No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.And Kurt Vonnegut says
Evolution can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. What a mistake we are. We have mortally wounded this sweet life-supporting planet--the only one in the Milky Way--with a century of transportation whoopee.And he also says
"Socialism" is no more an evil word than "Christianity." Socialism no more prescribed Joseph Stalin and his secret police and shuttered churches than Christianity prescribed the Spanish Inquisition. Christianity and socialism alike, in fact, prescribe a society dedicated to the proposition that all men, women, and children are created equal and shall not starve.What else?
I have some good news for you and some bad news. The bad news is that the Martians have landed in New York City and are staying at the Waldorf Astoria. The good news is that they only eat homeless men, women, and children of all colors, and they pee gasoline.But this is not a funny book. Vonnegut says as much himself. To him, this is no time to be funny. I was talking about this with my friend Joel Ryan yesterday, who said that a film like M*A*S*H would be impossible today. Too true. Vonnegut again:
The good Earth--we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.Vonnegut, at 84, shames the rest of us for our lack of outrage. He obsesses over global meltdown so severe--with his country at the helm--that he cannot even do his job.
I don't think I would be able to do my work if I lived in the United States of America either (although at a very meaningful level, the US is a prison we are all living in). Art springs from context, and I do not think I would be able to produce anything good over there--regardless of whether the Asshole-in-Chief is named George or Hillary. Or Barrack.
That's just a feeling, nothing "anti-American" about it. A few years ago, my good friend Greg Altman visited me here in The Hague. We grew up playing funk music in bars together. Greg is a phenomenal drummer. He produces television shows now. I arranged a gig for us at <>TAG, in fact, it was the first event I curated there. We performed a piece I wrote called Dodging Bullets. A audio waveform of a skipping CD is visible on a large screen, and there are markers with text placed in the waveform to pass by the cursor in the middle of the screen. The music on the CD is aggressive and noisy. The "rule" of the piece is that each time a marker connects with the cursor the musicians must choose from three very simple musical gestures to play. By the end of the piece (twenty minutes later) everybody is wiped out, exhausted. Cathartic stuff.
Anyway a lot of the crowd loved the piece and said as much. Greg was shocked the audience didn't walk out. They would, he felt, in New York. He tells that story whenever we see each other, how we performed this crazy music and people listened. And liked it.
Or this: a week ago I performed in Krakow with Rafal Mazur and Morten Nottelmann. Imagine the worst scenario to try to get people to come listen to a free-jazz trio. Almost no promotion. Snowing. Venue in the middle of nowhere. Hard to get to. Cold. 7PM on a Saturday night. No famous last names on the bill. No bar at the venue. But the people came out. And they enjoyed themselves. In my experience people in Manhattan rarely go to Brooklyn to see live music, regardless of the weather. It's like pulling teeth.
When I first arrived in Krakow to study in 1999 and told people that I was a composer (that's how identified myself then), I would receive the same nod of respect one might get in the States if they were to say they were a doctor . . . with a private practice. It was nice. No one, not a single person in Poland, ever suggested I teach music to make a living (for years that's all I got from people in the US).
It's all just a feeling and I could very well be full of shit. Fact is, I'm not a big fan of countries per se, and I don't mind being a man without one (I would like that residence permit I've been waiting six months for, though, please, already, Dutch bureaucrats). I don't like the idea of the US anymore than I like the idea of The Netherlands, or Poland, or Iraq. I do like the idea of people, different, talking to each other, making things together, trying to dig their way out this hole we're in, that's OK.
As Morten was saying on the way to the gig in Krakow, there are two strata of society, and we operate amongst the people, not amongst the politicians. Yes, and sometimes it can be fun up here.