Bridge carrying the southbound Taconic State Parkway over the Croton Reservoir in Westchester County, New York
I have on many years posted “A Perfectly Clear Day” on September 11. This 20th anniversary may be the last.
In November of 2001, I was back in New York and went to an exhibition of 9-11 photography. I purchased this print of a photo by Anthony Domino (with proceeds going to victims’ and first-responders’ funds).
It is a beautiful picture of a horrific ruin. I had it framed. But I can’t look at it often. It sits safely in a closet.
As for today, I don’t know that I could express the mixed feelings any better than I did on A Perfectly Clear Day 2018, so I invite you to read that. The thing that is different now is the pandemic. A far larger, far more catastrophic event. And this time I have not been able to go back to New York. I did not go at all in 2020, and whether or not I will be able to go in 2021 remains a question. The fear, anger, and trauma I have in 2020/2021 are no longer turned outward towards an external threat, but rather inward at people in our own country. But that is a story for another, less perfectly clear day.
So much has happened and changed in 20 years. It is time to put this tradition to rest.
Looking down the tracks at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn, New York.
If you have not already done so, please check out our recent music video featuring scenes from this station.
Angular architecture at Hudson Yards in Manhattan. Taken in summer 2017.
Architectural layers in Manhattan.
As we count down to the start of Passover, we look back at my visit to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York last November. The Garden of Stones is a living memorial to the holocaust, with an arrangement of trees and stones that complement and contrast the architecture of the building. From this perspective, they also frame 1 World Trade Center quite nicely.
Looking up from street level at the Broadway Junction subway station in Brooklyn, New York. The J train is passing through.
Our year-end collage is a long-standing tradition at CatSynth. And we had a lot of fun making this year’s edition, so many wonderful images to choose from. One of my best solo performances to date took place at the Compton’s Cafeteria series at the Center for New Music. Big Merp came to live with has at CatSynth HQ. And our adventures took us from the halls of NAMM to the bottom of Death Valley to the subways of New York.
As we mentioned at the end of last year, most of the energy has moved to CatSynth TV and our social media platforms (especially our Facebook page). The blog is mostly our core cat-and-synth pics these days, although I do enjoy sharing long-form articles now and then. And In 2020, I do plan to revive the “primary highways” series from eight years ago.
On the video side, things have been going very well. Here are the top videos for 2019:
- Rick and Morty Pocket Operator, Part 2
- Introduction to the KOMA Field Kit [Episode 106]
- Ginger Baker, In Memoriam
- EXCLUSIVE! Arturia Pigments 1.2 First Look
- Folsom Street Fair 2019
- NAMM 2019: Rossum Electro-Music Trident [Episode 116]
- Rick and Morty Pocket Operator Unboxing [Episode 166]
- Mutable Instruments Plaits [Episode 102]
- Strymon Magneto Loop & Sample Modes [Episode 125]
- NAMM 2019: Interview with Dave Smith of Sequential
By early autumn, I was also thinking about this year as a “tipping point.” The transition from the blog to the video channel is the most obvious, but it also applies also on the personal side. The arrival of Big Merp was one of the big stories, and it’s been a tough integration getting both cats to coexist, but things have been trending well in the past few months, with Sam Sam regaining her confidence and HQ becoming a more harmonious place again. Musically, I have moved in a direction that is perhaps closer to my roots in jazz, fusion, funk while maintaining the experimental electronic aspects. I have also moved to a point where studio work is how I spend most of my musical time, between the videos and other projects. Finally, I am getting older, as we all are, and that adds both perspective and a need to focus on health and wellbeing. In 2020, I may “do fewer things” than in the past, but I hope the things I choose to do make an impact both personally and beyond.
There is a lot to look forward to in the coming days: NAMM 2020 is around the corner, I have a full queue of demos to share, and I am laying the foundations for some major musical projects. And of course, we will continue to post cats and synths.
We pick up our report from our recent visit to the Museum of Modern in Art where we left off after Part 1. Working my way gradually downstairs, I came to the special exhibition Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction―The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift. This is a major exhibition that fills several galleries with modernist works by South American artists through the 20th century.
As in other parts of the world, South American artists embraced abstraction in the decades following World War II, with lines shapes of minimal color palettes. In his aptly named Curves and Straight Series, Argentine artist Alfredo Hlito takes this to an extreme with thin lines and curves against an off-white background, while Uruguayan artist María Friere used bolder lines and colors in her Untitled.
Both of these pieces feel like they could have been three-dimensional pieces of design, and in fact, the exhibition does include several striking three-dimensional works. When seen head-on, Jesús Rafael Soto’s Double Transparency appears to be a plat painting or print, but from the side the depth becomes apparent.
The lines-in-space motif is also used in Ocho cuadrados (Eight Squares) by Gertrud Goldschmidt, also known as Gego.
The recurring motifs in many of the works show the influence of Piet Mondrian, not just the most familiar neoplastic pieces but his earlier and later work as well. Indeed, I was happy to find Broadway Boogie Woogie hanging in this exhibition after not seeing it in the main collection display. As much as any work in MoMA’s permanent collection, I have a regard for this painting as if it were a friend and not just a work of art.
But perhaps the most extreme interpretation of the grid was found in Antonieta Sosa’s Visual Chess.
As part of its expansion, MoMA launched a new gallery space called the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, or simply “the Studio”, a space dedicated for live, interactive, and multimedia art. The inaugural exhibit was Rainforest V, an evolution of David Tudor’s Rainforest. Originally a score for a collaboration with Merce Cunningham, it evolved into a performance installation. The latest version, realized by Composers Inside Electronics (CIE), is controlled by computer rather than live performers, as visitors wander through the space.
The installation is constructed from everyday objects, such as a metal barrel, a vintage computer hard disc, plastic tubing, wood crates, and more. The objects and materials are fitted with a vast array of speakers and become resonators that shape and amplify the sound.
The best moments are getting close to an object, such as the barrel or balsa-wood box with simulated earphones, and standing for a moment then walking around. I regret that an iPhone in a crowded gallery is not the best way to record and share it with readers – it really music be seen in person.
There was still more to see, including the newly expanded second-floor gallery for contemporary (1980s-present) works. This period has traditionally been a more mixed one for me, but there are gems and inspirations to be found. There was a large gallery-spanning work by Keith Haring.
An equally monumental piece by Julie Mehretu called Empirical Construction: Istanbul a fantastic futuristic cityscape radiating in multiple dimensions.
On the opposite scale is Eduardo Kac’s Reabracadabra, a video piece realized as graphics inside a vintage Minitel terminal.
Kac’s piece reminded me of my interest in vintage electronics finding new life as dynamic art pieces.
We end with one panel from a larger work by the artist Zarina, Home Is A Foreign Place.
There is something bleak about an entire musical score made of rests, but also intriguing, and even curious. It is perhaps a reminder that exploring a museum top to bottom invites one to escape one’s comfort zones even at the same time as seeking comfort and solace. I’m glad this visit afforded opportunities for both.
Lute sculpture in Battery Park at the southern end of Manhattan.