Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Liberals, Take Your Lumps

 In response to a dear friend's discussion triggered by the response of spineless and flip-flopping republicans to various things Trump-related:

Your account is compelling, toothy, vivid and dead on. But the GOP world appears to be utterly chaotic and evil by design. I guess the question is how did elitist do nothing liberalism that started in the '90s enable and facilitate this phenomenon. The nihilistic version of the "right" was really hatched by Newt Gingrich. He never had any use for integrity which he viewed as chumpness. Winning was the thing. But I don't think we would have had a Newt without a Clinton. And the more I look at the American politics of my lifetime (the first presidential election I remember was Nixon/McGovern), the decline has hinged on a group of well off white liberals who became attached to the same material privileges their rich conservative counterparts derived from the decline of the middle class and the demonization of people of color. They became understandably obsessed with politics that shielded them from scrutiny, i.e. orthodoxies regarding terminology, microagressions, and eliminating scrutiny of libertinism. It became clear to many that presidencies and supermajorities wouldn't facilitate any of the actual policies that would restore the middle class, properly house and educate the poor, or sustantively right the wrongs of racism. The liberal elites had no intention as it turned out to change the course. They and their clients just wanted to slow the decline down a bit. I have to say, against all indications and instincts, Biden has proven to be the first president since Johnson to be willing to, and know how to do anything for non-rich people. And he didn't have any supermajorities like Clinton and Obama.

Sunday, August 14, 2022


 With Trump, whatever you think he might have done, it's always worse.  He's clearly hoarded secret documents to sell or to ward off Kompromat.  It's the most despicable, disgusting thing imaginable.  But it's been clear for years that Trump is a sadist and revels in wickedness and heartlessness.  He's always looking for new ways to transgress and win stress-tests of whatever systems America and humanity count on.

The Trump mob and the republicans in general have moved the goalposts many times and have done many scary and despicable things.  But this flirting with demonizing the FBI and their action is maybe the most dangerous and scary of all.  Without an intelligence system, we are susceptible to unthinkable levels of mischief from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc.  If you are a republican, please stop.  Please think about this reckless act of self-destruction.

Thursday, March 10, 2022


From a FaceBook discussion:

As arguably the oldest book in the world, I don't think it cares much what we think, nor should it. If we assume that every sentence of a miraculously preserved record sent through eons of time and space to be immediately edifying in the way that motivational/inspirational quotes are, I think we are expecting the wrong things and missing out on the amazing things. Genesis, and the OT in general, if they have an overall theme, seem to be about how the chosen people, and, ultimately the Messiah (God), have a very checkered genealogy. We are all both divine and dirty. I mean, we're made out of dust and spirit.

Monday, February 7, 2022

George Crumb

 Trigger warnings: Crumb critique mixed in with admiration; use of an anachronistic word that is not recommended for current use, but that is felt to be essential to the understanding of historical states of mind:

I’ll confess that as a student I kind of detested Crumb's music as sissy, precious, and corny.  I loved rhythm and his music seemed to be all fermatas.  I felt like notation was a sort of necessary evil and should be as efficient as possible, his scores were self-indulgent and drew attention away from the music’s deficiencies.  (I had other issues I won’t go into.)  Of course, my attitude softened (as I did) with time and I began to admire many things about him and his music.  I particularly came to admire the fact that he did all of his highly original work while working as a music professor (at first, I  believe, in group piano classes).  But I also came to enjoy the way he played with the concepts of movements of various lengths (including very short) within a larger composition, something I did a lot of, possibly influenced by him.  I also came to admire his exquisite sense of tonal envelope, of decay, especially regarding the piano.  I think there were three post Debussy 20th century classical composers who seemed to understand the piano, and he was one of them.  Principally, he understood and utilized the incredible phenomena of extended decay and sympathetic resonance that make the piano a miraculous invention.  I have since come to enjoy the humor and audacity in his titles, narratives, literary/etc. references.  And, in the era of computer notation, his scores are, of course, works of art in themselves.  I sat directly behind him at an 8 hour Crumb marathon at Symphony Space in ’89 or ’90.  I wasn’t totally over my issues with his music, but the Space was a block from my apartment and it was, like, $7 or something.  The music got a little samey, and the corniness a little more evident after a few hours, but I watched Crumb the whole time and was touched by his humility, graciousness, etc.  Just a very nice, modest, thoughtful person who was really enjoying the music and the people, complimenting the performers, talking with and taking interest in whoever approached him.  Onward and upward, GC!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Time to Repent

 It has to be said.  I'm sick and tired of living with the crazy.

If you are anti-vax, in addition to being a complete idiot, you are accessory to murder.

If you are republican, you are a traitor and hate democracy.

If you are libertarian, you are a racist.

If you are a Christian Conservative, you are an apostate, a heretic, and hate Jesus and love Satan.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Notation--Is It The Devil's Work?

Shared by Doug Theriault:

A quote from an old interview by Victor Shonfield in 1972 with virtuoso musician and composer David Tudor:

“There is a paragraph in Busoni which speaks of notation as an evil separating musicians from music, and I feel everyone should know that this is true.  I had been completely indoctrinated with the idea of faithfulness to notation in the early days and if you think of notation as being complete and you see what Busoni meant it can’t possibly be complete. Notation is an invention of the devil and when I became free of it to pieces like John Cages Fontana mix and music walk and later bussoti’s piano piece for David Tudor number 3., it really did it a lot for me.” 

My response:

I love notation. I learned to read notes before I learned to read letters. It's a native language so the question is completely moot to me. But as with any other technology, it can be used for good or evil. The locus of people thinking notation = music is pretty limited, or maybe non-existent, i.e. a straw man. My whole work as an artist is in the liminal spaces between composition/improvisation and notation/aural transmission. I don't like locating the efficacy of notation in terms of class/race, despite its origins. It never works out well. Saying any kind of literacy or technology doesn't "suit" any group of people is satanic.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mockingbird Court Scene

 An exchange between musicologist, Michael Lee and myself today (2/14/21).  Forgive my prose which is a bit rambling (and maybe not grammatical?):

ML: I heard someone talking on the television this morning. He claimed that watching 43 Republican jurors/senators vote to acquit Trump was like the black folks in "To Kill a Mockingbird" watching powerlessly from the gallery as the all-white jury did the inevitable and convicted Tom Robinson no matter how big a wipe out the actual trial was. I get tearful every time the black minister awakens Scout: "Stand up Miss Jean Louise. Your daddy's passing." While this wasn't entirely a story about race, it was entirely a story about race. Trump's supporters were overwhelmingly white supremacists, neo-nazis, and crackers. They are the Ewells of the story, white trash to a one. But they don't win. The Ewells got shamed in public, just as the rioters are in jail or heading there. But the well-off racist jury wins in both the story and life. Shameful times in America never come or go, they just hang on and on.

CA: I don't know if there is net gain from this episode, but if there is some redemption of value, it might be the clarifying of what racism is, means, does etc.  I didn't grow up here so I my American history education was scant.  But it seems to me that racism is not organic, but is a strategy (conscious or systemic, maybe both) of the ruling (mostly white male) class to keep their minority rule status.  Every ruling class has to come up with some kind of mythology to keep themselves there.  The pigs have to come up with some way to get the dogs to do their bidding.  Racism has been a very easy and obvious mythology to accomplish this.  Particularly since the civil war, non-rich whites have to be prevented from finding common cause with blacks.  Thus, racism, the Klan etc.  Keep 'em busy hating other working people that look different from them and they won't notice you robbing them blind.  I'm not sure to what extent this is common knowledge among smart white people? but they sometimes don't act like it.  The demonizing of "Trump's base" as the principal cause of all of our ills (and they are, to be sure, a really unsavory, hard to love bunch) and the adherence to salvation (justification and sanctification) for smart (and mostly well off) white people from their race and class privilege through a linguistic and performative orthodoxy that they uniquely have access to, makes one wonder.  It starts to look like the intellectual class (unwittingly or not?) provides a sideshow to draw attention from the baleful and unnecessary curtailments of the first right mentioned in the Declaration among the non-rich.