Friday, August 31, 2007

A Dylan on the Persian Lute, With a Songbook of Sly Protest

September 1, 2007
A Dylan on the Persian Lute, With a Songbook of Sly Protest


He plays the setar, a traditional Persian lute, and is a master of classical Persian literature and poetry. But the sounds he draws from the instrument, along with his deep voice and his playful but subtly cutting lyrics about growing up in an Islamic state have made Mohsen Namjoo the most controversial, and certainly the most daring, figure in Persian music today.

Some call him a genius, a sort of Bob Dylan of Iran, and say his satirical music accurately reflects the frustrations and disillusionment of young Iranians. His critics say his music makes a mockery of Persian classical and traditional music as he constantly blends it with Western jazz, blues and rock.

Mr. Namjoo, 31, is a singer, composer and musician, but most of all, his fans say, he is a great performer.
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“I wanted to save Persian music,” he said in an interview at one of his studios in Tehran. “It does not belong to the present time and cannot satisfy the younger generation. The fact is that Persian music is very close to other styles, and it is possible to mix in other styles with a little shrewdness.”

His blending of Western and Persian music produces unexpected moments that jar the traditionalists but are thrilling to his fans, who are mostly young artists and intellectuals. His music sounds Persian, but the melodies take away the melancholy that often suffuses classical Persian music.

But it is Mr. Namjoo’s lyrics, his fans say, that make his music so important. He sings old Persian poetry, such as works by the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi or the 14th-century poet Hafiz, with its connotations of love and lust. But with his mastery of Persian literature, he is able to write his own lyrics into the accepted forms, adding layers of meaning.

“The first time I listened to his music I found it unexpected,” said Mahsa Vahdat, a 33-year-old singer. “It started with a laugh for me and ended with a cry. His music and his lyrics express the bitter situation of my generation and they represent the society we live in.”

Defying Iran’s cultural police, he does not shy away from contemporary issues.

“What belongs to us is an apologetic government,” he sings in a song called Neo-Kanti. “What belongs to us is a losing national team.” Those were references to the widespread disappointment with the government of the former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, and the constant losses of Iran’s soccer teams.

“What belongs to us, maybe, is the future,” he adds, in a voice that is more resigned than hopeful.

In another popular song he sings, “One morning you wake up and realize that you are gone by the wind, there is no one around you and a few more of your hairs have gone gray, your birthday is a mourning ceremony again.”

After throwing in an unexpected Western melody, he goes on in a lower voice, saying, “that you are born in Asia is called the oppression of geography, you are up in the air and your breakfast has become tea and a cigarette.”

Atabak Elyassi, a musician and a professor of music at Music College at Art University in Tehran, said there was protest and satire in Mr. Namjoo’s music. “In the meantime, it is very Iranian,” he said, “because he constantly points to issues that are about the lives of Iranians.”

Mr. Namjoo was raised in the religious city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, where he started learning classical Persian music when he was 12.

As he grew older, he said, he listened to Western music and became interested in Jim Morrison, Eric Clapton and the Irish pop singer, Chris de Burgh. He read philosophy and Persian literature, and developed a fondness for a strain of modern Persian poetry that stresses phonetics over the meanings of words.

But what changed his approach more than anything, he said, was his experience in the theater. When he was admitted to the University of Fine Art in 1994, he was told that he had to wait a year before starting classes. So he decided to pass the time studying theater.

“A musical instrument is a medium for a musician to play music,” he said. “So is the voice of a singer, it is like a medium to sing through it. But neither of them is involved in building relations with a living creature.

“But when I studied theater I learned to connect with my audience, and that was when my poems changed,” he said.

It is hard to gauge Mr. Namjoo’s popularity, for he has come of age in a time of intense pressure on Iranian music.

Most music was banned after the 1979 Islamic revolution, with only religious and revolutionary songs deemed appropriate. To this day, women are not allowed to sing. Over time the restrictions were eased, first on classical Iranian music and then, in the mid-1990s, on pop music. But after the election of Iran’s current, conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, music came under a cloud once again.

The authorities canceled a concert of rock and jazz music in Tehran in July. In August, more than 200 people who attended a private rock concert in Karadj, 30 miles west of Tehran, were arrested. The public prosecutor in Karaj, Ali Fallahi, called the concert “satanic,” local news agencies reported.

Mr. Namjoo himself has not yet been able to give a live, public performance, and he has not received a government license to sell his CDs. But he is able to perform privately, his CDs are sold on the black market and, in an inexplicable twist, his songs are played on Iranian radio stations. As of three weeks ago, his manager said, 1.6 million people had downloaded his music from YouTube.

In July, he did receive an invitation to a government ceremony to sing a few songs in praise of Imam Ali, the martyred son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and the man whom Shiite Muslims consider Muhammad’s legitimate successor. Yet, the room was filled with artists and musicians, rather than government officials.

Because of his cutting-edge style, Mr. Namjoo is under another kind of pressure. Most classical musicians are purists, insisting that the music not be altered in any fashion. They dismiss Mr. Namjoo’s music as absurd because of the way he has incorporated Western influences.

If you take Iranian classical music on one side, and Western music on the other, said one critic, Reza Ismailinia, who runs a small art gallery in Tehran, “then I think Mr. Namjoo’s music is like a caricature in between, or a kind of fantasy.”

But many disagree with Mr. Ismailinia.

“I think he will be remembered as a courageous artist who opened a window toward creating something new and for going beyond traditional barriers,” said Alireza Samiazar, the former director the Contemporary Museum of Art in Tehran. “I think his contribution to our music will be great.”

Undeterred by the critics, Mr. Namjoo says his next ambition is to study music abroad.

“I want to be challenged and get acquainted with Western music,” he said. “I was accepted too easily here.”

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Nowhere Man: The Beatles' Forgotten Brian Epstein

Nowhere Man
Brian Epstein helped make the Beatles a phenomenon. Forty years after his death, why is his contribution forgotten?

By Glenn Frankel
Sunday, August 26, 2007; W18

THE OLD WAREHOUSE DISTRICT AROUND MATHEW STREET IN CENTRAL LIVERPOOL IS AS SACRED TO BEATLES FANS AS THE VIA DOLOROSA IS TO CHRISTIANS. At one end is the Cavern, the rebuilt but authentically dank former vegetable cellar where the band played 274 times in the early 1960s. Nearby is the Wall of Fame, where bronze disks commemorate each of Liverpool's No. 1 hit records; the statue of the early John Lennon in trademark leather jacket; and the plaques outside the Grapes and the White Star, the blue-collar pubs where the boys and their mates hoisted many a cheap pint. But there's nothing to mark the nondescript storefront on Whitechapel Street that was once the North End Music Store, known as NEMS, a record shop and appliance emporium owned by Harry Epstein and his wife, Queenie.

It was from this shop that their first-born son, Brian, set out just before noon on November 9, 1961, to catch the lunch-hour show at the Cavern a few hundred yards away. He made his way past a queue of teenage girls in beehives and boys in skin-tight drain-pipe trousers, and down 18 damp stone steps into the catacombs to check out four sweaty young men playing guitars and drums. What he saw and heard that day, and what he decided to do about it, forever changed their lives and his -- and ours, as well. Virtually every place in Liverpool where the Beatles lived, went to school or played music has been enshrined with a plaque, a statue or a stop on the tourist trail known as the Magical Mystery Tour. But the missing name at almost every Beatles site is that of the man who played such an essential role in their improbable rise.

The 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles' masterpiece album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in June set off a predictable round of appreciation of the Beatles, their art and legacy. But few will linger over another milestone tomorrow -- the 40th anniversary of Brian Epstein's death, three weeks before he would have turned 33, from what a coroner's inquest ruled was an accidental overdose of barbiturates.

"I think Brian's one of the forgotten people," Cynthia Lennon, John's first wife, told me when we met last year. "It's almost as if he's been written out of the story. I don't think they'd have got anywhere without Brian."

Maybe he meant to kill himself that day in August 1967, and maybe he didn't. But the circumstances of Brian's death have overshadowed his life. He comes across in most accounts of the Beatles as a self-destructive and pathetic figure. He was a gay man in an era when homosexuality was illegal, and he led a classic double life, lying about his sexuality even while pursuing men, gay and straight, with reckless abandon. He left no wife or children to protect his legacy or promote his name. The Beatles themselves, after Brian's death, grew increasingly critical of his management. A handful of devoted friends have mounted a campaign in recent years to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- so far to no avail.

Sex is never simple, and in Brian's case it was freighted with additional layers of guilt, frustration, secrets and lies. But sex helps explain why Brian believed so completely in the band and committed himself so deeply to its cause. It's widely claimed that John Lennon had Brian in mind when he wrote "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away." But Brian Epstein's love for the Beatles was hidden in plain sight.

THE EPSTEIN FAMILY WAS A PILLAR OF BOURGEOIS RESPECTABILITY. Queenie was the daughter of a wealthy furniture manufacturer. Harry's father, Isaac, was a Polish immigrant who opened I. Epstein and Sons, a furniture store, on Walton Road in Liverpool at the turn of the last century. By the 1930s, Isaac and Harry had expanded the business by buying NEMS, the record and music shop at the end of the block. Coddled from birth, Brian, a beautiful child with delicate features, curly brown hair and full, moody lips, was his parents' pride and joy, and their great despair. He attended seven private schools by the time he was 15. He often blamed the fact that he couldn't fit in on anti-Semitism. But he himself had little use for the small, prosperous but insular Jewish world he grew up in.

Brian realized at an early age that he was "different." At 15, he announced that he wanted to leave boarding school to become a dress designer. His father and his teachers agreed that this was unacceptable. "There was, to their minds, nothing less manly," Brian later said in his ghostwritten 1964 autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise. He came home to work in the family business, got called up to the British army, served a year before being discharged on unspecified "medical grounds," then returned to NEMS. His brief period in the army, Brian would write, exposed him to "the strange homosexual life in London," but he insisted he never had a sexual encounter until he returned to Liverpool. After that, "my life became a succession of mental illnesses and sordid, unhappy events bringing great sorrow to my family," he wrote in a private memoir unearthed by a BBC-TV documentary team in 1997. Brian never publicly acknowledged his homosexuality. In the 19-page, handwritten "Background and History" that the BBC uncovered, he doesn't specify what those "sordid, unhappy events" were, but friends say he had a number of encounters in which he was beaten and robbed and, on one occasion, blackmailed. "My loneliness throughout has been acute," he wrote.

In 1956, he persuaded his parents to finance a course of study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He dropped out after a year, not long after he was arrested by a plainclothes police officer for "persistent importuning" outside the men's toilet at the Swiss Cottage underground station in London. His parents reacted with concern, disapproval and a good lawyer. Brian got off with a suspended two-year sentence upon the condition that he seek medical care for his "disease." But he was tortured by his feelings of guilt, shame and anger, his exposure before the authorities and his parents, and his own abiding sense of inferiority.

"Through the wreckage of my life by society," he wrote, "my being will stain and bring the deepest distress to all my devoted family and few friends. The damage, the lying criminal methods of the police in importuning me and consequently capturing me leaves me cold, stunned and finished."

A DEFEATED BRIAN RETREATED TO LIVERPOOL AND THE FAMILY BUSINESS. There, to everyone's surprise, he excelled. In 1957, NEMS opened a new shop on Great Charlotte Street in the city center, and Brian, just 23, took over the small record department. He stocked its shelves with the latest in classical and pop music, built an inventory system that guaranteed that the bestselling discs were always available, and created eye-catching window displays of the latest hits. His delighted parents gave him a new shop on Whitechapel in 1959. Queenie and Harry believed Brian was finally settling down. Indeed he was, but in the private world he built for himself and with the gay friends he was making. He became close to Peter Brown, a handsome and ambitious young man who ran the records section at Lewis's department store, a NEMS rival. Brown recalled that they met at a mutual friend's birthday party. Brian and his younger brother, Clive, arrived in their dinner jackets, having come from attending their parents' 25th wedding anniversary celebration. Brown says Brian wore tailored suits and smelled of Old Spice, and he had exquisite manners and a way of dominating every room he entered.

"I thought he was an amazing person," Brown recalls. "We instantly became good friends." Brian eventually persuaded Brown to come work for NEMS, and Brown modeled himself -- his clothing, his style, even his speech patterns -- after Brian. "We called them piss-elegant, how they spoke and sounded," recalls Terry Doran, a car salesman who became another of Brian's new pals.

Then there was Joe Flannery, a soft-spoken shop owner and band manager who was three years older than Brian. Flannery says they shared their secrets, their sexuality and their love of the theater. He recalls going with Brian to see Vivien Leigh in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Liverpool Playhouse, sitting in one of the front rows for a week of performances. On a Friday night, Brian had to attend Shabbat dinner with his family. As she was taking her curtain call, Leigh noticed that Brian was missing. "And where's your friend tonight?" she called out to Flannery.

Brian spent long, solitary holidays in places such as Amsterdam and Barcelona. On weekends, he would take his friends on drives to country inns or to Manchester, 30 miles east, a city with a more open and less anxious gay quarter. By contrast, the gay scene in Liverpool in the late 1950s was quiet and cautious. There were several gay bars, but the biggest draw was the Magic Clock, across the road from the Royal Court Theatre. The Clock's male waiters went by the names of female singers and dressed in wigs, skirts and makeup. Still, before they left for the evening, the waiters would change back to street clothes and wipe the rouge from their faces. "You wouldn't walk alone, in case you got tapped," recalls Eddie Porter, who used to drink there as a young man. "If you told the police you'd been beaten up by a man, they'd throw you in the van and arrest you for importuning."

These days, Porter specializes in Beatles nostalgia memories and sardonic repartee as a guide on the Magical Mystery Tour bus. Back then, he was a good-looking blue-collar lad who waited tables at the old Exchange Hotel. He enjoyed mixing with actors, musicians and businessmen at the Magic Clock. One of the people he met there one evening was the well-dressed man from NEMS.

"I was wearing my dicky bow, coat and tie, and Brian came over to me and said, 'Are you with the orchestra from the Royal Court?'" I said, 'No, sir. But you're the manager of the record shop.' And he said, 'No, I'm the owner.'"

After that first evening, they would meet regularly. Brian took him to see Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" when it played the Royal Court, noting that there was a scene in which two men kiss. They watched in rapt silence, Porter recalls. "With Brian, it was never mentioned. Even at the Magic Clock, no one ever said it. In drink, in his company, he never said, 'Look at him across there; he's a nice fellow.' And I never did. It just wasn't done."

Brian was a generous and entertaining friend, but the price of admission was tolerance of his savage mood swings. He could be the sophisticated gentleman one moment and the petulant, spoiled child the next. "Living on the edge as he did, Brian was always a contradiction," recalled Tony Bramwell, one of the Beatles' buddies, in his recent memoir, Magical Mystery Tours. "He was a fiercely loyal and honorable friend to those he loved, and ruthless toward those he despised. He was shy to the point of blushing and stammering, and theatrical to the point of ranting and frothing at the mouth."

Despite a lively coterie of friends and lovers, Brian still liked it rough. After he dropped off his respectable companions in the evening, he often went cruising. There were the docks, the little beach resorts to the north and the public toilets in Sefton Park to the south, all of them filled with sailors, working-class lads and other species of men on the make. "He cruised in some terrible places," recalls Terry Doran. "He liked it. Occasionally, he'd show up bruised. And he'd go to those places again. He was a glutton for punishment, really."

One night, Flannery recalls, Brian frantically knocked on his door. "He had left me about an hour earlier. He had on this most beautiful Peter England shirt, and it was red with blood. Somebody who knew he was Brian Epstein got into his car and made him open the store and open the safe." Flannery washed Brian's faced and got him a fresh shirt.

Frustrated, bored and uneasy after five years of success at NEMS, Brian was still searching for something new. What he was looking for, it turned out, was a few hundred yards away.

BILL HARRY WAS A FORMER ART SCHOOL BUDDY OF JOHN LENNON AND STUART SUTCLIFFE, who were struggling to get a foothold in Liverpool's booming music scene. Harry and his wife, Virginia, came up with Mersey Beat, a bimonthly music magazine. With a pile of the opening issues to distribute, one of his first stops was the NEMS shop on Whitechapel. When he walked in, Harry remembers, he was greeted by a supercilious young man in an impeccable suit. Brian was skeptical about Mersey Beat, but he reluctantly agreed to put a dozen copies on the counter. When they sold out almost immediately, he rang up Harry and demanded several dozen more. He also became curious about the music scene that the newspaper depicted. "Is this actually happening in Liverpool?" Brian asked, according to Harry.

Liverpool was in the throes of a music explosion. Once the British empire's largest seaport, Liverpool had long been a gateway for Irish and Welsh migrants, Jamaicans, freed slaves and their music. There was a steady flow of American jazz, country and rhythm and blues imported by the "Cunard Yanks," British seamen who returned from the United States with phonograph records crammed into their trunks. By the late 1950s, the postwar baby boom -- known in Britain as the "Bulge" -- the end of conscription and the rise of rock-and-roll had produced a new generation of Liverpudlians with time on their hands, disposable income and an obsession with pop music. "We were the first teenagers," says Colin Hanton, then a young furniture upholsterer, who played drums in the Quarrymen, John Lennon's first band.

The Beatles in the late 1950s were just one of hundreds of bands -- and far from the best. John and Stuart had dropped out of art school, while the younger Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended a grammar school in the same complex. After many early personnel changes, they added a competent drummer, Pete Best.

"They were just kids, starved rats, always hungry and puffing on the bedraggled remains of their ciggies," remembered Allan Williams, a local club owner, in his memoir. Williams, despite his doubts, did the lads one enormous favor. In early 1960, he dispatched them to Hamburg, to a club gig where they spent months refining their performing skills. They came home in November 1960 with tight leather outfits, an even tighter sound and a new sense of showmanship.

While most of the bands had a front man and a single, narrow focus, the Beatles featured soaring harmonies, two fledgling songwriters and one superb all-around performer -- Paul. They could shift from "Long Tall Sally" to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in a heartbeat. By the fall of 1961, they were nearing the top of the pack but had no place to go.

Big-time agents, managers and record labels in London saw Liverpool as a backwater. They had no interest in the scene. The Beatles could feel themselves stagnating. Stuart dropped out to pursue his art career in Hamburg. John talked about working on an ocean liner as his dad, Freddy, had done; Paul's family wanted him to become a teacher. George visited his older sister Louise in the United States and considered emigrating.

Among locals, the debate never ends over when and how Brian first heard of the Beatles. Harry insists he first told Brian about the band and that Brian would have had to have been blind not to have read about them in Mersey Beat. But Brian, in A Cellarful of Noise, says he hadn't heard of them until a teenager named Raymond Jones came into the Whitechapel shop in late October 1961 asking for "My Bonnie," a 45 that Polydor had recorded and released in Germany with the "Beat Brothers" backing British singer Tony Sheridan. What's not in dispute is that in early November, Brian and his chief assistant, Alastair Taylor, made their way to the Cavern to check out the group.

"Inside the club, it was as black as a deep grave, dank and smelly," according to A Cellarful of Noise. The two men, dressed in business suits, sat near the back. They were hot, sweaty and uncomfortable. Taylor said he couldn't wait to get out of there. Brian, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the four sexy young men in tight leather jackets and pants, sweat pouring down their faces as they gyrated around the tiny stage. "They gave a captivating and honest show, and they had very considerable magnetism," his book recalled.

After Taylor finally extracted his boss from the club, the men went for lunch at the Peacock, one of Brian's favorite eateries. He sat down, ordered and looked Taylor in the eye. "What do you think about me managing them?"

BRIAN SET OUT ON A PREMEDITATED SEDUCTION. First, he spoke to those who best knew the group: Cavern emcee Bob Wooler, Allan Williams and Sam Leach, a local promoter who was an ardent fan. He paid a visit to the Blue Angel, Williams's club, told Williams he was planning to manage the Beatles and asked if he had any advice. "I said, 'Yes, don't touch them with a [expletive] barge pole. They'll let you down.'"

Nonetheless, Brian invited the Beatles over to NEMS one evening in early December. He told them he could double their fee for performances, extricate them from their recording contract with Polydor and get them a record deal with a London company. The Beatles needed little persuading.

"We all looked up to him," recalled Cynthia Lennon. "He was pinstriped suits; he was a businessman; and we were all students and scruffy. But there was something very magnetic about Brian. And he was a true gentleman."

John, the putative leader, was quick to seal the deal. "Right then, Brian, manage us now," he declared. "Where's the contract? I'll sign it." In need of a lawyer, Brian turned to David Harris. "One day, out of the blue, I got this phone call," Harris says. " 'David, it's Brian. I'm interested in managing a pop group called the Beatles.' He needed a contract. Oh, yes, I don't think I laughed. But, I felt, this is a Brian thing."

When Paul's father, Jim, expressed doubts about signing up with a Jewish record shop owner with no real show business experience, Brian paid visits to each family. He charmed Jim, John's starchy Aunt Mimi and Pete's mother, Mona, who had been their de facto manager. One of his first acts was to persuade Ray McFall, owner of the Cavern, to double their pay to 15 pounds per show, and he got them an extra 10 pounds a week for their next gig in Hamburg. He also paid off their debt of 200 pounds at Hessy's music store for their instruments. Then the grooming began. First, he persuaded the boys to scrap the tight leather suits and took them to a men's shop across the River Mersey for gray mohair suits. He had their hair styled at Horne Brothers, his personal barbers. He also imposed a set of rules for performances: No more eating and smoking on stage; no taking requests; and no swearing. Some of the Beatles' contemporaries despised the result. Ted Taylor, a former butcher's apprentice who fronted his own hard-driving band, Kingsize Taylor & the Dominoes, felt Brian effectively neutered the Beatles, sapping the raw energy that had made them exciting.

"As far as I'm concerned, Brian Epstein was the man who destroyed Mersey Beat," he says. "He made London groups out of Liverpool bands. When you see the Beatles, their first TV appearance, all dressed up like tailors, well that wasn't Liverpool." Others were more sympathetic. "The whole of British popular culture at the time was controlled by people more than a generation older than us," says Bill Harry. "And, quite frankly, the Beatles as they were, the black leather and rough look, would never have made it in Britain. What he was doing was processing them and making them conform to the establishment." John, the self-styled rebel, performed with the top button of his dress shirt unfastened and his tie loosened as a protest.

Still, John went along with the process. "We respected his views," he later told an interviewer. "We paid a lot more attention to what we were doing, did our best to be on time, and we smartened up." His attitude: "Yeah, man, all right, I'll wear a suit. I'll wear a bloody balloon if somebody's going to pay me."

But while Brian transformed the group's appearance and stagecraft, he never messed with their music. The professional managers of that era, had they been interested at all, would almost certainly have required the Beatles to choose a front man and limit their repertoire to the bland, pre-packaged pop music that made acts like Cliff Richard so successful in Britain -- and so uninspired. Whether because he was a total amateur or because he saw something that others didn't, Brian loved the Beatles' sound, encouraged them to write their own songs and cherished their originality.

He was also possessive. Like a jealous suitor, Brian ruthlessly eliminated potential competitors for the Beatles' affections. He broke a performance deal with Leach over a petty matter. He insisted that Harry print only what Brian himself authorized about the group. When the Beatles decided to fire Pete as drummer and replace him with Ringo Starr, Brian lied to Harry, telling him that the parting was amicable and mutual. "It showed me that Brian was very manipulative," Harry recalls. "With us, he changed over time. He became more and more demanding. And then he discarded us like a box of tissues."

Soon, other managers noticed, the Beatles answered only to Brian. "If you said to George, 'What are you doing next Saturday?' He'd say, 'Don't know; talk to Brian,'" recalls Jim Turner, a young promoter who looked up to Brian. "Whatever he said, they did." Brian repaid their loyalty with his own. "His enthusiasm was amazing," Turner says. "It was almost like a father talking about a son who'd passed his university exams. It was deeply emotional. He would talk for two hours on the phone about it. It was so much a part of him. It wasn't about the money."

FROM THE BEGINNING, THE BEATLES HAD BEEN TIPPED OFF BY FRIENDS THAT BRIAN WAS GAY. His first reaction was to deny it. Ian Sharp, one of John's old art school friends, asked him and Paul, "Which one of you does he fancy?" When Brian found out, he had a lawyer send Sharp a letter demanding a written apology and an undertaking never to repeat the slur. Still, Brian couldn't hide his lust. In his memoir, Pete Best said Brian took him for a drive one evening to Blackpool, the seaside resort town north of Liverpool, and declared his "very fond admiration" for Pete. "Would you find it embarrassing if I ask you to stay in a hotel overnight?" Brian asked. Pete said he had no interest, and that was the end of it. "We both carefully forgot about the journey to Blackpool," he wrote.

But the Beatle whom Brian was most intrigued with was the most brilliant and most troubled. Brian could see early on that, to get things done, he had to convince John. They spent many hours talking about the band, the strategy and the future. Although John's family was the most affluent, John was the darkest, angriest and most prone to abusing those around him. He mercilessly prodded and exploited his wealthy new patron. Tony Sheridan recalls John pouring beer over Brian's head during a visit to Hamburg. "Brian reacted with mild shock: How can you do this to me? I'm wearing a suit. I'm Brian from a nice family, and people don't do this to me.

"They were very grateful for the fact that this guy had turned up in their lives," Sheridan says by phone from his home in Germany. "On the other hand, the disdain was always there somewhere, a little lack of respect."

Despite John's frequent hostility, Brian ceaselessly tried to persuade John to go on vacation with him. Finally, on the day after Cynthia gave birth to a son, Julian, Brian and John took off for Barcelona. The Barcelona trip is a milepost in the Beatles legend. Why did John agree to go, and what did they do there? Only two men knew for sure, and both are long dead. Before they died, they gave varying and ambiguous accounts of what happened. "I watched Brian picking up boys, and I liked playing it a bit faggy -- it's enjoyable," John told Rolling Stone. Brian, he later told Playboy, "was in love with me." In Spain, "It was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated."

John wasn't so blasé at the time. When Bob Wooler teased him about the Barcelona trip at Paul's 21st birthday party, a drunken John punched him in the face, kicked him when he fell and hit him with a gardening tool, sending Wooler to the hospital. Brian wrote Wooler a check for 200 pounds and a letter of apology purportedly from John. John's great fear, he once confided to Brian, was that the Beatles were just a hobby that Brian would inevitably lose interest in. When Brian protested that he was just as committed to the band as the Beatles themselves, John laughed bitterly. As Brian later told Alastair Taylor: "John said rich bastards like me didn't know what it was to want to succeed. I had the family business to fall back on."

THE REST, AS EDDIE PORTER LIKES TO TELL TOURISTS ON THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR BUS, IS HISTORY. After countless train rides to London in which he failed to ignite the interest of the big record companies, Brian eventually persuaded George Martin, producer of EMI's obscure Parlophone label, to give the band an audition. Martin liked what he heard. As is so often the case in the story of the Beatles' rise, they came across a man of talent and creativity who helped them take the next step to fame.

Their second record, "Please Please Me," climbed quickly to No. 1 on the British charts. Brian worked the Beatles like beasts of burden, dispatching them on a seemingly endless tour of Britain and booking them on every available BBC program. Then he pulled the extraordinary feat of getting them a three-program starring gig on "The Ed Sullivan Show." They became the first British pop act to dominate the U.S. charts.

As soon as the money started rolling in, Brian moved the band and his entire operation to London. Success meant a townhouse in the posh Belgravia neighborhood, a Bentley and many other cars, sold to him by Terry Doran ("the man from the motor trade" in "She's Leaving Home"), whom he helped set up in business. There were gambling clubs, fine food, a butler, all the alcohol, drugs and young men he could buy, and enormous stress. The gifted amateur was in way over his head. And when the Beatles stopped touring in 1966, they stopped needing him.

After Brian's death, his mother and brother decided he should be buried in the Jewish cemetery on Long Lane. The hearse hauling his body back to Liverpool was delayed in traffic. "Leave it to Brian to be late for his own funeral," Peter Brown says.

The family asked that the Beatles not attend, fearing a huge, unseemly gaggle of squealing teenage girls outside the synagogue. The presiding rabbi, who had never met Brian, gave an incredibly callous eulogy, calling him "a symbol of the malaise of our generation." He was buried in the city he had long despised, among people he had little use for.

"Deeply mourned and sadly missed by his devoted mother, brother and all his family," reads the tombstone. No mention of the Beatles. Each of them, except Ringo, would later denounce Brian's management. They didn't like the recording, music publishing and merchandising deals he had forged early on. Most of all, as the years passed, they didn't like being Beatles anymore. They associated Brian with a life they wanted to leave behind. In the end, for Brian, at least, it wasn't about success or fortune or fame, although he craved all three. It was about love. Paul, who over the years has managed to be both Brian's biggest critic and an ardent admirer, seems to have understood it best.

"Brian," he told an interviewer 30 years after his manager's death, "would really be happy to hear how much we loved him."

Glenn Frankel, who teaches journalism at Stanford University, is The Post's former London bureau chief. He can be reached at Liverpool music historians Spencer Leigh and Ray O'Brien contributed to this article.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Book on Berlin Philharmoic's Nazi Ties

Book tells of Philharmonic's Nazi ties

By DAVID McHUGH, Associated Press Writer 58 minutes ago

The Berlin Philharmonic became a privileged servant of Nazi propaganda after Adolf Hitler's 1933 takeover, striking a deal with the new regime that won it financial security and perks such as fine instruments and draft exemptions for the musicians.

That's according to a new book recounting how the orchestra — then and now considered one of the world's best — lent its gloss to the Nazis. The arrangement saw the orchestra touring abroad as an example of supposed German cultural superiority and serenading Hitler on his birthday.

In "Das Reichsorchester," or "The Reich's Orchestra," Berlin-based Canadian historian Misha Aster writes that the relationship between the Nazis and the orchestra was a complex one in which each side exploited the other — although Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels held the upper hand over the orchestra and its star conductor, Wilhelm Fuertwaengler.

The Philharmonic's predicament began with its financial woes in the depressed German economy of the 1920s and 1930s, Aster says.

As a private company owned by its musicians, the fiercely independent, democratic-minded orchestra was reduced to begging for government subsidies even before the Nazi takeover in January 1933. Then, the orchestra and Fuertwaengler suddenly found an eager partner in Goebbels, who saw music as a political tool. The Nazi government simply bought out the musicians' shares and turned them into civil servants, guaranteeing steady and generous government support.

The Berlin Philharmonic had been unwilling to cut musicians' salaries or reduce its size, so Nazi financing meant it could continue to hire topflight musicians and play works demanding a large orchestra, thus preserving its elite role at the top of the German musical world.

"The pact with the Nazi regime resulted from the terrible financial situation of the orchestra since the middle of the 1920s, a certain feeling of superiority on the part of the orchestra collective and Goebbel's vision of cultural propaganda," Aster writes.

There was a price to be paid. Services to the regime included blocking out every April 18-21 for celebrations surrounding Hitler's birthday.

The musicians also played for Hitler Youth gatherings and joined forces with the Nazi cultural organization Strength Through Joy, giving concerts in sports halls to introduce classics to the masses, with swastikas prominently on display.

From his side, Fuertwaengler used his ties to Goebbels — who was eager to keep the temperamental conductor in Germany — to defend the orchestra's four Jewish musicians after the Nazi takeover. He rebuffed demands from the few Nazi party members in the orchestra ranks to fire the Jews.

But the four Jews, including concertmaster, or lead violinist, Szymon Goldberg, all fled Germany by the beginning of the 1935-36 season amid the intense anti-Semitism of Nazi rule. One, cellist Nicolai Graudan, left after getting an insulting contract renewal offer that omitted his premium as a soloist and section leader. He was apparently unprotected after Fuertwaengler temporarily left the orchestra in 1934 in a dispute with authorities over what works he could perform.

The Philharmonic's privileges included a rare draft exemption that held even until the end of World War II, when the collapsing regime sent children to die fighting approaching Soviet forces — but kept the orchestra playing. It performed Bruckner, Wagner and Beethoven — all Nazi favorites — at a private concert for armaments chief Albert Speer on April 11, 1945, less than a month before the war ended.

The players were also offered fine old string instruments. Hitler had complained that musicians in Vienna all seemed to have old violins and cellos — which generally sound better than new ones — while only a few of the Berliners had them.

The origins of the instruments were kept unclear, but Aster assumes some were purchased while others were probably stolen. Concertmaster Erich Roehn received a 1750 violin made by Italian master Pietro Guarnieri, while another violinist got a valuable Guadagnini.

Fuertwaengler and the musicians were far from alone. Some non-Jewish artists, such as conductors Fritz Busch and Arturo Toscanini, shunned the Nazis, but countless other musicians and famed conductors such as Karl Boehm and Herbert von Karajan kept working under Nazi rule.

The book is being welcomed by the orchestra, which will put on a historical exhibit about its role in the Nazi years starting Saturday in the lobby of its Berlin concert hall in conjunction with publication. Today, people of 19 different nationalities play with the Berlin Philharmonic, including an Israeli concertmaster, Guy Braunstein, and a British conductor, Sir Simon Rattle.

Aster, whose sources included state, orchestra and private archives, said he received financial support during his research from the Friends of the Berlin Philharmonic, the orchestra's donor organization, but that he had a contract for the book on his own with the publisher, Siedler, part of Random House.

"Neither the orchestra nor the foundation had any control over the contents," he said.

The Philharmonic's Nazi ties were not secret and parts of its story have been told in histories of Nazi cultural policy. Much historical writing, however, focused on Fuertwaengler, while Aster emphasizes the orchestra as an institution, using private archives of former musicians.

Aster said that one reason a general history of the orchestra's experience is being written only now, more than 60 years after the end of the regime, is that questions about the Nazi era were not welcome at the Philharmonic during the 1955-1989 reign of conductor Karajan, a former Nazi Party member.

The Berlin orchestra's compromises with the Nazis reflected those of the larger German society, Aster told The Associated Press.

"The even sadder truth is, it was symptomatic of what became of Germany and German society as a whole — how easy it was to be seduced," he said. "The moral compromises that started it seemed to be small prices to pay."

Internet fuels newly invented languages

From the Los Angeles Times
In their own words -- literally
Step aside, Tolkien fans and grunting Klingonists: Newly invented tongues are creeping into the public domain, thanks to the Web.
By Amber Dance
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 24, 2007

In any language, Sonja Elen Kisa was depressed.

The world was overwhelming, and the thoughts that swirled through her mind in French, English, German or Esperanto echoed that.

So Kisa, 28, a student and translator in Toronto, decided to create her own language, something simple that would help clarify her thinking. She called it Toki Pona -- "good language" -- and gave it just 120 words.

"Ale li pona," she told herself. "Everything will be OK."

Kisa eventually sorted through her thoughts and, to her great surprise, her little language took off, with more than 100 speakers today, singing Toki Pona songs, writing Toki Pona poems and chatting with Toki Pona words.

It's all part of a weirdly Babel-esque boom of new languages. Once the private arena of J.R.R. Tolkien, Esperanto speakers and grunting Klingon fanatics, invented languages have flourished on the Internet and begun creeping into the public domain.

The website lists more than 1,000 language inventors and 1,902 made-up languages, from `Ayvárith to Zyem.

The language inventors have, of course, created a word to describe what they do -- "conlang," short for constructed languages.

The awareness of invented languages has been driven in part by their use in popular films, such as Ku, a fictional "African" language spoken by Nicole Kidman in the 2005 film "The Interpreter."

Created languages may have no hope of supplanting the real thing, but for most conlangers, that is hardly the goal. Hobbyists like Kisa find it a fun or therapeutic practice. Linguists can use conlangs to dissect how real language works. For a select few who write fiction or work for Hollywood, conlanging can even be a moneymaker.

But to most linguaphiles, conlangs are simply art. Their palette holds not paints but the buzz of the letter "z," the hiss of an "s," the trill of an Italian "r."

And sometimes the howl of a Klingon scream: "Hab SoSlI' Quch!"

"Your mother has a smooth forehead!"

In this realm of art, Toki Pona is white canvas with scattered brushstrokes of primary colors.

Kisa created Toki Pona as an exercise in minimalism, looking for the core vocabulary that is necessary to communicate.

With only 120 words, a Toki Pona speaker must combine words to express more complicated ideas. For example, the Toki Pona phrase for "friend" is jan pona (the "j" sounds like a "y"), literally "good person."

Kisa, who is studying speech language therapy, tried to focus Toki Pona's vocabulary on basic, positive concepts.

"It has sort of a Zen or Taoist nature to it," Kisa said.

Tolkien liked to call invented language his "secret vice." He spent hours at the solitary hobby, designing grammars and modifying words from Latin, Finnish, Welsh and others for his languages.

Eventually, his languages needed tongues to speak them, and those speakers needed a place to live. And thus Middle-earth was born, with Tolkien's languages becoming the Sindarin and Quenya of the elves, the Khuzdul of the dwarves, and the Black Speech of the orcs.

People have been inventing languages since at least the 12th century, when the nun Hildegard of Bingen developed a rudimentary conlang she called Lingua Ignota, Latin for "unknown language."

No one knows its purpose. All that survives is a short passage and a list of 1,012 terms arranged from the highest form, "God," to the lowest, "cricket."

None of the invented languages has had much sticking power except Esperanto, which was created in the late 19th century by Polish doctor Ludovic Zamenhof.

His dream was to give humanity a common international language that would be simple to learn. Esperanto's vocabulary is small, word order does not matter, and there are no irregular verbs.

"Gi estas iom lingvo idealisma," said William B. Harris, director of the central office of the Esperanto League for North America in California. "It's somewhat of an idealistic language."

Today, as many as 2 million people speak Esperanto, which conlangers call an "auxlang," or auxiliary language. Among them are about 1,000 native speakers, who learned the language as children.

Learning is the easy part. Actually creating a language is a task only for the very tenacious. It took Kisa a year to put hers together, and her language was built to be basic.

It is not enough to simply replace existing words with invented ones. To a conlanger, such a construction would be a mere code.

The conlanger considers many factors, starting with the sound of the language.

Linguists call it phonaesthetics; Germans call it Sprachgefühl -- "speech feeling."

Tricky to define, it's that certain quality that makes French the language of love, and German the language that "makes you want to conquer Poland," said John Quijada, a Sacramento website developer and creator of Ithkuil, who attended an invented language conference at UC Berkeley this summer.

If the conlang is to be a language for nonhumans, the conlanger also must consider their biology -- if speakers lack teeth or vocal cords, the language's sounds will be constrained accordingly.

The conlanger must then ponder the grammar. For example, will the word order be subject-verb-object, as in English, or perhaps object-subject-verb, following the example of Yoda?

There are rules to this game. Human languages -- known as "natlangs," for natural languages -- follow universal linguistic patterns. For example, very few human languages use the raspberry sound, but all have an "ah" sound. To create a pseudo-natlang, the conlanger also should follow those rules.

Of course, there are instances when one doesn't want to follow the rules. In creating Klingon for "Star Trek," Marc Okrand, 59,said, "I looked at all those kinds of rules and then violated them on purpose."

He chose the rarest of grammatical structures, object-verb-subject. A Klingon would say, "The Enterprise boarded I." And Okrand purposely picked sounds that would never be found together in the same human language.

All this has added up to one alien manner of speech.

The challenge has not deterred serious Klingonists, who number perhaps a few hundred worldwide. Djörn X. Öqvist, 33, a Swedish linguistics student and founder of the Klingon Academy, said you must be creative with Klingon's 2,600 words.

For example, he said, there is no way to say "Park the car." No problem. Klingon speakers "dock" their vehicles.

The difference between "park" and "dock" illustrates how languages can talk about similar things but conjure subtly different images.

The phenomenon was noted by early 20th century linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. They proposed a theory that language had the power to broaden or constrain a speaker's thoughts. That is, it is hard to think about concepts without the specific words to express them.

For Sarah Higley, 50,an English professor at the University of Rochester, the language she created when she was 10 had the power to conjure a private universe.

She created a language she called Teonaht (TAY-oh-noth) for a race of winged felines, in a universe that was uniquely her own. Teonaht gave her words for her own personal feelings, the thoughts that no one else could ever fully appreciate. "It was a way to access a spiritual world that I didn't want to share with anybody," she said.

In 1955, sociologist James Cooke Brown came up with an idea to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. He would train students in a new language and look at how their thinking changed.

He knew he could not use a natlang -- it would be impossible to separate language from the influence of culture. One cannot learn French without, at some level, thinking about crêpes and ratatouille.

So Brown invented a cultureless language, Loglan -- short for "logical language."

Just as scientists use mice as a model for the human body, Loglan would be a model language for his laboratory of thought.

Brown borrowed vocabulary from English, French, German, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Russian and Japanese -- the eight most widely spoken languages at the time.

Loglan was designed to be free of irregularity and ambiguity. The Loglan lexicon, containing more than 10,000 words, is made up of five-letter root words and one- or two-letter modifiers. The roots can be combined to make new words.

He included words for the mathematical Boolean variables such as "and," "or inclusive" and "or exclusive" to encourage clear, logical thinking.

As it turned out, creating the language wasn't the hardest part. Like many successful conlangers, Brown struggled to maintain control over his creation.

He founded the Loglan Institute in San Diego in the 1970s to bring others into the project, but then was upset when they didn't agree with his ideas.

"In 1984 there was a knock-down, drag-out battle over this," said Bob LeChevalier, 53, who was a member at the time. The institute fell apart, and Brown was never able to conduct his great experiment.

LeChevalier and others developed Lojban, a language built on principles identical to Loglan's. LeChevalier estimates there are 500 to 1,000 Lojban speakers.

Kisa too has wrestled with the growing pains of her creation.

Once a language is released from the notebooks and index cards of its birth, other speakers may use it for purposes its creator never intended.

Since Kisa let Toki Pona loose on the Internet in 2001, it has spread from Toronto to speakers all over the world.

She has received e-mails from Russians learning Toki Pona and a Finnish therapist who wants to teach it to his depressed patients. MIT routinely offers a seminar about the language.

Occasionally they offer criticism as well as praise. Some want to express complicated thoughts in Toki Pona, running counter to its design.

She has given in to a few complaints. It's only natural for language to evolve, she said.

"Tenpo ni la toki pona li kama suli. Jan mute li kepeken e ona," she said."It's like a living thing now."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

China's Latest Export: Anti-Establishment Music

Morning Edition, August 17, 2007 · China, the world's top exporter of laptop computers, T-shirts and toys is now trying to export indie rock. The country's largest independent record label has just released its first album in the United States, by a band called Rebuilding the Rights of Statues.

The band toured the United States before the album's release, performing at the South by Southwest musical festival in Austin, Texas, and several shows in New York.

The art of making anti-establishment music in a non-democratic state can come in the translation. The three members of Rebuilding the Rights of Statues, or Re-TROS for short, compose in English.

The band is required to translate all of its lyrics into Chinese and submit them to the government for approval.

Meng Jin Hui is a manager at Modern Sky, China's largest independent record label.

"Maybe sometimes when we translate, it might be wrong," he says.

For example, the band translated the title of its song "Hang the Police" as "the police are laughing."

Often they'll translate literally. As is the case with any language, the literal translations sometimes don't make sense. And that can work to the band's advantage.

Still, lead singer and guitarist Hua Dong insists he's not intimidated by the government censors.

"It's like a game of cat and mouse to see who can win," he says.

Hua says that dealing with the government forces his band to be subtler in its lyrics.

"It's just different from the West, where people are very direct with what they say," he says. "They just say what they want. But in China how we say things is not very direct. I think this adds depth to what we're doing, and it's fun."

Hua's pragmatic view is typical of many rock musicians in China who grew up in the '80s and '90s during the country's rapid economic boom.

Shen Li Hui founded the Modern Sky label 10 years ago when his own band wanted to record an album.

"Actually the Chinese government is not really that bad," he says. "Within the last 10 years, it has changed quite a bit. Of course, the situation is still not ideal, but the government is more open and liberal than before."

China's first generation of rock bands emerged a few years before the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Those groups focused more on politics. Today's bands are more interested in art, Shen says.

But the art still needs some work, says Trey McArver. He traveled to China four years ago and discovered an indie rock scene in Wuhan, a grimy industrial city of more than 8 million people, where he now owns a club with a Chinese partner.

McArver says his first encounter with the music captured the excitement of shows in the United States.

"It was in this abandoned building on the fifth floor," he recalls. "It was dirty. And there were all these kids there with mohawks and tight, black jeans, and just something I had not seen in China at all."

Then, the music started.

"They couldn't even play their instruments," McArver says. "They would play for 30 seconds or a minute and they would have to stop and they would start over, or try to go to the next song."

Many bands, McArver says, are simply copying things they've heard from Western acts.

Re-TROS' musicians say they're influenced by groups like Interpol, Gang of Four and Joy Division.

McArver says that while Re-TROS' songs aren't completely original, the band still has something to say.

"It's a little bit more thoughtful and it's very sincere," he says. "They're not making music to be cool."

A steady performance schedule earns Re-TROS the equivalent of $300 dollars a month, barely enough for the three musicians to live on in Beijing. But right now, they say their main goal is to make music.

Re-TROS bass player Liu Min says that one benefit to releasing an album in the United States is to show Americans a side of China they might not have heard before.

"We don't expect it will be a big seller," she says. "But of course, we are excited to come to the U.S., the most developed rock 'n' roll market in the world. And if Americans hear us, they might see the progress that rock 'n' roll music in China has made."

Mario Rivera obituary

Miami Herald
Posted on Tue, Aug. 14, 2007
Mario Rivera, favorite sideman of music legends, dies
Mario Rivera's apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was filled with musical instruments. Every room. Wall to wall.

When he hosted friends, at the ungodly hours when musicians go home from playing gigs, he'd encourage them, regardless of musical skills, to beat on drums, bang soft hammers on a xylophone, finger keyboards, pluck bass guitars, strum regular ones, blow on all manner of wind instruments, knock claves, rasp gourds, shake maracas and chekeres, jam.

''Go ahead!'', he'd say, ''¡cúrate!'', roughly translated, ``get your ya-yas out.''

If Rivera, who died in New York on Friday after a two-year battle with bone cancer, had not made a name for himself as one of the most sought-after sidemen in jazz and Latin jazz, he could have had a successful career as a music therapist.

Rivera, 68, had played with a who's who of jazz and Latin masters: Tito Puente, Machito, Eddie Palmieri, George Coleman, Dizzy Gillespie, Slide Hampton, Chico O'Farrill. He was in Miami in October, backing veteran Cuban piano master Bebo Valdés, with whom he also recorded a big-band CD.

Sidemen are the unsung heroes of music; they back legends but seldom become superstars. But Rivera was a legend on his own right.

His main ax was the saxophone and his riffs and solos are as good as any big name saxman's in any genre. For, yes, Rivera dominated all the musical languages. He could be an orquesta de salsa workhorse. Or an intense jazz combo artist. Or a big-band soulman. Or, his natural habitat, the linchpin of a Latin jazz group -- most notably, he was a mainstay of Tito Puente's Latin jazz ensembles.

''Mario was such a vital individual that death is nothing short of incongruous,'' says Latin jazz historian and producer Nat Chediak, who worked with Rivera on recordings as well as the music documentary Calle 54. As for his artistry, Chediak believes that ``there are few Latino musicians in jazz who can touch him.''

In 1993, Rivera made his own wonderful CD, El Comandante, a playful and infectious fusion of Dominican merengue and jazz.

Rivera was Dominican. Before the diaspora of the '80s, which transformed Washington Heights, north of Rivera's home, into Quisqueya Heights, the gifted musician was, along with Fania Records founder Johnny Pacheco, a prominent Dominican figure in a Latin scene dominated by Puerto Ricans and Cubans.

When merengue nudged salsa aside in the '80s and early '90s, major artists from the Dominican Republic doing New York concerts would go to Rivera's home to pay their respects to their countryman.

Artists of all backgrounds respected Rivera, for he was a musician's musician. And in the music world, as in all arts, crafts and professions, there is no greater honor than to have colleagues think you're great. In Mario Rivera's case, the greatest.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Op-Ed: The Colonization of Silence

An essay by composer Andrew Wagonner at New Music Box.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Drummer Max Roach (1924-2007)

NYT August 16, 2007
Max Roach, a Founder of Modern Jazz, Dies at 83

Max Roach, a founder of modern jazz who rewrote the rules of drumming in the 1940’s and spent the rest of his career breaking musical barriers and defying listeners’ expectations, died early today at his home in New York. He was 83.

His death was announced today by a spokesman for Blue Note records, on which he frequently appeared. No cause was given. Mr. Roach had been known to be ill for several years.

As a young man, Mr. Roach, a percussion virtuoso capable of playing at the most brutal tempos with subtlety as well as power, was among a small circle of adventurous musicians who brought about wholesale changes in jazz. He remained adventurous to the end.

Over the years he challenged both his audiences and himself by working not just with standard jazz instrumentation, and not just in traditional jazz venues, but in a wide variety of contexts, some of them well beyond the confines of jazz as that word is generally understood.

He led a “double quartet” consisting of his working group of trumpet, saxophone, bass and drums plus a string quartet. He led an ensemble consisting entirely of percussionists. He dueted with uncompromising avant-gardists like the pianist Cecil Taylor and the saxophonist Anthony Braxton. He performed unaccompanied. He wrote music for plays by Sam Shepard and dance pieces by Alvin Ailey. He collaborated with video artists, gospel choirs and hip-hop performers.

Mr. Roach explained his philosophy to The New York Times in 1990: “You can’t write the same book twice. Though I’ve been in historic musical situations, I can’t go back and do that again. And though I run into artistic crises, they keep my life interesting.”

He found himself in historic situations from the beginning of his career. He was still in his teens when he played drums with the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, a pioneer of modern jazz, at a Harlem after-hours club in 1942. Within a few years, Mr. Roach was himself recognized as a pioneer in the development of the sophisticated new form of jazz that came to be known as bebop.

He was not the first drummer to play bebop — Kenny Clarke, 10 years his senior, is generally credited with that distinction — but he quickly established himself as both the most imaginative percussionist in modern jazz and the most influential.

In Mr. Roach’s hands, the drum kit became much more than a means of keeping time. He saw himself as a full-fledged member of the front line, not simply as a supporting player.

Layering rhythms on top of rhythms, he paid as much attention to a song’s melody as to its beat. He developed, as the jazz critic Burt Korall put it, “a highly responsive, contrapuntal style,” engaging his fellow musicians in an open-ended conversation while maintaining a rock-solid pulse. His approach “initially mystified and thoroughly challenged other drummers,” Mr. Korall wrote, but quickly earned the respect of his peers and established a new standard for the instrument.

Mr. Roach was an innovator in other ways. In the late 1950s, he led a group that was among the first in jazz to regularly perform pieces in waltz time and other unusual meters in addition to the conventional 4/4. In the early 1960s, he was among the first to use jazz to address racial and political issues, with works like the album-length “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite.”

In 1972, he became one of the first jazz musicians to teach full time at the college level when he was hired as a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And in 1988, he became the first jazz musician to receive a so-called genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

Maxwell Roach was born on Jan. 10, 1924, in the small town of New Land, N.C., and grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. He began studying piano at a neighborhood Baptist church when he was 8 and took up the drums a few years later.

Even before he graduated from Boys High School in 1942, savvy New York jazz musicians knew his name. As a teenager he worked briefly with Duke Ellington’s orchestra at the Paramount Theater and with Charlie Parker at Monroe’s Uptown House in Harlem, where he took part in jam sessions that helped lay the groundwork for bebop.

By the middle 1940’s, he had become a ubiquitous presence on the New York jazz scene, working in the 52nd Street nightclubs with Parker, the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and other leading modernists. Within a few years he had become equally ubiquitous on record, participating in such seminal recordings as Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” sessions in 1949 and 1950.

He also found time to study composition at the Manhattan School of Music. He had planned to major in percussion, he later recalled in an interview, but changed his mind after a teacher told him his technique was incorrect. “The way he wanted me to play would have been fine if I’d been after a career in a symphony orchestra,” he said, “but it wouldn’t have worked on 52nd Street.”

Mr. Roach made the transition from sideman to leader in 1954, when he and the young trumpet virtuoso Clifford Brown formed a quintet. That group, which specialized in a muscular and stripped-down version of bebop that came to be called hard bop, took the jazz world by storm. But it was short-lived.

In June 1956, at the height of the Brown-Roach quintet’s success, Brown was killed in an automobile accident, along with Richie Powell, the group’s pianist, and Powell’s wife. The sudden loss of his friend and co-leader, Mr. Roach later recalled, plunged him into depression and heavy drinking from which it took him years to emerge.

Nonetheless, he kept working. He honored his existing nightclub bookings with the two surviving members of his group, the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the bassist George Morrow, before briefly taking time off and putting together a new quartet. By the end of the 50’s, seemingly recovered from his depression, he was recording prolifically, mostly as a leader but occasionally as a sideman with Mr. Rollins and others.

The personnel of Mr. Roach’s working group changed frequently over the next decade, but the level of artistry and innovation remained high. His sidemen included such important musicians as the saxophonists Eric Dolphy, Stanley Turrentine and George Coleman and the trumpet players Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham and Booker Little. Few of his groups had a pianist, making for a distinctively open ensemble sound in which Mr. Roach’s drums were prominent.

Always among the most politically active of jazz musicians, Mr. Roach had helped the bassist Charles Mingus establish one of the first musician-run record companies, Debut, in 1952. Eight years later, the two organized a so-called rebel festival in Newport, R.I., to protest the Newport Jazz Festival’s treatment of performers. That same year, Mr. Roach collaborated with the lyricist Oscar Brown Jr. on “We Insist! Freedom Now Suite,” which played variations on the theme of black people’s struggle for equality in the United States and Africa.

The album, which featured vocals by Abbey Lincoln (Mr. Roach’s frequent collaborator and, from 1962 to 1970, his wife), received mixed reviews: many critics praised its ambition, but some attacked it as overly polemical. Mr. Roach was undeterred.

“I will never again play anything that does not have social significance,” he told Down Beat magazine after the album’s release. “We American jazz musicians of African descent have proved beyond all doubt that we’re master musicians of our instruments. Now what we have to do is employ our skill to tell the dramatic story of our people and what we’ve been through.”

“We Insist!” was not a commercial success, but it emboldened Mr. Roach to broaden his scope as a composer. Soon he was collaborating with choreographers, filmmakers and Off Broadway playwrights on projects, including a stage version of “We Insist!”

As his range of activities expanded, his career as a bandleader became less of a priority. At the same time, the market for his uncompromising brand of small-group jazz began to diminish. By the time he joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in 1972, teaching had come to seem an increasingly attractive alternative to the demands of the musician’s life.

Joining the academy did not mean turning his back entirely on performing. In the early ‘70s, Mr. Roach joined with seven fellow drummers to form M’Boom, an ensemble that achieved tonal and coloristic variety through the use of xylophones, chimes, steel drums and other percussion instruments. Later in the decade he formed a new quartet, two of whose members — the saxophonist Odean Pope and the trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater — would perform and record with him off and on for more than two decades.

He also participated in a number of unusual experiments. He appeared in concert in 1983 with a rapper, two disc jockeys and a team of break dancers. A year later, he composed music for an Off Broadway production of three Sam Shepard plays, for which he won an Obie Award. In 1985, he took part in a multimedia collaboration with the video artist Kit Fitzgerald and the stage director George Ferencz.

Perhaps his most ambitious experiment in those years was the Max Roach Double Quartet, a combination of his quartet and the Uptown String Quartet. Jazz musicians had performed with string accompaniment before, but rarely if ever in a setting like this, where the string players were an equal part of the ensemble and were given the opportunity to improvise. Reviewing a Double Quartet album in The Times in 1985, Robert Palmer wrote, “For the first time in the history of jazz recording, strings swing as persuasively as any saxophonist or drummer.”

This endeavor had personal as well as musical significance for Mr. Roach: the Uptown String Quartet’s founder and viola player was his daughter Maxine. She survives him, as do two other daughters, Ayo and Dara, and two sons, Raoul and Darryl.

By the early ‘90s, Mr. Roach had reduced his teaching load and was again based in New York year-round, traveling to Amherst only for two residencies and a summer program each year. He was still touring with his quartet as recently as 2000, and he also remained active as a composer. In 2002 he wrote and performed the music for “How to Draw a Bunny,” a documentary about the artist Ray Johnson.

Forest People/Pygmy recording session

A rain forest recording session for an ensemble of the Baka (Baaka) Forest People (Pygmy) ensemble, recorded on site by musician and Baka advocate Martin Cradick. You can view their main website here, which includes links to recordings for download and purchase, plus video clips. In the video one can see the coolest microphone stands ever in teh history of recording ((made from twigs and branches), plus sweet guitar work. The music retains some Baka elements, but is heavily influenced by Congolese popular music (e.g., rumba, soukous).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Court acquits site owner

MOSCOW, Russia (Reuters) -- A Russian court found the former boss of music download Web site not guilty of breaching copyright on Wednesday in a case considered a crucial test of Russia's commitment to fighting piracy.

The Web site angered Western music companies by undercutting the price of downloads in deals they said breached copyright law.

Denis Kvasov, head of MediaServices which owned the site, was put on trial after entertainment companies EMI Group Plc, NBC Universal and Time Warner Inc. pressed for a prosecution.

"The prosecution did not succeed in presenting persuasive evidence of his involvement in infringing copyright law," said judge Yekaterina Sharapova.

A local official with the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which is representing copyright holders in the case, said it would appeal the decision.

"We are disappointed with the verdict and will appeal," IFPI regional director Igor Pozhitkov told reporters.

The site has been a thorny issue in negotiations between Russia and the United States over Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation, a key aim of President Vladimir Putin.

At the beginning of the year global credit card companies stopped allowing customers to pay for music downloads and by July the Web site had quietly closed down.

Kvasov always said he was within the law because the site paid part of its income to ROMS, a Russian organisation which collects and distributes fees for copyright holders.

The judge agreed with his defence.

"Everybody who uses soundtracks has to pay a certain amount of their income to the rights holders and this company has done that," she said. "MediaServices has paid a certain amount of money to ROMS."

At the height of its popularity attracted millions of bargain-hunting music lovers across the world. It would typically sell the world's most popular tracks at a huge discount to U.S. competitors.

Russian marketplaces and underground passes are full of cheap copies of music and film on DVDs and Russia's government has been accused of being too lax on protecting intellectual property rights, a basic principle of WTO membership.

But in July Russia's top negotiator on WTO entry said he thought a deal would be ready by the end of the year.

Although has disappeared, another Russia-based discount music Web site has since emerged --, also owned by MediaServices.

Cellphones and Concerts

NYT August 15, 2007
They’ve Just Got to Get a Message to You

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 14 — As a teenage rock fan, all Dennis Vorreyer really expected of the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago two weekends ago was the chance to see his favorite bands perform live.

But he and his father, Jeffrey, who accompanied him to the festival, signed up for Lollapalooza’s text-message network, and thus learned about a guitar-playing contest taking place there. Dennis, 14, entered and won a new Gibson guitar. Tad Kubler, the lead guitarist for the Hold Steady, who was involved in the contest, then invited Dennis to perform with the band as it closed its set.

“Having your cellphone everywhere is important for everybody now,” Dennis said. “I never dreamed of playing Lollapalooza.”

The modern mobile phone — equipped with camera, Internet access and more — has proved to be a liability for some performers, like Akon and Beyoncé, whose regrettable moments were captured by fans and then immortalized on YouTube and similar sites. But for the fans themselves, mobile phones are becoming as important an accessory as an all-access wristband. Beyond using them to record a short souvenir, they are becoming a ticket to everything from free ringtones to V.I.P. treatment.

On Gwen Stefani’s recent tour, as many as 20 percent of the audience at some shows agreed to pay 99 cents for text messages and the chance to win better seats, according to the mobile marketing company Impact Mobile. At festivals like Lollapalooza, thousands of fans sign up to receive continuous updates from concert organizers about promotions and special events.

Even when there is no fee, the service comes at a price: fans must give their phone numbers to marketers. And purists — and some artists — disapprove of fans pecking out text messages or snapping pictures during performances. Still, the arrival of a new generation of phone-based activities could add a new twist to live events at a time when rising ticket prices have discouraged many concertgoers.

Prince recently invited fans at a Minneapolis show to send text messages to his Web site so that everyone else could read about what they were missing. (“show just ended. I have never sweat more in my entire life,” read one message posted at 4:03 a.m.)

On the Family Values hard-rock package tour, the band Korn has allowed concertgoers to vote by phone on which song should end the show. For $1.99, they can also enter a contest to win an expense-paid trip to a coming show in California. Fergie devotees who attended her recent shows could dance against a special-effects “green screen” to create a video in which they appeared with her. The resulting clip was sent to their cellphones.

The introduction of more interactive features highlights how musicians — and the marketers who surround them — are trying to establish connections that continue long after a fan leaves a concert. Mathew Knowles, the manager (and father) of Beyoncé, said he expected to use the thousands of phone numbers collected on her current tour to pitch a variety of products, including a Beyoncé-themed phone.

“It allows us to have that continuing dialogue and communication via the cellphone. That’s the bigger piece of the puzzle,” Mr. Knowles said. “I love the fact that all of those phones are up in the air. They want to be able to experience it after they leave. That’s a beautiful thing to me.”

Some warn that concerts could quickly open a new channel for marketers to send junk mail to cellphones. “You can see this getting out of hand,” said Les Borsai, an artist manager and co-owner of Modern Mobile Marketing, one of the companies that run text promotions. But the phone information “is the most sacred piece we have. I don’t want to go and get this data and sell it to Kmart. What you want to do is build trust with the consumer.”

So far, the money generated from paid, or “premium,” text-messaging events represents a fraction of a tour’s overall revenue. Marketers say that even popular music acts might ring up only $100,000 a tour. But the possibility of a new revenue stream has already touched off squabbles among concert promoters, sponsors and artists over who keeps most of the money — and the phone-number registries — that these promotions generate. Spread over several tours, the dollars could make a difference.

Perry Farrell, the former Jane’s Addiction singer who was a founder of Lollapalooza, said he had heard the complaint that armies of phone-toting fans are spoiling live performances. But he said musicians who gripe about that were missing the point.

“The cellphone is here,” he said. “You can choose to ignore it, you can grump at it, or you can say, ‘How can I take this amazing invention, how can I apply this and make my festival, and my life, more exciting?’ ”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For santeros, religious freedom is anything but

Practitioners of Santeria, most notably Ernesto Pichardo, the South Florida priest who won a landmark Supreme Court decision sanctioning animal sacrifices, say the complaints -- and official reaction to those complaints -- come from a misunderstanding of his religion at best, outright bigotry at worst.

Miami Herald
Posted on Tue, Aug. 14, 2007
For santeros, religious freedom is anything but
Noriel Batista has had little peace since a swarm of Coral Gables police officers burst onto his property, disrupting a Santeria ritual intended to initiate him into a special order of his religion's priesthood.

''It has ruined my life,'' said Batista, a Cuban-born pharmacy owner who bought the home on Casilla Street nine years ago.

Business at his Coral Way pharmacy has suffered, he says. Neighbors expressed outrage that animal sacrifices -- in this case, 11 goats and 44 fowl -- were taking place in the City Beautiful.

Shortly after the June incident made the news, Batista received a handwritten note, scrawled in the margins of a Miami Herald article: America has become a dumping ground for trash like you. Go back to Cuba and take your animal sacrifices with you.

The incident, which brought television cameras and patrol cars to the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood in early June, highlights the tension between adherents of a religion most notorious for its practice of animal sacrifice and neighbors in the increasingly affluent suburban areas where the religion is spreading and taking root.

Practitioners of Santeria, most notably Ernesto Pichardo, the South Florida priest who won a landmark Supreme Court decision sanctioning animal sacrifices, say the complaints -- and official reaction to those complaints -- come from a misunderstanding of his religion at best, outright bigotry at worst.

''When we hear about Santeria in Coral Gables, it's as if Santeria doesn't have a right to be in Coral Gables,'' said Pichardo, the head of the Church of Lukumí Babalú Ayé. His members were performing the disrupted June ritual to initiate Batista into the order of Balogún, entitling him to conduct animal offerings, a sacred precept of the religion that traces its roots to West Africa.


''But it's OK if it's in Little Havana, or it's all right if we do it in Hialeah,'' said Pichardo. ``As long as it is marginalized, and only appears in the lower strata of society, then it's OK.''

Pichardo has asked Coral Gables mayor Don Slesnick for an official apology and religious sensitivity training for the department's police force. Slesnick, who drew kudos from scores of residents for speaking out against the sacrifices, said he is respectful of santeros. ''I have requested that the city attorney do an exhaustive investigation of the current status of the law,'' he said.

''We not only have to observe the constitutional right for religious freedom, but we have to also concern ourselves with the quality of life in our neighborhoods,'' he said. ``There is the safety and health issue, sanitation issue dealing with dead animal carcasses.''

Santero priest Jesús Suárez, who helped officiate the ceremony at Batista's home, said he tried to explain to officers that they were interrupting a religious event. It was only after several hours and a consultation with the Miami-Dade state attorney's office that police allowed Suárez and another priest to continue.

''They ordered us out of the house, desecrated a holy space, treated us like criminals,'' he said.

Neighbors said that while they respect Batista's right to practice his faith, they wish he would not be so public about it.

''I just think they should do those things away from neighborhoods, where there are no kids and nobody can see those things,'' said Ricardo Celiz, a sports anchor for Univisión's Spanish-language broadcast network, TeleFutura. His family, including two small children, lives four houses away.


''And definitely I don't want them to see any dead animals at that house,'' he said.

The tensions are understandable as second- and third-generation adherents, most of them from Cuba and other Latin countries, move up the economic ladder and out of the old neighborhoods, said Miguel De La Torre, author of Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.

The popularity of Santeria, also called Lukumi, among non-Latins is another factor -- notably black Americans embracing their African roots, he said.

''There is a fear that is rooted in racism,'' said De La Torre, an associate professor of ethics and director of the Justice and Peace Institute at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. 'This religion is practiced by Latinos, or people of African descent. It's an element of `Oh, look at these primitive people sacrificing animals.' ''

Those fears echo the early days of the religion, which arose as African slaves in Cuba masked their religion from colonial masters by masking their orishas, or gods, with the faces of Catholic saints.

''For some people, moving up the economic or social ladder means assimilation, putting away the old religion,'' he said. 'But then you have a generation that says, `I will live in an upscale neighborhood, but I will also have my santos, thank you very much.' ''

De La Torre has experienced that ambivalence firsthand.

A Cuban-born child of santeros, he broke away from the religion to become an ordained Southern Baptist minister. He has since made peace with his parents' faith.

''It's part of my cultural DNA,'' De La Torre said.

Battles over Santeria have sprung up in places far from the big-city botanicas of Miami and New York.

In the town of Euless, Texas -- a city of about 50,000 outside of Fort Worth -- a Puerto Rican santero priest is fighting City Hall for the right to kill animals in his home, located in a quiet suburban cul-de-sac.

The priest, Jose Merced, filed a federal discrimination suit.


Euless officials offered a compromise: He could kill chickens but not goats.

Merced rejected the offer; the case is still pending.

In South Florida, the cases rarely reach beyond that of nuisance complaints -- although several of Pichardo's acquaintances have been arrested on charges related to their Santeria practices. They include a Miami-Dade firefighter -- and fellow priest -- who was charged with felony trespass and animal cruelty after dumping an animal carcass in a Redland neighborhood. The animal cruelty charges were eventually dropped.

For Batista, the incident at his Gables home has been deeply unsettling.

''I thought this was a free country,'' said Batista, becoming visibly upset. ``But I don't feel like a free man.''

Evelyn Glennie's Hearing Essay

This essay can be found at the website of the extraordinary percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf but nonetheless has created for herself a remarkable career as a concert percussionist, composer, and teacher.

Hearing Essay.

Music represents life. A particular piece of music may describe a real, fictional or abstract scene from almost any area of human experience or imagination. It is the musicians job to paint a picture which communicates to the audience the scene the composer is trying to describe. I hope that the audience will be stimulated by what I have to say (through the language of music) and will therefore leave the concert hall feeling entertained. If the audience is instead only wondering how a deaf musician can play percussion then I have failed as a musician. For this reason my deafness is not mentioned in any of the information supplied by my office to the press or concert promoters. Unfortunately, my deafness makes good headlines. I have learnt from childhood that if I refuse to discuss my deafness with the media they will just make it up. The several hundred articles and reviews written about me every year add up to a total of many thousands, only a handful accurately describe my hearing impairment. More than 90% are so inaccurate that it would seem impossible that I could be a musician. This web page is designed to set the record straight and allow people to enjoy the experience of being entertained by an ever evolving musician rather than some freak or miracle of nature.

Deafness is poorly understood in general. For instance, there is a common misconception that deaf people live in a world of silence. To understand the nature of deafness, first one has to understand the nature of hearing.

Hearing is basically a specialized form of touch. Sound is simply vibrating air which the ear picks up and converts to electrical signals, which are then interpreted by the brain. The sense of hearing is not the only sense that can do this, touch can do this too. If you are standing by the road and a large truck goes by, do you hear or feel the vibration? The answer is both. With very low frequency vibration the ear starts becoming inefficient and the rest of the body's sense of touch starts to take over. For some reason we tend to make a distinction between hearing a sound and feeling a vibration, in reality they are the same thing. It is interesting to note that in the Italian language this distinction does not exist. The verb 'sentire' means to hear and the same verb in the reflexive form 'sentirsi' means to feel. Deafness does not mean that you can't hear, only that there is something wrong with the ears. Even someone who is totally deaf can still hear/feel sounds.

Photo by James Wilson(C)/EG ImagesIf we can all feel low frequency vibrations why can't we feel higher vibrations? It is my belief that we can, it's just that as the frequency gets higher and our ears become more efficient they drown out the more subtle sense of 'feeling' the vibrations. I spent a lot of time in my youth (with the help of my school Percussion teacher Ron Forbes) refining my ability to detect vibrations. I would stand with my hands against the classroom wall while Ron played notes on the timpani (timpani produce a lot of vibrations). Eventually I managed to distinguish the rough pitch of notes by associating where on my body I felt the sound with the sense of perfect pitch I had before losing my hearing. The low sounds I feel mainly in my legs and feet and high sounds might be particular places on my face, neck and chest.

It is worth pointing out at this stage that I am not totally deaf, I am profoundly deaf. Profound deafness covers a wide range of symptoms, although it is commonly taken to mean that the quality of the sound heard is not sufficient to be able to understand the spoken word from sound alone. With no other sound interfering, I can usually hear someone speaking although I cannot understand them without the additional input of lip-reading. In my case the amount of volume is reduced compared with normal hearing but more importantly the quality of the sound is very poor. For instance when a phone rings I hear a kind of crackle. However, it is a distinctive type of crackle that I associate with a phone so I know when the phone rings. This is basically the same as how normally hearing people detect a phone, the phone has a distinctive type of ring which we associate with a phone. I can in fact communicate over the phone. I do most of the talking whilst the other person can say a few words by striking the transmitter with a pen, I hear this as clicks. I have a code that depends on the number of strikes or the rhythm that I can use to communicate a handful of words.

So far we have the hearing of sounds and the feeling of vibrations. There is one other element to the equation, sight. We can also see items move and vibrate. If I see a drum head or cymbal vibrate or even see the leaves of a tree moving in the wind then subconsciously my brain creates a corresponding sound. A common and ill informed question from interviewers is 'How can you be a musician when you can't hear what you are doing?' The answer is of course that I couldn't be a musician if I were not able to hear. Another often asked question is 'How do you hear what you are playing?' The logical answer to this is; how does anyone hear?. An electrical signal is generated in the ear and various bits of other information from our other senses all get sent to the brain which then processes the data to create a sound picture. The various processes involved in hearing a sound are very complex but we all do it subconsciously so we group all these processes together and call it simply listening. The same is true for me. Some of the processes or original information may be different but to hear sound all I do is to listen. I have no more idea of how I hear than you do.

You will notice that more and more the answers are heading towards areas of philosophy. Who can say that when two normally hearing people hear a sound they hear the same sound? I would suggest that everyone's hearing is different. All we can say is that the sound picture built up by their brain is the same, so that outwardly there is no difference. For me, as for all of us, I am better at certain things with my hearing than others. I need to lip-read to understand speech but my awareness of the acoustics in a concert venue is excellent. For instance, I will sometimes describe an acoustic in terms of how thick the air feels.

To summarize, my hearing is something that bothers other people far more than it bothers me. There are a couple of inconveniences but in general it doesn't affect my life much. For me, my deafness is no more important than the fact I am female with brown eyes. Sure, I sometimes have to find solutions to problems related to my hearing and music but so do all musicians. Most of us know very little about hearing, even though we do it all the time. Likewise, I don't know very much about deafness, what's more I'm not particularly interested. I remember one occasion when uncharacteristically I became upset with a reporter for constantly asking questions only about my deafness. I said: 'If you want to know about deafness, you should interview an audiologist. My speciality is music".

In this web page I have tried to explain something which I find very difficult to explain. Even so, no one really understands how I do what I do. Please enjoy the music and forget the rest.

This essay can be quoted by journalists and writers but please credit Evelyn and the website.

NYT Book Review: Children at Play: An American History

August 14, 2007
Child’s Play Has Become Anything but Simple

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For children, play is easy. You can do it anytime, anywhere, with anyone, and it’s fun. For adults, play is hard. They want to know if it’s safe for their kids, if it’s educational, if it promotes motor coordination, if it’s environmentally friendly, if it will look good on a preschool application.

The tension between how children spend their free time and how adults want them to spend it runs through Howard P. Chudacoff’s new book, “Children at Play: An American History” (New York University Press), like a yellow line smack down the middle of a highway.

“Kids should have their own world, and parents are nuisances,” said Mr. Chudacoff, a professor of history at Brown University.

His critique is increasingly echoed today by parents, educators and children’s advocates who warn that organized activities, overscheduling and excessive amounts of homework are crowding out free time and constricting children’s imaginations and social skills.

“It seems like a really timely book,” said Cindy Dell Clark, a historian at Penn State Delaware County and a consultant to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. “We’ve taken a lot of privacy and autonomy out of a child’s day.”

The topic may seem an odd choice for Mr. Chudacoff, 64, given that he has no children of his own, but then again, Mr. Chudacoff is also the author of a book about bachelors (“The Age of the Bachelor,” Princeton University Press, 1999) even though he has been married for nearly 40 years.

He became interested in the idea for this latest book after coming across a book from the 1950s by Robert Paul Smith titled “Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing.”

“He was trying to show that adults can be too intrusive,” Mr. Chudacoff explained. Children want to keep their world private, and “it was that world outside of adulthood that I tried to get access to.”

It was a hot, muggy day in Providence, and Mr. Chudacoff was standing in the middle of a small, brightly colored playground with a rubberized base beneath the swings and soft wooden chips around the plastic slide and monkey bars. With school out, many children were at camp or on vacation or in an air-conditioned living room watching television. Wherever they were, though, they were not here. The playground was deserted.

Playgrounds first found their way to the United States from Germany in the 1880s. They spread after the turn of the 20th century, Mr. Chudacoff said, with the idea of keeping children, particularly immigrant and working-class boys, from running wild on the streets of growing cities and from the seductive lure of pool halls and penny arcades.

Boys and girls were segregated, and trained supervisors kept watch. The idea was not simply to provide a play space but also to instill virtue.

Playground supervision “makes it a school of character and of all the social virtues,” Henry S. Curtis, a psychologist who helped form the Playground Association of America in 1906, declared, “whilst the unsupervised playground is apt to get into the hands of older boys, who should be working, and train the children in all of the things they ought not to be trained in.”

Today playgrounds are once again a topic of public debate, only now concerns for educational and environmental values have replaced moral ones. An environmentally friendly restroom with a planted roof and walls is planned for a playground that a celebrity architect, Frank Gehry, has agreed to build in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the Rockwell Group has designed a play area for South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan that is based on the “adventure playgrounds” popular in Europe, where there are lots of loose parts, like blocks and buckets, so that children can express their creativity.

What strikes Mr. Chudacoff about the new designs, though, is their built-in need for attendants or “facilitators” — evidence of the familiar impulse to impose adult control.

As Ms. Clark notes, “Parents are thinking that they’re helping kids with play that has a goal.” But she adds, “It’s not really play, because play is something that’s self-determined.”

Mr. Chudacoff grew up in Omaha, the eldest of three children. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, he worked in his uncle’s toy distributing business during summer holidays. “I worked in the warehouse, loading and unloading toys, and packing boxes to be shipped,” he said.

It was right around the time that the toy business was transforming itself. In 1955 “The Mickey Mouse Club” had its premiere on television, running five days a week and sponsored partly by the Mattel Toy Company. Mr. Chudacoff quotes Sydney Ladensohn Stern and Ted Schoenhaus in their book, “Toyland: The High-Stakes Game of the Toy Industry”:

“Mattel’s decision to advertise toys to children on national television 52 weeks a year so revolutionized the industry that it is not an exaggeration to divide the history of the American toy business into two eras, before and after television.”

It divides the history of play, too, Mr. Chudacoff said, because while commercial toys have almost completely colonized children’s free time, for most of history, play primarily meant roaming around the countryside or improvising with objects found or made at home.

Mr. Chudacoff led the way to a small, old-fashioned Providence toy store, Creatoyvity, which carries hardly any toys licensed from television and movies. Mr. Chudacoff looked over the figures of knights and kings, gorillas, giraffes, cows, monkeys, rhinos, chickens and dinosaurs, as well as the beads, blocks, paint, glitter, trucks, cranes, tractors and wooden toys imported from Germany.

“It’s a toy store rather than an entertainment center,” Mr. Chudacoff said, explaining that with so much commercial licensing, toys have become more of an offshoot of the television and film industries than elements of play.

One result is that a toy comes with a prepackaged back story and ready-made fantasy life, he said, meaning that “some of the freedom is lost, and unstructured play is limited.”

Video games put more of a straitjacket on imagination, he complains. And online versions of traditional games like Monopoly don’t permit players to make up their own rules (like winning money when you land on Free Parking), to harvest the fake money and dice for an altogether different game or even to cheat.

Janet Golden, a historian at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J., who is writing a history of babies in the 20th century, points out that when Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” was published, in 1957, there were “objections to children using their imaginations — it was subversive” for them to be on their own without the watchful eyes of a mother.

Looking back at diaries, baby books and letters before World War II, Ms. Golden described how people would matter-of-factly write about how “the baby fell down the staircase, the baby fell out of the window.” It used to be accepted, she said, “that in the world, there was a lot of danger, and things happened.”

Sitting on the edge of a slide in the Providence playground, Mr. Chudacoff said that he has two great-nieces who go to a nearby elementary school that doesn’t permit children in kindergarten through third grade to run, jump rope or throw balls during recess for fear of accidents.

“What do they want them to do?,” he said, shaking his head, “stand around and buy drugs?”