completely surreal and horrific times, I count myself
among the lucky who have not lost any family, friends or colleagues
in the horrible tragedies that occurred at New York City's World
Trade Center, at the Pentagon in Washington DC, and 80 miles outside
Pittsburgh. Thankfully, the same is true for all of us here at the
American Music Center. Although the AMC is less than three miles
away from this still unbelievable nightmare in lower Manhattan, on
some levels, it seems much further away. An important component to
overcoming this sadness and regaining our strength is to reflect on
what this loss represents for all of us who care about new music.
I've lived in New York City my entire life and remember the
World Trade Center being built when I was a child. And throughout my
life, I have walked there and back. But, the things I will remember
most about the Twin Towers are the many remarkable concerts that I
Attending the world premiere of Wendy Mae
Chambers' One World Percussion, an hour-long tour-de-force for 50
percussionists performing on 500 instruments in between the Towers
and reverberating well beyond them is an experience that made me
forever an apostle of new music. I will never forget John
Schaeffer's wonderful series of New Sounds concerts in the Winter
Garden atrium of the World Financial Center, whose personal recent
highlights included the Hildergurls, Robert Fripp's solo soundscapes
and Stephen Scott's Bowed Piano Ensemble. I remember being
mesmerized by the Philip Glass Ensemble, staring up at the seemingly
infinite floors of the Towers and finding slight variations in
visual patterns as I heard their analogous variations in the
gradually shifting melodic cells of Glass's music.
recently, I remember braving the rain for the X-ecutioners, a group
of experimental turntable artists, and the majesty of the world
premiere of Glenn Branca's new Symphony #11, Hallucination City,
reportedly for 100 electric guitars and described better than I ever
could in a column
Greg Sandow contributed to NewMusicBox. What
strange and awful new meanings are conjured up by the name of the
group of DJs and the title of Branca's new symphony, both of which
brought such vibrant life to the Plaza of the World Trade Center!
It is the "bringing to life" that new music represents that
should comfort us and move us beyond these tragic events. New music
is a beacon for our hopes and our future.
Frank J. Oteri
Articles and commentary
posted on NewMusicBox reflect the viewpoint of their individual authors;
their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply official endorsement by the
American Music Center.
|Posting Service: At my urging, and because
NewMusicBox was barely semi-functional for a week, Kyle Gann has set
up a posting service for downtown NYC new music composers,
performers and other denizens, to let those around the country and
the world know that they are all right. Although many of us have
been highly traumatized by these events, and will be living with
changes that the world can and cannot see, it appears that our
community has not suffered any direct losses. We can all be grateful
Please keep in mind that the guestbook I am to
mention is not for posting your opinion of the pending war, or for
expressing your relief that a friend is all right. It is to post
information about people who have not yet had information posted
about them, telling all visitors that the person is alive, maybe
some info on whether they are difficult to contact because of loss
of telephone or e-mail service, practical info like
Kyle Gann's website is http://www.kylegann.com/. To
post to the guestbook, go to http://venus.guestworld.tripod.lycos.com/wgb/wgbsign.dbm?owner=gannguests.
To view the posts (i.e., if you are worried about someone), go to http://venus.guestworld.tripod.lycos.com/wgb/wgbview.dbm?owner=gannguests.
have received concerned telephone calls and e-mails from around the
country and the world. My joke is that you know things are serious
when your wife's friend from Kosovo calls to see if you are all
right. Because it is difficult to relive the experience every time,
I have posted a brief description of my experience at http://www.notnicemusic.com/war.html.
I have been talking with people around town, I have come to the
conclusion that, in addition to the 5,000 missing and presumed dead,
some quarter of a milliion people have been directly traumatized
(not by watching television, but by directly seeing, hearing and
feeling, up close, some portion of this tragedy), and, as survivors,
their after-stories are not being heard by the media. My plea to the
world is for some amount of sensitivity to this, as various people
go through various stages of their grief and recovery. This is a
process that will take weeks and months.
The new music
community is not necessarily a rich community, but it is a very
caring one, and I expect to see its best side come out in surprising
and wonderfully unexpected ways.
|Readers of this forum should be made aware
of K.H. Stockhausen's unfortunate and unguarded comments on the WTC
inhumanity. From the AP: |
German Composer Stockhausen
The Associated Press Wednesday, September 19,
2001; 1:27 PM
HAMBURG, Germany –– German composer Karlheinz
Stockhausen apologized for calling last week's attacks on the United
States a "work of art" – words that prompted the cancelation of four
concerts in this northern city.
The 73-year-old Stockhausen,
one of Germany's best-known postwar composers, had described the
attacks as "the greatest work of art one can imagine."
minds accomplish in one act something that we in music can't dream
of, that people rehearse like mad for 10 years – totally fanatically
– for a concert and then die – that's the greatest work of art there
is in the entire cosmos," he said Sunday.
Organizers of a
music festival in Hamburg promptly canceled four concerts of
The composer has since apologized for
the comments, which he made Sunday during a press conference,
Hamburg's top culture official Christina Weiss said Tuesday.
Stockhausen told Hamburg officials he meant to compare the
attacks to "a production of the devil, Lucifer's work of art," said
culture department spokesman Ingo Mix.
"If anyone feels hurt
by what I said at the press conference, I ask their forgiveness,
because I have never felt or thought what was read into my words,"
the composer said, according to Weiss.
organizers still consider staging Stockhausen's music inappropriate
in view of his "unconsidered verbal gaffes," Weiss said. The music
festival itself will continue.
Stockhausen gained fame
through his avant-garde works in the 1960s and 70s. He later moved
to huge music theater and other projects, some involving military
equipment, that have been less popular.
© 2001 The
|Call for music,
|If you've created a composition related to
this week's tragic events, we would like to broadcast it on Kalvos
& Damian and add it to our page at http://kalvos.org/tragedy.html
Please upload it in mp3 format to
You can also email a short commentary to be read along with it.
Compositions will be broadcast this Saturday, October 13,
and November 10.
This is an open invitation, so please pass
this message along.
There are other forums for
communication, but ours is also available at http://maltedmedia.com/discus/
(in the section "General Discussion about the New Music Bazaar"
|Having heard rather too many of the king
of dadaism's "compositions," I can't say I'm surprised that he would
say something like that.|
|Music in Difficult
|Mr. Smith, thank you for your
exceptionally thoughtful essay. I would like to make a few very
brief comments in response. |
It is true that American
orchestras are adjusting their programs in light of the national
tragedy. For example, the National Symphony Orchestra, in
Washington, D.C., has postponed this week's scheduled performances
of Thomas Ades' Asyla. On the other hand, that orchestra's
participation in the special "Concert for America", to be broadcast
on PBS this Friday, did include James Galway playing William
Bolcom's Flute Concerto slow movement, entitled "Memory". To me,
more than Barber's Adagio for Strings or the Finale to Mahler's
Symphony #2, that haunting, quasi-atonal movement seemed to capture
the nation's mood of grief and uncertainty. The work was warmly
applauded by the specially invited audience.
I also feel
that Leon Botstein's comment that "There hasn't been great music
evoking the Holocaust" is questionable. While five decades of
classical music - from Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Britten, and
Shostokovich to Reich, Ran, and several others - have touched upon
that horror, it still remains a central concern to scores of
composers on all continents. Peter Ruzicka and Peter Mussbach's
opera, Paul Celan, premiered last year in Dresden, brings us even
closer to the horror. Furthermore, I believe that works tangential
to the Holocaust, such as Penderecki's Threnody and the second
movement of Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, should not be
Finally, the essay notes the postponement of
several U.S. operatic premieres. While creativity will most likely
be repressed here in the U.S. in the short-term, let us remember
that Europe is forging ahead in the orchestral and operatic realms.
For example, the Frankfurt Opera alone, this coming year, plans to
stage a season of eight operas by living European composers - two by
Henze, two by Rihm, one by Berio, one by Sciarrino, one by Haas, and
one by Eggert (the last a children's opera). In my view, such
support for creativity is a healthy response of a society's facing
|A survey of fifteen works written in
response to the Holocaust is posted at http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/arts/musRespo.htm
as part of an online curriculum resource for teachers. As
acknowledged on the site, the works add another dimension to our
understanding of tragedies that cannot be fully expressed in words.
|Thank you Garth for your comments and
Mollie for the teacher's guide link. I would add just a couple
pieces that come to mind, Sam Adler's chilling Krystallnacht
oratorio, and a 1994 musical play by two friends of mine, Jim Crew
and the late Hal Hudson, called "As Butterflies" and based upon the
same material as Davidson's "I Never Saw Another Butterfly". I
eventually found a mention of Messiaen's "Quatuor pour le Fin du
Temps" in the teacher's guide, but in my book that piece belongs
front and center! Difficult to imagine its initial reception, and
its possible current resonance is a rather unsettling thought as
well... Finally, the corpus of "Entartete Muzik", to use the Nazis'
own offensive term, cannot be ignored. An excellent section on this
appears in the teacher's guide, and Sony's recent CD set of
"entartete" composers is well worth exploring.|
|Ms. Sheridan, thank you for providing the
helpful reference. |
It occurred to me later that I should
have mentioned two exceptionally powerful, recent song-cycles on
Holocaust related themes by Grawemeyer Award winning composers Simon
Bainbridge and Sir Harrison Birtwistle: respectively, Ad Ora Incerta
(At an Uncertain Hour), Four Orchestral Songs from Primo Levi; and
Pulse Shadows, Meditations on Poems of Paul Celan.
first, 30 minutes long, is available on the British new music label,
NMC, and published by Schirmer/Novello; while the latter, an hour
long, is forthcoming on Teldec, and is published by Boosey &
I personally believe that each of these cycles
fulfills any reasonable criteria of "greatness".
|Next time I'll research before
posting..... The "Entartete Musik" series is on Decca.|
|American Music post
|This is the first time I have written and
tried to express my thoughts about music since the Sept 11th
tragedy. I have noticed that many composers are writing, works in
reaction to what has happened. |
I cannot do that
think the events of 9/11 are a source of inspiration. However, these
events have changed the world and my life, and thus I feel my
I don't think I can go on writing and thinking about music
the same way, and can any of us. By the time this is all over, where
will we be as artists, as a country, as a world.
I see a future
of musical change, a new epoch, gone is the cynicism and irony of
the last 30 years. WWII changed music and art forever, will the
terror of WTC not do the same?
This past weekend my wife and
I flew out to see the world premier of Elliot Carter's Cello
Concerto in Chicago. Elliot Carter was in attendance and
participated in a pre-concert lecture, he commented breifly on
seeing the WTC horror from his apartment window, and that he could
never get it out of his mind. He went on to express what he thought
was American about his music. That his is a music of different
voices and personalities that contribute in their own way to make up
a work, an idea that he thinks is what is best about America.
hour later Yo-yo Ma was on the stage the hairs of his bow were
snapping as he flew through the many thorny passages of the work.
Sweat poured off of him as he played the work, expressing passion
and emotion that would not let one forget the WTC disaster. The work
was written well before but prepared after, and can these incidents
not have effected this first performance?
different now, everything relates back to that dark day in September
and what meaning can anything now have except in relation ship to
I still have not started writing music again. It may be a
little while more before I do. But when I do my music will be new
and I will be new, how could I not be? How could I stay the same? As
the world has changed and come together, can things be any different
I think not.
For the first time in my life I
think of myself not just as a composer but as an American
Composer. Many of my generation never had a way or a desire to feel
patriotic, but that now too has changed. We are proud to be
American, but there is a struggle in that as well. What does it mean
to be an American now, and what does it mean to be an American
I never asked these questions before, or even imagined
I would. Now I struggle to find an answer.
|Violence, Healing and
|Last March, my music drama, From The Realm
Of The Shadow, was released (Naxos 8.559089-90, 2 CDs, $13, visit
www.fromtherealmoftheshadow.com).It deals with the horror and trauma
of gang rape, and moves from there into emotional and spiritual
healing. The work took me 20 years to complete, largely because it
reflected my own slow process of healing. The people who have
responded most strongly to this work have been people who themselves
are working through the trauma of violence. Now, the whole country,
and especially New York City, is reeling from the September 11
attack. I hope that this journey from violence into deep healing may
offer something of value to people today, even as my own heart
breaks yet again from this last terrible round of violence in our
back yard. |
|Keith, like you, I have been reluctant to
return to composition, knowing that I have changed and that my music
will change, too. I have heard only one piece composed since the
event, at a fundraising, a piece started before and finished after.
The two sections were unimpressive - what started out as banal
written before became even more banal written after. |
has to be most striking to us as composers is that the most
effective sonic response to this tragedy is silence. In our houses
of worship, we have the ritual repetitions, and then, as we
remember, mourn and grieve, long silence. Similarly, as I visited
Ground Zero, shocking silence was the only appropriate reaction.
I have found that sometimes we compose our happiest music
when times are rough, and our saddest when our lives are most
joyous. As I face the overwhelming despair that has enveloped my
family's life, I am considering setting texts that relate to hope.
The act of creation is an interesting phenomena. I've been looking
at works of the early 40's - Copland's Americana, Rodgers'
"Oklahoma!" - in a new light. I suggest others do the same.
|I wanted to add to Tod Machover's words
about his children some sad reflections from nearer to Ground Zero.
My 4-year-old, Max, has been seriously affected by the initial
events and other circumstances that followed. His school is just
around the corner from St. Vincent's, with a clear view of the
towers. When I pulled him from school on September 11, he saw the
towers billowing smoke. When the whole family got home, we were
concerned to be able to hear any emergency broadcasts, so he was
unfortunately exposed to the media's constant repetition of the
horrible images, which made him curl up into a fetal position before
we realized what was going on and switched to radio. He is suddenly
afraid of the dark, upset by things that didn't use to upset him,
plays and makes drawings of the towers, and continues to speak about
how sad he is that they are gone. At one time, he pointed uptown to
some haze, believing it was the smoke that billowed for days from
the wreckage. |
He is constantly exposed to reminders of the
tragedy. The students displaced from PS234 are in his school, with
posters welcoming them everywhere. He cannot go to school without
passing countless posters of the missing, including a large shrine
on the corner of the block his school is on. Politicians like the
Governor and the First Lady visit his school for their photo ops.
Max's trauma is nothing compared to the PS234 kids who,
initially evacuated to the basement, were rushed screaming through
the streets by firemen when the first collapse occurred. And then,
of course, there are the thousands of children who have lost a
parent. The massive ceremony of that company that lost over 700
employees is sad beyond comprehension.
I lost my mother to
cancer when I was six, and it has always set me apart from the
world. For example, throughout my childhood, Yizkor and Yom Kippur,
not apples, honey and Rosh Hashanah, were what was important. Beyond
the difficulties of an older person losing a child, and the immense
burden of becoming a widow or widower, these thousands of children
of various ages stripped of parents is an enormous tragedy that most
people cannot begin to comprehend.
The most important thing
that society can do for these children is to start collecting
stories from their relatives, friends and colleagues about their
missing parent. The traumatized widow or widower may have difficulty
talking about their missing loved one, may remarry and get on with
their lives. When these children are ten, or twenty, or thirty, they
will need to revisit these lost memories, perhaps without their
remaining parent's involvement. This must go beyond the short
portraits I've seen in some newspapers. Let people write or record
things as short or long as they want. These memories should be
accessible from the Internet so that the children can access them
whenever they want to, or are ready to.
Like the children of
Holocaust survivors, these children of the WTC victims, including
(and perhaps especially) those too young to speak up for themselves
now, need this memorial started NOW, and need it to be permanent. If
you attend a memorial for anyone lost in this tragedy, make sure a
book of memories by attendees is created for these dear children,
who may not be brought to the funeral if they are very young.
There is an excellent memoir, "Of Time and Memory," which is
by an author whose mother died a few days after he was born. Decades
later, he got up the strength to re-create his mother's life. Not
everyone may have that author's skills and determination.
am slowly recovering, but my first thoughts are with Max. Many AMC
members may remember Max, the judge of "The Lullaby Project." At a
recent WTC fundraiser, I sang "Sleep," my contribution. An a
cappella lullaby would be a comforting musical contribution, rather
than some banal war-like piece full of bombast and bravado. "The
Lullaby Project" is now a call for scores, and Max would be thrilled
to receive additional submissions. You can find details at www.notnicemusic.com/lullaby.html
|hello everyone, |
I thought I'd let
you know that I have put up a journal of
personal responses to 9.11 (my own and others).
it's turning into a very healing thing, and I invite you to visit,
to read, and to contribute your own responses.
|Some months ago a composer friend of mine
suggested that there was a need for an "American Requiem," somewhat
modelled after the Brahms "Ein Deutsches Requiem," wherein
appropriate texts from American aurthors dealing with loss and
mourning might be set. I hadn't thought much about his idea until a
few days after Sept 11 when the NY Philharmonic scheduled a memorial
concert featuring the Brahms Requiem, and other requia began to show
up--Faure, Mozart, Verdi, Britten, even Berlioz-- all in
commemoration. Even the Mahler "Resurection Symphony" was brought
out to do duty. The only American music which seemed to find a place
in the musical memorials was the Barber Adagio. Where is a good
American Requiem now that we need it? Ingram Marshall|
|Charles Fussell's Specimen Days for
Baritone Solo, Chorus and Orchestra settings of texts from the
poetry and prose writings of Walt Whitman.|
It's available on
Koch International Classics (3-7338-2-H1) with David Hoose
conducting the Cantata Singers and orchestra with Sanford Sylvan,
|Mr. Myron, thanks for the Charles Fussell
recommendation. I look forward to investigating it. |
personally am surprised that Roger Session's "When Lilacs Last in
the Dooryard Bloom'd" is not more widely performed as a memorial
work. It was written as a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. and
Robert F. Kennedy. While it's musical language and orchestration is
slightly dense for a public memorial work, I find it at all times
very poignant and the settings of the Walt Whitman poems quite clear
and musically poetic.
While I did hear the world premiere as
an impressionable high school student 30 years ago, I do not believe
that it is sentimentality which has brought me back repeatedly to
this work. As many readers probably know, a 1976-77 recording is
available on the New World Recordings label. I would certainly
welcome additional recordings of this work.
|Mr. Trinkl, you're more than welcome. The
Koch recording is from 1997 and is getting a little hard to find. If
you cannot get your hands on a copy please drop me a note.|
|After reading several of the articles in
the special edition on NewMusic Box, I must say that I am so proud
to be part of the new music community (even if from the
musicological side). Although, like Stockhausen, I know there will
be those "artists" who choose to capitalize on the 'trauma breeds
art' idea, most of the reactions thus far seem thoughtful, genuine,
and without the haste that marks the outward need to "make a
statement." No doubt that some graduate seminar in musicology far
from now will focus on "Pieces in Response to the American Tragedy,"
but I am gratified to know that most of these pieces will not be
written with this end in mind. Hopefully music has found new truth.
Respectfully yours, Rebecca Giacosie|
|Ms. Giacosie, I agree with you that Mr.
Oteri and Ms. Sheridan have done a superb job of writing and
assembling an extremely helpful set of essay responses in the wake
of September 11. |
I would like again to follow-up briefly to
Mr. Marshall's call for consideration of an appropriate form of
I have experienced live performances of
Penderecki's Polish Requiem and James DeMars's American Requiem, and
have studied at some length Vyacheslav Artyomov's Requiem (To the
Victims of Stalinist Terror). While all are very deeply sincere and
well-crafted large-scale works, I personally don't think that any of
them has the human, ecumenical, or healing appeal of Brahms's German
Requiem (or Britten's War Requiem).
Shorter, and more
intensely personal, are Andrew Imbrie's Requiem, occasioned by the
passing of his adolescent son, and Ingram Marshall's own
extraordinarily moving Kingdom Come, again occasioned by an
intensely personal loss. The Imbrie harks back to Herbert Howells's
beautiful memorial works in memory of both his son and John F.
Kennedy. Of the three, the Howells works are probably the most
successful in bridging the civic and the personal, in the manner
achieved by Brahms.
Also available for investigation are
Richard Wernick's Kaddish-Requiem, which I believe was dedicated to
the victims of the Vietnam War; and the Thomas Beveridge Yizkor
Requiem, which attempts reconciliation of the Christian and Jewish
||Frank J. Oteri|
|For me, oddly enough, the greatest
American requiem is Paul Hindemith's When Lilacs Last In The
Dooryard Bloomed (a.k.a. A Requiem for Those We Love), a
setting of the great Walt Whitman Civil War-era poem which predates
the settings by Charles Fussell and Roger Sessions cited in previous
posts on this forum. |
A piece by a German composer might seem
an odd choice as greatest American requiem, but let's not forget
that at the time of its composition, 1946, Hindemith lived in the
United States and the work was commissioned by and premiered by
Americans. Initially conceived as a memorial to President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt, who died in office in 1945, the work morphed into
a memorial to all the victims of the Second World War.
fact that this remarkable composition, which I think contains some
of the best text setting of American English by any composer, was
the work of an émigré makes it an even more significant work to
revive in these present difficult times because it is yet another
proof that our diversity and multi-culturalism is our greatest
strength at a time when we are being terrorized by zealots whose
view of the world is myopic and uni-cultural.
There was an
excellent LP recording of this work issued by Columbia/Odyssey with
Hindemith conducting the New York Philharmonic featuring some
amazing singing by contralto Louise Parker. Unfortunately that
recording is currently out-of-print, but now seems like the perfect
time for it to be re-issued as well as for new live performances of
it to happen all over this country!
|NPR Sonic Monument: There is a photography
expedition, a democratic display of images of the tragedy. And of
course, there have been tons of words, stories appearing in every
medium. As composers, what about sound? If you go to the CNN web
site, you can see and hear the video of the second plane
crash (although you cannot save it). I was thinking about how I
wanted there to be a collection of all of the sounds related to this
Well, this is a big country, and good ideas don't
appear alone. Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, California-based
producers of "Lost and Found Sound" on NPR, are collaborating with
Verizon to build a Sonic Monument of sounds from dictation tapes,
tourist videos, voice mails - anything that relates to the life and
history of the World Trade Center or to the events of Sept. 11. Call
(202) 408-0300 if you have anything to contribute.
Concrete memorial, assembled from their archives? Considering the
way I flinch every time I hear a helicopter or airplane overhead, I
think that would be effective Music Therapy, both for the composer
and the audience (if done sincerely).
|Mr. Oteri, you are right to propose Paul
Hindemith's expansive When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd
(Requiem for Those We Loved), from 1946, as a great American example
of the Requiem genre. Your statement for including it in the
American canon is very eloquent. |
I had myself thought of
listing it along with the three deeply felt, very large-scale
Requiems which I did mention, but I hesitated to do so since I had
not listened to it in some time.
Having now reacquainted
myself with it, I must both join you in praising its general beauty,
but also disagree with your statement that Hindemith's text-setting
of the Walt Whitman poem reflects exemplary setting of American
English. While it is a musically very traditional and often powerful
treatment of the full Whitman poem, I must agree with Michael
Steinberg and Andrew Porter who have each pointed to shortcomings in
Hindemith's setting of Whitman's American English: Steinberg, in the
notes to the New World Records recording of Roger Sessions's
shorter, but more visionary treatment of the same Walt Whitman poem
(1977), and Porter in his Music of Three Seasons, 1974-77 (Chatto
and Windus, 1979).
While Steinberg points out that Hindemith
often "straitlaces" Whitman's "sometimes inflated...large-breathed,
quasi-Biblical rhythms and inversions," Porter points to numerous
examples of improper scansion of Whitman's American English, and
takes special exception to Hindemith's fugal treatment of Whitman's
twelfth stanza ("Mighty Manhatten with spires...") noting its
"insensitive forcing of the lines into a jiggling 12/8 meter."
I am raising these critical reservations in the hope that
when readers listen to the Hindemith Requiem, they will be alert to
both its tonal beauty and architectural power, but also instances of
clearly unnatural forcing of Walt Whitman's expansive, visionary
American text. One of the reasons that Brahms's "Ein Deutsches
Requiem" is beloved around the world is the naturalness of the
text-setting of the German translation of the Biblical texts.
On the other hand, Handel's great English language oratorios
have themselves survived some infelicities of English language
text-setting, and maybe, in the larger scheme of things, Hindemith's
not always natural setting of the American language will too.
|Dear Tod: Thank you for your moving
sentiments in the aftermath of the disaster of September 11. I await
what the future holds for your music. As a composer, I share your
humanistic thoughts quite thoroughly.|
|I think Grigori Frid's hour-long
mono-opera "The Diary of Anne Frank", from 1969, should be included
among the great musical works evoking the Holocaust. The 86-year old
Russian composer dedicated this past weekend's performance in the
United States to the memory of the victims of September 11. An
English language, chamber version is now available. |
|A View from New
|Before the dust had settled in New York
and Virginia September 11, wise and cool heads were reminding us
that we must not let anonymous cowards cripple our normal lives.
Clearly, Americans will, as we did 60 years ago after Pearl Harbor,
knuckle down and deal with this terrorist infamy. We will make
sacrifices, just as we did during World War II, the last time we
were, as the President put it then, "suddenly and deliberately
But it is very important that we not allow
barbarians to drag us down to their cultural level. If anything, the
best of our music, art and literature must be a beacon for civilized
life when it is under attack. When the night is darkest, we need,
more than ever, to keep our eyes on the stars.
orchestras, our chamber groups, our instrumental soloists, can
mobilize the power of music to kindle patriotism when it must burn.
At the same time magnificent music sets our blood pumping, though,
it also reminds us that we are noble souls who inhabit the bodies
that must work, sweat and hurt to accomplish our goals. It can
remind us, in times of crisis, that we don't have time for
second-rate stuff: only the best will do. As you listen to the
stirring music of Chopin, Beethoven, Hovhaness, or Sousa, you
resolve to give more ---- time, blood, money, whatever it takes ----
to the cause that you regard as just.
Popular music and folk
music (that undefined broad category of human musical achievement)
are valuable, too. You have only to recall Glenn Miller and his
contemporaries to understand that. Whether today's popular musicians
can rise to the challenge is something most of us will have to wait
and see about, but if the circumstances demand it, Americans will
probably come through the way they always have.
As many have
pointed out, this will not be your grandfather's war, not even your
father's, in terms of tactics and techniques. People will do things
that you and I would never have thought possible. Wars are always
uncivilized affairs, but we fight them to preserve civilization. If
the people fighting it ever forget that motivation, however, then
the enemy, who wants to destroy our civilization, automatically
wins. We cannot let that happen, and music ---- in the halls, in the
streets, on the air ---- will help us keep the real goal in mind.
|Your strange use of "cultural level" and
"civilized life" give me an excellent chance to quote a recent
e-mail from Eric Salzman, to wit:|
"What I am objecting to is
... the attitude towards art and artists which is directly connected
to fascism and totalitarian ways of thinking about culture. The
example of the Italian Futurists is perfectly correct; in fact, I
had them in mind along with Wagnerism (Wagnerianism?) and the Nazis.
The great irony is that these views derive from German idealistic
(or Platonic) philosophy which elevates music to the highest form of
the arts because it is the purist and most perfect art and because
it represents some kind of transcendent condition that speaks of the
essence of things. "Great" works of art (the concept of "Great Art"
and "Masterpiece" is an essential part of this view) therefore must
challenge and eliminate other kinds of art and the job of the artist
is to create these perfected essences and archetypes. This
essentially Germanic view, mystical and cultist, has come to
dominate classical music everywhere in western culture. It is a view
that, like organized religion, promotes dogma, a priesthood and a
certain kind of near fanaticism that opposes anything that
challenges its authority. It also leads to an idealization of
essences (mystical states, death, sacrifice, terror) as well as to
hierachies and domination. It particularly opposes what we might
call the Aristotelian view that idealized essences made in heaven do
not exist and that real artistic culture is the ongoing sum of all
the works and experiences that go to make up culture. It violently
opposes non-idealistic art as dirty and unworthy."
fighting people who oppress half of their population, spout virulent
anti-semitism and murder civilians to achieve dubious political
ends. This has nothing to do with claiming that our music is
superior to their music. I'm sure their music is quite
Writings on September 11 at www.notnicemusic.com/war.html
|Challenge, possibly. Eliminate, no. Also,
there is nothing essentially Germanic about concepts and ideals of
classical art. Dante Alighieri had no interest in, or intent of,
eliminating the poems of Jalal-al-Din Rumi, the novel of Murasaki
Shikibu (Genji-monogatari), Vergil's Aenead, or the folk poetry of
central and northeastern Italy.|
|If I thought there was an art-form with
which I could BETTER attempt to "represent some kind of transcendent
condition that speaks to the essence of things" than music I'd
certainly take a crack at it. I know painters and documentary
cinematographers who feel the same way about their crafts.
Are we ALL imperialist fascist totalitarians?
Earth is "non-idealistic art"?
|Tom, you assume that because you are fully
devoted to the non-Aristotelian pursuit of transcendence, whereupon
notes and sequences and combinations "speak to the soul" (as I've
heard so many NewMusicBox writers say) in a mystical way, that
therefore ALL creators and listeners to music have these same
I don't think there can be any doubt
that there are music fanatics (and, unprofessionally, some
composers), whose appreciation of music goes beyond the realistic
and towards the pseudo-religious. For many, high culture "art for
art's sake" music is the only music worth listening to - they have
lost all capability of enjoying a folk song, or a hot piece of jazz,
or a catchy pop tune, or a piece of music-theatre, or any set of
tones which does not "aspire to greatness" through the continuous
"revelation" of new combinations never heard before. The miilions of
people who listen to and enjoy this music, the unwashed masses, as
it were, must learn to aspire to higher ideals, by this way of
thinking. That's my quick, on-line attempt at insight into what the
ever-more-articulate Eric Salzman is referring to as "non-idealistic
|Barry, you assume too much. Transcendence
is where you find it. I believe that art can speak to the soul, I
just don't happen to think that there's anything mystical about
|"In an apparent move to show they are
still in control of the city, the Taliban were (reportedly) burning
music cassettes and CDs in a Kandahar sports stadium." (CNN)|
|Sonic Memorial - now has website:
Here's a jump to a
|I've left the URL, created less than a
week after September 11, alone, but changed the title, from "My
Personal War Page" to "My Personal September 11 Page".|
many identities and belong to many communities. Aside from the
postings on this NewMusicBox page, those of interest to the new
music community are "Silence", "New
Forms", "Happy Endings in Narrative Forms", and, on a
broader cultural context, "Anti-New
York Fantasies". There's also a quite uncharacteristic (for me)
pop song, "After", adapted from the opening lines of a poem
I managed to write. Perhaps this will be one of many
|Since I have young children (or the
children have me, what an expression), I know families. I know
families who left New York City since September 11. I know a family
that left and came back. And I know a family that fell apart. Mine.
It was impossible for me to return to work, to return to normal,
or at least to use what was previously normal as an escape, because
I had the dumb luck of taking a job in emergency management and
security enhancement three years prior to September 11, and so I
returned to a job where September 11 was all I could think of, all I
was required to think of. I didn't burn out, but the importance of
September 11 did make the politics, which is all about where the
money and attention is, that much more intense. Before September 11,
I had to fight to convince others that what I was working on was
important. After September 11, I had to fight off others who were
convinced that what I was working on was too important.
I resigned into the worst economy that New York City had seen
during my working life. I couldn't find full-time employment, and
have since given up looking. When my marriage broke up and I lost
custody of my children, freelance work gave me the flexibility to
accommodate visitation. Visitation has also made it impossible for
me to consider moving, or to take a job that involves too much
travel. My children are simply too important to me. And I hope that
my children think that I am too important to them, as well.
September 11, I wasn't sure whether I would ever compose again.
I did find that music, and by that I must admit to meaning music
that I already loved, was an escape and a comfort to me. I've discovered the work of some composer-performers
that I've fallen in love with, too. I did compose again, as part of
the trial-by-fire that is David Rodwin and Patrick Mellen's Raw Impressions
Music Theatre. The last thing I wrote for them became the
musical source material for the fourth and final "September 11
I premiered the first "September 11 Song" live on Kalvos &
Damian's New Music Bazaar, a week after my resignation. The joy
of that appearance gave me the strength to complete the second. The
third still awaits completion, as self-imposed deadlines pass. After
the divorce, I did write a song, which I could perform along with
the four "September 11 Songs," assuming I ever complete them, which
I hope I do, as I also hope that I have the emotional strength to
At the end of the month after my resignation, I got sick of the
constant harrassment on the NewMusicBox Forum. Richard Kessler vowed
to establish what he called a "Terms of Service," but it was months
before it was implemented. The only posting I have made to
NewMusicBox since June 2003 was a brief update to my April 2001 hyper-history of American music theatre. Due to
the new format, it is banished to a separate page.
I found safe haven for a spell on MPR's American Mavericks chat pages, and, of course,
within the moderated C-Opera listserv and my own website. I
continue to promote, and to attend, NewOp. I write regularly for New Music
Connoisseur now, was even honored at their recent gala and in the current issue, and have
been concentrating on my
book, and on using Finale, which I had purchased around the
time of my resignation. But I was mainly concentrating on finding
income to pay my bills, and on the divorce, and on surviving in its
aftermath. Using the Jewish or academic year, which is also the
concert season and anniversary of September 11, last year was really
bad in about every way one could possibly imagine.
I haven't really been reading NewMusicBox much; I'm sure I have
missed several entire issues. I kept my private life a secret from
most of my music colleagues, even as I attended meetings, parties,
and concerts. I talked to my lawyer, probably too much at one point,
which ran up my bill considerably. She had a baby, she's a family in
my neighborhood now, and we have remained friends, although I am
grateful to be off the clock.
In this day and age, we are a patchwork quilt of multiple
identities, and just about every single one of mine has gone through
a traumatic shift. I'm laughing out loud again, but when I encounter
anything that makes me cry, I turn it off. I cry enough on my own,
I don't blame September 11. I certainly don't mean to imply that
it's an excuse. There have been plenty of other contributors - did
the Great Blackout of August 2003 have to occur on my 9th wedding
anniversary? But September 11 has been, and continues to be, a
backdrop for my life, and not a pleasant one. According to my
computer, I actually started on my book, which is quite optimistic
and looks to the future, three months prior to September 11, 2001. I
estimate that the first draft is about 95% complete, and I just
started making the rounds of literary agents.
The final "September 11 Song" is titled "Hope." I worry about
myself, I worry about my children. And I continue to think a lot
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