Bolero 911

Departmentpatchi_1A strange thing happened at the New York Philharmonic last night. Right at the start of Ravel's Bolero, as the snare drum entered with its soft, relentless beat, four policemen glided down the far left aisle and took up positions close to the stage. They stood still throughout the seventeen-minute crescendo, keeping their eyes fixed on the front rows. The possibility that something unexpected or even violent was about to happen added a tingling new sensation to Ravel's already sensational piece. But nothing did happen; no one was dragged off in cuffs. What it was all about, I don't know. I had previously noticed that one gentleman in that section seemed to have a boisterous personality; he stood up to applaud each item on the program, including the Wolfgang Rihm work, which almost no one else in the hall found exciting. He even gave a one-man ovation to the players as they filed out for the second half. Did his neighbors find his enthusiasm so alarming that they alerted the police? Was he a Rest Is Noise reader, acting on my incitements to inappropriate applause? Was MTT's posse in the house, ready to start a Hot 97-style beef? Were the guys from the 20th Precinct just looking to unwind? I prefer to savor the mystery of it all.

Rihm_2I had trouble deciding where to go last night — the Philharmonic affair or Anthony de Mare's recital at Zankel. Since I've Zankled quite a bit this season, I thought I should lend Maazel's merry band an ear. The Rihm thing, Two Other Movements, turned out to be a strange, grand, haunting creation. Prof. Dr. Rihm is hard to classify these days; he is a "difficult" German composer, ja, but he does not toe the Euromodern party line. He writes in the grip of palpably strong emotion, indulges long, songful phrasing, and gives glimpses of tonality everywhere — broken Hindemith chorales, occluded Debussy progressions, shrapnel from an explosion at the Parsifal factory.  The strongest twentieth-century presence is, interestingly, late Sibelius. Like the Master's Tapiola, the piece unfolds in one continuous arc, gathering to a black storm at the center and then subsiding toward silence. (The "two movements" are elided.) The gloomy coda is perhaps too protracted, but the final upward-spiraling string phrases have the "sense of an ending" that only a master composer can produce. Take note of the Ensemble Intercontemporain's upcoming performance of Rihm's huge instrumental cycle Jagden und Formen, on May 25.

9_3The Philharmonic gave a committed reading. Beautiful soft trumpet solo. Maestro Maazel was on good behavior throughout; perhaps the police were there to prevent him from doing weird things to Bolero. Lisa Batashvili was a dazzling and vivid soloist in Chausson's Poème and Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. The pro-forma Haydn opener, Symphony No. 95, was several notches above a snooze, dark-toned and agile. There are more promising Philharmonic concerts coming up, especially Messiaen's final masterpiece Éclairs sur l'Au-Delà, under Kent Nagano. Also, in an effort to reach new audiences, the Philharmonic has named Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith (upper left) as its new artistic administrator. Wait, no — they've named Los Angeles Philharmonic administrator Chad Smith. Sorry for the confusion. Given the LAPhil's remarkable programming in the last couple of years, this is good news, I think.

Afterward, on the 66th St. subway platform, concertgoers were treated to a new Lincoln Center institution, Well-Prepared Saxophone Man. He's a top-notch player who times his performances to the end of each concert at Lincoln Center, and goes to the trouble of playing a bit of what you've just heard. Sometimes the choices are a stretch — Rosenkavalier doesn't sound so good on the sax — but Bolero, with its big sax solos, is a natural. W-PSM even worked in portions of the Bolero rhythm beneath the melody. I love the post-concert music-nerd subway ride. It's wonderfully strange to be sitting in a car full of people who've listened to, say, Katya Kabanova. Everyone instantly puts his or her affectless subway mask on, which seems a shame. We ought to be prattling gaily about the tempos.

Where's Pablo?


Present somewhere in this throng are Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Picasso, Diaghilev, Cocteau, Stravinsky, Satie, Milhaud, Man Ray, Miró, Duchamp, Ford Madox Ford, Aaron Copland, the Prince of Monaco, and the Princesse de Polignac.

The image comes from the richly stocked American Mavericks website, allied to the public-radio series of the same title. I've looked at this site many times, but I only just discovered that it has some spellbinding film clips relating to the avant-garde showman George Antheil, who began his career as one of the chief Futurist noisemakers of twenties Paris and ended it as a Hollywood film scorer, love-advice columnist, and amateur torpedo inventor. The page linked here contains an interview with Paul Lehrman, who's restored the film that Fernand Léger made to accompany Antheil's Ballet mécanique, scored for sixteen player pianos, masses of percussion, and airplane propellers. The real find, something I'd been hoping to see for years, is an excerpt from Marcel L'Herbier's 1924 film L'Inhumaine, which tells of a Faustian scientist who starts raising people from the dead in an effort to win the favor of a famous opera singer. Having not seen the entire film, I can't elucidate the plot further, but what's apparently happening in this scene is that a crowd is demonstrating for and against the imperious diva (Georgette Leblanc). Where does Antheil come in? Some of the crowd shots were actually filmed during his Paris debut, on Oct. 4, 1923, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.

As Lehrman tells it — repeating the story given in Antheil's wildly entertaining and sometimes wildly inaccurate autobiography Bad Boy of Music — L'Herbier showed up with his cameras at the concert, anticipating that a photogenic riot would occur. In fact, the researches of ballet historian Lynn Garafola suggest that the whole thing was a setup. An advance piece in Figaro announced that the concert would be filmed and that a riot was not only expected but desired. Still, it's fun to see a high-class Parisian audience looking and acting like the crowd that went nuts during the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring ten years before — yes, in the same space. I've tried and failed to glimpse the mesdames and messieurs named above; perhaps readers with high-tech equipment will have better luck.

On the same theme, see my old post about Edgard Varèse's appearance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Three chords and the truth


Warning: This post contains wacky technical lingo.

E-flat major, C minor, E-flat major: the opening chords of Mozart's Magic Flute. I mention them briefly in my review of Julie Taymor's new production, appearing in the New Yorker next week. There is so much more to be said about just these three chords (five, if you count the brief upbeats to the second and the third). They seem simple in construction, yet they create an aura of power and mystery. The first is the purest chord there is, rising up from a core E-flat in the bass. It's Pythagoras' chord of nature, the lowest tones of the harmonic series sounding together. The C minor is the relative minor of E-flat: two of the tones, E-flat and G, are the same in both chords. It's the natural harmony tilted downward, turned toward the darkness. Finally, E-flat again, but it sounds more sober and resigned, as if the darkness of C minor has been subsumed into the light. It is "first inversion," meaning that there is a G instead of an E-flat in the bass. The bass notes — E-flat, C, G — together spell out C minor, again bringing out the shadows of the scene. Yet the top notes — E-flat, G, B-flat — anchor the sequence melodically on the major triad. All told, it's as if Mozart has written the emotional stages of an entire life in three bars: hope, pain, wisdom.


Hdlegacy20_3Mwanji Ezana, of the be-jazz blog, posts about the seductively implausible TV series Alias, which somehow gives me license to do the same. Jonathan and I recently finished a marathon Alias-watching session that took us through Season 3. We are now thoroughly conversant with The Passenger, The Restoration, The Hour-Glass, and other apocalyptic gadgets of Rambaldi. (This season was a sort of seamless blend of the Revelation of St. John and the Sharper Image catalogue.) I do have a topical point to make: Michael Giacchino writes excellent music for the show, and is particularly adept at 50’s / 60’s avant-garde styles. One or two episodes were essentially Xenakitastic from beginning to end. And I love the musical joke that plays out each week over the closing credits: the main Alias theme is a take-off on “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” Which is what the series is about.

Picture courtesy of the Vartan Hos.

The Popov Discontinuity

There's something inherently improbable in the idea of a forgotten semi-great composer named Popov. The very name may give American college graduates a queasy feeling, reminding them of Popov Vodka, that stomach-scouring serum in a plastic bottle. But Gavriil Popov, a contemporary of Shostakovich (born 1904, died 1972), was the real deal — a major talent cut down by the furies of his time. I encountered Popov's music at Bard College's Shostakovich Festival, which I wrote up in the New Yorker last week. I'd had a couple of Popov recordings in my library for a while, but, as so often, hearing the music live showed me something that the CDs had not.

Popov studied alongside Shostakovich at the Leningrad Conservatory. His breakout work was the Chamber Symphony of 1927, heard at Bard in a fine performance under the direction of Fernando Raucci. The instrumentation, for flute, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello, and double bass, recalls Histoire du Soldat, and you also hear echoes of the Hindemith of the Kammermusik series. There are trace elements of jazz, but only in the distant Soviet understanding of the word — fox-trots and other café styles. Popov had a real gift for melody, even as he constantly undercut his lyric flights with murmurs of disaster. There is an open-hearted sweetness that you seldom find in Shostakovich's music. The Trio theme in the second movement is almost like Copland — a plainspoken song in the flute over static accompaniment. The Largo is absolutely magical: midway through comes a high, sad, slow, bewitching violin theme over a funky bass vamp. The fast passages are full of rhythmic surprises, unusual tonal combinations, nasty little dances that start and stop. Overall, the work has more personality and invention than anything by Shostakovich from the same period, even the First Symphony. What it lacks is Shostakovich's rock-solid sense of form, his Beethovenian aura of inevitability.

In the late twenties, Popov moved away from brittle, satirical neoclassicism. As David Fanning recounts in an American Symphony program note, he wrote in his diary of a new kind of "theatrical-musical (symphonic) form," based on a study of Mahler. He seems to have sincerely believed that this monumental, dramatic approach to symphonic writing would match up with Soviet cultural policy. (The critic Ivan Sollertinsky, one of Shostakovich's closest friends and advisers, was writing along similar lines.) His manifesto work was the First Symphony, a work of astounding expressive power and emotional complexity. Very much like Shostakovich's later Fourth Symphony, it stumbles for long periods across an unearthly landscape that resembles partially bombed-out Mahler. The final movement is particularly remarkable: it begins with a Soviet industrial ostinato along the lines of Mossolov's Iron Foundry and Prokofiev's Pas d'acier, but then a human form seems to rise up from the innards of the machine, singing in alternately ecstatic and demonic tones. The symphony closes with an awesome sequence of ringing figures and trilling chords, based on the magic bells of Wagner's Monsalvat and Rimsky's Kitezh — except that some terrible shadow hangs over this shining city on a hill. I thought of Poe: "While from a proud tower in the town / Death looks gigantically down."

Shostakovich plainly paid attention to Popov's idea of theatricalized symphonic form: his own death-drunk Fourth not only resembles Popov's First in design but seems at times to quote its music. There might also be a citation of Popov in the Fifth Symphony, whose great opening utterance resembles a figure that surfaces in Popov's opening movement. Whether Shostakovich was sending a clandestine message with these near-quotations is anyone's guess, but he might have wanted to show solidarity with Popov, who had been briefly purged from the Conservatory back in the twenties and suffered censure again after the First's premiere in March of 1935. (The work was said to show "the ideology of classes hostile to us.") The denunciation of Shostakovich in 1936 was more public and ferocious, but it was accompanied, we now know, by private assurances that the composer would thrive again if he followed a correct path. Popov apparently received no such encouragement. His masterpiece was never heard again during his lifetime.

The two composers together make an interesting case study in the difference between raw talent and genius. Shostakovich showed the world a helpless, vulnerable facade, but he had an inner tenacity that carried him through the Stalinist crisis. He also had a certain canniness, a knack for plotting the twists and turns of his career, which we never like to acknowledge as an ingredient of genius. Popov, exploding with talent but lacking that eerie detachment from his creative self, collapsed under the outward pressure. He felt obligated to produce programmatic Socialist-Realistic pieces on a regular basis (Komsomol Is The Chief of Electrification). He became a raging alcoholic. (Per Skans in an Olympia liner note: "The Soviet Composers Union was never a teetotal organization, but Popov was certainly thirstier than average.") For extended periods after the war he produced little of consequence. His last major statement, the Sixth Symphony, subtitled Holiday, makes for an upsettingly strange experience: you're never sure whether you're listening to some craven attempt at Communist bombast, some fabulously ironic satire on same, or drunken babbling. At its best, it matches the First Symphony's attitude of regal delirium: this Soviet holiday party culminates in obvious echoes of Mussorgsky's Coronation Scene, the crowning of the murderer Tsar, and ends with a noise that you could hear either as a whoop of joy or an onrush of vomit.

For the moment, there's no way of hearing the works I describe here except on used LPs and CDs. The Olympia label, which released recordings of the Popov symphonies some years ago, has ceased to exist. How's that for frustration? Fortunately, Leon Bostein, who presided over the Shostakovich Festival at Bard, has made a very persuasive recording of the First Symphony with the London Symphony, which Telarc will release in the fall. I've listened to my preview copy at least twenty times in the last few weeks: it has the ever-changing, life-enhancing personality of a masterpiece. Popov was a man destroyed by history, and he deserves some restitution after death.

David Raksin 1912-2004

01I was very saddened to read of the death of David Raksin, whose Laura theme is one of the great inspirations in film-music history. I knew Mr. Raksin slightly. He was a warm and witty man whose library of anecdotes reached back deep into the golden age of Hollywood. I was amazed to read that he was 92 — he looked 75 at most. A few years ago I had lunch with him at Musso & Frank's, and when we sat down he said, "I used to have lunch at this table with Charlie" — meaning Charlie Chaplin. He told me fabulous stories of Schoenberg, from whom he took some lessons. Once he made the mistake of asking how to write music for an airplane sequence, whereupon Schoenberg snarled, "Like music for big bees, only louder." He also retold at my request the famous Raksin Hitchcock anecdote. Hitchcock didn't want music for the lost-at-sea drama Lifeboat because he thought audiences would wonder where the music was coming from in the middle of the ocean. Raksin said, "Ask Hitch where the cameras are coming from." I had been meaning to e-mail him asking whether he knew Lulu at the time of Laura, because something about the theme resembles Berg's "portrait" music. Too late. First Jerry Goldsmith, now Raksin: these are sad days for film-music buffs.

Incidentally, Raksin not only wrote a glorious, swaying theme for Laura but also introduced a striking electronic innovation. Everyone who's seen the movie remembers the scene in which Dana Andrews stares at Laura's portrait and falls under her spell. The  mood is set by eerie shimmering chords on the soundtrack. What Raksin did — as he explained in an interview with Roy Prendergast, author of Film Music: A Neglected Art — was to record a series of piano chords with the initial attacks omitted. The engineer turned on the microphones only after each chord had been struck, and continued bringing up the levels until ambient noise saturated the ringing tones. Raksin then made tape loops from this spectral, disembodied sound. "It was the interplay of the partials without the ictus," he explained. Some years later, the Beatles used the same trick to create the massive piano chord at the end of "A Day in the Life."

Don't rush the tempo

Delightful story on Andante about the very slow John Cage piece that has been playing in a German church since 2001. Two new notes, octave E's, have been added to the G#'s and B that began sounding in February of last year, making for pure lush E major. (The Associated Press is mistaken in hearing an E#.) On August 5, the B and one of the G#'s will stop sounding, and in March of 2006 everything goes half-diminished. If funding is available and the Lord God sees fit, the performance will end in the year 2639. For 1000 euros, you can sponsor a particular Klangjahr (soundyear), but you'd better act fast: such choice soundyears as 2050, 2104, 2222, 2433, and 2639 are already taken.

Tiny Valhalla

3While doing research at the National Archives on the Federal Musical Project, the New Deal’s short-lived gift to American musical life, I began writing down the names of completely obscure, weirdly named composers who showed up on FMP programs. I ended up with the following funky list: Vernon Leftwich, Fleetwood A. Diefenthaeler, Armand Balendonck, Bainbridge Crist, Julia Klumpkey, Edna Frida Pietsch, the Right Rev. Fan Stylian Noli, Alexander Skibinsky, Lamar Stringfield, and Uno Nyman. They reminded me of those senior citizens in Chinatown who unwittingly buy up San Fernando Valley (“Jasper Lamar Crabb,” “Emma Dill,” and so on). On a particularly slow writing day, I started typing these mystery names into Google to see what I could find about them. There must be a clinical term for this stage of writing a book.

NoliSkibinsky, it turns out, was a pupil of Ysaÿe who lost the index finger of his right hand in a fireworks mishap in Rome, Georgia — at Christmastime, no less. A mechanical finger allowed him to resume playing. The hot pic above comes from the University of Iowa libraries. Fan Stylian Noli, this man here, is, I should have known, a major figure in Albanian history and literature, having served at one time as the prime minister of that embattled land; later, he “renounced politics to devote his life to music" and enrolled at the New England Conservatory. Lamar Stringfield, I also should have known, won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1928. His works include Carolina Charcoal, The Mummy's Foot, Mountain Blood, and Sodom, Tennessee, very daring for the time. The main thing that is known about Armand Balendonck is that in 1933 he led the Newark Sinfonietta in a performance of Bruckner’s String Quintet. Chord and Dischord, the journal of the Bruckner Society of America, cited this as evidence that “students also are taking an interest in Bruckner.” Bainbridge Crist penned “Drolleries from an Oriental Doll's House," "Queer Yarns," and "C'est Mon Ami," the last of which was recorded by none other than Claudia Muzio.

AuwerellwCoverUno Nyman was from Milwaukee. I could find no more. Vernon Leftwich did some orchestrations for the Gary Cooper picture Along Came Jones. One trace of the existence of Fleetwood A. Diefenthaeler appears on the left. The story of Julia "Lulu" Klumpkey is too rich to be summarized in brief, and I urge you to read Maryalice Mohr's article about her; suffice to say that she studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, directed the Spartanburg Symphony Orchestra, met Gandhi in India while teaching on a floating university, composed the tone poem The Twin Guardians of the Golden Gate for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, died in 1961 at the age of 91, and is buried at the Neptune Society's Columbarium. Finally, I found an entire website devoted to Edna Frida Pietsch, who "shared a birthday with Brahms and Tchaikovsky, a fact she reported with immense pride. Perhaps this was an omen that she would go on to become an accomplished composer herself. Pietsch was quite a character and possessed an unforgettable persona. She had strong opinions about many matters. Regarding music, she likened ‘modern music’ to a garbage dump; if you were around it long enough, it stopped smelling." So true.


UlyssesI spent two full years of college studying Ulysses. Since graduation day, I have done nothing with my useless and pointless Joycean knowledge, so I thought I'd use the Bloomsday anni- versary — the action of Ulysses took place one hundred years ago today — as an excuse to crack open the old books and talk about some rich Wagnerian imagery that appears early in the novel. Forgive the lit-crit digression; I'm trying to keep this blog on message, and as a rule won't be giving you my thoughts on politics, the weather, kitties, David Beckham, etc.

At the end of the third chapter, “Proteus,” Stephen Dedalus is gazing out into Dublin Bay, watching a three-master sail past. He is, as always, chasing the endless swirl of his thoughts. He has a kind of premonition of an alien creature about to enter his world: “He comes, pale vampire, through storm his eyes, his bat sails bloodying the sea, mouth to her mouth’s kiss.” As Timothy Martin points out, in his book Joyce and Wagner, these lines fuse the old Irish poem “My Grief on the Sea” with the libretto of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman, whose title character arrives in a ghost ship with “blood red” sails. I’d add another detail; in Wagner, the Dutchman’s crew comes ashore “silently and without further sound.” Compare the final words of the chapter: “silently moving, a silent ship.” Joyce even preserves the redundancy of Wagner’s stage direction.

Now what happens when we turn the page? “Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls.” This jump cut from a young Irishman’s metaphysical daydreaming to a middle-aged Irishman’s matter-of-fact breakfasting is one of the sublime jokes of the novel, and it becomes more sublime when you realize that Wagner is also the butt of it. Stephen Dedalus is, obviously, one of the innumerable Wagner-worshipping youths who populated the last fin du siècle—at the drunken climax of the book, he will make like Siegfried and shout "Nothung!" He also seems a bit of an anti-Semite; certainly, some of his best friends don't like the Jews. He is familiar enough with the writings of the hateful French journalist Edouard Drumont to be able to quote the phrase “old hag with the yellow teeth,” which appears, I discovered back in the day, in Drumont’s 1891 book Le Testament d’un antisémite. (Drumont was talking about Queen Victoria, who wasn’t Jewish, but never mind.) It is natural that the same train of thought would lead Stephen to Wagner’s opera, which apes the legend of the Wandering Jew. The “pale vampire” is the image of his fear of the Other. But flip the page and there is the vampire himself, a magnificently ordinary man at the outset of his magnificently ordinary day. The juxtaposition looks ahead to the great meeting of Dedalus and Bloom near the end of the novel.

Joyce owned the score of The Flying Dutchman and also had a copy of Wagner’s essay “Judaism in Music.” His own attitudes toward Jewishness were not without their ambiguities and complexities, but he would have had pure contempt for Wagner’s racism. The Wagnerian Dedalus is made to see the limits of his archly aestheticized view of the world. “Full fathom five thy father lies,” he says to himself. As the ship goes by, there is a sea-change, and his phantom father becomes the face of Bloom.



What do Procol Harum, Anton Webern, the Eagles, Steve Reich, and Otis Redding have in common? The answer, the Pulaski Skyway informs you, is that they've all appeared on The Sopranos. I’m a fan of the show, like any upstanding American citizen, and I love its wildly imaginative use of music. I realized something quasi-epochal was going on musically back in the second season, in the now legendary Webern episode. A man who has witnessed a mob hit doesn't understand at first what he's getting mixed up with. He is sitting in his living room with his wife when he sees Tony Soprano’s name in a newspaper article about the murder. He starts freaking out — “Where’s that detective’s number? Where on the fridge? Where on the fucking fridge?” — and ends up recanting his testimony. Playing in the background, presumably on the living-room stereo, is Webern’s exquisitely dissonant Variations for Piano. I'd have been no less gobsmacked if Galina Ustvolskaya had shown up as a guest on The Jimmy Kimmel Show. (OK, a little more.) What a divinely cracked tableau, a New Jersey couple unwinding to Austrian atonality after dinner. Then again, why not? These suburbanites are allowed to be eccentrics rather than stereotypes. Plus, the music puts icy menace in the air: Webern’s twelve-tone row unfurls like the web in which this man is trapped.

Kathryn Dayak, the show’s brilliant music editor, has singled out this moment as her personal favorite. “If I do nothing else for the rest of my life,” Dayak told the Kansas City Star, “I'll always have that: getting a solo piano piece by Webern into the show.” Is this the same Kathryn Dayak who is the timpanist of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra? Let's hope she gets to run amok in the final season — perhaps Tony will graduate from Rommel documentaries on the History Channel to Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen. There’s much else to be said about music on The Sopranos— the way obscure or mediocre songs carry an emotional weight that more famous ones could not — but I’ll leave it to whoever’s researching the inevitable musicology dissertation on the topic. And I hope someone's writing a suitable Requiem for Adriana, bless her soul.

Das Lied von der Brad

67Over the weekend I saw the new Wolfgang Petersen picture, Troy. (I always liked that old Spy magazine piece in which someone went round to movie theaters asking for tickets to “the Ivan Reitman picture” and “the film by Chris Columbus,” getting blank stares from the cashiers.) A few minutes in, I experienced a tingling sensation of déjà vu. Where had I heard this music before? Where had I heard music borrowed in this way before? Soon enough, it hit me: I was listening to another omnivorous musical collage by James Horner, the artist of Titanic. This most stylistically codependent of Hollywood composers is once again up to his old tricks. The principal Bradmotif derives from the finale of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. The Greeks’ march on Troy played out to the first few bars of Prokofiev's “Battle on the Ice” from Alexander Nevsky. The Trojans parade to pealing fanfares from the Sanctus of Britten’s War Requiem. [Postscript: A reader points out that the Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia becomes a Josh Groban song during the closing credits. I fled a little too quickly to notice this.]

There are two possible interpretive approaches to this challenging opus. One is that Horner is presenting us with a kind of musical meta-narrative of deconstructive requotation—a postmodern tour-de-force on par with the Pierre Menard Don Quixote. Notice the emphasis on Shostakovich and Prokofiev, two composers who served unwillingly as mouthpieces for totalitarian terror. We are being told that the hero Achilles has let himself become a figurehead for the tyrannical Agamemnon. The citation of Britten, meanwhile, is a sly acknowledgement of the story’s homoerotic subtext, which was evidently omitted for fear of persecution by the Bush regime. Thus, music becomes what Theodor W. Adorno might call a negative dialectic of original unoriginality, allowing the seeming banality of impoverished invention to serve as a vessel for the lamentations of the outcast. By reducing other people's masterworks to cheap ditties, Horner shakes his fist at the suffocating weight of bourgeois culture. In the absence of an individual voice, we are given to perceive the destruction of individuality itself.

That’s one explanation. The other is that the man is a hack.