Sunday, March 19, 2006

We Can't All Write the "Rite of Spring," but we can aspire

Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning.

So said Igor Stravinsky.

I was so inspired by the Wall-to-Wall to Stravinksy at Symphony Space this Saturday and now am sitting at home listening to the "Rite of Spring" as conducted by Colin Davis. At Symphony Space it was played breathtakingly by the Bugallo-Williams piano duo, whose all Stravinsky CD is not yet out, as far as I could tell. I went and read a bit about Stravinsky because I was wondering when and why he left Russia, and if he was totally a "white Russian" as the trajectory of his career suggested. After a little reading,I found that he was the whitest of the white, a "monarchist" according to his assistant Robert Craft, an admirer of Mussolini from the futurist days.
How sad, because I like his music, and I can't say that it bears the stamp of a fascist aesthetic. Neither does Debussy's, which I also admire, and yet he was a rabid nationalist. Stravinsky inspired Villa Lobos, whose music I also like, and damn! Villa Lobos was the minister of music education in Brazil during the 1930s dictatorship.
What is about modernist music that favors fascism and dictatorship? Is it indeed to elite an art form? What do we make of "the Bear, a fairy tale with Song," in which the bear builds his own wooden leg and goes looking for the woodsman and his wife after they've feasted on his original one? Doesn't that seem definitevely anti-authoritarian? When ruminating on these and other questions, I went looking for something by Edward Said, and found this essay about Daniel Barenboim conducting Wagner in Israel.
And speaking of fascist art forms. They certainly don't rise to the level of Stravinsky, but the Wachowski brothers' slide from neo-futurism to anti-fascist fascism seems to get more pronounced with each film.
Am I just being provocative? yeah, I'll say more about it later. for now, read this about the original graphic novel, born in the politics of England's rock against racism from the 1980s.

1 comment:

bartleby said...

While definitely a different sound than the composers you mention there are some classical composers with better politics:

Iannis Xenakis-participated in anti-fascist reisientance in Greece and continued to do so after the war while the fascists were backed by Britain. Went into exile in France where he composed some of the best music of the second half of the 20th century. Unfortunately during the 70s he wrote several pieces commissioned by the Shah of Iran. In the late 90s he collaborated wwith DJ Spooky on a performance of his ballet about the events of 1968. I am not certain but I think this is the first mutual collaboration between a hip-hop artist and a classical composer.

Conlon Nancarrow-Linoln Brigade veteran who went into exile in Mexico during the McCarthy era and remained there for the rest of his life. Composed primarily for the player piano. Some of his works have been transcrobed for 2 or more pianists playing simultaneously since they are impossible for a single musician.

Luigi Nono-Italian Composer engaged in armed resistance to fascism. Later married Schoenberg's daughter and was on the central committee fo the Italian CP. Don't know if he went in for the lame-ass approach of the CP in the late 60s early 70s or not. He is though a great composer.

Luciano Berio-Another intalian composer who engaged in armed resistance to Mussolini.

I've been putting together mixed CDs off these guys and others. I picked up a compilation recently American lesbian composers. SOme of it sounds like a gap commercial. Other tracks are excellent. Anyway I will be snail mailing out the CDs in a week or two. If you want a copy email me you postal address at bartlebyvqf(at)gmail(dot)com