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But other causes flow from the temper of the times. It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles. ~David Brooks
Really? I mean, really? By whom? Even some musicians in relatively conventional alternative rock (if you can call it that) have strong blues roots. Take, for example, Chris Cornell (whose blues influences are more evident in his first solo album than in his work with different bands).
Update: James shows that he is one of the seventeen people on earth who are familiar with Euphoria Morning (that’s the first solo album mentioned above). Bravo!
There is a very long, but fairly interesting New Republic book review article on the modern state of classical music, its popularity (or lack of it) and classical music’s apologists. There’s a lot to it, but this part struck me as especially worthwhile:
The morally charged dichotomization of surface and depth is a romantic trope that–as the musicologist Holly Watkins has shown–goes back at least as far as the writings of Hoffmann. Between Hoffmann and Wagner, however, the metaphor of depth had been claimed by German writers as a national trait; and just as nationalism underwent its general transformation from a modernizing and liberalizing discourse into a belligerent and regressive one in the later nineteenth century, so the notion of spiritual depth had been turned into a weapon of national and racial aggrandizement in Wagner’s hands.
I remember Prof. Lukacs remarking in Democracy and Populism, I believe it was, on this tendency that he identified in German thinkers to ascribe superior value and truth in terms of such ”depth.” However, I would challenge the idea that nationalism really underwent a transformation over the course of the nineteenth century, when the heart of romantic nationalist myths is the idea of an enduring essence or character that the nationalist scholar or artist claims to be able to define and interpret. You often hear this–the “good” nationalism of the liberal revolutionaries turned into the “bad” nationalism of a Bismarck and so forth, but the “good” nationalism was almost always intent on unification (which usually involved war) and expansionistic (because it was liberal and therefore eager to spread the revolution and, on a less high-minded note, to open new markets for ”the nation”). In the mid and late nineteenth century nationalists, many of whom remained political liberals throughout Europe well into the twentieth century, were even more likely to engage in warfare to “redeem” the “lost” territories and countrymen still living under foreign rule. Nationalism was belligerent in no small part because it was liberalising and modernising. The strange thing is that we still credit the early nationalists’ self-justifications for their enthusiasm for conflict, when we are quite willing to criticise their later heirs. We imagine a transformation and a difference where there was neither.
Used in an exclusionary way, as Wagner does in the citation given by Taruskin or as, say, Zambelios did when addressing Western folklorists who threatened to interpret Greek identity and culture in a way that contradicted his classicising impulses, this essentialism means that only those who truly belong to the nation can understand it or participate in its cultural life. This rhetoric of depth and essence is, in fact, an appeal to abstraction and an actually very superficial, limited grasp on culture and is used as a means of shrinking cultural participation and production down to the confines of a national dogma.
Nationalism was always belligerent, warring against the political status quo, against legitimate governments that “denied” national unification, often enough against the Church, and against the past of the nationalists’ own people(s) and country/countries. It was the bane of the civilised world for most of the nineteenth century and for all of the twentieth, and it was fundamentally the same thing.
It is, of course, history that has often suffered most violently at the hands of nationalist redactors, and nationalist theories of history are almost by definition “regressive,” so to speak, in that they are almost all defined in terms of a golden age, an age of decline, and the age of palingenesis, which, in theory, is simply the recovery of the supposed golden age (whose character is suitably re-imagined to match whatever suits the liberal nationalist fantasy about his own virtues). On this point, for example, I have happened to see an English-language textbook on Romanian history sponsored by a Center for Romanian Studies in Iasi that treats the period of the Danubian Principalities as one in which “the Greeks” are merely an annoying, troublemaking intrusion that the Romanians were well rid of, and the enormously productive and active life of the Greco-Romanian culture of the Principalities receives little or no attention. This is a travesty of a fairly impressive period in Romanian history. (Of course, it was part of the pre-independence period, and therefore not to be credited with as much importance.) Bucharest and Iasi were shining examples of an international cultural Hellenism in the early modern period, and the educated elites of the Balkans referred to themselves as Hellenes as a statement of their cultivation and status, taking a name that had no particular ethnic connotations for them, and embracing Greek language and literature much as the educated in western and central Europe used Latin. Pre-Phanariot rulers cultivated at their courts an idea of a revived Byzantium, understood as a Christian empire and not along the strictly ethnic and irredentist lines of the Megali Idea. Much or all of this is expurgated out of the history of the Romanians in question.
After an awful lot of genocide and genocide resolution blogging, I will fortunately be away from Eunomia for a while. Tonight the CSO is putting on a performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. It’s not exactly a symphony that inspires light-heartedness, but it is a promising diversion all the same.
P.S. The Wiki entry’s reference to the “shatteringly pessimistic…outcome” cheers me up a bit.
Apropos of nothing, the brilliant Canadian-Armenian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian was one of the main voices on the soundtrack of The Two Towers, as well as for Atom Egoyan’s Ararat. Bayrakdarian is one of the rising opera stars of our time, and I had the pleasure of hearing her perform during one movement of Mahler’s 4th Symphony at the CSO and again at the Lyric in Dialogues des carmelites. Here she is singing a song adapted by the great Komitas, and here she is singing an ancient Armenian Christian hymn (taken from her DVD A Long Journey Home).
I know that you’ve waited patiently for another Bollywood-related post. Believe it or not, it’s been over two months since I last wrote about anything of the kind. So, here is a nice patriotic song from Veer-Zaara. Razib Khan will be pleased that I have stopped fixating on Bengali actresses.
P.P.S. While I’m at it, I can’t leave out a note about Armenian. It will not be much of a surprise to find out that the two languages have virtually identical demonstratives meaning ”this” (ays and aisa), but it is an interesting thing to note in passing.
From the film Nagin (1954), the instrumental theme composed by the great Hemant Kumar and Man Dole Mera Tan Dole.
At the Spectator blog, Clive Davis has a post with a YouTube video that sets the Brazilian national anthem to images of the country. He says:
I love the sheer operatic jauntiness.
It does have a Pucciniesque operatic sound to it. This makes it a rather jolly and pleasant anthem. It is not, pace Sullivan, “kinda fascist.”
Listening to the performances of traditional muwashshah songs by Zein al-Jundi and reading a bit about the genre, it has been a pleasant, not entirely surprising, discovery that three of the principal instruments in muwashshah ensembles are the oud, qanun and kamancha, which are also central to traditional Armenian music. This makes perfect sense, when you consider the proximity of Syria and Armenia and the longstanding patterns of exchange between the two lands, but it nonetheless seemed like something worth noting.
Two new Nawal Al Zoghbi albums, Habit Ya Leil and Elli-Tmanetoh, arrived in the mail today, so I have been treating myself to some of her older songs, including some I have mentioned before, such as Gharib Al Raai, and others that I have learned about only recently. I don’t really have anything else to add, but I thought I would take this opportunity to try out a title (in this case, Nawal Al Zoghbi’s name) in Arabic script.
On a lighter note, here is where Lebanese pop meets Bollywood: the pop star Nawal al-Zoghbi singing Gharib el-Ray. There are more random foreign locales than in a Yash Raj spectacular (I guess because she is wandering, gharib). Here is a video filled with apparently random scene changes–now she’s in Prague, now she’s surrounded by badly rendered computer-generated helicopters. Perhaps if I spoke Arabic, it would make more sense? At least the music’s enjoyable. Meaningful blogging will resume later.
Since my cold keeps me from getting any sleep, while I wait for this dreadful TheraFlu to kick in (it tastes horrible, but does the trick) I will post here a few random items that may interest you all.
On a random music note, I am currently listening to Sting’s impressive album of songs, Songs from the Labyrinth, written by the late 16th/early 17th century English composer, John Dowland. Apparently, he even learned to play the lute to accompany the professional lutenist, Edin Karamazov, on one of the songs. Dowland’s late medieval sound and lyrics, by turns melancholy and irreverent, are always beautiful. Sting intersperses excerpts from a letter from Dowland to Robert Cecil, Lord Burleigh, in which Dowland, a confessing Catholic, was attempting to bring to the attention of the English court a plot against Elizabeth I while vowing his loyalty to England. This has the interesting effect of recounting Dowland’s life as his corpus of work unfolds (the songs seem not to be in strictly chronological order). By far, my favourite has to be Can she excuse my wrongs? (1597). Here is the first stanza:
Can she excuse my wrongs with Virtue’s cloak?
Shall I call her good when she proves unkind?
Are those clear fire which vanish into smoke?
Must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?
Los Angelino Eunomia readers, be mildly intrigued: the “Dark Lord of Paleoconservatism” will be visiting your city next week to speak on a matter historical, ecclesiastical and Armenian. I am unsure whether I will have any time away from the scheduled events at the colloquium at UCLA, but if anyone is in the vicinity and would like to hear a talk on monotheletism (who wouldn’t want to hear a talk on monotheletism?) I imagine that you would be most welcome to attend. Come and confirm that I am not, in fact, a disembodied brain who blogs via ”sheer Mental Power.”
For those who might be interested in some contemporary Armenian music, I heartily recommend the new album of Anush and Inga Arshakyan, Tamzara. It has some slightly modern-sounding songs, but all of the songs are adaptations of Armenian folk (or zhogovortakan) songs and the ballads of famous traditional goosans, or bard-poets. I had picked it up about a year ago, but had only listened to it once before coming back to it this week. For whatever reason, the music resonated with me much more this week than it had before. Ari, lsenk’!