Picasso’s Guernica, Iraq war and jazz music

This video says about itself:

Guernica Iraq

22 December 2006

Guernica” was painted by Picasso in 1937. It depicts the senseless massacre by the Nazi Luftwaffe in the Basque city of Guernica, Spain. The attack was ordered at the behest of fascist Spanish General, Francisco Franco, during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was a non-military target, the innocent people of the town were attacked in an attempt to psychologically break the will of those who opposed Franco‘s fascistic nationalist pursuit.

Picasso captured an intense scene reflecting the deeply unjust suffering, agony and despair experienced by the people of Guernica. And in doing so he produced one of the most iconic, powerful and affecting pieces of anti-war artwork ever put to canvas. It is little surprise then that a reproduction of the painting, which hangs outside the entrance to the UN Security Council, was covered while Colin Powell was attempting to sell the Iraq War to the world.

The people of Iraq are suffering what amounts to the similar unjust brutality inflicted on the people of Guernica, except it’s practically on a daily basis. A more accurate comparison would be to imagine having the London Tube and Bus bombings everyday. And have them happen so often that they become a predictable daily occurrence and part of life.

By Chris Searle in Britain:

An assault on the eyes of false consciousness

Tuesday 1st November 2016

Barry Guy
The Blue Shroud
(Intakt CD266)

IN 2003 George Bush’s US media officials in New York hung a blue drape over the tapestry copy of Picasso’s mural Guernica in the UN building, immediately before the US secretary of state Colin Powell announced his government’s intentions of invading Iraq.

This shameful act of the fear of revolutionary culture and the proclaiming of a brutal attack, in which Blair’s government was fully complicit and participatory, is now remembered in the album The Blue Shroud by the London-born bassist Barry Guy’s Blue Shroud Band.

Guy, born in 1947, was classically trained, but became one of jazz’s prime free-form bassists, being an integral part of John Stevens’s and Trevor Watts’ spontaneous Music Ensemble (1967-70), a member of other pioneering free bands like Amalgam and Paul Rutherford’s Iskra 1903 and a founder of the much larger London Jazz Composers’ Orchestra.

I first saw Guernica at the Museum of Modern Art, again in New York, in June 1968 after months of protests against the US war in Vietnam and in support of some of the civil rights movement, including the Poor People’s campaign in Washington DC earlier in June. No other work of public art had ever had such an effect on me.

I stared at its figures — the bull, the agonised horse, the woman with her child, the screaming man with upraised arms below the sky on fire — and wondered about what each of them emblematised.

But it was the whole wall-sized work and its unfettered pain that crushed any illusory defence in my mind and I eventually walked away with a completely new view of art and culture.

That same assault on the eyes of false consciousness is expressed through Guy’s sonic masterpiece, as the shroud of epochal Bush-Blair untruth is ripped from the listener’s ears by some of Europe’s most powerful free music stalwarts.

These include the Spanish drummer Ramon Lopez (whose own remarkable album Songs of the Spanish Civil War celebrated his compatriots’ courage and love of freedom), the Majorca-born and Barcelona-trained pianist Augusti Fernandez, the French tuba virtuoso Michel Godard and the Swiss drummer Lucas Niggli.

Percy Pursglove’s mournful, shuddering trumpet introduces the Prelude, the viola and violin resonate, and Ben Dwyer’s guitar remembers the nightscape of Spain’s horror of fascism and war.

Savina Yannatou sings the words of Symbols of Guernica, written by the Irish poet Kerry Hardie, inside the rumbling drums and Fernandez’s defiant journeys up and down his keys.

In the track called Bull/Mother and Child/Warrior, Godard’s tuba growls below the pain of the saxophones and the crashing percussion.

Julius Gabriel’s baritone horn gurgles, as if it were making its last sounds.

Guy uses extracts of Biber’s Rosary Sonatas to create a sudden sequence of pure viola melodic beauty before Yannatou sings of the futile journey of The Blinded Bird of Hope, underscored by the sawing strings of Guy’s bass.

Picasso’s bulb at the highest point of his mural is written down by Hardie in this way: “The single bulb of torture keeps the faith, wild theories drive the gun’s demented roar. In cities now laid open to the sky, unblinking, the relentless eye of war.”

It is of now-times and now-wars of which she writes and Guy and his bandmates play.

This music video says about itself:

BARRY GUY: The Bird (2016)

From the album “The Blue Shroud” (Intakt 2016)

Percy Pursglove: trumpet
Torben Snekkestad: soprano saxophone, trumpet
Michael Niesemann: alto saxophone, oboe
Per Texas Johansson: tenor saxophone, clarinet
Julius Gabriel: baritone saxophone
Michel Godard: tuba, serpent
Maya Homburger: violin
Fanny Paccoud: viola
Ben Dwyer: guitar
Agustí Fernández: piano
Barry Guy: double bass
Lucas Niggli: drums, percussion
Ramón López: drums, percussion
Savina Yannatou: voice

The Chris Searle article continues:

In Bird and the Biber aria that follows, Godard’s delving tuba sounds like a fanfare of hope before Maya Homburger’s scintillating violin chorus sings throughout the crushed city where “death-smoke hangs in oily black-ended palls.”

Stare at and imbibe Picasso’s images before you listen to Guy’s astonishing soundscape. You will hear Aleppo, Fallujah and their people’s horror, and in the final track, a fusion of Guy and Bach’s Agnus Dei, you will perhaps perceive a distant glimpse of human peace and unity.

5 thoughts on “Picasso’s Guernica, Iraq war and jazz music

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