Category Archives: Music

Living, Breathing Art

Contributor ~ Amanda Zober

You can find beauty in anything, art in the unlikeliest places; you can find inspiration to create anywhere you are, as long as you look for it. It can set you free, raise you higher than you’ve ever been before if you let it. With practice and passion you can turn your own life into your most valued and perfect work of art.

Music is your escape. You work to find the beat and rhythm in even the most mundane of tasks. It helps to calm the frantic beating of your heart; makes the chaotic mess of thoughts in your mind still, even if it’s for just one short moment, just enough for you to think clearly.

It took you a long time to get here, to be in this place in your life where you can truly say that you know who you are and you know what you’re doing with your life. There’s a list of reasons hiding somewhere in your past that once made you believe that you would never make it to this point in your life. There were people at every turn telling you that you would fail. There is a part of you that takes pride in the fact that you didn’t let their negativity get you; instead of resigning yourself to defeat, you used their hateful words to steel your resolve and turned it into motivation to prove them wrong.

Looking back, it makes you proud that you can say that you worked hard and earned your place in this world. While you aren’t in the forefront of the public eye, people still know your work; it’s anonymous, yes, but there are still people who are trying to emulate you. You take it as a compliment of the highest honor, after all imitation is the highest form of flattery.

If asked, you wouldn’t truly be able to define the type of artist that you are. There is no one specific skill set that you’ve honed to perfection. If pressed, you’d have to say you were a type of mixed media artist. There is music you compose while creating your art that no one will hear when they finally see the completed piece. What the news will eventually talk about is the paintings and sculptures that make up the finished product that is your creation.

You’ve traveled all over the world as discreetly as possible to leave your artwork in hidden alcoves, old parks, buildings scheduled for demolition, trying to leave something beautiful in places that people have long since abandoned. It gives you a sense of joy and happiness when someone stumbles across all your hard work and people come from all over to cover it as a semi-important new piece. It’s become something of a guessing game among the who’s who of the art world, and media at large to figure out who this mysterious artist is that has left magnificently detailed portraits and sculptures all over the world without having been caught yet.

There are still those neigh-sayers that are claiming your work to be vandalism; you just believe that they don’t quite know what art truly is. You’re trying to take the places that the world has forgotten and abandoned, and doing your hardest to make them into something again, something that people will flock to and talk about for generations to come. You’d say it could be considered street art in it’s finest form, but you wouldn’t like to give yourself a big head; cockiness would lead to you being found out, and you like being anonymous.

You like the idea of people judging and appreciating your art for exactly what it is, and not on who you are. Growing up where you did, and sitting on the edges of the more popular social groups, you know that people buy into the person selling the ideas and art more so than the art itself. That isn’t something you wanted. You didn’t want to become the brand that sold your work, you wanted your work to stand on it’s own and sell itself. You think you’ve done a pretty good job of that. With no one knowing who the artist is, all they can buy into is your art itself.

When you need to get inspiration for a new piece, you like to volunteer at community centers in whatever city you happen to be in at the time. You’ll pick up odd jobs at local dives, meeting the regulars and paying your way while teaching little kids about art. It’s a modest living, but you’re content with it. It’s a life free of obligations and demands.

When you do finally get an idea for what you’re next piece is going to be, you’ll ask for help from some of the older high school kids that you work with at the community center, and from some of the rough and tumble regulars from whatever place you’re currently working at. You try to find the more unsavory locals, the high school bullies, the angry old drunks, and short tempered women; you want to take these people who have such a hard time showing kindness to others, and show them how beautiful the world can be when you open your hearts to art. You want to be the one to make a difference for them, to change their views on the world. You put your faith in them to keep our identity a secret and so far no one has let you down in the decades you’ve been doing this.

You’re current piece has some great volunteers helping you. They are parolees and their probation officers thought it would be good for them to take classes at the center. They all seem to harbor a great deal of vitriol, and you know that both of them just want to see the world burn down around them. You’re hoping you can change that, even if they don’t seem to think all that much of you. Currently you have one of them sprawled out across a bench that seems to be decomposing in some areas.

You’re at a park a few miles out of the city; it’s been abandoned for more than a decade and the locals believe that it’s haunted. Most people don’t come here, but you know some curious teenager will investigate it sometime in the near future, like all teens do with local legends. They will discover your art and soon this poor old place won’t be so abandoned any more.

There is an old swing set that you want to be the focal point of this piece. You are thinking about modeling it after Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It has taken some time, but you have figured out the logistics on how to make it work. You already have the stuffed arms and legs made, you just have to set up the torso so it hangs right on the old steal frame of the swing; after that. it’s just a matter of sewing the plush limbs onto where you need them to be.

You are covered in the thick paint you used to color the main body. It makes it a little harder to get the torso hung up right, with your hands covered in the slick sticky liquid. You’ve had to use fishing line to hold the head and the first set of arms into place. The first set of legs is perfect to be hanging straight down the way they are. Sewing on the second set of arms takes work. They are heavier than you’d anticipated, but you cut the seams on the shoulders so perfectly that it doesn’t take you too much longer than you anticipated to graft them onto the body. The second set of legs is easy after you got the hang of the arms.

Stepping back, the completed body looks better than you could have imagined when starting. The lines of the extra limbs flow seamlessly into the rest of the body. You couldn’t be prouder of how it looks, and now you just have to finish the cleanup and set up for the soon to be audience. Even though you won’t be around when they discover it, you still want to make sure people have a decent place to admire it.

You go to the bench your first volunteer as laying on. He’d had a rough day and was currently resting. Not wanting to disturb him, you gently try to clean away most of the paint he ended up covered in. He got a little messier than you’re used to but he’s also a lot more rough around the edges than your usual volunteers. You carefully set his limbs up on the bench so he’s more comfortable; you don’t want him to put unnecessary strain onto his body. Once that’s taken care of, you pack the rest of your supplies into your truck. There is a small lake next to the park that you decide to use to clean off the rest of the paint covering your body. You don’t want any of it to stain the inside of your truck; that would be a lot more work to clean it up later.

After you’re as clean as you’re going to get, you drive back to the motel you’ve been staying at. You don’t feel too bad about leaving your volunteers at the park. They had their own cars. This is the part where you get everything packed up and drift out of town like you were never there. By the time the sculpture is discovered no one will remember who you were, and your anonymous streak will continue.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Setting up in a new town, in a new country, you turn on the news to see your last sculpture had been discovered. The buzz on this one is the biggest yet. People are speechless and impressed by how well all the pieces fit together, and how perfectly it’s suspended between the bars of the swing set. Smiling, you reflect on the concerto you composed during the creation of that piece.

It was beautiful and heart breaking in how well the cries of your volunteers blended into the natural sounds of the wildlife surrounding you. Their gasping breaths as the life slowly faded out of them left you with chills, that you knew would just build up the suspense to the climax of your song. The buzzing of the saw thrummed through your veins as you removed the limbs from the shorter one. The cuts are made with a clean precision that has taken you years to master. His blood comes out faster and thicker than you’re normal volunteers. It paints everything a dark crimson that would look absolutely stunning on the main body.

Once you had the limbs, you had set him on the bench to rest until you need him again. The blood from his arms painted the main body perfectly as you attached them to here you needed them to be. It dripped down the torso in perfect rivulets. It was easier than you assumed it would be. The tricky part came with grafting to plush limbs onto the first volunteer. Fabric doesn’t blend as seamlessly into flesh as other flesh does. It took some careful arranging of clothes to cover the stitching so it wouldn’t be as conspicuous.

Once more the world was in awe of your art. No one could figure out how you did it, or who could be capable of such a masterpiece. You know you are now at the height of your career; everyone will be trying to figure out who you are. It was time to plan your biggest masterpiece; the greatest one to complete all you’ve accomplished. It will be your last major work, and then you’ll retire from the spotlight; leave them wanting more. Your greatest work will be your grand finale. With that in mind, you know you’re going to need a lot more volunteers to help you complete it. You think fifteen should work.

You turn off the tv; you have a masterpiece to plan.

How It Goes

It was a stormy night
Once upon a time
The story takes flight
Adventures to find
Starts off easy
Something simple
Something sleazy

It’s all fun but then it gets bad
Out of control
But that’s just how this story goes

Break fast
Reality crumbles
Think quick
Before you stumble
Don’t quit
Time to move on
Time to run along

It’s the middle now
Figuring out how
But solutions aren’t binding
The plot is winding
Gets complicated
Something crazy
Something heated

It just all went bad
Out of control
It’s how this story goes

Break fast
Reality crumbles
Think quick
Before you stumble
Don’t quit
Time to move on
Time to run along

Freak out
Break down
Shake it out
Go around
Lose hope
Find a way
Live another day

The end, Le fin
Happily ever after
The credit’s rolling
Was it what you asked for?
It wasn’t easy
So, so crazy
Something sleazy

It just all went bad
Out of control
It’s how this story goes

Break fast
Reality crumbles
Think quick
Before you stumble
Don’t quit
Time to move on
Time to run along

Contributor~ Amanda Zober

BLOOD ON THE LEAVES, BLOOD AT THE ROOT

By, Jason O. Logan

I’ve only had a panic attack one time and that was when I went to see a traveling exhibit about lynching when I lived in Atlanta a few years ago. The display, called WITHOUT SANCTUARY, was held down on Sweet Auburn Avenue, the historical center of Black Atlanta, at the King Center which honors the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was apprehensive about going to see it because while I don’t consider myself squeamish, I don’t have a morbid fascination with scenes of death and carnage either. The exhibit was free, I was in the area, and I had knocked off from work early that day so I steeled myself for the horrors that awaited me and went to see the exhibition.

 
Different versions of the Abel Meerpool-penned classic, STRANGE FRUIT, played softly in the background of the area where the exhibition was held. Billie Holliday’s version is definitive but hers isn’t the only one. I’m particularly partial to the Cassandra Wilson rendition from her NEW MOON DAUGHTER collection, which was played too. No matter the version though, that lachrymose ballad has always been in my soul since the first time I heard Diana Ross sing it in LADY SINGS THE BLUES when I was about six or seven. Some things just burrow into you for reasons unknown. I found out why when I learned more about the history of this country, in and out of school, and how the past for good and ill affects my present and future.

The burning flesh

The burning flesh

I spent about half of my childhood in a fair-sized town in the southwest corner of the state of Georgia raised partly by people who knew about lynchings and lived through legal segregation. My eighty-something grandmother who lives up here in New York after leaving home for good almost sixty years ago told me she grew up with two JC’s in her life, Jesus Christ and Jim Crow, and the only reason the latter didn’t kill her was because the former protected her. Yeah, it was that crucial.

As I walked through the setup transfixed by the black and white photos of human bodies slow-cooked over open flames or hung from bridges as examples to what happens to nigras who got too uppity back then, I thought about how it was probably only through the grace of God none of my ancestors ended up in displayed in one of those pictures. Not that too many of my elders were hellraisers. But it didn’t matter if you were a church deacon or a ‘shine bootlegger, a hard worker or a lazy no-account, an old grey-haired man or a babe still in the womb, if a white mob came after you with blood in its eye all that was needed to be the guest of honor at one of their lynch parties, planned or impromptu, was to have black skin.
I never asked my old folks about lynching or the Klan or segregation too much and they never volunteered that information either. My maternal great-grandmother was the most talkative one about the past but she always laughingly spoke about how her bad temper as a little girl always got her in trouble. Her husband, my great-grandfather, would just tell me I was too young to know about that mess and to go get his spit cup for his tobacco juice. My father’s mother, Grandma Fields, was always salty until the day she died but she never talked too much about the past. However, she always told me to watch myself around those folks across the tracks.

My old folks never said anything hateful about white people but I always noticed a shift in them when white people came around. A certain kind of wary alertness that was always cordial but ever watchful for anything to pop off. They never shushed my cousins and me around them but they seemed to make sure we were always close to them until the white insurance man left or we made it back home from shopping downtown at Belk’s and Otasco. Always wary, always watching.

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

I saw the image of Leo Frank’s broken body. Frank was a Jewish factory manager who, by most accounts, was railroaded for the murder of one of his workers, Little Mary Phagan, a hundred years ago this August. He was snatched out of the state penitentiary by a lynch mob and hung 170 miles away in Marietta, GA, just a few blocks from the apartment complex I lived in at the time. The mob did the work the state of Georgia wouldn’t after the governor had commuted Frank’s sentence to life imprisonment. There’s a plaque marking where the deed was done right next to a KFC franchise even though his final resting spot is less than fifteen miles away from me as I type these words.

I saw the cover of a magazine that had to have been well over a century old which was illustrated with the drawing of a terrified Black man in a yellow shirt and ripped, red pants tied to a post in the middle of a vaudeville stage with white men firing away at him with six shooters and shotguns. The drawing was so vivid to me that I thought I could hear the gunshots, smell the smoke from the barrels, and, poignantly, feel the naked horror their poor victim must have felt before he died. My knees started to shake with that one.

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

It became difficult to breathe looking at the postcards of lynching victims sent through the U.S. mail with cheerful greetings on the back of them talking about the barbeque from the night before. Many of the cards showed the dead surrounded by hundreds of people who came out to watch the entertainment. I learned in college that many lynchings were considered social events like an Independence Day jamboree or a big-tent church revival but having visual proof of this fact made my throat tighten.

My heart felt like it was going to burst my chest when I read about the lynching of the pregnant Mary Turner in 1918 in Valdosta, GA, about ninety miles from my hometown. Mary was a twenty year old whose husband had been killed by a mob after a white landowner was murdered by one of his workers, a Black man named Sydney Johnson. Mary’s husband was one of thirteen people killed during the ensuing riot which lasted a week. She was swept up in it after she threatened to swear out warrants against those who had killed her man.
Her fate is related as follows from the memorial website, The Mary Turner Project:

Consequently, Mary Turner fled for her life only to be caught and taken to a place called Folsom’s Bridge on the Brooks and Lowndes Counties’ shared border. To punish her, at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a “whiskey bottle” with a “cigar” stuffed in its neck.

I had to leave after reading that. I thought my heart was going to explode from the stress of trying to keep from screaming in rage and sadness right there in the middle of the exhibit. I don’t know how long it took for my heart rate to slow down and my breathing to steady but it was a while. In this country, we live with violence everyday whether it comes in news reports, action movies, video games, or the stuff that comes kicking down the door in your personal life. The silent price of living here is that we become desensitized to all the real and pseudo violence. But seeing all that unadulterated hate and mayhem and murder broke me. It was too much to take in all at once; too much to look at from a supposedly safe distance of decades. This violence was right there, close to me as my heart banging against my chest from fear.

That fear was the realization that such violence is still with us in our modern times, only a YouTube video or a hyperlink away if we want to see it. Off the top of my head, I can list the names of men, women, and children who have been killed in the past few years and had their murderers walk. A little boy the same age as my son playing in a park across the street from his home shot down by cops. A man the same age as me strangled to death on a street corner by the police. A young girl the same age as my oldest niece shot in the head by an off-duty cop because he thought someone in her crew was pulling a gun when he reached for his smartphone.

Fearfully is no way to live life. Fear is a warning, an alert to let you know there’s danger ahead so proceed cautiously. Proceed with a purpose, face the danger and take action. Speak honestly and forthrightly, march, or grab a two by four and beat the hell out of the danger. There may be no lynch mobs like the ones from a century ago but the violence of those horrid deeds still exist to this day.

This country has too much blood at its roots to be so hungry for more. The strange fruit that bloom never hung from just southern trees. It was a national shame then, it’s a national crime now.

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

For more information about Without Sanctuary and The Mary Turner Project, please go to the listed websites:

http://withoutsanctuary.org/main.html

http://www.maryturner.org/

Strange Fruit by Cassandra Wilson

Slipknot Volume V: The Grey Chapter

Slipknot Volume V: The Gray Chapter-
A band that has such a polarizing effect on the metal genre, one fact is for sure, they have made an impact that will be felt when they leave the world of music. Nine musicians that have been through many trials and tribulations, departures and death, side projects threatening the longevity of the band itself. Slipknot are much more than a ”Nu Metal” band that they have been labeled as. And with Volume V, they have become the band that they’ve been itching to be after the previous four albums, it took six years to get here. I have been along for the whole ride of the monster that is Slipknot since 1999, (disregarding the Mate Kill Feed Repeat demo from 1996, as it IS a demo, and even the band doesn’t count it, as their fifth album is, you guessed it, titled Volume 5) This is my track by track review of what I consider one of the best albums of 2014.

1) XIX – The intro’s of Slipknots albums are usually very noisy, sample heavy tracks. This one follows suite in a way, but sounds closer to a funeral dirge. As this album is dedicated to, and basically a concept album of the life and death of their late bassist and founder, Paul Gray. Slow, brooding, meloncholy, and anger are evident in Corey’s voice.

2) Sarcastrophe – Each album’s second track is usually a punch directly to the face, this song, does just that. It starts off with a dark melody of keyboard and guitar, then out of nowhere, the impact takes shape in the form of drums, Taylors growl and a very ”Slipknot” guitar riff. While may not have the staying power of ”People=Sh*t” from ”Iowa”, but it sure as hell shows that the band still has a lot of anger left in their systems to push onto the world. This isn’t Slipknots most unique track, but it also isn’t trying to be.

3) AOV – The rumored drummer replaced Joey Jordison, shows his pacing and drumming chops on this track. The ”rapping” style of singing that Corey implemented rears its head on this track, some people love it, some hate, I happen to dig it. It is a straight forward slipknot song, with slight elements of ”Stone Sour” thrown in for good measure. Clown and Chris’s trash hits at the end of the song are a nice touch

4) Devil n I – This song was released a little while before the albums debut, and it whet the appetite for those who had waited six long years for another ‘Knot album. I enjoyed Corey’s vocals very much in the verses of this one, it and a echo effect to it, and a softness that works with the guitars that loomed in the background. The hook is VERY ”Stone sour-ish”, which many former fans point out to what turned them off of the band, that the side project is blending too much in the main one. This was a solid single, and the video was very entertaining as well.

5) Killpop – I love the drums on this one, the first few seconds has a great sample from Sid playing along with the basic but effective. The backing guitars of the verses compliments the vocals. Corey’s voice is very much the center of this song, and the very crisp and clear drumming just works. It is a simple song, which seems to be very radio ready, and if you think of the lyrics, perhaps that is point, is this a mocking of pop music itself?

6) Skeptic – Feeling that the last song was a bit too soft? This song brings the band back to the frantic ”Iowa” sound. It is a direct love letter to Paul Gray, the lyrics speak volumes of how angry they are about the loss of Paul, and that he is irreplaceable. It is very reminiscent of their song

7) Lech- ”I know why judas wept, muthaf**ker”… THAT is how you open a Slipknot song. There’s samples, amazing drumming, The lyrics in the song scream about the solidarity between the band itself, ”Im not your f**king superstar”, calling out the critics and those that constantly negatively judge the band or perhaps even Corey himself. Instrumentally this is a good song, but it is forgetable among the better songs on the project. I do however like how abruptly it ended, it was a very ”Bottom line” point of the songs lyrical content

8) Goodbye – This could be regarded as this albums ”Snuff” (from All hope is gone) in ways, this song is heartbreaking, a different point of view of the loss of Paul Gray. It stays in a very depressed pace tonally from beginning to the middle, but it picks up with very good drum work and downtuned guitars. Jim Roots small solo at the end was appreciated, albeit basic, they are bringing more solos into their songs.

9) Nomadic – This is not a bad track. It was a very by the number Slipknot track, it is just hard to stand out among the better offerings of the album. I did like Root’s very keytair sounding solo. This song just doesn’t stand out too much on the rest of the album.

10) The One that kills the least – Another song, similar to ”Killpop” that sounds very much prepped for radio play. Not a great song, it is passable, but nothing really stands out on it. It would have fit pretty well on ”All hope is Gone”.

11) Custer – This is a kick right in the gender parts song. The Sid Wilson sample that grates your ear in you are wearing ear buds, the scratching that he does in the background provides that old school Slipknot sound, so does Corey’s ”rapping/sing” verses. VERY profane, loud, and has a groove that you can’t held but nod your head too. It will be a staple at live concerts, you will know which part I mean if you listen to it.

12) Be Prepared for Hell – More of a short interlude of Sid Wilson samples and a few cymbal crashes. Very atmospheric, and ends with a very haunting piano loop. Could have served as a very creepy album outro.

13) The Negative One – Misinterpreted as a ”Diss” towards former drummer Joey Jordison, which has been denied. This a very ”Iowa” sort of song, angry, and to the point. It has what I call the ”Slipknot drum groove” in the verse portion that makes me want to head bang my head off my neck like ”Heretic Anthem” did back in 2001. GREAT song, I feel it should have been a bit earlier in the tracklist but it very much one of the best songs on the album, and my GOD the drumming.

14) If Rain is what you want – The last track on the album (not counting the bonus tracks) This song, builds and builds, and takes many different turns. Arguably, in my opinion, the best song on the Album, and possibly the best Slipknot song in their entire career. Corey’s voice is so haunted, so purely desperate, the effects on his voice along with the echoed backing vocals are very much chilling. I have to give a lot of credit to the producer and editor of this album. Every instrument and sound is so crisp and audible in this track in particular.

Bonus Tracks:
Override – The first of two bonus tracks starts with Sid Wilson providing an odd sample and a few bell tolls. The drum work by the still as of named replacement of Joey does a good job on this song as he did throughout the whole album. I can see why this was not on the main album,BUT, it could have replaced of the weaker songs like ”Nomadic” or ”The one that kills the least”

The Burden- This song…NOT being on the main album..is a shame. It could have EASILY fit the very creepy factor that they were trying to convey,and the sadness that Corey put across lyrically. Paul Gray’s death hit this band VERY hard, and this is another song that expresses the sadness of dealing with their own mortality and struggles of live.

All in all, this is one of Slipknots best projects, as it takes from all of their eras for influence, and created something all together different. I would suggest this album to anyone who isn’t a Slipknot fan, to former fans who thought they ”lost it”, but to true long time fans of the band, you probably already own this album, so go listen to it again.
This is Twiztid Rodimus (David Barry) signing off.