Music for the Art of Christmas

Art appreciation is a lot about connecting to a painting through awareness of technical details and genre. Music can also open windows to a deeper experience of visual art. Music composed for art may suggest a narrative. It may establish historical or cultural context.

Just how does music for the art of Christmas work its special magic? Our enjoyment of a Santa Claus portrait, for example, might be enhanced by a sonic contribution of sleigh bells and neighing horses. These are sound effects associated with the image. We associate Santa with his sleigh. We think of horse-drawn sleighs.

What about a less explicit subject? How might music transform a winter street scene, perhaps a scene devoid of any obvious holiday imagery, into a Christmas scene? Music’s power to suggest a narrative comes into play here. Consider a painting of an elegantly dressed couple crossing a snowy city street. We hear the wind blowing a bit. Church bells are pealing. Perhaps our couple is just coming out of Mass. What catches our couple’s attention down the street? Is it those cries of children playing just around the corner? Or is it a more distant voice? They continue to walk in the direction of that voice, their footsteps crunching on the hard-packed snow. They are drawing closer now to the subject of their investigation. It is a street preacher delivering his passionate message of salvation. Church bells and street preaching combine with our winter scene to establish associations with the season’s particular religious celebration, Christmas.

The musical narrative can be asserted even more aggressively. Imagine our painting depicts the front of an old-fashioned department store. Snow is falling. Shoppers are milling. A beautifully decorated Christmas tree graces the store window. We recognize the familiar Salvation Army charity station near the store entrance. The audio provides the ringing bell. Music offers a tasteful sound effect for what is seen. But the audio can take us inside the painting also, and suggest an entire narrative for what is unseen. In this case the audio takes us inside the store. Christmas songs and specials announcements float over the drone of shoppers. A jazzy flute conveys the frenetic pace of the holiday shopping. An old-fashioned cash register bell rings us out.

Music for the art of Christmas can fill a generic winter painting with religious sentiments of the holiday. Through explicit narrative, the audio can take us inside the Christmas scene for more details.

The State of Modern Music

Today’s practitioners of what we once called “modern” music are finding themselves to be suddenly alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music making that requires the disciplines and tools of research for its genesis. Stories now circulate that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It once was that one could not even approach a major music school in the US unless well prepared to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When one hears now of professors shamelessly studying scores of Respighi in order to extract the magic of their mass audience appeal, we know there’s a crisis. This crisis exists in the perceptions of even the most educated musicians. Composers today seem to be hiding from certain difficult truths regarding the creative process. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will help them create really striking and challenging listening experiences. I believe that is because they are confused about many notions in modern music making!

First, let’s examine the attitudes that are needed, but that have been abandoned, for the development of special disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern music. This music that we can and must create provides a crucible in which the magic within our souls is brewed, and it is this that frames the templates that guide our very evolution in creative thought. It is this generative process that had its flowering in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, many emerging musicians had become enamored of the wonders of the fresh and exciting new world of Stockhausen’s integral serialism that was then the rage. There seemed limitless excitement, then. It seemed there would be no bounds to the creative impulse; composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At the time, most composers hadn’t really examined serialism carefully for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. However, it soon became apparent that it was Stockhausen’s exciting musical approach that was fresh, and not so much the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the methods he used were born of two special considerations that ultimately transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns; and, especially, the concept that treats pitch and timbre as special cases of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crossovers as “contacts”, and he even entitled one of his compositions that explored this realm Kontakte.) These gestures, it turns out, are really independent from serialism in that they can be explored from different approaches.

The most spectacular approach at that time was serialism, though, and not so much these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this very approach — serialism — however, that after having seemingly opened so many new doors, germinated the very seeds of modern music’s own demise. The method is highly prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it makes composition easy, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the less thoughtful composer seemingly can divert his/her soul away from the compositional process. Inspiration can be buried, as method reigns supreme. The messy intricacies of note shaping, and the epiphanies one experiences from necessary partnership with one’s essences (inside the mind and the soul — in a sense, our familiars) can be discarded conveniently. All is rote. All is compartmentalized. For a long time this was the honored method, long hallowed by classroom teachers and young composers-to-be, alike, at least in the US. Soon, a sense of sterility emerged in the musical atmosphere; many composers started to examine what was taking place.

The replacement of sentimental romanticism with atonal music had been a crucial step in the extrication of music from a torpid cul-de-sac. A music that would closet itself in banal self-indulgence, such as what seemed to be occurring with romanticism, would decay. Here came a time for exploration. The new alternative –atonality — arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time being. However, shortly thereafter, Schonberg made a serious tactical faux pas. The ‘rescue’ was truncated by the introduction of a method by which the newly freed process could be subjected to control and order! I have to express some sympathy here for Schönberg, who felt adrift in the sea of freedom provided by the disconnexity of atonality. Large forms depend upon some sense of sequence. For him a method of ordering was needed. Was serialism a good answer? I’m not so certain it was. Its introduction provided a magnet that would attract all those who felt they needed explicit maps from which they could build patterns. By the time Stockhausen and Boulez arrived on the scene, serialism was touted as the cure for all musical problems, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and think of two pieces of Schonberg that bring the problem to light: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912 – pre-serial atonality) and the Suite, Op. 29 (1924 serial atonality). Pierrot… seems so vital, unchained, almost lunatic in its special frenzy, while the Suite sounds sterile, dry, forced. In the latter piece the excitement got lost. This is what serialism seems to have done to music. Yet the attention it received was all out of proportion to its generative power. Boulez once even proclaimed all other composition to be “useless”! If the ‘disease’ –serialism –was bad, one of its ‘cures’ –free chance –was worse. In a series of lectures in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1958, John Cage managed to prove that the outcome of music written by chance means differs very little from that written using serialism. However, chance seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Chance is chance. There is nothing on which to hold, nothing to guide the mind. Even powerful musical personalities, such as Cage’s, often have trouble reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that chance scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, again, many schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the making with the entry of free chance into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for anyone interested in creating something, anything, so long as it was new.

I believe parenthetically that one can concede Cage some quarter that one might be reluctant to cede to others. Often chance has become a citadel of lack of discipline in music. Too often I’ve seen this outcome in university classes in the US that ‘teach ‘found (!)’ music. The rigor of discipline in music making should never be shunted away in search of a music that is ‘found’, rather than composed. However, in a most peculiar way, the power of Cage’s personality, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline seem to rescue his ‘chance’ art, where other composers simply flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Still, as a solution to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, chance is a very poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make chance music talk to the soul is a rare bird indeed. What seemed missing to many was the perfume that makes music so wonderfully evocative. The ambiance that a Debussy could evoke, or the fright that a Schonberg could invoke (or provoke), seemed to evaporate with the modern technocratic or free-spirited ways of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music world with the potent solution in the guise of a ‘stochastic’ music. As Xenakis’ work would evolve later into excursions into connexity and disconnexity, providing a template for Julio Estrada’s Continuum, the path toward re-introducing power, beauty and fragrance into sound became clear. All this in a ‘modernist’ conceptual approach!

Once again, though, the US university milieu took over (mostly under the stifling influence of the serial methodologist, Milton Babbitt) to remind us that it’s not nice to make music by fashioning it through ‘borrowings’ from extra-musical disciplines. Throughout his book, Conversations with Xenakis, the author, Balint András Vargas, along with Xenakis, approaches the evolution of Xenakis’ work from extra-musical considerations. Physical concepts are brought to bear, such as noise propagating through a crowd, or hail showering upon metal rooftops. Some relate to terrible war memories of experiences suffered by Xenakis, culminating in a serious wound. To shape such powerful sounds, concepts akin to natural phenomena had to be marshaled. From the standpoint of the musical classroom, two things about Xenakis are most troubling: one is his relative lack of formal musical training; the other, or flip side, is his scientifically oriented schooling background. In ways no one else in musical history had ever done, Xenakis marshaled concepts that gave birth to a musical atmosphere that no one had ever anticipated could exist in a musical setting. One most prominent feature is a sound setting that emulates Brownian movement of a particle on a liquid surface. This profoundly physical concept needed high-powered mathematics to constrain the movements of the (analogous) sound ‘particles’ and make them faithful to the concept Xenakis had in mind. There is, as a result, a certain inexactitude, albeit a physical slipperiness, to the movement of the sound particles. Nice musical smoothness and transition give way to unpredictable evolution and transformation. This concept blows the skin off traditional concepts of musical pattern setting! Its iridescent shadows are unwelcome in the gray gloom of the American classroom.

In their haste to keep musical things musical, and to rectify certain unwanted trends, the official musical intelligentsia, (the press, the US university elite, professors, etc.) managed to find a way to substitute false heroes for the troubling Xenakis. Around the time of Xenakis’ entry into the musical scene, and his troubling promulgation of throbbing musical landscapes, attendant with sensational theories involving stochastic incarnations, a group of composers emerged who promised to deliver us from evil, with simple-minded solutions erected on shaky intuitional edifices. The so-called ‘cluster’ group of would-be musical sorcerers included Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Górecki and Gyorgy Ligeti. These new musical darlings, with their easy methodologies, gave us the first taste of the soon-to-emerge post-modernism that has posed as our ticket to the Promised Land for the last thirty years. It seemed that, just as music finally had a master of the caliber and importance of Bach, Schonberg, Bartok and Varese in the person of one Iannis Xenakis, history and musicology texts seemed not to be able to retreat quickly enough to embrace the new saviors, all the while conspiring against an all embracing creativity found fast, and well-embedded within the turmoil of the stochastic process.

Alas, Xenakis has been exiled from American history, as much as the powers have been able to do so! His competition, those in the intuitive cluster school, became the fixtures of the new musical landscape, because their art is so much easier than that of Xenakis. Ease of composing, of analyzing and of listening are the new bywords that signal success in the music world. Those who extol such virtues herald the arrival and flourishing of post-modernism and all its guises, be it neo-romantic, clustering or eclecticism. The proud cry these days, is “Now we can do about anything we wish.” Better, perhaps, to do nothing than to embrace such intellectual cowardice.

The promise of a return to musical fragrances that walk in harmony and synchronicity with intellectual potency was precious and vital. It should signal the next phase of evolution in the creative humanities. The challenge to write about this potential of a marriage of humanities was overwhelming. No adequate text seemed to exist. So I had to provide one. All that was lacking for a good book was a unifying theme.
Algorithms control the walk of the sounds. Algorithms are schemata that work the attributes of sound to enable them to unfold meaningfully. An algorithm is a step-function that can range from a simple diagram to stochastic or Boolean functions. Even serialism is an algorithm. While they are important, algorithms take second place in importance to the focus of music: its sound. This concentration is given a terminology by composer, Gerard Pape: sound-based composition. Isn’t all music sound based? It’s all sound, after all.

Well, yes, but not really. The point of the term is to highlight the emphasis of the approach being on the sound, rather than on the means used for its genesis. In sound-based composition, one concentrates on a sound, then conjures the way to create it. In serialism, ordering takes precedence over quality. The result often is vapid: empty sound. Directionless pointillism robs music of its vital role, the conjuring of imagery, in whatever guise. The other leading practitioner of sound-based composition is Dr. Julio Estrada. In his composition classes and seminars at UNAM (Universidad National Autonoma de México), he emphasizes the mental formation of an imaginary, sort of an idealized imagery. Then the composer/students are directed to formulate a conspirator sound essence that conveys something of the élan of this imaginary. Only then, once the construct of sound is concocted, is the method of sound shaping in the form of notation employed. Understanding of imagery and of fragrance precedes their specification. This is a sophisticated example of sound-based composition.

A curious, special case arose out of the arcane methods of Giacinto Scelsi, who made explicit what long had been lurking in the background. He posited a ‘3rd dimension’ to sound. He felt that the trouble with the serialists was in their reliance upon two dimensions in sound: the pitch and the duration. For Scelsi, timbre provides a depth, or 3rd dimension, explored only rarely until his groundbreaking work. He devised ways to call for unusual timbres, and evolutions of timbre that resulted in his focusing on the characteristics of, and the transformations between (within!), attributes of single tones. Indeed, his Quattro Pezzi are veritable studies in counterpoint within single tones!

This concept of sound-based composition provided the unifying seed around which a book could be built. It would be one that could salvage something of the first principles of the union of intellectual discipline and a vibrant sound context: that is, music with meaning, challenge, discipline, ambience and something that requires courage and commitment in its conception. Such would be a music that yields special, beautiful, powerful, alluring fruits, which, nonetheless, disclose their secrets only reluctantly, demanding skillful teasing out of their magic.

This epiphany revealed a road by which we could reestablish the Xenakian ideal of musical power attainable primarily through processes that have their basis in the physics and architecture of the world around us. Here was not only the answer, the antidote, if you will, to the rigidities of serialism, but also a cure for the sloppiness of unconstrained chance composition. Here was a way out of the impasse confronting composition in the 1960s. The question should be not what method to use to compose, for that leads only to blind alleys (serialism, chance or retreat), but why compose? What is in the musical universe that can open pathways not yet explored, pathways that reveal something that stir a soul? What is the best way to accomplish that?

If we abandon the search for unique roads and for challenge, we will become the first generation ever in music to proclaim that backwards movement is progress; that less is more. Yet the very apostles of post-modernism will have us believe just that! They hold that the public has rejected modernism; the public has held modernism to be bankrupt. Post-modernists will lure you into the trap that, because of its unmitigated complexity, serialism promised only its demise. “The only road into modernism is sterile complexity; we need to root this out, and return to simplicity. We won’t have a saleable product, otherwise.” This is the thinking that gave us minimalism, the nearest relative to ‘muzak’ one can conjure in art-music. One composer, a one-time avant-gardist, actually apologized for his former modernity, on stage, to the audience, before a performance of his latest post-modern work!

There is an inscription in the halls of a monastery in Toledo, Spain: “Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar” (pilgrims, there is no road, only the travel). This was a beacon for one of music history’s most courageous pilgrims – a fighter for freedom for the mind, for the body, and for the ear: Luigi Nono. His example could serve us all well. He exposed himself to grave danger as a fighter against oppression of all kinds, not least of all the musical kind. It takes courage to create. It isn’t supposed to be easy! Nothing worthwhile ever is. It would seem to me that Nono’s example serves as the antithesis to that of the previous composer.

I examine music history of the 20th century to find clues as to why certain composers generate more excitement than others. Is it possible that sound-based composition has flourished in an intuitive way from back into the 19th century? Has it been around a while, but just not codified explicitly as such? I feel that is so. To some extent the roots of this idea can be found in the so-called nationalism of such composers as Bartók and Janacek. Nationalism has gotten something of a bad rap due to folksy, cutesy concoctions usually redolent within its environments. But, upon reflection and examination, the more rigorous efforts in nationalistic composition yield tremendous fruits. Note especially Bartók’s highly original devices of twelve-tone tonality (e.g., axis positions and special chords). Less well known, but important as well, are the special folk vocal inflections resident in Janácek’s music. These special qualities spilled over from the vocal to the instrumental writing. So it appears that we can make a strong case for sound-based composition (composition focused on special sound qualities) being rooted in the music by the turn of the 20th century.

The process of creation is the focus; not the glorification of the superficial sounds that only mimic real music. The reinstatement of Xenakis’, Nono’s, Scelsi’s and Estrada’s ideals to preeminence was crucial. The recognition of these trends, in preference to those of the more facile and easily attractive ones espoused by Penderecki, Ligeti and others, had to be ensured. The easy lure of cluster music had to be resisted.

If we don’t make this distinction clear, all that follows is nonsense. Too many people apply modernism to anything that resided in the 20th century that contained a little dissonance. That is a common error. For others, modernism exists in any era – it simply is what’s happening at a given time, and is appropriate as a description for music in that era. This, too, is wrong for its reluctance to confront the creative process.

We mustn’t yield to these impulsive descriptions, for to do so renders the profound efforts of the 20th century meaningless. There is a unifying thread in music that qualifies it to be considered modern, or modernist, and it isn’t just a time frame. Modernism is an attitude. This attitude appears periodically in music history, but it is most effectively understood in the context of creativity, most pronouncedly found late in the 20th century. Modern music is the music composed that results from research into the attributes of sound, and into the ways we perceive sound. It usually involves experimentation; the experimentation yields special discoveries that bear fruit in the act of composition. This distinction is crucial; for even though much cluster music, and some neo-classical music, contains high dissonance, their focus is reactionary. The experimental work of Schonberg, Berg, Webern, Bartok, Varese, and that of some Stravinsky, is forward-looking, in that the music is not a solution unto itself: it provides a template for further work and exploration into that area. Even more so, the works of Cage, Xenakis, Scelsi, Nono and Estrada.

The composers chosen for discussion herein are the ones I consider to be the most exemplary models in the development of sound based composition. They are as follows:

-Janacek (nationalist inflection)
-Debussy (chord-coloration)
-Mahler (expressionism and tone-color melody)
-Ravel (impressionism)
-Malipiero (intuitive discourse)
-Hindemith (expressionism in a quasi-tonal context)
-Stravinsky (octatonic diatonicism)
-Bartok (axial tonality, arch form, golden section construction)
-Schonberg (expressionism, atonality, klangfarbenmelodie))
-Berg (‘tonal’ serialism)
-Webern (canonic forms in serialism, klangfarbenmelodie)
-Varese (noise, timbral/range hierarchies)
-Messiaen (modes of limited transposition, non-retrogradable rhythms, color chords)
-Boulez (special live electronics instruments)
-Stockhausen (pitch/rhythm dichotomy)
-Cage (indeterminacy, noise, live electronics)
-Xenakis (Ataxy, stochastic music, inside-outside time attributes, random walks, granularity, non-periodic scales)
-Nono (near inaudibility, mobile sound, special electronics)
-Lutoslawski (chain composition)
-Scelsi (the 3rd dimension in sound, counterpoint within a single tone)
-Estrada (The Continuum)

There is so much glitter in the world, and so much noise pollution that we are being rendered incapable of reflection and of creative thought. We become mortified at the thought of a little challenge. We are paralyzed when faced with the challenge of keeping our evolutionary legacy in focus. We cannot afford to trade away quality for mediocrity, just because mediocrity is easier and more enticing. This would not be an acceptable social outcome. To live we must thrive. To thrive we cannot rest.

Entertainment is a laudable pursuit in certain settings and times. It cannot be the force that drives our lives. If a composer desires to write entertaining music, that is all right. But that composer must be honest about his or her motives for doing so. Do not write entertainment and then try to con the public by claiming this is great music. It is best to be able to discover the key to the writing of a music that can fulfill a need for tomorrow. By understanding nature, the nature of sound and the human condition, we can write music capable of conveying something essential. That goes beyond entertainment. It fulfills music’s most crucial purpose: providing a teaching role. What better way to go through a learning process than to find oneself doing so while wrapped in a cocoon of beauty? Music can be our best teacher.

It is all right to find beauty in old sources. Even Respighi can be very charming, engaging. It is also just as good to listen to soothing, euphonious music as it is to write such music. But can’t we as composers do better than this? Why can’t we give something besides pleasure to tomorrow? Young composers today are at a crossroads. They can fulfill a vital mission by helping fulfill a tradition that carries on a cultural legacy. Today’s composers must begin to dream; and then compose.

Love What You See and See What You Love: How to Start Your Own Fashion Blog

Blogging is the biggest sensation since, well… Google! Blogging refers to the new internet-bound trend of creating a personal website in order to catalog the things they like. These things can include film, movies, music, pictures, literature, lately, especially fashion design. Recently, fashion blogs have been popping up all over the internet, on numerous different blog-hosting sites, and all of them are intriguing. Maybe you’re the type of person who dreams of starting your own fashion blog, but you are too intimidated by the task. If so, then you’re in luck! Our own host of visual communication experts have compiled a short list of tips to get your blog ideas out of a corner of your brain and onto the world-wide web.

1. First things first, you must set up your blog by selecting a blog-hosting service via the internet. This is the easiest way for new bloggers to start out, because many hosting sites are totally free, and when you sign up with them, they do all of the heavy formatting work for you. In the mean-time, you can name your blog, personalize it’s theme and then just start posting.

2. Next, it’s time to gather information in order to provide content for your posts. In other words, pull from every fashion-savvy resource known to you. Hit the streets and take photographs of people who’s street style you admire. Then scan your photos and post them on your blog. You can also use the internet for content, as most people do these days. Look at other fashion-inspired blogs for ideas. Look at the advertisements within the pages of Vogue or Vanity Fair magazines, and research topics so that you can write informative, accurate posts. Remember, though a blog is mainly about visual communication, the more thought that goes into your posts, the more interesting they will be to the people who read them.

3. Once you have really begun to collect and post information that you’re drawn to, you can make your blog even more personal by really giving it a distinct voice and style. For some people, this means settling on a specific niche of information that will really carry the blog along. For instance, maybe your fashion blog will focus on accessories, like handbags and shoes. Or maybe, you will choose to focus on a specific theme, like sixties-inspired ensembles, or fashion in music. Getting more specific can give your readers a chance to really experience your passion and expertise for certain aspects of fashion.

In an age where the spread of information is centered around the internet, starting your own blog is a powerful way to contribute to the information flow with your own individual voice, tailored to your interests. It is also a good way to meet other like-minded fashion lovers, who respect your taste and who’s taste you will surely respect as well. Overall, creating a fashion blog is the perfect way to combine visual communication with the art of fashion design.

Paris Fashion Week – Who Says Paris Is Best In The Springtime?

You haven’t lived until you’ve been to Paris in the winter — during Fashion Week of course! It may be cold and rainy, but Paris is always beautiful, and buzzing with excitement at a myriad of fashion shows, expositions and parties that even us mere mortals of the public can attend. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to brush elbows with celebrities and fashion world icons who jet-set over from the prior Fashion Weeks in New York, London and Milan.

The Fall/Winter Paris Prêt-a-Porter Fashion Week is the most prominent trade event for the fashion industry, when Fall fashions are rolled-out as a season preview for the world’s biggest retail buyers who’re scrambling to place their orders for fashion, handbags, jewelry, shoes, hats and cosmetics. Unlike other large industry convention hall tradeshows, Fashion Week is orchestrated citywide at some of Paris’ most prominent points of interest.

This year from February 25th to March 4th, top designers and fashion design students staged fashion extravaganzas ranging from the pinnacle of good taste to the surreal. Among the selected sites, were the Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Musée de l’Homme, le Champs-Elysee, le Tour Montparnasse, place du Trocadéro, Théâtre du Châtelet, and La Sorbonne.

Winter Paris Fashion Week 2007 took place February 26 through March 4, and featured everyone who’s anyone in the designer world, including long-time Parisian favorites Chanel, Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy.

Ah, the drama! Aside from the expected eccentric styles and surreal shows, more than a few eyebrows raised when an animal rights protestor stormed the catwalk nude in response to this year’s apparent return to use of fur as a luxury material.

London designer Stella McCartney (daughter of Beatle Paul McCartney), then made headlines for her “fur-free” show, showcasing warm alternatives to fur, with models clad in taffetas, satins, knitwear and cashmere.

Emanuel Ungaro’s Peter Dundas got everyone ready to hit the discos with his collection designed to celebrate night clubbing. Decked-out in plenty of bling and leather, the models strutted and slinked down the runway.

The most controversial show of the week had to be that of Viktor & Rolf. Dutch design partners Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, are renowned for elaborate, wildly-imaginative shows. This year, they invented awkward contraptions that the models had to balance delicately, which were fitted with lighting and music as a kind of “personal fashion show.” The designs were somewhat gothic, reminding one of the movie Van Helsing. The poor models were also required to were stylized wooden clogs, which clip-clopped loudly as they paraded carefully down the runway.

Expectedly, there were WWII and ancient war themes in many of the fashion collections this year, incorporating tall boots, leather, fur, fatigue green, body armor, medallions and epaulettes. Even Jean Paul Gaultier revealed models wearing Scottish tartans with stylized Mohawks, as if going into battle.

Also during Fashion Week, the exclusive Paris boutique Colette, celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting 10 art curators to spotlight a talent gallery-style on one of it’s walls. It was a fabulous way to show off it’s ultra-trendy collection of music CDs, shoes, handbags, branded water and accessories. The boutique is also renown for glamorous parties, art exhibits and dance classes, and definitely worth a visit when you’re in Paris.

Speaking of accessories, Nokia decided to unveil its Nokia 7373 Special Edition fashion phones by designer Giambattista Valli at Fashion Week, at the “Dress-your-Nokia-in-Giambattista Valli” Party. For the label-conscious, this is a must-have phone. Each one comes pre-loaded with a “behind the scenes” video for a glimpse into the life and inspiration of the designer, along with a selection of Valli graphics and the exclusive ring-tone, “Rhodium.”

Next year is sure to hold more fun and surprises. For sure, Paris in March is the place to be!

Pop Art Paintings

Pop Art is an artistic movement that arose in the mid 1950s. It was mostly created and developed within the art-loving cities of New York and London. The inspiration for pop art paintings was essentially rooted in western Capitalist society and they therefore reflected the rapid progress of production and consumption during those years. The combination of pop and art does not represent a single artistic style but it is a term that collectively merges several works of art that were created between the mid 50’s and the mid 60’s by a few artists in order to reflect society’s ideals in an ironic and critical way.

The pop art artists of that time were creating in a lot of different areas such as: movies, theater, fashion, plastic art, music and paintings. Classic Pop Art Paintings include Andy Warhol’s ‘Cans of Campbell Soup’ and ‘A Shot of Marilyn Monroe’, plus Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Drowning Girl’ and ‘Whaam’. Both of these artists remain incredibly acclaimed and popular till this day.

Pop art paintings are characterized by a choice of subject borrowed from the culture of modern society and are often painted in bright industrial colors. Artists such as Warhol extract the every-day object from its normal, daily context and transform it into a symbolic icon. They do this by blowing up the images, coloring them with bright luminous paints and mechanically duplicating them and placing them next to one another – almost like manufactured products in a factory.

As bland, kitschy objects are reproduced to become the main subject of artwork, the line between art and reality becomes more and more blurred. The artists use irony to attack our modern consumerist society, and even more ironically have themselves created images that are now wide-spread, reproduced products all over the planet.

Pop Art Paintings these days, often portray music and movie icons in bright and industrial colors, mirroring the effect used by Warhol and the other painters of this artistic style. The images of these popular icons can be extracted from famous movie scenes or iconic photographs. Some artists now create paintings and portraits of this style from personal photos, which make for great original gifts for others.