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Thread: American politics, oceans, and classical music

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    Default American politics, oceans, and classical music

    A few weeks ago I read that in 1951 Richard Rovere and Arthur Schlesinger wrote that the Pacific had (at that time) "long been" the Republican ocean and the Atlantic the Democratic one.

    I'm sure that whatever validity that statement might hold, it would include a lot of complexity. But Democratic voters included many European immigrants, whereas the anti-European and particularly the Anglophobic Americans probably included a lot of rural midwestern Republicans; Republican devotion to trade would have pointed some of its interests to Asia; it had been under Republicans McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt that the US conquered the Philippines, and TR had negotiated with Japan to secure the Philippines; McKinley and TR were also the architects of the "Open Door" policy in China; the Republican "isolationists" of the early Cold War were eager supporters of Chiang and of MacArthur....

    Ok, so, what it ties to in my mind is a connection between "the foreign policy Establishment" ("the Wise Men") of the 1950s and '60s and the golden age of classical music in the United States. I've always found it useful to think of Bernstein's primary audience as Acheson's friends' families. Somewhere in the early Cold War seems to me to be when the American public began to associate Democratic Party politics with highbrow culture. And "highbrow" of course meant "European," at least until the late 1960s, but probably even until now.

    What I'd really, really like is some good solid research/information about how the classical music (compositions, performances, whatever) of that era related to the foreign policy Establishment. The comment about oceans just triggered that. But heck, I'm practically just free associating, so if you can find some connections or some big problems with mine, I'd like to know about them!

    Britten's War Requiem could be an example, as it was evidently embraced by the anti-war crowd of the Vietnam era. Attending a performance of it at that time, or perhaps even just listening to a recording, could've been a political statement. Of course Rzewski wore his Northeastern intellectual politics on his sleeve, with compositions like Variations on The People United Will Never Be Defeated, and (the other one).

    Things change of course. At some point Asian influences on classical music became mainstream - gamelan, Takemitsu, Ravi Shankar (who recorded popular albums with classical musicians). In this case I don't see the political/cultural parallels: listening to Nonesuch's gamelan recording probably correlated negatively with support for the Vietnam war. By the late '60s, everything was changing, but perhaps it's not all that different; perhaps the Republican stance on Asia was to make it American (Protestant Christian, capitalist, like Chiang) rather than to allow it to influence us, whereas the openness to European culture could easily be extended to the East and the "global south."

    I don't know. I'm just tossing this around for parallels. I'm interested in understanding the connections between the classical music culture (not only composers and performers but the entire audience and especially the people who paid the bills) and its social and political context.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Stravinsky had had fascist sympathies, and Schoenberg was quite far removed from the political left ("I am not and have never been a communist"). Schoenberg's student Hanns Eisler, on the other hand, was a committed communist who wrote worker songs and worked with Brecht on his theater pieces; when the tides started turning against communism in the US, he was forced out and eventually emigrated to East Germany.

    Copland had communist sympathies, and was accordingly investigated during the McCarthy hearings. In spite of his leftist tendencies, he managed to become the "sound of America" in the 40s and 50s.

    Stravinsky, famously, was the one who "discovered" Takemitsu upon hearing his Requiem for Strings, which led eventually to the New York Philharmonic commission that ended up being November Steps. Copland was also involved here, as well as Bernstein. In any event, I'm not sure Takemitsu could be called particularly "mainstream," especially compared to the popularity of some of his contemporaries like Shostakovich or Copland; he didn't achieve the counter-cultural cache of Stockhausen, either, or "ethnic" music recordings like Nonesuch's.

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    Science, have you ever lived in the US? You make a lot of assumptions about Politics here that generally aren't true. For example, the"rural Midwesterners" you reference are just as likely, if not more than likely, to be Democrats. They were a backbone of F.D.R New Deal, and benefitted from policies such as Rural Electrification.
    Bernstein's core audience was the same as Gershwin's; urban Dwellers, New York based, not Country Club Republicans. The other fallacies in your OP are to numerous to mention.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Stravinsky had had fascist sympathies, and Schoenberg was quite far removed from the political left ("I am not and have never been a communist"). Schoenberg's student Hanns Eisler, on the other hand, was a committed communist who wrote worker songs and worked with Brecht on his theater pieces; when the tides started turning against communism in the US, he was forced out and eventually emigrated to East Germany.

    Copland had communist sympathies, and was accordingly investigated during the McCarthy hearings. In spite of his leftist tendencies, he managed to become the "sound of America" in the 40s and 50s.

    Stravinsky, famously, was the one who "discovered" Takemitsu upon hearing his Requiem for Strings, which led eventually to the New York Philharmonic commission that ended up being November Steps. Copland was also involved here, as well as Bernstein. In any event, I'm not sure Takemitsu could be called particularly "mainstream," especially compared to the popularity of some of his contemporaries like Shostakovich or Copland; he didn't achieve the counter-cultural cache of Stockhausen, either, or "ethnic" music recordings like Nonesuch's.
    Also Henze is famous for his strong leftist views that informs a great deal of his works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triplets View Post
    Science, have you ever lived in the US? You make a lot of assumptions about Politics here that generally aren't true. For example, the"rural Midwesterners" you reference are just as likely, if not more than likely, to be Democrats. They were a backbone of F.D.R New Deal, and benefitted from policies such as Rural Electrification.
    Bernstein's core audience was the same as Gershwin's; urban Dwellers, New York based, not Country Club Republicans. The other fallacies in your OP are to numerous to mention.
    You're definitely right about some of them. I'm descended from old Progressive Republicans who became New Deal Democrats. But others of them are the people who elected McCarthy.

    I wonder, out of the Progressive Republicans / New Deal Democrats in the midwest, which were more likely Reiner's audience in Chicago?
    Last edited by science; Dec-10-2014 at 05:47.
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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    You're definitely right about some of them. I'm descended from old Progressive Republicans who became New Deal Democrats. But others of them are the people who elected McCarthy.

    I wonder, out of the Progressive Republicans / New Deal Democrats in the midwest, which were more likely Reiner's audience in Chicago?
    I was 4 years old and living in Detroit when Reiner died. I suspect it was the same audience for Martinon, Solti, and Barenboim, with the caveat that tickets were probably more affordable in the Reiner era.

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    I think it is a flawed question, assuming a level of introspection over the origins of classical music that I would defy you to prove. As to who listened to Reiner, I doubt it broke down along political lines, except for a ridiculous few who wanted it to.

    If composers and conductors injected themselves into the political scene, then I suspect that may have alienated those who did not share those views, just as it does today. If they didn't, I doubt most people cared. Until it was mentioned above what the political leanings of various composers were, I had no clue, nor did I care. I think your average casual classical music listener - probably the vast majority of classical music listeners - probably approach it the same way.

    Contrary to modern thinking, not everything is political. I think Bernstein had a much farther reach than Acheson's group because Bernstein was very good at marketing himself - he was on TV at a time that you didn't have a billion channels to choose from, so lots of people knew Bernstein. For the same reason that earlier in the radio age, people probably mostly knew those conductors that were more commonly broadcast on the airwaves.

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    Just to be clear, I'm seeking correlation primarily, causation only later, with the recognition that we may not be able to find convincing causation to explain the correlation.

    I'm also thinking of the audiences and patrons as well as the musicians or composers. After all, the producers should not be ignorant about their costumers!

    It's got to be a complicated story because it covers decades in which there was a lot of political change (FDR's New Deal Coalition, then the Southern Strategy) and cultural change (such as the 1960s), and its subject is vast: the USA includes a huge variety of societies.

    We've already had to explore the complexity of the midwest a bit, where you had your descendants of Scandinavian and German immigrants supporting the Progressive Republicans and New Deal Democrats, but you also had your WASPs descended from the (mostly relatively lower class) New England Yankees who took the Erie Canal into the midwest supporting the likes of McCarthy. And within that generalization would've been many exceptions: WASPs who voted Democrat for whatever reason, Scandinavians who supported McCarthy for whatever reason. Not so many exceptions that we can't see the pattern, but we should be aware of both the pattern and the complexity.

    I'll bet that the McCarthy fans were not Reiner's main audience in Chicago, though of course they would have included some important big donors. Maybe I'm wrong, and I don't have any hard information at this time, but that's what I'd bet.

    After all, one potentially interesting angle is to note the impact of the Jewish diaspora, especially the Russian-Jewish diaspora, and other Eastern European "new immigration" diaspora communities on American classical music. Obviously a member of the Klan (which had thousands of members of mostly lower-middle class whites in every midwestern city in the 1920s; the midwest was actually the strongest area for the Klan) was not likely to appreciate the likes of Reiner performing music by the likes of Bartók.

    Of course the Klan essentially disappeared in the 1930s, but the people who were in it didn't, and most of their children would've had similar attitudes; some of their grandchildren would be among the supporters of Michelle Bachman. How many Bachman voters go into the city to see Vämskä conduct Sibelius? I'd like to know!

    On the other hand, the upper class WASPs in those communities could have used their appreciation of such music to distinguish them from such people, to give them greater legitimacy and a wider social base. I'd guess they've made and continue to make prominent contributions to organizations like the Minnesota Orchestra.

    Politics and music always overlap, and they overlap with many other things - religion, race, class, styles of clothing, styles of home decoration (including "art"), vacation destinations, preferences in literature and film, and so on to the limits of one's imagination. That doesn't mean causation is easy to establish - after all, my best friends from high school, people from the same neighborhood as I was and with somewhat similar backgrounds, include people who prefer rock, country, or rap. Further complicating it, some of them have changed at times too, from country to rap to rock back to country, or from rock to rap back to rock, and so on.

    Hey, the world is complex, and human behavior is one of its more mysterious phenomena. But complexity doesn't mean we can't find interesting patterns.
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    You can't help but demagogue, can you. Right, racist descendants of Klansmen support people like Michelle Bachmann. I would ask if you had any evidence to support this other than your own horrid biases, but I have had enough discussions with you around here to already know the answer. Yes, I know you like finding interesting patterns - problem is, you don't go looking for wherever the evidence takes you. You have your preconceived notions and cherry pick information, or bend the facts to fit your "pattern.". Kind of like Russell Crowe in a Beautiful Mind. You see whatever pattern you want to see.

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    Is it plausible that none of Bachman's constituents are racist? If not none, then how many? And especially once we finally acknowledge that racism isn't necessary a binary "yes" or "no" thing but a very complex range of attitudes, then we'll have to see that it's likely that Bachman's constituents include a lot of people who wouldn't identify as racist but could still have many of the same attitudes as their grandparents, whose membership in something like the Klan wasn't necessarily motivated solely by hate and bigotry.

    Anyway, racism isn't really the point. (You're the first person to use the word in this thread.) The pro-European establishment types (Acheson and his allies) were probably approximately just as racist in various ways, only in different ways, so that they were eager to consume the music of German, French, and Hungarian composers perfumed by Russian Jews.

    Relax a little bit. Maybe you're right about me, but let's try it: show me evidence and let's see where it takes me!
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrMike View Post
    You can't help but demagogue, can you. Right, racist descendants of Klansmen support people like Michelle Bachmann. I would ask if you had any evidence to support this other than your own horrid biases, but I have had enough discussions with you around here to already know the answer. Yes, I know you like finding interesting patterns - problem is, you don't go looking for wherever the evidence takes you. You have your preconceived notions and cherry pick information, or bend the facts to fit your "pattern.". Kind of like Russell Crowe in a Beautiful Mind. You see whatever pattern you want to see.
    That of course is a patently ridiculous allegation and smear-- but then, former IRS agent and false-Right-cover Establishmentarian Michelle Bachman doesn't need to be smeared: her actions speak for themselves.

    This 'lover of individual freedom' never backed the most pro-individual rights, pro-Constitutionalist candidate out there: Congressman Ron Paul.
    "Let me have my own way in exactly everything, and a sunnier and more pleasant creature does not exist." - Thomas Carlyle

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marschallin Blair View Post
    That of course is a patently ridiculous allegation and smear-- but then, former IRS agent and false-Right-cover Establishmentarian Michelle Bachman doesn't need to be smeared: her actions speak for themselves.

    This 'lover of individual freedom' never backed the most pro-individual rights, pro-Constitutionalist candidate out there: Congressman Ron Paul.
    To pull it back to music, who do you think Ron Paul's supporters are? I know that they're all individuals, but what kind of communities would you judge that they tend to come from? What have those communities been like over the past 90 years or so? What kind of music have they tended to support?
    Liberty for wolves is death to the lambs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    Is it plausible that none of Bachman's constituents are racist? If not none, then how many? And especially once we finally acknowledge that racism isn't necessary a binary "yes" or "no" thing but a very complex range of attitudes, then we'll have to see that it's likely that Bachman's constituents include a lot of people who wouldn't identify as racist but could still have many of the same attitudes as their grandparents, whose membership in something like the Klan wasn't necessarily motivated solely by hate and bigotry.

    Anyway, racism isn't really the point. (You're the first person to use the word in this thread.) The pro-European establishment types (Acheson and his allies) were probably approximately just as racist in various ways, only in different ways, so that they were eager to consume the music of German, French, and Hungarian composers perfumed by Russian Jews.

    Relax a little bit. Maybe you're right about me, but let's try it: show me evidence and let's see where it takes me!
    You are the one who made the allegation - it is not my job to have to prove or disprove. For all your talk of McCarthy, your statement amounts to his announcement that he had a list of known communists, and then never showing it to anybody. Unfounded accusations. Are none of her supporters or constituents racist? Who knows? But you are making a tacit link between her and the descendants of KKK members who likely share the views of their ancestors, and have not provided any kind of evidence to justify such a statement. To use a popular argument among atheists, why don't I just state that there is a teapot floating out in space, and why don't you just try to prove there isn't.

    I could care less about Michelle Bachmann, but you are clearly starting this whole thing out with certain biases - I want to know what tangible evidence you have for any of it, other than your random thoughts and prejudices. You have clearly come into this with several preconceived notions - I want to know whether you are going to put any of those prejudices to the side, or if you are going to take any evidence presented to you and bend it to fit your narrative. Are you looking for facts, or are you looking to push a narrative?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marschallin Blair View Post
    That of course is a patently ridiculous allegation and smear-- but then, former IRS agent and false-Right-cover Establishmentarian Michelle Bachman doesn't need to be smeared: her actions speak for themselves.

    This 'lover of individual freedom' never backed the most pro-individual rights, pro-Constitutionalist candidate out there: Congressman Ron Paul.
    Tell me - what are those actions? I am curious to know whether you can actually cite some of her actions, or just like to throw out blanket statements and hope that most people will simply nod and accept your assertion.

    As for Paul - I have no problem with most of what he stands for. I think that his brand of libertarianism is suited more for a time when we could have feasibly stayed out of the fray in foreign policy. I think some of his statements, particularly vis-a-vis Iran are born of ideological naivete, this simplistic notion that they would be no threat at all if we simply left them alone. History has demonstrated far too often that this is not the case. And while he has many good ideas, the near fanatical nature of his supporters is just a bit on the creepy side for my taste.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrMike View Post
    Tell me - what are those actions? I am curious to know whether you can actually cite some of her actions, or just like to throw out blanket statements and hope that most people will simply nod and accept your assertion.

    As for Paul - I have no problem with most of what he stands for. I think that his brand of libertarianism is suited more for a time when we could have feasibly stayed out of the fray in foreign policy. I think some of his statements, particularly vis-a-vis Iran are born of ideological naivete, this simplistic notion that they would be no threat at all if we simply left them alone. History has demonstrated far too often that this is not the case. And while he has many good ideas, the near fanatical nature of his supporters is just a bit on the creepy side for my taste.
    ^^^ This sounds like something a COINTELPRO agent would write. One can only wonder. . .

    Well, how's this for Michelle's 'libertarian' and 'Constitutionalist' views?:

    Michelle Bachmann called government-crime whistle-blower Edward Snowden a traitor while of course she supported the un-Constitutional and Orwellian Patriot Act-- which makes her the real traitor to the Republic.

    She opposed an amendment offered by Justin Amash to curb the Fourth-Amendment-violating, un-Constitutional spying power of the NSA.

    The fact that she once said something nice about Ron Paul caused the more naive members of the freedom movement to swoon, and (apparently) the fact that she was campaigning for John McCain—one of the worst big-government warmongers in modern history is of course a dead give away as to who's side she's on.

    If ever there was a good litmus test for someone’s status as a supporter of small government, peace, and liberty--- one’s support for John McCain is as good as it gets.

    She of course takes a page from the Dick Cheney playbook and labels her opponents "Anti-American"—which is the epithet of choice for hysterical neo-cons like David Frum and Cheney, for whom "patriotism" is always the last refuge.

    "Let me have my own way in exactly everything, and a sunnier and more pleasant creature does not exist." - Thomas Carlyle

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