I'm currently working on a killer aria from Vivaldi's Griselda entitled Agitata da due venti. While I may not be so great at immensely expanded legato lines, virtuoso florid passages are my forte, so this aria is right up my alley. For many opera lovers, you may be intensely familiar for Cecilia Bartoli's recordings of this aria. She was, at the time, also criticised for her facial expressions whilst singing. Looking back at her performance, I personally do not notice anything out of the ordinary, but perhaps I'm guilty of the same contortions of the face, or I have gotten used to her manner of singing.
My point in bringing this us up is that I have used this aria for my next video creation. I am covering this aria with my own lyrics, and renamed it 2020 was a disaster. I think that I have a pretty complete list of all the major calamities that happened in 2020. Did I forget one after it comes out? Let me know in the comments.
This piece is extremely fun and farcical, and is meant to assuage the pain and not at all to ridicule.
Stay tuned! The youtube premiere is scheduled for December 5th, 2020 at 20:30 Amsterdam time. https://youtu.be/7V3akoC8wnU
My opening statement in the song Endless Promise is the question, “Does Democracy work?” It is a genuine question, formed after a lifetime of unequivocal bafflement about the goings of the world.
Let me start with an anecdote which might show the origins of my bafflement. When I was eight years old, I was already acquainted with the fact that the burning of fossil fuels was extremely detrimental to our habitat, and that driving cars was a method of transportation that needed to be eliminated as soon as possible. I told my dad that when I grew up, I would send a letter to the President so as to address the problem, assuming that he (the President) would fix the situation. This was 1989, and George Bush Senior was the POTUS. My father responded, “You don’t have to wait until you grow up, you can write him now”. That evening my letter was prepared and ready to make its trip to the White House. Here are the (rather blunt) contents of my letter.
Dear President Bush,
I would like everybody to stop driving cars because it wastes gas and that is almost gone. Instead I would like to ride bikes and horses. If we find anybody driving a car then they would go in jail for two years but a police, if it is an emergency, then the police or firetruck could go in a car.
My name is Hebe de Champeaux
(I then proceeded to write my phone number, complete address.)
Looking back, my childish solution to the problem is laughable In its ridiculousness. However thirty years later, there has been no improvement in the situation that I then so astutely observed. In fact, this particular problem has been increased exponentially. I was naive to think, ten years later and reaching the end of my teens, and wearing my “Save the Whales” T-shirt, that eventually the auto industry and the population sustaining it would be forced in the direction of efficiency due to a dwindling supply. How bizarre was it to witness, while Europe had long since embraced smaller “eco” cars, that cars in the United States just kept increasing in size and weight. How frustrating was it to see that in the almost forty years of my existence, virtually nothing had been done to build proper infrastructure so as to wean the American population from their unnecessary and highly toxic oil addiction. Europe, the Middle East, and Asia are hardly better. How depressing it was to see the dwindling supply simply be topped up again by fracking. I guess that it will be no surprise that President Bush’s reply to my letter was a pacifying thank you for your concern accompanied by a picture of him with his wife and dog on the White House lawn.
Your question may arise, yes, but what does this have to do with democracy? Liberal democracy, with its focus on human rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and a free market economy, has coincided not only with the enormous expansion of welfare and technological innovation, but also with uninhibited exponential population growth (due to the the previously mentioned) and subsequent ravenous use of resources. While the protection of human rights is an admirable achievement for humanity, I describe the ravenous use of resources as “you (also) have the freedom to be an asshole.” What is missing in worldwide constitutional legislation is the protection of future generations. You may even say that, in the case of the USA, the founding fathers never took into account that there may come a day in which the very existence of the human race would be threatened by its own success.
There is no doubt that we are heading for a full-on collision in the form of the sixth extinction. Those who wave this away as unimportant don’t understand that a great portion, perhaps all of humanity will die prematurely due to the forces (caused by our use of fossil fuels and exponential population grown) causing the sixth extinction. This imminent calamity has continually petrified me. I avoided a career in the sciences because the truth was too painful. Hiding away in the music industry was, for decades, an easier way to shut it out and focus on the positive sides of our achievements.
I cannot however, hide anymore. Liberal democracy, with its unhealthy marriage to the free market economy, is allowing too much “freedom to be an asshole.” It is stealing the future in exchange for the comforts of the present.
The time to lay the foundation for a new democracy, should a portion of us survive the flood, is now. First and foremost is that the continuation of the human race should be the first priority, meaning that sustainable use of Earth’s resources must be managed. Our advancing technology, which has enabled us to evade the natural forces of natural selection and to prolong life, also necessitate a worldwide population plan, based on the capacity of the Earth to feed the population without the use of fossil fuels. And lastly, human rights need to be paired with human responsibilities.
Can we do this? Can we use our immense capacity of the pursuit of knowledge to ensure our sustainable survival?
Mille regrets de vous abandonner
Et d’être éloigné de votre visage amoureuse
J’ai si grand deuil et peine douloureuse
Qu’on me verra vite mourir.
When you breath I die.
I die a little inside.
I wrote this piece in June of 2020, during the end of the first lockdown (corona). Originally, it was intentioned to capture the emotional conflicts of confining the elderly in retirement homes for their own safety. The old French texts are contrasted with the dissonant English ones. The virus announces its arrival like a persistent thorn.
However, I have been delving deeper into my own past, thinking back to a mother who would have now been elderly, had she lived. These texts are particularly relevant to the remorse I feel about my role in her last years, about how she ended. It was my telephone call during my yearly visit, about her seeing and hearing people in the room that weren’t there, that lead to her hospital “imprisonment.” The texts that I use in this video come from a few important moments out of her (unpublished) memoirs. They are a priceless view into a creative and vital, yet tragic mind. How her life ended in lonely tragedy Is a symbol for how I see to what direction humanity is heading. The needs of one usurps the life of another. How can we combat the emptiness of plenty? How can we repair all of the broken relationships that cause such pain and suffering?
Here is the English translation the Dutch texts
Man must follow his fate.
I am dead inside, now just the casing (shell) must follow.
I would rather die amongst my own people on the ground where I was raised.
It is evening in New Orleans and I am playing in Footfalls. Beckett’s Footfalls.
I dying of nerves, but inwardly I know that if the first word is right, it will be ok.
I know that it will be allright. I know what I am doing.
After that it’s just a matter of discipline and reserve.
Contain those emotions until the last syllable.
There are fifteen people in the audience.
I am playing the role of my life, and there are fifteen people in the audience.
Hilarious. To die for.
“Daddy, she keeps falling asleep. She can’t hold her head up anymore.
And she sees people in the room that aren’t there.”
There are many interpretations of Beckett’s work.
I don’t care about them.
I know what this work is about.
Io know every millimeter of this strange mother-daughter relationship, even though it doesn’t even remotely resemble that of mine with my own mother.
Therefore I trust in my intuition and fantasie.
The light goes out. A last wave. It’s going begin.
Slowly and precisely I drag my footsteps. And far, very far away, I hear my first two words.
It is just as if a piece of my body is gone.
The memories of us…
It crushes me.
I think that I am just one of the millions, but I'm finding this corona lockdown (of sorts) to be an extraordinary source of stress, depression, insecurity. While we all seem to be trying to follow our daily lives with some sort of normalcy, it seems to me to be a farce. A masquerade, if you like. People who say "fine" to "how are you?" I don't really believe them. Either they are pathologically optimistic, or they are quite adept at lying to themselves, or they are ignorant to the tsunami of world problems hanging over our heads. The worst part is that we have purposely thrown away almost every possible way of alleviating emotional pain by rejecting our need for culture. While social contact has become the enemy, every part of humanity that shows some beauty, art, music, literature, dance, ... it's seen as a disposable hobby.
I'll be continuing to write about this, I'm sure, and again, I'm just one of the millions. But, I'm finding this time to be particularly hard. I started playing the violin at age 4. I continued my passion for music in high school, taking private conducting lessons, playing flute, playing in orchestra. I then went to university, getting two Bachelors degrees and one Masters degree in music (violin, choral conducting, orchestral conducting), studying voice on the side. My whole life has been focussed on music, on becoming my dream, a choral and orchestral conductor. And through all of the struggles and difficulties, especially with myself (you must conquer and come to terms with your own personality first!), I finally made it.
And yet, this job, this dream job, is no longer possible. Dispensable. I stood in front of all age groups, many different combinations, from beginners to professionals, and made wonderful, beautiful music. The one thing that I see that is good in humanity. Perhaps, the only thing (my opinion). Dispensable. It saddens me.
I don't know how to put my grief into song. It'll hopefully come soon.