This is basically a video/slideshow that is a product of my visit to Ushuaia prison/museum in Patagonia last January. The prison hasn’t actually been in use in several decades; in fact, it has been turned into a museum by Chilean authorities. The building was basically designed as a panopticon, with five prison blocks radiating out from a central point, the idea being that you could keep all the prisoners under close surveillance from a single point. One of the blocks (included in the slideshow) has basically been preserved in its original state, although the cells are of course empty. Another block has been turned into a kind of prison museum, with each cell having an installation recounting a different aspect of the prison’s history or prison life. Another has art installations related to prison life, while another is a maritime museum, and a final one is a museum displaying the work of local artists, work that often focused on the heritage of the local indigenous peoples. I was and am quite entranced by the idea of turning a place of punishment, control, and incarceration into one of aesthetic pleasure, self-expression, and artistic freedom. It suggests the potential for a change for the better in both places and people, although I doubt it will be catching on in a big way any time soon. Anyway, I set all this in the context of Donovan’s lovely song, “Appearances,” from his Cosmic Wheels album. At least in my interpretation the song invites us to look beyond superficial differences and obstacles and towards the creation of a better, more just, and more beautiful tomorrow. In any event, I hope you like it, or at least listen to Donovan’s lovely song.
This is really a composite of two different songs (or really, two different versions of the same song). The first is “Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness)” from the Fairy Tale album (1965), while the second is “Diggin the Future” from the Ritual Groove album (2010). Although forty-five years apart, they are sort of the first and second half of the same song. The first song seems to be about turning away from materialism (which would seem to include relatively “hard” psychedelic drugs) towards the world of the spirit and personal connection; the second seems to be about turning away from destructive behaviors toward the earth (carbon emissions, burning the rainforests) and reorienting ourselves towards an attitude of love and stewardship towards the earth, that just might–in turn–both heal itself and love us back. While none of these ideas would seem to be terribly popular these days, perhaps they should be. Anyway, I made this slideshow (with a couple of video clips) in order to get these help get these ideas across, although I think they are also very much part of Donovan’s original songs. I hope you like the slideshow, and perhaps even the ideas. In any case, Donovan’s songs are pretty cool.
Here’s a slideshow mixed with a few film clips that I finished shortly before my Germany trip. The audio is actually from a late sixties or early seventies special that Donovan and Nana Mouskouri did for Greek TV. While there are other versions, this one had a beautiful delicacy I couldn’t resist. You ‘ll notice the last verse is missing , but I tried to compensate with some photos. I showed this to Donovan in Bochum (along with “Epistle to Derroll”), and he seemed to like it. I realize I have consciously shifted the song’s meaning from romantic to ecological, but I am pretty sure Donovan is okay with it. Hope you are too. An Happy St. Patrick’s Day (or, as I think of it, a celebration of all things green).
I did this about a month ago. Since I hope to be seeing Donovan Monday in Hamburg, this seems like a good time to post it here.
I had been thinking about making this video during my trip through the southern hemisphere. I had even filmed long stretches of the ocean with the intent to use it as the video portion. Yesterday, however, I ran into this time lapse video by Preston Becker on You Tube. Not only was the timing very close to the song, it was also much better and more sophisticated than anything I had filmed. He also gives explicit permission for others to use it in their projects, so I took him at his word (thank you Preston). All I really did was put this together, adding Donovan’s song and stills of Linda Lawrence and of Donovan and Linda as overlays on the video. While this is somewhat similar to what I did with “Turquoise” (a song I have since discovered was actually not inspired by Linda, but by Joan Baez), I think its different enough to justify its existence. The lovely song alone is probably enough to do that (it’s from Sutras), with its haunting Cello (?) line.
My “Song of the Sea” tour plans have slightly changed. I’m still planning to meet a friend from northern Germany in Hamburg on March 5th where we’ll see Donavan that night and then off to Brühl (near Cologne) where I’ll be meeting a cousin and his wife who lives in a nearby town. Then I’ll be running back to Bochum, where Donovan’s concert has been rescheduled on the 7th (he’s been stuck in Ireland because of the horrendous weather). Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well and that you enjoy this gorgeous meditation on love.
Derroll Adams was a noted American banjo player, folksinger, and songwriter. When Donovan was in St. Albans in 1964, he would go down to London to see Derroll Adams or Bert Jansch performing in clubs around London. Derroll’s expatriate home base was in Antwerp, in Belgium. For Donovan, he was “a direct link to the American Folk– Revivial–he had known Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.” In Donovan’s autobiography, The Hurdy Gurdy Man, he goes opn to say,
I wanted to know Derroll, and when we met we liked each other fine. In fact we bacame friends. I learned so much from Derroll even though he played banjo and I guitar. I would sit cross-legged on hotel carpets or in the tiled bathrooms (for the echo) and watch the master. He played in a delicate ‘frailing’ fashion, brushing the strings very gently and singing soothingly in his low sonorous voice. He touched each string with such tenderness, then seemed to pause to marvel at the sound that his banjo produced. I fell into altered states, following the one note fading. I was being taught by a master, instructed with no instruction. Awakened to the knowledge with no awakening. Amazed by his own plucking of one string, he would stop, turn to me, and say, ‘Donny . . . will ya listen to that, isn’t it beautiful?’ And it was. (61)
Here is a brief clip (all I could find) of Donovan playing with the Master:
“Epistle to Derroll” is from Donovan’s A Gift from a Flower to a Garden album, where it is the final cut. A lovely song about “The Banjoman,” it is filled with oceanic and cosmic imagery, as we go from the world of the starfish, to the silica on the beach (from which mirrors can be made), to the stars in the heavens. The song becomes a very clever commentary on the responsibilities and vagueries of fame, while at the same time a deeply affectionate tribute to Derroll and the musical tradition, skill, and kind-graciousness he was so well known for. This is rather different that anything I’ve done before, but I’m rather pleased with it. I hope you are too.
This is Donovan in romantic folkie mode, with some nice Dylanesque harmonica, in a song from “Fairy Tale.” It’s a lovely love song with some faint echoes of “Catch the Wind.” With no real justification, I made the slideshow about two things: Donovan’s relationship and eventual marriage to Linda Lawrence, and the color of the title (always implied but never mentioned in the lyrics). I’m not totally sure what they have in common other than that they are both beautiful. But maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s the point. Hope you like it:
I thought I would start the new year off with this track, a mid-seventies celebration of the joys of live music in general, and music festivals in particular from his Cosmic Wheels album. This seems appropriate in that I am hoping to attend more live music next year, and possibly even perform it once or twice, in addition to singing in the local UU Fellowship choir. This isn’t as irrelevant as it might sound in that I have actually never seen Donovan in concert (I’ve really only gotten back into his music during the last sixth months), and I am planning a brief visit to northwest Germany with the express intention of going to see a couple of his “Song of the Sea” concerts he’ll be doing in the first half of March. With luck, I’ll actually get to meet him in Bochun on March 3rd (I’m hoping for a photo with him I can post on the lower left corner of my website–the big photo will stay the same). Then I’ll be meeting a Facebook friend (we’re both big Phil Ochs fans) for dinner and go together to his concert March 5th in Hamburg. It’s not an area I know well (I’ve been to Cologne and Frankfurt airport, but that’s about it). I am hoping to shoot a lot of photographs and bits of footage which I think I’ll probably be able to use for short films and slideshows. I also hope to film a couple of songs, if that is allowed (it seems to usually be OK in the States as long as you aren’t using a professional quality camera, but this is Germany, and I’m sure I’ll be on my best behavior, especially since I suspect the US’s reputation is not especially high right now). If I can and they turn out, I’ll post them here. I apologize for an introduction that is really about me than Donovan, but I think the song is a pretty self-explanatory celebration of live music.
“Poorman’s Sunshine” is a track from Donovan’s Beat Cafe album (2004). A very intriguing album that revisits Donovan’s early experiences with beat culture, this is a standout track, with some terrific upright bass playing and some simple yet fascinating lyrics, delivered with conviction by the Glaswegian bard. The slideshow was great fun to do, with the last section kind of deliberately recalling the Atlantis/1983 slideshow/video from a couple of months ago. Certainly part of the meaning of the song is that music can be a “poorman’s sunshine,” although I sort of expanded the meaning to suggest that sunshine–or happiness-exists wherever you find it, which is probably true for everyone, but it is probably more true for those living on the margins. Anyway, I hope you like it (I’m really quite proud of myself for this one), but even if you don’t, just close your eyes and groove on this fantastic, little-heard song.
I always loved Lewis Carroll’s books, and my family had a couple of beautiful illustrated versions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass back when I was growing up. By the time I got through with them, I’m afraid, they looked considerably worse for wear. “Jabberwocky” has also become somewhat famous as an example of Victorian nonsense verse, which is actually a whole minor genre. The poem remains a wonderful example of the form, with a coherent story of coming of boy’s coming of age by means of the slaying of a mysterious yet horrible monster. Every boy needs to be called a “beamish boy” at least once in their lives. This is from Donovan’s HMS Donovan album, which is largely nursery rhymes and children’s poems set to music. The simple guitar pattern and swirling organ arrangement establish an air of mystery, while Donovan’s rather solemn delivery suggests what an earnest business this is for our unnamed hero. Hope you like it (to some extent, this slideshow was an excuse for me to explore Victorian book illustration).
This is the second of two slideshows inspired and accompanied by Donovan’s versions of nursery rhymes and children’s poems from his 1971 HMS Donovan album. I always rather liked this bedtime poem, in part because it was about getting to one of my favorite places: sleep. Donovan does set it to a a lovely melody, and it actually achieves a surprising narrative drivel. You’ll notice a number of illustrations by Maxfield Parrish (very noted in the 1920s), as well as more recent illustrations from children’s books, which I have intercut with photographs of fishing and fish, trying to suggest both the world of art and the art of the world. Hope you like it.
I sort of came back from Cuba with an embarressment of riches, but they are mostly performance clips of Rufus Wainwright (I got a good deal of practice filming, which I sorely needed), but they really belong on my Unofficial: Rufus Wainwright page rather than here, so I thought I would post these two Donovan slideshows from early September.
Looking at it now from the perspective of a few weeks, I think this slideshow sort achieves what it set out to do. “The River Song” is a rather haunting, gentle, meditative song from the Hurdy Gurdy Man album, that showcases Donovan’s intriguing finger picking style (possibly learned Maybelle Carter of the Carter family). This audio recording, which I downloaded from YouTube, sounds as if it was recorded from a vinyl album in that you can hear the pops and hisses that indicate a much played vinyl record (for those of you who remember vinyl albums). Although I have a digital download (yes, I paid for it, and it’s really quite good), nevertheless I kind of like this version–it has a lived in feel (sort of like nature). I was going for a kind of Thoreauvian idyl, immersed in a sharply observed nature while at the same time suggesting an interior journey, sort of like Marvell’s “green thought in a green shade” from his poem “The Garden.” I actually did two edits of this: the one here and another one with a video excerpt from Ryan Larkin’s “Syrinx.” It’s actually still up on my YouTube page if you are curious (it says “Larkin edit” in the title), but ultimately I found the shift to Larkin’s animation a little jarring, which is just what you don’t want in a project like this. “The River Song” video/slideshow was made with Final Cut Pro, by the way, which I’ve just started using (I think this was my second project with it). I’m still learning it, but that’s where all the fancy overlays come from.
This second slideshow is another evocation of place, this time urban, of Goodge Street in London. I’m pretty sure I’ve been there (and I’ve certainly been in the Tube station), but I don’t have any particularily sharp memories of it (there’s a lot to see in London). Oddly enough, in spite of the daytime focus of the title when I listen to the song I also hear foreshadowings of evening (e.g. the smearing of colors), and again it seems to be describing in it such a way that I wonder whether the light or darkness he describes is exterior to the poet/singer, or interior. Quite a number of the pictures are from Goodge street (I didn’t really try to achieve any unity of time, but a few people will notice Marianne Faithfull), although some evoke, I think, a more generalized London nighttime. Hope you enjoy it as much as people seem to have liked “The River Song.”