Saturday, May 12, 2018

Radio Drama Extra - Monique Wittig - Les Guérillères

Simps thinks women should plan and structure their lives to be servants and doormats to men.   Well, what else could that comment mean?   His blast from the past, Hal David and Bert Bacharach's putrid, anti-equality prescription of how women should live their lives, brings this answer from about ten years later. 

In 1973, at the height of the second wave of feminism in the United States and around the world, literature was playing a critical part in raising the global female consciousness, and women were effectively bringing feminist prose to public radio, arguably in one of the earliest cross-platform marketing approaches for feminism. One of the most widely-circulated feminist novels in history, Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères immerses us in an epic battle of the sexes, where women, having taken up arms, triumph against an army of men. First published in 1969 in France, translated into English in 1971, and brought to the airwaves in 1973 by the women at Pacifica’s WBAI in New York, this English adaptation of Les Guérillères is very likely the only one of its kind ever recorded. Today on From the Vault we proudly present this production of Les Guérillères, which has not been heard by the public ear since 1973.

Saturday Night Radio Drama - Sound Alone Is Scarier - Mike Walker - The Edison Cylinders

Supernatural drama: When Rhona Forrester restores some Victorian recordings, as she works, a frightening message emerges. There is an interesting mention of de Martinville

Clare McCarron,
Jonjo O'Neill
Harry Hadden-Paton,
Stephen Critchlow,
Laura Hyde.
Produced by John Taylor.

I'm not a big fan of supernatural drama or sci-fi, which puts me a kind of a disadvantage because I'd guess by a large number, most of contemporary audio-drama fall into those categories.   This one got as close to scaring me as any and more than any movie I've seen as an adult.  It didn't scare me as much as the tentacled head in Invaders From Mars did when I was a kid. 

Here's another one, maybe more scary, also based on recovered recordings and supernatural horror.

Julian Simpson - Bad Memories 

Supernatural drama - In 2004, a successful architect and his family mysteriously disappear from their home. Six years later five bodies are found in the cellar of their house. They are identified as Jonathan and Imogen Blake and their son, Matthew; Philip Gibson, who was on the missing person's register and a woman, identity unknown. Forensics determine that not only were they murdered, but the time of death was 1926. Can audio files found with the bodies solve the mystery?

Rachel Weir ..... Nicola Walker
Jim Marquez ..... Rupert Graves
Phillip Gibson ..... Steven Mackintosh
Jonathan Blake ..... Anthony Calf
Imogen Blake ..... Jana Carpenter
Matthew Blake ..... Oscar Richardson
Mary Marston ..... Imogen MCCurdy
Boy 1 ...... Ashley Cook

Boy 2 ...... Marcus Webb

Scary enough for you?

"They enact but the latest chapter in a long-running quest that has no foreseeable end"

I am ashamed that I didn't hear that James Cone, the eminent theologian who may arguably have been said to have discovered Black Liberation Theology died on April 28.  It isn't shocking that someone of his eminence and importance would have gone largely unnoticed in the news, as a Black scholar and a theologian it would have been entirely atypical if they had noticed his death.  His life was largely ignored apart from the notice he got after the estimable Bill Moyers had him on his show.

Time will tell if the declaration of Anthony B. Pinn at the often ironically named Religion Dispatches is true, "With James Cone’s death, comes the death of Black theology."  Time will tell, but I doubt it.

But, as those who never read theology would be entirely shocked to hear, "death" doesn't mean in that context what it does in the banality of materialist-industrial-scientistic thinking.  Pinn continues:

This statement is hyperbolic in that a variety of theologians—some trained by Cone and others not—will continue to write theological texts and teach black theology, and will do so in light of the tremendous wealth of scholarship Cone offered. In this way, the material production dependent on the vocabulary, grammar, and ethical orientation of Cone’s work will persist. And, this is as it should and must be.

However, with the loss of Cone a certain way of thinking and doing black theology—a certain posture toward the work—might have come to an end. This statement has several meanings. First, theology reflecting a mode of (de)construction—first and foremost in conversation with a so-called “dominant” tradition marked out intellectually by figures such as Karl Barth—is no longer the bedrock of black theology’s explicit critique.  Perhaps this is as it should be—a component of the decentering of whiteness in its variety of forms.

Still, Cone wrestled with Barth and his contemporaries and reworked Christian theology in light of his response to their allegiance to a death-dealing whiteness. By so doing, Cone refused the ability of white supremacy to claim the “tradition” of theological discourse as its own. He exposed and challenged the assumption that theological discourse had no identity politics, no commitment to the black nature of life. He signified status quo-supporting theological strategies by turning theology on its social-ethical head: blackness is not the questionable margin of religion and its theological voice, but rather blackness is the only legitimate starting point for religious engagement and theological pronouncement.

know enough about theology, especially theology in the past century to know what James Cone did was pretty much how theology was done pretty much from the beginning.   The most ridiculous thing atheists say about religion is that, unlike science, religion doesn't do self-criticism.  I don't know what they think they're talking about when they talk about religion but it's certainly not the monotheistic tradition which is full of the most stringent of internal criticism carried on in some of the strongest of language.  And included in that internal criticism there is all manner of self-doubt, self-questioning, self-criticism.  The Hebrew prophetic tradition pretty much invented social criticism out of that, in so far as we have a record of the practice.

It's nothing unusual in religion for the language and forms of thinking about God and what flows from it to change drastically.  In  her book, Quest For The Living God,  Elizabeth Johnson gives some "rules" of how to do the kind of theology she is engaged in, many of them flowing out of the contingency forced by the fact of God's incomprehensibility and infinitude.   The consequences for theology include this:

Like millions of plant and animal species, many religions have gone extinct in the course of time  Studying this phenomenon of obsolescence German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg made a poignant observation:  “Religions die when their lights fail,”  that is, when their teachings no longer illuminate life as it is actually lived by its adherents.   In such cases, the way the Holy is encountered stalls out and does not keep pace with changing human experience.   History's dynamism is inexorable.  Some people will cling to the old views, but eventually most will move on, seeking ultimate meaning in a way that is coherent with their current experience of life.  Then the lights of the old religion dim out; the deity becomes irrelevant.  This phenomenon is not a case of human beings dictating to God what they want in a deity, as some fear.  Rather Pannenberg argues, it is a test of the true God.  Only the living God who spans all times can relate to historically new circumstances as a future continuously arrives.  A tradition that cannot change cannot be preserved.  Where people experience God as still having something to say, the lights stay on. 

As this book aims to show, the fact that in our day multiple, rich Christian theologies have been seeking and finding the living God in ways coherent with our changing times testifies to this particular Way remains a vital, viable option.  It is true that none of these theologies speaks the last word.  They enact but the latest chapter in a long-running quest that has no foreseeable end as long as human beings continue to exist.  Nevertheless, their insights open up fresh ways of relating to the living God in prayer and praxis that deeply satisfy the desire for a meaningful life in our day,  both for individuals and for the community of disciples that is the church.

If James Cone's theology, growing out of the experience of Christianity by Black People, the heritage and traditions that come out of the experience and response to racism, slavery, Jim Crow, lynching etc. stays relevant to other people is what will decide if his work continues and continues to illuminate the understanding of people younger than him.   I doubt that his work will ever be irrelevant to people,  Black People. members of other groups who experience similar oppression.  That the Exodus story is the basis of so much of it, that it, all these scores of centuries after that story was first written down still instructs, still illuminates experiences of people in the 21st century is a pretty good indication that James Cone's work will always be relevant.  I will point out that in his lectures and sermons, James Cone noted that many different theologies were necessary as they addressed other experiences of life, including the feminist and womanist, etc. theologies that Elizabeth Johnson and so many others work in.

In discussing his sermon, The Cross and the Lynching tree with Bill Moyers, James Cone talked about how important the scandal of lynching was to how we can think of the Resurrection of Jesus.  He had an exchange with Bill Moyers that I'm going to leave as the last word on this, he points out what he did in his work, I think it's why it will continue.

JAMES CONE: And the lynching tree is transcendent of defeat. And that's why the cross and the lynching tree belong together. That's why I have to talk about the lynching tree. Because Christians can't understand what's going on at the cross until they see it through the image of a lynching tree with black bodies hanging there.


JAMES CONE: Because what the Christian Gospel is is a transvaluation of values. Something you cannot anticipate in this world, in this history. But, it empowers the powerless. It is-- what do you mean by power in the powerless? That's what God is. Power in the powerless.

BILL MOYERS: But, the victims of lynchings are dead.

JAMES CONE: No. Their mothers and fathers aren't dead. Their brothers and sisters aren't dead. I'm alive. I have to give voice to those who did die. And all of us do. That's why we can't forget it.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Stupid Mail

The Boys In The Band.   You're kidding.  They revived that piece of shit?  Oh, yeah, it would be fifty years this year, wouldn't it.  Gee, what are else are they going to revive from 1968?  Assassinating liberal icons?  The Vietnam War?  They don't have to revive electing Nixon, not while Trump is there.  Why stop with that year? They could revive Zip Coon and it would have about the same artistic and political effect. 

I hated it from not long after it was premiered.  I hated the movie that much times ten because so many more people would see it.  I hated everything about it, the disgusting pathological depiction of gay men and the revolting plot.  It was a boring series of stereotypes.  I don't know if anyone ever called it that but it was gaysploitation to titillate a straight audience who were predisposed to hate us and sneer at us with a really awful and cheaply sentimental tragic ending tacked on.  Mart Crowley and his shitty play can go to hell.  

Footnote On A Point Made In An Earlier Post

The reference I couldn't recall or find was to the very early code of conduct and instructions for the behavior of clergy and rules for conducting what was developing into Christian liturgy, the Didascalia Apostolorum, which has been traced to the Church in Syria in about 230.  It was obviously more widely known because it is cited by later bishops and writers around the Mediterranean (including a fragment in Coptic) and is said to have been one of the important bases of the Apostolic Constitution of about a hundred fifty years later.

But if, as you are sitting, some one else should come, whether a man or a woman, who has some worldly honour, either of the same district or of another congregation: thou, O bishop, if thou art speaking the word of God, or hearing, or reading, shalt not respect persons and leave the ministry of thy word and appoint them a place; but do thou remain still as thou art and not interrupt thy word, and let the brethren themselves receive them. And if there be no place, let one of the brethren who is full of charity and loves his brethren, and is one fitted to do an honour, rise and give them place, and himself stand up. 

But if, while younger men or women sit, an older man or woman should rise and give up their place, do thou, O deacon, scan those who sit, and see which man or woman of them is younger than the rest, and make them stand up, and cause him to sit who had risen and given up his place; and him whom thou hast caused to stand up, lead away and make him to stand behind his neighbours  that others also may be trained and learn to give place to those more honourable than themselves. 

But if a poor man or woman should come [cf. James 2], (whether of the same district)  or of another congregation, and especially if they are stricken in years, and there be no place for such, do thou, O bishop, with all thy heart provide a place for them, even if thou have to sit upon the ground; that thou be not as one who respects the persons of men, but that thy ministry may be acceptable with God.

As the translator, R. Hugh Connolly notes, this is an application of what it says in the Epistle of James.

2 My friends, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance. 2 Suppose a rich man wearing a gold ring and fine clothes comes to your meeting, and a poor man in ragged clothes also comes. 3 If you show more respect to the well-dressed man and say to him, “Have this best seat here,” but say to the poor man, “Stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my feet,” 4 then you are guilty of creating distinctions among yourselves and of making judgments based on evil motives.

5 Listen, my dear friends! God chose the poor people of this world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom which he promised to those who love him. 6 But you dishonor the poor! Who are the ones who oppress you and drag you before the judges? The rich! 7 They are the ones who speak evil of that good name which has been given to you.

Letter of James 2:1-7

And I would add this:

The Constitution Is Only As Good As The Honor And Morality Of Those Who Hold Office, Republicans Have No Honor And Are Immoral

The Constitutional Crisis We've Been In For A Half A Century And No One Admits 

The House Republican Caucus is in flagrant collusion with the Trump regime to obstruct justice in regard to the Mueller investigation.  And that obstruction is blatant and it is widespread in the Republican Caucus, Nunes, Gowdy, Goodlatte, Peter King, Paul Ryan, and so many others who can be named are involved in covering it up and they are in control of the House.   It is something which shows that criminals in power will use all of the defects in the American Constitution and the total degeneracy of the Republican Party.  It is too dangerous to allow to just shake our heads and say, The Founders set it up thus.

Republicans in the recent past have been responsible for abusing Special Councils, most blatantly during the Ken Starr attempt to dig up anything he could to attack Bill and Hillary Clinton - in that case it wasn't just members of Congress, it was also members of the Judiciary, especially those who were tasked with the role of choosing a special counsel.

The Republican Party from the last third of the last century is the party of criminals and liars.  It started bleeding members who weren't OK with criminality and lying during the Nixon years.  There is no doubting that anymore.  They have a history of blatant criminality stretching back  half a century, now, with the Nixon administration.   Back then there were a few Republicans who had some regard for the rule of law instead of Republicans, today there aren't any of those who have enough of a regard for law to leave the party and hold Trump responsible for his possible crimes.

Anyone who is still wondering how we got here, it's because the Republican Party has become the party, not of The People, but the oligarchs and the people whose racism, regional resentments, cowardice and greed totally swamps any sense of decency and even reality.   I think after the events of the past two years, we can pretty much conclude that those who are still supporting Trump are a large and dangerous minority of the population who are a basic and serious danger to democracy.  The old commie hunters and those who fell for their excesses were deluded about the potential for the meat-headed, ham-fisted American Communists to endanger democracy.   That danger was imaginary when it wasn't delusory.   The danger of fascism is real and it is here and it is undeniable.  Any week holds the potential for the fascists to push over the last pretenses of rule of law, they will certainly mount that attempt before the elections this fall.  The Republicans trying to stop or quash the Mueller investigation are mounting only one of the ways they can do that.

The danger democracy faces from the third of the country who are OK with the fascist aspirations of Trump and the Republicans who support him is real  and present danger and how you can deal with that is as hard as it is clear.  They get everything they think from television and hate-talk radio and the American fascist internet.   If those are not punishable for lying, if those can't be shut down and their funders also targeted for lying about individuals and groups, this will not only continue but they will perfect their attacks on democracy.   The installation of Trump, who lost the election, through lies shows that it is already destroying democracy.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hate Mail - The Loopy Tape Loop Is Playing

The Working Definition of Antisemtism  of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines antisemitism as:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

Which is something I've never been guilty of as anyone who wants to look at everything I've written over several blogs would know.   I challenge you to come up with the places I am guilty of doing that, knowing that you won't find any place I have.  

In the illustrations published by the IHRA it says:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

I have never criticized the Israeli government nor the voters in Israel who have elected such people as Benjamin Netanyahu, Menachem Begin, Arial Sharon in terms I have not also criticized the governments and voters of the United States, Canada, including many state governments and a couple of provinces, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Russia, China, Australia, really too many to keep track of.  I've certainly said much worse things about the American government and voters than I ever did Israel.  Good Lord, have you read what I've said about Republican-fascists?  

There is no reason for an American to hold Israel or any other country to a lesser standard than they insist their own country, its government, its voters, be held to.  I won't apologize to Israel or Russia or Saudi Arabia or Britain for holding them to that standard. 

That said, I think the impunity that Israel has enjoyed with many people is fading, especially as the last of the direct witnesses to the Holocaust die.  That was a situation I predicted would be extremely dangerous more than ten years ago as I watched my World War Two veteran parents aging and dying along with everyone else I knew of that generation.   Eventually the last witnesses to that will be dead and it's clear, neo-Nazis are making the most of that along with everything else.  

Unlike people like you who have accused me of antisemitism, I am entirely in favor of making Nazism, neo-Nazism and all of its false fronts illegal and forcibly removing all of their propaganda from all mass media.  Their genocidal, anti-egalitarian, anti-democratic ideology removes them from any right to protection of rights for Nazism etc. so they can work to deprive millions of others of all of their rights, including the ones they claim for themselves.  There is no rational reason to take the chance of them being able to do it again.  And I would say the same about all racist, sexist, etc. ideologies which have had a history of producing mass murder and the denial of rights.  And I hold the same about those who target Muslims in the same way.  

They want it to happen again.  A rote claim of antisemitism made against people who are not antisemites but who are critical of Israel and its policy and, since it has an elected government, those who elect those governments is dangerous and irresponsible.  That practice as a means of shutting down all criticism if Israel will have the effect of disempowering legitimate accusations of antisemitism, aiding no one but the real antisemites.  

So, I'm refusing to accept any other definition of antisemitism than that of the IHRA, especially one which guys like you just pull out of your ass.   That is I accept it with one big exception.   It includes as antisemitism:

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

I would agree if that accusation is made on the basis of identity of all or most or unspecified people who are Jewish, but there are certainly cases when such an observation is not only justifiable but likely true.  I think it could certainly be justifiably suspected of many of those in the United States who moved the country into the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq.   I would certainly say it's true of at least some of those trying to foment yet another war favored by the Israeli government between the United States and perceived or actual enemies of Israel, Iraq in the past decade, Iran in this.  If a Saudi-American were trying to get us involved in yet another guaranteed moral atrocity and likely military and political , economic and diplomatic disaster while having ties to the Saudi government, I'd feel free to say the same thing about them.  I've grown rather tired of other countries lobbying and corrupting the government of the United States on behalf of other countries when it is a moral atrocity and a military, political, economic and diplomatic disaster for the United States and all of its people.

Update:  Rereading this, I would also notably include the ruling oligarchs in Kuwait who I think helped in the gulling of the politicians and some of the People of the United States into invading Iraq as well.  All of those oil oligarchies are corrupt as hell.  Though none of that would have happened without the Bush Crime Family  encouraging Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait so Bush I could be a "war president" something which I certainly haven't forgotten. 

The Constitution is lying on the Capitol floor and it won't get up again

Gina Haspel doesn't belong in the leadership of the CIA, she belongs in a cell at the Hague.  I will recommend, of course, that you read what the estimable Charles Pierce had to say about the public part of the Senate Committee pantomime of a confirmation hearing yesterday, he could have gone into a lot more detail but what he gives is certainly sufficient for refusing to recommend her for the position.   But that won't happen and not because it's rumored that Trump would put up someone worse, next, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.   But that's not why I'm writing this.

Under mostly the Republicans but not only Republicans the legendary role of the congress in balancing the executive and judiciary branches of government has become a fraud.   That's been going on a long time as the hearings process has become increasingly politicized under the glare of television and radio and internet coverage and as cowardly and corrupt politicians have allowed those testifying to get away with issuing streams of meaningless words instead of answering questions.  Gina Haspel did that over and over again, as Senators pointed out she wasn't answering questions she continued to not answer their questions arrogantly aware that the heads of the Committee and the Senate leadership and, ultimately, the Senators weren't going to make her answer their questions.  It's disgusting that any of them would have so little respect for their positions and the Constitution they allegedly support and defend that they have allowed this to go on for decades.  And it's gotten far worse under the Trump regime when his thugs have flatly refused to answer questions without any legal excuse for not answering them with "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

I fail to understand how, if you're going to pretend that taking an oath makes you any more required to tell the truth, Gina Haspel and the rest of them aren't in some kind of legal breach of the oath they take, not to mention whatever oaths they might also take to uphold the law and Constitution, not to mention the Senators and House members being in a direct violation of their oaths of office. 

The war criminal Oliver North has taken over the leadership of Murder inc otherwise known as the NRA , a guy who got away with both murder and perjury in front of a Senate committee.   I'd say that it wasn't a more appropriate week for that to happen than the one in which Gina Haspel is going to get away with what she's done, both her role in torturing people, covering up the torture of people and her perjurious testimony of yesterday but these days in Washington, DC, just about any other week when there are hearings would be as appropriate.   I think the exchange I heard in which she refused to say to Senator Kamala Harris that she would recuse herself as the one who gets to decide what in her record is classified and held in secret, an obvious and blatant conflict of interest was about the worst I've heard.  The arrogance of that answer should have been enough to lose anyone the nomination but it won't because our Constitution is lying on the Capitol floor and it won't get up again.  Don't bother calling Life Alert, call the coroner before it decays anymore.

On The Stupid Met Gala

Never really was aware of the Met Gala before this one with the theme "The Catholic Imagination."  It looked really stupid, looking back at previous themes and the costumes it inspired it's generally stupid and numb.   I thought I'd mention it because I've written about music so much this week.  NOT that it had much of anything to do with music.  

I daresay the Catholic church will survive, as will the Met.  It had nothing much to do with the church or musical drama.  I haven't heard anything about any of the acting singers who perform at the Met being involved.  I would guess that wearing ridiculous clothes and makeup would count as a working meal for them.   

It contrasts to something I read a while back about one of the rare, early liturgical orders in one of the early churches that forbade the person conducting the liturgy to interrupt it if a rich person came in as it was going on but required the celebrant to not only greet any destitute or poor people but to give up his seat to one who came in.   I should carry a notebook with me so I can write down citations when I read those kinds of things. 

The only interesting thing about it was how those secular if not profane celebrities have a shockingly similar view of the Catholic Church as so many of the conservative integralists (Catholic fundamentalists) and so many of the reactionary enemies of Pope Francis, as close to Franciscan simplicity as any pope since the classical period.  I heard the organizers were disappointed that the conservative Cardinal Dolan who aided the Gala committee didn't wear his full, red cardinal drag.  I'll bet Raymond Burke would have loved to wear the full version including the antiquated, almost never now seen cappa mangna with a really awful saturno hat.  

Image result for raymond burke cappa magna

Just in case anyone is wondering where the Met Gala attendees got their idea of what Catholicism was all about.  It reminds me of the story a member of the chorus told me, when the City Opera hired Charles Nelson Reilly to design a production of Tales of Hoffmann but when the director saw his design plan he fired him because it was way, way over the top.  You've got to be really over the top to be too much for opera, especially in a place like New York.  

Which only goes to show how stupid you get from only getting what you mistakenly believe you know from show-biz.  

Oh, and some of those people who are getting the most worked up over the Met Gala are also hoping and praying that the really terrible Cardinal Burke will be the next pope.  If that happens don't count on anything good coming of it. 

Update: Oops, sorry, I didn't notice the silly decorations on Burke's hat, that would make it an even more antiquated galero, not the more modest saturno style.  Please.  I'd disqualify him as papabile on that get-up, alone. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hate Mail

Freki posts her comments about my blog at Duncan's because the only time she tried to post them here I kicked her stuck up - Brit ass.   She's a lightweight phony who says the same old same old things that pretty much everyone says at Eschaton so, of course, they think she's just brill.   

I thought that post was pretty clear.  I meant "The Horse" the anonymous author of the first great political blog I ever read and commented on,  Media Whores Online, the person who gave Duncan his first encouragement and posted some of his early pieces, back when he used to write something.  Now he runs a past-it troll kennel to get ad revenue.   I'd say sad but it's not.  What happened to Bartcop is sad, what happened to Duncan is pathetic.  

Racist "Proud Boy" Macho Wussie Can't Tear A Piece Of Paste Board In Half

I wish I'd seen this a few days ago.

Last Word On This Subject This Week

Stëve Sïmels, blog malignancy  18 hours ago
I've gone to Youtube and listened to some of David Diamond's work, Symphonies #5 and 6 and have to say he was a pretty good composer, much better than Blitzstein was....I can understand why the fine conductor Gerard Schwartz championed his music, something that Diamond lived long enough to see happen. Not every composer gets to experience that.

So -- all of a sudden the value of music depends on how popular it is?

Wow, Sparkles. You're an even bigger Philistine than I ever imagined.

A. I doubt that the championing of David Diamond's music by Gerard Schwartz from his base at the Seattle Symphony exactly counts as popularity.   Schwartz is a fine conductor as he was probably the finest trumpet player of his generation but I haven't noticed that his advocacy for Diamond's music has lit the fuse on a skyrocket to the status of popularity.   How many times have they programmed him at the NY Philharmonic there in your overrated city, for example?   It's kind of hard to dig out that information but the most recent performance I can find is 1992, so about a quarter of a century ago when they did the 11th Symphony under Kurt Masur. 

B. I never said anything like that, which is just another of the things that Simps has invented for me to say but which I've never said in my life.    I believe I had to point out to Simps in another musical brawl in which he used popularity as a measure of value that if that were the case then the music of Jackie Gleason would have to be held above that of many of the heroes of his crappy pop music genera and probably every classical performer of the 20th century and beyond.  Again, from Simple Simels' idea of an authoritative source because it's not important enough of a point for me to want to bother with real research:

Gleason's first album, Music for Lovers Only, still holds the record for the longest stay on the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks), and his first 10 albums sold over a million copies each. At one point, Gleason held the record for charting the most number-one albums on the Billboard 200 without charting any hits on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

You know, Simps, that since you can't come up with something I really said to attack me with, it does nothing to make me suspect I'm wrong.   One of your problems is that you can't see anything of even the slightest complexity, only being able to see the most simplified of distinctions.   Lots of us don't inhabit that toddler's view of reality.  In your senectitude you'll never see it,  you should just stop trying to interact with adults.  Stay at Duncan's, in other words.


Thinking about the point I made about composers' going into eclipse, I think Diamond and those who made the claim that he was oppressed by the imaginary hegemony of the serialists - which never happened - makes a fundamental and rather stupid mistake. 

Composers don't get to decide which works are performed unless they are performers.  Performers do, conductors do, sometimes artistic managers do.  If a composer isn't performed it's because performing artists and those in direct control of the programming of performing groups and orchestras do not choose to play their music or don't know it exists.   And for the most part they choose tonal music of the past for the largest part of their programming.  There are performing groups and soloists who hardly ever to never go outside the narrowest of confines of tonal music of the past to fill out their careers.   If composers are pissed off that they don't get performances, they should complain about those people, if anything their fellow composers who write unpopular music are an even less powerful than they are to do something about it.

Considering the hostility of the powerful critics of the past to serial music, such as the very fine composer Charles Wuorinen and dozens of others I could name faced, it is an absurd myth that serial composers ever prevented performances of the work of tonalists. 

You can see what happened when such composers as George Rochberg openly broke with serialism - as if it were some kind of ideology in the early 1960s.   Rocheberg used his reconversion, his "return to tonality" as a selling point and he started getting performances of his music.  I never really saw much in his music early or late.  And he was hardly the only composer who used that career promotion gimmick.  I remember one who declared her conversion came while listening to a performance of Schoenberg's Phantasy for violin and piano,  a piece she's never approached in quality in any passage in her best work. 

When Rochberg died a lot was made of his conversion one James Freeman of Swarthmore college is quoted as having said "If George Rochberg can do something like that, there's nothing that I can't do and get away with it. I don't have to write 12-tone music; I can if I want to. I can write stuff that sounds like Brahms. I can do anything I want. I'm free. And that was an extraordinary feeling in the late 1960s for young composers, I think, many of whom felt really constrained to write serial music, "  I'm amazed that any American composer with the example of Charles Ives staring us in the face would have ever not realized that they were free to write anything they wanted to.   But, then, I guess some people are just born to conform to one thing or another.  I never felt the need to.  Probably why I don't teach at a university.  Why anyone would want to try to write Brahms when Brahms already wrote the best Brahms anyone is going to write, beats me, I always tell my students who want to write that they should write what they want to and let other people write their own music.  They might get lucky like Jackie Gleason did with his music, if that's what they really want.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

David Diamond - Symphony #8

Seattle Symphony
Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Update:  You might read that David Diamond's music was shoved aside due to the mythological dominance of serial composers in the 1950s to some unspecified date.  That is utter bull shit. I was in school for a good part of that time and it was nothing I ever heard or saw.    If I had the time and resources I'd analyze the concert programs of orchestras and performing groups to come up with some hard numbers.   I would like someone to point to the major orchestras in the United States and anywhere which stopped programming tonal compositions as the vast majority of the pieces they performed during those years.  I doubt that even in the universities where the serialists are alleged to have held power didn't program many times more tonal compositions than serial compositions.   There may have been reasons that performances of tonal composers' new pieces weren't programmed as often as they got used to in the 1930s and 40s but it was not because those performance slots were all filled by serial compositions.   

It's not an unknown phenomenon in music for the work of even a very fine composer to go into eclipse only to be revived later,  often well after the composer died.  Some composers never are appreciated during their lifetime.  The early 20th century avant garde composers sometimes didn't get to hear their music in the form they heard it in their minds.  Even some compositions by well known tonal composers didn't get a performance during the composers lifetime.    George Whitefield Chadwick's opera The Padrone, one of his major works, wasn't performed until 1995, 64 years after he died. 

Even David Diamond admitted that one of his problems in that regard could be due to his very difficult personality, he was infamous for getting into fights with conductors who were rehearsing his music.  I don't recall which one banned him from rehearsals for that reason.

Listen And Make Up Your Own Mind But Look At The Whole Picture Before You Do - An Answer

If you're curious, the original cast from the modified Mercury Theater production of The Cradle Will Rock can be heard at Archive. org.   It's got the status as being the first original cast recording ever issued.   Marc Blitzstein is the pianist and does the intro and commentary. 

The Cradle Will Rock Part 2 

Listening to it, it occurs to me that Blitzstein didn't create real characters he wrote types, pretty stereotypical types with names that indicated his intentions.   Which makes it easier to listen to and follow because there is nothing surprising about any of it, I think it's one of the bigger problems with it. I would call your attention to the tacit vignette with President Prexy, Professor Mamie, Professor Trixie, Professor Scoot, in which Marc Blitzstein made use of anti-gay stereotypes.  Reading his biography and how his social life in the 1930s largely consisted of bragging to his gay friends about his adventures having sex with what they thought of as rough trade, it's revolting.  I believe that it's often cut from productions.  

It's OK and it's very listenable but its effect as art isn't especially important.  And its importance in politics is non-existent.  Thinking about the hypocrisy of John Houseman between 1979 when he was a hired flack for a major investment firm, influencing the general political atmosphere that would soon produce the Reagan presidency  and his pious retelling of the old story of that first performance in 1937 when he was working for the WPA reminded me of something else. When I have the time I'll look up the  arguments over the later career of Orson Welles in which he tried to leave his association with radical politics behind, though radicals even after his death were claiming that effort wasn't really sincere.  But I don't think that's especially revealing if the opera is what you're interested in.  And, honestly, how many of you aren't more interested in that old theater legend more than the music? 

Dissing The Idols of Atheist Play-Lefties Is Always Instructive

Thinking about the reaction to my weekend brawl which my most OC troll brought Marc Blitzstein's only really famous work,  The Cradle Will Rock into,  I have to wonder if there has been a single production of the work which didn't reference, not the work, itself, but the notorious first performance of it.   It is a work which is entirely more well known for the attempt of the Works Progress Administration to cancel the performance* but which Blitzstein, Orson Welles and John Houseman **mounted as an impromptu private performance without sets or orchestration, originally with Blitzstein banging out the score on piano with a description of the action but which the actors started singing from the audience, resulting in a sort of semi-staged concert version.   It's the kind of story that is so beloved of theater people and lefties.  As I've pointed out recently, it's a twist on the quote by George M. Cohan, Many a bum show has been saved by the red flag, only not so many as have been saved by national flags.

I think if the WPA had let the performance go on it would probably have faded into relative obscurity, as it is, its entire performance history likely depends on that oddly ironic fable of free speech by a composer-book writer who was devoted to one of the most infamous murderers of poets and musicians and writers and people who exercised their free speech in the Soviet Union.

There are a few good numbers in the show, it is a number opera, of sorts, but none of the songs in it would seem to have developed as repertory pieces for singers.   I think Nickel Under Your Foot is the only really memorable song that has any emotional power.   Even "Joe Worker Gets Gypped" which should be the thing that people remember as the message of the show gets undercut by the falsely triumphal ending of the story, describing something which happened exactly nowhere in the American union movement.  It's interesting that a song sung by a down and out street walker takes on that pathos and that the structure of the show undercuts what is the more universal presentation of pain by the sister of a worker sacrificed to the oligarchs.   And the revolutionary denouement of the opera is a lie.  The progress that was made depended on electing progressives in elections not through revolutionary posturing and militancy.  Revolution as a means of guaranteeing justice is a lie, as can be seen in those fabled events in lefty imagination, the French and Russian Revolutions, the Revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune.  They don't work, even where they "succeed" they are more likely to install gangsters whose primary and then only goal is to maintain their own power.

*  Considering the responsibilities that the WPA had to the many people whose subsistence depended on the work they did across the country and the attacks on such programs by Republicans and judges, their trying to protect the agency and the jobs of those many thousands of people by canceling the performance was entirely responsible and moral.   I used to thrill to the thrilling story as told by Blitzstein, Welles, Houseman and myriad others but I wasn't someone with a responsibility that those in charge of the WPA AT THE HEIGHT OF THE DEPRESSION had to all of those people who got their living through it.  The show was the thing only to those involved with it and its audience.  For those with a responsibility for the very existence of the WPA, it was not the thing.   You have to be a play lefty to not get that.

**  The only time I ever saw a staging of Cradle was when PBS had on the staging of it with Patti Lupone, sometime in the 1980s, introduced by John Houseman telling the old, old story from 1937.  I seem to remember thinking how ironic it was for John Houseman to be pushing a bit of Stalinist agit-prop when his most recent and most known claim to fame was pushing Smith Barney by making the bizarre claim that they  got money "the old fashioned way.   They earn it."  Yeah, the investor class as hard workers as they steal the wealth created by labor.  See what a life changer the show was for him?

Update:  "a work of brazen propaganda with limited performing value in modern times"

Simps is claiming that Blitzstein's  Airborne Symphony is something like as famous as The Cradle Will Rock.  I can guarantee you more people saw it when PBS broadcast that performance of Cradle than have ever heard of the Airborne Symphony, and a lot more people have probably seen Tim Robbins' movie as well.  Even with the size of the cast of the show, if as is usually done the orchestration is replaced by one piano player as opposed to the number of people needed for a performance of the Symphony, it's obvious which one will be performed more often.  And it's a show as opposed to a concert piece.   I don't have time to look into the question more than that so here's what Simps thinks is an authoritative source, Wiki says on that count.


The New York Times reported that the audience received The Airborne Symphony with enthusiasm at its world premiere, and called the performance "remarkably sure, brilliant and dramatically eloquent." Since then, the work has been rarely performed, owing to its massive orchestral forces, topicality, and lack of standing with musicologists. The Airborne Symphony has passages of stunning musicality, but is also judged as a work of brazen propaganda with limited performing value in modern times.

Leonard Bernstein has been the symphony's best-known disciple, performing and recording the work on two different occasions (1946 and 1966).


The Airborne Symphony was recorded in 1946, with Bernstein conducting the New York City Symphony Orchestra and Robert Shaw as narrator. Its releases include Pearl's 1998 CD Marc Blitzstein: Musical Theatre Premières (GEMS 1009).

Bernstein recorded the work with the New York Philharmonic in 1966, with Welles as narrator, tenor Andrea Velis as soloist, and William Jonson conducting the Choral Art Society. It was released as an LP in 1976 by Columbia Masterworks, and on CD in 2000 by Sony Classical

Looking to see what recordings are currently available for Blitzstein's music, there is only one of the Airborne available in the places I looked, the CD reissue of the Bernstein performance from 1966.  There are surprisingly no current recordings of Cradle while there are two different recordings of Blitzstein's opera Regina, on the Lillian Hellman play, The Little Foxes.  I'd be surprised if anyone reading this can hum one of the tunes from it.  I know I can't and I have, actually, heard it.  I know of one person who will likely read this who could probably hum some of The Airborne Symphony but, again, I doubt I could though I have heard that 1966 recording of it.

It's Time For The United States To Treat Israel Like It Should Any Other Country That Ratfucks Our Politics And Policy

If the sleazy Israeli "private" ops company Black Cube was trying to generate sleaze on former members of the Obama administration to produce an excuse for Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement were doing so on the part of the Israeli government, the United States should put sanctions on Israel.   It is unacceptable for a country which gets so much support from the United States to be screwing with our politics in a way not much different from how Putin's mafia state does.  If one does, it's appropriate for there to be punitive measures taken to make them stop.   Since it seems to be an open secret that Black Cube may as well be a de facto arm of Israeli intelligence what they did should be considered an action of the Israeli government.   Since the voters in Israel seem to not be troubled by having a series of gangsters, thugs, and terrorists as the prime minster and members of their cabinets and they're meddling in our elections in order to get money and other support for us - including involving us in disasters such as the Iraq invasion,  it's time for us to ask if our relationship with that country should change.  Domestic support for Israel in the United States has been far too powerful in driving our government's policy.   The Iraq invasion, which has turned out to be exactly the opposite of what the supporters of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu promised, should have been the end of the indulging Israel.  

If they turn out to have been doing what Putin is doing to meddle with our politics and policy, the Israeli government and their supporters in Israel deserve to have the same kind of treatment that Putin's mafia regime deserves.   

The Argument Continues - The Green Party Are Worse Than Frauds They Are Accomplices


Michael FeinsteinMay 8, 2018 at 1:54 AM
The list of Greens holding elected office is just that, nothing more, nothing less. I was a Mayor of Santa Monica, California, it was a widely known fact that I was a Green, and I governed as a Green and showed how green policies work in office. Anytime a Green Party member holds an elected office, it is an opportunity for Greens to demonstrate that they have good ideas, and can govern. As for your editorializing about political party strategies, you are entitled to your opinion. Since the Green Party is in about 100 countries, it is obvious to us what the negative effect upon democracy comes with single-seat, winner-take-all electoral systems. Our whole country suffers as a result of that system, and the extra challenges smaller parties like the Greens and Libertarians face are just one small aspect of this. In the face of this, we prefer to work towards positive electoral reforms like ranked choice voting and proportional representation, while running and winner local offices.


The Thought CriminalMay 8, 2018 at 5:58 AM
Your wiki bio says that the council didn't choose to keep you in the job and you don't appear to hold an elective office at the present. It's like John Eder in my state, the highest office holder in US Green history who lost his legislative seat in about the "Greenest" city in the North East after two terms and hasn't regained it. In that position he had exactly no effect except to carry on the fraud that the Green Party was a real party. 

The status of Green Parties in other countries is of no relevance as to whether or not they are anything like a real party in any of them, certainly they aren't in the United States.

We happen to have an antiquated Constitution that does winner take all.  "Single seats", what that means I'm not exactly certain.  Explain it.  Most elections are to fill a single office, no national office is held on any other basis.  The federal government isn't a municipal board.  

If you want to change that running a fraudulent party whose major contribution to American Politics is to serve as spoiler, putting Republican-fascists into office, where they can do things like invade Iraq and collude with the Putin mafia regime to destroy democracy and, oh, yes, run like a wrecker through environmental legislation and policy as Pruitt is doing at the EPA and Zinke is doing in the Dept. of the Interior. All with the help of Jill Stein, as Nader did Bush II.  They have no interest in amending the Constitution to make it more democratic so your pretense of the Greens changing that is just that, a pretense. 

I would like to know how many billionaires contribute money to Green politics in the United States because billionaire oligarchs would seem to be the primary beneficiaries of the U.S. Green Party. 

In order for a political party to be real it has to win significant office in numbers large enough to make law and change law. The Greens have had more than three decades to do that and they have had exactly no success in doing that. The only time a third party did that in the history of the United States it was the Republican Party starting with the election of Abraham Lincoln. By the time it was the age of the Green Party it had governed the country for going on three decades, approximately the time that the Green Party has done nothing but help the Republican-fascists steal elections they lost. 

You are worse than a fraud, you are accomplices.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Simps Is A Broken Record

Simps' motto ||:  Let no lie go untold.  
And retold. :||  Ad infinitem 

What Passes As A Green Celebrity Visits And The Results Are Risible

Yesterday Michael Feinstein whose Google profile says

 "I'm a Green who has been active since 1988 in California where I live and around the world. Currently I am Co-chair of the Green Party of the United States. Previously I served eight years on the Santa Monica, California City Council and two years as Mayor"  

posted what I take as a refutation to one of my posts pointing out that the Green Party is  fraud which in more than three decades of active existence has managed to elect no one to an office of even state-wide significance and which has never managed to elect more than about 150 people to local, mostly very minor offices.

Many of those "elected" offices so touted as their roll call of mighty victories are actually more like appointments or, since many of them are to very minor offices in which one person ran, effectively volunteer positions.  Such offices as being a member of a local library district, park district, various advisory boards,  . . .

Feinstein's wiki-bio leads me to believe that his "two years as mayor" would probably count as an appointment,

Between 1996 and 2004 he was elected twice to the City Council of Santa Monica, California and was appointed as its mayor from 2000-2002. Feinstein was first elected to the City Council in 1996 receiving 13,681 votes and finishing second amongst the thirteen candidates running for four seats.[2] Feinstein was re-elected in 2000 with 21,084 votes, finishing first out of thirteen candidates for four seats.[3] His vote total at the time being the second highest ever for any Santa Monica City Council candidate.[4] In December 2000, Feinstein was appointed to a two-year term as mayor by a 7-0 vote of his colleagues. In 2004 Feinstein sought a third term but was unsuccessful, finishing 9th of 16. In 2014 Feinstein ran again and finished 8th of 13.

Obviously his colleagues didn't elect to keep him in the position.

And keep in mind, even with that record,  Feinstein counts as one of the most successful Greens, though not as successful as John Eder of Portland Maine who managed to win a legislative seat in Maine but which he lost long ago.

In his comment here Feinstein says:

As the U.S. Green that maintains the list of elected Greens across the U.S., I call your attention to that Gil Harris was elected to the Limerick Budget Committee in 2016, finishing 2nd/4 candidates for three sets. Here is the link to the election results 

Since then, Gil Harris was elected to the Limerick Board of Selectman, to a term running through 2021 Justin Reinhardt was elected to the Limerick Budget Committee in 2017, running uncontested

While I don't disrespect anyone who holds even the most minor of public offices, to say that these contribute to a record of Green success is deceptive, as you can see even Feinstein who is a flack for the Green Party has to admit that one of those mighty victories was an uncontested race for a very minor office in a town with fewer than 2,500 residents, the other one was, in fact, a non-partisan election to the local town council (as you can see from the pdf).  In Maine just about all local races are non-partisan, there has been what I think might be a good idea to make Maine legislative races non-partisan so as to break up the partisanship which has blighted Maine politics for a long time.

The Green Party is a fraud which has run spoilers to enable Republicans to win elections for decades, now.  They've been doing it this year in more than one incident.  They were instrumental in putting both George W. Bush and Donald Trump in the presidency, that has been the most significant effect of having the Green Party fraud in operation in its entire history.  It is a fraud which has been promoted in the magazines of the alleged-left, which so many suckers on the play-left have fallen for, generally those affluent enough to not really suffer from the results.

Democrats should take a lesson from the Republicans who have used the Green Party but in a more honest way,  Democrats should register as Greens so they can take it over and end the fraud.   The Greens claim to be a real party but they have done nothing to elect people to office to build real careers in politics and public service.   They mount a phony presidential candidate to try to get their party on ballots, so as to continue the fraud and they do so mainly by attacking Democrats, not Republicans.  I think the thing smells of a con job with someone making money.  I would really wonder what a full disclosure of the finances and activities of Jill Stein would show.   I hope her relationship with the Russian propaganda outfit RT is exposed and that it is a window into the real character of the Green Party.   I'd like a proof that some billionaire oligarchs  domestic or foreign aren't keeping the potemkin party going.   They've certainly been the major beneficiaries of the Green Party fraud, through their enabling of Republicans taking offices they lose in the popular vote.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Betty Carter - This Is Always

Betty Carter - vocals
Harold Mabern - piano
Bob Cranshaw - bass
Roy McCurdy - drums

Something Big 

I'm Asked "How can you call yourself a liberal?"

Let's look at it this way.

I hold that egalitarian democracy in which everyone has an equal right to having their rights observed by society, including economic justice is the only legitimate and safe government.  I hold that people have natural rights, they have a God given right to a vast range of things, beginning with the ownership of their own bodies.

I favor that workers own the means of production that are used to produce wealth by their labor.  I would ban the legal fiction of ownership on the basis of lending money to start or expand a business.  Investors should have a right to repayment of their investment with a reasonable profit but that should only give them a right to ownership if they are not repaid.  There should be no shares that constitute ownership of the business.  That's a fairly radical idea, certainly a form of socialism though one that would prevent the horrors of state capitalism such as is generally called "socialism."  I would favor a different name be invented for what I favor because the word "socialist" is fatally damaged branding at this point.

I favor the freedom to tell the truth, absolutely.  No one should ever be punished for telling the truth. I do not favor the protection of lying, whether by individual or in the media, certainly not by corporations (see below).   I favor the ability of individuals to sue when they are lied about and more limited abilities of corporate entities to sue.  The individuals have a right to sue those who lie about them, corporate entities not having rights, that ability would be considered a concession or permission but not a right.

Corporations are not persons, they have no natural rights and shouldn't be considered to have artificial rights, especially the scandalous fiction of corporate rights created by the corrupt practices of the Supreme Court.

I favor the radical redistribution of wealth for the purpose of abolishing poverty and preventing the accumulation of power through hoarding massive wealth.  Unequal power inevitably leads to the destruction of democracy, the infringement of rights and rampant theft by the rich and powerful.  The age of billionaire oligarchs we are living in now proves that billionaires are generally dangerous to democracy and the right of People to government of, by and for The People.   The greater the economic disparity, the greater the ability to steal and hoard wealth - something that always accrews to those who already have the most - the more endangered a democracy is.  The provision of a decent level of life with an equal right to employment for a fair wage, as good an education as can be managed, with equal access to healthcare and a safe, decent place to live is probably the greatest protection of democracy as can be imagined.

I favor equality under the law, equal rights of people to public accommodation, protection by police and other public entities, and a ban on discrimination on the basis of personal identity, sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc.  Taking into account that some people by the fact that things like mental incapacity due to youth, lack of intelligence or mental illness makes a persons right to be cared for and protected more important than the claim that they can exercise rights that could endanger them.   The reality that you need to have a reasonable mental condition in order to wisely exercise some rights should never be denied because some idiot of a lawyer, judge, social worker, etc. pretends that doesn't matter should never get in the way of people of diminished capacity from being protected when their actions can reasonably be suspected to make them a danger to themselves and others.

The People have the absolute right to have adequate, truthful information as is necessary for them to cast an adequately informed vote.  They have a right to live in a country in which a large majority of the population knows the truth and has the moral character to vote of the common good and not out of a belief in lies and appeals made to their worst human weaknesses.  

I favor the promotion of the moral absolutes that are necessary for the creation, continuation and protection of egalitarian democracy and the discouragement of vices, sexism, racism, ethnic bigotry, LGBT hatred, etc.  But also vulgar materialism, ideological materialism, both the denial of well done science and the superstition of scientism, etc.  should be discouraged and should not be taught or promoted in the media.  Needless to say I don't think that any broadcast or mass media should promote any vices that are dangerous to democracy.  The People have the right to their democracy being protected

I favor a woman's right to own her own body, including deciding if she wishes to become or remain pregnant.  I do not "favor abortion" I would like it if there were no abortions but that's not the same thing as thinking the state has either a legitimate interest in preventing a woman from choosing to have an abortion that overrides her right to control her own body.  Neither has there ever been a law that bans abortion that didn't lead to many women dying or being maimed or horribly treated when they concluded they had to have an abortion.  Abortion should be safe, effective and made rare through providing women and men with the knowledge and means of preventing unwanted or dangerous pregnancies.   However, even wanted pregnancies can go horribly wrong and the choice of a safe, medically provided abortion is necessary in those instances.   There is no ban on abortion found in the Bible, as an aside.

Men who oppose abortion have as a primary responsibility,  promoting sexual responsibility among men, they should never have sex that has the potential to produce an undesired pregnancy and they have a moral duty to discourage such sex among the male gender.  That should give them enough to do so they don't meddle in women's rights to make those decisions for themselves and the legal framework for protecting their ownership of their bodies. 

I could go on but I think this already makes me a sort of ultra radical.  Far more radical than Marxists ever were, certainly in the reality of their governance which always devolved, immediately, into gangsterism.

Feeling You Must Run To The Phone To Get Instruction On What To Think From The Party As Freedom

Last night's round in this weeks brawl led me to go back and look at a book I haven't cracked in decades, not since shortly after it came out and I first read Marc The Music:  The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein by Eric A. Gordon.  I haven't cracked the book because it's one of those biographies that so totally turned me off of the subject and their work that I haven't had a thing to do with Marc Blitzstein since reading it. 

Like when I read a sort of memoir-biography of the poet Alan Tate, reading about what a total jerk, creep and asshole the subject of the biography was mixed with all kinds of claims of their charm and attractiveness - and knowing the relatively minor status of their work - left me totally puzzled as to what about  themmade the really repellant aspects of the men unimportant to those who maintained an affection for them.   It was as if their reputation seemed to compel a pretense of respectability and virtue, and affection where none was deserved.

Rereading the following section, from the Winter-1938- Spring 1940 section of the book made me think that Communism in the elite academic-journalistic culture of the 20th century has enjoyed a quite similar habit of thought, if not conformist cowardice.  How anyone could overlook the tens of millions of murders, the genocides, the total and complete  and violent, not to mention murderous suppression of every civil right the ACLU could whine about communists in the United States being deprived of - often amounting to not much more than a loss of earning potential and some hardship or academic appointment, is certainly something that lefties and the leftish should consider hard.  I really did mean it when I said that my conclusion is that, matching the Nazis in the practice of mass murder, suppression of human rights through crushing, violent state terror, the Marxists who enjoyed living in Western democracies are as worthy of disdain as the American supporters of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco.  Yes, including the Hollywood 10 and the circle that included the Rosenbergs and all of the rest of those who lived long enough to see Marxism in action.   Especially today when the results of experiments in a number of countries are in and the uniformly oppressive, murderous results of dialectical materialism are known.

It's decades past the time when anyone should rotely repeat the old lies about the moral status of Marxism,  those sequels should have stopped a long, long time ago.   There is no reason to let anti-anti-communism force us to repeat those lies.

Before reading it,  David Diamond was a composer who Marc Blitzstein was having a very open affair with at the time, Blitzstein's most likely sexless marriage to his wife Eve having ended with her death some time earlier.  Yaddo is a subsidized rural artists' "colony" providing artists with residencies in New York,  sort of like the Macdowell in New Hampshire.

On September 1 he returned to Yaddo, and Diamond was back there by then too.  But now everything had changed  On August 23,  the Nazis and the Soviets had signed a treaty of nonaggression, the so-called Hitler-Stalin Pact,  pledging neutrality in case of war.  Secretly, the treaty also assigned to each nation its own sphere of influence in Eastern Europe.

Italy had invaded Ethiopia back in 1936.  The British and French had timidly facilitated the German takeover of the Sudentenland in 1938, and the dismemberment of the rest of Czechoslovakia the following March  Spain had finally fallen to Franco in 1939 as well.  The Soviets were horrified by the obvious fact that the “democracies” cared nothing about the integrity of Europe' borders.  Indeed after more than a decade of Hitler's ranting against Bolshevism, the Soviet concluded that Germany might well be preparing to invade their territory.  They decided that if the Western powers could not unite with them to stop the forward march of Nazism, they would at least protect themselves by buying the time to build up their own defenses.  

I'm going to break in here and note that the author doesn't much seem to want to notice that the Soviets under both Lenin and Stalin had similarly invaded and absorbed neighboring countries, conducting mass murdering purges and violently suppressing the People of those places.  As this catalog of fascist and Nazi atrocity was being compiled, the planned starvation of Ukraine was well underway and had been reported, accurately, in the Western media for years.   There are certainly grounds for condemning the governments of the West in the harshest of terms for their slowness in addressing the Nazis acting similarly to how Lenin and, especially Stalin had been acting for more than a decade, but that exculpation of Stalin for making what he thought was a mutually beneficial pact is too generous to Stalin by a an unacceptable degree.  It's exactly the kind of absurd benefit of the doubt that Western academics have practiced pretty much since 1917.  Consider how the next paragraph continues from the point of view of the countries invaded by Stalin, especially in light of their previous experience of Russian-Soviet aggression.  That history was certainly known by those responsible in the Western governments' reluctant to make common cause with Stalin until there was no other choice.

On the first of September 1939, the Germans invaded Western Poland.  The Soviets overran the eastern half of the country.  Each counted on the others concurrence.  This move went too far for France and England, however, and they declared war on Germany.   Within a year, also by German leave the Soviets took over the Baltic countries and invaded Finland.  In the ensuing period of nonintervention,  Soviet and German cultural policies reversed themselves:  Now German orchestras played Russian and Soviet music widely and broadcast it on the radio, while the Soviets recruited Sergei Eisenstein to stage a massive production of Die Walküre at the Bolshi.  the full extent of German-Soviet cooperation in other fields, military and intelligence notably, has yet to be exactly determined.

The American Communist Party, like the Communist parties everywhere in the world, was thrown into a tailspin by the sudden, strange apparition of a Soviet Union now friendly with the Nazi regime.  For years, Communists had implored the Western democracies to make common cause with the Soviets against Hitler, but Hitler proceeded unchecked, even encouraged by Western appeasement.  Was it still correct now to be anti-Nazi

Blitzstein accomplished little the first week he was back at Yaddo.  He no longer knew what political position to take.  Several times a day he ran to the main house to answer telephone calls from New York.  The poet Delmore Schwartz, a Trotskyist, also at Yaddo, and Blitzstein nearly came to blows with him over politics.  Marc argued with David [Diamond] incessantly and violently.  Like many Jews both in and outside the Party, Diamond could not stomach the German-Soviet treaty, and he disagreed with Marc's unqualified defense of Stalin.  Marc tried to engage David's sympathy for the Soviet position,  but Diamond would not yield. Then Blitzstein baldly told him how ignorant of the world he was. 

At the end of a week,  Marc went to New York for a couple of days, almost certainly to confer with his Party comrades.  Perhaps the future of his new opera would be endangered by the new developments.  It surely appeared as though the Party was falling apart rapidly, with the protest resignations of large numbers of its Jewish members.  His own form of “protest,” if that's what it was, was to shave off his mustache – perhaps it reminded him too much of both Hitler and Stalin – though it shortly came back as his trademark.  In New York,  he also took the opportunity to visit his old hangout,  the Everard Baths, where, in between a number of sexual adventures that he recounted to David on his return, he spotted the painter Pavel Tchelitchev.  

Back at Yaddo, Marc fluctuated between moments of hard-bitten political intransigence and other times extraordinary intransigence and other times of  extraordinary tenderness toward his friends there  . . . 

Re-reading the first several chapters of the book, last night, I was reminded of how repellant it was to read how Marc Blitzstein was such a rabid, repulsively self-righteously correct Communist that he would have literally and slavishly and fanatically have followed the very real party-line, allowing the party to determine not only his actions but also his thoughts. And that he harangued other composers and artists on their lapses in following that party-line.  I can easily imagine him doing what the leaders of various artists' "unions" in the Soviet union did, enforcing artistic restrictions in a way and with violent coercion (not excluding torture and violent death) that makes the Hollywood moguls look impotent in that regard.  Imagine if he'd been able to denounce Delmore Schwartz to the authorities, as I can easily imagine him vindictively and self-righteously doing and bragging about. 

Like the ridiculous practice of fanatical materialists who claim they are "free thinkers" as they ideologically deny the possibility of free thought, it is ridiculous for anyone to identify the Communist Party with any kind of struggle for freedom or liberty or civil rights  The absurdity of that decades long practice has come home to roost as the American Nazis who would, with far more of a chance of accomplishing it, suppress every right they chose to for every person they chose to, have taken up the mantle of "free speech" that was fashioned to fit the convenience of various Marxists and anarchists and pornographers by well-off lawyers and justices and law profs in their hire.

I used to advise those who liked Blitzstein's music to not read this book because I thought they'd probably have the same reaction to learning about his life that I did,  I can't listen to his music anymore.  It was never something I much liked, I always thought he was overrated, mostly on the basis of the famous legend of the suppressed, impromptu remounting of The Cradle Will Rock, the stuff much more of theatrical legend than musical triumph.  Now I'd recommend people read it to see just what a malignant blight American communism was.   Just think of Marc Blitzstein running to the phone to find out what he was to think from the Communist central committee.

Update:  Since writing this  early this morning I've gone to Youtube and listened to some of David Diamond's work, Symphonies #5 and 6 and have to say he was a pretty good composer, much better than Blitzstein was.   His tonal music which he, apparently, continued to compose at least up to 1990 is rare in not having many signs of being derivative, it's not Copland-like at all.  I'd make comparisons to Benjamin Britten or the early symphonies of Roger Sessions but Diamond's is not really like the music of any other composer I'm aware of except in the most general way.  In that ability to use the old sounds and techniques of tonality and make it, somehow, your own he reminds me more of the Canadian composer Harry Somers.  It's good to go back and try composers you'd laid aside.   I can understand why the fine conductor Gerard Schwartz championed his music, something that Diamond lived long enough to see happen.  Not every composer gets to experience that.