Thursday, October 26, 2006


As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."[

Romans 2:24

Maybe this makes no sense but when I saw the South Park episode "Christian Rock Hard" THIS was the verse I thought about.

That and Malachi 1

But I digress. I recognize that not everyone wh watches South Park thinks of those verses as he watches Cartman start a Christian rock band. Then again, I can always blog here to suggest people put those things together, can't I? :)

cartoon renaissance

It seems obvious to me, on the release of Justice League Unlimited volume 1 on DVD, that for the last, oh, fifteen years we've been living in a cartoon renaissance. I'm obviously biased toward Burce Timm and Paul Dini's creations, especially as a Batman fan from days of yore. But the 1990s ushered in an age of cartoons like no other. Sure, I'm acknowleding that Looney Toons are classic and that Bugs and Daffy and Disney did great stuff in the Golden Age but I think we're easily in a new one.

In the early 1990s you had stuff ranging from Animaniacs, Duck Tales (hey, really, it wasn't at all bad), Tiny Toons (at least early on before they sucked), Freakazoid, Batman: the animated sereis, Superman: the animate dseries, Gargoyles (that I never saw but heard good things about), Beast Wars (frankly, better written overall than the firs Transformers cartoon), and eventually Justice League. I don't really need to mention the Simpsons because their cultural significance is indisputable but I'll mention them anyway. And then there's South Park, only recently become a favorite of mine. Yes, I like cartoons, and I obviously don't discriminate based on restrictions about style or content. I enjoyed Ranma 1/2 and what I've seen of Samuai Champloo. I do want a good story and interesting characters.

Then there's Pixar and the ascendancy of Miyazaki's work into American animation markets and Brad Bird's Iron Giant and, of course, the SOuth Park movie. It's hard to imagine a wider variety of styles, subjects, and stories available in animation now. But some people seem to think things were better fifty years ago. I submit that they were just as good but in a very different way.

I think to some degree we can credit the surge in good cartoons to people who get blamed for bad movies: Lucas & Spielberg. I don't know if this was always intentional or directly caused by these two guys but I read somewhere in some interview with Paul Dini that he thought these two guys had behind the scenes credit for getting a lot of great cartoons started. I suppose some could snipe that glorified cartoons are what those directors are good at. I think that's a bit unfair. On the one hand such a move presumes that animators working on Looney Tunes knew they were making classics. Maybe they did but the fun of those cartoons is they weren't acting as self-important as "important" film-makers have sometimes come across.

And the insult "glorified cartoon" is passe because it makes an assumption about a whole field of art that, if applied to two different groups of people instead of two fiels of artistic expression, would be seen as being as stupid and ethnocentric as it is. Putting down cartoons for being cartoons is sort of like ripping into American Indians for being American Indians. Harsh overstatement, perhaps, but I'll stand by it. I've seen some more real human emotion in The Incredibles than in stupid films like American Beauty. If people wonder where all the intelligent films have gone since the 1970s (as I see a few bemoaning) I wonder if they would stop looking only at live action once in a while.

Speaking as a single guy I have heard some people lament how sometimes there seems to be a meat market around them. I think this is analogous to complaints about a loss of "intelligent" film. The thing I ask is, by analogy, is the meat market always there or did you bring it with you? Did the intelligent film-makers stop making intelligent films or did you overestimate them based on the best sampling of their work when their just like all the others, fallible artists who got lucky?

I'll admit I can be snobby about a few things but even I know that sometimes having fun is the first prerequisite to discovering something is art. Fun and art don't have to be contradictions in terms. But not everyone is going to have fun with Messiaen at first hearing. The best education is an invitation to find new ways to have un rather than impose a definition of fun on the student and that's a problem everyone can stumble into.

Well, I've had my rant for the day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

GInastera's Guitar Sonata

Okay, here's where I rant about a piece that some people adore.

Ginastera's Sonata for guitar sucks.

Mind you, I like some of Ginastera's piano music. Some. But on the whole I find the work for guitar to be feather-brained. There are a few ideas that could have turned into something cool if we were talking about, I dunno, Brouwer, or Chavez, or a couple of other folks. I once didn't care for Roberta Sierra but Ginastera has gotten me to warm up to Sierra's work REALLY fast.

I'm at a loss to explain exactly why the Sonata drives me up the wall, still less why I got a CD of music by Ginastera and others for piano and guitar. I wanted to be generous but finally could only console myself that instead of just buying this CD that I won't name I also got a Takemitsu score. Takemitsu is like Villa-Lobos in that he, in my opinion, could do no wrong in composing for the guitar.

Well, since sleep is good and I could probably use more of it I'll just leave things as they are. If you adore GInastera and his guitar sonata, more power to you. I'm just using my blog to complain about one of the apparant warhorses of the guitar repertoire.

old CDs at new fangled prices

Years ago, when I was just out of college, I came across a CD> The CD was by Fabio Zanon and it was full of the complete solo guitar music of Heitor Villa-Lobos. On the off chance that you're reading this blog and don't know who Heitor Villa-Lobos is he's he's like a Mozart or Haydn or Bach in guitar literature. You WILL study, hear, or play his works at some point. It is inevitable. It is your destiny.

But the thing is that though all Villa-Lobos' great works for solo guitar are bound to be on CD any time anywhere until the end of electronic civilization not all Villa-Lobos CDs are necessarily equal. My personal favorite I unfortunately lent out to someone who has not returned it to me for about two years, the aforementioned Fabio Zanon CD> I had no idea at the time I boughht it that it was based on the 1928 manuscripts rather than the puboished edition, i.e. the first published editions that some recordings are based on.

Why is this important? Well, because some of the original edition bits of the 12 Etudes, for instance, don't make any sense as written. The 1928 edition Zanon plays from does. Since the CD was released an actual sensible format of Villa-Lobos' scores seems to have come out so weird repeats aren't in Etude 1.

Thing is that Zanon's CD is scarce. YOu can only get it used and whilst shopping for my replacement copy I found that four vendors on Amazon have two basic prices for it. About twenty bucks and about eighty-five bucks. Eighty-five dollars! I did NOT make that up. That price is a rip off even for one of the finest Villa-Lobos recordings I've ever heard in my life. Thirty and maybe no we'll talk.

I say this ont to discourage anyone from hearing this great CD but to say that sometimes people are aware of how scarce something is and jack up the price. Maybe I'm not as devoted as the next Villa-Lobos fan who will pay nearly ninety bucks--or at least that much if you factor in tax and shipping and handling fees.

On the other hand, sometimes you have to bite the bullet for something you really want to pick up. I paid probably thirty bucks for the Gyorgy Kurtag score for piccolo, tenor trombone, and guitar, and that was to have it imported to me from Italy. Thanks to Clarius. :)

But there are points where if you have to pay a certai amount of money for recordings of scores that you can get for a quarter of the price yo uhave to ask yourself why you're not playing through them yourself. Oh, yeah, because I'm not a professional and am too busy composing to learn all of Villa-lobos. But then that's not something I can complain about. I've managed to find a copy of Zanon's CD for a price I'm willing to pay. If you don't already have the CD Norbert Kraft has a Cd that's almost as fun that takes the Lullaby etude way too fast for my tastes but sounds okay. Still, it's not my favorite compard to Fabio.