Thursday, April 29, 2010

Docker Awards for Misusing Music as a Metaphor For Life

If you follow the news a lot you may have noticed that one of the Supremes has decided to retire. No, not a singer; a judge on the Supreme Court. President Obama gets to nominate his replacement. The Senate gets to advise and consent to it. Everyone has an opinion.

Former oboist Meghan Daum, in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, has an opinion. Her opinion is that an oboist should rule us from the Supreme Court bench. Why?
Because oboists may vary in talent, discipline, ethnicity, gender and taste in unfashionable clothes, but we all have one thing in common: We're just about the most judgmental people on the face of the Earth. Ergo, one of us should sit on the highest court in the nation.
That's actually as good as her argument gets. Nothing about how the precision required to play the oboe might make someone better able to adjudicate minute details of a legal argument. Nothing about how learning to blend the potentially penetrating tone of the oboe with other instruments in an ensemble might teach a judge to balance the feelings of opposing communities. Not even a suggestion that the joys of playing instrumental music might give a justice valuable relaxation time from the pressures of being the ultimate arbiters of just about everything.

Daum does mention one physical issue of oboe playing:
It also means blowing so hard into them that you risk a brain aneurysm every time you try to hit a high D.
But this is actually an argument against choosing an oboist for the Supreme Court. It means the person might die at a younger age - and Presidents want to pick someone who will be around for as long as possible, so their own personal influence on the court lasts that long as well.

Since I find this article so amazingly pointless, I've decided to reanimate the long-dead Docker Awards.  These awards are bestowed by me, their namesake, for any reason I deem appropriate.  This Docker, for Misusing Music As A Metaphor For Life In General And Politics In Particular, goes to Meghan Daum and to the L.A. Times for printing her piece on the editorial page.

I've discussed the subject of musical qualifications for people in public office before. Check out this Mixed Meters post, Unqualified For President. After suggesting that anyone who actually runs for President should, for that very reason, not be given the job, I respond to a journalist who suggested that Mike Huckabee (remember him) was not a good candidate because he played the bass. In that case, the journalist actually had some arguments that were to the point. I gave counter-arguments about why a bass player might be a good President. (Of course, in many non-musical ways, Huckabee's qualifications were lacking.)

Here's another post, Artistic Politicians, somewhat to the point.  The politicians are Nixon (a former second violinist) and Hitler (who suggested that artists, for example cubists, who do not accurately reproduce the human form in their work should be sterilized).  (No, I did not make that up.)

And I've even written about the oboe before. Check out Combining Four-Letter Words, Oboe + Blog.

Check out this video about how playing the oboe doesn't really qualify you to play NFL football.

Justice Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

30 Second Spots - A Newspaper In Traffic

You're probably wondering what sorts of things do I do at Mixed Meters when I'm not worried about foolish opera festivals and frightening neo-Nazis.  One thing is that I take pictures of trash, things other people have thrown away and no one else, except me, ever looks at.

If I find trash which is moving I make a video of it. Sometimes I write some music to go with the video. I never know what sort of music to expect and neither should you.

To that end, here's a little video drama, complete with my musical soundtrack, entitled "(Sometimes I Feel Like) A Newspaper in Traffic".

Our hero is a sheet of newsprint, a flyer advertising loss leaders for a large grocery chain.  The paper is separated from his friends and far from the safety of his metal rack.  I found the paper on a busy Pasadena street directly across from a store in that large grocery chain.  Crossing a street is quite an accomplishment for something with no motor abilities at all.

As the scene opens, our hero is being attacked by a series of terrible mechanized war machines from the present against which he has no defense.  He must roll with every punch.  But during a lull in the attacks he is able to regain some lost ground by gliding on a gust of wind.  Eventually the enemy regroups and the sheet of paper is driven off.  Apparently things end badly for our protagonist.

(Sometimes I Feel Like) A Newspaper In Traffic © 2010 by David Ocker    99 seconds.  You can find the video directly on YouTube here.  Please consider watching in hi-def.  Please consider leaving a comment.

Other recent videos of mine:
Flashing (for Kraig Grady)
Water With Ducks
Squawk! (in which a peacock sings a short phrase from the Joe Liggins tune "The Honeydripper")
Rain Random

Traffic Tags: . . . . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ring Festival LA meets Hitler's Birthday

Today, April 20, 2010, would have been the 121st birthday of Adolph Hitler. Usually Los Angeles has no public celebrations of Hitler's birthday. This year we've had two, very different in basic nature but with surprising similarities.


The first was a march last weekend by the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi white-supremacist group who marched Saturday in downtown Los Angeles waving swastikas and sieg heiling. The called it their "Reclaim the Southwest" rally. Having received a parade permit from the city, they were separated and protected by the LAPD from the much larger crowd of counter-demonstrators.

Judging by their website (, these people came here from a long distance. They chose LA because we have so many illegal aliens who, back wherever they came from, are taking their jobs. You can just imagine what they think about Jews.

Here's what I read in this article:
According to NSM leaders, the rally was being held to remember the birthday of Adolf Hitler, the former German leader of the Nazi Party. Hitler's actual birthday is not until the 20th of April.
The United States is a free country and every one has the right to say what they think even if it's hateful.  People did not have that same right in Hitler's Germany. Making sure there is strong First Amendment protection for people with nutty, contrary opinions means our protection against developing our own fascist government is also strong.


It's called Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard and it's part of Ring Festival LA.  Here's a description I found at the website of Villa Aurora, the event's sponsor:
Nussbaumer’s Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard is a passage opera that processes Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen through the respectful distance of time, marking both obvious and obscure references.

Preceding the first complete performance of his four evening cycle in Los Angeles, Wagner’s “Gesamtkunstwerk” — which ignores the presumed boundaries of opera, theater, music, stage and audience — was conceived contemporaneously with California’s gold rush and is therefore completed by the invisible Siegfried’s journey from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean across Sunset Boulevard, featuring alto Christina Ascher.
Huh?  Here's the idea as I understand it:  People are going to put on heavy metal Wagnerian-style helmets, possibly including those with horns, and march and sweat their way down sections of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, starting downtown and ending four days later at the ocean and there's going to be a woman singing Wagner and we are assured that there will be drinking and who knows what else.

The artist who conceived of all these conceptual concepts is named Georg Nussbaumer.  I bet there has been drinking. 

The description of Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard which really pushed my buttons comes from this LA Times article by :
It's no coincidence that the event concludes on the birthday of Adolf Hitler, the best known and most notorious Wagner lover of all. Nussbaumer said he consciously chose the date to defy Hitler by transforming this historical day into something "new, bright, excessive, peaceable and lively."
Transform Hitler's birthday into something "new, bright, excessive, peaceable and lively"?  It's like a traditional Hitler birthday party but with beer instead of cake.  In my opinion that's just plain sick.  In reality Nussbaumer's event is not defying Hitler, it's calling attention to him.  It's positive publicity for Hitler.

Has no one at Ring Festival LA noticed that this is one small step in the exculpation of Adolph Hitler?  Maybe they don't care about this aspect as long as the event involves Wagner in some way.  Maybe there's been drinking at RFLA as well.  Maybe they're ROFL.

Nobody who is actually from Los Angeles whom I'm aware of celebrates Hitler's birthday, at least in public.  If there is any notice of Hitler's birthday, it should be a sober affair with somber, temperate reflection on the anguish of Hitler's victims.

Jews already have a holiday to remember Hitler's evil deeds.  It's called Yom HaShoah, it's the Holocaust memorial day and it just happened last week.  It is not a bright or lively day.  Nor should it be.


It's easy to see how they're different, but how are Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard and the National Socialist Movement's Reclaim the Southwest Rally alike?
  • Both events happened in Los Angeles.
  • Both events observed Hitler's birthday.
  • Both events involved people marching.
  • Both events have people wearing helmets.
  • Both events displayed Nazi symbols: swastikas in one, Wagner's music in the other.
These two events, happening so close together, are creepy and wrong.  I suggest that if people really need a date on which to remember Adolph Hitler they might choose April 30.  April 30, 2010 will be the 65th anniversary of Hitler's suicide in his Berlin bunker.

 Read all of Mixed Meters articles concerning Ring Festival LA

Looking for a different holocaust holiday? Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day is April 24. It's widely observed in my part of Los Angeles.

The story behind the Washington Holocaust Memorial door with bullet holes is here and ends here.  The picture came from here.

The picture of the guy with the helmet and the swastika flag and the picture of the guy with the watering-can helmet on a beach which is not in Santa Monica came from the LA Times.  My apologies for swiping the pictures.  More pictures are here.

The picture of the coin showing an all-American Richard Wagner panning for gold in the California Gold Rush with the words "Liberty" and "In God We Trust" came from the Invisible Siegfrieds Marching Sunset Boulevard website which also contains a picture of a supposedly all-American-Indian cast of Wagner's Ring and also George Nussbaumer's bank account numbers so you can make a contribution, presumably in honor of Hitler's birthday.

Addendum (4/23/10)

Here's one of several pictures of ISMSB on Flickr.  One Flickr user, Larry Gassan, wrote this about the straggle of Invisible Siegfrieds he encountered:
This had to to be the loneliest subset of devotees I've ever encountered.  The three Siegfrieds, with the fourth inside the mylar-shrouded buggy, complete with loudspeaker, commence Day 2 of their March to the Sea on Sunset Blvd. This is singular, and heroic in the face of overwhelming indifference by the world at large.

Here's another one taken by Mr. Rollers and it seems to show that all the helmets were identical.

As pointed out by MM reader MarK,  here is an Invisible Siegfrieds review from the L.A. Times which uses the one adjective "innovative" to describe the project.  Here's a quote from the article:
Participation was less than expected. “I’m a bit surprised about the low number of 'Invisible Siegfrieds' we were able to recruit,” Nussbaumer said. “About 50 people said they would come, but none of them appeared. I thought that in a metropolitan city we would find at least ten people marching with us, because then the interplay between silence and singing would have been more effective. It’s also a pity, because artists could have had a truly unique and interesting experience.“

Helmet Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rose Harris (1911-2010)

Leslie's Aunt Rose Harris passed away this morning at the age of 98 years, 8 months. Until she fell and broke her leg two weeks ago she lived alone in her own apartment.  While her ability to move about was increasingly limited,  mentally she still had everything together. Many people decades younger than Rose envied her memory and mental faculties. I was one of those people.

This is Rose at Leslie and my wedding in November 1992 when she was 81 years old.

Rose Harris, November 1 1992

Here is a picture of Rose as a small child.  The year is, maybe, 1915.  The small boy with his arm around her was her cousin.  The woman standing at the water pump is her mother Frieda.  This may have been taken at a farm in upstate New York, although Rose's family lived in Philadelphia.

Rose Harris as a little girl

Rose Harris as a little girl detail

While still a child Rose's left leg was trampled by a team of runaway horses pulling a wagon. Medical science of the time did what it could (although it would have done better with a sober doctor). She underwent numerous operations and spent years in bed. Ultimately she walked again and lived a normal life.

Her family moved to Pasadena in the twenties, living first in a house just south of what we now call Old Pasadena.  She lived in this area ever since working as an executive secretary for many years.  Her last residence, in the Green Hotel Apartments, brought her back to within blocks of that first house.

Here's a snap of her as a young woman at the beach, probably on Catalina Island.  The picture was taken by her lifelong friend Burma.  Below that is a formal portrait of her at about the same time.  The portrait hangs in our hallway paired with a similar picture of Rose's brother, Leslie's father.  The two pictures were signed by photographer Maurice Constant.

Rose Harris at the beach

Rose Harris portrait

Rose was the first of Leslie's relatives whom I met.  She told Leslie "I want to meet this new boyfriend."  She took us to lunch at a fancy restaurant.  I was completely charmed by Aunt Rose. Indeed, people who met Rose liked her.  She had no troubles holding up her end of a conversation.   She had many friends.

Eventually, however, gravity stopped being Rose's friend.  She became increasingly frail through her 80s and 90s.  Although she could still get around with the help of her walker, even the smallest door jamb could become an insurmountable impediment.  We wanted her to get one of those electric scooters that the government gives away free to seniors.  She absolutely refused.  She was determined to move under her own power.

Rose Harris with her walker, January 2009

We were always expecting her to fall.  She did several times.  Once, when she opened her front door, the handle came off.   She fell backwards and basically just bounced off a cabinet.  She was fine.  While getting checked out in the emergency room she started talking with a woman who later asked me about her.  She said "What a charming lady."  Rose demanded to go home before the tests were complete.

Last fall Rose fell and fractured her arm.  We convinced her to stay with us while she recuperated.  Once she got to our guest room she decided that she really wanted to be back in her apartment sleeping on her own bed.  When we tried to dissuade her, she threatened to call the police and claim that we had kidnapped and abused her.  She spent one night in our house.  Within a month she was completely recovered.  Did I mention that she was independent and determined?

This picture shows Rose about age 91 at our dining room table.

Rose Harris, age 91

On March 26 we got the call that she had fallen again and fractured that same left leg that had been trampled in her childhood.  This time the break was above the knee.  One doctor compared it to a hip fracture, the legendary injury of old people.  As had happened in her childhood, her leg was fixed by a surgeon, this time a good one.  Orthopedics may have come a long, long way in 90 years but it hasn't figured out how to help a frail, near-centernarian overcome excruciating pain. We knew what it meant when her determination to keep moving didn't reappear.  Her last five days were spent in a hospice with Leslie by her side almost the entire time, both day and night.

Other things besides medicine came a long way during Rose Harris' lifetime.  Things like automobiles, airplanes and radio had yet to take over the world when she was a child.  Rose gave us a connection back to those times when (we'd like to believe) things were simpler.  My last conversation with Rose, then already in the hospital bed for more than a week, was about old-time ice deliveries and California Coolers, the way they kept food fresh before refrigerators.

And Rose was a precious link to the generation of our parents.  We loved her dearly both for who she was and for those people no longer with us who she came to represent.  Leslie and I have realized that we're now at the age when finding a new parental figure to replace Rose is very unlikely.

And we loved and admired Rose for her courage and determination.  The resolve, tenacity and independence that kept her small, weak body going on and getting out, always with a remarkable good humor, gave us a role model for growing into our nineties.

Rose has been a large part of my marriage to Leslie.  And of course she's been a huge part of Leslie's entire life.  We are devastated that Rose had to go, but we're glad her pain has stopped.  We will miss her and we will remember the things we learned from her.  She will remain our role model for living keenly into old age.

Here are Rose and Leslie in February 2009 waiting for pastrami sandwiches. 

Rose Harris and Leslie Harris February 2009 waiting for pastrami sandwiches

On Sunday, September 2, 2007 - when Rose was 96 - Leslie and I visited her apartment to help find items she could donate to a White Elephant sale.  We also went through boxes of old pictures and Rose told us who the people were and something about them - sometimes touching on the slightly darker family secrets.  I made a 52-minute audio recording of the event.  Today I edited this down to 16 minutes - mostly there's a sense of continuity.  In other words you can follow the discussion. I'll warn you in advance: my voice is too loud, Leslie's is too faint, but Rose's is just right.

If you like evesdropping this recording might be for you.  You won't know who these people are nor should you.  Leslie and I don't know them either. But this recording will give you a splendid feeling for what it was like to talk with Rose.  You'll notice how she gets very quiet at the juicy parts of the story.  Plus you can get a feel for how a woman born in 1911 might swear. And she has a couple favorite phrases that pop up again and again.  This is the Rose Harris I will remember.

Listen to Rose

Alternate link

The final picture is Leslie helping Rose outside her apartment building - probably on the way back from breakfast, January 2009.

Leslie Harris helping Rose Harris on the sidewalk, January 2009

Friday, April 09, 2010

My Music on Mixed Meters, a history

(Prologue: Scroll down, skip the words. There's a lot of music to listen to in this post.)

One of the principal reasons I started Mixed Meters in 2005 was my desire to post the short musical pieces I was composing at Starbucks. (These are called Thirty Second Spots, but you knew that, right?)  At first I tried to use only free web services.

At the time I had a paltry 10 megabytes of online storage which quickly filled up with mp3 files. I looked around for a free web service that would allow me to post audio files and provide an embedded player.  This would allow listening with just one click.  I found Castpost.  Castpost worked fine through half of 2006. Then, suddenly, it stopped allowing further uploads. 

The old links still worked but the handwriting was on the wall. Someday soon, I figured, Castpost will disappear and my files will vanish into puffs of digital smoke.  I sought another site. The new site I found was MOG. I converted all my Castpost embeds to Mog embeds.  End of problem.

Mog worked fine for me though 2009.  Then it went through a reorganization - something to do with copyrights and paying the music owners. All my files stopped playing.  The embedded players stopped working.  If you try to play the files you get this message:
Mp3 streams are temporarily disabled.  Sorry for the inconvenience.
Apparently people who pay $5 a month can listen to my music on Mog.  Even if I paid the five bucks I wouldn't be able to embed my own music on my own blog - which was the whole point in the first place.

My current solution is a free Google player which streams files uploaded to a website which I pay for.  As long as I keep paying, the music should keep playing.  I hope.

Still with me?  Finally we've arrived at the present.  Imagine my surprise recently when I noticed my Castpost blog (the listing of all my posts combined).  It appeared in a Google search.  After 3 and a half years all the files still play.  Sometimes they take a while to load, but they play. 

I swiped the html source code from Castpost, cleaned it up and pasted it into this post.  All the Castpost embeds appear below.  None of this music is available in the Mixed Meters left column.   Go there if you want even more of my music.

These twenty Thirty Second Spots are all 90 seconds or less.  (So sue me.)  Most have copyright information which indicates the exact date of composition.

In addition, there's one extended piece from my years as a harried graduate student.  It's called Voluntary Solitude for clarinet (me) and live electronics.  If you can live through the first 30 seconds of that piece you might enjoy the rest.

Please listen.  Please enjoy.  Whether you enjoy or not, please leave a comment.


Macaca's Jewish Mama

a short 30-Second-Spot in honor of Senator George Allen, a Virginian who would be President, who said his own mother (according to the NY Times) hid her Jewishness from him because she feared he would love her less

Copyright (c) September 22, 2006 by David Ocker

The Gray Song

54 seconds - Just another piece of crappy electronica distilled to less than one minute.

Copyright (c) June 22,23 2006 by David Ocker

Jihadist Boogie

Copyright (c) June 15, 2006 by David Ocker - 59 Seconds ("one" (30 second spot) in the time of "two")

What Would Barbie Sing?

A short song - inspired by a news story about the quest to find 3 or 4 notes which will sell you Barbie dolls.

Here are the lyrics if you want to sing them yourself:
  • (verse) I'm Barbie. I'm Barbie. What would I sing for you?
  • (chorus) Math is hard.
  • (verse) I'm sexy and plastic and Christian through and through.
  • (chorus) Math is hard. Math is hard.

copyright July 3-7, 2006 by David Ocker, 52 seconds

Fang Man's Blues

30 Second Spots - a-sort-of-a-kind-of-a blues tune in honor of composer Fang Man and also the Hang Man's Blues by Blind Lemon Jefferson

42 Seconds Long - Copyright (c) June 29-30, 2006 by David Ocker

Model A Mazda

uses just one pitch so you know it's going to be really boring - but it's also short

The Cross is So Frickin' Cool

The title was overheard in a Starbucks. It was said by a seminary student, studying for finals. ("Frickin'", of course, is just a hollow substitute for "Fuckin'".  But you knew that.)

Oh, Was He Still Around?

The title was my reaction when I heard that Kagel had died.  No wait.  Ligeti.  It was Ligeti.
Copyright (c) June 13, 2006 by David Ocker

Flakes (Desiccant)

An outtake from a much longer piece entitled "Eating the Desiccant" which is not available online.

30 Second Spots - copyright (c) June 2006 David Ocker

Voluntary Solitude (1975)

13 minutes 04 seconds - a piece for clarinet and live electronics - all sounds come from the clarinet. Recorded May, 1975 - David Ocker, clarinet

(c) 1975, 2006 David Ocker

The Laptop in Live Performance?

30 Second Spots - 35 Seconds Long - copyright (c) March 14, 2006 by David Ocker

That's The Point of It - Extended

A long 30 Second Spot - 79 seconds - copyright 2006 David Ocker

By Then She Would Have Slept With Him

30 Second Spots - 36 Seconds Long - copyright (c) Feburary 24, 2006 by David Ocker


38 seconds long - 30 Second Spots (c) February 22, 2006 by David Ocker

Walking Room Rainbow

30 Second Spot - 69 seconds long - solo guitar -copyright (c) March 3, 2006 by David Ocker

That's Not Your Baby Concerto - Long Version

the 33 second version expanded to over 2 minutes - still a 3 movement concerto - copyright Feb 18-21, 2006 by David Ocker

That's Not Your Baby Concerto

a three movement concerto in 33 seconds - copyright Feb 18 2006, by David Ocker

Something I Need to Discuss With Arnold

a 30 second spot, composed by David Ocker, on February 7, 2006 - 33 seconds long - a midi performance, music that splits in two half way through

Mozart and Microsoft - Early Death

composed Feburary 16, 2006 - 30 seconds long - a Work Song for a Gang of Convict Frogs

Clock Time

31 seconds long, composed February 14, 2006, an Infuriating Concerto for Woodblocks

Mean Burn

90 second mp3 of "Mean Burn" by David Ocker - midi

Castpost Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, April 05, 2010

Ring Festival LA begins

This Sunday the LA Times printed what is probably just their first big puff piece about Ring Festival LA.  It quotes Placido Domingo who said the festival will be:
the largest, most significant cultural festival in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival.
If you just count the number of days or each of the small repeated events, then this canard is barely creditable.  If you really speak about the festival's significance to the culture of Los Angeles, I'm afraid Placido's statement has The Big Lie feeling about it.  His statement is going to get repeated often in the near future.  People will begin to believe it.

Two other Sunday pieces in the LA Times reported on upcoming performances of music by composers who were suppressed by the Nazis, Franz Shreker and Erwin Schulhoff.  Maybe it's just a coincidence of local concert programming and newspaper editing but I wonder if this trend represents the subliminal notion that our current local Wagner-mania can be balanced somehow with composers who were victims of the Wagner-loving Nazis. 

Meanwhile, two other relevant articles, more interesting to me, appeared in Saturday's LA Times.  Saturday papers don't get as many readers.  Indeed this first article, entitled "Wagner tested, testy in 'Richard'" written by Philip Brandes, was not deemed worthy of inclusion can now be found here on the LA Times' website.

It is a review of a play "Richard and Felix, Twilight in Venice" by Cornelius Schnauber.  In it Richard Wagner, about to die, meets the ghost of Felix Mendelssohn who returns with knowledge of the future Hitler and his Nazis.  Mendelssohn confronts Wagner with this information.  Wagner, it seems, is unmoved.  I'm happy to report that Richard and Felix is a part of Ring Festival LA. 

Presented at the Met Theatre in Hollywood Richard and Felix ends on April 25 over a month before the beginning of the first complete Ring performance at the Music Center.  I'm guessing this Met is a space with about 100 seats - meaning that at most a thousand people will have a chance to see the play.  Will even one of those people also attend LA Opera's Ring cycles?  Wagnerds and Ringnuts ought to be the target audience.  That's just my opinion.

Here's the final paragraph from Philip Brandes' review:
Though [the actor who portrays Wagner, Don Deforest] Paul hasn't entirely wrapped himself in the character's skin, his self-righteous Wagner convincingly tries to distance himself from all accountability, invoking his deeply pessimistic philosophy of the more fundamental evil inherent in all humanity - the destructive craving for power and profit that can only be overcome through great art (presumably by writing operas glorifying characters who destructively crave power and profit.)
Accountability, of course, is difficult to pin on Wagner who died long before massive evil was committed to the sound of his own music.  I think this unimaginable Nazi evil, the ultimate self-destructive lust for power, still stains the music of Wagner.  That's very appropriate.

Wagner may or may not have created great art.  Even if he did, I don't suppose that means it has always been used to the benefit of all mankind.  No musician or music lover or stage director should approach the music of Richard Wagner without an awareness of how that music was misused in the past.  As Richard and Felix implies, Wagner would not take responsibility himself if given the chance.  Each generation must place it upon him.  (Read another review of Richard and Felix which regards the play as a rather crass apology for Wagner.)

Another Saturday LA Times article was about Denis Avey, a British soldier who was captured by the Nazis and sent to a prisoner of war camp near the death camp Auschwitz.  He was forced to work alongside some Jewish inmates from the nearby camp.  Incredibly, on two different nights he traded places with one of the Jews, sleeping and eating inside the death camp itself.  Only recently has he told this story.

This paragraph caught my attention:
Still, he said, he knew he was entering hell when he saw the body of a hanged man dangling from a gallows just beyond the entrance gate, which bore the infamous slogan "Work Sets You Free." Inside, as the camp orchestra played Wagner, the prisoners submitted to roll call, then awaited their rations.
Why, I wonder, would the Nazis play Wagner for Jews.  Wouldn't their "exalted" music be too good for Jews?  Maybe they thought forcing Jews to listen to Wagner would demoralize them even more - a form of musical weaponization.   Or, maybe, they thought Wagner was so potent, so uplifting, that the Jews would work harder, inspired by Wagner's music?

Online I found this article, Music of the Holocaust which mentions music in the death camps
The Nazis also used music to control prisoners in concentration camps. An orchestra of Jewish inmates was created to play joyous music to distract new arrivals as they disembarked from trains and awaited selection, and to perform rousing marches to energize prisoners as they marched off to forced labor.
But did they play Wagner? Here's a quote from the second book of Richard Evans' 3-volume history of Nazi Germany, The Third Reich in Power (p.564).  This is about pre-war Nazi Germany.
Jewish musicians were not allowed to perform music by Richard Wagner or Richard Strauss;  Beethoven was added to the list in 1937 and Mozart in 1938.
Finally - here's an article, US Group Recreates Nazi Death-Camp Orchestra.  It's from USA Today.  Although the article doesn't mention Richard Wagner and it is about a different death camp, it is still interesting.  Here's a quote:
"At Birkenau, music was indeed the best and worst of things," wrote the late Fania Fenelon, a cabaret singer from Paris who wrote the book Playing for Time, which was turned into a television movie starring Vanessa Redgrave.  "The best because it filled in time and brought us oblivion, like a drug; we emerged from it deadened, exhausted," Fenelon said, "and the worst because our public consisted of the assassins and the victims, and in the hand of the assassins, it was almost as though we too were made executioners."

Frank Zappa's quote "Music is the best" comes to mind.  But Frank did not mean to suggest that music should be a deadening narcotic.  What he meant was that music was the best, most uplifting thing of all possible things, anywhere, ever.  Learning about how the Nazis used music, especially Wagner's music, ought to make us realize that some music can be given a dangerous, frightening downside.

Wagner's death mask came from here.

Music Is The Worst Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .