27 September, 2007

Favorite Obsessions: Sept. 10-Sept. 27

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - "Freak Out" (1966)
(Barfko-Swill, 1993)

Frank Zappa - "The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life" (1991)
(Barfko-Swill, 1993)

26 September, 2007

Happy Birthday to MATA

I attended the MATA benefit concert last night, celebrating both MATA's 10th anniversary and the 70th birthday of festival co-founder Philip Glass. The event was truly impressive. The performances were excellent and remarkably diverse. Hearing Annie Gosfield's The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory, part II, next to Theo Bleckmann's entrancing anteroom, and Derek Bermel's Thracian Sketches next to Carla Kilstedt's Hold My Own truly illustrated MATA's mission. The mission, so eloquently stated by new executive director Missy Mazzoli at the evening's outset: to allow composers to be themselves, as this is when they are at their best.

Although the whole evening was great, if a bit warm, the high-point for me was the surprise, all-star performance of Knee Play 5 from Einstein on the Beach. This piece, one of my all time favorites, is also probably among the most influential on me as a composer. It has the simplicity and sophistication that I strive for in my own music, and embodied the spirit of an evening marked by honesty, sincerity and love of art.

Congratulations to Missy and everyone at MATA for a really spectacular event. And to MATA: best wishes for another 10 and more!

17 September, 2007

Being Frank

"The biggest threat to America today is not Communism, it's (the) moving (of) America toward a fascist theocracy. (...) Everything that has happened during the Reagan administration is steering us right down that pike."

- Frank Zappa, 1986

10 September, 2007

Favorite Obsession: September 4-September 10

Gillian Welch - "I Dream a Highway" from Time (The Revelator) (2001)
(Acony Records)

06 September, 2007

To The Man You Have To Give The Spirit

This from Bernard Holland's Obituary of Luciano Pavarotti in today's New York Times:

“I’m not a politician, I’m a musician,” [Pavarotti] told the BBC Music Magazine in an April 1998 article about his efforts for Bosnia. “I care about giving people a place where they can go to enjoy themselves and to begin to live again. To the man you have to give the spirit, and when you give him the spirit, you have done everything.”

05 September, 2007

Why I Don't Want an EZ Pass, Part II

In light of the recent strike in NYC over the installation of GPS units in cabs, I thought I would continue my EZ Pass post. Below is Part II. (Go here for Part I)


What bothers me, though, is not whether or not the government listens to our phone conversations. We all know that they can and do. What bothers me is that people seem to be so docile about it. People seem to have either accepted surveillance as a normal part of life, or just don't even give it much thought. For me, neither of these feels quite right.

In one of our many talks on political music, my friend Seth mentioned a generation of composers—Italian I think—who "knew what it was like to live under fascism," and behaved accordingly, artistically and otherwise. Could this be it? Do we Americans just not know what it is like to live under fascism and so don't see constant surveillance as among its signifiers? I think this might be part of it, but, as my friend Jeff suggested, and I agree, it is something more uniquely American—more uniquely Capitalist.

I mentioned The Lives of Others earlier, which if you haven't seen you should. In this film, the East German Stasi monitor a playwright who is believed to be, among other things, straying from Communist ideology. (Ideology is something that will be discussed a lot in these pages, I predict.) In a fascist state ideology is key. After all, along with its cousins propaganda and force, ideology, one could argue, is a primary source of totalitarian strength. In this context, the government listens in to insure that its citizens are ideologically adherent, securing the regime's retention of power.

But in a Capitalist system the bottom line is, well, capital. Because of this—and here is Jeff's point—if the average American (which is to say the average apolitical consumer) was being monitored by the government, it would more likely be so that the they could be more efficiently and effectively sold to than it would be to insure any ideological adherence. Of course, one could further argue that buying is Capitalist ideology, and thus ideological adherence is, in fact, being monitored.

(to be continued…)

03 September, 2007

Favorite Obsession: August 28-September 3

Marc Blitzstein: The Cradle Will Rock - Original 1985 Cast Recording
(Jay Records, Released 1999)

01 September, 2007

Ol' Red Pete

"I still call myself a communist, because communism is no more what Russia made of it than Christianity is what the churches make of it."

- Pete Seeger, New York Times, January 22, 1995