THE COMPULSIVE I WANT, I WANT, I WANT IT STORY
I want a lot of Shep stuff for lots of reasons. To know more about Shepherd, to add to the historical record, both for itself and so I can publish it as part of my work on Shep, to be able to just look at the material and know that it’s mine there on the shelf or hanging from the ceiling, to just be able to think about my Shep stuff anytime I daydream—the typical obsessive collector.
The two-sided sign found at Snow Pond
I want that EXCELSIOR YOU FATHEAD sign from his vacation home at Snow Pond, Maine and that Audubon book with the Jean words and drawing to Leigh.
And I want to rummage through every last scrap of Shep-stuff they have stored away. I want some of that salvage material from Sanibel Island—just to look at and touch and know they are a personal part of Shepherd. And what goodies in attics or compost piles, worthy of dissemination, lie crumbling to ruin?
I want the travel journals that Shepherd said he kept of all his trips around the globe. Do they still exist? I imagine them as thick, hardbound black sketchbooks filled with commentary, insights, and maybe even drawings made on-site. What treasures, related to his great love of experiencing life in new places. What major treasures unto themselves and as private documents of his mind at work regarding one of his favorite enthusiasms—taking part in everything, everywhere he could—a passion of his that directly connected to his profound belief that one must experience to the fullest, as much of life as possible.
And those damn tapes of his overnight shows. Oh, jazzmen, camp-owners, salvager, oh, old flames (real-life loves and mere dedicated listeners alike), oh, even you bloody curators of middle-Europa Dracula Museums—come forth from your closets and crypts!
Emotion Outranks Technique 1 of 2
As a general rule regarding my enthusiasms in the arts, I tend to give some preference to emotional expression over technical agility. Understand that the expression must be backed with some facility to perform the act—not just awkwardly scatter emotion willy-nilly. Thus, my preferences might include Maria Callas, Bob Dylan’s singing of his own music, flamenco guitarist Diego del Gastor, and artists such as American modernist John Marin and English modernist Ivan Hitchens. (Marin and Hitchens Artsy to come.)
Callas, Dylan, Diego del Gastor
I know and understand little of opera, but I can appreciate that, even though it’s generally agreed that Maria Callas lacked the highest technical ability, her emotional/artistic ability prevailed.
Joan Baez, in her August 17, 1963 Forest Hills concert I attended, brought out a scraggly guy I’d never heard of and he began to sing what almost seemed like a one-note song. But it altered a bit at the end of each line in a rough-hewn and intriguing way, and by the time he’d completed his rendition of “Blowin’ in the Wind” I was captivated—the next day I bought the only albums of Bob Dylan available, his first two. (I had heard others’ recordings of a couple of Dylan songs, but didn’t know who wrote them.) To this day, hearing “Peter, Paul, and Mary” or “The Byrds” singing Dylan songs, I shiver with dislike at their vanilla renditions that lack all empathy for what they render compared to the authentic Dylan. (I have the impression that Peter, Paul, and Mary are heartfelt activists for many good causes, but, for me, their performances don’t project that.) Dylan is not exactly a heart-felt performer–but for me, he has artistic integrity grasped tightly in his fists–and vocal chords. I enjoy few non-Dylan singers of Dylan songs except for Joan Baez. (Yes, and of course such performances as Jimi Hendrix doing “All Along the Watchtower.”)
I enjoy flamenco—especially guitar renditions. I enjoy the complex and rapid technical ability of Carlos Montoya, Sabicas, Paco de Lucia, Manitas de Plata, and their like. But then I discovered (in a book written by an American!) an artist without their flashy and captivating theatrics, one who played a slower, deliberate, more profound, more emotional flamenco in a style that seems more authentic to the origins and meaning of the art. Diego del Gastor lived in a southern Spanish town and didn’t care to record or concertize or tour or become a celebrity. Diego did not play with groups one might see on television, groups where the female dancers wear elaborate polka dot costumes, where ignorant tour-groups are brought–where I’ve seen Granada gypsies perform in their caves decorated with shiny brass pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. Diego was a true master artist. He had what in Spanish is called corazon, he had duende. He would pick up any old, tattered guitar at hand and play it, bringing out its soul. He taught a bit, he sensitively accompanied traditional singers and dancers–as is the flamenco guitarist tradition–and played for his friends in small, nearly private gatherings known as “juergas.” Now he is gone, but fortunately, a few times he had allowed himself to be recorded at these small gatherings–one can see and hear him play on several YouTube videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvOIri5vuZw. Only in one of those videos, during a traditional flamenco celebration, does one see him on a stage.) I’d never seen him live, so videos–and audios captured from them–are all I possess of him. Diego has integrity. He is authentic. He enthralls!