Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Glasnost

Rare footage of Dimitri Shostakovitch in rehearsal

There are many people around the world who no doubt are looking at the USA and wondering what the hell is going on, and there people looking at Russia and thinking the same, and now we have the two countries on a collision course again due to the meshing of two authoritarians taking advantage of a sizeable lunatic bloc in their respective electorates (or "electorate", if you will). 

I'm so shell-shocked by the pace of recent events that I'm having to remind myself of how much of my artistic development was shaped by the art/music/literature produced by these two countries. Every one of the people in the following lists made works that hit my like a bolt of lightning when I first encountered them, some as early as my fourteenth year. You can imagine the worlds that were opened up to me as I scoured these books (et al) while reading in an underheated bedroom in a draughty building in a mining town in the north of England, during what seems in memory to have been the permanently grey and drizzly mid-1970s. Many of these artists are still people I return to for listening/looking/reading.

First, the USA:

Mark Twain
Herman Melville
Emily Dickinson
Henry James 
T. S. Eliot
Ernest Hemingway
Saul Bellow
James Baldwin
The entire history of blues music
The entire history of jazz music
The entire history of rock and roll/rock music
(All three were American inventions)
Frank Bridge
Leonard Bernstein
Joan Mitchell 
Willem de Kooning (technically a US artist, though he was a Dutch immigrant)
Andy Warhol

Russia/Soviet Union:

Turgenev
Dostoevsky
Tolstoy
Chekhov
Solzhenitsyn
Tchaikovsky
Stravinsky
Kandinsky
Shostakovitch
Eisenstein
Tarkovsky

Let's not despair of these two countries just yet. They have given so much to the world, despite their contemporary aberrations.

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