Posterity is just around the corner

I do my best not to talk politics here. I’m fascinated by political history, and no doubt anyone who reads this stuff on a regular basis can probably figure out which way I vote. But in this forum, it usually only comes up if a) it’s something music-related, and b) I can get an easy laugh out of it. Political discourse on the Web tends to devolve into ad hoc nastiness way too quickly for my taste, and besides, I’ve always thought that, as important as it is, politics is a lousy way to pick your friends.

Now, unless sometime in the past month your piano teacher told you to go practice Vexations thirty times in a row, you’re probably aware that tomorrow is Election Day here in the US. I was going to do an election-related post on how economic issues affect the arts (executive summary: direct governmental arts funding is a political red herring; income inequality/middle-class wage stagnation and loose enforcement of anti-trust laws are bad for classical music in ways you probably hadn’t considered), but I haven’t had a whole lot of time for research lately, and while I never hesitate to write about music off the top of my head, I’d rather not delve into economics with half-baked data. And besides, like I said before, I do my best not to talk politics here.

So instead, here’s a little coincidence. I tend to leave my music listening choices to chance: either I stumble upon something and then I’m obsessed with it for a time, or I suddenly remember a bit of music from somewhere, and I go home, dig it out of my pile of records, and give it a spin. Anyway, over the weekend, I took stock of what I’ve been listening to a lot lately:

  • The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield, especially tracks from Curtis, Roots, and the Superfly soundtrack (this has been on permanent rotation in the car for a couple of weeks now)
  • James Brown, Soul on Top (discovered via Soul Sides)
  • Lukas Foss, “Phorion” (later incorporated into the Baroque Variations)
  • John Williams, Flute Concerto
  • Rosemary Brown, A Musical Séance (revisited for a projected Hallowe’en post that never came to fruition)
  • Van Dyke Parks, Song Cycle

  • The weird thing: here’s the release/composition dates for all of the above: 1970-72 (Mayfield), 1970 (Godfather Brown), 1967 (Foss), 1969 (Williams), 1969 (spirit medium Brown), 1968 (Parks). So for whatever reason, and by a number of circuitous paths, I’ve gravitated towards a bunch of otherwise unrelated music dating from a particularly tumultuous five years of American history.

    Last week, Jerry over at Sequenza21 called this election the most important in the last 250 years. He may have been exaggerating for comic effect. If he was serious, who knows? Maybe he’s right. The last few election cycles have seen both sides ratchet up the pressure so high that it’s kind of hard to tell anymore. And it’s probably just a random fold of my own history that’s brought all this music to the surface now. Still, regardless of your political persuasion, it’s been hard to escape that Yeatsian “things falling apart” feeling over the last couple of years, hasn’t it? Maybe it’s not a coincidence.

    P.S. Am I the only one who finds it Dada-funny that Election Day is always right around Guy Fawkes Night? No wonder the British think we’re loopy.

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