What to Do

What to Do

Whenever we have initiated a discussion about whether or not music can be or should be political on these pages, there is usually an outpouring of very interesting reader responses. David Smooke’s post last week more than lived up to these expectations, with extremely articulate rejoinders from a wide range of perspectives. Among my favorites were Phil Fried—”Long after the rubble has been cleared art will bring the remembrance and the forgetting” and Mischa Salkind-Pearl—”Beethoven’s 9th never set anyone free. But just think how many people it may have motivated.”

My own feelings about contextualizing music in any way have always been somewhat ambivalent. While history clearly reveals that music has served as a catalyzing influence for just about every significant group activity for which there is surviving documentation (from marriages and funerals to wars to the establishment of new religions and the perpetuation of older ones, and on and on), I’m also well aware that the very music that might have been used for such contexts can just as easily take on new meanings if listeners are not aware of its original intent and, sometimes, even if they are. Music transcends place, era, and language, but to some extent that’s because it’s untranslatable. At the same time, as important as music is in my life, it is not the sum total of existence. An essay that Daniel Felsenfeld wrote for us back in 2005, which urged readers to directly help the victims of Hurricane Katrina rather than write a symphony about it, still makes a lot of sense to me. In my own compositional efforts, I’ve always been reluctant to create something that is a direct response to a specific event even though I’m well aware that such responses have triggered some extremely valuable musical works from others, e.g. even Katrina, which inspired Ted Hearne’s tremendous Katrina Ballads.

Several of the events of the past couple of weeks have been extremely unsettling—the civil war in Libya, the earthquake in New Zealand, and the even more massive earthquake and tsunami and their aftermath in Japan immediately spring to mind. Some may find in these tragedies the seeds for extremely significant artistic statements that will stand the test of time, which is all well and good and which I will not discourage. But for the present moment I would like to shine light on another aspect of how the things we can do can make a difference in more immediate and tangible ways.

It was particularly heartening to learn last week that a March 27 concert that John Zorn put together at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre to benefit Japan earthquake relief efforts sold out in less than seven hours after tickets were announced. Zorn has organized an additional benefit concert—which will include performances by Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Ikue Mori, and Norah Jones, among others—at the Abrons Arts Center on April 8. And on April 9 from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Zorn will participate in a 12-hour long Concert for Japan presented by the Japan Society which will also feature Philip Glass, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Bill Laswell. In addition, on Wednesday, March 23, Wynton Marsalis and his quintet will appear at EN Japanese Brasserie, for a fundraising effort which will also include a meal featuring regional Japanese recipes from the areas most affected, as well as a silent auction. Tickets are $250 in advance and $300 at the door and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Japan Society’s Earthquake Relief Fund and the Japanese Red Cross. And on Thursday, March 24 in Baltimore, violinist Hilary Hahn, whose upcoming concert tour to Japan had to be canceled, will headline a benefit which will feature performances as well as an art and jewelry sale at St. John’s of Baltimore. All proceeds will go to Direct Relief International’s Japan Relief and Recovery Fund.

We’d very much like to hear of other such events involving musicians taking place around the country (please provide as much information as you can: links etc.), all of which is extremely inspiring testimony that music can indeed have a direct impact.

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6 thoughts on “What to Do

  1. paulhmuller

    The ImprovFriday event for March 18 and 19 featured live streaming concerts to benefit the relief effort in Japan. A link to the American Red Cross donation page was placed at the top of the list of pieces posted for this week at http://www.improvfriday.ning.com

    Additionally, a number of IF artists contributed tracks to ‘For Japan’, a benefit CD available at http://www.amaranthsound.bandcamp.com All proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross Japan relief effort.

  2. Excombray28

    Thursday, March 24 – 7:30 p.m.
    Baltimore, MD
    Featuring: singer/songwriter Caleb Stine, violinist Yuka Kubota, pianist Yoshie Kubota, Baltimore School for the Arts students Tariq Al- Sabir and Robert Pate, and Suzuki students from the Peabody Preparatory
    2640 Space at St. John’s

    Friday, March 25 – 7:30 p.m.
    Alexandria, VA
    Featuring: Valentina Lisitsa
    Westminster Presbyterian Church
    Free, donations encouraged

    Sunday, March 27 – 3 p.m.
    Morrow, GA
    Featuring: Valentina Lisitsa
    Spivey Hall at Clayton State University

    Monday, March 28 – 9 p.m.
    Brooklyn, NY
    Featuring: Josh Ritter, Chris Thile, and Caleb Stine
    Galapagos Art Space

  3. Mischa Salkind-Pearl

    Doing Good
    Frank, it’s great that you draw attention to these events. I personally find myself getting bogged down in the “what am I doing for society?” question, but it’s crucial for artists to remember that what we do has the power to DIRECTLY contribute to something meaningful. Hilary Hahn is a great example. (And being a Baltimore native, I know that people will turn out in droves to support this concert). Thanks for the post!

  4. Ratzo B. Harris

    Japan Relief Concert at Puppet’s Jazz Bar
    On Sunday, April 3rd, Puppet’s Jazz Bar (481-5th Avenue in Brooklyn, NY) is presenting a Japan Earthquake Relief Concert by the Chihiro Yamanka Group from 7-10pm. A $10 donation is requested with all monies going to the Japan Relief Effort.

  5. Frank J. Oteri

    Just received word of this concert tonight, Monday, April 4, 2011 at the legendary Village Vanguard in NYC where John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and scores of other jazz luminaries gave some of the most memorable performances of their careers…

    Barry Harris and Tom Harrell will be joining Toshiko Akiyoshi; Cecil Bridgewater; Jerry Dodgion; Roy Hargrove; Fred Hersch; Jimmy Owens; Rufus Reid; Marvin Stamm; Lew Tabackin and Kenny Werner at the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s Japan Benefit on Monday Night April 4…Live at the Village Vanguard. There are three sets: 8:00, 9:45 and 11:30 PM

    For more information or to reserve tickets, go to: http://www.villagevanguard.com.

  6. akjo

    Japan Charity Concert + Pottery Market at the Gershwin Hotel
    Cost: $10 admission
    Date: Thursday, April 7th
    Time: 7:30p-10:00p Pottery Market
    8:00p-10:00p Live Music
    Place: The Gershwin Hotel
    (7 East 27th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue)

    Japanese-born composer Asuka Kakitani’s Jazz Orchestra will collaborate with the NY Togei Kyositsu pottery studio for a charity event for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
    The 18-piece Jazz Orchestra, AKJO, will play Asuka’s original compositions and arrangements of Japanese children songs. In addition, Togei Kyositsu members’ pottery works will also be available for purchase.
    All the profits from pottery sales and donations plus a majority of ticket sales will be donated to Japan through the Japan Society.
    Please come to hear great music and buy beautiful pottery to help Japan!


    Asuka Kakitani Jazz Orchestra

    Reeds: Ben Kono, Alejandro Aviles, Mark Small, Jason Rigby, Kenny Berger
    Trumpets: Jeff Wilfore, Dave Spier, John Bailey, Matt Holman
    Trombones: Mark Patterson, Matt McDonald, JC Sanford, Max Seigel
    Guitar: Nate Radley
    Piano: Carmen Staaf
    Bass: Dave Ambrosio
    Drums: Chris Benham
    Voice: Tammy Scheffer


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