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Friday, February 18, 2005
re: politics and music

In my opinion, it's the music that matters. On one hand, you cannot divorce your art from your politics. On the other hand, art has to be divorced from politics. Guernica is a great painting, period, regardless of whether one agrees with the political undercurrents. Some of what I've heard of Klinghoffer is great music, some isn't, but none of that has anything to do with politics. In other words, it's fine to express one's political views in music. But the music has to stand by itself. Luigi Nono is perhaps better known for his politics than the music that conveyed them. I think the music should have come first, or at least had been the primary focus, rather than Nono's politics.

I've long toyed with the idea of a three-part opera about what I consider to be a sad paradigm of racism, hatred and evil, namely an opera about Meir Kahane, Baruch Goldstein (a physician who killed over 20 Palestinians as they worshipped at the Al-Ibriahmi Mosque in Hebron), and Yigal Amir (a religious zealot who killed Yitzhak Rabin). It's an interesting subject-the idea that a fellow physician would murder in cold blood, the notion that a religious leader [Kahane] could be so filled with hatred, and that a religious follower could kill a member of his own faith without remorse. The reason I haven't done anything with it (besides a chronic absence of time) is that the issues are important and thought-provoking, but could easily be trivialized by setting it to music. In addition, there just aren't any positive characters-if everyone involved for the most part is "bad," any opera rapidly loses interest.

So I'm stuck with an intriguing concept for an opera, one that would likely get me into a lot of hot water with my coreligionists (far worse than Adams), but no interest in writing one that has only negative characters. Again, the music has to come first, since that needs to transcend the politics. That said, I think I'd still have a lot of trouble enjoying a work extolling our current administration, no matter how beautiful the music...

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