22 June 2010

Opera Synopsis

Cicéron, an Opera in three acts.

Music and Libretto by Josh Hoisington

Note: This is very loosely based on the life of the real Cicero, don't take it as history of any kind.


Act I

The Senate, set any time in between 150 BC and 1915 AD: Cicero laments how the great republican tradition of the government has fallen to the demagoguery and cult of personality of Caesar. His comrades in the senate urge him to take a stand and speak out. Cicero is embarrassed when Caesar enters and warmly greets him as if they are on the same page politically, and yet is gratified by his fame, and reveals that he is too timid to speak out. But soon enough, Brutus and a small cabal of conspirators assassinate Caesar on the Senate floor. As the act ends, Brutus calls up to Cicero victoriously.

Act II

At Cicero's country villa: Cicero has retreated from the political scene, but again laments the direction the country is going, this time under Anthony. At the same time, Cicero's daughter Tullia has given birth to a grandson but is very ill. As she dies, she urges him to speak his mind and try to influence the country against going down the path suggested by Anthony.


At Cicero's townhouse: Cicero dines with a group of intimates. As they sit down to dine and drink, Cicero tells them that he has finally published his thoughts about Anthony in several prominent public "newspapers." The state of the country is such that many at the table have a price on their heads. The group sings of better days, and Cicero expounds the Greek philosophy that has consoled him after losing both daughter and country. As the night unfolds, the group begins to disband, fleeing to different places in order to seek asylum and avoid capture and certain death. Finally, Cicero is left alone with his trusted servant. Initially, Cicero says he will stay, but his servant urges him to flee and avoid the consequences when Anthony reads his article. Cicero heeds this advice--but he and the servant only get so far in their car when they are pulled over. With the police is Anthony himself, who greets Cicero warmly, much like Caesar. He tells Cicero that he read the article, and demands a retraction, after which, based on Cicero's heretofore sparkling reputation, all will be forgiven. Instead, Cicero sticks out his head and says "There is nothing proper about what you are doing, soldier, but do try to kill me properly." Anthony turns in disgust, makes the signal, and Cicero is beheaded.

01 December 2009

. Music

I’ve had a deep love of the music of Bach for some time. But I’m admittedly a neophyte to the ins and outs of the “period ensemble” world. I’ve just started to get into it, and it makes sense; I love history, want to live at Colonial Williamsburg, and have solid credentials as a music ensemble researcher (of quite a different kind, however, viz. LA studio musicians circa 1965…)

But man, I am frustrated. There are so many questions I can’t get an answer to, and indeed the answers may not exist. If they do, and you know them, or if I say something that betrays my short interest in this subject, speak up!

OK, so I really like period instrumentation. I could care less about the instruments actually being original to the time. I think I’ve talked about this regarding the Wrecking Crew of LA studios. Those guys didn’t use vintage instruments—they were new at the time—so I don’t especially care about vintage equipment, as long as new equipment is being made to the original specs now. For me, I think a large part of my interest in period ensembles comes from an almost visual aesthetic. And now we come to my issue: Period ensembles that I’ve seen just don’t seem “exotic” enough. I feel like even the best and most authentic ensembles take things for granted that they shouldn’t. For instance, new scholarship is postulating that when Bach (JS, of course) wrote for “Violoncello,” he was not refering to what we think of as a “baroque cello” but instead an instrument played “da spalla.”

Like this:


That just feels right to me. And I’m uncomfortable with assumptions that when Bach or Handel called for violas that they always meant the “modern” viola. I feel like I’d like to see more baroque ensembles use treble viols. And when Handel calls for “bassi”, he probably did often mean cello, but how interesting would a performance of the Messiah be with no celli, but Violas Da Gamba? And a very interesting question that seems to be getting asked in these circles is that of the role of a contrabass string instrument.

How often did baroque composers really want a so-called 16’ instrument? In the Brandenburgs, Bach occaisionally calls for “Violone Grosso,” but does that mean he wants the bassline doubled at 16’ by a bass viol? Or at the written pitch? Likewise, when Handel writes “bassi” does that include a “double bass”?

Maybe there are people out there who know such things, but they aren’t publishing the answers.

There are some ensembles that seem to be closer to the exoticism I seek. These are mostly the opera ensembles of Montiverdi, Handel, et al. in these, you see theorbos and archlutes and Viols—and it feels distant, and foreign.

On another note, I think that there’s some really cool packaging done for Classical music CDs that really make a difference. Working in the music section of my store, as I often do, I come across a lot of unattractive album covers. I’m not going to give examples. But the right packaging and art goes a long way to making some of this very old music seem cutting edge.

The Gardiner Bach Cantata Pilgimage series is a good example, nice digipack-type packaging, with awesome cover art:

I also really enjoy these Vivaldi Opera covers as seen here:


Check out the other ones in that series.

23 February 2009

Yes, it has been some time since I've last updated you. So long, in fact that I suspect much of my already tiny readership has abandoned ship. So for those of you who are reading this now, my deepest thanks for your loyal, undying support.

The main reason I have not updated much is that I no longer have a computer upon which I can gain access to the internet. They have both started the inexorable obsolescent slide, and the functionality is nearly nil.

So I am updating now on a computer that is not my own.

Nevertheless, there has been some good news as far as my own affairs are concerned. I have been accepted into Grand Valley State University as a transfer student and will begin there in the fall with something like Junior status. I plan to major in Classics.

Apart from that there is no new noon news with NuNu Nuñez.

I will likely not be updating this very often, which is a shame, but I value communications with the various people who have read this, and I welcome personal email correspondence if you are lead. My email is: josh.hoisington, and for anti-spam purposes, I will identify the email service as "google mail." If you have difficulty understanding that we can probably work something out. Also, I think the email is in my profile anyway for all the spambots to see.



16 January 2009

My Fellow Americans

If I were Obama's speechwriter, (And just to cover any legal issues, I emphasize that I do not in any way actually represent Mr. Obama, though, if you're reading this, Mr. Obama, and you need a speechwriter, I'm available, be warned that I didn't vote for you, though) here's the inaugural speech the President-Elect would give in a few days, although I would probably proofread it and do some editing and stuff if it were a real speech (and yes, I realize it's not a viable speech in real life):

Thank you.

Today is a landmark in our country's history. For the first time, our nation has elected a African-American president. I will drive myself to live up to this great honor you've bestowed.

But my election is not the end of our struggle with race. We rest on this small step. Our country remains deeply divided, and racial inequality remains as divisive an issue as it's ever been. I hope that my presidency can inspire you to look at yourself, to push yourself to do everything you can help end racism.

Our cities, our jobs, and most tragically, our schools, continue to be segregated. To truly make "separate but unequal" a thing of the past, it is up to each and every one of us to be intolerant of racism. This does not mean we must resort to violence, it means we must lead by example, teaching our children what it means to love all mankind as we wish to be loved.

Today also marks a change from a republican administration to a democratic one. But this does not mean I will spend the next years pushing a democratic agenda. America is not a country of democrats and republicans. Like Jefferson said, we are all democrats, we are all republicans. We are all Americans. And together, as Americans, we must face the future together. It is an uncertain future. We face economic hardship, an uncertain world rife with terror, and many other day to day challenges. I believe that I have some good ideas that will help make the future brighter. And since you have put your trust in me, I will continue to work tirelessly to create hope for the future.

But our future is in your hands. I will do my part, but you must do yours. In difficult economic times, we all have to use our American ingenuity to get by. We can all come up with ways to get by on less. Many of us have parents who lived through a great depression. We can learn from them, take pride in our thrift...and we will make it through this and return to more prosperous times.

I have selected a team of people who I believe will begin to restore the reputation of the United States around the world. But the real responsibility, again, lies with you. When our enemies and allies abroad look at us, how we treat our neighbors and families, if they see contempt in our daily lives, that will influence how they treat us. If we can start at home, continuing the great American traditions of decency, friendship, loyalty, and fairness--it is only logical that our behavior will overflow into our foreign affairs.

It may seem as though I've spoken more about you than about me today. I think my campaign showed you what I stand for, and hopefully what you can expect of me. But I consider it part of my job to remind us--all of us, including myself--what we should expect of ourselves. This country did not rise to greatness because of the brilliancy of any particular president. We have had some very good presidents, and I hope to live up to the standards of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, and Kennedy. This country rose to greatness because of the individual character of it's citizenry. It is our people that make this country great. So today, in electing me, you have turned to me and asked much of me. I promise to do my best, and work every day at becoming the best president I can be. In return, I ask much of you. I ask that you take responsibility for this country. In every interaction you have, you represent the United States of America. Every time you speak with your children, you are training them to be the next generation of great Americans. It is up to you to do whatever it takes to teach your children to be the kind of men and women who will not tolerate racism. Who will not accept violence on our streets. Who will not ignore poverty. Who want to serve their country. Who want the rest of the world to respect their country. I think the vast majority of us want these qualities in our children, and we all want a better world for our children. Won't you join me in making that world?

01 January 2009

2008, the year that was...

A retrospective of a year is tough. Years are kind of long, and of course everything near the end of a year is most present in one's mind compared to the events at the distant beginning of the year. But I'm going to try a little recap.

It was not a bad year for me. Toward the start of the year, I was mired in depression, on anti-depressants and such. I don't really remember why--perhaps it had something to do with my renewed love of reading, but at some point after it became clear to me that the anti-depressants were not working at all, I decided to just kind of try to distract myself from the depression with activity.

And that worked OK. While depression is something I'll deal with every day, I've found that scholarly pursuit and medium-range goals make things a bit easier.

Speaking of scholarly pursuits, my return to college, at GR Community College, was great. I had my best academic semester ever, managing 3 As and a B in four classes. I look forward to another great semester and I'm really excited about transferring to GVSU to pursue my degree.

I haven't left behind autodidacticism, and still am doing a lot of outside reading. It was my discontent with a gap in my general knowledge when it came to the law that sparked the idea of me actually pursuing exploring attending Law School in a few years. I attended an open house at a local law school and feel pretty good about that course. And I'm continually inspired by the great lawyers in the US' past, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jay, Marshall, Lincoln, RFK, etc.

I'm thankful to be employed, after a pretty long period of unemployment after my LA experience. Schuler Books has been a great place to work thus far, a welcome haven after the unpredictable nature of being a freelance archivist for the Beach Boys.

Speaking of the Beach Boys, I miss them terribly. I miss being part of that world, both geographically--I hate this isolation from LA--and being in on behind the scenes stuff. It has been continually difficult dealing with the feelings related to that, being so close to a dream and letting it slip away. I listen to the Beach Boys somewhat more sparingly now, listening to the Beach Boys brings up a lot of sadness mixed in with the joy that that music has always brought me.

Los Angeles will always be my spiritual home, and I have yet to get over leaving it. I recognized this year that things went as the probably must have, but I admit there is a certain bitterness and resentment towards myself for leaving. I find myself getting angry when watching TV shows set in LA. I will return there someday, but the waiting for the right circumstance is agony.

I've continued to enjoy playing Tennis, and it's kept me reasonably in shape. I hope to continue to improve next year.

I think those are the highlights. If anything else pops up, I'll mention it. Next entry, I'll preview the year ahead.

22 December 2008

Yes, hello

I don't really have much to say, well, I do actually, but no time to get into anything right now. But I figured if I didn't post something my already tiny readership would go away forever. I will try to have some sort of Christmas-themed post at some point with lots of philosophical insights about the holiday season or something. For now, I'm just going to mention some books I'm working on, so we can, you know, discuss them or something.

Really enjoying "The Black Swan" by Taleb. Also a book entitled "The Ascent of Money" has been very informative in my quest to understand finance a little more so I can be prepared if I should ever be a candidate for Secretary of the Treasury. "Ich Und Du" by Martin Buber is fulfilling my Jewish-philosophy needs, and McCullough's "1776" is my Revolutionary Era book du jour. Also enjoying inhabiting the world of end-of-the-republic era Rome via a biography of Cicero by Anthony Everitt.

OK, more later, bye.

01 December 2008

I Saw Three Ships

I've noticed that recently I've become somewhat more lachrymose than usual. I've found a number of ordinary things to have a hard-hitting profundity that's taken me to the brink of tears and beyond. I have a feeling that when and if I make it to middle age, I'm just going to be weeping all the time.

I just breezed through an interesting little book called "The Anatomy of Peace" that I picked up at Schuler, it's not something I would buy but the title interested me. It's about resolving conflict, essentially.

Conflict is something I've taken an interest in for some time, being particularly bad at it, and not particularly liking it. The book notes that many times conflict is exacerbated because of what's going on inside of yourself, rather than the other person's actions. Which might be "duh" but it's so true... I made my first mistake at Schuler the other night, at least the first mistake that lead to customer discontent. While in the long run it was not too big of a deal, I let things like that eat at me. In fact, I remember every single mistake I made at Meijer over ten years that lead to confrontation with a customer. And I remember many confrontations that had nothing to do with me, also.

But they all still bother me, and occasionally, I'll lay awake thinking about some thing I might have handled differently eight years ago.

In wondering why that kind of thing eats at me for so long, I determined that it's because they are all examples of my infallibility or lack of knowledge (at the time, anyway). Yes, it bothered me on Saturday that a person had to drive back to the store from 45 minutes away to claim something that I should have made sure was with this person when they left. It bothered me like it would anybody else.

But what bothers me now is that I didn't do what I was supposed to, I was imperfect...made to look stupid, even.

At first you look for other people to blame, and I did, but quickly poked holes in that. You can only blame yourself, and that's a tough thing for a perfectionist to do.

Speaking of perfectionists, there should really be a study done to classify the kind of perfectionist that I and surprisingly many people are: those that have a highly specialized band of perfection demanded. As opposed to those that have to have everything just so. It's an interesting distinction.

Moving on from that somewhat egocentric meditation, not much else is happening out of the ordinary for me. Difficult week of school ahead, pretty much through to the end of the semester. With work now, I feel like I have very little time to prepare for classes and tests. Join the club, right?

Does anybody out there have a copy of Postlethwait's "Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce" they'd be willing to sell me?