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The Great Wave March 14, 2011

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Federal Flood, je me souviens, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street.
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I first posted this ekphrasis to Katsushika Hokusai’s painting in March 2008, thinking after I saw the image of Hurricane Katrina, but now it brings to mind of course the terrible tragedy in Japan. Strange, a song that has become permanently associated in my mind with Katrina as well NPR played it on the news not weeks after that horrific flood, Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem, was written for the victims of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami. There are many hands but only one tapestry constantly woven until the last hand drops and then only the soul memories of this painting, this song will survive. Carry them with you always.

HokusaiHokusai’s The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa

Through the lens of imminent disaster Fuji–the looming backdrop of a countless artists–is an insignificant bystander. The mountainous water towers over the iconic peak and the doomed boat. The sailor’s backs are turned to the crest of threatening fingers, their hands clasped in muscular prayer to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, rain on their fields and fish in the sea. The sky is a mirror of the sea, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall they live except between the sky and the sea, those promising and pitiless fields of blue? They know the tales of typhoon and tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own boats. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.

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Oh, The Water June 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Corps of Engineers, Flood, flooding, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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After the last post, I just want to say that everyone in New Orleans is concerned for the people of Iowa, just as they were for the people of Myanmar and the people of Tabasco, Mexico. Just because idiots seize on every catastrophe to dust off the old political whore mongering over Katrina has nothing to do with our sympathy for you, or the gratitude we feel for every Iowan and other American volunteer who has come down her to rebuild.

We are all of us, the people of the river and of the coast, at some time baptized in the waters of the flood. That immersion is no relief from the travails of this life. Instead it is like a plague out of the old book. But it promises we will come out after different, better and stronger.

I come back to this song written by Eliza Gilkyson after the Christmas tsunami of 2005 again and again, since I first heard it in September of 2005. This is the only on-line version I know of.

As I read about Iowa, I was irresistably drawn to hear it again.

This time it is for you: Requiem, by Eliza Gilkyson.

Kaminari Taiko at NOMA Japan Fest June 10, 2007

Posted by The Typist in Japan, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery.
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In addition to an attachment to Japanese gardens, I’m always drawn to any opportunity to experience taiko drumming. This year’s New Orleans Museum of Art Japan Fest featured the return of Kaminari Taiko of Houston, TX. The incredible athleticism of this art was even more impressive in the 98 &#176 heat index. The large drum seen here is the largest playable taiko drum in North America.

Among the pieces they performed was Seiichi Tanaka’s “Tsunami”, from which I’ve captured this excerpt. You can hear the composer’s own Taiko Dojo of San Francisco performing the piece here.

I feel a strong connection to the victims of the Tsumani of 2004, and I have been drawn to art that addresses that event. In particular, I was drawn to Hokusi’s Great Wave when I found it at at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C., and to this piece of music by Austin singer Eliza Gilkyson, written for the tsunami but which haunted me through the early months after 8-29.

As Kaminari Taiko played masterfully in the dire heat, with every stroke they gave me greater strength to live here now.