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Ashtag, Classtag, Asstag

from Sunday, April25th of the year2010.

So, I write this, as I tend to write these posts nowadays, from the departures lounge at JFK; I have been delayed now five days from the start of the Whale-Watching tour; we have been forced to cancel shows in Germany, the UK, Belgium, and Ireland “” it’s a giant mess. The whole thing, however, has been sort of romantic: I spent twenty minutes on the phone with a woman from the Cunard lines and entertained a fantasy of sailing across the Atlantic with a countertenor friend “” surely they would grant us free passage in exchange for our nightly duets: him singing “Fairest Isle, Öll Isles Excelling” and me accompanying him with the harpsichord patch on the slightly sea-sticky synthesizer with a clattery (but ultimately useless) high F. Surely we would be upgraded to the room with the spiral staircase and a languid Moroccan attendant (all of which are pictured on their dotcom)! Surely we would gorge ourselves on beef Wellington!

Anyway, the moral of the story is that with any luck, I will soon be hurtling on my merry way to Dublin with Sam Amidon, and we will start the tour officially tomorrow in Gateshead. All of this is contingent on, you know, Acts of God, Act of Gods, and all other permutations thereof. Is everybody following @eyjafjalla on Twitter yet? Is she following you? And, as of right now, I am already three days into the tour, so, all went according to plan. I kept all the bit about the countertenor and the cruise ship because with any luck it’ll still happen.

Last week, I posted about something that was very interesting to me, which was a young composer from my high-school writing to me about advice on his choral music; this correspondence was handled over Facebook, and I was rather struck by the right-wingèdness of his profile; I wrote back to him politely and in great detail, and then as an appendix just pointed out that I was a little uncumpf with all the pictures of him with, like, Sean Hannity and Dinesh D’Souza all over the place, including, it must be added, as the primary avatar, as in, the thing that pops up when he writes to you. I then blogged about it in a sort of confessional style; the point was not that I had shut down some kid, nor was it any self-congratulatory story about how I had, like, stood up to oppression, but I received a somewhat alarming number of comments all of which you can read if you scroll back, or, if you’re reading this in some RSS way, in the fashion to which you are accustomed. The comments were surprising especially given the fact that nobody actually had access to any leg of the dialogue, which was, in fact, quite civil and not in the least bit confrontational; I will add here that it has continued and has moved on from politics to something much more interesting, namely, Stravinsky’s religious music. The point of posting about it in the first place was that I was piqued by the exchange; I wasn’t sure how I was meant to behave. Should I not have said something? My father pointed out that it would be the same thing if somebody wrote to him asking for advice about something, and he looked in the background and found sort of loosely skinheady things; should he, as the husband of a Jewess, raise an objection?

The major thrust of why I commented on it at all was that right-wingers like Hannity think that gay people are second-class citizens. We’re not allowed to fight in the army; if you can’t die for your country by your own choice, are you really a citizen of that place? Right-wingers think gay people have a radical agenda and are taking over the country by conwerting children to alternative lifestyles et cetera. So I think it’s quite fair to question somebody whose FB profile features his arm around Sean Hannity at something called a “Freedom Concert” and a Reagan quote talmbout “I believe the best social program is a JOB” writing to a gay person asking for advice on how to write choral music. I have always been obsessively & sometimes maniacally trying to be at the barest minimum, competent at everything. Excellence at everything is, of course, the goal. I realized, through high school and slightly less in college, but even still, that this philosophy is pretty explicitly an oppositional strategy to the lazy entitlement of straight mediocrity. I’m not a gay supremacist; I’m just saying that there is an extra fire burning behind many (not all) of us, an extra master’s whip, an extra carrot at the end of the stick, that sometimes isn’t present in our straight colleagues. And of course this isn’t a universal situation; I’m only speaking from my own experience; I get asked a lot what my sort of desert island books and music would be; it’s mainly str8 people up on there. This is of course a very dangerous path to even write about, and the printed word tends to prefer a generalization (see the comment thread under this exchange). I add this as a caveat that really doesn’t need to be articulated, but inevitably there are comments, so I may as well: this is a very middle-class white problem to have, but I’m pretty chill with having a middle-class white problem because I happen to be middle-class and white.

Anyway, all of this is made deliciously manifest in this insane video of this man William Gheen talking about Senator Lindsey Graham’s closeted homosexuality as a reason why he might be selling out his country. Now. America is an interesting place because we do actually prefer our homosexuals to be out & proud, or at least, have it be an open secret. Surely Lindsey Graham is more hurt by his closeted-ness than, say, Barney Frank, who is occasionally called a faggot on the steps of the palace “” but who among us hasn’t been? Bobby Trendy probably faces a lot less homophobia than Lindsey Graham. After a while you stop noticing. In England, on the other hand, the closet is a very useful tool; you can burn that shit like peat for fuel. The closet there has a sort of built in discursive motor that propels; here, it is already clogged with ash. But the connection between Graham’s insinuated treason and the gayness is wonderfully delicious, and only serves to reinforce my point: fuck these people and everybody they know. I’ve sort of come around to thinking that if you don’t think gay people should be in the army or get married or that we’re trying to take over the schools with a radical agenda, then you really shouldn’t ask them for any help with anything. I’m over it, in 2010, to not be able to call this shit out. And if you think that’s mean-spirited, you should have seen draft one.

I‘m just done with these two concerts with the New York Philharmonic; I wrote them a new piece called Detailed Instructions, which is a chamber symphony of sorts, and it was presented along with two other new works by Sean Shepherd and Matthias Pinscher. All of this was done under the auspices of the Philharmonic’s new CONTACT! program; which I believe I have rendered correctly with the capitals and the exclamation. I look forward to their Latin Outreach ¡CONTACT! concert next season. One thing struck me as particularly odd about this; I’m not even sure what the word is, but for some reason, Maestro Gilbert and the Concertmistress decided to always do an Entrée Classique, as in, the pieces would be introduced, there would be several moments of silence, then the concertmistress would come out, tune, then the conductor, bowing, then piece. Hmm. I’m not sure that all of that is necessary in what should be such an informal event; after the show, the official photographer wanted to have a picture of me with a beer, which company had apparently sponsored the series, as opposed than the glass of generic antipodean Shiraz I was rather enjoying at the time. “I’ll do it if you’ll go get me one,” I offered, not wanting to leave the conversation with my friends. She was not amused.


  • Hi .I can´t find the schedule of the tour .Can you link me to the events timeline?I am from Portugalk and I really would love to see one performance here in Lisbon .The Seagulls are here for you…

  • charles sullivan
    April 25th, 2010 at 11:24 am

    listen to your sage father’s wise advice.

  • please post draft one.

  • ditto craig’s comment. I live in Knoxville and Big Ears introduced me to your music and Sam Amidon’s. Ashley, a dear old friend , told me your music was not to be missed and it wasn’t. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful three days.

  • It’s hard to complain about the NY Phil’s need to make everything way too formal when they’re finally taking some chances on new music. I don’t follow their programming but I suspect that they don’t normally play music written after 1930. They’ll get used to it, hopefully, and adopt less alienating methods of putting on concerts eventually.

    As far as your political correspondence, the only reason I would have left the subject alone is because being conservative or liking Sean Hannity doesn’t mean that you hate gays or take on every one of your idol’s beliefs respectively. It’s quite possible the kid agreed with everything except the civil rights stances of these nutbags, quite a few conservatives are like that.

  • Husband of a Jewess? Hmmmm…I prefer to think of my relationship with your mother as a lower East Side progressive “East Village Other” Jew-babe backsliding into a marriage with a lapsed Lutheran who grew up thinking that homophobia was preferable to hydrophobia. Now it’s all I can do to stop her from getting a portrait of Timothy McVeigh tatooed on her butt . And if you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you, one that you can see from your window, over the heads of the mah-jongg players and the live chickens. Glad you made it to Newcastle, with coal in your pockets.

  • I love you when you’re feisty! Yes, keep going, we DID have enough of that bullshit. Let’s NOT just roll our eyes anymore or make a little quip; no, we need to yell back at them and throw that shit right back into their laps and faces.

  • oh comon frank, you downplay your ability to limit the freedom of expression! I remember being silenced by you for the duration of an entire party in vermont,
    just because you hissed “not a word out of you” as we got out of the car.

  • curious to get your thoughts on the argument that advocacy of gay marriage amounts to a conformist impulse, or a perplexing effort to imitate the central feature of heterosexual life. That is to say, why not embrace what’s unique about gayness, accept that there’s something fundamentally, perhaps refreshingly, subversive about it? take, for example, John Waters’ (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) comments on the subject:

    “I always thought the privilege of being gay is that we don’t have to get married or go in the Army … I personally have no desire to imitate a fairly corny, expensive heterosexual tradition, though I certainly know gay couples who are married who should be.”

    –John Waters, New Yorker, 3/26/07

    “Being gay used to mean being an outlaw, it used to mean you were bohemian, it used to be that you embraced your lunacy rather than trying to imitate the boring life of suburban middle America.” –John Waters,

  • its cool that you are owning this absurd prejudice over gay/straight composers, cool because you are owning your youth and your lack of actual experience LIVING.
    In my life it has been great to discover how many great artists who exist on the low end of the Kinsey scale, are truly distinguished….from hollywood to
    the orchestral arena and every art form in and around them. But to see that logic turned backwards and presumed upon is not great.

  • So, yah: fuck them, and everyone they know. And, if you think _this_ is mean-spirited, then ur clearly oblivious to the banal offenses against decency that ‘mos deal with every day.\n(btw: I <3 John Waters)\nThanks for the polemic 😀

  • ditto craig’s comment. I live in Knoxville and Big Ears introduced me to your music and Sam Amidon’s. Ashley, a dear old friend , told me your music was not to be missed and it wasn’t. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful three days.

  • ditto craig’s comment. I live in Knoxville and Big Ears introduced me to your music and Sam Amidon’s. Ashley, a dear old friend , told me your music was not to be missed and it wasn’t. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful three days.