It's been a while since I've been to hear a live music performance, but one thing I love about them, especially ones involving live instruments, is the tuning and practicing that occurs before performances and during intermissions. I'd never thought that anyone might record these musical interludes, but someone has: a Seattle-based "sound artist" and musician named Christopher DeLaurenti. According to X's article in today's New York Times, for 7 years diLaurenti secretly taped intermissions with his digital audio recorder carefully rigged in a heavily miked, black leather vest, sometimes risking getting caught, and often annoying his girlfriend. He's recently issued a CD of the edited pieces, called Favorite Intermissions: Music Before and Between Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Holst, and several of the .mp3 snippets on the Times site, like his "Holst, Hitherto," resemble late 20th century to comtemporary avant-garde compositions with a bit more ambient sound, especially an added din of voices, in accompaniment; the Times writer notes that the recording falls in the conceptual tradition of which John Cage is an avatar, and as I listened to the Holst piece in particular, I thought of Cage, Ives, Feldman, and many other composers for whom such pieces might seemed to be conceptual templates. (I'd love to hear a complete orchestral piece along these lines.) In this particular piece, the glockenspiel's intermittent melodies play like a recurring motif, a scrap of memory or thought, amist the crowd noise, with sometimes distinct voices, and the various percussive instruments--especially the booming bass drum.
Although nearly all orchestras have rules banning photographs and recordings during performances, DeLaurenti's CD has so far avoided litigation, and met with indifference and bemusement from some major management figures in the American symphony world. Mark Volpe of the Boston Symphony Opera suggested that the musicians probably didn't consider the intermission music proprietary, while a lawyer for orchestral and musicians' unions remarked that DeLaurenti was not taping the music that people were paying for, i.e., the main performances. I love DeLaurenti's concept and the ingenuity he marshalled to pull this off. I also liked the other snippets I heard, and I'm going to check out the complete CD, which is available from GD Stereo, though something tells me that now that it's been highlighted by the Times, the first run of 1,000 is probably gone. There's a lot more examples of DeLaurenti's conceptual, phonographic art on his site, DeLaurenti.net.
I realized I could blog each day about some new transgression or multiple ones caused by the Bush adminstration, and also about the persistent timorousness of the Demopublican Party, but then I would probably stop blogging after a weak out of sheer frustration and rage. There is so much to frustrate and provoke rage, like the Democrats' recent capitulation to the President on the war supplemental. I was glad that Barack Obama did not support it, but both of New Jersey's sad sack Demopublican Senators, Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, did. Before the vote, I signed several petitions and wrote to both of these men, as well as my new Congressperson, Albio Sires of West New York, to request that they vote against any bill that stripped away penalty-specific timetables and benchmarks, with scheduled troop reductions. I have not heard from either Menendez (who tends to respond a good month after he's been contacted) or Lautenberg (same), but Sires wrote back yesterday to say that he'd voted against the second amendment to H.R. 2206, U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, which gave Bush a free pass. I still cannnot grasp why the Democrats caved on this; Bush's overall approval ratings are between 28% and 34%, the worst this late in a term since Richard Nixon's approval ratings before his impeachment (which should be on the Demopublican's agenda, though the Senate and House leadership are dancing around it), and more than one poll has attested to the desire of a strong majority of Americans to impose set benchmarks and begin troop withdrawals, and a bare majority to remove the troops completely. Instead, the Demopublicans keep cowering in fear, and give Bush the extra tether he needs to hang them and the US military and Iraqi people.
I've been thinking a lot about the issue of an abrupt or schedule US troop withdrawal, and I have to say that while I cannot predict what the outcome will be, beyond an increase or worsening of sectarian slaughter, at least temporarily, until Iraq's neighbors, and in particular Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, figure out ways to achieve some sort of political consensus or partitioning, it is clear to me that we should never have gone in there, as I repeated like a mantra back in the fall of 2002, and that the US occupation is not demonstrably improving things beyond lessening some of the slaughter, so the US troops should reploy to the outlying bases, and then be brought home as quickly as possible. As it is, the slaughter, of which we see only a tiny sliver on TV every day, while Reuters reports paragraph after paragraph of carnage, is not going to lessen, escalation or no escalation; in the absence of far more US and coalition troops (say, in the range of 300,000-400,000), particularly ones from Muslim and Arab countries and a functioning, representative Iraqi government, the US troops are what some of them wanted to tell that lying Pollyanna Joe Lieberman they are: sitting targets. Yet Bush and his gang are determined, no matter what the American people feel and say, in the streets, in print, online, in the voting booth, to stay the worst possible course, which, as the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) blueprint laid out, involves hunkering down, death be damned, and maintaining a longterm presence in Iraq, to guard and control the oil facilities and from its now-rising, Vatican-sized new military installation-embassy, manipulate--to disastrous ends, as we've seen so far--Middle East affairs. In a sense, I'm suggesting that even if the Demopublicans had stood up, Bush would have still not budged, but they didn't, and until they do, there is little chance that we'll see any positive changes in Iraq, no matter how many Westerners or US troops are kidnapped, no matter how many US troops are slain or injured (and May 2007's death totals are now the third-highest since the war began), no matter how many Iraqis are displaced, abducted, raped, maimed, murdered, blown to smithereens. Frustration and rage barely capture it.