Monday, October 25, 2021

Mindful Moments Well Met


Mindful Moments Well Met 

Gerhardt Zimmermann

Jenny Robinson

Margaret Brouwer

By Tom Wachunas 

   “…But as the sun rises above the horizon, a little breeze picks up and the boat begins to move more steadily…”  - Margaret Brouwer 

   Please forgive my extreme tardiness in posting these comments, but…drum roll, please. Live, from Umstaddt Hall in the Zimmermann Symphony Center, The Canton Symphony Orchestra (CSO), with Maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann conducting, commenced the 2021-2022 concert season on Sunday, October 10. 

  In lieu of a detailed piece-by-piece review of the concert, I simply want to share with you a few “moments” from that evening that filled me with especially deep gratitude as well as a renewed sense of anticipation.

   The October 10 concert opened with Northeast Ohio composer Margaret Brouwer’s The Art of Sailing at Dawn. Written during the pandemic, the optimistic and exhilarating work depicts a morning sail, through the tranquility of smooth water and the exuberance of crashing waves, the sails filling with brisk winds. Here are Brouwer’s program notes:

   “Imagine preparing to board a sailboat at dawn.  The water is completely calm.  There is hardly a sound except the occasional early morning birdcall and sound of a ripple breaking on the shore.   Leaving the dock, you are barely moving on the calm water. But as the sun rises above the horizon, a little breeze picks up and the boat begins to move more steadily.  As the day arrives, the breeze becomes a steady wind, and occasional big waves smash into the boat before everything is calm again.  The technical requirements and knowledge it takes to sail a big boat, are exhilarating, but are outweighed by the feeling of the peace and the emotional response to the beauty and power of the water and open space.  It reminds me of the popular 1974 book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which demonstrates that rational expertise and Zen-like “being in the moment” can harmoniously coexist.” 

   In many ways, Brouwer’s words aren’t only a superbly concise description of her engaging and beautiful music, wondrously rendered here by the orchestra, but also a timely reminder of what could best be called the CSO’s promising dawn after a long night of pandemic-induced absence from our midst.

   And then there was an equally enticing performance of Jacques Ibert’s 1932-33 work, Flute Concerto, here featuring the electrifying solo debut of CSO Principal Flute, Jenny Robinson. Ibert’s work is a veritable romp through complex rhythm changes, aural colors and orchestral textures that pose dizzying technical challenges for the soloist. Robinson navigated all of them with flawless, truly robust virtuosity. She was wholly mesmerizing in the way she embraced the music’s constantly shifting energies between jaunty frivolity, tender lyricism, and poignant introspection.

   Altogether, the concert was a refreshing burst of light and an enlivening gust of fresh air – an inspired announcement of the CSO’s steady return to the space of our lives. And so in the aforementioned spirit of gratitude and anticipation, I’ll leave you with this link to info on the next CSO concert on November 14 at 7:30 p.m.. Consider it an invitation to experience the illuminating and healing power of live orchestral music for yourself.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Metascores (rhymes with...)


                                                             Metascores (rhymes with…)  


Chorus: 34 Drag Chute

Chorus: Little Nova Rocker

Chorus: Singing Through a Hole

Chorus: Singing Through the Fence

Chorus: Singing on President's Day

Chorus: Gold Finch Song


By Tom Wachunas 

   “A painter… in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non-material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of colour, for setting colour in motion.”

Wassily Kandinsky, from Concerning the Spiritual in Art

EXHIBIT: Chorus and Understudy, An Invitation to Look – 29 paintings by Earl Iselin / at The William J. and Pearl F. Lemmon Visiting Artist Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building at Kent University at Stark / 6000 Frank Avenue NW, North Canton, OH / THROUGH OCTOBER 29, 2021 / Gallery Hours Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (NOT OPEN on Friday, Oct. 15)


Artist Reception and Gallery Talk – THURSDAY OCTOBER 21 - 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

    In a recent statement about his work, Earl Iselin wrote about a seminal encounter from his days as an undergrad at Kent State University. While there, he often visited Robert Smithson’s land art installation, Partially Buried Woodshed, made on the University grounds in 1970. Sitting inside the entropic structure (i.e., designed by Smithson to disintegrate over time) induced a sensation of being buried alive. In that setting, Iselin’s view of the sky – a signifier of possibility for fully experiencing a present moment  – was obstructed.

   That memory resonates in his poetic philosophizing about painting. What he has called “skying the painting” speaks to the purpose of his pictures. “To be at home in painting means to defy the past,” he tells us, adding, “Every generation has to come to painting for itself. Every generation must go through the labor of off-loading in order to find what is appropriate for them, to unemcumber their work. We have to decide what we will take with us into the present, and what we will leave behind. Our inspiration must find lift.”

    Looking at these paintings brings to mind the phenomenon of synesthesia, from the Greek syn, meaning "together", and aisthesis, meaning "sensation." Synesthesia happens when one sensory or cognitive process is stimulated enough to cause a simultaneous perception or experience in another sense or cognitive pathway.

    A recurring pathway in Iselin’s paintings is the grid. It’s a motif apparent in much of modernist painting history, and one that can codify any number of contexts, including architectural constructions, urban landscapes, maps, measured units of time, or the very idea of repeated patterns found in nature.

    Iselin’s grids vary widely in terms of their rigidity and clarity. There are painterly, tactile actions – both representational and purely gestural or abstract – resting under, intertwined through, or placed directly on top of the grids. Faces, places, or objects – faded or fading, softly in the past, or loudly in the present. Balance and counterbalance. Seen and… heard?

   The titles of these paintings are intriguing. Most of them suggest a musicality, beginning with the word ‘Chorus’ followed by a reference to a specific subject. Voices singing and continuously interwoven. Iselin’s use of the grid as a delineated system for containing his marks and shapes is not so far removed from how a composer scores a musical work via a staff - the horizontal, 5-lined configuration for attaching or mapping the various signs and symbols that articulate melodies and harmonies, pace and rhythms, or durations in time.

   So here’s an invitation to not only look, but perhaps to listen as well. Iselin’s paintings are, on one fascinating level, scores written for the instrument of his imagination and yours. To look at this impressive collection is to join a choir and…find lift.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Unto Dust?


Unto Dust? 

Homecoming (2018)

Precedent (detail)



Precedent (2021)

By Tom Wachunas 

   “…for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  - Psalm 103:14

   “…We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  - Romans 8:22

   “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…”  Phillipians 4:6-8

   “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  - John 16:33

   The inveterate Word nerd strikes again. On one level, this most recent work of mine - titled “Precedent” – began in a spirit of disdain. Actually, hate would be more accurate. I’ve come to hate the attachment of the word unprecedented to just about every report and opinion on this protracted pandemic season of ours. As it is now, too much of humanity is floundering in a merciless vortex of anxiety and anger, confusion and conflict, medical mayhem and moral malaise. And no measure of political poppycock and prattle can alleviate our pain.

   But,…unprecedented? A rarely mentioned, much less researched, COVID side-effect is its power to turn us into blithering amnesiacs when it comes to remembering our plagued history as a species on earth. Call it an Anthropocene nightmare. defines the Anthropocene epoch as the “… unofficial interval of geologic time, making up the third worldwide division of the Quaternary Period (2.6 million years ago to the present), characterized as the time in which the collective activities of human beings (Homo sapiens) began to substantially alter Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, and systems of nutrient cycling ...”  

   These days, I’m thinking that the Anthropocene should be renamed the Entropocene, as in entropy – our collective, ongoing decline into profound disorder in virtually every aspect of existence. There is indeed a precedent for my newest painting. I think of it as a topography of a tautology. I / we have been here before, again. And so I repainted a work from nearly four years ago. I wrote about that painting (shown here above) in a post from early 2018, titled, ironically enough, “Can the past have a future in the present?”  

   The old painting exists now only as a digital image, a memory. Meanwhile, traces of it are still present in the new work. It isn’t an alteration so much as an altaration – a performative, sacrificial prayer to reach for the promised peace of God while living in a troubled world. I fully believe that it is that peace alone which will overturn our entropy.