Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Leonard Cohen said there’s a crack in everything–how the light gets in. It came thru him & lit up a broken humanity.

September 10, 2017

True to the end, Leonard Cohen‘s work charted the arc of his career, between life and death (Sept 21, 1934 – Nov 7, 2016). His search for redemption also influenced his fans. Cohen’s evolving understanding of life, beautifully expressed through his music, shone a light through the cracks of a broken humanity in a dark suffering world. He never claimed to have found all the answers, but seemed to have reached a kind of inner peace toward the end of his life, between himself and his God.

There is a repeated stanza in one of his songs, Anthem, that conveys the redeeming acceptance of light illuminating the darkness, compassion and love overcoming bigotry and hatred: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

There may be a crack in everything, but how does the light get in—from without, or is it released from within? I’ve often thought about the profundity of those lines, and there have been many interpretations of what he may be implying. See mine below.* I think he sang about finding that divinity within and among our broken humanity. I wrote this tanka in honor of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen’s music lit up a dark world
A tanka in honor of the poet by Ken Chawkin

Leonard Cohen said
There’s a crack in everything
How the light gets in

It came through him and lit up
a broken humanity

Of course there is a kind of irony here when he says, “Forget your perfect offerings,” since he labored for months, sometimes years, on getting the lyrics to his songs perfect. At some point, though, he must’ve given up, admitted his imperfection, and sent them out into the world. As Leonardo da Vinci once said: Art is never finished, only abandoned. Other famous artists and writers have said and done the same thing.

Artistic Genius—Two Creative Approaches

There is a story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. They happened to be in Paris at the same time and decided to meet at a certain café. During their conversation, Dylan, one of the first to sing Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” in his concerts, asked Cohen how long it took him to write it. Cohen was embarrassed to tell him the truth so he lied and said 2 years. Then Leonard asked Bob how long it took him to write “I And I“, and he replied 15 minutes. I think he said he wrote it in the back of a cab. Cohen later told this story to an interviewer and confessed that it took him more like 5 years to write that song. He never could complete it, even after 30 verses! Their styles reflect the different philosophical approaches of ‘first thought, best thought’ versus ‘revise, revise, revise’.

You can read the fascinating history of that song in Alan Light’s book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”. Malcolm Gladwell, in Season 1, Episode 7 of his Revisionist History podcast, discusses the history of “Hallelujah” with Alan Light, around 20 minutes into the conversation, for about 10 minutes. The theme is about two kinds of artists—those who seem to create spontaneously, and others who labor for a very long time—the differences between Mozart and Beethoven, or Picasso and Cezanne.

See Leonard Cohen’s website www.leonardcohen.com with links to more.

As  a footnote, I just tweeted (9-19-2107) Leonard Cohen’s biographer, Sylvie Simmons, asking her what he meant about the light getting in through the cracks, and she pointed me to Allan Showalter’s website, Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen Considered, and this post: Leonard Cohen On “The Light” In Anthem That “Allows You To Live A Life And Embrace The Disasters And Sorrows And Joys”.

Leonard later spent time in Bombay, India having conversations with Ramesh Balseka, a teacher of Advaita Vedanta. It made a profound impression on him; his life-long depression had finally lifted. He also befriended an Indian gentlemen, a fan, Ratnesh Mathur. You can read about their relationship and see photos on Cohencentric. Also read this BBC report: When the light got in for Leonard Cohen.

Murals mark 1-year anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death

Montreal murals of Leonard Cohen

Montreal murals made by Gene Pendon (l) and Kevin Ledo (r)

November 7, 2017 is the 1-year anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s death. To personally commemorate this date, Sylvie Simmons tweeted a picture of herself standing in front of a large mural of Leonard Cohen painted by Kevin Ledo on the side of a 9-storey Montreal building close to where Leonard kept a home. It was the center piece for the fifth Mural International Public Art Festival in June. The Montreal Gazette’s Bill Brownstein had written an article about the making of it. He also mentions another mural, a tribute to Leonard Cohen made by artist Gene Pendon, which was painted on the side of a 20-storey downtown building, as part of Montreal’s 375th billion dollar birthday bash. The Globe and Mail described them in detail: Leonard Cohen and a tale of two Montreal murals. ET Canada reported on the official inauguration today, a year after Cohen’s passing. Josée Cloutier posted photos of both murals in one tweet, shown above.

The M.A.C.’s Exhibition on Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything

The Guardian published Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything – Montreal’s tribute to its favourite son. The new exhibition was conceived as part of the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations – but has morphed into a thorough investigation of all things Cohen. On 9 November, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (AKA the Mac) will open the doors to Leonard Cohen : une brèche en toute chose/A Crack in Everything, a tribute to the artist, poet and musician, filled with multi-disciplinary works inspired by Cohen’s songs of life. This special exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art will conclude 9 April 2018.

The show takes its title from Cohen’s song Anthem, which contains the famous line “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” The song also inspired artist Kara Blake’s piece for the show, an immersive installation called The Offerings. “The song apparently took Cohen 10 years to craft and is just one example of his many artistic offerings that get inside the beautifully flawed nature of being human,” says Blake. “I wanted my piece to present visitors with a sampling of the creativity, wit and insight Cohen has gifted us with.”

Julia Holter contributed a cover of Cohen’s Take This Waltz, which will play on rotation in the Listening Room. “I enjoyed getting into the feeling of this passionate, seductive, demented waltz,” says Holter, who incorporated field recordings she made during a visit to the Greek island of Hydra, where Cohen had a home. “Being there was incredible,” she says.

For Holter, being invited to contribute to the show is the perfect way for her to give back to an artist she was introduced to as a child and who inspired her love of poetry. “What was special about Leonard Cohen’s work was its calm mystery. I think that can be an inspiration to the world right now,” she says. “The world needs this subtle beauty right now.”

As part of the week’s celebrations, Eleanor Wachtel interviewed Sylvie for CBC Books Writers and Company, which will air Sunday November 12, 2017: Remembering Leonard Cohen: biographer Sylvie Simmons on Montreal’s beloved poet. I read and enjoyed her wonderful biography, I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen.

Eleanor tweeted that the photograph of Leonard Cohen, which served as the basis for the large downtown mural, was taken by his daughter Lorca. Interesting that Leonard named his daughter after the famous Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who had greatly influenced his work. “His books taught me that poetry can be pure and profound – and at the same time.”

*My reply to Quora question about the crack and the light

Quora posted this question: What did Leonard Cohen mean by his lyrics: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in?” About a dozen people posted their suggestions. Here is my reply:

I agree with a number of interpretations posted here, quoting William Blake, the Kabbalah, and other esoteric sources, to explain what Leonard Cohen may be referring to in that line. They all make good sense to me. I also think that the light, of clarity, understanding, call it what you will, comes from within, not without. Metaphorically we may imagine light coming into a dark broken place from outside. But it can also light up the darkness from inside, if one knows how to turn on the switch. Another interpretation then, is no matter how broken, incomplete we are, with the proper approach, meditation technique, one can transcend, go beyond our limitations and just Be, experience that unbroken inner light of pure consciousness. With repeated exposures to one’s inner divine nature, the outer vessel, our body, can begin to heal, mend the broken cracks, and become whole. One way to experience this inner and outer development is with the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation.

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Bill Evans’s Peace Piece is musical onomatopoeia

September 1, 2017

I discovered jazz in high school and soon became aware of Bill Evans. An accomplished musician educated in classical music, he chose to become a jazz pianist instead, and took elements of those influences to create his own unique style.

As a young man, Evans went on to compose and perform modal music with Miles Davis. Miles praised Bill’s contribution in the groundbreaking Kind of Blue LP released in the summer of 1959 by Columbia Records, often considered the best-selling jazz album of all time. Evans later left Davis to play solo, and form his own jazz trios. Bill Evans became one of the true jazz legends of our time.*

In this intimate 1970 interview and concert at the rural home of Finnish host Ilkka Kuusisto, a very wealthy and very highly regarded classical musician, with jazz musicians in the family, Evans was asked if his group practiced. He explained that “the trio has never rehearsed. … All the things that we play have grown out of performance.” They shared “a natural development through common desire to make it more musical all the time as much as we can.” It was “freedom with responsibility…to the total performance.”

In his solo work, Bill Evans’s Peace Piece is musical onomatopoeia. The calming repetitive left hand chords juxtaposed with the right hand animated notes evoke fluttering doves of peace calling to each other. Pure genius! It reminds me of the French impressionistic sounds of Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and Ravel, but this is distinctly his own music.

“Peace Piece” was an unrehearsed modal composition he recorded for his Everybody Digs Bill Evans LP released in early 1959 on the Riverside label. It’s been hailed as one of the most beautiful and evocative solo piano improvisations ever recorded. I totally agree. One of the most beautiful jazz recordings I’ve ever heard. A peaceful masterpiece. A masterpiece of peace!

In this 1966 documentary, Bill Evans talks with his composer brother Harry about the creative process and self-teaching. Evans spoke of a Universal Mind. “I believe that all people are in possession of what might be called a universal musical mind. Any true music speaks with this universal mind, to the universal mind in all people. The understanding that results will vary only in so far as people have or have not been conditioned to the various styles of music in which the universal mind speaks. …”

Click SHOW MORE under that video to read the rest of the transcription. Evans also analyzes the melody and harmonics of Star Eyes, and performs other pieces, in between musical discussions with his brother.

*Bio excerpts from Jazz Musician Archives

Bill Evans (August 16, 1929–September 15, 1980) was one of the most famous jazz pianists of the twentieth century. Along with McCoy Tyner and Oscar Peterson, he was the force behind the biggest evolution in jazz since Art Tatum and Bud Powell.

Evans won seven Grammys during his career, the first for Conversations With Myself (1963), [which I had bought back then] although not for his most celebrated work, Sunday At The Village Vanguard (1961) with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian.

His use of impressionistic harmony, his inventive interpretation of traditional jazz repertoire, and his syncopated and polyrhythmic melodic lines influenced a generation of pianists, including Herbie Hancock, Denny Zeitlin, Chick Corea, and Keith Jarrett, and his work continues to inspire younger pianists such as Fred Hersch, Bill Charlap, and Lyle Mays, as well as other musicians such as guitarist John McLaughlin.

In 1994, Bill Evans was posthumously awarded a “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) “for altering the course of jazz piano with his lyrical, impressionistic solo and trio recordings, characterised by the understated intensity, distinctive chord voicings, and unique harmonic sensibility that opened up the vocabulary of modern jazz.”

Listen to this soothing cooling Rain Melody (Raga Megha) to bring the rains and cool things down

July 31, 2017

Rain MelodyFeeling too hot? Experiencing a drought? Listen to this beautiful Maharishi Gandharva Veda musical performance of Raga Megha, also known as the famous Rain Raga. It creates a soothing cooling influence on listeners and in Nature. It can be played at any time for increased energy and bliss. This Rain Melody reduces tensions in the atmosphere and is traditionally played during the hot summer season to bring rain and relief from heat. We can use some of that, which is why I’m posting it for us to play!

Musicians are Amar Nath on bansuri (bamboo flute), Somnath Mukergee on tabla (percussion), and Sukhamar Chandra on tambura (drone). This 45-minute CD, is available at MUM Press. Listen to this raga on repeat from your own device. Also posted on SoundCloud. Video by Frank Lotz.

Celebrities Russell Brand @rustyrockets, @CameronDiaz, @katyperry, and War Veterans Praise #TranscendentalMeditation

June 23, 2017

Here are 3 videos of well-known celebrities Russell Brand, Cameron Diaz, and Katy Perry praising the Transcendental Meditation technique. Veterans Paul Downs and Dusty Baxley join Katy Perry and Bob Roth to discuss how TM saved their lives from the destructive effects of PTSD. Also included is a 4th video—Paul’s powerful testimonial before the U.S. House of Representatives for the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation healing his post-traumatic stress.

Russell Brand on Transcendental Meditation

Last month, comedian, actor, and best-selling author Russell Brand, along with David Lynch Foundation CEO Bob Roth, were invited to Talks at Google: Russell Brand & Bob Roth: “Meditation, Comedy, New Fatherhood, Recovery, and Life.”

Brand has been practicing Transcendental Meditation for nearly 10 years. He says the technique has been instrumental in fostering creativity, appreciating fatherhood, and maintaining his recovery from addiction. Roth, a 45-year TM teacher, taught Russell to meditate and the two remain close friends.

Bob and Russell discussed the benefits of practicing Transcendental Meditation, how TM has personally helped Russell, and what the David Lynch Foundation is doing to bring meditation to people suffering from stress and trauma. Russell is funny and eloquent throughout, and concludes with a powerful explanation of how change comes about in society, through the power of ideas, and not from the top down, but from the grassroots up. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Cameron Diaz on Transcendental Meditation

Below is a video with Cameron Diaz on OWN’s Oprah Online. Published last July, Diaz shares what TM means to her and how it brings wholeness to her life, especially after a long hot day on a film set. I haven’t seen Oprah’s interview with her, but the text mentions that day. Cameron had told DLF CEO Bob Roth about it over two years earlier during an interview at an event sponsored by Urban Zen. Funds were being raised to support the Foundation’s efforts to bring relief to veterans and their families suffering from the effects of PTSD with scholarships for TM courses.

Bob Roth: “Tell us about the time when you were filming and it was hot and you couldn’t remember..”

Cameron Diaz: “I was doing a film and we had been filming in Boston and we came to LA for a week. We went from the Fall, nice and cozy, to LA which was about 90 degrees in the valley at the zoo, parking lot, under a tent, in a car, under lights, with the windows up, no air conditioning. It was about 1000 degrees in the car, and I had a monologue and I couldn’t remember my lines. I knew I knew them; I couldn’t access them.”

“So I said, I need 25 minutes, I just need 25 minutes. I ran back to my trailer and I re-booted and did my 20 minute meditation. I came back in and nailed it! Done. Thank you very much. And we were out of there in like 20 minutes.”

I enjoyed her description of what she loves about TM in that interview. And the metaphor she intelligently uses to describe the power of TM in this video from the OWN show, Cameron Diaz: This is Why Meditation is So Powerful, is creative and brilliant!

This month TMhome.com put up a great post on Cameron Diaz and TM.

Katy Perry on Transcendental Meditation

A week later TMhome posted Katy Perry speaks with veterans about the healing effects of TM on her Witness World Wide video marathon. Katy also spoke earlier with Bob Roth about TM, which starts at 6:45. Roth arrives with MTV and E! News host Zuri Hall who wanted to ask Katy and Bob about TM. Katy tells Zuri that she learned TM from Bobby during her wedding to Russell Brand, which took place in India. The marriage didn’t last, but she continued to meditate. Katy told her she gets her best ideas after meditation.

Katy tries to live her life from love, not fear. TM has done this for her. This idea is more profoundly explained by veterans Paul Downs and Dusty Baxley who later join Katy and Bob after Zuri leaves. Dusty is the executive director of the Boulder Crest Retreat and a TM teacher. He taught Paul to meditate. They actually all meditate together for 20 minutes, which you can see in this clip taken from the 72-hour live-streaming launch for Katy’s new album.

Marine Veteran Paul Downs on Transcendental Meditation

Marine Veteran Paul Downs also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives for the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation healing his post-traumatic stress. This video is borrowed from the David Lynch Foundation Facebook page.

For more information on Transcendental Meditation and the David Lynch Foundation, visit www.tm.org and www.davidlynchfoundation.org.

Sunshine Superman Donovan is a Very Mellow Fellow, a Hurdy Gurdy Man with Loving Vibes

September 9, 2016

DONOVAN was here over Labor Day Weekend. He played two concerts Sunday night during Fairfest 2016, Fairfield, Iowa’s Roots Music Festival. The first was a fundraiser for Maharishi University’s Global Scholarship Fund at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center‘s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, and the second was with Bonnie Paine and friends to close out the 3-day musical event on the Main Stage outside. Donovan had never played back-to-back performances like that, but it turned out very well.

In the Green Room with Donovan.png

After arriving and having lunch, Donovan met the band at the Sondheim theater and went to work rehearsing with them. It was impressive! They consisted of Elephant Revival’s singer Bonnie Paine (percussion), and two from her group, top to bottom: Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo) and Dango Rose (bass), joined by Arthur Lee Land of Great American Taxi (guitar), and Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth (violin, organ).

The MUM concert in the Sondheim was special and intimate, filled mostly with meditators. Donovan then joined the band on the Main Stage after their performance. In both the rehearsal and the concert, Donovan encouraged each one of the musicians playing his songs. They all really enjoyed themselves, as did the audience, and drew the largest crowd of the 3-day event! See video clips below. After the concert, Donovan invited them back to his Green Room to share stories about the music business. What a magical treat for them all!!! Producer Michael Sternfeld took the group photo, choreographed by Donovan.

Donovan Day in LA

donovan-day-city-hall-los-angeles

Thank you Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councillor Koretz of City Hall Los Angeles for this singular honor to mark the Fiftieth Birthday of my song SUNSHINE SUPERMAN reaching number one on the Billboard Top 100. A love song for Linda yes, but also when we met we both knew we were on the same journey to raise awareness of a higher consciousness for the future generations. We are still on that journey. Come to my 21 city SUNSHINE SUPERMAN AMERICAN TOUR and share this birthday with me. — Donovan

New addition: Donovan Presentation–LA City Council Meeting.

Some News Coverage

Donovan left Fairfield early Tuesday morning to continue the American wing of his “Sunshine Superman” Tour, which was unofficially launched at East Hampton, Donovan: Flower-Power Icon of Change, then officially on Good Day LA, which discussed Donovan Day in LA. That night he performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live, who said Donovan’s tour was starting in Fairfield, Iowa! After his performance, Jimmy whispered in Donovan’s ear that his interview with Howard Stern was the best ever. Fox News Video also posted this clip: Donovan shows no sign of slowing down.

Billboard later published: Donovan Reflects on ‘Sunshine Superman’ 50th Anniversary, Hanging With The Beatles & Jimmy Page, Flower-Power Era. And then this news, which is so appropriate: Donovan to Be Honored With John Lennon Real Love Award at Tribute Concert. “Donovan is a beautiful soul who was positively influenced by John,” Yoko Ono said in a statement. Read how this came about in this fascinating billboard article.

It’s interesting that Donovan will receive this award in John Lennon’s name. Donovan also had a positive influence on John when the Beatles were with Maharishi in India. John had asked Donovan to show him how he played his guitar. Donovan said it was the claw hammer style he had learned from another musician. It was based on a banjo-picking style converted to guitar.

In a way, it came full circle for John, since his mother, Julia, had taught him how to play chords on a banjo she had given him before he picked up the guitar. John wrote Julia and Dear Prudence using that style. Paul picked it up his way and wrote Mother Nature’s Child and Black Bird. George Harrison said Donovan was all over The Beatles White Album. Donovan mentions all this and more in a Rolling Stone interview (April 19, 2012) after he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Watch the video: Donovan: On teaching guitar technique to Beatles.

Fairfield News Coverage

Some regional articles came out to promote the event. The Iowa Source published an article by Michael Sternfeld: Donovan: Sunshine Superman. Michael Braunstein wrote a very interesting article for The Reader in Omaha. Musician and journalist Bob Saar, who has covered David Lynch Weekends and MUM Commencements, wrote a great article for The Hawk Eye: Donovan to perform at FAIRfest 2016. Iowa City’s Little Village’s Arts Editor Genevieve Heinrich published: Musician Donovan Leitch talks legacy of ‘Sunshine Superman’ and importance of Transcendental Meditation, and showed up for the concert with her family. Mark Newman from the Ottumwa Courier dropped by during rehearsal: Donovan performance mends Fairfield hearts. Mark surprised me with a mention, helping Donovan set up.

Highlights of FairFest Roots Music Festival

donovan-fairfest-by-wernerelmker

Werner Elmker posted this photo of Donovan from the solo concert, and these Fairfest 2016 Highlights of Day One, Day Two, and Day Three, which contains excerpts from Donovan’s Sondheim and Main Stage concerts.

Professional photographer Kim Green came down from Cedar Rapids and posted a slideshow: Fairfest ~ Labor Day weekend 2016 – Prairie Moon Media- An eclectic mix.

Andy Hayward posted clips from both shows of Donovan at FAIRfest ’16.

FairfieldRocksMe posted these videos:

Fairfield Celebrates Donovan

A Labor Day lunch was hosted by Mayor Ed and Vicki Malloy. Some guests brought their Donovan records and posters for him to sign, and took pictures. In attendance were Bevan Morris, John and Kara Hagelin, and other leading members of the Fairfield/MUM community.

After lunch, Donovan regaled us with stories from Rishikesh, India at Maharishi’s ashram with the Beatles, Mike Love, Prudence Farrow, and others. He told us stories of his times with Maharishi, and a vivid dream he had of him, a week before coming here for the America wing of his 50th anniversary tour.

Donovan then asked me to share the story of what Maharishi had said about him. When I was with Maharishi at Lake Louise, one of my course mates had asked Maharishi about George Harrison and Donovan. About Donovan, Maharishi said he was the most sensitive boy he had ever met.

A few months before he was to join the Beatles and the others in India, Donovan said he was interviewed by John Carpenter for Rolling Stone’s premier issue, (1st and 2nd issues, Nov 9 & 23, 1967). In Part 1, he made a statement that summarized his approach to music: “There’s only one thing in the end, and that’s singing truth in a pleasant way.”

Carpenter asked him about composing, performing, his phenomenal success, and his very recent meeting with Maharishi who had taught him how to meditate. He describes that experience towards the end of Part 2: You just spent three days with Maharishi in Los Angeles. What’s he like?

Read more posts on Donovan here. If you can, see him in concert this time around. Check Donovan’s website for a list of concert dates and locations.

donovan-fairfield-friends

After his last interview for A Fairfield Documentary, a few of us had our picture taken with Donovan. He directed the photo shoot, taken by Werner Elmker. From the tallest to the shortest: Michael Sternfeld, who produced the Sondheim Concert, Bill Goldstein, who introduced the MUM International scholarship students, Donovan, and myself, Ken Chawkin. (Click photo to enlarge it.)

I must say, of all the times I’ve interacted with Donovan over the years, I found him to be most generous and patient with his time and energy while interacting with everyone. Not much ego there, but a very sensitive loving soul, who was kissed by the lord and filled with song to wear his love like heaven. He truly is an evolved Hurdy Gurdy Man, a gift of a rare flower to our garden! Looking forward to seeing him in Fairfield again, next time with his lovely wife Linda.

A baptism by fire: Why Paul Dalio’s debut as a filmmaker is Touched With Fire

July 25, 2016

TOUCHED WITH FIRE PosterPremiered last year at SXSW, with a theatrical run this spring, and now on DVD, Paul Dalio’s first full-length feature film, Touched With Fire, is a love story between two bipolar poets that reveals the relationship between illness and creativity.

Dalio was inspired by Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, which explores the link between great art and bipolar disorder. He read that many famous writers, poets, and artists suffered from this mania and may have produced their work because of it. Their genius was touched with fire.

This was a welcome relief for Paul who had become bipolar. He now saw himself no longer in clinical terms as a social outcast without a cure, but as a creative artist who was dealing with a neurological imbalance.

The most well known example of that heightened state was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The painting is a kind of leitmotif throughout the film, even materializing as a literal hallucination by the main characters.

Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Reflecting on his own experience of being bipolar, Paul wanted people suffering with the illness, and those concerned with their health, to better understand what they are going through, that they are not necessarily crazy, perhaps gifted, and to help remove the stigma associated with the disease.

He compares the manic highs and depressive lows of the disease to the seasons. The film’s palatte of colors reflects the changing emotions within and between the main characters. Attempts to control these mood swings with drugs create deadening side effects, part of the conflict within their relationship.

In his Huffington Post blog, Touched With Fire, Paul asks: How much more receptive would a patient be to treatment if the patient was told that the treatment was to nurture a gift they had, instead of terminate a disease they had?

Director Dalio gave author/psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison a role in the film as herself, to explain how the right balance of medication can help rather than hinder a manic personality. Marco is concerned that the medications are stopping him from feeling any emotions, and is destroying his creativity. From her own experience, Kay shares with them how “medication can tamp the fire down a bit without losing that gift.” She tells him, with the right dosage, which takes time, she became even more productive than before becoming bipolar.

Cast and Crew

Paul Dalio wrote, directed, edited and scored Touched With Fire, his feature-film debut starring Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby, with other performances by Griffin Dunne, Christine Lahti and Bruce Altman.

Paul’s longtime friend, Jeremy Alter, produced the film, along with Kristina Nikolova, Paul’s wife and fellow student at the NYU Film School, who convinced him to make this semi-autobiographical film. Their teacher, Spike Lee, is the executive producer.

The brilliant acting in this passionately moving film is intensely engaging. Holmes (Carla) and Kirby (Marco) play two poets with bipolar disorder whose art is fueled by their emotional extremes. When they meet in a treatment facility, their chemistry is instant and intense driving each other’s mania to new heights. They pursue their passion, which breaks outside the bounds of sanity, swinging them from fantastical highs to tormented lows until they ultimately must choose between sanity and love. Watch the official trailer.

Comments from the Critics

The New York Times Critic’s Pick wrote: “Luke Kirby and Katie Holmes boldly meet the challenge of playing bright, high-strung artists. An extraordinarily sensitive, nonjudgmental exploration of bipolar disorder and creativity.” Read the Review: ‘Touched With Fire,’ a Love Story Between Two Bipolar Poets.

The Los Angeles Times said: Writer-director Dalio has firsthand experience with bipolar disorder, and his perspective sheds fresh light on the unique ways in which manic-depressive individuals experience love and creativity. Read the Review: Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby propel ‘Touched With Fire’ as it shines fresh light on bipolar disorder and creativity.

This is a powerful film! We witness their struggles from the inside out. More reviews are listed on the film’s website.

The Role of Poetry in the Film

In one of the interviews from the Special Features of the DVD, Paul Dalio talks about the value of poetry in his life, and for the main characters in the film. “It was only when I met my wife that my heart became more tender, and I actually started reading poetry, which I never did, and I started writing poetry.”

Paul describes the transforming power of poetry to heal and create beauty. He speaks from his own personal experience as someone who has dealt with the ups and downs of this disorder while trying to become a writer, composer, and filmmaker. The film is an amazing testament to his artistic achievement! See his bio under Cast & Crew for more details.

“Poetry at its best has the deepest expression of being in the worst hell, and having no choice but to bring some kind of aesthetic meaning to it, and some kind of beauty to it, just to even cope with it. (and) Only by being forced down there to such a hell are you forced to bring that much beauty to that hell, and in the process it becomes a healing. And so it was natural how it wove itself into the film, as these two characters use it to cope with their psychosis, and to deal with coming out of their situation.”

From my own experience, writing poetry does have the power to transform and heal. Another film where poetry is featured is in Words and Pictures, where a poem invites you to be who you are.

The Soundtrack to the Movie

Paul Dalio’s blog post includes both the song and lyrics to Starry Nights. Listen to the Touched With Fire Soundtrack Preview, followed by Starry Nights, the song at the end of the film during the credits, published by Lakeshore Records. Download the album on iTunes.

Interviews with the Director and Actors

Charlie Rose: ‘Touched With Fire’ (Feb. 4, 2016)  Director and writer Paul Dalio, actor Luke Kirby, and psychologist Kay Jamison discuss the movie “Touched with Fire” and the connections between bipolar disorder and creativity. (18:51) Paul does mention his use of medication and meditation, which he elaborates upon in this next video.

At a David Lynch Foundation-hosted screening of the film, Paul opened up about his own struggles with bipolar and how pivotal the practice of Transcendental Meditation has proved to be in living a happy, healthy, and creatively rich life. “TM is the difference between surviving with bipolar and thriving with bipolar. I never stopped meditating, without fail,” he says. “That’s when my doctor, Norman Rosenthal, witnessed the power of TM and was so blown away he decided to do a study on the effects of TM.” Paul was responsible for Dr. Rosenthal restarting his long-lapsed TM practice, which led to the publication of two best-selling books on the subject. Visit NORMAN ROSENTHAL, MD for details. See Thriving with Bipolar – A Conversation with Writer/Director Paul Dalio.

TODAY: Katie Holmes Discusses Role In ‘Intense’ Film ‘Touched With Fire’ (4:41)

The Washington Post: Filmmaker Paul Dalio mines his bipolar disorder for feature debut

HotSpot: TOUCHED WITH FIRE | Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Paul Dalio & Jeremy Alter Interview | February 8, 2016 (26:54)

Video of Marbling Art Animation of Starry Night and Van Gogh

Check out this amazing video on marbling art animation of Starry night and a Van Gogh self-portrait: Van Gogh on Dark Water Animation. The Turkish artist is Garip Ay, and the ancient technique of painting on water to marble paper is called Ebru.

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Physicist Werner Heisenberg said, “When I meet God, I am going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he will have an answer for the first.” As difficult as turbulence is to understand mathematically, we can use art to depict the way it looks. Natalya St. Clair illustrates how Van Gogh captured this deep mystery of movement, fluid and light in his work. Visit TED-Ed for more.

The hauntingly beautiful music of Davy Spillane played on uilleann pipes and low whistle

March 21, 2016

When it comes to Celtic music, my favorite musician is Davy Spillane on uilleann pipes and low whistle. His music is hauntingly beautiful! It goes straight to the heart. Here are some of my favorites, and related covers.

Most of us in Fairfield know about this unique Irish instrument from Tim Britton who performs at various concerts in town. But hearing Midnight Walker really captured my attention! It’s how I discovered Davy Spillane.

I also found this amazing Tribute to Davy Spillane by Christelle Berthon playing Midnight Walker on both harmonica and recorder.

Another beautiful lament by Davy Spillane is Caoineadh Cu Chulainn. This clip may be from a River Dance or Lord of the Dance concert.

I heard Davy play May Morning Dew on a wind instrument. Intrigued, I wanted to know more about it and discovered the low whistle. You can see him play this nostalgic tune at the start of this video clip from a live concert by Moving Hearts, a band Davy had been a part of decades ago. The lucky crowd waited 20 years for this 2007 reunion concert! Astounding performance! This 7:40 minute clip begins with an introduction but the piece starts around the 1:40 mark. It sounds a register higher than the recording, making it more haunting. A video was made of that historic concert called Moving Hearts Live In Dublin.

May Morning Dew is an old traditional song, which reminisces about the past. You can hear it sung by the great Irish singer Dolores Keane.

Billy Collins interviews Sir Paul McCartney about writing songs, poems, Beatles music, and more

March 21, 2016

On October 23, 2014, Sir Paul McCartney visited Rollins College at the invitation of Rollins Winter Park Institute Senior Distinguished Fellow Billy Collins. In this interview Paul shares some interesting stories from his life as a Beatle, how he wrote songs with John Lennon and by himself. He answered students’s questions and concluded by singing Blackbird.

Nancy Shevell’s son, Arlen, Paul’s stepson, was a student at Rollins at the time. The following year, at Arlen’s private graduation party in May 2015, Paul had asked to sing with the local band Nancy had hired. Josh Walther and The Phase5 Band shared their amazement online!

I discovered some surprising connections between Nancy Shevell and Barbara Walters, and with Paul McCartney’s first wife, Linda McCartney. See Who Is Nancy Shevell, Paul McCartney’s New Wife?

You may be interested to read The Story Behind Paul McCartney’s Song: “Let It Be.” See other posts about Paul McCartney on The Uncarved Blog, and poems by Billy Collins, including video interviews and readings.

Cellist and composer Daniel Sperry performs William Stafford’s poem, “The Way It Is”

December 7, 2015

This is my favorite poem by William Stafford—The Way It Is. I had found a verse from one of the Vedas that extends the theme in the poem to its ultimate conclusion and added it after his poem. I call the grouping uncommon thread … cosmic thread.

Besides this musical video of the poem by Daniel Austin Sperry, it is also available digitally on his new album: Cutting Loose ~ A Tribute To William Stafford. I’ve been listening to the CD and it’s beautiful! I’m ordering some as holiday gifts. You may want to as well.

You can order it on his website where he’s offering bulk discounts on a Five Pack and Ten Pack of CDs. For more videos and news follow him on Facebook.com/PoetrySandwich.

Enjoy other Stafford poems posted on The Uncarved Blog, some of which have also been recorded by Daniel Sperry like, William Stafford—You and Art, and the last poem he wrote the morning of the day he died: “Are you Mr. William Stafford?”

Daniel Sperry is an innovative, genre-stretching cellist, composer, and evocateur from Ashland, OR, who specializes in creating Musical Portraits for individuals as markers for special occasions and as gifts for loved ones. He performs all over the country in house concerts featuring these portraits, the poetry of Rumi, Hafiz and others along with his original music, opera arias, and standards.

See this wonderful video: Moments with Daniel Sperry: Cello in Lithia Park from Daniel Sperry on Vimeo. Read the Ashland Daily Times Article about Daniel in Lithia Park. Discover more about The Story of Daniel.

Digital storyteller Sharad Kharé speaks with David Lynch Foundation executive director Bob Roth

November 26, 2015

Canadian digital storyteller Sharad Kharé was invited to attend the David Lynch Foundation‘s star-studded Change Begins Within benefit concert in New York City earlier this month. He wrote a wonderful review and also managed to interview the Foundation’s enthusiastic executive director, Bob Roth.

“I usually attend these events for media coverage with my cameras, but earlier in the week I got a chance to get on a quick call with Bob Roth who personally said to come as a guest and enjoy the evening. For that, I am truly honored and grateful.”

Sharad gave us permission to share the lovely video he produced and posted on his HUFFPOST vlog.

Sharad Kharé has a Masters in Communications and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. His background in television and social media production made him a natural choice as the current curator for TEDxVancouver. Find out more about Sharad at http://sharadkhare.ca


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