KS Coming Through [on KS Friday]

Last night, in one of the great shocks of my life, Kerri began humming the theme song from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. My dedicated Hallmark movie watching wife, deep in a story of snowy-christmas-romance, the predictable kiss impending, out of nowhere, hummed as if it was her favorite tune, the theme from a spaghetti western. Clint Eastwood flipped his poncho, bit his cigarette, crinkled his eyes.

For a moment I thought she was possessed. Ennio Morricone was coming through.

Humming, she never looked away from the screen, her eyes misted over with the inevitable conclusion. Two lonely people found each other against all odds in the final minute of the movie. Squeaky clean romance to the tune of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

“Where did that come from?” I asked

“What?” she replied.

Moments later a new song hummed to the surface. I asked her to recall the spaghetti western tune but she couldn’t. Apparently she is either a mystic-music-channel or a human radio station.

Life with a world-class musician is never dull. Since I was born without the music gene, I generally find her either magical or mystical. The other day we emerged from the woods to find a thongophone. Yes. A thongophone. Without a moments hesitation, she approached this mountain-that-I-cannot-climb, picked up the thongs, and began to play the pvc pipes with ease. Her tune was whimsical and bright. I sat in the sun and enjoyed the concert she played for fun.

When she was done, she bowed. I applauded and asked, “Where did that tune come from?”

“What?” she replied. “I dunno. I made it up.”

Kerri Sherwood. Coming through.

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about the THONGOPHONE

galena/released from the heart © 1995 kerri sherwood

Turn And Look [on KS Friday]

Sometimes in the middle of the night the monsters come out and dance through my mind. Last night was one of those nights. I’ve learned not to take them seriously. I’ve learned that their visit is meant to inspire gratitude. Rather than fight, forgive. Rather than run, turn and look.

I’ve always felt deeply connected to birds of prey, especially hawks. Many years ago, during an “art as transformation” class, an elder came to teach us how to make medicine shields. We gathered and designed our symbols, bent willow, stretched hide. I was visited by a hawk as I walked the mountain so the sun side of my shield includes a hawk. I keep it in my studio.

There’s a hawk in our neighborhood. We know it’s around when the crows explode in alarm. To see the hawk, follow the crows’ relentless assault.

While planting pampas grass against the fence, Kerri gasped and whispered, “Turn around slowly.” Before I could reposition, the hawk disappeared. It had perched on the fence above our heads. A ghost. No crow alarm. Kerri and the hawk looked each other in the eye. “It was huge!” she said.

Moments later, the planting complete, the hawk flew through and landed in the neighbor’s tree. Squirrels froze in place. The crows, sleeping sentinels, awoke. The alarm went out. The hawk paid it no heed.

A visit. A monster in the dreams of squirrels and chipmunks, I felt nothing but awe. The hawk remained in the tree for a long time. We looked at it. It looked at us. Gratitude.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE HAWK

take flight/this part of the journey © 1998 kerri sherwood

Let Go And Fly [on saturday morning smack-dab.]

“Learning and unlearning can only take place in the context of decision making.” ~ Russ Ackoff, On Learning and Systems That Facilitate It

I was reading this phrase in the article when Kerri showed me the Smack-Dab cartoon for this week. Uncanny. The decision to change. Unlearning who you think you are in order to learn who you might become.

There’s a lot of unlearning going on in our house.

Here’s a secret about maps: you can only draw them after the fact. “Knowing how” comes second, after “not knowing how.”

Unlearning, facing the unknown, it’s not linear or easily traced. It’s a tug-a-war between the safety of what you know and the absolute necessity of getting lost.

There’s a photograph I often think about: my uncle Al, in the last months of his life, dying from cancer, fulfilled a dream to fly on the high trapeze. In the photo, he’s released the first swing, sailing through the air, reaching for but not quite touching the second swing. The look on his face, eyes wide open, full delight, utter freedom. Elated. Fully alive in the space between.

There’s a lot of that going on in our house, too. The decision to let go and fly.

read Kerri’s blogpost about MAPS

smack-dab. © 2022 kerrianddavid.com

Become Simple Enough [on KS Friday]

I took a photo of Kerri taking this photo. There’s nothing more inspiring to me than watching an artist at work. Her focus was singular. Pure. I saw her “see” this possibility. She turned, left the reality that the rest of us occupied, and approached the window as if it was an animal in the wild. Carefully, quietly. Reverently.

Her photo immediately brought to mind Ellsworth Kelly’s Austin, his temple of light. The vibrant squares of color. Someday we will make a pilgrimage to the Blanton Museum to stand in Austin and, in that moment, I will remember Kerri’s window.

In a world of just-get-to-the-point, time-is-money, and bottom-lines, and the centuries-old-delusion that we are rational beings and the analytical is supreme, an artistic heart and mind is an outlier. We use too many words. We are not reserved in our gesticulation. We express what words cannot reach because we see what lives beyond words. And, developing eyes-that-see takes time. Ellsworth Kelly designed his Austin in his last years. It takes years and years to become simple enough to see the sacred.

Recently we were told, not for the first time, “So many people want what you have but they don’t want to pay for it.” Kerri and I looked at each other. Her great pet-peeve, the pinnacle of all pet-peeves, is how often she’s been asked to play, not for money, but for exposure. She’s considered by Yamaha, the maker of fine pianos, to be one of their select artists, a modern master. Yet, all of her life, with frightening regularity, she’s heard, “It will be good for you!” the face smiles, “It might lead to something.” Yes. It does lead to something: more people wanting what you have but not willing to pay for it. Point in any direction to anyone who’s achieved the pinnacle of their career, and imagine asking them to perform surgery or keep the books or go to trial or build the house for exposure. Can you imagine? She – we – have heard it throughout our lives.

And, when she turned and saw the window, her sudden awareness shocked the people in the gallery into silence. Everyone turned, made space, and watched. She had no idea that she was on stage. Pure. And, without exception, everyone in that room wished they could see what she was seeing. They wished they could see how she was seeing. Sacred. It takes a lifetime. Austin. The window. Priceless.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WINDOW

Kerri’s albums are available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

Whisper, “Thanks.” [on KS Friday]

We found the gratitude wall in a small mountain town. It was a mess of appreciation, overrun with thankfulness. I thought, but did not say, “This ought to be the visual expression of every inner life.”

I didn’t write on the wall. I whispered my gratitude to the wall. Kerri played for my father’s funeral service. This woman, who is a Yamaha artist, considered a modern master at her instrument, after breaking both wrists, after a second fall, an injury from which she will never fully recover, with a middle finger that sometimes responds and sometimes does not, with a pinky that is curling, wrists that cannot bend, hands that cannot reach the keys as they once did…she played. For the first time in many, many months. She stood at a piano and played. Beautifully.

My dad, a great lover of music, spent hours of his life listening to her CDs. He loved her playing, delighted in her compositions.

I cried for two reasons at the funeral. Both reasons overwhelmed me with gratitude. I was a mess of appreciation, so, I whispered my bottomless thank-you to the gratitude wall.

kerri’s albums are available on iTunes & streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about GRATEFUL

grateful/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Thank The Muse [on KS Friday]

two wrists copy

She said in jest, “I should take the next two weeks and record an album. I’ll call it Two Broken Wrist!” I would have laughed except she was playing the piano when she said it. Four days after the fall. The day after the cast. Were I blindfolded I would not be able to tell that she has no use of her right thumb and limited use of her right fingers. The fingers on her left will spread as far as the sprain will allow. I muttered in my new role as mother hen, “Don’t hurt yourself.” And then I closed my eyes.

Her playing left me slack-jawed. She has her doctor’s permission to play (“It’ll be good to move your fingers but don’t expect too much and don’t push it.”). I wish her doctor was standing beside me. She’d have laughed at the absurdity of the image. The disjoint of sound and image. I’d ask the doctor if this was what “pushing it” looked like?

It is, of course, what most people do not grok. Artists need to do-the-thing-they-do. If they don’t, they implode. It makes no sense but very few life-callings make sense. There is a deeper imperative at play. A muse must have satisfaction. Monet painted when blind. Was he pushing it?

Kerri played the piano. She had to. Her greatest fear, the largest monster in her closet, is the loss of her hands. She had to approach the keys, to visit the abyss, to see if the monster had her by the wrists or if she could push it back into the dark. Her words, ” “I should take the next two weeks and record an album…” was a celebration. It was a moment of soul-sighing-relief. The monster whined and vanished. I closed my eyes, not to spare myself the image of her possible pain, but to whisper a thank you to the muse. In my estimation, there has never been a more beautiful piece of music played.

There is a long road ahead.

I hope she records that album. The clucking you hear in the background will be me, reminding her to go slow, to take it easy. You won’t be able to hear her eye-rolling reply, but it’s there, too. Trust me.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TWO BROKEN WRISTS

 

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their palettes website box copy

Read The Symbol [on DR Thursday]

daisy framed copy jpeg copy

When I was flying in to meet Kerri for the first time, she told me that I’d recognize her because she’d be the one holding the daisy. Consequently, were you to scrutinize my paintings these days, you’d find more than a few daisies.

Her daisy-greeting-idea cemented what I suspected before I met Kerri. She is special. This was my thought process/reasoning: This woman has 15 albums in the world.  Her picture is everywhere in the Google-sphere. Yet, it never occurred to her that I should or would know what she looks like. She’s humble.  Also, point #2, I did my research. The maker of extraordinary pianos, Yamaha, consider her a “Yamaha Artist” or [translation] a modern master who performs almost exclusively on their pianos. With that kind of resume, with that size of gift and notoriety, you’d think she’d have mentioned it during those many months of conversation that preceded our meeting. She didn’t. She’s an unassuming artist (the best kind).

Humble. Unassuming.

The second time I flew in she greeted me at the gate with a veritable bushel of daisies.

My paintings are filled with symbols. Some conscious. Most not. I discover them after the fact [like those *#@^! three spheres that populated most of my early work. Jim had to pull out my paintings and point them out to me…] The daisies? I know exactly what they represent. I know without doubt when and why a composition requires a daisy.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DAISY

 

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daisy – all of them ©️ circa 2013

Reflect On It [on KS Friday]

her palette - the piano copy

I so loved Kerri’s post yesterday that, today, I’m reflecting it back to her.

Do we ever really know what it takes to do someone else’s job? We don’t know the tools used, the research done, the years of training and experience, how someone perceives their own work. We can only guess and, most often, fall desperately, arrogantly, audaciously off the mark.

Kerri’s piano dominates her studio. A black 6’7″ Yamaha grand. It is not a show piece, it is a workhorse. Littering the music stand are stacks of composition notebooks, idea journals, sketches (she is visual) and pile after pile of church music – old hymnals, new downloads of pieces she’s considering for her ukulele band, choir or handbell choir. On the floor are several heavy binders arranged in alphabetical order with the music already played, binders from the 30 years of experience as a minister of music. There is yet another stack reserved for pieces she’s considering playing with Jim, her brilliant guitarist. Lining the walls are ukuleles, a few guitars, a cello, a keyboard, several music stands, more stacks of the original recordings of her albums (note: they are not stored as sacred artifacts. Rather, they are piled willy-nilly for easy reference). My wife is a Yamaha artist (look it up) and her constantly shifting studio topography (ever-moving piles) is testament to the music in her soul, her very-long history of artistry.

Now, I’ve sung a song or two in the shower. When I met Kerri I told her that I didn’t sing and she fairly quickly called my bluff. I sing in her choir. I delight in singing with her and Jim. They are kind and pretend that I add something to their mix. Nowadays I can even pick out a slow tune on the ukulele!

All of this, however, does not make me capable of really understanding how Kerri plays or composes. I can pluck a note. I can warble a song. I will, however, never have mastery of all the instruments, I will never approach her capacity to transpose on the fly, or compose poetry and melody. I will never hear the nuance she hears, the music of silence. I do not have a natural gift of music nor an entire lifetime to exercise and explore it.

I do not know the tricks of the trade she has accumulated over decades of honing her expertise. Nor do I know the knowledge base she brings about other artists, other musicians and compositions, the instrumentation, the way she ‘feels’ an audience and adjusts, the very technical details and the very heart-based intuitions she has learned through many, many years of study and practice. I can’t understand or even try to predict the amount of time it takes (or doesn’t take) for her to conceptualize, to explore, to create, to review, to assess, to adjust, to re-create. I can respond to her work but I cannot define it, nor would it be credible for me to even try to do so. Out of respect for her work, this ‘music’ that is one of the essential things that define her, I know that I really have no idea. I will never approach all that she knows. What I can do is appreciate the enormity of her talent, the endless hours of study, pursuit, practice, passion, experimentation, frustration, rehearsal, writing, performance, teaching, research, recording, pondering, pounding and playing and playing and playing – a lifetime of experience – that has brought her to this place where she creates beautiful music that seems to take no effort whatsoever.

Making it look easy. It takes a lifetime. The woman who delivers our mail has been a postal carrier for 30 years. It is hubris to think I know what that takes. It is utter arrogance to think I could pick up a mailbag and simply know what she knows, do what she does. Experience is invisible. Value is too easily reduced to dollars and cents. As Kerri wrote yesterday, with regard to anyone, the work they do, the life-path they bring to their work, we have no idea. It is both humbling and respectful to take a step back and consider the invisible, to remember that what appears easy comes from years and years of very hard work.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on KS FRIDAY

 

 

their palettes website box copy

 

Look Back [on KS Friday]

where i'm from songbox copy

Every artist has a root. They stand firmly on the shoulders of other artists that inspire and inform their work. They have experiences that color their expression. Every artist walks a seeker’s path. They, of necessity, stand at the edge of their village so they can 1) see clearly the machinations of their community, but more importantly, 2) they serve as a bridge to help their community across boundaries of time and space, providing necessary access to the unseen world, the greater things that cannot be grasped in law or calculation or bought with currency. Inspiration. Ancestry. Purpose. Love. Soul. Aspiration. Perspective. Hope. Possibility.

It is a happy accident that for this week’s Studio Melange Kerri shared a new piece of music, YOU’RE THE WIND, a song never  before recorded, while also choosing this piece for KS Friday, WHERE I’M FROM, recorded over 20 years ago. It traces her path. It speaks to her sources.

WHERE I’M FROM is an appropriate title. It is a reaching back, recorded before Kerri met broadcast constraints and the squeeze of the music industry’s labels (New Age) expectations. It radiates innocence. It took me back to my childhood, transported me to carefree days in the sun, mountain meadows, games of four square with the neighborhood kids, my dad teaching me to ride a bike. She took me across the boundary of time, she helped me touch my source, a visit to where I am from.

Take the time to let this artist hold your hand and take you across the boundary, back to your source, to touch for a moment the greater things that live beyond the day’s achievements. Let her remind you of all that truly matters as you turn and look back and visit your mountain meadow and perhaps, as I did, appreciate the riches of the life that you’re living.

 

WHERE I’M FROM on the album BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE I’M FROM

 

skipper's pub, northport harbor, ny website box copy

 

 

where i’m from/blueprint for my soul ©️ 1997 kerri sherwood

you’re the wind ©️ 2005/18 kerri sherwood

Appreciate It [on KS Friday]

every breath song box copy

Yesterday we drove the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive to see the fall leaves. It was our anniversary gift to each other. A day off. A day away. A conscious decision to step out of the busy-list of to-dos, the concerns and stresses, the tug and pull and demands…. What could be a better gift to each other than presence with each other. Time less wandering with intent to appreciate.

Every Breath could be the soundtrack of our gift-drive. The crisp air, the glow of the leaves (“Look at that hillside!” she gasped). An utter appreciation of all things passing. Every Breath.

On another note, if the cello line in this piece doesn’t kill you, then you need to take the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive and wake up. Kerri’s compositions were made to be played with the rich depth of a symphony. Every Breath will make you catch your breath. It’s gorgeous like the leaves.

 

EVERY BREATH on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes and CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY BREATH

 

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every breath/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood