Monthly Archives February 2014

Bahia Orchestra Project: Glimmers of Classical Music’s Future?

Classical music via large symphony orchestras has been on the ropes as long as I can remember. Perpetually white-haired audience members dying off and not being replaced at quite the same rate, pinched budgets, arts education in schools a shambles, the populace burrowed down with its headphones, no doubt listening to vapid pop music or worse.

Or so the narrative goes, and there is plentiful evidence to support it, with classical record sales in steady decline and symphony orchestras in various cities going kaput.

It’s one reason why the field tries to sell sexy soloists, a phenomenon explored in a post several months ago. But many problems beset the genre, not the least of which is a certain kind of stultifying air, bringing to mind stuffy Vienna drawing rooms, man wigs, and deeply sober approaches to musical expression...

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The Human Connection: “Her” and “Twenty Feet From Stardom”

A slew of almost electrically talented backup singers grappling with never quite breaking the stardom barrier and a lonely man with his new girlfriend-the-operating system filled up a dreary weather Saturday last weekend, reminiscent of the “double bill” presentations that were de rigueur in the movie houses of my boyhood.

Oh, what a filmy weekend it was.

Synopses of the movies in question: Twenty Feet From Stardom and Her, can be gleaned from the trailers below, so what will concern us here is but one thread that works its way through both films, dominantly in Her and as an interesting side story in Twenty Feet.

Boiled down to its essence, the issue is: Are other people all that necessary?

Late in Twenty Feet, one of the fabulous, magnetic backup singers the film so lovingly depicts is reflecting that at some point in recent years “the phone stopped ringing” as much as it used to...

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Love, Love We Do

Love, love love love love. We are awash in it—or in its absence—at every station of life, in all its forms and expressions. Its four letters creep into our discourse in almost every setting and time, ranging from the mundane (“I love Oreos!”), to the passionate (the murmurings and exclamations of sex), to the intimate (deep interpersonal communication and regard), to the eternal (loving God and Life all that exists therefrom).

Here on the precipice of Valentine’s Day, we are drenched in romantic love, that relatively modern cultural construct that finds such ubiquitous resonance in our media. (iTunes cuts off the listings for the search term “Love” at 500 songs, apparently feeling that can keep their customers quite busy enough while would-be songwriters the world over continue to add to the cache. Love is, indeed, a many-splendored thing…)

Being of essentially romantic temperament myself (...

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Liberals and the Problem of Patriotism

Grounded as I am in coming-of-age during the tumult of the 1960s and ’70s, I tend to have a problematic relationship with patriotism and all its accoutrements—the flag, the pledge, the star-spangles, the moist-eyed emotion and breast-beating triumphalism.

In my college years, I learned to cast a skeptical eye on government pronouncements and white-washed histories. I discovered the relevance of sociology (Hmm…sociology, now there’s a thought!), psychology (Oh, what a neurotic-at-best mess we are!), and the role of basic brutality and genocide—there is simply no other way to say it—in subduing the American frontier. All under the cloak of “manifest destiny,” a handy and high-falutin’ term for “God wants us to own all this, so let’s go wipe out another Indian tribe.”

The revisionist look at American history taking place then was only exacerbated by the travesty of Vietnam, when the mode...

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The Body As Tool: A Super Bowl Reflection

Amidst the hype of our modern day gladiator spectacle known as the Super Bowl, it is hard not to marvel at the fantastic-though-punishing physical feats of the combatants on one of the world’s biggest media stages. These young men strutting about on the field, biceps and triceps jutting out of their short sleeves (in extremely cold weather, that, too, is a display of manly, don’t-mess-with-me bravado), represent the heights of physical accomplishment, of raw talent bolstered by the tireless work ethic and study required to hone it to such rarefied levels.

That said, a kind of darkness hovers over them as well, both in the ever-looming threat of horrific physical injury suffered on any given play, and in the long-term disability virtually every one of them suffers to some degree in their retirement.

Bad backs and knees and hips and elbows and shoulders are quite the norm among ex-NFL players, and they a...

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