Saturday, June 20, 2009

Denisova-Kornienko Duo

I met Elena and Alexei when they performed in the 2001 Austrian production of A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, Alexei on the podium and Elena covering the viola, my favorite bit of which is the brief and registrally displaced but oh so beautiful solo here:

I had promised them a piece in their roles as the members of a violin-piano duo, and this for many years, giving them only one small number that was a simply bit of program music, an old man dies, a vision of my own death as an old man, gasping for breath but all the while still dreaming of a breast, the iconic breast of a woman. However, I finally forced myself to sit down and write something, not asking them if they still cared or wanted the heavy responsibility of another piece dedicated to them, this one not quite so simple. This spicy opus, The Secret of Success, a reference to a blog entry here by the same name, is subtitled a chaconne, because it is, at least a bit, and in the modern meaning as a set of variations on a repeating harmonic progression, in this case a series of chords rooted on Bb, a combinatorial set that treads between major and minor, similar to those I have used before: once in The Bed You Sleep In and once in the Cotter episode in Queer. The piano plays incessantly, often verbosely, and typically the harmonic changes happen right on the measure line, one per measure, violin and piano almost always changing together, something that Kyle Gann would probably find crazy making. From a recent post of his that was on my mind while I was scribbling:
When I see a kid composing in units of measure, measure, measure, with a new impetus, new phrase, new harmony on every downbeat, I start in with my wheedling tone (every experienced composition student will recognize the sound): "How about a triple upbeat to start that melody off a little more gracefully?" "How about we vary the harmonic rhythm here?" "You think the audience can't hear where your bar-lines are if you don't accent every one?"
Luckily we live in an artistic world where there is no wrong or right, where we each do what we like, even though it might drive our colleagues to distraction. The whole score is on my website, but here's a bit of it:

Serb Cutter

My beloved foreign correspondent sent me a note this morning reminding me of some of the more brutal of the brutalities of the last Great European war. He found it as he was researching a new novel which has something to do with the concentration camps in the Balkans, but it also reminded me of a story. Around the time when the event more recent troubles began in the region, my friend Mark Dippé was visiting some Serb friends in Sarajevo. At the moment they heard that their Serb brothers and sisters had launched a campaign of slaughter against their Croat brothers and sisters, he said that they, seemingly modern and reasonable people up to that point, literally jumped up with joy at the opportunity to grab their weapons and get to killing. It is of course hard for us, civilized with our mountains of McDonald's and hundreds of channels of TV, to understand such depth of hatred, but my correspondent's link did explain just a bit of it. It's just a small thing, the above device, a Srbosjek, or "Serb cutter," but it represents so much, and was invented by the Ustaše - Croatian Revolutionary Movement - as a way to efficiently slit the throats of captured Serbs, of which there were very very many, while engendering in the murderer as little fatigue as possible.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Night and fog

Tonight is the night, and the SFCCO players are sounding good. A few complaints and threatened defections from the orchestra over the fog, but they are into it, what started as a stretch has now become commonplace. And I'm so happy to get my noise self out. Michael Cooke has told me it's his favorite piece of mine ever, and he's heard a lot. It is to go on the shelf with other obscure pieces of mine (the 49ers opera, the Trary Ruxpin accordion duets) that have become my friends' favorites?

The Artist as a Young Whore

I was asked to participate this morning in a paid interview - in cash, in the form a single piece of currency: the bill with the drunken general and the corrupt president - by the San Francisco Foundation, and it got me to thinking about my whorish nature, a term I use with the ultimate in positive connotations, as many whores are counted among my best friends, and I can only aspire to such clear thinking and take-charged-ness.

Anywho, getting to the point, it's clear that artists have always been quick to leech onto whomever is in power, regardless of their goodness or badness, in order to live their lives of dissipation, shrouding their selfish wants in pseudo-mystical-art-feeds-the-soul bologna. I'm reminded how, in de imperio tertio, we find the same willingness to suck at the monied teat of the all-father to further one's career, although, in the case which came to mind, it may not have been the best choice career-wise. Heinrich Hoffman, who became more-or-less the official photographer of the Führer, took the photograph above and many others, note especially those Hitler suffering the little Aryan Children to come unto him, but who, after the war, was imprisoned for profiteering and who had all his photographs seized and put into the US National Archives, the images themselves consigned to the public domain.

Leni Riefenstahl, shown naked above, who also had all her work expropriated by the incoming GIs, was never quite able to lie her way out of the stigma of being infatuated with the Nazis and Nazi ideals and, even though she was clearly one of the greatest aestheticians in the early days of the new art form, she was rejected by the world she and her friends had abused, project after project denied after the war. But she saw the slaughter of the Kinsk civilians, she chose the particular slave Gypsies for her films, she allowed them to be shipped to Auschwitz, she knew what was to happen to them but she litigated against all who said so, indefatigably, during her long long life. And who can forget Albert Speer, the one who apologized, but who was also only to eager to be seduced by the power and the money and the evil structure of which he became a part.

But I suppose the difference is that the artists of the US of today are happy to take the blood money and spend it biting the hand that fed them, and feeling entitled to the privilege all the same.
Related Posts with Thumbnails