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What Are You Listening To Right Now?


Guest Black Lotus

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One more French classic, from a brilliant artist and creative polymath who was cruelly ignored during his lifetime.

 

This is one of the greatest protest songs in history, telling the story of a man who would rather risk prison or death than take up arms again. You should look up the translated lyrics if you (like me) are not fluent in French.

 

The song was banned from broadcast in France almost immediately after it was written, At the time France was engaged in disastrous and futile wars to hold onto their crumbling colonial empire in "Indochina" (modern Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos) and Algeria. Both were crushing, demoralizing defeats that had profound influence on modern France and, by extension, all of Western Europe. The French would eventually lose their entire colonial empire, and would cause much grief both in those countries and on the home front in their futile efforts to hold on. I can;t blame the protagonist, who holds no grudge against the Vietnamese, from wanting nothing to do with it.

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As a side note, last week I attended two great classical concerts from lesser-known ensembles in Portland. One was a youth symphony, and the other was an orchestra that played in a church chapel that wasn't full.

 

I got to speak to the interim director of the latter because his orchestra's program for the evening included a 21st-century work -- a four-movement piece about Ernest Hemingway. The piece was raw, visceral, and powerful -- just like Hemingway. And what I told him was that I want to go to a concert someday wearing a button that reads "Mozart wrote New Music".

 

The youth concert had a tone poem by a young composer -- I think he's still in university or conservatory -- conducted by the said young composer. It was riveting.

 

There is a notion that the symphony died with Shostakovich. I don't believe that's true. And I'm hoping that the younger generation of composers will return new music to prominence in the orchestral field.

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