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Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 3:52pmSanction this postReply
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I have to wonder how Lanza's fans here feel about Armando Cesari's speech and book. Does Cesari's work elicit a sense of compassion for Lanza the sensitive artist, or do SOLOists morally condemn Lanza as a weakling who drowned himself in alcoholic victimhood?

In reading about the tragedy of Lanza's unfulfilled life, I think we can easily recognize what "ought to" have been, but, unfortunately, I don't doubt that if Cesari's words had been written instead as a work of fiction, SOLOists would refuse to find any value in it and would eagerly denounce it for its main character's "excremental" sense of life.

Or, to put it another way, I think there's something very wrong with an ideology which judges (and quite often misjudges) art more severely than it does life -- an ideology which, on the one hand, appears to pardon a man's self destruction because he had a pretty voice and a pretty face, but on the other hand reserves its moralist vitriol for rock-and-rollers because their works include honest expressions of angst or rage, yet who, despite facing the same -- or greater -- pressures which defeated Lanza, vigorously maintain their physical and mental health, their drug and alcohol-free existence, and their creative integrity.

Jonathan




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Monday, May 31, 2004 - 3:51amSanction this postReply
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Jonathan - You've rather missed the point. Mario's sense of life was exemplary, not "excremental." It was *precisely* his sense of life, along with his unequalled voice & his mastery of it, that made him so great. In part, his conscious convictions let him down (meaning, yes, he let himself down. But hell - is it yet reasonable to demand of a genius that his genius be unbreached in every sphere of his life? - See my article, Titanic Trio). In part, he was the victim of the Dore Schary regime in Hollywood that penalised the good for being the good. And in part, he was the victim of hordes of insensitive clods who had not one whit of the beginning of an intimation of a flickering of a glimpse of an appreciation of how great he was. How the hell was he supposed to understand that? Is it any wonder that he became a Steven Mallory? (Equally, of course, he was *adored* by hordes with better taste & similar senses of life. For *that* he couldn't be forgiven either!)

Linz



(Edited by Lindsay Perigo on 5/31, 4:37am)




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Post 2

Monday, May 31, 2004 - 7:59amSanction this postReply
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Cesari puts his finger on one form of snobbery that has long irritated me:

Because of his involvement with Hollywood, Lanza was never taken seriously either by the majority of the so-called music critics or by the musicals snobs, who looked down their noses at a singer of operatic capabilities who was making films, and very successfully, in Hollywood. ... The notion that someone commercially successful cannot be classified as an artist is absurd -- whoever said this had to be?

It is perhaps because of my openness to many different musical genres, that I have long respected greatness wherever it is manifested, whether that be in classical, jazz, rock (especially progressive rock), or any other genre.  In fact, I've long championed the musical legacy of the great composer, Miklos Rozsa, who was often denigrated by his colleagues for being a "film score composer."  The fact that so much of the Romantic spirit has been preserved in film scores, and that Rozsa himself was a prolific composer of both film scores and symphonic pieces, is something that the snobs rarely recognize.  His terrific Violin Concerto, debuted by the great Jascha Heifetz in 1956, didn't make it to the New York Philharmonic until a couple of years ago, where it was greeted by concert-goers as if it were new piece.  (These same concert-goers packed Lincoln Center earlier this year to see the great John Williams feature a night of film music that was astounding in its diversity, virtuosity, and melodic beauty.)  There is a whole legacy of "serious" music that has been bracketed out of the concert halls because it was written by film score composers.  (Rozsa wrote about this in his autobiography, Double Life.) 

All of this brings to mind what Rand said about the dualism of art and entertainment.  This false alternative, she said, was a vestige of traditional morality.  Art is supposed to be "serious and dull," while entertainment is enjoyable, but superficial.  The traditional view alleges that no serious work of art could possibly be both entertaining and "true to the deeper essence of life."  Rand rightfully rejected this credo in the creation of her own literature; we should reject it in our appreciation of great music of any kind, like that created by Mario Lanza --- who brings me to tears anytime I listen to him.



Post 3

Monday, May 31, 2004 - 8:58amSanction this postReply
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Well, Chris, I don't think the people of South Philly have any problem with Mario Lanza; the various murals of his image in their neighborhoods attest to that! Just like Roark's work found it's admirers (thanks to Roger Enright!), Lanza, Roza, and the other greats will find their audience, thanks to word of mouth like yours, which is the best type of P.R.! (BTW, I think Chris is the "Roger Enright of Objectivism: where Roark was the architect, he didn't know how to "sell" it, and needed an Enright to intermediate his work to the world; pity we don't see more of how Enright does that, as he is an "unsung hero." But we get to see it in Chris's work to drag Objectivism out into academia and into the real world as well.
And he doe, not by focusing on his enemies faults, but his hero's virtues.



Post 4

Monday, May 31, 2004 - 7:37pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan: As a huge (but discerning) Lanza fan, I can only say that I find both Armando's speech and book glorious tributes to a wonderful human being. Lanza's sense of life, as Linz rightly points out, was exemplary - and that's why it was indeed a tragedy that he self-destructed. His radiance permeated his singing - it was unmistakable, and he could not have been the singer he was without that life-affirming joyousness. We're not talking about a malevolent lowlife who just happened to be born with a voice! 

If anything, Armando's book is a compelling & compassionate account of what happens to a super-sensitive man when he is subjected to the hideous rules of a conformist society. If you're interested in learning more about what Lanza was up against, I suggest you read this essay of mine: http://www.freeradical.co.nz/lanza/ConfoundingtheEnemy.html, or better still, buy Armando's book! 

(Edited by Derek McGovern on 5/31, 8:06pm)




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Post 5

Monday, May 31, 2004 - 9:44pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan, I wonder if you've read Rand's article on the death of Marilyn Munroe. If not, I strongly recommend that you read it; I think it will help you to better understand Mario Lanza. Munroe and Lanza had a great deal in common. Both had a basic innocence, a lack of cynicism and worldliness, that made them vulnerable to the envy and malice of people around them -- but it was precisely their innocence that made their art possible.

You wrote: <> This Soloist feels great compassion for Lanza (as for Munroe). Greatness does not always come with invulnerable steeliness of character, it does not always come in precisely the forms we might choose, but surely we can appreciate greatness when we see it -- or hear it -- and sympathize with the fact that not everyone is able to withstand all possible pressures.

You wrote: << I think there's something very wrong with an ideology which judges (and quite often misjudges) art more severely than it does life -- an ideology which, on the one hand, appears to pardon a man's self destruction because he had a pretty voice and a pretty face, but on the other hand reserves its moralist vitriol for rock-and-rollers because their works include honest expressions of angst or rage, yet who, despite facing the same -- or greater -- pressures which defeated Lanza, vigorously maintain their physical and mental health, their drug and alcohol-free existence, and their creative integrity.>>

I have no idea what ideology you might be talking about.I have not seen, in this discussion, anyone who is concerned with a pretty voice and a pretty face. We are discussing a great talent and a great soul; that is, Mario Lanza.

And precisely where do you stand to have any idea of what pressures Lanza endured, or what what 'greater" pressures your rock and rollers faced? Lanza was not "defeated."Those who have only angst and rage to express are the defeated ones. Lanza never let pain corrupt his music, and it is difficult to imagine a greater triumph.




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Post 6

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 2:01amSanction this postReply
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I wasn't going to post in here for a while due to recent goings-on; I'd decided to just lurk a bit and glean what info I could in silence. But as I was doing so for the first time just now, I saw a post by the biographer of Ayn's life, one Barbara Brandon. All excited, I cut short an online chat and raced over here alone (switched screens, as it were), even though I love the person I was chatting with. 

I'd like to say many things to you, of course, but the above paragraph, now that I think about it, says it all. Sure, I could talk about how well written your bio is, or how much I'd like to meet you, or how happy I am that links to Ayn still exist. But all I really want to say exists in my first paragraph - you deserve attention. And a thank you.

-D

(Edited by Joseph Rowlands on 6/29, 5:45pm)




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Post 7

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 2:46amSanction this postReply
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Darin, thank you so very much. I appreciate your post.

Barbara



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Post 8

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 4:16amSanction this postReply
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Weeeeeeee!

I can't believe how happy I am.

-D




Post 9

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 7:29amSanction this postReply
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Now aren't you glad you hung around, Darin?

Not to disrupt this thread in any way--I really must look into Mario Lanza--but I wonder whether you, Barbara, might be able to provide input in the thread Challenge for Rand scholars: What in the world is "Ergitandal"? Your name was mentioned as a possible source of information.




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Post 10

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 2:59amSanction this postReply
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Darin, thank you so very much. I appreciate your post.

Barbara



Post 11

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 8:58amSanction this postReply
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Barbara wrote:
"And precisely where do you stand to have any idea of what pressures Lanza endured, or what what 'greater" pressures your rock and rollers faced? Lanza was not "defeated."Those who have only angst and rage to express are the defeated ones. Lanza never let pain corrupt his music, and it is difficult to imagine a greater triumph."


First, I don't think that Barbara is saying that all rock is angst and rage, and I think she is right when she says that those with only those emotions to convey are "the defeated ones." I do think it needs to be said, however, that rock and roll as a form of teenage rebellion needs to be distinguished from what became 'rock" in the 60's, which, whether or not you agree with the values, started as an "honest" expression of the anger against the war and the establishment. (How honest is open to debate, I know...) The problem nowadays is that the record companies pre-package angst and rage, and it's hard for me to take most bands seriously as rebels when CBS/SONY is backing them with millions of dollars. Most of these bands and fans wouldn't know true reasons for angst beyond "daddy took the T-Bird away" if it bit them in the neck...(sorry, that was a slam at the goth rockers.) Rock music IS capable of exploring a wide range of emotions as well as philosophic lyrical content when artists are allowed to express themselves. Progressive rock is a prime example of this. Unfortunately,
record companies go where the money grows, and the majority of fans seemed to want to keep music at the juvenile level of sex, drugs, and having a good time. Rock was not supposed to progress. And God forbid it was sensitive! Most rock fans are male, so the range of emotions in rock are usually limited to "masculine ones" (you don't want your sit with your buddies in a bar discussing the lyrical content of Yes's "And You and I" while wiping away a tear during the beautiful acoustic passage; what are you, some kind of sissy? [Surely I am sterotying, as I am when I think of the Irishman in the pub crying to "Danny Boy"). This attitude surely plays into matters of class and education as well as the culture...And so, concept albums and beautiful music gave way to the nihilism of the Sex Pistols, and the dumbness of the Ramones, or the empty style over substance of New Wave and the MTV generation. The Free Market allowed these genres to flourish. And yet, the nihilism forever,and even punk bands had to evolve, such as the Clash, who took up political themes, and even progressed musically, the MTV video format has yielded some interesting videos which are nothing short of cinematic.
Does that mean rock itself is flawed, or is it the psychology and philosophy of the fans in any given generation? I don't think it's the music, though I do believe the form will be influenced by the attitude. But I have seen music change several times in my limited timespan, from disco to punk, to heavy metal to Christian metal, from acoustic to electronic, from message oriented to music focused...and not one of these genres can be said to encapsulate the entire rock experience, for rock music is not fixed, is is ever changing, dynamic, and evolving.

There is also the issue of the lyrical content versus the music. Most "rock&roll" music is basic blues song structure.
"Rock", on the other hand, is a wide umbrella term, that encapsulates hard rock, heavy metal, and punk, as well as "soft rock," "jazz rock, "art rock," etc., not to mention R&B, funk, disco, techno, etc. And of course, instrumental rock, which is rarely 3 chords and a beat, but hosts a wide array of instrumentation, tonal and rhytmic variation, and
a wide range of emotion. There is even operatic rock, such as PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI, who could probably incorporate Mario Lanza into their work!

On the issue of lyrics versus the music, and it's relation...There is the saying that "the medium is the message." The lyrics are not always the message, as Rand herself pointed out in WE THE LIVING, referring to Kira's reaction towards the NATIONALE (?). While she abhorred the words and their meaning, she fell in love with the music itself.

I don't think rock music as a rule is nihilistic; much of it is life affirming, and just as beautiful as a Beethoven symphony. For example, there are moments on Yes's TALES FROM TOPOGRAPHIC OCEANS that are bursts of undiluted beauty. And then there is the "rock" band RENAISSANCE, which is more orchestral than rock, and features the beautiful vocals of Annie Haslam. This band has achieved musical nirvana for me with their arrangements and harmonies and melodies. Then their is King Crimson, who run from Jazz to Baroque to Gamelan minimalism and world music rhythms, to industrial! Their music can bring one from the pits of hell, to the gate s of heaven, and other places not even conceived of before!
Yes, there are the cacophonic moments, as well, which make those joyous moments that much more joyous. But even if that weren't the case, well. there is ugliness in life. And I believe music is a great way to address it, not to celebrate it, but to face it and grow beyond it. Rand wrote much about her "tiddlywink" music, and condemned work that had "malevolence, " yet ATLAS SHRUGGED, that ode to happiness on Earth, contains some of the most bitter, angry writing ever.But she had to do it, and I certainly don't condemn her for that. So if it's ok for fiction writing, why not for music, especially since many songs tell a story? The problem is that people seem to be more able to recognize that a novel is fiction, but a song must mean that the artist truly lives a certain way, that it's autobiographical. So, I wonder, is there is a double standard in play when one criticizes unpleasant music without considering the context?



Post 12

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 11:29amSanction this postReply
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Rodney, Barbara,

What in the world is "Ergitandal"?
 
I know, but I'm not going to tell you--I've never seen anyone explode from unsatisfied curiosity before and it appears you are about to!
 
(Don't tell him Barbara.)
 
......
 
Truth is, you've now raised my curiosity, and I would really like to know as well. So if you do know Barbara, go ahead and tell us.
 
Thanks!

 Regi





Post 13

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 3:22pmSanction this postReply
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To project what Mario Lanza projected with his magnificent voice would have been impossible for someone with an "excremental" Sense of Life.

His music, his movies, and Armando Cesari's book make it unmistakably clear that Lanza loved life with every ounce of his being, to the extent that he was utterly incapable of understanding, or even suspecting, the lengths to which the envy-ridden, the success-hating and the parasitically-driven will go to tear greatness down.

Jonathan, the tragedy for me was that Lanza had no comprehension of what he was up against, and therefore no rational means of combating it. Far from "morally condemning Lanza as a weakling who drowned himself in alcoholic victimhood," I see him as a larger than life figure whose voice and music embody all that life ought to be - but isn't, because of the ongoing battles many of us have to fight, on whatever level or scale, against those despicable types who played their part in crucifying Lanza for being what he was - *great*.

- Chris
(Edited by Chris Lewis on 6/01, 4:37pm)

(Edited by Chris Lewis on 6/01, 4:41pm)




Post 14

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 6:31pmSanction this postReply
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Earlier, I wrote:
"And yet, the nihilism forever,and even punk bands had to evolve, such as the Clash, who took up political themes, and even progressed musically, the MTV video format has yielded some interesting videos which are nothing short of cinematic."

That should have read:

"And yet, the nihilism couldn't last forever,and even punk bands had to evolve, such as the Clash, who took up political themes, and even progressed musically. And the MTV video format has yielded some interesting videos which are nothing short of cinematic."

A thousand pardons.





Post 15

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 10:44pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks to all who replied to my post.

I've been interested in, and often inspired by, Objectivist thought for quite some time, and you'll have to forgive my admittedly negative attitude, but over the past couple of years I guess I've seen too many "insensitive clods" (to borrow Linz's words) among you "who had not one whit of a [...] of a glimpse of an appreciation" of the art they've viciously criticized, very little, if any, concern for what the art might actually mean (including rather overt realism), or what level of passion and skill it took to create it.

My post here was not meant to disparage Lanza, but to try to understand how Objectivists can sympathize with him, forgive the role he played in his own destruction, express disdain for the critics who savaged him, and yet, at the same time, proudly claim to wage a "culture war" in which they often act with the same ignorant nastiness displayed by Lanza's detractors.

But, I must confess that I've begun to unfairly lump all of you together. In reading your replies, I see that I've  misjudged some of you and some of your ideas, and I apologize for doing so.

Jonathan




Post 16

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 - 10:48pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, and Joe Maurone, I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughtful and detailed post on rock music.
Jonathan




Post 17

Wednesday, June 2, 2004 - 5:29amSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Jonathan.



Post 18

Thursday, June 3, 2004 - 1:20amSanction this postReply
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Rodney said: "Now aren't you glad you hung around, Darin?"

 

You know it, home boy.

 

After Barbara's reply to me, I promptly made of my carpet a trampoline and began bouncing around the house in joy, bouncing higher and higher with every jump, until I failed to come down one time, suddenly hanging from the ceiling instead, my head stuck in a hole of its own making.

 

I couldn't believe I never thought of it before as a good place to fall asleep for a while.

 

I mean, if the ghost - no, spirit - of Lanza was to possess me while I lay asleep, what better place to encourage such than up by the ceiling where spirits are reputed to hover? It's only rational, after all.

 

Which leaves me wondering why on earth Lanza never gave unto me himself.

 

Not that ones voice sounds all that great when ones head is stuck in the ceiling, of course. I should know - many people have told me I sound like my head's stuck in a ceiling when I sing. And the even funnier thing is, my head usually IS stuck in a ceiling, Which makes them the fools for not actually noticing it.

 

But on a serious note now (yes, I'll try), I want to address this whole sense of life issue. Until now - until reading all these Lanza-related posts - I wasn't totally sure what it meant in here. But I think the meaning has now hit home, even if a little left or right of center still. Up until now, I've been a bit concerned about the view of strength vs weakness in this philosophy known as Objectivism. I thought it was all too close to praising the kind of false strength that one finds in, for instance, the rugby culture. The kind of strength that, while good on one level, seems to ignore a better form of strength that's simultaneously possible - the sensitivity that gives rise to states of extreme love and fascination-bliss.

 

However, maybe I was wrong. Suddenly, I feel that I can actually say here, in open air, that I often cry while listening to the likes of Celine Dion, and Art Garfunkel (the Bright Eyes song gets me every time), and so much else. Don't laugh, Celine kind of annoys me in certain ways I can't explain too, but sometimes, when I'm in the right mood, and a song of hers comes on, I'm reduced to a sentimental weeping wimp. Or so-called wimp. I don't think wimp is the right word, which brings me back to this whole sense of life thing. Unless I'm wrong, such behavior isn't frowned upon in here, isn't gossiped about behind the wimp's back, isn't UTTERLY AND TOTALLY MISJUDGED. I mean, I'm GOD when I listen to certain music! And you can't mess with that.

 
 So, I should probably listen to some Lanza for the first time ... sometime.




Post 19

Thursday, June 3, 2004 - 3:39amSanction this postReply
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Darin - *of course* such behaviour is not frowned upon here. I confess that Celine Dion doesn't do it for me, although *some* Simon & Garfunkel does. But each to his own. What *I* rail against is the unmistakably, conscientiously evil, destructive, anti-life, cacophonous assault on decency, romance & idealism that is much contemporary "music." Folk are entitled to jerk off to that if that is their wont. In my view, if that *is* their wont, they're sick. My view upsets some folk. Where's the problem? They don't have to agree with me, deal with me or listen to me, & they assuredly don't have to listen to my music. Methinks they do protest too much!

Jonathan - read the posts by Chris Lewis & Barbara Branden again.

Linz



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