A 365-Day Project
"We Are All Mozart"
A project to create
The Toths. Really, it is increasingly over the top, the necrophilia. Now there's a "He's Been Dead 15 Years" festival for Leonard Bernstein. No, it wasn't called that, but it might as well have been. The élite classical coil is tightening as orchestras get increasingly desperate. Despite an increase in attendance in Chicago, other cities are showing halls one-third full for symphony seasons. And that's good news.
It's been said you have to hit bottom before you can change your life. Orchestras have been in denial about their addiction to musical rot, but now they are facing the hard reality of life & times wasted. Their children are growing old, their grandchildren don't visit anymore, and certainly the young'uns aren't going to take up the trade. Will the managers look in the mirror and see what has happened to their orchestras on a diet of dead flesh?
And if they don't, there is work to be done, subversive work. Do you remember Laszlo Toth? Yes, there are many Laszlo Toths, as common as John Smiths, but the special one was armed with nothing but a hammer, charging over a velvet rope to give the Pietà a sculptural reorganization. The year was 1972, and young and enraged ourselves, we founded the Laszlo Toth School of Art in honor of the "Artist of the Hammer". The LTSA was the genesis of Trans/Media, which riled up a town in rusting industrial New Jersey with some avant-garde festivals. Protests, performance art, and earnest actions in defense of the integrity of the contemporary arts were done.
Shortly we all went off to be Ahtists, secure in the knowledge that the ripples we had made would grow to become great waves, to become rolling artistic tsunamis that would engulf those eroded islands of stagnant, gelantinous muck.
Twenty years later I found myself writing yet another call for action, surprised that the sinking classical islands were still above water -- more eroded, but still there, smaller, but with strong high dikes built around them. I wrote in part:
That was the bulk of it, published by the local daily newspaper to the acute embarrassment of my composer friends. But soon afterward, the old LTSA was brought back to life -- and, even though the account was canceled two years ago, it still lives on, frozen in cyberspace by the lapsed efficiency of an AOL computer.
Why have I brought this up tonight? Because of that Bernstein festival, where good old sorts gathered 'round to trade stories and listen to old music. A chummy thing, the fundraising buddies and their now-graying acolytes. To me, it is unimaginable. Like fashion or pop music, it cycles in increasingly tight nostalgic spirals. And maybe you're thinking, "That's not really true anymore." So I thought. I'd imagined progress (or as the author of the text that became my composition Withered wrote, "I'd imagined live chrysanthemums."), but those ripples have stilled. I was slapped back by a pile of incoming recordings, a flood of postings about notation, and a rush of notices about orchestral performances. Dull, fluffy orchestral performances that are about places or in praise of other people or events. Oh, yeah, not like this very We Are All Mozart project isn't that, too, but I can only hope that it has other points of drama and change.
Living in the past, am I? Lovin' the Rev-o-lu-shun? No, but the élite orchestral class is and it cuts to the squeaky bones. Shall it be put to the test? Sure! Why not bust up a few concerts in public view? When was the last time there was a good symphonic riot? Damn, it's overdue. The Laszlo Toth t-shirts should be made ready for new silkscreen run, too, methinks. Cowbells in the audience, whistles and banners. Grab a bumper sticker and plaster audience cars. Remind them where the sounds come from, suckas! Blast some electroacoustics from the outside. Sing a minor second away from row five. Coordinate a cell phone attack. Clap early and often. Become a Toth!
Composers really have been pretty polite, and helped launch polite pretend-rebel performing groups that rose to near-popdom. Ethel. Bang on a Can. Kronos. When was the last time you felt their contributions were artistically meaningful? Or even turned your head and forced a gape? Is this pitiful junkyard of the creative spirit with its mangy performing mongrels really the destination for our artistic hopes?
I was also brought to this state by receiving the latest issue of that pitiful excuse for a music journal, New Music Connoisseur, a self-indulgent, discombobulated and ultimately meaningless publication. It's got a freaking crossword puzzle! What is this, 1959? Sure, there's an interview with Bill Mayer, an old friend whose music is pretty darn good, but even that can't save NMC from its pious twittishness. This is the kind of thing that presumes to represent new music! Hand me my Geritol, Mabel, and don't bang your greasy head on the antimacassar or your facelift will come undone.
Okay, I'm sorry for not offering some sort of reasoned argument. But celebrating fifteen years after Bernstein's death? As Frances McDormand's character Marge Gunderson said in Fargo, "Oh, I just think I'm gonna barf." Holy dental floss, folks, it's the thirteenth anniversary of Zappa's death! Carve the Barking Pumpkins before they rot and throw them at somebody! Are we not Toths?
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I'm late because of the playoffs. I love baseball.
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