Monday, February 14, 2011

Tabs and Struts

A Prada-ad-inspired composing session today has the promise to alleviate a plethora of recent frustrating ones: hundreds of bursting piano figures recorded on my hard disk in ecstatic, almost high states of mind, but the inability to connect them into longer forms.

Maybe this is why I’ve found such pleasure and stability in fashion and in objects this fall and winter. The lines and completeness of things you can touch.

I grew up in a very minimalist apartment. My friends were always wondering where to sit. My parents instill in me an appreciation for clean design, and as less of it as possible!

My sister reminded me today of the one exception: this cloud, that hung below cloud-painted ceilings, above our tub.

My Mom would say “wash up as far as possible, and down as far as possible, but don’t forget POSSIBLE!”

I keep my apartment minimal, with a gray color reminiscent of my parent’s gray, inspired by the Pazzi Chapel in Florence,

and only my piano and a little white couch in the main room. Besides the bane of my existence: a wooden floor-to-ceiling bookshelf. I wish I could just peel it off the wall. I put all my Feng Shui books there to try to balance it out.

Actually, one of my Feng Shui books advised me to throw away all of the books that I don’t find myself reading anymore, to clear away the clutter. So I threw it away.

(That’s my newest Feng Shui joke. Of course the Feng Shui area of my shelf is the “Religious Readings” section to me, and I’d never throw them away.)

Here are shelves Finni made, using only one long piece of twine.

I’ve been drawn lately to fashion/object sites like The Sartorialist and Svpply, and movies like Objectified and The Life and Times of Yves Saint Laurent. My newest favorite book is by the design group Non-Format. It’s called Love Song.

On my wish list for the April 19 release date is the book on BarberOsgerby. I just discovered this London design team while obsessively searching for a bedroom lamp. Once I found the Tab, that was it. It doesn’t read bedroom (though it helps me read there). I feel such a connection with it: the electric color, and the lines which remind me of a standing lamp in my Dad’s study that’s still there. The Tab is the lamp version of me.

Here it is enjoying many spots in my apartment.

I had a similar love story with a wool suit I "invested in" from the store Otto this fall. But in this case, this suit is absolutely nothing like me. I haven’t even worn it yet, but I can’t wait for the right, sophisticated moment.

Annette, who owns Otto, and her husband Phil, have been lovely supporters of my music for years, as I’ve been of the store. Phil is a carpenter, and has made wonderful holiday signs for Otto. Walk by on Mother’s Day!

I’m proud to say that my engagement ring is from Otto as well! Finni bought it the day he turned me upside down to ask me to marry him in April. We were babysitting and I had just buttered some matzoh and suddenly I’m upside down and he put my hand on the ring. It’s an Amy-thyst. Amethysts are supposed to keep you from getting drunk. 

I also have a family-born 2nd engagement ring as well: 5 small diamonds from both my Grandma Ruth and Great Grandma Yetta, which Hiroko and Michael Fitzgerald designed into a beautiful heirloom. Here's Yetta, on the left, with my Grandma Adeline, who sports red leather jackets at 90.

We celebrated her birthday in September in California.

Here she is with my Grandpa LeRoy, just engaged.

I only met my Grandma Ruth, who I hear was a very stylish lady, when she touched her Daughter’s belly. She died the January before I was born from smoking. Smoking is sacrilegious for me for this reason.

She met my Grandpa Ned in Canarsie Bay when they were kids. She asked him for a ride in a boat he built, one board at a time, with extra money saved from his milk truck job. He learned how to bend the boards using steam. She fixed his bathing suit that was ripped.

Here he is a few years after.

The fall brought many fashion events, starting with my High School Reunion in October. I had every outfit perfectly picked out until my Mom put the kabash on my funky choices and tidied me up.

A way too loud Chicago bar party that totaled my voice was made up for by joining in on a Grape Jam (my H.S. a cappella group) rehearsal,

and attending Bonnie Seebold’s Shakespeare class and Andy Kaplan's Modern Literature class. An assignment for The Scarlet Letter was to draw a gigantic letter as an emblem of our time and culture. R for Racism. S for Sexism. M for Materialism. :)

The jubilant wedding of Maria Sonevytsky and Franz Nicolay followed a few weekends after. I brought this black dress for the Friday night swing dancing lesson, but only got to wear it in my bathroom the night before, because we sadly arrived too late to dance.

I was so honored Maria and Franz asked me to write their processional. The melody was inspired by the Ukrainian music I’ve heard Maria sing, and the internal lines by the sounds of Italian birds. On a whim after the ceremony, me and my accordion helped lead the guests on a path outside to the reception hall. Somehow I did it in these shoes.

We were all surprised to see the brisk fall day had transformed into a sun-wash, and I know it happened when they kissed. 

Our dapper green-suit-wearing wedding roomie Jonathan Wood Vincent invited me to play in a November music night he was curating at CultureFix,

where I wore my piano socks and an alligator tank Karen LeBlanc made as she joined in on saw in my accordion song about a cigarette-smoking orange.

This is a drawing my H.S. friend Courtney's daughter Hayden made of my future wedding. Notice Finni's fantastic pants and my dangly earrings!

December arrived, and I had fun compiling a holiday songbook for my students called keys n' trees, which featured 3 songs composed by them! The cover model is a stowable tree Finni made of wood, sporting last season's lights.

The overarching passion these months has been the preparation of my Plexi Lusso CD and International Video Commissioning Project. Its $-campaign will be launched at the start of March, and I am thrilled to introduce the incredible animators and video artists who are on board, from The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, here in Brooklyn, and beyond. The plan is to commission each of them to make a video for a song on my next album. I formed letters out of Fimo for the trailer, which is right now being made by one of the project artists, Luca Dipierro.

I love to dance, and hope one of them gets me doing some moves.

As part of collecting things for the project trailer, I transferred a few VHS tapes to DVD, and was happy to re-see this choreography from my Oberlin Senior Composition recital, which I wrote for conga and spacey mini-organ inspired by Satie’s chorales.

The Preface to Satie's chorales (with titles like Choral Inapp├ętissant - Unappetizing Chorale) reads: "This publication embodies two arts, drawing and music. The drawing part consists of lines, witty lines; the musical part of plain black dots."

Tonight’s Grammys are super exciting because The Greatest Ears in Town: the Arif Mardin Story is nominated for Best Long Form Music Video. I’m in the last minutes of the film, in a clip during the credits, where Arif says some sweet things and you can see me smoking (it’s just the movies!). I am so happy for his son Joe, who Co-Directed the film (and who Co-Produced my last album I’m in Crinoline as well!). Joe lent me a Feng Shui game, where you have to separate cards to make the pieces.

Here’s a great shot of the great Arif, from our session for his album. An unforgettable day for me.

Driving alongside an Italian superstore, a few years back, there came rabbit in front of our car, hopping gently forward down the middle of the road. We slowed and followed him in a straight line, block after block. My wish for this Year of the Rabbit, and I already feel it, is for the bursts and hesitations of last year to mellow into engaged and rhythmic hops forward, like his.

And for that BarberOsgerby book!

I leave you with a fashion show.