Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Violence Begets Violence

And people wonder why there's so much violence in the world, what with heads of major orchestras in collusion with a mad bomber. Someone get that man a chainsaw--or tie him down before he hurts anyone.

Careful, that program you read could self-destruct; and if Pierre's on the podium, I'd be cautious of drinking from the fountain.

And is it me, or does anyone else agree that it is in excessively poor taste to pull this quote in the same sentance with the numbers "9-11"? Call me overly sensitive, but...


Anonymous Marc Geelhoed said...

Since the quote is what Dickie's referring to when he says that it caused Boulez trouble after 9/11-that he was questioned by the fuzz-I don't think it's in bad taste. If it was a joke about buildings being blown up with people inside, I'd say it was in bad taste.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I wonder, because while he does say it caused Pierre trouble, he also seems to agree with it. Or perhaps he means we ought to blow up a few thousand seats, leaving the others remaining?

Boulez's take, to me, has always been violent--to root out the infidels, leaving only the pure standing. He said Ravel wrote music for whorehouses, that Shostakovich was not a person, and that any composer who did not see the necessity of the 12-tone system was essentially useless. Now I know he didn't want harm to come to anyone--unless, of course, they used a key signature.

But perhaps you are right. I am, after all, a wee bit sensitive on this topic.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Henry Holland said...

I love your blog, but aren't you reacting to the Boulez of 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago? Lordy, if all composers/conductors who said stupid things in the 60's and 70's--or 2001, see: Stockhausen and his comments on Luzifer and 9/11--were held to account, that would fill at least the dress circle of the Met. The balcony and balcony standing room, of course, will have been destroyed.

For just one example, Hans Werner Henze went through a lame "revolutionary" phase where he was writing symphonies for the Cuban revolution and horrible operas, erm, I mean screeds like We Come to the River (note: I love Henze's earlier operas like the glorious Bassarids or the wonderful Junge Lord). I seem to remember Henze cheering for the demise of Western capitalism, and not through the use of tea parties either.

Pierre Boulez is hardly the only person in the orchestral/operatic field who has made intemperate remarks, it's just his get repeated more often.

Now I know he didn't want harm to come to anyone--unless, of course, they used a key signature.

That's lame, even as snark. Firing rhetorical shots at fellow composers he considered worthless--and in Shostakovich's case, he's got it right as far as I'm concerned--or declaring that people who wrote tonally were dinosaurs that should be swept aside is hardly saying that all Minimalists should be lined up against a wall in Tribeca or wherever the hell the NY Downtown music scene was centered and shot. Honestly.....

And Boulez sure didn't let his contention that Ravel wrote music for brothels stop him from recording all of the great Frenchman's major pieces, compiled on a nifty Sony 3-CD set.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I actually meant nothing bad about Boulez--we all say dumb things in our youth, and the violence of the period is mirrored in his reactions (though I cannot back up what Stockhausen said; the ego, the vanity, the envy, 'twas all rather creepy)--but was more concerned that this chap seemed to agree with him. Not blow them up so much as blow them down--to size, I suppose.

And I guess his comment about Shostokovich is only funny if you agree, but I still think it represents a really unconvivial attitude from that camp--we are right, you are not people--that is dangerously close, in thinking, to fascism. And that should scare all of us. Has nothing to do with Shostokovich, really, or your opinion thereof. More to the point: it seemed like people in that period, and their million little heir apparents, took their own opinions and tastes so seriously, that they figured if 1) they did not like the music or 2) it did not fit the "acceptable" trajectory of music, than that person was not worth anything but the most derisive comments, dehumanization, and (and this is a leap here), perhaps their death would have been celebrated. To me, revolutions or no, that's dangerous thinking.

And as to Boulez's comments, has he EVER, in his avuncular dotage now, issued any kind of retraction? That book is still very much in print, I believe. So yes he said it then, but it is there, unblemished, for the reading now.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Henry Holland said...

Sorry, but I think you overreacted to Mr. Dickie's poorly thought out paragraph. He went for a well-known comment to butress his argument, got the original intent wrong (or knew what it was and went on anyway) and then moved on to the rest of his thesis. You saw "9/11" and went a bit over the top. So, yes, to answer your question, I think you're being oversensitive.

than that person was not worth anything but the most derisive comments, dehumanization, and (and this is a leap here), perhaps their death would have been celebrated. To me, revolutions or no, that's dangerous thinking

I think that you're omitting crucial context there. It was the late 60's/early 70's, shit like that was as common as dirt. I mean, there were debates in serious journals about the merits of The Beatles Revolution and The Stones Street Fighting Man, both of which I love, and whether they would foster the Eventual Revolution of The Masses Against Their Capitalist Overlords. Does that seem like a moment in time where reason or sanity were highly prized? I, for one, look back in amazement at the things that were said on BOTH sides of the fence in the serialist/tonality debates at the time--the tonalists certainly weren't wallflowers when it came to divisive invective--it's just that they weren't the principle conductor of the New York Philharmonic at the time.

Sure, there *was* a fascistic tendency in the stridency of the serialist pronouncements--oh the irony, because serialism was thought to be a rebuke to the romantisicm that they thought fostered the two world wars--but, I mean, come on, do you honestly think that Pierre Boulez was advocating the physical death of Shostakovich or anything close to it? If you do, yikes. I mean, in the notorious Piccini v. Gluck aesthetic wars, people actually died.

I'm sorry, I just don't think that beating people over the rhetorical head for stuff they said 40 years ago is fair cricket. Boulez has said that his remarks were inappropriate and of their time--what more do you want him to do? Fall to his knees on the podium at Avery Fisher Hall and beg forgiveness? Root out every copy of his polemic and burn them at IRCAM?

3:41 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Alas, with a birthdate just five days into the 1970s, I missed all of that, so can only read Boulez's comments with Gen X "everything-is-equal" TV-culture-soaked eyes. They sound violent to me. But what do I know? Seriously, I am not throwing up my hands but confessing the generation gap of which I am constantly reminded. So the revolutionary rhetoric--in which more than Boulez indulged no doubt--slips past me, context-wise.

And as for the 9-11 reaction, yes, I meant it when I asked if I was being hypersensitive. A wee bit too close to the WTC on that day, so the very mention of 9-11 raises eyebrows--and when I see it invoked cavalierly, I shudder, pulse, and sweat. Clearly an overreaction, though I do stand by my distrust of Dickie's wishy-washiness, experience or no.

And as to Boulez and his remarks, books can be withdrawn or edited, I guess--though of course he said a zillion other things, but people remember this because its so extreme. If he's said "First thing we need to do is get tits into the opera house," I suppose he'd be even more often quoted.

Wait, will that now happen to me.

I've seen the error in my off-the-cuff remarks. There shall be no more.

5:39 PM  

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