Friday, January 16, 2015

Homage to a Neighbor: Dale Edwin Sherrard

One never knows where you’ll find a friend.  We certainly did not expect it as hurried just about to be parents on Sackett Street a dozen years ago.  We had just moved to n December, with a new child on the way, graduate studies, complicated lives and a war looming.  

Yet, Dale, our new neighbor invited us over for a glass of wine.  And we took him up on the offer.  He was one of those old New Yorkers, a beat breed of souls, who lived to make art and see the city, every movie, every dinner party, every friend as an extension of that. 

an image of old new york on dale's facbook page


New home and new neighbors on sackett street a dozen years ago.

Usually,when we arrived or saw him in the hall he had a bundle of wood, a bottle of wine in his hands, and offered a smile.  Dale and Prageeta’s apartment was warm  and comfy, a fire usually burning, Tom Waits of Kurk Weil playing.  Some of our fondest memories that winter took place over there. 

We celebrated Thanksgiving and then New years eve, with our new daughter, and neighbors Dale and Prageeta.  At one moment, we stood to toast the end of the year and Dale noticed our eleven month old standing at the coffee table, holding her bottle up to us to toast.

“Look she’s toasting us,” he noted and clinked his wine glass against her bottle. “Happy new years Imogene,” he toasted her, as gentle and welcoming a gesture as I can recall, warms me to think of it now. Greeting her, he was also showing me how to be a dad.

Over the next year and a half, she grew, and we all hung out.  We watched Dale and Prageeta get married by 2006.  Dale and I talked about New York and art, music and movies, families and kids, poetry and trash. Dale’s daughter baby sat ours.  We loved Dale’s humor and sense of everyday life being a work of art.  And before we knew it Dale and Prageeta had moved west. Then moved back, and we moved West. They stayed and we came back. Their lives blurred by after touching ours.  

dale and his daughter.

The Dale updates were less frequent on facebook.  We knew he was hurting but never quite how much. 

"My beloved," Prageeta wrote at 5:57 am, a week after confiding that Dale's cancer was escalating. Dale was gone.

Glad the pains resided Dale. 

 So sorry for your loss Prageeta." 
Thanks for being there for us that winter a dozen years ago Dale.  Thank you.  And Godspeed. 

But for now, remember his word from Missoula.  "Sure ibeautiful out here," he gushed looking around.  

"Wasn't it Adorno who said that dialectical thought is an attempt to break through the cohersion of logic by its own means. But i don't know what that means, either.  i don't really understand it at all," confessed Dale in a word from missoula, montana (#2)

Thanks for seeing the beauty and silliness in the everyday and sharing it with us Dale. 


Dale Sherrard advocated for art, philosophy of sound
16 hours ago  •  

"Eventually we're all going to hear each other. I'm going to hear what you hear, and you're going to hear what I hear, and together we can celebrate the sounds of our lives. So listen up and listen well."
– Dale Sherrard
Sound matters.
It's an outlook Dale Sherrard espoused as a professor at the University of Montana, as an experimental composer and sound artist, and as a wide-ranging listener.
Sherrard, who passed away earlier this month at age 53, approached sound the way a poet approaches language.
That's how Andrew Smith, a friend and colleague from the UM Media Arts department, described the artistic polymath.
When Sherrard arrived in Missoula in 2007, he brought an avant-garde New York artist's resume and worldview, helping impart to students, colleagues and community members the possibilities of sound – whether in a film, song or art project.
"The way he taught sound was just who he was," said his wife, Prageeta Sharma.
The Ohio native started out, though, as a painter.
He began drawing at 3 or 4 and showed a instinctive talent. His sister, Jody Sherrard, remembers him drawing "Peanuts" cartoons freehand even at that young age.
He pursued art at the Columbus College of Art and Design before moving to New York City in the early 1980s, spending his 20s living as painter in the thick of the downtown scene, where a young artist could casually encounter legendary figures.
He once met the poet John Giorno on the street, and was invited to participate in one of his performances.
"That's the kind of thing that would happen to him," Sharma said.
One day, he'd be selling apples on the street, meet renowned dancers and then go live with them in Martha's Vineyard for a spell.
"He had every job you could imagine in the city as a young painter," Sharma said, and lived in every arty neighborhood before it was arty.
At the nightclub AREA, frequented by luminaries such as Andy Warhol, he did three art installations, including one with Jean-Michel Basquiat. He did a performance at CBGB, the legendary club that birthed the punk and new wave scenes.
He once took out an ad in the paper requesting that people call his number and tell him what the end of the world was like. He got hours of recordings.
After spending three years in Belgium, where he founded an art collective called Groupe Des Artistes, he returned in 1995 to New York.
He took a job at the boutique bank Dresdner-Kleinwort-Wasserstein, where he managed the graphics presentation department for 12 years.
A 9-to-5 job, though, didn't curtail his many artistic endeavors.
"Even when he was tied to a corporate job, the way he made art, saw art, believed in art and was part of the art community," Sharma said.
He hired poets, and met Sharma, a poet herself, through mutual friends in 2000.
"He had the best pickup line ever," Sharma said. "He said, 'You have to have dinner with me in the next two days or forget the whole thing.'"
She said yes.
Around this time, he bought a Macintosh computer with sound production software and began teaching himself to use them, an autodidact skill he developed from learning graphics programs on the job.
He was a fan of Brian Eno, the ambient music pioneer, and Brion Gysin, who worked in cut-up audio techniques, and saw corollaries between visual art and sound.
"He always said it was like painting," Sharma said. "Layering sound was like layering paint."
It challenged him in a way that visual art didn't, since he was such an excellent draftsman.
"I admired how intense and clear he was about going into audio and sound," she said.
He earned a fine arts master's degree from Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts, an interdisciplinary program where he could focus on sound.
"He was meeting the composers whose work he admired in New York," Sharma said, figures such as Maryanne Amacher, Pauline Oliveros, who invented the concept of "deep listening," and master engineer Bob Bielecki.
According to Sherrard, his work "was focused primarily on the use of human voice and text, and he was particularly interested in the subtleties of concise audio editing, multi-channel production, 'guerrilla' field recording and audio sculpture."
Many of his works are posted online under the name Homelite Graveley, an homage to a shop in the family back in Ohio.
Sherrard and Sharma moved across the country when Sharma took a position in the creative writing program at the University of Montana.
He soon started teaching sound in the Media Arts department, and "brought everything he knew about everything he liked all together," Sharma said.
Smith, the Media Arts professor, said "knowing Dale and his singular talents and his unreplicable work experience, we thought he would be a great fit for our students."
Michael Workman took Sherrard's "Principles of Sound Design" course at UM, and had a studio next door to his daughter, Aja Mujinga Sherrard, who is enrolled in the UM MFA program for visual art.
He said Sherrard had a way of making students feel like friends, and developed relationships with almost everyone in the department.
He was frequently around or on the students' sets. He was "really invested in that," Workman said.
In the classroom, Sherrard imparted to his students the importance of sound and sound design, an underappreciated facet of film.
"I think a lot of early filmmakers don't realize that sound is half the movie," Smith said.
Workman said Sherrard generated passion and excitement for the subject in his students.
And he didn't teach sound merely as a set of technical skills.
"His approach was much more enlarged and involved in the idea of using your ears as a sense," Smith said.
He also set about converting the minimal sound facility at the Media Arts department into a "very developed and flexible space for post-production sound recording," Smith said.
Sherrard had an avant-garde New York artist's collaborative spirit, and worked throughout his career with artists from other disciplines.
"He held everyone in such high esteem and took them very seriously in their art practice and met them there," Sharma said. "A dancer, a writer, a poet, a painter. He was invested in what their work was saying about art."
His long list of collaborators includes Italian sculptor Luca Buovli, the fruits of which were exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and other prestigious institutions.
"When we moved here, he said, 'Well, I'm in academia, I'm going to invest in my art community. And be in it fully. And present,' " Sharma said.
He created sonic performances in downtown Missoula and on campus – laptop field recordings, sound sculptures, film scores and countless other works.
Other artists, too, sought his advice and expertise.
Smith brought Sherrard early drafts of "Winter in the Blood," a feature-film adaptation of James Welch's novel. Sherrard suggested sound templates and ways to enhance sound design.
Smith and his brother Alex Smith hired Sherrard to create all of the archival sound effects for the movie. It was set in the 1950s and '60s, and they needed authentic period and regionally specific sounds, such as radio recordings, for the background.
"I don't know anybody who could've done that as well as Dale," Smith said.
Sherrard unearthed radio jingles, car ads and farm reports from Canada and Montana from the time period.
"I have no idea where he found it," Smith said. "He pulled stuff out of the air like a magician."
"The authenticity of that kind of sound informs and enhances the viewers' trust that the film is set in a real space and time," Smith said.
Sherrard had a studio at the Zootown Arts Community Center, where he met fellow resident artist Andy Smetanka, who was working on his feature-length stop-motion animated oral history of World War I.
"Dale was very influential in the making of 'And We Were Young,' particularly during the editing phase. He handpicked one of his keenest students to supervise the voice-over recording in the studio he designed on campus," Smetanka wrote in an email.
Sherrard, in fact, was the second person to see any of the rough cut of the movie – the first being the composer.
Smetanka said the two would talk shop, film, art and "everything else."
"He was a fantastic listener, very present in conversation. When I was feeling burned out in my work, his enthusiasm picked me up. When things were going better, I felt he got a contact high out of mine," he said.
In 2013, Sherrard gave a TEDx talk titled, "Technology and Sonic Culture: Do You Hear What I Hear?"
Smith said it reflects Sherrard's energy, openness, provocation and humor, as well as his basic philosophy of sound.
In a mere 15 minutes, he traced humans' relationship with sound from prehistoric times to the advent of radio to iPhones and earbuds and developing technologies such as "bone conduction," in which an implant directs sound waves into the ear via the bone.
He made a line connecting the four-beats-per-measure rhythm of the heartbeat in the womb, a sound we hear before we can even see, to a DJ's 4/4 beat on a dance floor.
Mixing insight and humor, he explained how technology can isolate us while deepening our relationship with sounds. And how we also use it can enrich shared experiences as well.
"It's not about the technology at all and it never was. It's our need to share our sounds and our stories, and technology just supports that. You know, we want to share our stuff. And I believe, personally I believe the future of sonic culture is actually quite bright. ...
"Eventually, we're all going to hear each other. I'm going to hear what you hear, and you're going to hear what I hear, and together we can celebrate the sounds of our lives. So listen up and listen well."
Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No comments:

Post a Comment