Saturday, March 4, 2017

paley media center

Today I went with the fam to MOMA. While Genevieve checked out the fantastic Picabia exhibit (which I'd already seen) I took the girls down to MOMA's children's art center. But it was closed for some reason. What to do? I did a quick search and found out the Paley Media Center was just around the corner. I hadn't heard of it before, but glad we found it. You can go for free, for an hour and half, and watch anything in their library, which basically comprises the entire history of TV. Sofia watched The Powerpuff Girls, Lucia watched Strawberry Shortcake and I watched, first, Andy Kaufman on David Letterman, then the first Steve Martin HBO special (still funny,) then Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring from 1957 on PBS (She was 64 by then and could still move in such surprising ways, and with so much grace) and ended my session by watching a CBS News special from 1967 called "Inside Pop" in which Leonard Bernstein explains the new music to the older generation:

"As with so many of these pop songs, the implication is, and strongly, that this is not at all the way things ought to be. Just as the Beatles' song, "Paperback Writer," implies in its satirical way all the corruption of our lives. Their anti-hero, the paperback writer has written a book he's trying to sell and he sings, "It's a thousand pages, give or take a few. I'll be writing more in a week or two. I could make it longer if you like the style. I can change it 'round, and I want to be a paperback writer." In other words, prostitution. I'll do anything to sell that book. The implication is clear. In fact the message in most of these songs IS delivered by implication. This is one of our teenagers' strongest weapons. It amounts almost to a private language. But this use of implication produces another effect as well, something bordering on poetry. Many of the lyrics, in their oblique allusions and way out metaphors are beginning to sound like real poetry. And protected by this armor of poetry our young lyricists can say just about anything they care to. And they DO care. They care about civil rights, about sexual freedom, about peace. They talk about alienation, mysticism and drugs. The lyrics of Bob Dylan alone would make a bombshell of a book of social criticism. You know those ominous lines of his, "Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" You know who Mr. Jones is, don't you? Us. And the lyrics of "Along Comes Mary" I have been informed by its author, 22 year old Tanden Almer, is not about a girl named Mary at all, but about Mary Jane, which is a literal translation of Marijuana. And a staggering piece of verse it is. But mostly they talk about love, as all songwriters have since time began. Only this time it's either a cool kind of love, or a frankly sexual love, or, and this is most important, universal love, a mystic oriental concept that is presumably available through meditation or withdrawl from the establishment or most readily, through drugs. Now what does all this mean? I think it's all part of a historic revolution, one that has been going on for 50 years, only now these young people have gotten control of a mass medium, the phonograph record, and the music on the records with its noise and its cool messages may make us uneasy, but we must take it seriously, as both a sympton and a generator of this revolution. We must listen to it, and to its makers, this new breed of young people with long hair and fanciful clothing. Perhaps by learning something about them, we can learn something about our own future."

Touching. And funny.

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