With Sandy Nelson’s 1962 12 minute drum solo as a starting point for our latest Kick-About, I wanted to respond to the divine bash and crash of it with moving images. I had a technique in mind and sense of what I wanted, but couldn’t achieve it, and not for want of trying. That said, I did identify a way to produce imagery that pressed my mid-20th Century buttons and communicated something of the vibration of Nelson’s drum kit.
My immediate response to The Kick-About No.56 was ‘make a film’, so I set about trying to find a means to visualise Sandy Nelson’s percussive effects. I built some simple 2D shapes in the video-editing software and tried to ‘vibrate’ them. I had the image of a cymbal being struck, a disc-shape producing more complex effects due to the persistence of vision. I struggled a bit, because I couldn’t get what my imagination was showing me. That said, during the experiments that led me to give up on the idea of moving image, I began to develop work for which I could muster more enthusiasm – and if not visualisations of sound exactly, than artwork that wouldn’t look too out of place on the front cover of a jazz album. More to come.
There’s something stripped back and uncompromising about the paintings of Basquiat, the prompt for our last Kick-About together. Likewise Sandy Nelson’s For Drummers Only, a 12 minute drum solo from 1962 that has likely had a few of us bopping about our respective work spaces or reaching for saucepans and wooden spoons to make a noise with…
“I closed my eyes and let the music fill me up… legs and feet jiggling to the beat, memories of the 606 club on the New Kings Rd..the doors opening just before midnight, musicians arriving after their various gigs and ‘ jamming’ ’til the early hours, alcohol in coffee cups and cigarette smoke hanging low, climbing the stairs at dawn. A quiet response to an exhilarating disc and time travel.” Watercolour and graphite on gesso.
“Loved the track and immediately went to motion and hit on a methodology that seemed to work. Then I needed a soundtrack without the fear of copyright infringement so created a noise to time an animation to. The narrative for the animation came from me walking into town for an artist’s talk- haven’t been out at night for ever! My first attempt came to a sudden halt after some effort was spent trying to recreate a street scene. It was never going to have any of the emotion of the real thing. So I rethought and came up with a type work that you can sometimes read but poor colour choices make that very difficult. Also about two thirds of the way through my words created in a different computer application run out. It’s a bit of a mess but I think it’s pretty and that’s what we need isn’t it?”
“The prompt initially recalled my grandfather tapping out the ‘Radetszky March’ on the kitchen table. He saw service in both world wars and as an Austrian became German in 1938 and served in the Wehrmacht. Themes in ‘The Tin Drum’ (Gunther Grass), written after the war, suggested the imagery. Once I had the image, I used a Berol handwriting pen over washes created with watercolour pencils and used the same to enrich. The scrap glass over the image was smashed with a hammer. In honesty I have not properly read The Tin Drum, but some years ago I did read ‘The Painted Bird’ (Jerzy Kosinski) and neither is for the faint hearted. Both, I think, deal with individual survival. In the end the image makes comment on the aspects of the war that my grandfather survived but didn’t say much about.”
“I love drumming. I love the sound, the rhythm, the feel of drumming. Fingertips on desktops, palms on bongos, sticks on big bass, brushes on snares – any type of drumming is ok with me. And Sandy Nelson was one of the first big name drummers to make its way into my consciousness. So having wallowed in the Sandy Nelson track several times, I first tried reflecting the rhythms by using sharpie pens as drum sticks, allowing the tips to mark as they would and then adding more purpose to my daubing as a kind of notation. I then moved on to create my own rhythms by allotting different colour paints to my fingers on each hand and drumming with first fingertips only and then with the flat of my fingers and palms. Finally, I used two paintbrushes as drum sticks and, one in each hand, bashed out the rhythm. I had such fun. I’ll probably do it again!”
“I became totally immersed in this and this early painting was trying to capture all of it in one place….”
“… I then felt that the whole piece reminded me of a train journey through various terrains. Maybe prompted by a trip I will be making next week. I love the planning and the anticipation of travel. Train journeys and stations have been cropping up in my sketchbooks for many years and its the rhythm of the trains and the intricacies of the cables that seem to lend themselves to this drumming piece I ran out of time to arrange all the images I had encountered in my imagination so here are some I have selected to represent this journey.“
“Upon doing some research I discovered that drumming releases endorphins, enkephalins and alpha waves in the brain, which are associated with feelings of happiness and well being. How wonderful! Is this why we tap out feet or click our fingers to a catchy rhythm or beat? Or perhaps even feel we simply have to get up and dance? Although this is a rather tenuous link – here are some quick sketches of happy couples ‘getting down with the beat’ and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Long may it continue!”
“The drumming of Sandy Nelson reminded me of heartbeats which can careen wildly under different circumstances. When I looked online for images of hearts, I was attracted to the somewhat psychedelic MRI images. I wanted to work large, but even with 18 x 24 paper, I was unable to do justice to all the different elements of the heart. I made no layout, but just started drawing in the upper center with my colored pencils, a small section each day. So both the line quality and the proportions changed as I went on. Whole sections were expanded, compressed, and left out – just like the trajectory of the drumming in my mind.”
“What a great album, thank you Charly, very inspiring. I find percussions and drums quite fascinating. When I was heavily pregnant with Sophie, we went to a Kodo Drummers gig. I didn’t realise it would be quite so loud and powerful, I could feel the sound waves going through me like through air, I could barely breathe. I was quite worried about Sophie, but she started kicking madly as soon as the sound stopped, which I took as a sign of appreciation. So here I am, back on the heart, and the heart beat responding to the drumming.” Acrylic Inks on watercolour paper, 25×17 cm.
“My immediate response to this prompt was ‘make a film’, so I set about trying to find a means to visualise Nelson’s percussive effects; I built some simple 2D shapes in the video-editing software and tried to ‘vibrate’ them. I had the image of a cymbal being struck, a disc-shape producing more complex effects due to the persistence of vision. I struggled a bit, because I couldn’t get what my imagination was showing me. That said, during the experiments that led me to give up on the idea of moving image, I began to develop some work for which I could muster more enthusiasm – and if not visualisations of sound exactly, than artwork that wouldn’t look too out of place on the front cover of a jazz album.”
“I’ve been enjoying listening to the amazing percussion of Sandy Nelson this week. I’d put it on when I was cooking, cleaning, working, it’s great for doing anything to. From time to time I’d grab a pen or a ruler and start tapping things in time to the music, the beats and rhythms are infectious. In response I made some cut-out paper shapes, trying to capture something of the music in the repeated shapes and colours of the papers. I then photographed them, overlaying the shapes and making different arrangements before adding some effects in Snapseed and Enlight. It was great fun and I found using sounds as a starting point was very freeing. It really encouraged spontaneity.”
“Still on whirligigs… but wishing to crank up the crank-shaft automation in order to learn a few new tricks whilst challenging the figure of speech ‘when pigs fly’. Some tweaking still to be done…”
“The plan was to plug the music for this week’s Kick About into a powerful plugin within Maya and have each drum model move to the rhythm of the whips and high hats in a synchronised swim of instruments. But alas my setup couldn’t handle rendering video with all the glossy gold materials and red rim lighting. Instead I decided to settle on snapshots and just focus on the materials and lighting, similar to the atmosphere you might see in a warm low lit speakeasy or jazz lounge.”
Thanks to Australia-based artist, illustrator and Kick-Abouter, Judy Watson, we have our new prompt, in the form of the drawings of Mervyn Peake. Have fun.