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“THE KEY TO MY GRANDFATHER’S HOUSE,” written and photographed by David Imbrogno and video produced  by Douglas Imbrogno is a powerful, moving photo-poem-essay on the immigrant tale of one Italian family. But it could be the kindred tale of millions of families across innumerable cultures through time.

This particular story began on a steep Calabrian hillside in the early 20th century  in the southern Italian Province of Cosenza., moving through Ellis Island to the small town of Lorain, Ohio. It circles back upon themes of family, loss and heritage through text, photographs and sound effects.

IT IS A BIG ASK IN THIS SHORT-ATTENTION-SPAN ERA— 16 minutes of your undivided attention for this brotherly collaboration which reaches across two continents and two centuries. But after it is through,  we feel you will come to understand the rewards of settling into a quiet space with your computer or phone and experiencing this journey with undivided attention. Your feedback is welcome and any other reactions it stirs in you from your own immigrant roots. In one way or another, we are all descendants of immigrants from somewhere and someplace. As my elder brother David puts it:

“The Key To My Grandfather’s House” story is not mine, not brother Doug’s, it is our family’s story … Normally I would say that I wrote it. Actually I feel as if I “channelled” it from our ancestors. I am usually a visual communicator but here the words came to the forefront and my photographs reverted to snapshots… Our Aunts Teresa and Loretta who accompanied us might have been the mediums through which our ancestors channelled the story.”

David adds: “Please, find a quiet place to enjoy the sixteen minute show. Turn on the sound and watch it full screen.”

A rose bush flanked in the back by an olive grove at the top of the Calabrian hillside where our father was born. | Photograph by DAVID IMBROGNO

THIS IS AN EXCERPT OF A MUCH LARGER written photo-essay (a prose-poem, really)  by David. If interested in reading and viewing the longer piece, visit CowGarage.com or EvidenceofmylLife.com. This video can be viewed as a separate stand-alone work of art, but it is also a companion piece to a spoken word live performance.

FOR MORE ON THE VIDEO, to read the longer photo-essay or to schedule a live performance of “The Key,” subscribe to the websites above and to this website, TheWebTheater.com by clicking on the “subscribe” option in the right-hand top of the home page. You can reach either of us through those sites. Grazie mille!

THIS VIDEO IS A CO-PRODUCTION by David and Douglas Imbrogno. | Current version as of AUG 11, 2018

VIDEO: “Motherless Child 2018” by The Front Porch Lights
NOTES: President Trump and his cabal lit a firestorm in America in June 2018  with their “family separation” policy at the country’s southern border. (Well, it only really came to widespread light then. The Houston Chronicle has been covering the brewing crisis for awhile.) I have dutifuly tweeted and re-tweeted the most pungent quotes and coverage from righteous outlets I admire and rabbis who speak truth to power, among others.

But then I figured I could do a little more. I got out my tools from my career communications kit: songcraft and videosmithing. Here’s the result, a music video by the newly made-up band The Front Porch Lights (actually,  me and my guitar, multitracked and tweaked a score of times). Perdóname, you native or accomplished Spanish speakers, if my Google Translate-powered Spanish verse is not quite as felicitous as it might be.

I would like to believe “the So-Called President” (to quote my spouse in her more gracious moments) has seen the light with his newly announced Executive Order ending the family separation practice. But Malcolm Gladwell needs to add a new chapter to his masterpiece, because it sure seems like we have passed innumerable tipping points — and nothing has tipped yet in Trumpistan. He’s an outlier of outrage.

“Motherless Child” (or “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”) is a public domain traditional Negro spiritual, to borrow from the song’s Wikipedia page. So, it  fits perfectly in this moment in American history. As the page goes on to note: “The song is clearly an expression of pain and despair as it conveys the hopelessness of a child who has been torn from her or his parents.” But it also has a tinge of hope to it, the author of the entry notes, as it is just “sometimes” I feel like a motherless child, implying the hope of reuniting mother and child (and father and child) remains the promise buried in the lament.

Indeed. Join the fray. Here is a list of groups working to reunite kids separated from parents at the border: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/kidsattheborder

HERE ARE MY REWORKED  LYRICS
(Feel free to cover the song, as noted below):
NOTE: The music video version is played with a capo at the first fret

“Motherless Child 2018,” adapted by Douglas Imbrogno:

Em                                           Am                   Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Am                                                                     Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Em                                           Am                   Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
C                               B7
taken from her hands
C                              B7
I do not understand!
C                                    B7                                 Em              B7
Why did you just yank me from her hands?

Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child…
Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child…
Sometimes I feel like a fatherless child…
Sleeping on a mat,
Wondering where’s he’s at.
Curled up all alone upon this mat.

Sometimes I feel like we’re already gone.
Sometimes I feel like we’re already gone.
Sometimes I feel like we’re already gone.
I know that can’t be right… Turn on your front porch light…

A welcome in the middle of the night.

A veces me siento como un niño sin mama
A veces me siento como un niño sin mama
A veces me siento como un niño sin mama…
Tomado de sus manos
No! No entiendo!
¿Por qué me arrancaste de sus manos?

Sometimes I feel like a country-less child.
Sometimes I feel like a country-less child.
Sometimes I feel like a country-less child.
A-wandering in the night.
I can see your front porch light!
Will you leave me lonely in the night?

Em                                           Am                   Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Em                                           Am                   Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Em                                           Am                   Em       Em
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially. My hope is other musicians may add solos to the instrumental parts or singers add harmony parts — and re-release their version into the wilds of their own social networks.  If you would like to download just the song itself, click over to my Soundcloud page for a free download. Add your own instruments and voice and re-release the song.  

Or just pass the music video on.
Thanks for listening.

PS: Two words:
Remember / November

PSS: For DIY music video geeks, a note. I have long since lost patience with complex new programs. This song and video were cobbled together with spit and baling wire, using a Yeti Blue microphone (I adore the midnight blue one I just bought at Best Buy), Garageband and Final Cut Pro. And coffee.

PSSS: Thanks to the creative shooters at Unsplash.com (hang around for the video’s credit roll) for some remarkable photography, especially the several stirring shots of the Statue of Liberty. May she ever welcome immigrants. (She certainly welcomed my family, including some tough-as-nails Italians.)

Photo by Wellington Rodrigues | Courtesy Unsplash.com

 

VIDEO: Why art can’t hurt you
NOTES: During All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia, in Spring 2011, singer-songwriter Albert Frank Perrone had a few important things to say about art while painting this window of his Mercer Street building. The line on the window comes from a painting by Fred Babb. NOTE: This video was one of four finalists in the “Micro-Film” category (under five minutes) of the 2012 Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington
SOUNDTRACK: Excerpt of “I’ve Got a Little Voice” by Albert Frank Perrone
LENGTH: 2 min 52 sec

VIDEO: A video of an encounter with a video installation
NOTES: An encounter one day in 2013 with the video installation ‘Text Rain’ at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Ky. This engrossing 1999 video installation piece using projection software is a work by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv, installed in the elevator lobby of the Museum Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky. The alphabet cascade of letters cleverly form lines from a poem by Evan Zimroth and the letters drop onto whatever human shape is picked up by a camera in the center of the piece.
LENGTH: 2 min 31 sec
SOUNDTRACK: “Hyperdrive” by Lucas the Flow

VIDEO: 9 Ways of Looking at ‘Hallelujah’
NOTES:  Acclaimed metal sculptor Albert Paley’s monumental sculpture, “Hallelujah,” sprouted almost overnight (well, over the course of a weekend) in front of the Clay Center in Charleston, W.Va., in October 2009. The reaction to the 198,000-pound sculpture was immediate in a city and state where high-ticket monumental sculpture is as rare as straight roads. While fans of art and culture were happy to have this sculptural visitation from a much larger city, commentators to the local media dunned the nearly million-dollar sculpture as a rattletrap junk heap. In other words, the usual reaction to contemporary art. It is true that the sculpture, with its upward-thrusting lines, its meant-to-weather Cor-Ten steel and bronze elements going green, bears a resemblance to a wrecked interstellar rocket ship. That’s a compliment, by the way. For those of us who have come to appreciate passing it on our daily commute into town, it is a welcome bit of visual flair to an otherwise mundane cityscape.
SOUNDTRACK: ” Fortune” by Lucas the Flow
LENGTH: 3 min 15 sec

 

VIDEO: Lucas the Flow in action plus more.
NOTES: An older promotional video from WVTV: WestVirginiaVille.com TV and The Web Theater, featuring some live action performances by Lucas the Flow performing a remix of Sinistarr’s remix of “Ice Black” by Bao Guido, plus “Exoplanet” by Lucas the Flow. Plus, video excerpts from TheWebTheater archives including a cameo mouth organ appearance by Lori McKinney at the Room Upstairs in Princeton, W.Va.
LENGTH: 4 min 41 sec

VIDEO: A profile of the grinning, picking and floating at Grinfest
NOTES:  Take a visit to GrinFest 2012, a musical gathering alongside the Greenbrier River in the heart of West Virginia, with excerpts of songs by the Spurgie Hankins Band, The Tom McGees and other performers as well as the life of the festival by day and by night.
LENGTH: 10 min 17 sec

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VIDEO: “Elizabeth & George: Two Sides of One Life”
NOTES: A companion video to a three-part Charleston Gazette series (June 2, 3 and 4, 2013) about a street person named ‘Elizabeth,’ who was often seen in downtown Charleston, W.Va. Her past turned out be a surprise. She had grown up in the Bible belt and was such a promising singer, Ric Ocasek of The Cars sought out George through mentions in Rolling Stone magazine. But George had since become Elizabeth, and showed up on the streets of the West Virginia’s capital city. Read the tale of how George became Elizabeth, losing touch with some beloved sisters and a mother and the reunion that eventually ensued. Read the award-winning three part series, “Elizabeth & George” here.
SOUNDTRACK: “Marathon Man” by George Bartlett
LENGTH: 5 min 31 sec