This seemed like an appropriate video-slideshow for Earth Day weekend. Martha actually has a lovely official video for this song, although this one takes a rather different approach, pushing it back in the direction of the original myth as well as the consequences of upsetting Mother Earth. Prosperpine, you may remember, is the daughter of Hera and is stung by a serpent. She is carried off to the underworld by Pluto. Hera pleads with Jupiter to bring her daughter back, and he agrees, but only on the condition Prosperina hadn’t eaten anything in Hades She had, unfortunately for Hera, eaten six pomegrante seeds (hence the pomegrante in Rossetti’s famous painting). Eventually it is decided that Prosperina will spend six months with her mother in the upper world, whose happiness is reflected in the warmth, fertility, and abudance of Spring and Summer, while the six remaining months (Fall and Winter) will be spend with Pluto in Hades. tt was apparently the last song Kate McGarrigle (Martha and Rufus’ mother) wrote before she died in 2009, so I imaginine it is quite a personal song for Martha, tragically expressive of a mother’s love for a daughter she will soon be separated from. I’m actually quite pleased with the slideshow, although only a few of the photos are ones that I took. It’s also my third Martha Wainwright video, which is now starting to look like an actual fan page.
If you are interested in my Unofficial: Martha Wainwright page, you can find it at this link here
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.
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.”
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.
I basically made this in response to a challenge from my psychologist to try to make a wholly optimistic, even happy slideshow. If you look at the ones I’ve posted so far, although they may evolve from hurting to healing, none of them are exactly odes to joy. Frankly, I haven’t posted the really dark ones, although you can see most of them on my YouTube channel. This one, for example, looks at the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, while this one looks at notable killings in Texas. None of them offers much in the way of consolation or hope, but they both came out of a very dark place and time in my life, which was actually only several months ago. I still wonder if they aren’t more accurate evaluations of the human condition that this one, which was inspired partly by my boyhood love of Donovan, and in part by my psychologist’s challenge. While there is a lot I like about it, at times it does seem a little false and phony to me (kind of like what is called a “Hollywood” ending, which is so popular precisely because it does not reflect what people too often experience in their actual, empirical and subjective experience). Personally, I’ve always been tempermentally inclined to agree with Dorothy Parker:
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Actually, I thought that the “To Build a Rocket Boys” slideshow did a better job of getting across the emotional complexity of experience while at the same time maintaining a generally optimistic thrust.
Certainly, I do not deny the possibility of happiness, even with other people, despite Sartre’s famous saying about them. It certainly exists, and some people are better at it than others, porbably mostly because of their natural predisposition, but also because external circumstances–often beyond their control–inevitably impact them. Anyway, I hope you like it, and that it makes you feel good about yourself, other people, or both; if nothing else, perhaps it will hold out the possibility that things might get better.
Another meditation and mortality and what constitutes a well spent life, inspired by another Townes Van Zandt song. Like Phil Ochs, he’s just another gift that keeps on giving, even long after he is gone. For Townes, obviously. And for Karen.