Monday, January 31, 2011

Quote of the Day

Der Fersko: I've got an idea for the next Aaron Sorkin show
It's about a liberal Senator who works on TV as a hockey analyst
It's called "You Know What You Were Getting Into"

Milton Babbitt: The Movie


(All Set - not bad, jazzy in the Ornette Coleman way)

NPR has posted what amounts to the World Premiere of a biographical film about Milton Babbitt. What instantly comes across is that Babbitt is an incredibly intelligent and personable man, and a brilliant teacher. The other quality communicated is that he is a composer who nearly destroyed all of his good pedagogical work. Babbitt wrote the ultimate ivory tower music, music composed by an unimpeachable godfather (in every sense) who ruled the roost of his own personal fiefdom for sixty years. When you have an endowed chair at Princeton, nobody in your field has enough gravitas to match your own. If Milton Babbitt says that a piece of music has worth, who are we to argue? And who are we to say that the music of such an intelligent man is over-rated? He's a Princeton Professor! Their first in music!


("Occasional Variations." His electronic music is his best. Sounds like Aphex Twin's rambling grandfather.)

Again and again, we hear all the same apologies for his music - the litany the music world hears all too often. 'It takes many hearings to appreciate,' 'the performances weren't good,' 'the music is actually beautiful if you learn how to listen to it,' 'he puts in little fragments of melodies,' 'the same things were said about Beethoven and Mozart in their day,' and jargonjargonjargonjargonjargon. History makes fools of us all, and all of these things might be true. But Milton Babbitt's music has been around for 65 years, and nobody but a musical insider's insider seems to have ever found genuine value in it. Professing to understand Babbitt, and a few others, is like an entry code into a musical club that demonstrates a rarefied level of musical understanding. Maybe it does, but I'm certainly not a member of that club, and nor would I want to be.


(Septet but Equal. I feel like I'm sharing these just for the titles, now we're getting into the stuff that sucks. Could even the best-trained musicians in the country discern any individuality in this music?)

Milton Babbitt's music is not terrible (some of it anyways...). It is, in its way, exquisitely crafted and sometimes quite entertaining. It's just not particularly original, individual or great. Pierre Boulez likes to complain about Shostakovich being a second or third pressing of Mahler. If that is true (and I disagree vehemently), then Milton Babbitt can certainly be seen as a second or third pressing of Schoenberg. I've listened to more serial music in my (admittedly rather young) lifetime than I ever care to admit. I've even enjoyed some of it (at least I think I did). But there is no denying that it is a musical dead end - an artificial system of creating music brought to us by people who can't bear the thought that music exists in ways the 19th century never dreamed of, and continued by people who are simply too untalented to write music that communicates something other than a generic mathematical process that can be done by anyone who understands (or at least professes to) the system.


(Fourplay. Funny title, lousy music.)

But the ultimate criticism of Babbitt is not to be found in his music, or anybody else's. It is in the thousands of music students who've ever felt intimidated by their professors into writing music in a style they hated. Students might protest that they didn't like it, but all the composition teacher had to do is to say that Babbitt (who probably taught them) or Elliott Carter was writing the only type of music worth writing in our era, everything else is crap. The professor assigns you the grade, so you're ultimately writing for him. But the losers in this bargain are everyone else. From all the potential composers who went through the rigors of atonal/serial composition, and then decided to sell insurance (a noble profession for frustrated composers), did we lose an American Schubert? An American Tallis?

We'll never know.


Dramatic 'Reading' of "Who Cares If You Listen."

Alfred Brendel: Part Time

Why Levine Will Leave

(who will read this? I have no idea)


(old Jimmy)
James Levine will announce his retirement from the Met by the end of the season. At this point, it's inevitable. Either Fabio Luisi will find a way to weasel out of his new Zurich Opera contract, or an as of yet unknown older A-Lister will replace him. It could be any star conductor between the ages of 45 and 60: Semyon Bychkov (needs a job), Daniele Gatti (opera-free after 2013), James Conlon (made a career out of replacing Levine), Riccardo Chailly (perpetually threatening to leave Leipzig), even Antonio Pappano (probably leaving Covent Garden after 2013), or Vladimir Jurowski (provided he doesn't replace Pappano).

The one person it will not be is Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Two reasons:


(young Jimmy)
1. Nobody can replace James Levine. He is a singular event in the opera world that can never be repeated - a musician who managed to keep standards high during the lowest ebb of opera's entire history. Levine was the first great opera conductor who did not evolve the artform. He preserved it almost exactly as it was before he came, and did more in the last four decades to save it from oblivion than any other figure. Being at the Met is often like walking into a timewarp, but in the absence of great new operas regularly arriving, tradition well-preserved is all with which we can content ourselves. Nobody can ever replace James Levine, we can only hope for an intelligent successor who can content himself with smaller achievements than those of a singular giant. In other words, Luisi would be perfect.


2. YNS is perfectly suited for Philadelphia. He's a charismatic showman in the manner of Leopold Stokowski, arriving as the cultural savior of a city in decline to take the appointment that rightfully should have been his mentor's three times over (and thrice since then). However good things currently look for him at the Met, he would wilt under the weight of expectations and it would only undermine the career goldmine he captured in Philly. Levine was always an unglamorous workhorse who valued consistency over variety. He was perfectly suited to the opera house. YNS is a concert conductor, at 36 he's far younger than Levine was when he was ten years younger. His interpretive style is a textbook ADHD-case, drawn in by every immediate gratification rather than long-term thinking. Running an opera house has always been a slow uphill battle, and some conductors will never be cut out for its slow-yielding rewards. Let him guest there as much as he likes, but in music as in life, some things are best left in the 'might have been' category.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tony Curtis on Dave



it's not easy to make Dave uncomfortable.

Tokyo Story


(just watch it)

I've been having uncommonly good luck with movies lately. Tokyo Story is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. It is a movie that slows us down to its own pace. It makes us want to be kinder, more understanding, and more patient. It is about nothing more or less than the passage of time, the inability of us humans to appreciate one another, and our ability to acclimate to any situation life creates for us. On the surface, it seems like a warm-hearted movie about family and modernity, but lying just beneath themes seem to pounce upon us that are anything but. This is a movie about the life cycle - a subject as ancient as life itself - and our inability in our short time allotted to be consoled by those to whom we should be closest.

Of course much (too much?) is always made of Ozu's style - a mostly stationary camera that lingers in rooms far after people are no longer occupy them (seconds seem like an eternity). Every critic seems to have his/her own theory about what that signifies. I suppose the simple act of having a pet theory is unavoidable in any discussion of Ozu. So mine is simple: we are watching life filmed from the point of view of the inanimate objects that occupy our space even when we're not there. When we leave the room, the chairs and tables are still there, and in a sense they observe us far more than we observe them. In the absence of God, who else is there for us to plead our case?

And so life continues. We breathe, we eat, we talk, we draw closer to some people and further apart from others. There are those with whom we develop a private language, and those with whom we've never really communicated. We go through life full of understanding and misunderstanding. Hopefully, we're wise enough to know that we should be kinder, and sufficiently wise to know that we probably won't.


Amazing, and.....rather inevitable.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

For Milton Babbitt (1916-2011)



I think we're finally past the point where musicians have to stop pretending that this is great music. Even so, this music doesn't suck either. Babbitt was, like Stockhausen, an overrated composer whose avant garde music retains a certain overwhelming kitsch value. Nobody should have to pretend that all composers ought to write like this, or that music like this is somehow the next evolutionary step from Mahler, or that this music expresses anything more profound than an experience college kids can derive from an acid trip. Still, a lot of it's entertaining, and Babbitt was a very intelligent and funny man. It may not change that he was one of the most deleterious influences on music in the 20th century, but he was also a fine musician and not quite as dogmatic as some of his coevals (we're looking at you Pierre).


(I liked his electronic music better. At least it wasn't second-rate Webern, and I don't really like Webern either)

From Egypt


h/t The Tabak

For Margaret Price (1941-2011)



The Great Opera Singers of the Past Epidemic of 2010 continues into the coming year. All I can say about Price is that she had perhaps the single most beautiful soprano voice I've ever heard. There was nothing showy or gaudy about either her appearance or musicianship. She was simply an artist who touched the heart.

Friday, January 28, 2011


self-explanatory

h/t HaJannol

David Brent Meets Michael Scott

Immer Leiser Wird Mein Schlummer



h/t Kenneth Woods

I never stop being amazed at how easily he can transform the same material over and over again.

Quote of the Day:

Jordan: Everything in Egypt is happening because the Egyptians raised college tuition by $800. The University of Maryland calls a tuition raise like that "Tuesday."
Dog eats weapon = Perfect Crime

Fox News 'Nazi' Analogies

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Anand Giridharadas
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Daydreams



I seem to be putting this up every year when the first big snow hits. Not bad as far as traditions go.
DC don't mess around with snowballs.
Middle East Dictator's Sons


h/t Der Fersko
A surprisingly endless source of entertainment.

* I'm not old enough to have ever seen an Earl Weaver beef with an umpire. But I have seen Lou Pinella, and I think it was the single most entertaining thing I've ever seen at a sporting event.

Vodka Eyeballing

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Vodka Eyeballing
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

h/t CS
Fun fact from watching ESPN: Earl Weaver was ejected from both games of three doubleheaders.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ricky Gervais 1984 Pop Video



It's like David Brent's invaded Ricky Gervais's life.

Read about it here.
Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Housekeeping Note

Seeing from my Google Stats (a narcissist's paradise) that people are trying to access my Voices of Washington blogging, and that the VoW website is due to shut down in 2 days, I am uploading all 535 posts of my Voices of Washington blogging at www.voicesofwashington.blogspot.com where Google-willing it can be accessed in perpetuity.

Cheers,

-et

Addendum: Uploaded 503 posts. 32 seem to be missing for the moment. Will solve issue in the PM when work is over.

Addendum #2: After copying 503 posts yesterday and early this morning, I did not have the time today to ascertain where the missing 18 1/2 minutes...er....32 posts are today. However, I did copy 13,590 lines of code in php which can hopefully be reconstituted in another format that will reconstitute the blog as it was with all the posts intact.

RIP Jack LaLanne

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In Defense of Springsteen

Ok. So.....if there's any artist alive who doesn't need defending it's Bruce Springsteen.
I'm feeling a weird mixture of shame and self-congratulation on account of finding this site fascinating.
The greatest facebook status update I've ever seen.

Greatest Putt-Putt of All Time



Far as frat parties at mini-golf courses go, I'm pretty sure this can't be beat.

Quote of the Day

The Manning: I'm getting culture evan. Watch out.

Youngstown in Youngstown

Quote of the Night

Der Fersko: If you were to explain the concept of food to a moonman who then made a dish, it would resemble what you eat at Denny's.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Szell in Tokyo



Just found this on youtube after hoping this would pop up for years. This has become one of the most legendary concerts of the 20th century. From 1946 to 1970, George Szell created the modern Cleveland Orchestra. It was, and perhaps still is, the most technically accomplished orchestra in history. Nobody had ever heard virtuosity like this - military precision tied to flexibility and very human expression. Unfortunately, most of their studio recordings don't do justice to how electrifying they could be - a combination of dull sound and Szell's obsessive overcarefulness in the studio gave them a reputation for blandness when their concerts were anything but.

This was made on-tour in Tokyo in May of 1970. Two months later, Szell would be dead from cancer, and he knew it. This concert comes down to us as the final memento of a Great American Band.
An illustration of a reel-to-reel tape machine graces the cover of "Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World," the first biography of the renegade folklorist who, says John Szwed, "changed not only how everyone listened to music but even how they viewed America." The drawing shows the type of portable, hi-fi recorder that made possible Lomax's most influential fieldwork, like the 1959 recording of a Mississippi prison work gang that later appeared on the soundtrack for the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (2000).

"Po Lazarus"—rendered by black convicts chopping wood and singing in unison—is vintage Lomax in its utter fidelity (sonic and otherwise) to a world where the grace of artistic expression can rise from the depths of misery. The song is part of the vast Lomax archives. They include more than 5,000 hours of sound recordings, which have been mined by artists from Aaron Copland and Miles Davis to Bob Dylan and Moby, a fitting legacy for a visionary outlaw who believed, says Mr. Szwed, that "folk culture could become pop culture."

This is about Alan Lomax. One of the unsung heroes of American music. RTWT here

Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang



Playing an excerpt from Ravel's Mother Goose suite three days ago at the White House. Something you might also notice is that a seated Obama - rarely ever filmed from the back - is developing a bald spot. This is in addition to the graying hair. He looks older in person than on camera (so I imagine...).

Bruno Walter playing the piano



He plays the piano the way he conducts, with a naturalness which no musician is supposed to have. Walter 'speaks' the music in ways that no other conductor of his generation does (maybe Beecham...), because he knows the exact pressure points of every piece, where to make an emphasis, where to relax, where to bend the rhythm, where to speed up and where to slow down. But in every on of those cases, it's so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable.



That said, couldn't one of the greatest conductors in history afford a piano tuner?
Dickipedia has the proper word for John Boehner's affliction: tanorexia.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Again, musicians' birthdays don't mean much. But a proviso is in effect if it prompts some further attention and reflection on those artists badly in need of it. Happy 80th Sam.

Longest word in the English Language (hint: it's not antidisestablishmentarianism)

Ben Zander doing Beethoven's 5th at TED



Ben Zander is totally nutter, but I think he's awesome anyway. Listen to this only once or else you'll begin to notice how terrible the playing is. Still, pretty exciting.

Go to 33 minutes in for Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations. Go to 37:50 for what's probably my favorite encore piece of all-time, the orchestral arrangement of Abreu's Tico Tico, done as I've never heard it (in the awesome way). This might even put Dudamel and his Venezuelans to shame.

Cool Happening of the Night

Tonight at the Baltimore Symphony I go to my seat with The McBee, and I find myself directly in front of my violin teacher from the time I was 3 until I was 16 and whom I think I have not seen since early 2005.

Janey, you and Ken are missed.

Love,

Evan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Battle Hymn of Sarah Palin



I've been putting off looking at this, knowing how awful it would be.

...but it was much much worse.

Quote of the Night

Jordan: When I become Mayor of Baltimore, my first act will be to declare war on Dover.

Quote of the Day

Jordan: How did you ask Mom to marry you?

Dad: Many, many times.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Berlusconi Accusation Animation



(turn on the closed caption)
Somehow, I'm getting ads/personal messages/spam from all sorts of DC choruses right now advertising their various concerts - which all seem to be happening within a month of Christmas. I suppose it's a good thing that so many groups have decided to ditch the Christmas Concert formula, but all I have to do to get depressed is to look at their programs. Why do singers and conductors love so much music that sucks?

One day I hope to be ready to write about the whole two-and-a-half-year VoW experience with equanimity, if the spirit ever moves me.....

.......not for a while.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An American Myth

Just watched The Social Network again from a Redbox with my father, both my brothers, my grandmother, my aunt, and my cousins. I am even more certain the second time 'round that The Social Network is the greatest American movie I've ever seen released in my movie-going lifetime. There has never been a movie released while I was an active moviegoer that contained so much mythical weight and excitement and wit and craftsmanship and emotional power and allegorical meaning and open-ended interpretation and unsolvable mysteries within it from first frame to last. It is a world in of itself, realer than our own as all great movies are. But the world within the movie further illuminates great movies of the past from His Girl Friday to Citizen Kane to Red River to Bridge Over the River Kwai to Chinatown to Network to Amadeus to Goodfellas to The Truman Show. In its turn, The Social Network will be illuminated by its descendants and give still more light to those privileged enough to experience what it offers. I have no doubt that in forty years, this will be mentioned as a movie that defines the American experience as well as Citizen Kane or The Godfather. Facts be damned, this is an American myth as powerful as any that came before, or any that will come after. It is a movie that we will turn to so as to understand ourselves better.
My mother is, and will always be, my hero.

That is all.

Those Sinister Dinner Deals

Why Musicians Are Cynical

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ehud Barak, demonstrating once again that one man can destroy the State of Israel single-handedly without being named Ahmadinejad.

Kempff plays Schubert



There is something so uninhibited about Wilhelm Kempff's playing, as though he's speaking the music. When Artur Schnabel played the Viennese classics, it was like a religious rite - overwhelming us with the uncompromising severity of this music, as though to say 'listen to how profound this is!' When Kempff played, it was like a late-night conversation, with profundities tossed offhand that would astound people in a less intimate setting. Since Kempff, other pianists have gotten as deeply inside Schubert - Brendel, Lupu, Curzon et al... but no other pianist has ever reached the same 'more things in the heaven and the earth' plane to which Kempff brought us.
"This is America, where a white Catholic male Republican judge was murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean-American combat surgeon, all eulogized by our African American President."

- Mark Shields, PBS

h/t the Drioux
Nothing cracks a turtle like Leon Uris.

1950's LSD Research



h/t The Manning/The Tabak.

The 60's have invaded the 50's. Briefly.

...Then some Yeats/Huxley mashup. Turn it off after that. It's much more entertaining as entertainment than as propaganda.

Fischer's Price (sorry)

This , if nothing else, is going to be fascinating. This is a document from Hungarian artists decrying the level of anti-gypsy, anti-semitic and homophobic sentiment in the Hungary of Viktor Orban and the Jobbik party. There are a couple famous artists whose names seem conspicuously absent, and no doubt many more whom I haven't heard of. But the absence of one name rings loudest - Adam Fischer's younger brother, Ivan Fischer. In addition to being the former principal conductor of the National Symphony in DC, he is the creator of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, which is (in my strong opinion) the finest traditional orchestra in the world today. There can be very few explanations for this except for the most obvious: the Budapest Festival Orchestra will always in part depend on public financing to keep its standards high. And judging from the overwhelming response to their concert in London last night, standards have stayed very high indeed. But one can't help feeling that something more is needed. Hungary inherited the EU presidency just a few months after Jobbik, an authoritarian nationalist party, captured 12% of the parliament. It would be nice to think that things are better in Budapest than in the past, and perhaps they are. But in the long run it will do nobody any favors to pretend that things are good.


(Ivan)

But here's the catch: read this article from Anne Midgette in 2003. The Budapest Festival Orchestra was created in a Western-model, to be as free from public subsidy as humanly possible. Ivan Fischer was quoted as saying that Communist tyranny bread mediocrity. Does he feel the same way about right-wing tyranny? Will he ever?



(Adam)

Let's also make another proviso. Taking a stand is a bit easier for Ivan's older brother, Adam Fischer. Over the years, Adam has proven to be nearly as talented a musician as his younger brother, the only difference in their abilities originating from what by what all accounts is Adam's gentler temperament. Adam Fischer is a conductor in the traditional 'kapellmeister' manner, working his way up through positions in the opera houses of Central Europe and contenting himself with being an honored guest at the larger institutions. He's known as a wonderful conductor of opera, a warm-hearted presence in the opera house. By the time he worked his way up to be director of the Hungarian National Opera, he was already pushing 60. So when Viktor Orban's government started interfering with his casting choices and hiring practices, Adam could leave without much trouble. And even if Adam has quit the opera, he is still the director of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra - an orchestra that cannot function without government subsidy.


(Ivan)

Ivan Fischer's career is in another stratosphere from his brother's. He has never been a musician to accept second-best in anything. From the beginning of his career, he looked westward to assimilate the very newest ideas. He studied with Vienna's famed conducting teacher, Hans Swarowski (who also taught Abbado, Mehta, Barenboim and Sinopoli), and he became a trusted assistant to the Austrian period-instrument master, Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Even after completing his studies, he found ways to travel all around the West as a guest conductor during a period when going to the West was all but impossible for most musicians behind the Iron Curtain. And if that didn't take enough chutzpah, he returned to Hungary in 1983 to build an orchestra around a capitalist model - with private donations and a board of directors. The result is a living rejoinder to the anonymous music-making of most Western orchestras. Less concerts, more involvement from the players, less guest-conducting, more rehearsal-time, more willingness to experiment on untried music and untried presentations, and more personality. As a vehicle for presenting great music to the public, it has very few equals among contemporary classical music orgs. As a traditional orchestra, it may be in a class by itself.


(Adam)

But the curtain hasn't yet been pulled back to see just how Ivan Fischer accomplished this - not for an English-language paper at least. Did Ivan manage to keep the government out? And if he did, why is he staying silent? Supposedly, his older brother's radio orchestra is far more government-controlled than the Budapest Festival Orchestra ever was. Yet Adam had no trouble speaking out against a government who could easily make his life difficult, and already has. What is stopping Ivan?

Ricky Gervais at This Year's Golden Globes



For anybody who hasn't seen this, it's....it's....it's....

......exactly what somebody - anybody - should have done to a Hollywood crowd decades ago.

If you really need an explanation of why Ricky Gervais is awesome, go here.

The Awesomeness of Ricky Gervais



Finding a way to embed the clip from this year's Golden Globes, but in the meantime, this will quite suffice.
I can't possibly be the only person who looked at the first sentence of this article and wonder if the Washington Post would be in less trouble if they tried appealing to a broader base of clientele.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The New Underground

No adult in all the land is being forced to go to a classical concert, yet the products of pop culture are imposed on the entire population round the clock. This game of Goliath pretending to be David is getting old. As I said at a Chamber Music America conference a few years ago, classical music is, in a strange way, the new underground.

RTWT here
I find it one of the odd coincidences in life that Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounds like a dead ringer for Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island.

New Rules for Writers

This is a really brilliant piece of writing. I've never heard of Anis Shivani and I have no idea whether or not this guy wrote his article as a serious blow against establishmentarians or as a means to pull the legs of people who hate the establishment. All I'm certain of is that I now feel like the blonde in the joke with the piece of paper that says 'turn over' on both sides. It perfectly articulates your (my) worst nightmare view of what it may or may not take to break into the culture world. It sends up the aspirations of all us 'misunderstood artiste' types and at the same time displays a curious excess of empathy for our plight. Like an Escher drawing, its contents completely changes with the angle from which we look. After reading it, I think it's equally possible that this guy is a sage or a douche.

I haven't the foggiest idea of whether or not to take this article seriously. But I submit that it doesn't matter. It works well either way, and even better together. I might be an ass for even thinking to take it seriously, and perhaps an even bigger one for taking it as a joke. Or maybe the joke is on the people who see it through a single lens. But I would imagine that perspectives on this will diverge wildly.

....or maybe this is just the sleeping pill talking.


Having my one night a year in which Arvo Part sounds like a great composer...

I hope it lasts this time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An entire season and rivalry comes down to a series of 20-person dogpiles on the 1-yard line. I can understand how some people would find this kind of thing exciting. But for the rest of us, how is this sport not dumb as hell?
How is Bob Newhart still alive?
Hilary Hahn is still the girl who gave me nightmares as a child, but this project is awesome. (insert non-cliche equivalent of 'you go girl' here)
It's amazing how my interest in football during the playoffs goes from 0 to....about 15?

John Cleese on the Jews and Belgians



...is the health problem here real?

Friday, January 14, 2011

amanuensis
Dear Michael Steele,

Don't blame me. I voted for Denethor.
Trying to explain insurance premiums to my 11-year-old cousin. This isn't going well.

Newsflash!

Tactlessness works. I've already got twice as many blog views today as I have at any point in weeks.....more than 30......

Palin's Breath



h/t NM
y'know....i'm not very good at this whole 'tactfulness' thing. I think it's time I started speaking my mind again.

We missed you Evan.
Why do political assassins always shave their heads?

see more Lol Celebs

h/t The Koosh

Blame Mahler

I've sat here for the last half-hour comparing Leonard Bernstein's four very distinct recordings of Mahler's 9th Symphony. And while doing this, it occurred to me that I used to read (Huck Finn, the Odyssey and Geothe's Faust line up on my nightstand in reverse order from how fascinating I expect to find them). Then it occurred to me that I once had a social life, with a reasonably steady barrage of begging from DC friends to join them in my old/new city, because they wonder if I have in fact disappeared into the lobster-basted vortex that is Baltimore and its environs of iron. Then it occurred to me that I'm now in a financial situation where the re-beginning of Voices of Washington could be feasible all-too-soon if ever I wanted to resurrect that accursed nightmare. Like all great problems, the answers to their solution remains ever-so-easy. And yet something stands in their way, one and all. So fuck you Mahler and all you stand for.




Still...even if Mahler misunderstands us, we misunderstand him, the music be pretty. Naw?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why is it always people who used to be republicans that seem to care the most about advertising their progressive politics after college?
Kramer (reading tombstone at Pet Cemetary): Man's Best Friend. I want something like that on my tombstone.
...What did I do on New Year's 2010?

Addendum: ...oh, that's right.....


Gotta say, being on a Copland kick is a lot more pleasant than being on a Wagner kick.

Two Feet of Snow

Totally the wrong angle for this, but way to go Aaron Copland for opening and closing the Tucson Rally....I guess this makes you our national composer now, doesn't it?

Opening Music: Fanfare for the Common Man (I remember watching this as a live telecast when I was 9 and being bowled over)

Granted he didn't technically write the Closing Music: Simple Gifts, but without his incorporation into Appalachian Spring, it would never have become an American Institution.

So Mazel Tov AC. You should have been America's Composer since Lenny first got you on National Television in 1958. Fifty-three years isn't all that bad as waiting goes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Note to Others,

Don't listen to the finale of Mahler 3 while reading a transcript of Obama's Tucson speech. The results are embarrassing.

Dear Jeff Bridges,

You're now the Grand Old Man of American Acting.

Far out,

Evan
Louie Gohmert may be my favorite congressman. He's just so crazy it never stops being funny.

Minimalism vs. Atonality










Quote of the Day

Le Malon (about Sarah Palin): on the plus side, there are some funny threads on ridiculous hyperbole on twitter right now
"When I ran out of gas, it was just like the trail of tears."
"When you ground your kids it is just like Japanese internment camps."
and my favorite: "When the Mongolian BBQ closed, I knew how the defenders of the gates of Vienna felt."
Dear Mitch Daniels,

I look at your picture and feel very reassured. No one can become president with a combover like that

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nutcracker Improv



Sometimes you find a piece that immediately goes to the greatest hits of Your Life-soundtrack. This is one of those.
Just for the record, I'm going to give $50 to whoever runs against Virginia Foxx in 2012 (long as somebody reminds me). What a demagogic bitch.
DeMarcus Cousins.
We have reached 40 John Manning Memes.

Schrodinger's Gun

Tevye: He's right too.

Avram the Bookseller: One's right and the other's right. How can they both be right?

Tevye: You know something? You're also right.

Read David Brooks

The Tuscon Murder Spree is, in so many ways, a Rorschach Test. The motives for this crime are so incomprehensible that we can't help but see our own concerns mirrored within this event. To some, it's indicative of right-wing predispositions to violence. To some others, it happened because of violent language in political statements. To others still, it's indicative of the worst excesses of left-wing thinking. To still others, there is an anti-semitic angle. To others, this is evidence of what happens when the mentally ill lack treatment. To still more others, it is evidence of what a lack of stringent gun laws can do (though there might be a bit more empirical evidence for the last two).

But every one of these notions could well be exactly right and exactly wrong simultaneously. A person like Jared Lee Loughner is both so frightening to us and so unknowable that everyone sees their worst nightmares reflected in him. My opinion is that there is at least a little bit of truth in every one of the above statements. Some of them may be more true than others, but they all have the ring of veracity. Some events are so tragic that there is no simple way to comprehend them. We can run through a checklist of every reason this may have happened, and every one of them may well be true. But who's to know? All we can say with certainty is that this is a bottomlessly sad event that we can only wish had never occurred.

h/t LP

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why is it always the one book you're trying to find that you can't?

addendum: still can't find the book, but found my i-pod which I think I lost about three years ago.
\
This sounds like such a good idea it'll have to be bad.

Arguing Tuscon

But don't argue with George Packer. You'll lose.

The Ferguson



The greatest episode in the history of television.
It occurs to me that the best performance in The Social Network was Johns Hopkins playing Harvard.
Why is half our day spent trying to remember our passwords?

A Few Further Thoughts on the Shooting

The more one reads about Jared Lee Loughner, the more it seems that his thoughts were so completely disconnected from reality that it's impossible to know if there is anyone to blame. In one article, Loughner's philosophy professor relates how he once handed in a philosophy paper that was nothing more than a series of geometric shapes.

It's especially important for cool heads to prevail in a situation like this. And even if one believes that the American Right is currently doing everything within its power to prod wingnuts into such terrible acts, it would be a contortion of logic to interpret this act as anything but the result of the sad disorder of a mind corrupted by mental illness.

But there is another side to this story, and one that bears mention. A mind like Jared Lee Loughner cannot help but interpret what he hears and reads. And even if he interprets information in a manner that other extremists would find illogical, why has this only happened in Arizona?

Death threats are a way of life for public figures in Arizona. The sherriff involved in this case called Arizona the "Mecca for prejudice." But Arizona is a uniquely multicultural state, diverse and polyglot on a level probably unequaled in the country. Poor whites rub up against rich Hispanics and resentment inevitably boils. Nowhere in the US is the immigration fight more intense. Nowhere in the US is it easier for a person's politics to turn into an echo chamber of conspiracy theories. But if that's true, it is only because Arizona is so unique - a civilization in the desert which arose only in the last forty years. In 1950, the Phoenix metropolitan area was a hundred thousand strong. Today, the metro area is over three million - hispanics and whites, Spanish and English speakers coexisting in a very new and diverse city, containing as much cooperation as hatred.

The growing pains of Phoenix are felt almost as keenly in Tuscon, which until recent decades was barely more than a small desert hamlet. The problems of both cities are the problems of any place transformed by modernity, with many people not knowing how to cope with the rules of a new world. Many whites feel left behind by the new order, and cling to conspiratorial notions as a means to grapple with what they can't understand. If crazy beliefs are the norm for so many otherwise sane people, what is crazy by their standards?
"Without Wallace, there is no Dave Eggers, no McSweeney's or Believer, no n+1. Jonathan Franzen, George Saunders, Zadie Smith: All are indebted to Wallace and the shift in sensibility he inaugurated back in the late 1980s and early 90s."

Are we supposed to thank him?

Incitement to Hatred

No, it's not their fault.

Yes, they made it more likely.

Yes, we have a right to be very scared.

h/t Il Giovine

Nobody in their right mind can blame the Tea Party, or Sarah Palin, or anything else but the disease-addled brain of a sad nutjob for yesterday's shooting. There is nothing eradicable, or even necessarily wrong, about using violent imagery in electoral politics. Preferable as it would be to let such terms remain unused, words like 'crosshairs' or 'target' don't much matter. What matters is if people with power are willing to properly condemn these actions. The Tea Party caucus could have easily said that this guy held perverted version of their beliefs. Instead they claimed that this guy was a 'liberal,' something so obviously false that it would be funny if so many people didn't believe them. Even the insane can properly interpret messages, and in this case the message was unmistakable regardless of how many times denied.

The proper term for what happened is 'incitement to hatred.' A talk-show host who claims that liberalism is 'treasonous' is no different than an imam who claims that all Western Civilization is the devil, or an anti-Abortion activist who claims that abortion should be stopped by any means necessary. The connection between what they say and the actions a few nuts take are not linear, but they are unmistakably sanctioned.

I will never forget the atmosphere in Pikesville in 1995 before Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. We'd read in the Jewish Times about Orthodox Rabbi after Orthodox Rabbi who said that the Peace Process must be stopped and that those who stop it are doing the work of God Him(Her)self. After a few months of this, the unthinkable happened. And so many people rose to the defense of these Rabbis saying that no clergyman ever directly called for the assassination of the Prime Minister (which was not quite true if you read what some Rabbis in Israel were saying). But even if no Rabbi had called for it, the implication of their approval was unmistakable.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harnoncourt

Nikolaus Harnoncourt is the greatest example of 'mind over matter' in music today. In 1972 he literally bluffed his way into his La Scala conducting debut by pretending that he had any experience conducting opera whatsoever. To this day his podium technique looks like an armchair conductor preening in his living room with the shades drawn, yet no one consistently draws results as exciting out of the most legendary musical organizations in the world. It just goes to show that the conductor's technique has about as much relation to his true musicality as a any musician's natural musicality does to his technical development. Sometimes technique helps, but it can hinder nearly as often.


(What Bach should sound like)
Bill Belichick has a massive head.
The Dog that mocked Hitler:

h/t HaWinograd
The history of the Batmobile. Because this is important.

h/t Ebert
Football is the one sport in which hitting leads to yelling.
What amazes about the Ravens - at their best, and historically - is not just the aggression but the stamina. Demolishing an offense is impressive in of itself. But today the Ravens' defense looked as though they had just gotten out of bed


From Eretz Nehederet, the same Israeli sketch comedy group that brought us the 'Angry Birds Peace Treaty.' I have no idea if it's true, but why does it feel like America is the only first world country without a political sketch comedy group on a major TV network?
This guy is a hero.

h/t Le Malon
George Packer is, as always, right.
Ray Lewis makes skipping look masculine.
Per question posed from Die Domask who shared this article

I have no idea how to do 'best.' But I can make a basic list of the composers of the last millenium without which music as we know it today would not be possible, if I got it down to 10 it would probably be:

Perotin
Machaut
Josquin
Monteverdi
Bach
Haydn
Beethoven
Wagner
Ellington
Dylan

Possible Honorable Mentions:

Ockeghem, Dufay, Mozart, Stravinsky, Sondheim

Maybe tomorrow I can do a 20th Century List

Quote of the Night

The Hicks, to Ha Winograd, Der Goldstein, Der Mazur and myself:

You guys are all going to hell! But if hell has chinese food and movies, I'm totally there with you!

Saturday, January 8, 2011



I thought the Angry Birds Peace Treaty was the best sendup of the Peace Process I'd ever seen. But now there's this from the same Israeli Sketch Comedy Group, Eretz Nehederet.
In all seriousness, I don't think there are words for how shocking this is or how dangerous a precedent it sets. I certainly hope this is not just the first, but there is something about this that does not feel like a one-time event from a lone loon.

Happy 65th Dad!

It was actually yesterday. A far quieter affair than Bubbie's 90th.
Slow Tempo Wagner: I am the alpha and omega of Holy German Art. Look upon my works all ye mighty and despair.

Fast Tempo Wagner: F-ck all y'all, Imma pop a cap in yo ass if you don't back the f-ck up.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I'm not sure I've ever felt as proud to be an AU alum as I was when I got this email forward a few minutes ago....

Westboro Baptist Church to picket American University for 45 minutes

Fred Phelps, church leader (Photo: Associated Press)
The Westboro Baptist Church, leading pusher of the First Amendment's limits, has announced plans [PDF] to "PICKET THE FAG-INFESTED, PERVERT-RUN AMERICAN UNIVERSITY." The Westboro Baptist church characterizes the demonstration as "religious opinion & bible commentary on current events."

From 4 to 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14, church members will gather at 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW to confront the students of American University and "give your children an opportunity to see what truth looks like, the face of what they were entitled to have from every adult that ever touched their lives! Instead, you hateful parents & brutish teachers broke their moral compasses! Now they beg for some truth from the humble servants of WBC. They will know what their God requires of them & will not be able to plead ignorance any longer." The group expects to accomplish this feat in under an hour.

h/t The Kanneth.

Merry Orthodox Christmas



I think I'm going to found another Don Cossack Choir this year.

FACT

Under Obamacare, eventually everyone will die.

h/t Der Smilowitz
Seinfeld missed an incredible range of comic situations by not having George and Susan's wedding: introducing George's extended family, drama over invitations and the bill, scenes made at the altar, screaming over not getting the right pictures...

....Just sayin'

Sibelius Season

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Michael Kinsley shares my birthday. Short of Benito Santiago, there is no one I'm prouder to share that day with.


Here it is, finally, back on youtube where it belongs. The reason Bert Blyleven should have been in the hall of fame by the early 70's.

- still waiting for 'd*ck on your shirt' to make a comeback.

Quote of the Day

The Harris: Im going to walk the dog in the dark now.
It's character building.
I'm, not Im.
Im is my nickname for Imhotep.
He doesn't like the dog - more of a cat person.

Cookie Carbomb

Instructions:

1. Pour packet of Famous Amos Cookies into cup.

2. Pour glass of milk into cup.

3. Drink milk.

4. Eat Cookies

Genuis.

Rabbi Teaches Jewish Self-Defense

How had I forgotten about this thing?

"If I turn the other cheek, I'm coming around to make a kick."
Why is it that at any given time of day you can find the same three episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Television?:

1. Barney and Ted lick the Liberty Bell.

2. Canadians are afraid of the dark.

3. The Pineapple thing where Ted gets drunk.
I've got to stop confusing George Steiner with George Steinbrenner.

If I Forget Thee, Oh Babe's...

This alone could convince me to move back to DC...or at least Silver Spring...

Babe's Billiards was the greatest hangout spot any of us had ever seen in all our DC years, and it was all just a two-minute walk away from the AU shuttle. To this day, I don't think memories of any place could make me quite so nostalgic (not Brickskellar, not Yenching Palace, not even Krupin's...). Good cheap booze, good cheap food, a pool-hall and a dozen TV's on at any given time. Halfway through my senior year of college, it was senselessly shut down by Cy Katzen and AU, who bought the property and evicted Babe's. It was probably done as part of a plan to help build AU's reputation as a serious school (dream on). But the excuse given was that it was supposedly shut down to make way for apartment buildings which to this day have never been built. For five years virtually everyone I keep in touch with from college has mourned the loss of Babe's. Even if I don't move back, it's nice to know that Babe's will be there again.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Glee

Greg Sandow had an amazing post today about Glee, and exactly what it has that classical music lacks (directness/inclusiveness et al). Glee isn't a perfect show, but yes, I do watch it reasonably often. I usually love the verbal jousting a lot more than the music, but I still think that a lot of the music is very well-done. But there were two things got to me about this post.

1. The fact that I didn't get to arrange 'The Living Years' when we still had VoW is probably a regret I'm going to have for decades....really.

2. The reason that Classical Music does not have much relevance to contemporary reality is - sadly - exactly that. Classical music doesn't have much relevance to contemporary reality. The only way to fix that is to build the bridge to modern life ourselves. And that means bringing different types of music together in ways that show more people that this is great music like any other great music. It means showing how Bach can illuminate Bjork and vice-versa and how both of them can be related to some local songwriter/composer who only gets exposure in the local coffeehouse. It means creating new music with content directly related to both the present and the past. The fact that it all seems so obvious (at least to me) is exactly why it's akin to moving a mountain. I shudder to think of how possible it is that none of us may live to see the day when preserving music of the past is just as important as supporting music of the present, but it doesn't mean that any of us should ever stop trying.
The Brandenburg's remain little miracles of composition. Now more than ever that musicians play them up-to-tempo.



Gardiner's groups may be overarticulated, but how many can play with this much excitement?

Blyleven in '11!




Our long national nightmare is over.

Also, perhaps the greatest sports clip ever (kinda nsfw)

Muppets 'sing' (?) Kanye



I have a confession. I guess (for those who care) it's no secret that I've tried harder and harder to listen to as much non classical/jazz/R&B/bluegrass/broadway/some classic & prog rock/things I don't feel any natural sympathy for as I can stand. The truth is that as far as anything I heard in 2010 outside of my comfort zone, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was just about the very best. The very fact that I make myself listen to this is like eating vegetables for me, so I'm not sure this counts as a 'guilty pleasure', but I actually really liked it.
Why does all Arcade Fire sound like the same song fifty times over?

ET: Almanac

“I choose to invoke a Jewish past that is impervious to orthodoxy: that opens conversations rather than closes them. Judaism for me is a sensibility of collective self-questioning and uncomfortable truth-telling.”

- Tony Judt: The Memory Chalet


Note: I have not read The Memory Chalet

Second note: Go to bed Evan.
This house has to take better care of its snuggies.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I think they keep Erin on CNBC because she so obviously hates Jim Cramer.



I don't think anybody blames her.

Sir Georg Solti Ain't Nothin' to F-ck With!




Is it just me, or does Sir Georg Solti look like he'd be crazy in a fight?
No doubt, they will execute the vulture unless he talks...

One Guy, Twelve Horns



One guy recording twelve french horn parts from his room in his own arrangement. This makes that a capella John Williams guy look like an amateur....I can't be the only person who wonders how much of the world's best musical talent has spent the last thirty years doing John Williams arrangements, can I?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vienna Horns Play John Williams



Jurassic Park played by the Vienna Horns. Called such because .... the members all play the Vienna Horn, a slightly different instrument than the modern French Horn - a simpler design but harder to play. It gives a rounder sound than French Horns. My favorite instrument that doesn't have strings on it...whatever the design. So awesome I could even listen to them play John Williams all day.

(and Alan Silvestri...)

Asked what his favorite book was, Steele replied "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy, adding: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". That line is, of course, from "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. A major error? Nope. But indicative of Steele's inability to contain himself when it comes to his own rhetorical stylings.

How are these people smart enough to keep winning elections? (h/t Le Malon)
Dear the Coens,

I should hope that it was the intention of the moviemachers so that you should please have the Fyvush Finkel was speaking the Litvaker Yiddish while the Alteryiddischer they are speaking with the Galicianer Yiddish. Next time you do with the mameloshen in the movies (and we could hope that there should be a the next time) please you should make sure you will make mit the one or the otherer.

Kthxbye,

Evan

Quote of the Day

Ethan: You could wipe yourself with a trillion dollar bill in Zimbabwe and it would cost less than the toilet paper.
There is nothing in the world quite as amusing as bagpipes.

Angry Birds Peace Treaty



In the words of The Stewart. This thing just won the internet. (h/t Sullivan)
RIP Pete Postlethwaite...the minor celebrity epidemic continues into the new year.



Seriously though, this makes me very sad. There is something deeply wrong with a society in which minor acting talents with movie faces attain enormous celebrity while enormously talented craftsmen like Pete Postlethwaite die remembered as minor character actors. Everyone should watch In The Name of the Father. Postlethwaite is so good that he even upstages Daniel Day-Lewis.
Dear Nice Lady at Scottrade,

If by any chance you read this, thank you for the twenty-minute explanation of my account. It was very helpful, even though I got lost at minute 4 and never quite recovered. I also have to thank you for looking the other way at our taking more than one pen. After a month-and-a-half in the 'investment business' I'm reasonably sure that the ability to experience the thrill of free-pen-stealing is half the reason people choose one financial company over another. I hope you understand this and are OK with clients being OK with clients finding a way to steal free giveaways.

Warmest Regards,

Evan

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bizet and Pleasure (Part II)

If Carmen was the one piece of new music that mutually captivated Wagner, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, imagine how much greater an impact it would have on the development of younger composers. The buttoned-up world of classical music grew simultaneously restless and exhausted from years of 'major statements' from composers. New music continued to grow longer, louder, and more dissonant. Younger musicians needed music that did something other than inflame - a warmer music that could relax the senses without conceding intellect.

No doubt the teenage Debussy stood in the stands of the Opera Comique and saw a new way forward.

If time had allowed Bizet to grow older, he might have come to Debussy's whole-tone scales long before Debussy did. Perhaps could have had a late period like Monet's (though one can argue that Faure did, or even Liszt).

- Debussy was right to say that he was different from the Impressionists. He was a full generation younger than Monet/Cezanne et al. Bizet, Faure, Chabrier and Duparc were far closer, the closest music has to equivalents to the impressionists. The insight they share in common is that the eye and ear don't respond to things as they literally are. They respond to the 'essence' of what they see - the flavor of it. The brain responds just as well, if not better, to a vividly false memory as it does to a literal rendering. That is impressionism, and that is the rendering of Gypsies in Carmen, of Spanish rhythms in Chabrier's Espagna, the rendering of old-school chaussons in the Madrigal from Faure's Masques et Bergamasques.

- Debussy was a near-contemporary of Matisse, with whom he has far more in common. Both of them took impressionism to it's next logical step - both being more concerned about the physical material in itself. What prevents them both from being dry (Debussy more successfully) is that they're concerned with how the physical material of their artforms give pleasure.

- Nobody can listen to La Mer and say that


Philippe Herreweghe has never made a finer recording than this original score of the Faure Requiem (is the revision really better than this?). Just listen.

Quote of the Day

Dad: You should have come to the Yeshiva for this bris, if only to see the woodwork on the pulpit and the lecterns. They look like stuff that was made in Yeshiva Woodshop Class.

Bizet and Pleasure


(Self-expression turned to such pure id that it had to self-destruct)

1876. The year which 'Classical Music' is forever trying to recapture and from which it has never recovered. The world is drinking coffee after it's first Ring of the Nibelung hangover. It was music so powerful that as many turned away from it in horror as embraced it with unprecedented passion. From the beginning of the century until that precise date, everybody seemed to agree: music was the door which opened a path to self-expression. The musician was at the center, and every great musician from Schubert to Berlioz to Verdi to Tchaikovsky used that open door to express confessional emotions that people long thought music unable to express. But then came 1876, and Beethoven's self-expression turned into Wagner's expression of the id. Wagner was uninterested in who people are, only interested in whom they could be. It was an expression of people's most unconscious emotions so powerful that world could no longer contain it. The loose confederation of Austro-German lands that housed Beethoven, Heine and Metternich turned into the blood-and-iron Germany of Wagner, Nietzsche and Bismark. Without so much as a moment of self-realization, the majority of the German middle class had changed overnight from the great bastion of Kultur and civilization to an inexorable path towards self-immolation. An immolation that we listened to again and again in the music of Bruckner, Mahler, the young Richard Strauss, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Stockhausen.



New ways forward had to be shown. 1876 was the exact same year that Brahms's First Symphony premiered - in its way as significant a statement as The Ring ever was. It was a comparatively conservative work which proclaimed that musical value could only be found by reclaiming the values of the past: traditional forms, counterpoint, variation and development. It was listened to by many a statement of reaction from an older Germany to everything Deutschland was becoming, and perhaps that was what Brahms intended. And from it we got a more genial but no less potent vision of Germany (ok...maybe a little less), grounded in the 'old values' - the Germany of Hugo Wolf, the old Richard Strauss, Pfitzner, Schrecker, Hindemith, Weill and Henze.



Three months after the end of 1876, Tchaikovsky had met Antonina Milyukova and shortly thereafter embarked on his disastrous 10-day marriage. Considering that the period of Antonina was also the period of the Fourth Symphony and Eugene Onegin, his marriage could have meant everything or nothing to his creative output. But what matters is that this was the year Tchaikovsky forged a different path past Wagner. A path that seemed hell-bent on self-expression, with almost blithe disregard for traditional notions of form and development. From this viscral self-expression Tchaikovsky forged the Russian way forward, from which the world gave us Glazunov, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Schnittke.


(Carmen: music breathes a different air)

And yet within two years, all three of these 'founders' would bow down before the opera of a recently deceased unknown from France. Georges Bizet died in penury, better known as a pianist and with rumors of murder surrounding his death. Had he lived a year longer, he'd have lived to see himself the toast of Europe and we may have had many more works in the mature style he discovered in Carmen. It is one of the most tragic losses in the history of music: because beginning with Carmen, music breathes a different air, dances to a different time, and sings to a different tune. By 1878, the world had found a new god that would gradually replace expression as the goal of music.



Pleasure was our new god, and Carmen was its prophetess. Don Jose is not simply seduced by Carmen, he is seduced by the entire world she conjures for him. A lurid, underground imagining of gypsy animalness which seems to promise the fulfillment of every desire, and when that fulfillment proves impossible, Carmen chooses death rather than compromise on her ideals. At the beginning of the opera, we view everything through Don Jose's eyes. But the brilliance of the second half is that we've been so completely seduced by the first that we see the unfolding tragedy through the eyes of Carmen. Like Don Jose, we listeners begin by being seduced by everything we see and hear, so much so that like Carmen we would rather choose death than give up what we've discovered.



Carmen is not about sex, it's about longing. To be sure, sex is a hugely important part of that equation, but this opera is far larger than that. What Bizet's music taps into is our desire to free ourselves of expectations and pursue whatever we damn well please. In 2011, Carmen is still pleasure personified in music because most of us still feel trapped by our humdrum everyday lives. How much moreso did people feel trapped in the 1870's? What else can you say about an age of repression so profound that even the chair-legs had dresses?



Ever since, Carmen has been awakening people to the same shock as it ever did - the disturbing and liberating realization that there may not need to be a self to express. We may not be more than electro-chemical-neuro-physiological bundles of nerves only capable of feeling pleasure and pain as any other animal does. As with all other notions, it may or may not be true. But if it is true, then perhaps we needn't aspire to be any more than that.