Category Archives: Music

Bob Shell: Music & Photography

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Music & Photography

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What do music and photography have in common? In western music we use the octave scale; C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, with the eighth note a higher harmonic of the first. In photography we use light, which we devide into a sort of octave also: R, O, Y, G, B, I, V, — . Aha, there’s one missing! Instead of an octave we have a septave, or do we? If we add ultraviolet, which the birds and the bees can see we have our octave. Most films can “see” at least some ultraviolet. Kodachrome, which we old fossils remember, was notoriously sensitive to UV. Unless you used a strong UV filter when shooting it you risked getting false colors from flowers and certain fabric dyes. Imagine shooting a fashion set of a man in a black tuxedo and having the tux show up as red-purple! It happened.

I believe that I misspoke a while back when talking about the light spectrum. I put the most energetic light waves at the wrong end of the spectrum. I should know better, having done research into UV for its germ killing ability. UV is, of course, the most energetic of our spectrum, having the shortest wavelength. Red is the least energetic, its wavelength stretched out. Below red is infrared, same as heat, and film companies used to make films with increased sensitivity to infrared light. You could actually use your electric iron as a “light source” for some infrared films. Kodak made black and white infrared film, as did Konica, but so far as I remember, only Kodak made color infrared film. I used to love to play with the Kodak Ektachrome Infrared film in spite of its difficulty of use. Lee Higgs used a lot of this film for his classic book Generation Fetish. When I was in Chicago once we had a very interesting discussion of the difficulties of working with the Kodak Ektachrome Infrared film, which had to be shipped in dry ice and kept frozen prior to use. But the spectacular false color images were worth the effort. There’s a cool example of Ektachrome Infrared on the cover of Frank Zappa’s album Hot Rats and another on the centerfold of the English version of the first Black Sabbath album.

But back to the music analogy. The great experimental musician Isaio Tomita went from observatory to observatory collecting the radio wave signals from stars. He converted them all to sound waves and stored them in his computer so he could play them on a standard musical keyboard. This must have taken ages! Once he had them all he recorded an album of classical music. He called his collection of star sounds The Cosmic Symphony Orchestra. I’m listening to it as I write this. It’s beautiful.

Many photographers are also musicians. Ansel Adams comes to mind immediately. He was a classical pianist as well as master photographer. Most photographers I’ve known always had music playing in their studios while they worked. I would listen to classical or jazz while working by myself. When working with models I generally let them pick the music, so long as it wasn’t rap or hip-hop, which both set my nerves on edge. Of course I also had a big selection of 60s and 70s rock. I asked one young model if she liked classical music. “Oh yeah,” she replied, “I love the classics like The Beatles and stuff.”. Generational miscommunication!

Marion, much to my surprise, was familiar with some classical music. Said she’d taken ballet classes and heard it there. She got to really like my favorite composer, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, and would pick his first symphony (A Night in the Tropics) to listen to in the studio or when we were out driving around. Gottschalk is a much underappreciated American composer, a French-speaking resident of New Orleans around the time of the “Civil War.” Although rarely performed in his native land, his works are often performed by European orchestras. I’ve heard the first movement of the first symphony called “more Wagnerian than Wagner,” and don’t disagree. The second movement is probably the first orchestrated samba, full of uncommon percussion instruments. Gottschalk was the “rock star” of his day, staging giant outdoor concerts with as many as eight pianos playing simultaneously, multiple instruments being the only way to produce lots of volume before electrical amplification. My late friend Don Sutherland, who wrote for me at Shutterbug, turned me on to Gottschalk in the 80s, and I’m forever grateful.

But back to colors: We humans have tricolor vision, with cells in the retina of our eyes sensitive to red, green, and blue. Each cell is sensitive to one color only, and our brain processes the signals from these cells to show our world to us in full color. Most of us anyway. Some people have a defective gene that produces cells that respond identically to red and green and see the world differently from the rest of us trichromatic folks. I’ve read that a small number of people have four types of color sensitive cells and also see the world very differently, but I can’t imagine how they see things. We’re unusual among mammals in having full color vision. Most mammals don’t see colors like we do, and many are profoundly color blind. Try to teach your dog or cat to tell red from green and you will be very frustrated, although I’ve read that a minority of dogs can see full color. I don’t know about cats. Its not that cats can’t be trained, but they aren’t interested in the idea! They find the whole idea intensely boring.

Insect eyes, built on a totally different blueprint from ours, generally can see ultraviolet. Flowers use this to attract pollinators by being strongly reflective of ultraviolet. A flower looks very different to a bee, like a billboard saying “Eat at Joe’s.” Some birds, notably raptors, can see well into the UV range, which cuts through atmospheric haze to reveal their prey far below. Their eyes have far more light receptor cells than ours, giving them the sharpest eyesight of all living creatures. “Eyes like a hawk,” is a genuine compliment.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here:http://tonywarderotica.com/4830-2/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraits

Bob Shell: Musical Instruments

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

Photo Illustration: Tony Ward, Copyright 2019

 

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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I’ve made a sort of study of musical instruments from around the world, each with its own unique sound. From India there is the sitar, best known, but also the sarod, sort of an Indian lute, and another stringed instrument called the veena. All get their unique sounds from having brass strings. (You can hear sitar on recordings by Ravi Shankar or his daughter Anoushka. Sarod by Ali Akbar Khan. Veena by S.I. Balachander.). In Japan there is the koto, a sort of horizontal harp with silk strings, which can be heard in recordings by Kimio Ito. The Chinese have a plethora of instruments with names I never learned. You can hear many in The Chieftains in China. The Chinese also use the pentatonic scale, with only five notes in an “octave,” which is why their music sounds weird to us. The pentatonic scale was developed in ancient Greece, at least so say the historians. Maybe the Greeks got it from Egypt, or even older cultures. Frustratingly we have no idea what ancient Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian, etc., music sounded like since they had no musical notation. We can only guess.

We know the Greeks, Egyptians, and other ancient cultures had stringed and wind instruments because both are depicted in their art, but we don’t know what they sounded like. Of course, all cultures had drums and percussion instruments.

The tabla drums of India are made of brass with hide drumheads that can be tuned so that different parts of the drumhead produce different sounds. They are. normally played in sets of two, a smaller one with higher pitch and a larger one with lower pitch. They are played with the fingers, palms, and even elbows. To hear a modern use of tabla drums, listen to Centa Terbaik by Tasya Rosmala. All Indian instruments, so far as I know, are played sitting on the floor, usually with half-lotus or even full-lotus positioning of the legs.

The Arabs have a large drum called a dumbeg and a smaller durbeki, played with the hands or short drumsticks. The Irish drum, played with both ends of a short drumstick is the bodhran. I’m sure the Turkish drums have names, but I don’t recall them. In Japan once I was treated to a performance of traditional big Japanese drums that are mounted with the drumheads vertical, and the players go at them with sticks the size of ax handles, attacking the drums as if trying to destroy them. Very, very loud! Almost .more of an athletic event than a musical performance. The performers wear loin cloths and are very muscular. The whole thing has a very savage feel.

Of course Africa and the Caribbean are where drums, a great variety of types and sizes, are the main instruments. To hear African drums at their best listen to the Missa Luba, a native Congolese mass performed with voices and drums. I’ve heard great drum music in the Caribbean, and, of course, there are the steel drums. There is a good recording of the Trinidad and Tobago Steel Drum Band available. Surprisingly, they hail from Rochester, NY! I don’t know how they tune those steel drums, but the sound can be beautiful.

Today the Mediterranean peoples have a variety of stringed instruments played like guitars. The Arab people have their oud, a fretless gut-stringed lute/guitar. To hear an oud played well, listen to Hala Laya by The Devil’s Anvil, from the album Hard Rock From The Middle East (where you’ll also hear dumbeg and durbeki drums). The Greeks have their bouzouki, also similar to a guitar. It is my understanding that the guitar itself was developed from the lute in Spain during the Moorish period. The Irish and Scot people, who originated in the eastern Mediterranean, took the Persian/Greek bagpipe north with them, along with the pentatonic scale. I’m not sure who carried musical instruments to Russia, perhaps the Rus brought them back from their viking raids on other cultures, but once Eastern Orthodox Christianity took hold, the balalaika, with its three strings and three-sided sound box (symbolizing the Trinity) was no surprise.

But a surprise did await the Spanish conquistadores in South America. In Bolivia at lake Titicaca they found Egyptian-looking reed boats and all over northern South America they found musicians playing in the pentatonic scale. In the Andes the local musicians played pentatonic panpipes and flutes. The stringed instrument was the charango, a sort of guitar/mandolin with a sound box made from the shell of an armadillo. Along with the panpipes there was a low pitched very long flute called senka tenkana (growing nose) that made the player stretch his arms. (To hear what Inca music sounded like, listen to “El Condor Pasa” by Los Incas, who also recorded as Urubamba.) Was the pentatonic scale carried to South America by ancient Egyptian sailors, or carried the other way? Apparently there was commerce between the regions because both tobacco and cocaine have been found in Egyptian mummies, and both originate in the Americas. There was apparently cross-cultural exchange in ancient times.

I find it odd that the Native peoples of North America were so musically undeveloped. Drums and flutes seem to be about it for their instruments, and often just the drums, accompanied by chanting. The music never made it up through Central America, apparently. Of course, depending on the date, much of today’s Central America was under water and migration largely impossible.

Humans like to make noise, and in many cultures unique musical traditions were developed. Will people of the distant future still listen to today’s music?

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. Shell was recently moved from Pocahontas State Correctional Center, Pocahontas, Virginia to River North Correctional Center 329 Dellbrook Lane Independence, VA 24348.  Mr. Shell continues to claim his innocence. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: http://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-a-stitch-in-relative-time/

 

Also posted in Art, Blog, Popular Culture

R.I.P. Aretha Franklin

ARETHA FRANKLIN RIP

Rest in Peace Aretha Franklin

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Artist Highlight: Vibe Rouvet – Voice of an Angel

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Vibe Rouvet: Music Conservatory of Pau

 

 

Text by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

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Voice of an Angel

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Vibe Rouvet is the daughter of TWS contributing illustrator Alexandra Rouvet Duvernoy of France.  A stunning resemblance to her mother with talent that runs deep in the family, Ms. Rouvet is an opera student at the Music Conservatory of Pau, France. On the video she sings “Volta la Terrea” from Verdi (extract from the opera: Un ballo in Masquera).  Here singing teacher is Marie Claire Delay. This summer she will be taking a master class in Mozarteum of Salzburg in Austria.

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Portrait of Vibe Rouvet 2018

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For access to the artist, Alexandra Rouvet Douvernoy’s contributions to Tony Ward Studio,  Click herehttp://tonywardstudio.com/store/alexandra-rouvet-duvernoy-trumpisms/

 

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Kathryn Brooks: Songstress Rises

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Photo of Kathryn Brooks by Tony Ward, Copyright 2018

 

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THE WEST

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By Kathryn Brooks, Copyright 2018

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Everyone says

We were made for the West

You and I

Everyone says

We’re the best

You and I

Oh, oh, woah oh

Oh oh oh

Everyone says

We’re a mess

You and I

Everyone says

We’ll regret

The wasted time

But we’ll pitch our tent

In the wilderness

And watch the stars shooting by

We’ll lie on our backs

Lookin at the sky

Dreaming we could also fly

Oh, oh, woah oh

Oh oh oh

We learned that

The West was pretty hot

But we were feeling cold and alone

So we headed back to the

Colder weather

But the warm people of home

Everyone says

Everyone says

I don’t really care

I can go anywhere

Oh, oh, woah oh

Oh oh oh

Everyone says

We’re a mess

You and I

You and I agree

But at least we’re free

Until the end of time

Oh, oh, woah oh

Oh oh oh

Oh, oh, woah oh

You and I

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About The Author: Kathryn Brooks is a Sophomore majoring in Media Culture and the Arts at The King’s College in New York City, Class of 2020. Kathryn is modeling a Tony Ward Erotica, black “Dana” hoodie. Now available in Store.

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