branding the composers

there really is like…. a specific brand of blog thats composed of like 75% reblogs from ruinedchildhood and tastefullyoffensive

Clara Schumann (née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896)

German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Frontispiece “Clara Wieck. From a lithograph by C. Brand, in the possession of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna.” from The Girlhood of Clara Schumann (Clara Wieck and Her Time) By Florence May. With Portrait. London: Edward Arnold, 1919.

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One to hear One to remember And one to drink

If those newspapers and politicians that last week denounced judges as ‘enemies of the people’ ever proceed to brand certain composers or artists with the same obloquy, then we’ll know that we are indeed entering a very dark place.

This thought occurred to me after reading Julian Barnes’ novella, The Noise of Time, a fictional biography of Dmitri Shostakovich which enters into the mind of the composer whose opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, was denounced in a 1936 newspaper article approved by Stalin as ‘muddle instead of music’. ‘The people expect good songs, but also good instrumental works, and good operas,’ ranted the (very) senior Party official who wrote the piece, before concluding with a sinister threat: ‘The power of good music to infect the masses has been sacrificed to a petty-bourgeois, ‘formalist’ attempt to create originality through cheap clowning. It is a game of clever ingenuity that may end very badly.’

Living, as we do, in a very rare – if not unique – pocket of history in which democracy, freedom of expression and respect for the individual have formed the dominant value consensus, such detailed concern on the part of the authorities with questions of artistic form might seem inexplicable, even laughable. But it was no laughing matter in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union. Totalitarianism fears the pen and the paintbrush as much as – perhaps more than – the sword. Stalin liked to know that he inspired terror in his country’s artists. After all, they were, as Stalin once said, ‘engineers of human souls’, builders of a new world, the new man.

And so, in Julian Barnes’ story, state terror reaches out to dictate terms to a man who composes symphonies and sonatas, operas and concertos: every night Shostakovitch awaits his arrest, dressed and ready with his suitcase by his side, on the landing by the lift in his apartment block, for the men from the security service who always came for you in the middle of the night. In Stalin’s Russia, he muses, there would be only two types of composer: those who were alive and frightened; and those who were dead.’

In the years of the terror, there was not a home in the country where people did not sit trembling at night, their ears straining to catch the murmur of passing cars or the sound of the elevator.
– Nadezhda Mandelstam, ‘Hope Against Hope’

In an interior monologue written in the third person, Barnes imagines three critical years in Shostakovich’s life. All of them – 1936, 1948 and 1960 – are leap years which the composer, like many Russians, believed brought bad luck. For Shostakovich, each involved a ‘Conversation with Power’ which threatened either his life, his work or his reputation. Barnes is not the only one to be fascinated with Shostakovich’s story. In recent decades the ‘Shostakovich wars’ have been fought over his reputation: whether, confronted by Power (Barnes’ term for the Soviet communist party leadership), he proved to be a hero or a coward.

The first is the year of his denunciation in Pravda and subsequent implication in a plot to assassinate Stalin. In the second he is humiliated as a Soviet stooge during a trip to America as a member of an official delegation to a Congress for World Peace, during which he denounces Stravinsky – the composer he most reveres – as having betrayed his native land by his American ‘exile among a clique of reactionary modern musicians’ where he had produced nihilistic music that served no progressive purpose.

Then, in 1960, he has his ‘Third and Final Conversation with Power’, when he is finally forced to join the Communist Party. Appointed Chairman of the Union of Soviet Composers and given a dacha and a chauffeur-driven car, he puts his name to Pravda articles written by party functionaries and signs letters denouncing dissidents such as Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn (whose One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch he had privately admired). He ‘swam in honours like a shrimp in shrimp-cocktail sauce’. His shame and self-contempt leaves him ‘crushed into a hundred pieces of rubble, vainly trying to remember how they – – had once fitted together.’

Yet, in those years, in private, he wrote his personal and deeply moving late string quartets, now regarded as among his greatest compositions. Julian Barnes pithily expressed his assessment of this man in the opening sentence of an article for the Guardian earlier this year: ‘My hero was a coward. Or rather, often considered himself a coward.’

There’s a passage in The Noise of Time that, in the third-person interior monologue through which Barnes channels Shostakovich, goes like this:

There were those who understood a little better, who supported you, and yet at the same time were disappointed in you. Who did not grasp the one simple fact about the Soviet Union: that it was impossible to tell the truth here and live. Who imagined they knew how Power operated and wanted you to fight it as they believed they would do in your position. In other words, they wanted your blood.

In an afterword, Barnes cites the sources which he drew upon to create his semi-fictional account. They include Solomon Volkov’s controversial Testimony, published in1979 which Volkov claimed were Shostakovich’s own memoirs as dictated to him. Testimony drew a picture of a terrorised man, rather than a loyal Soviet apparatchik.

In The Noise of Time, as his plane returns him to the Soviet Union after the shame of his American tour, Barnes has Shostakovich reflect:

He admired those who stood up and spoke truth to Power. He admired their bravery and their moral integrity. And sometimes he envied them; but it was complicated, because part of what he envied them was their death, their being put out of the agony of living. As he had stood waiting for the lift doors to open on the fifth floor of Bolshaya Pushkarskaya Street, terror was mixed with the pulsing desire to be taken away. He too had felt the vanity of transitory courage.

But these heroes, these martyrs, whose death often gave a double satisfaction – to the tyrant who ordered it, and to watching nations who wished to sympathise and yet feel superior – they did not die alone. Many around them would be destroyed as a result of their heroism. And therefore it was not simple, even when it was clear.

As channelled by Barnes, Shostakovich often comes out with an ironical turn of phrase, so on this point he has him observe:

The system of retribution had been greatly improved, and was so much more inclusive than it used to be.

‘Life is not a walk across a field’, Shostakovich reminds himself now and again, quoting an old Russian proverb. In Stalin’s Russia it certainly wasn’t. For the composer, the terror began with the damning ‘MUDDLE INSTEAD OF MUSIC’ review in Pravda following the night in January 1936 when Stalin went to the opera to see Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and was not pleased. Having started out as a young prodigy, it seemed that Shostakovich ’s career – perhaps even his life – was over, and he was not yet thirty.

‘Muddle instead of Music’: the Pravda editorial of 28 January 1936

The first section of Barnes’ novel is perhaps the best. Following the editorial, Shostakovich is summoned to a meeting with an interrogator from the NKVD, who eventually demands that he return the following day with information that would betray his friend and protector Marshal Tukhachevsky, by implicating him in a plot to assassinate Stalin. But when returns the next day as ordered, Shostakovich discovers that his interrogator has vanished, consumed by the terror. His friend Tukhachevsky was later shot.

Shostakovich survived to pen his Fifth Symphony which was described in Pravda a few days before its premiere as ‘a Soviet artist’s creative response to justified criticism.’ Whether Shostakovich wrote the article is a matter of debate; he never repudiated the phrase. From the success of the Fifth Symphony, Barnes skips forward to his second ‘Conversation with Power’, this time a telephone call from Stalin himself that recalls a similar call in Vasily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate (as well as one received by Boris Pasternak in June 1934 following the arrest of Osip Mandelstam on whose behalf he made representations).

By the time Shostakovich gets his call from Stalin he is back in the Party’s good books as a result of the success of his patriotic Leningrad Symphony. Now he is put under pressure to join the delegation due to travel to the United States. There, Shostakovich delivers a series of speeches, written by party officials, denouncing the work of renegades and exiles such as Stravinsky, whom he greatly admires. In one gathering, questioned by Nicolas Nabokov (Vladimir’s cousin), he is forced to defend the views of Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin’s right-hand man in implementing the Terror of 1936-38 and the man ‘who had persecuted him since 1936, who had banned him and derided him and threatened him, who had compared his music to that of a road drill and a mobile gas chamber’. It is a moment of abject humiliation for the composer.

But, as Barnes put it in his Guardian article, ‘My Hero’:

Shostakovich stood his ground, paid Caesar his due (and Caesar was very greedy in those days), wrote his private as well as his public music, protected his family and hoped for better days. There are more forms of heroism than the obvious ones.

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And then, to her total astonishment, Damon, the ever-composed, brand-new vampire blurted, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about how that place would be for you. Is there anything that will make you feel better?”
Bonnie blinked. Damon didn’t apologize. Damon famously didn’t apologize, or explain, or speak so nicely to people, unless he wanted something from them.
—  The Return: Midnight
And then, to her total astonishment, Damon, the ever-composed, brand-new vampire blurted, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think about how that place would be for you. Is there anything that will make you feel better?”
Bonnie blinked. Damon didn’t apologize. Damon famously didn’t apologize, or explain, or speak so nicely to people, unless he wanted something from them.
—  The Return: Midnight, Bonnie & Damon

makergirlie  asked:

1) What's it like working with Crusher? It seems like a lot of fun. 2) Did Miku live past the end of "Goodbye"? (THIS IS THE MOST URGENT.) 3) What was it like making legit demos for a legit VOCALOID? That had to be hugely awesome.

1) Working with Crusher is great! It’s a totally different collaborative experience than I’m used to. There’s really no limits or set roles one of us does. Sometimes I write a lot of the inst and they do most of the Lyrics, or sometimes they completely create an instrumental and I write some lyrics for it! It’s really easy to work with them, which is why I think Circrush works so well!

2) You’ll have to ask Shiva! She’s the one who created the video that goes with Goodbye!

3) It’s super awesome, but really difficult because the purpose of the song is to show off the voice, rather than the song as a whole. Cyber Diva was the first Vocaloid I was asked to compose brand new songs for. With the other demos that I did for crypton, I already had the song created! So it wasn’t as difficult… We were also given a super strict deadline with Cyber Diva, we only had 5 days to write those songs! And both laptop and my old crappy backup desktop from 2003 ended up dying in the middle of writing the songs so I had to ask my friend to borrow their computer, and then my room ended up flooding! It was like the universe was out to get me, lol. But we were still able to make the deadline with a day to spare!! So looking back at it, it definitely was a challenge but I think we handled it pretty well!