You are browsing the archive for fdl Saturday Art.

Saturday Art: The Right of Return, by Doc Jazz

11:38 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Doc Jazz in the Lowlands

The music of Tariq Shadid, a Palestinian surgeon, who goes by the nom de web of Doc Jazz, is quite varied.  A self-taught musician, his unique take on aspects of the Palestinian diaspora is gaining traction on the web, and in the Low Countries.  Although recently primarily based in the Netherlands, Doc Jazz has worked in the Gulf States, and was in the USA this fall, performing benefits.  Here is what Doc Jazz wrote about a benefit in Anaheim on October 18, 2012, for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund:

I ended this sweet little concert with the song I had written especially for PCRF’s amazing efforts: ‘Healing Hands.’ By then, it was time to move on with the other parts of the program, most importantly the reason for holding this annual gala: to raise funds for providing medical treatment for the children of Palestine.

While the impressive efforts of PCRF’s medical projects were being shown on slideshows on two large screens, the generous crowd started making its donations. I was extremely impressed to hear that when it was all over, more than a hundred thousand dollars had been raised, with expectations being expressed of reaching almost double that amount at the closing of the fundraiser.

Knowing that PCRF translates all these finances into direct medical assistance to Palestinian children, was absolutely humbling. I know that words are of enormous importance, in creating awareness for the injustice that befalls these children, but you can’t help but feel forced into a modest attitude when you see the direct relief resulting from real-life medical and surgical treatment of Palestinian children in need.

In an interview by activist author, organizer and blogger, Heather Wokusch, Doc Jazz described his musical beginnings and impetus:

Next to my full-time job as a surgeon, I devoted the larger part of my spare time to supporting the Palestinian cause in any legal way I could think of. I started writing articles for the Palestine Chronicle in 2001, the same year in which I started a website called the ‘Musical Intifadah’. Being a self-taught hobbyist musician, I wrote and recorded, in my home-studio, songs about the Palestinian situation, and published them online, and made an online collection of songs, also by other artists, about Palestine. At that time, I did not believe that speaking up for the Palestinian cause was a feasible or useful thing to do in the Netherlands, so I saw the internet as a useful means to reach out on a more global level. However, then Gretta Duisenberg, wife of the then president of the European Central Bank, did a very courageous thing here. She hung a Palestinian flag from her balcony for several weeks, which caused a small international row, so I started believing there was yet hope for the Dutch situation. I wrote a song about her brave deed in Dutch (my first song in Dutch ever), which brought me into contact with her. When I joined her on her delegation to Palestine, a visit that was followed by the Dutch media on a day-to-day basis, it threw me right in the middle of the Dutch discourse on matters of the Middle East.

Dr. Shadid goes on to describe the role of artists, particularly protest artists, in this discourse:

The interesting thing we see in our modern societies, is that the corporations that finance (control) the media and entertainment business are very aware of the importance of artistic expression. They are always sure to propel their own symbolisms and stereotypes into the minds of people, whenever they get a chance to. Hollywood is one of the best examples of this, and who can deny its world-wide influence?  On the opposition side however, the disagreeing side, you find that many people lose themselves in angry discourse, and make themselves victims in the discussion, by falling into the defensive position. I believe art is one of the ways to reverse this dynamic, since art makes a statement that can not easily be responded to by verbal discourse. If those who are unhappy about the statement in your art try to attack it with their rhetoric, they often unwillingly aid in enlarging the message it is sending out. This way, I believe, art can be more powerful for a cause than any intellectual form of expression, be it a speech or an article. Nevertheless, I have noticed that people who propagate human rights causes often underestimate this effect, and don’t utilize it enough. They should support the efforts of artists who engage in ‘Creative Resistance’, more than they already do. [emphasis added]

From my own experience, I couldn’t agree more.  Doc Jazz’s concern expressed above about “speaking up for the Palestinian cause [being] a feasible or useful thing to do in the Netherlands,” came to my mind this morning, reading this (retweeted by Doc Jazz):

On the night a ceasefire came into effect ending eight days of Israeli slaughter that left 162 people, the vast majority unarmed civilians, dead in Gaza, Dutch columnist and author Leon de Winter proposed adding chemicals to Gaza’s water supply to sterilize the population.

The website PowNed reported that de Winter “made his proposal for forced eugenics yesterday evening in Amsterdam at a solidarity meeting of Dutch Jews,” and that the speech by de Winter was broadcast this morning by Dutch mainstream and publicly-funded Radio 1.

Troubling, but even more troubling:

de Winter responded in his speech to the accusations of genocide leveled against Israel, saying that the population of Gaza had only increased over the last few years. “Maybe we should secretly add some means of birth control to Gaza’s drinking water,” De Winter proceeded to propose.

The suggestion was met with roaring laughter by the public. Among the participants that evening were the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, Hiam Devon, and the cheerful leader of the [religious ultra-conservative] SGP party, Kees van der Staaij. [emphasis added]

So, as the Israeli war crimes in Gaza were winding down, the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands was attending a RWNJ (right-wing nut job) event in the Netherlands, recommending another war crime – genocide!  Why am I not surprised.  Hopefully, somebody will write a song about this.

Here are two performances by Doc Jazz.
Read the rest of this entry →

Saturday Art: American Composer Elliott Carter Passes at Age 103

1:29 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller


Centenarian American composer Elliott Carter passed away last Monday.  He was 103 years old.

He lived a year longer than Henry Purcell (died at age 36), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (lived to be 35) and Franz Schubert (a bright, bright flame, who passed away at 31) strung end-on-end.  Like my dad seven years ago, Carter passed away on Guy Fawkes Day.

In a tribute to Carter upon the composer’s 100th birthday, New Yorker fine music critic, Alex Ross, wrote:

The last emperor of China had just assumed his throne. William Howard Taft, the President-elect of the United States, was meeting with Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. A deranged veteran of the Philippine war terrorized Edgewater, New Jersey, holding up a hotel. The diva Nellie Melba disembarked from the Lusitania, resplendent in a broad-brimmed hat. Gustav Mahler was about to conduct the last of three concerts at Carnegie Hall, having unleashed his Second Symphony a few nights earlier. And Elliott Cook Carter, Jr., was born in New York City. It was December 11, 1908. 

A hundred years later to the day, Mr. Carter walked onstage at Carnegie, a little hunched but moving under his own power, to receive the adulation of a capacity audience. If he had done nothing more than show up, he would have drawn a standing ovation. In fact, the composer was taking a bow for a new work: a short concerto for piano and orchestra entitled “Interventions,” which Daniel Barenboim and the Boston Symphony played under the direction of James Levine. If this new piece had been merely adequate, the crowd would have been happy, but it turned out to be a lucid, vivid, potent score—one of the most immediately likable works in Carter’s huge and sometimes forbidding output. This is something almost unprecedented in the history of art: an artist reaching the age of a hundred with his creativity intact.

I tried hard over the years to like Elliott Carter’s music, which I always appreciated in an intellectual sense.  The gnarliness of his tonalities is relentless.  He didn’t write twelve-tone music, but to describe his approach to atonality, musicologists had to develop an analytical language which is now also that used to describe or analyze twelve-tone music - musical set theory:

Musical set theory provides concepts for categorizing musical objects and describing their relationships. Many of the notions were first elaborated by Howard Hanson (1960) in connection with tonal music, and then mostly developed in connection with atonal music by theorists such as Allen Forte (1973), drawing on the work in twelve-tone theory of Milton Babbitt. The concepts of set theory are very general and can be applied to tonal and atonal styles in any equally-tempered tuning system, and to some extent more generally than that. One branch of musical set theory deals with collections (sets and permutations) of pitches and pitch classes (pitch-class set theory), which may be ordered or unordered, and which can be related by musical operations such as transposition, inversion, and complementation. The methods of musical set theory are sometimes applied to the analysis of rhythm as well.

Many professional music commentators and historians had regarded Carter as the most important living American composer for some time, perhaps since the death of Aaron Copland at 90, back in 1990.  Yet, when I asked my university music students last week how many of them had performed any of Carter’s music, or even knew who he was, only one out of 33 advanced music majors even knew who the man was.  None had directly experienced Carter’s musical art, which is highly sophisticated and difficult to perform.
Read the rest of this entry →