Saturday, February 16, 2008

Against The Beast by Anthony McCarthy

Do I have this right? There’s yet another Rambo movie being released? The extension of chemically enhanced, Hollywood, fascist chic this far into what John McCain enthusiastically forecasts as a hundred years war in Iraq goes well beyond being a symptom of the outsized power of aged non-talents in the intellectual capital of the degenerating American Empire.

I also hear as well that the crypto-fascist, survival fantasy “Jericho” is being revived by what we are told was popular acclamation. As it happens, I saw exactly two episodes of this wretched program before it was canceled last time. Why “Jericho”? Wasn’t it discontinued due to viewer disinterest in the first place? I’ve got a suspicion that the revival of this junk has more to do with its absurd assertion of survival after a nuclear war and the rest of its message than it does quality entertainment. Its revival in an election year has to be seen as the promotion of a political viewpoint.

The cliche that the worst in pop culture represents America to itself and the world is too true. With the series of Republican presidents that have been brought to power by TV and radio and the most insanely irrational wars and foreign policies they have produced, only someone in complete denial would assert that it isn't the predominant product of our culture. It is the marriage of free speech absolutism and profit making under a corporate state system, worlds away from what free speech would mean under a true democracy. The context under which speech happens, the potency given to the messages favored by wealthy corporations when they own the amplification system, can only be ignored by the most willfully blind. Pretending that all speech is equal speech under present day conditions is a rejection of reality. Speech fueled by broadcasting, money, in other words, is not equal in power to speech produced by a single person in any realistic political analysis.

There is other speech in the United States but its rationality and potency is swamped by the media phantasmagoria that is intended to only excite and distract as it misinforms.

William Bolcom has been against the machine for decades now. Going back to before his brilliant Piano Quartet and Piano Concerto from 1976, the Buycentennial of the United States, he has been producing some of the most important statements of rejection of the worst of America. From yesterday’s Boston Globe:

Bolcom says that the symphony was surprisingly easy to compose, in part because he composed the opening - a dramatic setting of the line "Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in the burden'd air" - more than 40 years ago, when he was a graduate student at Stanford. That line is from Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell," from which the symphony's final text is drawn: "For every thing that lives is Holy."

To Bolcom, that line is far from being just watery sentiment. In a recent issue of Symphony Magazine, he wrote that that idea "could not be more relevant to today's miseries: I do feel very strongly that America's shedding of a long, overprotected, and overprotracted adolescence is the only way toward our nation's survival."

"It's a culture that nurtures the infantile," he elaborates. "So our tastes are those of children, we think like children, we got into this last war as if we were children. We have a notion of machismo for handling the world around us . . . and that's a very bad image for us. It's going to kill us."

William Bolcom's work is an example of the best of American democratic culture. He isn’t going to be a household name any time soon.