TOGETHERTOGETHER

Aug
9

Together Mixtape ‘Immortal Joe’ Edition

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Welcome back to our bi-weekly playlist!

In this instalment, we have an inspiration mixtape for our upcoming western ghost story. The third entry in the ‘Beastly Bards’ collection… Enjoy!

 Together Mixtape ‘The Ballad Of Immortal Joe’ edition

Aug
5

Immigrant Song – Part Two

A couple of weeks ago, our friend Paula pulled a book out of a bag, and it had the same effect as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The book she shared was magical.

It was The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

If you’re an illustrator, or a reader of picture books and graphic novels, then you will be familiar with Shaun Tan. If you’re an animator, you may have seen the Academy Award-winning film based on another of his books, The Lost Thing.

Paula is an actor who also teaches. At the moment, she teaches a class that is about 60% ESL students. She had shown the book to them and they were, she said, “blown away”. Because, through only the visual language of illustration, a universal and deeply affecting story of migration/immigration is told. We got our hands on a copy as soon as we could, and we were blown away too.

With one main story and several back-stories, there is a familiar movement: characters have to leave their homes because of danger or instability and make the journey to a place that is safer, but new and baffling.

Tan’s genius lies in the quality of his drawings and in the moments he chooses to portray. He uses fantasy to move us away from our preconceived notions and internalized migration narratives and focus instead on the very personal day-to-day adjustments that moving to a new place entails. Because Tan uses fantasy instead of reality, we, like the characters in the book, have to figure out if the thing in front of us is a plant or an animal, and whether it is friendly, or dangerous, poisonous, or edible. We are truly in the shoes of the characters, rather than having any kind of 3rd person omniscient view.

‘Ticket’ pencil on paper

Tan spent nearly 5 years on research for The Arrival. He looked at a wide range of immigrant stories, conducting interviews, delving through photos, and looking at archived material. In his keynote speech at IBBY 2012, Tan said:

I quickly realized that instead of focusing on things that made sense, trying to simplify some universal migrant experience, trying to understand everything, the best thing to do is simply focus on strangeness, dislocation and complexity. In other words, trying to make a world as befuddling as our own would be to any new immigrant, to just imagine what that is like. And above all else, to never actually explain anything.

That is precisely what makes The Arrival as emotionally wrenching as it is beautiful to look at, and as universally comprehensible.

 

Jul
26

Together Mixtape ‘Immigrant Song’ edition

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Welcome back to our bi-weekly playlist!

Being an immigrant has it’s own set of concerns… You wear the wrong things in winter, you eat at different hours than your friends and, as much as you love your adoptive home, there is always a slight sense of being out of place. So in this edition we’ve compiled some songs about that feeling of being the person from far away… Enjoy!

 Together Mixtape ‘Immigrant Song’ edition

*Don’t forget to support the artist you like by buying their music and going to their gigs if they play in your hometown.

Jul
22

Dumbells in Stereo

On June 15th, Jason Wilson, an award-winning Canadian reggae artist and musician/composer extraordinaire, put together a performance called “The Dumbells: Soldiers of Song” at Hugh’s Room here in Toronto. The show was based on the research he did for his book about Canadian military concert parties: entertainment units formed to boost soldier morale amid the mud, trenches, and cannon fire of the Great War.

From Library and Archives Canada: “‘The Dumbells’ Concert Party. Formed from 3rd Canadian Division in France. The entire company in their closing number of the show.”

As the narrator, local storyteller Lorne Brown said, the reason most of the audience had never heard of the Dumbells was because they were “Canadian legends”. The joke is we’re good at forgetting our own heroes and stars in this country. The Dumbells, having been on active duty, and experiencing poison gas, debilitating muck, and shrapnel wounds, provided a respite to the troops from the horrors of war while possessing a deep understanding of what their brothers-in-arms faced. Though keenly aware that their audience may not survive the next battle, the Dumbells boosted morale by skewering superior officers, injecting gallows humour into jaunty songs, and providing much needed vaudevillian comedy through sketches and female impersonators. In watching some of their songs and sketches come to life at Hugh’s Room, one could sense not only the humanity of the soldier/performers and the distance they must’ve felt from home, but also their very youth. One could imagine how desperate the need for such entertainment was when not set in a cozy neighborhood bar, but in a distant, unfamiliar and dangerous battlefield. Something about re-animating comedy from WWI, with what we know now of the battles of attrition and the huge casualties, added a layer of pathos to the words being spoken or sung.

Some who were part of the Dumbells (or other concert parties) returned to active duty and died overseas. Those who survived the war, however, continued to perform for the following decade. The Dumbells were hugely popular in Canada upon their return, and played London (Ontario), London (England), Brussels, and Broadway. They completed 12 cross-Canada tours, and made some of the earliest Canadian recordings for His Majesty’s Voice.

The same week we were introduced to the Dumbells’ story, however, we came across another piece of WWI history. We happened upon A Nerd’s World, a new gallery/camera sanctuary/design studio on Bathurst Street. (How can you not enter a place called A Nerd’s World?) On the counter, they had an original French WWI Verascope stereo camera and slides.

Soldiers in the trenches. (photo: Chris and Grace Hughes)

Soldiers in the trenches at Laffaux, along the Chemins-de-Dames, where the French suffered severe losses as part of the Nivelle Offensive. (photo: Chris and Grace Hughes, A Nerd’s World)

The slides were not taken to be art, they were to document the war.  But the stereoscopic images which have survived also bring aspects of WWI to life in a startling way. (Some of the slides have been rendered in 3D online here.) Like much documentary and journalistic photography, there is a sense of composition and timing to the slides. To photographers Chris and Grace (co-founders of A Nerd’s World), there was an obvious emotional value to both the slides and the camera used to take them. Their valuation of the images allowed the slides to reach a wider audience, just as Jason Wilson’s evaluation of the Dumbell’s place in Canadian and theatre history has allowed their story to reach a new generation.

It is simplistic to say that art helps people survive, but in the sense that the creation of art is an expression of emotion and an observation of one’s external and internal world, there is some truth to the statement. Creating or experiencing art can sometimes allow us to better understand the emotions or observations we struggle with, or provide distraction, catharsis, morale or comfort. Looking at and listening to art from WWI lets us gain an understanding of what the art originally expressed, creating an immersion of experience we don’t always get from history books.

 

Jun
22

Welcome to the Together Mixtapes ‘Cruel Summer’ edition

 

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We’re huge music fans here at Together and we often find a lot of inspiration in the artist, the labels and, of course, the design that accompanies the art form.

So we’re launching a (hopefully) bi-weekly Rdio playlist of music that’s inspiring us at the moment. Each playlist will have a theme and will be curated accordingly. You’ll find old, new, famous and some obscure tracks in there, that hopefully will make the mix flow and inspire you as well.

We’ve been having a fairly cool summer this year plagued by heavy rains and cloudy days. Some days the weather teases us with sunshine only to take it away the minute we step outside. This playlist is helping us through it.

Together Mixtapes ‘Cruel Summer’ edition.

*Don’t forget to support the artist you like by buying their music and going to their gigs if they play in your hometown.