Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Because a knock on the head gets them thinking

photo by the glorious empress herself
Dear Reader,

The years have taken their toll and it is with great sadness that I announce my impending death. In dying, I will release myself from all connection to the Earth and its peoples and problems, and take the long Sleepe / during the one Everlasting Night  / after our Short Light / contrariwise / to the Sunne / who may set and rise†. I guarantee that this will be a most Theatrical Death, the favorite action of actors, full of gravitas and chest pounding and tearing of the hair, sure to inspire pathos in even the most jaded viewer.

But, before this long-awaited decease, I wanted to get my affairs in order and cross a few things off the Todo list, and the first is to write of the glorious performance of UKSUS seen here above and below.  First, I simply loved it. Fuck, just look at the photo above. What a delight! My son and great wit Duncan to the left, next my nemesis and alter ego Bob Ernst, and Roham Sheikhani, and my ofttimes partner-in-art Laura Bohn, and then Nikola Printz, an old woman so against type, all dancing among The Empress's magnificent constructivist scenics.

Now, if you put your ear just to the left of the photo and listen very closely, you can hear our leader and narrator Jim Cave. And that loud and somewhat jazzy music played so ferociously? That's the band, and the whole mess led by Bryan Nies, and me and my lovely wife dancing to it all night by night.

So - many favorite bits, in no particular order: the dialog between a corseted Stalin and Pushkin/Kharms, the bed scene between Kharms and Marina, the so pretty Requiem Mass for Michelangelo, Beth Custer's Divan Song, the slapstick beating, when Nikola sings that really pretty part, the Pussy Riot moment...

I have been worried about that Pussy Riot moment. I mean, who is really going to know, but I am supposed to attend Lynne to Saint Petersburg aka Leningrad next year and things are a little funny over there. Putin has said "Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain." - but it's pretty clear that he does want some version of it back. Not the old Atheistic Communist Stalinist version but rather the Russian Orthodox Theocratic version, both of which do the topsy-turvy dance of Lysenko-ist reality warping, both of which hold one by the throat where, if one doesn't simply croak, one can find oneself in a Very Bad Place indeed. Kharms and his friends found themselves there, Pussy Riot found themselves there. So many ways to transgress. It's wonderfully telling how the official communist newspaper was titled Pravda, and like all good autocrats they still have their truth which is the truth. There is no other truth.

I have my own truth by the way. Some of it I try to tell through my works - partly hidden truths that tell lies that tell the truth - but some I state here baldly and with simple words.

As a composer, I must become inured to criticism, but it's not always easy, and I must remember that those who criticize know so little of the work, having spent so little time immersed in it, and maybe not wanting to put the effort into understanding, and coming to it sometimes from a different world where the assumptions about what is good and what is bad are so different than mine. And maybe it's a bit whingy to focus on a few bad reviews but, seriously, how can those who loved Certitude and Joy or - especially - the surrealistic delights of A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, not be able to let themselves experience the unbridled joyous flow of brilliance of the performers channeling the fantastic texts of the OBERIU and Kharms, masterfully knitted by Yulia and Felix into a subtly-threaded Wunderwerk?  Each time I saw the piece, first in the original German-language production, and then again in my native tongue, I was taken by how well it worked together. I've written the big monstrosities of operas, sprawling and unwieldy, but this one was a tight and lovely piece, flowing from one moment to the next, filled with tears and surprises and joy.

Safe travels,



† Catullus 5, duh
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