Rock Review: Yes, ‘Close to the Edge’ – Close to being perfect.

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The Classic 1972 Progressive Rock Album.

Probably my favourite all time prog rock album, ‘Close to the Edge’ (Elektra/Rhino CD) by Yes.

I was quite young when this came out in 1972 and didn’t actually hear it until later in the following year, when my elder brother brought it home. I think I had heard ‘Fragile’ by then too, the band’s 1971 release, which kicked off with ‘Roundabout’, one of Yes’ more ‘accessible’ numbers for a young boy. Nevertheless, I remember being pretty impressed by the whole album.

Spiritual sound

However, when my brother put ‘Close to the Edge’ on our family hi-fi, at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The slow start of planetary, naturalistic sound, the incredible weaving together of all the different movements of side one, took some time for me to appreciate, but now it’s like one epic poem, a vast spiritual movement of sound that is hard to describe, in words. It just has to be experienced, let it take you somewhere.

I still particularly like the ‘I Get Up I Get Down’ section, so beautiful, bringing together all the singing talents of the band, not just Jon Anderson, but also Steve Howe and Chris Squire.

Five virtuosos

Which leads me to a major point. Has there ever been a better example of five incredible talents working together, at the top of their game, producing such a masterpiece? I would doubt it.

Jon Anderson’s unique voice and inspirational lyricism; Bill Bruford’s peerless percussion; Steve Howe’s sheer virtuosity on six and twelve strings; Chris Squire’s uniquely lyrical bass and underrated singing; Rick Wakeman’s pure genius and dexterous flair.

It would prove to be a small window, sadly. Very soon, Bill Bruford would be on his way, followed soon after by Rick Wakeman. But what a beautiful, ornately made window it was. It was of its time.

Woven together

Side Two for me is equally impressive. I can still quite easily listen to ‘And You And I’ on repeat. I love the start, with Steve Howe hitting the harmonics on his twelve string, the way Rick’s synth plays over the top is so joyful, full of life. And like all Yes tracks, it’s difficult to envisage how they all put this together, so differing are the elements, but they come to together beautifully, woven by lyrics which are both hard to fathom, yet totally fitting – a Yes trademark.

And the final track, ‘Siberian Khatru’. Heaven knows what it’s about but if I had just one track to take to my desert island, I think it would be this.

Atmospheric

Great, catchy guitar riffs to start off and great rock playing by the whole band, but soon the wonderful group singing harmonies come in to play, adding a great atmospheric and naturalistic feel.

Then all the virtuosity of the band kicks in – indescribable. Especially, towards the end when they sing pairs of mysterious words with lots of reverb, which may, or may not, be related… but it works, it means something, though I don’t know what it is. And did I mention Steve Howe’s jazzy guitar on the outro?

Just how it should be, long reign the mystery.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

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The Proms: An Extraordinary British Tradition

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The Proms begin today, July 19, perhaps the quintessential British cultural event, held each year in several venues in London between July and September, though most notably at The Royal Albert Hall.

The word proms is in fact a shortening of the term Promenade Concerts, a cultural phenomena which had its origins in 18th century London, which took place in pleasure gardens where the spectators were allowed to move around the orchestras. The word promenade is a borrowing from the French language, meaning to walk.

Music for the masses

In the 19th century this style of concert moved indoors as well, leading eventually to the establishment of ‘The Proms’ on August 10 1895 at the Queens Hall, Langham Place by the well known impresario, Robert Newman.

The idea was to offer the experience of classical music to the general public, with lower ticket prices in an informal setting. It has to be said that the idea worked, with a comprehensive schedule of performances spanning over two months.

Too English?

However, the Proms do have their detractors. For instance, I have heard it said more than once that they are too English. Whilst there is certainly a great deal of flag waving, a cursory look at the famous ‘Last Night of the Proms’, will reveal flags from all over the world.

What is more, much time and energy has been put in to diversifying the content, with the inclusion of world music, as well as folk music from all over Great Britain and Ireland.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

 

Portrait of An Artist, James Joyce – Astrology Musings

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James Joyce is the Irish colossus of English literature.

Novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, critic, linguist, singer… he was a man of many parts.

Brought up in a traditionally Catholic household, he rejected much of what that tradition stood for, becoming a leading member of the writing Avant-Garde, yet he never left the old Catholic world completely.

Widely travelled

He spent most of later years abroad, travelling to Italy, France and finally dying Switzerland; he may have left his native Dublin but it continued to dominate his thoughts, strongly influence his writing.

According to the birth data, he had Capricorn rising, an indication of a hard working approach to life. His ruler, Saturn, is in Taurus in house 5 of creativity, which is ruled by and making a difficult square to Venus in Aquarius in house 2 of personal security. He clearly put a lot of effort in to his creative art but it was always, especially early on, a financial struggle.

The Aquarian paradox

James Joyce was a Sun Aquarian, natives who typically have a certain rebellious or unusual streak about them, though who also, paradoxically, often adhere to certain aspects of conservatism all their life.

This may be due to the attribution of the traditional ruling planet of Aquarius, Saturn, in his more positive aspect. Uranus too has become associated with the fixed air sign.

Joyce had Venus conjunct his Sun in house 2. Here is his attraction to the artistic process and beauty in an Aquarian forward thinking manner.

Neptune inspires

His Sun is also closely square Neptune in Taurus, along with Jupiter in house 5. Joyce had a very fine tenor voice, and Neptune’s strong link to the Sun from Taurus, a sign which rules the throat, may be indicative of this, plus his abilities at creative writing and poetry.

His Mercury just into Pisces in house 3 hints at a fine imagination, especially as the ruler of house 3, Jupiter, is in conjunction with Neptune and trine Uranus from house 9.

Here is the extraordinary writing potential, which is at once imaginative, inspirational but also off beat.

Works like ‘Portrait’, ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ are testimony to this. Mercury is also the ruler of house 9 of the higher mind, where Uranus is found. He was something of a linguist too.

However, this Mercury is also trine Mars in Gemini. Here is the sharp intellect too, which gave him the ability to be a fine critic.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Berthe Morisot, the Art of Astrology – Musings

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Often considered one of the three great ladies of impressionism, Berthe Morisot’s works were described as exuding much feminine charm.

Born to a wealthy family, her early style was said to be ‘effleurer’, or of a light touch, though her palette was usually quite restrained in the use of colour.

She had three major periods in her work, watercolour, pastel, and then oil painting, though at times she was not averse to mixing all three mediums together. Even during her lifetime she was considered one of the best impressionists and still has a high reputation today.

Responsive love of balance

What can we see from her chart?

She has Cancer rising, making the Moon her ruler, which is in Libra conjunct Mars in house 4.

She seems to have had very strong feelings, and could probably argue well. The Moon in Libra loves balance and harmony and this is invigorated by the Martian energy. She was clearly very responsive. Mars is also the ruler of house 10 of career and house 5 of creativity, all indicative of an energetic and creative career.

A spur to achievement

Her Capricorn Sun in house 7 along with Mercury, gives her the ability to graft and study seriously, but clearly her marriage to Manet’s brother Eugene was extremely important, as was her relationships to other artists of that period, from whom she gained much inspiration.

However, the Sun’s challenging square to her Moon and Mars, shows that there were some major difficulties in her relationships at home, possibly in her childhood, which could have felt like a cleavage, but a spur to achievement in the long run.

A sea of artistic inspiration

It’s like her own strong feelings being at loggerheads with her sense of duty as a person as she grew.

Most interesting of all to my mind is Venus conjunct the MC in Pisces in house 9. If Venus can represent an aspect of art, then Pisces is like a sea of inspiration, very close to one of the prime indicators of career, or life direction.

This, perhaps, more than any other point in her chart, describes her very soft, subtle signature style of ‘effleurer’ and the ‘feminine charm’ she was known to illustrate in her work.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Paul Signac and the Art Revolution – Astrology Musings

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Paul Signac had a deep love of the sea. Photo by Pixaby. Pexels.com

Paul Signac is not necessarily the first name that springs to mind when one thinks of the post impressionist period at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Nevertheless, a short study of his life reveals how key he was, not only in supporting Georges Seurat, founder of pointillism, and helping Henri Matisse develop and grow beyond Fauvism, but also in establishing ideas in art theory and encouraging communist anarchism, which was very much a supporting philosophy, opening up so-called artistic freedom.

He was also a great collaborator and supporter of fellow artists, and became a long time president of the Société des Artistes Indépendants.

The sea

Although he originally trained as an architect, he began to paint seriously after seeing Monet’s work.

Signac adored the sea, not just painting it, but being on it, a part of it, sailing around the coasts of Europe, drawing and sketching, to bring ideas back to the studio. Eventually he settled by the sea at St. Tropez.

Pointillism

Intrigued by Seurat’s revolutionary pointillism, he became a supporter and developed the technique himself, which in his hands further developed later into larger squares of colour, as opposed to small dots.

In time he became president of the Salon des Independents, an important organisation of the time which set the standards for 20th century exhibitions, allowing more freedom for the artist.

Dominant water element

He also knew Van Gogh and worked with him for a time and wrote extensively on the theory of art, with much of his output remaining unpublished.

So what about his birth chart? Well, he has Aries rising, quite fitting for his pioneering attitude. He also has Neptune quite close to his ascending degree, also appropriate since he was so fond of the sea, almost spiritually attached to it. Neptune is quite often prominent in the charts of artists. The water element is also quite dominant in his chart as a whole.

Strong Scorpio and 8th house

Neptune is in opposition to Venus in Aquarius, another symbol of the feminine, which leads one to feel that this was often a source of unease in his life, particularly in regard to relationships, which might have been quite unusual and prone to mysterious endings.

What is most interesting in his chart though, is a very full house 8 in Scorpio. Here we have his ruler, Mars conjunct Mercury and Jupiter and the Sun and Moon together later in that house.

Penetrating, intense mind

His ruler here will add greater intensive energy; his systematic approach to art, like sailing around the European coasts for the purpose of painting, is an example of this.

Mars close to Mercury and Jupiter, gives him a deeply penetrating, inwardly expansive mentality, which as we have seen, correlates well to his writings about art theory and his strong interest in political movements like anarchistic communism.

Do or die attitude

Indeed, this house 8 activity, including of course his Sun and Moon, suggests a strong interest in and attachment to others and their establishment of security, and in the deeper, more secretive aspects of life, like death, regeneration, existence itself.

It is this ‘do or die’ outlook which could have led to the interest in more fundamental theorising politically and philosophically. It also points to the fact that he was a very loyal friend and collaborator to other artists and helped to steer the movement along a more productive path.

Fundamental

What’s more, there is the opposition of Pluto in Taurus in house 2 to house 8 Mercury, Mars and Jupiter.

Here we can see fully underlined the undermining attitude he had towards the status quo through his interest in anarchistic communism. He wanted to change things for the better, but believed that only fundamental, even drastic political change could bring that about, even at the potential cost of his own security.

A prime mover

Considering all this Scorpio and house 8 activity, it is perhaps not surprising that Paul Signac is not necessarily one of the better known artists of his time. Yet, he was nevertheless a prime mover behind the scenes.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Henri Matisse, Breaking New Ground in Art – Astrology Musings

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Henri Matisse, rival of Picasso, was one of the ground breaking artists of the last hundred years or so. He was noted for his sculpture and printmaking too.

Having first trained as a lawyer in France, he disappointed his wealthy father by taking up painting.

Meeting Australian artist John Russell in Brittany changed his life. Russell introduced him to impressionism and the work of Van Gogh.

Intensity of colour

Immediately he began to experiment with the use of intense colour, which led him to being one of the forerunners of the Fauvist movement of the early 1900s. From then on, he became ever more experimental, using large blocks of intense colour and increasingly more revolutionary styles. His extraordinary career spanned 50 years.

Astrologically, Matisse was born with expressive Leo on the ascendant, always pretty useful for a creative person who wants to make a mark.

His Moon in Sagittarius in house 5 would add a creative restlessness to his character, always open to new influences, especially from abroad. Nevertheless, with Saturn quite close to the Moon, he would always likely seek practical ways of applying that expression.

Personal drive

However, his ruler, the Sun, is found in Capricorn in house 6. Here is the ambition added to the forceful personality, the determination to apply and establish himself through hard work.

What is more, his Sun is trine a Jupiter Pluto conjunction on his midheaven in Taurus. This adds great practical opportunities and an intense drive to his career aspirations.

Practical application

The fact that he could turn his hand to more tactile work like sculpture and printmaking is shown by the Capricorn Taurus link up here.

Venus rules Taurus and his Venus is in Aquarius, hinting of his unusual, unique perspective on art. Jupiter, prominently placed and aspected, also rules his house 5 of creativity, which adds further to the mix.

Channelled energies

Though his Mercury in Capricorn shows mental astuteness, it is in exact opposition to his Uranus in Cancer in house 12 and square Neptune in Aries in house 9.

I think this indicates much mental agitation and energy, especially with Mars also not far away from Mercury. With Uranus in house 12 and Neptune involved, he might not have been consciously aware of where this agitated energy came from, but it may well have been a bonus for his creativity, inspiration and originality in art.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Astrology Bites: Vincent Van Gogh

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We are inspired by many things. What makes someone pick up a guitar and try to play it? Why are some of us artistic and others not?

And what made an artist like Van Gogh paint with such compulsive passion and intensity?

A look at his birth chart may cast a little light on this.

Spiritual impulses

The part of his chart that particularly stands out for me is the 9th/10th house around his midheaven.

Here we have Venus conjunct Mars in Pisces, along with Neptune in the earlier part of the Fish.

We know he initially wanted to be a priest, and certainly, one interpretation of this aspect, close to the midheaven, could be that he was very much inclined to religious feelings and impulses and would want to use them outwardly, in a career.

Uniting with the numinous

In Pisces, though, it’s often difficult to know where these feelings come from, there’s a lot of subconscious, unfathomable energy here, a deep impulsive need to unite with the numinous, strongly and intensely.

So, in other words, the love principle is very deep here and emotionally supercharged by nearby Mars square to Jupiter.

But although he clearly had a strong spiritual impulse, it never quite seemed to suit or satisfy him being involved in a conventionally religious way, like training for the priesthood.

Expression in the world

The process of painting, using strong imagery and colours, however, eventually gave this deep intensity greater expression in the world.

Painting brought all of this out into the open in a most wondrous flowering of creativity over a relatively short period of time, bequeathing to us an incredible legacy.

His Sun and Mercury in Aries would only heighten this energy and impatience, giving him great verbosity (trine Jupiter) too, plus a tendency towards impatience and anger.

Wanderlust

Van Gogh was always likely to travel too. Cancer rising gave him an emotional, caring approach to life but his ruler, the Moon, is in far ranging Sagittarius and close to the Archer’s ruler Jupiter in his 6th house of work. And Jupiter also rules the sign on the midheaven, doubling up.

This in itself, is an indicator of travelling long distances for work, but also has religious and philosophical connotations, if not the deeper, more spiritual impulses.

Creative outpouring

Although born in Holland, he spent time in London and northern France, before settling in the south of France for those last, few, incredibly intense years of his short life, which produced, arguably, one of the most brilliant outpourings of artistic creativity ever.

It’s as if painting was the only medium which allowed him to express what he felt subconsciously.

However, in the end, even painting failed to keep him long in this world. I’m sure, however, that we are eternally grateful that he stayed long enough to leave us so many paintings to enjoy.

A fish out of water

He sought the eternal numinous in his short life but was never quite satisfied. Ironically, his struggle did achieve eternal fame for him posthumously. He only sold one painting while he was alive.

Looking at his chart as a whole, it is largely top heavy. Van Gogh poured out his soul to the world which could not sustain him.

He was very much a fish out of water.