Friday, June 10, 2016

Seven Projects

I have unfinished outlines for all of them. I'll be lucky if I ever get one of these projects done...

The Atheist Reformation: A very long series of essays, based in part on Egon Friedell's three-volume book: A Cultural History of the Modern Age. The thesis is that humanity's spiritual life has begun to evolve  past God, but his innate need for religion remains almost exactly the same. Large parts of the world may dispel with the idea of God in the next few centuries, but the innate need for religion, its belonging, its articles of faith, its division of the world into the elect and the unbeliever, remains unchecked. This book would, in a relative sense, be a work of 'great man history.' Not in the sense that great men (or at least larger than life figures) control the world, but that these larger than life figures are 'representative men' who signal the spirit of the particular age.

Tales from the Old New Land: Altneuland is the name which Herzl gave to the outline of the Zionist project. But perhaps the true Old New Land is not Israel, perpetually embattled as it seems to be lo these sixty-seven years, but the extremely uneventful American communities where Jews settled in America, just one of many minorities, and free, if they can, to follow their unique bliss. So why then does this provincial Jewish life, even as Jews have perhaps come closer to the American Dream than any other ethnic group, seem so unfulfilled for so many people? It would be a work of mostly realist fiction, but lots of potential to dabble in techniques that are anything but realistic. Always with the possibility of new stories to update it

Plays from the Old New Land: I started this last year. It centers on a single Jewish family, loosely based on my own but hardly the same (I of course cannot emphasize this enough to anyone who might have read it). The idea is to create a representative Jewish family, in a representative Jewish community, with all the boiling tensions that threaten to tear this Postwar idyll apart, an idyll that's already lasted decades longer than anyone had any right to expect. It would be a cycle of plays: at least six, perhaps seven, though perhaps we should rest from the thought of a seventh...: a Jewish family, Jewish millenials, Jewish baby boomers, Jewish gen-X'ers, Jewish elderly (perhaps two separate ones: one about the elderly from Europe, one about the Greatest Generation elderly from America), and another more amorphous and surreal one that moves through time...

150 Psalms: I've started work on this, and have recorded the bulk of the first four (oy). Jewish liturgical music is, for the most part, incredibly banal. Somebody has to do a Jewish music Apollo Program. The idea here is to create much greater music out of Jewish texts, interpreting the Jewish sacred with the freedom that modern life permits.

Liturgical Music for Jewish Services: Cantillation, still the great Jewish contribution to music, is going severely out of style in our time. The solutions to replace it so far have all been incredibly banal (in my not humble enough opinion). All of them place emphasis on participation, and none of them on the music. Jews need music good enough that the music alone is reason enough to feel a greater spiritual uplift. Just as the great Christian worship texts have musical edifice after edifice by the great masters, we need large scale choral music to be made out of our texts that create a kind of sacred theater out of the work. Works that embrace modern life with all the potential instruments which are still banned in most synagogues, and give the full measure of drama to texts that even the best cantors treated with kid gloves.

Ten Commandments Opera: How do you portray the central event of Judaism for an American audience? Well, what is the great Jewish contribution to American life? I'll give you a hint, what's the great conspiracy in which we control everything? Hollywood is, still, the most Jewish thing about America. Even most of the best American movies are not quite Art with a capital A, but nor are they at all divorced from Art and its direct connection to ideas and to the spiritual world. It is, as Jews make it, a way of squaring the circle - creating a commodity that is something resembling an artistic product for mass consumption in an intellectually and emotionally immature nation that still isn't quite ready for Art with a capital A. The movies are not Art, in a way, they're much better. They're Art with the dull parts excised. The best artistic way to portray the spiritual essence Judaism in America is through a source that isn't quite highbrow. What project cries out for a grand opera more than the C. B. DeMille's 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, with its rock-ribbed principles of American Liberalism, with its mixture of lofty discourse and spiritual import with soap opera-level triviality and vaguely pornographic spectacle, is a movie that cries out for operatic treatment as perhaps nothing in the canon of American popular culture does. But it is, without a doubt, the most goyish treatment of the most Jewish of subjects imaginable. Everything about it is wooden. This opera would try to put the life back into that gloriously campy story and gloriously tacky images, with music and dialogue that matches the life that is teeming everywhere else.

Translation of Large Swaths of the Bible: Self-explanatory, except to say that it would have a more literal translation, not blunting the edges that make for more comfortable reading in modern religious life, where Yahweh is an immaterial being, and

Who am I kidding, I'll probably just post thirty articles a day to facebook instead...

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