Deep Ecology of Unwritten Language & You Can Try – Artis the Spoonman with Reggie Miles


Artis getting help with making music from the children - photo by Lucy Bullock
Artis getting help with making music from the children – photo by Lucy Bullock

First memory of the man floats in the mist of 36 years ago…

In celebration of a new commons in Portland … around a double story parking lot that has become the cities Pioneer Square – it’s public “living room”… the downtown Transit mall celebrated it’s inauguration with ART Quake… Artis showed up to put a free spirit into the people present for it’s birth…

Staged Music, Beer Gardens, Open Air Galleries, Downtown Galleries and the Free Spirited Buskers steered up dancing, bopping and thronging streets full with human life…

The man – a shaman out of time – had one set of ceremonial performance clothes – that had been patched from lands around the planet – in years that followed, the clothes disappeared completely under the patches – a man patched together out of the world… bare footed – and grounded deep while stretching us into sky

At his feet lie all the gear to equip the crowd to table a feast – spoons of every size and shape – wooden – silver – tin – bone

The signature climax of the polyrhythmic waves of sound which emerged from the bodies dance with the percussive twinning of the spoons was a whirling arc of an arm spinning a whorl of sound than echoed off the cheek as it built a bullroaring effect – moving in waves of sound from metal to wood to bone and back again with splashes into the array at his feet as he exchanged pairs in one hand while running another pair against his thigh in a consciousness expanding rapture

These geysers of sound created connective tissue between the crowds, the buses, and the stories that were told… a favorite of the time was of a young wizard who decided to step out of the funnel into a job plan of government run schools – he built himself his own flying saucer – out of which he roams in the night …

He couldn’t do the full telling’s alone – he rode lines of story that emerged out of his traveling troubadour musician’s musician existence of questioning all the systems and putting his heart into the rhythms of it all– out of his listening and exploring the windy lines of living –he carried string to bring in the help – he would start the story and pull out the string – going only so far – before he needed a volunteer to help with the weaving of the tale… hands together shapes would appear out of the weavings of four hands dancing at the center of the crowd… keeping us all on the edges creeping forward to see & hear how the tale and the weavings would reveal each other…

He left me a changed human being – Artis was a path out of the maze – a hearted man with public passion – and a dream that lifted us all as he refused the indignities of a contracted existence and sang the hymns of righteous wonder… He exposed a vitality that was unknown to me among those who called themselves grown up – a teen mind was forever rearranged in its imaginations of the possible… the Band of Bliss Gypsys I toured 20 years later counted Artis among it’s barefooted inspirations.

ArtQuake faded away but the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle has kept a space where free spirits are welcomed and Artis was there from it’s beginning… Usually with Jim Page who plays the festival every year… and who in the few years Artis could not – spoke his name – and brought him in spirit…

Artis Invites Lucy to Photograph - Photo by Lucy Bullock
Artis Invites Lucy to Photograph – Photo by Lucy Bullock
This year at Folklife I met up with Gaia, Lucy & Jack on Memorial Day at a SusseFusse International Folk Dance Performance…
the dance troupe daughter River was in, that got us to Folklife twenty years ago… and whose teacher Heidi Vorst will be teaching the second generation in our family next year. Artis the Spoonman was outside the hall with Reggie Miles. While I set up sound gear to video, my 6 year old grand took the camera to photograph. Artis immediately connected with her and had her take a shot of a half circle of children whose hands were out so he could play the spoons on them. Making them each a part of the music.

After a song he went into this tale. A tale about that part of our humanity, which is free of the mediations of books. Unwritten Language. Languages still beyond text. Languages, which resonate wholly among the living… and the spirit roads that connect with the ancestors. Languages, which sing the ancient indigenous experiences of landscape souls… Languages whose fates are on the line…

Artis the Spoonman Website

Reggie Miles Website

Northwest Folklife Festival


Add yours →

  1. Beautiful, Treothe. And Artis. Beauty-full…….

    • Thanks Ari, it really is amazing to get to make a tribute to the work of Artis (& Reggie) and feel how his art has resonated across a lifetime… – and warming to get to witness Lucy encountering them… knowing it will move out beyond our time …

  2. Hello, I don’t believe that I have a hard copy of this video which contains one of my original songs but would love to be able to have one. This is the recording of my song, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”, which you called, “You Can Try”, in your posting of this video. Besides my interest in simply wanting a hard copy of this for my records, since it contains the only recorded version of my original song, yesterday, I received an email from Artis, he is interested in using a portion of this video as a promotional tool to offer potential clients which might be interested in our performances as a duet. He would like to use the portion from 11:49 – 13:00 “exactly” and he asked me if I could splice that section from the video. I very likely could do what he’s asking, except, I currently do not have a hard copy of the video you captured. Would it be possible to obtain a copy of this video? Or, since you might have the original video stored and very likely have better computer editing gear than I have on hand, would you be so kind as to at least send me the piece of this video Artis is interested in using?

    Many thanks!

    Reg Miles


    • Currently on a wander – so won’t be at my computer for a week or so… and feel free to download the online videos and edit if you need sooner – hopefully I can find the original (which may be slightly better than the online and will update the info…

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