Sunday, September 29, 2019

Mini-Cast #3 - Sweat by Lynn Nottage - Complete Rough Draft

I saw a very bad production of a very good new play last week. I won't say the name of the company, because it was full of amateur actors doing their best. Theater is merciless. It exposes actors who aren't up to their material, even the best actors come undone sometimes, and if the actors are bad enough, it makes the play seem worse. Over time, I've come to learn that performers actors deserve mercy they rarely got from me, and particularly actors. Nothing exposes weaknesses like performing for others, and before performers are criticized, they should be commended for their bravery. Better a bad production of a good play than no production at all.

But it's doubly a shame because I apparently missed a very good production of it last year at Everyman Theater, which is easily the best theater in Baltimore, and nearly the equal of any company in this country of ours where movies are king and 75% of the most talented performers move to Hollywood.

Is Sweat a great play? Well, no. It's a good play about social issues, in the grand tradition of good American plays about social issues from Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman to Susan Lori-Parks and Bruce Norris. And if anything, it's quite a bit better than many of the plays from this long tradition. My friend complained to me that this play's characters were not characters but mouthpieces for ideologies. I couldn't disagree completely, but at least the ideologies were a battle of rights rather than the usual good versus evil.

For as long as America had theaters, theater is where agitprop goes to flourish - good is good, and evil might as well twirl its mustache. Every problem has a name, and even when the villain is invisible, the invisible fates have names too - capitalism, patriarchy, racism, homophobia... All kinds of playwrights try to be political, and they inevitably run into the problem that they know a lot more about theater than about politics. For a hundred years, characters on Broadway have made the same near-religious sermon about the evils of this or that political force, capitalism more often than anything else, ostensibly to make converts of their audiences, but 90% of the audiences already believe in everything the dramatist believes, who then drive home to their Long Island McMansions while the playwright writes his next sermon in his half-a-million dollar brownstone in Williamsburg.

By the time actors get around to noticing ideas, the ideas are ready for the nursing home. International socialism existed for seventy years before Bertolt Brecht hit the theater with the Threepenny Opera like a terrorist with a bomb in 1928. Before that, class issues were just one subject among many that theater discussed. Even Bernard Shaw, the greatest socialist playwright of all time, found lots of time for other issues than capitalism. But ever since The Threepenny Opera, the most reliable villain in the theater is the forces of Capital that wear down the working man to a nub. Some of these plays are very good. Some plays working in this model, like Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross, are plays that could live forever. But it's hard to escape the idea that the class drama hindered the quality of more theater than it helped.

Yet in the same way, the ideas of the Frankfurt School have been around since right after World War II - that identities and ideas are defined by the powerful who shape our world in the image most flattering to them. Angels in America premiered in 1991, and don't misunderstand, however flawed it is, it's still towering. It also marks the beginning of a new kind of leftist play, based not on class but identity.

In the years before Angels in America, every play that wasn't trying to be socially responsible portrayed a claustrophobic, dysfunctional family. Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee were all masters of it. But after Angels, the two strands combined, and American plays determined that families were dysfunctional because of social forces. And thus we got plays like Topdog/Underdog, How I Learned to Drive, and Clybourne Park.

The idea that politics shapes families is not a new dramatic idea, it goes at least back to Henrik Ibsen, who is overdue in our woke era for a revival. It's a legitimate point of view, and perhaps as relevant as it's ever been. But the points have been been made, over, and over, and over again.

There is plenty more to say about what directions might be alternatives for an American art form that operates like a bastard older brother to the movies and TV. But for today, I'll just say that all of this is why I found Sweat so impressively different from the usual fare, because the playwright clearly did her homework. Apparently Lynn Nottage went into Redding Pennsylvania, the American city with the highest poverty rate in the country - 40%, and interviewed all kinds of residents, and it's incredibly apparent that she listened because we watch a very modern American story. Yes, there were the usual invisible forces of capitalism driving workers into the ground, but instead of the usual divisions, we see black and white families celebrating every occasion together. The divisions of this America is not the divisions of the Wilson era, they are the divisions of the Trump era, when the traditionally poor of America, both black and white, face a gigantic challenge to their livelihoods from even poorer Hispanic immigrants, who will work for wages long-rooted Americans would find unacceptable.

While Trump's America reckons with itself about older sins, targets for the worst sins we may ever commit cross our border every day. Whether or not America reckons properly with the sins of its past, potential sins of our future are howling. Class was the killer of the 19th century, race the killer of the 20th. The great killer of the 21st is not race, it will be immigration, and yes, there's an enormous difference. And the greatest dramas of a century with weather patterns that uproot whole countries will probably be about immigration. May we all live to see them.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Mini-Cast #3 - Sweat by Lynn Nottage - Almost Complete Draft

I saw a very bad production of a very good play last week. I won't say the name of the company, because it was full of amateur actors doing their best. Theater is merciless. It exposes actors who aren't up to their material, even the best actors come undone sometimes, and if the actors are bad enough, it makes the play seem worse. Over time, I've come to learn that performers actors deserve mercy they rarely got from me, and particularly actors. Nothing exposes weaknesses like performing for others, and before performers are criticized, they should be commended for their bravery. Better a bad production of a good play than no production at all.

But it's doubly a shame because I apparently missed a very good production of it last year at Everyman Theater, which is easily the best theater in Baltimore, and nearly the equal of any company in this country of ours where movies are king and 75% of the most talented performers move to Hollywood.

Is Sweat a great play? Well, no. It's a good play about social issues, in the grand tradition of good American plays about social issues from Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman to Susan Lori-Parks and Bruce Norris. And if anything, it's quite a bit better than many of the plays from this long tradition. My friend complained to me that this play's characters were not characters but mouthpieces for ideologies. I couldn't disagree completely, but at least the ideologies were a battle of rights rather than the usual good versus evil.

For as long as America had theaters, theater is where agitprop goes to flourish - good is good, and evil might as well twirl its mustache. Every problem has a name, and even when the villain is invisible, the invisible fates have names too - capitalism, patriarchy, racism, homophobia... All kinds of playwrights try to be political, and they inevitably run into the problem that they know a lot more about theater than about politics. For a hundred years, characters on Broadway have made the same near-religious sermon about the evils of this or that political force, capitalism more often than anything else, ostensibly to make converts of their audiences, but 90% of the audiences already believe in everything the dramatist believes, who then drive home to their Long Island McMansions while the playwright writes his next sermon in his half-a-million dollar brownstone in Williamsburg.

By the time actors get around to noticing ideas, the ideas are ready for the nursing home. International socialism existed for seventy years before Bertolt Brecht hit the theater with the Threepenny Opera like a terrorist with a bomb in 1928. Before that, class issues were just one subject among many that theater discussed. Even Bernard Shaw, the greatest socialist playwright of all time, found lots of time for other issues than capitalism. But ever since The Threepenny Opera, the most reliable villain in the theater is the forces of Capital that wear down the working man to a nub. Some of these plays are very good. Some plays working in this model, like Death of a Salesman and Glengarry Glen Ross, are plays that could live forever. But it's hard to escape the idea that the class drama hindered the quality of more theater than it helped.

Yet in the same way, the ideas of the Frankfurt School have been around since right after World War II - that identities and ideas are defined by the powerful who shape our world in the image most flattering to them. Angels in America premiered in 1991, and don't misunderstand, however flawed it is, it's still towering. It also marks the beginning of a new kind of leftist play, based not on class but identity.

In the years before Angels in America, every play that wasn't trying to be socially responsible portrayed a claustrophobic, dysfunctional family. Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee were all masters of it. But after Angels, the two strands combined, and American plays determined that families were dysfunctional because of social forces. And thus we got plays like Topdog/Underdog, How I Learned to Drive, and Clybourne Park.

The idea that politics shapes families is not a new dramatic idea, it goes at least back to Henrik Ibsen, who is overdue in our woke era for a revival of interest. It's a legitimate point of view, and perhaps as politically relevant as it's ever been. But the point has been been made, over, and over, and over again.

There is plenty more to say about what directions might be alternatives for an American art form that operates like a bastard older brother to the movies and TV. But for today, I'll just say that all of this is why I found Sweat so impressively different from the usual fare, because the playwright clearly did her homework. Apparently Lynn Nottage, went into Redding Pennsylvania, the American city with the highest poverty rate in the country - 40%, and interviewed all kinds of residents. We hear their stories from the inside. We never see the business school vulture capitalists who maximize capital at their expense - perhaps their stories could turn up some pathos too - though admittedly that would be unexpected. So yes, there were the usual invisible forces of capitalism driving workers into the ground, but instead of the usual divisions, we see black and white families celebrating every occasion together. These divisions are not the divisions of the Wilson era, these are the divisions of the Trump era, when the traditionally poor of America, both black and white, face a gigantic challenge to their livelihoods from even poorer Hispanic immigrants, who will work for wages that long-rooted Americans would find unacceptable.

While Trump's America reckons with itself about older sins, targets for the worst sins we may ever commit cross our border every day. Whether or not America reckons properly with the sins of its past, potential sins of our future are howling. There is no price that will repair slavery's damage. The issue of today is not race, but immigration, and yes, there's an enormous difference. Hopefully, this podcast will have plenty of episodes to delineate it.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Mini-Cast #3: Sweat by Lynn Nottage - Really Rough Incomplete Draft

I saw a very bad production of a very good play last week. I won't say the name of the company, because it was full of amateur actors doing their best. Theater is merciless. It exposes actors who aren't up to their material, even the best actors come undone sometimes, and if the actors are bad enough, it makes the play seem worse. Over time, I've come to learn that performers actors deserve mercy they rarely got from me, and particularly actors. Nothing exposes weaknesses like performing for others, and before performers are criticized, they should be commended for their bravery. Better a bad production of a good play than no production at all.

But it's doubly a shame because I apparently missed a very good production of it last year at Everyman Theater, which is easily the best theater in Baltimore, and nearly the equal of any company in this country of ours where movies are king and 75% of the most talented performers move to Hollywood.

Is Sweat a great play? Well, no. It's a good play about social issues, in the grand tradition of good American plays about social issues from Clifford Odets and Lillian Hellman to Susan Lori-Parks and Bruce Norris. And if anything, it's quite a bit better than many of the plays from this long tradition. My friend complained to me that this play's characters were not characters but mouthpieces for ideologies. I couldn't disagree completely, but at least the ideologies were a battle of rights rather than the usual good versus evil.

For as long as America had theaters, theater's a place where agitprop flourishes - good is good, and evil might as well twirl its mustache. All kinds of playwrights try to be political, and inevitably run into the problem that they know a lot more about theater than about politics. For a hundred years, characters on Broadway have made the same near-religious sermon about the evils of capitalism, ostensibly to make converts of their audiences, but 90% of the audiences already believe in everything the dramatist believes, who then drive home to their Long Island McMansions while the writer writes his next sermon in his half-a-million dollar brownstone in Williamsburg.

By the time actors get around to noticing ideas, the ideas are ready for the nursing home. International socialism existed for seventy years before Bertolt Brecht hit the theater with the Threepenny Opera like a terrorist with a bomb in 1928. Before that, class issues were just one subject among many that theater discussed. But ever since, the most reliable villain is the evils of capitalism that wear down the working man to a nub. Some of these plays are very good. A few playwrights working in this model, like Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter, did great work consistently. But it's hard to escape the idea that the class drama was ultimately a hinderance rather than a help.

 But In the same way, the ideas of the Frankfurt School have been around since right after World War II - that ideas and identities defined by the powerful who shape our world in the image most flattering to them. Angels in America premiered in 1991, and don't misunderstand, however flawed it is, it's still towering. It also marks the beginning of a new kind of leftist play, based not on class but identity.

And this is why I found Sweat so impressive. Yes, there were the usual invisible forces of capitalism, but rather than show villains twirling mustaches, we see

The problems of theater in America are many, but the problems are also the glories. The theater is the most reliable place where American misfits can find acceptance. Sensitive high school kids, bullied by jocks for having no real use for sports, can always find a place for themselves in a high school theater - whether in front of the stage as an actor or behind it as a techie.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Minicast #2: The Road by Cormac McCarthy - Rough Draft

Nobody likes Cormac McCarthy, but you have to reckon with him. There are no rich rewards from his books, all you need is twenty pages to understand how much more they demand than they give. No humor, no compassion, no fun, no character observations. What you get from McCarthy is hundreds of pages of nature descriptors, and the pure, unmitigated darkness of our worst fears - for our people, for our country, for our selves.

Much moreso than George R. R. Martin, McCarthy is only interested in human beings for the way they die. What really interests him is the desert, the western American landscape, described more ripely than any John Ford movie. There are none of the traditional Western myths where manly heroes kill outlaws and Choctaws. For McCarthy, there is no higher human being - humans are no less part of nature than animals, and humans kill as animals do, squalidly, gorily; they kill to enjoy themselves, they kill to eat each other, they kill to use the features of the dead as jewelry.

There is nothing unique about human beings in a Cormac McCarthy novel. To him, we're all mere ridges on the ancient mesas, natural manifestations of a dead earth who don't belong upon it, born merely to die in a climate that kills everything, and therefore have a barely suppressible urge to end one another's lives, seeing the out of place within each other which we do not see in ourselves.

I'm currently reading the infamous Blood Meridian, and will probably have a cast about that. Was the American West truly as brutal as Blood Meridian makes it seem? Well, I doubt it was in every particular, but there is no question to my mind that Blood Meridian conveys the spiritual reality of the West. Blood Meridian means what it is to reckon with Manifest Destiny - a doctrine with genocide seared into its dogma.

In an era when we begin to wonder anew of what bigots are capable, it's important to remember how little control we have over their rage. Even at its height, Manifest Destiny was not embraced by more than a portion of the entire American public. Raised against Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk were voices from John Quincy Adams to Abraham Lincoln, but even if you prevent the slaughter a hundred times, there will always be a hundred-first. Grisly murder is part of the human condition, and McCarthy is its prophet.

Part of grappling with Manifest Destiny's reality is the realization that America is too big to be a mere country - there are too many facets, too many peoples, too many cultures to govern something so unwieldy without good intentions going awry. Perhaps no continent should be its own country, and within that continent there are so many foreign places and peoples to take in that many facets of the country will always be foreign to each of us.

To those of us hailing from plentiful vegetation, nothing is more foreign than desert. There is nothing more foreign than that climate of death who seems to install a homing device in its citizens to return as many of each other to the land of the dead as we can before we are duly returned ourselves. And yet, the desert of McCarthy and the southwest may yet be our truest future, a worldwide desert, perhaps even a universal desert, in which all remaining life is alone for all time. This is the sort of image of climate change that haunts our dreams - an image of universal death. This is the image that clearly haunts Greta Thunberg, and probably haunts all those millions who protested with her.

This is why it's simultaneously stunning and unsurprising when I read an article today reporting that Cormac McCarthy edits science articles for the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. It makes a perverse kind of sense that a writer who spends hundreds of pages chronicling every hue of sky and rock would be interested in their formation, and would also take an interest in questions of what might happen to the landscape after the age of sentient humans.

I've spent so little of this podcast talking about The Road. Suffice to say that it's a book so perfect that a critic can say little about it. The Road's journey is as much spiritual as physical - of a father to keep his son alive in an age post-apocalypse most food humans can eat is each other. It is not only a book about preserving life, but about preserving souls. In Blood Meridian, McCarthy's fascination with violence deadens our horror, you almost feel him rooting for the killers. In The Road, the desire of a nameless father and son to survive is so basic that our horror at the dangers they pass will never cease. This is real horror, not the macabre gore of Stephen King whose disgust you're meant to enjoy, this is what it means to live in a place where the homing instinct to return all things to nature is so strong that it's obliterated nature itself. This father's desire to raise a decent son may be the last good impulse in the universe. It's such a simple story, and yet how many reverberations does it have to human history? How many reverberations would it have to the many, many stories of cannibalism during World War II, the civil wars of Africa, the Communist and Imperial famines?

And how many more reverberations will it have to the future? Cormac McCarthy was born in 1933 - part of the same pessimistic generation as Stanley Kubrick and Phillip K. Dick who first heard of the Holocaust and the Bomb when they were adolescents, spent their adulthoods haunted by nuclear war, and are now in their dotage must hear about planetary death. The specter of planetary apocalypse has been with us nearly seventy-five years, and yet it has not come. When the generation born between 1925 and 1942 passes, the 'Silent Generation', will we remember their era as an age of anxiety, beset by premonitions of a disaster that never came, or will their anxieties be vindicated?

Another 55ish Albums - More Tomorrow

Alessandro Striggio: Mass for 40 and 60 Voices - Le Concert Spirituel/Herve Niquet

The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

Victor de Sabata in Salzburg

The Beatles: Rubber Soul

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni - Metropolitan Opera/Bruno Walter/Ezio Pinza/Alexander Kipnis

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony no. 9 - Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Hermann Abendroth

Johannes Brahms Violin Concerto: Bronislaw Huberman/New York Philharmonic-Symphony/Artur Rodzinski and Fritz Kreisler/London Philharmonic/John Barbirolli

Thomas Weelkes: Anthems and Madrigals - Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley

The Immortal Otis Redding

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony no. 8 - Moscow Philharmonic Kirill Kondrashin

Songs and Dancing Ballads by Percy Grainger: Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner

 Bela Bartok: Bluebeard's Castle - George Solti/London Philharmonic/Kolos Kovats/Sylvia Sass dir. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Wolfgang Sawallisch/Bavarian State Orchestra/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/Julia Varady

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Symphonies 39-41 - Concentus Musicus Wien/Nikolaus Harnoncourt or Musicians of the Louvre/Marc Minkowski or

The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1-3

Giuseppe Verdi: Otello - La Scala/Carlos Kleiber/Placido Domingo/Mirella Freni/Piero Cappucilli or NBC Symphony/Robert Shaw Chorale/Arturo Toscanini/Ramon Vinay/Herva Nelli/Giuseppe Valdengo or Metropolitan Opera/Ettore Panizza/Giovanni MartinelliMaria Caniglia/Lawrence Tibbett

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Mariinsky Ballet/Victor Fedotov chor. Marius Petipa

Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring - Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa Pekka Salonen

Modest Mussorgsky: Complete Songs - Boris Christoff

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Sadko - Bolshoi Opera/Nikolai Golovanov

Duke Ellington Live at Newport 1956

Karol Szymanowski: Collected Works - City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Simon Rattle/Soloists

Ottorino Respighi: Boticelli Triptych - Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Veljo Tormis: Curse Upon Iron - Works for Choir (full album)

Ernest Bloch: Baal Shem Tov - Isaac Stern/Alexander Zakin

Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall 1938

Frank Martin - The Sixteen/Harry Christophers (full album)

Walter Gieseking Plays Debussy Preludes

Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff - Metropolitan Opera/Leonard Bernstein/Anselmo Colzani (it's not complete, for complete I would recommend Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff - La Scala/Victor de Sabata/Mariano Stabile)

Heitor Villa-Lobos: Forests of the Amazon - Moscow Radio Symphony/Alfred Heller/Renee Fleming

Sergei Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky - St. Petersburg Philharmonic/Yuri Temirkanov

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony no. 10 - Mariinsky Theater Orchestra/Valery Gergiev

Louis Armstrong Live at Symphony Hall 1947

Aaron Copland: Appalachian Spring - Los Angeles Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein

George Gershwin: Porgy and Bess - London Philharmonic Orchestra/Glyndebourne Festival Chorus/Simon Rattle/Willard White/Cynthia Haymon  dir. Trevor Nunn 

Alberto Ginastera: Panambi - London Symphony/Giesele Ben-Dor

Silvestre Revueltas: La Noche de los Mayas - Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra/Gustavo Dudamel


Charles Mingus: Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Lili Boulanger: Collected Works - BBC Philharmonic/Yan Pascal Tortelier

Robert Schumann: Symphony no. 2 - Detroit Symphony/Paul Paray

Franz Schubert: Symphony no. 2 - Dresden State Orchestra/Wolfgang Sawallisch

Charles Ives: Symphony no. 2 - New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein

Nina Simone Live in Holland and England

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Requiem - Concentus Musikus Wien/Arnold Schoenberg Choir/Nikolaus Harnoncourt/Soloists

Ernest Bloch: Avodat HaKodesh New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein/Robert Merrill

Alfred Schnittke: Symphony no. 1 USSR Symphony/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky

Frank Zappa: Freak Out

Claude Debussy: La Mer - Boston Symphony/Serge Koussevitzky

Ravi Shankar: Three Ragas (full album)

Duke Ellington - Reminiscing in Tempo

Mahler: Symphony no. 1 "Titan" Bavarian Radio Symphony/Rafael Kubelik (live)

Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine: Into the Woods - Original Broadway Production

Dave Tarras Trio (Klezmer) - Dave Tarras Tribute Concert

Alan Lomax: Songs of the South Collection

George Friedrich HandelMusic for the Royal Fireworks (No strings, full album) - The English Consort/Trevor Pinnock

Giuseppe Verdi: Il Trovatore - Vienna Philharmonic and State Opera Chorus/Herbert von Karajan/Franco Corelli/Leontyne Price/Ettore Bastianini/Giulietta Simonato

Edward Elgar: Violin Concerto - Nigel Kennedy/BBC Concert Orchestra/Paul Daniel

Claude Debussy: Nocturnes for Orchestra - Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Giacomo Puccini: La Boheme - La Scala/Riccardo Chailly/Roberto Alagna/Angela Gheorghiu

Jean Sibelius: Symphonies 1 and 5 - Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy

Ludwig van Beethoven: Appassionata Sonata - Sviatoslav Richter

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 7 - Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado

Shostakovich: Suite on Poems of Michelangelo

Frank Zappa: One Size Fits All

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

About 50 Albums - Another 50 Tomorrow

______ _______ asked me to do the ten recording album covers in ten days. I have a feeling FB is using it to track us, and I just don't understand the technology involved. So rather than that, I'll just do list as many of my favorite recordings as I can think of every day with links. Let these double as recommendations:

Osvaldo Golijov La Pasion Segun San Marcos: Schola Cantorum Caracas/Maria Guinand 

Gustav Mahler Symphony no. 3: New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstei or Concertgebouw Orchestra/Bernard Haitink (live) or Bavarian Radio Symphony/Rafael Kubelik (preferably live)

Joseph Haydn The Creation: Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh  or in German - Capella Augustina/VokalEnsemble Köln/Andras Spering


Leos Janacek The Cunning Little Vixen: dir. Walter Felsenstein cond. Vaclav Neumann  or London Philharmonic/Simon Rattle/Lillian Watson or Bavarian Radio Symphony/Franz Welser-Möst/Martina/Jankova or Orchestre de Paris/Sir Charles Mackerras/

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Marriage of Figaro: Metropolitan Opera/James Levine/Bryn Terfel/Cecilia Bartoli/Dawn Upshaw/Dwayne Croft dir. Jonathan Miller  (also, a very different audio recording: Berlin Radio Symphony/Ferenc Fricsay/Renato Capecchi/Irmgard Seefried/Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/Maria Stader)

Johannes Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Van Cliburn 

Modest Mussorgsky Boris Godunov: Bolshoi Opera/Nikolai Golovanov/Alexander Prigorov/Ivan Kozlovsky 

Igor Stravinsky Les Noces: Pokrovsky Ensemble/Dmitri Porkrovsky  or Mariinsky Opera/Valery Gergiev

Guillaume de Machaut Messe de Notre Dame/Ensemble Organum 

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme 

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony no. 6 "Pastoral" - Dresden State Orchestra/Herbert Blomstedt








Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain

Bach: Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould or Igor Kipnis

Bartok String Quartets: Takacs Quartet

The Tallis Scholars Sing Thomas Tallis

Johannes Brahms: Symphony no. 1 Finale - Berlin Philharmonic/Wilhelm Furtwangler, for complete NDR Symphony/Wilhelm Furtwangler

Ralph Vaughan Williams: London Symphony - Cleveland Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin

Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs - Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/George Szell/German Opera Berlin Orchestra

United Sacred Harp Musical Association 1959

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 9 - Berlin Philharmonic/Leonard Bernstein or Berlin Philharmonic/Claudio Abbado or Vienna Philharmonic/Bruno Walter

Claudio Monteverdi: Madrigals of War and Love - Jordi Savall

Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time - Tashi Ensemble 

Robert Schumann: Carnaval - Alfred Cortot

Luciano Berio: Sinfonia - New York Philharmonic/Luciano Berio

Leos Janacek: Glagolitic Mass - Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Sir Charles Mackerras

Franz Schubert: Schwanengesang - Christian Gerhaher/Gerold Huber

Antonin Dvorak: Piano Quintet - Sviatoslav Richter/Borodin Quartet

Alfred Schnittke: A Faust Cantata

Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Sviatoslav Richter or Chicago Symphony/Sir Georg Solti (live)

Tan Dun: The Map

Johann Sebastian Bach: Chaccone in D-minor - Yehudi Menuhin or Bronislaw Huberman

Benjamin Britten: Peter Grimes - Royal Opera House Covent Garden/Benjamin Britten/Peter Pears

Leonard Bernstein: Candide - London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Leonard Bernstein/Jerry Hadley/June Anderson/Christa Ludwig/Adolph Green

Charles Ives: An American Journey - San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto no. 2 - Arthur Rubinstein/Boston Symphony/Charles Munch or Wilhelm Backhaus/Vienna Philharmonic/Carl Schuricht 

Bedrich Smetana: Ma Vlast - Czech Philharmonic/Vaclav Talich or Czech Philharmonic/Rafael Kubelik

Hector Berlioz: The Damnation of Faust - Lamoureux Concert Orchestra/Elizabeth Brasseur Chorale/Igor Markevitch/Richard Verrau/Michel Roux/Consuelo Rubio

Georges Bizet: Carmen - l'Opera Comique/Andre Cluytens/Solange Michel/Raoul Jobin/Martha Angelici/Michel Dans

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin - Bolshoi Opera/Alexander Orlov/Andrey Ivanov/Yelena Krugilova/Ivan Kozlovsky

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony no. 9 'From the New World' - Czech Philharmonic/Frantisek Stupka

Franz Schubert: Winterreise - Hans Hotter/Michael Reichhausen

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg - Bavarian State Opera/Eugen Jochum/Hans Hotter/Gunther Treptow/Annelies Kupper/Benno Kusche

Josef Suk: A Summer's Tale - Royal Liverpool Philharmonic/Libor Pesek

Georges Enescu: Octet - Janine Jansen and Friends

Igor Stravinsky: Petrushka - Leningrad Philharmonic/Yuri Temirkanov or London Symphony/Valery Gergiev

Monteverdi - Madrigals Book VII: Concerto Italiano

Rued Langgaard: The Music of the Spheres - Danish National Radio Symphony/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky

Scott Joplin: The Sting Soundtrack

Robert Schumann: Faschinggschwank aus Wein - Sviatoslav Richter or Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Ralph Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony - London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir/Sir Adrian Boult/John Carol Case

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 4 - City of Birmingham Symphony/Andris Nelsons

Johannes Brahms - A German Requiem - Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Chorus/Herbert Blomstedt

Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov - Russian Easter Overture - USSR Symphony/Yevgeny Svetlanov

Franz Schubert - String Quartet in C -Isaac Stern/Alexander Schneider/Milton Katims/Paul Tortelier/Pablo Casals or Melos Quartet/Mstislav Rostropovich

Richard Strauss: Alpine Symphony - Dresden State Orchestra/Rudolf Kempe or National Youth Orchestra of the USA/Antonio Pappano or Bavarian Radio Symphony/Sir Georg Solti

Henry Cowell: Piano Works - Stefan Schleiermacher

Bruckner: Symphony no. 9 - Dresden State Orchestra/Eugen Jochum

50ish more tomorrow...









1-10 Albums

______ _______ asked me to do the ten recording album covers in ten days. I have a feeling FB is using it to track us, and I just don't understand the technology involved. So rather than that, I'll just do ten of my favorite recordings every day with links. Let these double as recommendations:
- Osvaldo Golijov La Pasion Segun San Marcos: Schola Cantorum Caracas/Maria Guinand https://www.youtube.com/watch…
- Gustav Mahler Symphony no. 3: New York Philharmonic/Leonard Bernsteihttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40IVvFhP8XI
- Joseph Haydn The Creation: Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh https://www.youtube.com/watch…
- Leos Janacek The Cunning Little Vixen: dir. Walter Felsenstein cond. Vaclav Neumann https://www.youtube.com/watch…
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Marriage of Figaro: Metropolitan Opera/James Levine/Bryn Terfel/Cecilia Bartoli/Dawn Upshaw/Dwayne Croft https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVwCrltEeok
- Johannes Brahms Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel: Van Cliburn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4b_TrbX34E
- Modest Mussorgsky Boris Godunov: Bolshoi Opera/Nikolai Golovanov/Alexander Prigorov/Ivan Kozlovsky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72nU6e9Y5C8
- Igor Stravinsky Les Noces: Pokrovsky Ensemble/Dmitri Porkrovsky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bzqV6lv0a0
- Guillaume de Machaut Messe de Notre Dame/Ensemble Organum https://youtu.be/1gEV42RKf6E?t=317
- John Coltrane A Love Supreme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ll3CMgiUPuU
10 more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Mini-Podcast Script 1: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance - Mostly Final

Well, beware of critiques bearing gifts I guess... It's the only reason I can think of to explain how liberal journalists so rejected a Republican coming to them, bearing a gift we've sought from any eminent Republican at all, long before a Donald Trump presidency was possible - that what animates Trumpism is not the language of the unheard, what animates Trump supporters is nihilism; pessimism that is in no small part self-inflicted, a culture of grievance; a refusal to practice their espoused values, and a belief contrary to reality that the world is out to humiliate particularly them.

It should be music to liberal ears, yet since its first ecstatic reception, left-liberals closed ranks against a book everybody else knows is a masterpiece of personal memoir for which politics peppers only the slightest flavor, flavors that are easily excised if you're warned about the few pages on which the writer uses conservative political cliches with admirable frugality. There are millions of American stories like Hillbilly Elegy. I don't think it be fair to say that there are an equivalent number of white stories of adversity to black stories, or male stories to female, but I do think it would be fair to say that for every two stories, and not even per capita, like Between the World and Me, or The Other Wes Moore, there's at least one story like Hillbilly Elegy. 

I have no doubt that some of the book's problems with acceptance may be traced to the pundit JD Vance became in the years following Hillbilly Elegy - the Republican talking head sought after to explain Trumpism. And to a certain extent, Vance's soundbite interpretations of Trump country differ from the admittedly anecdotal (rather than statistical) thoughtfulness of his book; but I believe what people really resent in Vance's TV persona is not his explication of Trumpism but rather his explication of why Trumpists resent those who resent Trumpists. He raises all manner of David Brooks-like straw men about the pseudo-sophistication of elites like me and you soon to be listeners, and yet come now...

I could spend an hour throwing statistics after a month of research, but can only quantify classism to a certain extent, so search your mind anecdotally. There are moments in every coastal liberal's life when a later-to-be-Trump supporter wanted a garrulously friendly conversation, and sensing that this rough person would be an annoyance that might take an hour, or a day, or years to get rid of, you did everything you could to ignore him. I have on multiple occasions. There are two sides to this story, and I guarantee that every person who shouted at a Trump rally has just as many stories about the humiliation of being on the other end of his reluctant monologue.

Humiliation is part of life's cycle; a mind that does not feel humiliated is a mind that creates events about which to be humiliated. You needn't look further than that if you don't understand internet flamewars. We gain our self-worth by the adversity we overcome, and therefore, I believe firstly that when there is insufficient adversity, the human mind invents adversity, and secondly that because issues of pride are invented adversity in which we control our own narrative, the human mind is programmed to be more assertive on issues of pride than on issues of survival.

And as I see it,, this is why thousands of rural Trump supporters are so much more assertive. They're more threatening and potentially more violent to those who disagree with them than urban African-Americans whose basic survival is continuously challenged, and yet whose violent elements direct themselves mostly at one another--often for slights of pride, rather than threaten to turn violence upon the millions of more fortunate whom they believe do not understand their mentalities. Police brutality alone cannot account for such a wide disparity.

The disparity can only be explained through that overused, constantly misused term, culture. Whatever a person's culture, it is their cultural pride that makes their life worth living, and is therefore worth dying and killing for. The American Culture Wars are the ultimate wars of pride, but forget pride for a moment: who has more reason for rage? A white liberal flirting with radicalism - entertaining that free speech is a manifestation of privilege, or a black resident of urban blight? The average resident of urban blight is too busy trying to survive to focus on their humiliations, they have no time to focus on their opinions. If such residents had time to make their opinions known, they'd neither find the average radical an advocate effective nor articulate. 

 Perhaps it's selfish, but most of us would rather die than go through life in a constant state of humiliation. The more pride we have, the more pride we have to lose. And who has lost more pride than a person who once was able to feel himself better than his fellow man merely by virtue of his identity? 

I will bring up Eric Hoffer in these brief podcasts again and again, and in the book The True Believer, a book in which my esteem approaches true belief, he writes: 
"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race, or his holy cause."
So why then reject the Vance diagnosis? The only reason I can think of is that it would cast an unflattering light upon our own culture. A light which would show that we claim excellence for our values that we lack in ourselves. and a light which already shines every time we write off all forms of capitalism as an engine of evil, append censorship directly into the classroom, make so little distinction between forms of sexual misconduct, reject the relatively often necessity of military involvement, and... of course, espouse liberalism and equality only to clearly view those who disagree with us with contempt and hatred. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

When Facebook Becomes Blogging

Driving yesterday evening I put WYPR on, and in 3 seconds I realized that Prairie Home Companion was on, and Chris Thile was playing Bach's Chaconne on the mandolin, and it was dull as hell. You can tell that many of the most skilled non-classical musicians think classical music is dull as hell by the ultra-respectful way they play it. Yehudi Menuhin plays the same piece of music 100x more rock 'n' roll than Thile does. Start at 4:42, and try telling me or yourself that the next hundred seconds is not one of the most jaw-droppingly exciting things you've ever heard. It's completely disrespectful to the way Bach wrote it - he asked for no acceleration, he asked for very different bowing than Menuhin does here. Who cares? The point is that Menuhin's ideas work with Bach's clear intentions rather than against Bach. Bach wrote this piece right after his first wife died, and when Menuhin recorded this in 1956, the entire eastern hemisphere was still reeling from a half-century of death which showed every sign at the time of continuing. The one thing 'classical' music still has on the other genres is the simple level of tragedy its most serious exemplars still process. This ability to provide a space to process the larger than life events which are beyond our control, the rage, the tragedy, the shock, the horror, is why classical music still matters.

 https://youtu.be/BApAF0DwSW8?t=282