Friday, August 7, 2009

The Missing 18 1/2 Minutes

So much information became known about the major scandals of the Nixon administration during the release of the Oval Office recordings, many fascinating sub-plots got overlooked. Today is an appropriate day to draw attention to Nixon's long-term obsession with Olivier Messiaen. Nixon consistently loathed and distrusted the French musical avant garde as personified by Pierre Boulez, but his relationship with Messiaen was more complicated. Privately, he found Messiaen's music bewildering and decadent, but Messiaen's traditionalist religious outlook encouraged Nixon to view Messiaen as a "wedge" who could be used to divide and confuse his enemies. The following are key excerpts from the Nixon recordings:

-- On July 1, 1971, Nixon instructs Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman to have someone break into the Darmstadt School, which refers to a group of like-minded European composers (e.g., Boulez, Stockhausen). Apparently Nixon believed the Darmstadt School had a physical location; the school was named for a series of summer courses that ended in the early 1960s:
NIXON: "I can't have a high-minded church organist ... I want a son-of-a-b----. I want someone just as tough as I am. ... We're up against an enemy, a conspiracy that will use any means. We are going to use any means.... Get it done. I want it done. I want the Darmstadt School cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that has somebody else take the blame."
-- On April 4, 1972, Nixon discusses Messiaen with Haldeman:
NIXON: "Return the calls to that poor dumb bastard ... who I know is our friend. Now do it ... We made the same mistake [Dwight] Eisenhower made, but not as bad as Eisenhower made, because he sucked the American Guild of Organists too much ... G-d damn it, don't talk to them for a while. Will you enforce that now?"
HALDEMAN: "I'll try."
-- On May 18, 1972, Nixon talks to Henry Kissinger about the National Security Adviser's meeting with Ivy League composers regarding Messiaen's oratorio La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ:
NIXON: "The Ivy League composers? Why, I'll never let those sons-of-b------ in the White House again. Never, never, never. They're finished. The Ivy League schools are finished ... Henry, I would never have had them in. Don't do that again ... They came out against La Transfiguration when it was tough ... Don't ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never."
-- On Nov. 14, 1972, Nixon talks with his aide Charles Colson about his successful attempt to prevent Pierre Boulez from becoming President of France:
NIXON: "What in the hell did you think of Boulez's statement on the election? Wasn't that the sour grapes crap again?"
COLSON: "Well, it's unbelievable, the arrogance of the guy ... God, what a bad man. Just awfully glad we got him buried and put away for good. I think he is."
NIXON: "Oh, he's buried. He's buried."

From the indispensible Fredösphere

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