Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jersey Stories by Brendan Scott Carroll

This is such a fascinating art project. American photographer Brendan Scott Carroll has documented the people and places in New Jersey in an extensive series of classical Polaroid pictures. The added twist is that each polaroid comes with a text that is typewritten on the lower white margin of each Polaroid. These anecdotes are fictional or derived from personal memory, other people’s memories, and actual events. The combination is a clear example of the sum being greater than the parts. Highly recommended to click the link and browse an extended selection.

All rights retained by the artist.

web site

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

She loves to dance ...

Even in the varied and great photostream of my Flickr friend peggyhr, this one stands out for its sheer uniqueness. A fascinating expressionist study of a dancer. While impressionism is relatively easy to translate to photography, expressionism is far rarer. I love it.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Storseisundet bridge

Chances are you have seen this bridge that is part of Norway's Atlantic Road, as it has been making its round on various blogs, most recently on Amusing Planet. Aptly nicknamed "The bridge to nowhere", its main distinction is not the size or shape itself (which is not spectacular as shown in the AP post), but its lay-out, which suggests that the bridge ends abruptly in mid-air and that driving on should result into dropping into the waters below. More on this bridge in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


A fun interactive website, by which you can produce beautiful abstract creations - the one above was one of my first attempts. Give it a try. It is fun - and addictive.

web site

Monday, March 28, 2011

The New Yorker March 2011

When I started this magazine covers category, I was aiming at covers that appeared in the twenties and thirties. Not at a cover of a magazine literally issued today. But I love everything about this one, and it has a real timeless feel about it. The link gives more information on the background by its creator, Christoph Niemann. It is a beautiful poetic and very imaginative reflection on the recent disaster in Japan. Although some people consider it too frivolous, most reactions are positive.


Sunday, March 27, 2011


Another post fitting with today's theme of wintertime to summertime. Pink Floyd's Time is one of the most popular songs from their landmark album The dark side of the moon. Kicking in with a stunning effects loop of various clocks ticking and chiming, this song is all about the pressure of time in our lives. Also added into the mix in the background is the sound of a heartbeat, implying that even our own heartbeat, that which keeps us alive, is also ticking against us, counting down until we die. The images that the lyrics provoke are very forceful indeed (Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time; Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines), and they include one of my favourite lines: "Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way".
Art Rock score: 9/10 (very strong song, one of 650 best songs of all time)



A fitting shot for today, since we just shifted our clocks to summer time here in the Netherlands. My Flickr friend word artist shot this special macro still life of clockwork, with wonderfully contrasting golden and metallic tones.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beatty Drive Congleton

A female artist I had never heard of, but who is definitely worth checking out: Natalia Chernogolova (born 1954) from Belarus. She is one of the key figures in the neo-expressionist movement, which is not that far away from the Shanghai Expressionism style of my wife. This particular work was made during a 2005 visit of the UK - its strong bold colours very characteristic of her style. More on Chernogolova in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frosted lake

My Flickr friend cormend is a very accomplished photographer and really should have featured earlier in my blog. This gem is the highlight of an exquisite series of shots documenting his trek through the Himalaya's, bringing him in viewing range of Mount Everest. Wonderful mystic atmosphere in this shot, emphasized by the silhouetted animal. The whole series can be found here.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Happy Anniversary darling!

I cannot believe it is already 11 years ago that we got married. Here is to us, and for the occasion an appropriate neo-art deco card, sourced from here. Cheers!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shanghai stairway to heaven

One of my personal favourites from my recent trip to Shanghai. A shot inside the Times Square shopping mall at Huahei road. The dominating golden colours, the various levels of escalators, and the silhouetted figures as a centre point of attention.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.013 sec (1/80)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 18 mm
ISO Speed: 800
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rhapsody (RIP Elizabeth Taylor)

One of Hollywood's greatest actresses has passed away today, aged 79: Dame Elizabeth Taylor. In her memory, a poster of the 1954 movie Rhapsody. I have selected the Japanese version of the movie poster, because it shows much better than the rather boring US version just how pretty she was. Rest in Peace.

More on this movie in the IMDB article linked to below.

Big Ben

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is a shot created by their member torgar for the Modern ruins 8 contest - shades of things to come with famous landmarks in the centre of the attention. This one is a perfectly executed apocalyptic vision of the future of London.

All rights retained by the creator.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011


A beautiful abstracted image of a fan-shaped palm that I came across on Flickr recently. Excellent combination of colours and shapes - one of those images I could see hanging on the wall of a modern art museum. A creation by fellow Flickrite Robert in Toronto.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Brahms symphonies cycle Gardiner

Maybe it is because of my renewed interest in classical music, but recently I keep coming across good artistic designs in this genre, far more than in the past. A case in point is the set of four CD's released with the beautiful Brahms symphonies in the interpretation of Gardiner. Colourful and stylish, especially when seen as a foursome (such as in the animated gif I constructed).


Monday, March 21, 2011

Retro movie poster design by Tom Whalen

Retro is in, art deco is in - and illustrator Tom Whalen uses this combination to good effect in his classy art deco variations on posters of famous movies, such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, and (shown above) Kubrick's classic The shining. High quality work throughout.

All rights retained by the artist.

web site

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Light and dark

This is such a beautiful poignant image by my dear Flickr friend sannesu. A veritable tornado of light as one commenter remarked aptly, a shimmering light of hope in the darkness of our lives.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Immersed dreams by Yang Yan

During my recent trip to Shanghai, I stumbled upon a fascinating open air project by local artist Yang Yan, entitled "Immersed dreams". He constructed a future archeological site where numerous typical Shanghainese objects, from toys and watches to kitchen utensils, cameras, musical instrument, house parts and a car, are seen half buried in the mud. Unfortunately, the artist's site is marked as potentially harmful by google, so I link to my Flickr photographs of this art work (two published so far, including the one above, with more to come).

All rights retained by the artist.

web site

Saturday, March 19, 2011


High time to feature once more the photographic art of my Flickr friend and regular contributor to my blogs: jenny downing. Wonderful play with depth of field, leaving the main subject blurred in the background. Original and extremely effective.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Liszt's symphonic poems

Between 1986 and 1999 I built up a considerable collection of classical music CD's (exceeding 2000 CD's in total). For various reasons I have played them a lot less in the past decade, but I am embarking on a rediscovery tour that I intend to share in this blog. In the twelfth installment, I re-examine the symphonic poems of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886), the inventor of this particular genre, even though I tend to prefer later composers in this respect (such as Bax, Sibelius, Richard Strauss, Dvorak, Smetana and Respighi). As so often with composers from the classical or romantic era, the numbering is not in line with the sequence of creation - I have opted for the latter.

No. 1 Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (S.95, 1848-1854)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 30 min)
This "Mountain symphony" was inspired by a Victor Hugo poem. Liszt sets out to depict the struggle between man and nature - a more philosophical approach of the mountain theme than Richard Strauss' Alpensinfonie of several decades later. It has its moments, especially in the solo part for violin, but for the material it offers, it is far too long, especially the bombastic finish.

No. 3 Les preludes (1848)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 16 min)
My version: Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig/Masur (EMI, 1981, 15 min)
Liszt' most famous composition for orchestra probably. It is based on an ode by Alphonse de Lamartine, depicting life as a prelude for better things to come. Right from the subdued start, everything comes together in this composition: gorgeous melodies, including the immortal main theme, wonderful orchestration (a rarity in his repertoire) and an almost operatic Wagnerian feeling.  Liszt's best work by far to my taste, and almost getting my "hors concours" stamp of approval,

No. 2 Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo (1849-1854)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 22 min)
My version: Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig/Masur (EMI, 1981, 21 min)
The Goethe and Byron poems on Tasso, an Italian poet, provided the literary inspiration, a Venice gondola song the musical one.It depicts the life of Tasso, including the problem years (the slow Lamento part), a happy minuet, and the triumphant conclusion (the fast Trionfo part). It is a wonderful melodic work, with rich contrasts of mood, great instrumentation, and one of his best efforts in the genre.  

No. 5 Prometheus (S.99, 1850-1855)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 13 min)
Inspired by the Greek legend of Prometheus, this tone poem (with clear orchestration support by Raff) illustrates the imprisonment, pain, hope, and the final triumph of the main character. Right from the dramatic start, heroic themes dominate, with some great melodic interludes. However, there is a sense of discontinuity about the composition, and one can see why it is generally not regarded as one of his best.

No. 8 Heroide funebre (1849–50)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 24 min)
This tone poem is based on the first movement of the unfinished Revolutionary Symphony of 1830. Grief is the main theme of this triple funeral march, inspired by Hungary losing the battle of independence. The continuous pessimistic atmosphere, coupled with rather straightforward instrumentation, and its excessive length, explains the lack of appeal this composition has encountered through the centuries. It does have its grander moments, but they are few and far apart.

No. 6 Mazeppa (S.100, 1851)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 16 min)
My version: Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig/Masur (EMI, 1981, 16 min)
One of the popular romantic tales of the time, which inspired poems by Byron and Hugo, is the story of Ivan Mazeppa, Polish nobleman who suffered defeat, humiliation and subsequent rise to become chief of the cossacks. The tone poem focuses on his punishment, bound to a wild horse, and chased into the steppe, all the way to the Ukraine, and his rescue. Bombast is always lurking beneath (and sometimes above) the surface, but it is still a good piece, and one of his better tone poems.

No. 7 Festklaenge (1853)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 20 min)
Festklaenge (Festive sounds) is basically an extended wedding march for a wedding that was never to be: the one between Liszt and his long-time partner and muse, Princess Carolyne of Wittgenstein. The most remarkable feature of the composition is the use of themes from Polish and Hungarian dances, representing the princess and Liszt. It has its beautiful moments, but it does outstay its welcome somewhat at the rather excessive length.

No. 4 Orpheus (S.98, 1853–4)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 11 min)
My version: Gewandhaus Orchester Leipzig/Masur (EMI, 1981, 10 min)
This tone poem was inspired by an Etruscan vase at the Louvre showing the mythological Orpheus singing and playing his lyre, taming the wild animals around him. It is a unique work in liszt's oeuvre: no struggle, no contrast, just a tonal stream of beautiful melody and harmony, yet firmly romantic in its approach. The doubled harp is effectively chosen to represent Orpheus' lute. One of his very best.

No. 9 Hungaria (1854)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 22 min)
In spirit and form, this is in fact an extended Hungarian rhapsody, inspired by the struggle of the Hungarian people, but focusing on hope and joy as well, rather than just despair, which characterized the earlier Heroide Funebre. Even without a clear programme, the changes in moods, pace and rhythms captivate the listener's attention. One of his better efforts in the genre.

No. 11 Hunnenschlacht [Battle of the Huns](S.105, 1856–7)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 14 min)
Inspired by the Kaulbach painting of the same name, depicting a battle so ferocious that the souls of the dead warriors continued their fighting in the sky as they rose to Heaven. The first nine minutes consist of ghostly fanfares and nervous strings to evoke the battle, with subdued organ lines representing the Christian fighters. Then a gorgeous melody finally enfolds, leading to an intense climax supported by organ. Generally seen by classical music experts as one of the best of his symphonic poems, and it is hard to argue with that.

No. 12 Die Ideale [The ideals] (S.106, 1857)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 27 min)
Based on Schiller's poem of the same name, this work was originally intended to be a three-movement symphony. There is no obvious programme to this work which is meant to evoke the philosophical struggle that is at the heart of the poem. Musically, one can distinguish the typical symphonic movements, including and adagio and a scherzo in the middle. Maybe not a very good tone poem, but certainly a good orchestral composition, although its length and the lack of really memorable melodic lines stop it from getting higher praise from me than "Good to have".

No. 10 Hamlet, after the drama by Shakespeare (1858)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 15 min)
Liszt had to wait almost 30 years after finishing this composition before he actually heard it performed - which says a lot about its reception at the time. Also in later years, it has failed to become a staple of the orchestral repertoire, although it is a decent if not brilliant piece of work. Liszt tried to capture the character and mood of Hamlet, rather than his actions: indecisive, grotesque, manic. In the end though it lacks memorable themes, making it one of the "also-rans" in this part of Liszt's output.

No. 13 Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe (From the Cradle to the Grave) (S.107, 1881–2)
My version: Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Joo (Brilliant Classics [Hungaroton], 1985, 17 min)
More than decades after his 12th numbered symphonic poem, Liszt composed his 13th and final one. It was inspired by a drawing made by Mihaly Zichy, sent to Liszt, depicting both a cradle and a coffin. Liszt turned this into a three movement symphonic poem. The first part depicts the cradle, in a beautiful serene and fragile andante, uniquely scored for violin, viola, harp and flute only. The second part depicts a struggle for existence, at times violent, at times resigned, with a richer orchestral palette than in most of his compositions. The final part depicts the grave, described by Liszt as the cradle of future life, a slow and solemn piece ending in a prolonged high cello note that depicts death and transfiguration far more movingly than Richard Strauss would do a few years later. My personal second favourite of all of Liszt's oeuvre.

Summarizing recommendation, based on my own taste:

Hors concours: 
Essential: Les preludes, Tasso (lamento e trionfo), Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe
Important: Hungaria, Hunnenschlacht, Orpheus
Good to have: Die Ideale, Mazeppa
Not required: Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne, Festklaenge, Hamlet, Heroide funebre, Prometheus

Friday, March 18, 2011

Learn composition by example: Leading lines

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a series of short posts about basic composition techniques in the Art-iculations category. These were written for beginners by a beginner (moi). My Flickr friend Rick (word artist), a very accomplished photographer with a brilliant sense of composition, has embarked upon a similar series for the Flickr group Learn Composition by Example, providing far more information and examples than I did. His first post, on leading lines, is a great start of the series, giving numerous examples taken from the members of the group. The illustration above is one of mine (Spiraling), of which he wrote: "The combination of the repeated lines of the stairs all bringing the eye in to the central column, and the sinuous curve of the column itself provides the eye with easy traverse of the whole image: a leading line of intersections." Highly recommended to expand your compositional horizon.

web site

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vogue May 1928

Another classy and classic Vogue cover designed by Pierre Morgue. A masterpiece of Parisian elegance, simple and refined in subdued colours.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Requiem for strings

A fitting post to conclude today's theme on the disaster in Japan. A beautiful instrumental Requiem by one of my favourite classical music composers, Japan's Toru Takemitsu. For all those who perished.


Help Japan

The catastrophe in Japan has inspired many to offer help, but one of the more creative gestures is this excellently designed poster, found via a Jenny Downing buzz. Very original and poignant. It may be recent, but it has a timeless feel that still fits the vintage poster category. Dedicated to all the victims.

Vintage Posters

Disaster in Japan

The triple disaster in Japan (earth quake, tsunami, threat of nuclear meltdown) has dominated the new photography sites obviously in recent days. I have picked this one to share in the blog, because to me it depicts the unimaginable power of a tsunami better than any other.

All rights retained by the photographer (Yomiuri Shimbun/AFP).

web site

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What a match

Sometimes you come across really great images on the web, but without information attached to them. I decided to start a new subject for these, titled A is for anonymous. I will include the link where I found the shot, and anybody who can provide more information on these pictures, please leave a comment or mail me. I came across this gem on the AcidCow site, where I normally find posts for my potpourri blog. However, this is far too artistic for that one, and clearly belongs here. Wonderful imagination, perfect execution.