Save the date: Saturday June 17
Heart of a Saturday Night: The Songs of Tom Waits
Chris Lowry (vocals, guitar) with Tom Melville (piano), plus sax, clarinet, mandolin players TBA at the Free Times Café, Toronto
Stories of love and danger embedded in some of the most haunting melodies of our times.
Dylan’s Nobel Prize Blues
(Introduction to Songs of Bob Dylan show, January 2017, Chris Lowry and Bill Gilliam)
Dylan, Bob Dylan — they gave you a Nobel Prize for literature. What’s up with that?
Leonard Cohen nailed it when he said that giving Bob Dylan the Nobel was
“like pinning a medal on Mount Everest for being a mountain.”
From an early age Bobby Zimmerman was an insatiable musical sponge. Listening to everything he could find, he absorbed everything, and made up stories that drew on all the other stories. He identified with poets and con men, inverting Dylan Thomas’ name and making up stories about himself. He channeled the common culture of America like nobody else.
Dylan said he went deep into folk music to “find outlaw women, super thugs, demon lovers and gospel truths…
Folk songs were “filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings…”
Dylan’s long ‘song poems’ have a direct connection to the Beat literary revolution. In his memoir Testimony, Robbie Robertson says that when Dylan connected with Alan Ginsberg and other poets in San Francisco in 1965 there was a mutual recognition of “a strong link between Bob and the Beat poets. Before Bob, nobody had written songs overflowing with the kind of imagery he conjured; he shared with these writers a kind of fearlessness.”
In the Nobel prize committee’s speech they say “Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work. If people in the literary world groan, we can remind them that the gods don’t write, they dance and they sing.”
The other day I saw a film about John Berger, who did Ways of Seeing, and at one point he is looking at a portrait of Aesop by Velazquez, Aesop’s Fables, and Berger says he “identifies – with his skepticism which is never cynical – The storyteller – not the novelist, not the fashionable literary creator – Often nomadic – A traveller who goes from place to place and tells stories that he has lived, or that he is making up – A traveller who is completely free from institutions.”
What a beautiful description of Bob Dylan.
Here is one of those long, song poems, of which Tom Waits said “It is like Beowulf and it ‘takes me out to the meadow’. This song can make you leave home, work on the railroad or marry a Gypsy. I think of a drifter around a fire with a tin cup under a bridge remembering a woman’s hair. The song is a dream, a riddle and a prayer.”
With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Who do they think could bury you?
*** NEW PUBLICATION FROM ECOTONE ***
Afghanistan: Before The Rain of Fire
My photo memoir of travels in the mountains of Afghanistan in 1977 has just been published.
It was at the end of a long period of peace, just a few months before a coup d’etat that triggered the wars that have been ongoing ever since.
This link will take you to the online publishing platform called Blurb. where you can find the ebook or the hardcover print version, in English or French.
“You were so fortunate to have visited Afghanistan when the country was at peace. You saw and photographed a world that unfortunately no longer exists. I will share it with my friends in Afghanistan…some will weep at what was then and has been lost.”
— Peter Dalglish, 2017 recipient of the Order of Canada, former Country Representative for UN-Habitat in Afghanistan
“I was blown away by the book. Searing and powerful memories of my own very similar experience, only two or three weeks earlier, in the late fall of 1977. The woman shot dead for swimming in the nude in Afghanistan was also recounted to me, as a cautionary tale of respect for the local culture and the huge price you might pay or ignoring it, or just not knowing it. Brilliant story, wonderful photos!”
—David Edwards, former Canadian diplomat
“Chris Lowry’s photos and narrative do not pretend to offer an explanation and analysis of all this war and repression, but they challenge the viewer and reader to re-assess “Afghanistan” and its people and landscapes, as if seeing and considering them clearly for the first time.” —Grahame Russell, international human rights lawyer, Founder/Director of the NGO, Rights Action
Rebel Angel: A Portrait of Ross Woodman
Rebel Angel is a portrait documentary about my friend Ross Woodman (1922-2014). I first met Ross when I was an undergrad almost 40 years ago. His pure artistry as a lecturer made him unforgettable, life changing. Later, in 1981-82 Ross helped me, John Walker and Atlantis Films to make the award-winning portrait documentary about his friend Jack Chambers, Tracks and Gestures. Now I have come full circle and Ross is the subject of a portrait documentary. He was one the most influential Canadian art critics of the 20th century, an internationally recognized iconoclast in the field of English Romantic literature, and a passionately original interpreter Jung and Freud in the context of his profound knowledge of world literature and religious texts. To see the trailer and find out more, please visit rosswoodmanfilm
New article in Western News and the Alumni Gazette:
Ecotone is developing a prototype for the game DeepCity with new partners, Wero Creative and OCADU Digitial Futures GamePlay Lab.
DeepCity is a strategy game for PC/Mac set in a strange, fascinating future. Your Goal: Survive. Defend. Regenerate.
Think Tamagotchi meets SimCity meets Civilization and you get the core of DeepCity. The game world is shaped through actions that allow a user to explore prospective futures of energy and carbon, extreme weather and social unrest, infrastructure and mobility, as well as resources such as food and water. DeepCity deals with a climate-changed habitat similar to Mad Max with a bizarre internet-influenced twist. This allows a game that is a set in a dark world to have a light look and feel (similar to Adventure Time). Scenarios in the game will be updated based on trends within internet culture for a sense of humour and cultural touchstones. It simulates how an urban regional (eco)system in the near future could regenerate and thrive or fail in adversity.
NFB To stream GOLDTOOTH Online (coming soon!)
GOLDTOOTH is the sequel to the HIV/AIDS education cartoon for street kids, KARATE KIDS. Thanks to the efforts of animator Kai Pindal and other friends, the NFB has generously agreed to digitize GOLDTOOTH and stream it on the NFB site. Produced in 1989 and 1991, these award-winning films continue to be used by educators around the world and I am proud to have worked on them as a co-producer during my tenure as Director of Communications and co-founder of Street Kids International.
Tom Melville and I are diving deep into the Tom Waits songbook for a show Saturday June 17 at the Free Times in Toronto. How delightful to discover songs I have not known before, like All the World is Green, and Come on Up To the House, along with heart-melting classics like Blue Valentine. When we were booking the date someone said we could do it on a Sunday and I said, ‘Are you kidding? It’s Tom Waits, it’s gotta be Saturday night.’
If you want to get email notifications of gigs please let me know at email@example.com
A few more of our performances of Dylan can be found on my youtube music channel (Chris Lowry).
Mind Mulch, Cranium Compost
Here’s a piece I published in the Journal of Wild Culture online, The War On… Scarcity—a PDF version for your summer reading! Steal this book – compliments of Ecotone.
I was Senior Editor of the original Journal of Wild Culture, and I am delighted to be part of the new digital JWC.
Ecology and imagination, irreverence and mischief. wildculture.com.
More Music News:
I have uploaded my album, produced with local music legend David Woodhead, now available for you to download from Bandcamp.
If you’re looking for any of my work, you can find a lot of it here. Browse articles about my experiences with organizations such as Green Enterprise Toronto, Médecins Sans Frontières and Street Kids International, video clips from cartoons and docs that I have produced, or listen to some music.