Itâ€™s been a while since I attended to my blog â€“ not that it would seem to make any difference to anyone, but who knowsâ€¦ as I have experienced one of the worst cases of writerâ€™s block (blogâ€¦?), running with the wolves for a while.
I considered various subjects – I have searched women musicologists and found that they are still quite a minority especially in classical music. In looking for women in music, I found more articles about Madonna and PJ Harvey than contemporary music women. I discovered that there are actually many well-known women composers from the 17th, 18th and 19th century whose 200-or so works have been somehow â€˜lostâ€™- probably because they were not considered important enough to preserve.
I came across the concept of â€˜sexy musicâ€™: classical, seductive passages of semi-chromatic melodies such as the famous Carmen aria â€œlâ€™amour est un oiseau rebelle qui nâ€™a jamais connu de loiâ€â€¦ What is sexy music? Rap music another kind of sexy music that works on a more physical level; the mystery remains why a lot of women, regardless of race, like rap despite its blatant mysoginy with the excuse â€œI just like the music, I tune out the lyricsâ€. Another book from 1979, written by a French feminist, described the opera repertoire from a womanâ€™s viewpoint, highlighting the fact that the feminine roles are either the hopeless victim of society or the rebellious madwoman whose fate is inevitably destruction.
I went out once to hear the fabulous Marilyn Nonken deliver inside-of-the-piano harplike textures designed by Dinu Ghezzo, along with multiphonic clarinet. I opened a classical music publication and was saddened to note once again the conventionality of the photographs displayed in it, as if classical music were some kind of re-enaction of a previous, less-democratic era and in danger of becoming another eccentric niche market.
I thought about writing about gay composers, male and female, and how the subject is still somewhat taboo. Don’t miss the upcoming annual Benson Aids Series presented by Downtown Music Productions. There will be two venues, the first on World Aids Day, Friday December 1, from 6-7 pm, at The Gay And Lesbian Center (13St/7th Avenue) and the second concert on Sunday December 3 at St Mark’s Church, 3PM (10th St/Second Ave). The works presented are by Robert Savage (1951-1993), Robert Chesley (1943-1990), Chris Deblasio (1959-1993), Kevin Oldham (1960-1993), and Lee Gannon (1960-1996). Among the participating musicians and singers are countertenor Marshall Coid, cellist David Eggar and flutist Andrew Bolotowsky. The long-awaited CD Sudden Sunsets of highlights of the series over the past ten years will be available at the events.
It’s not until I went to visit the Ray Johnson exhibition (now on display at the Feigen Gallery in Chelsea, 535 West 20th St) that I was rescued from my mental block. The exhibition is remarkable in the way it presents a very consistent set of pieces. So far, I had discovered Ray’s work peacemeal, as mail art postcards kept by friends, wrapped postal packages later framed, his portrait of Elvis at Bill Wilson’s house, postcards Ray scribbled over and send to someone else. For the first time, I was able to comprehend his visual style, not just his intellectual style. I was struck by the detail work, the scribbles, the 3-dimensional composition, and by the physicality of the pieces – the printed reproductions I had seen did not convey the actual flavor of the art. According to some, the bunny theme is Ray’s visual trademark (that’s what the documentary on his work is titled, How to Draw a Bunny). The so-called ‘bunny’ is a threefold set of semi-penile doodles and to me, they are not at all suggestive of a rabbit form. He boldly applied the bunny treatment to the Mona Lisa, doodling right over her face, but even so, his Mona Lisa ended up more visually appealing than Marcel Duchampâ€™s Daliesque moustache addition. There were some interesting superimpositions of the profiles of elderly May Wilson and Andy Warhol, and and as an artist friend noticed, you canâ€™t really tell who’s who… that may have been the whole point made by Ray-the-trickster. However, from this show,I got the impression that Ray Johnson was not just a trickster: he seems as much of a craftsman as a conceptualist, and I enjoyed the unusual collage techniques, and the gorgeous muted color schemes with splashes of unexpected brights. Anyhow, thatâ€™s what got me to write again. Quite accidentally and coincidentally, the New York Studio Gallery had scheduled a screening of my mini-op Orfreo (a poetic extrapolation on the mysterious disappearance of Ray Johnson) and this took place last night in Chelsea. When the music scene closes, there is still art.