Today, June 16, is Bloomsday, the day on which James Joyce first met his future wife, Nora Barnacle in 1904 and also the day on which the narrative of his masterpiece Ulysses takes place. Despite the fact that the Irish government and much of Irish society disdained Joyce and his works during his lifetime for their alleged vulgarity and veritable complexity, he and the texts he created have since become an inexhaustible cultural industry. Bloomsday is now a secular holiday in Ireland; in his native Dublin, there's an annual conference, walking tours, a race, and other related events. But Joyceans around the globe also celebrate the day; Symphony Space in New York will again host its 23rd "Bloomsday on Broadway" event, beginning at 12 pm. Other cities across the globe get in on the festivities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Sarasota, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and Santa Maria, Brazil. Joyce devotees may also glance or beginning rereading his other extraordinary works, among them the sublime short story collection Dubliners, the Bildungsroman A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and one of the greatest experimental works ever written, Finnegans Wake.
Campbell Robertson writes about Dublin playwright Sheila Callaghan's "Dead City," a transposition of Ulysses onto New York City, in today's New York Times. The paper lists another Bloomsday event, at the Gotham Book Mart, here.
The current New Yorker features an article, "The Injustice Collector," by critic D. T. Max on the problems Joyce's chief heir, his 74-year-old grandson Stephen James Joyce, has created for scholars and others in the literary and performing arts communities since he gained majority control of the estate several decades ago. From quashing public readings of Joyces's writings and stagings of his plays to withholding access to his papers to sending out spies to report on scholarly proceedings about James Joyce to threatening (and winning) lawsuits against literary critics, Joyce's zealous grandson, who wears Ireland's slights against his grandfather like indelible tattoos, has made the Joyce industry a much more difficult one. Internet expert Lawrence Lessig is currently pressing a suit on behalf of Stanford scholar Carol Shloss, and Mr. S.J. Joyce is, naturally, very unhappy. Max's piece is a cautionary or instructive tale, depending upon your perspective, of what can happen based on who controls an artist's estate....
The other day Reggie H. sent me an email obituary for György Ligeti (1923-2006), the Hungarian composer whose pioneering experimental oeuvre represents one of the pinnacles of the late 20th century post-classical/art music. Ligeti's most influential works, of the 1950s and 1960s, utilized his method of composition using micropolyphony, microtonality, and cloudlike tonal clusters, offering composers another way out of the tonal vs. dodecophanic impasse. He became best known to a wider audience when Stanley Kubrick utilized an excerpt from Ligeti's Lux Aeterna (1966) and Atmosphères (1961) on the top-selling soundtrack of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There are informative obituaries on Schott Music's site, Yahoo! News, Bloomberg News, and BBC News. There's also a very basic but fascinating site at Braunarts.com (it requires Shockwave) that offers a few unusual tidbits about Ligeti's life and work, including his systematic study of sub-Saharan African rhythm and his lifelong arachnophobia.
Speaking of less well-known contemporary post-classical composers, I came across a CD yesterday of works by Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004). I'd heard of but never listened to his music. I'd always made a mental note to look for his work based on the fact that his first name was the last name of Britain's most famous composer of African ancestry, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) (who was no relation, as far as I know, to the great Romantic poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)). Perkinson, it turns out, was an African-American New York native who spent many years teaching and composing in Chicago. In addition to writing several film scores and the themes for TV shows Room 222 and Get Christie Love!, two programs I never missed as a small child, he founded the Symphony of the New World and led it from 1965-1975, composed a wide array of music in the classical idiom while also arranging music for greats such as Marvin Gaye and Harry Belafonte, and, in the years before his death, was Artistic Director, Principal Conductor and Coordinator of Performance Activities at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Black Music Research (CBMR).
The CD I found was the 2005 release Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004): A Celebration, Chicago Sinfonietta et al., Paul Freeman, Conductor, put out by Cedille 90000 087). I've enjoyed what I've listened to, and plan to look for the African Heritage Symphonic series, Vol. III: Sinfonietta for Strings No. 2 (Generations) Katinka Kleijn, cello, Chicago Sinfonietta, Paul Freeman, Conductor, also issued by Cedille label (90000 066 (2003)).
On a completely different note, I saw an article about a fire at the John Merlo Branch public library in Chicago's predominantly gay Lakeview (Boystown) neighborhood. According to WBBM 780, around 90 LGBT-related books were set afire earlier this week (the text doesn't give the date, oddly enough, though the podcast is a bit more specific). About 10 books on African-American topics (surprise!) were also damaged or destroyed. LGBT activists are rightly concerned that this might be a hate-related activity, especially given that it's Gay Pride month in Chicago (and across the US).
I received this information in an email, and then saw it again on Larry Lyon's blog:
March and Rally this Saturday
Raise Your Voice Against Anti-LGBT Hate in Our Neighborhoods
When: Saturday, June 17, 2006
Where: Gather at NE Corner of 14th Street and First Avenue at 2PM;
March at 3PM to Christopher Park (Christopher & West 4th Streets)
Why: In the last week a number of hate incidents have impacted our community.
Make your voice heard!!
We will not be targeted even as we celebrate our History, our Pride and our Survival...
Community Partners in this Effort include: the NYC Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, Daniel Dromm, Empire State Pride Agenda, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Gay Men of African Descent, Hedda Lettuce, Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, the Latino Commission on AIDS, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, mano a mano, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, New York State Black Gay Network, NYC Council Member Rosie Mendez, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, NYS Assembly Member Deborah Glick, NYS Assembly Member Sylvia Friedman, NYS Senator Tom Duane, People of Color in Crisis, Unity Fellowship Church of Christ and the Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund.
Click here for more information and safety tips.
On yet another tip, I've continued my World Cup-watching, though less so since the first round is now over. So far England advanced by defeating Trinidad and Tobago; Spain blew out Ukraine; Ecuador became the first South American country to proceed to the next round; host Germany also eked out a 1-0 win over Poland to go forward; Argentina put on a soccer clinic this morning and defeated Serbia (and Montenegro) by a 6-0 margin.
Meanwhile, the US team has stirred up controversy, the last thing they need. Striker Eddie Johnson (at right, Sports Network), speaking before US troops at Ramstein Air Base, said that the US team was "here for war," a bit of overstated rhetoric--though quite in keeping with the general tenor of hyperbole that dominates our national discourse--that the next team the US faces, ally Italy, took with considerable equanimity. Perhaps Johnson and his teammates could focus on "soccer" instead of "war"--basic skills, indefatigability, speed, some semblance of defense, and a raft of set plays will be necessary to prevent Italy from turning the match into an open-goal shoot out. I trust the Americans watched and studied Argentina's play this morning. They could and should borrow liberally from that team's approach. Anything less and they'll be on their way home sooner than they hope or wish.