Michelle Alexander and Gwyneth Walker


Finished Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow yesterday. All I can say is that this is a brilliant book. Alexander outlines the current state of US systematic repression of African Americans in convincing prose and copiously footnote references. The book ends with a challenge ahead of us: to do no less than turn the system of the USA upside down and redefine it in humanitarian terms. It doesn’t seem likely, but her conclusions seem irrefutable to me.

It boils down to what Christ and Debs insisted on.

I know this is very unpopular in the US right now. But that doesn’t diminish it’s reality.

Jes sayin.

Read the book.

Julie Powell, the ballet instructor, is challenging me to come up with some ideas. This is fun. We are talking about the class she will be teaching (and for which I will be the accompanist) the second half of the term: Sacred Dance.

She has asked me to think about music for it in terms of music that the kids might recognize from church. Very challenging but interesting. I am reading an old edition of her text.

Unfortunately she asked me what I thought so far. I had to confess that I thought it was pretty goofy. When Iris J. Stewart, the author, confronts belly dancing for the first time she weirdly wonders how she, a feminist, could relate. “What’s a nice feminist like me doing with a dance like this?”

I found this off putting. Confronted with an ancient tradition of dancing, she immediately relates it to the over eroticized and subservient view of women in advertisements in the USA.

Or at least that’s what I thought she meant.

Subsequently, as I read, I find her point of view is more personal than insightful for me.

I mentioned some of this to Julie to support my “goofy” comment.

I am reading an old edition of this book published in 2000 (interlibrary loan). I see on Amazon there is an updated version published in 2013. I am not hopeful that Stewart will address the naivety of her approach in a revision, but I guess it could happen.

Julie also has asked me to think about coming up with a couple of pieces of music for her modern dance to choreograph.

This is challenging and interesting as well. I would love to work up some Ligeti or John Adams or something cool like that, but I don’t think I have time. Plus the pieces are probably too long

I am thinking of maybe showing one of the Bartok Hungarian dances from Mikrokosmos to Julie for her reaction.

I’m also looking hard at music by Gwyneth Walker.

I keep pondering Walker’s work. So far I find her music to be intriguing in that it has a surface quality of what I think of as new age music (George Winstony).

But I am finding myself weirdly attracted to and involved with one of her organ pieces.

“Reverence” from her composition, “Sanctuary.”

This attraction inside me goes beyond the simple surface level of what Walker is writing and seems to connect to something I can’t quite pin down yet.

Walker has a bunch of music online that she has given permission for people to print up and perform (link to her catalog… for the free stuff scroll  way down). I am looking at some of the piano pieces there and hope to find a piano piece that affects me like “Reverence.”

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