evolution of the banjo from its roots in Africa. When I saw the film, I knew I had to write about it if only to alert all my many banjo playing friends out there (the number keeps growing!).
As it turns out, Marc Gabriel Amigone at the Afrobeat Blog has already done a fine review, so I'll just let you get it from there. Self-dubbed 'Afro Marc' has an excellent thing going, and his spot seems to be the place to get your finger on the pulse of Afrobeat music's history and its recent resurgence.
Here's a little taste of what makes Throw Down Your Heart so special (Fleck meets Anania Ngoliga in Tanzania, finding the first in a string of musical soulmates):
I've always been a Beck fan (saw him live once in Vegas) and decided to find out if that rumor -- the one where Beck is purportedly the older brother of the all-in-the-family, teeny-"mmm-bopper" group Hanson -- is actually true. As it turns out, he's not a Hanson brother although his surname is Hansen (tiny difference there, eh, like the difference between Swedes and Norwegians). Beck is, however, the progeny of a quietly heralded but influential artistic family.
Beck's grandfather, Al Hansen, while not credited as a co-founder, was one of the early artists to join George Maciunas, who is credited as the founder, in establishing and disseminating the essential vibe of the largely "d.i.y." Fluxus movement. Beyond that, Beck has said that his grandfather Al was a talented jive-talker and who better to spout-off, in slick but sometimes archaic, street-wise lingo, the virtues of this new, experimental movement. Until recently, Allen Bukoff, a founding member himself, was the most active mouthpiece for Fluxus; check the "Dear Fluxus" link below to find out if that's still the case.
To define Fluxus is a bit tricky; not even the founders could really tell you what it was (is). Good ol' Wikipedia describes the beginnings of the movement in terms of "event scores and Fluxus boxes" the latter of which were diorama-type assemblages of found materials (nothing too complex allowed -- no gold leaf, Gustav!). They may also have simply pointed to the top of a building just as a grand piano was sent careening to an explosive death by gravity. However it looked or sounded or felt, most agree that Fluxus was riding a wave that composer John Cage set in motion with his avant-garde works on mysterious, invented instruments. So, you see, looking into Fluxus becomes a kind of Pandora's Box -- watch out below!
photo credit: museum.mit.edu
You can easily find out more about the Fluxus Movement if you only try:
Audio interview ca. 1977 with Allen Bukoff & George Maciunas -- fascinating, bizarre ramblings from the founders themselves.
The Manifesto is here and now and has been since Maciunas birthed it in 1963.
Fluxus' home in the 21st century.
Dear Fluxus open letter to "the founders" -- Bukoff is off and done and gone according to these only slightly cynical, severely scathing sentiments! Please, let us not grow old and bitter.
Ward Shelley is an artist who presents material in a very specifically framed manner; the pieces I've been drawn to are his unique timelines with their extravagant detailing and vast yet pidgeon-holed content. I'll let an excerpt from the artist's own "mission statement" do the explaining:
My paintings/drawings are attempts to use real information to depict our understandings of how things evolve and relate to one another, and how this develops over time. More to the point, they are about how we form these understandings in our minds and if they can have, in our culture, some kind of shape. Usually I choose topics from art or cultural history, such as the arc of an artist's career and its influences, or the effect of particular ideas in an aesthetic or political movement. They are "wide-screen", with all information available to the interacting eye at every moment.
Ward Shelley, Who Invented the Avant Garde, ver. 3. Oil and toner on mylar, 159 x 72 cm.
The format of the work seems to be inspired by botanical diagrams, scientific manuals, biological illustrations, and the long tradition of charts and mapping. From the outset, Shelley appears to be an engineer at heart, one who refused to choose the cubicle.
The connectivity of all the distinct bubbles and bits of information is the fascinating part. By showing us a macro view of a topic, Shelley let's the viewer filter out distractions and zoom in on the facts that propel the eye (and the mind) forward in time and in two-dimensional space while never quite letting us escape the weight of the "whole".
Find out more at the Lawrimore Project with its close-ups of timeline details.
Read an interview by Chen Tamir found at TreviFlashArtMuseum.org
Visit Ward Shelley's official site at WardShelley.com