Ancient Multiculturalism

Lately the word "multiculturalism" or globalization gets a lot of exposure. But in fact, multicultural influences have been around for years, centuries, probably millennia.

While enjoying some tourism with my pianist friend Raj Bhimani after a good week of solid rehearsing, we went to the beautiful Monastery of Jeronimos in Belém, Lisbon. It dates from 1601 (after 100 years of construction!) and is in the Manueline Style. It is one of the few buildings in this late Gothic style that survived the catastrophic earthquake of 1755.

The nave is exquisite: lofty and elegant, moving in it's very form and materials. The ribbed vaults are particularly spectacular, and as I was photographing them, I saw how closely their pattern resembles Moorish tile-work, in form and repetition. Considering the dominance of the Moors in Portugal from about 711 to 1249, it shouldn't be too surprising, but somehow, at the very apex of a major cathedral, it IS a surprise … and a reminder that styles and people have always commingled… the melting-pot was not, after all, an American invention!


The Importance of Being (like) Bill Cunningham

You may notice in the sidebar a link to the New York Time's series on street fashion called "On the Street", and wonder what on Earth that has to do with music and flute-playing! The answer is: indirectly, A LOT!

"On the Street" is a regular feature of the NY Times, and for nearly 40 years it has been written and photographed by the inimitable Bill Cunningham. His narration of the videos can cheer up your worst day by the sheer enthusiasm he has for his subject (clothes, form, color, NY City) and his subjects (everyone from fashion-plates to ordinary New Yorkers to some truly outlandish dressers). In a way, his enthusiasm is for…enthusiasm! Meaning, if you're going to do something (like get dressed, or play the flute) then DO IT WITH PIZAZZ, do it 100%, and do it in your own way. I think it's easy to apply this to our performing or creative work, too! Otherwise, why bother? Ten Thousand Hours is a lotta time…

Alas, at age 87, Mr. Cunningham passed away in June and has been mourned by his many, many devotees—the photographed and the mere NY Times onlookers (moi). In 2009 he was actually named a Living Landmark, and in 2009 was named to the Legion of Honor by the French Government. However, you can still read about his life and see a slideshow about his work and subjects, or find his cheerful videos on the NY Times site. While we're enjoying the month of August, it's good to stock up on inspiration for the next season, no?

A Bill Cunningham moment backstage in Lisbon: shoes with attitude!

A Bill Cunningham moment backstage in Lisbon: shoes with attitude!