V5N4: May 1999
Volume 5 Number 4
Table of Contents
Seven nights a week, for the past 10 years King has graced Austin with his music. Occasionally, he has left to try his hand at a nine to five job but he seems to always find himself back playing the funk.
Ask Alton B. Rison what makes a great show, and he'll give you one word: class.
As the rave era finally comes to a close, new styles of electronic music have found their way to the urban youth. Styles stretch from hip-hop, drum and bass, house, ambient, jungle, and the list goes on and on. Whatever title or sub-title is given, electronica in all its motifs has given rise to the exploration of repetition and trance.
Perhaps of utmost importance in the process of responding to an expanding potential audience base is the decision as to whether these relationships will be pursued primarily as consumer relationships or community relationships.
Perhaps noticing the child's potential, her grandmother advised the young book-clutching woman "not to do things for fame or money, but do them for the respect of your peers," a piece of advice to which Lisa Moore has held steadfastly.
Big band jazz was commercially supplanted by other musical styles, but it has maintained a niche in both commercial and educational musical institutions. Big band jazz, although historically linked to ballrooms and dance clubs, is also concert music.
Our lives are fashioned not by our intentions, but by the actions of others. Seen and unseen forces. It's how we are affected by other people.
-- Kathy Dunn Hamrick
Steve has borrowed from devout religions such as Catholicism to recreate a holy ideal. To pay homage to his mentors, Steve acted out his own "baptism" by collecting blood samples from his friends and family and enshrining them in layers of glass, brass, and tubes of formaldehyde. He also drew his own blood and enshrined it in brass
Visions and dreams are good things. Having visions and dreams, however, does not make one a visionary.
You like someone...but what if they don't feel the same way about you? What if there's no chance in hell that they'll ever feel the same way? What do you do?
Austin's Royalty:"The King of Sixth Street" by Adrienne Bouchard
It is a usual weekend night on Sixth Street. Crowds of people make their way up and down the bar lined street, conversation and laughter leak out of smoky buildings. Bouncers carefully inspect driver's licenses. At the doorway of Jazz, a Louisiana-style bar and grill, the crowd is at a standstill. Standing in the in the middle is a short man full of energy and life. Playing a 1965 Fender Jazz bass guitar, he belts out original, funkafied tunes as his feet take him dancing in all directions. Batman sunglasses cover his eyes, a turban hides his hair, a shiny gold crown lays upon his head, and a cape drapes over his shoulders; this is the King's costume. Gerry Van King, the King of Sixth Street, is noticed and recognized as the most popular street musician in Austin.
On March 9, the King released his first CD. The 40-minute, 10-track album takes you right back into the '70s through various mixes of original funk. The cover of "The Cause of It All" features a bright psychedelic swirl of King in his famous costume. Each song demands dance. The beat, rhythm, lyrics and overall sound start your feet tapping and hips swaying. Studio 54 comes to mind as an appropriate place to play the King. Early funk records are of tremendous influence to King. P-Funk, old school funk, and early FM sounds are apparent, along with a hint of the 90s in King's original jazz.
King's CD was released through Aaron Ave. Records, an independent label based out of Arlington. Matt Key, King's producer, first saw the street musician at South by Southwest in 1997. A year later when Aaron Ave. Records returned they found themselves gathered with a large group around the King of Sixth Street. "King was the only musician that we remembered when we went back in 1998. We remembered him and all his songs," says Key. "My boss asked, 'Do any of you remember anyone but Gerry?'" the answer was a unanimous "No." The folks at Aaron Ave. Records said to themselves, "This guy has something that stands out and sticks with us." Three weeks later King and the independent record label were working out a contract. Five months later they were in the studio.
Key was aware that King had minimal experience in the studio. However, he was pleasantly surprised when King didn't need as much guidance as he had thought. "I didn't know what to expect. I knew that his experience was little, and he had never done a project that was this involved," says Key. "When he came in, he knew what he wanted for each song; he could hear it in his head. I didn't expect that out of him. When we first started he had it all mapped out and all that was left was for it to be done and relayed to the other musicians. Most bands have a general idea of what they want but to have it all laid out as well as he did, I was pleased."
Seven nights a week, for the past 10 years King has graced Austin with his music. Occasionally, he has left to try his hand at a nine to five job but he seems to always find himself back playing the funk. He has appeared in various clubs and played in a couple of bands but playing in front of Jazz feels like home to King. "Many people think that playin' in front of Jazz is down, but that down is up," says the King of Sixth. "This is my up, I am not at my highest point music-wise but I am content."
Playing in front of Jazz, night after night, King has created a small claim to fame. As Key sees it, "Gerry is already somewhat past being just a local musician. Sixth is a tourist thing, and with him being on the street, people all over the world are seeing him when they come to visit. When they go home they are taking him back with them."
MTV producer and head of project research for the MTV Music Awards' printed programs, Victoria Bonadonnal, heard by word of mouth about the King of Sixth. For the most recent music awards Bonadonnal's job was to find totally unknown musicians from across America. King was selected. MTV came to Austin to hear King's original jams and get to know him a little better. "He's just kind of his own enigma," says Bonadonnal. "I think he's fantastic and, in his own category, represents years of artistic struggle."
King was featured in a one page spread of the 1998 MTV Music Awards' program book. Each individual who attended the awards show was given a program in their seat. The MTV gig gave King a new claim to fame. "How many Texans, no, how many people can say they were in MTV's program?" says King. With a huge smile he answers his own question, "none."
As far as promotion goes, Key says that King's approach is working well for him. The street made King who he is today and he feels strongly about being faithful to the place he calls home. "There is no one formula for success. In Gerry's case playing in front of Jazz works. It makes him accessible to tourists and regulars, why mess with a good thing?" says Key.
King refers to himself as a "five star funkateersman," and Key agrees. Key sees him as 100% musician, who reflects it in everything that he does. He is very knowledgeable about music and the industry. He knows that it takes persistence and dedication; his consistency on the streets mirrors that. King, at 45, has big plans for his music career. Plans that include the Grammies, a stretch limousine and plenty of fans to keep his music alive. Speaking of his current line of work as a street musician King says, "this is just a tiny line of what I can do. All this is done just to survive."
"I am going to win eight Grammies just for the hell of it and in a bunch of categories, not in just one. I want a bunch of platinum albums and a command performance. I'll tour and show up in a big long limo, but that is just for show. The fans like that kind of stuff. It's not like it seems. I am not in it for the sex, drugs and rock and roll. I am in it for the music. And what happens, happens and as things get better, that's okay. And if I am supposed to roll up in here instead of getting off a bus then I am going to roll up in here. These are not the most important things, but I wouldn't mind 'em. I wouldn't be mad at all. If and when those things happen, the only things that are going to change are my bank account and my address."
Although King has many expectations and dreams of making it big and being in the spotlight, he's worried about having to leave Jazz behind, "The hard part about the success in my expectations is how do I keep playin' at Jazz? Playin' at Jazz is going to keep me honest and real. If I should, I can't foresee it but if I should get a big head all I'd have to do is go back down to Sixth Street. I would get in place real good," says the King. "I can't thank Jazz enough. But I keep trying." Thank you, Jazz."
It is nearing closing time at Jazz, and the King of Sixth is still playin' the funk. Throughout the night he has had a steady flow of listeners, he keeps smiling and playing like he always has. It has been said that he looks like Stevie Wonder; while he belts out his jazzy tunes his head is held high and it sways back and forth with his music. Faithful to his subjects, the King will continue to proudly wear the famous costume as he plays every night. With Batman sunglasses to cover his eyes, a turban to hide his hair, a shiny gold crown to lay upon his head, and a cape to drape over his shoulders, the King retains his title as an Austin legend, reigning proudly over Sixth Street.
Billy by Alex Arcone
Ask Alton B. Rison what makes a great show, and he'll give you one word: class. And class is exactly what Rison hopes to bring to Austin's theater scene on April 29th and 30th when he opens his original drama and musical Billy at the Victory Grill in East Austin.
Don't expect any Michael Crawford or standards from Cats, because not only has Rison written the entire show himself, but he composed nearly all the music as well. The show, aptly entitled Billy, follows the life of the late great singer Billy Eckstine through the eyes of a fictional group touring with the singer in the '40s. But the show is not as much about Eckstine as it is about black music and arts culture during the time period.
The classy performance location at the Victory Grill is only one of the indications of what Rison has set out to do with the show.
"Many African American people here in Austin don't know their own history," says Ernestine Fuller, one of the four singers and actors in the show. "We're giving a history of Billy Eckstine, yes, but we're also instituting dialogue among the African Americans here in the Austin community to make our people more aware of their culture."
The Victory Grill is a fitting location for the performance because of its rich history. "The Victory Grill is where many great stars sang years ago," Rison notes. "Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Hines. A lot of big guys still play there -- Charnett Moffett, Leo Wright. I played there in the '40s and '50s doing scat singing." In addition to his work as a musician, Rison was a member of the original Harlem Writers Guild and a participant in the Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop in Manhattan, New York; thus, his writing brings a unique historical perspective to the subject matter of black history.
But the thing that will really set this show apart from so many other theater projects going on in Austin, Rison says, is that it has long term potential. "I've got my core of four actors and singers, and that means that the show is seasonable -- I can do it at nightclubs, small theaters, large theaters, auditoriums. All you need is a reliable group to work with and you're off."
Rison speaks from experience. Having come from New York City, he specializes in commercial, musical and play writing and has directed, produced, and composed for many highly successful community and school shows in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and more recently in Houston and Austin.
"You have to build a structure, you don't just go out there and perform. Everybody wants to jump out there and say 'See me sing? See me dance?' I've seen singers here in Austin who are good, but they're competing against five million other singers. See, I take a guy who's a good singer and give him a character. Then all of a sudden the guy is acting, or he's dancing, or maybe he's even doing acrobatics. When you can do all that, see, that's when you start moving."
Rison's upcoming production may not involve acrobatics, but it will definitely involve dancing and some serious singing, including styles from ragtime, jazz, blues, and swing. The play is done on stage by four singers who double as actors and dancers simultaneously. The costumes are, to say the least, very authentic. Costumes change often, sometimes from scene to scene. Actors have zoot suits, authentic cabaret dresses from the '30s and '40s, and dazzling feather style hats. The costumes came to be in the show through very simple means, according to Fuller: "We bought them." Nearly all of the show is financed by Rison himself. "I don't wait for the city to give me money to do something," Rison says, "I do it myself. Some people drive Cadillacs, I put my money into my work."
Aside from the acting and singing of Fuller and Rison's direction, production, and composing work, the show's other cast members include Beverly Johnson, Tommie Pernell, and Teneka Bazemore, with choreography by Rison's daughter, Deirdra. The show also includes a full piece band.
This weekend's performance at the Victory Grill will hardly be the first public showing of the play: the four cast members have been rehearsing the piece and performing it at various venues for months, including most recently the Baker Theater in Lockhart, where the production was so well received that the town's tiny local newspaper wrote columns raving about it for weeks afterward.
"The mayor's wife was even there," jokes Rison. "She loved it." Billy will be showing at the Victory Grill Club and Theater on East 12th Street in Austin. Shows begin at 8pm. Tickets are $10 adults, $8 seniors, and $7 students.
Electronica Tries for Local Audience by Samira Selod
As the rave era finally comes to a close, new styles of electronic music have found their way to the urban youth. Styles stretch from hip-hop, drum and bass, house, ambient, jungle, and the list, much like the music, goes on and on. Whatever title or sub-title is given, electronica in all its motifs has given rise to the exploration of repetition and trance.
Live instruments are a rarity, as the computer screen takes the lead. Bands no longer consist of a drummer, bassist, guitarist and vocalist. Instead the musicians are programmers, and, in essence, composers. The need for many players is gone as one man alone can turn knobs to manipulate sounds emitted from synthesizers, samplers and drum machines. Whatever it is these folks are doing behind their monitors is growing and has been for some time.
Within the past two years Austin has seen a subtle emergence of its own electronic movement. An attempt to capture it was made last spring by Face Records with the release of their compilation, Texas Electronica Volume I. Unfortunately their attempt failed. The records did not sell and Face Records eventually went under. Although the attraction to Austin electronica was faint, it managed to keep growing, producing several new acts.With these new acts another attempt, in the form of a new compilation, has been made to activate local electronica.
Robert Mace started Whirling Pool Records about four years ago with the intention of bringing credit to Austin's electronic outfits. The name Whirling Pool came from a tragic story about a local flood in '92 which created a massive whirling pool over a cave strong enough to actually suck in a victim. The irony of the story was as the police were searching for the victim in the cave hoping he was still breathing, firemen up top were throwing in huge logs in front of the news camera to show the strength of the pool. In any case, the story, for Mace, spawned a name and image for his label.
The latest project for Whirling Pool is Bloo, a new compilation of local electronic music. Already released on Whirling Pool are Self-Contained Unit, Flyover:, and Quaquaversal (now defunct). The compilation will include songs from the aforementioned as well as songs from Amnesia International, The Buddy System, Claude 9, DXM, Inkblot, Kitty, Lupe, L'usine, OMD 20/20, and Plastic. Although they will all be heard on Bloo, not all of these bands can be seen live. Those who do play live, such as Inkblot, OMD 20/20, and Plastic are booked in some cases as the main attraction, and in some cases as background music since the slow repetition of electronic music gives it that option. Much of it can be seen at coffee shops or art shows as well as at The Purgatory Lounge.
As Mace put it best, "Ambient music is interesting because it can be background music but still interesting enough to hold your attention if you choose to listen to it." As for these local bands, what they are doing is far from simple. In some cases the music is danceable, but for the most part the audience is there to just listen and nod their heads to odd noises and unexpected changes.
These bands, however, do range widely. Amnesia International, who is David Williams, from New York, takes the hip-hop angle filled with upbeat crackling sounds and guitar and bass samples. Inkblot, another solo act, is on the noisy, distorted side and uses a stomp box as a main effect, whereas Claude 9 has a smooth drum and bass tone. The foundation of the music is similar. Generally songs are programmed into sequences with manipulated drum patterns. MIDI, musical instrument digital interface, is used occasionally sending signals from a sequencer to an instrument in order to control the notes, volume, etc.
Jacob Boswell from OMD 20/20 finds it helpful because he says "it can control 128 things at once." Programs such as Cakewalk, Sound Edit, Cubase and Acid attained by these computer-junky musicians all sparked the sound.
As to which program suits whom is up to the musician. Mace prefers Acid, as he wittingly claims, "Acid changed my life." The ways these sounds are manipulated require not only a technological mind but an experimental one.
Samples are either taken from someone else or created, or as Lupe does it, they are musique concrete, which takes odd day to day sounds and arranges them together.
Since most of these bands have their song sequences already programmed on their computers, watching them live is not necessarily full of entertainment. What is, however, is listening to what is put on top of these sequences since most of that is done live and is often strictly improvisational. OMD 20/20, Kitty, and Flyover:, for example, all play live instruments over their sequences. Kitty, a trio who may or may not be seen in the future, uses live drums, guitar, and vocals. Those who are more attracted to electronic pop songs should check them out. OMD 20/20 uses live synthesizers, bass and guitar. They can be caught live around town for an evening of repetitious "head" music and psychedelic light projections.
Flyover: is a new project who will hopefully be easy to catch. They have live vocals and synths as well. As for how these bands were chosen, Mace claims it is at random. "Anything I got I stuck on there. It's all pretty good stuff though. The compilation is well done."
There is a possibility that Whirling Pool will record albums in the future for Self-Contained Unit and OMD 20/20. As for Bloo, the distribution initially will be limited to 100 copies, and if it sells, more will be pressed. The compilation will be sent out to local radio as well as state-wide college radio. It can be found May 21st at 33 Degrees, so be sure to check it out.
Major Arts Institutions Respond to Austin's Growth by Courtney Clelland
It's no fantastic revelation to state that the landscape of Austin is changing both literally and figuratively. Entire communities are being planned and constructed as out-lying areas merge to create an uninterrupted continuation of metropolitan area. Technological companies have developed a stronghold in the "silicon hills," furnishing more than 65 percent of the jobs in and around Austin. Austin's population growth estimates, as well as projections of economic growth, far surpass state-wide averages. Travis County alone receives nearly 10,000 new inhabitants each year. Of those, approximately 90 percent are non-white. In the past decade, Austin has become home to a young technology-employed work force as well as a community of rapidly increasing diversity.
Changes this drastic are difficult to ignore. They demand a response from every sector of the city's economy, including arts institutions. The Austin arts community has witnessed smaller arts organizations such as Frontera Hyde Park, Vortex Theatre, Texas Folklife Resources and the Women in Jazz Concert Series, take advantage of Austin's growing population and diversity while retaining artistic integrity and offering quality works. But what are the implications of this economic and demographic growth for the city's more prominent arts institutions, those with the funding to effectively reach mass audiences in a number of ways. Where can we, the rest of the arts community and the people of Austin look to see the response of these institutions manifested in the near future?
Of most obvious importance to the growth of arts institutions is the development of relationships with the public. Perhaps of utmost importance in the process of responding to an expanding potential audience base is the decision as to whether these relationships will be pursued primarily as consumer relationships or community relationships. This decision has undoubtedly already confronted major art outlets in Austin, and it is important for the people of the community to be familiar with the ways in which these outlets intend to serve the public in their answering the call of expansion. Here we'll take a closer look at two of those dominant arts institutions, the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Austin in hopes of understanding their visions for the future.
Both organizations have eloquent mission statements that employ words like "accessible" and "versatile" and speak of enhancing the cultural quality of life as well as reflecting Austin's local flavor. However, it is necessary to look beyond this superficial gloss and seek more tangible expressions of these missions reflected in local culture and community.
"Expanding our audience is a clear goal for everyone," says Austin Symphony Orchestra's Marketing Director, Nan Schwetman. She describes the two-fold goal of the symphony: to provide the highest quality of musical performance and to reach as many different people as possible. The symphony is taking a variety of approaches in order to reach new audiences, from increasing educational programs to revamping their marketing approach, appealing to both community and consumer sensibilities. In general, the target group the symphony hopes to foster a relationship with is the younger generation. And for obvious reasons: an increasingly younger crowd is responding to the fertile job market of Austin. These Austinites, ranging in age from 20-40, have the potential to be an enduring audience, offering decades of returns.
Music appreciation is for all ages, and indeed, the symphony considers almost no age too young. Hoping to reach "all corners of the community," the symphony has instituted nationally recognized educational programs benefiting Austin area schools beginning with kindergartners and continuing through high school. These programs allow over 80,000 school children to experience live symphony music each year. The education programs include sending musician ensembles to visit almost every elementary school in AISD along with some schools in Round Rock and Pflugerville districts, sending junior high students to Bass Concert Hall for performances, and visits to every high school in AISD and Round Rock ISD. The symphony hopes the programs will serve to introduce young people to classical music in a fun atmosphere and in an up-close and personal manner. It's evident the symphony is using its resources in an attempt to reach out to the community in respect to its educational programs. Also with the potential to fortify community relations is a new annual concert series designed especially for families which combines the symphony's already popular Halloween Concert with the new addition of a Spring Family Concert. Lower ticket prices, casual settings and "kid-friendly" music accompanied by a giant video screen will hopefully make a day at the symphony both more accessible and more appealing to an audience short on time and means.
Nonetheless, everyone has to have a consumer target strategy these days, and the symphony is exerting quite an effort to market their product to those in their 20s to 40s.
"We're looking at reaching out to a younger audience with a more casual lifestyle," says Schwetman. "We'll be stressing a user friendly appeal, we want people to feel comfortable. They don't have to dress up if they don't want to."
An upcoming offering of the symphony, Casual Classics, aims to do just what the name implies and provide a more casual, lively atmosphere in which to present classical music. Another recent offering, Classical Encounters, is designed to attract young people starting out in their careers, providing discount tickets and an after concert party. Classical Encounters hopes to focus on the accessibility of the symphony.
Objective number one, as far as audience expansion is concerned, is luring a younger crowd, but what about plans to reach a more diverse crowd that extends beyond the category of career professionals? "We would like to have programming with a broader appeal," says Schwetman. She adds that this seems to be in accordance with the intent of Peter Bay, the symphony's relatively new conductor. This goal, however, is apparently in the developmental stages of achievement. In its upcoming season, the symphony hopes that by adding some variety in the form of a percussion show and a show accompanied by dancers, it will be able to generate wider audience interest.
Perhaps due to the recent tumult surrounding the departure of its current artistic director, Ballet Austin seemed a little hesitant to engage in any discussion regarding their future plans. Despite repeated questioning, few comments were made on Ballet Austin's current treatment or plans for treatment of the exponentially growing population of Austin. That population has been a substantial factor in the doubling of Ballet Austin's budget over the past 10 years. A considerable amount of their support has come from the Dell Foundation and the technology industry responsible for populating much of Austin.
Elaine Brown, Ballet Austin's Director of Development and Communication, believes that Ballet Austin is already well prepared to handle the diversifying arts community and consumers of Austin. "We've always felt that diversity is important and our programs are designed to target all areas of the population. Diversity is represented on our board as well as with the dancers within our company."
Brown also says she has seen diversity reflected in performance attendance. In response to an increasingly diverse community, Ballet Austin has fostered the creation of ethnically focused support groups. Ballet Amistad, a Hispanic support group, has been operating for the past three years. The ballet is attempting to establish both African American and Asian American support groups. These ethnically segmented support groups were pointed to as the ballet's primary instrument for attracting more diverse audiences. However, the fundamental function of these support groups is to raise money and to promote the ballet. There is of course nothing wrong with this, as it is essential for any arts organization to function. It just may be a lofty aspiration to hope for attracting new audience members in such a fashion. "Accessibility is imperative," seems to be a catch phrase of Ballet representative Brown. "Our primary audience is women ages 25 to 55 but we want to develop an audience with everyone."
Ballet Austin's main approach to attracting a varied audience is to offer a variety of shows. "We offer classical and contemporary ballet. Something like Cinderella may attract more children whereas Kisses was more contemporary," explains Brown, citing Ballet Austin performances as examples. Brown hopes that Ballet Austin's current production of Rodeo featuring western swing band Asleep at the Wheel will project a "local flare," and less of the intimidation that can frequently accompany the classical art forms.
In its efforts directed toward community relations, Ballet Austin has instituted what it calls C.O.R.E., Community OutReach & Education programs that aim to reach school age children and "assure accessibility to traditionally under-served populations." This entails offering arts education and discounted tickets. The School Show Series, one of the C.O.R.E. programs that is available to all elementary schools, allows 20,000 children to see a ballet performance each year. "Leaps and No Bounds," another school program, combines dance with school curriculums and is currently conducted by Ballet Austin in three area elementary schools.
Another organization making an effort to build community relations is the Austin Lyric Opera. The opera offers numerous youth and adult education programs along with programs tailored to attract distinct segments of Austin's diverse population. These specific groups include the gay and lesbian, Hispanic, African-American, and Jewish communities. The pillars of the classical arts in Austin are dealing with Austin's growth with varying degrees of concern, and perhaps, as often is the case, time will be the best test of their methods. However, it is important that the people of Austin, both new and old, have access to and take advantage of the offerings of these arts institutions so that we can effectively judge the motives and priorities of the institutions that exist to serve communities and consumers alike.
Moore, Please: Red Bone Press Receives Praise for Its Second Helping by Courtney Clelland
Rushing the hordes of clamoring children out of the house to play, the grandmother, better known as "MaMa" to her grandchildren, almost always let one child remain inside, affording the child with a quiet sanctuary in which to do what she seemed to do best: read. A voracious reader, the girl would read whatever she could get her hands on. Perhaps noticing the child's potential, that same grandmother advised the young book-clutching woman "not to do things for fame or money, but do them for the respect of your peers," a piece of advice to which Lisa Moore has held steadfastly. She has recently earned widespread respect for her start-up publishing house for black lesbian literature, an original addition to the publishing world. Moore, now 35 and living in Austin, can still be found with nose in book; however, her voice has emerged in an effort to give other black lesbians a source of history and strength she believed was greatly lacking.
"Sure, I looked for black images in gay literature, but the lack of them didn't phase me much because I'd gone to white schools and all my friends were white. I was used to it. After moving to Atlanta, though, I found myself surrounded by beautiful black women; it altered my perception of reality. Black folks are the majority here. Suddenly, I longed for black images in gay literature," recalls Moore in the introduction to her anthology of black lesbian coming-out stories, Does Your Mama Know.
In Moore's own case, her mother was the first to know: "Actually, my mother realized I was a lesbian first and told my father, who told me. I had never heard the word before. My dad came to my high school to take me out to lunch. As we walked to Burger King, he said, 'Your mother seems to think you're a lesbian.' Cautious child that I was, I hedged. 'Nah, I don't think so,' I said, making a mental note to look the word up.
"Right after lunch I tore up the steps to the school library to look up the 'L' word. Hell, I wasn't going to let on to anybody that I didn't know the meaning of a word, not even my dad who I'm incredibly close to. Once I'd found out the definition, I felt like I'd known it all along.
"That first conversation with my dad was my first realization that I was gay."* Growing up in New Orleans, Moore lived with her mother and stepfather and their three daughters and her biological brother. Her mother had to work to help support the family, leaving Moore as surrogate mom to her sisters at the age of 12, about the same age she entered high school. An over-achieving student, Moore tested out of junior high. She missed out on the socialization process that happens there, only adding to her introversion and quiet nature.
It was perhaps her tumultuous childhood that cultivated in Moore patience and an ability to see things from others' perspectives. Author Sharon Bridgforth, a friend of Moore's, describes her as "moving slowly and wisely, always weighing things out."
Lylah Salahuddin, one of the sisters Moore helped to raise, remembers a patient and tolerant Moore. "Lisa has been a teacher of how to show honor and respect for people. She is one of the most thoughtful people I know."
Despite her irregular youth, Moore comments, "If I could change anything I probably wouldn't. I could say I'd change the way I grew up, but it's made me what I am today. Having to raise children, now I have a great respect for childhood because I didn't have one and now I know it is vital to have one."
"Our home life was not nurturing," says Salahuddin. "Lisa showed us that there were other experiences to be had. Lisa is a real light and inspiration. She taught me that you don't have to settle. Once you know there is something else, seek it out, create the world you want for yourself." She describes Moore as "methodical by nature, someone that plans and executes."
At age 16, Moore entered Louisiana State University, an aspiring future veterinarian. "I liked books and animals because you didn't have to be any one but yourself around them," reflects Moore. However, organic chemistry proved a formidable barrier. "I took it three times, D, D, F. After ruining my grade point I gave up on it and switched to accounting."
Upon graduation, Moore took a job in Connecticut, but an insatiable desire for knowledge landed her back in school seeking a degree in journalism. Of Moore's self-proclaimed status as an information junkie, her sister says, "Lisa likes being smart, the idea of being smart and finding things out just for the sake of finding them out." Sometimes, however, she feels Moore takes the authority she finds in research a little too seriously. "If she can't research it and find it in a book, she's skeptical, and can do it almost to a fault," Salahuddin hesitantly explains.
Moore admits herself that she can be a control freak. This perhaps contributes to Moore's description of self-employment as the best job she has ever had (if she could get it to pay the rent, that is). Red Bone Press books have paid for themselves, but Moore hopes for a day when the press will pay for her too.
Moore was first inspired to pursue a career in the literary world when she read a book called Home Girls, published by Barbara Smith of Kitchen Table Women of Color Press. An anthology of black feminist writings, it was Moore's first exposure to such a volume. Moore realized potential for a similar book for black lesbians, and the idea for Does Your Mama Know was born.
Within two years of calling for submissions for Does Your Mama Know, Moore had 49 stories, poems, essays, and letters from 41 authors. Released in April 1997, there are now 8,000 copies in circulation and it's gone to press three times. Not bad for the inaugural publication of a one-woman publishing house. Red Bone Press was actually a product of the Does Your Mama Know process. Moore began with the intent of self-publishing a single book, but no one seemed content to let her leave it at that.
"I think Lisa is creating history," says Bridgforth. "I'm not sure if people in Austin understand the national effect she's having. She's creating space for people who have been marginalized."
Does Your Mama Know, the first and only book of its kind, garnered two Lambda Literary Awards for best lesbian studies and best small press. However, it's the feedback from readers that Moore seems most thrilled by. "It's incredible to hear how needed the book was, how it's changed people's lives," says Moore. "A woman approached me at a conference and said, 'Thank you so much, you don't know how much I needed that book, to know there were other people out there like me.' It's that kind of feedback that keeps me going. People want to see themselves reflected in a book. I have grandmothers come up to me, women who are still married, women who are in the military calling me and saying, 'Girl, I just got your book, we need to talk.'"
Red Bone Press published its second book, the bulljean stories, by Sharon Bridgforth in October 1998. "Going with Red Bone was the smartest thing I could have done," she says of her choice of the small press, expressing her admiration for Moore's combination of business sense and understanding.
Moore is equally respectful of Bridgforth's work. "I was blown away," says Moore of her reaction to the bulljean stories. "I love bulljean's character and I thought a lot of other women would too. It's great to read out loud, and people love to be read to."
An audiotape edition of the bulljean stories was released in April. "Sharon's voice is incredible. Her daughter sings some of the songs from the night club scenes," says Moore. "It looks like poetry on the page. Sharon has done a lot of plays around this character. It's oral tradition and it's meant to be read out loud."
Red Bone Press was again honored in April at the Lambda Literary Awards, receiving the award for best lesbian and gay press for its publication of the bulljean stories. The bulljean stories also received an American Library Association Award nomination for lesbian fiction. Awards continue to add to Red Bone's notoriety, and to the flow of manuscripts jockeying for a place in Moore's mailbox.
Moore hopes to double the output of Red Bone, publishing two books within the next year. She excitedly discusses her future plans: "This past weekend I agreed to publish a book on black gays, lesbians, religion and spirituality that should be out by spring of 2000." Moore will be editing another book for that summer, a collection of interviews with straight parents, friends and relatives of gay people, a work in accordance with Red Bone's mission statement, "To produce quality works by black lesbians as well as facilitate discussion between black gays and straights."
Hesitant to give definite publication dates, Moore, currently a graduate student in the University of Texas Anthropology Department seeking a degree in African Diaspora Studies, fears that school might get in the way. "Balancing [graduate school and the publishing house] wouldn't be so hard if suddenly I weren't so popular," she says when asked about her sudden renown as a publisher. Popularity has brought with it invitations to many conferences, panels and readings she's been cutting class in order to attend. Seemingly shocked with her recent authority, she says, "I'm supposed to be speaking at Smith College next month and I'm like, how did you guys find out about me?" Maybe it's all those awards, or the promising reviews, or the nationwide book tours. Whatever the cause, it looks like the spotlight of well-deserved acknowledgement is landing on a quiet bookworm from New Orleans.
* Previously printed in Does Your Mama Know.
Notes from the Woodshed by Paul Klemperer
Big Band Jazz: An Austin Resource
Historically, big band music has an important place in jazz. Most of us are familiar with what is often called the "Golden Era" of big band music, emerging in the 1920s and lasting through World War II. Big band jazz was commercially supplanted by other musical styles, but it has maintained a niche in both commercial and educational musical institutions. You can hear big band music in casino towns like Atlantic City and Las Vegas, and in most college and university music departments across the country. Lately, with the swing dance trend still going strong, certain local big bands have been able to make some bucks on the club circuit.
Big band jazz, although historically linked to ballrooms and dance clubs, is also concert music. It incorporates improvisation into written composition in what can be very complex arrangements. The music is a challenge for the players on several levels. They must work together like an orchestra, blending individual tone and rhythmic sense. But they must also express their energy and creativity to make the music come alive. It is an excellent way to teach ensemble and individual musical skills, which is why big bands have become an essential part of most music departments in higher education.
But there are also community big bands, formed and maintained outside of institutional frameworks, held together only by the desire and commitment of their members. These bands represent the best spirit of the music, as their purpose is simply to entertain and educate the community from which they draw their membership and support. I have been fortunate to be associated with two such bands here in Austin: the Austin Jazz Band, and the Stageband Workshop.
The Austin Jazz Band is directed by Bob Davis and performs in a variety of settings throughout the year, including festivals, schools and nightclubs. You can see the AJB periodically at Antone's, the Elephant Room and other local watering holes. Some of its members also appear with Tony Campise's big band, which performs the first Tuesday of each month at the Elephant Room.
The Stageband Workshop, directed by J.W. Davis and coordinated by Jeff Flagg, is likewise a nonprofit outfit dedicated to educating the Austin community through music. Formed in 1981, the SW remains committed to education, allowing players to hone their musical skills while bringing big band jazz to parts of Austin which may never otherwise get to hear it.
Jeff Flagg gives an example of the SW's approach: "One of our performances celebrated Black History Month at Maplewood Elementary for Maplewood's students, their parents, and the faculty and staff at that school. The students researched and presented introductions about the various composers, arrangers, or performers we would then feature." For more information on the Stageband Workshop's events, you can visit their website.
Whether you are a fan of big band jazz or have never really listened to it before, I highly recommend catching the Austin Jazz Band and the Stageband Workshop whenever they make public appearances. These events help bring together the young and the old, introducing some to another part of the jazz tradition, and reminding others of the music they grew up with. Check it out and get in the swing!
Poets by Valerie Bridgeman Davis
Poets are speaking of love
and lovers they have known
wished they had known
lovers they have been
wish they had been
and bombs are dropping
over the heads of children
making little distinctions
between Albanians and Serbians
it will soon be over,
though at the Kremlin
the official line is:
It may be the beginning of
World War III
Three world wars in one century,
wars to end all wars,
and poets speak of love,
but not of Matthew
hanging on a fence
burned, beaten, left
to die of being different,
And some Baptist preacher
shows up to the trial
of the men who did the deed
with signs declaring
Matthew went to hell
Except, I don't believe
the signs since
all martyrs get a free pass
Matthew died senselessly
and for the cause,
a symbol of the sickness
called sameness, a fear
that keeps the bombs
bursting over Kosovo,
orange lines on the streets
of Jasper, Texas,
strange fruit on the fence
and poets speak of love.
©1999 Valerie Bridgeman Davis
Valerie Bridgeman Davis, poet, teacher, minister, and mentor, suffered a mild heart attack on March 13, 1999 after participating in a training run for a marathon scheduled for May 23 to raise funds for the Leukemia Society. Heart surgery on March 25 corrected a birth defect, but left Valerie with $30,000 in medical bills. A fundraiser organized by Dr. Rosalee Martin, professor at Huston-Tillotson, and poet Vicky Charleston was held at Huston-Tillotson College on April 24, but help is still needed. A tax exempt fund has been created at the Banah Church where Valerie is a minister. Send donations to the church at:
111 W WILLIAM CANNON DR
AUSTIN TX 78745
Write "Valerie Davis Medical Fund" on the "For" line.
So Close by Rachel Staggs
I spoke candidly with Kathy Dunn Hamrick about art, music, dance and life. She is a fascinating person full of energy and expression. Seven years ago Hamrick began presenting her own work after teaching for several years. Beginning in September of last year, she and her newly formed dance company began creating a movement piece entitled So Close. The performers include Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Kate Warren, Gaye Greever, Renne Nunez, and Marlo Harris.
Hamrick states, "These dancers are all very curious about movement, about dance, about art; they are inquisitive, intuitive, and very intelligent. The really special thing is that each one of these dancers is willing to invest themselves in the process." So Close is about "how our lives are fashioned not by our intentions, but by the actions of others. Seen and unseen forces. We sort of bump and careen through life and soar sometimes. It's how we are affected by other people."
Each performance is unique and cannot be reproduced, so look for moments of brilliance. The performance space is intimate and in the round. The dancers will be using the entire space, with movement flowing between the audience and behind the audience. You will have to choose what you desire to observe in any given moment, because movement will be all around you. Hamrick compares this to everyday life, the choices we make, and things we miss because of those choices.
Beginning with the word "almost," Hamrick and her company began to create So Close. Phrases like, "this close," "plan B," "and then a miracle happened," "chance encounter," were used to keep certain images in the dancers minds as they worked on the material. In this piece, they allow those "almost" and "so close" places to happen.
The future of Hamrick's dance company is a bright one, filled with motivation and excitement about keeping a cohesive group of dancers that grows together and performs together. With a larger performance space in its future and possible touring, this dance company can only grow. Look for the 'Art Is a Living Process' series to develop and reach out into the community. With a variety of topics, Hamrick hopes this series will invoke the artist in everyone.
Steve Brudniak's Reliquaries by Allyson Lipkin
Get into the head of Steve Brudniak. His interests, as seen in last month's exhibition at Eekabeeka Gallery (2206 E. 7th St., formerly Holy Eight Ball Gallery but still Holy Eight Ball Studio), are flesh and blood. Fresh blood, actually, taken from friends and family that have affected the artist over the years and defined his character in one way or another. In his exhibit "Blood Reliquaries," Steve has borrowed from devout religions such as Catholicism to recreate a holy ideal. To pay homage to his mentors, Steve acted out his own "baptism" by collecting blood samples from his friends and family and enshrining them in layers of glass, brass, and tubes of formaldehyde, giving title to each area of companionship. For example, the title of one of his reliquaries reads, "The blood of a Mentor, In memory and veneration for the cultivation and instillment of courage. AD 1998." He collected seven samples in vacutanors with the help of two doctors and built his "reliquaries," or shrines, to honor them. He also drew his own blood and enshrined it in brass.
These works are Brudniak's contemporary way of celebrating the morbid past. Steve is not a religious man, but his reliquaries imitate man's ancient way of glorifying gore and worshipping the unknown. A saint's bones, skin and teeth pinned up on the wall of an old church. Brudniak's blood splattered on a mirror after gashing his hand on his table saw.
The idea is interesting, but where did it come from? And why would a man so frightened of blood that he faints when he cuts his finger tackle this project to collect and enshrine blood?
"Very few people know what a reliquary is," Brudnick explains. "I had heard the word, and people had referred to my work that way before. I have always been interested in the dogma and the accoutrements of religion. Look at the Catholic church. If you have ever been in one, it is a whacked psychedelic experience. I myself am not Christian or Catholic, but I borrow from religion. But a reliquary, if you know what a relic is, is generally in a religious sense something left over from a Saint. Or a piece of the cross. Or the Sacred Shroud. The bones of a saint. A relic once enshrined becomes a reliquary.
"Reliquaries in the Catholic Church are things they show off relics in. A decorative way of showing something gross. I saw the blood of St. Genarious in a couple of different publications or read a book about faked miracles. They had a glass ball with the blood of a saint. The bishop can say a prayer and the blood will uncoagulate and, miraculously, it will recoagulate into a solid mass. So I started thinking about what I could do sculpturally. The blood idea surfaced. I thought: these people enshrine the blood of saints, why can't I have my own saints? So I picked the people who really affected me and the way I examine life and react to it. I keep the names of the reliquary a secret. That leaves them personal to me. I can expose them to the public, sell them, but it's still mine."
And his real-life fear of blood? "The big test came while I was working on some chamber and I cut my hand really bad on the sander. Just made a nice 45-degree bevel out of my finger. That turned into a bloody mess. I did have to lie down, but it was not quite as bad. I don't think I used blood to cure my fears of it. That was something I was hoping would happen after I came up with the idea. I have taken this subject that can repulse people, I mean to me it did. It's also a scary subject for a ton of people out there.
"Mostly men, I think. Women are used to it. I have human hand bones in a piece, a hand glove of a surgeon, it's not that gross but it deals with glorifying...some central subject. It's being magnified by what surrounds it. A box, jar, frame. You know you can take take just about anything and make it beautiful to a portion of the public out there who wouldn't normally see it that way. Or to yourself. I sort of have a knack for taking the ordinary and giving it an artistic presence. Also, the work I do deals with inner issues. Anxiety, spirituality."
Steve's work may gross one out, but the art speaks about life's issues that most artists don't touch. And if they do address them, it often comes off as an over-exaggerated artistic statement. Steve's pieces are very coherent and finely-crafted.
"Duchamp. I think he was sort of a form following function kind of guy," Brudnick states. "He was sort of a pioneer, and there are people now building on that. He took the object and brought it to his minimal. I think now that the art world is sort of coming out of that diaper stage of, 'Alright, we have deconstructed art, we have got it down to nothing but a concept. It doesn't matter how pretty it is anymore or how much craftsmanship went into it.' I think people now are starting to build it back up to where art can be fun again. Or graspable. Or a bit more aesthetic. Why is it visual? Because it's eye candy. At least it affects your soul through the eyes. If you want to say something, write it down."
You want to glorify someone? Draw their blood like a vampire. But in this act, Steve has dealt with inner issues he has with human blood and he hopes it will transfer to the viewer as a statement of what people deal with every day. Sort of a dramatic display of reality.
"You take something that was once full of life. It has not aged other than the fact it may not be alive anymore. Blood comes straight from the arm, into the chamber; well they were in [my] freezer. But still these pieces, you look at the containers. They are old, beaten, rusted. Kind of a sweeping way of thinking. Thinking about yourself, people around you. They have stresses and fears that they have been holding onto since childhood. They are still fresh. They keep coming back onto you. They haven't aged and faded away and decayed. Your body is getting older. Wrinkles, gray hair. You get old, but the stuff inside you stays fresh. It's sort of what I'm trying to get across when it comes to aging. So there is a practical side to it."
Along with Steve's practical view comes great technical ingenuity. The finishes on the tiles surrounding his pieces are cracked and worn. Yet they are new tiles with faux finish.
"I don't have to be careful about finishing things while making the pieces. If I drop it or stain it or a piece falls off it just adds to it. From a cross between being lazy and conceptual, I come up with an interesting finish. The tiles I torched and dropped into cold water and that shattered the surface. I heated them back up and put furniture polish in it."
The tiles are works in and of themselves. Steve's pieces are tricky. The wonderment exists when looking at the finished work. Is it old or new? How are these assembled so perfectly?
"I work with found objects to incorporate it into a homogenous unit. To make it look like it belongs together. That's what is different about my work."
Not to be missed is an interesting upcoming show of found object art at Gallery Lombardi. Participating artists are: Barbara Irwin, Steve Brudniak, Tony Romano, and John Sager, from July 8 through August 7. Fear Not.
Up All Night by Harold McMillan
A couple of years ago when the Artists' Coalition of Austin (ACA) lost their warehouse gallery and studio space, they needed to relocate to another building suitable for exhibitions, classes, and individual work spaces. Finding such a place in downtown Austin, on a nonprofit arts organization's budget, generally would not be an easy task. But they got lucky. It just so happened that a young real estate broker was in a position to be helpful, had access to another downtown building, and was willing to negotiate with the ACA.
The ACA's move to 1705 Guadalupe Street, and hence the creation of the ArtPlex, happened because Gary Peden -- that young real estate broker -- wanted to help create a place for the ACA to continue the tradition of providing their membership a place for their very popular life drawing classes, membership exhibitions, classes and meetings. The benefit of Peden's deal with the ACA for the rest of us is that the organization and several of their members acted as initial anchor tenants for ArtPlex. And for the sake of doing business, these anchor tenants provided the critical mass necessary for the building to attract a steady stream of other arts organizations, individual painters, photographers, hair cutters, massage therapists, and film and media professionals. In short, the Artists' Coalition of Austin and Gary Peden gave birth to a great place for arts professionals to grow their businesses and sharpen their skills.
After just a couple of years, the ArtPlex is always at 100% occupancy -- with a waiting list -- and the core tenants seem poised to move to the next level of cooperation for building a unified arts-business community, all within the confines of these walls at 1705 Guadalupe.
The ArtPlex, and similar "arts coop" concepts, are not unique. The multi-purpose arts facility idea is something that almost all arts organization folks dream, conjure, and envision at one time or another. Visions and dreams are good things. They are necessary to the process. Having visions and dreams, however, does not make one a visionary.
Visionaries are those folks who take their dreams, much like an idea for a painting, and actually get out there and do the work necessary for the dream to live, for the painting to actually get painted. Visionaries make significant efforts to see their dreams become reality. Their vision, their work then has a real life way of being around, being visible, offering a testament to something more than just the idea.
Gary Peden, the founder of the ArtPlex, died earlier this month. All of us here, and many more in his extended family of friends, are saddened by this loss.
Gary's work, his vision lives on here in very real ways. Those of us who are tenants of ArtPlex are grateful that Gary cared enough to be a true visionary, one whose good works live on for the benefit of others.
A couple of years ago, when I turned 40, I went through this period where almost all of my columns had something to do with age. I was lamenting getting old, warning the 20-somethings to get busy and live, reminding the old folks to feel as young as they can. The thing that was going on, which was obvious to most if not me, was my realization that life experience really does matter. Without harsh judgment of right or wrong, there are just somethings about being older that separate the men from the boys. There are somethings my body just won't do anymore. But there are also somethings that my body can do, but quite frankly, I just don't want to do anymore. There are lots of examples that I'm sure come to mind for those of you who, like me, are now in the over-40 set. Staying up all night, for instance: I named this column "Up All Night" because it reflected the reality of my life at the time. Five years ago when I started this little magazine I literally had to stay up all night (several nights, really) in order to get the thing out of the office and to the printer on time.
That's just one example. Another thing that has hit home very recently has to do with one of my other professional and personal interests. The ways in which I most comfortably experience live music performances have changed, matured, and perhaps gotten very old-fogy. As someone who for the last twenty years has performed, produced, and observed live music performances, I now have an idea of what I consider a good show. I know what invisible production means. I know what artist/audience-friendly is. I know the difference between good presentation and bad.
Most, but not all, of what I just said ties back into the age thing. At this point in my career I'm not sure I really have the smarts to produce a really good alt/rock concert or club date. I'm not sure I would do the right things to make an 18-year-old Foo Fighters' fan have a good time at a club show. I'm being a bit facetious here, but from what I've seen, I think I'd probably want to make the show too comfortable.
You see, I'd be stupid enough to think about sight lines, a good mix of tables and chairs, enough space to dance and stand, good walk-up access to the service bar, and barstool/bar-leaning access to the rest of the bar. To keep my non-smoking clients happy, I'd think about ventilation and air flow. To truly showcase the music and musicians, I'd also have a sound person who understands the difference between a good mix that is loud enough and simply a loud mix.
It's probably good I don't try to produce rock shows for kids. I'd make it too comfortable, take all of the fun out of it. In the back of my mind though, I still have this suspicion that even shoe-gazing modsters would appreciate some of the stuff that is important to me.
In the front of my mind, I know that old, young, and everyone in between who appreciates a comfortable well produced show, has some understanding of the importance of presentation. Just like in the food service business, putting out good tasting food is only part of the mix. It's gotta look and taste good, and be presented in a manner that lets you know that service is a key value of the establishment.
In the Austin live music-presenting business these days, there is a weird thing going on. Some of the weirdness comes from the tense relationship between official fire code numbers and the body count needed to actually pay for the shows. Some of it is about taste, some about limitation of facilities. The IT I'm referring to is the new "don't give'em a place to sit down" trend in the live music halls in town. Whatup wid dat? Am I the only one asking?
I don't think it is just a generation gap thing. I concede that younger folks who might be up for a sweaty night of bump and grind at Emo's probably think about these issues less often. But I'd bet that many of the folks, young and old, who have recently paid good money to hear Roy Hargrove, Charlie Hunter, Taj Mahal, Bernie Worrell, and other touring jazz or blues acts would have really appreciated a place to sit down -- or at least to have the option for a realistic competition for some available chairs, table service, and sight lines to the stage.
I don't mean to pick on La Zona, Antones, and the Mercury. There are, I'm sure, reasons behind the lack of "best possible show" presentation. With Antones the thing seems to be a fire code situation that they inherited once they enlarged the hall. In order to get a reasonable number of folks through the door to pay for their shows, the Fire Marshall says that can't try to seat their patrons. I guess the question really involves exactly just what that 'reasonable number" is. And perhaps that particular number was set when the renovation was done, which happens to have been just in time for the overflow crowds of SXSW. Are they now stuck with an occupancy number because for that week in March they wanted to get all of the SXSWsters they could possibly hold in the joint. If that's true, it's really too bad. I really wanted to actually sit down, along with the other 200 people, to hear and see Charlie Hunter. There was no threat to our safety that night because of uncontrollable crowds rushing the stage and blocking exits. By the way, that was a great show. Charlie and his drummer played their asses off. Old folks just wanna have a seat and listen to the show.
Without giving the same blow-by-blow of my experiences at the Mercury (to hear Roy Hargrove) or La Zona (to hear Taj), just know that both of these shows featured top notch entertainment. The music was happenin'. The Mercury just happens to be a small narrow hall with few tables and chairs, and not much space to stand either. It's just a drag to not be able to sit, or see,or have room to dance when the music is that good. Same for the Taj Mahal show, however, it seems that La Zona would have the resources the really deck the place out with tables and chairs, and have a good large dance floor for an act like Taj. It seemed like a management decision more so than a Fire Marshall edict, or facility/space problem.
As I've said here before, for a medium to small touring jazz or other good listening show, the Victory Grill continues to get my vote for most comfortable live music room in Austin. Unfortunately there's not much happening there these days.
After saying all of that, to let you know how I feel about the importance of presentation in producing live music, here's what I hope you consider to be some good news. I am happy to report that very soon DiverseArts will have the pleasure of producing live music in a new music venue that has all of that stuff I've mentioned above.
I can now announce that I have an agreement with the Clay Pit Indian Restaurant (housed in the historic Bertram's Building at 16th and Guadalupe Streets) to begin live music programming in their second story venue. Our plan is to offer an eclectic mix of what well call "new/world/jazz" music programming: new composition and experimental improvised music, mixed with world musics (including Indian Classical) and various strains of live jazz will be presented.
The music room is one of those every-seat-a-good-seat halls with good sight lines, ample space to sit or move or stand, and a focus on the music performance as the main reason for being there. I am not saying that every performance there will be a DiverseArts produced show, I'm just letting you know that there's something good ready to happen.
If you want to come and check out our trial run show, mark your calendar for Sunday May 23, 8:30pm upstairs at the Clay Pit. We will host a dance party featuring the music of the Gypsies. Believe me, this just might be Austin's next great live music room.
See you next month.
Verities by Shilanda Woolridge
You like someone...but what if they don't feel the same way about you? What if there's no chance in hell that they'll ever feel the same way? What do you do? Common sense would decree that you turn tail and leave that individual alone, but human nature is never that simple. Most people listen to the heart and not the head, and keep movin' forward in their pursuit of this person. That's when a tender crush metamorphoses into obsession. I know, because I've been in this position far too many times than I care to admit. It starts out innocently enough and becomes a self-inflicted tragedy of titanic proportions. I know there are some of y'all who know what I'm talking about. Can I get a witness?
A little while ago I watched a soap opera take place before my eyes. One of my friends had to shake a woman who had convinced herself that she was in love with him. Octavio* met her at an art exhibit that included a few of his pieces. Mina contained all the characteristics that a horn-dog bachelor like my bud was looking for. She's cute with voluptuous curves, intelligent, funny, a smart-ass, and much more. Octavio is a busy guy with no time for a steady. Like most artists, he values his solitary work time and his independence. So he was interested in casual dating and an occasional booty call or two. On the other hand, Mina was looking for a committed monogamous relationship with a man who would possibly become her husband and the father of her children. Within a few blissful months she was head over heels in love, he wasn't.
I feel sorry for her, yet at the same time I don't. She was told not to fall in love. She was told that any emotional investment she made would yield no return. She wasn't tricked or deceived. No promises were broken 'cuz none were ever made. She's a typical romantic. They think that if they give long enough, love hard enough, are in someone's face often enough that everything will just work out. It doesn't matter if the other doesn't really want them in return. If they hang in there long enough it will all fall into place...supposedly.
It feels good to like someone. The butterflies that rise in your stomach every time you see their face or hear their voice are as potent as an orgasm. It is fun to see something you know they will like and buy it for them. You want to cook for them, or to take them out on the town. You want to present them with tokens of your heartfelt affection, tokens that are received with little or no thanks. Little appreciation or acknowledgement is shown when you do something you didn't have to do. But many hapless lovers continue to give because it's a roundabout way of sharing who they are.
To stick the knife in your own back a little further: you call often to hear the other's voice, to imprint your presence even from a distance. You fail to notice that the other rarely, if ever, calls you. You may not allow yourself to notice the stony silence at the other end. As long as you receive a reply to your questions, or if you're lucky enough to have chosen someone who can easily hold a conversation of one while you listen, it is good enough.
Mina did all of the above, but we're partners in crime because so have I. When you've suction-cupped onto someone and aren't getting the results you desire it's easy to feel like you're a victim or are being taken advantage of. How dare this person not appreciate all that I do for them! All that indignation hides the selfish core that fuels the fire of obsession. People in this state lie to themselves through all the "nice" things that they do for the other. Obsessing over someone is an extremely narcissistic thing to do, because it's all about what you want. I like this person. I want this person. I want to be with them. I want to do (fill in the blank) with them. I want them to love me. I want to love them. I-I-I-I-I-I-me-me-me-me-me-me.
Unchecked, this indignation fuels rage that can turn itself into unhealthy emotional outbursts. At the very deep end, this kind of emotion might lead to spying or stalking or other aggressive behavior. After a few weeks of screaming matches on the phone, Octavio was beyond finished with Mina. He held on hoping that she would chill out, but a physical attack sealed the deal. I will admit, Octavio was kind of a jerk for allowing her to wine, dine, and gift him the way he did. He had a feeling that she was taking things ten times more seriously than he, but it didn't stop him from enjoying the fringe benefits until she went off on him.
Fortunately, I've never come close to this point, but I can see how it would be easy to get there. I've actually gone to the polar opposite: the blues. I've cried, sobbed, lamented, and whined to all my friends about the lack of attention or appreciation I was getting. If you're an artist, it's a useful state to be in. One of the laws of physics that I can't remember the name of states, "once energy is created it can't be destroyed, only transferred." I've experienced many a poem, song, or piece of art that was created by an artist suffering from the luv that is barely beyond the grasp of their fingertips.
Currently, I'm watching a good friend twist and gyrate in this state of romantic self delusion. He has been jonezin' for a particular girl who likes him as a friend. Yet, he still holds on to the remote possibility that she might want to date him someday. It's really sad, because he's a nice guy, but the truth is that she doesn't want him that way. He's bought her gifts, calls often, sends e-mail, and even hangs out with her from time to time. At the beginning, she wasn't really aware of how he felt so it was easy for him to try and romance her. After all his efforts, it's become very obvious how he feels yet she's still not responding. He's asked me for advice and I gently told him, "Well maybe she doesn't feel the same way you do. If I were you I'd back off." You guessed it, he hasn't.
I don't know why I bothered to tell him to back off. You really can't say anything to a person who is obsessing. Unless you're confirming something they want to hear, it goes in one ear and out the other. When I was whining to my friends about the latest object of my affection some would say "Shilanda, I don't think so and so is interested. Shilanda, so and so doesn't treat you right, why do you keep doing XYZ for them?" Nothing they said was sinking in, my head was harder than a 2-year-old's. I recognize the same symptoms in my friend, so I listen and smile when he rambles and foams at the mouth over his luv to be. At this point, I've stopped offering him advice he won't use.
If it's been a while and the sparks haven't flown, you just wake up one day and move on. It really has to happen on your own. As I said earlier, my friend is a great guy, kind, sweet, affectionate and considerate. He'd make a great boyfriend for some lucky gal. I'm confident that he'll snap out of it sooner or later, so I'll step back and give him the space he needs to do it. My friends did the same thing for me, and eventually I did.
*All names and identities have been changed to preserve the privacy of the objects of my observations.