network (who vehemently hated it). With the song for my friend, i had to make her my audience. For months after writing the core of the song I was avoiding seeing her because part of me was afraid to give her the song and it to hurt her. With prodding from bandmates who knew the song wasn’t finished I made arrangements to meet with her at a cafe.

When she walked in I hastily gave her my song. If you do it too slowly there is always the strong risk of backing out if you’re as cowardly about songs as I am. The fear and reluctance comes from knowing that what you will say has the potential to hurt people you love. Never forget that art can bridge the spaces between people, especially where there is a lot of confusion. It is likely that the listener will appreciate that you’ve spent time and energy and want to share the creation with them. It can also be very divisive. Be gentle. Better that they hear it now than on the radio.

In the end my friend was moved. She told me how she felt and we talked about it briefly. She gave me a couple of tips on the song. A wave of relief washed over me. I rushed home and quickly finished it with more recording, listening, recording, listening. Next step is to record it at Pirate Studios next week and share it with the world by August, 2011.

Some like Naomi Wolfs Dad will say the process to perfect songs or art never ends it just continues to develop. Some like Clinical Psychologist Ellen Langer say that the art is in its mindful creation. I wonder about these things. Good luck with your songwriting – and fundamentally be free with it.

Your in curious exploration,

Weary H.

Happy New Years from Peats Ridge!

Posted in bluegrass, Festivals, Folk music, lililth half dressed, Music, Peats Ridge, photos, Sustainbility with tags , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by Weary Hobo

Happy New Years! I know it’s late. But think of it as a fire-up for 2011! Here are my favourite bits of Peats Ridge Sustainable Arts and Music Festival 2010.

The Lurkers

Come to a far away place. Across Hawksbury River, over Peats Ridge and down the dusty road into Glenworth Valley

Meet the locals. They’re very friendly if a little eccentric.

Wandering entertainment

Enjoy the wildlife. Great for children of all ages.

Less wandering entertainment

And, in the Chai Temple was The Lurkers!

Desert Rat Shorty

Pretty Boy Floyd

With Desert Rat Shorty, Pretty Boy Floyd and Weary Hobo

Weary Hobo

Some in the crowd went wild, occasionally spilling frappéd Indian spiced tea onto woven cushions. However, most punters saved their frivolity for paddles in the refreshing creek preferring instead to appreciate the show by moving as little as possible unless to fan themselves.

Re-live the sweaty pleasures of this festival here and watch this video called 15Mb of Fame by Punk Monk Propaganda. 15Mb of FAME is a fast & furious crowd sourced initiative.  All footage was shot by roaming punks meets festival goers and edited on site during the festival & screened in the Rejenr8 geodesic dome [Land of Hopeless Utopians] and on the main stage [the Bellbird], NYE. This is the original version as it was shot & cut on site in those preceding 48 hours of the festival then screened that very same night.

Waking up on New Years Day, The Lurkers continued the adventure down past Bega to Tathra to record our musical subversion at the eclectic Pirate Studios with Dave from Lime Spiders. To be continued…


Weary H.

P.S.  Many thanks to the talented Mark Snelson for letting us use his photos here

Enviro Art

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by Weary Hobo

Dear Lurkers,

Here is a short post about three Australian artists who inspire me.

First, this is the latest quality video in a series on climate produced by a great young guy Rohan Porteous and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. The ideas are not new but I appreciate this video cos it is simple, engaging and not conceited.

Another lovely artist I’ve only come across recently is Lisa Roberts. She concentrates on the issues around Antartica and uses the medium of animation.

Last, and my fav, is Erland Howden. He has a massive passion for the environment and this is shown cos a lot of the images of the enviro movement in Sydney uses his work.

This was taken in the Styx Vally in Tasmania in 2004 when we travelled to experience some of the old growth forests that are under threat of being logged



What makes music political?

Posted in Activism, Anarchism, Climate change, Copenhagen, Culture, Folk music, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2010 by Desert Rat Shorty

What is it that makes songs more meaningful than the musical equivalent of dinner party conversation??

I think it all comes down to whether the music is a catalyst for change of some kind.  Just because a song is about a political issue, if it doesn’t make anyone or anything change then I don’t think you can call it political song.  The change can be in action – people changing their behaviour because of the song or the experience.  Or it could be people changing their mind about something as a result of the music.

Eric Drooker's 'People vs Military'

Eric Drooker's 'People vs Military'

Ok, bear with me while I pull out some complicated sounding language…  Collective singing is an experiential metaphor for collective action.  What I mean is that rather than just using a metaphor as a verbal illustration, you actually get people participating in a ‘collective action’.  Through singing together, people experience the power and togetherness of acting in a group.  Singing all by yourself is scary and exposing.  Same as political action – it’s scary confronting a police line or a coal train all by yourself.  So collective singing gives people the direct experience that doing things collectively gives power.  However, it’s not enough just to sing – that’s just step one!  Then you have to take that feeling and apply it into political action.

Image by Oxfam

We have more power collectively than we do alone

Music and performance can be political in other ways.  There are lots of examples from theatre that can be equally applied to music.  Brecht used the technique of Verfrumdungseffekt – roughly translated this means “alienation effect” or “making strange”.  The way it works is that evoke contrasting feelings in people by putting things together that don’t really match.  So you tell a funny story and make people laugh.  But the joke is followed immediately by a song that is sort of related but tragically sad.  So it gets people thinking about the same thing from two different points of view, and question their own assumptions about something.  People wonder why they laughed at the funny joke when it’s actually really sad.

Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes and and The Weavers were involved in Agit Prop theatre, after the style of Brecht.  They appropriated lots of old tunes like hymns and traditional folk tunes that people know in their bones.  That way, people feel like they already know the song, and are singing along before they realise it.  And articulating a political view is a really important step in taking action. (Incidentally, the Nazis also used this technique, which has meant that many German people now associate those songs with the Nazis and have stopped singing those songs).

And in another example from theatre… Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty aimed to spur people into action in a different way.  He would assault the senses, with bright lights, smelly fish, bad language… whatever.  Often it would be offensive or cruel.  The point is to provoke a visceral response in the audience.  Music can use this technique in a way – offending people is not always bad.  It can get people thinking and acting differently as a result.  You just need to be thoughtful about how you offend people and for what purpose.

Music can also be a way of bringing people together for political organising.  Anne Feeney did a superlative job of this at a gig we played together in Copenhagen.   She used her songs to inspire people into action.  And she used them as an excuse to start some conversations like any good union organiser would do with a group.  “Who got arrested this week?”, she asked the crowd.  A few people had.  “Did they take you to the cells?  And did they take you names?  Did you have to pay to get out?  No? Good” (The crowd cheers).  “In my opinion if you haven’t been in a position to get arrested, you haven’t been doing shit”.  Or something to that effect.  Followed by her song Have You Been to Jail For Justice.

If you have anything to add (or dispute!) I’d love to hear it.