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Author Topic: The Obama Presidency Discussion Thread - JSC Healthcare Address
Tara
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So, the word on the street is that Obama had the oath memorized and the Chief Justice actually said it wrong.
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kmbboots
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That would seem to be consistant with the video.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by sndrake:
OK, I decided I might as well let all my nerdiness, grumpiness and geekiness hang out.

At first I was amused, then annoyed, at the elaborate arrangement of a Shaker tune celebrating simplicity - Simple Gifts.

I thought John Williams "Air and Simple Gifts" was masterful and well suited to the occasion. The only thing that bothered me about it was the commentator who chose talk over Yo-Yo Ma and Itzak Perlman.
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Strider
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This might help clear up all our confusion about what went on with the oath.
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Orincoro
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I'm not often one to throw crap on John Williams for being a karaoke composer who gets credit for mountains of material that isn't his, but just FYI, "Simple Gifts" is older than you think, at least if you thought Williams wrote it.

Add to that, he is not even the first American grandfather of music to use it in a composition (there have been many)- Aaron Copeland remains the most famous quoter, and one of the first, of that tune.

Edit: And I'm not claiming this particular piece is indeed a classic Williams rip-off by any standard, but I've heard enough Yo-Yo Ma travesties by now to be at least hesitant to lend the two of them instant credit.

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Phanto
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That's what I thought when I saw it.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I'm not often one to throw crap on John Williams for being a karaoke composer who gets credit for mountains of material that isn't his, but just FYI, "Simple Gifts" is older than you think, at least if you thought Williams wrote it.

Add to that, he is not even the first American grandfather of music to use it in a composition (there have been many)- Aaron Copeland remains the most famous quoter, and one of the first, of that tune.

I never said that John Williams wrote "Simple Gifts", I said he wrote "Air and Simple Gifts" which is the number that was performed at the inauguration and was in fact written by John Williams.
link

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Armoth
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To me, "Air and Simple Gifts" was perhaps the most moving part of the entire ceremony.

I grew up watching Yo Yo Ma, Pearlman, and of course, loving everything John Williams. Their coming together to perform at inauguration was spectacular.

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Orincoro
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Yes, I'm aware of this- I find Williams' co-option of popular pieces to be sometimes distasteful. I am aware that he "wrote" "Air and Simple Gifts," I just think that perhaps "quote" or "arrange" or possibly "repackage" would be more appropriate. I'm also less than a fan of a composer who has an opportunity to present something more original and doesn't, or failing that, an event planner who has the opportunity to choose something original by the same artist (if such material exists), and chooses not to.

Ultimately, though I actually think John Williams is *okay*, I also think there are probably thousands of people in the United States who are better, or who at least do better work.

But I suppose that is probably why that event planner is not me, and why that composer is also not anyone I would pick.


By the way, the thing I said about Yo-Yo Ma, I only say because I find some of his work to be SO good. The travesty part only comes in when someone seems to be wrecking something of real value, and you are left wondering, "why do that?"

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The Rabbit
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BTW, incorporation of traditional hymns and folk tunes into classical works has been done by Bach, Mendelsohn, Dvorak, Sibelus, Copeland and likely dozens of the greatest composer.
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Architraz Warden
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
...an event planner who has the opportunity to choose something original by the same artist (if such material exists), and chooses not to.

You might be on to something, 'Imperial March' would have been a spectacularly more entertaining selection.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Yes, I'm aware of this- I find Williams' co-option of popular pieces to be sometimes distasteful. I am aware that he "wrote" "Air and Simple Gifts," I just think that perhaps "quote" or "arrange" or possibly "repackage" would be more appropriate. I'm also less than a fan of a composer who has an opportunity to present something more original and doesn't, or failing that, an event planner who has the opportunity to choose something original by the same artist (if such material exists), and chooses not to.

Ultimately, though I actually think John Williams is *okay*, I also think there are probably thousands of people in the United States who are better, or who at least do better work.

But I suppose that is probably why that event planner is not me, and why that composer is also not anyone I would pick.


By the way, the thing I said about Yo-Yo Ma, I only say because I find some of his work to be SO good. The travesty part only comes in when someone seems to be wrecking something of real value, and you are left wondering, "why do that?"
[/QUOTE]

Do you feel the same way about Bach's St. Matthew Passion?

How about Dvorak's New World Symphony?

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Armoth
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quote:
Originally posted by Architraz Warden:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
...an event planner who has the opportunity to choose something original by the same artist (if such material exists), and chooses not to.

You might be on to something, 'Imperial March' would have been a spectacularly more entertaining selection.
::grin:: You just made my day...
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Architraz Warden:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
...an event planner who has the opportunity to choose something original by the same artist (if such material exists), and chooses not to.

You might be on to something, 'Imperial March' would have been a spectacularly more entertaining selection.
No, I was thinking of "Cantina Band."
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lobo
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"Senator Kennedy is awake and was able to take a phone call from the President."

Kennedy is a media slut!

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:

Do you feel the same way about Bach's St. Matthew Passion?

How about Dvorak's New World Symphony?

To answer your question as openly as possible, the different situations (all spread apart by a century) are not comparable in many useful ways.

Bach's St. Matthew Passion is not constructed of musical quotations, but of lyrical quotations, which is the point of the piece. It can't be proved, but probably most or all of that music was original to Bach, or substantially transcended original source material- and much of it is, as is characteristic of Bach, self-quotation. And besides, it's a three hour performance piece, in which much of Bach's music was at the time (and still can be heard as) startlingly inventive and original, not to mention daring.

As for the Symphony "From the New World," it's only a popular belief that Dvořák furiously transcribed and reinvented and re-envisioned the ethnic music of America. The idea was constructed later when other Central and Eastern European composers became famous for doing so with their own folk music, and with that of America. The entire belief is based on a handful of glowing quotations from Dvořák, and the strength of the idea that the use of a pentatonic scale is somehow native American (though the feature is present in the native music of Scotland, America, East Asia, and Dvořák's native Bohemia).

Add to that, Dvořák spent relatively little time in America, and even less of that time actually studying native American music or negro spirituals. Unfortunately, modern ears confuse the influence of Dvořák on the development of *that* music (as it was received in popular culture) with the influence of that music on Dvořák. Of course, every few years a musicologist or some conductor or author or composer makes claims about Dvořák's romantic exploration of American music, when all the substantive research and study of the actual music shows that this is wishful thinking- all of his music was characteristic of Bohemian folk music. However, unlike so many other composers, concrete examples of quotation are not forthcoming.

As far as that goes, you should have mentioned Stravinsky, or Shostakovitch, or Berlioz, or Beethoven, Schubert, or a long list of others who really did plumb the depths of existing written music looking for ideas, and lifting them right off the pages. Or George Crumb, who perversely went back and re-quoted quotations of traditional music that had been co-opted and identified with their non-authors... or George Rochberg, who just plain copied entire sections of Symphonies into his scores as background for weird serialist tone poems.

And then there's Copland, who did what John Williams only ever *tries* to do, which is use quotation effectively, like a carpenter laying down a piece of wood, and not a home repair "expert" spraying glue all over the basement floor in an attempt to stick plywood together.

But no, Bach and Dvořák you mentioned because today they are considered vanilla in comparison with some of these others (except Shosti...), and so of COURSE they must have been quoting someone. These others got away with it, and deserved to, because their fiddling created genuine art.

Don't get me wrong- I quote quite a lot from music I like, and I consider digital sampling to be a legitimate art form. I just don't go around naming my pieces "Orincoro's 9th Symphony: Air and Water Music Requiem Suite on a G String," and then proceed to give you someone else's music in a nice neat package that is impressive to look at with Yo-Yo and Perlman on stage together. I really am a pedant and a snob, but I still don't know a single good composer who would like the idea of doing that- especially with the results that are evident.

If you quote that last sentence out of context for effect, I banish you from e-cookies for life.

PS. The Poet at the inauguration SUCKED. How do you get to the point of reading a poem in front of an international audience, without someone pulling you aside at some point and saying: "you know that poetry reading voice that goes up and down and sort of sounds like a newscaster who is stoned, and only makes your poem *sound* like it rhymes or means anything... dude, that makes you sound like a total moron."

[ January 20, 2009, 06:22 PM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
BTW, incorporation of traditional hymns and folk tunes into classical works has been done by Bach, Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Sibelus, Copeland and likely dozens of the greatest composers.

Actually you'd be hard pressed to name one who never did. But then, they were great. Mendelssohn is spelled "ss." Your examples were just pretty wrong for your argument.

Also Bach is not particularly known for this, but then he's on the outer edge of spectrum in terms of research- he's really the back wall of classical musicological research. There is SO much material on him, that it can be difficult to properly parse his position in the musical framework of his own time. He's also a paradox because he was considered for many many years to be a traditionalist composer, and only later appreciated as a revolutionary and visionary when tastes began to escape classical dogmatism, and people realized he was an example of what they were yearning to create again.

Incidentally, there is a kind of inherent logic to your string of composers. Mendelssohn reintroduced Bach into popular (non academic) repertory, Dvořák rode the success of post-classical Romanticism into the beginnings of Modernism, Sibelius was a musical realist (if such exists) and Copeland was a kind of Dvořák/Sibelius freak hybrid who wrote severe and utterly realist music, and sometimes applied his craft to the creation of traditionalist post-Romantic music.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:

Bach's St. Matthew Passion is not constructed of musical quotations, but of lyrical quotations, which is the point of the piece. It can't be proved, but probably most or all of that music was original to Bach, or substantially transcended original source material- and much of it is, as is characteristic of Bach, self-quotation.

Not true. The melody of the "Passions Choral" which is repeated 5 times in Bach's St Matthew Passion and which is arguable the most recognizable melody in the piece, was a popular secular melody written by Hans Leo Hassler.


quote:
And besides, it's a three hour performance piece, in which much of Bach's music was at the time (and still can be heard as) startlingly inventive and original, not to mention daring.
John Williams "Air and Simple Gifts" also had large sections of totally original material. It may not be as great a master piece as Bach's St. Matthew passion but that isn't because one uses a melody stolen from other sources and the other is substantially original material. Both are pieces contain substantial "musical quotations". In this respect, the only difference is that the Bach piece has been around long enough to supplant the source material whereas the Williams number was first performed today.

If you don't like the Williams number, fine. But don't pretend its because Williams borrows melodies from other sources, most great composers have done the same thing, some of them like Bach wrote transcendent masterpieces using melodies they borrowed from others.

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Ron Lambert
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When they announced the piece as "Air and Simple Gifts" that was giving credit. It is not plagiarism if you give credit. It is tribute, honoring what went before. Like when Rachmaninoff composed his "Variations on a Theme by Paganini," or when Vaughan Williams composed his "Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis," no one thought there was anything wrong with that. Those more recent composers just saw additional places the themes could be taken musically than the original composers did.

There was alot of original musical and even melodic thought in the piece composed by John Williams. It was a sophisticated classical/romantic treatment. Hey, at least it did not sound like Star Wars or Harry Potter!

I would say that the only modern composer who can give John Williams a run for his money is Howard Shore, who wrote the film score for the Peter Jackson-produced Lord of the Rings trilogy. These gentlemen truly know how to speak in the language of emotion. You can have your modernists who scorn melody.

For a moment I wondered whether they meant John Williams the guitarist, or John Williams the composer and conductor. I wish they would use their middle initials, or something. The guitarist's middle name is Christopher, and the composer/conductor's middle name is Towner, so that would work.

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adenam
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quote:
So, the word on the street is that Obama had the oath memorized and the Chief Justice actually said it wrong
For once, the street is right:
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

The oath of office is in the Constitution and our Cheif Justice got it wrong. What is this country coming to?

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Ron Lambert
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An end? Oh, you didn't want to hear that, did you?

Some fun things to remember are that Chief Justice Roberts was a George W. Bush appointee, and Sen. Barack Obama voted against his confirmation.

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The Rabbit
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Orincoro, Sorry if that last post came across as condescending. I know music is your area of expertise. I just disagree with you that John Williams uses musical quotations in a way that differs substantially from the ways in which many great composers have used popular melodies.
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Sean Monahan
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
...To avoid the logical phallacy...

I now have to clean Coke off my computer monitor.
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adenam
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quote:
An end? Oh, you didn't want to hear that, did you?
As long as we have the warning...
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Tresopax
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quote:
You might be on to something, 'Imperial March' would have been a spectacularly more entertaining selection.
Ah, if Dick Cheney had been president....
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:
An end? Oh, you didn't want to hear that, did you?

Some fun things to remember are that Chief Justice Roberts was a George W. Bush appointee, and Sen. Barack Obama voted against his confirmation.

If anyone but Ron posted this, I would have presumed that they were pointing out that Bush appointed a supreme court justice who wasn't even competent enough to correctly administer the oath office and that Obama had the sense to vote against him.

But since Ron was making this post, I haven't the foggiest idea what his point might be.

[ January 21, 2009, 09:07 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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rivka
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Maybe he's implying that Roberts flubbed it on purpose?
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Launchywiggin
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quote:
I would say that the only modern composer who can give John Williams a run for his money is Howard Shore, who wrote the film score for the Peter Jackson-produced Lord of the Rings trilogy. These gentlemen truly know how to speak in the language of emotion. You can have your modernists who scorn melody.
Not to be snarky, but can you name 3-4 more "modern composers" without googling? Any non-film composers in your library?

I don't argue when people laud John Williams for writing enjoyable music, but I have to object when they make claims about him being the greatest composer today. Most recognizable, sure--and consequently, most overrated.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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The problem was that it wasn't a John Williams variation on Simple Gifts, it was a variation on Copeland's take on Simple Gifts. The moment Williams decided to lead the theme with the clarinet, it became an obvious quote from Copeland rather than a variation on the Shaker Theme.

Lowery's speech made the ceremony for me.

quote:
Vaughan Williams composed his "Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis," no one thought there was anything wrong with that.
Because the piece is gorgeous.
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Glenn Arnold
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The announcer that I saw said that Williams "arranged" the simple gifts piece, not that he wrote it.

And also:"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I thought of starting a thread on Michael Newdow's lawsuit to have "so help me God" removed from the oath. My take on this is that the reason that the constitution says "swear (or affirm)" is that to swear an oath is to make a religious promise. Specifically a promise to God, or calling on God to verify its truth. If the president wants to swear an oath, then "so help me God" is perfectly acceptable according to the constitution. However, this should be something the president adds on his own, not something that the chief justice asks him, since that would constitute a religious test. That's the only way I can see Newdow's case having any merit.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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quote:
The announcer that I saw said that Williams "arranged" the simple gifts piece, not that he wrote it.
Which would have been fine if the arrangement wasn't so crucially similar to Copeland's.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Because the piece is gorgeous.
It's one of my favorite pieces of music.

Also, on the subject of Inauguration Day, five or six of Obama's cabinet members have already been confirmed in the Senate by a simple voice vote, including SecEnergy Chu, SecEd Duncan, SecInterior Salazar, SecHomeSec Nepolitano, and SecAg Vilsack.

I read that a lot of his staffers actually left the inauguration event early to head to the White House as soon as they could to start working on, whatever it is that they had to get cracking on. Rahm Emmanuel ordered a halt to any and all pending Bush regulations that hadn't cleared yet, pending review by the Obama Administration.

Now starts the real wrangling over the unprecedented stimulus bill. They were saying on the news that in 93 when Clinton took office, he wanted a massive stimulus bill that Democrats in Congress balked at and refused to pass. It was less than $20 billion. I've heard anywhere between $600 billion and $1.2 trillion (if you include the other half of the bailout money that Obama will get) for this combined stimulus bill.

I mean, I guess he still has another $4 trillion in deficits to go before he spends what the Republicans did when they were in power.

[ January 21, 2009, 12:55 AM: Message edited by: Lyrhawn ]

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Tinros
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On a slightly side note, does anyone know what Scripture he was referencing in his speech? I did a quick search of my NIV and couldn't find anything close, let alone exact, and I'm curious as to where that came from.
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kmbboots
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I think it was Corinthians. *checks* Yes. First Corinthians 13:11.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

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Tinros
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That would explain it, I was searching for the "the time has come" phrase, and the first thirty something verses were about the time for judgment and wrath. That would... be a little awkward for an inauguration speech.
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Kwea
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I loved the musical performance, but agree that the poet...and the poem itself...was a left down.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Ron Lambert:

I would say that the only modern composer who can give John Williams a run for his money is Howard Shore, who wrote the film score for the Peter Jackson-produced Lord of the Rings trilogy. These gentlemen truly know how to speak in the language of emotion. You can have your modernists who scorn melody.

Put down the bong and your handbook of stereotypes and pick up a cd once in a while. Your modernists are long dead.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Orincoro, Sorry if that last post came across as condescending. I know music is your area of expertise. I just disagree with you that John Williams uses musical quotations in a way that differs substantially from the ways in which many great composers have used popular melodies.

Well, I think you're wrong in the sense that this creates a false equivalence. Williams' arrangements and quotations form substantial parts of his works, and they often do not add substantively to the work he is quoting, which makes him an arranger, and not a composer in that respect.

He also doesn't write a substantial part of the music for which he is credited, because he has workshops who do that for him- so he's in some respects a "director" or "producer" of film music. In this case, his use of the shaker tune was far too close to Copland for me to credit this piece as original in the same respect. I have little regard for a composer who takes such an opportunity as this one, and chooses to squander it by reintroducing a musical trope that has been in SO many pieces of music, including his OWN library of works, so many times before.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

I heard Obama say it's time to put away childish things and I thought, "Ha, that's the line from 'Hackers'"

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
Maybe he's implying that Roberts flubbed it on purpose?

Curious idea. Roberts had only one responsibility for the day and he deliberately blew it because he dislikes Obama. So now for generations to come when school children see the video clip of America's first president of African descent taking the oath of office, they will see Roberts flubbing it?

Not many people have that great a desire to go down in history for incompetence.

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Lisa
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That's ridiculous. Roberts messed up. He's not that good an actor that he could have screwed up like that and faked it.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
I thought of starting a thread on Michael Newdow's lawsuit to have "so help me God" removed from the oath. My take on this is that the reason that the constitution says "swear (or affirm)" is that to swear an oath is to make a religious promise. Specifically a promise to God, or calling on God to verify its truth. If the president wants to swear an oath, then "so help me God" is perfectly acceptable according to the constitution. However, this should be something the president adds on his own, not something that the chief justice asks him, since that would constitute a religious test. That's the only way I can see Newdow's case having any merit.

The objection, I believe, was to having the words "So help me God" added to the oath by the Chief Justice as if it were an official part of the oath. And it is not. George Washington added it himself, and I think Newdow would have been fine had President Obama added it himself as well.
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Orincoro
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Just like "in God we Trust" and "Under God" are inventions of the mid 20th century backdated to the founding of the Republic by people who like to argue for the "traditional" or "christian" nature of the government.

The founders were not deeply religious people. They frankly had more important things to worry about- like staying alive.

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Lissande
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About two lines into the poet's reading I got up to make dinner. Couldn't. Handle. Any. More. Staccato.

Also, boring. I did like the music.

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Orincoro
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Rabbit, perhaps I should add something to what I was thinking about, having given the music a day to settle in my mind.

Part of what makes the shaker quotation tacky and ugly to me is that Williams' material at the beginning (the first two minutes) of the piece is actually really, really promising. He's extremely skilled at finding the right tone to open a piece, but where he often fails, and fails rather spectacularly, is recognizing that simple opening well is not enough, when your passagework (which is what the shaker tune essentially is here) is muddled and unremarkable.

He may be the kind of composer who writes his openings last, which often means that these will be the most richly polished passages of the piece. Other composers have their shining moments somewhere in the middle, and some do endings well- the best do everything well, of course. Williams, when it comes to middles, is just about the worst, in contrast with his obvious talents for openings. As for closings, he's also fairly dismal- but this is probably one of the hardest things about modern composition- you can't learn anything about finishing a piece from Beethoven, because he just kind of ended pieces by slamming the door on them when they were over.

Now, when Williams *does* get into the shaker tune, and you suddenly realize that the material you've been hearing is a foreshadowing of counter-themes he developed when he was writing the middle part, you realize that he MUST have started with the shaker tune, and written his music on top of it, gotten the gist of his own voice for that part, and then extended a beginning out in front of that. A great composer might do that, and then mercifully erase the embarrassing middle part. Brahms did this ALL the time- you can tell, and there have been really interesting breakdowns of his music to see where he had erased the previously supporting skeleton of quotation.

Williams is maybe like a stone sculptor who leaves his work on the saw-horses when he's done... only everyone notices how nice the saw horses are, and they think he's a genius for making such nice saw-horses.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
Maybe he's implying that Roberts flubbed it on purpose?

Curious idea. Roberts had only one responsibility for the day and he deliberately blew it because he dislikes Obama. So now for generations to come when school children see the video clip of America's first president of African descent taking the oath of office, they will see Roberts flubbing it?

Not many people have that great a desire to go down in history for incompetence.

To be clear, I was not suggesting that at all.

You asked what Ron might be implying. I provided a possibility.

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Strider
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Anyone know where to find viewing statistics on the inauguration? Both domestic and foreign.
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Samprimary
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head-hurty values

ron v. blayne: A
music debate: D-
inaugural poem: A+

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Ron Lambert
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I would really be surprised if it were to be disclosed that Roberts screwed up the oath of office deliberately. I think it is obvious they were both nervous. I mean--how many people were watching? How historic was the occasion?

Orinoco, I have been a classical music buff since I was a small child. I have shelves and shelves of CDs, mostly classical. I do have some Andrew Lloyd Weber, and a very little Vangelis. But mainly I agree with the guy who said "Music as an intellectual achievement of Western Civilization reached its epitome in Beethoven, and has been steadily declining ever since."

I can "tolerate" other music, but the only music I truly enjoy is music I feel can be truly described as beautiful. You point to a composer who thinks that melody is "bourgeois," or who is preoccupied with "escaping the tyranny of the bar-line," and I will probably dislike his music greatly.

That does not mean I automatically turn thumbs down at syncopation. Brahm's A German Requiem is great, beautiful music (I have sung in a choir that performed it), even though portions do employ syncopation--such as the portion with the words, "The Redeemed of the Lord shall come with rejoicing." The syncopation there comes out sounding rollickingly joyful, the way Brahms employed it.

I was fortunate enough to sing in a fair-sized church choir that had a good, as well as rather ambitious choir director. We also sang Mendlessohn's "Hymn of Praise" from his second symphony, in addition to the usual Handel's Messiah (we did the whole thing, with orchestral accompaniment). But the Brahm's Requiem is what we remember with the greatest pride and satisfaction.

[ January 21, 2009, 03:03 PM: Message edited by: Ron Lambert ]

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Lisa
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On the other hand, if it'd been Bush, everyone would have been all over it like, "Great, the idiot-in-chief can't even say a simple three sentence oath without tripping over his tongue".

We'll hear such things about Obama 'round about the time that people start making fun of Jimmy Carter for saying "nukyuler".

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