My Z this past week.. 🙂
Happy Fourth of July Weekend. Hope you’ll find time to take in some rays at the beach, lake or park. Or maybe have a backyard barbeque full of grilled treats, yummy sweet and nice, cool beverages. Maybe you’re going to just laze around the pool or sunbathe on the deck. It’s all good!
If, however, you’re like me, and have absolutely zero plans, and this will be just another weekend, then welcome to The Blah! It’s awkwardly quiet here, but pull up a seat. I’ll keep you company!
First up, this episode of The United States of Anxiety called “Music, McCarthy and the Sound of Americana”. Some deets:
In the 1920s, composer Aaron Copland took off for Paris. His search for a distinctive American sound in classical music resulted in some of the most familiar and patriotic music written in the 20th Century — including the famous 1942 piece “Fanfare for the Common Man.”
WNYC’s Sara Fishko (“Fishko Files”) follows Copland’s story through the 1930s and ’40s in America, when the wealth-obsessed ethos of the ’20s had given way to a more collective, activist spirit. The Great Depression, the rise of Fascism and the unprecedented collective effort during World War II united Americans against a common enemy.
Copland’s art was transformed during that “Popular Front” period. He “simplified” his concert music, as well as his scores for ballets, plays and films, into a more accessible style that appealed to that era’s common man philosophy.
But Copland’s activism and creative output — and that of many artists and intellectuals — would be threatened and dramatically altered by the swing to the right in American politics in the 1950s.
The idea of America changed — and so did its music and culture.
Listen to the episode below.
From The New Yorker, David Remnick on Frederick Douglass’ classic Independence Day Address of 1852, and the optimism it can give us today, during the Trump Presidency:
More than three-quarters of a century after the delegates of the Second Continental Congress voted to quit the Kingdom of Great Britain and declared that “all men are created equal,” Frederick Douglass stepped up to the lectern at Corinthian Hall, in Rochester, New York, and, in an Independence Day address to the Ladies of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society, made manifest the darkest ironies embedded in American history and in the national self-regard. “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Douglass asked:
I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
The dissection of American reality, in all its complexity, is essential to political progress, and yet it rarely goes unpunished. One reason that the Republican right and its attendant media loathed Barack Obama is that his public rhetoric, while far more buoyant with post-civil-rights-era uplift than Douglass’s, was also an affront to reactionary pieties. Even as Obama tried to win votes, he did not paper over the duality of the American condition: its idealism and its injustices; its heroism in the fight against Fascism and its bloody misadventures before and after. His idea of a patriotic song was “America the Beautiful”—not in its sentimental ballpark versions but the way that Ray Charles sang it, as a blues, capturing the “fullness of the American experience, the view from the bottom as well as the top.”
Donald Trump, who, in fairness, has noted that “Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job,” represents an entirely different tradition. He has no interest in the wholeness of reality. He descends from the lineage of the Know-Nothings, the doomsayers and the fabulists, the nativists and the hucksters. The thematic shift from Obama to Trump has been from “lifting as we climb” to “raising the drawbridge and bolting the door.” Trump may operate a twenty-first-century Twitter machine, but he is still a frontier-era drummer peddling snake oil, juniper tar, and Dr. Tabler’s Buckeye Pile Cure for profit from the back of a dusty wagon.
Read the rest here. On Friday, Jay Z dropped his latest, 4:44 on Tidal. If you haven’t heard and are curious, check it out here at Vulture. On the album, Jigga fesses up to cheating on Beyonce, and confessing the stupidity of it, while name-dropping R&B singer Eric Benet- who wasted exactly no time in responding. He also passes the mic to his mom, who comes out as gay on the track, “Smile”.
I’ve got a new favorite podcast- and it’s only released one episode. But it’s that good already. It’s ESPN’s 30 for 30 Podcasts, and it’s first episode, “The Trials of Dan and Dave” is a blast from the year 1992 past:
The 1992 Summer Olympics produced a great many heroes, but that spring TV viewers were led to believe they were all about Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson — decathletes competing not only for the USA but for Reebok, as well. 25 years later, we revisit the hype, how the campaign went bust — and Dan O’Brien’s path to redemption.
You can listen to the whole thing below. It was a nice flashback for me. I really got a kick out of those ads back in the day.
And finally, Whitney Houston singing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991, still my favorite rendition. Have a great week!