Virgil Thomson writing in 1940, said, "This writer is in agreement with Darius Milhaud and with some of the other French contemporary composers in placing Satie's work among the major musical values of our century." Wow. That's quite a mouthful. Virgil goes on to rank Satie up there with the Three Bs and then invents the Three Ss, Satie, Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. Virgil goes on, "And its aesthetic [French music's], as was that of Debussy, is derived directly from the words and from the works of Satie, whose firmest conviction was that the only healthy thing music can do in our century [20th century] is to stop trying to be impressive." [Taken from Virgil's Music Reviewed, 1940-1954, Vintage Books, 1967.]
I highly respected Virgil Thomson's approach to "classical" music when I first came to New York City as a lad intent on making my name in lights on some venue here. Originally I came here to be a musician and I already knew about Virgil Thomson from Gertrude Stein plus he was still very much alive, living in the Chelsea Hotel, and doing a radio show on WBAI, live from his apartment. Gertrude wrote the libretto to his opera-adaptation of her Four Saints in Three Acts, a brilliant piece of theater that I've seen in short bursts through some old film clips of when it opened in New Haven back in the roaring depressed 30s. They used so much cellophane in creating the heavenly sets, lush colorful clouds all seemingly floating in a heavenly universe of pastel clouds among which the saints sat and sang, the New Haven Fire Department shut the performances down until they substituted something not as inflammable as cellophane, a petroleum product. From Gertrude's introducing me to Virgil, she wrote a portrait of him, too, and he wrote a musical portrait of her [Virgil got a lot of his inspiration from Gertrude--his famous musical portraits, for instance], I found Bee Time Vine, a Boston publication devoted to Gertrude Stein and Four Saints--"Bee Time Vine" is from the opera libretto and the first issue I got was announcing Virgil Thomson's newest opera, Lord Byron, with a libretto by a man named Jack Larson, whose claim to fame was he was Jimmy Olsen on the very hairpin-held-together but original Superman teevee show that starred poor ole star-crossed later suicide victim George Reeves. I never heard Lord Byron and don't even know if it was ever completed much less performed. I later vaguely hung around Philip Glass while he was writing his first opera down in BloHo in once artist-controlled lower Manhattan in the old factory lofts artists had cleverly reconstructed doing their own carpentry and plumbing, everything, turning these formerly huge spaces filled with machines into artist studios and apartments, a wonderful time for art forms and artists in NYC and by God I know old Phil Glass, a cabdriver in those days, had a lot of respect for Four Saints--listen closely and you can hear Gertrude's continual presence in all of Glass's stuff. One of the best damn saxophonists I ever worked with, from Lafayette, Lawsbanana, too, was a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble. He told me in confidence once...well, I better keep this to myself; I promised him I would never tell what he told me about working with Philip Glass. My lips are sealed.
I remember the first time I heard Erik Satie's music. It was at a friend of mine's Little Carnegie Hall recital and he played Trois Gymnopedies and that strongly quiet barely imperceptive piece grabbed me and lulled its way into my musical brain where it has bloomed forever, reminding me of Gershwin's Preludes--Hey, aren't there three of those? Below, if it works, is a very wonderful site devoted to Erik.
Virgil continues with, "The Satie musical aesthetic is the only twentieth century musical aesthetic in the Western world. [Wow!] Schoenberg and his school are Romantics; and their twelve-tone syntax, however intriguing one may find it intellectually, is the purist romantic chromaticism."
Satie was a prankster; a merry but sad eccentric prankster, yes. The Swedish pianist and Satie devotee, Olof Hojer writes about Satie's 1880-1890s period of composing: ...the music is not shaped, according to established dialectical manner, on the time axis of tonality, but is rather put together by melodic and chordal segments in static, timeless montages. Satie turned his back on the need of contemporary music for variation and linear development: he found another musical time, based on repetition and circularity, a ritual repetition of small units complete in themselves. In all this he also expressed another need, closely bound to the asthetic of repetition and ritual, allowing all things to occur slowly, casting a spell on time.
from the liner notes of Hojer's 1996 CD on Prophone Records, Erik Satie, the complete piano music, Volume 1.
That's what got me about Satie's work. Those "static, timeless montages" and that invented time of his "based on repetition and circularity, a ritual repetition of small units complete in themselves." Man, that's beautiful thinking. I haven't listened to Satie in a long time. Sure, I have Trois Gymnopodies in my head, but the Sarabandes or the Ogives, I've not heard them in many'a Bilbao moon. Perhaps I'll give old Brother Hojer a try. Let's see if he plays Satie as well as he writes about him.
I've always said John Coltrane took jazz to a point it to where it could go no further. Coltrane had trapped jazz in the ultimate jazz form "utter Chaos." I mean that's where purely improvisational music leads you if you don't dare to exit the mainline and do a little off-ramp experimenting. Perhaps John in some rare cosmological same-stream of real time absorbed Satie's "casting a spell on time," which is certainly what John did in his later recordings. He took jazz to an outlier position; too far out for most mortal musicians who found it much easier to stay in the mainstream and be very impressive.
I know what Satie means, too, in what they say was his love and hate at the same time for the piano. "The piano is like money," he wrote, "it's enjoyable only for those who know how to use it." Poulenc said he only saw Satie play the piano about three times, accompanying a singer singing some of his newly written songs. Most of the time, Poulenc continued, Satie would back out when asked to play the piano; he left the playing of his mostly piano compositions (only in his later years did he do the orchestrations used in Parade, his ballet, for instance) to Poulenc and Rudolph Vines. Satie also picked up the few sous he needed to live on by playing the piano in the Paris cabarets. I know what that means; I've played the piano in dives you wouldn't bring Satan himself into much less your mother or sister; but I also know what he means about the piano being a source of income and when you look at it like that, it loses the magic appeal it emits just by sitting wherever it is it sits, whether in your music room or on a stage somewhere, looking so temptingly inviting with its flashy grinning ivory keyboard accentuated by those hard beautifully black accidentals that are so come hither in their alluring design. Yet, the piano is really just a tool; a tool you use in doing your job if you are a composer or a cabaret performer, a machine like a computer through which your inner solar plexus emotions can boil forth in narrative, from those narrative depths of our deepest most primitive instinctual wells of worth.
I read a host of Milhaud biographies on this dear ole "soon to be stolen" Internet and in none of them was there any mention of Eric Satie. Milhaud studied under Paul Dukas ("The birds, listen to the birds, they are the masters" what Paul Dukas told Olivier Messien during a session) and Charles-Marie Widor (weird French organ composing and playing at its wildest, a la Marcel Dupre, my favorite-ever French organist and organ composer). Then he came to Paris and hung out with Jean Cocteau and that was Satie's crowd and Milhaud had to have seen Satie on sort of daily occasions; hell he was a member of Groupe Les Six with Poulenc who was a pianist who performed Satie's piano pieces as we've already learned, Honneger, Milhaud's childhood friend, blah, blah, blah. Now here's what I learned from Virgil Thomson. Since Milhaud was considered a Jew, and he was part Jewish, by the then psychonut "president" of Nazidom, he had to get the hell out of Paris post haste and come to California--wow, while goobernor Schwartzenegger's old daddy kept wearing his Nazi uniform for the continuence of that war. Isn't it ironic how Papa Schwartzenegger's little blond-haired wunderkind escaped the tyranny of Germany also by coming to the good ole USA, where he can't be president unless Georgie Porgie declares it's OK for a former Nazi's son to be president--"Hey, Terminal Hater, all you gotta do is steal the damn elections like me and the Supreme Court have done twice--actually the second time everybody thinks I won it fair and square--you know, heh-heh-heh, I didn't need the Supreme Court to appoint me that time thanks to ole Chuck Hagchaser and the Diebold folks, though those worthless clowns on the Supreme Court would have appointed me again if I'd'a decided that; I'm the decider, always keep that in mind. And remember, too, old sagging-ass Bill Rhenquist was dyin' of cancer anyway; he didn't have anything to lose by appointing me president...and let me tell ya, Arnie Boy, you don't mind me callin' you that--that's what I call all my good friends, except Prince Bandar Bush who I call Prince, like I call a damn dog named Prince, get it? But, anyway, back to my advice, Arnie Boy, strike at the truth and you'll always bend their wills...I call it catapultin' the propaganda...."
And when Milhaud came here: "Darius Milhaud has communicated to me the catalog of an exhibit held recently  at Mills College, Oakland, California, of Eric Satie's manuscripts. These manuscripts, the property of Milhaud, were brought by him last summer from France at some inconvenience...." Virgil goes on to say that in order to get these manuscripts to this country, Milhaud left behind a large volume of his own works because of regulations in terms of amounts he could take out of France at that time . Virgil says that proves how much Milhaud and all French composers of that era were beholden to Satie.
Where is Satie today? The same place classical music is. Where is classical music today? In southern Germany? In Finland? In Tokyo? Hong Kong? It's certainly not in my life like it used to be. Only certain composers from that ilk have remained in my listening realm, Ravel, Debussy, Stravinsky, American-original Charles Ives--but like I said, I haven't heard any Satie in Jesus, I can't remember how many years.
I once also had an LP (long-playing record) of the music of Ezra Pound. Oh how much Satie was in that.
If you are into jazz, then you can't reflect on Milhaud without remembering Dave Brubeck went to Mills College and studied with Milhaud--was kind of his personal dick boy for awhile--and since Dave couldn't read sheet music, as it was called in those days, Milhaud advised him to not study classical piano but to concentrate on his compositional talents, which old Dave did to go on to, I would suppose, the most successful of any of the post-Bop jazz performers, and to say Dave ain't a bopster is to not know much about jazz. Bop was just overwhelming to young white musicians at that time. I mean, white musicians have always found black music the most exciting music in the world and they have always spun it into the weave of their own cultures to come up with, hell, tell it like it is, "white jazz," and Dave Brubeck was the epitome of white jazz and easily commercialized--one of his albums was sponsored by the Hazel Bishop cosmetics people. Hell, Dave made Columbia big bucks, where they never dared to pull Charles Parker, Jr., out of the Chaos he had dead-ended himself in--same with Billie Holiday; I'm sorry, old F-ing John Hammond could have personally helped these people, he was rich; Mitch Miller, too; hell, he put together Charlie Parker and Strings for Norman Granz and then he became a Columbia Records A&R man...but this is retrobutional thinking so I desist from continuing it. I have a personal blues thing against Hammond and especially his son who I think makes a huge mockery of the blues giants he covers in his own invented "southern" Delta style and his "southern" accent. Being from the south, I've always been amazed at the accent Hollywood attributes to being from the south. Mike Judge and his King of the Hill cartoon satires hits the typical Texas white accents dead on the head; Judge is a Texan, too.
Charles Parker, Jr., certainly admired the work of Edgard Varese and we certainly know Varese was there when Satie was "casting his spells on time." You can also hear some Satie in Miles Davis's late sixties work called Shhhhhhh Peaceful.
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The Daily Growler Sports Continual Present
Just saw Brasil beat Croatia 1-0. I don't know what to say. I think Brasil was playing without their kingpin, Reynaldo. They weren't that aggresive, though neither was Croatia. The big fun of the day was Korea vs. Togo. The first period was atrocious futbol; both teams were clumsy, Korea was horrible, always their kicks on goal, what few they had, were wildly too high, unhookable it seemed, passes to nobody; just lousy soccer (a bastardized form of "association" football as invented by the Brits). Togo was more hustling, less wild, and they too had hardly any shots on goal. Then Togo got an unexpected goal near the end of the first period, a straight power-play one-man goal. It looked like Togo had goal enough to hold on to beat the naive-playing Koreans; they were going to upset the boys from Seoul. But in the second period, Holy Mole Sauce, the Koreans caught fire and went berserk and ended up sending Togo home with their drawers down around their ankles. I mean, Korea looked like a whole new team in the second period. They easily outplayed Togo and then easily kicked in two goals mucho pronto. Togo had absolutely nothing in the second period. A big win in my Korean neighborhood where the Korean bank had a huge teevee screen set up high in front of their building showing the match this morning and 500 Korean fans showed up wearing red Korea shirts and carrying these huge clappers that are becoming popular in Asian football as opposed to those damn irritating styrofoam horny-noisemakers the damn Mexicans love to blow like MF-ers throughout all their home games in L.A. As Jay Leno commented on Mexico's win over Iran, "I see the L.A. soccer team won their first match against Iran." Saw a little bit of France today, too; they were scoreless against Switzerland or somebody like that. Not impressive at all. Scratch the French.
So far, we like England, Italy, Mexico, and Ecuador. Mexico has beaten England I think earlier in the year; may be wrong about that. Ecuador for unusual style of playing; a lot of headers; headers all over the damn field, seldom using their feet. Brasil we'll have to see again. Haven't seen the Netherlands, Portugal, or Spain yet. An old friend says I'm neglecting Argentina who he has speculated will win the whole shebang. I saw Argentina play and I don't know; I wasn't impressed. I thought they should have dominated the team they were playing; yet, they didn't. However, in respect of this friend, who used to live in Buenos Aires so he's biased in his loyalties, I will keep an eye on Argentina.
In baseball, the Yankees are facing Cleveland tonight in Yankee Stadium--Oakland swept their three-game series here and left the Yankees losing 4 in a row and 2 games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees always fall apart this time of year; batting averages will drop horrendously, and Randy Johnson and Mike Messina will become "flip-a-coin" pitchers; plus the Yankees's bullpen started off as the hottest bullpen in baseball, now, except for Mariano Rivera, they are the suckiest bullpen in baseball. Yankees fans start wailing lamentations when Joe has to come out in the 6th inning, say, and signals to start bringing in the bums from that horrible bullpen. "Oh, no, here comes Scott Procter (the best of the bullpenners); there goes the game."
The Mets. Jesus, who'd a thought we'd become Mets fans, but hell, you gotta give credit where credit is due and we've always said Willie Randolph would make a great manager knowing Yankee baseball like he does and finally getting a well-oiled together team, in spite of poor old Pedro Martinez who is pitching great having not won a ballgame since April. If Pedro comes around, look out, the Mets could become invincible, though you can't ever trust Atlanta and wily old Bobby Cox, another, to me, Yankee-style manager.
therovingmaniac sittin' in for Marv Backbiter
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HOW UTTERLY INSANE WAS BUSH'S UTTERLY INSANE EARLY MORNING DROP IN ON IRAQ TODAY. HE ONLY NOTIFIED THE NEW IRAQI PRESIDENT HE WAS COMING 5 MINUTES BEFORE HE GOT THERE. THAT'S THE PHONY TEXAS COWBOY STYLE, "Major, take me to Iraq." "But, suh, your highass, we've got to notify the Pentagon of your flight plan...." "Fuck the Pentagon, son, I'm the damn decider, didn't you get that, so fly me to Iraq and let's go, I'm itchin' to surprise those stupid towelheads while at the same time I stickin' one up the butts of those god-damn Democrats. When I get through with these fools, I'll be a hero again and my ratings will start going up again. Get me Fox News on the teevee, Unka Dick." All the mock network news pundits were chirping excitedly about how Georgie Porgie had "one upped" the Dumbocrat and fanatic war critics, one ecstatic woman commentator seriously reporting on the "stealthful" entrance High Lord Bush made into Baghdad, under all radars (do the insurgents have radar? Does al-Qaeda have its own radar network?), without even the stupid Iraqi president knowing Bush Baby was flopping in to do some photo-opting and Repugnican campaigning. Oh the cheers from those soldiers...wait a minute, if know one knew this little privileged rich boy snotnose bastard was coming, where did all those cheering soldiers come from? Georgie Porgie stayed safely tucked into the Green Zone luxury hotel and didn't dare stray out into the streets of Baghdad. Why we don't know. Looks like this "liberator" would be hauled around town on Iraqi shoulders while men fired off their AKAs (they say every male citizen of Baghdad is allowed one AKA) and the women tossed their burkas in a pile and set fire to them, chanting "Oh, glorious liberator, our beloved King and ruler Georgie bin Porgie, take these sacred rose petals we are showering your precious presence with. Thank you, Great Liberator, for letting Freedom march its ass right over our rotting corpses, for dividing us up into a segmented, religiously split, resourceless country. And by the way, liberator, take our oil as tribute for your great generosity."
The billions upon billions of dollars Georgie Porgie and his Warmongers have borrowed from the Commie Chinese and the terrorist-supporting Saudis to pay for this folly--JUST THINK WHAT GOOD COULD HAVE BEEN DONE WITH THAT MUCH MOULAH! Oh, but liars are psychopathic and once they start getting entangled in their webs of lies even they lose total track of reality. In Bush's bourbon-bottled head, everything's going fine; fucking up in business, armed services duty, as goobernor of Texas, and now as appointed president is par for this asshole's course. In his view, he's doing what comes naturally to him.
Our "president" spent 30 hours on Air Force 1 or some stealth helicopter just to drop into the Green Zone for 5 hours. How much money did this little episode cost us? Well, what the hell difference does it make when this shameful war is costing us billions of dollars a month? Then this little heartless poor little rich goofus started praising his troops for their sacrifices (his using them as human sacrifices to his god of totalitarianism) and he actually made out like he was crying while he was thanking this little special group of adoring troopers whose actual faces were never shown on teevee. Most of the shots I saw were of Baby Bush and the Iraqi president. Georgie Porgie hasn't cried such big ole crocodile tears since Babs used to bust his butt with sarcasm about his wimp father being off in Mexico ripping off oil leases and the loss of his little sister Robin, which was probably his fault if you check back far enough. Maybe Pickles ran little Robin down in her car. Holy Shit, we got a true psychopathic liar and killer on our hands.
PLUS KARL "RAT'S ASS" ROVE HAS PULLED A RABBIT OUT OF THE HAT BEFORE SPECIAL PROSECUTIE FITZGERALD WHO STUPIDLY TOLD ROVE'S LAWYER THAT LITTLE PRICK KARL WASN'T GOING TO FACE ANY CHARGES FOR LEAKING A CIA AGENT'S NAME TO A TIME MAGAZINE REPORTER. SO ROVE GETS A FREE TICKET TO COMMIT CRIMES WHILE WORKING FOR THIS CRIMINALLY INCLINED PURE WHITE ARYAN HOUSE.
Has anyone besides me ever considered that this is the White Man's Last Stand in his fight against Native Americans and then the foreigners he needed to build this country into the Great White Hope Land--the "Mountain of Gold" to the Chinese, and now the former owners of some of this country, those lousy Messkins, are having so many Catholic babies they are beginning to turn this country BROWN? Brown to a White Man is the color of shit. Black is the color of sin. Yellow to the White Man is a sign of liver disease or jaundice. Everything in this country, if you stop and think about it, is based on White thinking, writing, legalizing, rulemaking, worshipping, etc. Like Custer, the white man has terrible luck with "last stands."
WELL, HELL, THE COJONES PACKED DUMBOCRATS WENT RIGHT ALONG ARM-IN-ARM WITH THE REPUGNICANS AND GAVE AWAY ANOTHER 100 BILLION OR SO OF OUR MONEY TO CONTINUE THE WAR IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN (WHERE, BY THE WAY, THE TALIBAN IS MAKING A HUGE COMEBACK). BUSH AND PICKLES HAVE ALREADY SURPRISE LANDED IN AFGHANISTAN, REMEMBER, WHERE PICKLES ENCOURAGED THE DOWNTRODDEN AFGHANI WOMEN WITH ONE OF HER SPECIAL PEP TALKS. THIS WAS THE BIG TRIP WHERE BUSH WENT TO INDIA AND TRADED THEM NUCLEAR SECRETS FOR A CHANCE TO BUY ALL THEIR MANGOES. "We're gonna enjoy eating Indian mangoes," the "president" said as he threw his uneaten mango on a pile of sacred cow dung, "God, I don't know how these little colored devils eat those greasy things. Give me some good ole Texas watermelon any day, brother."
OH THE DAYS ARE LONG IN HELL. AND IT LOOKS LIKE THEY'RE GONNA GIT LONGER.
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