The New York Philharmonic goes to North Korea. It sounds kind of like the highbrow version of a “Bad News Bears” sequel, doesn’t it? I always find these sorts of cultural exchanges fascinating, because you can make equally good arguments that they’re almost inevitably failures because, at the end of the day, they don’t really mean anything politically, or that they’re almost inevitably successful, because, at the end of the day, they don’t really mean anything politically. I’m curious to see just how much the view of this will hearken back to the Cold War: somebody’s always keeping those Soviet-era journalistic lenses well-polished.
That was the awfully pretty view out my window this morning, but I think spending the night shoveling it all left too much of a brain fog for proper blogging. Nevertheless, here’s some topics I was thinking about delving into. Maybe I’ll get to the bottom of some of them at some point in the future. For today, I think I’ll eat a whole bag of potato chips. Realistic goals, you know.
The 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced this week. More and more, the lesson of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seems to be that the surest path to artistic immortality is to a) get in on the ground floor of b) a medium pitched towards impressionable teenagers who grow up to be nostalgic critics. I mean, I like the Dave Clark Five, but were they really that good or that important? I’m starting to get the feeling that, fifty years from now, every single act who released a record between 1955 and 1970 will be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (And again, “Weird Al” Yankovic is passed over. For shame.)
Punkte and Circumstance. For future publication, I spent a good deal of this week studying Karlheinz Stockhausen; for future publication, I’m embarking on a study of Edward Elgar. Maybe it’s just the accidental juxtaposition, but I think there’s a particular connection between them that has a lot to do with how easily music can paper over awkward aesthetic impulses: namely, the fact that both composers rose to positions of public prominence at the same time the strong religious aspects of their music were publicly soft-pedaled. Elgar’s Catholicism was politely discounted for pretty much his whole career; Stockhausen’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink didn’t receive much mention until the late 1960s, when it became too front-and-center to ignore.
I’ll close with a commercial: here in Framingham, I live within shouting distance of about a hundred shopping malls, and if the traffic I have to crawl through when I’m not even going to the mall is any indication, there’s a lot of holiday-gift aggravation out there for the having. Why not just stay home and give everyone t-shirts? Not to be an insufferable shill or anything, but proceeds do go to a good cause. (Don’t like mine? Darcy’s are pretty stylish. And Matt has cornered the market on wearable puns—my favorite is “Fine and D’Indy,” with its subversive anti-anti-Semitic vibe.)