Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Back when I had time to write for fun, or out of some kind of desperation -- an old overcaffeinated loosening up the tongue pulling it out of the air and from here there and everywhere exercise I just found again.

Spin and Marty: When music meets art

I remember reading with a strong mixture of empathy and compassion David Sinclair’s (June 9, 2000) article in the London Times, “Man, I Feel Like a Rock Hero”, which discussed Ruth Padel’s new book, I’m a Man -- Sex, God, and Rock and Roll”. Sinclair says Padel speaks of rock as a “vast wishing well of sexuality." While arguing her case on “cock rock”, she also revives a theory that rock stars embody much the same cultural values as those espoused by the gods and heroes of Greek mythology. Sinclair concludes that rock today suffers from not being an authentic expression of manhood. That’s always been the case for some rock.

While it’s clear the British lady poet feels the Pharos at ancient Alexandria burning deep within her chest and springs forth such notions to better light the world, her point of view is clearly focused on her version of some British rock groups. She must be a younger person to be reinventing this notion at this time.

Certain rock groups, that’s what we in Hawaii in our primitive way would call real “gala-gala”. Usually in “pidgen” simple words are repeated intact to act as adjectives or adverbs and provide emphasis. “Deep-deep” for example would translate into “deeper” or “deeply”. While “gala” in English means a festive occasion or celebration which requires a certain attire, the phrase “gala-gala” does not in any way mean twice as much of that.

In the event you have limited Hawaiian, “gala-gala” is in its original sense:

1) that itchy twitchy feeling you get far back in your throat when you have an advanced respiratory congestion, are exposed to something cloying, or have an allergic reaction to, for instance, consuming a substance which forces the expulsion of that

2) long strand of lougey you are obliged to (hock-pooey) spit out. This is the body’s natural evolved response to environmental or physiological assaults on the system.

In fact, I can develop a thesis that certain rock and roll bands can be traced in an evolutionary manner straight back not to Homeric gods (because you have to face it they were fictitious inventions springing from the heads of retsina-soaked Greeks), but rather to a much less imaginary and simpler lifeform -- let’s say the simplest sort of mollusk which slithered through the bottom reaches feeding before oozing out over the edges of the primordial soup and taking on its new stature as a landed creature, a creature despite its simple origins we can now recognize as the Gastropod, or snail.

Just look at the similarities. Most snails are actually brightly decorated and are host to many parasites. The snail travels about by extending, wiggling, and retracting itself upon its pod, or siphuncle, while laying a trail of excreted mucous. Carrying everything it needs with it, essentially moving along in its own small universe, attracted towards fulfilling its solitary needs by the snail’s equivalent of sensing with what are many times mistakenly called antenna.

The snail actually does not possess a brain in the way that other life forms do, the snail’s system is primarily a primitive tangle of nerve cords. The “horns” on the snail’s head are actually sensory tentacles used to probe and prod to determine if an object is suitable for devouring using the radula (large “horny tongue” and “big teeth”). The snail has only the partial makings of a heart. What this creature does have are a form of “tongue and lips”, what can pass for a set of “lungs”, and an “anus” (which because the snail has no brain, is fitted conveniently on its own head). Primarily concealed by its own shell, the snail is essentially an asshole whenever it pokes its head out.

Often retreating into its self-propelled motel room as its own nature demands, the shell providing both support and protection, to tend to its personal needs. The snail ignores the presence of all, even other snails, even while sharing the same lettuce leaf until nature calls and it comes time to sex. To add to its already strange nature, to increase its chances in sexing, the snail is a hermaphroditic creature. The snail marks its passage through life protecting its own delicate underbelly from abrasive surfaces with its own self-generated long trail of snot. While they seem like small harmless creatures, snails can be deadly to some human beings unfortunate enough to suffer exposure to them. Infected themselves by their own form of “fluke” their presence can easily contaminate an environment.

Don’t believe me? Look at the cover of Little Feat’s Sailin' Shoes (1972). There’s the snail or siphuncle and another creature in satin smallclothes (the one vaguely reminiscent of Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”) as if to show by allegory the full evolutionary possibility of “snot”.

Which is perhaps why certain creatures end up even referring to themselves as “Boogie Men” their genetic memories reminding them of their own simple origins as well as other things that now have to do with noses and nostrils, all of which is vaguely reminiscent somehow of “snot”.

Of course, the original meaning of words transform over time to better reflect realities in current useage as any sociolinguist will tell you about social perception.

Moving back in time to discuss art of a finer nature, Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy”painted in 1770 quite naturally (as with familiarity and knowledge one simply can’t think of one without thinking of the other) leads to thinking of his other famous work, “Pinky” (actually a portrait of Lady Howe standing in flowing pink dress), which because of that basic elegance could not be easily utilised by artist Neon Park. Rather, a theme from another work was set in its place, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “Girl on a Swing”.

Painted in 1768, the picture was considered to be quite risqué in its time, as there was a young man in the corner staring up the dress of the girl in the swing as her petticoats rustled in the air. The best art historians will tell you that the Rococo period in France emphasized powder, perfume, and artifice, all presented with an air of friviolity and a highly polished finish. On the album cover, here the “girl” on the swing is replaced by a highly decorated cake with a triangular slice suggestively revealed for all to see (ooh la la!) whether it’s “swinging London” or just “swinging in L.A.” And art historians will tell you that while Fragonard was depicting gilt-edged frivolities, Gainsborough at the same time in his painting selected “idealized” subjects, “idealized” portraits of the English nobility which patronized and financially supported his works. So the two schools of painting and artists (Gainsborough and Fragonard) existed in near chronology and propinquity.

On the album art, Fragonard’s “suitor” who was nearly hidden in the bushes is replaced by the “snail” but there is the addition of another figure nearly concealed in the bush, which Neon Park as artist said was a portrait of Brueghel. I’ve read that Brueghel many times traveled in disguise to paint his scenes of rustic frolic and peasant dance, it being the custom in Brueghel’s time to regard the country yokel as a figure of fun much as Shakespeare did. I do not think that either Shakespeare or Brueghel accepted this custom out of snobbery, but in rustic life human nature was less disguised and covered up with a veneer of artificiality and convention than in the life and manners of the gentlemen artists such as Gainsborough portrayed. Thus, when they wanted to show up the folly of humankind, playwrights and artists often took “low life” as their subject, as Neon Park did here. For Park, living and working in the center of the music business in L.A. and privy to much insider information, may have drawn some of the inspiration for his surrealistic presentation from his own observations or his “listening to the god voice that speaks thru motel room air conditioners everywhere.” Thus said, “Limey” and “Slimey”, those words can sometimes “rhyme-y”.

Park’s Brueghel is adorned with an oil funnel worn as a cap on head (from a self-portrait) but now reminiscent of the tin woodsman from Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. A creature which while the merest machine knew something was lacking in himself and is now perhaps more widely known for singing in his later incarnation in a movie “if I only had a heart.” Park’s Breughel is bearded also to imply the wisdom of age and to give a visual wink that the artist is “bearding” or making a mock of some rock. As to that new form of “Blue Boy”, he seems to consider every “female” as merely something to smack his lips over and regard only as something to be devoured, with about as much thought and care as scoffing up a tasty piece of cake and with as much thought after the fact as is given to a piece of cake once eaten. Were this new “Blue Boy” to even to discuss a “torte”, should he per chance be asked if he would want a piece of cake, he would most likely put his silver foot in his mouth and remark that the little uptwirled accents of icing “look like tits.” Whatever, sometimes you just wish these types would crawl back under whatever rock they’ve crawled out from. The original Gainsborough “Blue Boy” happens to be part of the Huntington Art Collection in San Marino, California, if only to symbolize that America is a country rich enough to attract what England regards as “national art treasures”.

As poet P. Hemenway asked more or less recently, “What we should be asking ourselves here is how we are marked by the old ways from such hand-delivered insults. A simple sniff or sniffle on the part of some, and you can see again the figure swaggering from the garden and you can almost hear the convulsion that folds out a fat round of great hurled sounds bringing up a thread of clear and tenacious effluent spilling out all the way to his chin, until with one flick he sends the viscous string cartwheeling through the late sun to rest upon the near honeysuckle into whose blossoms he dips his whiskey.”

Although Hemenway in the original piece was describing the passage of an older gentleman farmer, perhaps an esquire or a simple melon farmer, moving through the yellowed sear of the harvest season, the poem had to do with a young person’s recognition. While originally there was only youthful hope, naive expectation and thought of the promised taste of nature’s simplest pleasures and succulent bounty, all thought of that diminished to disgust and disappointment once bearing witness to a habituated, mechanized, and ritualized flicking of snot and spittle.

Some sorts of pop music, rather than being exalted to the stature of the heroic, mythological, or merely the larger-than-life, you have to admit is merely something made by snotty kids with perhaps an overactive musical talent. That's a perhaps for talent, too. And you know who I mean by that as I have discussed “Blue Boy” so much.

So that’s “gala-gala”, never to be confused with “ougi” as that is a completely different concept.


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Compiling the best online articles about music so there will be more of both in the future. In periods of drought, the reader will be innundated by my own blogs on the matters.

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