28 August 2009

Remember when we would never forget?

San Francisco Symphony is presenting a free public concert at Justin Herman Plaza on the Embarcadero, featuring Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No 1, Rodgers' Carousel Waltz, and Ravel's La Valse. This delightfully swoony festival in 3/4 time will be held on September 11, a date that doesn't seem to have rung any bells over at the symphony.


Civic Center said...

Opening night at the San Francisco Opera is also September 11th.

Since we've had propaganda reinforcing "reminders" of the date on pretty much a continuous basis for the last eight years, I'm personally relieved that it's not being memorialized by either organization. Plus, those are all fairly sinister waltzes, excepting "Carousel" which is all about a wifebeater.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

1) Opening Night at the Opera is so crass and vulgar to start with that I'm not even acknowledging its existence.

2) That doesn't make it better.

3) Fairly sinister they may be, but the Symphony is selling them as "light popular classics." Also, "fairly sinister" doesn't really strike me as adequate to September 11.

4)To me, the propaganda reminders are part of the tragedy of September 11 -- the way this country convulsed (and is still convulsing) and how the attacks were manipulated by those in power. And I think that's another reason it's odd to pretend it's just another day. I'm really not sure what the appropriate period of mourning is for something like September 11, but given that we're still suffering its aftershocks (as are those in Iraq and Afghanistan, or our secret prisons around the world), my personal feeling is that we're still within that period.

5) Given the nature of the concert (free, public, lunchtime fun in the sun), I'm not sure there is appropriate programming (I'm not even sure exactly what appropriate programming would be). But there are 364 other days in the year, many of which wouldn't even raise this question. Why not perform on one of them, and let the Opera have its (inappropriate) day?

Joshua Kosman said...

I'm not sure what you're expecting. Must Sept. 11 remain a full-time day of mourning, sunup to sundown? Would a concert be OK if the musical were suitably funereal, or is that also inappopriate? May we gather in public for other purposes? Go grocery shopping? Mow the lawn?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Oh, by all means, feel free to mow the lawn!

Life goes on as regularly scheduled -- I'm sure there are baseball games being held, stores are open, etc.

And if this were a concert in Davies Hall, they could schedule what they like, and people could attend or not as they like.

But a symphony concert in Justin Herman Plaza is a very public special event. It's not "as regularly scheduled." They have those maybe once or twice a year. It seems really odd to me that they would schedule one for a day that still resonates tragically (for whatever different reasons) with pretty much every American, and not acknowledge that. (And they could easily have avoided the whole issue by choosing another day.)

I don't really have definite expectations. It's an open question to me what is appropriate for commemorating 9/11 and its ongoing effects. What's odd to me is pretending it never happened.

For the record, when I posted I wasn't really aware that the Opera's Opening Night was 9/11, but I find that appalling also, especially in light of their plans to exploit next year's 10th anniversary with a new opera. But then anyone who feels as I do is free not to buy a ticket and avoid the whole thing.

It's possible my objection is just my own weird little reaction, but do you think the New York Philharmonic would play this same program in a free public concert on September 11?

John Marcher said...

I agree with Patrick. Every time I see a performance scheduled for Sept. 11th a little bell goes off in my head. I look at what's on the program, expecting something that will in some way acknowledge "the day," and when it's just business as usual I find it distasteful in a vague way.

As for the opera's opening night scheduled for 09/11- it's just another stupid move by the current administration. At least it's not the date they chose for "Ladies Night."

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thanks. I was starting to wonder if it was just me.

And to be absolutely clear: this is not an objection to a normal run of concerts that happen to coincide with 9/11. It's a question about a single event that needed to be specially arranged and scheduled.

Civic Center said...

"1) Opening Night at the Opera is so crass and vulgar to start with that I'm not even acknowledging its existence."

You're so adorable, Patrick, and I'm being completely sincere.

San Francisco Opera's Opening Night, for all its crassness and vulgarity, is Always, Immutably, by Custom and Ritual, on the Friday after Labor Day Weekend, and that grotesque piece of terrorist theater will just have to get in the background. Jeesh, everyone knows that.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Well, maybe adorkable *blush*

OK, back to business.

Yeah, I kind of knew that the Opera's Opening Night was always, like Easter, on a day predetermined by a formula calculated centuries ago. The fact that this year their big party is on September 11 is its own satire on their insularity.

But I don't think the symphony's September outdoor concert is as immutably set. I can assure you that the financial district drones have not been marking the day on their PDAs far in advance.

So why not just perform on Thursday September 10? For one thing, given the increasing numbers of people who telecommute on Fridays, Thursday would give them a bigger crowd.

My original point here is more about a cultural moment -- are we really at the point where a big pillar-of-the-community arts institution can schedule something like this on September 11 while pretending that nothing special ever happened on that day? Apparently some feel we're there and others don't.

It's like the years after the original 9/11 when all those baseball teams were left with the awkward task of dropping the "God Bless America" rendition that had been added to the 7th inning stretch after the initial attack. How and when do you stop comemorating something that itself hasn't ended?

Lisa Hirsch said...

I am not in favor of all-out mourning forever, but some acknowledgment of the day would be appropriate.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I know he didn't intend it this way, but I'm actually kind of taken with Joshua's suggestion of a full-time day of mourning, sunup to sundown -- sort of a secular Yom Kippur. America needs an annual Day of Atonement. Though I'm sure in a few years soul-searching would give way to bigg annual car sale events.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Would we need to fast?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

personal choice, but it couldn't hurt

Shushu said...

I guess we have it easy here in DC. You can choose the regularly scheduled Friday evening wine tastings, the company's summer party (ahem), or real memorial events, like the one at the Law Enforcement Memorial down by the Mall. Next year, the day falls during the 10 days of repentance between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

an embarrassment of riches!

I have a horrible suspicion that introspection and repentance will not be the keynotes for the 10th anniversary.