Saturday, August 07, 2010

Maurice Ravel Sonatina 2nd movement:


Marcelle Meyer

A transfer from the LP, with the LP noise, but the playing is extraordinarily beautiful.

1. Modéré

2. Minuet 3. Vif

Monique Haas

Here is the entire Sonatina played by another great French pianist of that generation who knew the authentic tradition, first hand.

I've never been a great fan of Ravel's orchestral music and was a relatively late convert to his piano music. A lot of that might have been due to the abuse of his music by interpreters who either made it sound like an electric sewing machine or who went to the opposite extreme and slathered it with romantic schmaltz*. When you hear the authentic tradition you realize that the usual, dialectic between those poles simply doesn't apply. The clarity isn't colorless, the rhythm isn't either the what's typically taken to be rubato nor is it metronomic. Trying to describe it, I find I don't have the vocabulary. Which would be the point of doing it with music, after all.

* In his book The Compleat Conductor, Gunther Schuller documents the horrific distortion of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe by some of the most famous conductors of the past century. While he documents similar distortions practiced on other great composers' music, the mistreatment of that work (including tacking on of a corny ending that I'd expect Ravel would have been made sick to hear) is incredible.

Note: I have no idea why the word comes out in italics when you use the accents. I tried to fix it and couldn't figure it out.

[Anthony McCarthy]

Friday, August 06, 2010

It's time for Elizabeth Warren (by Suzie)

[P]rotecting consumers, ensuring that they aren’t the victims of predatory financial practices, is something voters can relate to. And choosing a high-profile consumer advocate to lead the agency providing that protection — someone whose scholarship and advocacy were largely responsible for the agency’s creation — is the natural move, both substantively and politically. Meanwhile, the alternative — disappointing supporters yet again by choosing some little-known technocrat — seems like an obvious error.
That's from the Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman, arguing for Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn't get along with her, all the better. Obama needs to hear differing views, and not just from Republicans.

Warren, a Harvard law professor, has excellent credentials. When Sen. Chris Dodd questioned whether she could be confirmed, I got flashbacks to the question of whether Hillary Clinton could be elected. For more on her background and views, read this in Guernica.

P.S. My blogmate, Anthony McCarthy, supported Warren in a post Jan. 24. I don't know the vacationing Echidne's views on the subject.

Elena Kagan confirmed (by Suzie)

My headline was going to be "Senate Confirms 2nd Jewish Lesbian to Court," but the Save the Males website beat me to it. It continues:
The confirmation of the unsightly Solicitor General signals that the Illuminati satanic cult that governs America intends to use government institutions to enslave Americans.
When I'm searching for feminist views on the news, I wish I had a choice to exclude the extreme-even-to-extremists sites that hate women, and in this case, Jews. An example: "elena kagan" "feminist" but not "misogynist."

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Camouflage kitty.

On a serious note, someone left two old pet carriers by my church's door last Sunday, with a couple of cans of cat food and a note explaining that the owners couldn't keep them. Inside, kittens nestled in old towels with bowls of water. A woman who fosters cats took them home, but she can't keep them indefinitely. During this recession, I worry about humans, of course, but I'm also sad to see all the abandoned animals.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Emmanule Chabrier

Feuillet d'Album

Marcelle Meyer

Another great French pianist I wasn't familiar with until happening across her on YouTube. I can name several male pianists of the period who are, or at least were household names who couldn't hold a candle to her. I'd guess we know at least one of the reasons.

[Anthony McCarthy]

Oldies But Goodies: Twelfth

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Arabian Knights

A Few Economics Posts

Which might be worth reading:

The Goddess Of Less-Than-Free Markets
is about health care as a marketable good and the problems markets have in delivering it efficiently and equitably. (For more on this, check out my Alternet article)

And here is my take on the way the Freakonomics guyz treat prostitution. At least one of the authors thought prostitution was an unserious topic.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Alien Thoughts

(This is a draft I found. For want of anything better I'm going to post it now, even though I have no idea what the events were that triggered my rant.)

Just wondering what an alien from outer space would have made of yesterday's news coverage and entertainment in the U.S.. Two women the focus of so much attention: Hillary Clinton and Britney Spears, and both of them found so very wanting. Would that alien have called home and told how ill-behaved the egg-bearing sex of humans is? Dominating the news like that! Out of control!

I'm imagining the alien sort of following my day, watching television, listening to the radio, surfing websites and reading comments threads on various political blogs, and I'm imagining what the alien might conclude from this condensed visit to our world. It would have to be somewhat humanoid, wouldn't it? Otherwise the chasm would be hard to cross. But suppose it came from a planet with some similarities, what would it think of this experience?

Now that I really get into this story, I can see the poor alien deciding that women are the criminal sex, the sex always in trouble, but also the sex which hogs all the media limelight. It might have wondered why the women who work in the media all look like elongated lamp-posts with a pair of balloons stuck roughly midway up when the men who work in the media appear to come from a wide distribution of shapes and sizes. Perhaps all the good women, the ones not covered in the outrage-stories, perhaps those women look like breasted lamp-posts? Yes, that seems logical.

No. That's a bad beginning. I'm not going to let an alien badmouth the ladies of the Fox News. Aliens should know better than that. But the alien could study some statistics on the numbers of famous women or of women hailed as geniuses or of women leading countries, or the statistics on income and occupations, showing the scarcity of women in the most delectable positions and their abundance among the poor. The alien could then look at the main religions, just to find out what the role of priestesses on this planet might be. Then a light bulb would appear in the alien's conversation bubble!

No. That turns too grim and boring too fast. Perhaps the alien could make friends with a young and eager conservative guy and ask him for answers to some of the questions the media coverage provoked? For instance, what is all the fuss about Hillary Clinton? And the young and eager conservative guy could explain, in great detail, that Hillary Clinton is pure evil. She kills people and stuff. And she used to be an egg-layer.

Then he could explain how women are the egg-laying part of the species, proven by research to be uninterested in most everything else but egg-laying (and being coy and salivating over rich, old, bald guys), and how it's very important that the number and spacing of the eggs must be controlled by the other part of the species, because otherwise we get Britney Spears and the end of this civilization on this planet. Or something like that? Then the alien and the conservative guy could go out for a few beers and to watch a stripper or two.

Or if the eager-guy conservative happens to be a fundie, he could tell the alien all about the bearded guy who also came from outer space and who decreed that the egg-layers must be modest, humble and docile. When they are not, the media rips them a new asshole.

Nah. That doesn't work, because what if the alien has no sex at all? Or even worse, what if the alien is a female alien? It might then conclude that our society is fairly contemptuous of its female half and at the same time almost oblivious of this contempt. Then the alien could just blow this place up.

Oh dear. I got all emotional there, didn't I?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I (don't) swear (by Suzie)

My mother didn't like the use of vulgar language. As a writer, she thought it was unnecessary. My father swore occasionally, sometimes invoking "dogs' blood and cholera." No car trip was complete without him shouting "Jesus Christ" from time to time. Early on, I wanted to be a journalist, and mainstream newspapers avoid curses and vulgarities. I rarely use them, unless I've hurt myself.

All of this is related to Echidne's post below on "suck jobs" as well as the fact that I'm about to eat a mamey. It's pronounced ma-MEE. I freeze when trying to say the word, lest I sound like I want to eat a mommy or that I'm using the preterite of mamar, to suck.

As far as I can tell, vulgarities involving sex are all gendered, and women don't end up on top, a phrase that also is gendered. Various uses of screw, f***, blow, suck and anal sex reinforce the idea that the one being penetrated (assumed to be a woman or a gay man considered to be acting like a woman) has lost power or control, as in being raped, or has been cheated, tricked, put down, or put in her/his place. Son of a bitch and bastard reflect poorly on mothers. And motherf***** often gets shortened to mother.

I don't care for this s***. I lean more toward damnation although I don't believe in it. What about you?

Oldies But Goodies: Eleventh

This one is good but don't watch the video. It is better without it.

Jacques Brel and Ne Me Quitte Pas

Suck Jobs

An old post which still might get this blog banned. If it already wasn't, of course. Which it is, in federal offices. Heh.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Who Threatens The Family?

(Re-posted from here)

I couldn't fall asleep right away last night and started thinking about the peripheral things that lurk in my snakebrain, one being the repeated echo of the term "patriarchal family" and the dangers it finds itself in. In the wingnut world the dangers the patriarchal family faces are much more serious than global warming, even more serious than the Islamofascistterrorists, because as Dinesh D'Sousa told us, if only we kept the patriarchal family safe we wouldn't get attacked. Get thee into your burqa, woman!

So. As I began to say, I did a squirrel wheel thought exercise with the dangers that supposedly threaten the patriarchal family: abortion, homosexuals wanting to get married, single mothers having children, lesbians having children without a father, mothers having jobs. Notice something very interesting? Nothing a heterosexual man might do is construed as a threat to the patriarchal family. Even extramarital sex and such is just fun and games for the men, but a real problem when women join in without the proper feelings of guilt and the needed societal shaming.

It's only the women and the gays and the lesbians which threaten the family. Taken at face value, the wingnuts are perfectly fine with divorced men not paying child maintenance or not seeing their children ever again. They are also perfectly fine with heads of patriarchal households who abuse or beat their spouses or children. I am not saying that this would be what heterosexual men do as a rule or even very often. But these things do happen, especially in a patriarchal family, and the religious and conservative right seldom gets its panties into a wad about them.

It is not really a defense of the family or the marriage these people are interested in, because if they truly were we would see much more writing about the nasty underbelly of the patriarchal family and its bad effects on the children, say. It is purely a defense of patriarchy, the costs be damned, and the attack is framed as one against "the family" because most everybody likes the idea of protecting something they think of as the family.

Oldies But Goodies: Tenth

Janis Joplin. Try listening to her after listening to someone homogenized and made appealing. It's a stunning experience. But so are many of her songs. This one is "Little Girl Blue."

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A Composer Who Has Gone Into Unjustified Eclipse [Anthony McCarthy]

Ben Weber is a rare name in American music that should be better known today. In his book, American Music since 1910, Virgil Thomson said that he wrote “Music of great sincerity and emotional depth couched in a modified serialism easily acceptable”. I first became aware of him through “New Music for the Piano,” an important collection of pieces which was issued as a set of LPs played by the composer-pianist Robert Helps, in the 1960s and in a printed collection found langishing on may a university library shelf. The Humoreske Op. 49 is a quirky, engaging piece of music. I also played his Bagatelles, his very easy and tenderly melancholic Lyric Piece

I studied, though never played his wonderful Sonata da Camera for violin and piano*. I’ve always been at a loss to understand why he isn’t more often played and much better known. The passacaglia in the second movement would make an excellent stand alone piece.

There are two fascinating YouTubes of Weber's music posted by Leland Pitts**

The Rapsodie Concertante for Viola & Small Orchestra

Part I

Part II

The notes say that the piece was a commission by the great violist Walter Trampler and M-G-M Records, as they point out, it’s hard to imagine a major recording company doing something like that these days. Trampler was also the violist in the recording released of Weber’s String Quartet No. 2, Op. 35, re-released on CRI-New World, Gay American Compsers Vol 2.

The second YouTube is of his

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

i. Deciso, non tanto allegro

ii. Andante con rubato

iii. Allegro

There is a decent discography of Ben Weber’s music which is, I believe, available through The American Music Center library, though most of it isn’t performed. It’s such engaging and interesting music that I don’t understand why that’s true. Perhaps that’s not a situation that will continue. One of Weber’s students, the composer Roger Trefousse has worked to honor his teacher and to promote the playing of his music.

You can a recording of his piece, mentioned in the review, ''Fantasia on the Name of Ben Weber, at his website.

* There was a recording of the Sonata made in the 1950s by no less than Alexander Schneider, violin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. It’s obvious that performers of that rank believed his music was worth playing. The commitment required to learn pieces this challenging by musicians of that quality is usually a pretty good indication of substance. I looked and haven’t found that performance has be re-released.

** Leland Pitts' YouTube channel, posting mostly unavailable performances of fine but little known music (with some fascinating period art work) is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever seen on the web. I am very grateful for it.

And Now For Something A Little Bit Different [Anthony McCarthy]

Since early in this blogging gig I've had fun poking holes in and fun at various items in the newspaper announcing various findings in the social sciences, most often using Kevin Lewis' column in the Ideas section of the Sunday Boston Globe as a jumping off point. Today he has something that I'm going to take seriously. Here it is:

The reckless toddler gender gap
In the nature vs. nurture debate, you can add another notch to the nurture side. Researchers asked parents of toddlers to react to imaginary scenarios of their child engaging in reckless behavior. Although there wasn’t much difference in how mothers and fathers reacted, there was a difference based on the sex of the child. With boys, parents reacted with anger and discipline, but with girls, the reaction was generally disappointment and a concern for safety. Underlying these differences was a belief that boys are inherently predisposed to reckless behavior, while girls can learn to follow rules, suggesting that parents are imposing gender norms from a very young age.

Morrongiello, B. et al., “Understanding Gender Differences in Children’s Risk Taking and Injury: A Comparison of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Reactions to Sons and Daughters Misbehaving in Ways that Lead to Injury,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (July-August 2010).

One of the reasons I'm going to take this seriously is because I believe the last sentence is entirely true, we are subjected to the socially constructed gender expectations of our parents and other adults from almost as soon as they know which kind of genitalia we had at birth. While that kind of gender conditioning varies in its content and strength from person to person, it is certainly widespread enough to constitute a major factor in the individual lives of people and in the societies in which they live. It has determined our laws and the application of those, as well as the whole gamut of rules and codes of conduct. And those social expectations aren't universal or set in stone. They can be recognized and changed, through conscious decision and through unconscious rebellion against the tyranny of gender role assignments. Laws and rules change in time. What has feminism, and, indeed, the entire history of civil rights struggle, been except a refusal to remain restricted and downtrodden by social and legal role assignments.

But, presumably, we are supposed to take this conclusion seriously, that babies are very early subjected to these role models and patterns of thinking by the people who have the greatest effect in forming their thinking. Presumably social scientists are supposed to take it seriously. My question is why they don't. If this conclusion is valid, and I believe it is, then it overturns every assumption of all "hard wired", genetically determined, finding in the social sciences. You can't look at behavior as if the people behaving are unconditioned in exactly this way. You certainly can't ignore the learned expectations, most of them quite unconsidered and automatic, when they report on their mental states or their imagined reactions, as this study depends on. Though I've extremely skeptical that they exist, the possible methods of the social sciences would be unable to tease out any "genetically based gender differences" from the socialization of study subjects. Taken seriously, this study would render huge parts of recent social, behavioral and cognitive science orthodoxy useless.

I have a relative who can't get through the morning without checking a half dozen weather reports. One snowy morning as they fretted over the rather varied prophesies of the TV and radio weathermen, I asked who they believed when those gave different predictions. There wasn't an answer. I seem to recall hearing somewhere that the greatest accuracy of weather prediction outside of 48 hours was something like 11%. Given the range of vectors and possibilities, I doubt the social sciences do that well and in any given individual, their best guesses are likely to be entirely wrong.

Six Moon Dance And Friends

I own quite a few fantasy and science fiction books which ask questions about gender relations. Some of those I've written about before, but the topic is of endless interest to me.

The tricks a writer can use to discuss gender in the without-initial-rules world of alternative reality are not that many. A book could discuss gender the way it is perceived by our current societies, or it could side-step that by having gender be something different altogether (either nonexistent, temporary or officially accepted as multitudinous). This side-stepping was most famously done by Ursula le Guin in The Left Hand of Darkness, but many other applications of that principle apply.

Another way to address the topic is by reversals or by assigning the traditional female roles to men and vice versa. Melanie Rawns tried that in her trilogy Exiles (which still lacks the third book), but I found the reversal unconvincing, perhaps, because the society otherwise looked too much like something from our own history books (with the exception of the magic, naturally). I kept asking how it was that women had so successfully turned men into househusbands in that world.

Sheri S. Tepper's Six Moon Dance is a more believable attempt at a reversal, because Tepper lets us learn, as the book advances, why and how the power balance of gender changed on her imaginary planet, and also because the resulting balance still favors men in many, if not most things. To give you a flavor of the book, here is the opening:

"It's all right," Mouche's mother said. "Next time we'll have a girl."

Mouche knew of this because his father told him. "She said it was all right. She said next time..."

But there had been no next time. Why the inscrutable Hagions decided such things was unknown. Some persons profited in life, producing daughter after daughter; some lost in life, producing son after son; some hung in the balance as Eline and Darhos did, having one son at the Temple, and then a daughter born dead at the Temple, and then no other child.

The reason daughters are so valuable for farmers like Mouche's parents is that there are fewer women than men on this agricultural low-technology planet. Brides cost a lot of money to acquire but are necessary for the continuation of the family line. Farmers who have daughters get lots of money for them, money, which can be invested in the farm and which can be used to buy brides for the family's sons. Thus, daughters equal wealth in this society, even though the family line is centered on the sons.

Poor Mouche. His family has no daughters, the farm is going under, and he is a pretty boy. His parents need money. What to do? They are going to sell him to a Hunk School.

You will have to read the book to find out what a Hunk School might be. Then you will also learn why married men wear face veils on that planet and in what sense the arrangement benefits or does not benefit women or men. It's all quite interesting, providing weird distorted echoes of our society and perhaps letting us see the latter with greater clarity.

A third way of examining the power balance between the sexes might be the one which Barbara Hambly used in her Sisters of the Raven and its sequel Circle of the Moon. The gender rules in her book are initially fairly easy to recognize as what one might call the traditional Mediterranean ones, with covered women and strong male dominance in the public sphere, though she also adds borrowings from other cultures into the mix.

These rules are not changed in the book. What does change is one of the sources for the male power: magic. In the past, Hambly tells us, magic was a purely male ability. Not all men had it, but no women did. It was the men with magic who called in the annual rains, the rains on which the survival of the desert society depicted in the books depended. Then, suddenly, male magic dies and the whole society faces possible death.

At the same time, a few women here and there realize that they now have magical skills. These skills don't appear to obey the old rules, however, and they come into existence at the same time as the death of men's magic.

This setting looks to me like an interesting opening for studying gender power relations, even if it unfortunately sets that power up as a zero-sum game. Hambly doesn't really take that topic very far, perhaps, because she is more interested in the other topics of the books. But I'm hoping that she one day writes a third book on that imaginary society and tells us how it all went.

Here is my last thought on this topic: I think the best way to discuss gender in speculative fiction would be to take the existing sexual power relationships and their justifications and to apply that whole network to two groups of creatures which are clearly not men and women but still somehow linked in the sense of mutual survival. Doing that could throw some real light on the questions.

(Originally from here)