Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Emperor's New Clothes

For those who have never heard of it, Hans ChristianAnderson wrote a short tale called ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ It’s the story of a vain emperor who gets ‘taken in’ (no pun intended,) by a pair of charlatans, posing as tailors.
These charlatans tell the emperor that they are making a very special suite of clothes for him that anyone who is unfit for their position or “hopelessly stupid,” will not be able to see.
The trick is there are no clothes and the emperor, of course, parades around before his subjects unclothed and no one will say so because they are all afraid of being labeled unfit or stupid. Finally a young boy shouts out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.
This is a bit of an allegory, naturally, of situations which arise when someone keeps himself or herself surrounded by ‘yes men’ who are afraid to speak the truth for fear of losing their job status. It goes on in politics and it goes on in music and the arts.
When I was in music school, the Avant-garde was being championed as the latest, most advanced pinnacle of musical evolution. If you didn’t like the lack of aesthetics in this music, you were told it was because ‘you didn’t understand it.’ Hence people just began to keep silent on the subject and we had to wait a decade for this music to drive away audiences at the symphony concerts so that they started to go broke.
The same thing goes on with pop music since, if you criticize any of it, it’s because you’re simply not ‘hip enough.’
You’re going to lose your job status and get called “hopelessly stupid” if you speak your mind about very much these days.

Actually a this is why a good ruler would keep a ‘fool’ in his court since a fool was known to be crazy and would not get punished for the things he said, hence the ruler could look to his fool for the truth of the matter.    

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Traditionally Speaking

Leopold Auer was a great violin teacher in the late eighteen hundreds who trained such stellar artists on the instrument as Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz and Efrem Zimbalist, so he must have known a little something about music.
He wrote a small book called ‘Violin Playing As I Teach It.’ This little book contains a wealth of useful information about violin technique and music in general. As to the subject of tradition, he had the following to say;
“Tradition in reality weighs down the living spirit of the present with the dead formalism of the past…. Beauty we must have, tradition we can dispense with.
How is a violinist to conceive the meaning of an older work which he may be studying if his own musical instinct, his freedom of conception, are obfuscated by the dictum: ‘This must be played in such and such a manner, because so and so played it that way two hundred years ago?’ “
He is talking about interpretation here and he makes it clear that any attempt at phrasing or interpretation will fall on its face without a solid technical support.
Too many, in the recent past, have tried to use the idea of breaking with tradition as an excuse to not have the discipline to learn the technique required for what they want to do. These end up simply frustrated.
But now, let’s look at how this view applies to creating. In conservatories, in the composition department, you run into the same things being said; ‘You must write in such and such a manner because so and so wrote this way a hundred years ago, or so and so is writing this way now.’
Tradition accrues pretty darned fast in the arts. I daresay that pop music has been around long enough for it to have its own traditions. Certainly there exists a whole school of guitar technique for pop music with its pentatonic scales and blues chords.
Granted this is the solid technique that I spoke of that you need and should have in playing pop music.
But there are four other chords in a scale and as many other types of scale that you could shake a stick at. There are also quite a number of other meters besides 4/4.
Just take a look in The Beatles or Frank Zappa.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

What I Learned In Music School

In my earliest youth, I was heavy on the classics; a Mozart and Beethoven man mainly. I definitely was fascinated and curious about the pop music and its culture, especially going into high school and starting to get high with my buddies.
It was mostly out of a desire to be ‘cool,’ as violinists and others who played in the school orchestra were classified along with the nerds of the scene.
That was tough.
Of course, I ended up going to a music conservatory called the Peabody (named after the famous philanthropist who started it, not the dog.)
My first acquaintance at the school was my new roommate, Dave (alias ‘Big Nose’,) who became one of my best friends ever.
Dave and I shared the desire to learn about and experience all the strange new changes that had gone on in our society. We lost no time in establishing a counter culture to The Peabody. A conservatory is an institution that is conserving the tradition of so-called Classical music as it goes back several hundred years.
Pop music, at least in the conservatory, tended to be looked down on as a debased form of music. The composition professor there, at the time, was famous for saying that jazz wouldn’t last.
It seems that, in no time, I had turned into a self-styled Hunter S. Thompson; ringleader to the other classically disenfranchised (of which there were quite a number,) taking them on the Magical Mystery Tour and initiating them into the Cave Of The Unknown.
Some survived and some didn’t, what can I say?
Anyway, it kind of started one day when Big Nose and I were tripping and driving around the city in my little Falcon station wagon. (A ‘woody’)
We had the radio on, of course, and suddenly began to decide that pretty much whatever song we were listening to, at the time, was the best music ever and our favorite music.
Big Nose began to make a list, and it ran like so;
‘Please Mr. Postman’
‘Brahms Third Symphony’
‘Back In The USSR,’
and so on.
Next we instigated a weekly event in our dorm room called ‘Music Appreciation.’ This was a highly ritualized activity that may or may not have involved a bong made from a Pringles Potato Chip Can. After the overture, as it were, music that everyone had brought was played with no program structure other than everything would get played no matter what it was. It went on for a couple of hours with a room full of students listening to random selections from all different genres and time periods.
So what did I learn in music school?

That a ‘genre’ is just a label and that there are more similarities to music of diverse genres than there are differences and good music is good music no matter where you find it.   

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Mozart And The British Invasion

In my previous two blog posts; Aleister Crowley And TheBritish Invasion and 
Aleister Crowley And The British Invasion Part Two, we examined the connect between Mr. Crowley and many British rock groups such as Led Zepelin and The Beatles who were, if not followers, certainly were familiar with his writings.
We showed how Mr. Crowley was involved with revealing the inner teachings of the Masons, which had traditionally been kept a secret.
Many things can be said about this but keeping knowledge a secret is unquestionably one of the tools of the suppressors or those who wish to stay in power.
We find Mr. Crowley living outside the mores of society, taking drugs and having sexual relations quite freely, elements we find prevalent in the sixties. Unfortunately there was an end result of self-discovery that most people involved did not quite reach.
The vehicles of liberation became an end in themselves, got commercialized and the movement also got mixed up with the revolutionary ideas of Mao and the Red Guard.
But we had revolutions before, so these ideas are obviously not new, even though the commercial end of the movement would have you thing this was the hippest and newest thing under the sun and don’t trust anyone over thirty.
I remember watching something on the television having to do with how cool this all was and turning to my friend and saying ‘this is not new.’
Obviously, something before the French revolution had fanned the flames, so to speak, so I took a look.
I remembered finding a book of Mozart’s letter’s in a library back in high school and my friend John and I were shocked over their content. Once, in the elevator in music school, my violin teacher, completely out of the blue asked me what I thought Mozart was really like.
I said he made Jim Morrison look like Mr. Rogers. My violin teacher just smiled and said ‘good.’
And well, don’t you know that Mozart was a Mason as well and his opera the Magic Flute is, by all accounts about Masonry and full of Masonic symbols.
Interesting that Wikipedia’s article talks about two main sects or orders of the Masons; one enlightened and the other more mystic and occult. Mozart was part of the enlightened group that studied the teachings of Rousseau and Diderot. Said teachings debunked the idea that the ruling class was somehow nobler in spirit, generally speaking.
The Magic Flute does have two characters in it that are kind of diametrically opposed; the Queen of the Night who is evil and Sarastro who is good. In a pdf on this opera from the 
San Francisco Opera Education, the theory is put forward that the Queen of the Night is the empress Maria Theresa and the hero Tamino is the good emperor Joseph.