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From other various dates and times:

On Mediocrity:

Composer David Raksin died recently. A letter in praise of Raksin was printed in the LA Times shortly after his death:

“One of his (David’s) most endearing attributes was his irrepressible delivery of zingers and one-liners regarding everything and everyone he considered qualitatively awful, either aesthetically or morally. I remember once at the Ojai Music Festival when he asked me if I was going to attend a concert that afternoon of John Cage's music, which featured performances by our mutual friend, the brilliant pianist Gloria Cheng. I replied that I hadn't gotten tickets because I simply considered John Cage to have opened the door to an entire generation of talentless ‘composers’ who relied on conceptual gimmickry rather than actual musical chops. David immediately replied: ‘Yeah, Cage opened the door and Andrew Lloyd Webber walked in!’.” (Carlos Rodriguez)

Rodriguez was being kind by referring to composers since Cage as being ‘talentless’. Some would probably even refer to me as one of those composers. The problem is that Cage and others of his generation demonstrated to us that music is all sound, from silence to cacophony, from iron pots to chopsticks. Anything that could produce a sound and be incorporated into an intelligently communicated emotion or passion was music. Chaos reigned.

But it was killed off quickly. The music academies of the world could not break this kind of music down into rules for writing it, thus depriving music teachers of something to teach. And the rapid changes in technology precluded any passionate push into experimentation. Suddenly, people could listen to whatever they wanted to hear at the push of button on a computer or home stereo. And all of those want-to-be ‘classical’ composers jumped on their computers and starting producing some of the most mediocre music ever heard. Oh, the John Adams of the world have produced some interesting pieces. But if you listen to the most recent winners and runner-ups in the Masterprize contest, you wonder what century you are living in. Move to the commercial side of music and there is nothing to listen to that hasn’t already be written and copied at least 4 times over. Those circles of fifths are completely worn out. And anyone can chant some gangsta rap to a rhythm loop.

During the short life span of mp3.com, I had some of my music listed for listening. Occasionally, I would peruse the classical listings in search of hope, only to find John Tesh sound-a-likes and Brahms want-to-bes. It was depressing. There was one ‘musician’ from Burbank, California who made several thousand dollars imitating himself imitating John Tesh. Real depressing.

Music as we know it, based on those 7 precious notes and their 5 other related tones, is dying. There is little more we can do with the sounds of the current instruments. And no one wants to experiment with other sounds sources as we once did in the 60’s and 70’s. I am so afraid of trying to write any more music because every attempt starts to feel like a derivative of something or someone else. And when I do start writing something new, I fear that it has already been said and I have to inquire of myself whether or not I have the ability to say it any better.

If the record companies bemoan their dropping sales, they have only to look at the mediocre products, not the constant illegal downloading and file sharing of their products. The music these companies produce is mediocre and bland and derivative. Not even new, dynamic voices can rise above the level of the s**t that they sing.

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ON RELIGION:

On gods:  

There are no gods. There never have been and never will be. Sorry, I am wrong. There are only the gods that men have created as needed for themselves. And those needs are always draped around the desire for control. The greatest event in the current history of man was the invention of the printing press. The greatest fear of the world’s religions at that time was the invention of the printing press. Education is the largest and most constant threat to organized religions.

As author, Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Religion is the most malevolent and persistent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.”

No one has ever given me a reason for there to be a god.

Every major war has been a result of people arguing over whose religion or god was better. More people have been killed, cultures destroyed and wars fought over a religious disagreement. And it is even truer today. I refuse to acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day as I refuse to acknowledge a nation at war with itself over religion. I refuse to acknowledge the great feat of Columbus because he was not the first to arrive in the North America but he was the one that started the near annihilation of thousands of innocent people.

Observation:

If the god that so many western religions believe in is what they say he is – omnipotent, perfect, infinite, creator of all that it is in the universe – then they must accept the fact that he created evil.

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On Music Schools:

They lie.

When I was taking piano lessons back in the early 1960’s, my teacher not only taught me piano playing but music theory as well. When I entered my senior year in high school, I had to take music theory in order that I might graduate with a music emphasis. When I entered college, I was excused from first year music theory because of my piano teacher and high school theory teacher.

Since then, I have forgotten most of what I was taught then and later in graduate school.

Why?

On the first day of high school music theory class, the teacher, an older lady with good intentions, delivered the following line: “There are rules for writing all music.” Since I was already writing music, I raised my hand and said, there are no rules for writing music. She retorted by saying that in her class, there were rules for writing music and there would be no more discussion on the matter. I shut up and got an A in the course.

After 6 years of undergraduate and graduate music courses and 35 years experience outside the hollowed walls of academia, I can truthfully and honestly say that there are no rules for writing music. There never have been and never will be. Music theory as taught in the public and private educational system is nothing but a set of generalities disguised as rules to explain how some ancient music is constructed. And for every rule, hundreds of exceptions can be found.

There have been dozens of attempts to explain, with words and symbols, what a piece of music sounds like. They all fail. I remember one graduate level class at Eastman that taught the Hanson method of detailing the sound of chords. It was the most outlandish idea I had ever seen but was taught only because the school’s chancellor had thought it up.

But music schools must teach something because they cannot teach talent. Music history is useful as long as it is correct, up to date and in perspective. As a junior in college, I was taking the required music history course. Toward the end of the year, we started learning about the 20th century. The teacher stated that Shostakovich had written 9 symphonies. In a moment of exuberance, I raised my hand and pointed out that we had listened to Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony the night before in the dorm. The teacher looked at me and the rest of the class and said that Shostakovich had only written 9 symphonies and any other answer on a test would be graded as wrong. The ingrate!

Music schools lie. They are required to. If they didn’t, then they would have very few students and would go out of business. And there would be nothing for all of those people who graduated from their schools to do since most of them go on to teach as well -- or drive UPS trucks.

Music – like all of the arts –is a passion. And it cannot be broken down into a set of dated rules. No originality has ever come from rules. Originality comes from breaking the rules. It makes no difference whether we are discussing music performance, music education, music composition, etc. Bach broke the ‘rules’. Beethoven broke the ‘rules’. Mozart broke the ‘rules’. Stravinsky, Wagner, Lutoslawski, Cage. All of them broke the ‘rules’.

A little theory, as long as it is presented as theory, not law, gives perspective. But music is an aural experience. You listen to music. You do not write words about it despite the critics who abound in this world. That is another subject in itself. Music composition cannot be taught. It can be guided and pushed but the teacher’s ideas are always going to be subjective, just like any other listener.

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On Fathers and Sons:  

When people find out that my father was a Southern Baptist minister and that I am an atheist (god, I hate that word!), they invariably ask what went wrong? Nothing, you moron. I am not my father. It seems that there is this idea that a son should be like his father and do what his father did. If this was true in the history of man, then there would be no Einsteins, or Edisons, or Jesuses, or Lincolns or Fords or Gates or Washingtons, or Buddhas, no curiosity, no questions, no advancements, no cures, no ideas. And we would all still be living in caves, without fire, with a lifespan of less than 30 years. Dads, deal with it. Your sons and daughters are not you. And to expect otherwise will take you down a road of anger and frustration from which you will not recover.

Religion is not a genetic predisposition. 

On growing up:

There is no separation of Church and State in a minister’s home. The Constitution is suspended.

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On Religion:  

There is no difference between true communism and organized religion. Both require everyone to act, look, think, and speak the same.

A trick question:

The scene is two men in a park. The first man has been walking around, reading a Bible. The second man is sitting at a table, reading a newspaper. The first man approaches the second saying, “God has spoken to me and told me to tell you about the word of God.” The second man looks up in surprising, saying, “During my morning prayers, God told me to be cautious of men in the park claiming to speak in his name.” Who is telling the truth?

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9/1/04, evening:  

After arriving at work tonight, I had a bombshell dropped on me. I edit all of the interstitial material between movies for the Fox Movie Channel, a division of the Fox Television. This interstitial material contains the previews and teases for movies on the network, movie trailers for coming theatrical films, and various other movie moments and interviews. Tonight, I received a phone call from the network saying that they were going to remove all movies from their broadcasts that contained the word “fuck”. “Shit” is sure to follow. The powers-that-be at FMC are worried about the FCC’s new rulings and fines for television content deemed to be indecent. Their problem is that in some markets, they are a free channel (since when is any cable or satellite station ‘free’). In other markets, customers pay extra. It is in those ‘free’ markets that they fear the wrath of people who do not want to hear the seven filthy words. This means that great films such as "The French Connection" cannot be shown. (It also means that mentally deficient films such as "Capone" will not be shown – no loss there).

The powers that run FMC are cowards. Are we going to face going before the Supreme Court one more time to have them decide that they have already decided what is indecent or obscene? Not unless someone or some company decides to challenge the state of siege that the Bush/Ashcroft administration has made on media and art. A large segment of the American population has decided that it is the Federal Government’s responsibility to protect them and their families from licentious fare, unable to take responsibility for their own lives. They can watch the movie trailers and movie ratings and decide what films they will see or allow their children to see. They can read reviews and book covers to decide what they will read or allow their children to read. But when it comes to television, they refuse to take responsibility. They are just plain lazy.

And so the Fox Movie Channel has decided to hide from a very necessary fight and just not allow people to think for themselves and act on their own, thus depriving the rest of us the choice to watch or not. And this is not the first time that they have bowed to public pressure.

Once again, a ‘statue’ has been covered because her breasts were showing.

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