Sunday, October 30, 2005

My Evolution
by Arnold Schoenber...Me. Not him. Me.





























My dreams of being a composer died, like Ronald Reagan, slowly. Although I cannot, like Nancy Reagan, look to the future, I am pretty much now hopeless that any music I'd write, like Ron Reagan Jr., would be an embarassment.

I have in my 19 years of life, spent hours upon hours at the keyboard, at the drums, behind the computer, at the desk, in my bed and mostly in the bathroom deep in artistic thought. Most of my improvisations and attempts at composition the epitome of uninspiredom, I have never been able to translate Moses' divinely inspired words to the Israelites as it were. I have played it all and played it out. I have searched mountain high and valley low for a muse who may put me on a hot-line to Apollo.
What is the meaning of this evolution from a young boy who wanted to make up cute little pop and jazz songs, to the ambitious young man who attemped to write a 28 minute piece for large orchestra based on menstural cycles, to the 19 year old who writes these words dejected and lost? It is the evolution of art through the ages, from the primitive poundings of a child on a table top, to the dialectical complexities of serial music pitch rotation. It is the evolution from death to death of which we take part, forced into a strange game in between.

I first remember creating music by making up simple two-bar melodies to innane lyrics of my own invention. As a matter of fact, I remember my first true piece of composition, a little homophonic ditty inspired by my older brother's mastery of the guitar:
Play the guitar,
It's really hard.
Play the guitar,
It's really hard.

Sure the melody is only two notes, but what WONDERFUL notes they are (A and E)! And the setting of words, while lacking in dramatic tension, are effectively direct and to the point like the John Adams librettos of Alice Goodman. The kernal of musical genius was there already at 7 years of age; a little Wolfgang Mendelssohn.

My favorite music has always been Christmas Carols. The nostalgia for my childhood, family, gradeschool and neighborhood plays a large role there of course, but not completely. I've always felt that the best Christmas Carols on there own are worthy of admiration. The quasi-Medieval modal nature of some of the melodic material, as well as the antiquated sentimental verse has the ability to, like George Carlin in "Bill and Ted's", transport one, all too briefly, out of time.
It was the melody of "O Come All Thee Faithful" that was the first song I could play on piano. I had in one year gone from Gregorian Chant homophony with the slight but assured "Play the Guitar (It's Really Hard)" to the more complicated world of harmony of the early Renaissance era.

As the years progressed and my tastes and creative desires shifted and grew I was soon playing pop songs and jazz on the piano. My first attempts at composition were simple chord progressions and melodies. My gifts lie not in the music itself, which was awful, but in the fine art of song title-ing; an omen of my present status as a man of good ideas with no ability to write them down or articulate. Midnight on the John Tesh Dung Mountain, Suck the Puppet, 5 4 3 2 1 Rape the Dolphins!, William Appleton's Daughters Silva and Elaine, Sewer Corn, I Get My Kicks Above the Waist (Sunshine), Call Your Song 'Untitled' to Make it Arty, (Meet Me in) Branson, Segregated Graveyards etc. are all wonderful titles just crying out for wonderful music to be written for them. It was never to be.

In my early high school years I specialized in jazz and hoped to become the next great jazz composer. I played and listened constantly to Ellington, Monk, Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Andrew Hill and hoped to learn a few things about the trade. Again, it was not to be, BUT I did learn how pathetically white I am in the process!
Though my jazz compositions, moody Keith Jarrettian reflections with Bill Evansian ethereal minor ninths and Ahmad Jamalian major sevenths are still played by me and show some skill, they are again outdone by their evocative titles: Fruitpie the Magician (the closing track on me and my buddy Chaz's full length rap LP "Notes From the Underground"), Grandiloquent Caesura, Rjafah, Moon Badge, etc.

As I became more and more interested in classical music (I had already a nice collection in junior high) my ambitions to write music became unbearable. I simply had to become the next great master of serious music.
The discovery of Alban Berg led me to attempt several 12-tone pieces, each with secret Bergian references to my own life. There are infinite things wrong with this, the most blatant being a untrained high-school student attempting to write music like one of the most intensely gifted and byzantine masters of the 20th century, and believing it interesting that the first fiery notes in an angry score (I had Berg's first String Quartet in mind) of mine would spell out some teacher's name I didn't like. Perhaps I secretly hoped to be taken seriously and cared about in a way, so that some future George Perle would find my 10th grade yearbook and piece together the secret codes of my fascinating and genius work, and my crush on that junior girl, Sarena.

My lack of talent still did not cease my far-ranging creative goals. In desperation at the pathetic nature of my first pieces, I retreated into a John Cage-esque Zen dadaism phase, far more suitable to my penchant for ideas and lack of compositional prowess. Thus I had moved from the 1930s to the 1960s. But unlike Cage, a brilliant thinker AND a trained composer, my compositional ideas had no profound aesthetic purpose; I just liked being silly.
I sketched ideas for a piece that would involve a whole reading of the Bible (in its original languages) entitled "The Bible, a Masterstroke in A lot of Parts for Optional Speaker, Optional Harmonium, and actually....really Optional Everything. Yeah... Actually...Don't even bother. It's not worth performing. The Bible sucks."
Next was a aleatoric piece that like Cage's "4:33" would involve silence. It would be called "Silencio" (whispered) and would be performed whenever there is a good amount of silence somewhere. It is still my most popular piece.
After that I got even more disturbingly silly. One score that I actually started to write down but never titled, got only as far as the 5th bar. After some strokes of a Tam-Tam and Webernian broken arpeggios on a celesta, a S & M leatherman is whipped to which he replies in Sprechstimme: "Owwwww! You're mean!"
Finally I had two huge ideas for what would be my magnum opuses or opui if you will.
The first was to be a colossal set of variations on the theme from Salt n' Peppa's 80s hit song "Push It." The bigger the orchestra the better, and I demanded in addition to the orchestra of Gustav Maher's Eighth Syphony, a backstage wordless choir, a fully functioning steel mill (with nine trained workers hired from Allentown Pennsylvania to perform), a helicopter and a couple of pipe organs (to balance out the steel mill). The musical language would be late-late-late-late Romantic, and I hoped to outdo Max Reger in proliferation of quadruple fugues, modulations, chromatic wanderings and lack of tension release.
The second was written under the influence of Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain, Secret Theatre, and epic Mask of Orpheus. I envisioned a half an hour, deathly serious work of musical theater for large gamelan orchestra, and an assortment of ballet dancers, Japanese Noh theater veterans and Wagnerian orientated opera singers. The ancient rite that was to be shown in all its primitive but still frighteningly vital glory was (and this is where you should stop reading) the distressing act of bukakke. The piece was to be called It's Gonna Get Messy!. Strangely, right around this time was when I stopped taking my anxiety medication.

It was also around this time that I stopped composing and retreated into deep study and meditation. Aside from a few little things here in there, and my hip hoppin beat makin work as Kid Icarus, I mostly stopped writing music down altogether.

About a month ago I sat down and wrote a short little piece for piano called "Meadowlark Lemon" which despite its poetic exoticism is actually the name of a founding member of the Harlem Globetrotters. It's a austere and modal piece and canonic in many parts. It has a Arvo Part feel without all the spirtual hoo-ha. I finished it in about an hour, wrote it down in red pencil, scented it with some lemon perfume and gave it to a dear friend. I don't plan to write anything again for a while. I have better things to do then to waste time on lost causes.

Who knows? Maybe like a Janacek I'll write my masterpieces in my final years. And also, maybe like Janacek, I'll get to bang a Czech girl named Kamilla. I really cannot say. I'm a hopeful person and I am by no means heartbroken. It's all the turn in the road that will no doubt wind again some other direction soon enough.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Horrible Classical Album Covers
(an ongoing journey)

The classical album cover always walks an aesthetic tight-rope: Do you put a picture of the artist or conductor, a photo of the composer, or a painting or photograph that seems appropiate to the works recorded inside? All this in addition to the usual questions of font, size and placement of titles, composer and artist, and you can see why the classical album cover is tricky to get right!
I hope to in the following weeks, show you some examples of what NOT to do when designing a classical album cover.
Here's my first couple tips.

1. Memo to Naxos recording company. You need a new design for all your covers. We love the cheap and well-recorded CDs of a cornocopia of composers and works, but the current design, while familarizing and as consistant as Oprah's face on each fresh new issue of "O" Magazine, is sorta dull:












It's a shame, as the paintings chosen for the covers are usually very smart and pleasant. Just the whole plain font, brown on white thing is depressing and a tad unnerving. Is Travis Bickle the art director at Naxos?

2. Artists and conductors: stop putting yourself on the cover. You usually are quite ugly and wear the most embarassing turtle necks (I'm lookin at you Herbert Von Karajan!). I bid thee:













This is as you can see a recording of some Brahms by Russian virtuoso Evgeny Kissin. To get you in the mood for a little Brahms, nothing works quite like looking at a geeky lover of Orson Scott Card at his graduation party.

So Naxos change your shiznet or I'm gonna lay a smack down, and classical pianists, singers, violinsts and conductors-stay out of the flash bulb's way.

This week's most embarassing classical album cover is.....:

HERBERT VON KARAJAN CONDUCTS GRIEG AND SIBELIUS!

Ego-mania is a many-sided beast as Karajan (god rest his sou...eh I don't really care.) showed time and time again throughout his career. Not only does he place a moody photo of himself apparently losing the Whitbread Cup (no pun intended Mr. former Nazi!) on his beautiful boat, but he has the nerve to add another photo of himself with his famous David Lynch hair and Sprockets-esque black turtle neck conducting himself into an orgasm.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Drew Barrymore Parties

OH i loooooove this song. "Laasst nite, she saaaaaaid!..."























"OH MY GAWD you guyz! My BOYFRIEND is in this band. I LOOOOOOOVE IT.
LET'S JUST ALL CHILL OUT AND HAVE A GOOOOOOOOD TIME YOU GUYZZZZZZZZ! HERE'S TO ROCK AND ROLLLLLLLLLL!!!!"




















("I fuckin love rock and roll.")

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks: 1913-2005


























Thanks for all Rosa.
And don't worry. Jesus saved a seat for you: at the front of the bus. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Picture Thoughts














I don't often have my picture taken. But when I do (as in this foxy picture taken in a darkened alley at about 2 in the morning a summer or two ago-no effects were added to make the background black by the way; it's just how it came out.), I seem to become whiter and more sickly, like a British corpse. I am quite pale (or "fair" as my gentle mother says), a curse of the Irish in me. A common question I'm asked: "Are you okay?".
I had a Proust moment last night going through my pictures on the computer and seeing this one of myself. I suddenly remembered standing in the hallway of my grade school Christ the King looking at a bulletin board full of the teachers' pictures as children.
I remember standing next to the Music teacher, a sweet if slightly nerdy man of some 35 years.
I asked him why is picture wasn't on the wall, why he hadn't participated in the fun.
"My picture is rarely taken. There are probably four pictures of me in existence."
"Oh really"
With strain for expostulation to make his point VERY clear that there had indeed been few pictures taken of him, a mustached bandleader who's very appearence and existence have been debated and the subject of great controversy, a mythic apparition which if caught on film like the Loch Ness Monster or the Yeti would be just as incredible:
"Yes. You will not find any pictures of me other than yearbook pictures. I simply hate photographs." (Emphasis his).
"Wow. That's amazing."

I wonder why he really found it that exceptional that there were few photos of him. Who knows, maybe the Southwest Minneapolis Papparazzo on their motorcycles, eager for one glimpse of the elusive Catholic elementary teacher, who had the gall to program Chicago's "25 Or 6 to 4" at all the brass band concerts, had often caused him to crash his car like Princess Diana. I also like that he challenged me to try and find photos of him. "You will not find any. Try it-I dare you Pattycakes."

Memory is strange.

Patrick's simile for the day:
A post on a web blog without comments is like a child who's parents forget to pick him up from school.
For Alex Ross

Alex Ross is the type of writer, along with James Wolcott and Marcel Proust, who's insight into......thingy-ma-bobbers....is....very.....good. I...unlike......he......................write.......whencan...not...as...nice.
But seriously, his work has, for me at least, taken a lot of the cobwebs off of classical and serious musical criticism. When I read a critic in Gramophone magazine for example, I get the sense that they are a rich, well-educated crank who wear lots of twill, plow through four glasses of Chateau Margaux a night, don't watch TV, look down on popular music, and don't give back baseballs that have flown over the fence. Even the younger critics seem (and often look when the reader is given the delightful chance to see their pictures) almost impossibly out of touch with humor, popular culture, and the real world in general.
This is not to say I am taking on "elitists" in any sense of the word Laura Ingrahm might understand. The anti-intellectualism and disrespect shown to serious art in this country and in this day in age angers me deeply as a matter of fact. What I DO think however, is that there is such a self-isolation (whether by choice or by ignorance) between the worlds of popular music and serious/classical music criticism; but where some of the more schooled rock critics will name-drop a modern composer when an influence is felt on an pop album, classical critics would never bring up an important band like Radiohead in a review, much less cover them. It's like refusing to touch another lower caste, but even worse-refusing also to acknowledge it.

Alex Ross knows the difference between high and low art, and of that mysterious world in between in which lie lots of wonderful tasty-rific treasures. Unlike some nerdy 65 year old shriveled testicled reviewer at Gramophone, Ross seems to truly understand all of it: some stupid show he sees on MTV, some grand new album by Bjork, the most difficult pages of Wagner's Siegfried, the work of his fellow critics.
Like the best critics, the insightfulness for me is key in his work. Ross understands music in a way that is quite interesting and personal on one hand, but truthful and aphoristic on the other. I seem to hear music in a similar if more retarded (not in the derogatory sense) way. I describe a piece by Dutilleux as being stars wrapped in blankets. I am more of a dada-ist wannabe perhaps and I like colorful, arcane language, but THIS actually can convey something to SOMEBODY ELSE unlike a child like me:
"...Messiaen always took joy in skating between the mundane and the sublime. He loved God in terms that were sensual, almost sexual. Human love and divine love were not opposites, as they are for so many close readers of the Bible, but stages in an unbroken progression. One undulating phrase in the final “Louange” is marked “avec amour.” Eanet, the Met’s brilliant young concertmaster, played with the lonely ardor of a forgotten Paganini working in an empty café. This is the music of one who expects paradise not only in a single awesome hereafter but also in the happenstance epiphanies of daily life. In the end, Messiaen’s apocalypse has little to do with history and catastrophe; instead, it records the rebirth of an ordinary soul in the grip of extraordinary emotion."

Now that's just plain beautiful. And damn smart.

Like all my writing heroes, I lovingly praise everything about them and seem to find fault no where. But I will say this about Alex Ross, Mike Nelson, James Wolcott, Hendrik Hertzberg et. al. : I hate them somewhere silently, like the little boy jealous of their big, big brothers who are infintitely smarter than them, infinitely more gifted and infinitely more witty and insightful.

So while Alex Ross may go to bed at night perhaps smiling at some brilliant paragraph he had just finished about the new Pascal Dusapin opera, I cry in my pillow till the sun rises on another day in which I get to try all over again and write on this stupid piece of shit blog.

It's all love though. All love is always tinged with a little bit of bitterness in knowing we can't ever possess someone fully or his or her gifts.

By the way-Alex wonders why my blog is titled the way it is.
This is a good question, and one no one, even he who posed it and myself, cares about.
"Tears of a Clown" is a classic song cowritten by Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson among others. Okay.
"Clownsillies" is a word from perhaps my favorite author James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. I thought it was funny, as every other word, sentence, page and book is in that epic, and I had to use it.
OH and clowns are funny and scary looking at the same time. A wonderful combination:

Thursday, October 20, 2005

To a Sad Monk
For my curiousity and benefit I will interupt Noon day prayer
and address you sad monk.
I have devoted my life to nothing in particular but I find your life most peculiar
if I may say so sad monk.
Do you look out the window ruefully silently wishing (so quietly He can't hear) you could set up a flattened cardboard box out on the Monastery's equisitely cut lawn and break dance till sun down?
Do you silently wish that you could run and scream through the forests surrounding the chapel like an animal on a kill?
Do you wish that you had tasted the lips of a woman's vaginal (sugar) walls, which taste like the dully spiced lemons the Greek sailors brought to you as a child while you stood on the shores of the sea?
Do you wish the puppy you loved as a child was on the other side of the window wagging his tail and inviting you to play?

Hold the cross and hold the pickles, special orders don't upset him but you've chosen the most simple Burger King hamburger of all-"plain with nothing on it."

For that, sad monk I hug you and admire you as one admires the rhythms of a language spoken fluently to our foreign ears.

I leave you to your prayers sad monk. Wave to me on the lawn when I pop and lock and bust mad Bronx Crickets on the flattened cardboard box that I used to carry the Greek lemon, a map of the forest and a puppy for you I left under your soft and simple bed.

A smile is all I ask.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Guided By Voices: Poets






























No band's lyrics move me more than those of Guided By Voices, and a look through the archive of the magic words of lead singer Robert Pollard and guitarist Tobin Sprout on their official site is a illuminating experience. For me, it is akin to walking through endless hallways and vaults underneath the Vatican or the great libary of Alexandria with all the sphinxlike words and pictures on bristly parchments handed down through the ages. It is the history of nonsense. It is America and love and pies cooling and strange men in bars who drink alone and play billiards. There are songs of Guided By Voices, like Tobin Sprout's "Mincer Ray" that through their pulchritudinous awkwardness and sentimental strangeness touch me in a way that only Apollonaire, Christmas Carols and Uncle Ray in the Closet can:
Mincer ray don't worry
if the road's a little worn
It's a cold and filthy cavern
that we're traveling on

Richer days assured me
of the weak-link mending plan
Danger's always there to follow,
just do the best you can.
And a light shines down...

Mincer ray don't worry
if the road's a little worn
It's a cold and filthy cavern
that we're traveling on
And a light shines down...
And a light shines down...


The glory of Guided By Voices early material (up to "Under the Bushes, Under the Stars") is not only the Beatle-esque melodicism and homespun indie wobbly-ness (Robert Pollard at his best is as great a melodicist as Paul McCartney or Brian Wilson), but it is the joy of the minuature. Guided By Voices best albums are collections of small, aphoristic diamonds, each song perfect and complete despite rarely approaching a minute and a half, charming and mysterious in the lo-fi and imperfect sound and production, and fascinating in the variety of arrangements and song-structures. Guided By Voices are the Anton Webern of indie-pop music in Stravinsy's sense of "cutting (their)... dazzling diamonds", bursts of concentrated activity that say it all and say nothing, and do it fast and with authority. Sure, Guided By Voices are a lot more melodic and accessible than Webern who expressed himself in quiet and briefly ugly pieces, and sure they have none of the seriousness of the great Austrian, but in regards to the art of musical and lyrical 'jewelling' (sans big breasted Alaskan women with fucked-up teeth), they are kindred spirits.
Guided By Voices it should be said however, did NOT embrace Nazism as Webern did. Guided By Voices +1.

No smelly rock-critic doubts Guided By Voices' musical genius, but the lyrical genius is entirely overlooked.
Are not the words to "Peep Hole" not some of the most touching verses about the thorny magnetism to a loved one every penned? I mean, are not they?:

Give me the cost of the albatross
and wear it around your neck for size
Don't let it get you down
I'm looking inside your house
And oh and it smells so nice
Your house always looks so nice

Maybe they're twice as high laughing
maybe the time is right you know
Promise me not to leave
I'm looking inside your brain
and Christ, it's a cluttered mess
I love you, I must confess.


Or take the menacing, dark "(I Don't Wanna Be a) Dumbcharger" off of 1996's masterful "Alien Lanes":

To seek the blood from precious stones is blasphemy
The perfect angels who monitor your intentions
God keeps his famous children---be respectable
Temptation creeps to you like rapists in the night
So smoke the rockets and float the boats
We'll man our stations like devil goats
And hope to hell we hear the bell
To let us now go home

Or the inspirational "Motor Away":

When you motor away beyond the once-red lips
When you free yourself from the chance of a lifetime
You can be anyone they told you to
You can belittle every little voice that told you so
And then the time will come when you add up the numbers
And then the time will come when you motor away
Oh, why don't you just drive away?

When you motor away down the icy streets
You can't lie to yourself that it's the chance of a lifetime
You can be anyone they told you to
You can belittle every little voice that told you so
And the time will come when you add up the numbers
And then the time will come when you motor away
Oh, why don't you just drive away?

Come on
Speed on

Or Tobin Sprout's bittersweet tribute to the girls who live for school-spirit, hairspray and cute boys, "14 Cheerleader Coldfront":

14 cheerleader cold front
put your nose beyond
Creeping boys in alleys
find them when your gone
Stick close to locker rooms
and waving clothes to wear,
You will hold them dear
to something queer and stare

16 used companions
have nowhere to stay
Give them access to parking spaces
no coin meters there

Stick close to locker rooms
and waving clothes to wear,
You will hold them dear
to something queer and stare
You will hold them dear
to something queer and stare

While Tobin Sprout, with his poignant, homey verses and Paul Simon voice, brings a more humane, though no less strange, side to the world of Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard is the strange genius behind the absurdist haiku that are the primary make-up of their lyrical work. While Sprout concerns himself with times gone by and fleeting glimpses of momentary happiness and mourning ("A Good Flying Bird", "Ester's Day"), Pollard espouses a road-worn but playful psyche in which zombies, ghosts, spaceships, restaurant candy-machines, beer-stained coaches exchange DNA and give birth to ghost truths; he is the bar-band Alfred Jarry. Absolutely insane. Absolutely hilarious. Absolutely brilliant.

Pollard's poetic genius is most evident in Guided By Voices' EXTRA short songs (those that run barely 30 seconds). I find them fascinating and infuriating like all my favorite works of art, puzzles with one piece missing. They are not quite "silly bullshit for silly bullshit's sake", the lyrics are open and stand up well to analysis:

"Cigarette Tricks":

Shoot up on the fast lane

She falls like a concrete robot
She's a boy
Billy-I
Billy-L
Billy-L
Billy-Y
Billy-I Billy-L Billy-L Billy-Y

"Hit":

This is called "the coming of age"
Coming into town with the giggling faggots
Starting blizzards and other weird weather patterns
We participate in the shit
Now that's a hit
Now that's a hit!

"Alright":

Alright
Alright
Alright
Alright

for our lives to be once again
like it once was
in the ice age, in a kingdom long ago;
without songs, without hope, without meaning,
and therefore
always having the same effect
without ever knowing why

"The Tumblers":

Sleephouse - not a sound - the world outside large sky-

losing ground - no words inside
Lost hope brings not the tired eyes
One mistake - two mistake
don't mistake your mistake for my mistake
House pet chasing birds across
the earth big ground fading now - scope, span, girth

These exquisite jewels of surreal, zen-like, labrythine Americana are as good as any rock lyrics ever written in my peacock running backwards over artificial turf opinion. All one has to do is turn on the revolution and get lost. You will see yourself in their broken mirror, and like the poems of William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stephens, see your country and your fellow man, woman and manimal.

As always, the artists themselves say it the bestest:

Dream on child of change,
Shoot your arrow through the sun
Pierce the heart of everyone
Though we push to slave the days

This is not reality, this is just formality

The cup is only being filled

For a chance to have it spilled

Flowing--just like the days

Sailing--just like the days...

("Wondering Boy Poet")

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Thomas Adès



















I have been stunned already with Asyla, and the other works on that CD (Concerto Conciso, "...but all will be well" etc.) I had spent a good three hours in the music library looking at the score for Asyla and his earlier, shorter orchestral piece These Premises Are Alarmed, like a stoner staring at a Lava Lamp, fascinated, confounded and a little turned on.
I was lucky to not have any idea of the "buzz" surrounding this bastard. I just read his name in some article, placed like a red blade in a field of grass within a sentence with some of my other favorite composers. I found a copy of said CD and listened and was amazed. The music was unique, coherent, bizarre, powerful, funny, complex and most of all assured. "This guy knows what he's doing" I smirked to a fellow library patron pointing down to the CD. She gave me a look like I was crazy, and briskly walked away like I had just frightened her. I realized the CD was on another part of the desk and I was pointing down to the cover of Paul Reiser's "Babyhood" that was left there from the middle aged man who had used the libary desk before. While not offensive in any obvious sense, the idea that a stranger would comment on a book by Paul Reiser to you out of nowhere is, when you get down to it, quite distressing.

I bought a used copy of the recording of his "prophetic in the aftermath of 9/11" work for mezzo-soprano and large orchestra America: A Prophesy. Stunning is a word I don't use often, and again, I have come to this music clear of any critical nonsense to fill my head and influence my decision. While painfully serious, and often dour, the work is accompanied by some other great vocal works like the medievally-pretty-on-your-ass "Faryfax Carol" and the "Lover in Winter" for baritone and piano, on anonymous latin texts. I'm not too keen for the jazzy and "down and dirty" Life Story, a piece for soprano, two bass clarinets and upright bass on Tennesee Williams' short piece on post-one-night stand politics and ethics, but his transcriptions are what make the disc a true 5-star thing to behold and shine rainbows in your CD player. First a raucous and witty transcription of Brit-pop ska greats Madness' "Cardiac Arrest", and a chamber reading of baroque great Francis Couperin;s harpsichord piece "Les Baricades Misterieuses"-painfully sweet, sweetly cute, cutely sad, the rumbling and muffled strings and playful clarinets toss around the notes and melody like a little nerf ball in a blanket, the music's true voice and heart coming to life after being stuck for hundreds of years in pluckers strings in that fucking harpsichord.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy Birthday Mike Nelson.













Although popular as the head writer and as "Mike" on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (possibly the most consistantly brilliant and well-written show of all time), Mike Nelson deserves respect as one of the most hilarious and smart writers around. He is a hero of mine and a reminder of how painfully untalented I am.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Elegy













When Gus would prepare to sit down he would take a deep breath, bend his knees and ease his back into the worn Lazyboy, all while emitting seering and guttural grunts. His stomach was bloated like the belly of a corpse found floating in some rural river on a humid and cloudy day, it's spherical structure a soft but unconditional sign to the cosmos and particularly to women (his shame for he had never had one) that he ate too much ; but his was a jovial Santa Claus fat, a shaved teddy bear with a plaid logger's shirt and a pair of jeans.
He was a simple and kind man. Tolstoy would have made him a silent hero. He loved the neighborhood children like they were his very own and shared with each of them a kindness so profound but ignored due to their own lack of emotional maturity; Perhaps one of them will one day remember the nice fat man down the block who would move his car so the boys could play catch in the street. Perhaps not.
He lived in a one floor shack of a house, a depressing and drab excuse for a home in a depressing and drab neighborhood. For it is Northeast Minneapolis, where the clouds perpetually hang over head like the dome on a solemn Eastern Church. In terms of depressitutde and drabness, even the London of Jack the Ripper can only come a distant second.
Indeed, my similie about Eastern Churches is not without further substance, as the churches of all Eastern European variety littered the concrete and unkempt yards. (This is an accident of God, and not attributible to any artistic foresight on my part. I am a basketball player who just happened to throw down the most badass fuckin 360 dunk without trying; God is in my pen. God is in my heart.) You had Russian Orthodox, Swedish Lutheran, Polish Catholic.

Northeast Minneapolis is a land of factories. It is a land of small baseball fields with lonely billboards for stores and radio stations that don't exsist anymore. It is a land of deli sandwiches, loose-meat sandwiches and corner bars, land of billiards bars.
Gus lived here and he worked here and he played poker with his buddies here. This is the scene of Gus's entire life.

Life is a translucent frisbee gliding in the air thrown in chance directions until it hits a tree, flies into the river, or glides softly with the wind gently landing it on the infinite black grass. No one ever catches the frisbee which may ormay not sadden you.

Gus was a simple man with ambitious ideas and ideals. He could fix anything, and invented a device to keep squirrels out of birdfeeders for the old ladies in the houses down the block. He lived in the world where dreams mean something, a bruise from youth, as all dream's are nothing but childish wishes, selfish and cruel, where power and material and happiness have orgies of Bacchus, Eros.
Gus' dream was ambitious. For Gus wished to write a thorough and exhaustive history of the hoagie. Like Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gus knew his love of food, as Gibbon's of history, would have to infuse his inspiration rather than the content of his work, as to attempt to write "history", one must ignore Hegel and play nice, fair and objective with the other boys. Gibbon's relied on primary sources, his contribution to future historians was huge, and Gus knew this. Gus did not know this, he did not know Edward Gibbon or much about Roman history ("They killed Christians and had Caesar"), but he felt it as he grew up in a world where Gibbon's frisbee had flew through many pale trees in the ghosty forest, disturbing the branches and forever altering their leaves in color and size.

Gus never completed the work. His sketches indicate the "Meatball Hoagie Debacle of Philidelphia, 1974," gave him some trouble, as his own personal opinion (that the Meatballs were over-spiced as it was) seemed to make the section reek of editorialisms.

I've decided to complete the work for him, though I did not know him. I knew some of his friends through my dad, "old neighborhood buddies". They are all in their late 50s and early 60s and spoke of Gus as a pleasant but expendible counterpart in their world, like the third flap on a woman's labia, a courteous mystery.
He died in a hospital gown at Abbott-Northwestern. "Wheel of Fortune" quietly hummed away on the screen overlooking his bed. He did not like the show but in his last hours he was so alone, not only in his illness, but in his own body, unable to move to reach the remote.

Gus believed in heaven and hell thanks to his parents and religion suited him fine. "Oh sure, yeah I believe in spirtual stuff and Jesus and hell and all that."

Gus is buried 5.349 feet below the ground. I don't know if he will go to heaven or hell, or if they exist. I, for one, hope he will explode into a rainbow that acompannies the rain on a wedding somewhere. I also hope someone will do something nice with his house and yard.

I too have my part. I will continue his work and in quiet moments I will silently acknowledge his life with a smile and go on. In the modesty of my actions I hope to pick up his frisbee and throw it a little father into the valley.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Is Pierre Boulez Gay?











I'm sorry I've written so much about homosexuality and classical music. Perhaps I am trying to hide something? I don't know. But I was looking at my favorite site, Wikipedia, and it's wonderful "List of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People".

I was suprised mostly by Nipsey Russell, followed by Pierre Boulez, the asexual badboy avant-garde composer turned solid conductor Pierre Boulez. I had always read he just had never shown interest in women OR men, as well as such silly things as love.
Is Pierre Boulez gay or is this just someone assuming-80 years old. Unmarried. French. Obsessively clean. Neat-freak. Revises a piece 2390 times before it's left unfinished..etc.?

I wonder if it is based on some actual ka-nallidge. I'd surely like to know...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Jersey Shore Party Boys














*This poem is inspired by the website "New Jersey Guido", a real website about the party scene on the Jersey shore, and the episode of MTV's "True Life" which follows around a bunch of simian Jersey partiers. Check out the website no matter what. You are in for a treat. As David Cross writes of it:
I can't remember how I found this site. I think Jon Benjamin might have told me about it, and then subsequently we started reading (and acting out) the writings of the proprietor of the site, Anthony "The Moo" Moussa. The site is an ode/primer on partying at the Jersey Shore. There is a photo gallery featuring the most homo erotic pictures I've seen outside of my days in the Navy. Chests shaved, waxed and oiled by a bunch of guys who'd just as soon beat the shit out of a smart mouthed little fag like myself (especially when they didn't score any of that sweet, sweet, lip-lined, fake titted Jersey girl poon earlier that night.) And as a bonus, each one of The Moos' entries ends with this simple plea to your conscience, "There are no excuses!!! Party like a Rock Star!!!" Hilarious.

Third generation Italian men
Oiled and greased and cologned
Dance to the latest hit songs by black men.
Abercrombie and Fitch, stained with Cheese balls
Steak sandwiches and Red Devil.
They find their lip glossed and fake titted guidettes
and beat each other over spilled drinks.

And all the girls are named Michelle.
And all the men swear.
New Jersey you have nothing more to tell
and even less to wear.

And all the men speak of "family"
And all the women masquerade as strong
O! Stubborn Atlantic ocean! Have you no shame?
Killing New Orleans when only Jersey shore is to blame.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers: Bush's New Supreme Court Choice
















"NO YOU DIDN'T!!!"

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Stop Psychoanalyzing Benjamin Britten









Poor Ben Britten. He wanted to be known as a good composer after death, but instead he's nothing more than a tortured queer.

The sickly obsession with psycho-analyzing Benjamin Britten with Derrida-esque terminology is unfortunate but expected. His leftist views, pacifism and above all, his homosexuality are ripe for the picking, as if symptoms of some disease which can only be truly diagnosed by deconstructionist doctors in their University professorship labcoats. A disease that either he was too blind to understand, or too afraid to admit.
Of course Britten's sexual and political orientations were important to his life and work, but one cannot pick up anything about his life (or God-forbid his music) without reading long disserations such as:

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream", Britten once and for all ironically negates the gender liminality of his female creations to the Other, and in the character of Puck creates a charming if slightly plastic rejection of the patriarchal system to which Britten was so at odds with. If this marginalization of the Other is a construction that shines light upon the divisions in how a humanist such as Britten wished to dispel, it is clearly done in a subtle but dark way, perhaps to shy away from his own identity as a Pedophile.

What in the Foucault is goin' on here!?!?!

As I've said, Britten's penis and his love of little boys (which is probably greatly exaggerrated by recent scholars) is goldmine for those who regret choosing Musicology as a major in college rather than Post-War Philosophy and Freudian Psychology, but a dead-end. How far can one go? Did Britten make Miles in Turn of the Screw a "naughty little boy" who "wants to be bad" to please some sort of deep-rooted sexual fantasy, or express some personal desire for sexual freedom? If so, you gotta admit he really could have done a better job hiding it than that! Why wouldn't he just write a part in the opera where Miles, breaking the "fourth wall", enter the orchestra pit and sit on gay ol' Ben's lap to sing him a cheeky lil' boy tune for gay ol' Ben's lil' gay perversions and gay ol' desires?

Even convicted pedophile musician Gary Glitter decided to change the chorus of "Rock and Roll Part Two"(that famous hockey anthem) to "Da-dada Da da-da Da HEY!..dadadadadadada...", from "I love Li-ttle TOMMY!..! With his tight-tight Bugle Boy shorts...", when his bass player noted "Um..Gary. Yeah...Mate. You're makin' it sorta obvious..."

The truth is that "yes!" Benjamin Britten was gay, yes perhaps he was tortured at times for it as I'm sure most other gay people are, yes he might have been a pacifist, yes yes yes. But the man wrote some of the greatest music of the 20th century, and deserves more attention to that than to his personal angels and demons, however much they can be seen lurking in his scores. Lay off of his personal life you alwaysassuming Cultural Studies department vultures and let his music speak for himself.
(Get the play of clever words, eh? E-mail and I'll explain it to ya! I'm sorta a genius and you might not realize it always...)