July 30, 2015

Hitler loved 12-tone music


If you will insist that, as a matter of fact, Hitler did not like 12-tone music, you are an over-educated imbecile who clings to a hopelessly outdated notion of truth as somehow rooted in facts.  I suggest you wake up and get acquainted with the modern, de-factualized notion of truth long championed by the sanctimonious and perpetually self-congratulating New York Times - not only in its political coverage (going as far back as its Pulitzer-earning reports of cheerful and happy life in the USSR during Stalin's purges) but also in its music criticism (a, b, c).
     A good example of the latter is Vivien Schweitzer's review of recent concerts of contemporary music at the Tanglewood Festival.  In describing compositional preferences of the featured composers, she had this to say about Elliott Carter:

Some of the featured composers, like Mr. Carter, were partial to the 12-tone method — a system for atonal music invented by Schoenberg in the 1920s involving all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. [1]

As a matter of fact, although Carter appreciated the 12-tone music of the Second Viennese School, he himself did not use the 12-tone method and had expressed a rather dismissive view of the method's aesthetic significance with respect to his own creative goals: 

I have found that [the 12-tone method] is apparently inapplicable to what I am trying to do, and is more of a hindrance than a help. [2]

 Of course I do not suggest that Ms Schweitzer was deliberately lying in her review.  With no formal musical training and with only a superficial understanding of musical composition she is simply unqualified to write about serious music, let alone the complex post-War avant-garde music of Carter, Boulez, and Wuorinen.  Which, I would guess, is precisely what makes her such a valuable long-term asset to the New York Times - a sinking outfit desperate to plug its financial leaks by replacing highly competent but costly critics with cheap but incompetent freelancers.
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[1]  "Tanglewood's Contemporary Music Fest Milks Many Sources", New York Times, July 26, 2015.
[2]  Elliott Carter, "Shop Talk by an American Composer", in Elliott Carter: Collected Essays and Lectures, J.W. Bernard (ed.), U. of Rochester Press, 1997, p.220.

July 4, 2015

Ovid is already fucked. Mozart is next...



Here is an excerpt from an Op-Ed piece in the last April issue of Columbia University's daily newpaper Columbia Spectator:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation.
     [The Multicultural Affairs Board] proposed that the [University] issue a letter to faculty about potential trigger warnings and suggestions for how to support triggered students. ...that there should be a mechanism for students to communicate their concerns to professors anonymously, as well as a mediation mechanism for students who have identity-based disagreements with professors. Finally, the [University] should create a training program for all professors, including faculty and graduate instructors, which will enable them to constructively facilitate conversations that embrace all identities, share best practices, and think critically about how the Core Curriculum is framed for their students.
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This expression of Fascist Infantilism, typical of today's American universities, made me wonder how long it will take before Mozart's Don Giovanni is dropped from Music Appreciation courses.  Why would music professors want to jeopardize their jobs by "triggering" survivors of domestic violence with Zerlina's famous aria "Batti, batti":

Beat me, beat me, dear Masetto,
beat your poor Zerlina!
I’ll stand here like a little lamb,
to await your blows.
You can pull out my hair.
Pull out my eyes,
and I’ll still gladly kiss
your dear hands.

Come to think of it, the so-called trigger warnings will have to be slapped on just about every opera in the standard repertoire, which obviously makes this emotionally harmful art form unsuitable for today's college students.

I suspect that many of the same students, who run to the Dean's Office in tears as soon as they encounter the word 'nigger' in a Mark Twain novel or a slight of womanhood in a Renaissance painting, will enthusiastically shake their bodies later in the day to Rihanna's  glorification of kidnapping, torture, and sexual degradation in her new song Bitch better have my money.  Which, of course, is as it should be.  After all, Rihanna is hot (hey, the camera zooms in on her crotch every five seconds!), while Ovid, Caravaggio, and Mozart are boring, stuffy, and offensive relics of the oppressive, patriarchal, white male hegemony.