an argument, a pocketwatch, and a realization.

The very beginning isn’t always the very best place to start. Sometimes, in order to fully understand something that you’re looking back on, you have to start in the very middle, and work your way out of that maze like a mouse after a block of cheddar. or Mozzarella. Whichever you prefer. I had a very long day today- I had class from 9 to 1:30 with no breaks, and then a three hour long workshop that started exactly at 1:30, that went an extra hour, until 5:30, and then a meeting at 5:30 until 6:30. After that, I settled in to do some homework- some of which worked, and some of which failed. During a small break between tasks, I stumbled across a video, which can be found here if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRELn2MbVkY

There is a band called Ludo- they’ve been around for a few years-at least since my early high school days- and they are well established, with four albums, albeit not a huge following of people. The name of the singer is Andrew Volpe, and he also happens to be the writer of all of their songs. The lyrics are positively brilliant- the vocabulary is astounding and the way that man can string a line of syllables together is positively captivating. The imagery that can come out of a single sentence is nothing short of a miracle with this guy. If you’re curious, a good one to look up is ‘skeletons on parade’- or possibly ‘rotten town’..really, they’re all good. Anyways, Ludo isn’t exactly mainstream, and Andrew decided to go and start another band with another guy and sing more ‘mainstream’ type music- the name of the band is Hot Problems, and that is their new single. Really, you should watch the video. It’s a compilation of the best youtube epic fails, epic wins, and celebrations. There are a lot of football dances, and epic things in general. Best of all, it’s all perfectly set to the song. Watch it. Go on, I’ll wait.

Now, you have the background, at least a little. I showed the video to the boy, and he was not impressed. He thought it was not on par with what Ludo does as a band, and that this was a step down for our friend Andrew. I disagree, though- I disagree entirely. You see, Ludo ad Hot Problems are on two different planes- two different levels entirely. One wants to satisfy the more mature musical tastes of the nerdy, literary or slightly morbid punky crowd, and one the mainstream get-up-and-dance party people crowd. Andrew’s songs for Ludo prove that he is capable of writing lyrical masterpieces, and his songs for Hot Problems prove that he knows very well how to adapt to the modern society. The boy thinks I am thinking of this too much like an artist, but music is art.

He said, “this may be good art, but it’s not good music”

I stopped and thought about that. We all know that the definition of art is a long-argued upon question, but for the purposes of our discussion the interpretation is very broad.

I said, from nowhere, “Just because a painting is good art doesn’t make it a good painting.”

Whoa.

I realized the consequences of my words. We do classify things differently. If we think of the pile of scrap metal before us as a sculpture, and not as the collection of iron in a junk yard, we automatically start looking for things like negative space, composition, values, and all of those things. The boy was thinking of this music as nothing more than it the seconds playing through- the images and sounds. I was thinking of it combined with all my other knowledge of the artist, and my realization that he had not just thrown together a few pop culture references- but cleverly crafted a tune and a song that he knew would appeal to a particular crowd. As a Visual Communications major, I believe that is one of the very important qualities of art- being able to cater to a particular crowd- and along those same lines- being able to control what the viewer (or listener) thinks when they experience your work. That is ultimate control. Conventions can be skewed as much as you want- you don’t have to color within the lines, or compose symphonies in order to be a high artist- you just have to have an idea, and control over that idea. I’m not saying I know the meaning of art or anything now- but that string of events made me realize that there are a million different ways to think about one thing, and that everything is connected somehow.

On a significantly less deep note- the Indigo dye workshop was today!

this is an indigo bunting:

Cute, isn’t he! This has nothing to do with our dye workshop, but its one of the things that pops into my head whenever anyone says indigo.

This is an indigo plant!

Notice those non-indigo colored flowers…hehe. The indigo pigment comes from the leaves of the indigo plant (which, huh- aren’t the right color either), and you combine that with a lot of other things in order to make the indigo thing actually happen. The visiting artist who was leading our workshop was not very familiar with the chemistry of the whole process, so she just insisted that it was all magic. I know the processes, but I don’t very well know the chemicals or their names. Have you ever made your own beer? if you have, you know that all the ingredients get combined in a special way in this tub or bucket, and then you let it sit there and ferment for a while- and then you have beer. The same applies to indigo. The vat is very similar to the yeast in bread or beer, and you have to take special care not to kill it, because it is a living creature. You keep it alive by maintaining its temperature, not allowing too much exposure to sunlight, and not introducing too much oxygen into the vat- so no bubbles. Vats that are properly replenished and cared for can last indefinitely. you can just have one hangin’ out in your kitchen, if that suits you. Another interesting thing about indigo is the color- When you grind up all those leaves and mix them with the other chemicals, the liquid is a golden green color- it’s very similar to the color that the leaves are to begin with. when you dye with indigo, you immerse your fabric, and when it’s removed, its that crazy spring green color- and you can watch before your eyes- as the dye on the fabric reacts with the oxygen in the air- it turns darker and darker green, and then blue, all the way down to a deep shade of indigo, in just a few minutes. I suppose chemistry is fun after all…

here’s some Indigo dyed yarn I found on the internet- as well as the little cakes of powdered pigment, before they’ve been dissolved in water with the other chemicals:

what a pretty color!- before synthetic versions of this color were invented, indigo dye and fabrics that had been dyed with it were used as currency in Europe and Indonesia. It was a celestial symbol because with indigo, you can achieve many colors of the sky. It was so revered that one of the Indian gods is indigo in color- and in Europe, it was a color reserved only for royalty. History’s fun as well!

I shall hopefully be posting pictures of my own dyed fabrics in a few days- they need to finish drying, and I am still experimenting with some other shiboriΒ  binding techniques that will create new patterns on my fabrics.

Building off of that thought- really- the things that we can do with old technology really astounds me. It takes a lot for me to be impressed by new things these days- whoop de do, there’s a new version of the ipad- or someone’s finally gotten up to 5g on their phone- or that whole thing with the blue ray player? I’m just not impressed. But ancient Japanese fabric binding techniques combined with the rich history of Indonesian Indigo dye? or the pattern and clothing making skills of tailors and seamstresses in Victorian England? That is especially potent to me, because I recently failed at my third attempt to draft a sleeve that actually fits on a normal human being. Again. Also- this mechanical pocket watch that I received as a valentine’s gift:

The thought that went into the creation of this watch- the little visible gears turning inside of it- feels like much more of an accomplishment to me than a simple software upgrade. Maybe I’m alone in that mentality. Maybe not.

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