Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Miscellanea

I didn't do a  miscellanea post on Friday because I got involved with one on Hilary Hahn. So there must be some really juicy stuff out there, unused!

First up, Camille Paglia is out with another of her word salads on pop culture. This time an hommage to Eminem. Yes, the Madonna fan has moved on. The link is to a teaser version of a feature article. But I think we can amuse ourselves with the short version for a minute or two. I'm going to put together the sub-head plus a bit of the article below:

Forget Lady Gaga. Eminem is the only true artist working in pop today, says Camille Paglia, America’s foremost cultural critic

Lady Gaga never saw it coming. After a relentless, mammoth, publicity extravaganza for her new album, ArtPop, she was upstaged by a comet seeming to swoop in out of nowhere — the release of Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Eminem’s sales boomed big, while Gaga’s embarrassingly fizzled, leading to quick deep discounts to keep ArtPop on the charts.
Eminem, now 41, did few interviews and personal appearances for this formidable double album. As with Adele sweeping the Grammys two years ago, his instant commercial triumph demonstrates the readiness of a discerning world public to respond to power and passion of voice rather than to manipulative gimmicks or exhibitionistic stunts.
Does anyone else find Camile Paglia just a bit comic in her over-the-top cultural shark-jumping? The Sunday Times calls her "America's foremost cultural critic" and this is what she has to say? OK, first of all, this is all just commercial pop music and while some of the artists (not Miley Cyrus of course, but some of the others) may feel deeply about their "message", musically it is pretty much just more of the same: boom tic boom tic moan moooaaan. And the big logical flaw in the above is that while Eminem did "few" promotions of his new album, Beyoncé did absolutely none and achieved even bigger sales. So why isn't Paglia writing about Beyoncé if sales are important? The number one song on Billboard right now is Katy Perry, "Dark Horse", why aren't we talking about her? Paglia purports to be a critic of pop culture, but I can never quite run down what she is trying to say about the music.

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Here is another story, a tragic one, about a different kind of "cultural critic". When Michael Dunn decided to criticize some rap music, or rather the playing of it very loud from a boom-box car, he said it with bullets, ten of them. Someone died as a result, so now he is facing a very lengthy term in jail. Apparently the "no jury would convict" clause is no longer operative. Or maybe it is, as the jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge. Here is the link.

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Organist Paul Jacobs makes an interesting comment about the current state of music criticism in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner:
As far as music criticism is concerned, I think the decline of the role of music critics is indicative of a general cultural trend: the ability, or desire, to listen critically. This is the unavoidable result of a culture that does not emphasize a proper music education or its vast history. If you don’t value the education, you’re not going to value the subject very much, regardless of how it makes you 'feel'. Consequently, everything has been reduced to a matter of personal opinion, where all positions are equally valid, without any critical thinking, crucial listening, drawing distinctions, etc. – I mean, these are the building blocks of the Western tradition going back to the Greeks!
Well, that's what I've been saying...

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I don't necessarily want to claim that I am a more serious music blogger than Alex Ross of the New Yorker. But on the other hand, I don't think I would have bothered putting up a photo of a cigarette butt found inside Bartók's piano as he just did:

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I have to run, so let me end with some music, as is customary. Perhaps something by Bartók? Composed while he was smoking the above cigarette? Here is Bartók at the piano:

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