ALCStudies Journal

Advanced Labor & Cultural Studies Web Site & Blog

Category Archives: Music

Drawing from Experience

I teach language and write essays, scripts and fiction, so the narrative part of my brain gets a workout. As human beings we are wired for making sense of things through myths and stories. (See everything from The Odyssey to Aboriginal creation myths.) But sense-making through words has it’s limits. We now experience a daily cascade of messages ranging from talking heads on Youtube to news outlets who attempt to explain or comprehend the current convolution of events. At best these provide clarification and reassurance. At worst they scare and manipulate us. Many of the messages follow the same scripts – regardless of the fact that it’s obvious we need to revise them or create new ones.

Drawing for me provides a break from linearity and the compulsion to analyze and organize every of iota experience that literacy promotes, if not requires of us. Images exist for our hearts and brains to perceive and appreciate them as a whole. Like music, they resist reduction to discrete elements. Music is linear and spatial, happening over time and in an environment. But like all art, it creates an experience in our heart and soul, if we are open to it, that transcends our brain’s ability to analyze it.

In my travels, actual and virtual, when my brain feels overloaded, and I remember to take a sketch pad with me, I try to drop the analytical part and just see what’s in front of me. The following examples are from my travels in Latin America.

Above are a few informal examples from my time spent abroad in Latin America. Drawing provides another way of seeing the world. I’m not a professional artist. I’m not especially interested here in creating another commodity for what my friend Chris McGinnis calls the great productive machine of capitalism that turns everything we are and do now into a product. Rather, I’m interested in the process of apprehending the world through the unmediated visual act of seeing and the physical act of drawing. Virtual tools such as Zoom and Facebook have shown their use in allowing us to stay connected. The trade-off is that if we allow them to monopolize our experience, we miss being connected to the immanence of life and the world around us. — CDL

Skin Trouble, 1943

An excerpt read from Woody Guthrie’s book Bound for Glory; as relevant now as when he published it in 1943.

This is included in an event we planned to celebrate Guthrie’s music, life and writings.

— DA

P.S. Please see the following written text for the excerpt.

While we walked away, holding our faces to the slight breath of air that was moving across the yards, he asked , ‘Say your name was?’

I said, ‘Woody.’

‘Mine’s Brown. Glad ta meet you, Woody. You know I’e run onto this skin color before.’ He walked long the cinders.

‘Skin trouble. That’s a damn good name for it. ‘ I walked along beside him.

‘Hard to cure it after it gets started, too. I was born and raised in a country that’s got all kinds of diseases, and this skin trouble is the worst on of the lot,’ he told me.

‘Bad,’ I answered him.

‘I got sick and tired of that kind of stuff when I was just a kid growing up at home. You know. God, I had hell with some of my folks about things like that. But, seems like, little at a time, I’d sort of convince them, you know; lots of folks I never could convince. They’re kind of like the old bellyache fellow, they cause a lot of trouble to a hundred people. and then to a thousand people, all on account of just some silly, crazy notion. Like you can help what color you are. Goddamit all. Why do’t they spend that same amount of time and trouble doing something good…?

— Woody Guthrie, Bound for Glory pg. 221

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