Friday, May 25, 2018

Henry Threadgill

The Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga hosted the Threadgill-Iyer-Prieto Trio Tuesday night. This is pretty wild and wooly music for such a classy venue in a tony suburb, but the house was nearly full, and the audience was appreciative. Threadgill was one of the leaders of free jazz's turn toward more structured composition in the 1970s and remains a major figure. On alto sax he shares some of Ornette Coleman's simplicity and directness, but as a composer he brings a lot more complexity.

The evening's performance was broken primarily into two extended pieces (or suites), each played almost entirely without any breaks. The sonic landscape shifted between quiet, space-filled passages and rollicking percussive grooves, all with Threadill's distinctively quirky harmonies and modulations.

The rest of the Trio consists of two 40-something masters– Vijay Iyer on piano and Dafnis Prieto on drums. I'd heard Prieto in person before and found his formidable playing a little too drums-forward. Although there were also plenty of percussive fireworks Tuesday, Threadgill's penchant for quiet spaces is apparently a good influence on Prieto, who painted gentle textures with mallets and brushes. These were among the best moments of the night, along with some high-energy sequences in which Iyer blocked out peculiar rapid-fire chord sequences and filigrees, Prieto grinned at him over his cymbals as he kept the time in several meters, and Threadgill drifted along between them in his own sonic universe, breathing extended earthy tones on bass flute.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The pardon

Better than the average Trump decision!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philip Roth, RIP

I've read a number of his novels. I don't need to pile on the praise, nor further highlight the limitations, such as the general absence of three-dimensional female characters. At his best, he was the best. My favorites are on many lists: The Ghost Writer, American Pastoral, The Human Stain. Among these, American Pastoral sticks with me most of all: Not so much the plot, the characters, the themes, or the prose – all brilliant to be sure – but the rage and the pain. It is a book that seethes like no other.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dad's guns...

... Dad goes to jail. Not that I generally favor guilt by association, but...

Internet freedom = freedom

Cory has it right.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Equal concern

I recently had occasion to revisit Ronald Dworkin's Sovereign Virtue. The book's second paragraph poses a challenge that our political community rather evidently fails– and with respect not only to wealth, but to gender and race as well. The motivation of equality in terms of equal concern is simple and compelling. It is a proper foundation for political liberalism of the left persuasion. The remaining 500 pages of his book unpack the implications.
Can we turn our backs on equality? No government is legitimate that does not show equal concern for the fate of all those citizens over whom it claims dominion and from whom it claims allegiance. Equal concern is the sovereign virtue of political community—without it government is only tyranny—and when a nation's wealth is very unequally distributed, as the wealth of even very prosperous nations now is, then its equal concern is suspect. For the distribution of wealth is the product of a legal order: a citizen's wealth massively depends on which laws his community has enacted—not only its laws governing ownership, theft, contract, and tort, but its welfare law, tax law, labor law, civil rights law, environmental regulation law, and laws of practically everything else. When government enacts or sustains one set of such laws rather than another, it is not only predictable that some citizens' lives will be worsened by its choice but also, to a considerable degree, which citizens these will be. In the prosperous democracies it is predictable, whenever government curtails welfare programs or declines to expand them, that its decision will keep the lives of poor people bleak. We must be prepared to explain, to those who suffer in that way, why they have nevertheless been treated with the equal concern that is their right. (pp. 1-2)