new song – “… and the meteors showered”…

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there! Hope you had a good holiday and are enjoying the first holiday weekend. ‘Tis the season y’all…

I was hoping to get the blog up by yesterday but there was food to cook, dinner with friends and family, and also an unforeseen Bond (“James Bond”) marathon on the SyFy channel – and they were showing the really good Bond films, “Goldfinger,” “Thunderball,” and “Casino Royale” – and well… I should’ve known better that I just wasn’t going to get anything done at that point, especially after a few strong Mexican coffees for ‘dessert’.

This week, a new song: “… And the Meteors Showered.” November has been a busy month in the Nights on Venus sphere – there was the move at the beginning of the month, a couple of new songs posted, some logo design work and helping friends with their websites, and some astrological charting.

The Perseid meteor shower

The new song was written, recorded, and mixed in Golden once I got here and originally was entitled “Perseids” after the annual Perseid meteor shower that we see here every August. It’s a great show in the sky, particularly up in the mountains or out in the country when you’ve gotten away from the city lights.

If these heavenly bodies actually fell to earth with greater regularity, well… that would be bad (yes, I’ve seen “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact”), but for the most part they don’t, and we get to enjoy the show at a comfortable distance.

The song came together very quickly and I renamed it “… And the Meteors Showered.” It’s appropriately spacy and ethereal and has an ebb and flow to it that somewhat simulates the ebb and flow of the meteor shower as we observe it here. “…Meteors” seems to have a little bit of a holiday feel to it – at least to me – so check it out below and as always, feel free to comment.

…AND THE METEORS SHOWERED
© 2011 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

And since we are now moving into the holiday season, the town of Golden finished putting up the Christmas lights this past week. A few shots from around town…

Washington St., downtown Golden

Greetings from Golden, CO... again

And with Thanksgiving behind us now, that means today is “Black Friday” (are you tired of hearing about all those “Black Friday ‘Deals'”?)… so here’s Steely Dan – some live footage. I’m observing the annual “No Shopping Day” today and the Christmas tree will go up – correction, will be assembled – later in the afternoon; tomorrow is “Support Your Local Merchants” day… so go out and support your local, independent businesses. They – and your local economy – will be glad you did.

Tree Update: The ready-to-assemble tree proved to be defective and made a return trip to Target the next day where it was subsequently exchanged. Maxx has now taken up residence underneath the new one…

Nights on Venus - the debut album

The Nights on Venus debut album is available as a digital download (MP3) and can be found on CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.
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the end of the CD (as we know it)?…

For some, the title of this week’s post may come as a bit of a shock if you haven’t seen a few of the recent news stories coming from some of the record companies about their plans to discontinue the recording and sales of music CDs in late 2012. They’ve been making the rounds quietly – I first saw this news item on a Facebook post a few weeks ago but have only seen a couple more articles about it since then. Before that it was news to me, but not entirely unexpected.

If you haven’t seen any of the news stories about this, here’s a link to a very good article on AllHipHop.com that gives a brief history and overview of the CD format. Most telling, they report, is this from Sideline Music:

“ ‘The major labels plan to abandon the CD-format by the end of 2012 (or even earlier) and replace it with download/stream only releases via iTunes and related music services. The only CD-formats that will be left over will be the limited edition ones, which will, of course, not be available for every artist.’ Reps from EMI, Universal, and Sony declined to comment on recent reports.”  – Seandra Sims

If that’s correct, it will end a 26-27 year run for the CD as the de facto recorded music format. In replacing the vinyl record, it had a pretty good run, in fact, second only to the “plastic waffle” in longevity (although music on vinyl has been making a small comeback over the last few years).

No, you won’t see vinyl records in large quantities ever again in your local Best Buy anytime soon (if they ever had any to begin with). If CDs “take up too much valuable floor space,” well, records take up even more.

The CD’s eventual demise in 2012 or whenever, was there in the beginning in its creation – when media data files could be stored digitally. At least for the foreseeable future, digital files are the endgame. The most popular format – MP3s – are easy to stream, download, they don’t take up space (except on your computer or MP3 player) and are, of course, extremely portable, and the MP3 players are just cool technology. We’ve been heading toward all-digital media for a long time; we’re there.

Behind all of this is economics. The major record companies have been losing money on CD sales since Napster went online back in 1999 (which is one big reason the major labels put so much effort into shutting Napster and other file-sharing services down) so it makes sense. MP3s and other digital file formats have been with us now for 12 years and have been gaining more acceptance and sales with each year. (I think the last time I bought a commercially recorded CD was AC/DC’s “Back in Black” a couple of years ago, but only because it wasn’t – and still isn’t – on iTunes.)

As a personal example, on a much smaller scale, people were asking me for CDs of the Nights on Venus debut album but as a fledgling record company with a very tight budget, I had to decide on doing a digital download only release simply because I couldn’t afford the CD album duplication or the cost of carrying inventory that might not sell. It’s interesting because ever since the aborted Cathartic Tourists album project (1991 – I ran out of money halfway through), I had always assumed that any music album release I did would be on CD.

In the future, there may be a CD release of both the debut album and subsequent ones – both ReverbNation and CD Baby allow for “on-demand” CD manufacturing… which may be what the record companies will do for certain artists.

It’s also been interesting to watch all of the changes that have happened since the Internet and MP3s appeared on the scene. For one thing, popular music is much more democratic, not the exclusive province of only those that an A&R staff at a record company deemed profitable. On ReverbNation alone, you can – if you have the time and inclination – browse through more than 1.7 million artists, most of them independent. The Internet has provided indie artists a way to get our music ‘out there’ where it can be heard.

Also, the way we listen to and purchase music via digital download is no longer so much album-oriented. Complete albums are still recorded of course, but consumers are free to cherry-pick just the songs they want to buy rather than purchase the entire album. In a way, it seems like we’ve almost come full circle back to the 45 rpm singles of the 1950’s and 60’s.

A couple of friends of mine have said there’s no way they will buy an MP3 player – the download doesn’t feel like an album to them and they still lament the day that vinyl passed into CDs – but I think that’s a little short-sighted. Digital files are here to stay, life is change, and eventually you just embrace it and roll with it. But, having said that, I also know they have a point. You can purchase an MP3 file or album but it’s not something you can hold in your hands. It doesn’t seem tangible, like a record album or a CD. Even though you get the music, it seems like you get less of an experience, which is really what people want as much as the music.

I think, as far as that goes, the vinyl record album was probably the best format. You got the album artwork, sometimes a poster, in addition to the music on the record. It was a more complete experience. There was nothing like tearing off the plastic shrink-wrap packaging from a new album, putting the record on the ol’ turntable, and opening up the album – if it had artwork on the inside – and looking at all the pictures or reading the lyrics while the music played (I’m thinking here specifically of Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy” and Todd Rundgren’s “A Wizard A True Star”). You also got all the pops, scratches, and sometimes skips from the record pressing (as nature intended) or from a needle past its prime on your turntable.

CDs eliminated those pops and if you took care of the discs they didn’t skip either (usually), but of course they were smaller, the packaging and artwork were smaller even if you got a booklet and… well, it just wasn’t quite the same. We lost a lot in the changeover. Also, the prices for the new format were generally higher for something smaller – presumably a trade-off for a more “permanent” medium without the pops, hisses, and scratches. But we adapted and CDs became more or less universal.

Perhaps in the future, maybe the next 6-7 years or so, 3D holographic artwork, images and video can be integrated with digital music files so you can get more of that album experience that you once got with record albums. I’m not talking about images on a TV or monitor but some free-standing holographic representation or video/concert footage in 3D right there in your living room that you can walk through, playing in sync with the music. Just a thought… (maybe the fine folks at Apple are already working on this).

Personally, I hope the next generation of standalone digital music players will play .WAV files. They do take up a lot more space than MP3s but I notice a big difference in the sound between the two (funny I haven’t mentioned sound quality up until now) and the .WAV files invariably sound better than the compressed (and normally dithered) MP3s.

At this point, I’m just hoping that if the recorded CD format does go away, I can still get blank CDs locally – as opposed to ordering them online or having to swoop in at the last minute and bid for them on eBay – as they’re currently an integral part of my mixing process. Already those blank CDs take up less shelf space at the aforementioned Best Buy than they used to.

Finally, it will be interesting to see where the record companies will go from here and what the next thing will be because as much money as they’ve made from cultivating and promoting multi-platinum artists, a significant chunk of the revenue for the record companies has come from re-selling us, the consumers, the same music over and over again in all the different formats, from the vinyl record, through cassette tapes, the exotic reel-to-reel tape, 8-track tapes (that one’s for you David), CDs, and now MP3s. For now, digital music files are the ‘final’ format, where we’ve been heading all along, but don’t throw out those CD players… or your turntables.

Nights on Venus - the debut album

New music is coming soon, as always…

The debut album from Nights on Venus is available as a digital download (MP3) in all the usual places – CDBaby, iTunesAmazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

new song: “paradise by the lava lamp”…

‘Twas a hard day’s drive… which is why I stretched it out over two and made it back to Golden, Colorado on Friday. Saturday, I was still in the process of doing the ‘load-out’ and by yesterday I started setting up the studio in the new digs. Moving is always a little disorienting and this is the second time I’ve done it just in 2011. By today I’m a little more settled in, but still getting used to the new workspace (still putting things away and trying to locate everything I need).

This week, a new song – “Paradise by the Lava Lamp” – kind of an ambient/surf-meets-hip-hop song that I completed right before I left Dallas. There’s more than a little Western twang in this one – a guitar sound I’ve always loved, ever since I first heard Link Wray’s “Rumble” and listened to surf music. Just continuing to expand the Nights on Venus sound and direction. More of a simple song really. Except for the bridge, there’s no bass line in this – I felt like there was enough bass suggested in the drum loop. The title is a play on words from the Meat Loaf song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” which kind of gives a clue as to what the song is about. This is from the forthcoming album (summer 2012), “In for the Evening” so check it out below and feel free to comment.

PARADISE BY THE LAVA LAMP
© 2011 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas. All rights reserved.)

What follows are a few images from the road…

If you drive from Texas to Colorado you will probably pass through Dalhart on the way out of Texas; I’ve been coming through here for years. It’s a drive I’ve made literally hundreds of times and so often I could do it in my sleep and, at least on a few occasions, I probably have (thank you 5-hour Energy).

Dalhart is a town of about 8,000 people sitting on the high plains of the Llano Estacado surrounded by the Rita Blanca National Grasslands. Farm and ranch country. It’s known as “The XIT City” after the XIT Ranch, a 3 million-plus acre tract of land which began in the late 19th century. The town was built by the railroads which still come through here and was hard hit during the Dust Bowl years in the 1930s.

The La Rita Theater and storefronts, downtown Dalhart, Texas

There’s an excellent book about the Dust Bowl/Depression years here in the Panhandle and Dalhart entitled “The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl” by Timothy Egan. It’s a great read and makes a good literary companion piece to Steinbeck’s classic “The Grapes of Wrath.”

“High Lonesome,” Dalhart street scene before sunset 

And chances are, if you’ve come through Dalhart often enough on the way to and from Colorado, you’ve probably stopped at the Sands Restaurant once or twice for breakfast. Yep, it’s still here, open 24/7 and serving breakfast all day – which means they serve brekkie all year. There’s some really good BBQ at Hodie’s on Highway 87 and great Mexican food at La Pasadita on Liberal St. (Highway 54). Like I said, I’ve been coming through here a lot over the years and it’s a wonderfully familiar town.

It’s a place that looks best photographed in black-and-white – like the movie The Last Picture Show – for full effect and I usually arrive there after listening to Ziggy Marley for the last hour-and-a-half out of Amarillo (the “West Texas reggae” leg of the drive), but Buddy Holly, Chris Isaak or Jimmy LaFave work equally well.

Fall comes to West Texas… 

Leaving Dalhart, TX early in the morning… the sun comes up late here so close to the next time zone west
And on the road again… nothing but the road, land and sky. The land is flat, the road is straight, and the sky is endless….
Coming into Boise City, Oklahoma, at the far west end of the Panhandle…
Driving through the massive wind farm between Springfield and Lamar, Colorado… 

Finally, the faint outline of the Front Range and Continental Divide come into view somewhere between Kiowa and Elizabeth… about the same time you start getting the ‘urban’ Denver vibes which arrive in full bloom at Castle Rock….. Snow!
And back home in Golden with the view of North Table Mountain.
Maxx in the window… good to have a cat around again.
Nights on Venus – the debut album

The debut album from Nights on Venus is available as a digital download (MP3) in all the usual places – CDBaby, iTunesAmazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

So it’s good to be back home again in Nights on Venus’/my natural habitat. Only one more move is planned sometime in early 2012 but it will be in town as we move from the 2-bedroom apartment to a larger town home, preferably with a basement (studio/rehearsal space).

Bring on the snow!

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

post-baseball blues… and ch-ch-ch-changes…

Rangers' slugger Nelson Cruz figurine... with rosary and stick of gum

Nah, not really, but the World Series is over and I’m facing imminent baseball withdrawal. Bummer.  For the last 9 days over 7 games the fall classic between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals made for some riveting TV viewing (if you’re a baseball fan).  Well, maybe with the exception of Game 7 last night, which seemed anti-climactic, especially after the epic Game 6.

In the end, my team, the Rangers, lost the series for the second year in a row. Where they really lost it was in Game 6, the extra-inning game, after coming within one strike of winning everything – twice! Arrrrgh! – So close, and yet…

In the deciding game the following night, it looked like they just ran out of gas and never challenged again after scoring a couple of runs in the first inning – nothing left in the tank. The Cardinals overtook them and won. A tip of the cap to the St. Louis Cardinals – they earned it with their comeback(s) in Game 6.

And it was a great series to watch. I’ve followed Rangers’ baseball for 40 seasons now, to varying degrees – a lot of it forgettable or just plain bad baseball (often in insane 100-degree heat), most of it from afar – which must make me some kind of loyal, masochistic baseball nut, which if you’re a baseball fan, you probably are too in some way.

Derek Holland, bad 'stache and all, throwing a masterpiece - Game 4, St. Louis vs. Texas

Just love this game. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a few Red Sox games in Fenway Park – far and away the best place to see a baseball game… anywhere. Next best: Coors Field where the Colorado Rockies play, sitting high enough up on the first-base side looking out to left field with the mountains as backdrop (Cubs’ fans will no doubt take issue with that, but I haven’t been to Wrigley Field).  Next lifetime I’ll come back as a southpaw with a 95-mph sinking fastball and a nasty slider.

Anyway, thanks again Texas Rangers, reigning American League champions two years running, for another great and memorable season (the “Year of the Napoli” – after catcher Mike Napoli) and we’ll get ’em next year. Where do they go from here? Who knows, but if you love a team – or band/artist – you stick with ’em. I’m sure I’ll sign up for another 40 seasons.

Now things can get back to ‘normal’ more or less which includes not watching a whole lot of TV again. Not much of a TV watcher – Cowboy and Bronco football games, “Mad Men”, “Breaking Bad”, “The Closer” (the girlfriend got me hooked on this, as I got her hooked on the Rangers), and an occasional episode of “South Park” and “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and that’s about it, so it’s back to business as usual. Which means working on the official NoV website (long overdue by about… a year) and writing and recording new songs. October has been a good month for that – 3 new songs, one of which I should be finishing up in the next few days. While I’m packing…

WHAT’S NEW

In another week or so I’ll be back in “the land of the ice and snow,” back home in Colorado and Nights on Venus will be relocated to Golden – back to where it all began. Just in time for ski season – yeah! Bonus! New job… other duties as assigned. So maybe it’s not exactly business as usual…

Aboard the mothership - always good martinis here...

The next song I’ll put up will probably be “Paradise by the Lava Lamp” – kind of an ambient/surf-meets-hip-hop kind of tune. It’s another short(er) one, clocking in at 4 1/2 minutes, so look for it to be up on the blog next week. And work proceeds on the second album, tentatively entitled “In for the Evening” (working title: “The Luv Album”). Looking at a release date of spring/summer 2012, around about June again. Initially I thought it would be a 4-5 song EP, but with the wealth of an “ear-catching bouquet of melodies,” it’s becoming a full-blown album.

Nights on Venus - the debut album

Until then, the debut album from Nights on Venus is available as a digital download (MP3) in all the usual places – CDBaby, iTunesAmazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Oh, and Happy Halloween, y’all. BOO!!

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

i can’t drive 55…

Now I’m quoting Sammy Hagar. What next?

The ’55’ referred to here is not miles per hour but age. I turn ’55’ tomorrow.

Not the ‘BIG 5-0’ – that was five years ago. It’s the slightly smaller, ‘big 5-5’. The girlfriend gets the ‘BIG 5-0’ this year (Hi Shmoopy!). To put it in perspective, I told her, “Congratulations – you made it! That’s half a century.” She said, “Gee thanks.” I don’t think she was impressed.

And so far I haven’t been too impressed with the 50’s. My 40’s were great – I loved them and enjoyed the hell outta them. But the 50’s have been vastly different and to this point, they haven’t treated me too kindly (more like, they’ve kicked my butt).

Within a couple of weeks after the odometer clicked ‘5-0’, I found myself on a cruise ship in the North Atlantic in late October. In a Nor’easter. Keep in mind that I had already seen “The Perfect Storm” a few times in the movie theater and at home – I didn’t plan on seeing it up close and personal out the window of my cabin. Also, little did I know at the time that it would become a visual metaphor for these last five years.

“Woaaaaaaahhhh!!” ….Bonus.

I can only hope that the remaining years of my 50’s are much better than the previous ones, starting……  now.

But hey! In the words of Mike Myers’ character, Wayne Campbell (modified slightly), “I’ve got an awesome debut album and I still know how to party!”

The Nights on Venus debut album is available as a digital download (MP3) and can be found on CDBaby, iTunesAmazon.mp3, eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Nights on Venus – the debut album

And,as a brief reminder, there’s about two weeks left on the limited-time free download of “Perpetual” when you sign up on the Nights on Venus mailing list. There’s also one on Facebook too, and it can be found right here. So grab it while you can. You like free downloads, right (even if they’re 8 1/2 minutes long)? Sure you do.

Anyway, I’m convinced that whoever said “50 is the new 30” – a phrase that became popular only a few years ago – originally came up with that to convince themselves that maybe, just maybe it could be true. That I haven’t heard this phrase in a while now tells me that reality set in at some point and even they stopped believing it. Maybe 50 can be the ‘new 40’… in which case, 55 can be like the ‘new 45’ or somewhere thereabouts.

I see the guys in Blink 182 are approaching mid-life (think about that for a second); Weezer is already there (Rivers Cuomo turned 41 this year).

“It’s out there!”

Next up on the horizon for me is the next milestone – the ‘BIG 6-0.’ Yeah, I know it’s five years away… but it’s out there!

Oy. It never ends. Yes Meg, it’s “out there” alright… that older future that awaits us all, and her name is “Kimberly” (to make it seem less threatening).

Around this time you may start making out a list of things you’re thankful for and usually that will include the big ones – health, family, friends, some money in the IRA, etc. This year, along with the biggies, I’m thankful for a few specific ones:

  • that I get to be with a younger woman who doesn’t look or act like she’s turning 50 in less than a couple of weeks and sends me singing birthday cards that tell me “I’m too sexy for my hat… too sexy for my hat…”
  • that those annoying AARP mailings – you know, the ones that start at about age 45 (the ‘new 35’) – have stopped altogether, largely, I think, because they can’t find me. First I was in Colorado, then in Dallas, and soon I’ll be back in Colorado again. Always stay at least a step ahead of the bill collectors… and two steps ahead of the AARP mailing list.
  • that I now qualify for the ‘senior’ discount at IHOP restaurants and Super 8 motels. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be taking advantage of this as I very rarely eat at IHOPs (except for Wichita Falls, TX) or stay at Super 8’s.
  • that I’ve got an awesome debut album “out there” and I still know how to party!
  • that I still have my sense of humor.

Alternately, you could write out your “bucket list” – things to do before you die, that sort of thing being popular since the movie of the same name. And I did sort of start one but soon realized there would only be about 6 things on it, mostly having to do with musicians I want to work with and doing spiritual practice in a couple of monasteries in Japan and the Himalayas. There was no daredevil stuff on it – no jumping out of airplanes or bungee jumping, no race car driving, no riding that roller coaster on top of the tower in Las Vegas (is it still operating?). These days the only blazingly, excessively fast speeds I want to experience are with my computer and its Internet connection. Yeah I know… I’m boring (simple life, simple pleasures…).

So instead, I started putting together a playlist of… oh, we’ll call it “Anti-Aging Anthems.” And if I were still doing the radio show, I’d start off with these songs:

  • My Generation” – The Who
    This one is obvious so it leads off the list. The line, “I hope I die before I get old.” Never, never, never, never get “old.”
  • My Back Pages” – The Byrds
    Yes, Bob Dylan wrote it – I like the Byrds’ version of it. The line to sing: “But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” From the album Younger Than Yesterday.
  • The Real Life” – John Mellencamp
    The lyrics ring true, particularly the lines, “Just because I’m middle-aged that don’t mean I want to sit around my house and watch TV” and “there’s less days in front of the horse than riding in the back of this cart.”
  • Golden Years” – David Bowie
    The title is a bit ironic perhaps. “Nights are warm and the days are young…” and “Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere…”
  • All That Heaven Will Allow” – Bruce Springsteen
    You figured if John Mellencamp was on here, Bruce couldn’t be far behind. It’s on here for the line: “And I want all the time, all that heaven will allow.”
  • Tomorrow People” – Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers
    Really, it’s damn near impossible to feel down about whatever chronological age you’re facing listening to this song. From the album Conscious Party.
  • Forever Young” – The Pretenders
    An obvious choice of course, and another one from Bob Dylan; I like the way Chrissie sings it. From the album Last of the Independents… and while I’m thinking of that album, I’d also include…
  • Night In My Veins” – The Pretenders
    “It feels good, it’s all right, even if it’s just the night in my veins…” – always gets the pulse going a little faster.
  • Purple Rain” – Prince
    Still not sure exactly what this song is about after all these years, but it’s anthemic so it’s on here and “It’s time we all reach out for something new… that means you too.”
  • Ode to a Black Man” – The Dirtbombs
    This one has nothing to do with age lyrically. Originally written and sung by Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy), the Dirtbombs kick it up a few notches. If I had to describe rock ‘n’ roll to someone who knew absolutely nothing about rock ‘n’ roll using only one song, this would be it.

… This is only a partial list so far – I’ll be adding to it over the next few days so feel free to add your own here. I take requests.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

new song: “all phenomena are dreams”

From “Field of Dreams”…. Ray Liotta out standing in his field

This week, a new song posted on the Nights on Venus page on ReverbNation:
All Phenomena Are Dreams.”

Again, another slightly different-sounding song than what you’ll find on the NoV debut album – just continuing to expand on that sound and direction. “All Phenomena Are Dreams” is again a little more uptempo, more ‘electronic’ sounding with the repeating synth line throughout the song, edging a little closer to ‘pop’ while sounding somewhat more ‘alien’, ethereal at the same time and punctuated by some guitar feedback. This is another song I began in Denver/Golden and finished recording and mixing in Dallas. It’s a finished demo for now with only preliminary mastering and may eventually become a ‘remix’ or an extended version.

ALL PHENOMENA ARE DREAMS
© 2011 Nights on Venus/Craig C. Thomas/Excellent Sky Records

And the title, where does that come from? Actually it comes from an old foundational text of Tibetan Buddhism, Atisha’s Seven Points of Mind Training (11th century A.D.). It is the second sutra of the text:

First, learn the preliminaries.
Think that all phenomena are dreams. 

Fire up the dry ice machine….. (from TV’s “The Time Tunnel” c. 1967)

Think that all phenomena are dreams.” Basically, I liked it as a title. Some commentary… 

“Phenomena” means all that you see, all that you experience. All that can ever be experienced is all phenomena… Material phenomena, psychological phenomena, spiritual phenomena — they are all the same.

“The basic thing to remember is: that which can be seen is a dream.” – Osho, The Book of Wisdom

Some further commentary…

“Think that all the events, manifestations, and movements of mind are illusory as in the nature of a dream, unreal and false. For example, when we are sleeping, our dream seems real to us when it is absolutely unreal: if it were real, then the dream would really be happening. In the same way, our world and the beings in it in all their diversities are but the illusive manifestations of mind. While the illusion is taking place, it is “real”, but its essence is unreal like a dream.”

“That re-entry’s a bitch…..” If I ever find myself traveling through time, it ain’t gonna be in a suit.

“Ask yourself, “is mind itself real, or not?” …Meditate on the mind and ask yourself: What color is it? What is its form? Where does it come from? What is its purpose? Is it inside or outside of the body? What happens when it experiences heat or the cold? …You may come to the conclusion that the mind defies any such determination and that is its essence.”

“When a thought arises, look at it directly and ask yourself, “What is its true nature?” Remain in the understanding that “it is nothing.”
HH Shamar Rinpoche

Some dreams may be beautiful, some may turn into nightmares, but ultimately, it is nothing. I’ve found this technique to be useful many times, including this week. It may not eliminate the ‘problem’ but just realizing “it is nothing” or that “this too shall pass” helps calm the mind in the midst of a freakout. Just some things to explore. And should all else fail, invoke the “it’s only a movie” clause.

Better, more compact….. when you don’t have room for a tunnel

Perhaps Roy Orbison (and many others) said it best, or at least most succinctly, in “In Dreams” when he sang “everything is alright.”

Nights on Venus – 1st album

The Nights on Venus debut album is available as a digital download (MP3) and can be found on CDBabyiTunes,  Amazon.mp3eMusic, and other fine online retailers.

Follow Craig and Nights on Venus on Twitter (@xlntsky) and Facebook.

a ‘new’ paradigm for the artist, pt. 1…

Well… no new music this week. I had planned to have the song I’ ve been currently working on for what seems like an eternity finished over the weekend but the ‘real world’, maybe (probably) aided and abetted by Mercury retrograde – the cosmic trickster – threw me a couple of major curves that had to be dealt with. It’s Tuesday night and for now, those things have been dealt with. New music next week…

Instead, I find myself now writing about some things that had been on my mind and bothering me since the death of Amy Winehouse 2 1/2 weeks ago. Specifically, this idea that “great art is born out of great pain”. In other words, the whole ‘romantic notion’ and myth of the ‘tortured artist’. I really started wondering and asking a few questions about that… again. For instance: is great art produced only as the result of great pain? or… unless you’re suffering sufficiently, does that mean you can’t ever produce great art?

It’s kind of amazing to me that these are still prevailing assumptions about art/music and what it takes to make art, probably not among most artists themselves, but in the way it persists in society in general. As if to confirm this, I was in my favorite little coffee spot this past Sunday morning – Drip on Lovers Lane (in the U.P.) – talking to a couple of people and the subject of music and Amy Winehouse came up; one woman said, “artists have to suffer to make their art.” Well…  I countered by saying that “that was a dangerous assumption to have about art because it just perpetuates that whole tortured artist thing – it’s a stereotype”, but that’s how deeply ingrained this idea seems to be (the “starving artist” would be a close corollary).

So I wondered… Does being engaged in the process of creating necessarily incline one to having inner ‘demons’ or do you create works of art because you know you have them and are trying to keep them at bay? Does that become the necessity?

What about those artists who are simply expressing joy through their work? Does that automatically disqualify those works from being great art? And why should it come down to a choice, seemingly, between being happy and healthy, relatively speaking, or producing great art? Which do you want more? Why not both?

An excerpt from a popular book I read about 20 years ago (has it been 20 years now?):

“In retrospect, I am astounded I could let go of the drama of being a suffering artist. Nothing dies harder than a bad idea. And few ideas are worse than the ones we have about art. We can charge so many things off to our suffering-artist identity: drunkenness, promiscuity, fiscal problems, a certain ruthlessness or self-destructiveness in matters of the heart. We all know how broke-crazy-promiscuous-unreliable artists are. And if they don’t have to be, then what’s my excuse?

“The idea that I could be sane, sober, and creative terrified me, implying, as it did, the possibility of personal accountability…”  – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

“Personal accountability”… hmm, that doesn’t sound terribly ‘romantic’. Sounds kinda… boring. The last part of that paragraph:

You mean if I have these gifts, I’m supposed to use them?” Yes.”

In one sense, it would seem that not much has changed. What has changed in 20 years is the proliferation and speed of media, just the sheer saturation of it on a daily basis. Perhaps that tends to reinforce this kind of [pop] cultural myth where artists are concerned. You can see where I’m going with this, but I don’t want to get into all that just yet…

Who and what defines what ‘great art’ is anyway? It’s all subjective… ask 20 people what they consider to be great art/music and you’ll get a list of their personal favorites/preferences and 20 different answers. Why be concerned about great art at all? Because you can’t think about making ‘great art’ while you’re in the process of doing it, i.e., that designation doesn’t come from artists themselves. We’re just doing our thing, man, whether it’s pushing paint around on canvas or banging on the drums or piano keys – just makin’ some noise. You express what is yours to express or what you have to express. If it’s authentically yours – filtered through whatever influences you’ve digested – you can only draw from your own experience and vocabulary.

This cultural myth goes a lot deeper and back a long, long way and I can tell I’m probably going to drag poor old Orpheus and Narcissus into this somewhere down the line, so this is Part 1. The basic point is that I think we need to challenge (defuse) and re-think most of these commonly held beliefs/assumptions where art and artists are concerned in society, particularly where they are perpetuated through media outlets, and start to come up with a better model. The first thing is just to start by asking questions. I don’t necessarily have any answers, but something I’ve found useful is to remember that creating is just something you do, it’s not who you are…  or as Frank Zappa put it: “Shut up and play yer guitar.”

Part 2 sometime soon…

Nights on Venus - 1st album

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