Sunday, May 13, 2007

Baron Ochs


I've put up the scores and recent recordings of the orchestral suite from Baron Ochs on my website here, just the rather beautiful music from the piece, lovingly reorchestrated for the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra, without the text, which was an odd little story that Everett Shock and I wrote back in the early 80's from some notes on 3x5 cards that he picked up off the ground. We didn't know it at the time, and it reflected a certain gap in my youthful cultural education, but the notes on the cards were from a study of Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. However, the notes were quite sketchy and thus, even though my piece and the late Herr Strauss's share a few characters (e.g. the Baron himself) and settings, they are in all other ways quite different from each other, my work touching on several esoteric issues, such as the separation of date palms by gender, which mostly likely would not have interested the other aforementioned composer.

My friend Earnest A. Z. Feathermouth graciously agreed to write program notes for the piece. As they are explicative, I have included an excerpt:

Ersatz opera con vivo; a pluralistic demonstration composed of a myriad of animistic elements: the puffy attractions of a porcine cockalorum surrounded by the greased trumpets of his sycophantic catamites, the naifish masochism of a vestal-skinned ward replete with bubbling womb, the soft squire whose tumescent lips add a wounded crimson to his otherwise pallid exterior, the dark servant with the dominating maw that feels so warm and reassuring, and the sublime Valzaccho whose turgid gasps and leering hands seem to add a certain beauty to the inexorable violence of this psychosexual drama. The ROSE BEARER provides an unctuously feral setting for this exploration of sexual confusion and its relation to religious conviction. Rather than presenting the basic theme in a simple diachronic form, it is unfolded in a synchronic fashion. At the same time, a wide variety of compositional techniques (linguistic, sonic, and theatrical) are used to produce a vibrant, if not scatological, environment certain to stimulate the most senseless of participants. While the vertiginously careening pace may upset the perineal appendages of meek and obese listeners, the spiritual confrontation that results amply justifies the risks. Questions of secular-sexual transgression (does god have a penis?) are universal and form an integral part of the personal experience of all salacious individuals in modern society. Nonetheless Baron Ochs does not go far enough into the psychoanalytic structures that support the occidental predisposition to hide or ratiocinate sexual misidentification with religious inculcation. Rather than destroying the baggage of Luther and the Calvinists, modern European society has added a shiny new patina, a hip-hop patois with tight pants. It is this preposterous "disco of the church" that continues to promulgate a false sense of procreative correctness. Despite this failing, Baron Ochs is an important and uplifting work, one that is certain to remain vivid, ominous, and as reckless as the brazen youth whose speeding motorcycle is moments from impact.
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