18 October, 2007

The City of (Big) Brotherly Love

After a knock-down, drag-out show at Crane Arts last May, Newspeak returns to Philly to do a little more damage. One of New York's edgiest new music bands, Newspeak will join Electric Kompany for an evening of house-shaking socially-conscious music by some of the most daring composers working today. Come on out and hear the music of Missy Mazzoli, Stefan Weisman, Andrea Mazzariello (aka massey), Jonathan Pieslak, Jacob TV, Caleb Burhans, yours truly, and more.

All this--plus an installation by Philadelphia artist Daniel Heyman--makes this a show not to be missed!

Be there! ...rumor is there may be protests.


October 20, 2007 @ 8PM - The Community Education Center, 3500 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104

• $15 general admission
• $10 discounted tickets available for students (with I.D.) and seniors
• seating is General Admission
• tickets are available for purchase at the door one hour prior to each even


17 October, 2007

Favorite Obsession: Oct. 11-Oct. 19

Pantera - Far Beyond Driven (1994)
(East West Records)

16 October, 2007

Burying Paul, or, "turn me on, dead man"

So, I went to see Across the Universe the other night, which I enjoyed although I can certainly see how someone might not. I always enjoy Julie Taymor's striking imagery, and so for that, it was great. A story based all around characters from Beatles songs (Jude, Sadie, Prudence, etc) thrown into a sort of weirdo narrative, however, was less convincing. Nonetheless, a good time. And the songs are still really great.

After seeing the film, I was sent into a bit of a Beatles fit, dug out my copy of The White Album, and listened. First: what a weird record this is. Great, yes, but totally weird. Second: "Revolution 9" is amazing in how it contextually illuminates what was going on culturally at the time. (John Sinclair talks a little about this in his book Guitar Army; The Beatles and Freak Culture.) What listening made me realize, however, is why I have always disliked Paul McCartney.

Now, those who know me know that I have always had issues with Paul. For a while I thought it was because I am a composer and he is a fake-composer. But that's really not it. I don't really care if Paul writes "classical" music. Someone has to, since none of my friends do it anymore. What really irks me is, I now realize, is his public persona; the character he appeared to play in The Beatles, and has continued to play since. (Regardless of whether it is sincere or not).

Each of The Beatles had their own public image, which has since become their little myths. John was the martyred rebel artsy weirdo who fought the law (even though the law won). George was the spiritual one who--perhaps the most brilliant musician of the lot--was trounced by the Lennon/McCartney musical personality. Ringo was the lucky one. The worst musician of the lot who wrote all of their dopiest songs (Octopus’s Garden?!) and who was the ultimate right-place-at-the-right-time stand-in for Pete Best. (…but more on Ringo another time) And Paul? Well, Paul was the nice one.

And what does it mean to be the nice one? Well--and perhaps this is unfair--to me it always suggested a lack of personal conviction. It was clear that John and George had beliefs. Even Ringo had them, even if his beliefs were more along the lines of "I am going to ride this magic wave as long as I can." Paul always struck me as a bit of a goody-goody who always listened to his record execs. Sometimes I fantasize that he sold his soul to the corporations, which is why he has outlived his more noble band mates.

It will be interesting to see how his myth plays out. What will Paul's legacy be? Will they make movies about him like they have about Lennon? They may, but I can't imagine they will be all that interesting. What could they be about, really? How nice he was? His dramatic friendship with Michael Jackson? ("Paul I told you, I'm a lover, not a fighter!") Who really cares about any of this anyway?!

On a side note, has anyone ever thought how amazing it would be if wacko artist Paul McCarthy were to be inserted into The Beatles line-up? Now that’s a band I'd love to see--all mop tops and Heinz ketchup! Something more akin to GWAR than the Crickets I suspect!

10 October, 2007

Don't You Cross That Line

The UAW is on strike. According to the AP, "It is the first UAW strike against Chrysler since 1997...and the first strike against Chrysler during contract talks since 1985."

I have never been on strike, since there is really no union for what I do. But in 2003 my mother went on strike with her local teacher's union, after working without a contract for a number of years. My mother is not a terribly political person, but the fervor with which she fought her bosses was inspiring.

Some teachers went the scab route. Fearing for their own personal well-being, with no sense of solidarity, they crossed the picket line. Not a good idea. What friendships may have existed between the teachers-turned-scabs and their colleagues ended at the moment. The rest of that year was made unbearable for them. Most of them left for other schools at the end of the year. Interesting, to say the least.

09 October, 2007


"I never understand the radical who comes on TV in a suit and tie. Turn off the sound and he could be the mayor! The words may be radical, but television is a nonverbal instrument! The way to understand TV is to shut off the sound. No one remembers any words they hear; the mind is a technicolor movie of images, not words."

Jerry Rubin, Do It!: Scenarios of the Revolution (1970)

07 October, 2007

On Forgetting How to Compose

In a recent interview on New Music Box, composer Jennifer Higdon spoke very candidly about something that many composers experience quite frequently. That is, the feeling that, upon starting a new composition, one has totally and completely forgotten how to compose. At moments like these, I'll often call Missy, Andrew, Judd, or Joel. Picking up the phone, I just ask: "How, again, do you write music?" To which they almost always reply: "Damned if I know."

04 October, 2007

Newspeak Kicks Off 2007-2008

Sunday, October 07, 2007 at 7 pm
Kitting Factory, Old Office, $6

The very large Newspeak ensemble engulfs the very small Knitting Factory Old Office for a night of exciting music at overwhelming volumes. We’re playing pieces by Mazzariello, Mazzoli, Weisman and Little that are sure to please, plus a special surprise. Come early for a live set by the magically mysterious Massey performing cuts from “Music for War” and stick around for The Motion Sick, from Boston, doing that-indie-rock-thing they do so well. Doors are at 7; Newspeak at 8:00 or so. Good times for all, and only $6 (cheap!)


The Knitting Factory, Old Office
74 Leonard Street
New York, NY 10013

Box Office/Info: 212-219-3132

For more information on Newspeak and our 2007-2008 season, check out these pages.

02 October, 2007

Favorite Obsession: Sept. 27-Oct. 1

Marilyn Manson - Mechanical Animals (1998)
(nothing, Interscope)

01 October, 2007

Just Doing Our Job

On September 18th, the NY Times featured an article and audio slide show about a recently discovered photo album showing the members of the Nazi officer corps during their off-hours at Auschwitz. This is important, Rebecca Erbelding from the US Holocaust Museum tells us, because so little is known about the daily lives of those who managed the death camps; it provides "great insight into the banality of evil." What is more chilling, she continues, is that these images--photos of parties, romps in the woods, and sing-a-longs--were taking place within miles of the daily murder of thousands of Jews and other victims.

One of the lines from Ms. Erbelding that most struck me was the following: "the album reminds us that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were human beings--men and women with families, children and pets--who celebrated holidays and took vacations." In other words, these were people like you and me. People who were just doing their jobs--as unspeakable as those jobs were. People trying to live as normal a life as they could under their particular circumstances.

During the composition of my piece Soldier Songs, as I've mentioned, I interviewed a number of veterans. During these interviews, each soldier made statements to the effect that they were "just doing their jobs." One even said that his daily goal was "do (his) job, look out for (his) friends, get through the day." In this, there is little room for analysis. There is little room to ask questions about what is right or wrong. The goal is to survive.

So my question is this: By "just doing one's job", can one be held accountable in some way for actions that one did not directly commit? Does the doing of one's job in this context support, by default, the entire apparatus in operation? In the end, who should be held accountable, and does it depend on who wins or loses?

Going a step further: Within a democracy, how does this effect the average civilian/consumer/citizen? Are citizens complicit, through the support of their national apparatus, in the actions of that nation's government and/or military? And if not, at what point does this complicity take effect? At what point, if ever, is a population truly responsible for the actions of it's national politico-military-industrial complex?