Welcome back everyone to The Craneskin Bag! There is plenty of room inside, so get comfy, I have many treasures to share with you all. The new moon this October marks the closest new moon to the Earth in 2020. So, understandably, it is without a doubt a great time to plant your magic beans, turn the page to chapter one and breathe in deep the crisp air of newness dawning its dance macabre all around you. A heart felt thank you to everyone and all who have been writing to me with their appreciation for the The Craneskin Bag and those of you sharing the blog to your like-minded kin. It means so much to me to have your support and see the readership of this bag of tricks growing every month. It makes the writing of it all the more joyful and inspiring!
Speaking of Inspiration…
Let us steer the course of our bag into a world of illumination shall we?
Now to say this last month has been productive might be the understatement of the year. I must say, I am very grateful for 2020, I know it has its extreme challenges, but as an artist it has forced me to recalibrate and distill my practice towards what I need to do over what I was doing. So, this year I have directed my artistic compass into creating the Illumination Tales films with a crew of highly trained and talented visionaries. My beloved fiancé Angie Holm is at the helm directing this latest installment and her cinematic vision has highly influenced the look of these story/song shorts. The latest offering also brings in new members to the Dalrymple family. The Aerial Lab Performance crew http://www.theaeriallab.com/ came on board with choreographer, Cirque du Soleil dancer par excellence, (and a dear friend to boot!) Alayna Duarte, with fellow cavorting spirits Alina Candelario and Jayden Niris to raise a festive hackle upon your boney vertebrae. Pop your curious eyes into the hole of that weird neighbors fence. Witness the Dalrymple MacAlpin Samhain holiday special~
You might not want to hear it but, “Summer Has Gone.” It left some while ago whilst we were sleeping on the last bit of warm soil, sprinkled on the grave of a sun drenched yesterday. The dark half of the year approaches stealthily like a sleek shadowy panther, silently stalking its unwary prey. We are in the jaws of Autumn, about to be swallowed whole by the imminent and icy belly of darkness that is winter. This is nothing to get unhinged over. It is necessary and I give my personal welcome to the shifting seasons with the latest installment of Illumination Tales.
~Summer Has Gone~
I have tidings for you: The stag bells; winter pours; summer has gone;
Wind is high and cold; the sun is low; its course is short; the sea runs strongly
Bracken is very red; its shape lies hidden; the call of the barnacle-goose has become usual
Cold has seized the wings of birds; season of ice: these are my tidings
This early Irish poem, dated roughly around the 9th century, conveys to me a message that within a landscape shrouded in stark bleakness there is in fact tremendous beauty everywhere. Nothing in this poem translates as sorrowful to me. The season of ice portends the opening of a new dimension, a world of stillness, reflection and meditation. These words are as powerful today as they were when written down over a thousand years ago and by George, don't they still ring with the chill of ice?
Another fascinating bit about this poem is that it has always been attributed to… yes you guessed it! Finn mac Cumhaill. If this is your first time in the Craneskin Bag and you don’t know who Finn mac Cumahill is, well then please take a gander over at yonder page inquisitive reader~
In my story/song cycle, Illumination Tales, I adhere to Irish tradition and it is Finn himself who speaks these words, right before he walks off alone into the abyss of night in pursuit of his fairy foe, Culdub mac Dein. I was inspired to write music for “Summer Has Gone” for Illumination Tales because it was composed by the great Irish hero Finn mac Cumhaill and also because it has always been on the periphery of my poetry radar, calling out in its ghostly whisper, as these sorts of things have a habit of doing. The word 'ghostly' just now reminded me that while working out the arrangement for the poem, I was suddenly overcome with a presence in the room. All at once I heard the echo of the past ding across the dale and ring between the veil, I felt that I was not the first person to translate this poem into a song.
Cold and invisible hands guided my fingers to strange chords and harmonies I had never experimented with before.
The end result has an ancient and unfamiliar sound which I think serves the text in a way that I hope Finn mac Cumhaill would have wished for.
First show of the year~
That is right, it is possible to perform a show in front of live human souls after all. I was hired to perform at a private autumnal equinox gathering at Sunset Ranch, the home of the Five Flavors Herbs family. Check out their delightful herbal world and if an acorn falls on your head and you know what the Green Man said, they just might know too~
I slung two harps on my back, a fist full of puppets in my hand and within the shackles of an old dusty barn I sang to my first live audience of the year. One thing which was momentous about the occasion was that it marked the debut of Dortchen Wild on the stage. These folks at Five Flavors herbs are very interested in Dortchen and her witches garden and so she regaled the intimate, (covid safe) crowd with an acapella performance of an aria she sings in the forthcoming Rumpelstilzchen Marionette Opera. She sang of belladonna, henbane, aconite and mandrake and all to a thunderous clapping, stomping and drum thumping audience for her very first time. I was so proud of her. Truly this and this alone is when a puppet is born. On the stage.
Above photo of Dortchen by~ Waking Crow Photography. https://www.wakingcrow.com/
Here is the somewhat shaky evidence of Dortchen caught in the act during the autumnal night of balance~
And a few stills which also capture the aromatic scent of barn dust~
Puppet Mastery and Puppet Podcasts~
October 1st saw a much-anticipated online course open up out of Iceland called, Puppet Mastery with Bernd Ogrodnik. I wrote about Bernd in my past blog, Midsummer Manifestations when I was taking online classes during the international puppetry week at the O'Neill Theatre Center based in Waterford Connecticut. Bernd's lecture really stood out to me and it has been amazing diving deeper into this art form with a real life, honest to goodness puppet master. Next month I will have more to show you of the puppet I am carving in his class, but for now, let me just say that as a teacher, Bernd goes beyond sharpening chisels and wooden joints and into the philosophy of puppets. He presented his students right away with one of my favorite essays on trees by the German author, Herman Hesse, of which I present a few excerpts here for your enjoyment~
"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.
Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”
Timing is everything with puppetry and just in time to drop it in The Cranesking Bag, yesterday in fact, I was interviewed on The Puppet Podcast, where puppeteers from all over the world discuss the art of puppetry and what it means to them. It was a delightful time talking puppets with the host, Caroline Bernier-Dionne, herself a former puppeteer for Cirque du Soleil. I was very fortunate to be a part of episode #71 which you can check out here~
I want to share with you all a remarkable artist from Wales, one that is that is little known outside of the British Isles, but to me, deserves world-wide recognition. Drum roll please…I humbly present to you, Meic Stevens. Straight out of Wales in the year 1970 came his outstanding wyrd psych-folk masterpiece, Outlander . Although Stevens often gets labeled by an uncreative press as the Welsh Bob Dylan, he is really his own man, with his own sound and his own bag of incredible ballads and poignant heart wrenching songs. Stevens is actually known as a folk hero in Wales today because he mainly chooses to sing in Welsh and nothing but Welsh. A language that is often said to be dead but is hanging on strong to this day, in part thanks to Meic Stevens.
However, Stevens made a dramatic shift by singing in mostly English when he recorded Outlander. It is not the English language of Outlander that makes it a genuine classic to my ears, the songs could have all been sung in Welsh and I would not have looked the other way, but the music is just SO powerful and alive that it escapes from itself and mingles with your mind in the most satisfying ear wormy wondrous way. Don't take my word for it, take two spins for yourself right now. It just happens to be a perfect October listening party of your very own~
Farewell for now~
Until we meet upon the November new moon, balancing upon the precipice of reality, be safe and remember never to fear laughter, especially when something tickles your fancy funny bone.
From this trickster troubadour, sitting on his storytellers’ stool, I wish all of your cauldron's full of poetry and potions this Samhain tide.
Tall and thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, October 16th, 2020