I’ve been concentrating on other projects lately and neglecting my painting. It’s been  about three months now that I’ve been sitting at the computer, writing on different blogs. When I’m away from painting, even for just one day, I feel a terrible guilt, so I always make a point to do something for my art, no matter how small it is. How can I get myself into the creative mode to paint? Music is usually the solution, it allows me to step into the parallel world of  art. Depending on the sound of the music, I come up with concepts that usually are from symbols or fragments of thought.

When I was in my teens, (1980’s) I’d go up to the roof of our “Denrock” house in Westchester, California and listen to, on a Walkman, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Vangelis  and all the ‘New Wave’ music on 106.7 KROQ FM. It was one of those hiding places the rest of the family didn’t know about. This was a nice, flat roof over the bedroom in the back of the house that you could get to by climbing up a low shed in the back yard, that once on top of, it was just a large step up to the fiber glass awning over the patio and then just another step up to this flat gravel roof.  I was going through a phase of wanting to be alone a lot. Friends down the street wanted to play, but I just wanted to listen to music.

I’d always sneak my brother’s Sony Walkman, a silver metal, Japanese model that had flush buttons with reverse mode and a AM, FM radio.  It had some weight to it because of the metal casing, and the sound was crystal clear with a solid bass. So, once up there, lying on my back, looking up at the sky and hearing these amazing melodies and harmonies, I felt a kind of freedom. Constantly, I would imagine scenarios, characters, stories and beautiful images of other worlds the music would be a backdrop to. Music was the tool then and still can be these days, if I let it.

The sound track to Blade Runner, by Vangelis, became an obsession after seeing the movie. I listened to that album everyday for about 20 some years. Come to think of it, there’s only been one other musical addiction that comes close to Vangelis, and that’s Stevie Ray Vaughan. I listened religiously to his music for two years straight and any artist that influenced him became another feast for the ears. With Vangelis, a mood is transferred with a theme and scenery, as his music usually has no lyrics, he creates a huge sound, practically an orchestra, with a synthesizer.  Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well, gave what seemed like a whole orchestrated movement with just his guitar. He played a melody that ran far up and down a single chord, telling you a story, always keeping to the overall theme of the song and amazingly, each note is heard separately with such intensity. It’s like he’s the most generous person in the world and gives you all he’s got.

Lately, Nirvana, With the Lights Out, is being listened to over and over again. I especially like the songs on the first and second album. Their music has an overwhelming amount of inspiration, after all, it  helped classify a whole movement. Funny how I’m just really listening to them now. I remember my sister and I pretending to mosh in the living room with It Smells Like Teen Spirit video blaring on MTV (1991) and my dad coming into the room, pronouncing with disdain,” This isn’t music, this is noise!” The thought which immediately came to mind, I kept to myself, seeing that he was really mad, was that this was music, great music! I felt like there was something happening to my generation, we were embarking on a whole new sound, ready to make a long lasting rippling affect.

So, where am I today with music? It’s been a little distant, on a personal level as well as a larger one. My stereo didn’t work for a while, the CD changer went kaput and slowly I didn’t listen to as much music as I should have. On a larger scale, good music seems harder to come by these days. I listen to the radio going to work and not too much really catches my attention. One of my new years resolutions is to seek out local or new bands or even discover the overlooked musicians from our past and open myself up to what’s out there. Bon Iver, For Emma, forever ago, is a gorgeous album that I’m stuck on. A self released album, written with heart felt lyrics coupled with sweet sounding, huge melodies and a lonely voice, blows me away every time I hear it. He created the songs while in isolation for a few months and it definitely shows how our creative spirit fosters time spent alone, away from everything.

Going up to that roof, even if just for a while, was the closest I could get to escaping the world and getting closer to something else I couldn’t define. I believe that it was during this time, with music in hand, I was able to practice using my imagination, all to create a theme or world which now represents itself as my art. Back then, watching the LA smog imbued sunsets, I remembered thinking how happy I was to be by myself.

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