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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: Thoughts on Dmitri Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony and Occupy Wall Street

1:10 am in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Yevgeny  Yevtushenko (photo: Igor Palmin, flickr)

Yevgeny Yevtushenko (photo: Igor Palmin, flickr)

A remarkable performance from August 2006 showed up on Youtube late last month. It is a rendition of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony, by the Maryinsky Theater Orchestra and Chorus, with bass Mikhail Petrenko, conducted by the great Valery Gergiev. The presentation was on August 19, 2006, at Royal Albert Hall, as part of the BBC Proms series. The recording, in high definition video, and with superb sound, has subtitles. It is a stunning document.

I’ve written a little about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the fine arts here, covering, for instance, the Occupy Lincoln Center protests after the final performance by the Metropolitan opera of Philip Glass’ opera about pacifism and civil disobedience, Satyagraha.  I wrote then:

I would like to see more artists involved in OWS in 2012 than has been the case this year.  It is certainly true that a lot of artists are involved, but they are mostly popular artists, with only a sprinkling of personalities or top names from the fine arts.

The reality that among the first victims of funding cuts in education and government agencies are fine arts programs and classes, and that this has been going on for decades, hasn’t been covered as much as it should have been.  Arts programs all over the country were the prototypes for moves designed to lower taxes on the 1%.

I’ve written a fair number of works that protest injustice, violence and environmental degradation. In America, protest music is generally associated with the realms of the blues, jazz, rock, rhythm-and-blues and hip-hop.  Classical composers who have joined in social protests through their works have been few and far between.  The modern American composer who suffered most for his political activities was the iconic populist artist, Aaron Copland.  He had the audacity to stiff Sen. Joe McCarthy’s juggernaut.  When called to testify in front of McCarthy, here was part of the exchange:

[A]fter composer Aaron Copland denied ever having been a communist, McCarthy hectored the composer, “You have what appears to be one of the longest communist-front records of anyone we have had here.”

Copland replied, “I spend my days writing symphonies, concertos, ballads, and I am not a political thinker.”

Copland was never called to appear at a public hearing.

He was blacklisted from the film industry and other important venues.  A performance of his Lincoln Portrait for President Eisenhower’s inaugural events was cancelled.

My own work, The Skies Are Weeping, got me denounced by Alaska Rep. Bob Lynn in front of a joint session of the Alaska Legislature.  Unlike Copland, I’ve still got my job.

But compared to the ordeals of Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich and thousands of Soviet artists from 1935 well into the 1960s, we were lucky, to say the least. Read the rest of this entry →

Saturday Art: A Trombone Sonata for September 11, 2001

10:16 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I’ve created a Youtube slide show around one of the best performances of my Trombone Sonata.  Here are the program notes written to describe the work, shortly after its completion in October, 2001:

Philip Munger
Sonata for Trombone & Piano, Opus 67

This three-movement work was written between mid-September and early October of 2001.  My immediate responses to the awful impressions of September 11 and the following week were of despair.  I had an overwhelming feeling that the world had changed irrevocably – not so much for me, as for my children.  The sadness I felt and continue to feel for innocent people drawn into an immense web of hatred came out in this work, which I wrote carefully, but fairly quickly.

1.  Red Recitative: The recurring images of collapsing buildings, smoke, injured and maimed emergency workers spurred this piece.

2.  White/Black March:
The images and statements of our National Security and National Defense apparatchiks strutting around in late September, seemed to be in stark contrast to the obviousness of their failure to rationally view our world.  This march questions the sincerity of visible American leaders during that time.

The theme of the march’s trio is an inversion of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America.”

3.  Blue Chorale: The chorale’s theme is taken from J. S. Bach’s “The Passion According to St. John.”  “Er nahm alles wohl in Acht,” No. 56, reads:

He of ev’rything took heed In his hour of dying,
Caring for his mother’s need, On friends relying,
O Man, lead a righteous life, Love God and thy neighbor,
Death will bring an end to strife, Rest from care and labor.

The performance in the recording was done by Greg Powers on trombone, and Kevin Aanerud on piano, at a live event at the Jack Straw Studios in Seattle, Washington:

Pete Seeger Joins BDS – Updated

11:52 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

From Haaretz:

American folk music legend Pete Seeger yesterday officially joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign – an international movement to pressure and sanction Israel through economic means.

Seeger, 92, one of the fathers of American folk music, is a veteran political and peace activist. In the 1950s he was interrogated by the McCarthyist House Unamerican Activities Committee and two years ago performed for U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration concert.

Seeger has been labelled many things over the years, but after doing a google search, it doesn’t appear anyone has yet called him an anti-Semite. That will soon change.

Those defending the increasingly racist and eliminationist Israeli government, in the face of a tidal wave of revolutions by young people who are aware that the U.S. and Israel have helped suppress their countries’ search for true democracy, as it comes crashing down, will attack Seeger tomorrow. And the next day. But his joining the ranks of people opposed to Israeli apartheid will probably shake the performing arts community more than the defections of such luminaries as his friends Theodore Bikel or Gil Scott-Heron.

Monday, Adam Horowitz covered Seeger’s change of opinion on this matter:

During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, “I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of ICAHD, added, “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” Seeger has for some time given some of the royalties from his famous Bible-based song from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICAHD for their work in rebuilding demolished homes and exposing Israel’s practice of pushing Palestinians in Israel off their land in favor of development of Jewish villages and cities.

The November virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other” was billed as an apolitical effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work for the environment. Dave Lippman from Adalah-NY noted, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to ‘Rebrand Israel’ through greenwashing and the arts.”

Regarding Seeger’s friend Bikel, Horowitz adds:

Pete Seeger’s long-time colleague Theodore Bikel, an Israeli-American known for his life-long involvement with Israeli culture, recently supported the Israeli artists who have refused to perform in a new concert hall in Ariel, a large illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The times, they are a-changin’. Solidarity may be growing as more young people hope for the planet to be this land – yours and mine, in peace.

Is that such a strange dream??

Update – Tuesday 1:30 pm PST: Late Monday, when I wrote this post, there wasn’t much on the web about Seeger’s decision, except for the Haaretz article quoted at the top, and Adam  Horowitz’s background post at Mondoweiss.  Now the Jewish Telegraph Agency has published a short article, and JPost a more extended one, with comments attached.  Here are selected comments:

Very nice Pete…now it not only LOOKS like you support the people who started 3 wars with the intention of destroying the State of Israel…now we know it’s a fact…

and:

I put all the LP’s and CD’s into “little boxes” and “turned, turned” them into the landfill where they belong.

and:

Wherever he shows his ugly face, people should protest. I will be glad to do so. He deserves no less for his support of terrorism.

and finally:

The man is a male “Jane Fonda” without the looks . No surprises there and who gives damn about him anyway. He is just another anti Viet war “has been”