Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chariot of victory

A breathtaking shot by my Flickr friend Greymouser. The famous chariot of victory on the top of the Vittoriano monument at Rome's Piazza Venezia makes for a great image, but set off in black and white silhouette against this marmor-like skyline is simply magnificent.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

The shoulders of giants

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Ancyclopoda. And I made a typo. Sue me.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Sir Isaac Newton: If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Oh Magyar, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Arial bold 35/55 Yellow.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Idols

And after the previous post, this one is a must. I took this picture on New Year's day 2008 in a shop for modern interior design in Naarden (the Netherlands). The almost oversized version of Bull's Garbo poster on the wall, juxtaposed with my wife's look at her makes for a strong shot that has received a lot of reactions on Flickr, including second prize in a Worldwide Photo Club competition. The original shot was cropped considerably and converted to black and white for greater effect.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.05 sec (1/20)
Aperture: f/2.4
Focal Length: 7.8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0

Flickr

Nur zu Besuch

Die Toten Hosen - literally Dead Trousers, a German euphemism for impotents or failures - is probably the most talented and certainly the most enduring band to come out of the eighties' Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave). Their style is a bit of a mix of Slade and Punk, often with a lot of humour injected in their texts. I bought a CD of them during a holiday in Germany, just for fun, absolutely not expecting that they would be able to make a song like Nur zu Besuch (Just visiting). This is a beautiful rock ballad, and being able to understand the lyrics is quite essential. Singer Campino describes the visit to the grave of a loved one (although it was inspired by the death of his mother, any other loved one can be substituted) in a perfect understated way. It is a song that can literally make me cry.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Friday, November 28, 2008

Beneath the arches

Time to highlight one of my recent Flickr favourites. I first encountered this shot by mrbuk1 in the group Life thru a Lenz - and it was love (and fave) at first sight. A textbook curved vanishing point, and beautiful colours, textures and lighting to boot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Mourning woman

Earlier this year, the wife and I spent a few weeks on holiday in central and eastern Europe. In Czesky Krumlov and Vienna we had the opportunity to see a substantial part of the works of the Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele (1890-1918), a protege of Gustav Klimt. I had always thought he died in the Great war (like Macke and Mark), but in a cynical twist of fate he actually survived the war only to succumb to the Spanish flu a few months later. Most of his work is extreme and not always to my taste, but I was struck by the painting depicted above in the Leopold Museum in Vienna. More on Schiele in the wikipedia article linked to below.

The division bell

A weird thing happened to me earlier this year - I took out the final studio album of Pink Floyd to give it another spin, and when I looked at the cover, it suddenly went "click" in my head. All these years, I had always seen the design as two faces looking at one another. Now for the first time, the two faces combined in my mind to make one face looking at me. A beautiful visual trick by designer Storm Thorgerson.

All Music

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time for a nap

And to round off the blogging for today, a fun shot I took myself. This bulldog apparently is a bit of an institution in the Dutch town of Utrecht - you can almost always find him sleeping in a chair outside the shop of his owner. It's a pretty zoomed in crop of the original.

Camera: Canon Powershot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 25 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0

Flickr

Vrooooooom!

Sometimes we take pictures and only realize later the full impact of the shot (I have another one in mind for this later). This shot by fellow Flickrite algo is a perfect example. Having caught a butterfly on a flower, in his own words: So focused was I on trying to show the luminosity, that I didn't see the other possibilities which have now given me a good chuckle. Fun shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Nielsen, Danish dynamite

Most classical music lovers know the name of the most important Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), but it is surprising how many of them have actually hardly heard little or nothing of his compositions - in contrast to say his contemporary Sibelius. To my taste his six symphonies and three concertos are amongst the finest examples of those genres in the first half of the 20th century. This Naxos CD of his concertos, for violin, for clarinet and for flute, makes an excellent introduction. The beautiful violin concerto dates from 1911, and is a typical late romantic dramatic concerto - showing off that the composer played the instrument himself. The flute concerto from 1926 is perhaps more original, if only by the choice of the solo instrument. But for me the main concerto here is the clarinet concerto from 1928, a stunningly modern work, with an important role for the snare drum as antagonist of the clarinet. Early critics remarked that it sounded like a concerto from another planet. For me this is the second best clarinet concerto of all time, surpassed only by Mozart's masterpiece. The performances on this Naxos CD, with its running time close to 80 minutes, are excellent. Highly recommended as a real bargain introduction to this somewhat overlooked giant.

Amazon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunrise

Time to go back to one of my own photographs. This one dates back about a year. It was shot during my daily commute, taking the ferry from Amsterdam central station to my employer across the river IJ. The rising sun caused a beautiful lighting and the old sailing ship docking next to the modern buildings was a great additional asset. The shot as presented is a rather drastic crop from the original.

Camera: Konica Minolta KD-400Z 4 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/500)
Aperture: f/8.3
Focal Length: 24 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0

Flickr

So long, Frank Lloyd Wright

A rather obvious follow up post.... The first album I bought in my life was Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge over troubled water in 1970 when I was 13. I bought it mainly for the hit El condor pasa, which I now think is actually one of their most mediocre efforts. One of the best songs of this album is the ballad So long Frank Lloyd Wright, inspired by the aforementioned American architect. The video shows many of Wright's creations to complement the music.
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blue Monday

More "blue"s. The French project Nouvelle Vague is original to say the least. They take New Wave hits from the eighties and have them performed in bossa nova rhythms by models who actually never heard the originals. A fiendishly clever play on words, as Nouvelle Vague and bossanova are the French and Portuguese words for New Wave. The end results, collected in two CD's and a few isolated tracks, are always intriguing and sometimes downright spectacular. Some songs you would expect to be very suited for this, such as Visage's Fade to grey. Some work surprisingly well, such as the Cure's A forest and the Clash' The guns of Brixton. And one is simply hilarious - their take on the Dead Kennedy's Too drunk to fuck. To keep up with the theme, I have selected their cover of New Order's Blue Monday, albeit it a live edition.
Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player)

YouTube

The short straw

Very fitting for today's blue theme. This shot, an intriguing variation on the theme of liquids in a glass, is by my Flickr friend darren_crabb. It dates back almost a year, but I still love the effect he achieved here.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Bleu

Part of the famous Kieslowsky movie trilogy Rouge, Blanc, Bleu (Red, White, Blue), it is the blue album that I have selected for the theme of beautiful album covers. Of course, having the gorgeous and elegant Juliette Binoche on the cover automatically qualifies it for this series, but I do like the whole design, with all relevant information in a non-intrusive way. And it is blue bleu. By the way, there are two different versions, both featuring la Binoche, but I have a slight preference for this one (also known as the French version).

All Music

My blue Valentine

Once in a while I like to have a continuing theme through a number of subsequent posts. Today, the theme is 'blue'. We kick off with a painting that my wife made earlier this year. Trademark featureless face, but the colours (or lack thereof) much less typical.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Monday, November 24, 2008

In the eternal cold

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Faramans. And I made a typo. Sue me.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Archibald MacLeish: To see the earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Winter Wonderland 3, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Mistral 70/80 Black.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter

And to round off this small series on the hibernal theme, one of my all-time favourite songs. The fragile ballad Winter from her phenomenal album Little Earthquakes is one of the best Tori Amos ever recorded. In this song she goes back to her childhood days, and her relationship with her father, dealing with growing up and getting sufficient self-esteem, knowing her father will not always be there to support her. The lyrics are poetic and extraordinarily image provoking ("Skating around the truth who I am, but I know Dad, the ice is getting thin"), climaxing in the recurring image of the wild horses. The beautiful piano work that drifts through the song couldn't have been more effective and mood setting. The video is a tasteful collection of winter photographs to accompany the music.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Silence

The winter season presents challenges (lighting!) but also new opportunities for photographers, as snow or ice transform usual scenes. A good example is the shot Silence by fellow Flickr member claudia hering (sundance). The zen-like theme of plants sticking out of the water is interesting in all seasons, but in winter the frozen surface creates a perfect reflection and a beautiful bluish glow.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Abbey graveyard in the snow

Continuing the winter theme. Although my taste in painters in general focuses on impressionism and expressionism, there are some artists and works from before those periods that I really appreciate. Amongst them are the romantic landscapes by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), and this is perhaps the finest example of a romantic winter painting. The Abbey graveyard in the snow dates back to 1819, and this magnificent work was unfortunately destroyed near the end of World War 2. More on Friedrich in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Winter wonderland

Winter has started in Europe today, with large parts of Central Europe covered by snow and even Holland already getting some. Time to reminisce on the few days around Christmas 2007, when the combination of fog and sub-zero temperatures created a majestic winter wonderland. Of all the shots I took those two days, this one turned out to be the most popular, with hundreds of views and 17 people faving it. This picture was taken 5 minutes walking from our home in Almere - it looks like a different country.

Camera: Konica Minolta KD-400Z 4 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.018 sec (9/5000)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 8 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 2.0

Flickr

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vincent

Vincent, a track from the album American Pie, is a beautiful ballad about the life and death of Vincent van Gogh. The lyrics may very well be the most poetic ever penned for a rock/pop song, evoking several of van Gogh's masterpieces: "Starry, starry night, flaming flowers that brightly blaze, swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue - Colors changing hue, morning fields of amber grain, weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand". If memory serves me correctly, this song made the number one spot the very first time I made an all-time favourites list back in 1973.
The idea to make a video with images of Vincent van Gogh to support the music by Don McLean came to me today - and of course, it turned out that there was already a version like that on YouTube.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Character

This is my personal favourite of my wife's paintings. It dates back a few years, and has been hanging since then in my study - I am watching it as I am typing this post. It is a wonderful example of the strong colours that mark her Shanghai Expressionism period, with some cubist overtones. I love how the figure is shown in the transition from chaos (left) to peace (right).

The Art of Lu Schaper

Friday, November 21, 2008

One fine morning

One lighthouse triggers another... Here is a great and relatively unknown masterpiece from Roger Dean (of Yes covers fame) that he created in 1970 for the album One fine morning by the Canadian band Lighthouse. The design is vintage Dean, and the colours are really stunning.

All Music

Lighthouse and stars

And from Norway's shores we go to California, where my Flickr friend Andy57 serves us one of his exquisite coastal scenes. This is what you get when you have a beautiful dusk sky combined with a tripod and a six-second exposure. Absolutely gorgeous lights, both the sky (note the stars) and the reflections, and a great composition to boot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Inger on the beach

From Ginger to Inger.... Norway's greatest painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944) will for many only be known for his Scream - probably the most recognisable painting in the world. That is a real shame as he made so many masterpieces, and played such a crucial role in the development of expressionism and modern painting in general. The painting I selected is a relatively early work (1889), and not one of his best-known even within the circle of art lovers, but it always held a lot of appeal to me, ever since I first saw it - on the CD cover of an album of Grieg songs. More on Munch in the wikipedia article linked to below.