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The Trouble With Musicals

I love Musicals, but I find them frustrating, or at minimum, they require work. For instance, in preparation for Wicked, I bought the cast album to review several times. As it turned out, it got me through to about intermission. I still got lost somewhere in the second act.

That’s the way stage musicals go for me, though. I’ll sort of follow it and catch some music, but then I’ll get the cast album and study the liner notes and try to piece together all to write an essay. Maybe part of the reason I enjoy my son’s theater group’s shows so much is that I have several viewings to absorb them.

There’s at least two problems. One is imperfect hearing or listening. Part of the listening challenge is that there is so much to take in on the stage. In a movie, the director’s camera and microphone will make sure that essential details are amplified for the audience. The other problem or difficulty is that songs in modern musicals are meant to move the plot along, but they also are expected to be longer than thirty seconds.  It makes for some odd pacing. Some twists and turns in Wicked, for example, take place in a few lines. As a result, you find yourself going, “How did the Witch get a boyfriend?” or similar. Therefore, because the notion of Glinda helping her green friend become popular makes for such a cute and entertaining song, it gets far more attention and time than other very useful ideas in the show. 

Further, I think that musicals are more acceptably schizophrenic (or shall we say multifaceted) than other movies. Of course, we all accept the premise that characters, who in all other ways represent normal human beings, will break out into song and be joined in unison and synchronization by everyone else nearby. We won’t question the masculinity of the cowboys who hoop and holler in time when the music starts up. It’s all part of the fun. And yet that’s the trick, too. It’s gotta be fun one moment and serious the next.

I marvel every time I think of Oklahoma! If you only know it from clips or distant memory, you probably think of it as light romance, a good-time sweet little country story. And yet it references the following topics: promiscuity, pornography, nudity, suicide, impalement, death by burning, rape. Then comes the end and everyone’s happily singing about statehood. Somehow, I love it. I stood before it’s star, Shirley Jones, last year for a screening and autograph session. (Frankly, she’ll almost be Shirley Partridge to me.)

So, I love getting into a good musical, but it never happens just by going to the theater and watching it. I’ve got to listen to the CD, read the notes, research online, and refuse to be satisfied until I get it all, or at least most of it.

Meandering Minds 3

 

Of course we have already convinced ourselves that we are going to have a terrible day. Why not take the easy way to change our mind?

So we ask ourselves, what do we do when we “play”? We use our muscles, talk, walk, converse with others, think, look, feel, sometimes we are glad, and sometimes we are mad. Isn’t that the same things we do when we “work”? Of course it is! Now, we go inside our head, look up the word “drudgery,” scroll down to the word “work,” click on it and drag it over to, and under, the word “happiness.” Now we say to ourselves when we first wake up: “Oh man, what a beautiful day! And the really neat thing about today is that I get to go to work, have lots of fun, and even get paid to do it.”

As we all know, our minds are no different than computers…garbage in – garbage out! Therefore, since we live our lives in our minds, we can make our lives a living hell, or a living heaven. Our brains are going to consider work something we hate only if we tell it so. If we keep telling ourselves over and over that “work” is “play”, then the mind will eventually consider that as reality, and our attitude will change.

Practice that with everything and everyone you consider negative, and one day you’ll wake up and be mindful of the fact that your mind has changed…not sure about you, but I wouldn’t mind that!

So, that is it for today’s article. Thank you so much for reading! I hope you liked it. If you did, and even if you did not, please share your opinion the the comments section below. I am very interested in what you have to say, it helps me to make my blog a bit better every day. Thank you again and have a nice day! xoxo

Meandering Minds 2

Of course, by acting upon positive attributes, we cannot help but be an extremely positive influence upon all those with whom we come into contact with. And of natural course, we will attract good people who will be a great plus in our lives, and therefore enjoy our everyday lives even more.

When we apply what it takes to condition ourselves to learn of ideals and actions that will transform us from a lowly state in our mental and physical worlds, we will soon begin to notice how very much we regenerating ourselves into a human being who is suddenly accomplishing that which we had no thought of completing before. By the very law of cause and effect, we will soon control almost all that is around us…our attitudes will become positive, we will soon improve upon our everyday lives, we will soon discover that much of the stress and depression in our lives are no longer an influence.

As we are all motivated by that which we fear, and that which makes us happy, we will one day awaken to find that all of our fears are slowly disappearing into the misty dimension of foreverness, and that our everyday happiness increases in direct proportion to the improvement of our attitude, and our positive learning. As an added advantage, we soon realize that our confidence in ourselves is greatly increasing, and that there is a bright light at the end of every dark tunnel.

If we face some chore that has to be faced, and we just seem to know that it is going to be an unpleasant experience, then we need to change our attitude towards it. And altering our attitude is not near as hard as you may believe.

For instance; we wake up in the morning, and while we are stretching, we think to ourselves: “I cannot believe I have to go to work on such a lovely day…dang, I hate that!”

Meandering Minds

 

Have you ever introduced yourself to your mind? Mind you, it can be a very pleasant or a very scary experience…and I am here to tell you that there are some really scary minds on this beautiful orb we call Earth. I’m not speaking of the physical mind (the brain), but what makes us who we are.

Naturally, our mind is the result of many combinations of things. One of the most influencing factors are those folks who raised us, and another one is the environment/s in which we were raised. Of course, the types of schools we attended, and the different sorts of teachers are two more areas which took their parts in shaping us to what we are today. And we cannot forget those with whom we work and play. Plus, we must include how we interacted with all those humanoids and environments.

In other words, we are the exact sum total of everyone we met, everything we did, everywhere we went, everything we learned, and everything we thought. And if some of us wish to get a very rude awakening of the type of individual we have become, all that is necessary is to stand back and take a long, hard, and thoughtful look at who are friends are.

What do they do? Do they drink a lot? Do they read good books? Do they read anything at all? Do they curse a lot? Do they do it in public? Do they seem to have some morals and principles? Do we? If we do take a good look at our friends, and we are not happy with our results, then it is time to find new friends.

As we are all aware, we have within ourselves the total power to control all that we say, do, and think … we can be any type of person we wish to be. We can transform our entire being through reading, writing of ourselves(self discovery), learning of what makes excellent moral character, and then incorporating it all into our everyday thoughts, words, and actions.

Alan Sonfist, Environment Artist Part 3

 

In his early career, Sonfist worked along the mainstream of the current school of art. he came in the middle of the Pop era, but soon found he wanted to address what he was feeling about nature and the city. As a child he had lived near, and played in, and felt a part of, the last virgin forest in New York City. Then, he went away to school and on his return found very little of the forest remaining. This troubled him so much he created his first Time Landscape. It took much effort and grant money, but the results were a monumental recapturing of the recent past life of the city. His work is much more than the historical part that the earth artists worked with, although they seem similar on the surface. 

As a part of the past, his works portray and actually use species of trees and other plants that lived there before man came to the area. As these grow and the soil returns to the way it was as a result, even the air rising from the area mixes with the polluted air of the present city. People walk by and are part of the work. Then, in time their children will live there and so the work also speaks to the future.

Sonfist does careful research in each area to be as accurate as possible in reproducing the environment that was there hundreds of years ago. Anyone with any imagination could create a wilderness of the past, but his are two separate ecologies that coexist in the present.

Other works include museum installations such as was in Fresno, where he surveyed the entire San Joaquin Valley from the West Hills to the Sierra. Then taking a slice of the land, he used wet clay and made “footprints” in the soil, leaving these as tiles for a remembrance to the future of what exists here today.

He has made rubbings, mounds, a circle of the past vegetation of an area. He has worked in bronze, often combining the natural with his sculptures of nature. He created a prairie, a swamp, and many other types of landscape. In this his work resembles that of Singer, for instance.

But he is doing more than making a statement of ecology or environment. In Tennessee in the early 1990s, he created the Sewanee Oasis, using nature and the site as medium, subject and essence of his work. The shape of the site has symbolic and historical relevance from the earliest maps of the area. Then it was planted with the help of local students with endangered species.

In another project, he took seeds of the long-dead American Chestnut trees and made arks to hold them. both as a relic and reliquary, these arks contain fragments of the trees, a seed of the tree sealed in beeswax. Then these arks were sent to various museums across the country for safe keeping.

He sees his representations of rivers, streams, forests, marshes and beaches a par of the natural continuum, as much a part of a city’s vitality as any man-made urbanization. “Public monuments have traditionally paid homage to national heroes, but now we have to pay homage to our natural heritage.”

That is what makes Sonfist stand apart from other earth artists of the late 20th Century. Perhaps he could be more closely associated with nature artist Andy Goldsworthy, whose ephemeral art includes materials of leaves, snow, and ice. With all art forms, each takes from the previous style that which it can use and goes on from there. Sonfist has worked along with these men, and yet remains different from each. One may see some of Gorky in his work, or of Smithson or Singer. But none of these artists were trying to tie the past, present and future together into one work of art in quite the same way, or with such determination. Sonfist’s bronzes may only be “worth $4.00”, but the trees he works with are indeed worth $4,000 in comparison.

It has been over 20 years since Sonfist planted his first Time Landscape in New York City. It was honored in an Earth Day Celebration in 1998. During these years he has worked on other projects and has become known as a leading environmental artist around the world. Sonfist’s recent works include Time Totem in Alaska 1980, and the Circle of Time, 1986-89.

From the internet, I quote: Land Art, or natural art, has changed since the concept was formed in the early 1960s. For many the dialogue with nature’s eternal cycle is of greater importance than subjective gains The artists from near and far who have worked with TICKON have demonstrated by their residence and daily work in the park that a world-embracing solidarity exists where nature is concerned. They observe, listen, experience, and pass their perception on to us.

 

Alan Sonfist, Environment Artist Part 2 (3)

 

art and the landscape architects grew out of the ecological awareness of the late 1960s. Suddenly people were noticing the problems their lifestyles were causing. The air was polluted. The waters were polluted, and the land was polluted. As a statement against this in part, and as a result of personal frustrations in the art world, Smithson, Long and Singer showed their concern for the environment in various monumental works.

Henry Martin writes in 1967 “Nature has become the great forgotten subject. Romanticism possessed itself of Nature so thoroughly that the baby seemed almost to have become the bathwater. Nature now belongs to the people who are worried about highway beautification and expensive and profitable projects for lining route 66 with petunias and weeping willow trees.”

The projects were indeed monumental as well as museum pieces, and many were profitable. Corporations intent on obeying government regulations t clean up their mess or be fined were pleased to have an artist cover up their mess for them. but not everyone considered their efforts as works of art.

As example, Dore Ashton wrote in Arts Magazine (April 1969, “Exercises in Anti-Style”) You keep talking about putting things or non-things into environments. You keep hinting that we are not sufficiently sensorily aware. The environment, then, is studded with projects that are as nearly unmanipulated by you as possible. But studded by individuals, for the sake of whom? Who is having the experience? What exactly have you done?

Earth artists made mounds and planted them; they moved mountains and estuaries; they worked in the natural materials of wood, salt, snow, rocks and sand. They could not claim however that the work spoke to the mind, for in order for the nature of the materials to be exposed, the materials must be there – alive, arrayed and displayed. The mind can only work on the matter.

If Smithson brings graded chunks of salt into a museum and arranges them, is he creating a miniature universe? If Morris makes an appealing design of mounds of coal, earth and asbestos, is he saying anything about the nature of the universe? Or only about the appearance of the materials? These are the questions critics – in this case, Dore Ashton – have.

Is this what Alan Sonfist is also doing?

He has brought slices of forest floors indoors, lifting the room with the musky fragrance of molding oak leaves. Is this not like Smithson’s Non Sites?

Sonfist claims no connection with the earth art movement. He maintains “art has to be meditative, on a scale that relates to the human being.” He feels the greening projects of the sixties failed because they tended to eliminate the human element. They had made tiny parks which had no relation to the surrounding community. They treated trees as cosmetics, something to paint on a city block.

 

Alan Sonfist, Environment Artist Part 1 (3)

 

Overview of some of Sonfist’s contributions to the Art World, and comparison of his work and the Earth Art Movement of the 1970s.

“A pair of small tree branches, one in natural wood, the other – its exact replica in bronze – hung in the entryway leading into Alan Sonfist’s exhibition. Beside them, the artist had placed a label: Bronze – worth $4.00. Natural – worth $4,000.00. Must be purchased together. This often quoted incident sums up Alan Sonfist, Artist.

For centuries, over and over again, man has turned to nature as a theme for his art. Whatever his reason, whatever his style, whatever his statement, nature was part of the art scene.

After World War I, a general movement away from nature – the world, as it were – resulted in the work of art as an object in itself, not representing an object – the world. Harold Rosenburg states, “Liberation from the object meant liberation from the nature, society and art already there.”

Some artists continued to paint landscapes and nature, especially in America where Romanticism never really died off. Americans liked pretty scenes hanging over their living room sofas. But the industry, the avant garde, seemingly left the subject behind as it turned to abstract, minimalism and conceptual art. Back in 1935 Georgia O’Keefe painted morning glories. Gorky painted a work in the mid-forties he called “The Apple Orchard”. Jackson Pollack painted horses and other animals in his paintings, and de Kooning painted landscapes.

Society was more turned away from nature for a generation or two. The young people moved to the cities and away from the countryside and were not as interested in preserving nature. During the 1960s people in general, and artists in particular, began to see problems that this was producing. One big movement of that period was the ecological one that focused the nation’s attention on pollution.

Nature came back to people’s attention in a monumental way with eh earth artists in the 1970s. Galleries were full of Minimalist works in their own isolation. In Brian O’Doherty’s words, “a kind of eternity of display, where there is no time”. But the earth artists wanted to make contact with time. They wanted to re-introduce time and space coordinates into art.

Many of Sonfist’s works have been indoor installations. In March 1990 he visited Fresno Art Museum to create an installation in conjunction with the museum’s proposed sculpture garden. I had occasion to talk at length with him about his work and views on where art was at that time.

He made some of his intentions clear. In general he tries to create an aesthetic environment that people can relate with. He looks on his works as public monuments to celebrate events in human history. He sees the need to recapture and honor the natural history of our environment. He feels that we will lose part of our heritage if we don’t start revitalizing our natural heritage.

Sonfist has been compared with the earth art movement of the seventies.