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May 3rd, 2009

Walk like an Etruscan

Cottontail rabbit in new grass

This afternoon I went with a young friend to Southern Methodist University's Meadows Museum. The museum featured a special exhibit about the Etruscans. This exhibit closes its run this month, just as the King Tut exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art enters the final innings of its King Tut exhibition. The King Tut exhibition involves an extra admission fee, and a fair amount of hoopla. The Etruscan exhibit features no crowds and no extra museum fee. Yet the Etruscan exhibit proved to be a fascinating display of things left behind by a people from 900 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E. Although I liked both exhibitions, I preferred the quiet wonder of the Etruscan brass and gold to the frenetically mummified showmanship of King Tut's curators.

I thought with sadness of a civilization of some age and complexity, told only through the stories of its conquerors. The sculptures of sturdy Etruscans and the graceful seabirds on their pottery had messages to tell me I could not decipher. It was a bit like getting a link to a great Lithuanian nature website.

After we enjoyed the museum, we went once more to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. We enjoyed hiking there. The highlight was when an entire flock of colorful cedar waxwing birds landed on a nearby tree directly across from a watch-tower in which we stood. It was great fun to look at them in our binoculars. Then we adjourned to the Joy Luck BBQ for hot and sour soup, chicken with broccoli, beef stew and conversation.

Caper

If I were a different person than I am, then all the music I make might sound like the ambient equivalent of a symphony. If I were yet a different person than I am, all the music I make might sound like a folk song, the second set of what Joan Baez recorded in a hotel room in the early 1960s.

I am the person I am, though, and my work often has a frenetic novelty cast. These instrumental bits of madcap, though, often end up as the soundtrack to viral video presentations.

Here, the French artist Florence Artur used my song "Caper" as the soundtrack to this fascinating bit of
abstract animation. "Caper" is a melody I created on my computer software synthesizer, using two samples of guitars, a sample of kitchenware used as percussion, and a bit of synthesizer (sample credits: pitx, fourtrack, Institute of Contemporary Music and morosque, all of the ccmixter set).

I really think this is a fun bit of abstract art--the artist intends no particular image or emotion, but it's tricky for me, as a viewer to resist "seeing things" in the images, as if they were clouds.

"Caper" the song, by the way, is intended to come from that emotional place where "zany" is stored. It followed a burst of listening to 70s progressive rock by a band called Gentle Giant, though it sounds nothing like a Gentle Giant song:

Caper from Florence Artur on Vimeo.