Sometimes, I feel like an updated but down-at-the-heel version of the protagonist of Delacroix's celebrated painting, "The Death of Sardanapalus," in which the ancient Assyrian king, defeated by his enemies but determined not to let them enjoy the spoils of war, looks on calmly as he himself, his opulent palace, and all of his possessions -- including a white steed, a few slaves, and some lovely concubines (in varying states of undress, naturally) -- are about to go up in flames, by his own command.
My fifth-floor Manhattan walkup doesn't bear much resemblance to Sardanapalus's palace, and I'm a little low on horses, slaves, and concubines these days. But as I look at a reproduction of Delacroix's marvelous canvas, I wonder about my own attitudes. There's Sardanpalus, reclining on his bed, propping his head up on one hand, and staring into space, as if he were thinking, "I've had a wonderful time, I have no regrets about dying, but if I have to die, what do I care if everything I love dies with me?"
Sardanapalus's beard is black; mine, if I let it grow out, would be gray and white. I'm heading toward my sixty-second birthday, and for more than fifty of these years I've had the privilege and joy of getting to know vast quantities of wonderful music of all epochs and of hearing these works performed by outstanding musicians. I may not be very old by present-day standards, but now that I'm well into the phase of my life that may euphemistically be called late middle age, maybe I ought to give more thought than ever before to the question of why I, and millions of other people around the world, listen to and love this music, and why I hope that millions of people younger than myself and in generations yet unborn will be listening to it and loving it as long as our civilization survives.
Sardanapalus may never have existed, and if he did, he left no traces of his thoughts about posterity -- although Byron put quite a few interesting words in his mouth some twenty-five centuries after the presumed king's presumed death. But as far as I can tell, I do exist, and as a music historian, writer, and journalist, I make my living (such as it is) by spouting off. So what I propose to do in my blog, which begins with this brief introduction, is to offer my thoughts, on an irregular but frequent basis, on the music I hear today and the music I've heard over the last half-century, and how it all relates to the larger subject of art for our sake, as opposed to art for art's sake - whatever that might be.
AJ BlogsAJBlogCentral | rss
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog