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The place where I will regularly post thoughts and comments on any aspect of music.
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And you might check my other blog, Evert Listens to Dylan, if you would be interested what listening to the complete recordings of Bob Dylan does with (or to, or for) me.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The PVV and music - no real issue.

The Freedom Party (PVV - Geert Wilders' 2-issue-party), department of Groningen, organizes a poll in which you can vote which government grant from the province of Groningen has gone to the most useless project. PVV pre-selected five projects. One of them is a project in which we (our research group) is involved: a project in which we try to find out how, through music, the local community of Pekela and the inhabitants of the asylum seekers' centre can live together peacefully in the same village.

Of course PVV thinks that such a project is nonsense. It is a project in which (possible) immigrants play a role, and the immigrant is one of the 2 PVV-issues (the other one is Europe - basically PVV is against The World). And of course PVV says they are not against the project because of the migrants; no, the idea that music may bring people together is a typical 1960s-idea, according to the PVV. And that, apparently, says it all.

The funny thing is that at the same time that same PVV subsidizes local brass bands in the south of the Netherlands with 5 million euros (the Pekela-project received a provincial grant of 6020 euros). 'Folk culture' must be stimulated, says the PVV - but what does folk culture do, other than bringing people together? It is clearly not the case that PVV is against the 1960s idea of music bringing people together. PVV is against music bringing certain people together. Migrants, to be precisely.

No surprises there.

But all the humdrum shows how accepting grants from governments - local, regional, national - leads to a responsibility which must be taken very seriously: the responsibility to justify, in public, why precisely public money owned by everyone - including those who voted PVV (to paraphrase Wilders: I am against the PVV but not against the PVV-voters) - is spent on certain projects. There is never an automatism in receiving grants, and never such a thing as being entitled to them. Receiving a grant is a favor, and we, the receivers, must be able to explain why we - and our projects - are worth it.

As I sometimes say to our conservatoire students: be prepared to explain to the woman behind the counter at the bakery around the corner why it is justified that most of your education is paid by her and the rest of the general public.

Better start thinking about an answer now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Social Sound - Art About Music

I am invited to be the guest on a radio programme (Friday, February 1, 2013, 20.00 hrs; www.zeilsteenradio.nl) which is linked to the art exposition Social Sound in Leeuwarden. Artists expose "art about music and what life sounds like" in De Blokhuispoort, the former Leeuwarden jail and now one of those places where cities, after having read Richard Florida, congregate their 'creative class': visual artists, designers, multimediapeople and the like.

I know the Blokhuispoort from when I was a teenager. I was in Leeuwarden at least once a week back then and the bus I took always passed the building, at that moment still a jail. So last Saturday I took my son (8) to take a look at the exposition. I quite liked it, but that is not what I am going to write about. My son  did not like it, but I am not going to wrote about that either. Luckily at least we both liked the idea of being inside a jail, still including the cell blocks, barred windows and huge walls.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Scandalous Call: Play De Bondt!

Cornelis de Bondt, Dutch composer, protested against the current Dutch cultural climate (read: budget cuts). He set free a helium balloon with an alarm in the Concertgebouw during a concert. The Concertgebouw was not amused. De Bondt was not amused that the Concertgebouw was not amused. The scandal was part of a concert series in the Concertgebouw called "Scandalous"; the organisers were looking for scandals like the scandal around the premiere of  Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps, 100 years ago. De Bondt scandalised the organised Scandalous-series by creating an unorganised scandal. With his scandal he protested against the growing marketing-influences in the arts world, including the marketing-through-scandals by the concert organisers - and when asked whether his scandal was also a p.r. stunt for his next concert, his answer was, according to my newspaper, "of course".

Are you still there? I lost track midway the last paragraph.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Honing Dilemma: Playing in Israel - or Not?

My newspaper reported that jazz saxophone player Yuri Honing plans to perform at the Red Sea Jazz Festival  at Eilat, Israel; but that he is put under pressure to refrain from playing there by pro-Palestinian organisations.

I am not going to take sides in this. I have my personal opinion, but it doesn't matter much. I hope you have a personal opinion too - never mind which opinion it is. And I hope it is rooted in ideas about justice, ideas about the general human condition, ideas about what musicians - as humans - should or should not do. Maybe you can sharpen your thoughts on comparable situations: Paul Simon breaking the international cultural boycott of South-Africa by recording with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, for example.

Of course Honing has rooted his opinion in ideas about justice et cetera, too. But the newspaper quoted him ventilating another idea. "My music is an apolitical means of connecting people", Honing says.

I disagree.

Music - in general, or Honing's in particular - is not apolitical. But let's be precise: it is not political either. Music is beyond politics, or before politics; or maybe above - or below? As I express from time to time, music itself is neutral. The use of music, however, is never neutral. By using music in a politically laden context (some people would maintain that every context is politically laden) it becomes partly political by definition. Whether you like it or not. Whether you proclaim its apolitical character or not.

Music is not the realm of beauty. Music is human behavior; it is action, and agency. And agency means choosing. Not playing in Eilat is a choice. But playing in Eilat is not: avoiding a choice because music is apolitical - it is just another choice. And mind you: not playing in Eilat may be (but is not necessarily) a choice for the pro-Palestinian argument, but playing in Eilat is not necessarily a choice against the pro-Palestinian argument.

Life is complex.

If you read Dutch, check out the reactions on Jazzenzo. Endlessly interesting.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why Nynke de Jong Likes the Top 2000

Just before the new year somebody asked if I already had written in my blog about the Top 2000 - the hitparade put together on the basis of lists made by hundreds of thousands of listeners and broadcast completely between Christmas and New Year's Eve. I had not. And before I could even start to think about what I would like to write, Nynke de Jong wrote it for me. She wrote a column in NRC Next on 31/12 of which the message could have been mine. For those of you reading Dutch: it's here. For those of you not reading Dutch, a bit of literal translation:

"The Top 2000 is not a music list. They make you think so, those jokers from Radio 2. I have to admit: it looks like a music list. Al those songs in a row, the order of which everybody wants to discuss. Because why is Robbie Williams' 'Angels' higher on the list than 'A Day in the Life' of the Beatles? Well? Which audio-handicapped took care of that?

But the Top 2000 is not about music at all. It's all about memories. It's a list with 2000 memories from random Dutch individuals. (...) It's the list of Fat Freddy from Nijverdal, who in the summer waved his long hair at every barn party on Kiss' 'I Was Made For Loving You'. And during headbanging by accident collided with the head of Beatrice. Beatrice, the nice saturday morning assistant of the bakery in Hellendoorn. They kissed behind the party tent, and now they sit on the couch together every evening and he makes some toast while they watch 'Memories' together on the tv.

(...) And that is why one cannot discuss about the Top 2000. Because I may have a tendency to vomit while listening to Marco Borsato, but Erica from Loppersum wants to hear it on her cremation, so I can imagine that she thinks I should shut up my big gob or otherwise just turn off te radio.

And she's got a point there. That's why I do not complain. I grant Fat Freddy and Erica their memories. Even if I have to listen to godforsaken Enya for that."

What can I possibly add to that?

Hail Nynke!!


PS
Something else that was written - without me knowing it - on behalf of me: a reader's letter in my paper pleading for some understanding - the paper wrote about a woman who texted a nasty remark about the fatness of the woman in front of her, and the reader rebuked her for that. Hail, Hester Schaaf!!