Tempest (2017)

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Acrylic, gesso, oil pastel on canvas / 24 x 30 inches

While most of my spontaneous pieces come together very quickly, some of them develop over an extended period of time. This piece started as an abstract oil pastel that didn’t quite work for me, so I started covering it with gesso. More commonly used to prep canvas as a base, I enjoy using gesso as an alternative to art-quality white paint because of its texture and the way it interacts with other media. As I started noticing the texture of the gesso and the lines of the underlying oil pastel, I tapped into and emphasized the natural movement of the piece created by the layered media. The end result is a piece that brought to my mind the ferocious beauty of a storm at sea.

Marconi (2017)

I recently stumbled across the words for these seven songs and felt inspired to set them to my own music. Some of them are ancient songs with origins lost to history, others date to the late 1800s, and one of them was written in 2004. All of them convey a mood of longing and perseverance – two characteristics of traditional folk music I’ve always been drawn to.

The process couldn’t have been any more simple. As soon as I found a melody and arrangement that suited the words, I recorded each song through my iPhone and these are the results; these bare-bones recordings capture the initial moment of inspiration for each song.

True – these are what most folks would consider scratch tracks or first takes. And while I may, one day, decide to do more with them, what you’ll hear on this album is the initial moment of inspiration for each song. Despite the occasional throat-clearing or flubbed note, I was able to capture the precise moment when these songs “clicked” for me, which usually disappears from a song when it’s put through the mechanical process of recording and production. From that perspective, they’re perfectly imperfect and I couldn’t have recorded them any better if I’d tried.

Vexations (2017)

Eight minutes and 43 seconds of pianist Michael Kirkendoll’s 11-hour performance of Erik Satie’s “Vexations” inside of Rashid Johnson’s sculptural installation “Antoine’s Organ” at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Mo., observed on May 5, 2017. The infinite nature of a moment.

Back to Folk Music

It’s been eight years since I last performed as a solo folksinger, but on March 31, 2017, I dusted off some of my old tunes and even played a new one for an intimate show at Conroy’s Pub in Lawrence, KS.

It was a surprisingly gratifying experience for me, and I hope to have another opportunity to do it again soon. More than that, though, it got my creative juices flowing and I’ve begun working on a new album of folk songs that I hope to release digitally in Fall 2017. This time, I’ll be working with lyrics from old-time folk songs in the public domain and setting them to my own arrangements. At some point, I may be interested to write new songs from scratch, but for now I’m really enjoying the process of working with great words already written.

The aforementioned “new” song from the recent Conroy’s performance is my arrangement of the old folk standard “Rye Whiskey.” Lyrically, it’s a combination of a few well-known versions, and musically, the new arrangement gives an already timeless song a bit of a contemporary feel, in my opinion. Here’s what it sounded like at Conroy’s:

Si! (2017)

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Acrylic on canvas / 30″ x 40″

Responsive painting inspired by a live performance of Si!, a composition for tuba and live electronics composed by Karlheinz Essl; performed at Cider Gallery in Lawrence, KS on April 25, 2017 by Brett Keating and University of Kansas Prof. Bryan Kip Haaheim (North American Premiere).

This piece was one of seven spontaneously-produced paintings as I listened to Brett perform six separate electro-acoustic music compositions for trombone, euphonium and live electronics.

Here’s a video of Essl performing Si! in Innsbruck, Austria on November 29, 2015: