here's the link to the playlist itself — see thread below for content notes if those are things you want/need!
Our entire solar system is violently inhospitable to us, except for this solitary Pale Blue Dot, our cosmic home suspended in the balance of a goldilocks zone with the Sun. What fortune to have self-awareness on this precious ocean world!
US health insurance dystopia, economics
"As [Case and Deaton] show, the [health insurance] premiums that employers pay amount to a perverse tax on hiring lower-skilled workers. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2019 the average family policy cost twenty-one thousand dollars, of which employers typically paid seventy percent. 'For a well-paid employee earning a salary of $150,000, the average family policy adds less than 10 percent to the cost of employing the worker,' Case and Deaton write. 'For a low-wage worker on half the median wage, it is 60 percent.' Even as workers' wages have stagnated or declined, then, the cost to their employers has risen sharply. One recent study shows that, between 1970 and 2016, the earnings that laborers received fell twenty-one per cent. But their total compensation, taken to include the cost of their benefits (in particular, health care), rose sixty-eight per cent. Increases in health-care costs have devoured take-home pay for those below the median income. At the same time, the system practically begs employers to reduce the number of less skilled workers they hire, by outsourcing or automating their positions. In Case and Deaton's analysis, this makes American health care itself a prime cause of our rising death rates."
— Atul Gawande, "The Blight", printed in the 23 March, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. Quote is on pp 62–3
every time i think i can't get angrier about the US health insurance system i am immediately proven extremely wrong!
death, existentialism, poetry
thinking a lot about the end of "Death's Echo" by WH Auden these days:
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.
Dance, dance, for the figure is easy,
The tune is catching and will not stop;
Dance till the stars come down from the rafters;
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.
(you can read the whole thing here: https://www.poeticous.com/w-h-auden/deaths-echo) something something trying to eke out some pleasure in the face of catastrophe something something escapism something something the purpose and futility of art
L'AMOUR DE LOIN But Not Terrible, A Proposal For Revision:
Jaufré is letting his fiefdom fall into ruination because he's so obsessed with How Terrible All Women Are. no one's quite up for assassinating him, but this situation clearly cannot go on
the Pilgrim (who is nonbinary — "my gender? ...boats? is Boats a gender? boats are good, i like boats" (yes, they're Extremely Still A Mezzo)) is like "no dude, there's tooooootally this perfect woman out there, she's just, uh, you know, in like, Tripoli, or something"
Jaufré cheers up and gets back to actually governing, and the Pilgrim decamps to Clémence (they're dating, it's gay) to tell her about this Hilarious Prank
but oh no! it turns out Jaufré became Obsessed and stopped governing again, spending all day writing love songs instead
the Pilgrim is like "regrettably, i do feel responsible for this one" and goes back to try to be like "hey so i ran into her again and she's not that into you so maybe chill?" but Jaufré is like "NO U DIDN'T DO IT RITE I MUST GO MYSELF" and the Pilgrim's like "FUCK"
the Pilgrim beats Jaufré back to Tripoli and is like "hey, Clémence, babe, i know this is Awks, but can you pretend to be this Perfect Woman i made up because shenanigans?" and Clémence is like "excuse, i *am* a perfect woman, but also ur gonna owe me big time"
Jaufré shows up and is like "i am dying of Unrequited Love Disease" and Clémence is like "that's nice?" and Jaufré is like "No, u Don't underSTAND,i am DYING of UNREQUITED LOVE DISEASE" and Clémence is like "...so?" and he's like "i made all this art for u tho?" and she's like "no one asked u to?" and he's like "but Love????" and she's like "listen buckaroonie, if u wanna date someone, use ur g-ddamn words and talk to them like a human being, none of this weird possessive obsessing from afar, capisce?" and he's like "this is literally incomprehensible to me" and dies
and the Pilgrim is like "again, very sorry about that" and Clémence is like "next time u invent a perfect woman for a creeper, say she lives in Normandy or something, you're doing the dishes forever"
and the chorus is like "treat other people like people instead of like fancy baubles for you to lust after and possess, ok? ok" and they all watch the sunset over the sea
here is an absolutely rushed first-draft breakdown of what this might look like
cannot emphasize enough that this is me doodling on the back of a napkin and that any final show will look unrecognizably different but this was fun to daydream here you go
Scene 1: Violet, our protagonist, is killing time on a dating app. various Interested Parties (chasers — she's trans) drop her a line, and try to make a big deal about how ~edgy~ and kinky they are. since to them, "being into trans women" is a kink, Violet is unimpressed. "oh yeah?", they say, "you think you have kinks or something?" "yes actually. i want to be eaten, whole. i'm into vore." the chasers . . . are not into this
Scene 2: Violet complains about this to her good friend Jane (also trans, and an Actor). Jane is like "i absolutely could not relate less i feel like i am constantly being eaten alive by theatre all the time already" and Violet is like "...wait say more"
Scene 3: split scene: Jane is in a revival of Guys and Dolls at a non-profit off-Broadway theatre, and Violet works on writing her show. the show is ok, but Violet has no connections and producers are not particularly interested; Jane is having a good time
Scene 4: Cecelia Edwards (very cis, oh dear g-d you have never met anyone more cis), who sits on the board of the non-profit off-Broadway theatre, stops by rehearsal before a board meeting. she corners Jane for one of those Extremely Awkward Conversations where someone who wants Ally Points clearly needs you to know that they're An Ally but also absolutely Will Not Admit that they're only talking to you because you're trans even tho that is *obviously* what they are doing. Cecelia thinks this goes *very* well
Scene 5: the board meeting. it turns out people are . . . not actually that jazzed to see Guys and Dolls in the year of the Christian l-rd 2022? they want something a little more hip? maybe even with a soupcon of social consciousness? the theatre needs to find an Exciting New Project or they're in for a rough financial ride
Scene 6: Violet and Jane meet to vent again, Violet about how producers don't want to give her the time of day because she doesn't have NYU on her résumé, Jane about how Cecelia has like, singled her out
Scene 7: Cecelia corners Jane again and is like "hey so have you ever thought about . . . writing a show i think u have . . . talent :)))" and Jane is like "pls leave me alone but also my friend is maybe writing something you might be interested in here's her info pls go away"
Scene 8: Jane calls Violet to apologize for giving out her contact info w/o permission, but Violet is over the moon b/c Cecelia reached out and seemed interested in doing the show. Jane is like "hey, actually, i don' think this theatre is trans competent at all, anything they do is gonna be Bad for the trans community, please don't do this" and Violet is like "no, i'm gonna"; they fight
Scene 9: Violet and Cecelia meet (over dinner, obvs) and it's . . . more than a little fucked up. each 100% thinks they're playing the other for her own ends, and so they eagerly decide to work together, assuming they can get the board to agree, which they do in a quick tag that ends the act with a big ensemble number
Scene 1: Violet's Show. (extremely stylized; we don't actually see that much of it.) it starts out good: the house is full, the audience likes it, Violet is ritually consumed each night. but then it starts to sour: there's no aftercare, the audience just wants more more more — she has to go on even when she's *super* not into it. there's only a parody of consent here; there's no real way for her to say no any more. she tries reaching out to Jane to say she was right, but Jane isn't taking Violet's calls
Scene 2: Violet asks Cecelia if she can re-write the show, maybe make it less about the constant regurgitation of trauma? Cecelia is like "no, the trauma is what makes it Authentic". and Violet is like, "ok, i guess i'm quitting then? but you have to replace me with another trans actor" and Cecelia is like "we are absolutely not going to do that, having Consumed your authenticity, we've incorporated it into ourselves and we can do it without you now bye". (Cecelia 100% does not see herself as possessing any actual authenticity; she is hungry to live vicariously thru ~more marginalized people~ who she sees as the sources of True Authenticity and culture. it is exactly as predatory and fucked up as it sounds.) Violet is like "well, i may not have *many* principles, but i can't let you do that, i have to stay"
Scene 3: Jane is like "ugh, ok, fine, i am being petty, i should reach out to my friend who is clearly in a bad place based on the last message she sent me" and tries to get in touch with Violet, but Violet is now the one who doesn't respond. Jane is like "oh no" and sets out to find her friend
Scene 4: it's the closing night of Violet's show. Jane finds her backstage after the final curtain, and she's a ghost of her former self. Jane is like "hey, but at least it's over now, right?", but Violet explains that the show was so successful that the producers want to transfer it to Broadway proper. cue Cecelia with a contract for her to sign! with the moral support of Jane, Violet is like "no, i'm not signing it", and Cecelia is like "whatever, trans stuff is so five minutes ago anyway, there'll be a new Hip Topic soon enough that we can tap into. and again, you, specifically, are irrelevant; there will never be a shortage of eager young things with talent to burn who are perfectly willing to throw themselves into the ever-hungry maw of the theatre industry. you're not special; you're just food"
Scene 5: how do you go on after that? "do you still want to be eaten?", Jane asks. "yeah.", Violet says, "but not like that. it's gotta be individually. one-on-one. i'm an artisanal meal." it's Not News that the world is Extremely Stacked against trans people, but they've got each other, and that's gotta count for something. as long as they stick together, they'll make it thru all right
1. Eat Me — Violet, Company
2. Coffee Break #1 — Violet, Jane
3. A Tale of Two Shows — Violet, Jane, Company
4. Changing Tastes — Board of Directors
5. Flavor of the Month — Cecelia, Board of Directors
6. Coffee Break #2 — Violet, Jane
7. A Simple Proposition — Cecelia, Jane
8. Sorry/What — Violet, Jane
9. A Simple Proposition (Reprise)/Flavor of the Month (Reprise)/Eat Me (Reprise) — Violet, Cecelia, Board of Directors, Company
10. Violet's Show — Violet, Company
11. Sorry/What (Reprise) — Violet
12. You Are What You Eat — Cecelia
13. I (Don't) Know — Jane
14. Violet's Show (Reprise) — Violet, Company
15. Exquisite Corpse — Violet, Jane
16. Vore Fetish — Cecelia, Company
17. Breaking Bread — Violet, June, Company
@brinsolomon 20 years from now, the "reimagined" musical (and film) will be called "Vore: The Musical", and it will only be slightly less wildly uncomfortable. maybe
@brinsolomon "Fathom Events Presents: Most Of You Should Stay Home, You Have Been Warned"
of course it's going to be a musical
anyway, i've finally hopefully *actually* fixed the second movement of my clarinet sonata and things are ~in the works~ to get a good recording of this piece that i wrote back in 2013 and am still quite proud of/happy with
when it comes to middle movements of my sonatas, i apparently have three modes:
1) first draft = only draft
2) uncountable revisions and alternate versions spread over years and years and years
3) CAN'T HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THE MIDDLE MOVEMENT IF THE PIECE IS ONLY ONE MOVEMENT LONG CHECKMATE ARTISTIC PERFECTIONISM
I THINK I HAVE SOLVED THE JOGGING SEQUENCE FOR REAL FOR REAL FOR REAL #AmWriting
i am organizing a low-key opera watch party for 15 April 2020
"hey brin, it's been a while since you recommended an off-the-beaten-track opera to watch, do you have any new recs?" yes absolutely BUCKLE UP MY BUCKAROONIES
so Modest Mussorgskii, right? wrote Pictures at an Exhibition. also wrote this very long and Very Russian opera called Boris Godunov. as with many Russian operas from the time period, it's kind of a mess, exists in a *bunch* of different versions
it's...out there. there's an entire interlude that's just two dominant seventh chords a tritone apart. there's some A++ writing for the bassoon under a Truly Melancholic High Tenor solo about THE TEARS OF MOTHER RUSSIA. there's a whole act that involves faffing about in Poland
"brin, is this opera . . . good?" WHY DO YOU ASK ME THESE QUESTIONS??? i watched the simulcast of it from the Met like, a month into my freshling year of college almost a decade ago when i knew precisely one (1) piece by Mussorgskii (namely, pictures) and approximately three (3) operas
it fuckn blew my mind. fell absolutely gonzo heels-over-head in love with it. definitely set in motion a number of Events in my life, including the time i sang in a Russian chorus that went on tour to NASA (i have photos of me with the Space Shuttle nbd). this opera is . . . lowkey like, probably at least 10% i'm a theatre composer? i also . . . have not seen a production of it since that simulcast nearly a decade ago. i don't know if it holds up! it could be *actually terrible*. FUN TIMES
but you know what? we can find out! TOGETHER! how, you might ask? well! the Met is streaming THAT VERY SIMULCAST from 7:30 Eastern tonight until 6:30 Eastern tomorrow
BUT BRIN, THAT'S PESAḤ! you object
yes, i know, listen, i don't like it either, here's what i'm going to do
there's this app called Kast, you can download it at Kast.gg. i'm gonna open up a public room called OperAviary at 12:45pm Eastern tomorrow afternoon (my username is rainbowtangle). i'm gonna hit play on the opera at 1pm Eastern and we're gonna watch it
there's a chat function so you can type to one another if you want! it can be fun and social! or you can just watch! i won't be typing b/c Yom Tov, but i will be keeping an eye on comments to make sure we're not raided by Nasty Folks from the scummy depths. (if things get really bad, i do reserve the right to pull the plug entirely. i don't *think* it'll come to that, but i just want to reassure people that yr not gonna like, be trapped in a chat room with terves or something!)
i've done a lot of one-on-one sessions with Kast and it's worked quite well, but i've never done a group thing like this before, so i'm not 100% certain that it will go flawlessly. i ask your patience if there are any kinks in the system. i hope it's a fun time!
come by for the whole thing, or just for a scene. let's watch some monks and princes and knights and prophets sloshing around on stage singing about the fate of Russia and stabbing each other in the back. it'll be a party! :DDD
very long post about classical music, communism, and Bad Takes about putting livestreaming behind paywalls, COVID-19
this pandemic is a global crisis, and in this moment of crisis, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of one of the noblest sentiments humanity has: what can i do to help? it is, i think, one of the most unadornedly beautiful things that people do: we see suffering around us and we respond by saying "what can i do to make this suffering less?". for some people, that has meant volunteering as emergency medical personnel or stepping up to sew makeshift fabric masks. for some, it has meant doing errands for elderly neighbors. and for some it has meant making music for anyone who wants it, has meant saying "this is an uncertain, terrifying time; here is a thing of beauty that might hold the terror, the numbness, the grief at bay for a minute, for just one minute, even, and let you feel alive and safe and loved and hopeful again, or maybe not even that, maybe just let you feel anything at all, maybe just let you actually feel your despair and your sadness and your rage and your fear in a way that is safe, or at least cathartic. art can't stop the plague, or make the old younger, or lower the price of bread — it can't directly fix any of your material needs right in this moment, but maybe it can be a balm for your emotional needs, your psychological needs, your spiritual needs. take it, free of charge. i hope it helps"
how do you look at that, at that impulse to help, however you can in a moment of crisis without stopping to think about how to turn a profit in the process, and say "this impulse is bad, we have to crush it"? what a noxious, poisonous way of looking at the world! this is a worldview that seeks to destroy all that is best in us, to cut out the noblest aspirations of our beings and reduce us down to cogs in the dystopian machine. it is vile, utterly vile
(Bergauer's take on why people offer live concerts for free is only a little better — she suggests that it's mostly to ~raise brand awareness~, which, again, probably often it is! but also the free concerts i have given have been driven overwhelmingly by love, by wanting to offer the gift of art to people i care about, by wanting to build a community by offering a place to come together for a shared experience of deep feeling, ends that seem wholly alien to her way of thinking)
it would be one thing if these takes were couched as emergency stopgap measures, along the lines of "i know we live in a nightmare dystopia; hopefully we can build something better soon, but we need to do X so we can survive until then", but they're not. the stuff before the "but" in that sentence isn't rhetorical throat-clearing; it's pulling at the Overton window, getting people used to seeing the present circumstances as contingent — as *changeable and constructed* instead of natural and inevitable
because in truth, this moment is full of radical possibility. i think there is a general impression in US culture at large that classical music is an art form for the well-to-do, that all classical musicians are well-heeled, and that the funding for classical music institutions is essentially a trust fund kid fun-time slush fund. and obviously, none of that is the case! and i think there is a tremendous amount to be gained — in both directions — in building working-class solidarity between classical musicians and exploited workers in other industries. and i think this moment, when not only are free livestreams proliferating, but also *more people are tuning in to these livestreams than came to concerts in person*, present a golden opportunity to start laying the groundwork for building that solidarity. at a time when more people are listening to us than usually do, what are we saying? are we listening to them in turn? is there potential here for a conversation instead of a lecture? what would the takes look like if they took *this* as their focus instead of fretting about how to lock this art away behind paywalls instead? can we expand our imaginations beyond the confines of the current nightmare, envision a world we actually want to live in, and start taking the steps necessary to build that world?
we live in a place and time of profound abundance. there is more than enough food for everyone in the world. there are more empty homes than there are homeless people in the United States. we have the money to care for all who fall ill. we do not lack resources, we only lack the political will to distribute them equitably
Bergauer, in her article, uses the example of food as something that you can't just get for free in the contemporary United States. there's more to that analogy than she makes of it. because yeah, right now, in this country, despite our material abundance, if you're poor, we say "fuck you, die", and people . . . do. people literally die in this country because they can't afford food. that is . . . ghastly and appalling on so many levels, and the only moral response is to ask "how do we remove that barrier, how do we make it so that no one starves for want of money?"
now, obviously, no one will physically die if they don't get a steady stream of Puccini or Beethoven. we don't eat music. and it's perfectly possible to have a 100% fulfilling emotional/spiritual/artistic/w/e life without classical music — for absolute poof, i cite *literally every human who lived before ca 1600* (or whenever). but i think it is emphatically, empirically clear that in times of crisis people turn to art. maybe not *literally every single human no exceptions*, but a large majority. even *not* in times of crisis, people want art. it's a deeply human thing: to doodle little patterns on the wall of a cave, to make up a song as your scything flax in the field, to dance in the evening under the stars. there is a profound need there. we can see it in the flip side, too, in the worst moments of humanity, in book burnings, instrument-smashings, statue demolitions — if you want to really *hurt* a group of people, destroying their art (or their access to it) is a powerfully awful way to do it
people may not need art in exactly the same way that they need food, water, and shelter, but that doesn't mean the need isn't real, and isn't powerful. it doesn't mean that nothing bad will happen if that need is ignored. if people are seeking out classical music livestreams in record numbers right now, i submit to you that it is because *they really want to listen to this music*, not because it's free and they think it's worthless
and the Lloyds and Bergauers of the world are looking at this state of affairs and, instead of saying, "how can we remove these barriers to access so that no one lacks this art for want of money?", they're saying "how can we make sure poor people can't have this, or at least, can't have the good stuff?"
and this is why it's so important that we ask not "how do we get average listeners to pay enough to meet musicians' material needs?" but instead "how do we as a society provide for musicians' material needs?". because again, we live in a moment of profound abundance! the problem is not scarcity, the problem is distribution
imagine a society where we work together, as a society, to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met. you will not go hungry, you will not go thirsty, you will not become homeless. imagine the possibilities that opens up for making art, for sharing art. we have the food for it, we have the money for it, we have the houses for it. it is a matter of distribution. it is a matter of political organization. that world is possible. we can build it
i am not saying it will be easy. i am not saying it will happen tomorrow, in the snap of a finger. but it also will not happen if we refuse to strive for it, if we refuse to organize for it, if we resign ourselves to the present reality, align ourselves with the status quo, and treat the current system as natural, just, immutable, and inevitable
let us turn our attentions to that better world. let us turn our energies towards building it. let us plan for how to get from here to there. and in the meantime, let us encourage kindness, generosity, decency, and gentleness instead of seeking to quash the few wan balms we have to give us faint succor in this awful time
I'm a writer, composer, and bassoonist with feet in both the classical and musical theatre worlds. In my free time, i am very gay. (they/them)
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