Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

ORCHESTRAL POPS

While symphony orchestras continue their tradition of playing symphonies, concertos, and overtures, American ensembles have their own unique tradition of the pops repertoire.

It can be traced to what Arthur Fiedler did in Boston as he pushed the light classics repertoire into a blend all his own. Or it can be traced to John Philip Sousa’s work a generation earlier with the concert band.

Either way, something remarkable happened in the aftermath.

First, while Fiedler was still busy in Boston, Max Rudolf asked his young associate conductor Erich Kunzel to take over the Eight O’Clock series in Cincinnati. He told Kunzel there were a thousand young conductors who aspired to Mahler, but here was a repertoire begging for leadership – and Rudolf was overwhelmed as it was.

The rest is musical history.

Just look at the recordings – and that’s just the tip of an iceberg that includes performances with Tina Turner (when she could really use them) and local bluegrass bands and, well, anything that was music. Kunzel was also big on extending local connections.

Somebody could probably do a doctoral dissertation on the way Kunzel built a spider web of concert themes. You can look to his fabulous Telarc recordings to build the connections. The Hollywood albums, of course. Plus Mancini. There were all the Star Wars/Star Trek albums, each leading to the next. The Roundup album led to Happy Trails and Down on the Farm. The light classics disks soon focus on American orchestral selections leading to the piano and orchestra masterpieces as well as the Gershwin series. Well, they radiate outward, each one rising on something earlier.

The Cincinnati trustees quickly established Kunzel’s Pops ensemble as a separate brand, one that played throughout the year, unlike Boston, where the pops band is a late spring/early summer staple.

Each to his own.

So second, I should point out that when the flamboyant Kunzel was passed over in Boston after Fiedler’s demise, the film composer John Williams instilled another repertoire, giving film music an esteemed place.

I should add that the two become big fans of each other, rather than seeing themselves as rivals.

Now that’s music-making!

There’s much more, I sense, in that range between popular (commercial) music and traditional orchestral fare that could be explored – a third stream, more adventurous than most pops programming and, dare I say, than most classical scheduling these days.

As I hope will yet happen.

As for a connection between these two cities? Kunzel’s assistant, Keith Lockhart, took Williams’ place on the podium in Boston. Seems like just yesterday, though it’s been … I don’t want to count!

NO LONGER MUSICAL RARITIES

Looking at yet another recording of Vivaldi’s now ubiquitous Four Seasons reminds me of the first time I encountered the work. Two of our local FM stations each had an hour of classical music each night, and there it was, taking up the entire program, or at least most of it.

At the end of the piece, the announcer came on, leaving me to exclaim, “Who was that? Never heard of him.” A nobody composer, then. (Actually, I think my reaction was more graphic. In those days, I wanted BIG NAMES.)

A month later, the same thing.

And a month after that, the reaction continued.

I must have been a sophomore in high school. By my senior year, Vivaldi had gained enough traction to have one of the Four Seasons concertos be included in a Cincinnati May Festival concert I attended (Robert Shaw conducting), and even Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic had recorded an all-Vivaldi album that was a mainstay of my budding collection.

How times have changed.

I remember, too, discovering Mahler through a Boston Symphony recording under Erich Leinsdorf, probably about the same time. By my senior year of college, Mahler had gained enough visibility that I heard two live performances of his Fifth Symphony, one by an Indiana University orchestra and the other by the Cincinnatians under Max Rudolf – and that was within a span of one month.

Now that Mahler and Vivaldi are regulars in the repertoire, I keep hoping for a similar discovery of John Knowles Paine, George Whitefield Chadwick, Amy Beach, and their American Romantic-era colleagues.

Yes, times and tastes can change. There’s so much more to discover and embrace.

TIPPING THAT OLD-BOY ICEBERG

When the college administration has clandestine plans to shut down a small dormitory, its residents rally to preserve their longstanding underground traditions. Little do they know the forces they’re engaging, especially as the hippie movement hits the campus.

It’s hippie versus corruption in this history of campus intrigue.

To some extent, Skelton was continuing a grand plan initiated by his predecessors, who had been erecting high-rise dormitories – commonly known as “the projects,” after public housing in Chicago – at the campus fringe. In his eyes, Memorial Quad appeared a curious antiquity housing a mere five hundred residents in contrast to the nearly four thousand or more slotted into one of the massive contemporary tower complexes. In consolidating his own administrative empire, Skelton was also pressuring fraternities and sororities to relocate from their mansions sandwiched between the city and campus, situating anew on a grandiose suburban Greek Row having plenty of free parking. Skelton was even applying for federal funding to construct a demonstration monorail system to move students two or three miles between the outer residences and their classrooms.

~*~

To learn more about my Daffodil Sunrise novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Daffodil-jnana

TEN HIPPIE MOVIES

We’ve already looked at music and literature from the hippie era, but now I’m wondering about movies. Yes, there were some that played straight into the stereotypes. Peter Sellars’ The Guru would head my list there.

But there were also others that took the issues and era seriously, even when they were comedies. Not all of them, I should emphasize, come from the ’60s or ’70s.

For a starter Top Ten list, let me propose:

  • Alice’s Restaurant
  • Putney Swope
  • I Love You, Alice B. Toklas
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon
  • Godspell
  • Hair
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Love Story
  • Zabriske Point

Maybe The Graduate, Swept Away, 10, or Hippie Masala belong on the list. But it’s your turn to weigh in, savvy viewers that you are. What other nominees do you propose?

ACKNOWLEDGING TWO WORLDS

So what have our children learned, as far as religion goes? What seeds have we planted? Actually, I’m thinking of this not so much as a curriculum matter for the Religious Education committee or as a reflection for parents but rather as a consideration of what’s happened in American society in general – the kind of place where soccer practice is now seen as more valuable (“value enabling”) than Sunday School. Or where a child may develop an aversion to being viewed, in any way, as a “Miss Goody Two-Shoes.”

My thoughts leap ahead to the tension many of us feel in the workplace. As Michael Lerner writes in The Left Hand of God, it’s the conflict of values between our dog-eat-dog competitive economy and those we hold dear and sacred. Fundamentalists, at least, attempt to resolve it by separating the two worlds, but at what cost? Children, of course, pick up on this, tuning out what they see as useless to their survival. And that includes what they observe at home. (Should we note the popularity of so-called “reality TV” – as manifested in The Survivor?) The Amish and other old orders attempt to hold the values of workplace, home, and faith in one sphere, but we can easily imagine the difficulty that, too, presents.

Obviously, I’m not going to resolve any of this in the next few sentences. Without the music of hymns and praise songs, the pageantry of robes, processions, lighting of altar candles, and communion, or the attentive consideration to set prayers and sermons, what do we give our children to cling to? (In the old days, did the plain clothing and “thee/thou” speech offer some refuge or rooting?) Or what invitation do we extend to those “voted off the island”? What I am going to suggest is that the answer is not found so much in any catechism or ceremony as in the way we treat our smallest members, our moments of laboring together, and, yes, the repeated ritual of a certain casserole on youth retreats and its reception.

WELCOME TO MURTON IN LAMPLUGH

The two most exciting breakthroughs in my genealogical research came in finding the missing link that connected my Ohio line to Orphan George, via William and Diannah (Saferight) Hodson, and – of far wider consequence – the plausible roots of Orphan George himself, something that’s long eluded some highly respected researchers.

Essentially, several bits of Internet sleuthing came together in a chance online exchange with an Englishman who could indeed shed light on a crossroads called Murton in the township of Lamplugh in Cumbria, which would take my ancestry back to about 1530. Now, for the details, click here.

NOT EXACTLY A BOOM

I’ve never really liked the “baby boomer” description. Besides, I think there’s a major barrier between the early experiences of those born before ’47 or ’48, and those after. Around ’48, my wave, was when TV sets were present from the very beginning of our exposure to the world. We can’t remember ever not having one at least somewhere in the neighborhood. (Suddenly, I remember being three or four and having the Sullivan brothers show up to watch “Howdy Doody” with me. They didn’t yet have a tube of their own.)

Every year as our class advanced, our new round of teachers was baffled. All they knew was we were “different” from the previous ones. So to some extent, the TV influence feeds into the hippie outbreak. We were, in effect, wired differently from our seniors. Still are, for that matter.

But the other big shortcoming in the boomer classification is the way it ignores the huge fissure within our generation between those who supported the Vietnam Conflict and those of us who opposed it. That’s something that’s never fully healed, and it’s certainly crippled our ability to come together to advance the ideals some of us, at least, so passionately embraced. I suspect there are many politicians and corporate executives – the dreaded Establishment, that is – who actively worked to keep the wound festering.

So here I am, calling for a renewed vision of our legacy. That’s been one of the promptings of the novels in my series Hippie Trails. You’re welcome to come along on the trip.

 

 

HONORING ELDERS

Elders, or wise guides, have traditionally held an honored place within a community. They’re not necessarily senior citizens, mind you – I know some who are in their early 20s, at least as far as Quaker practice is concerned.

In contemporary society, however, true elders seem to be in short supply.

One of their roles is to hold the community in their hearts and prayers. The best ones ask questions rather than offer advice, unless requested.

This is the focus of a free poetry chapbook now available as a PDF download at Thistle/Flinch editions. To take a look, click on Elders Hold.

Elders 1

BEACH BANDIT

When you go to the beach, you need to secure your snacks from the marauding gulls. Here one makes off with a bag of popcorn, which the bird promptly ripped open before a host of rivals flocked in.

When you go to the beach, you need to secure your snacks from the marauding gulls. Here one makes off with a bag of popcorn, which the bird promptly ripped open before a host of rivals flocked in.

LISTENING TO A POETRY READING

Sometimes as I listen during an open mic, especially (and oh how I hate that spelling!), I find myself focusing on a particular reader’s moralizing and editorializing or cliche or heavy reliance on simile rather than metaphor, and that soon sends me into a disturbing zone.

What happens is that I begin editing heavily with an imaginary thick black marker, striking through all of the offending words and phrases, and pretty soon I’m tuning into only to the blackened blocks in the air and tuning out everything else.

Admittedly, I edit myself heavily, and this is a central step in the creation of many of my own works. Admittedly, too, I’m projecting myself onto the poor writer onstage. Admittedly, in particular, I’m forgetting to be humble and open here, star that I might imagine myself to be.

Does anyone else experience anything similar?

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