Bluebirds Fly: A Slideshow Inspired by Rufus Wainwright and His Mom, Kate McGarrigle

Bluebirds Fly: A Slideshow Inspired by Rufus Wainwright and His Mom, Kate McGarrigle

I had really thought the next Rufus Wainwright song I would be trying to turn into a slideshow would be “What a World,” although I had also been toying with the idea of doing something with his version of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” More or less by accident, I ran into this version of “Zebulon” that includes a rather moving introduction about how he came to write the song after visiting his mother, noted folksinger Kate McGarrigle, in the hospital in Montreal and then walking back up over a hill overlooking the city to his home, reminiscing about earlier, happier times when the tune more or less blossomed before him in a sudden quickening of inspiration. I pretty much immediately realized I could use this to introduce his version of “Who Knows,” and–after a little more poking around–I stumbled upon this lovely version of Harold Arlen‘s “Over the Rainbow,” recorded at a 2009 Manchester concert, accompanied by his Mom on piano (she passed away from cancer in 2010). As my Mom is 94, pretty much wheelchair bound, and currently on hospice care, mortality has been on my mind a good deal of late, so this project became a means of working through and articulating some of my own feelings, although the photographs are largely of the Wainwrights or McGarrigles, Montreal, or nature scenes of one sort or another (the bridal shower invitation is actually for my Mom–I have been working on a slideshow for her and going through and scanning lots of old photographs from family albums, but that is the only photo directly associalted with me or my family). As a result, this slideshow, much more than most, feels strangely personal, and I feel strangely moved by it, in a way I can only describe as exqusite–an oddly aesthetic word with which to describe an emotional experience.

The slideshow (and the songs that accompany it) attempts to express loss, grief, transcience, and a kind of emotional acceptance, and ultimately it works–if it works at all–more through feeling than any kind of intellectual argument.  I am a little worried that Rufus (who I will actually be seeing in concert soon) may feel that I am intruding on an intensely private and personal matter that he would rather not have other people explore, however sympathetically. If so (assuming he becomes aware of it all), I will take it down as soon as possible. The audio of the introduction to “Zebulon” is from a 2010 performance sponsored by The Guardian newspaper in England, while the audio of the song itself is apparently its first public performance, in 2007 on FIP radio from Paris, France. “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” (by Sandy Denny, who I include with one photo of from her Fairport Convention days) is from Rufus’ performance at the 2015 Folk Awards. There are other versions on YouTube, but I thought this one had the best audio quality, and a beautifully shaded vocal rendering from Rufus. As I mention above, Harold Arlen‘s “Over the Rainbow” is from a 2009 performance, accompanied by his mother Kate on piano, from Manchester England, and again Rufus seems to get to the emotional heart of a great song. I hope you like the slideshow, despite its somber subject (I tried to include a couple of gentle laughs), and at any rate you can always just close your eyes and enjoy the music, which borders on sublime throughout, and even occasionally hovers just above where bluebirds fly.

 

 

 

The Rainy Season: A Slideshow about the Weather

The Rainy Season: A Slideshow about the Weather

After working on “Slave to the (Algo)Rhythm” and “They Moved the Moon,” and purchasing a copy of Bob Drury’s and Tom Clavin’s The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend, I thought I needed a change of pace, which is to say, something to work on that was a bit more optimistic.  I haven’t even started the book yet, but it looks fascinating, enlightening, horrifying and–I have a feeling–probably profoundly depressing.  Being in a bit of a melancholy mood (not at all the same thing as depression) and thoroughly sick of the hot weather, I found myself drawn back to two Aztec Camera songs from probably my favorite album of theirs, Frestonia.  I had not realized until making this slideshow that the name comes from a street in Kensington (in London).  As I remember, they were Elvis Costello’s favorite band for a while back in the eighties, although they never really broke through here in the states (I believe their biggest hit in the U.S. was a cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”). These two songs, “Rainy Season” and “Imperfectly” are both to some degree about the weather, but of course that is really just a metaphor for expressing songwriter and singer Roddy Frame’s emotional and philosophical insights.  The point is, at least in part, that all of these things inevitably change and evolve, and that even deep sadness allows for the possibility of being transformed into something better. I managed to find a huge number of gorgeous images of the natural world, none of which I took, and a couple of which I had to pay for the rights to use them on the web.

I hope you enjoy them, if only from an aesthetic perspective, and they are lovely songs that I think have hardly been heard on this side of the Atlantic (or “the pond,” as my dissertation director used to say) and–if you listen to the lyrics, I think you’ll find that they have rather lovely lyrics to complement their lovely melodies.