You will belong to that minority which, according to current Washington doctrine, must be protected in its affluence lest its energy and initiative be impaired. Your position will be in contrast to that of the poor, to whom money, especially if it is from public sources, is held to be deeply damaging. —John Kenneth Galbraith, 1908-2006
How do we fathom it when numbers take the place of human beings? How do we move individually from six human beings to six million? One way to understand it is to look around and regard the members of one’s own family: parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins, each with his or her own face and facial expressions, mannerisms, distinctive laugh and sneeze, and odd or conventional ideas. Now multiply these dozen or so people by 500,000. Does the loss sink in? Or imagine if each one of the six million were a tiny razor cut on your skin, how many such nicks would it take before you'd be a raw exposed mass of nerves and capillaries? Ten thousand nicks? If so, that’s one six-hundredth or 0.167 percent of those who died. —Arthur Krystal, “My Holocaust Problem”
This Saturday, 29 April, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City presents “Transient Glory V,” a program of music commissioned by and for the Big Apple’s unique multicultural youth choir. Composers are Thea Musgrave (pictured), Mark Adamo, Derek Bermel, John Corigliano, Bobby Previte, David Sawer, and Rufus Wainwright. Francisco J. Núñez (pictured), founder and artistic director of YPC, will conduct.
I was privileged to sit in on YPC’s rehearsal with Rufus Wainwright and to write an advance for Newsday.
What most impressed me was Maestro Núñez’s respect for the dignity and intelligence of his young musicians. I left academic publishing in large part because it was all about dumbing down. The idea that students might actually thirst for chewy, intelligent, substantial material was seen by those in charge as threatening, even offensive. The YPC’s over-the-moon success and the joy and concentration that the youngsters radiate while grappling with exacting music give the lie to such stinking lowest-common-denominator thinking.
Two outtakes from my interview with Maestro Núñez:
The children feel empowered, because here is great music being written specifically for them. This is not something that’s arranged for them, originally meant for adults. The music [the composers] write is equal to the music they would write for the New York Philharmonic.
I tell my kids that I aim [what we do] to the smartest ones—and the others have to catch up. But there are ways we can support them. The younger kids have buddies, and we tell them, “You’re allowed to speak with each other during rehearsals [so that] one can explain to the other what’s going on.” That helps the young kids to catch up and to know that, eventually, they will become the mentors. It’s a huge honor to be a buddy for someone.
You can hear excerpts from Rufus Wainwright’s spiky, gorgeous “Bloom” on WNYC’s Soundcheck. (Truth be told, the on-air performance was rough; what I heard in rehearsal was much more polished.) Walt Whitman’s “Unseen buds” and Emily Dickinson’s “Hope” are two of the insanely beautiful texts that Rufola set.
On 26 April, Mark Adamo and John Corigliano will appear on Soundcheck to talk about their contributions to “Transient Glory.” And WNYC’s John Schaefer will host the panel discussion with composers at Saturday’s concert.
Io tengo un infinito universo, cioè effetto della infinita, divina potentia, perchè io stimavo cosa indegna della divina bontà e potentia, che, possendo produr oltra questo mondo un altro et altri infiniti, producesse un mondo finito. —Giordano Bruno
Voluptuaries, consumed by their senses, always begin by flinging themselves with a great display of frenzy into an abyss. But they survive, they come to the surface again. And they develop a routine of the abyss: “It’s four o’clock… At five I have my abyss.” —Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
O notte, o dolce tempo, benché nero… tu rendi sana nostra carn’inferma, rasciughi i pianti e posi ogni fatica, e furi a chi ben vive ogn’ira e tedio. —Michelangelo Buonarroti
[O night, O time so sweet, even though black… You restore our ailing flesh to health, wipe dry our tears and put to rest all toil, and take from him who lives rightly all wrath and weariness. —Translation by James M. Saslow]