Sunday, March 20, 2011

Maybe She Reads My Blog?

So, I'm some fifty million YouTube views behind in my commentary on Sefani Germanotta's "new" single, "Born This Way," but whatever. I have mixed feelings about this piece. On the one hand, it seems like she took a lot of what I wrote in my complaints against her to heart. She's elevated her lyrics to the realms of the sensical, and the music of this new song is a nonpareil effort within her oeuvre. Seriously, it's catchy. I will go so far as to say that I like the music.

But there are some serious and destructive fallacies in this, "the manifesto of mother monster." Let's start with her psychedelic parable about the infinite birth. The mother gives birth to a race free from judgment, which she explicitly labels "good." Then this mother gives birth to "evil." The irony of this dichotomy should be immediately apparent. The "good" race doesn't judge and make assumptions about good and evil. But the foundation of this parable is a strict division between good and evil.

This is a fundamental problem with moral relativists. If there is no absolute truth—no absolute good or evil, then relativists cannot criticize (positively or negatively) any moral stance. If there is no good or evil, labeling things as good or evil isn't good or evil. Relativism is a self-destructive theory. Germanotta's "perfect" race would perish instantly because it would be incapable of judging the evil race as evil. But alas, as we shall see, oversimplification is the thread that holds her piece together.

The next glaring lie in "Born this Way" is contained in the title and even more strikingly in the line from the chorus, "There ain't no other way / Baby I was born this way." This thinking is as untrue as it is suicidal. How can anyone consider subscribing to this ideology without seeing that its ultimate dogma is fatalistic? So people who are born selfish and rude have "no other way?" Should the pedophile and rapist embrace the beauty of their sexuality? We all have flaws which we were born with, which we should be working to overcome. In the end, this is a hopeless anthem—an insidious and deterministic lie. I'm not making claims on whether people choose their sexual orientation per se, but I am saying that central to the human experience is choice, and mankind can choose to be better. 

Also, I take issue with Lady Gaga telling me the virtues of being born a certain way when she herself has undergone this violent transformation into an inhuman icon. She's rejected her own name, that name her mother gave her and called her by when she taught young Stefani all those life lessons about cherishing who you are. Yeah, she doesn't have identity issues.


O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!

Sondern laßt uns angenehmere an stimmen,

und freudenvollere.

This week I just watched a fantastic documentary called In Search of Beethoven, who, I think most people would agree, is a much greater musician than Stefani Germanotta. As I was watching this film, I was struck by how often the musicians, historians and musicologists said, independent of each other, that Beethoven's music was always marked by a signature optimism and a hope for a better humanity.

If Ludwig ever wrote a manifesto, it must have been his 9th symphony, the one where the choir sings, "[Joy's] magic brings together / What fashion has divided. / All men become brothers / Where your wings gently rest." Now, this music was written by a man who lived through a war-torn Europe, and who watched his political heroes turn into blood thirsty dictators. I believe this symphony wasn't written to describe his Europe or his world, but it was written to inspire this world as to what it could become. And this, friend, is why Beethoven and his anthem will endure eternally while Stefani Germanotta will vanish like so much smoke. Art that inspires, lifts, and exalts will always outlast propaganda that seeks only to justify.

I think Stefani believes she's doing the right thing, but I still think she's wrong. Yet I think we both look towards a day when understanding will unite all men as brothers and bring together "what fashion has divided," a day when Beethoven's symphony will no longer be a hopeful prayer but a precise painting of what the world has become.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Summer Cinema 2011

It's that time of year again! School is getting out next month, so I've started planning out this year's STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS SUMMER CINEMA! Every year I pick a movie to honor, and then I make a movie chain of connections from movie to movie. So underneath the title of the film is the link to the next film. The only other rule is that The Hunt for Red October has to be in the lineup somewhere. (That was easy this year.) To get us started, I've decided to highlight an American classic, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which will be 25 years old this summer.

Jeffrey Jones

Joss Ackland

Keanu Reeves

Kate Beckinsale

Huge Actman

Rachel Weisz

Robbie Coltrane

8—BLACK ADDER III (Ink & Incapability)
Hugh Laurie

Alan Rickman

Sam Rockwell

Mike White

Jack Black

Mos Def

Charles S. Dutton

Alfre Woodard

Patrick Stewart

17—MACBETH (2010)
Kate Fleetwood

John Hurt

Saul Zaentz

F. Murray Abraham

Sean Connery

Julian Glover

Pete Postlethwaite

Michael Caine


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One of those Book Lists, but Annotated

The one's I've read in italics. One's I've started, but not finished in partial italics

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (couldn't get through The Two Towers)
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (Nope, I haven't read all of the OT.)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (heh)
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD SaLinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchel
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (But I have read The Brothers Karamazov twice. Shouldn't that count for something?)
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (I read the Spark Notes. Wanted to see what the fuss was about.)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding (did I ever....)
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel (This is my #1)
52. Dune - Frank Herbert (Several times)
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (Audiobook, actually)
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville (This'll be summer reading)
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Inferno - Dante (YES!)
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byat
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I've read this book about six times, but not once in English.)
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (This is the funniest book I've ever read)
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (always and so many times)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les miserables - Victor Hugo (This was my favorite book in high school)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Suite for Organ in D Minor

I was in a really poor mood for a few weeks, so I started writing this. It pretty accurately tracks how I was feeling all the way up until this morning, when I finished the "Gigue des pirates." Here are some notes on the individual movements:

THE PRELUDE is designed to be unsettling. It messes with the audience's expectations of where the piece will go in terms of melody and harmony. Typically a prelude sets up an idea of what the rest of the suite will be like, but I wanted to have listeners expect the unexpected. It has lots of dark sections, but ends in a stupidly triumphant mood. It also plays with small shifts between major and minor chords, and like most of the suite, it explores changes in register. I make a nod to the organ works of Philip Glass.

THE WALTZ comes mainly from a piece I wrote back in High School for guitar. I like the idea of the harmonic pulse, and unlike the Prelude, I wanted to make this piece really transparent. I add and take away voices so the listener can become very well acquainted with how the piece functions. I was shooting for a mood that was at once melancholy and beautiful.

THE TARANTELLA is a fascinating dance. You can read about it here. I wanted it to be manic and desperate sounding, so for the latter half, I pulled my stock Dies Irae melody that I wrote forever ago and turned it into a round.

THE SARABANDE is a nod to Bach's Sarabande from his fifth cello suite. His piece is kind of an enigma in that it is one of the very few (out of 36) pieces in his cello suites that has no chords--it's purely monophonic. And although it's incredibly short, it's also one of the most emotionally complex pieces ever written. So I was trying to channel that wandering emotion and lost feeling in this piece. (This one may be my favorite.)

THE SICILIENNE is more Mozart inspired than Fauré, although Fauré's is the one I'm more familiar with. I was listening to Pamina's "Ach, ich fühl's" when I decided to write this sicilienne. There's not a whole lot to this one. I guess it's the most melodic movement in the suite.

I was hoping that GIGUE DES PIRATES would turn out to be fun and a little goofy. It's in a good, old rondo form (ABACADA). Bach ended all of his cello suites with a Gigue, so I thought I would too. But as I was writing this, it made me think of pirates. Thus the name.

Well, I hope you enjoy the suite!