Thursday, December 25, 2008

Quote Book: T.S. Eliot

"For last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words await another voice.  And to make an end is to make a beginning." - T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Out of / Into Annapolis

I just arrived for a little holiday snooze and chill break with family in Annapolis, Maryland, home of the United States Naval Academy.  It's a really charming little city, with excellently preserved architecture and supremely awesome Southern food.  I haven't been out of the city for longer than a few hours since the summer, and a little country R&R is exactly what the doctor ordered.  I love New York and will defend it against any hater, but sometimes it can just wear me down.  That's usually when I come down here.

First orders of business till Friday evening: eat, sleep, watch TV, write.  Ahhh...

And by the by, a documentary about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender alumni of the Naval Academy is in the works by retired submariner Steve Clark Hall.  Lead:
One captain in the Marine Corps had to sign the confining orders to send a lesbian to jail, but was so disturbed that the next day the officer, who was also gay, submitted his resignation papers. Another man, from the Naval Academy Class of 1958, was kicked out of the military because his name was found in the address book of a "known homosexual." Other gay men and lesbians left the service because like Steve Clark Hall, a nuclear submarine captain who retired after a 20-year Navy career, they could no longer bear the burden of harboring an enormous secret about their identity. "I was tired of being single and not being able to live life the way I wanted to," said Hall, 54, who has begun gathering these stories for Out of Annapolis, the documentary film he is making about gay and lesbian alumni of the Naval Academy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shut Out (Again)

Along with millions of my fellow gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans, I was shut out of the collective joy over Barack Obama's election to be the next president of the United States by the passing of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California.

And now I, along with all those same millions, will be shut out of the collective joy over Barack Obama's inauguration to the presidency by his selection of Rick Warren to deliver the invocation.

Mr. President-Elect: You have said that your selection of Pastor Warren was intended to send a message of inclusiveness. Well, here's my message of inclusiveness: We are Americans, too, and "inclusion" must include us.

I hope you will honor your desire to give all Americans a day we can be proud of.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stay Tuned:

The end of this week also means the end of finals at J-Town (!), and with that:

  • a writeup of the Juilliard Orchestra's performance of John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1
  • a writeup of the Orchestra of St. Luke's performance of Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar
  • lots of other stuff that's been kicking around my head lately.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


A big, big, BIG congratulations to my friend Austin Wintory, who was just shortlisted by The Envelope as a contender for the Best Original Score Oscar for his work on Captain Abu Raed.

Austin and I spent a few years of our undergrad life together at NYU, and he's not just an incredible composer, but he's one of those unbelievably laid-back and super-nice Rocky Mountain types. Maybe it's the thinness of the air? But seriously, folks, he's a great guy, and it's pretty awesome to see his name alongside all those others. He deserves every bit of it.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oh, bee tee dubs, Gaeta's gay.

A main character on a pretty macho sci-fi war show is clearly the worse for wear. He's told he needs some rest, and that he should think of it as a gift, not a punishment. He protests, insisting that he's fine, but eventually relents and heads off for some well-deserved R&R. He limps all the way to the shuttle, because he's recently lost a leg--he took a bullet during a recent insurrection.

On the way, a man stops him, calls him by his first name. The man hands him some painkillers he's acquired--we're not told how. He's thanked, and kissed. Kissed the way you're kissed when you've been together for a while. They say their good-byes, and our man heads off for his week-long leave.

That's pretty much how nonchalant the outing of Felix Gaeta (and Lt. Hoshi, his hot BF) was in Part I of Face of the Enemy, the series of webisodes leading up to the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

Even though I've discussed my reservations about the outing happening outside BSG-proper, it is still pretty awesome that a show can deal with the homosexuality of a main character in such a "so what?" way. It wasn't "a very special episode," neither of the men are visibly conflicted over being gay, none of the other characters seem to care. This isn't Brokeback-in-Space, either, with an openly gay man in love with a closeted/"straight" man he can never truly have. That last scenario in particular has become an especially vexing cliché within gay cinema and TV, and it's a relief to see something that's so clearly not that.

And I always get extra-special-excited about gay characters on genre shows--think Willow and Tara on Joss Whedon's brilliant Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, the Captain Jack / Captain John / Ianto triángle-du-löve on Torchwood--partly because it's so rare and partly because, well, I effing love that ess. A gay action hero? So hot. I'm like leaping out of my fanboy skin to see how this is handled in Season 4.5*

I'd be a total lame-o at this point if I didn't give a major shout-out to Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, another major genre work that deals with gay themes. I think that Chabon, like most writers, is too cruel to his gay characters, but it takes place in the 1940s and 50s so he's kinda excused (history has been cruel-er than writers have).

*Before Gaeta was officially gay, I was on board with his being the final Cylon. But now that he's a 'mo, it would just be another "let's make the gay character weird/different/evil/non-human/sub-human" cop-out by the writers (cough, Admiral Cain: Turbo Death Dyke, cough). Please, writers, be smarter than that. I luvz you! Kthxbai.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I love you; you're wrong.

John Corvino has an awesome column up over at 365Gay about maintaining close friendships with people who hold anti-gay views. He hits on something really important that I wish gay rights activists would talk about more:

"Do I worry that our mutual graciousness makes it too easy for him to feel “open-minded” and “tolerant” while maintaining an anti-gay stance? I would, were it not for the fact that I remind him regularly of how wrong and hurtful that stance is. In my view, such reminders have more weight coming from a sincere friend than a hostile enemy."

I think we all either have or have had someone like that in our lives. A member of my immediate family is a conservative Republican, and while he loves and supports me and asks me regularly if I'm dating anyone, he tends to parrot conservative talking points--like the one about how all the Prop 8 protesters are violent, guilty of infringing upon people's religious rights, etc.

It hurts me pretty deeply to hear him say that. I mean, I went to both the Mormon Temple march and the City Hall rally immediately following Election Day, and I did not see a single violent or even pre-violent incident. I did not see anyone disrupting anyone else's right to practice the religion of their choosing. Were some of our signs snarky and pissed off? Yeah, but only because we were pissed off. You'd be pissed off too if, like my friend M-- and his husband J--, you suddenly didn't know if you were married anymore.

But I think it really hurts because it means that he's not as on-board with the movement as I wish he'd be. I challenge him on these things regularly, but usually not on emotional terms. I can show him facts--X number of violent incidents reported versus Y numbers of protesters--but it's harder to open up and say, look, it hurts me that you don't believe that we're better than that.

The gay rights movement, and the marriage movement in particular, will not succeed unless we start making our case emotionally to people like him. We have to open ourselves up, and risk looking silly, and lay our hearts on the line. Isn't that what marriage is all about?

Quote Book, Juilliard Edition

"When someone says, 'oh, that's not my forte,' what they really mean is that when they do that, they're not forte. They're not loud. Forte means loud." -- unknown student, Rose Walk, 11:55 AM

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Random Thoughts, 12/11/08 Edition

I did an exceptionally great job shaving my head today. It's super-smooth and that makes me happy.

When you've spent the day outside your apartment/house/abode, and then you get home and it starts raining, there's a kind of pleasure you get from the knowledge that it could have rained while you were out/at work/at school, but it didn't, and now you get to just listen to the rain falling. When you've spent the whole day at home, however--orchestrating--and it starts to rain at the exact moment you have to go to Kinkos because the school lab is closed and your project is due tomorrow morning, there ain't no isn't-the-sound-of-rain-beautiful pleasure then.

Re: yesterday's Random Thoughts on beard itchiness and majesty, there is indeed a bell curve of itchiness as growth increases. I did kinda cheat and trim the jawline though. Sue me.

Some music is just perfect for late, rainy nights. I leave you with the sublime and haunting finale of Morton Feldman's classic Rothko Chapel:

I am City Opera

Bravo to City Opera for finally taking their situation public. As a young dramatically-minded composer, I have to say that City Opera has always given me hope that all my hard work isn't for nothing.

I remember being an undergrad at NYU and seeing their VOX Festival of works in progress, curated by Mark Adamo, the amazing composer-librettist who would eventually become my teacher. I can't overstate how powerful it is for a young composer to see operas that are brand new, unfinished, imperfect. Operas that are not already lionized as being the zenith of human achievement in the field, and oh yeah, don't bother trying because you can't possibly top this.

It never really occurred to me before then that anyone could write an opera; it seemed more like something old(er) composers did at the peaks of their careers, and why even bother thinking about it at 20? But then the 20-something composer of this new piece bounded on stage after his performance, and he looked sort of like me. And his music sounded sort of like mine. The gauntlet had been thrown.


AfterElton reports:

"The blogosphere has been abuzz for several weeks now with news the Battlestar Galactica was going to finally add a gay male character (or two) when the show debuts their new "The Face of the Enemy" webisodes starting this Friday.

Well, I just watched the first two webisodes and I can confirm the speculation is true. Find out who is gay and what happens with them after the jump. But only click through if you don't want to be spoiled about the reveal or the two webisodes!"

So I actually have mixed feelings about this one. I'm F*@KING OVERJOYED that a show built on subversive portrayals of gender and sexuality is FINALLY getting a gay character
, and I'm equally thrilled that it seems to be who I think it is. ______ has fought and suffered just as hard as anyone else on the show, if not harder, and we've never seen him express any interest in women. So it's not a "shock!" outing, and it's not a let's-out-the-hairdresser-on-a-war-show outing either.

The one bugaboo is that the big reveal is happening during a series of webisodes before Season 4.5. Couldn't we have it happen on the show proper, where more people would see it? Then again, Season 4.0 ended like a bazillion million years ago, and any fanboys like me are probably salivating at the thought of Battlestar-ANYTHING at this point, so maybe MORE people will end up seeing it? And it's not like anyone's going to start tuning in to the show now that hasn't been on board all along--it's definitely of the Miss One Episode and You're F*#%ed School of television writing (see also: Lost, 24, Heroes, et. al). I also hear that, in sci-fi nerd parlance, the webisodes are "canon," which--loosely translated--means that shit matters if you're gonna be watching Galactica Actual in January. I can see it now: "Previously..."

IMPORTANT: Sucuzhanay Vigil Time/Location Change

There's been a change of plans, with two vigils merging into one:

We will now be meeting at the corner of Myrtle Ave. and Grove St. (Take the L to Myrtle-Wyckoff) at 2PM. We will then walk to the scene of the crime at Bushwick Ave. and Kossuth Pl. for a vigil at 4PM.

I've created a facebook page for the event here.

(Candles won't be much use at 4PM, since sunset Sunday won't be till 4:29, but I can't edit the title of the event. Lame.)

Quote Book, 12/11 Edition

"This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

Leonard Bernstein

If the AIDS quilt sang, it would sound like...

... John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1, "Of Rage and Remembrance," which will be performed by the Juilliard Orchestra under James DePriest at Carnegie Hall: Friday December 12 (tomorrow) at 8PM. Tickets are $10 and $25, half price for students.

Written in 1990 as a personal response to the AIDS crisis, and Cleve Jones's AIDS quilt in particular--Corigliano has said that he lost count of friends who had died after a hundred--the Symphony is a perfect illustration of what I want to talk about here: music that grapples with the world as we live it. It sings, but it also shrieks and cackles. I don't think I've ever heard scarier music.

Stay tuned after the concert for a proper write-up. It's truly a masterpiece, and I hope some of you get to see it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Candlelight Vigil in Honor of Jose Sucuzhanay: Info


Below, information for the upcoming candlelight vigil in honor of Jose Sucuzhanay. The primary organizer for the event is Meg Hitchcock, and a special thank-you goes out to the writer Nathan James for helping to put this together.

Sunday, December 14th

Dear Everyone, Early Sunday morning 2 brothers from Ecuador were walking to their homes in Bushwick arm in arm. They were attacked by 3 men who shouted anti-gay and anti-Hispanic insults as they beat the brothers with an aluminum baseball bat and a broken bottle. Jose Sucuzhanay died Tuesday morning from extensive brain damage and skull fractures. He co-owned a real estate business in Bushwick. A vigil has been organized by a Bushwick community member, Meg Hitchcock. Note, this event is not organized by Arts In Bushwick, but we will be there and we hope you'll come show your support in protesting this horrible attack on a member of our community. Sunday, December 14th Meet in front of The Archive café at 49 Bogart Street (at Seigel and Bogart) at 7pm. We will walk to the scene of the crime at Bushwick Ave. and Kossuth Place and have a few moments of silence at 8pm. Please bring extra candles. And, spread the word!

Random Thoughts, 12/10/08 Edition

My beard itches.

Mixed-meter motets are hard at 160 beats per minute. No, soprano clef does not make them easier.

If I trim the beard now, it will be less itchy but also less majestic.

Re: Sir Michael Tippett's King Priam, composers who are not trained librettists/playwrights should generally not write their own libretti. "How, Helen, after such love with me, can you now go lie with Menelaus?" Yeah, Helen, what the f*@k? Pwned.

If a big, hairy, middle-aged gay man is a bear, and a young bear is a cub, and a skinny, hairy middle-aged gay man is an otter, and a second train leaves Chicago heading east at 65 miles per hour, then what am I (a 20-something, skinny, hairy gay man)? A baby otter? Isn't that like a pup or something?

If I wait and let the beard grow out, will it get both less itchy and more majestic? If you could graph this itchiness vs. majesty relationship (X = majesty, Y = itchiness), would it look like this beautiful bell curve?:

My friend A--, who just finished 25 minutes of a 45-minute film score in four days, by his sheer awesomeness makes me feel like a wuss for complaining about the two minutes of composing I have to do by tomorrow. Thanks, A--, thanks a lot. Also congratulations.

This motet is actually kind of pretty.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gay Activism Round-Up: Upcoming Events

Just a quick note tonight on some upcoming LGBT-related action events:

There will be a meeting for the NYC chapter of Join the Impact (the people who organized, from practically nothing, a massive nationwide day of protest against Proposition 8 on November 15th that drew hundreds of thousands of people) at the LGBT Community Center (W. 13th Street, between 6th and 7th). If you're interested in helping plan and carry out upcoming actions, this meeting will be a great place to be.

Also--and I'm waiting for specifics on this one--there will be a candlelight vigil held by New York's Latino, immigrant, and LGBT communities to mourn the brutal, anti-Latino and anti-gay murder of Jose Sucuzhanay, a straight man who was beaten to death with an aluminum baseball bat by four men who merely thought he was gay (the PDA that led to his death was, according to various reports, an arm around his brother's shoulder, a coat put on his brother because it was late and cold). I will of course keep you posted on specifics when I find them out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Story Behind the Banner: #1

I took the photo that became this banner at the first NYC protest against the passage of Proposition 8 (November 12, 2008). We gathered at the Mormon Temple on 65th and Columbus, but there were so many thousands of people that it became a march down to Columbus Circle, which is where I got this shot. There was a kind of buzz and positive energy in the air that night; it was the first time in my life that I got to participate in a mass gay protest, and I'll never forget that feeling. Vive la resistance.

¡Ay, qué día tan triste en Granada!

Stay tuned for a review of Sunday's concert performance, by Dawn Upshaw, Kelley O'Connor, Robert Spano, and the Orchestra of St. Luke's (and many, many amazing others), of Osvaldo Golijov's supremely awesome one-act opera AINADAMAR at Carnegie Hall. It was a searing, heartbreaking performance, and you'll hear all about it as soon as I find a few more creative ways of saying that it rocked the f*@#ing house.

Welcome (Back)

Welcome to A Wall of Sound! It's taken me a long time to figure out what I want this blog to be about--first it was a travelblog-a-logue, then it was, well, nothing--so consider this A Wall of Sound 2.0.

I originally wanted this post to codify what the blog was going to be about, in a sort of angsty high-Germanic sturm und drang way ("If you STAHT in ze C, you must END in ze C!"), but I think it'll be much more fun to just write about whatever the hell I want.

Test, test

1, 2... 3?