Sunday, January 20, 2008

Barack Obama and Alex Ross

The other local weekly alternative, the Stranger, has a nifty post on the SLOG which attempts to bring out the similarities between Senator Obama's view of politics and the world and Ross' view of music.  The post comes courtesy of Counter Critic who doesn't care for Ross.

Like Feit, I dig Alex Ross AND Obama.  And, I am attracted to each for precisely the same reason.  As someone who works, professionally in politics, I believe there is more in common among people, interest groups, lobbyists, legislators, and legislation than meets the eye.  Though I like to think of myself as working for the "good guys" I have been prone to instructing my colleagues that no one has a monopoly on right and wrong.  There are valid and important points on every side of an issue and across the ideological divide.  And like Obama, I think most problems can be solved by bringing people together. 

Similarly, though I gravitate to a particular type of music (classical) and within that genre to particular periods, composers, and forms I know that Brahms doesn't exist as the alpha and omega of music.  Even though I am personally repelled by all sorts of music, I can grudgingly appreciate those qualities that bind Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, Schoenberg, and Boulez to pop and alternative artists.  As Ross points out, without twelve tone writing much of the music our ears have become accustomed to wouldn't exist. 

Both music and politics are well served by stepping back and looking at the subject from a macro perspective.   

For what it's worth, Ross' recently released book, the Rest is Noise, is essential reading in my mind.  For most of my listening life, composers and music have existed in their own, individual worlds without a unifying narrative connecting the music and personalities of the 20th century together.  Ross' book is the narrative I have been searching for.  Moreover, the book isn't a dense march through history.  Ross peppers the history with anecdotes and vivid descriptions of countless pieces of music.  It is a convincing narrative for anyone evening remotely interested in the music of the last century. 

Alex Ross will be in town this week for a three day film and new music festival featuring the Seattle Chamber Players.  Of the three days of music, film and commentary I will be venturing down to SAM to hear a day's worth of Morton Feldman's chamber music.  I will be writing more about the festival later this week.     

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