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April 9, 2014

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

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

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 Dec. 18, 2007 / 9 Teves, 5768

Post-modern music circa 1909

By Paul Greenberg


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The scene:The Great Ballroom of the Clinton Library in Little Rock.


The event:The second of this season's series of chamber music concerts.


The time:Almost 7 p.m. on a Tuesday, just as the performance is about to begin.


The overture:The murmur of conversation in the room melts away. Anticipation rises. The listeners await the momentary arrival of the string quartet. But first comes a slipping sound, almost grating, like bottles and glasses skidding against one another.


A slowly ascending arpeggio reaches unsuccessfully for High C. Then a momentary pause for suspense before a climactic clash, as of cymbals. There is an intake of breath here and there in the hall, followed by a satisfying crescendo, or rather crashendo. For a table of wine glasses in the corner of the room has collapsed. The concertgoers break into appreciative applause.


It was the perfect introduction to the atonal music of Anton Webern, disciple of Arnold Schoenberg, he of the 12-tone scale. A professorial type, Herr Webern developed an elaborate theory of musicology involving rhythm, pitch and palindromic forms.


I don't know what all that means, either, but his music must have been impressive on paper. When actually performed, however, it comes out sounding like a lackadaisical game of marbles being played on a smoothly polished wooden floor. Free classical music from the traditional notes, and, at least to a Western ear, the result is freefall — much like a wobbly table of wine glasses freed from gravity.


How to describe "Webern, Movements for String Quartet (Five Pieces), Op. 5"? Composed in 1909, it's a cosseted world's view of chaos. The long world war in three acts (I, II, and Cold) had not yet begun; the course of civilization was still thought of as inevitably onward and upward.


Progress was a given, a kind of inevitable Darwinian process in which the fittest would survive as always new and better forms emerged. As in Professor Webern's experimental work. In short, these people had no idea of what real, bloody global chaos was.


These five pieces may be better than they sound, as someone once said of Wagner. At least they're mercifully short. Together they would make a fine soundtrack for a Hitchcock movie, maybe "Spellbound." They're jagged, disjointed, fantastical, placid at times, disturbed underneath — and more than a bit precious. Like some people you unfortunately know.


Some in the hall wince. Others snort. But if Webern's music appalls, it also interests. Though he was avant-garde then and even now, his work has become a period piece. Why does he grate while other futurists from the past still amuse? Why is Charles Ives still a delight to hear, Webern a chore?


Because Ives, American that he was, had a sense of humor and humanity. He had a connection to the past even if only to satirize it. He had a light touch and playful disposition. Webern, a most serious man, was decidedly, theoretically, imperatively Teutonic.


It is easy enough to visualize Webern's five pieces as a series of scenes:

Mice skitter across an empty room.

A heavy tread on a dark staircase.

A slow collision of unidentified and maybe unidentifiable objects.

A Greek frieze crumbles — not over time but suddenly.


Somewhere a humming noise provides a lush background. Is it the grand hall's automatic shutters adjusting, the air-conditioning switching on or off, or just my imagination?


Whatever the intrusion is, Herr Webern would have done well to include it in the score. It fits right in: unmelodic, mechanistic, meaningless. This is music, or rather sound, disjointed and disconnected from the past. In short, it's post-modern, maybe post-beauty.


At the merciful end, the mind is cleared, the way a child's room might be when all the playthings are dumped into the toy chest at the end of the day and the top falls shut. The relief in the hall is almost palpable.


Happily, Schumann and Dvorak are also on the program — a welcome reminder that civilization didn't end in 1909. But the music, or rather sound, of Webern was a harbinger of just how agonizing the 20th century would prove.


What does today's mimimalist classical music herald? Or, when it comes to popular music, where will rap and hop-hop lead? Are they all the (muddy) wave of the future, or will they prove as much of a dead end as Webern?


As the 20th century demonstrated, civilization is not a given. It has to be defended.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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