“Burn Baby, Burn”

Why would the American people vote a rapist into the office of the Presidency of the USA? Donald Trump is a rapist, by his own telling, by his own words we heard him speak. If you think all of his women accusers are lying you still have Trumps own words how he did it! Electing someone like that to be President of the United States would be an act of violence like a riot. We have all seen riots on TV. After the Rodney King beating in 1991 we all watched as Black people burned their own places and houses. White people watched and said, “Why would anyone burn down their own houses?” Maybe some of us finally saw that the riot was an act of desperation at injustice.

Voting for Donald Trump was an act of desperation by many people. They were burning down their own houses by electing him!! The terrible thing is, they may do it again! Even so, it took more than rustbelt pain to elect Trump. It took all the push Russia and Putin could give, and it took the desire of the super wealthy who wanted a President who would continue the neoliberal trend to bring public wealth into private hands. I don’t know how many Americans were really aware of what social philosopher Sheldon Wolin called “inverted totalitarianism” as a description of the true American ruling system, but they were certainly aware that corporations have assumed power over the people! Those in the rustbelt knew that fact in a gritty daily grind of painful life. Like the Black Americans who rioted after Rodney King’s beating, they set fire to America by throwing in the molotov cocktail of Donald J Trump, rapist, liar, conman, thief. They gave him the keys to the kingdom and said, “Here! Burn it down!!!” Only too happy to comply Trump has done exactly as they wished!!! Trump is the end of America for as far as the eye can see. His true guiding slogan is not “Make America great again.” It is “Burn it to the ground and burn baby burn.” I think all of this is still unconscious within the minds of millions of Americans, including many Democrats who have yet to really grasp the truth behind Trump! Inverted Totalitarianism cannot be fought at the ballot box. It would take national strikes and millions in the streets like the Occupy Wall Street movement began. Without that, a second Trump term with finish the burning of America and give us the dawn of a new dark age of Chinese/Russian primacy. It’s only check will be from the global collapse of climate change which will make habitation of this planet very difficult indeed for any human race.

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My Life Will Have To Do!

I went to Southwest Baptist University and got an B.A. in a double major, Theology and Speech/Drama. For the latter I got elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. I did graduate work towards my M.Div at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I did a pastoral internship and became a licensed Southern Baptist minister. However, I was not very happy with that denomination because they were becoming very right wing and anti-intellectual. But it was in seminary that I received an “inner call,” not to be a minister but to be an opera singer. Without any formal training in voice I entered the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1974 and won. I was given a two year apprenticeship with the Santa Fe Opera and made my stage debut there, then with the Tulsa Opera, which nourished me during my early years. I sang at the Metropolitan Opera in a Gala Concert in 1975 and was awarded the Gladys Axman-Taylor Memorial Award for being one of the ten National Winners of the Met Auditions. I moved to New York in 1975 and began studying with Jerome Hines and Cesare Bardelli of the Met and coached with Alberta Masiello, the head of the coaching department of the Met. For two years I had a mailbox at the Met because so many people were writing me there. Every day I would come in the side stage door and check my mail.  I made my New York stage debut in 1980 at the Brooklyn Academy with the Chamber Opera Theater of New York, in an opera by Sir William Walton called The Bear, based on the Chekhov farce by the same name, and received a great review from The New York Daily News. I became a member of Jerome Hines’ personal Opera Company and sang with him for 20 years. In 1981 I starred in the New York premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, Mozart and Salieri, and received highly favorable reviews from New York critics as well as 100 critics from all over the world. From that point I sang leading roles in all the major opera companies in America and some in Canada and Europe. Some of the fun times were when I sang La Traviata  in Central Park with the New York Grand Opera. We also performed it at Coney Island and in Brooklyn. Also, in Lincoln Center, I sang a summer concert with the Guggenheim Concert Band.

I won several awards: Besides the Met Auditions, I won the national award for the WGN Auditions in Chicago and the Bruce Yarnell Memorial Award for Baritones in New York.

My European debut was in 1984 as Verdi’s Rigoletto which I played at the Belfast Grand Opera House as part of the Northern Ireland Opera Festival. One performance was broadcast over radio by the BBC. It was still dangerous over there then. We had a judge in the chorus who always had two body guards with him. The theatre itself celebrated Queen Victoria being named Queen of India and was ornately dressed with huge elephants all over the theatre, carved ones of course. The Director was the very famous Nicholas Hytner with whom I got along famously. Hytner went on to make many hit movies and became director of the National Theatre in England.

 

I was fortunate to sing with the great opera singers of that day who were international stars. I always felt my work in opera was to inspire my audience to look upward and ask the big questions in life: “What is Truth, Beauty, and Love.” Art cannot give the answers but it is very good at turning one’s gaze upwards. In short, I was trying to inspire people with my singing and acting. I felt that I could do it better on a stage than from behind a pulpit! But I did not lose my interest in theology. Far from it, I completed and finally received a legal Th.D degree in 2016 just out of my desire to finish something I started long ago.

I was Professor of Voice at the University of British Columbia, Indiana University, Perdue University of Indiana and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I am retired now but still teach a few students. It has been a long road from Carthage, and could have been longer. In 1982 I sang a concert based on war and peace, half in Russian (which I learned) and half in English, all high song literature on the subject, including Mussorgsky song cycle, “The Songs and Dances of Death” (sung in Russian). The sponsor for the concert,  which was to be held at Marymount Manhattan College in Manhattan,  invited the United Nations delegation from the Soviet Union and the delegation from The United States. The American delegates did not attend, but the entire Russian delegation came and filled the first three rows of the theatre. At the end of the concert, they rushed up on stage to thank me. The lead delegate said to me “That was real Russian you sang!” and we talked for a few minutes. He said he would try to get Goskoncert (the Soviet Art Agency, to invite me to perform in Moscow. All sorts of Congressmen recommended me to them including Rep Taylor from Missouri, but in the end it didn’t happen. In the course of my career I sang for US Representatives, Senators, Consuls, and Ambassadors. I almost sang for Jimmy Carter.  I met him in the elevator going down to my rehearsal! Stars of the Met became my good friends and even were my fans. At the Met, James McCracken, Jerome Hines, Ezio Flagello, Carlo Cossutta, Teddy Uppman, Gilda Cruz-Romo, Marilyn Niska were all my fans and I was their colleague. Those were the days!

Galina Vishnevskaya, the Russian soprano, who was exiled from the Soviet Union along with her husband, Rostropovitch, chose me to sing the leading Russian Baritone role in Tchaikovsky’s Opera, Iolanta, which she was to direct  at the Salzburg Festival. From hearing me sing, she thought I was Russian, so my Russian must have been pretty authentic. I sang the role of Boris Godounov many times in Russian. It was a role that fit me well, perhaps because I learned it from my teacher, Jerome Hines, who was one of the great Boris’ of all time. I received many reviews from world critics which placed me at the top of my operatic profession. But I developed personal enemies among the moguls who politically control opera because I would not depart from my goals to use opera to inspire people and uplift them. I would not do crazy things like wear a space suite and pretend to be singing on the moon, or sing totally nude! Such idiocies were creeping into opera even then. But I did the best I could to fulfill my dreams to use opera as an inspirational art. Hundreds of my performances are on youtube and have been seen worldwide now. I wish I could have done more, but the miracle is that I did all that I did fighting against congenital heart disease. I sandwiched my career in between three open heart surgeries.  My life will just have to do! 🙂

Joe 02-13-16

Truth, Music and Creation

When you sing serious music, you must understand that there is no intrinsic Truth in the musical form! The musical form needs something to bring it to Truth and that something is human experience. Singing is intrinsically human when it expresses deep emotions, but the musical form–even the melody–is not true, so don’t be so proud you can sing the notes to an operatic aria or a song from Lieder. If you have not brought human experience to the song, it is dead. Songs have to be sung. They cannot just be thought. So when you sing you must bring to the musical form human truth and let it be shown and felt. You must stream the truth to the music as you sing and this we call acting. All singing is also acting if truth has been brought to the music. Otherwise music is just a form that we use to create a block to the awareness of Truth. How often we see this. Some “great singer” sings a great piece of music–let’s say Schubert’s Die Winterreise–and we see him standing by the piano, his arms by his side, and as far as we can tell, there is no human truth being given to either the music or the audience, and there is always an audience for singing, even if it is just nature or God. No song is sung in obscurity!! He sings the music very well. His phrasing is good. His timbre is good. All the aspects of the musical form are good, but it is as dead as any lifeless form. The music has captured his mind and it sings through him as though on auto-pilot, as though a robot were singing. He has forgotten that his mental attention must be ahead of the musical beat so that he can present truth to the music as it comes. This takes a lot of concentration, of course, and so he contents himself with “just singing.” He tells himself a lie, that the music doesn’t need to be acted.
One of the best tools for a singer is oral interpretation of literature. One must take the text as a text and interpret it with human truth. Only then is he ready to “sing” that text with meaning in a song or aria. The “acting” will then be very easy and realistic. You won’t just stand there with your arms in one position and we will see on your face and in your body the human truth that you have brought to the music.
In the Stanislavsky Method, there are two “beats” involved in singing, the first “beat” is the awareness in the mind of a choice for how the phrase is being interpreted. The second beat is the musical beat. So, the dramatic beat must be before the musical beat or no truth is offered to the music. The music is very good at hypnotising the conscious mind into falling in line with its beat. If that happens, the singer is just a singing machine and there is no truth!! But if you know this you can also tell that the music is very good at giving the mind imagination out of which a dramatic beat can be chosen. It takes work! Creation takes work! We see little of it happening today. Singers struggle just with technique to sing the notes. They have no energy left over for human truth!!! But I also saw this in the singing of two generations ago among singers we now consider “golden age” singers. They just sang and added on some gesture here or there and called it truth, but such is as much a lie as we see today! Creation has always been difficult, and only creation can be called “art.”

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Western society is crumbling from within

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Western society is crumbling from within. The reasons, though multi-factoral, stem from personality disintegration. If you look at normal developmental milestones, fewer and fewer children through teen years are developing them. Just look at the normal milestones for teen years:Adolescence is divided into three stages: early (12 to 14 years), middle (15 to 17 years), and late (18 to 20 years). While certain attitudes, behaviors, and physical milestones tend to occur at certain ages, a wide range of growth and behavior for each age is normal. These guidelines show general progress through the developmental stages rather than fixed requirements. It is perfectly natural for a teen to reach some milestones earlier and other milestones later than the general trend.Emotional Development

Has a better sense of self.
Becomes gradually more emotionally stable.
Has a greater concern for others.
Has thoughts about his or her purpose in life.
Has pride in his or her own work.

Social Development

Has become self-reliant and able to make own decisions.
Becomes more comfortable around parents.
Becomes interested in and concerned about serious relationships.
Can combine both emotional and physical intimacy in a relationship.
Has developed a clear sexual identity.

Mental Development

Has ability to think ideas through and set goals.
Has ability to express ideas.
Has developed a deeper view of life and may become involved in community issues (environment, homelessness, world hunger).

OK….now think how many teenagers you observe in your world who have never developed these milestones! Many of them cannot even read! These broken persons are sent out into an adult world where their decision making ability is immature, even mentally ill. Western society has broken down in the educational and maturational processes needed to bring a child to adulthood. Those causes are also multi-factoral but surely a great deal of the problem stems from the society and its political structures which really do not want to spend money on education and child development. Therefore the society continues to crumble.

As an artist this became apparent to me in my career. Audiences after WWII appreciated opera and the great voices on the stage. However, by the end of the Vietnam War, audiences were considerably less able to appreciate the arts. Johnny Carson, and Jack Paar before him, would bring opera singers on to the Tonight Show. But by the time Jay Leno took over, it was unthinkable to bring an opera singer on the show. The people simply had lost all appreciation, and more importantly, great artists were viewed as having psychological threat value to the weaker personalities that comprised the audience. As we produce more and more fragmented people, they have less and less ability to appreciate education and the arts. The Western Society we have produced reflects that. It is a superficial, anti-intellectual, anti-art, culture that we have developed. OF COURSE it does not want to spend money on education! It doesn’t value education!!! That is the vicious cycle that will eventually crash Western civilization…unless true visionary leaders appear!!! Where would they come from?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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