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Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

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Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 28, 2008 / 23 Nissan 5768

Dept. of Correspondence

By Paul Greenberg


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Dear Music Critic,

It was wholly a pleasure to be educated about modern, 20th century music by someone who's clearly an admirer of Anton Webern and the rest of the European avant-garde who followed Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone scale right over the cliff.

A mere listener rather than musician and scholar, I'll have to take your word for it that Webern's music, as was once said of Wagner's, is a lot better than it sounds.

To simple me, as I noted in the column to which you took such strong exception, Webern's "Five Pieces," which I got to endure at a recent concert, struck me as a cross between a marble skidding across a highly polished wooden floor and a tray of wineglasses being knocked over, although not as melodic.

When a tray of glasses in the rear of the hall actually did collapse at the onset of the performance, I thought it was the first movement.

When it comes to music like Webern's, I tend to share the reaction of Philip Glass, the minimalist composer, who described it as "this crazy, creepy music." Benjamin Britten it isn't, or even Copland.

Doubting my credentials as a music critic — which is easy enough, since I have none — you wonder what a columnist like me is doing writing about music anyway.

But music isn't a world apart, with no connection to the society in which it is composed. It may reflect that world's political and social trends all too accurately — some of them quite suicidal. Art often mirrors its times, as, alas, Webern's latter music did.

A composer's politics, you argue, should have nothing to do with how we judge his music. Alex Ross, the music critic for The New Yorker, takes a different tack in his new history of modern music, "The Rest is Noise: Listening to the 20th Century." To quote his verdict:

"The period from the mid-30s onward marked the most warped and tragic phase in 20th-Century music: the total politicization of the art by totalitarian means. … Not only did composers fail to rise up en masse against totalitarianism, but many actively welcomed it."

You can hear Anton Webern's devotion to the newest thing in his words of praise for the German fuehrer: "Yes, a new state it is, one that has never existed before!! It is something new! Created by this unique man!!!"

But the composer's deranged enthusiasm for the New Order was not confined to words. You can hear it in his music. It's the equivalent of the italicized phrases and chattering, disjointed exclamation points in his prose.

Enthusiasm is as dangerous in the arts as it is in politics. Especially when, unmoored from the past, it sails off under the delusion it's creating something NEW! In Webern's case, the New Order he celebrated turned out be the old, barbaric disorder only delivered with modern efficiency.

To quote Alex Ross, "The cultish fanaticism of modern art turns out to be not unrelated to the politics of fascism; both attempt to remake the world in utopian terms." And utopias have a way of becoming dystopias, just as the perfectly logical has a way of becoming the wholly unreasonable, and the entirely new the entirely old. Webern's music led only to a dead end. In his case, what began as brave new music ended in the sound of shattered crockery.

It's enough to make a fella sing the blues.

Diminuendo,
Inky Wretch


Dear Mad as Hell,

It was wholly a pleasure to get your e-mail raising Cain with Congress, but not because your sentiments are particularly novel. There has been dissatisfaction with Congress ever since there's been a Congress. It's something of an American tradition, and at times an eloquent one.

To quote one of Mark Twain's observations on that august body: "Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself…."

Will Rogers got in on the act, too. ("The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.")

So you're not alone in your sentiments, valued correspondent. You've got historical precedent on your side. And the public opinion polls, too, for what they're worth. Congress' approval rating is now said to be even lower than the president's, and that's low indeed.

Last time I looked, Bush 43 was scoring in the low 30s while the best Congress could do was the high teens. If the president's popularity is approaching rock bottom, Congress' is subterranean. When it comes to the subject of our lawmakers, you're scarcely alone.

But your e-mail marked the first time I've heard the suggestion that "all of the members of Congress need to be impeached." It's an interesting idea, but I doubt we'll see it implemented any time soon, since I guess Congress would have to do the impeaching. And I doubt it would impeach, let alone convict, itself. Although the spectacle would be engaging.

Your suggestion reminds me that, whatever the faults of our legislative branch, We the People can come up with some pretty strange ideas, too. And just when I think I've heard it all.

Thanks, I guess,
Inky Wretch

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