Music: Fratres by composer Arvo Pärt

tintinnabuli

arvo partFratres means Brothers. It is a composition by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). The first time I heard this piece was very early this century. My wife and I were visiting a teacher friend of hers. This tune was playing on the stereo. I was fascinated.

Wikipedia says that Fratres exemplifies Pärt’s “tintinnabuli style of composition. It is three-part music, written in 1977, without fixed instrumentation and has been described as a ‘mesmerising set of variations on a six-bar theme combining frantic activity and sublime stillness that encapsulates Pärt’s observation that ‘the instant and eternity are struggling within us.'” Yes, “mesmerizing” is an accurate description.

Linus Åkesson writes: “The analytical meets the aesthetical as Pärt takes us on a meditative, harmonical journey, built up from a simple set of mathematical rules. Many people who listen to Fratres find it repetitive or even boring at first. After a while, though, they start to unconsciously recognize some of the patterns in the music.” I never found it boring.

The version I first heard I believe involved twelve cellos.
12 Cellists Of The Berlin Philharmonic.
Eight Cellos, Hungarian State Opera Orchestra

Then I heard this take, an adaptation for cello and electronics. It’s almost a different composition.
Hermine Horiot 
Lana Trotovsek on violin

Beats Antique, Violin, and Piano – Arvo Part Remix
Sheet music, violin, and piano

It turns out that many variations of this work exist, involving combinations of strings, percussion, recorders, piano, trombone, saxophone, and guitar. 
Saxophone soprano: José Pedro Gonçalinho

The composition has been used in at least a dozen films and documentaries, including There Will Be BloodTo The Wonder, and The Place Beyond the Pines.

Jazz pianist Aaron Parks incorporated elements of Fratres into his composition Harvesting Dance (2008), which has been performed by Terence Blanchard.

Rushing to say good things about Limbaugh

cruel bigotries

LimbaughWhen I heard that Rush Limbaugh had died, my first instinct was to post what Arthur posted. In fact, the graphic I purloined from Arthur with permission. My parents DID use to say that if you don’t have something good to say about someone to say nothing. 

Then someone on Quora wrote, “Do you liberals have ANYTHING good to say about him?” So I thought and I thought, and I thought some more. Maybe it’s the Christian thing, or maybe just a challenge. So I took some bits from 1440.com, the AP, the Boston Globe, and Daily Kos.

He was consequential

“You didn’t have to like or even listen to Rush Limbaugh to be affected by what he did. Conservative talk radio wasn’t a genre before him. Without Limbaugh, it’s hard to imagine a Fox News Channel, or a President Donald Trump, or a media landscape defined by shouters of all stripes that both reflect and influence a state of political gridlock.”

“’He was the most important individual media figure of the last four decades,” said Ian Reifowitz, professor of historical studies at the State University of New York and author of ‘The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump.’ Limbaugh led the way in getting people “scared about the browning of the country.”

Changing governmental regs have consequences

“Launched in 1988—shortly after the repeal of a policy requiring equal airtime for opposing commentary on matters of public importance—” his eponymous talk show “expanded to more than 650 affiliate networks, boasting an estimated 20 million monthly listeners “

“There is no talk radio as we know it without Rush Limbaugh. It just doesn’t exist,” said Sean Hannity, who has 15 million radio listeners beyond his Fox News Channel show. “And I’d even make the argument in many ways: there’s no Fox News or even some of these other opinionated cable networks…”

“It wasn’t just that he transformed the media landscape, but he transformed the Republican Party,” said Nicole Hemmer, author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.” “He became a power player and someone who could move voters.”

He made vulgarity acceptable

“Some of Limbaugh’s language was downright ugly. He invented the term ‘feminazi,’ called Chelsea Clinton a ‘dog’ when she was 12 years old and had to apologize for calling a young woman a ‘slut’ for arguing that birth control be covered by health insurance. He mocked the death of AIDS victims and played the parody song ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ when Obama was elected president.

“In the Limbaugh lexicon, advocates for the homeless were ‘compassion fascists,’… environmentalists were ‘tree-hugging wackos.’ He delivered ‘AIDS updates’ with a Dionne Warwick song, ‘I’ll Never Love This Way Again,’ ridiculed Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and called global warming a hoax.

“The headline on HuffPost’s obituary said Limbaugh ‘saturated America’s airwaves with cruel bigotries, lies and conspiracy theories.’ The Root called him a ‘spouter of racist, hate-filled garbage.'” And he sparked a “firestorm of loud-mouthed, racist, misogynist imitators.”

Ahead of the curve re: fake news

“He was not above baldfaced lies. During the debate over Obama’s 2009 health care bill, he fed the rumor mills over its provisions to have Medicare and insurers pay for optional consultations with doctors on palliative and hospice care, saying they empowered ‘death panels’ that would ‘euthanize’ elderly Americans.

“Limbaugh supported Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen and, on January 7, compared rioters at the Capitol to people who sparked the Revolutionary War.”

His wife apparently loved him

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement of his death on his show.

That’s all I’ve got, except for a  Mark Evanier story and some guy talking mostly about himself

Lingering violence of ‘Birth of a Nation’

“one of the embarrassments of film scholarship”

Birth of a NationIn the CHRISTMAS EVE 2020 edition of the Boston Globe, there was a stunning bit from an article. Social Studies: “The lingering violence of ‘Birth of a Nation’” excerpted five articles from university-based publications.

The one I want to point out here is “The Birth of a Nation: Media and Racial Hate,” Harvard University (November 2020). The author is listed as D. Ang. I assume it is Desmond Ang, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

The quotes

The 1915 movie “The Birth of a Nation” is infamous for its positive portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, but what many people may not appreciate today is just how influential it was — and still is. Little surprise when the source material was the Thomas Dixon Jr. novel The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan. “Romance,” indeed.

Here are a couple of more recent contrasting opinions. James Agee: “To watch his work is like being witness to the beginning of melody, or the first conscious use of the lever or the wheel; the emergence, coordination and first eloquence of language; the birth of an art: and to realize that this is all the work of one man.” That man, of course, was D.W. Griffith.

Andrew Sarris: “Classic or not, ‘Birth of a Nation’ has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can’t be ignored…and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.”

As the Harvard professor notes, “an estimated 10 million Americans — roughly one-fifth of the adult white population — turned out to see the movie in its first two years,” and “newspaper reports from the period estimated that nearly 50 percent of adults in Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans saw the film.”

The movie was screened via traveling roadshow rather than simultaneous nationwide release, and the professor finds that lynchings and race riots increased fivefold within a month of the movie’s arrival in a county. Also, counties that screened the film were much more likely to have a Klan chapter in 1930 — a correlation that persists into the 21st century, with more white supremacist groups and hate crimes in those counties than in counties that didn’t screen the movie.

The Binghamton Press

There were over 150 references to the movie in my hometown papers. It was first shown in the area the week of January 10, 1916, and played again in 1917. The Klan was quite visible in Binghamton, NY in the mid-1920s, as pictured here.

But I’m curious about how narrow those early showings were. It played for three days at the Stone Theater in early September of 1921. The anonymous movie compiler wrote, “It will be presented upon the same elaborate scale which has marked its recent presentations” in New York City and other large markets.

The film returned with a soundtrack recorded in 1930 but wasn’t shown until 1949. The Roberson Theatre showed it in 1979, but I see that one as a totally different experience. Robeson was an educational center where I saw movies by Fellini, Bergman, and Hitchcock, so I imagine there was some contextualization taking place.

The more recent references included a writer finding the placement of the film on the AFI’s best to be abhorrent. I suppose one could make the case that it was very good at being terrible.

Should I see this?

I’ll admit I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety. I’ve watched clips, of course. There were several bits of it in the 2018 film BlacKkKlansman

As it turns out, one can find copies of the film, which runs for 195 minutes at the National Archives site. Next time I want to get ticked off, and have three hours on my hands, I guess I’ll check it out.

2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominees

satisfaction

Todd Rundgren Gtr Player 1977On February 10, I received an email: “Hello rock and roll fans! We’re excited to announce this year’s Nominees for induction into the 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Mary J. Blige, Kate Bush, Devo, Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, JAY-Z, Chaka Khan, Carole King, Fela Kuti, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Rage Against the Machine, Todd Rundgren, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick.

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame offers fans the opportunity to participate in the Induction selection process with the Fan Vote. Through April 30, fans can vote every day at rockhall.com, or at the Museum in Cleveland. The top five artists, as selected by the public, will comprise a ‘fans’ ballot’ that will be tallied along with the other ballots to select the 2021 Inductees.

For the past three years, I’ve had this no-doubter.

#TODD RUNDGREN
This is the third year in a row he’s been nominated. Two years ago, I wrote: “I have his albums with the Nazz, Utopia and a number of his solo albums. He’s also produced a chunk of notable albums for others… He’s a wizard, a true star.”
I Saw the Light  

“To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. Seven out of 16 of the Nominees are on the ballot for the first time, including Foo Fighters, The Go-Go’s, Iron Maiden, JAY-Z, Mary J. Blige, Fela Kuti, and Dionne Warwick.”

They got the beat

My next choice: #The GO-GO’S:
They’ve had a resurgence of sorts with a 2020 documentary about “the first all-women group to write their own songs, play their own instruments, and snag a #1 hit.” I’ll admit my bias since I saw them at J.B. Scott’s in Albany back in 1981. They played the entire first album and a non-album B-side.
Our Lips Are Sealed 

I don’t know Iron Maiden’s music very well. But the other first-timers on the list I could make a case for.

Dionne Warwick has no chance with the fans. She does not rock, and while neither did her young cousin Whitney Houston, who has been inducted, Whitney wasn’t doing Bacharach and David. I’m fond of Dionne, and maybe I’ll vote for her down the road.

On the other hand, I was shocked by the votes for the late Fela Kuti, who was leading the pack early. I didn’t think the originator of Afrobeat was that well-known, certainly not in the US. I don’t have any of his albums as such, but I do have Red Hot + Riot, which features his music. If things get close, I might switch to him.

#CHAKA KHAN:
“Chaka Khan was previously nominated both solo and with the band Rufus.”
Frankly, I’m not feeling Rufus for the Hall. But Chaka’s body of work, absolutely. This is her 7th nomination either solo or in the group.
I Feel for You 

“If elected, Carole King and Tina Turner will become the second and third female artists inducted twice, following Stevie Nicks’ 2019 election. If Foo Fighters are inducted, Dave Grohl will also become a twice-inducted performer.” And, I suppose, because there are so many deserving nominees, I won’t be voting for any of these.

Uncontrollable urge

#DEVO
Wikipedia says “their music… mingling kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor, and mordantly satirical social commentary. Who knew how prescient they would be?
Whip It 

Kate Bush, Rage Against the Machine, and especially The New York Dolls would be on my ballot if I had more picks. Mary J. Blige and Jay Z, as first-timers, will get nominated again, I’m sure.

#LL COOL J; Eligible year: 2009
This is his sixth nomination, previously considered in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2018, and 2019. His historic import, I suspect, has been buried a bit by his acting success.
I’m Bad 

You can vote every day, presumably. An “overwhelming” fan response crashed the Fan Vote early the first morning but was fixed in short order.

Movie review: One Night In Miami

Jim Brown, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Cassius Clay

One Night in MiamiThe movie One Night In Miami is about February 25, 1964. Boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) fought Sonny Liston for the heavyweight crown. Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir) of the Nation of Islam and singer/songwriter Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) were in attendance. The great football running back Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) was doing commentary for a media outlet.

Then they got together afterward. The film was based on a stage play by Kemp Powers. While we don’t know precisely what the guys really talked about that night, the fascinating dialogue was a most credible representation of what they might have discussed. Conversations about expectations and capitalism and race and music, among other elements, as each professional was in the midst of a significant change in his life.

This was the directorial debut of Regina King, although you wouldn’t think so. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Golden Globe for the fine 2018 film If Beale Street Could Talk.  

From stage to screen

As I look back on it, I recognize that King and Powers added on to the beginning of the film some scenes from prior to that night. Clay’s fight with Henry Cooper in June of 1963. Cooke’s opening night at a particular nightclub. A seemingly pleasant get together with Brown and a mentor. Malcolm musing about his future with his wife Betty (Joaquina Kalukango).

I think frontloading the film with these scenes somewhat hid the fact that most of the rest of the film was essentially in and around Malcolm’s motel room. Some films suffer from being too “stagey”, but I thought that the intimate dialogue made us feel as though we were in the room, not just observers.

The 299 critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave One Night in Miami a 98% approval rate. The acting was tremendous, not just the four leads, but minor characters such as Malcolm’s bodyguards, Kareem X (Lance Reddick), and Jamaal (Christian Magby). See this film.