Not a bad election: two steps forward, one step back. It was a Blue Tide, not a Wave … but tides are irresistible, and the people are pushing back. In aggregate, Democratic candidates for the Senate received 12 million more votes than Republicans. The good results were mitigated by gerrymandering and voter suppression, but the demographic trends inevitably favor the Democrats.
There were some tough losses: Beto, Andrew Gillum(?), Stacy Abrams(?) … but some very satisfying defeats: Scott Walker and Kris Kobach and Dana Rohrbacher. And that’s not counting all the horrible Republicans like Darrell Issa who were driven into retirement rather than face the wrath of the voters.
The Democrats did well on the state level for a change. The Republicans, fueled by ALEC, have been working this turf for years. After the 2010 election, the Republicans started REDMAP, short for Redistricting Majority Project, to systemically carve out districts that favor the GOP and neutralize Democratic candidates. Along with voter suppression, it’s had some “success.”
But Republican rule is disasterous for everyone but their donors, and people are waking up. Not all people – Fox News still has the highest ratings in cable TV news – but enough people to swing the country if we keep fighting the forces of evil (greed, racism, environmental neglect, economic inequality, misogyny, intolerance, etc.) that have crystalized within the GOP.
There were some great wins: my man Sherrod Brown in Ohio … Jon Tester in Montana (despite a strong Trump offensive against him) … Krysten Sinema in Arizona. A record number of women, candidates of color, and LGBTQ people ran – and won – all across the country. Colorado has a new governor – Jared Polis – the first openly gay man elected to lead any state. He’s also the first Jewish governor of Colorado, with a First Husband Marlon Reis and two kids.
There were good results all over the country: voting laws were expanded in many states. An increasing number of scientists won, bringing the potential number of members of a Science Caucus to eighteen. They could help bring some reality to Congress. All in all, it was the Dems best showing in a midterm elections in post-Watergate era
But before we had any chance to celebrate the good news on Election Day, Trump fired Jeff Sessions and installed an unqualified, possibly unconstitutional stooge Matt Whitaker to head the Department of Justice, creating a crisis that will be playing out in the next few weeks.
Who knows what will happen? The law is closing in on Donald Trump, and a rat is most dangerous when it is cornered. But one thing is sure: the shit is hitting the fan, and he and his family and his confederates will soon be covered with it.
And there are the horrible fires in California, west of us. I have the deepest sympathy for those affected. These are incredibly beautiful areas. I always try to make sure that our out-of-town visitors see Malibu. As the old saw goes, “Everyone in the USA wants to live in southern California, and everyone in southern California wants to live in Malibu.” I can see why. There’s nothing like the ocean. Dylan and Streisand live there, and they could live anywhere they wanted.
Ten years ago, we had to evacuate our home due to the enormous Station Fire that burned so much of our San Gabriel Mountains. People lost homes, pets, memories, and lives. We packed four cars of stuff and left everything else behind. Fortunately, we were OK, but fire is cruel and these large fires are slow-motion bombs: one of Nature’s weapons of mass destruction. Fires, earthquakes, hellacious winds – they are the price we pay for living in this lovely place.
Music still can divert me. The TG and I saw a wonderful concert with quintessential Los Angeles Philharmonic programming: something old, something new. The old was Mahler’s Fifth Symphony conducted by Suzanne Malkki; the new was a World Premiere(!) of Music for Ensemble and Orchestra by Steve Reich.
The Mahler was good. Mahler’s Fifth is the first Mahler record I ever bought. (I think it was one of the first classical records I ever bought.) And that version was conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Malkki conducted well, but she didn’t get that extra level of intensity and drama from the orchestra as Bernstein got. Or, for that matter, that Gustavo Dudamel would have gotten: Dudamel’s Mahler is top-notch. Nonetheless, it was good to hear that beautiful, tormented, deep music played live.
There are few pieces more beautiful than the Adagietto. It’s generally considered to be Mahler’s declaration of love for wife Alma Schindler. Instead of a letter, he wrote this. (Alma, of course, is the famous wife/muse of Mahler, Walter Gropius, and Franz Werfel, immortalized by Tom Lehrer.) It’s the music that Luciano Visconti used in the love theme in “Death In Venice” and Bernstein himself conducted at the funeral of Robert Kennedy.
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic – the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – As good as it gets.
Tom Lehrer sings “Alma” – his brilliant paean to Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel – Who else could rhyme “Gropius” with “copious?” Sondheim?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWFEy1lVUM
OLD AND NEW MUSICIANS
The TG and I usually go to the lecture before our concerts at the Disney Hall. There’s a lot I don’t know about symphonic music – hell, there’s a lot I don’t know about a lot of things – and the lectures are invariably informative and, occasionally, quite exciting. At this lecture, before the Steve Reich world premiere, Steve Reich was there! A living legend, one of America’s most celebrated composers. He’s in his eighties, but seemed much younger. (Music keeps you young, I guess.) He was candid, relaxed, and humble.
I’m not the biggest fan of minimal and/or avant-garde music. I was hyped into buying his “Music for 18 Musicians” in the mid-70s, but I never listened to it much. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this premiere: heavy on the percussive piano, lots of interesting plinking. It got me to listen to some of Reich’s earliest tape-loop music from the 60s: they are certainly ear-opening.
Steve Reich – “Come Out”
Steve Reich – “It’s Gonna Rain”
And I’m very excited to discover COLTER WALL, a wonderful new singer-songwriter. He’s only twenty-two(?), but it sounds like he’s been pickling his vocal cords in Jim Beam for decades
Lucinda Williams let him open for her at the Ryman Auditorium, and Steve Earle said, “"Colter Wall is bar none the best young singer/songwriter I've seen in 20 years" (It’s one of his juicy lines from “Saskatchewan In 1881” that I chose for the title of this blog.)
Colter Wall – Paste Studios – 5/16/17
Colter Wall – “Sleeping On the Blacktop”
In the midst of all this tumult, moments of time-stopping beauty still happen. The TG and I took grandson Calder to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Subscriber Appreciation Day at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There were lots of family-friendly activities, and at one point I sat in the front row of the auditorium with Calder on my lap as the newly formed Los Angeles Philharmonic Wind Ensemble played Jacques Ibert’s “Trois Pieces Breves.” Both Calder and I (and everyone else in the hall) were entranced by the sweet, lively sounds. I could feel Calder practically melt into me, he was so lost in the beauty of the music and Frank Gehry’s magnificent creation. (The inside of the Walt Disney Hall is just as magical as the famous, now iconic exterior.)
For a few glorious minutes, nothing mattered but the glory of Art and my bond with the little boy whom I love and who loves me.
Jacques Ibert – Allegro from “Trois Pieces Breves”