Monday, March 29, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021
I believe there is an inherent danger in what I'm about to post, but it's time to say something about Philip Ewell, because quite frankly, I smell another Boulez exploiting the good will of people lost in the confusion of a new era enacting a demagogic agenda for his own personal gain. There is something about his agenda that is just as ugly as the problems he's diagnosing, and while I'm not going to advertise or link to this point of view, since this is my page, I'm going to take a small risk and register my fear in writing that we're dealing with a calamitous demagogue that can hold classical music back from mainstream acceptance and prosperity for still another lifetime with a whole new brand of snakeoil.
- That is true only in the sense that every academic curriculum is a 'thought experiment.' The point is so self-evidently to cut traditional texts off at the root and replace them, it's little but an awkwardly concealed bit of opportunism. Obviously, the very first to be widely read in this curriculum is 'Philip Ewell.'
- I guarantee that any non-white male musicologists who favor more traditional approaches will be excluded too from this kind of curriculum. The greater point of this 'exercise' is not to let diverse voices in but to keep all non-revolutionary voices out.
- Regardless of such extreme measures, the speed of global communication is turning the whole world of music upside down anyway, and nowhere more so than in classical music where the internet is providing avenues for musicians to internationalize their learning properly to the music of other cultures. Whether or not the traditional texts are replaced by force or by choice, they will gradually be replaced by texts with a much less Western bias, and if the landing is soft, the replacement texts will be better and more inclusive, and there would be no counterrevolution of reactionary bias to his movement which Ewell's extremism is rendering inevitable.
- By far, the most important point is this: if Western classical music is not the backbone of the classical music education, if learning the basic texts in German, French, and Italian are not priority 1 in a musicological education, if classical musicians are devoting a pluarlity of their time to other music than the Western canon, then what can Western classical musicians bring to the international musical dialogue that other genres of world musicians don't bring with ten times more authority? We the citizens of classical music will yet again be relegated to living and working in just another cultural backwater with little to contribute to the wider world of music.
- By including non-Western ethnomusicology as an equivalent study to the study of Western Classical Music, how is that not a form of cultural appropriation which Ewell and his allies supposedly excoriate? The hypocrisy is rather breathtaking. If you come at non-Western or popular music through the rubric of Western classical music, regardless of your identity and learned experience, you are complicit in the same cultural appropriation you give lip service to reviling.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Today, an opera that the Met never produced that it should have so long ago. Treemonisha by Scott Joplin was rediscovered in 1972, the same year James Levine came to the Met, and yet the preeminent opera house in America still completely ignores this invaluable monument of American music. Is it as good as Joplin's rags? Well, no, it's a first opera, and almost a collection of rags with lyrics assembled into review show, but what rags! A very good argument could be made that Joplin is still America's greatest composer, and certainly an argument that he is the most American. Like Steven Sondheim, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Charles Ives, Bernard Hermann, Art Tatum, W.C. Handy, and a number of others, the majority of work by Joplin that does not straddle those fine lines between classical and popular, comedy and tragedy, sublimity and vulgarity, accessibility and demand. It is neither high nor low or middle but everybrow. It is indispensable music of America and indispensable music of the world. I've written quite a bit on Scott Joplin and perhaps I will repost that over the next week. I've timestamped the video to the beginning of the music, but if you like, go to the beginning to hear a brief pre-recording word by Joplin's great-niece, LeErma White.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Sunday, March 14, 2021
This quality involves the ability to show that you've hugged this music for every last drip of communication between the musicians, audience, and music, and as I arrive in middle age with a crashing thud, that is the quality I wish to hear over every other.
Friday, March 12, 2021
But they were self-evidently deposited into pressure cooker after pressure cooker until they were formed into the shape of their claustrophobic spaces: World War, followed by the Russian Civil War, followed by hyperinflation, followed by the Great Depression, followed by nationalist dictatorship, followed by Communist dictatorship, followed by the Holocuast and the Camps, followed by World War, followed by Soviet Invasion, followed by the Polish Civil War, followed by refugee camps, followed by immigration, and then landing in Amerikeh where they were supposed to be worry free... Learning the language, making a living, growing a business, selling a business, buying a bettah beezness, raising the kinder, buying a heus, paying deh mortgage, paying fah college, getting deh kinder stahted in beezness, helping deh kinder buy a heus, vatching di ayniklakh every Saturday night vhile the kinder vent ot to spend all deh money ve nevah had...
This is the generation that let my grandparents and all their friends live on, a generation that let them provide for their children and grandchildren, a generation that gave my family and a billion other families everything that nowhere else in the world ever has or ever would. After Covid, they're almost all gone, and it will be a terribly long wait for a generation well-chastened enough to replace them.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
There's so much more but this is obviously just a taste....