Raising The Bar by Lenny Kaye
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Recently I ran a picture of Lenny Kaye in this blog which accompanied an In One Ear
column by Les Wisman from Vancouver Magazine
. It is here
. Kaye saw it. He was most pleased. I asked him if he would write a guest blog on his take on the whammy bar. Today he delivered.
Raising The Bar
By Lenny Kaye
I call it a sway bar, but it is also referred to as a whammy, a whang, and – most descriptively – a vibrato bar. It’s the lever you see protruding from a guitar’s bridge, and when grasped and pulled up or down, has the ability to shift the pitch of a note, a chord, or even all six strings in one swift motion. It can be used tastefully, as in a slight wobble, or radically, replicating the vertigo of a dive-bomber.
Usually, except when the guitar has a Floyd Rose string-lock upon it, it exacts its price on the player: the dreaded out-of-tuning. But usually the effect, emphasizing a trailing arpeggio with a bit of squiggle, or tickling a note as it sails into oblivion, is worth it. Or at least I think so, or should I say sowowowowo….
I love the sway bar, seldom play an electric instrument without one fitted, and have often been tempted to bounce upon it as one might a trampoline. The undisputed master of the technique – apart from such godlike creatures as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, both of whom used it to play entire melodies – is John Cippolina of the Quicksilver Messenger Service. In such recordings as “Babe You’re Gonna Leave Me,” “Codine,” “Pride Of Man” and the epic journey that is “Who Do You Love Me,” he wrenched and moaned his solos so that they seemed spoken in a foreign lingual, shivering and wobbling each phrase that he poured out of his custom Gibson SG.
It was Paul Bigsby who first put a springlike vibrato tailpiece on a guitar in the early fifties, followed by Leo Fender with his synchronized tremolo arm on the Stratocaster (though of course, this is misnamed, since tremolo is volume alteration, something a mere grab of a handle cannot do).
Wherever and whencever it comes, it adds a degree of expression to the guitar that falls easily to hand. My hand, especially.
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Shelina The Graceful
Friday, March 12, 2010
Shelina was a wondrous dancer at the Number 5 Orange Street establishment of Powell and Main in the late 70s. The D.J. at the joint had insisted she take ballet and dancing lessons as the D.J. himself was a prominent Vancouver jazz dance choreographer at the time. Shelina danced with grace. She danced like a slippery cat. Her body was lithe, and with no fat. Her curves were just right. She had a soothing voice and the only defect that made her pleasantly human was an ever so slightly prominent nose. I took some pictures of her at Wreck Beach sometime around 1979. I was experimenting with a red sensitive film called Special Order 410. It made skin look like porcelain. These pictures were my early crude examples of nude photography. Shelina was a patient subject, a delight to photograph.
Some years later there was a reunion of the circa late 70s and early 80s dancers at the Number 5 and I was invited. While enjoying the company of these wonderful women and reminiscing of old times when “dancers” danced I looked at Shelina and thought hard. She must have read my mind because she said, “I will dance for you right now if you like.” She climbed up on the stage and this she did. And for the first time and most probably the last time I felt like a real king as she danced just for me with her trademark grace.
From The Heart
Thursday, March 11, 2010
From the moment that I can remember being an individual I can remember my mother opening a heavy but small jewel box and showing me the heart of diamonds. Of all the jewels (purchased in Paris) that my grandfather Tirso de Irureta Goyena had showered on his bride and wife my grandmother Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena the only one that was left was the little quartz heart studded with diamonds. The rest of the jewels had been pawned off or sold to finance the divorces of my uncles and aunt.
When Alexandra Elizabeth (our first daughter was born in 1968) my mother told me that it was her will that the heart would be used to finance Alexandra’s university education. “I want her to have all the opportunities she deserves,” she told me.
Both Ale and Hilary managed to graduate from university here in Vancouver. Ale went to UBC and Hilary to Simon Fraser. What is to happen to that little heart of diamonds? I would think that my mother’s will, would transfer to our eldest granddaughter. We shall see and keep the little heart in its box.
Fulfilling the wills and desires of someone who is dead is something that most of us take most seriously.
I never thought that I would have to do this for someone else.
It was this past July that my friend Abraham Rogatnick shocked me with a statement that I first took lightly. He said, “If there is anything I want to do before I die is to go public on my stance that the Vancouver Art Gallery should stay put
.” He wrote up his reasons and went to visit Vision Councellor Heather Deal. Deal read the “manifesto” and said something like, “Let’s wait and see
.” Rogatnick told me, “I lost it and I yelled at her, what do you mean you are going to wait and see?”
I told Rogatnick to give me his manifesto and that I would try to see if anybody was interested. By mid August Rogatnick was ailing and I told him I had been unsuccessful in my efforts to get the radio, TV, web based magazines and our local newspapers interested. Rogatnick simply told me, “You tried.”
This past Monday I can say now that thanks to the intersession of the Vancouver Sun’s city columnist, Miro Cernetig, Rogatnick’s manifesto is up in today’s Vancouver Sun editorial page.
Rogatnick did not believe he was going anywhere when he died at the end of August of last year. I felt I had let the man down.
But Rogatnick was always pragmatic and he would probably agree with me that his manifesto
might be that much more effective coming from the grave than when he was alive. My thanks to Miro Cernetig for keeping Rogatnick’s vision alive.
The Vancouver Art Gallery & The Boer War
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
While driving Monday morning to Rona to purchase shady garden grass seed for my garden, I turned on CBC Radio 1’s Almanac
and listened to Kirk Williams. He is the provisional host while Mark Forsythe is on holidays. Williams introduced a man whose voice was a dead ringer for Archibald Alexander Leach. It was a smooth and urbane voice. I would vote for the auditory doppelgänger or buy a used Toyota from him.
The Cary Grant impersonator was Michael Audain OC OBC
Chairman Polygon Homes Ltd., Chair of the Vancouver Art Gallery Foundation, the Audain Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Gallery of Canada and most important is Chair of the group involved in the project to move the VAG to Larwill Park across from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. He was calm and fielded questions (most listeners who chipped into the program were against the move) very well. He even managed to answer (it sounded good, I am not sure he made sense) when a speaker enquired about the in-the-red situation of the current art gallery and the fact that they are reducing staff and shortening their hours to save money.
It is understood that since the Province of British Columbia (which owns the property) does not charge the VAG rent, the reason for the red ink has to be explored and reconciled with a sum that would be upwards of 250 million Canadian dollars to build a new facility in the proposed site of Larwill Park which is the city block to one side of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Larwill Park was a temporary (I understand that from the records) site of the Greyhound Bus Station. Previous to that it had served as a military parade ground and troops that were going to be sent to the Boer war were mustered there.
In the last few weeks several troubling incidents re: our city, have been revealed by the Vancouver Sun
, the Globe & Mail
and Francis Bula in her blog.
1. Under the mayorship of Philip Owen a deal was struck where the Vancouver Park Board sold Larwill Park to the City's Property Endowment Fund so that the Board could buy land along the Fraser River.
2. Subsequently we have found out that an office tower might be built in Larwill Park as a quid pro quo arrangement whereupon as Francis Bula writes in her blog
(fragment of it in paragraph below) The latest complication I discovered on Friday was that the city has already committed to using $48 million of the development profits from the site (most if not all of them) to pay for the QE Theatre renovation that happened in the past couple of years. More details on this confusing tale
[in the Globe & Mail] here
3. An article in the Tuesday Vancouver Sun written by Jonathan Ross
explains why so much stuff happens in our city behind closed doors. It seems that many important decisions are made by our city bureaucrats and not by our elected officials.
4. Max Wyman told me he was privy some years ago to a meeting at the VAG that proposed the idea of incorporating the parts of the Simpson Sears building (designed by renowned international architect Cesar Pelli) with the VAG. An unnamed friend of mine said, “Douglas Coupland could place one of his airplane sized projects into that building with room to spare.” Wyman even told me that there were discussions involving he building of some sort of mechanical escalator between the VAG and Sears.
We (I) suspect that when Eaton’s had to vacate the site Cadillac Fairview (it leases the building from the city who owns the land) must have given Sears a sweet deal. But the sweet deal is not going to bring shoppers into a store that does not have a department that sells one of the Sears mainstays, Craftsman tools. I have to go all the way to Lougheed Highway to have my Craftsman lawnmower serviced. It would seem to me that if Sears could sublease part of the cavernous building, Sears, the VAG and we the citizens of this city would profit.
5. Miro Cernetig wrote an intelligent column on Monday
on what is happening to our Robson Square Centre and particular in the light on how popular the location was during the 2010 Olympics.
To 5 I would add that I had several discussions on Robson Square with Arthur Erickson and my friend Abraham Rogatnick
(who died in August 2009). It was our opinion that one of the biggest mistakes of our city was to bring in UBC to Robson Square.
The average person on the street is aware that Simon Fraser University is in town. Coincidentally he or she might even inform you that part of that downtown site on West Hastings was formerly a Sears store! I have attended countless seminars and lectures on urban affairs at SFU Downtown Campus.
How many people know that there is an important bookstore not far from Chapters on Robson and Howe? Few might know that UBC has a downtown campus in Robson Square and that the prestigious UBC Bookstore has a branch right there!
This general ignorance is that in my opinion UBC has botched its presence downtown. They have ill used the site and given it such a low profile that few know it exists.
In the past the Robson Media Centre (as it used to be called) had interesting cultural events in the premises and in particular in the Judge White Auditorium. It was in this auditorium whose sides had softly carpeted steps where some of us would slouch to listen to the likes of Arthur Erickson talk about our city. The auditorium was always full and I felt the richness of living with a city. I felt almost like an Athenian citizen of old.
What has happened to that auditorium? Is it used at all? This auditorium could be the very auditorium that Michael Audain says the VAG lacks.
It is my opinion (one I shared with Abraham Rogatnick) that UBC should vacate Robson Square and that it be taken over by the VAG.
In the photo above which I took for the Globe & Mail in 1997 that's, from left to right the then director of the gallery, Alf Boguski, curator Dana Augaitis and Michael Audain.
The Pleasures Of Editorial Collaboration
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Quite a few years ago I was sharing my studio
with another photographer. One day I walked into the studio to get a piece of lighting equipment and I found the photographer there. He asked me, “In a few minutes I have to photograph a woman called Carole Taylor
(she was then a city Councillor) for the cover of Vancouver Magazine
. Who is she?”
My friend and previous fellow collaborator Les Wiseman (he was the writer) for many a story for Vancouver Magazine
and TV Guide
told me that one of the secrets of good magazine writing is to research your subject. It would seem to me that this intelligent piece of advice also applies to photographers who shoot for magazines.
This advice has served me well. Researching my subjects has always enabled me to connect with the person facing my camera. Since many of these persons when shooting for magazines are some sort of celebrity or politician they usually don’t give you much time. You are forced to find a common ground of interest quickly if you hope to get a picture that will be different from all others. When I faced actress Helena Bonham Carter
I knew her grandmother was Spanish. I had found this out through research. I had a suspicion Bonham Carter spoke Spanish. Taking her photograph, while in the presence of an intrusive writer who had brought his baby to the interview, I was able to bond with her when I spoke to her in Spanish. In fact Bonham Carter wrote me a letter in perfect grammatical Spanish thanking me for the fun she had.
With the slow demise of many magazines many of the procedures that once were in effect have faded. At one time writers and photographers worked in tandem. Wiseman and I went to many rock concerts together and interviewed musicians back stage or in their hotels. Wiseman sometimes advised me as to what his tack was going to be in the interview. I would tell him what my possible approach to the photograph would be. But what worked best was Wiseman’s insistence that I remain in the room during the interview. It was here that I got many of my ideas for that photographic approach. This policy of allowing me to remain during the interview was also a technique shared with writers John Lekich
and Christopher Dafoe
. Both of them worked for the Globe & Mail. The former wrote as freelance art reporter and the latter was the arts correspondent in Vancouver.
I have shot many magazine, tabloid and newspaper covers since 1975. I noticed something peculiar about some of my better covers. This is that sometimes they can only be used once, and only once. After that someone might ask,"So why that composite picture of Iggy Pop smiling?"
About 20 years ago I used to frequent the monthly meetings of an organization called CAPIC (Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators In Communication). The talk then was about selling stock. One of our members a persnickety South African born Paul Little (he worked as a stringer for Macleans) would tell us from the back row, “If you do stock nobody will ever pay you to travel to Paris to take pictures.” He was usually hushed. But time has proven him correct and few photographers are now paid to go to exotic locations to take pictures.
As I look at my extensive collection of photographs, slides and negatives (b+w and colour) I realize that I have never ever been able to sell stock. The reason is that my pictures are too specific to a particular article. They are not stock pictures of people in general. They are pictures of particular people who cannot play the role of everyman or everywoman for an ad. This means that my pictures have value in other directions but not immediately as stock.
As an example look at the composite picture of Iggy Pop here where he is smiling in the right hand corner. When it became time to pick a picture for the article/interview that Les Wiseman made in May 1987 I was promoting the use of the picture showing Iggy Pop’s hands. I had mentioned to Iggy Pop (it was Wiseman who had said in the presence of the man’s handler, “What are we supposed to call him, Mr. Pop? “) that his demeanor and look resembled the famous photograph taken of Joseph Goebbels
by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1933. Iggy Pop got all excited and told me, “I was in Geneva, not too long ago in the very spot where that picture was taken.” He then struck the pose for me. But Wiseman insisted that Iggy Pop had been transformed and that he was now clean of drugs and alcohol and that the most salient feature of the new man was his smile. And that is how I came to print the composite to please Wiseman.
An editorial collaboration involves give and take. That is part of the tension but also part of the fun. This blog is a de facto magazine of mine since I singly decide which picture or pictures to use and I edit myself. The freedom is pleasant but the collaboration is not there. The thrill (or disappointment, sometimes!) of waiting to see how my picture is used or cropped has always been special. It is my hope that magazines in some shape or form come back so that photographers and illustrators of the generation that follow me will experience the thrills and excitement that I have in collaboration with Les Wiseman and other writers.
Who Shaves The Barber?
Monday, March 08, 2010
Rebecca knows the meaning of the expression, “Who shaves the barber?” Every once in a while she will insist on taking my picture even when I am hovering around with my heavy medium format Mamiya RB-67 and my equally heavy tripod. These snaps were taken in June 2009 at the Nitobe Japanese Garden of the University of British Columbia. The girls and Rosemary love the place so we go often.
Rebecca was keen on photography a few years ago so we went to Leo's to buy her a digital camera. When it stopped working I bought her a new one. But there seems to be no follow up at home so she has lost interest even though she is so good in front of my garden. It is methodical Lauren who always wants to look through the viewfinder of my Mamiya and I am wondering if she just might inherit my vocation. It would be most pleasant to will all my useless film cameras (presently so useful to me) to my Lauren.
Just A Handful Of Magnesium Sulphate
Sunday, March 07, 2010
I don’t particularly like VanDusen manure Saturdays. It happens once a year and it happened yesterday. I drove over to pick up 12 bags of well rotted manure (it hardly smells) and brought it home. It was a nice enough day that I went at distributing it among my roses immediately using my large orange/red wheelbarrow. I mix the manure with last year’s fall VanDusen compost (another day I don’t particularly like). To this mixture I add handfuls of Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) and generous amounts of alfalfa meal. The magnesium salts in early spring help the rose bushes absorb the nutrients that may be present in the soil. The alfalfa meal (which I buy at the Otter Co-Op in Langley) is supposed to induce roses to send up basal shoots (Nice thick and vigorous ones that grow to be healthy canes. These come up from the base root of the plant).
When Rebecca showed up at noon I told her that today Sunday we would to the same with her roses and that we would also prune them. And we would also transfer root-bound roses to bigger pots. I was going to bring a back of compost and a bag of manure plus my Epsom salt/alfalfa meal mixture.
I showed up at two and it was drizzling. Rebecca was dressed to the teeth and had a nice scarf draped around her neck and shoulders. “Do we really have to do this today?” she asked as she looked in the direction of a friend. It was obvious that I had interrupted a pleasant and lazy Sunday afternoon in which anybody with an attorney would be recommended to do nothing. I stuck to my guns, “We knew about it since yesterday. Let’s do it.” She accompanied me outside with her beautiful silver flats. I pointed out that she would have to change as she would be on her knees potting and mixing manure with compost. She relented and when she returned she was all enthusiasm.
We worked at her roses which all look very healthy in their pots even though most roses do not like to be in pots. Rebecca’s back yard is a concrete driveway so the pots are her only choice if she is going to have a garden. Her friend said, “You have a lovely garden.” Rebecca agreed even though her friend added, “Balfour owns this property and they don’t want to spend any money in landscaping; besides the home owners here want the space for their cars.”
While Rebecca’s garden is not big it makes up for it with an unusual collection of old roses and rare hostas. In May/June her backyard is a feast for the eyes and delight to the nose.
Her sister Lauren began her gardening a couple of years ago with my gift of some blue/yellow winter pansies. They are indestructible and they keep blooming every year. She also has a miniature hosta called ‘Peanut’.
Rebecca’s father predicted that Rebecca’s roses would all die this year, “She doesn’t take care of them.” I sort of beg to differ but I told Rebecca that this would be her challenge for the year by proving him wrong.
One of my loveliest rose in my garden is a Gallica of unknown origin called Charles de Mills. It blooms only once as Gallicas are old roses and this is their pattern. The blooms are complex with a myriad of petals. The flower itself seems as if someone went at the front of it with a sharp razor. The scent is heavenly and the flowers are a blue/crimson that defies description.
There is another attribute of this plant that is not generally known. It is one of the few roses that send underground runners (some go under wood fences) that grow to be little clones of the parent. After two years I severe the relationship with a sharp knife and re-pot the plant. This year Rebecca and my friend Paul Leisz are getting one. Paul’s is from last year while Rebecca’s is from two years ago. Last year her Charles de Mills (still in my garden) had at least 40 flowers!
I have placed many a picture of Rebecca with a rose in this blog. This particular one, taken last May/June, shows Rebecca, 11, more as a teenager looking to her adulthood. Her hair is adorned by a splendid example of Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’.
While Rebecca and I happily worked on her roses, her friend (in the drizzle) was busy texting with her thumbs. When I pointed this out to Rebecca’s father he said, “She is in high school. They all do that.”
Will Rebecca be like the rest? Will her love for roses and gardening continue? Will her roses die? Only time will tell. Meanwhile I just wish that treating would-be teenagers were as simple as throwing in a handful of magnesium sulphate and alfalfa meal on our beloved roses.