Posts Tagged ‘bluegrass’

The bimonthly magazine called the Utne Reader likes to showcase alternative and contrarian views on the news. Here’s a sort of hands-across-the world story about taking bluegrass music to Afghanistan.

“My name is Peyton Tochterman. I’m a musician from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I make my living writing, teaching and performing American Folk music—the music that tells stories in notes, chords and verse about who we are and what we Americans are all about. And I’m now in war-torn Afghanistan. …

“In little more than a week we have already met thousands of Afghans and found them to be kind, generous, hospitable, talented and honorable. They take great pride in their heritage and culture, but they also have a thirst for American Folk Music, for the stories we tell, our instruments and the way we play. The Afghan musicians with whom we played are some of the best in the world and were eager to share their masterful techniques and songs.

“Some might ask, ‘What difference can a folk singer from the Blue Ridge Mountains make in a tortured place like Afghanistan?’ It’s a valid question—partly answered by one of the State Department officers who said our visit did ‘more for diplomacy between Afghanistan and the United States than any diplomat had done, more then any road that was built, or any power plant that was constructed in the last year.’ ” Read more.

Photograph of Peyton Tochterman: The Utne Reader

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I’ve been enjoying the album “On the Road from Appomattox,” the latest release of outstanding local bluegrass band Southern Rail.

I’ve also been asking myself what makes a song on the album, “Mr. Beford’s Barn,” so moving.

An old man comes to the narrator’s farm and says he wants to see the barn he helped his daddy build years ago. The barn is very solidly constructed, nearly 100 years old now, and the refrain says it will probably last another hundred years.

It makes a person think about how fine it is to make something that lasts hundreds of years. But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if maybe the hundred-year-ness is not what’s moving.

The old man will not be there for hundreds of years and will not be enjoying the fact that the barn lasted so long. The reason he wants to see it is that he knows he helped make something that’s very fine. It’s the well-built-ness that is valuable. The hundreds of years are merely a feature of the value.

I think you will like the song. Although it is not on YouTube, the band lists its YouTube songs here, and you might want to listen to a few if you are thinking of buying Appomattox.


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You knew that the poet Wallace Stevens was a lawyer for the Hartford Insurance Company in Connecticut, right?

It’s fascinating, the double lives many creative people live. In this post, for example, I mentioned Kyan Bishop, a colleague with a pretty businesslike job, who turns out to be an accomplished conceptual artist.

Today I have two gentlemen from the financial-services industry, which whatever else one might say about it, pays enough for a guy to indulge an artistic bent.

Consider first Geoff Hargadon, now showing at the Kayafas Gallery in Boston.

Art critic Cate McQuaid writes in the Boston Globe, “Bring up conceptual art, and some people’s eyes glaze over. So before we dive into the conceptual underpinnings of the work of … Geoff Hargadon now up at Gallery Kayafas, let’s say this: It’s funny, wry, and self-mocking — accessible on many levels.

“Hargadon’s ‘Dealers Protected!’ features signs that he has put up, first around Boston and then during the Frieze Art Fair in London in October, and during Art Basel Miami Beach earlier this month. Perhaps you have seen them. They read ‘Cash for Your Warhol.’ This show features the signs themselves, and photos of them in situ.

“The artist, who is an unlikely hybrid of street artist and senior vice president at the financial services company UBS, was inspired by the ‘cash for your house’ signs he saw on telephone poles during the worst of the economic collapse. He hilariously posted his first ‘Cash for Your Warhol’ sign outside the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis in 2009, after the museum announced controversial — and later canceled — plans to close and sell off its collection.” Read more here.

Second is the late Warren Hellman, Wall Street financier and devoted banjo player. “After nearly 20 years at Lehman in New York, he started several money management businesses, including Hellman & Friedman in San Francisco, one of the country’s most successful private equity funds. More recently Mr. Hellman focused on philanthropy, bestowing millions of dollars on cultural, educational and medical charities in the Bay Area. The three-day concert he founded, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, held each year in Golden Gate Park, has been financed entirely by him.” Read about Hellman in the NY Times obit.

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