Morton Feldman in a Cave

Over the weekend there was a heatwave, so I decided to decamp to the cellar of my apartment building, where it's always a nice cool 20°. I sat in a folding fishing chair, played this quartet from Morton Feldman through my earphones, and worked. I noticed a line of water droplets on the bottom of a pipe about 2 meters in front of me. Every minute or so one of the droplets would fall to the floor. Plook. Plook.

And then it hit me: somebody should put on a concert of Morton Feldman in a cave. The gradual, natural processes of deposition and accretion, the geologic time scale, the chill, slightly unnerving sense of calm -- what could be a better arena?

Feldman is popular in Germany, not least because he spent an 18-month DAAD fellowship in Berlin in the early 1970s. There are many talented German performers of Feldman's music, and of course Germany has some pretty nice caves.


NY Assault Violinist's Lawyers Say They Know Who Drugged Him

Stefan N.'s lawyer has issued a statement, saying they've identified the person who he says drugged him:

This unfathomable and, entirely out-of-character, incident and Stefan’s arrest stemmed directly from Stefan himself being the victim of a crime upon him. We have identified the person who stole items from Stefan and are working to develop what else was done, including involuntarily drugging Stefan with powerful agents.

Investigation revealed that an as yet unknown person left Stefan’s hotel room with his Ipad, wallet, including cash, credit cards and identification and began using Stefan’s credit cards around New York City, successfully and unsuccessfully, on items that Stefan would unquestionably never have sought to purchase. We have obtained a photo of this person and are working with the police to identify and locate the perpetrator of this horrendous crime.

The upside is that Stefan seems to have aggressive lawyers. Issuing a statement like this during a pending investigation is not something to be done lightly, since (1) it ensures the case stays in the headlines; and (2) if later events cast doubt on it, that could be problematic at trial. Therefore, we can be pretty sure the lawyers are sure of the facts detailed in this statement, which do tend to back up Stefan's story.

As to point number 2, the statement is interesting for what it leaves out, including (1) the gender and background of the suspect; (2) how the suspect got into Stefan's hotel room; and (3) exactly how the drugs were 'involuntarily' administered to Stefan. The statement leaves open the possibility that Stefan invited this person into his hotel room. And it also seems to indicate that whoever he let in -- if he indeed let anyone in -- was stupid, desperate, or high enough to try using someone else's credit card right after stealing it. Not the sort of behavior one associates with guests at a luxury boutique hotel.

Stefan is innocent until proven guilty and may well end up actually being shown to be innocent of any crime, but I have a strong feeling we're going to learn some rather pungent details about his private life.


Is it OK to Enjoy Mozart's 'Abduction from the Seraglio'?

A British postgraduate musicology student loads up the arquebus with a gigantic clot of academic jargon and unloads on Wolfgang:

Within the boundaries of Saidean Orientalism, a work is deemed more ‘Orientalist’ if it purports to be authentic. Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail makes few, if any, claims to authenticity, most significantly because in theatre the boundary between what is ‘real’ and what is ‘imagined’, what is literal or ironic, is difficult to define. In a sense, the onus of ideological responsibility is shifted from the work itself onto the audience, and the way in which they perceive it. Moreover, in the blurring between Self and Other, Die Entführung does not provide a clearly Oriental identity, against which the Westerner may posit their notion of Self. The work is clearly of Orientalism, as Said states of Aida, since there are allusions to the East within a discourse of power, political or otherwise, yet this could be said of so many disparate works that it is an ultimately useless conclusion.

The negative stereotypes of the East in Die Entführung clearly portray it in a way which would reinforce the West’s perception of its own superiority. However, in order to satisfy Said’s contextual conception of an Orientalist work there must be a hegemonic discourse which favours Western Imperialism, a clearly defined Other, to enable a codification of the Self as its converse, and an attempt to provide an ‘authentic’ depiction of the East. The political tensions between Vienna and the Ottoman Empire, however, mean that Die Entführung is less an ‘assumption to power’ than a reaction to the current threat of an equal, albeit temporarily sedated, enemy. Self and Other were too similar in real life, and overlap too much in the opera, to facilitate a clear distinction. Far from attempting a quasi-ethnographic authenticity, in his reliance on stereotypes and musical convention, Mozart makes no such claim and, owing to the theatrical and often comic nature of the work, it would be foolish to take all its implications at face value. The absence of an internal ideological consistency means that the opera, as a self-contained unit, cannot be interpreted as uniformly Orientalist in a Saidean sense. Moreover, as with any artwork which is sent into the public domain, the multiplicity of possible interpretations by audiences existing in different times, places and cultures, force one to admit that, even if a work were deemed Orientalist according to Said’s doctrines, this could never be a permanently unequivocal designation.

As one outrageous Internet wag put it after quoting this piece, 'I think that means: yes, it’s still okay to enjoy this opera.'


'Oh Albania, Red Star that Burns Bright'

Probably the finest Canadian song praising the Communist Party of Albania you will hear today (h/t RM):

I wonder if there are any English-language songs praising East Germany?

If you're interested in the internecine squabbles of Canadian Marxist splinter parties in the 1960s -- and who isn't? -- you can find plenty of documentation here. One of the absolute must-read highlights, On the Question of Liu Shao-Chi:

While we might be disposed to be somewhat critical of [Sidney Rittenberg]'s speech for being poorly constructed, not too carefully prepared and containing some careless formulatons, we are in agreement with its basic content in criticizing and repudiating the bourgeois-reactionary line of Liu Shao-chi and upholding the proletarian-revolutionary line of Mao Tse-tung. However, the Belgian trio of Jacques Grippa, Rene Raindorf and Stephen Strulens who are of the opposite opinion, in reply to Rittenburg’s 40 to 50 minute speech inscribed a, reply that would fill a good-sized book.

The extreme length of this literary attack is largely caused by the authors’ ranging far beyond the limits of the Rittenburg speech which did not provide them with sufficient scope for the objective they had in mind. In order to correct this situaton Rittenburg is charged with not saying certain things, and the things which were not said provide the main basis for the attack.


Sprechstimme is Caucasian Rap

Johannah King-Sluztky, citing Schoenberg and Weill, sort of argues that Sprechstimme is white people rap:

Rap-talk-singing is as white as it gets, but it doesn't have to ironize or foil blackness. White people rap-talk-singing pre-dates hip hop by seventy years, with roots in German opera and melodrama. The proper name for rap-talk-singing is sprechstimme, sometimes used interchangeably with sprechgesang, the latter of which is a little more melodic.


German Beatles? Nö, German Beefheart

The BBC has a short piece on Faust, who were supposed to be the German Beatles but turned into something more rich and strange:

However, a second stroke of fortune befell them when Richard Branson, young head of the fledgling Virgin Record label, decided he wanted a piece of the Krautrock action,signed up Faustand brought them to the UK. He released an album of their outtakes, The Faust Tapes, for the price of a single, in 1973 – its low price and (to ‘70s British rock fans) difficult content made it one of the most bought but least listened-to cult rock albums of the year.

The few who did get Faust, however, were highly influential – BBC radio DJ John Peel, critics like NME’s Ian MacDonald, future band members like Bill Drummond, Ian McCulloch, Julian Cope and Jim Kerr, all of whom found in Faust post-punk ideas before punk had ever happened. They had seen nothing like them, or their neo-Dadaist live act, which involved sofas, a pinball machine, power tools, TV sets and walls of tin cans.

Faust, however, hated English food, English studios and Branson himself – though today, an older and wiser Péron believes they behaved unreasonably towards him. Inevitably, Virgin dropped Faust. They disappeared in the 1980s altogether – one of their members, Rudolf Sosna (described by Péron as the “true genius” of the band) sadly died. However, in the 1990s, they re-emerged, finding appreciation and understanding from rock audiences schooled in Faust’s successors, such as the 80s German group Einstürzende Neubauten. Faust’s onstage arsenal was as bizarrely formidable as ever, including angle grinders and even a cement mixer.


The De-, Trans- and Re-funkulation of 'Kung Fu Fighting'

First, Carl Douglas' evergreen 1974 hit 'Kung Fu Fighting': 

And now, the near-simultaneous and deeply regrettable German ripoff 'Kung Fu Leute', from the hapless 'Kandy', who looks like he was dragged in off the street to read lyrics from a card:

Given Germany's role as self-appointed Sole Remaining Keeper of the Flame of Intellectual Property™, I can only hope Carl Douglas was handsomely compensated for the traumatic defunkification of his song. (Right?).

But wait! Deutschland redeems itself 30 years later when the German outfit the Mardi Gras Brass Band returns to the original English lyrics and turns KFF into a tuba-driven slow jam:

And now comes Erdmöbel with their own song about someone who remembers his lover by her 'kung fu fighting' ringtone. The video features two people with pure Nordic blood pretty faces kissing: 

But lest we forsake or fake the funk, let us conclude this musical journey with Cee Lo Green insanely buttshaking but way too short cover: