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The Trombone ForumCreation and PerformanceMusical Miscellany(Moderators: JP, BGuttman) Cold War music in historical context
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Formerly titled by the Walt

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« Reply #20 on: Apr 25, 2006, 09:30AM »

Is anybody familiar with John Adams' "Nixon in China"? Is it as relevant to this discussion as it would appear to be?

Or does anybody know what's going on in Russian "classical" music right now? We've talked a little bit about the Baltics already. I know of some performers coming out of Russia, Valeri Gergiev and the Kirov orchestra being prominent in my CD collection. Some folks like that. Are there any contemporary Russian composers of note?

It appears that "Children of the Arbat" is not in print in English right now. I'm checking my vast network of used bookstores and libraries.
Dennis K.
« Reply #21 on: Apr 25, 2006, 09:38AM »

I'm not very familiar w. Nixon in China, out ide of the Chairman Dances.  But I would bet it will hold true to form and suddenly become relevant.

Shostakovich wrote an opera (can't remember the Title.. maybe The Nose?) with underlying themes about sectarian rivalries and civil wars and ethnic violence.  It was located in Chechnya.... Hmmmm...... nothing new under the sun.

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« Reply #22 on: Apr 25, 2006, 10:00AM »

Dennis, it's not The Nose, that's set in St Petersburg and the plot is far different.

Are you thinking of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District? Not exactly Chechnya, but near there.

I don't know enough about his other works, maybe you could elaborate on this one? Cuz now I'm curious.

"Even a blind hog finds a kernel of corn now and again."
Dennis K.
« Reply #23 on: Apr 25, 2006, 10:53AM »

Yes, I think it is Lady Macbeth.  I should have said Chechnya region - borders have changed a lot, but the people groups in that area have been fighting for centuries.  Muslims, Christians, a dozen or so ethnic groups, throw in some politicians, and hey, war becomes good business.

I'm just learning more about Shosty's theatre works myself, so I'm not a reliable source for info on him.

Politics has been influencing music since, well, forever.  Gilbert & Sullivan were censored by the Crown for The Mikado because England was involved in trade talks with Japan.  Turns out they staged it anyway, the Japanese diplomats saw it, loved it, thought it was funny.

It almost seems as if many of the works that last stem from a thorough immersion in the culture/ current events/ politics.
Todd Jonz
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« Reply #24 on: Apr 27, 2006, 10:50PM »

Dennis writes:

> It almost seems as if many of the works that last stem from a
> thorough immersion in the culture/ current events/ politics.

This is something I was thinking when you mentioned Kurt Weill early in the thread, Dennis.

Weill is my favorite composer.  While I enjoy all of his work, I have a strong preference for works from his European period -- avante garde music written by the son of a canter in the years preceding Hitler's rise to power.  When he came to the U.S. he was kind of assimilated into Broadway.  That's not to say that some of his American works aren't interesting and unique.  Works like Street Scene and Lost in the Stars were hardly mainstream for the period, but they still lack a certain spark for me that was present in almost all of his European work.  Many of the European works brought the "vulgar" music of the cabaret and the speakeasy into the concert hall (and sometimes even caused riots in the theatres and concert halls in which they were performed), just as early Milhaud was influenced by Harlem speakeasies and Gershwin by traditional negro spirituals.  Works like Lady in the Dark and One Touch of Venus, on the other hand, in many ways defined the relatively tame popular music of Broadway at the time.

The small handful of his American works that seem to me to retain some of the flavor of his European works were, like most of the European works, politically inspired.  Amongst these I would include lieder like Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib? and the some of the wartime propaganda songs like Schickelgruber and Buddy on the Nightshift.  It almost seems as though Weill could only bring himself to return to his avante garde roots when he was making a political statement.

I'm not prepared to make any sweeping generalizations here, but I think that at least in the case of Weill the social and political strife of his personal life were reflected in his earlier works and made them far more compelling as a result.

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