I hope this update finds everybody well. I am posting to announce the release of my third book from my companion project, The Face Zone: Surreal Daydreams to Trip Your Imagination, now available on Amazon.com:
The writing and artwork have evolved so much since the last installment—guaranteed to move your soul, light your imagination, and take you on an intellectually and emotionally exhilarating trip.
For those in the vicinity of Frederick, Maryland, I am performing a live set of the new Face Zone spoken-word material with projected artwork and music from Trips for Piano at The Delaplaine Arts Center on Monday, September 13th starting at 6 p.m. Entry is $5. Here is the link to the event on Facebook: https://fb.me/e/19Kb2zKpA
Yours in imagination,
Marty : – ) >
On August 11, 2021, I was the featured guest on Quintessential Listening: Poetry Online Radio. Host Dr. Michael Anthony Ingram interviewed me about my multimedia spoken-word project The Face Zone. We discussed my thoughts on the purpose and power of poetry as well as my creative process. I read material from my new book and performed music from Trips for Piano. Follow this link to hear the episode: https://youtu.be/JMvBJmruIw4.
Are you ready for a trip? Starting July 1st, you can soar through these eight gorgeously resonant piano compositions made to move your soul and light your imagination. Available for streaming, download, and CD purchase. Track listings:
Flowers Open (5:25)
Music is the most abstract and moving of artistic media. Invisible soundwaves unfolding in real time to palpably express the human spirit. Of all the acoustic instruments, piano is the most versatile vessel for sonic expression, resulting in every style from baroque to blues, from ragtime to rock. Eight-eight bits of clay to mold into countless aural landscapes.
I first got my hands into that clay at age four when we inherited an old, anonymous, upright piano. Upon its arrival, we discovered I had also inherited intense musicality from a relative before me (likely my grandmother, a natural artist). For the first decade, I shaped sound by ear and instinct. Unable to read notes, I relied on listening, musical memory, and inborn dexterity to reproduce patterns heard on the radio or turntable, and on an inner creative machinery to make those unique impressions on the keys that would later become my pianistic identity.
My parents nudged, then finally shoved me into formal lessons, which led to a bachelor’s degree in music from Penn State, where I studied composition and piano performance. Like an orator at last learning to read and write, music literacy set me free. I was no longer in a creative feedback loop of fossilized personal habits. Further, I could now write music in my mind, unrestrained by the physical limitations of what my hands might stumble upon at a given moment. Like thinking before you speak.
Despite the newfound artistic freedom, I began to feel physically trapped and burned out by the isolation of life in a practice room or music lab. Without joy, there is no fire, so I took a break from piano upon graduation. After a couple very dark, aimless years of redefining myself, I moved to China and taught high-school English. The adventure was just amazing, but long-term I needed something more stable, something in between sitting alone in a studio and flying halfway around the world, so I returned to the states and continued teaching here.
Education can be beautiful work, but a hole developed at my center over time. The growing years away from the fine arts were dimming my light. I began drawing and writing poetry to brighten that space (two more inheritances from my grandmother). That, in turn, developed into a solo stage show of spoken word with projected artwork called The Face Zone: Surreal Daydreams to Trip Your Imagination… After some years of regionally performing this act, it occurred to me that music would enhance the experience for both me and the audience!
Excited by this revelation, I reacquired a piano, blew the dust off some scores I wrote back when I had long, dramatic, piano hair, and found my way back home (this time with the hair on the opposite side of my face). In addition to relearning older compositions, I began writing new pieces to rotate through my spoken-word set until I finally had enough music for a full-length album to take you places all on its own.
With Trips for Piano, I invite you on eight musical excursions. Though there are titles and themes to guide your way, you are free to travel wherever the notes take you. The point is to set mind in motion. Toward what and to what end is for you to decide as you lose yourself in the resonance of these evocative piano pieces made to move the soul and light the imagination…
—Martin Graff, Spring 2021
There are so many artistic mediums and so many ideas to express through them that I’ve never been able to limit myself to just one. Alongside, and sometimes in conjunction with the piano, I draw, write, and perform the combined result in a solo stage show of spoken word with projected art and intermittent music called The Face Zone: Surreal Daydreams to Trip Your Imagination…
Each of us sees through a different lens. The same artwork can be a masterpiece or mud depending on the museumgoer. A referee’s call is often disputed by the other team. Where seventeenth-century military engineers envisioned coiled metal as a way to dislodge bullets, vintners saw a corkscrew―such disparate applications, war and winemaking!
Eight billion points of view and growing.
The Face Zone is my point of view: a creative space where I reflect on inner and outer worlds, a place where I imagine, draw, and write about it. The resulting pieces could be flashes from fantastical narratives for which you must construct the plot. They could be metaphors. Could be puzzles. Jokes. Commentaries. Commands. Questions. Visions. What connects them is that they all begin with some kind of captioned “face” to prompt reaction and thought.
As much as the material is a window into my worldview, it’s also a mirror reflecting yours, as your particular combination of experiences, values, and beliefs influences the meaning that you take away. Though some of our associations may overlap, they don’t have to. The point is to set mind in motion. Toward what and to what end is for you to decide, but enjoy the sights along the way: surreal daydreams to trip your imagination…