Biden Schmiden

Will he?  Won’t he?

Who cares?

If recent reports are any indication, it looks like he will.  I must say this is a minor surprise to me, since I have this strange way of taking people at their word and he had said his heart was not in it.  What this indicates to me, then, is that there must have been a dramatic shift in thinking among the power brokers in the Democratic Establishment as to who they think will best take on the Republican nominee in the fall.

The thinking must be that if there is a dramatic shift in the Establishment’s wishes, then Hillary Clinton will take the hint and graciously tag out to her tag team partner Biden, who will then tag in and save the day.  The Establishment must be very nervous about Hillary Clinton and possibly view her as damaged goods, particularly in light of her impending Benghazi testimony on Thursday, despite the fact that would-have-been Speaker Kevin McCarthy famously gaffed and admitted that the Benghazi committee is nothing but a political witch-hunt.

If you’re Bernie Sanders, though, you welcome Biden to the race.  This is because Hillary Clinton is not about to take the hint and is not about to tag out.  Anybody who thinks otherwise has not been watching the same Hillary Clinton who has had designs on her own presidency since 1992, and who came within a hair’s width of the nomination in 2008.  Say what you will about Hillary Clinton— there is plenty to criticize legitimately— but she is not going to just graciously bow out in the face of diminishing Establishment confidence or Republican witch-hunting.  Indeed, I predict the pugnacious former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State is going to hand the congressional wing of the Republican clown car their proverbial behinds, to a man, on Thursday.  Furthermore, there is a wing of the electorate that is— rightly or wrongly— deeply invested in the First Woman President Dream, and they’re not going to just tag out to Biden either.

So that means a three-way race.  And that means Advantage Sanders.  Biden and Clinton will split the Establishment, pro-Corporate-Democrat, pro-Republican-Lite third-way politics wing of the Democratic Party, with Sanders as the standard bearer for progressives.

What does Biden have to offer progressives, really?  Whatever bona fides he’s had as the pro-union workin’ man’s candidate from Scranton he’s traded away carrying water for the current administration’s Trans Pacific Partnership fantasy.  (This is the fantasy that says that if we just try global corporate deregulation just one more time it will somehow create those attractive tech-savvy jobs that NAFTA and GATT and CAFTA were all supposed to create, but didn’t, and will avoid pitting our workers against workers in other countries working for pennies an hour which wasn’t supposed to happen, but did.)

Can Biden credibly say he’s the candidate that will heal race relations in this country, when he’s been heard using ethnic slurs?

What has the Obama-Biden administration done to reign in SuperPACs?  At least Hillary Clinton has a mediocre campaign finance reform plan.  The Obama-Biden administration does not have a campaign finance reform plan at all.  Bernie Sanders, by contrast, wants public funding for elections, which is the most proactive and robust plan of action to curb the influence of money in politics.  He also has forsworn SuperPAC money.  Is Biden going to do the same?  (That’s a rhetorical question.  Of course not.)

What has the Obama-Biden administration done to make college more affordable?  Is there a plan that could compete with Hillary Clinton’s complicated, mediocre plan to make college more affordable, much less with Bernie Sanders’s simple, bold plan?

Where has the Obama-Biden administration been on raising the minimum wage?  Sanders wants to raise it to $15 an hour.  Obama and Biden have had eight years to get there, but haven’t.

Bernie Sanders wants a single-payer health care plan.  Obamacare, which I suppose we can now call Obama-Bidencare, only got us so far, but there are still millions of people without affordable health insurance, because the fundamental premise behind Obama-Bidencare (which is really Hillarycare anyway)— force people to carry insurance like they carry car insurance— is essentially flawed, and always has been.  Obama and Biden don’t have the political will or latitude to take on the monumental lobbying interests that would stand to lose in a single-payer system.  Bernie Sanders does.

So, if it turns out to be the case, welcome to the race, Mr. Vice President.

For progressives, you will have a lot of explaining to do.

-Robert Gross

Extremes

We all know that politics has two “wings,” the left wing and the right wing. We know this because the corporate-owned media makes liberals into “those communist left-wingers,” and Christians into, “those fascist right-wingers. Obviously, there are liberals who are on the very far left and people that call themselves Christians who are on the very far right.  But did you know that the political spectrum ought to be looked at as a hoop or circle, rather than a straight line?  Here is why.

The circle model gives us two axes.  One, the axis of what you might call good, or at least acceptable to the general public in regards to finance, reform, domestic and foreign policy, morality and so on, while the other center, which I shall call the axis of evil, gives us people who regard none of these things.  Those in the axis of good want better education for all.  They want to get the money out of politics so that all candidates have a fair chance of winning, and win by the platform on which they stand and the way in which they present that platform.  They want jobs for everyone willing to work, and good pay for all workers.  They want a welfare system for those unable to work due to disability or discrimination, and to end that discrimination.

Then there is the other center, the “axis of evil.” Before I continue, I must emphasize that many of the people in this “axis of evil,” have simply done and do what they think is right.

If you read the communist manifesto with an open mind, you will quickly realize that Marx and his comrades were absolutely correct in their analysis concerning the state of affairs in which they lived.  Consumerism was on the rise, and the elites wanted it that way.  When too much product was produced, industry simply destroyed the rest.  This still goes on.  A few years ago, I was told of a Best Buy store who got in a new shipment of desk chairs.  Instead of simply putting them on sale, they took the older models outside, slashed the upholstery to ribbons, and threw them out, making sure nobody even tried to steal the now mutilated chairs.

Hitler and his people also did what they thought was right.  They thought that they could advance the human race by making us into supermen.  How do you do that?  Well, if you want to make the best corn, you kill off the diseased corn, the weak corn and so on, and this is exactly what the third Reich attempted, and how did it begin?  Other than Hitler being rejected from art school, It began with Hitler observing that many criminals were treated way too well for what they were, as it is in many places today…  Though in our society, where prison is a huge business primarily based on the “catch the African American looking at the cops wrong,” game, you will hear no complaints from me on that score.

Where do these extremes end?  Even though the people of these extremes both think they are right, the ends are the same: killing, oppression, suppression of the truth and free speech and, in a word, tyranny.

Perhaps you are asking why I am writing about these extremes, though I feel it ought to be obvious to the observer. In an earlier post on this blog, Dr. Robert Gross examined the abject racist comments of most of our lovely Republican candidates, and not just comments but many other offensive acts, all the while accusing Bernie Sanders of socialism.  While Sanders *did* indeed call himself a “Democratic Socialist,” there is a great difference between socialism and democratic socialism.  Canada is a Democratic Socialist country. T hey have freedom of the press, but they also have free health care.  The USSR was not a democratic socialist country.  Otherwise it would have been the USDSR.

Therefore, it is quite obvious that these Republican clowns are farther near an extreme than is Sanders.  (This is a gross understatement.)  Sanders is tired of seeing oppression, not wanting to cause it.

There is one more group we need to look at, the Clintons. are they liberal?

From my understanding, the core of being a liberal is that you believe that everyone should get their fair shake. this is not what Bill has done though, nor is it what Hillary will perpetuate.  In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act, and told us that this was going to do just that, allow the liberal voice to be heard, to continue to further the spread of ideas and so on…

Well, how are we doing?

Are you aware that six major corporations own not 10%, not 30%, not 50 or 70 or 90% of the media, but a whopping 96%!  Is this the case because Bill Clinton just misunderstood the bill and couldn’t imagine what happened, or is it because he is in bed with the corporations?  Notice that I did not ask if it were possible that the Clintons could possibly be in the pockets of the corporations, and that is because this is a known fact.  Frankly, to me this looks much more right-wing than I am comfortable with.  Yes, I know that President Clinton did much good for our country.  The national debt became a national surplus, and foreign affairs were good, but Mrs. Clinton doesn’t get to ride the former president’s coat tails, just as Jeb doesn’t get to ride his brother’s coat tails and his brother didn’t get to ride his dad’s.  I know it’s a bit different, but if it is the case the case that it is different because she was much more involved, much more than George W. was involved with his father, should she even be allowed to run in the first place?  This smacks of dynasty to me, just as having a second president Bush smacks of dynasty to me, but I guess the American people love their dynasties… Wasn’t there even a show by that name once?

In conclusion, if you want the axis of evil to gain power, if you want the extreme of fascism to become the norm, vote Republican.  Even if the next republican president doesn’t get us all the way there, he will certainly move us closer.  If you want politics as usual, go ahead and vote for Hillary, who is only on one side: that of the corporations.  If you want change though, real, indefatigable change, then their is one candidate and only one candidate for whom you must vote, and that candidate is Bernie Sanders.  Even if he moves us farther left than we are currently, this will be a move toward the center rather than a moving out onto the left wing.

-Ken Downey

Could Your Music Be Mistaken for Brahms?

If not, thank a post-tonal composer.

Could your music be mistaken for Brahms?

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No?

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Then show a little gratitude for post-tonal composers, and stop throwing them under the bus.

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This is a pet peeve of mine: composers who identify themselves as essentially tonal composers— and they are, for the most part— but otherwise who have just enough unresolved dissonance in their music to let you know that they too are aware of the adventures that went on in the 20th century, and who trade on this just-enoughism to be considered “smart” enough to be hired in academia— who then turn around and throw post-tonal composers under the bus.  Perhaps the all-time champeen of this was George Rochberg.  Perhaps we could name this George Rochberg Syndrome.

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As my piece “Rochberg the Progressive, Revisited” from Perspectives of New Music shows, Rochberg never completely parted ways with post-tonal techniques, particularly not in the famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Third String Quartet which allegedly made the world safe for tonality again.  Not even in the middle tonal movement does he completely part ways with post-tonal techniques, as my analysis shows.

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And then when one considers a piece like Rochberg’s Violin Concerto, or, better yet, his Sonata-Aria for cello and piano, composed later in Rochberg’s life, after he had said all the things he said about the “unfortunate” (to use his word) turn to post-tonality in the 20th Century, one really has to scratch one’s head.  There’s nothing in the Sonata-Aria that remotely sounds like functional Brahmsian tonality.  The most progressive classical radio stations in the land (which still play all Mozart 80% of the time) would not touch a piece like the Sonata-Aria It’s too dissonant.

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Does it use tonal references?  Sure.  If pressed, would I be forced to declare the Sonata-Aria to be a tonal piece?  Yeah, probably, if pressed.  But the point is this: there would be no Sonata-Aria by George Rochberg if it wasn’t for the adventures undertaken by Schoenberg and Stravinsky and Bartok.

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Many tonal composers— and I admit I’m picking on Rochberg because he’s not here to defend himself, and I don’t want to mention any living names, but I suspect composers reading this will know if the shoe fits for them or not— want to deploy a certain small amount of 20th-century techniques and then badmouth the pioneers who brought those techniques into existence.  They’ll change meters on the fly, use pointillist textures, bitonality or polytonality, or even dispense with tonal centers for a few bars here and there as a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B— and then claim in interviews that whatever Second Viennese or European Modernist or Exemplar of American Academic Serial 1960s and 1970s Tyranny is the worst of the worst.

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Composers will make the point in dog-whistles, too.  They’ll make claims like “my music is completely fluid and organic.”  That means composers who use systems are bad, or who pre-compose are bad, even though even the most calcified tonal composer knows that there’s nothing like a quick tone row here and there to get one out of a jam.  (Never mind also that Heinrich Schenker proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that even the most fluid-sounding tonal music has large-scale architectonics at work if it’s any damn good, but no matter.)

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Another one is “my music is never academic.”  That means abstraction is bad; never mind that today’s tonal composers routinely avail upon small sets and motives to carry the day, and those are abstract ideas.  Still another is “my music always has tonal centers.”  What this means is “sure, I use post-tonal techniques, but I’m not pedantic about it like Webern or Boulez or one of those bad guys.”  Never mind that the idea of completely egalitarian, non-hierarchical twelve-tone music is largely a myth, and that almost all post-tonal composers hierarchize their pitches and therefore “have tonal centers.”  It’s just that they arrive at their hierarchies largely through some idiostructural (individual piece-by-piece) means.

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My broad point is this.  I’m proposing the “can your music be mistaken for Brahms” threshold of whether or not you get to complain about post-tonal composers.  If the answer is “no,” then shut up already.  You owe something to the post-tonal composers that brought about the techniques that you deploy liberally but to which you are not particularly devoted.  The composers you’re complaining about were purists, to be sure, and that may be a good thing or a bad thing or a little of both, but the main thing about their purism is that they had to push the envelope to the degrees that they did so that you could have the “changing meters on the fly” toy to play with in your pieces, so you could have the “octatonic” toy to play with, so you could have the “bitonality and polytonality” toy to play with, and so you could have the “occasional small post-tonal sets and motives” toy to play with.  To you they may just be tools in the toolbox, but to the purists, it was an aesthetic to which they were entirely devoted and for which they often really suffered.

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If your music cannot be mistaken for Brahms, then show a little respect for the composers of yesteryear who made that possible.  Acknowledge the contribution post-tonal composers made to the music you are making that you are so quick to tout in your interviews and press-kits as being “mostly” or “primarily” or “essentially” tonal.  If you have to qualify the term “tonal,” then thank a post-tonal composer for the techniques you’re using.

-Robert Gross

CNN Says Hillary Clinton Won the Debate, But….

CNN pundits— despite what their own on-line polling shows— have declared Hillary Clinton the winner.  Yeah, but:

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times.

Time-Warner, which owns CNN, donated money to Hillary Clinton.

-Robert Gross

UPDATE: A Bernie Sanders supporter just posted this on a Bernie Sanders facebook site:

CNN keeps deleting my comment off of their site. Please copy and paste this and post it all over their debate coverage.

Time Warner Inc owns CNN.
Time Warner Inc is Hillary’s 7th biggest financial supporter.
CNN is posting all over that Hillary won the debate.
CNN’s own polls show that 81% of their viewers think Bernie won.
CNN will not even post the results of their own poll.

If this isn’t some Orwellian 1984 shit, I don’t know what is. We need to show corporations that we’re not taking the manipulation anymore. ‪#‎Bernie2016‬ (My cousin has asked me to help. Please share:)

This is really disturbing to me— it is essentially a tacit admission that CNN knows that it is biased and doesn’t want that simple truth to get out.

Totally Random Thoughts: Debate Edition

Totally random thoughts about the debate.

* I spent the whole night wondering if anyone would call out Hillary Clinton on her alleged pro-green-energy position and her fighting-climate-change platform by pointing out how much money she’s taken from the fossil fuel industry.

* I very much respect Jim Webb’s service to this country.  But someone needs to tell him that not everything in the world is about the military.

* Hillary Clinton used the phrase “God-given” three times.  Dog whistle.  Yes, we get it.  Bernie’s a Jew, a minority religion.  And possibly an atheist.  But the point of a dog-whistle is to be *subtle*.

* Lincoln Chafee and Richard Dawkins could be brothers.

* If anybody remembers Admiral Jim Stockdale’s pitiful performance in the 1992 vice presidential debate, that’s how bad Jim Webb was.  Maybe they’re not teaching debate in Annapolis?

* Bernie Sanders scoring points off of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal by defending her instead of attacking her is one of the shrewdest pieces of political jujitsu I’ve seen in a long time.

* The candidate that whines the most about not having enough time/attention from the moderators is always the sure loser.  Jim Webb for the Loss again.

* That said, I really wanted to know if Jim Webb ever smoked pot.  I thought they were going to ask everyone.

* Nobody knows what Glass-Steagall is, policy wonks.  We do need to reinstate it.  But it’s not the homerun winning issue you think it is, Martin O’Malley.

* Whose idea was it to schedule this against Mets-Dodgers?  Another Debbie Wasserman Schultz conspiracy to keep people from watching in case Hillary falters?

* Lincoln Chafee went to the weaksauce “but everyone else was voting for it” excuse not once, but twice!  Twice!

* Anderson Cooper, you’re not Jon Stewart.  Please don’t try to be funny.

* Hillary Clinton scores some major points defending a woman’s right to choose.  People rose to their feet.  Then she deflated every bit of it by refusing to support across-the-board marijuana legalization.  The disappointment in the room was palpable.

* Why didn’t Hillary Clinton have to choose between “black lives matter” and “all lives matter”?

* Yeah, the grid thing.  2050.  An admirable goal, but the framing of the issue is a little heady and 2050 seems pretty remote.

* That said, O’Malley really hit home with me when he pointed out that nobody denigrated blacks, Latinos or religious minorities at this debate, unlike at the Republican Debate.

* Did anyone besides me notice that Hillary Clinton— the only woman Democrat running for president— got the question about Carly Fionrina— the only woman Republican running for president?

* Yeah, CNN tried to “gotcha” Bernie Sanders on that immigration vote question.  You don’t “gotcha” Bernie Sanders.  You just don’t.  And the fact that he voted against the so-called “guest worker program” because it would effectively turn immigrants into non-unionized super-cheap slave labor?  That actually matters.

* I really wish Mark Russell was still doing his thing on PBS.

-Robert Gross

Interview With Composer Judith Lang Zaimont

Here I interview the distinguished American composer Judith Lang Zaimont.

We discuss five of her works, which are included in their entirety: The Figure for string quartet; Wizards (Three Magic Masters) for solo piano; Growler for wind ensemble; Chroma (Northern Lights) for orchestra; and Serenade for solo piano.  She discusses her compositional process and how she sees her music, as well as her background and influences.

It is a discussion well worth your time.  It is just under two hours with the pieces included.

For more information about Judith Lang Zaimont, be sure to visit her website.

-Robert Gross

Chris Cillizza’s Dog Whistle

So Chris Cillizza wants to be the latest in a long line of smart, unimaginative commentators who want to say that Bernie Sanders can’t win the presidency because of the “socialist” label.  As if that’s a particularly original, or particularly brave, thing to say to earn the gazillions of dollars he earns writing for the establishment Washington Post.

But what’s interesting is that he posts a list of a bunch of different descriptors of candidates that people won’t vote for, along with the percentages of who would, and who would not, vote for that kind of candidate.  The list: Catholic, woman, black, Hispanic, Jewish, Mormon, gay/lesbian, evangelical Christian, Muslim, atheist, socialist.

First, Bernie Sanders’s own actual ideological descriptor isn’t even on the list: Democratic Socialist.  Cillizza says that the five words “I am a Democratic Socialist” are enough to sink Sanders’s chances of being president.  Oh?  Then why isn’t Democratic Socialist being polled on this list?  Afraid that Democratic Socialism might rate a little higher than “socialist” by itself, which might poke a few holes in this received wisdom?

But why include a list at all?

It’s because this is a dog-whistle.  It’s not the socialism that the piece wants to reinforce.  It’s that other one.

Jewish.

This is a hit piece, make no mistake.  And there’s no reason to reinforce the already trodden, boring, ho-hum ground that says “Sanders can’t win because he’s a socialist.”  There have already been a million, billion, gazillion people saying that.  There’s nothing new to see here.

Except for that chart.  That chart that reminds you that the are a number of kinds of candidates that a certain number of people won’t vote for.  That chart that reminds you that there’s something else about Bernie Sanders other than the already trodden ground of his Democratic Socialism that should make you concerned.

Granted, the chart says that 91% of Americans would vote for a Jew, and only 7% would refuse to vote for a Jew.  No matter.  That’s not the point.  The point to the inclusion of the chart is to remind you that Sanders is Jewish at all. 

“Socialist” is a long-held anti-Semitic dog-whistle for “Jew.”  As a for-instance, check out the writings of noted antisemitic author Elizabeth Dilling, whose raison d’etre is the explication of how Jews are in control of all socialist and communist regimes in the world.

(The Jews, it seems, can’t win.  According to anti-Semites, they are either consummate capitalists and control all the banks, or consummate communists and control all the totalitarian socialist regimes in history.  Which is it?  It can’t be both.)

Now, you would think that since this trope does exist, and that since Bernie Sanders is a Jew, after all, a journalist of Chris Cillizza’s caliber would realize it is incumbent on any journalist to make the very careful distinction, then, between what Bernie Sanders actually advocates— Democratic Socialism— and mere “socialism,” which is often an anti-semitic dog-whistle.  But does Chris Cillizza make this careful distinction on his cute chart where we see the words “Jewish” and “socialist” lumped together?

PBBBBBBBBBBSSSSSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTTTTTT.

And since Chris Cillizza wants to be the good guy and point the finger at other examples of anti-Semitism leveled against Sanders, it seems to me that Cillizza really, really, really should know better.

Or would he?  As Kyle Drennen notes,  Chris Cillizza gives a pass to Joe Biden as being “real” and “authentic” when it’s the sitting vice president who is making the anti-Semitic slur.

(Aha.  Now we know who Chris Cillizza’s pulling for.)

Whether intended or not, Chris Cillizza’s little list and refusal to use the “Democratic” part of “Democratic Socialism” support those who want to promulgate anti-Semitic dog whistles about Bernie Sanders.

Way to go, champ.

-Robert Gross

Schenker, Earlier

Here is a blog post making the argument that we need to integrate pop and jazz music theory into mainstream music department and conservatory undergraduate curricula.

I completely agree.  The thing I would add is that we need to teach Schenker a lot earlier, and apply it to jazz and pop as well. It’s absurd that we make vertical everything in music theory, and save the linear dimension for grad school specialists.  I’m not saying that everyone has to become a Carl Schachter-level Schenkerian; I’m just saying that we need to introduce linear concepts in all music theory at all levels as we go so that as composers and performers we are thinking in both the vertical and the horizontal dimensions, and making those connections accordingly.

I’m sure that there are those who would object on the grounds that traditional music theory, as it is structured, does not have the time to accommodate these additional demands.  Theory is traditionally taught in four units in the freshman and sophomore years: semester one, devoted to first principles which often coincide with Baroque principles of four-part chorale theory (also known as part writing); semester two, devoted to expansion and refinement of these ideas, with some form and structure thrown in, which nicely coincides with the formal structures introduced in the Classical era; semester three, we add advanced chromatic— but still functionally tonal— ideas to our plate, which just so happens to coincide with what Romantic-era composers did; and then in the fourth semester we cover 20th and 21st century techniques, which, by way of a really amazing coincidence, coincides with what 20th and 21st century composers actually did.

Then a student is sometimes given a one- or two-semester elective.  Some programs take this basic model and stretch it out to five semesters; some compress it into three; but what is amazing is the invariance of this model across the board.  I would propose adding two more semesters: junior year, a seminar in jazz music, team taught by a theorist and a musicologist; and then a seminar in pop music, team taught by a theorist and a musicologist.  I would make the course team taught because if theorists get an extra two semesters to do their thing, musicologists are inevitably going to want two more semesters to do their thing too.

More central to the argument of what this essay is about, though, is the need for linear reductive analysis from the beginning.  When we make everything vertical, we are making the argument that music happens from event to event to event.  This idea calcifies in the minds of young, impressionable musicians, and disadvantages them musically perhaps for their entire lives.  The idea that there are broad-scale architectonic ideas at play in musical works should not be Masonic wisdom reserved only for an elite, secret order of initiates.  We should teach this idea from day one: the vertical and horizontal dimensions in music are coequal.

I am not saying that inordinate amounts of time on graphing technique should be taught.  I am saying that when an instructor gives a chorale part-writing exercise, Schenk it when he or she is done.  In the first semester, look at real Bach chorales; they are often some of the most interesting literature to read from a Schenkerian perspective since this is the corpus of work most likely to reveal the rare descent from ^8.

In the second semester, when we’re teaching sonata form, the instructor might want to talk about why it is that one sees a descent from ^3 in major mode more often, and why one sees descent from ^5 in minor mode more often.  (Here’s why, if you’re wondering: pieces tend to descend from ^3 as a norm.  But in minor mode, I pushes to III just before the development section.  III can support ^5 but it is just as likely to support ^3, with ^4 supported by V/III inevitably along the way.  And it is very interesting to look at the salient differences between a development section in a minor-mode piece governed by ^3, which anticipates the arrival of ^2 before the interruption, and a development section in a major-mode piece governed by ^2, which maintains ^2 just before the interruption.)

In the third semester, it can be very instructive to look at chromatic voice leading from a linear perspective.  Honestly, it is sometimes the only way to make heads or tails out of densely chromatic Romantic-era music.  I remember as an undergrad studying chromatic harmony and thinking that the Roman numeral system was becoming extremely contorted to the point of meaninglessness, even though I was arriving at the received wisdom of acceptably correct “answers” on the assignments (going to remote key areas by a series of common-tone pivots and such).  Why is this music the way it is?  Is it really because of a string of improbable key areas forever modulating into one another with myriad pivot chords and common tone pivots?  Or does one elegant linear progression really explain what’s going on?

Finally, when one gets to post-tonal music, linear progressions can really be one’s friend in reassuring the novice that comprehensive relationships can indeed be teased out of this seemingly abstruse stuff.  One does not even have to get into the many controversies about post-tonal prolongation; suffice to say that the general idea of linear progressions are still at play (whether they are truly prolongational or merely associative).  But you cannot do this if the scaffolding has not been put previously into place.

Many musicians will graduate from their undergraduate institutions and never look back at academia.  We want these musicians to be as literate as possible, and to give performances or compose pieces in which there is some broad-scale concept of the architectonics involved in music-making.  We need to start introducing Schenkerian/linear/prolongational concepts much earlier in our mainstream music theory tuition.

-Robert Gross

Totally Random Thoughts, Vol. I

Sometimes not every thought can be developed into a 500+ word blog post.  Here are some random thoughts that I’ve been kicking around lately.

* Ben Carson showing off his pro-gun idiocy and his anti-Semitism in one fell swoop is pretty impressive.

* Chicago nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Sham at last.  After years of dismissing the legitimacy of such groups, and even writing a song to that effect, Robert Lamm graciously accepts the nomination on behalf of the band.  Class act.

* Speaking of Chicago, Cubs pitcher Jon Lester can’t throw to first.  I’m no baseball expert, but shouldn’t a major league pitcher be able to throw to first????

* If Joe Biden runs, he’ll split the pro-establishment, pro-corporate Democratic Party vote and make it actually easier for a galvanized Sanders base to prevail.

* Ben Carson eats chicken at Popeye’s.  Does Bernie Sanders eat chicken at… Col. Sanders?

* Because of the threat of Joe Biden running, Hillary Clinton is trying to cast herself as Bernie 2.0.  Trouble is, she actually has a record to run on, and it looks nothing like Bernie Sanders’s record.

* You know what, Paul Simon?  Maybe the man in the gabardine suit really was a spy.  Did you ever think of that?

* I really miss Mike Royko.  Best sociopolitical commentary writer ever.  I would have loved to see what he would have done with a blog.

* Carly Fiorina was an incompetent CEO, but at least she’s a pathological liar.

* Huffington Post says Kevin McCarthy dropped out because he was blackmailed over an affair.  Occam’s Razor for the win.

* Please, Bernie, by all means, go on Ellen, but do not dance.

* Webern’s Op. 16 No. 5 clearly employs invariant voice crossing because the first word of the text is “crucem” (cross).

* I love that my eight-year old son loves Crisis on Infinite Earths.  We routinely intone together, “I am the Monitor Monitor Monitor!  And I have brought you here because your worlds are about to die die die!”  Good times.

* I can’t wait to see the next poll numbers for “Jeb!” once the “stuff happens” comment has been taken into account.

* Has anyone noticed that Jim Webb is running for president too?

* Tammy Duckworth for Vice President.  The Republican nominee, no matter who he is, is going to beat the drums for war with Iran.  Putting Tammy Duckworth on the ticket would be a master stroke in reminding the American people what war really looks like.  Plus, she’s great.

-Robert Gross

Imagine… You’re Cynthia Lennon

I Come Not To Praise John Lennon But To Bury Him

I never cared for the Beatles.  Or, as I call them, the Overatles.

I could name the number of Beatles songs I genuinely like on one hand.  “Come Together,” sometimes “Let It Be,” and I must confess some fondness for some a cappella versions I’ve heard of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”  And, if done by Earth, Wind and Fire, “Got To Get You Into My Life.”  And I still have room for an opposable thumb.

I find more poetry in any single song by Curtis Mayfield than I find in the entire pretentious oeuvre of John Lennon.  I find more musical intelligence and intellectual content in any single song by Paul Simon than anything Lennon ever did.  More sensitivity in anything by Carole King or James Taylor.  More political integrity in anything by Woodie Guthrie.  More harmonic invention in early Chicago or early Yes or early Genesis.  More classical chops in any Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  Anything you can name to me that made John Lennon “great,” I can name you back an example of someone who did that exact thing but better.

You could make an argument that while each of these different acts did their particular things well, Lennon was the total package and that’s what made him great.  Okay, if you say so, but I’m the kind of guy that likes to hear excellence in some dimension rather than adequate above-averageness across the board, which is what Lennon has always represented to me.  He’s an above-average vocalist, but not great; an above-average guitarist, but not great; a reasonably gifted songwriter, but in my view there are so many songwriters who do it better and don’t have to rely on drug-induced cryptography to make people go “wow, that’s deep.”  Give me an “in the clearing stands a boxer” over an “I am the Walrus coo-coo-ca-choo” any day.

But there’s one thing that he did really, really well, you have to admit, and that’s knocking around his wife.

So in the past few days, I’ve seen the murdered Overatle’s mug coming up again and again on my facebook feed, because it’s his birthday or something, and I think, I guess people just don’t know.  Or they’re willing to overlook it.  Or something.

Of course, there are people on my side on this.  Here, you can get a top ten list of things that made JL pretty loathesome, though unfortunately this list has the perhaps fatal flaw that smacking around Cynthia (though this article claims Yoko got whacked around too) only rates #10 on the top ten list, with his songwriting shortcomings rating around #3 or #4.  Really?

Then there’s Julian Lennon, who calls his dad a hypocrite.  I think if you read between the lines, you can see that the abuse was a problem for him to deal with.

A lot of people won’t believe Cynthia Lennon’s account of matters, of course, but I do, because violence against women is a global pandemic.  That’s today, in the here and now.  Why would it have been any better in Cynthia Lennon’s day, which was a much more misogynist and patriarchal era in the U.S. and U.K.?  Besides, the only people that doubt the credibility of women who say they were abused are the MRAs (Mens’ “Rights” A-Holes).

So why don’t we believe her, or if we do believe her, why don’t we care?  Because he wrote a pretty-sounding fantasy that many people love, even though most people who love it don’t even believe in its central message since it’s kind of, sort of a paean to atheism and most people aren’t actually atheists?  Really?

But, I guess if you’re like most people, or at least most of my facebook friends if they’re any indication, this view will resonate with you more closely than my own:

I don’t love Lennon because I think he is some kind of infallible being. I love him because he was a great singer and songwriter. He, like all people, was human. He made mistakes. The fact that some people feel it’s their duty to dredge up these mistakes and air dirty laundry some 40-odd years later speaks more for their character than Lennon’s, don’t you think?

Yeah, guys like me are the bad guys here, dredging up what is euphemistically referred to here as “dirty laundry” and “mistakes.”  What lacking character I must have, not to see that a great singer and songwriter (but whom I for one don’t feel was all that great, but whatever) was human and made “mistakes.”  He couldn’t have been that bad, right?  He taught us to imagine, after all.

Well, then.  Let’s imagine.

Imagine you’re Cynthia Lennon, and this guy beat you up.  And everywhere you go this guy who beat you up is heralded as a saint.  And imagine that you’ve been putting up with this BS for forty years.  And imagine that when he got shot— which wasn’t actually his idea or any kind of real accomplishment on his part or anything— he became a martyr on a par with Martin Luther King or Malcolm X.  Imagine trying to get people to listen to you, trying to get people to understand that this sainted man had a dark side and was actually pretty much a creep.  But nobody listens because he’s a saint, and has been a saint for forty years, and then when some people finally come forward to set the record straight, you get— heh— shot down.  Shot down by people saying “well, we shouldn’t air dirty laundry from forty years ago” and by people questioning your character and integrity for refusing to suffer in silence and for having the unmitigated temerity to actually complain a little.

Maybe I’m missing something.  Or maybe it’s that everyone else is missing something… something called empathy.  Because I for one could not possibly imagine what it would be like to have to have put up with the sanctification of my abuser for forty years.

Seriously.

Can you imagine?

-Robert Gross