Posts Tagged 'sam beam'

Casimir Pulaski Day

On my most recent post, I quoted extensively from an engaging interview with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine which appeared in Paste magazine.  You can link to that post here.  He commented that the three main topics which he believes will really affect someone as a human being are: love; God; and death. 

Are those the topics that really seperate “great” art (in whatever media i.e painting, sculpture, photography, literature, film, music, whatever) from “good” art?  For me, I think that notion certainly rings very true.  Faced with any one of those issues in isolation and, in our most quiet and honest moments, I reckon that we stop pretending.

I asked what these things would look or sound like?

For me, I think it might be something very much like the attached you tube clip.  This is a song that speaks more truth to me about these subjects than many others.  The video is something that has not been prepared by some high budget commission by the musician involved, but is simply someone having lovingly story-boarded the sentiment and imagery and story of the song.  The result gets me every time I watch and listen to it.  I know there can be a tendency to skip people’s video links on blogs, but I would encourage you to click the arrow below and watch this.

Love And Some Verses

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“Love and some verses you hear
say what you can’t say”
From “Love And Some Verses” by Iron & Wine

A friend introduced me to a really great music magazine recently called Paste.  I love the tag-line, “Signs of life in music, film & culture”.

It’s lovingly desk-topped and laid out.  The journalism is well researched and engagingly written.  It has been a joy to read interviews and reviews of artists whom I cherish and it has whet my appetite for a whole bunch of new bands or singer-songwriters I’ve not yet heard.

I saw an inspiring interview with the editors on the excellent Society Room DVD series produced by the Fermi Project.  Clearly, two guys who embrace culture and are excited by the expression of ideas through various means of media.  I genuinely commend the magazine to you as the interviews often seem to grapple with anything but surface, fanzine-like, sixth form questioning.

Here’s an extract from a fabulous interview with the wonderful Sam Beam of Iron & Wine:

“What Iron & WIne’s music seems to be urging toward more than anything is innocence, and the touchstones in this quest are frequently religious in nature.  Beginning with his very first album, Beam’s writing has often used the specific language of Christianity, in lines like “Jesus, a friend of the weaker ones said, ‘I’m all they stole from you,'” (The Creek Drank The Cradle’s “Southern Anthem”) or the heartfelt prayer of Our Endless Numbered Days’ “On Your Wings”: “God give us love in the time that we have / God, there are guns growing out of our bones / God, every road takes us farther from home.”  But while it might puzzle some that a self-confessed agnostic like Beam would find consistent inspiration in biblical images and characters that are as likely to converse with the Holy Spirit as they are to address a love interest, for Beam it’s a natural, essential, part of his writing process.  “I like to use [religious images] because it starts you off a little bit further along in the story.  You know, you could say Bob and Jerry did this, but then you have to explain who they are.  But if you say ‘Cain and Abel’ it carries a certain weight.  They have a connotation everyone understands, they symbolise the duality in us all…I like using those, because it’s our mythology.”

Yet Beam has always insisted that the role of religion in his writing avoids propaganda of any kind.  “I think there’s always been kind of a subversive quality to the way I use religion.  I mean, I try to use it both ways, you know, because that’s the way life is.  There are some great things about religion but there’s some really f—ed up stuff about it too.”  It seems that part of religion’s appeal for Beam is the down-and-out or desperate state of mind individuals are usually in when they find themselves asking religious questions.  Such characters always make for a compelling narrative.

With a second round of mojitos on deck and crackling, dry August heat making its presence felt on Guero’s outside porch, Beam pursues this line of thought further.  It turns out that religion is not merely a cultural shorthand or creative prop for Beam but, like Johnny Cash before him, it constitutes one of the only three topics he’s genuinely interested in as a writer.  “You have your three big things that you can talk about, basically, if you’re going to write something that actually means something to you as a human being, which is Love, God and Death.  That’s basically the thing.  Love, which occupies a lot of our time, because we don’t like being lonely.  God, because everyone wants to know that there’s a reason behind what they’re doing and what the hell is going on.  And death is just the reality of your finite time here.””

…Love, God and Death…

…What would that sound or look like?

Naked As We Came

“She says wake up, it’s no use pretending
I’ll keep stealing, breathing her
Birds are leaving over autumn’s ending
One of us will die inside these arms

Eyes wide open
Naked as we came
One will spread our
Ashes round the yard

She says if I leave before you darling
Don’t you waste me in the ground
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms

Eyes wide open
Naked as we came
One will spread our
Ashes round the yard”

From “Naked As We Came” by Iron & Wine

I hope that you are not too offended by the above picture.  In truth, I don’t think the photo does justice to this piece by Ron Mueck.  I first saw this at the Saatchi Gallery in London back in 2003.  It’s entitled “Dead Dad” and is an incredibly life-like model of the artist’s father.  What the photo fails to capture is the fact that the model is only 102 cm long.  The attention to detail, to every little body hair is captivating.  I genuinely expected this little person to jump up from the display at any moment as if it had only been playing dead.

In Ron Mueck’s explanation of this piece, he wrote of how when he saw his dead Dad’s body he was instantly struck by how his Dad wasn’t there.  The body before his, tear stained, eyes was merely a shell.  His Dad had left and the soul and spirit had departed.

I’m proud of the fact that the company I work for sponsored Ron Mueck’s exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh back in 2006.  The figures on display caught the imagination of thousands of visitors.  The very fact that the scale was wrong (they are either huge or minute) threw people and made them confront aspects of the human condition.  

Art has the power to address the issues we consider taboo or don’t discuss in our everyday conversation.  It has the power to touch, inspire, provoke and shock.  It has the power to disarm.  The conversations I had at a private viewing one evening with clients’ of the firm were more genuine and scratched much deeper below the surface than many of the bland pleasantries that too often fill our, seemingly endless, numbered days. 

I really appreciate “Dead Dad”, although upon reading the plaque I could feel a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes.  It scares me to think that I may have to face such a confrontation of my own one day.  It also makes me squirm to think that, if timings take their natural course, my daughter may one day have to do the same to me.  Maybe these little posts and musings on this blog will convey something of the thoughts I held, the priorities I had and the passions that drove me…

 


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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