Saturday, April 17, 2021
William Robin's book on Bang on a Can is out and The Music Salon links to a piece by W.R. on the marginality of music (classical music post-1945) to the Helms Amendment, a potential failure to anchor culture war in terms of a post-Cold War crisis of U.S. arts policy absent a Soviet foil
The music that became subject to Culture Wars controversy––such as the rock and hip-hop targeted by the PMRC and Christian fundamentalist organizations––seemed far from the world of contemporary composition. Indeed, in an October 1989 article, the young composer David Lang expounded on the apparent lack of significance of the so-called “Helms amendment”––an attempt by the right-wing senator Jesse Helms to restrict federal funding to art that was deemed obscene or indecent––for the world of new music. “Artists like to feel that their work is challenging enough to be controversial,” he wrote. “Photographers, painters, filmmakers and the like can imagine victimization at the hands of Congress as a badge of honor. They are Art-martyrs to the First Amendment.”
“With all of the excitement,” Lang fretted, “it is disturbing that so little of this controversy is aimed at composers. Are we not controversial? Why isn’t Congress rushing to censor the subversive power of modern music? It is possible that we are doing something wrong.”
That is just a brief excerpt and it is worth looking at the whole essay. There are all sorts of interesting questions that surround government subsidy of the arts. Some subsidies are likely to be challenged by conservative politicians on behalf of their constituents who might not be comfortable with art that could be seen as obscene or sacrilegious. But this is just one facet of a larger problem that is most keen in non-European western nations: Canada and the US simply do not have the deep cultural traditions that would support heavy subsidies of art by government, while in Europe this is fairly uncontroversial, at the present, at least. The very notion that art, in order to be taken seriously, has to be subversive pretty much excludes it from government subsidy, does it not? In Canada the problem is addressed by making arts subsidies through an organization, the Canada Council, that is at arm's length from government. In that case what has happened is that arts funding is determined by an insider group that essentially funds one another and their friends. Funding of the arts is always pretty problematic and I frequently long for the days when eccentric, but educated members of the nobility funded whatever art they liked...
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
via Jim West, Handel composed The Messiah on a commission to fundraise money to get men out of debtors' prison
Jim West has a post about how Handel's Messiah came about because of the composer's willingness to help a prison charity (specifically a charitable project to help men in debtor's prison)
According to Caro Howell the Hallelujah Chorus was something Handel repurposed from his earlier Foundling Hospital Anthem. Howell proposes that had Handel not been connected to the hospital that took in orphans the most famous part of Messiah might not have been composed. Handel, like many composers from what we now call the Baroque era, recycled not only his own ideas but musical ideas from others.
Monday, April 12, 2021
I've looked for years to see if anyone has recorded the entire cycle and so far the answer has been "no" but there is a lately posted Youtube video that "may" have the entire cycle but I'm going to have to sit through it with scores in hand to know for sure. If the whole cycle is up then I'll provide a link and maybe even see if I can have notes on each prelude and fugue at some point since, of course, I have the scores for the cycle. I'll just have to see and it might take a bit. If it's the case it will be of note because Rekhin's cycle was the first prelude and fugue cycle composed for solo guitar I know about (or that, for that matter, anybody knows about at this point unless it turns out that Ferdinand Rebay wrote one and scholars of Rebay just haven't gotten through all 700+ works yet).
Update 5:15pm 4.13.2021
So the mic got a pretty hot signal and the sound gets peaky in a few spots but I'm almost halfway through and it's sounding and looking like the entire cycle is at the link, which I probably will get to providing in a later post after I've listened through the whole thing with scores in hand.
Eventually I mean to blog through the solo guitar sonatas of Dusan Bogdanovic (and others) but that's a long-incubating project that isn't ready. On the other hand, sharing Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue for the Golden Flower is something I can do now.
Gerard Drozd: Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor from his Op. 86 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar
Sunday, April 11, 2021
James Wood at Theopolis Institute on Wokeness as Protestant Neopaganism, the claim that wokeness has no institutional or sacramental element seems more assertion than provable claim
There are times when clergy attempt to tackle ideas like wokeness but do so in ways that suggest that the pursuit of theological education did not bring with it much engagement with the history of the arts outside liturgical concerns (if that) and, further, much art history at all. Why mention that? Because ever since the Romantic era gave us Wagnerian/Matthew Arnold style art-religion clergy who haven't paid any attention to that by now roughly two-centuries old impulse in the West might get the idea that, well ...
...4. Wokeness, like Protestantism, is more creedal and confessional than institutional and sacramental. It centers on key beliefs to which one must assent. ...
Ken Burns' documentary on Hemingway has come along. Laura Miller muses on how America moved on from him in 2021 at Slate, while in 2017 Terry Teachout shared how Ernest inspired an entire generation of hack writer men
Over at Slate Ken Burns’ documentary on Ernest Hemingway inspires a riff on how we don’t much need Hemingway’s dubious notions of masculinity now. Laura Miller’s article on Burns-on-Hemingway was summed up by the text below the title before the article proper even starts, “He changed American fiction, and then American moved on.”
Well, maybe for all the people who ever actually liked Hemingway but I wasn’t one of those people.
Still, let’s look at a bit of the article anyway.