Gongs Galore and Red Baraat’s “100+ BPM” at Make Music New York, 2014
New York City has a wonderful Summer Solstice tradition in Make Music New York, when thousands of coordinated free public concerts happen all over town. I have sketched it before on my own (here’s my 2012 sketches), but this year, I dragged the New York City Urban Sketchers Chapter along with me. (It was helpful that the Solstice fell on a Saturday this year!)
I picked events for us that I though would have maximum visual appeal. We started in Madison Square for Mass Appeal: Gongs, in which a dozen or so gong players performed. Here’s my sketch:
We then headed up to midtown to sketch the massed harpists, but they were not nearly as compelling and also we had some important business to talk over, so I didn’t get a sketch of them.
Then off to the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library! I did sketch on the subway over, but I just remembered that now as I’m posting and the subway sketches aren’t scanned. Oh well. They look like any other subway sketches.
We arrived at the library in time to snag a good vantage point for Red Baraat’s “100+ BPM”, a piece composed by Sunny Jain for massed marching bands. The bands had set out hours earlier, in various corners of Brooklyn, and made their way to Grand Army Plaza for the gathering. Some 350 musicians eventually lined up. They ran through the piece twice, and then kept on playing, because how often does something this glorious happen? It was great. Here’s my sketch:
John Luther Adams’s “Sila: The Breath of the World”
On July 25, I attended the world premier of John Luther Adams’s “Sila: The Breath of the World” at Lincoln Center.
It’s a grand, immersive work. The musicians were arrayed everywhere around the plaza: on the elevated lawn, in the reflecting pool, surrounding and amongst the audience, wherever. Unfortunately, they didn’t put anyone atop the Henry Moore sculpture.
The audience was encouraged to move around during the performance, to experience varying vantage points. But, as with many such things in New York City, it was far too crowded for anyone to do that. Luckily, I had a good spot in the trees right behind the string players, who were generally the quieter instruments (compared to percussion, brass, woodwinds, and singers with megaphones).
(I also sketched Adams’s “Inuksuit” in Morningside Park a few years ago—maybe I’ll get around to sharing those sketches someday—and that really required the audience to move around, as it took place in a much larger area; and it was on a Tuesday in a “marginal” neighborhood.)
Here’s a few pages of sketches I made, including a bit of the composer’s very informal post-concert talk as he greeted well-wishers.
Afterwards, I wandered over to Damrosch Park where Eighth Blackbird was performing and did a quick sketch of them. I didn’t have to move as fast as the band though; some of them had performed in “Sila” and then had to hustle to their own performance immediately following. Real troupers! I especially enjoyed their juxtaposition of Tom Johnson’s Counting Duets and György Ligeti’s Études.
Thanks Lincoln Center Out of Doors for putting on so much great free programming every summer!
Trio X and Daniel Carter, Andrew Barker, and Charles Waters at Pioneer Works
The headliner was famed Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed. He and his band were wonderful, but I didn’t sketch them because it was very crowded and also I was dancing.
Before Mahmoud Ahmed, we heard from some top-tier luminaries in the music best known as free jazz. For them, I was able to sit right in front and sketch comfortably!
Then next up was Trio X, made up of Dominic Duval, Jay Rosen, and Joe McPhee. They were more stately, and also up on stage rather than on the floor, playing what I swear sounded like a set-long deconstruction of “My Funny Valentine”:
I had a blast. And Pioneer Works is a super cool venue, with a wonderful garden and vast, antique interior spaces. They even have Art and Science Residencies program. I recommend going there on the slightest pretense just to enjoy the place!
Darren Hayman at Cake Shop
I was lucky to snag a choice corner from which to sketch Darren Hayman performing on Saturday night. It was a wonderful set from someone I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a chance to see in person. This was his first US show in 15 years. I’m a big fan of Darren’s old band, Hefner, and I’ve recently started checking out all the music he’s released post-Hefner (which hasn’t been released in the US). It’s great stuff! There aren’t many songwriters who achieve the balance he does, between passion and jadedness, humor and pain, nostalgia and novelty. And he managed to get a very un-New-York-like singalong happening for the coda of “The Greedy Ugly People”, especially after he (fairly) admonished us to “stop singing like fucking indie kids.”
Cake Shop was an ideal venue; it seems to be the only rock club in Manhattan where anything worthwhile happens anymore. I had a nice chat with Darren after the show, and showed him this sketch, though it probably looks better here than it did under the dim barroom lights. I’d discovered via Twitter that Darren is an urban sketcher, too! His watercolor postcards are great.
See you at the opening at BRIC tonight! Here’s a map:
Show of My Large Urban Sketch Paintings at BRIC House, July 30-August 31
Come see my large urban sketch paintings at BRIC House, between July 30 and August 31. BRIC House is located at the corner of Fulton Street and Rockwell Place in the Fort Greene side of Downtown Brooklyn; basically halfway between BAM and Fulton Mall. Free admission, 8am-10pm.
The opening reception will be 6pm-9pm on Wednesday, July 30. It’s part of BRIC’s Summer Art Social, which includes a performance by Thessia Machado, open studios with ruby onyinyechi amanze and Miryana Todorova, and Laura Anderson Barbata giving a tour of the amazing Transcommunality stilt puppets. It should be a very fun evening! I really like BRIC and the work they do for the arts in Brooklyn; it’s an honor to have my work shown there.
Some of these paintings have been shown before, but there’ll be a bunch of newer work, also.
BRIC presents the work of artist Jason Das as part of a spotlight on members of BRIC’s online Contemporary Artist Registry. Das’s work will be on view in the hallway across from the Ballroom at BRIC House.
Jason Das is an interdisciplinary artist, organizer, instigator, and concerned neighbor, based in Crown Heights. He serves as President of the global nonprofit Urban Sketchers, dedicated to raising the artistic, storytelling and educational value of location drawing. As Das notes, “The paintings exhibited at BRIC House are an effort to magnify observational urban sketchbook work to wall-sized, while preserving the energy and spontaneity. Creating these large sketches on location can also act as a mild artistic intervention, enabling conversation and demonstration sessions with passers-by in neighborhoods that don’t see a lot of plein air painters. There are compelling compositions everywhere in the city, not just in conventionally picturesque settings. While “authenticity” can be a distractingly loaded concept in Brooklyn today, there’s no doubt that our vast borough (and the whole metro area) has plenty of under-documented corners.”