18 April, 2008

All Carter, All The Time

Wow. So, I am all for celebrating important figures in music--even those whose music I don't particularly care for--but THIS just seems so far over the top I can barely stand it!

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

May 1st: No Peace No Work!

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

One Cold Dead Hand? Check.

Sorry. Is that horribly disrespectful? Probably. Sorry about that. But you know, someone had to say it, and I am sure I'm not the first, nor will I be the last.

Heston at a Civil Rights Rally, 1963

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:

Heston with Brando and Belafonte, Civil Rights Rally, 1963

* 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

The (anti) King of the (anti) Avant-Garde?

Thanks to Alex for the kind words about my Still Life with Tank and iPod from Soldier Songs in a (by now semi-) recent interview in The Onion's A.V. Club. One of the on-line readers seemed to have a problem with the fact that my music was not avant enough, and decided to comment to that effect. Then, just now, I noticed that, on the wonderful On An Overgrown Path, the title caption for the blog reads "Avant-garde is French for bullshit. " The quotation is from John Lennon. To be honest, I sort of agree.

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.

Do it.