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Fractured musical history

caesar novus


I do most errands the green and healthy way, with long walks along busy roads. I drown out traffic noise with noise cancel earphones, typically playing historical lectures. Still I miss parts, such as due to the arrogant ear-bleeding level of gov't sirens going to typically false med emergencies such as to request recreational pain pills. So I switched to histories of composers like http://www.robertgreenbergmusic.com/great-courses/ where there would be song samples and content that won't suffer much by occasional interruptions.


By the way, I just read that since our police sometimes clear vagrant campers from 100% blocking sidewalks on my busy route, a top federal official has punitively blocked milliion$ of our fed tax money from reaching here. Idiot limousine lefty... he expects us to abandon foot travel for electric cars. Many of these vagrants are not poor but admit to being awash in benefits like fake disability. Some flew 5 to 10 airline hours to reach this place, famous on the internet for "blind compassion" where they can spend their benefits purely on intoxicants with no obligations.


Anyway, I'll point out some lecture anecdotes that surprised me. My listening was fractured, so I sought confirmation in (fractured) Wikipedia which normally contradicted the lecturer. Start with Shostakovitch, the stark modernist of a century ago. I have visited his son and grandson in their home, so I hope I don't sound ungrateful for only liking one work which was sort of a redo of some Italian work. Right after WW1 there was disinterest in the harsh mechanical sound, so he sought out income from a quite delightful and accessible piece that I wish I remembered the name of.


He redid many of his own works as well, just as they were falling out of copyright. Most of the lectures were about the drama of him trying to survive the wrath of Stalin. I liked Shost. quotes on Stalin being worse than Hitler for Russia, which still acknowledges the almost infinite horror of Hitler. Putin has whitewashed the textbooks about Stalin, and the west is content with Hitler rather than Stalin or Mao as symbolizing the essence of killer.


The lecturer digressed into a conspiracy theory that Stalin was murdered because he was about to start a war with China and terrorize Russian Jews. Wiki seemed to carefully shoot that down in favor of the conventional natural(ish) death theory. The supposed assassin Beria seemed unlikely. He was a depraved counterpart to Hitler's Heydrich, both sort of secret intel police heads that enjoyed personally torturing and killing... especially young civilian girls picked up off the streets daily.


It was not too long ago when construction at Beria's old mansion turned up many young female skeletons in his garden. Daughters of high officials up to Stalin were warned to not accept a ride from Beria. Reading histories of Stalin (a terrorist even when young), Beria, and Heydrich are somehow more depressing than Hitler who at least espoused some appeal toward ideals rather then being brazenly devoted to nothing but evil.


Lastly Tchaikovsky and his music, maybe only matched by Vivaldi in terms of accessibility. I came to realize that practically his only work I grooved on was "Serenade for Strings" https://archive.org/details/SerenadeForStringsInCMajorOp.48 which the lecturer said was flagged by "serenade" to uniquely be a pleasant interlude. Other works seem dramatic to bombastic accompaniments to his high strung life. The lecturer called him a serial molester of slightly underage boys, including his servants. One committed suicide, which was followed by writing of his ultimate gushy heartbreak work (I think in Swan Lake) which I have seen middle aged women melt to.


Wiki doesn't take that shrill approach, saying just that he enjoyed man-friends more than his bizarre marriage, and that he died in a cholera epidemic rather than suicide for being outed. I have heard endless hand wringing supporting the latter theory, that he was driven to suicide due to society's homophobia. The lecturer took a strange middle path, that Tchai .killed himself out of vanity to not be remembered as a gay composer. He was about to be reported as gay to the Czar in some minor investigation, but there were no punishments for that except raised eyebrows. The lecturer said Tchai. knew how to easily avoid cholera outbreaks, but was so jealous about his hard-won conventional legacy that he took a poison that mimicked that agonizing, drawn-out-for-days death!

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Oops, I took a look for that Italian style post WW1 work and found it was Stravinsky's Pulcinella ballet. It was Stravinsky whose other work was so austere, and Pulcinella just sounded least-bad to me. Many of these works are avail free on archive.org, and I edited in a link to Serenade for Strings.


A ton of apologies for diss'ing Shostakovich style, which was actually too diverse to fall into a style. My mp3 player garbled up the order of the Shosta. lecture segments which left me confused. If Maxim or Dimitri Jr. happen to read this, keep in mind I at least made the effort to attend the former's concert in Hong Kong where he let the conductor baton fly out of his hand.

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