Dan Lopata

Live, Love, Listen

Archive for the category “Religion”

TransParenting Intro

I battled with the idea to make this an entirely separate blog focusing on being the Dad of a transgender son, but decided that Live, Love, Listen is the appropriate place. This blog is about the things that are important to me, and the self-centered person I am, or maybe a the person I am who wants to see a better world for all thinks it should be important to you. So it remains here among my music, running, and humanist posts.

We recently came out publicly about our son, and now I find myself in a time of Listening. I’ve been overwhelmed since he came out to us, then to the family, then to his school, and now us coming out to everyone, and overwhelming expresses itself in form of depression for me. It has been a struggle, I’ve been overeating, not exercising, buying pop tarts and birthday cake fudge stripes. I’ve been binge-ing on Netflix, and distant. Fortunately I had to go to the ADK with Amy and that got me hiking.  And, fortunately, I am now in a place that I recognize my depression and the things I do to myself. So currently I’m engaging in running again, took a couple of my kids hiking at Stony Brook State Park, and getting to sleep a little earlier by only watching one Netflix episode of the many shows I’m following. I’ve got some gigs coming up too that I’m excited about. So I am engaging in taking care of myself. This is the result of learning how to listen, listen to others, my therapist, and my body/mind (sorry about the dualism there).

Other things I’m listening to are the responses to our coming out. (Names omitted):


– Sky is very lucky to have been born into such a kickass family. And hopefully the world is changing quickly enough that he won’t have to experience the hate and fear that his predecessors endured.

– I liked this post. If i could like it numerous times without it actaully unliking it i would..sending my love and support

– I have learned over the years that it is the most important thing to be yourself, and be true to yourself no matter what. Sky has done one of the best things for himself.

– Dan & Amy, I’ve yet to meet Sky, but I already adore him because he is your child & I do so appreciate the 2 of you. And I admire all 3 of you even more now. Count me among the legion surrounding you all with love and support. Bravo!

– I am truly impressed by you as parents stepping out into YOUR Authenticity. Many parents of a TrueGender child are not willing to join their child on the frontlines of their life in such a way

For those of us who are living in our Truegender, our actions are acutely tied to the support system that embraces or expels us. We have known who we are for a longer time than those in the ever widening circle of our lives and our choice to Reveal and live our True Life should be as simple as pulling back the curtain. Sadly, that is not possible in every community. Sky will benefit from your continued Unconditional Love and he will also thrive in the local LGBTQ community and the larger public community of Upstate NY, which is exceptional in its acceptance of gender diversity. Sadly, locality and environment really do impact our progress and future success in realizing our intentions. I honor you, Dan and Amy, for YOUR commitment to transition in YOUR life as Sky approaches a fuller understanding of his own challenges.

For my part, I can attest to experiencing no external pushback which has been instrumental in my own measure of Self Confidence in processing what I need to and proceeding to actualize my hopes, dreams and ambitions. Continued therapeutic guidance has been essential for me to staying on track, but I am sure you and Sky are well aware of its benefits, judging by the strong United front you present.

My sister is an active board member of PFLAG in Chicago and force of nature in the LGBTQ community there. If you haven’t already, I invite you to join PFLAG and add your energy to its mission. We are also blessed by having the Gay Alliance of Greater Rochester and The Empty Closet as such a strong resources locally.

The timing of this announcement could not be better timed, coming just before our annual Pride Celebration. I will not soon forget being a Pride Parade participant months after I initiated my full disclosure and experiencing the love and affirmation radiating from the sidewalks 2 years ago. For me, after decades of self-imposed suppression it was a triumphant tear-filled coming home at last. I can only hope Sky feels the same welcome I experienced and banks that joyous validation.

Please accept my offer of availability to you and Sky, should you need counsel, confirmation and companionship on your journey. We are all pioneers, representatives of a larger Global initiative that invites every Human Being on the planet to live Out Loud, Unapologetically as who we really are and embrace the opportunity to evolve to a new level of Human Understanding and in the process, Change the World.

– I don’t often love facebook posts, but, when I do, I love facebook posts.

– He is so lucky to have you. You must have created a loving and supportive environment for him to be so brave, so young. Congratulations.

– Congratulaions on the freedom this will bring for him. You should be so proud of him. And what great parents to be so supportive (as it should be).

– His ability to be comfortable in his own skin and willingness to share this with others stems from your acceptance of who your children are and allowing them to be themselves. And loving them all the same. I hope my girls will feel this love from us too as this is the most important job as parents. Nice work, Dan. And your Sky is a little brighter today.

These fill me with hope. But I still get stuck and look for the bad; like digging to see who hasn’t “liked” our post, and routing out all of the anti-LBGTQ news, and recognizing that the Pope believes the Church should ask for forgiveness but refuses to change doctrine. Still, even with all the negative, I look at court cases, I look at responses to my post, I look at the great State of NY (We are fortunate to live in the Greater Rochester Area which has been called the San Francisco of the East), I look at the rest of the country, and I am convinced at times that the war has been won. What we are witnessing is the last, desperate dying cries of bigoted people hiding behind their “Holy Books” while the majority of us see right through their thin veneer.

Yes, Trump, the GOP, and Religion are still extremely dangerous to the health and safety of the LGBTQ community, but the courts are ruling with us, public sentiment is on our side and we will win. Remember that vitriol was just as intense during the Civil Rights fight, and even though we still live in a racist society, the laws were changed and the Civil Rights war is won with constant changes to make things better, and we all know who the bad guys were. We are witnessing this again, and if I believe the arc of the universe curves toward justice, “We Shall Overcome” again.

But this doesn’t happen by declaring “victory” and sitting on our laurels, we must continue and take the fight to them. It is time to stop playing defense and start asserting our rights, our strongly held beliefs that are in line with human rights, not religious rights. And demand that others’ rights to discriminate end at the boundaries of the church yard.

 

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LISTEN, LOVE, LIVE, RANT

Let’s start with LIVE:
I cannot fathom the idea of taking another person’s life. Yet we see this happen on a daily basis, and if you are LBGTQ the chances of having a violent crime perpetrated against you up to and including murder is much higher than the general public. The Extraordinarily Common Violence Against LGBTQ People in America.
How can we let people LIVE? There is a common phrase and it is emphasized in 12-step groups, “Live and Let Live.” It is probably the most important message I learned when I attended 12-step meetings. Today I struggle with it because of the number of people and organizations who seem to ignore this principle, or change it to, “Live and Let Live, but only if you’re living exactly the lifestyle I believe you should live.”
LOVE:
I think people change that principle because they lack empathy, they lack love. Yes they will say they are only giving, “Tough Love” or that they only are trying to get people to change their ways out of “Love”. But I’m going to cry foul on this. How is it loving to not allow someone the same rights as you because you don’t accept their particular lifestyle even though it has ZERO effect on your life? Because that is essence what you have done when you vote in people who block legislation that affords equal rights to the LGBTQ Community… NOT SPECIAL RIGHTS; EQUAL RIGHTS – The same rights every cis gendered white male have in this country (Notice I singled out the most privileged group that systemically and socially have the most rights in this country). Giving someone else the same rights that you have is NOT taking your rights away.
LISTEN:
Please listen to me. By not granting the LGBTQ community equal rights in hiring, housing, benefits, etc. you put this entire community into a class that is less than. This idea that classes of people are less human than you is exactly what has enabled genocides from the Holocaust, to Pol Pot’s exterminations, to Serbia/Croatia, Armenia, The Kurds, etc. etc. etc. I mean, if these people aren’t human, then killing them is no worse than killing animals we consider scourges like the passenger pigeon.
Look, I know the argument, “But what about my strongly held Religious beliefs?” What about them? People who claim this as an excuse for discrimination, which is by its very nature dehumanization, are typically from a monotheistic, Abrahamic Religion. All of these religions prescribe a death sentence for people who don’t conform:
New Testament:
Romans 1:27-32 New International Version (NIV)
27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Old Testament/Torah:
Leviticus 20:30 (NIV)
“‘If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Quran:
Quran (7:80-84) – “…For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds…. And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone)”
More Islam:
Abu Dawud (4462) – The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Loot, execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”.

Abu Dawud (4448) – “If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death.” (Note the implicit approval of sodomizing one’s wife).

Bukhari (72:774) – “The Prophet cursed effeminate men (those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners of women) and those women who assume the manners of men, and he said, ‘Turn them out of your houses .’ The Prophet turned out such-and-such man, and ‘Umar turned out such-and-such woman.”

al-Tirmidhi, Sunan 1:152 – [Muhammad said] “Whoever is found conducting himself in the manner of the people of Lot, kill the doer and the receiver.

So do we allow people to kill homosexuals because the source documents of their “Strongly held beliefs” tell them to do so? I mean where is the line? And, is it so hard for you to see that any action you take against another class of people dehumanizes them? Upon review, it is not surprising at all that we see acts of violence against the LBGTQ community, we basically allow it and encourage it by giving legal shelter to the institutions that encourage, even proscribe it.
If we indeed believe what our Constitution says, that ‘All … are created equal’ Why do we write laws that allow some people to be more equal than others as Orwell said?
LISTEN again, I am not saying that you aren’t free to practice your religion, the First Amendment grants you that right. What I’m saying is that your rights end where someone else’s begin. No, even if your Religion says so, you do not have the right to discriminate against someone else in this country based on race, religion, gender, or gender identity, because at that point you have impeded on someone else’s EQUAL rights. If you say that your religion allows it, then it is you who are asking for SPECIAL RIGHTS under our rule of law. Yes there is a separation of Church and State, but understand that it doesn’t mean your Religion, or any Religion is its own sovereign state within our country. The only Sovereign Nations within our borders, other than the U.S.A. belong to those we stole this nation from, Native Americans. It is high time we all understand this so we can allow ALL to
LIVE
LOVE
LISTEN

 

The Year in Review Part II (Music)

2015 started the year off pretty great, working with Orange Sky, The Fools, and Genesee Johnny. I thought the mix was perfect, good people, good music, good times.

I fooled myself.

Orange Sky and I had a falling out and separated in quite an ungraceful way. Much had to do with my approach and attitude, but the whole process has left a deep wound and hurt from a place that is supposed to be “healing.” I have serious reservations about the larger organization, First Unitarian Church of Rochester, as a result of this divorce. 

I have edited the above, as my earlier words were still fueled by the anger and resentment that remain from this process. But more on Spiritual Matters in a later blog.

Fools

The Fools have been a blast. Mary Ellen Hayden’s voice is a force of nature, Mickey’s guitar is mindblowing, Ken’s rhythmic stylings are second to none, and Jack’s ears on the soundboard are impeccable. These guys are the real deal in classic rock, and it has been a privilege to share the stage with them. Not only that, but as people, they are sincere, honest, caring, fun, humorous, loving, sensible, etc. they are great people and great musicians, which is the magic formula I’ve been looking for in a band. Unfortunately, my playing has been adequate at best. The loud playing in small rooms through the years have taken a toll on my ears. I recently had them checked and as far as low frequencies are concerned I have suffered some hearing loss. With loud low frequencies bouncing around in tight spaces I have been losing pitch recognition in these scenarios and have found to my dismay that I would be playing a half-step off for periods of time without even recognizing it. This not only embarrasses me, but brings the entire band down. I am investing in custom earplugs to help remedy this situation and prevent further hearing loss, but am not as optimistic as I might have been when I was younger. We will see what happens next. Regardless, The Fools are setting up another incredible run next year so check them out whether or not I am playing with them.

The Genesee Johnny Trio is tremendous with Jenna (Jenna and the Hops) stepping back for a while, Aleks and I needed to shore up our Pultneyville Grill residency, so we employed Johnny. Playing string bass between these two guitar geniuses in a laid back low volume setting is magic. Just like The Fools, these guys are great people as well as great musicians. Aleks is the best, tastiest blues player in the northeast and Johnny’s slide technique and vocals harken to an era long past. The Pultneyville Grill will be reopening in March and you can find us there again, we would also like to play other rooms and settings so please talk us up to your favorite establishment.

hanna

Also on the trio front, Aleks and I also approached Hanna Klau, an amazing pianist and vocalist from Korea who does standards, blues, and original material, and we have been playing around town as well. (We will be playing Sticky Lips Henrietta from 7:30 – 10:00 New Year’s Eve). Look for Hanna to be releasing a CD soon. This trio combined with the Genesee Johnny trio plus Tim Brindouse on Harmonica and Tony Hiler on drums will make up a new band that rocks and swings the area. We already have a big date in July in Geneseo. Stay tuned.

Crab

Finally, other than one offs with bands like The Flexitarians, and subbing, I was invited to play bass in a pop trio called Crabapples. This is fronted by Jon Gary who is a bass player I have followed for years in a band called Woody Dodge, but he plays guitar and sings in this band. Also Brooks Langkans on drums and vocals is a child of the eighties who shares my pop-sensibilities and taste. Most of the songs we play are originals, and I would say they have a brit-pop feel, (think XTC, The Jam, Split Endz etc.). It’s really fun to play this music, although it is a departure from the blues, jazz and rock for me. It is teaching me (and I’m applying it to other bands) how to play much more within the tune. I tend to be a really busy player, thinking that adding more is adding more to the song… but really, adding less adds more in many, many cases. Love these guys, love this band, they even let me sing a Ramones tune live for a benefit concert. Keep your eyes open for this band as we start a new year of composing and recording.

2015 was year of learning, 2016 is shaping up to be another great year. I think I’m finally in that place where I’m playing the music I want to be playing with the people I want to be playing it with. It is no longer a job, it is a joy.

Looks like I will still be reviewing the year after the new year rolls in. But hey… whatever, you don’t have to read t if you don’t want to 🙂

Next up Part III

Family

Amending the concept of Grace

14th Amendment 2

As I was running this morning and stressed my ankle again, I got to thinking about how I can’t really afford physical therapy. My mind then wandered to people who are born into situations where they can’t afford anything, including food and shelter.

This of course made me reevaluate the concept of a gift that is not deserved. The gift of the circumstances you’re born into. This is another reason I don’t believe grace is a god given thing, because why would a god grace me with being born into an upper middle class, white family with all of the advantaged opportunities inherent to that fortunate event and not grace someone who was born into an underprivileged circumstance?

That said, if grace is given by us, as I postulated in my last post, it becomes even that more important that we extend grace/opportunities to those who aren’t born into it.

An Atheist’s conception of “Grace”

One Universalist Unitarian description of Grace as found in Soul Matters Material is

“Despite all its theological baggage, at its core the idea of grace simply celebrates a gift. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, it celebrates the giftedness of life. The deepest and most sacred experience of joy comes from encountering a gift you didn’t expect, earn, create or even deserve.”

But a gift from whom, or from where? This is the struggle.

I recently won a sponsorship to run a footrace that costs a substantial amount of money. My wife asked me if this wasn’t an expression of “grace” or being “blessed” (I will save the blessed debate for another time). As I didn’t necessarily expect to win this sponsorship or create it I was meeting at least one if not two of the criteria of the definition above. That said, I noticed that there was an application process, and that I could absolutely not expect to win if I didn’t enter. I ran many races and worked for the sponsorship organizer’s events and I filled out the application which is to say I did what was necessary to earn it and also to create the environment in which it was possible to win, and in hindsight I believe I do deserve it. That it happened at a time that finances are tight could be merely a coincidence or just the fact that finances are always tight in my life.

As I think about all of the instances that I might even consider using the word grace with this definition, upon further examination I find that what really happens is that opportunities emerge from circumstances created within myself as well as outside myself  whether it is jobs, gigs, marriages, etc. The sponsorship was created by an entity that was not me, but the taking advantage and doing what was necessary was created by me. I believe that these opportunities are always present. The idea of Grace to me then becomes an exercise of recognizing the multitude of opportunities that surround us and doing what is necessary to take advantage of them. These opportunities of course change through time as we gain more knowledge and skills in life and not everyone is afforded the same opportunities depending on their circumstances.

I also believe that I can be on both sides of this equation. The organization of the sponsorship was the outside catalyst creating the opportunity for me to capitalize on it. I can be that outside catalyst by extending myself to others, by creating opportunities for them. And those opportunities don’t have to be the big ones like creating jobs, sponsorships, or gigs, they can be opportunities to teach skills, or bolster confidence in someone else so they can capitalize on the greater opportunities.

“But what about the times that something just falls I your lap?” You may ask. They say even a broken clock is right twice a day. Can this not be chalked up to coincidence? Also, those things that “fall into our laps” can only be received if we are prepared for them, like a job… if we didn’t have the skills a job falling into our lap wouldn’t mean very much because we couldn’t perform the requisite skills. A loved one who falls into our life can’t be accepted unless we are ready to accept other people in our lives. (ad I not had the experiences of a former marriage, divorce, and opening back up to the world, Amy’s and my relationship would not be what it is today.

 opportunities

Now, none of this is arguing that one should not be grateful (as both the words grace and gratitude have the same etymology gratia). In using another definition of grace, a sense of gratitude allows us to be graceful and thankful when recognizing and taking advantage of the myriad opportunities that constantly surround us. It is this grace that is the impetus for us to extend grace/opportunities to others.

So where does it come from? It comes from us, from our personal evolution of skills, interactions, and knowledge, from our environment and from the circumstances that are presented to us because of the evolving skills, interactions, knowledge that others and the world are constantly going through. So in a sense it is larger than us, but that does not mean it is a god giving it to us, it’s us giving it to us. The key is recognizing it, and knowing it’s here, right now and all of the time… even when it changes.

Music This Week – 1/18

Sorry I missed last week, probably because I just couldn’t bring myself to post the fact that I played a Carrie Underwood tune. But anyhow, Music this Saturday at First Unitarian continues with the theme of “Character”:

I have to admit that Sara is quite a guilty pleasure. I love her voice and whomever handles her arrangements is a friggin’ Hook Master:


…and another female lead I can listen to all day, Poe:



Stephen Stills’ genius was on display with Buffalo Springfield. I would also strongly suggest people check out his work with Manassas.

Now I’m a huge fan of Brian Setzer so I will place this next tune here with his arrangement, but I also feel it’s necessary to follow it up with Santo & Johnny who originally wrote it:

Oh Edie:

Let’s close out with some Killers:

Again, you can see me perform  these tunes live at the Saturday 4:30 Service at First Unitarian Church of Rochester.

Bonus Material:

If you have read this far, and you’ve been following along, you know I’m working on another project. Let me tickle you with some ideas floating around for this one:

Let’s mess with The Kinks:

And my favorite from the Aristocats:

Let’s not forget some older favorites:

So All’y’Alls better get those dance shoes ready!

I’m not down

I’m hurting. I’m in debt, my kids unknowingly conspire against me because of expectations set up by my ex, I’m doing work (and it’s completely transactional relationship built) and I’m paying to do it, It’s hard to see the good right now… but I’ll try (disclaimer: I feel like a used car salesman selling myself a lemon when I do these):

  • I am running – niggle in the ankle aside I’m running okay and believe I will be in prime shape for June
  • I’m engaged in meaningful spiritual stuff – I’ve been selected to be part of the lay ministry at First U and for leadership development (even though I’m an atheist) . I meet with my sponsor for alcoholism recovery weekly and almost weekly I’m working with another recovering drunk (who is not an atheist, AT ALL)
  • I am playing music –maybe not what I want all the time, but I am playing and sharing that gift with others
  • My wife is friggin’ awesome
  • I was able to contribute $5 for a present (entry into Cayuga Trails 50) for a local runner who just lost his job, and recently got engaged – the trailrunning/ultra community in Rochester is just awesome
  • I’m writing right now
  • My Buddhist Book Club meets tomorrow – Happiness by Mathieu Ricard
  • Last night, when my anger toward my ex was compounded, and I was seething, I was able to go downstairs and just sit for about 15 minutes – unfortunately one of the cats then thought she should scream at me for the entire 15 minutes.

The title of the Blog is Live, Love, Listen

Living does not mean it’s going to be easy or always pleasant, it sometimes means fulfilling obligations when they need to be met.

Loving right now means picking myself up and remaining in community with my wife, kids, and assorted communities.

Listening, well 15 minutes last night listening to the cat scream was actually better than 15 minutes listening to my thoughts run.

Parallels and Paradoxes (review)

Parallels and Paradoxes

(a review)

 Every society has conflicts in it between justice and injustice, ignorance and knowledge, freedom and oppression. The point is not simply to belong to one side or the other because one is told to, but to choose carefully and to make judgments that render what is just and due to every aspect of the situation. The purpose of education is not to accumulate facts or memorize the “correct” answer, but rather to learn how to think critically for oneself

-Edward W. Said from the article Barenboim and the Wagner Taboo reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p. 182

Patriotism can flourish only where racism and nationalism are given no quarter. We should never mistake patriotism for nationalism. A patriot is one who loves his homeland. A nationalist is one who scorns the homelands of others.

-Daniel Barenboim from the article Germans, Jews, and Music reprinted in Parallels and Paradoxes p.172

ParallelsParadoxes

Parallels and Paradoxes is a book that was on a reading list for a class I never got to take while in Graduate School at SUNY UB. I finally got back to read it and was blown away. Expecting the book to be purely about music and the discourses and polemic between great German composers of the past I was surprised and happy to discover a polemic between two contemporaries regarding the great composers. A particular focus was Beethoven and Wagner, and they used this discussion as a springboard for more contemporary issues including those dealing with complexities in Palestinian, Israeli, and Germanic thought and then expanding this toward a discourse on more global issues. I say contemporary, but in hindsight, I realize that the contemporary is rooted in history, a point not lost on these two gentleman.

The book, with the exception of two essays at the end, is a transcription of dialogues between the noted conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and intellectual/author Edward W. Said.

Barenboim is Russian Jew born in Argentina, immigrated to Israel in 1947 has lived in London, Paris, Jerusalem, Chicago and currently in Berlin residing as conductor of the Staatskapelle Orchestra. He was the first conductor to break the unwritten ban on performing Wagner in Israel and did it while touring with the Staatskapelle. He has conducted the entire Wagner Ring Cycle in Bayreuth where Wagner’s grandson still controls the music festival.

Said was born into a  Palestinian in Jerusalem, and raised in Cairo when he was removed from his birthplace. He was a Christian Arab, and because of being a Christian in a predominantly Muslim community he became displaced again to become a U.S. citizen. He was an intellectual and great commentator on culture’s relationship to society. He pioneered the field of study examining questions of Orientalism, which is frequently reflected as “other” and “taboo” in music, the opera Lakme is fine example of this. He was one of the leading commentators of the complex conflicts in the Middle East. He was also a musicologist, writing many essays and accomplished pianist, but in neither realm was he a professional musician nor musicologist.

The discussions are dynamic starting from the time these men put together an Israeli/Palestinian children’s orchestra, where kids from each background started out by being amazed that others had “classical” musical knowledge, to kids refusing to be stand partners, and eventually creating an orchestra where background, culture and tradition took “second fiddle” to working together to make music. Barenboim and Said then discuss the nature of music and sound creation, the idea that the score is not a piece of music, that that is only realized by the actual performance. They discuss the ownership of music, does it belong to the composer after the final pen stroke or does it then belong to world when it is heard. Furthermore what happens when the performance is over and the sound disappears?

They get into issues of nationality, i.e. the German Sound, and how it is German, yet it is universal. I may not know how to speak German, but as a musician, I can play German music, as well as Italian, French, English, etc etc. So there may be a German music, a German tradition that speaks through Bach to Beethoven to Wagner to Schoenberg, but it is accessible universally. Anyone can hear it.

They get into authenticity, the conservative notion of playing period instruments and how that can be disingenuous because the music itself is fluid, transcending time and able to be played according the reception’s ears and knowledge of today.

All of these things are then expanded into ideas of society, addressing patriotism vs nationalism, history as it relates to fundamental harmony both vertically and horizontally, immigration, taboos, reclamation of sound, prejudice, otherness, enlightenment, mysticism, etc. I have never seen so much intellectual, deep, musical and philosophical ground covered in 186 pages.

This is a book, that while short, takes a long time to read because every word is gold, and the ideas are dense and require unpacking. Although it is presented in musical terms and therefore can be rather inaccessible to those without formal musical training (which they also address as a major concern in this book)  I think it worthwhile for non-musicians to read to begin/continue the critical awareness of the great issues challenging our world.

The following are selected quotes (some with my annotations):

Because the score is not the truth. The score is not the piece. The piece is when you actually bring it into sound.
Barenboim (DB) p. 33

At the beginning tremolo of the Bruckner Fourth or Seventh Symphony, you create the illusion that it starts out of nowhere and that sound creeps out of silence, like some beast coming out of the sea and making itself felt before it is seen. This may sound very poetic and metaphysical, but it is a defiance. In order to defy physical law, you have to understand that physical law and to understand how it is that things sound a certain way and why
DB p. 35

This is an important idea both in music and life. You need the understanding in order to create and/or perceive. You must know how it works if you are to know how you fit.

I don’t think that we have any right to have a sort of generalized criticism, if not hatred, of the people who hated us, because then we descend to the level of those people who persecuted us for so many years.
DB pp. 109-110

Whether it’s Jews hating Germans, Palestinians hating Israelis, United States hating Muslims. The minute we hate others for hating us, we descend to the thought and actions of what we hate, we in essence become what we hate. I said something similar about people celbrating the death of Osama bin Laden. I didn’t celebrate, because I celebrate someone’s life, and his life was not worth celebrating. If I were to celebrate death, I would be no better than what I despise.

The moment a composer like Beethoven has actually finished writing a piece, that piece becomes independent of him. It becomes part of the world. The qualities that he has put in don’t necessarily stay there. So, they can be interpreted or misinterpreted, used or abused, as we have seen in the different political trends too.
DB p. 143

I love this. Music is innocent, composer’s intentions are damned. Example, Reagan using a New York, Gay, socialist Jew’s composition for his “Morning in America” commercials. Reagan stood against almost every ideal Aaron Copland stood for. But Copland’s music became independent of Copland the second he finished composing it. Another example is Kubrick’s use of Ode to Joy in a Clockwork Orange, it no longer is a rapturous piece once you’ve sen the movie. Therefore, the music does not necessarily reflect nor represent his ideas. The Same could be said of Wagner, whose ideas were reprehensible, but does that make his music reprehensible?

That was really hard for me to watch and upload.

THIS one is long but important:

DB: The combination of these two factors – the attitude to the profession beyond the professional and the fact that they have such a thorough musical education – makes each one of them play from the score and not from their part. By this I mean that wherever they play, they are perfectly and consciously aware of what this note that they are playing at that moment actually means in the context. In other words, what is the place of that note: what is the place of that note in the chord; and what is it both vertically and horizontally. And this is a very important factor in music-making, what one would call the vertical pressure of the horizontal discourse. This means the melodic line and rhythm go in a horizontal direction, but there is always a vertical pressure of the chording, of the harmonies, that is constantly there. In this respect, music is exactly like history, which has to be lived both simultaneously and subsequently.

EWS: … this structural wholeness, as you described it, the education of musicians and the way they play in the case of the Staatskapelle, and particularly in Beethoven, is disappearing throughout our society. If you think of the major pressures, intellectual and social, that exist, they are toward greater pragmatism – in other words, specialization of knowledge, so that only fellow experts can understand each other. The moment you step out of a particular field, you can no longer communicate with anyone else… The idea of a common discourse doesn’t exist anymore because, first of all, our training is extremely specialized, and then, the whole funding apparatus is geared toward the fragmentation of knowledge, so that people do more and more about less and less. … there is a certain kind of ideological indoctrination that more or less says, “Well it’s not your problem; someone else will solve it for you; you are no longer responsible for that.” There is a sense, particularly in the United States, that we don’t need to know about the rest of the world. The awareness of the overall society and the destiny of where we are going, whether it concerns the environment, the arts, or history is diminished. For example, in America, history is considered to be what is forgotten, When you say to someone “you’re history,” it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means. …People are no longer educated that way in music, and certainly not in literature. I know because I’ve been teaching for forty years, and I realize now that young students know less and less. You could take for granted, when I began, that students had been educated… As a teacher, you could assume that they knew there was a body of literature… which began in such and such a way that included great figures like Milton and Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Yeats, and so on. You can’t assume that anymore. There’s a kind of a pursuit of the narrow, the particular, and the specialized. And the result is that there’s a kind of overall battle where it’s very difficult, in discourse or in intellectual exchange, to have …illuminating and liberating moments.
pp. 148-150

I truncated this a bit for brevity, but what Barenboim is getting at is the value of the note and how it fits. The note does not exist in a vacuum, it is necessary for the vertical pressure or harmony, it is there because of what came before and it informs what comes next. I can replace the ‘note’ with the ‘individual’ in relation to that individual’s culture, history, context. We do not exist in a vacuum and we only become useful when we understand how we fit, right now, in context with what came before and what is to come. I’ve actually heard this as the true definition of humility.

Said takes this concept and adds to it a concept that was given a name I heard in a lecture last night. This concept is Moral Malpractice. This idea that once we specialize in something, and we don’t follow up, don’t change if we see our specialized actions not being effective in context, that we unaware of context or rely on someone else to take care of, this is moral malpractice. Said goes on to state that if we continue to live this way, in narrow intellectual bubbles, we end up having no meaningful discourse, and our world becomes more and more fragmented. He, like I, sees that things like common core curriculum and standardized tests are actually not the goal of education, it is teaching people critical thought for themselves that is important, and we can really only get this through the humanities/music.

Either everything is absorbed into this one kind of monochromatic, homogeneous, mindless whole or there’s an active sense of the classic civilization threatened by new forces, the response to which is often, “We have to be careful about the other; the other is dangerous.” And I think that the real problem today is that there’s no mediation between these two extremes. Either there’s homogenization or there is xenophobia, but not the sense of exchange. It’s taking place in many parts of the world. Hence the need to return to origins: you know, people who say, “Let us go back to roots”; the need to find a German past, the Jewish past, the Arab past, the American past. There is a need to find a past that is uncontaminated by anything, even though it’s completely unhistorical, because the past is very much like the present.
EWS pp. 152-153

Yup, fear, the other, the “good old days” myth, fear…. Did I say fear. Xenophobia or assimilate to the Borg.

I believe that when all things are right on the stage – when the playing, the expression, everything becomes permanently, constantly interdependent – it becomes indivisible. And this is the mystical, because this is the same idea of religion, of God: that there’s suddenly something that you cannot divide anymore. The experience of music-making is that, in a way. It’s not religious in the sense that one prays to it, but it’s comparable to religion in the sense that it cannot be divided. And when that actually happens, I believe that the active listener, who is sensitive, can communicate with that. This is what I mean by the mystical.
DB p. 156

Just Beautifully Stated. As close to believing or understanding God as I will ever get.

The attitudes of many Germans who are hostile to foreigners seem to me to derive from the fact that the last two or three generations of Germans have not adequately learned what immigration means. They fail to understand that it is possible to have more than one identity at the same time and to accept that people of foreign origin, with foreign customs and a foreign culture, can become part of one’s own land without their threatening one’s identity as German.
DB p. 172

I challenge anyone to replace the word German with American and deny that it is the truth about Americans who are hostile to immigrants as well.

This was hard to watch too.

If you wish to learn how to live in a democratic society, then you would do well to play in an orchestra. For when you do so, you know when to lead and when to follow. You leave space for others and at the same time you have no inhibitions about claiming a space for yourself. And despite this, or maybe precisely because of it, music is the best means of escape from the problems of human existence.
DB p. 173

Music for the most part is transnational; it goes beyond the boundaries of a nation or a nationality and language. You don’t have to know German to appreciate Mozart, and you don’t have to be French to read a score by Berlioz. You have to know music, which is a very specialized technique acquired with painstaking care quite apart from subjects like history or literature, although I would argue that the context and traditions of individual works of music have to be understood for purposes of true comprehension and interpretation.
EWS pp. 179-180

Politicians can talk their usual nonsense and do what they want, and so can professional demagogues. But for intellectuals, artists and free citizens, there must always be room for dissent, for alternative views, for ways and possibilities to challenge the tyranny of the majority and, at the same time and most importantly, to advance human enlightenment and liberty.
EWS p. 181

Was it dissent?

In the Israeli case about anger and Barenboim, how many writers, musicians, poets, painters would remain before the public if their art was judged by their moral behavior? And who is to decide what level of ugliness and turpitude can be tolerated in the artistic production of any given artist? For a mature mind it should be possible to hold together in one’s mind two contradictory facts: that Wagner was a great artist, and second, that Wagner was a disgusting human being. Unfortunately one cannot have one fact without the other. This is not to say that artists shouldn’t be morally judged for their immorality or evil practices; it is to say that an artit’s work cannot be judged solely on those grounds and banned accordingly.
EWS p. 182

I have, probably insensitively, on many occasions, compared the Wagner conundrum to Michael Jackson, and Phil Spector. Both despicable human beings whom without popular music would not be what it is.

But what about the children?

Yup, direct from a murderer

If you watch nothing else, watch these Israelis and Palestinians play the music of one of the most notorious anti-semites the world has known.

…but the main point has to be that real life cannot be ruled by taboos and prohibitions against critical understanding and emancipatory experience. Those must always be given the highest priority. Ignorance and avoidance cannot be adequate guides for the present.
EWS p. 184

If you have made it this far, you will see why I’m so astounded with this book. It can be found on Amazon or possibly in a library near you. I suggest that you go look it up in WorldCat under the ISBN number of 978-1-4000-7515-7. Worldcat will then direct you to the closest library that has it, or maybe you can access it through your own local library through their inter library loan program (ILL).

Happy Reading

Happy Thinking

Happy Listening

Live, Love, Listen

Live More, Love More, Listen More

I make no promises about keeping up the blog, it’s nice to have the receptacle but, as you can see, last year I went like gang-busters writing about running, until I stopped. I would blame it on the stress-fracture, but the writing stopped before that happened so I can only blame it on me. This year I hope to write more, and I hope what I write is of interest to people. I will do my best to tag things and categorize things correctly so people won’t get stuck weeding through Ultramarathon training logs if what they are interested in is musings on music, nor do I want people who are interested in my politicoreligiophilosophizing to get bogged down in the Ramones (although this will be harder as when I write about the Ramones it tends to relate to politicoreligiophilosophizing.)

So here it is in a nutshell. 2014:

Live More:Image

Running Plans last year were cut short when I came up injured following (or probably prior to) the BPAC 6 hour run on asphalt. Lessons learned, I’ve cut way back on my schedule and am currently only entered in two races/events: June –  Cayuga Trails 50 which is the USATF 50 mile National Trail Championship; and August: 0 SPF ½ Trail Marathon which is the USATF Niagara Trail Championship. Thinking about some Autumn Possibilities, but leaving those plans until I accomplish at least the first goal. I will widget my workout stuff through this blog.

In addition to my regular Saturday gig with Orange Sky at First Unitarian of Rochester, I am working on a band idea with an old friend/excellent vocalist. This project is in the vein of 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s blues/swing/jazz/rockabilly music. Currently it is a hodgepodge of great musicians getting together and feeling each other out, but I envision a band with moveable parts to accompany the vocal styling of aforementioned friend. I’m not naming names as of yet because I want it solid enough to gig before letting go of that information. I will however drop hints as I have a sax player affiliated with Rochester’s best “worldbeat” group, a guitarist who basically built the 90’s post-post-punk scene in Rochester, and a vocalist who plays saw and banjo and who has performed blues, rock-a-billy, and americana. Hold on to you hats, this is one dynamite group in the works.

Love More:

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2013 was a year of fighting – fighting before I even entered the ring. I approached everyone and everything as a conflict and approached life in metaphorical plate mail. While I was protected from “harm” there was no room for any good to come in, nor room for any good to go out. This year the journey began back in September when I reconnected with the organization largely responsible for my ability to be chemical free for 22 years now; I was also invited to play with Orange Sky, the house band for Saturday Evening services at first Unitarian Church of Rochester. This particular institution, First U,  allows me to remain the skeptic/atheist/humanist that I am but also provides a community to interact with. In this blog specifics will remain vague as the groups I’m involved with require trust, so the insights presented will be only those things that apply to me and names will be omitted or changed to protect the innocent J. How does this fall into “Love More”? My belief in a power greater than myself is that everything is interconnected; I am part of a power greater than myself and that power is part of me as well. The way I garner a relationship with it is through relationships with other people. I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the more I am in communion with that whole the more I have to offer, and the more comes back. So these relationships are built on me being open, vulnerable, connecting at points of commonality, giving the benefit of the doubt, and understanding that I will get hurt but that’s better than living in isolated fear. I believe these things can be done while holding onto principals that are dear to me, and knowing that when I fight on divisive principals that I am less likely to change others’ hearts and perspective (or my own for that matter) than if I meet others at a place of commonality. This is partly what I mean by “Love More”. It has to do with relationships.

Note: I love running, and I love music, so these things will be included as well.

Listen More:

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Being an ensemble musician, listening is the most important thing I can do. I need to know where I fit; I need to understand the style, the mechanics, the pocket, the groove, the aesthetic, the interpretation etc. in order for me to be most effective for the benefit of the whole.

“Listen More” extends beyond music, it is understanding what I’m reading when I’m reading; it is listening to the aches and pains of my body and acting appropriately; it is watching my son have trouble getting up in the morning and determining what it is he’s really saying; it is hearing the needs, anxieties, joys, triumphs, and failures of my wife and understanding when I only need to listen or when I can offer assistance; it is carving out time to listen to a whole Opera or Symphony, not just the greatest hits (Actually thinking about sitting down with Wagner’s Ring Cycle this year).

“Listen More” requires being PRESENT. It is mindfulness; it is sitting – here – now.

So there it is – no real specific resolutions. No weight loss target; no goal time for races/events; no going to get a specific job (although I am still working on my business, and looking for work); no quitting coffee or going vegetarian… If those things occur, they will merely be fringe benefits of living, loving, and listening more this year.

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