Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A highly entertaining, crazy-ass comments thread on subcultural taxonomy within the poetry world has pushed me to write a long-ish goofy sincere parodic quasi-dialog on the relationship between art and politics and history and intellectual fashion and, and, and -- hopefully I’ll post it soon.

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M. C- of The Standing Room makes a profound observation about the incompatibility of classical vocal technique with microphone technique. This gets at something my ears tell me when classical singers take on pop: Their voices project these rich sounds that overwhelm the words. Some recognizably pop music predates the advent of microphone singing, but we have no living, first-hand tradition of pop singing without microphones, and the repertory would have to predate the 1920s.

Today I picked up an excellent recital of mostly 20th-century classical songs with a few pre-microphone-era pop songs delightfully thrown in: Songs Of America by the late mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, accompanied by pianist Gilbert Kalish. Listened to it three times. 28 songs by 21 composers. Three composers get three songs: Ruth Crawford Seeger, Charles Ives (two of whose songs received their debut on this 1988 recording, both of them written when he was in college, in a Romantic idiom, and both gorgeous), and a writer of whom I had never heard, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, who may have been the most popular songwriter in America between Stephen Foster and Irving Berlin. I knew one of her songs on the album, “I Love You Truly,” because Burt the cop and Ernie the cabbie serenaded George and Mary Bailey with it on their wedding night in It’s a Wonderful Life. Beautiful sentimental song. DeGaetani and Kalish recorded an all-Ives album as well, which I really want to hear. Wonderful musicians.

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Went to the caucus yesterday, and enjoyed it. Our neighborhood caucus organizers planned for twice as high a turn-out as any previous caucus, and we exceeded the capacity they had planned for. I had been feeling despair at American passivity in face of George Bush’s crimes against humanity, but the turn-out turned my head. Americans loathe the Iraq War, but the passivity makes sense: The state is heavily armed, the opposition party is implicated and divided on the issue, and the press is so rabidly nationalistic and habitually pro-Republican that a widespread protest movement would be instantly marginalized and widely vilified -- as it was before the war began. So people have been waiting for the chance to throw the insane, anti-Enlightenment, incompetent, anti-humanist imperialists out and replace them with the sane, pro-Enlightenment, competent, humanist imperialists. Obama v. Clinton on the issues was a toss-up; I voted for Obama because he’s a good speech-maker and, given a reasonable choice, I would prefer a non-legacy candidate. If Hillary wins the nomination, I’ll vote for her, despite her culpability for the Iraq War. Why? See above re: sanity, opinion on the Enlightenment, competence, humanism.

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People talk about Hillary being “polarizing.” This is wrong. The word “polarizing” implies that the polarization emanates from her, from her actions or from her being. It doesn’t. She is widely hated. People hate her for mostly wacked-out reasons, and because a huge propaganda machine has been vilifying her for 16 years. (People may hate her for policy reasons as well, but they are a minority.)

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Please drop “polarizing” when describing Hillary. Use “widely hated” instead. And then, maybe, if you feel like doing some journalism, you might want to look into why people hate her. It
’s on them. “Polarizing” makes it sound like it’s on her.

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Gongxi fa cai -- Happy Chinese New Year! The Chinese New Year celebration the other day at the kid’s bilingual Chinese-English preschool was great -- songs and skits in Mandarin, and a dragon dance, and a potluck. He’s the blond boy in the back. Last year we went to three Chinese New Year festivals around town. The best was at Mall of the Great Wall in the south suburbs. My beloved spouse took the kid to a small-town New Year’s parade today at a suburb a ferry ride away across the sound and he got his face painted. (I didn’t go today because I’ve had a cold.)

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