ENDNOTES, April 2019

Great War memorial at Jeparit – close up of the sculpured figure of a woman

ENDNOTES, April 2019

 by Stuart Millson

In this edition: musical meditations on death and national decline

From Chandos records, come two less-frequently-performed masterpieces by the doyen of English music, Sir Edward Elgar: The Music Makers (written in 1912) and The Spirit of England, a choral-orchestral heroic lament from the First World War. Both pieces exhibit all of the qualities of a composer still at the height of his power – and yet the music, for all its glories, transmits a sense of unease, valediction and of greatness, slowly ebbing away. The Music Makers sets the words of a 19th-century poet, Arthur O’ Shaughnessy:

“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wand’ring by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world forsakers…”

After a brief orchestral introduction which establishes an immediate mood of stately melancholy – yet underpinned by a tide of turbulence – the choir (on this recording, the BBC Symphony Chorus) sings O’Shaughnessy’s lonely testament of all poets and artists: “…Yet we are the movers and shakers/Of the world forever, it seems…” In this work, Elgar followed a motif which surfaced time and again through his composing career: a desire to escape the life of an artist, as much as to create – and the idea that his works were sometimes failures; that he had failed to find that celestial high-note, that “God was against art”. The Music Makers unfolds as a memory-album of Elgar’s past triumphs: famous themes from works that made his name – the First Symphony, the Enigma Variations, Sea Pictures arise from the mournful depths, and it seems that we are listening to an Elgar requiem.

Under the baton of the veteran Elgarian Sir Andrew Davis, this 35-minute-long piece – very seldom played and with few recordings to its name – attains a true depth of tone and becomes more than just a re-assembly of previous material. Sir Andrew always approaches the composer as if on a passionate pilgrimage of the soul; and he brings The Music Makers within striking distance of The Dream of Gerontius –clearly willing the BBC Symphony Orchestra and its accompanying voices to find the truth at the heart of a great composer’s lonely farewell. The contralto solo Dame Sarah Connolly achieves wonderful moments in her lines on the new recording, bringing to mind the “Elgar vocal tradition” established by Dame Janet Baker.

Three years on from the O’Shaughnessy setting, Elgar’s world-weariness continued unabated – but this time, he turned to the patriotic sentiments of Laurence Binyon in a work for solo vocalist, orchestra and chorus, The Spirit of England. By 1915, the British Army faced the might of Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany across a swamp of mud. The horrible reality of the stalemate on the Western Front brought no real glory; and despite the exhortations to duty, defence and England in Binyon’s poem – an idea which Elgar honoured in his music – a “war requiem” mood manifests itself in the piece. It begins, accordingly, not with cheerful, volunteering, “we’ll-beat-the-Hun” jingoism – but with a mood of burden and duty; of a stoical call to arms in the cause of a great country:

“Now in thy splendour go before us,
Spirit of England, ardent-eyed,
Enkindle this dear earth that bore us,
In that hour of peril purified.”

Tenor soloist Andrew Staples is not a soft tenor voice from Housman’s ‘Land of Lost Content’, but rather an almost operatic, heldentenor, fully at one with the temperament of what today is an unfashionable work about nation and war. Elgar grew to hate the conflict – horrified as much by the slaughter of artillery and supply-line horses, as by the loss of a generation of young men. He dedicated the piece to his own county regiment, The Worcesters, and in the second section – entitled, To Women– evoked the vigil kept by the wives and sweethearts at home; and the great chasm of not knowing – of the long nights spent brooding on the loss which tomorrow’s telegram might bring. The last movement, For the Fallen, contains some of the most meditative writing to be found in the whole score – especially a slowly-emerging, beautifully-delicate (again, melancholy) woodwind theme, conjuring up a misty autumnal lane in Worcestershire, an echo of home to a serving soldier from that county’s regiment.

Superbly recorded and played, as you would expect from Chandos, there is little to criticise here, but for one small comment. Returning to the work’s opening, in which the orchestra builds the scene ready for the entrance of the chorus, Sir Andrew Davis has opted for an understated approach, with the orchestra sounding subdued, even astringent. One missed the more expansive, reverberant prelude which is to be found on Sir Alexander Gibson’s old RCA recording with the Scottish National Orchestra, made at the end of the 1970s in the venue of Paisley Abbey and which was re-issued many moons ago on CD – by Chandos. The preference for this reviewer for The Spirit of England is with the older version – simply because of the more authentic, involving and – frankly – overwhelming treatment of the opening bars. But Sir Andrew Davis, with his BBC forces and tenor Andrew Staples, offers an insight into Elgar, the man and his music, at that moment in history when so much changed forever.

Stuart Millson is Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review

CD details:
Elgar, The Music Makers, The Spirit of England, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, Chandos, CHSA 5215
Elgar, Coronation Ode, The Spirit of England, conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson. CHAN 8430

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Fake Intel runs through it, Part 1


A New York City fireman calls for 10 more rescue workers to make their way into the rubble of the World Trade Center. U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres.

Fake Intel runs through it, Part 1

by Ilana Mercer

No, the moral of the Mueller inquisition is not that the Left is incorrigibly corrupt and morally and intellectually bankrupt, although this is certainly true. And, no. It’s not that the Republicans are meek, more eager for swamp-creature tenure than to save the country. However much state power flaccid Republicans capture, they quickly come to heel when Democrats crack the whip.

The moral of the Mueller inquisition, at least one of them, concerns the alphabet soup of acronyms that stands for the Permanent Security State—FBI, DOJ, DIA, DHS, CIA, NSA, on and on. That this intractable apparatus’ impetus is liberal is hardly new. What is counterintuitive to many is that the Permanent Security State’s modus operandi comports perfectly well with both Republican and Democratic administrations, alike.

When it comes to subverting an “America First,” sovereignty-centered, populist platform—the duopoly acts as one. Have not fans of Mr. Mueller kept reminding us that the man is a loyal Republican? And he is—Mueller’s a Republican stalwart of the managerial class. (By the way, Mueller fans can find “Mr. Mueller-face earrings and Mueller devotional candles on Etsy, the e-commerce equivalent of a hippie grandmother’s attic.”)

To make sense of the Russia Monomania and the Mueller time we all served, it is essential to grasp the anatomy of American state power. In particular, to comprehend the mass hysteria that is the war on Trump, it’s crucial to trace the contours of that other war, “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” and the way it was peddled to the American public.

The manufacturing of Fake News by the Deep State, circa 2017, is of a piece with the anatomy of the ramp-up to war in Iraq, in 2003. Except that back then, Republicans, joined by many a diabolical Democrat like Hillary Clinton, were the ones who dreamt up Homer Simpson’s Third Dimension in Iraq.

Fact: The Steel Dossier, which launched the Mueller inquisition, was as fantastical a fabrication as were the documents that fed the Bush administration’s will to war.

As it is, intelligence report-writing is more art than science; more flare than fact. It’s executed by many of the same, tinny, dogmatic, ex-CIA feminists whom we see plonked in CNN studios, ponderously pontificating about Our Russian Enemy. From the CIA to CNN, the youthful talking heads (and their shapely keisters) have only ever gone from a swivel chair at the Langley headquarters to a seat in a CNN studio, in New York City. The “intelligence” these cartoon characters produced as CIA or FBI agents is as intelligent as their commentary in the TV studio.

PRAGUE AGAIN?

Did no one but this writer have PTSD-related flashbacks when Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, was floated during the Mueller madness? During his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the bewildered Michael Cohen—a tragic figure, really—was asked in all seriousness whether he had liaised with “Kremlin officials” in Prague. “I’ve never been to the Czech Republic,” Cohen shot back.

Curiously, Prague is umbilically linked to another notorious intelligence hoax. According to manufactured American intelligence, a putative meeting between Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of Sept. 11, and Iraqi intelligence, was said to have taken place in … Prague.

Atta and the Iraqi assets never met in Prague. (At the time, Iraq had been 95-percent disarmed and was in possession of no weapons of mass destruction, an assessment backed by many an expert in strategic studies BEFORE THE WAR.)

The Prague apparition is a thread that runs through the Iraq and Mueller mythology. Is Prague a figment of an intelligence officer (a female enterprise?) who had just read her first Milan Kundera novel? Inquiring minds have to wonder.

Seriously, Prague is the witches brew you get when you fuse the FBI’s highly-strung anti-Trump brigade with Christopher Steele’s “research” team. Certainly, the publicly available CIA reports, offering “irrefutably” incriminating evidence against Iraq—the one I had perused in December of 2002—had novel-like qualities.

UNINTELLIGENT INTELLIGENCE

Hardly sober and scholarly, the bafflegab that convinced Republicans to destroy the balance of power in Iraq and the region went something like, “Saddam will probably”; “Give him time and he will eventually”; “With sufficient weapons-grade fissile material, he’ll doubtless”; “He doesn’t have the capability to develop enriched uranium or plutonium to fuel a nuclear bomb, but just you wait …”

This is obviously not the letter of the texts that convinced everyone (except a few of us) to destroy Iraq. But it’s close enough to its spirit. How the CIA cobbled together evidence for an “interest in acquiring” or “an effort to procure”—considering that these WMD-related purchases never seemed to materialize—isn’t clear. What proof did we have that they were even initiated? None.

Much of the compositions masquerading as intelligence and continually cited by political actors in privileging their policies are in language that is manifestly intended to exempt the writer from having to substantiate much of the claims.

Be it against Iraq or Russia, the political storyline du jour is manufactured by America’s gilded elites. To this—to heading a principate like Rome—Republican Karl Rove famously confessed during the era of Bush II:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”  Not coincidentally, Karl is currently urging Republicans to “move on from Robert Mueller,” nothing here to see.

MANUFACTURING CONSENT

To manufacture consent over Iraq, elements in the intelligence community worked with neoconservative counterparts in Bush 43’s administration, in particularity with “the Office of Special Plans.” And while Fake News babes did wonders to sex up, stateside, the cause of senseless killing—the dissemination of Fake News, vis-a-vis Iraq, was hardly the exclusive province of Fox News. With some laudable exceptions, Big Media all was tuned-out, turned-on and hot for holy war in the cause of democracy, WMD, whatever.

Now, it’s all-out war on Trump. Then, the same Machine aligned against Iraq. As salient in 2003, as in 2017, was the monolithic quality of the cheer-leading coming from the networks; an unquestioning uniformity that spoke to a slutty sell-out throughout the media establishment. For journalistic jingoism, it’s impossible to best the coverage of the high-tech media extravaganza known as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Embedded with the military turned out to be a euphemism for in bed with the military. Practically all network embeds focused exclusively on the Pentagon’s version of events, to the exclusion of reality on the Iraqi ground. Yet reporters who slept with their sources were treated as paragons of truth. Those of us who refused such cohabitation were labeled “unilaterals,” deniers, unpatriotic, and worse.

Reporting hearsay as truth and failing to verify stories were all in a day’s work on cable and news networks. A Geiger counter that went off in the inexpert hands of a young Marine, stationed in Iraq, became “Breaking News,” possible evidence of weapons-grade plutonium. Every bottle of Cipro pills located was deemed a likely precursor to an anthrax factory. Anchormen and women somberly seconded these “finds,” seldom bothering to issue retractions.

When you’re the most powerful entity in the world, as the U.S. government still is—you get to manufacture your own parallel universe with its unique rules of evidence and standards of proof. What’s more, as the mightiest rule-maker, you can coerce other earthlings into “sharing” your alternate reality by hook or by crook, abroad or at home. More than anything, the moral of Mueller is that the Security State is dangerous to all Americans, Republicans, Deplorables—even Democrats.

Robert Mueller

Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook, Gab & YouTube

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Hell has no Limits

Erwin Schrott as Méphistophélès, photograph by Tristram Kenton

Hell has no Limits

Faust, opera in five acts, music by Charles-François Gounod, libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, conducted by Dan Ettinger, director David McVicar, 5th revival of the 2004 production, Royal Opera, Thursday 11th April 2019, reviewed by Leslie Jones

When Charles-François Gounod died in 1893, Faust had already been performed a thousand times. It is not hard to see why. Exquisitely orchestrated, with echoes of his protégé George Bizet’s Symphony in C (composed when the latter was only seventeen), there are compelling and beautiful arias, such as Salut! Demeure chaste et pure (Hail! Chaste and fair abode). Moreover, Faust addresses universal themes. “Who”, as one critic sagely remarked, “doesn’t long to be young again?” (lyricopera.org). Faust, a world-weary scholar, depicted by the American tenor Michael Fabiano as a doddering old man, feels that he has learnt nothing and has needlessly forgone opportunities for love. “Maudit soit le bonheur, maudites la science, la priere et la foi”, he exclaims (Cursed be happiness, science, prayer and faith). He damns everything that ties people to life – sex, youth, the beauty of nature and the thirst for knowledge. Continue reading

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Two Poems by Velaj

Two Poems by Velaj

                                                 

The Hymn of Madness

The old women witch river banks
Wetting white sheets of snow
And wrapping dead mouse in them

God forgive them
They do not know what they are doing

The sheets belonged to a virgin girl
They killed the mouse in a dark hole at night
(Girls and mouse are their sacrifice)

God forgive them
They know no other light

They begin to sing such a luring melody
Under the rhythm of steps that has lost the way home
Without knowing that the river has no memory at all
It knows only how to flow and flow, only this much…

My God, I shall not speak any more
From today on the muteness of the ocean will be my language

Continue reading

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Detention Deficit Disorder

Van Gogh, Round of the Prisoners

Detention Deficit Disorder

by Bill Hartley

In 2016, I wrote an article about detention centres. This was prompted by Operation Seabrook, Durham Constabulary’s investigation into allegations of abuse at Medomsley, the former detention centre in County Durham which closed in 1988. Seabrook grew to be the country’s largest investigation into sexual abuse. The story began back in 2003 when a man called Neville Husband who once ran the kitchen at Medomsley was convicted of serious sexual assaults of teenage detainees. It is claimed that some staff at Medomsley were aware of his activities but failed to report this believing that he enjoyed the support of senior management. He might have been stopped sooner; a former detainee tried to complain to Durham police but was sent packing. Husband received a long prison sentence and has since died. Seabrook illustrates how the police moved from a point where the authorities ignored allegations of abuse to a situation where any such complaint is assumed to be true and they are dealing with a ‘victim’.

Detention centres were tough places, dedicated to the ‘short sharp shock’ approach. Politicians were active in encouraging this. The theory was that a brisk activity based regime would deter young people from crime, since they wouldn’t wish to come back for a second helping. To run this kind of regime required strong and visible leadership to make sure that firmness didn’t spill over into what we now describe as abuse. Unfortunately DCs, to use the Prison Service term, were something of a backwater, often a place to post individuals who were close to retirement. Ambitious governors didn’t want to go to such places. Medomsley appears to have been a good example of an institution which didn’t get the leadership it deserved. Given its size (holding around 70 detainees), a reasonably energetic person could easily see every detainee and member of staff in the course of a typical week. Many governors of larger institutions used this high visibility approach, since in those days there were fewer demands on their time. Suffice to say for the present that the Medomsley regime at times went beyond robust. This is always the danger; the bully will prosper when there is little risk of getting caught. Continue reading

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Mulling it Over

Chris Mullin, Credit Total Politics

Mulling it Over

Review of Hinterland by Chris Mullin, Profile Books, 2017,
ISBN 978 1 78125 606 0, reviewed by Monty Skew

Some political memoirs are dull. Not so A View from the Foothills, a frank and self-deprecating diary (the first of three) of Chris Mullin’s time in Parliament. Mullin is unusual: a leftwing party loyalist but a fiercely independent MP who worked hard for his constituents. His latest book could have been called From the Sunny Uplands but it is sensibly entitled Hinterland. Continuing in the same vein as the aforementioned diary, he charts his disillusion with the left and with politics generally, content to leave it all behind. This is probably his final set of memoirs and is told with searing honesty and realism.

Mullin describes his childhood and his early years in left wing politics. Vauxhall was once a plum Labour seat. George Strauss ran it like a personal fiefdom. He personally owned the Labour party building and paid the secretary himself. He also restricted the local membership. The shameful role of John Silkin, another lawyer, who controlled a rotten borough in Deptford, is also well told. Silkin spent much of his time fighting the Left. Like many Labour MPs of the time, Strauss and Silkin could have belonged to any party. These were the rotten boroughs dominated by right-wing Labourites and trade unions, often in a corrupt embrace.

This fact was identified by left-wingers who targeted such seats. Reg Prentice in Newham North East was the first to be deselected and he defected to the Conservatives after being staunchly defended by Labour leaders. He then announced that he had always been a Conservative! Both before and during his parliamentary stint, Mullin helped to democratise the Labour party and install reselection of MPs as a positive process. He knew something about this for as soon as he became MP, there were organised attempts to unseat him. Continue reading

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Presbyterians, Preparing for Battle

John Knox

Presbyterians, Preparing for Battle

Jeffrey S. McDonald, John Gerstner and the Renewal of Presbyterian and Reformed Evangelicalism in Modern America, Pickwick, 2017, Pp. 263, reviewed by Darrell Sutton

John Knox (1514-1572), one of the founding fathers of Protestantism, did not eschew controversy. Preaching with a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other, he campaigned as if the soul’s stake in heaven depended on his efforts. Some commentators consider him the founder of Presbyterianism. His theological precepts persisted in the creeds of his followers.

Down through the ages, clergymen lamented any dilution of the founders’ convictions. The sword of the Spirit became their weapon of choice. Preach the Bible! – the clergy iterated. For laymen, surely, could not impede the renunciation of faith. Skepticism divorced people from their once firmly held belief in biblical texts.

The majority of adherents to Calvinistic views can no longer can read Luther, Calvin or other non-English writers in their original languages. The Enlightenment helped critical scholarship, but the flow of new information did not lead parishioners back to the textual sources of their faith. The Church drifted into the arms of secularists. One thing is certain though, in these days when the use of secondary literature prevails even in synods where Lutheran and Calvinian beliefs have been staunchly maintained, New Reformers were/are needed. Continue reading

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TV Tarts: Cringe Factor

Photo by Benjamin Applebaum, Credit Wikipedia

TV Tarts: Cringe Factor

By Ilana Mercer

It takes a foreign correspondent planted amid our White House Press Corps to highlight the latter’s dysfunction. During a presser with “Trump of the Tropics”—Brazil’s visiting prime minister, Jair Bolsonaro—a Brazilian lass distinguished herself by focusing exclusively on … hefty matters. When this foreign correspondent asked President Trump about the “OECD,” the furrows on the sloping brows who make up the American press scrum deepened. 

To these presstitutes, it mattered not whether America was going to put in a good word for Brazil at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, when there was one overriding, life-or-death matter to tackle:

Trump’s irredeemable, unrelenting, absolute awfulness, which not even an exoneration by the sainted Mr. Mueller has ameliorated.

Yes, Grand Inquisitor Robert Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 election. This has altered not one bit the hyperventilating done by the harridans on the ubiquitous television panels.

Let me be clear. When I allude to the women of TV, I include those with the Y Chromosome. Continue reading

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Review of Handel’s Berenice


Alessandro – Jacquelin Stucker; 
Photo: © ROH Photographer: CLIVE BARDA

Review of Handel’s Berenice 

Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden, 27th March 2019, co-production by Royal Opera and London Handel Festival, directed by Adele Thomas, London Handel Orchestra conducted by Laurence Cummings, libretto translated by Selma Dimitrijevic, reviewed by Leslie Jones

Bragging rights matter. Spur’s new stadium reportedly has the longest bar in Europe, the aptly named “touchline”. But the Linbury Theatre, an intimate space, evidently has the longest sofa. It was the only prop in Royal Opera’s paired down new production of Handel’s Berenice. Commissioned in 1736 and premiered at Covent Garden in the following year, it tanked after only three performances.

Richard Morrison, in an otherwise positive review in the Times, notes “how little of the text is adequately enunciated”, even though the libretto is sung in English. Or to put it in plain English, the words aren’t clear. He was not the only critic to bemoan the absence of surtitles. But ultimately it is the interaction between the libretto and the music that matters in Handel, not the meaning of the words. Wagner’s total art work and opera verismo were yet to come. Continue reading

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Van Gogh and Britain

Hospital at Saint-Rémy, from Van Gogh and Britain

Van Gogh and Britain

Van Gogh and Britain, Tate Britain, 27th March 2019, exhibition curated by Carol Jacobi
Van Gogh and Britain, edited by Carol Jacobi, Tate Publishing, London, 2019, 240 pp

Reviewed by Leslie Jones

From 1873-1876, Van Gogh was a trainee art dealer in London with the Goupil Gallery. He evidently admired numerous British authors, notably Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens and George Eliot but also poets and dramatists such as Keats and Shakespeare. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was for him a “beloved book”. Several of the writers he revered had addressed the seemingly intractable social problems generated by industrial capitalism.

While in London, Van Gogh collected prints, particularly those by Gustave Doré, whose “resolute honesty” he respected. His only painting of London, The Prison Courtyard (1890), which is included in the exhibition is, as he euphemistically put it, a ‘translation’ of Dore’s print Newgate: The Exercise Yard, from London a Pilgrimage (1872). Even the tiny, symbolic detail of two butterflies at the top of the engraving is repeated in the painting (see Van Gogh and Britain, page 95). In similar fashion, the watercolour Woman Sewing and Cat (October-November 1881) is indebted to Doré’s The Song of the Shirt, an illustration of Thomas Hood’s eponymous poem about exploited seamstresses.

Sorrow, from Van Gogh and Britain

In the drawing Sorrow (April 1882), reminiscent of Edvard Munch, we see a naked pregnant woman. The model was the prostitute and sometime seamstress Sien Hoornik, whom Vincent had met at a soup kitchen in the Hague and who subsequently drowned herself. She was also the model for Mourning Woman Seated on a Basket (Feb-March 1883). Van Gogh’s uncanny ability to depict human emotions expressed through body language is also demonstrated by the lithograph At Eternity’s Gate (November 1882) and the subsequent painting Sorrowing Old Man, ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ (May 1890). Continue reading

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