Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Distance

“God is watching us…from a distance.” ― Julie Gold

Tina is our host for this week’s photo challenge, and she takes up an appropriate theme: Distance, using quotes from a song by Julie Gold. Tina mentions that Bette Midler made the song famous, but my favorite version was recorded by Nanci Griffith. She sings it like an activist, as a protest song. It puts the responsibility for wars, poverty, disease, and hunger squarely on us. When you look at planet Earth from a distance, you don’t see these things. They are human inventions. 

You may argue with me about disease being a human invention. My point is simply that a virus or a bacteria is another organism in Nature. The value judgment on it is our concept.

That being said, what I’m thinking about distance right now is that it’s difficult. Last night, through the technology of Zoom, I spent two hours with my kids, my sister, and my niece who live a couple of thousand miles away on the West Coast. Yesterday was my middle daughter’s birthday; today is my niece’s; tomorrow is my daughter-in-law’s. We were trying to celebrate our life connection while social distancing. My plane tickets for the West Coast must be converted to credit, and I will miss seeing them for an indefinite time.

Distance, however, is just distance. It is part of the perspective of life and allows us to understand connection and proximity. I am hoping that we learn many valuable things during this time. I am hoping that I learn to appreciate and accept distance even while I long for closeness.

Here is a gallery of photos of my “Safer At Home” housemate. We’ve always sought out open spaces. 

And here’s a gallery of my West Coast kids, to whom I’m working on getting closer. My plan is to move to Oregon at the end of June.

As you navigate the space of this interesting situation, may you be safe and well, holding close what you deem most dear while appreciating the vastness of this wonderful world.  

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Harmony

“There is no true greatness in art or science without a sense of harmony.”

Albert Einstein

Greatness is a pretty tough challenge. Harmony is a tough challenge as well. Technically, emotionally, socially, it is not easy to make music. I have a B.A. in Music/Vocal Performance, and almost two years ago, I took up the violin. Professionals make it look almost easy. I had no idea how difficult it is until I tried to produce some kind of pleasing sound whilst scraping a horsehair bow over a metal wire. The idea is rather ludicrous…as were my first attempts. Why do would-be musicians even bother? 

This evening, my eldest daughter is performing Mahler’s 8th Symphony with the Madison Symphony Chorus…and a host of other musicians. After all, it’s the “Symphony of a Thousand”. Tomorrow, I am performing Mozart’s Solemn Vespers and Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna in a basilica known as Holy Hill.

It’s impossible to imagine the number of hours that go into producing a concert, from composition to performance. Similarly, from learning to speak to writing poetry, what motivates humans to communicate? Why bother to go further than grunting out urgent pain or danger?

There is something sublime, something divine in experiencing the mystery of being alive in a moment. Music is LIFE in a moment. Photography is LIFE in a moment. It is breath-taking, poignant, exhilarating to be able to show someone that LIFE and feel that they resonate with that experience. That is harmony — experiencing the resonance of LIFE with another being. 

As a Lens-Artist, I hope to show you something that touches a chord. Thank you, Tina, for the invitation to be part of this challenge and share the art I’ve practiced. 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dance

“I am the joy in change and movement.” – Steve’s statement of identity from a Transformations School of Spiritual Psychology exercise. 

I have always loved dancing, although I don’t always love change and movement in other areas of my life. My problem as a dancer has always been that I’m too cerebral and not as intuitive and fluid as I’d like to be, especially when learning someone else’s choreography.  When I “freestyle”, I think I do better. It has to do with allowing yourself to open up and be unconcerned whether you’re “doing it right”, to just go with the flow of feeling and response. It feels fabulous to let myself move to music! I get a great sense of my biology and my emotions – and it gives my brain a much needed rest!

So what images come to mind when thinking of movement and freedom?

Water, clouds, wind, birds and bodies.

 

May you move joyfully through your day today, and thanks for your visit!

Dance

Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony

“The combination of simultaneous musical notes…having a pleasing effect.”

“The quality of forming a pleasing or consistent whole.”

I have a B. A. in Music/Vocal performance.  Harmony is something that means many things to me.  It evokes memories of listening to my late husband’s barbershop quartet rehearsing in the living room, listening to my children sing tight vocal jazz arrangements with their friends, and performing with church choirs week in and week out.  

Harmony is rich and pleasing and ethereal.  How do you photograph that feeling? You might think of going directly to musical instruments.  Something like this:

Then again, that does not quite capture the mood.  Perhaps it looks more like this:

Newlyweds

1989b

Yes, I think that’s better!

 

Harmony

Music: A Soul Experience

This piece is featured in this month’s issue of The BeZine.  To go to the interactive table of contents, click HERE.

Addressing this topic is a tricky proposition for me. How do I write about “Music” after a lifetime of being in its company, serious collegiate study, professional and semi-professional music-making and now coming to an ever-changing place of informal interaction with it? It is as daunting as writing about “Being Female”.

My partner Steve, who has a more organic relationship to music than I, often asks me, “What is music? Is this Music?” My definitions are vague. John Cage hears music in the sound of traffic. Why not? Steve stands by a babbling brook or a wide lake shore, closes his eyes and begins to wave and conduct the irregular but compelling rhythms. Music is an experience. It is felt and lived, by humans, most certainly, and perhaps by oceans, birds and the cosmic spheres. We can pick it apart, measure it scientifically, codify and teach it and all but kill it while still trying to communicate something beyond all those characteristics. I taught Voice lessons for a few years, giving rudimentary information on practical aspects of sound production and score-reading, but when it came time for a student to prepare for performance, I said something like, “Feel your confidence; trust your instrument; let go and SING!”

P1100993 - Copy

The music of the soul, singing, is not without dukkha, the intrinsic suffering of human life. Aside from Art or Artifice, singing is a conduit for emotion as vulnerable and raw as any primal utterance. Those who have guessed this often try to manipulate it or manufacture it for their own uses. Or they try to lose their egos and get as close to being on the edge as they can. Who are the great “emotive” singers you can name? Judy Garland is our favorite. Her story and her relationship with her music is a painful one, but we love to hear her inimitable voice and styling. I used to play my Wizard of Oz record over and over again and try to sound just like her…before I was 10. Before I knew much about suffering at all. She was all of 16 on the recording. She kept singing that song throughout her career. She knew exactly how to wring all the pathos of her life from that melody by the time she died. She did it repeatedly, convincingly each time.

Just two days ago, I read a passage about Singing that struck me with an entirely new impact. It is from Frederick Douglass’ own autobiography about his life as an African-American slave. It will haunt me now whenever I hear Spirituals or make up my own bluesy tunes in passing. This is written in Chapter II, a memory from before he was 10 years old:

“The slaves selected to go to the Great House Farm, for the monthly allowance for themselves and their fellow-slaves, were peculiarly enthusiastic. While on their way, they would make the dense old woods, for miles around, reverberate with their wild songs, revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. They would compose and sing as they went along, consulting neither time nor tune. …The hearing of those wild notes always depressed my spirit, and filled me with ineffable sadness. … To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery… If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,—and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because “there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.” I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience. I have often sung to drown my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness. Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.”

Song pouring forth like tears for the relief of an aching heart. Music is a channel for all the emotion that lives within us, be it deep sorrow, longing, suffering, yearning, passion, joy or triumph. Have you never brought an embryonic ache to maturity by playing the right music? Have you not fed a wild impulse by stomping out an insistent rhythm and letting your voice, your body move along with it? Music is my companion, my teacher, my soul mate. It accompanies me as I discover myself, like my breath, my heartbeat. It is biological and intellectual, a genius of Life like an inalienable right. I could not endure existence without it; I can not imagine Freedom without it.

Jim at Carnegie Hall

My late husband was a singer, a gifted tenor. When he died, 300 people came to his memorial service to sing their good-byes – solos, congregational hymns and choir pieces. They sang as the living and imagined that there must be Music after death. They could not bear it to be otherwise. Though Death is entirely unknown and a very different (and luckier, as Walt Whitman would say) experience, I would not be surprised if there was music in it. Perhaps it is the very essence of all experience, conscious or not.

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

Nerd Love to All Mothers!

Steve just happened to stumble upon this YouTube clip, and it is now my Favorite Mother’s Day Song! (click on the link below to listen and laugh)

Biologist’s Mothers’ Day Song

Celebrate the nature and nurture that brought you into this incredible world!  Have a great day, everyone!

A Little Story About Loving Yourself

If you’re puzzled by relationships…

might he be the one…and feel that perhaps something is missing in your life…

something's missing…and you’ve done the same thing over and over, hoping something different might result…

patternimagine what might happen if you simply followed your bliss and did what you love.

do what you loveA life may emerge that is not what you dreamed or expected or even what you may have been promised.  Still, it is actual and dynamic…and there you are, being yourself and still doing what you love.  That’s not a bad outcome, is it?

whole scene

© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved