Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sound, Fury, Marching, Listening

I spent Saturday at two events dedicated to sound and listening, although I didn't know it going in.

Part I

I went to the anti-war march/rally, pictures of which can be found on both sides of this entry. The march was notable for a few things (I largely skipped on the "rally" part/speeches, etc.):

1. In this, the heat of the city races, no politicians were there, at least during the march. No Eric Griego, no City Council candidates, not even the folks sponsoring the minimum/living wage initiative. Even though polls show a majority of Americans oppose continuing the Iraq War, events like this are shunned. Why? Hell, they're shunned by most of the people I know, and that subgroup is about 99-1 against the War.

2. By the time I left Jackson Park (a pitiful little area between Walmart and Highland HS) about the only booths I saw set up were from Albuquerque Peace and Justice and the Communist Party of New Mexico. I have nothing against either organization, but there's gotta be something a bit more up-to-date out there than two old folks sitting in front of a Communist Party banner.

3. Which gets me to sound and listening. We quietly walked North down San Mateo, accompanied by little or no chanting, scant music (one Tibetan handbell, a lonely harmonica), and only the occasional "when do we want it?" on a rather forlorn megaphone. By far the quietest march I've ever been on. Walking fast and slow among the crowd, I picked out plenty of private conversations, Internet fueled speculations (e.g., "I think W is back on the sauce. I saw it on the Internet.") and scattered bitching about the Albuquerque Police. All in all, we could have been walking to the Lobo game.

4. We got to the "rally" and the loud music kicked in, but outside of the respectable numbers there wasn't much to impress anyone. I already mentioned the few booths, but more importantly there just wasn't any oomph, passion or reason to be there. My two cent opinion on why is two-fold:
A. The Albuquerque Peace Movement needs some new leadership. I like old folks, like 'em plenty, but in addition to an average marcher age of 59, the folks running these shows seem to be too old, tired and out-of-touch to fire up a community opposing the war. We need a new spark, and there was a disappointing number of young people both marching and leading.
B. Those involved with these marches focus on a very broad "War is always bad" agenda, spiced up with the eternal "no nukes, etc." sentiments. The idea that wars are sometimes necessary but THIS IS THE WRONG WAR LED BY THE WRONG PEOPLE is pretty much verboten. I may be in the marcher minority, but I'm not dreamy enough to think wars are going away, and hell, it may take a war to change the direction of our own country. The reason why a majority of Americans want the troops home isn't because war is inherently evil.

The upshot is that the march and its leaders largely had a tin-ear in listening to what is making the war unpopular. We all, quietly, seemed to be just marching incoherently. I also think it's true that the ABQ peace movement doesn't really know what to do with a lead. Now that the tables are turned, and unlike March 2003 it's position is largely supported, what does it do now?

It's used to being that scrappy little dog barking uselessly in the corner. I think it prefers to be the scrappy little dog, and Saturday's march looked like a scrappy little dog that wasn't even really barking like it meant it.

Part II

Then I went from the faintly ugly to the predominantly sublime and saw Thomas Riedelsheimer's Touch the Sound at the Guild. I've spent the last two years writing a bunch of movie reviews, so I'm too burned out to bore you with cinematic analysis, but let's just say that anybody with an iota of artist's blood in them will like this movie. It's a look at Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie and her rather madcap life as an avant-gardist musician deeply passionate about sound and sound-making. Reidelsheimer directed the quite-wonderful documentary Rivers & Tides about the work of sculpture Andy Goldsworthy, and Mr. R. here uses the same visual devices to explore an aural artist.

We get to see Glennie work with long-time experimental string-artist Fred Frith (who actually steals the doc to an extent), better understand her obsession with hearing the endless sounds around us, and get to find out that Ms. Glennie is almost completely deaf. I think the film will attract some with this deaf person-as-musician angle, but it's rather unimportant to both the film and Ms. Glennie work. After a quick explanation by the percussionist of how she hears, you don't wonder how a deaf person could be a musician, you wonder how a deaf could NOT be a musician.

There are drawbacks...it's about 10 minutes too long, and if you can't stand the inherent narcissism of modern avant-garde music it's about 30 minutes too long. Still, I found it inspiring and incredibly thought-provoking. I also love Mr. R.'s visual sense, and the juxtaposition with an aural artist was really fun. To put it in context, I admired the way Riedelsheimer listened to Ms. Glennie's world and visually/aurally immersed us in it. I also admire the higher level listening that Evelyn Glennie exacts from the world around her, and wish I could be that good a listener for just one day. As a former drum student, it also wouldn't hurt to be able to play xylophone, drums etc. half as good as she....there are some great musical passages amidst the intentional noise.

P.S.: After seeing the movie and loving it, I went to the Evelyn Glennie website (I knew nothing about her going into the movie). Not to appear too Netsnobby, but have you ever really liked something and then checked out the website about it, and the website was totally lame and had broken links and shit, and you thought, "hey, maybe I shouldn't like this so much"? Well, here's Evelyn Glennie's website.

Yeah, she also sells jewelry, which for some reason brings up all this anti-jewelry making angst caused by bad previous relationships. I think I'll see a therapist tomorrow.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think most people who are in the know about what can change our conditions the most right now were out doorknocking and phone banking for mayoral and city council candidates, and/or the living wage and clean elections code measures. Marches can be fun, but they don't really achieve much these days.

If everyone who was in that march would give $10 or $20 bucks to candidates and the ballot intiative groups and a few hours a week to campaigns, real change could happen. As it stands, it depresses me that so many who march do nothing else.

And, yes, I'm one of the old fogies and I, too, wonder where our youth is. Don't like the current anti-war movement? Make your own. However, I find so many younger people so disconnected from politics that I guess it will take the coming draft to wake them up to the realities of war.

frannyzoo said...

Thanks for your comments...I tend to agree with your assessment on the worth of marches these days, but I'm still disappointed that Eric Griego, for example, wouldn't show at least for a few minutes. There is definitely a disconnect between the marching folks and the "mainstream" folks, one that is weird given how the overall public seems to generally agree that it's time to get out of Iraq.

As for the youth issue, I know there are oodles of young folks with strong views on the topic...maybe they just don't have a connection to the "movement" as currently constructed. And maybe something more up-to-date than a march (massive Podcasts? live coffeehouse blog fests?) is needed to inspire them to action.