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Three Beautiful Musical Collections on YouTube That Will Make Your Toes Curl With Pleasure

21 Apr


The World is so ugly sometimes, but music is so, so full of enchantment, no? Here are a few gems I have found to soothe away a little of the suffering:

♫ The most BEAUTIFUL choral music EVER written
Collegium Regale Music of Inner Harmony sung by the world’s best choirs.
This collection contains two and a half hours of gorgeous pieces such as Samuel Barber’s transcendent Agnus Dei . . . to lovely pieces by composers such as Bach, Pergolesi, Elgar, Tallis, and more. Then there’s a partapart two, and a part three!! So there are more than 10 hours of this lusciousness, perfect for study, thinking, and dreaming.

Putumayo presents: Jewish Odyssey

I happen to own this as a CD, as I do many other Putumayo CDs. I am a Putumayo groupie. Once upon a time, Putumayo used to have a clothes store in New York, and I still have some of their clothes, now practically rags. Sigh. I love world music, and even took a hideously boring ethnomusicology class in college. (All I learned was, and I don’t even know if this is correct, is “Jaap Kunst was the Father of Ethnomusicology Type IA.”) and Putumayo has gone around the world making fascinating collections. Are they typical of what the world has to offer? I can’t say for sure. But I know that Putumayo has brought many new sounds to my delighted ear. In this particular collection, there are a wide variety of singers showing that Israel has a lot going on musically, and draws on many different traditions. My favorites included the poignant yet danceable Fel Shara by the KlesRoym, The many different musical collections. The gentle Ija Mia Mi Kerida – Janet Esim, and the Shalom Aleichem by Fortuna that made me want to cry.

Putumayo presents: Jewish Odyssey

Best of Sufi Songs.

Four Words: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I repeat. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. If you have not heard the indescribable voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan–no, if you have not been stabbed in the heart and nailed to the wall by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and then somehow walked away gasping, then you have not lived, my friend. How do I describe this voice. His singing is frank and direct, with a slight roughness at the edges, and then, he can go on extended passionate arpeggios that are both melody and percussion at the same time. There is vigor and passion in his singing that is so exciting. He is just one of many great Sufi singers. For those who don’t know what the Sufi faith is, it is a branch of the Sufi religion which–and please, people who are actual practitioners of Sufism, please feel to correct me, I am only writing to my best understanding here–is part of Islam, and which has an exceptionally open, joyful, and ecstatic view of human relationship to God. The most famous practitioner of Sufism the incredible poet Rumi ( about whom I would like to write one day. Anyway, my husband and I recently had the pleasure of going to see one of the modern great Sufi singers recently, Sanam Marvi in New York, and she was a rock star, truly. But about this collection..It features music by Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan and many other Sufi Singers, AND there are parts two and three. So put it on and you will have hours of mystical pleasure.


Yesterday, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

9 Apr
Terra Cotta Warrior, Metropolitan Museum of Art. April 2017. Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

Terra Cotta Warrior, Metropolitan Museum of Art. April 2017. Alexandra Hanson-Harding.

Oh, how I love a brisk April day in New York. I am taking a break from posting pictures of beautiful Spain to share an image or two of our sojourn to the Met, where Mr. Me and I spent the day listening to papers about–well, at the time that my ambitious husband signed us up for it, I was in some kind of epic Twitter battle, so I thought he said, “Hey, want to go to a free (muffle muffle) about (muffle) art from (muffle) China?” so I said “Sure!” as I fired off a few more volleys correcting the world’s wrongs. What could be bad? Having gotten that straightened out, I awoke yesterday to find out that I had signed up for a full day of extremely esoteric academic papers for something called Met Speaks: The Age of Empires: Comparisons and Interactions between East and West in Antiquity.

Thank goodness I had caffeinated properly that morning. And also, that we had run into a wonderful old friend of mine, Carol Drisko, one of those consummate New York women who are always running from one cultural event to another because they cannot stuff their curious brains full enough. So if she, 80 plus and sharp as a diamond, could attend to this matter bright and early in the morning, I figured I could, too.

And so, we learned about how the official court religious practices of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, were similar and different, and how their differences revealed special aspects of their cultures (i.e; that Rome was more open and public and China’s rulers gained more authority by being distant and mysterious). We heard a lecture questioning whether the terra cotta warriors buried in Qin Shi Huang’s vast tomb counted as portraits of individual soldiers, considering that they had individualized features (spoiler alert: nope), and asking whether ancient images in general counted as portraits (spoiler alert: it depends). We heard another lecture comparing the Romans and Carthaginians at the Battle of Cannae to the terra cotta warriors. Somehow, it had previously escaped my attention that Chinese warriors of that period used crossbows, which seems pretty kickass, quite honestly. That’s why the terra cotta warriors don’t have that much head armor or that much armor generally–they didn’t do as much hand-to-hand fighting as the Romans. On the other hand, the Chinese were big on chariot fighting, which believe it or not, was a rather antiquated way of fighting that in the west had been used by the Egyptians and Assyrians, but had been abandoned by the time of the Romans in favor of cavalry. Go figure. So I’m not exactly sure who would win in Death Match: Roman Vs. Chinese Warriors. Anyway, Dr. Lillian Lan-ying Tseng, a battle nerd after my own heart (the husband was rolling his eyes watching me get into this), postulated that the terra cotta warriors were all arranged in a very specific formation to fight a heavily defensive battle against a threat from the east (the most likely source of danger at that time) to protect the emperor in the afterlife. Very interesting.

At lunchtime, Miss Carol, the husband and I stumped upstairs to see the Han dynasty exhibit. It was quite captivating. So captivating that we completely lost Carol. Now we are sadly emailing each other and making plans to see each other IRL in some less fraught venue. The Mr. and I tanked up on more caffeine and got tiny plates of salad that cost about $75 apiece (why didn’t we smuggle in a nice salami in the linings of our coats?) then headed back for round two.

Then we heard a nice long talk about whether or not there was any Hellenic influence on the terra cotta warriors. Professor Fiona Kidd presented some visual evidencing suggesting possible links. That was kind of a mind-bending thought to me. Of course there has been a trade route along the silk road from time immemorial. But I have mostly thought of the artistic influences that might have occurred, if any, that early, to have been limited to the decorative arts. The thought that ideas about fine arts such as sculpture could be passed along and transformed in unique cultural ways is electric and inspiring and human. It really is interesting to think of how early some of these exchanges might have taken place–and how the east might have shaped the west as well.

Next we heard a lecture called Some Thoughts on Evidence for Monumental Sculpture in Eastern Iran and Central Asia under the Seleucids, the Early Greco-Bactrians, and the Early Arsacids. It was very interestin–okay, who am I fooling. It was now getting to be about three o’clock in the afternoon. It should have been interesting. Some of it was interesting. It wasn’t poor Dr. Soren with an umlaut or something Stark’s fault that my caffeine wore off and that I didn’t know my Arsacids from my elbow. The husband was whispering something to me like, “Shouldn’t they have sculpture in the round because the Seleucids were post-Macedonian?” and I was like, “My we’re specific today, aren’t we?” I was about ready to fall off my chair.

“Tea time?” he said before I crashed, and out we fled into the Egyptian wing.

We had a lovely hour putting up our feet in the cafeteria having $15.75 cups of tea and coffee and eavesdropping on other people having dramatic New Yorky conversations before I had recovered myself sufficiently to beg the dear man to let me have a little time to draw some sculptures in the Greek and Roman wing, and then we left to meeting our friends for dinner and a night at the theater.

It’s funny, at the time I felt as if I had absorbed nothing, and yet, a day later, I feel as if ideas are still spinning out of my head from what I heard yesterday, and that they’ll keep spinning out for weeks. I could hardly get to sleep last night, my brain felt so overheated. I guess sitting there and tolerating the feeling of being ignorant and uncomfortable and undercaffeinated as long as I could was worth it for the haul of interestingness that I was able to gather for slower hours that lie ahead, when I can unpack these ideas and look at them more slowly.

And thank god for tea.

135Journals: You Should Go to the International Print Fair. Here’s Why.

5 Nov

IMG_2180.jpg(Note: Linocut above by  the author, who graciously gave herself permission to use it.)


If you have the twenty bucks, and you live within a 20, no 50 mile radius of the Big Apple, and you have a few hours free, you would be insane not to gird your loins and race to the The International Art Fair at the New York Armory at 643 Park Avenue at 67th Street either today, November 5, (until 8:00) or tomorrow, November 6, 2016 (until 6:00) .

Why, you ask. What is this “Print Fair” (or more properly, “The International Art Fair Presenting Historic Masterworks, 20th Century Icons and Innovative Contemporary Projects” and why should I care?

The Print Fair, friend, is an exhibition of works on paper by some—probably most—of the greatest artists the world has known, curated and displayed for sale by vendors from around the world. It is a chance to get up close to gorgeous artworks that range from hundreds of dollars up to $160,000 or more. Just wandering around, you will pass by historical treasures such as original copies of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, works by Durer and Cranach the Elder and other Old Masters. There are also works by Picasso, Monet, and searingly emotional portraits by Edvard Munch. For those who favor more political and the moving, timeless, political woodcuts of the not-well-enough super-brilliant African-American national treasure Elizabeth Catlett, and the mocking pop art of Andy Warhol. It is hard to express the variety of what you can see here.

Here are a few  highlights from the fair:

Japanese woodcuts by the 19th century master of the Ukiyo-e “pictures of the floating world” School, Utagawa Hirashige. This school of art showed lovely, exotic and haunting scenes of beautiful women, theater, flowers—lovely and ephemeral things that haunt the Japanese esthetic spirit. These prints are amazing for their detail, but also for their incredible use of color and pattern. The subtle shadings of blues are so iridescent that I, a printing novice, cannot even fathom how they are done.

Another surprise for me was the kinetic, expressive artists of the Grosvener school, such as Sybil Andrews and Claude Flight. These artists worked in London in the  1930s, using linocuts brilliantly to express movement and pattern which gave their pieces of everyday scenes (kids running, a motorcar driving, people at a coffee bar)  a fierce futuristic energy reminiscent both of jazz and machines.

Karl Schrag was a painfully beautiful and heartfelt artist whose work depicted the horror of living through World War II in Germany. His work had recently been acquired by the Susan Teller Gallery.

In fact, noticing what individual collectors chose to collect and talking to gallery owners was one of the great pleasures of being at the fair. After all, these people have dedicated themselves to spending their lives with these artworks. These people are often passionate artists of observation in their own right.  I mention the Susan Teller Gallery because I particularly enjoyed their collection. It  specializes in American works from the 1920s through the 1950s. in addition to Karl Schrag and my much beloved Elizabeth Catlett, many artists whose works just hit me in the gut, among them artists I’d never heard of before, but whose works I really liked, including Betty Waldo Parish, Victor deWilde, and Ansei Yashima.

One Dublin dealer opened up a box containing an extremely expensive and valuable artwork consisting of pages that contained large gold leaf circles to share them with me. I am ashamed to say that I was so stunned by his kindness and the beauty of the work that I forgot both his name and the piece—that I felt as if I were enveloped in magic. He did not have to share this with me, because I obvious did not have 20 billion dollars to buy it, but he could just tell I adored it and he did, too. Afterwards, I told him, “Thank you, I will never forget this experience.” And I will not. It’s stabbing me in the heart that I can’t remember his name. I certainly remember his kind face and his gentle hands, holding the paper so reverently. Sometimes, it feels as if two people just breathe together, seeing something beautiful.  That’s all and that’s everything. Because someone was passionate and made something with care, and other people are alive enough to see it. It’s powerful enough to cut right into your heart. That was one of those moments that make you remember how time tesseracts.

Gettin’ corny now, so I’ll move on. Let’s just say that I would definitely say that I wish I could  give this nice man a  shout out because he could sell anything, and I would buy that damn book if I had 20 billion bucks for sure!

Of course, it would not be an art show without a bit of entertaining bullshit about which to grumble in a misanthropic fashion. There was an artwork that consisted of a high heeled shoe on a stand. Maybe I missed something. And there was a Damien Hirst picture of dots. If Damien Hirst wants to arm wrestle me and tell me why his damned pictures of dots are worth ca$h, I’m game. I like abstract art, and I still say those damned dots are nonsense. This is the reason why your relatives make fun of you when you take them to MOMA. “Right, here’s a corn beef sandwich and you want to call it Icarus Seven.” “No, Mom, it’s actually the guard’s corn beef sandwich.” hahaha.

To return to why you should see the Print Show–now–it is worth going simply because this show brings together works that are rarely seen, because these pieces are for sale, and won’t necessarily end up in museums, but in hands of private collectors. This is your chance to see them. And they are all printworks of one genre, which helps to focus the mind and help you to see a new side of many prominent artists. But even more importantly, there is something profound about experiencing both the individual lines of the artists up close and about being so very close to the paper itself. It feels different and more real to see the actual paper with the actual indentations that was once handled by a real artist.

As a student of printmaking,  I was absolutely astonished by the incredible range of possibilities that different artists brought to paper. Printmaking is difficult, technical, and expensive. There are any number of ways it can go wrong and very few it can go right. Every time a piece of paper is run through a press, the ink can be too thick or too thin, leaving the paper blotchy or empty. It is so hard for it to come out right. So each print is a miracle. Seeing how many of these incredibly delicate miracles still exist today is a breathtaking delight.













135Journals Art Corner#29

16 Nov
Spy Drawing, New York, 1. From My Journals. Art Project #29. Alexandra Hason-Harding.

Spy Drawing, New York, 1. From My Journals. Art Project #29. Alexandra Hason-Harding.

135Journals Art Corner#29

16 Nov
Spy Drawing, New York, 1. From My Journals. Art Project #29. Alexandra Hason-Harding.

Spy Drawing, New York, 1. From My Journals. Art Project #29. Alexandra Hason-Harding.