- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sad songs, they say

“August, 1942. Leningrad, besieged and filled with starving inhabitants, barely holds out against the force of the Nazi invasion. People are queuing up for soup made of boots and book bindings. … But in a symbolic act of defiance, the Russians decide to hold an orchestral concert. …

“The piece of music they choose for the finale is Dimitri Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. At the Cheltenham Music Festival’s ‘The Sound of Melancholia’ last week, classical music composer Stephen Johnson repeated this story, describing Shostakovich’s compositions as ‘some of the bleakest, darkest, saddest, most vile and sardonic music’ he had ever heard.

“He went on to recount the story of Viktor Kuslov … who was moved to tears by the recollection of the music’s powerful effect on that night. Indeed, the final page of the ink-written score that was used at the world premiere is smudged and run with the tears of Yevgeny Mravinsky, the conductor.


“It’s counterintuitive, but Johnson’s story suggests that the desolation in Shostakovich’s music, resonating with the desolation in their hearts, served to bolster the spirits of the Russian populace at the time. The premise postulated by Johnson and neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, who co-hosted the event, is the oft-repeated idea that music, by conferring a narrative structure to emotion, brings emotion closer to thought. ‘There is something about seeing your own mood reflected that allows you to let go of that feeling,’ says Johnson.”

- Kat Austen, writing on “Why we listen to sad music when we’re sad,” on July 19 at the New Scientist blog Culture Lab

Come a long way

“Left-wing female comedians are proving that they can be as crude and stupid as their male counterparts. Who knew that striving for gender equality meant pursuing the dream that one day, someday, liberal women would be able to mock their conservative counterparts’ sexuality with the unfettered vulgarity of Andrew Dice Clay?

“Recently, Kathy Griffin attacked GOP Sen. Scott Brown’s daughters as ‘prostitutes’ on her Bravo ‘comedy’ show. Now, via Brian Maloney at the Radio Equalizer, supposed funnywomen Stephanie Miller and Aisha Tyler make genital jokes. … Tyler: Yeah, but now [Ann Coulter is] being out-crazied by Michelle Malkin, who by the way, I would kick right in the nuts if I met her. [Miller and staff laughing]”

- Michelle Malkin, writing on “The vulgarity of liberal female ‘comedians’,” on Aug. 12 at her self-named site

Don’t ask, don’t leak

“In the scandal involving the theft and release of classified military information that could cost the lives of U.S. military personnel, the British Telegraph newspaper is reporting that the American soldier at the center of the scandal was ‘openly homosexual’ and apparently held a grudge against the U.S. because of the military’s anti-gay policy. …

“The Telegraph features photographs of [Pfc. Bradley] Manning, who could face more than 50 years in prison for treasonous conduct, holding up a sign with rainbow colors demanding ‘equality on the battlefield’ and participating in a gay pride parade.

“It is apparent that Manning, based on published reports, was a public homosexual activist for at least over a year. During this time he apparently came up with the idea of downloading and releasing the classified information to WikiLeaks as a way to get back at the United States military over its policy regarding homosexuality.”

- Cliff Kincaid, writing on “Military Homosexual Scandal Tied to WikiLeaks Treason,” on Aug. 1 at Accuracy in Media