October 31, 2005
Happy Halloween


October 30, 2005
American Baroque

This week's issue of The Weekly Standard includes my long review of Joseph Horowitz's important new book, Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall:

From the beginning, classical music in America was different from its European progenitor. Its founding is a Jamesian tale of Old World decadence versus New World Puritanism--at least from the point of view of the Americans.
That's not to say the New World didn't take much from the Old. Horowitz details how American art music turned into a culture of performance rather than a culture of composition.
One is left with the impression that America was a victim of her virtues. The country that welcomed the world also welcomed its music, overwhelming its own native talent. Most American composers modeled their works after European forms, producing work that was provincial while it was derivative.
Horowitz has strong opinions on why classical music in this country seems to be in decline:
Horowitz blames the lack of a vital American school of composition almost solely on the culture of performance--and the market. He is right, of course, to bemoan the situation we now find ourselves in, where most performers and conductors have little connection to the music of their own time. Few of these music-makers champion new American music; fewer still commission any. They still play primarily Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. And it is also true, of course, that profit-seeking businesses often favor the tried and true over the unknown.

But these aren't the only reasons classical music is, as Horowitz says, "the American performing art most divorced from contemporary creativity."

Read the entire thing for my views on what Horowitz missed.

October 26, 2005
Thought for the day

"She felt wonderful. Marriage is, among other things, having someone deeply and unreasonably on your side, and Freddy had often been infuriatingly impartial."

—Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka

October 12, 2005
On Books

I review Steven Hayward's just-released book, Greatness: Reagan, Churchill, and the Making of Extraordinary Leaders, in my latest American Enterprise Online column:

Among sophisticated circles in modern times, we are taught to be embarrassed to speak openly of human greatness,” writes Steven F. Hayward. This sentiment is open to dispute—even the egalitarian Left seems hungry for a strong figure to lead them out of the wilderness. But there’s no doubt the country could use a lesson in the subject...

Thought for the day

[T]he love of fame [is] the ruling passion of the noblest minds."

Alexander Hamilton

October 11, 2005
Underrated Paul

Sometimes it seems like something of a national pastime in Britain to make digs at Paul McCartney. But a new memoir by Cynthia Lennon, John's first wife, shows the melodic Beatle showed more caring toward John's son Julian than his own father did. John ignored the child almost completely between 1971 and 1974. The other Beatles had abandoned Cynthia and Julian, too:

The lone exception was Paul McCartney, who visited her and the boy at the Kenwood estate Lennon had abandoned, composing "Hey Jude" in his head on the way over. Many years later, McCartney purchased at auction and bequeathed to Julian a 1965 letter his father had written that read, in part:

"I spend hours in dressing rooms and things thinking about the times I've wasted not being with him -- and playing with him . . . those stupid bastard times when I keep reading bloody newspapers and other [expletive] whilst he's in the room with me and I've decided it's ALL WRONG!"

October 10, 2005
Thought for the day

"Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it."

—Mark Twain

October 05, 2005
Ouch of the day

"Full of sharp little comments on the changing campus climate and some punctilious plot summaries, Faculty Towers is, in the end, a rather typical demonstration of the modern academic on safari: short, personalised and, even at 160 pages, apparently requiring a couple of research assistants to do the preliminary spadework."

D.J. Taylor's conclusion on Elaine Showalter's latest
(link via Eve Tushnet)

October 02, 2005
Thought for the day

That Bad Cold

That hand, a tiny one, first at my throat;
That thump in the chest.
I know you of old, you're a bad cold
Come to stay for a few days,
Unwanted visitor—a week perhaps.

Nobody asked him to come. (Yes,
He is masculine, but otherwise
Don't try to parse the situation.)
Everything stops. Perhaps
He is providentially intended to
Make cease and desist an overworking
State of mind. Yes, there is a certain
Respite. Friends mean merely a bed
And a hot drink. Enemies and all
Paranoias, however justified, lose their way
In the fog. And the desk diary
Lies open with a vacant grin.

Muriel Spark