Tag Archives: Arts

New Works: Surrealism From Nature

Until We Meet Again Come view the most recent works added to the RSMITHINGS.com portfolio of surreal photomontage creations. Three new pieces have just been added: “Until We Meet Again” (above), “Transitional,” and “Be The Butterfly” (below, respectively). Each came about only in the last few weeks or months, and rides along a theme of nature and mystery, incorporating elements from my local area. Links to source files also illustrate the creation process in these pieces. “Be The Butterfly” is even available for purchase for a limited time through Fine Art International. Transitional Be The Butterfly


What do you think? Have you created any art lately? Ever thought about selling your artwork? Have you ever discovered a favorite new artist online? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Recent Musical Obsessions

Here are some songs I have been obsessed with lately. For one reason or another these tunes have been on repeat in my brain and in my iPod consistently the last several weeks.

“Baby Blue” by Badfinger

Ever since the final episode of Breaking Bad, like millions of other folks, I’ve been obsessed with this catchy tune by ’70s power pop rockers Badfinger. This track was the perfect music for the final moments of one of the best shows on television.

“Headache” by Frank Black

I first heard this song in the ’90s after Black’s band, The Pixies, broke up (now back together and touring), and I enjoyed the retro look of the video of the time. Little did I know, for some reason, I would want to hear the song over and over a decade later. I borrowed some of the lyrics for one of my recent photomontages.

Wrinkle In Time

“Wrinkle In Time” – Click to see full size

“In the Garage” by Weezer

I like the simple sing-song melody and declarations of what’s important: a 12-sided die, posters of KISS, and the safety a space like a garage can offer a creative spirit, something no doubt familiar to the members of Weezer, one of my favorite bands.

What do you think? What are some songs that have been in your head lately? Where do you go to discover new music? Let us hear from you in the comments.

KISS in M.I.A. Sample

Matangi & KISS’ Heaven’s On Fire on New Album

Listen to the first 5 seconds of both of these songs…

“Matangi” by M.I.A., 2013

“Heaven’s On Fire” by KISS, 1984

Cool, huh? Share this on Twitter!

What do you think? Ever recognized a sample? Are you a KISS or M.I.A. fan? Let us hear from you in the comments.

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin: A Review

Note: The folks from Grammarly graciously offered to sponsor this post. I use Grammarly for proofreading online because it can free up more brain power for enjoying music.

Music is everywhere, especially when it has to do with our emotions. Music has the power to move us, physically and spiritually. It is familiarity and exploration simultaneously drawing from experience, atmosphere and energy… spatial points of reference blending in sound.

This is Your Brain on MusicI discovered this book while browsing Audible randomly for something interesting a few weeks back, and I’m glad I did. I found it to be entertaining, well-articulated and just technical enough to make solid points but not so much that I became lost in scientific mumbo jumbo. The author, Daniel J. Levitin states:

“This book is about the science of music from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience – the field that is at the intersection of psychology and neurology.”

Levitin is an experienced producer and studio engineer, who came by his musical appreciation honestly – his father offered to finance a set of headphones as long as the young author promised to use them whenever his dad was home. Sounds like good parenting to me.

Levitin later went on to become a bona-fide brain researcher and Ph.D., incorporating his musical background. This qualifies him to explore what’s happening with the brain in relation to music.

Consider how something as instinctive as “groove” works. Levitin notes: “when we talk about a ‘great groove’ in music… we’re talking about the way in which beat divisions create a strong momentum. ‘Groove’ is that quality that moves the song forward. When the song has a good groove, it invites us into a sonic world we don’t want to leave.”

That’s a pretty darned good description of groove, right there.

Beats and melodies, grooves and lyrics, disconnected ideas forging a shared energy… what happens with music is happening in our brains. So many areas of our consciousness activate together in a musical experience – like performance and interpretation happening at once. I’ve long believed music is the most powerful art form.

The book explores some of the author’s own, and other recent studies conducted on music, musical meaning, and musical pleasure, along with what’s happening in the brain in relation to music, from many perspectives – biological, physical, anthropological, and others.

“Music listening, performance and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have identified, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.”

This makes a ton of sense to me, since so many, many hours of my youth were spent listening intently to music closely, over and over, concentrating on untangling its secrets into something I could tap into and impart to others through a shared experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and this book illustrates some of the biological mechanisms that enable such magic. As a self-taught musician, I found it fascinating to consider all this from a physiological and evolutionary point of view.

Above: interview w/ Daniel Levitin on The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Levitin notes that “music is unusual among all human activities, for both its ubiquity and its antiquity.” I agree that there’s something primal about music, something as elemental as the air we breathe, as visceral as any vibration. Like the rhythms of a wind rustling leaves, hoofbeats on a plain, or a brook cascading among the echoes of a forest. It makes sense of the world through organization of energy, with the power to send us elsewhere and take us back home in our minds, something that has been happening since humans first started drumming on logs around a fire, continuing to this day in new and exciting forms.

“As our brains have evolved, so has the music we make with them, and the music we want to hear.”

Just think of a song you know, one that makes you tap your foot to the beat or sing along – maybe just the first melody that pops into your mind, maybe something you heard on the radio on the way to work… in a commercial… in college… last weekend at a friend’s house… years ago when you were just beginning to understand the world, or maybe love — what is that sound? It’s living in your brain right now and likely will be for a long time to come. This book can offer a new appreciation for that kind of art.

Update: author comments & recommendation!

What do you think? Have you ever considered how music affects the brain? What do you consider an example of a song that takes you to a certain place? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Artwork Feature At Lensblr.com

Many thanks to Lensblr.com for featuring my photomontage art today! The folks there were kind enough to highlight my recent piece, “Find What You Love,” which I created earlier this month. Here’s what it looks like at Lensblr:

"Find What You Love" by rsmithing

My art featured at Lensblr.com. Click to see more of my art at 500px.

Lensblr is a site that, in its own words, “advocates the original photographers on Tumblr — the ‘creators’ in the Tumblr world.” The site focuses specifically on Tumblr, where it seeks to “bring more attention to the creative works of the content creators on Tumblr.”

Social Media, Art and Blogging All In One

This is great for a Tumblr newbie like myself, since only recently do I understand Tumblr – which is exciting for more reasons than just having my artwork featured. I never would have discovered Lensblr were it not for the direct suggestion of another Tumblr user at Darkdisturbingbeautiful, who suggested I submit my art to Lensblr after having followed my blog and then messaging me through the site. Thanks again, Jason!

Adding to the experience, Tumblr user zombodystripe messaged me asking about how I created the piece. My reply made for a neat post on Tumblr all by itself, since adding images and links in replies is just as easy there as blogging. Here’s what I said about my process:

Q via zombodystripe: How did you do Find What You Love on your iPhone? Is there an app? What is it called? I’d love to try it!

My reply via Tumblr

My reply via Tumblr

A: For Find What You Love I took three photos with the Hipstamatic app: the treetops, the peeling paint and the flowers. I put them all together in a now-extinct app called Photoforge2, but you can use any app that supports layers (like Filterstorm, Superimpose, others). I set layer modes according to light/dark for blending — mainly using overlay mode. Finally, I masked out areas I wanted to keep or erase, then merged all layers and did overall sharpening/exposure adjustments to bring it together. I use things like vignettes and textures to unify also, so everything has a similar feel. If you like this, definitely check out more of my photomontages at 500px, and especially the work of Jerry Uelsmann – he is the grand master of montages and my inspiration. And he does all this by hand with film in the darkroom. More on him at this post I did at my blog: “Learning From The Masters.”

Sites like Lensblr greatly enrich the Tumblr experience – and I don’t just say that because they featured my stuff. Definitely check it out if you’re into creative photography and images.

What do you think? What’s something you’ve been turned on to by way of social media or a blog? Was it a temporary interest, or did it further a lasting connection? Let us hear from you in the comments.

 

A Good Man Is Hard To Find Read by Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor reading her short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

My all-time favorite author, Flannery O’Connor, reads here one of my all-time favorite stories, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. It’s so interesting to hear the creator of such a widespread work (the story appears in many college “English 101″ college compilations) reciting her own creation.

A Southern Accent

I know many people who sound exactly like this around where I’m from. To me it sounds comforting. And that’s saying quite a bit, considering how disconcerting the subject matter of the story is.

5ebf6c0b6f62e8b061fe613ccf3a9177

I wonder what O’Connor would have thought of Breaking Bad. If I ever meet Vince Gilligan or any of the writers, I’ll bring this up.

What do you think? Have you ever heard any of your favorite authors reading one of your favorite works? Do you think hearing the words from the person who wrote them affects the interpretation? Let us hear from you in the comments.
Characters of "A Good Man Is Hard To Find" - The Misfit, et.al

Characters of “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

What Do You Do When A Song Is Stuck In Your Head?

MusicOnTheBrainI experience music looping in my head on a regular basis, and I’m sure you can think of several times this has happened to you. I’m also a self-taught musician, having learned to play guitar by ear from an early age through careful listening, so, I have a hunch my brain is more active in the “melody-analysis” area, and that I’m prone to experiencing this more often (or at a higher volume) than others. This doesn’t affect my life in any huge external way — I carry on productively and engaged in most any situation. But in a moment of relative quiet, the internal soundtrack often cranks right up.

But Isn’t That What Vocal Hooks Are For?

I’ve found it’s usually key phrases from songs that stand out — like dramatic flourishes or expressive riffs. It’s not always the “pop hook” or vocal element that grabs me, and it can be any obscure track from any time in history, of any genre, not just so-called “popular” music specifically music designed to lodge itself in the brain. Though I’d bet a quantitative analysis of the last 50 years would reveal more bias toward, say, The Andrews Sisters than Metallica.

And then, after a few hours… it’s gone. Maybe I’ve made an effort to listen to the track somehow and exorcise its hold on my spirit. Or, what was there before just gets replaced by another track.

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick – Power Pop Hook Maker Extraordinaire

Why Does This Happen?

Perhaps as early human cave dwellers, the ability to memorize sound served an evolutionary purpose. Hearing a growl in the distance might have prevented being eaten by a bear, so that would have been a good sound to repeat into memory for an advance warning next time. Or maybe hoofbeats in the distance signaled a tasty herd of beasts just over the ridge. I’m totally guessing, but it’s not implausible given what we understand about the fight-or-flight response.

What Do You Do?

I really wonder if there’s a course of action here. Is there some type of “resolution” or lesson to be learned — or does there even need to be? What purpose does having a song stuck in your head actually serve?

What do you think? Do you find that actually playing the song works to “release” the melody from your brain? Or do you find that songs usually dissipate on their own? Any guesses as to why this happens? Let us hear from you in the comments.