Friday, July 15, 2011

Cloud Machine

Kate Bush is one of my favorite musicians. Her voice is haunting, her music is charged with emotion, and her lyrics drift between conversational and sensational from line to line. More than anything, her subject matter delights me. Not one to focus solely make ups and breaks ups like so many songwriters do, Ms. Bush writes songs about things like Peter Pan, Wuthering Heights, astronauts looking back on earth, watching clouds in a field, or a man worrying as his wife gives birth.

One of her songs in particular, Cloudbusting, is about inventor and psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. Reich was a controversial figure, an Austrian who picked a lousy time to move to America. His work in psychology was met with strong opposition when he began to argue that sex was a healthy, vital part of life and he was questioned by the government repeatedly for his ties to Europe even after WW2 ended. The song isn't about his medical theories or citizenship, however. In 1953 Reich found time to build and operate a cloud machine in Portland, Maine at the request of the local farmers who were suffering from a drought. Whether it was mere coincidence or science gone strange, it began raining hours after he ran the machine. Three years later all of his writing and research would be burned by a judge's order in Maine. Cloudbusting tells this story from the point of view of Reich's young son Peter.

I love this song, and relate to the child's excitement over their whimsical-mad-scientist-father's work. Only days ago my Dad woke me up with a phone call, excited about a new project he is starting. While my father may not manipulate the weather, (yet) he's something of a sorcerer of the visual arts and sound. I grew up trotting behind Dad at art shows and gallery openings, facing his fans, followers, rivals, and critics in a series of stories only small towns can spawn. There's a certain pride a child takes in their parent's work and reputation, if the work is done well and the reputation is attacked, defended, and preserved often enough. I feel it for my Dad and his projects, and my Mom and her politics. They're both equally unstoppable forces of nature, sometimes kicked around but never counted out.

Last night while listening to the song I illustrated the cloudbuster. 

Fully painted in watercolor.
The penned sketch before painting....
A detail of the inventor and his son.
A detail of the cloud machine.

Here's the music video to Kate Bush's Cloudbusting. It was shot during that marvelous age when music videos were 6 minute movies and it's worth a viewing. Donald Sutherland plays Wilhelm Reich, and it's easy to see I styled my Reich after his portrayal in this video.

1 comment:

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