Tuesday, July 8, 2008

dear mr. fantasy

Just so you don't think my silk painting peaked with the picture of the one I posted on Sunday I thought I'd repost a couple of the later ones - after I gained a bit more control of the dyes. It's quite a complicated process but very satisfying.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to Randal that I got to see Steve Winwood with the Spencer Davis Group performing in the Clearwell Caves near Cheltenham in southern England. I have no idea how they got permission to stage rock concerts there but over the course of the summer of '66 it was definitely the premier place to go for music and a number of then famous groups were eager to make use of the acoustics.

Imagine my surprise when I ran into this article on Discover:

"At least 12,000 years ago, the most popular musical events might have taken place in torch-lit caves next to walls covered in art, according to new archaeological research in France. Stone Age-era caves there bear paintings located in the most acoustically resonant places, where sound lingers or echoes. The first cathedrals, theaters and concert halls, researchers now theorize, may have been inspired by musical performances held in caves."

Iegor Reznikoff of the University of Paris said, "I am a specialist of the resonance of buildings and spaces, particularly of the resonance of Romanesque churches. The first time I happened to be in a prehistoric cave, I tried singing and humming in various parts of the cave, and quickly the question arose: Is there a relation between resonance and locations of the paintings.

"The tribes could make sounds with stones, pieces of wood, different types of drums and so on, so imagine picturesque scenes of cave persons dancing, singing and chanting to some kind of rhythmic music while the torch lights flickered to show the cave paintings."

That sounds a lot like what we were doing so I wish I could tell him just how cool and picturesque it was banging our gongs and wearing our pelts there at the beginning of it all. It's possible that all of today's music could have resulted from an ingrained human memory of the acoustical properties found in caves. I told you I was old, didn't I?


Randal Graves said...

Dudes and chicks, that is a most excellent story. The music is in the blood.

I don't know if it'll soothe all the savage beasties of the world, but there just aren't enough tunes in the world of most modern people.

I really dig these silk screenings. The costumes remind me a bit of some some old Ballet Russes stuff from the early 20th century, this vaguely exotic Oriental Scheherezade thing.

okjimm said...

//... I told you I was old, didn't I? //// Ha! But you never said specifically HOW old. :)

Very cool story. And the paintings look great. Frankly, after feeling that I have lived in a cave for years...I truly would like to visit a real one.

Just a small side story...a friend of mine lived in Nashville for years and returning last year visited a friend of his who lives next door to Steve Winwood. Now Mike was really impressed &stuff, and the guy says, "Would you like to meet him?"

Well they did and Mike told me,"Jim, he was just the nicest, most laid back guy...almost as nice as you. Only rich,talented and intelligent."

That Mike, whatta kidder. Last time I buy him a beer.

Mary Ellen said...

If the economy continues to tank, we may all be living in caves.

Love your silk screenings, I'm always so impressed with those who have artistic talent. I loved to dabble in art when I was younger,but once the kids came along I put it aside for dirty diapers, skinned knees and piano recitals.

Maybe I'll go back and give it a try again. My stick people were really starting to take shape, and I even began giving them clothes! ;-)

susan said...

rg - You're right about the influence - Bakst and Erte were early favorites for sheer design outrageousness. Yeah, we need more music and more weird costumes.. people get into less trouble when we're having fun.

okjimm - Now you know ;-) That's really neat about your friend meeting Steve Winwood. The only star I ever met was Charlie Watts when he had to help me up after accidentally knocking me on my butt in Montreal.

me - My thought exactly. We're going to need something to do in the caves once we're done chasing the bears out. Isn't clothing on stick people what the fashion designers do?

Seraphine said...

I love your observation about sound. In the prehistoric days before the advent of safe shelter, one would assume the ability to hear and recognise sound was a superior survival skill.
So of course you'd want the best acoustical part of the cave. It's like having a giant picture window, only for the ears instead of the eyes.
The first family room, complete with a sound system and family pictures on the wall. It all makes sense.

Seraphine said...

I forgot to mention your silk painting! Having seen your work close up, I'm amazed you have the patience to make such exacting and perfect art.
A clean, well-ordered place comes to mind. With explosive beauty and color. It's a gift to be able to create such things.

Mary Ellen said...


Isn't clothing on stick people what the fashion designers do?

LOL! Yes, I think you're right! Gosh, I had no idea there was a career in fashion in my future!

Randal Graves said...

Of course, if we're having fun, then we're not stuck in traffic as we wait to watch reality teevee.

Speaking as a red-blooded, hetero dude, no more stick figures, ME!

susan said...

sera - "The first family room, complete with a sound system and family pictures on the wall." I like that image - a good place for taming the wolves and mixing up the herbal concoctions too, no doubt. I think I need one of those this morning.. just when I have a really good idea for a new project it's time to go to work. What a waste of energy. :-)

me - I just can't think of fashion without being reminded of a movie we're all waiting for: 'Bruno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh Tshirt'

and for a taste of the true fashion experience ..

rg - ali g has taught us all to beware of red blooded hetero males. Did you ever wonder about the cave-dudes who stayed home painting?

susan said...

rg - oops - right one here

Scarlet W. Blue said...

Did you ever wonder about the cave-dudes who stayed home painting?

That's an example of why you should never miss the comments of the best bloggers, either. Hilarious.

I liked that story about the caves/cathedrals. Makes sense.

Beautiful paintings. Where does my scarf fit in among your masterpieces? It's certainly intricate, so I'm thinking later?

Randal Graves said...

Hey, I paint at home, what are you all saying?

Mary Ellen said...


I'm thinking of designing for cats. How's this?

Mary Ellen said...


Hey, I paint at home, what are you all saying?

Painting the bathroom doesn't count...unless you're doing a Sistine Chapel type ceiling. ;-)

Mary Ellen said...

Btw, Susan, those videos had me laughing so hard I woke up my dog. Thanks! :-D

susan said...

scarlet - Nice to see you again - speaking of best bloggers.. I'm looking forward to the return of nvisiblewmn posts and I'll be far from the only one.

Yours was definitely among the latter but at least it was finished before getting sent :-)

rg - I was actually thinking that the painters, musicians, weavers, tool makers who stayed home with the cavewomen may have been the fathers of most of the human race. Who would have been better placed and available?

susan said...

me - Is that cat getting a permanent?
Speaking of cats I have to mention this one.. Years ago when cable first started the Christian Broadcast Channel shared space with the Playboy Channel. The CBC ended at 8pm with a choral hymn by the Oral Roberts Choir and at 8.01 the PC began. My elderly Dad was sitting in our livingroom when the switch occurred and he found himself watching ladies getting their pussies dyed and clipped into amusing little designs like mustaches and hearts. He was heard to say, 'Goodness' (which was as close as he'd ever come to 'fuck me, what the hell is going on here?')

DivaJood said...

I like the silk bags as well. An aside - there is a church in Malta that has an interesting acoustical quirk - it's built into a cavern, and if a man speaks into this one corner, his voice resonates throughout the room. But a woman's voice won't carry at all. Quite spooky. I don't like it myself.

susan said...

divajood - Welcome! That's very weird and I wouldn't like it either.. not hearing women has been a major problem in the world for a long time.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm smiling at your last comment. The silk work is stunning. There is obviously no end to your talents.

I'm so happy to add you to my blog list.


Mary Ellen said...

divajood- Wow, that cavern sounds just like my house sometimes. Living with my husband and son isn't as much fun as it was when my three daughters lived at home...which may explain why I started a blog! At least someone listens to me...right? Anybody? Is anybody there?

susan said...

pagan sphinx - The obvious end to my talents is sheer laziness but I'm glad you like what I've managed to get done. I'll be by.

susan said...

me - You're right. Men do have a tendency for selective hearing :-)

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love mine.

Thank you so much.

(I have to remind the Dancer that it is MINE)

susan said...

dcup - It couldn't have found a better owner :-)

The Cunning Runt said...

Susan, your silk paintings are lovely!

This post struck many chords (pun intended ;) Steve Winwood is one of those old rockers who's maintained his greatness, aged gracefully and still puts out excellent music.

Now onto the caves:

I spent many years making a [paltry] living leading school groups through wild caves in eastern New York, and one of the highlights was always my production of "cave moans," wherein I'd slide down a tonal scale to find a frequency low enough to elicit a sympathetic resonance (and an inevitable wide-eyed "Whoaaah!" from the kids.) None of the gurls could duplicate the phenominon, and very few of the sixth-grade boys - they just didn't produce low enough tones (long enough wave lengths) to match the widths of the "resonant" passageways.

I conceived of writing musical pieces tailored to specific caves, something akin to modern Trance, with particular tonal passages occurring so as to be timed with a traverse or circuit of the cave, and maximizing the "drone" effect of the music.

But alas, Cave Nazis wrested control of all the "beginner" caves I used in my programs and instituted strict rules and restrictions regulating group size, equipment requirements, etc., and I gave them the One Fingered Salute rather than be their sheeple.

So goes the fall of creative opportunity with the rise of the fascist state.

Anonymous said...

susan - damn I hate it that i got here so late. First, the silk painting is gorgeous. I can't wait to see more.

As for the acoustics of caves, wow! You know from a historical perspective, it would seem an obvious connection to make, but it's not. But I could easily see how our "acoustical" sense evolved from the days when humankind used cave dwellings to the present. Like Randal said, "music is in the blood." It is.

susan said...

cr - Silk painting is a cool artform and there will be more to show. Only problem is they take some time and I don't get enough of that.

I'm so glad you left the explanation about tonal frequencies in caves. It makes a lot of sense and I just didn't make the connection when divajood mentioned the one in Greece. Since I grew up in S. Ontario we made several school trips to Niagra Falls for geology lessons and on one of them did a cave exploring trip with a guide spelunker. It was fascinating but I do suffer from extreme claustrophobia and was terrified of the narrow channels as well as knowing in advance there'd be a chimney climb at the end. My choices were to go with the rough and ready gang of ninth grade boys at the front or tiptoe through with the teacher and the fussy girls at the back. I chose the front end and had a great time in the echo chambers and surprising myself, also took to chimney climbing. Thanks for reminding me about that. It sounds as though you must have been a very cool guide.

spartacus - It's never too late around here since I don't post a lot anyway.. only when I find something interesting or when a new story gets itself written and drawn - like once or twice a month.

Last winter we watched the bbc Life on Earth series and one of the best parts was about caves. We live on such a mysterious and beautiful planet so it's just plain unfortunate we've lost touch with so many of the magical things our ancestors understood and treasured. Music is indeed in the blood.