Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The sociologist as DJ

Last year I blogged about the great historian EP Thompson's brief but entertaining stint as a BBC DJ. Here in Tonga, where the population is small, resources are in short supply, and multitasking is a way of life, the sociologist Dr Michael Horowitz has been moonlighting as a prime time radio DJ. Horowitz has spent decades teaching at Tonga's 'Atenisi Institute and at various North America institutions, and spent last summer in Wellington, as a Visiting Fellow of Victoria University.

Now that he's back on Tongatapu, though, the man locals call Maikolo is spending Wednesday evenings as a DJ on the state-owned FM broadcaster Tonga One, where he presents a classical music show sponsored by the Vava'u Academy, a thinktank he co-founded with the 'Atenisi graduate Dr 'Okusi Mahina.

When Maikolo came over for dinner the other night, I lobbied hard for the inclusion of my favourite pieces of music in his show. He repeatedly refused, though, to promise to play John Adams or Steve Reich or any other of the minimalist composers I favour. "It was hard enough for me to get this show" he said. "And if I play that stuff there'll be outrage. I'm sticking to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto". I tried to explain to Maikolo that I'm no classical music snob, and that I enjoy the trance-like music of Reich and Adams and other minimalists because it is intended as a populist reaction against the elitism and hyper-intellectualism of avant-garde atonal mid-century composers. Maikolo was not interested in my protestations. "I might let you guest DJ one night" he said, "and then it'll be on your head".

Even if you live outside the Friendly Islands, you can listen to DJ Horowitz tonight on Tonga One by going to this page and following the link.

Maikolo is no stranger to the radio industry. During a sojourn in native America in the mid-noughties, he worked for the liberal radio network KBOO, presenting well-researched programmes on everything from America's neo-fascist Christian Reconstructionist movement to political affairs in the Pacific. As one would expect, Tonga was a recurring subject of Horowitz's work for HBOO. Here's a link to a programme the sociologist made in the aftermath of the riots that destroyed a third of central Nuku'alofa in November 2006. You can use the search engine on HBOO's homepage to find more of Horowitz's programmes.

[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


Blogger Richard said...

Steve Reich etal are really pretty old hat now. I went through a stage of reading about contemporary music, as I was curious about the various developments.

But I got a bit bored with the minimalists although there is some good stuff.

There is a good programme of contemporary music in NZ on the Concert Program on Tuesday nights on 'Sound Lounge' run usually by Kate Mead. In fact one night I heard a poem-music work by Bill Direen et al (I think he performed in France).

I listened to a lot of contemporary classical. Schnitkke is a favourite but there are others. The atonal or serial composers are interesting but there is a whole world of fascinating composers of various kinds, including some NZ composers (I liked at least one work by a NZ experimental composer called Sessions).

But now days I more or less limit myself to listening to Bach. But not the Brandenburg which I have known since I was about 17 or so.

I have found some really beautiful and interesting work is put on after the Concert Program has closed down. Once some hymns by Handel, other nights extraordinary works by composers I'd never heard of.

Last night I fell asleep listening to some Stanford. He was, I found in my biographical dictionary, an Irish composer writing in the early 20th Cent.

But in the 70s I used to go to what was then called The Posonby Festival (when Ponsonby was a working class area and as it was also central a lot of students or young radicals lived there in old cheap flats, and when there were many Pacific Islanders. Thursday nights were exciting with people of Polynesian and many other nationalities or ethnicities shopping in K'Road (now a rather dull and grimy place).

The Ponsonby Festival included all the islands music and performance and also others e.g. Indian, Scandinavian etc It was fascinating. I used to have a tape of Samoan fact I may still have it. In the church Polynesian people here can be heard singing beautiful music on Sundays etc

I don't think a lot is gained by enculturation with US and modern British pop but classical and folk of all countries (even reggae and perhaps some jazz - there is too much heavy beat music, although I did go through a "heavy rock" phase, but mostly the folk and classical of various kinds is more enlightening).

But people should at least get to hear some of the minimalist composers (loose term). One I like is Gavin Bryars (Tom Waits sings in his 'Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet' which is based on a recording of a tramp singing that old hymn or song in London.

(I do like quite a lot of the music of Tom Waits I've heard.)

Comments are it the counter force of FaceBook etc? The test words cant help the cause either.

9:36 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

What do you make of Alan Hovhaness, Richard? He's a composer I love, but he doesn't seem to be all that well-known to the public, or as critically acclaimed as a Reich or Adams.

I'm listening to a lot of kava songs lately, courtesy of the boys in the 'Atenisi Performing Arts group. Some of the slower, more mournful kava songs sound a little like Tongan versions of the Gregorian chant...

5:43 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I don't know his music. The name rings a bell. I have probably heard it and not known him as I often cant make out what announces are saying if e.g. they announce some French composer, as I don't really know French (or any other languages really)...but I'll YouTube him.

Yes the chanting can be beautiful. Often the same song or music sounds better at different times. I had a CD of Handel once (harpsichord music) and hadn't "connected" with it, but once I left my CD running and this excruciatingly beautiful music got through to me.

Glenn Gould describes a similar experience when he was playing Mozart (polyphonic and fugal influenced by Bach) and a vacuum cleaner was started and he experienced the music as one might hear it in a shower through a "veil" of water and sound of water...

Then as a teenager he became fascinated with such music as Bach's etc

So the mind plays tricks. Something can sound ho hum in one place or time (or as one is) and wonderful another. Probably it has to have some inherent merit of course.

I have always liked Mozart's piano music (I have played it also) but not his operas although his Requiem is massive. I got to that as it is in the film 'Amadeus'.

But I'll YouTube Hovhaness.

I like Russian folk music - or some of it.

11:51 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I had a look and listen to Hovhaness.
Some extraordinary work! I had heard of him somewhere. He is not played on the Concert Programme (or rarely during the day) possibly on Tuesday night.

For some strange reason he reminds of the (late) NZ artist Ted Dutch.

Thanks for the connection.

2:31 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing such a topic..People are very much crazy about DJ Night -Programme and they mostly visits DJ clubs.This provides entertainment among peoples.

5:10 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Good comment Dave. Scott WHY is it that you are almost reduced to my comments? I mean no one normally listens to anything I say! That said it is good I do comment. I am often also the only person commenting on Jack's site, and I think that he and you have interesting things to say.

There are some factors. I think that that bloody word test stops such as - well I have trouble reading it even with glasses - now the problem there is age, new glasses wont make any difference (there are parts of this house where I used to read as boy but now without very strong light (I have some very good lamps) I cant see a lot of writing or e.g. what is on the TV ... so that is an issue for old codgers like me...

But what about all those combative socialists and scientists etc? All the other Briefers or Titusers or Petruciosts? Ted is like me and has trouble looking at screens...

10:14 am  
Blogger Richard said...

But what about younger people? I was in a Face Book argument with some US artist about Global warming theories and I pointed out a few counter arguments but there was a hysterical rave from his end...I think that alot fo the Greenies have bougt in to this dubious crap and all the world suffering etc and cant step back and make a dispassionate argument about,say, the truth criteria (I think that is because a lot of liberals are, if you scratch them, effectively very right wing, in any case he shut discussion down...I noticed that that Italian bloke (he is some kind of art philosopher but is very arrogant, he upset a lot of people, but I suppose he at least was passionate...) who was into the question of 9/11 and cardboard boxes is also very closed minded...

But it seems these people get their excitement from the EXTREME...and the virtually NEVER want to discuss a solution. "Let's say Global warming is a reality, what is are some of the identifiable causes...and we can address some possible solutions (political, social, technical-scientific and so on); but let's also be sceptical (or we'll all be told we have to stop doing - you name it - because the world is coming to an end - without any attempt at rectification or even a basic verification (via say the Truth or Knowledge criteria and say a close examination of the documents written by the scientists in who assert their various doomsday theories...and its important that for most people in the world most of the Greeny stuff is theory, not really verified, and they simply do NOT want to do anything about it (or they list so many issues that anyone listening either gives up or gives in to them and pays up...

But their political agendas are not so innocent.

Now even a topic like that, would attract a big dialogue, discussion - or gay marriages, the political killing of a soldier in London, and much else.

9/11, another difficult to verify area is a real hot bed of controversy and was one of your "big ones" (I am still dubious e.g. that it wasn't an "inside job" by the way... but again we have the problem of truth verification, i.e. the general epistemological problems)

Do you have to throw in a post showing that gay marriage is (or isn't) a "step back in time", or something about the racist cartoon (remember Michael Botur!?)

So I think that people simply love the sensational (which is understandable, I blogged about a murder in my street and I cant deny a kind of feeling of "frisson" and I think they also love the argy bargy - say about whether Maori came from Egypt and then ate the Morioris up and all that crazy stuff.

It seems it is the way we are or we wouldn't read horror books etc (or watch the movies)...or take more interest in the sexy women who star at Hollywood than what goes on IN DETAIL (not a huge rant as this strange artist - but very talented -Victor Provencaro deluged me with on FB about all the (overwhelming - it was like all those awful events and tragedies in Africa etc the Seventh day Adventists use to convince you that the end of the world is nie and to turn to Christ the Saviour! Holy Holy!!

I suppose it is a bit hard for you to eb controversial working in a country that is not your own that is (indeed) very religious ("the only growth industry")...

But it seems that the extreme or the (perhaps superficially) punchy (the argument about that drively program by Radar for example...

Jack is scrupulously polite and proper (and does a good blog) but that isn't what people want - they want blood!

10:17 am  
Blogger Richard said...

But if you tried to get a discussion going about how to analyze scientific data, and in fact, to get something going about the various strategies to reverse pollution and global warming (assuming these are or the concern these hsytericals feel it is) then you will get very little response as the real enthusiasm for science is limited. People make a living out of 'doom and gloom' and sensationalist stuff, as well as disasters and "glamour" and sex and so on...In fact the Greens have a vested interest in keeping it all going. A cynic would say they are like avaricious doctors who rub their hands when they hear about a new and virulent disease: all that business coming our way!

Of course you cant "jazz up reality" but FB is an example often of superficiality raised to the nth...but there are good sides of course to the social media...

But in any case, whether your topics are not so exciting or whether it is the test words or FB etc there doesn't seem to be as much going down on here!

10:26 am  

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