Monday, October 19, 2009

to those who are of god's chosen

I've embarked on a new opera project, even though I was feeling like I was a bit fagged out after the difficulties of the last, but once again hath the candle singd the moath, and I find myself in familiar territory, exploring the viscous friction of sense and nonsense at the boundaries of religion. It all started when I ventured to see a bit of a new Deborah Slater piece at the Traveling Jewish Theater and watched some of my most favorite dancers move gorgeously across the stage. Later, outside, Lynne and Deborah and I were talking, the Medea story came up and Lynne asked if we remembered how, a few years back, a woman threw her three children in the bay. Of course we did and, for memory's sake, here is the news item:
A 23-year-old woman who said she was hearing voices stripped her three small children naked Wednesday and threw them off a San Francisco fishing pier into the bay, authorities said. - San Francisco Chronicle, October 20, 2005
In fact, I remembered it very well, because Lynne and I happened across the makeshift memorial a few days after it occurred: flowers, stuffed animals, notes, photos, candles; all left in a vain attempt to palliate the horror of the crime. The story rolled around in my head for many days after that discussion, and I ended up buying a small notebook and some pens on a visit to Lynne's family

and I started writing something and had some very clear images of the look of it and that my dancer friends would be acting out the parts, maybe singers off stage, don't know, but when I started writing, I immediately mixed together the mother's thoughts and mine so that, in the end, there is definitely more of me than of her in it, but I started from the point that God and the mother really were talking and, like Abraham and Isaac, God really did tell her to kill her children, and that there is something compelling about her certainty, a religious certainty that many people crave. The text consists mostly of her internal monologue, but God speaks, and the children appear as well. She speaks like me, the version of me that graces many of these blog entries: a bit supercilious, a few too many five dollar words, but of course it really is me, my religious upbringing (although the mother was quite religious herself), my fascination with the non-rational, the ecstatic, my fear of insanity, my fear of a lack of ability to discern what is real and what is not.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Of nieces

I was eight years old when I first became an uncle, in this case to a niece, the scion of my brother and his wife, themselves begotten of so and so, the seemingly infinite regress of humanity, and I felt suddenly so much older, rushed into a maturity for which I was not quite ready. One of my first memories of the little tyke is a scene that would evoke a sense of responsibility in any parent: her standing still in the doorway to my bathroom, not quite making it to the goal, an outpouring of urochromic fluid rushing from under her skirt, not sure to go forward or back but stuck in place. But as she got to be an actual kid, I was more of a big brother than a parent, looked-up-to in that way, required to tease and frolic and rassle and horse about as kids do, a play preparation for one's true transition to adulthood through the wrestling which creates us all.

Two years after I achieved this coming-of-age, I discovered what, at that time, was called modern music, through the vehicle of Stanley Kubrick's 2001, and was taken up by it. Although Ligeti sued, and rightly so, as his music was irreparably damaged, turned to kitsch (as he pointed out), it led me to all his other music, to the music of his colleagues and others, burning much of my paper route money over the years on vinyl and leading me to my chosen profession. And, as I don't want to be misunderstood, I want to say that I loved the movie too. In fact, I went back to see it again and again, and each of Kubrick's films over the years held sway over me during their reign, and each was a revelation. I remember my poor preacher father, forced to escort me to A Clockwork Orange and, as we were late to the theater, walking in at the moment of the first rape, followed soon after by the dancing Jesus scene, but as I was so earnest and excited, he stayed with me, watching it all, even allowing me to stay to see the beginning again so I would not miss a moment. My original artistic desires, in fact, veered toward film, and that interest in the great film auteur and his gesamtkunstwerks is surely why I've chosen music-theater, a live synthesis of all the arts, akin to movies, cheaper and more ephemeral.

When I mentioned to a friend that I was working on a new piece, they asked whether it dealt with the Nazis. It's a sensible question given my interest, an interest that I also shared with Kubrick, as he tried a number of times to develop movies about the war and about the Holocaust, deciding eventually that the latter was uncapturable, and all this even more interesting given that his wife, Christiane, whose artworks appear in a number of his films, and whom he met while filming Paths of Glory (she plays the German girl who sings at the end and reduces the soldiers to tears), was born Christiane Susanne Harlan, the niece of Veit Harlan, most beloved of Joseph Goebbels, the maker of the infamous and notorious anti-Semitic propaganda vehicle Jud Süß. An aside from website:
The pornographic element is apparent early on, when a cheering woman at the Duke's inaugural parade loses her top, to the Duke's leering satisfaction. One is reminded of all the women who bared their breasts at Hitler, a strange phenomenon hinting at the hidden psychosexual nature of fascism.
And this one, the most famous of them all, the younger Schicklgruber, carried his romantic fascination with his niece, the even younger Geli Raubal, much further, and so many stories have been floated about his complicity in her apparent suicide that it is hard to discriminate fact from fact. It is true that she was found dead in her room, locked from the inside, shot through the lung by his gun, a Walther, that she had been dead since the previous day; but it is not so clear that she was arguing with Hitler, that she was pregnant by a Jewish art teacher in Linz, that he was jealous, angry; but it again is clear that he was devastated by the death, that he threatened suicide, that he stopped eating animal flesh forever after, that he was in love.

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