Brooklyn’s Man in D.C. / Reflections on the Controversial Art

Representative Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents part of the borough of Brooklyn in the U.S. House of Representatives.  His remarks in committee bring great and welcome clarity on obstruction of the health reforms currently progressing through Congress.   

These clips have nothing to do with China or East Asian studies, but being back in the United States brings the political subject to mind!  And, from a performance perspective, Rep. Weiner’s delivery is quite effective.  

And then, during a hearing on the matter, Weiner displays a bulletproof fluency with the hip-hop scene while raising serious and valid new ideas about the direction that industry is taking:

The above clip dovetails nicely with an interesting online conversation I was having recently (on an undisclosed and quasi-totalitarian yet occasionally useful) website with the violinist Michi Wiancko about hip-hop’s massively positive upside (a medium unable to cower, bursting with assertions) and its spurious side (the culture of “the beef”).  The ability to wade into controversy directly is one reason hip-hop is so galvanizing: practitioners of other musical genre such as indy rock or opera too often simply abdicate from any political statements altogether.   When was the last time a symphony orchestra made a political statement that was not coordinated by the U.S. Department of State?  Only when attending concerts of the St. Louis Symphony conducted by David Robertson have I had anything approaching a feeling that someone speaking on stage might veer into the untoward, the murmur-causing, field of opinion and prompted and uncomfortable introspection.  But this is something to be enjoyed, and it is characteristic (one might even argue essential) component of art!  

Finally, since Michi lives in Brooklyn I hope that Weiner can mention her work as exemplary at his next hearing on musical trends.   If Weiner talks about something and doesn’t melt it down with his sarcasm, it’s a form of praise in itself.  

which calls for doggerel, not quite a rap, on politics and music and symphony orchestras, inspired by thoughts of my classmate and friend Bjorn Ranheim:

the cellist owes me verses/tailed on black coats to Powell Hall/I followed him to work one day in the fall/in St. Louis/arcs of Ravel there were thrummed/horsehair bit the bogen/sourdines dropped with little plips upon the bridges golden/La Valse roared and skittered/yet like footsteps creaking rhythms in the aftermath of applause/art of a more radical stripe was achieved/then, that day in October/im Wendesjahr 2008/in a hall full of bodies whose numbers could have swung the state/words from the baton-wielder/carried us up beyond the gasps of 1920s Parisians/they still gliding through their time like ghosts in The Shining/or lifted from apocrypha from my childhood bringer of Spanish canvases and Tzigane/today/the American conductor nestles down with a favorite amplifier/discoursing amiably on a recent date in September which fell along with buildings/and then he veered/with it/all the neatly arranged numerals/ got unstacked/scuffs were inflicted upon the president’s magnificently polished black stealth bomber/and the subscribers in St. Louis gripped their seats, amber velum and wood bending perceptibly/as if keyed by a high pitch of subversion in Robertson’s shoe/but my cohort, few though we were, crouched amid the kettle drums, taut with arrested age and brutal growing strength, we looked about/and we grinned.