the way out/the way in

December 31, 2014

And so here it is, December 31, 2014, approximately 8:11pm as I start writing this.

Professionally, this year was as good as I have experienced. FOUR major premieres (Minnesota Movements, the short opera Bedtime Story, Tenebrae, and the first in the Urban Legends series), more performances of Rational Exuberance, and an article on Morton Gould’s West Point Symphony accepted for publication. One of my works was selected for a performance in Plymouth, IN, and not only did Amanda and I get to attend the performance, both my parents and her parents (along with an aunt and a cousin) were able to attend as well. I go up for tenure/promotion this next academic year, and all signs point to success in that endeavor. I was able to organize my research plan and my compositional output (the aforementioned Urban Legends series), and I really feel like I am at the top of my game.

Personally, however…

The polar vortex hit on January 6. Two days later, our beloved Dachshund Julie suffered what was most likely a pretty severe stroke. The little girl held on for a couple of months, but on March 10 a decision was made and that night, with Amanda by her side, she left us. Similarly, our cranky old Hep Cat suffered kidney failure in mid-October (more on the timing of that in a moment), and – true to his spirit – left us on November 11 in the vet’s office while she was preparing to do what needed to be done. (We refer to this as Hep’s last middle finger to the world – “You can’t fire me! I quit!”) The hole in our hearts has not yet healed, nor is it likely to. Julie and Hep were family, and now our family is smaller.

The reason we had to leave town in mid-October, when Hep suffered the beginnings of his final illness, was because of another loss. Jay Flippin, the greatest total musician I have ever known, lost his battle with liver cancer on October 16. Dick Cheney still breathes air and Jay Flippin is dead – it makes you angry. Jay was and is who I want to be when I grow up. A true polymath, he spoke several languages and was as at ease discussing theology, science, and history as he was behind a piano. There are very few people for whom this is true, but in Jay’s case it is true: This world is better because Jay Flippin was in it.

My beloved wife had some health scares as well; to respect her wishes, I won’t go into detail, but suffice it to say there were long stretches of existence on pins and needles. She is fine now, thankfully.

November brought a loss of a different kind; a good public servant named Jay McNamar was voted out of office and replaced with a decidedly less good public servant. Jay was (technically, as of this writing, still is) my state rep, and I’m glad he got to serve. My anger over this and other events (like Ferguson and Eric Garner) led me to say some pretty heated things, and at least three family members have severed their relationships with me. But I must and do stand behind what I say.

I didn’t blog much, but four posts seemed to resonate.
On Academia
Against Cynicism
A New Birth of Freedom
Man on the Moon

I don’t know how much more blogging I’ll do, but I don’t think I’m done yet. I have some plans to make my web presence (something I should have more of as a composer) stronger, and blogging might fit into that. I don’t want to spam everyone, though.

Also, a lot of people on Facebook want me to be Secretary of Education, so I got that going for me.

So now it’s 8:45pm CT. 3 hours and 15 minutes to go in 2014. Here’s hoping 2015 continues what 2014 started professionally, and wipes the slate clean from the personal annus horribilis. Good luck to one and all in 2015, and let’s leave everything a little better than we found it.

WF

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expletive deleted

May 20, 2014

Continuing with the twin themes of Richard Nixon and resentment as a political tool, here are two links which have been on my mind recently.

This link considers prejudice against Appalachians in academia, and this link examines Sauk Centre, MN, Sinclair Lewis’s hometown and the model for Gopher Prairie in Main Street.

The first article makes me think – what happens when someone willingly embraces the stereotypes of that group, and then uses those stereotypes as a marker of culture? Do the stereotypes become self-generating at that point? Is it a matter of “You think I’m a redneck? I’ll show you a redneck!” There is a natural human response of wagon-circling when a member of your tribe is attacked, to be sure, and I suspect there’s some of that at work here. But it can go to far, and ideology can obscure reality. (Read that link, by the way. It is outstanding.) Sinclair Lewis hit on this when he wrote Main Street. In an insular community, outsiders – or more specifically, ideas promulgated by outsiders – are rarely accepted or even tolerated. I found this out earlier this year when my hometown was in the news for less than good reasons. Even though it was home in a technical sense, I never felt like I belonged there, much in the same way that Lewis never felt like he belonged in Sauk Centre. Yet, that is where his ashes are buried, and it is not beyond the pale of possibility that my earthly remains will at least in part end up back home as well. I have felt the resentment of those who accepted things as they were, and I have also nurtured strong resentments myself at those same people. I love my family, and I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything, but Bedford is not home. It is simply where I am from. (Short form: having a non-majority temperament or views in a small town is tough. I doubt I’m alone in this.)

This politics of resentment is how Nixon captured the White House in 1968. He was careful enough to not be openly resentful in the way that George Wallace was (and arguably having Wallace in the race, instead of splitting the Right, allowed Nixon to use better code language and secure his position as the “Center”), but he still tapped into that. His language throughout his term in office (“Silent Majority,” the constant allusions to a giant conspiracy during Watergate) sent dog-whistles to the resentful base. And as we saw in yesterday’s post, he came by this honestly and at an early age.

I get Nixon. But for differences on political issues, I could be Nixon. In many cases, so could you. And that is why, as much of a populist as I am on economic issues, I have to keep it in check. Because when unchecked, it turns a President who was truly masterful at many aspects of foreign policy* into a punchline, a paranoiac, and a cautionary tale.

This has been a rather rambling excursion into my brain. I hope it resonated with at least some people.

*I propose that Nixon did what he did domestically (EPA, price/wage controls, Keynesian economic policy, etc.) to keep the heat off his foreign policy, making him the mirror of LBJ (who was hawkish in Vietnam to keep his opponents on his side, allowing him to pass his domestic policies).

WF


reorganization

January 5, 2014

As you can see, things are getting a little different around here. Eventually, this page will become a professional home page and more than just a blog.

 

WF


kicking the tires

January 2, 2014

So this is 2014.

So far, so good. Got a commission of interest. Trying to keep the momentum of the 90 minutes of music written last year.

Thinking of doing some other things with the blog this year. Stay tuned.

WF


all I do is meme of you

December 14, 2013

I created this this morning (12/14/2013, about 11am). I want to see how far around the world it gets.

noinnoel

WF


random questions

September 18, 2013

Maybe not actually random, but any connecting threads may not be immediately obvious (and may be present only inside my head).

(1) Why are those of us in academia going along with this? We saturate the market, and those of us who are both good enough and lucky enough (and make no mistake, both are in play) to get the ever-elusive tenure-track gigs are still afraid to rock the boat until we’re given that imprimatur. So, why don’t those of us who are tenured agitate more? Oh, wait, we do…but even tenure isn’t enough to keep us from getting canned if The Powers That Be decree it so.

We can honor the memory of Prof. Vojtko by fighting – all of us, tenured and non-tenured, full-time and part-time, faculty and admin – for more full-time lines, honest and real tenure processes and protections, and a recommitting to the ideals of fairness, honest discussion, and academic freedom that made our universities the envy of the world.

(2) Why is Nelson Riddle so good as an arranger? (Mostly rhetorical.) His charts always work.

(3) Which of these (warning: link is a .pdf) papers would you like to know more about? I’m going there (flight and registration done today, working on a cheaper hotel in walking distance) and will report back.

(4) Why isn’t the fact that, y’know, the chemical weapons are likely coming out of Syria touted as more of a Good Thing?

(5) Haven’t I said enough?

WF


more than a feeling

April 16, 2013

One of my treasured memories is a great weekend Jawa Girl and I spent in Boston shortly before moving back to Cincinnati in 2007. We walked the Freedom Trail, had some great food and shopping at Quincy Market, enjoyed some pastries from the North End, and watched everyone celebrate a Red Sox no-hitter. It’s a great city with a lot to offer. We have good friends who grew up there, and good friends who live close by. And what a rich musical and academic history!

So yeah, the events of yesterday hurt.

I am not going to hazard a guess as to who was responsible (though you’d better believe I have some ideas). Our first priority now must be to bind the wounds of the injured, soothe the souls of the hurting, and memorialize those who were killed. Justice will come, and it will roll down like a mighty river, but it will come properly. We must not lash out blindly. We did that once, and it didn’t work.

Rather, let us devote our energies to love. Love beats hate every time. Let us love one another. As W. H. Auden said in “September 1, 1939,” we must love one another or die.

WF