The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This year’s Labor Day music in Wisconsin means Republicans should: Take Heed! We want our state back!

September 5, 2011

A REMINDER: The 35th annual Karp Family Labor Day concert takes place tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall on the UW-Madison campus. The program features works by Brahms, Schumann, Cohen and Fibich, an unusual and appealing one. Plus, admission is FREE. As we say in a different Labor Day context: JOIN US!

By Jacob Stockinger

I think it was the 19th-century French novelist Stendhal who compared bringing politics into art to firing a gun during a concert.

Well, BANG!

Today is Labor Day. And Labor Day is always something special to celebrate in Wisconsin, a state known more for its history of Progressive politics than even for McCarthyism.

But this year marking the Labor Day holiday is something especially important and timely.

That is because the newly elected Governor Scott Walker and his Republican lackeys in the Legislature have taken away collective bargaining rights from most public workers.

That move led to a historic number of recall elections and to massive demonstrations this winter and spring at the state Capitol in Madison (below) as well as to great increases in the number of retirements by public workers, including teachers. The governor sure seems to have a curious definition of fostering the welfare of the state and its citizens.

Now, it isn’t easy to find a lot of classical music that pertains to work. In fact, it isn’t easy to find a lot of art and literature in general that pertains to working. That should be remedied. How about some excerpts from such operas as Daron Hagen’s “Shining Brow” and “Esperanza” (about miners and based on the film “Salt of the Earth”) being posted on YouTube?

In the meantime, after thinking it through, I decided not to go with the usual fare (union songs and folk songs) or with works I have looked at in previous years for Labor Day postings, first from 2010, then from 2009:

Here instead are the opening sections of the massive piano work “Variations on ‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated” by the American composer Frederic Rzewski (below).

It is performed, with the score for you to follow, by the Canadian-born so-called “super-virtuoso” pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin (below).

Some people may find me naïve, but I think the title is true. That is why the Republicans, both on the state and national levels, are trying to unite the people to their point of view through fear and lies – through proclaiming they are helping ordinary workers and people even as they take money away from people and redistribute it to corporations and big donors.

And so I think the Democrats and other Progressives should fight back hard with the truth: That it is the Republicans who have waged class war and who have so far been winning the battle, at least since that slick-talking hypocrite Ronald Reagan took office 30 years ago and started to widen the wealth gap and shrink the middle class.

It’s time for a change, a BIG change.

So I hope you listen to this and are inspired by it to bring that change about.

Happy Labor Day, Wisconsin!

Do you like vacations and holidays? An eight-hour work day? A 40-hour work week? Worker safety? No child labor? The right of women to vote? Don’t forget that union fought for all them, and usually fought against the same private sector that today’s right-wing radical Republicans now tout as the savior and friend of working people.  

Posted in Classical music

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