Homework

Silence, Perfect Lives, Easy Rider

Friedrich Nietzsches mustache

Peter Price is my husband, the father of my children, the co-director of <fidget>, and my long term collaborator for about 18 years, so to say I am biased in this introduction is a bit of an understatement. When I was sixteen I thought Peter was the most brilliant man I had ever met. In October we’ll have known each other for twenty years, and my opinion hasn’t changed much in all this time.

Peter’s form of intelligence is kind of a dying breed. Some would call him a cynic. He is staunchly resistant to the cultural imperative of positivity, and observes the world around him with more acuity than most. He’s quick to point out corruption, and has the ability to simultaneously regard situations from multiple perspectives. His most common response to any question, whether the subject is politics, art, philosophy, or even science, is “Well, it depends on how you look at it.” Peter is also probably one of the most insatiable “consumers” of culture that I know. When we first met, he read close to 100 books a year (since kids, he’s slowed down, a subject of constant disappointment to him, but this means he devotes more reading time to news articles and online cultural commentary). As a composer and musicologist, Peter has a formidable listening practice, and a collection of thousands of CD’s. With film and visual art, too, Peter has extensive knowledge and the ability to read long-term cultural trends and how they relate to social and historical events over long periods of time. Because of all of this, I was really excited to have Peter respond to prompt #18, “Homework.” His knowledge of so many different art forms is so expansive and so deep, I thought this would be a real treat for any reader. But, then again, I’m biased.

– Curator Megan Bridge

The Magic Flute (1791) – Mozart

Adorno heard in The Magic Flute the last moment before the disastrous split in western music between high and low, serious and popular, the academy and the culture industry. But more than this The Magic Flute is one of the strongest arguments for Opera’s meaningfulness as a genre.

On Truth and Lie in a Nonmoral Sense (1873) – Nietzsche

Set aside everything you think you ‘know’ about ‘knowing’ and then start over with this short essay. Should be required reading in High School.

The Question Concerning Technology (1954) – Heidegger

Its easy to dismiss Heidegger what with his being a Nazi, but I don’t know a sharper insight into the essence of the event of technology. Give it to your favorite techno-optimist.

Silence (1961) – John Cage

The number of artists of all kinds (not just musicians) who claim to have had their life changed by reading this book is legion, so if you have not given it a try, why not?

The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967) – Raoul Vaneigem

Hugely over-shadowed by the other great theoretical text of the May ’68 generation Society of the Spectacle, Vaneigem’s ‘guide for living for young people’ can remind us at any age that lived experience does not need to collapse into a hyper-mediated consumerist dystopia. Read it and then find a smart 17 year old who is an artist, or in love, or angry at the world’s injustice and give your copy to them.

Easy Rider (1969) – This may be the quintessential film of the American ‘new wave’ cinema of the late 1960s, and should be on any short list of great American films. Watch it for one of Jack Nicholson’s finest performances (mostly improvised), Lazlo Kovac’s cinematography, the mute solipsism of Peter Fonda’s embodiment of the 60s zeitgeist, and the madness of Denis Hopper’s directorial vision.

Einstein on the Beach (1976) – Philip Glass, Robert Wilson, Lucinda Childs and others

Some collaborations are much more than the sum of the collaborator’s contributions. This is one of those. Hopefully there will be video documentation of the whole work some day, but in the meantime watch the 1984 documentary about it and set aside 4 hours to listen to the music without pause(!!) at least once.

Perfect Lives, Private Parts (1984) – Robert Ashley

Some day Robert Ashley (who died in 2014) will be considered one of the most important artists of the late 20th century. His works fall between genres in a way that deeply complicates his historical reception. Is he a composer, a kind of poet, even novelist, a performance artist (in the New York 1980s sense?) Perfect Lives, Private Parts was conceived as an ‘Opera for Television’ and exists complete on DVD. Watch it in one sitting or one of its 7 episodes at a time. The libretto exists as a book about which John Cage said “What about the Bible? And the Koran? It doesn’t matter: We have Perfect Lives.” So after reading Silence, read Perfect Lives.

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