20 December, 2008
Check it out here.
Or, to listen to some of the recently re-issued Eno/Fripp record (No Pussyfooting), go here.
Really though, you should probably do both.
22 November, 2008
20 November, 2008
20 August, 2008
20 July, 2008
In June, the one and only Judas Priest released a brand new two-disc concept album called Nostradamus. Based on the title alone, I am thinking that it's probably either one of the best things ever, or the absolute worst. After hearing the single, however, I think it may well be both. (Hello orchestral introduction!) This gets to an issue I've been thinking about for a while: heavy metal as camp.
I've realized lately that part of what I love about metal is that, despite its inherent silliness, it takes itself so seriously. In this, it is both noble and totally absurd. Musically, especially within the Extreme Metal genres, the bands tend to be highly skilled, but the look of metal has always been problematic,
Judas Priest is a great examples of this. They are technical masters and musically solid--Painkiller is one of the best metal albums ever--but as for taste, well...
Alex made a great point about Judas Priest versus groups like Mötley Crüe, or even KISS. These latter groups, less musically skilled, seemed too aware of their over-the-top image to really be camp. To be camp--if we follow Sontag--something has to be so out that it loses the ability to judge just how out it actually is; and it has to be dead serious.
This in so many ways is the essence of what metal is about--extra-musically--and I can think of no greater example than Judas Priest. I mean come on, does it get any worse than this?
But could it get any better?!
09 July, 2008
Somehow it felt relevant to share.
"Corporations like DuPont, Ford, General Motors, and ITT owned factories in enemy countries that produced fuel, tanks, and planes that wreaked havoc on Allied forces. After the war, instead of being prosecuted for treason, ITT collected $27 million from the U.S. Government for war damages inflicted on its German plants by Allied bombings. General Motors collected over $33 million. Pilots were given instructions not to hit factories in Germany that were owned by U.S. firms. Thus Cologne was almost leveled by Allied bombings, but its Ford plant, providing military equipment for the Nazi army, was untouched; indeed, German civilians began using the plant as an air raid shelter."
01 July, 2008
"Long before aeroplanes were invented he anticipated the horror of bombing attacks on people in air raid shelters. He is the lyric composer of the gas chambers of Auschwitz, of Dachau concentration camp, of the complete despair of the man in the street under the heel of fascism. That is his humanity. It is proof of Schönberg's genius and instinct that he gave expression to all these emotions at a time when the world seemed safe for the ordinary man in the street. Whatever one may say against him, he never lied."
-Hanns Eisler, 1948
28 June, 2008
Kids movies are good at this. If you go back to watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you'll find much of the same, (especially if you've read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation for context.) One could also say the same about Ratatouille, though this might be more of a stretch. One finds this occasionally in popular culture, although it's usually done pretty cheaply, often through evoking fascist imagery. (See, for example, the sub-plot of Wicked...yes, I've seen Wicked).
But this was done well, I thought. Basically a Dystopian cautionary tale disguised as a kids film, WALL-E delivers its message strongly, if a bit too strongly at times via over-zealous monologues. As one might glean from my recent posts, I've been reading some Orwell lately, and so one could say that I am prone to Dystopian interpretations, but I was not alone in this opinion. EM leaned over to me at one point and whispered "This is some subversive shit."
The ultimate irony, though, is the audience. Here we are, a bunch of anesthetized Americans at the multiplex* sucking down cola, watching a film about anesthetized Americans at a proverbial outer-space multiplex sucking down cola--(well, liquid tacos). I imagine that many didn't even notice that the movie was about us; and that it was critical at that. This begs the question: what good is social criticism if no on notices?
What's more, as Roeper and Phillips said in their review: "There are a lot of movies that are anti-consumer, but you can still get the fun souvenirs!" And no doubt Disney has already started pumping the world full of more cheap plastic crap that we don't need. I hope at least they are using recycled materials, lest they create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Though I have to say, the Buy N Large satire site is pretty fantastic. (Buy N Large is the Wal-Mart-type Big Brother that seems to have conquered the whole world. It envelops all nations under its banner. It is the ultimate victory of capitalism over, well, everything.)
In a nice twist, the site seems to have no mention whatsoever of the actual film.
*Literally, we were at a hardcore multiplex in NJ. It was intense.
23 June, 2008
“Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. ... The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
George Orwell, Why I Write
22 June, 2008
21 May, 2008
18 May, 2008
Many Thanks to Peter Matthews at Feast of Music for the kind words about the recent performance of Soldier Songs at Vox. There are some interesting bits about the piece that I thought I would mention here, just to provide a little background.
In his post, Pete talks about the final song heard at Vox, Two Marines. Like all the movements of Soldier Songs, Two Marines is based on a true story, although it is unique among the movements, in that the story was not culled from the interviews I conducted. Rather, it is based on a news story I heard in 2004 about Carlos Arredondo. I won't recount the story here, but you should check it out. Suffice it to say, it moved me deeply.
At the end of Two Marines, a quotation emerges on the piccolo, glockenspiel, and toy piano. A lot of people seem to think that they know the song was, but no one's quite guessed it yet. The song is, in fact, a World War One protest song, from 1915, called "I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier." I included this quotation, first for what it brings to the subtext of Two Marines, but also for its suggestion that protest has always been as much a part of war as fighting, killing, dying, and mourning.
You can listen to the original here, in all it's crackly glory.
Photo (c) Carol Rosegg for New York City Opera
15 May, 2008
13 May, 2008
- Marc Blitzstein, 1936
08 May, 2008
The recordings up on WNYC are live, so, you know, there is some noise in there, but you get the idea. I am really happy with our version of Coming Together, but man, The Price of Oil is as ugly as, well, the price of oil. I wish the drums were louder in the recording for this latter piece. Not because I love drums...although I do love loud drums--something I hope to write about at some point--but rather because I know that in the space, the drums were REALLY loud, so I feel like you, the on-line listener, might not be getting the full, painful, effect.
Anyway, try to imagine really loud drums as you listen.
(And special thanks to Terrance McKnight for all his helping in bring our show to life!)
***Update: The video component has now been added to the page linked to above.***
06 May, 2008
Here is where I explain the rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
Here is where I follow said rules:
"The lackeys that entered the office were five or six in number and the men in the shop were helpless onlookers while the scuffle went on, as their slightest move was met with a gun pressed to their ribs, no one being able to raise a hand, contrary to what the papers say. Ricardo and Enrique were literally dragged to a waiting auto, a block away, Enrique bleeding profusely from head to foot. The comrades were called yesterday for preliminary hearing, but not being yet represented by a lawyer, they refused to plead."
from A Letter from Maria Magon to Alexander Berkman
Life of an Anarchist: The Alexander Berkman Reader
And my tagged five:
Melly's Blog Mellissa keeps it real.
thank you campaign, Andrea has assured me that the posting hiatus will soon end. Judd also contributes.
ACB, So we all know that she's fantastic. You should read her blog.
Ted, Concert reports and posts on new pieces and various projects. Also, a fantastic picture of JC (no, not that JC) Check it.
The Motion Sick, Boston indie rockers, ex-band mates, d-list celebrity stalkers, occasional advice columns.
*So, apparently I don't read ACB's blog enough to know that she has been now hit thrice with this thing. Shame on me. So in this light I offer her an out, should she want it, and off as a fine replacement, Judd.
05 May, 2008
The conversation itself has apparently become known as "the most tense and uncomfortable twenty minutes in the history of concert going." (...and the concert on the whole was also called "controversial," in addition to the "innovative" New York Magazine gave us in their listing. - Awesome.) This is not a quotation from anyone in particular, but rather one culled from assorted buzz, and while it is no doubt hyperbolic, I can't help but wonder if, from a concert going experience, this is a good thing.
I mean, why shouldn't there be moments of tension at events like these? I am honestly pretty tired of everything being so nice all the time, because, you know what, that's fakery. I secretly love it when these "old coots" as C>T> called them, like Rzewski and even Andriessen are interviewed, and just sort of give the interviewer hell. I have learned, through spending time with both of these gents, that this apparent aggression is really just a high level intellectual discourse, where you speak your mind, freely, disagree openly, and then move on to the bar. Passion lives neatly alongside detachment. For example, for however much we disagreed during our talk, Frederic was lovely and grateful after the show, as well as the next morning when I saw him. (Oh, and hey Park Central Hotel: get your act together! You are a drunken mess! But I digress...)
And to be honest, when you call an event "Which Side Are You On? - Music By, For, and Against Frederic Rzewski" - you are sort of inviting confrontation. As for Frederic talking through the second half, what can you do? I think that that's one of the things that we relinquished when we left the strictly-classical world. Ted hits is just right in his post actually. And it's not like you couldn't hear the music over it. Trust me, you could. It was loud. I just hope that the recording doesn't pick that up in Ted's piece, which has some wonderfully delicate bits.
As for his notion that there are no boundaries to be obliterated, I'll save that for my forthcoming New Amsterdam post. All I will say for now is that I cannot imagine Rzewski's The Price of Oil, or really many of the pieces in our rep at a classical venue. Not that we wouldn't love to play there. I just suspect that these venues might just not know what to do with us. I feel like we'd be too loud for their resonant spaces and they'd want us to turn down. (We've been there before...) Plus, where would they place us in their elaborate marketing schemes?! Either way, I guess time will tell on this one.
04 May, 2008
03 May, 2008
Me: Hi Frederic! Thanks for coming!
Me: Excuse me?
Frederic: Bronstein! You know?
Me: [blank stare]
Frederic: Bronstein, pen name: Trotsky! You look like Trotsky!
Me: Oh, right. Of course. I do?
Frederic: Yes, you do!
Me: Oh, okay. Well, awesome. Thanks! (?) Should we talk about the interview...?
(...more to come)
18 April, 2008
I mean, yes, Eliot Carter is 100 years old. And yes, that's something special. And yes, he is an important composer, many would argue. But really? 10 concerts in 4 days? Really?! That seems like the kind of thing that almost no human being on earth could tolerate; even the composer himself!
Now, I am not trying to be all down on Carter's music. It is true, that his thing is not my thing, but that's not the point. Carter is clearly a bad-ass, and he is fully deserving of a centennial celebration. Really, the issue here is with the programming. This is a lot of music by one person to hear in so short a time.
I always look forward to seeing what's on the docket for the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music each summer. Mostly, I find that it's not quite my thing--it often leaning toward the Carter end of the spectrum--but I still like finding out about composers I hadn't known before, and occasionally hearing something really fantastic. (And when I was a fellow there I heard performances that changed my life, for sure!) But this is really disappointing to me in that regard. It's just so monochromatic, in a way. (No pun intended.)
Oh well, good thing there is some diversity going on elsewhere in the region around the same time. I'll be there, you can be sure, and not long after will be playing a special summer show with Newspeak here. So if you aren't in the mood for ten million hours of Mr. Carter's music, you should come to one or both of those. At least there is still a reason to get out of the city and hit the Berkshires!
Whew! I was afraid my seersucker would have to go unworn this summer!
09 April, 2008
EM just sent me a great story about west coast dock workers who are sick of this war--along with 81 percent of Americans--and are doing something about it. The article says: "The (union's) motion (to protest) called (the war) an imperial action for oil in which the lives of working-class youth and Iraqi civilians were being wasted and declared May Day a "no peace, no work" holiday. Angered after supporting Democrats who received a mandate to end the war but who now continue to fund it, longshoremen decided to exercise their political power on the docks."
Right on. It's nice to see that normal people are getting involved in this, the way it ought to be. It's one thing when you see a bunch of feel-good hippies protesting the war, or east coast intelligentsia, but these are dock workers! Straight up dock workers. Right on! As they say above, these folks have political power, and know how to use it.
The other thing that I find interesting though, is that this extends beyond party politics. These folks are upset with the Democrats, and rightfully so! Could this be the straw the breaks the camel's back? Could this be end beginning of the end of the two-party system? John thinks so. I'll reserve judgement.
I have a couple of fears about this event, however. Mainly: government's don't like their docks closed. And you can see what they do the people who try to stop them here. (Thanks to FR for sending that along!) Will the government bring out the tear gas and water cannons, or this terrifying thing? Maybe it will all be peaceful: the president will invoke the Taft-Hartley Act, and everyone will go back to work. But what if they don't? What if they won't?
I don't know. Something tells me if this gets to a level seen in the video above, there will be a lot more people upset about it then when they lock up hippies. (Hell, I'd like to lock up a hippies every now and then!) Longshoreman are the people. I think it's hard to argue that point. Hippies, Punks, whatever, are a cultural other. If you oppress the longshoremen, you oppress the people. And, from all I have seen--and based on the very founding of this country--the people don't like to be oppressed.
Though maybe I am wrong. The article goes on to say that "At the start of the war in Iraq, hundreds of protesters demonstrated on the Oakland docks, and longshoremen honored their picket lines. Without warning, police in riot gear opened fire with so-called less-than-lethal weapons, shooting protesters and longshoremen alike with wooden dowels, rubber bullets, pellet bags, concussion grenades and tear gas. A U.N. Human Rights Commission investigator characterized the Oakland police attack as "the most violent" against anti-war protesters in the United States." Were people up in arms then? Not that I can recall, no.
So it all comes down to solidarity, I guess. Who will stand with these workers? And who among them will refuse to yield? "There is power in a union," the song says, and "And injury to one, is an injury to all." But above all you need solidarity. Will all of this "all" stand together?
06 April, 2008
But yes, it's true. Charlton Heston is dead at 84. I mean, it's a sad thing of course, when people die and I am sorry for his family and loved ones. I am not so heartless, after all. (I mean, how could I be both heartless and bleeding-heart?) But with someone like Heston, who seems to have gone through a drastic political shift, one is almost forced to examine the situation with a certain degree of, um, distance. I think that there must have been some sort of major event in his life that caused him to make these drastic changes. But I'm not sure what it is. Let's look at the "facts" shall we?*
Before this mystery event, Heston:
* Campaigned for Stevenson in 1956 and JFK in 1960.
* Fought against segregation.
* Marched with Dr. King in 1963.
* Called for support for the Johnson Gun Control Act of 1968.
* Opposed the Vietnam War.
But then, something happened, and after this mystery event, he:
white men, white house, brown suits: the 80s
* Voted for Richard Nixon in 1972.
* Opposed affirmative action in the 1980s.
* Began to support "gun rights" ( "From My Cold Dead Hand")
* Spoke out against free speech in the Ice-T "Cop Killer" incident.
* Shifted from Democratic to Republican.
* Opposed reproductive rights.
* Campaigned for Reagan and both Bushes. (good job there, chief)
So, i mean. What is up with this?! I know that people change--I am thinking actually of the major change in composer George Rochberg's music after the death of his son--but this seems like a complete replacement of principles!
Thoughts here? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
*(All of these "facts" were pulled from Wikipedia, so, you know, feel free to write with corrections and such, or check there for citations).
05 April, 2008
I'm not really a fan, I have to say. Most "avant-garde" music (whatever that even means anymore!) sort of makes me tired and/or gives me a headache. Not that I have a problem with other people liking it. I just don't like it, and frankly, I think that's fine. I find the avant-garde especially hard to take when one considers the problematic, often-elitist, and, according to Neil Nehring fear-based aesthetic judgments that walk hand-in-hand with that particular demarcation, especially when it is an avant-garde that stems from modernism. But we'll get to that another time. (Seriously, we will.)
But it was nice to get a little hate. (I mean, I usually get so much love all the time! ) A good friend (and apparently also my biographer!) suggested to me that it's just the tip of that iceberg, and I don't doubt it.
And speaking of John Lennon, did you all catch Matt Marks' super fantastic arrangement of The Beatles' Revolution No. 9 for Alarm Will Sound? I hope you did! It's really quite great. (Sorry, I know this is old news, but I've been pretty busy lately.) AWS is going to be playing it again at the Bang on a Can Marathon--which I will unfortunately have to miss--and hopefully many times more. You should be sure to catch it.
Matt is a really great musician who is responsible, in whole or in part, for many of my favorite things of late, often sharing awesomeness duty with another favorite among my collaborators.
Check him out.
31 March, 2008
21 March, 2008
* Bach is amazing. I know this is obvious. But unlike most amazing things, Bach is amazing at a level where you feel like you just have to say it aloud, as it is almost unbelievable. Then you pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming.
* Apparently Kurt Masur doesn't like to have to conduct. (At least this is what my friend Danielle reports. Danielle rocked as part of the überfantastisch Westminster Choir, and so was privy to rehearsals.) He'll be there to help if needed, but generally, the music should sort of play itself. And so, he won't conduct unless you make him conduct.
* Apparently the Bass-baritone really wanted Masur to conduct. At least it seemed this way based on what appeared to be a complete inability to count. (This was the NYPhil he was singing with, right? You'd think he would have practiced his part a little bit!) Anyway, the great part about this was to see Masur save the orchestra from a total train wreck by giving a huuuuge down beat and bringing the strings in a bar early. That bar wasn't really necessary anyway, right? Anyway, nice save Maestro!
* A Viola de Gamba, when not tuned, and poorly played, can make the New York Philharmonic sounds like a middle school orchestra from rural New Jersey. I have played in that middle school orchestra. It's not a sound you want to hear.
* Avery Fischer feels strangely Soviet to me. Is this weird? I walked in a felt like I was in Dresden, ca. 1972, just without the misery or the Stasi. Well, sorta.
* Matthias Goerne is a little creepy. I mean this is a good way, though. I kind of loved it.
* Kevin looks good in his new glasses.
* It was great to have a performance where, at any one time, no more than half of the musicians on stage were performing. This allowed for as strange sort of voyeurism, in which the audience got to watch very fine musicians listen. This was very interesting. More interesting was to see which members of the orchestra were moved to the point of physical movement, and which members just looked bored.
* Otherwise wonderful musical events are not improved when the woman sitting next to you insists on singing along with the Chorales at the ninth above the melody.
* Hightlights of the work for me, at least from last night: No. 39, Aria: Erbarme dich, mein Gott, No. 59, Recitative: Ach, Golgotha, unselges Golgotha, and No. 62, Chorale: Wenn ich einmal soll sheiden.
19 March, 2008
"Art...is not social only because it is brought about in such a way that it embodies the dialectic of forces and relations of production. Nor is art social only because it derives its material content from society. Rather it is social primarily because it stands opposed to society. Now this opposition art can mount only when it has become autonomous. By congealing into an entity unto itself—rather than obeying existing social norms and thus proving itself ‘socially useful’—art criticized society just by being there. (...) Art will live on only as long as it has the power to resist society. If it refuses to objectify itself, it becomes a commodity. What it contributes to society is not some directly communicable content, but some more mediate, i.e. resistance. (...) There is nothing in art that is directly social, not even when direct sociality is the artist’s express aim. (…) What is social in art is not its political stance, but its immanent dynamic in opposition to society. (…) If any social function can be ascribed to art at all, it is the function to have no function.”
-Adorno, Aesthetic Theory
So as you might suspect, I'm working on my dissertation. It's a theory of "socially engaged music." Apparently I am totally wrong about everything, according to Big Teddy up there. But then again, according to him my music and most of the music I love would be awful too, so whatever.
The problem here is that I don't really disagree with him. I disagree, however, with people who used this sort of thinking to call their music "political" when, in fact, they were just second-rate modernists. It's like: Yeah, sure, Mr. Modernist. Your music is political. Of course. I mean, after all it "stands opposed to society," right? So what more do you have to do? Just write some crap that sounds terrible. Call it "autonomous" and BAM! - you're an instant politico!
Now just to find a way to eloquently express my relatively subtle disagreement, without resorting to name calling...the big jerks.
22 January, 2008
At any rate, I thought I would ease back into things by sharing an interesting passage from Jesse Green's review of the new Aldridge/Garfein opera "Elmer Gantry"--after Sinclair Lewis--which opens tomorrow at Montclair State University after a well-received run in Nashville. As a composer who is starting to write more and more in the "operatic" world--for lack of a better word--I found this passage quite illuminating.
"Writing an opera requires a certain amount of arrogance, and putting one on takes at least enough incompetence to cause producers to risk financial suicide. It’s tempting to say that the system as it now exists is designed to frustrate both qualities in favor of safe mediocrity, except that the system has no design at all."
- Jesse Green, NY TImes, January 20, 2008
Ah, that definitely makes me feel better.