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April 11, 1970 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-04-11

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Page Eight

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, April.1 1, 1970

Page Eight THE MICHIGAN DAILY Saturday, April 11, 1970

on

plastic

Kenneth Coutts-Smith, THE
DREAM OF ICARUS: ART AND
SOCIETY IN THE TWENTIE-
TH CENTURY, George Brazil-
ler, 1970, $5.95.
By DIANE KIRKPATRICK
"In a way one can say there is
no such thing as the twentieth
century. It is a sort of pot-hole
in the path of evolution, and
we poor creatures here below are
busily trying to scramble out of
the nineteenth century'into the
twenty-first." The pot-hole pre-
sumably was created by explos-
ions of theories and discoveries
in all fields which blasted c o m-
fortable patterns of thought and
perception which had been in
force since the Renaissance.
Psychology and psychiatry re-
arranged our perspective on the
mental and emotional worlds
within, while science gradually
eroded traditional concepts of
stable matter in a mechanical
universe. "Matter is no longer
solid and immutable, indeed to-
day is seems not even to be
composed of waves and particles,
of wavicles, but rather of bund-
les. of ab'stract events, possibly
discontinuous and finally u n -
knowable."
Thus, Coutts-Smith places us
firmly in an age of transition.
The present pressures force us to
look to the future. Man -dreams
of a better society ahead - but
this time it is "the dream of
Icarus": "When- Prometheus
grasped fire from heaven,he
wished to steal the power of the
Gods for man-Icarus, more
proud, aspired to join their com-
pany as an equal." There's a
new world coming, and man
must change to be a part of it.
"The human species is possibly
facing.the biggest challenge he
ever' has had since he began
to socialize himself . . Can
he adapt now to the implications
of his own machinery
Can he alter his society and if
need be his psyche to meet the
technology he has produced."
"No organism wishes to mutate.
It only does so when it is forc-
ed to by the final whip of evo-
lutionary selection. Change or
die." Change is coming. Revo-
lution is in the air. It is reflect-
ed in society and in the arts.
Especially is it found among
the young and the avant-garde
(who intuitively understand).
These youths have a' separate
visn from their elders: a true
generation gap spawned by the
blast without the sense of fu-
ture common to most of those
who matured before that histori-
cal and psychological watershed.
The first part of Coutts-
Smith's sprawling text is devot-
ed to a potted history of the
background and development of
present-day student radicalism.
In chapter 5, the author slips in
his first definite, but tangential, '
reference to art - American
Abstract Expressionism and its
aftermath. He returns immed-

iately to his study of the Beat
generation and the rise of a
new "religion" which mixes
equal parts of "white Negro,"
"white Indian," drugs, Zen, rit-
ual, and psychodrama. Th e
author's rationale for this leng-
thy rehash of material found in
more depth in many other plac-
es is that art and society a r e
inextricably intermixed on all
levels and "to arrive at a n y
conclusions regarding the cur-
rent overall state of the f i n e
arts in advanced technological
countries. we must first exam-
ine the self-consciously revolu-
tionary underground of the arts"
(and of the underground soc-
ial radicalism which springs
from the same roots).
We are introduced briefly to
most aspects of art and society
in the technological West in the
twentieth century. However, the
balance between the treatment
of art and its environment is
uneven. As an art critic, Coutts-
Smith was already supremely at
home in the art scene when he
undertook the book. One senses
that he researched the various
facets of society rather
thoroughly. Many of the most-
expanded sections show inten-
sive, information-gathering. Of-
ten the reader feels the author
was tempted by the excitement
of "new" ideas to overbalance
his text in their favor by com-

k

s

wings.
of the experiencing of the self
and the other-than-self, while
minimal art and related styles
concentrate on the essence of
the art object itself. Personally,
Coutts-Smith favors the art of
the "other tradition" - the Da-
da-Romaniticist one - feeling
it is the current art capable of
engendering change. Most of the
text deals with aspects of this
"other tradition," although there
are nodding references to works
on the other side of the ideolo-
gical-stylistic fence too.
The rich diversity of artis-
tic expression in our century
lends excitement to the age-
and, ultimately, confusion to
the book's text. The author
seems to have evolved his struc-
ture by using a scatter-gun tech-
nique on all the ideas which
interest him. He attacks s u b -
jects in apparently random or-
der and arbitrary depth. In
writing a book of this type,
there is always a- further prob-
lem of organization: do you
choose a few representative ar-
tists and let the reader take
on faith your wide acquaint-
ance with the whole field, or do
you prove your erudition by
sprinkling name s, however
a c u t e 1 y, throughout. Coutts.:
Smith attempts to do both,
which heightens reader confus-
ion. (For most American read-
ers, the mixed approach to. the
whole field of British art, muc
of which is underpublicized here,
will be frustrating. The frustra-
tion is not mitigated by the
small black-and-white illustra-
tions which illustrate some of
the artistic ideas discussed.)
One wants a much tighter
structure. The book is, in effect,
a sprawling collection of frag-
mentary ideas which s o m e-
times intermingle alarmingly.
However, despite the flabby
structure which calls on the
reader for extraordinary feats
of extraction and synthesis, the
book is well worth reading. It
is a dense,suggestive compend-
ium of ideas with voluminous
quotes from a wide variety of
sources which spur further ex-
ploration. It is also good to be
repeatedly challenged by the
musings of a socially conscious
art critic on the place of art in
the new world he believes must
come. His closing lines sum up
his attitude toward art in the
present and toward its future
possibilities:.
"And art? What has art got
to do with all this? .. . We
seem to have lost the faculty
of using it as a common ac-
tivity, as a way of sharing our
experience of the universe.
Sartre has commented that
one of the chief motives
of artistic creation is certain-
ly the need of feeling that we
are essential in relationship to
the world.' But we do not have
this feeling . . . Perhaps we
can regain it with a re-order-
ing of society; but what sort
of art will we have then? -.-
It may well be a form that we
Renaissance - orientated peo-
ple won't recognize at all -. -
What it must be though, if it
is to be art, and what we seem
to have. lost in, the painting
and sculpture of our imme-
diately contemporary scene, is
a spiritual quality that speaks
to both man as an individual
and to man as a member of a
collective."

Charles Osborne, GIUSEPPE
VERDI: HIS LIFE AND
WORKS, Alfred Knopf, 1970,
$10 00.
By ALLAN R. KEILER
Charles Osborne, one of the
young British writers on music,
is also a devoted and enthusi-
astic champion of Verdi and has
produced a book about that com-
poser, The Complete Operas of
Verdi. It is, in fact. the first
comprehensive study of Verdi's
complete operatic oeuvre in any
language since Francis Toye's
pioneering work, Guseppe Ver-
di: His Life and Works, written
in 1931. Osborne's book does not
advance the work of Toye in any
significant respect, but he has
had the benefit of the igreat
revival of interest in early Verdi
and the lesser known works of
Verdi's middle period. It is,
therefore, for these reasons
alone, a welcome addition to the
Verdi bibliography.
Each of Verdi's twenty-six
operas, presented chronological-
ly, is given a chapter and there
is a final chapter devoted to his
non-operatic works. Every opera
is treated fully in four parts:
a biographical introductory part,
sources and progress of the li-
bretto, a detailed plot summary
with plentiful reference to im-
portant musical sections, and
including many musical ex-
amples, and finally a musical
analysis and judgment of the
opera. Osborne's book is, there-
fore, more than just a series of
descriptions of Verdi's operatic
plots, but a kind of operatic
biography of the composer.
The reader will find the mid-
dle parts of Osborne's book the
most interesting and useful. The
biographical commentary i s
short and merely sets the stage
for the operatic work to be con-
sidered. There is nothing here
that cannotbe found easily in
any standard biography of Ver-
di. Osborne is apparently some-
what self-conscious about this,
and devotes considerable discus-
sion to such controversial ques-
tions as the possible existence
of an early opera Rochester,
perhaps destroyed by the com-
poser, and King Lear, an opera
which Verdi always intended to
write and whose libretto synop-
sis he kept in his study until
his death. Unfortunately, Os-
borne has really nothing new to
add to these questions. In the
case of Rochester he concludes,
without giving any evidence,
that such an bpera did, in fact
exist. In the discussion of Lear
Osborne again dispenses with
Today's Wriers ...
Allan R. R. Keiler is As-
sociate Professor of Linguis-
tics at the University; he stu-
died piano with Alicia De
Larrocha in Barcelona and
has gathered together an out-
standing collection of rare
opera performances on tape.
Diane Kirkpatrick, an Assist-
tant Professor in the History
of Art Department, offers
r opular courses in twentieth
century art history. Sculptor,
painter, jack-of-all-arts Ri-
chard Turner has taught and
studied in India and has
erected many sculptural at-
tractions in Ann Arbor parks;
he presently is holding an
"aesthetic exploration of the
Union" in the Union base-
ment.

evidence, and substitutes con-
jecture for argument: He says
in one paragraph, "I sometimes
wonder if any of Verdi's Lear-
Cordelia sketches made their
way into the music for Boc-
canegra . . " (pg. 81). In the
next, he concludes with "I have
already suggested the possibility
of Lear music having found its
way into Simon Boccanegra...".
On the other hand, the second
part of each chapter, which
deals with the libretto of the
opera, is extraordinarily reveal-
ing about Verdis working meth-
ods and his intense preoccupa-
tion with the, dramatic values
of his works. Verdi was primarily
concerned with human passions
and emotions, i.e. opera and hu-
man drama, and was therefore
closer in spirit to Gluck and
even Monteverdi and the early

the exact kind of verses which
he required to heighten the
dramatic tension of a given
scene. Often Verdi simply had to
write them himself, as in the
duet "O terra, addio" from
Aida.
In the last section of each
chapter, where he provides a
musical analysis of the opera,
Osborne is less successful. This
is, of course, the most difficult
kind of musical exposition to
write, since any formal and de-
tailed musical analysis would be
out of place in this kind of work.
The danger, however, is to slip
into metaphorical language in
order to avoid technical termin-
ology. Perhaps metaphor, be-
cause of its convenience and
universality, is to a large extent
unavoidable in talking about
music, but it is also imprecise
and confusing. Osborne has
happily avoided metaphorical
description almost entirely but
has put in its place common-
place and uninformative de-
scriptive vocabulary. When Os-
b o r n e describes Azucena's
"Stride la vampa" as "simple
and effective," the Amelia-
Gabriele duet as "charming and
elegant," and countless other
examples as merely "interest-
ing" or "dramatic," the more
knowledgeable reader is merely
put off and the layman unim-
pressed.
Nor is it informative to com-
pare Verdi's compositional tech-
niques to countless other com-
posers on the basis of super-
ficial orchestral or melodic de-
vices. In the course of some fifty
pages, Verdi is likened, in this
manner, to Mozart, Beethoven,
Offenbach, Bellini, Spohr, Men-,
delssohn, Schubert, Tchaikov-
sky, Moussorgsky, and Meyer-
beer. The list is not complete.
When Osborne provides most
careful and informative analy-
sis, it is frequently simplistic
and unsupported. In discussing,
e.g., Dorrado's aria "Tutto par-,
ea sorridere" from Il Corsaro,
he says that it "is not only
beautiful, but, when Verdi gives
the tune to the strings while the
voice punctuates the melody
with short phrases of recitative,
interesting and unusual as well,"
(pg. 184). One would like to
know why this is interesting -
is this device used in a different
fashion here than elsewhere? It
is, furthermore, not unusual but

extremely common in Verdi, one
of his most characteristic mu-
sical devices, and one could give
a plethora of examples - the
opening scene of Act II of Rigo-
letto between Rigoletto and
Sparafucile. the scene between
Amneris and the priests in Act
IV of Aida, portions of Lady
Macbeth's sleepwalking scene,
and so on.
The concluding sections are
often irritating because of Os-
borne's hyper-enthusiasm for
every page of Verdi, which, by
the way, often makes him ap-
pear overly intimidated by Toye.
He rejects, for example, every
negative comment of Toye's
about certain admittedly infer-
ior pages of Verdi out of hand.
He is frequently self-contradic-
tory. Concerning the final trio
from Aroldo, for example. Os-
borne says that "it is too short,
and does not avoid sounding
perfunctory. But what there is
of it can hardly be faulted." (pg.
233). He does not avoid the

Exploring the operas

of Verdi

Earth Day and You

Florentine operatic ideals than
to the prevailing German ro-
mantic tendencies of his time:
romanticized nature, exempli-
fied in the works of Weber and
Lortzing, or the mythological
symbolism of Wagner. With this
he coupled the simple, direct,
and homophonic-almost Schu-
bertian-ideal of song. He was,
therefore, continually attracted
to the kind of melodramatic
and complicated plots that he
was later to be criticized for.
But it was these very literary
sources which Verdi and his
librettists could adapt to provide
the emotional confrontations
that always inspired Verdi to his
'finest music.
All of this Osborne makes
abundantly clear, in the gener-
ously quoted correspondence be-
tween Verdi and .his librettists
and the emphasis which he
places on the degree to which
Verdi did, in fact, control them.
It is amusing and instructive
to read of Verdi leading Piave
and Cammarano around by the
nose until they would supply

pressing the art sections which
were old hat to him. The chap-
ter on science fiction is a case
in point. It is a frivolous di-
gression from the visual arts in-
to literary history, fascinating
but unnecessary to the remarks
on science and art in the suc-
ceeding chapter. Similarly, sev-
eral less well-known artists seem
to be disproportionately expand-
ed in the heat of recent discov-
ery. (Morlotti receives f o u r
whole pages, and the Czech Cub-
ists, get a rather beside-the-
point half page.)
The diversity of styles in the
twentieth century is, for t h e
author, a manifestation of the
Mannerism often found in socie-
ties in transition; art respond-
ing to all aspects of the fluid
environment around it. In rang-
ing through the major and
minor styles on the art scene of
the past seventy years, Coutts-
Smith dips into influencing
ideas from the various sciences,
social sciences and liberal arts.
A large and important chunk of
the book traces the influence of
Phenomenology through Exist-
entialism to many contemporary
arts forms and ideas.
The difference between Es-
sentialists and Existenialists is
possibly the only thread which
runs through the whole volume.
On it Coutts-S'mith hangs the
twentieth century variations of
what was once called the Classi-
cal-Romanticism divide. T hi s
makes sense, because Dada, Ab-
stract Expressionism, Tachism,
and post-Dada place an Existen-
tial emphasis on the importance

The air was clean once, the
water good. We could walk the
land and enjoy earth's smell.
Now a disease infects our coun-
try. Its smog kills trees in Yose-
mite. Its pollution destroys our
lakes, rivers, marshes. The sea
is next. We are burying our-
selves under 7 million scrapped
cars, 30 million tons of waste
paper, 48 billion discarded cans
and 28 billion bottles and jars a
year. And every day we pile up
a million tons more of garbage.
The air we breathe circles the
earth 40 times a year. Americans
spew into it 140 million tons of
pollutants: 90 million from cars
-we burn more gasoline than
the rest of the world combined.
Los Angeles' smog may cause
mass deaths by 1975. There are
5,500 Americans born each day.
There will be 100 million more
of us by the year 2000. We flat-
ten our hills, fill our bays, blitz
our wilderness. The quality
drains from our lives: Each of
us in any large sea-coast city is
rapidly becoming one-twenty-
millionth or one-thirty-millionth
of a swelling megalopolis.
These are warnings. Maga-
zines can inform-as LOOK has
with its Everglades plea (Sep-
tember 9,1969) and its first ecol-
ogy issue (November 4, 1969).
But after the warnings and
talk end, there must come action.
All Americans, young and old,
left and right, are getting to-
gether to talk about our wrecked
earth. April 22 is Earth Day, a
time of nationwide teach-ins on
ecology. LOOK's second ecol-
ogy issue (now on newsstands)
features 26 pages on issues that
will be discussed on Earth Day.
It warns, but it also argues:
"The Fight to Save America
Starts Now." The issue starts
with a. plea to save "The Dis-
appearing Beauty of the Salt
Marsh," a black-and-white pho-

1;

trite: "To fight against II Tro-
vatore is futile: it is as undis-
putaboy there as the Colosseum,
the Mona Lisa, and the book of,
Genesis." (pg. 257). I wish Os-
borne had concentrated more on
showing, opera by opera, the de-
velopment and maturing of Ver-
di's musical style, the increasing
complexity and freedom of his
harmonic vocabulary, ire short,
how Verdi managed, almost sin-
glehandedly, to refine and ex-
pand the dramatic aspect of
nineteenth century Italian op-
era, finally culminating in Otel-
Jo. To be sure, Osborne is aware
of this, but while enthusiasm is
often infectious, it is not always
convincing.
In spite of these deficiencies,
which mar to a large extent
only the last section of each
chapter, Osborne's book should
prove to be a valuable listening
companion and source book for
Verdi's operas. It is certainly
knowledgeable, entertaining, and
well-written.

tographic essay. From "Five
Who Care," LOOK readers learn
about how things are changing.
Sen. Gaylord Nelson, co-spon-
sor of Earth Day, writes about
the need for legislation and a
Constitutional amendment guar-
anteeing our right to a clean and
healthful environment. Dr. Rene
Dubos, a noted biologist and a
Pulitzer Prize winner, and Dr.
Margaret Mead, the anthropol-
ogist, write about our changing
society and the ways to make
Americans draw back from our
consume-now, damn-the-en-
vironment attitude. Rod Cam-
eron, a lawyer with the Environ-
mental Defense Fund, argues
that if legislation and attitudes
don't change soon, we should
sue polluters and demonstrate
in the streets. And Henry Ford
II pledges virtually emission-
free cars by 1975. Dr. Paul
Ehrlich,"Ecology's Angry Lobby-
ist," outlines the problems and
pins the blame on population.
Then LOOK urges its readers
to join activist ecology groups,
some on campus, some off.
LOOK lists 49 of the most active
ecology groups getting tough
with polluters in their areas,
and their telephone numbers.
On the same page, LOOK un-
veils its Ecology Flag-green and.
white with a Greek theta warn-
ing of the threat of death to
earth. It's a symbol of what's
happened to our environment in
200 years. And it's a pledge to
help clean up America by 1976,'
its bicentennial. The flag is of-
fered (at 25 cents each) to LOOK
readers as a sign of their com-
mitment to a clean environment.
The warning. The call to ac-
tion. LOOK's commitment. We
can no longer wring our hands
over the wrecked earth. We
must act. Now.
The Editors of Look

A

l
4v

NOW IN PAPERBACK:
explosive political
autobiography
DI.
$1.95
A DIAL PRESS PAPERBACK
Distributed by DELL Scott

I

Towering teddy bears

C i a e s Oldenburg, PROPO-
SALS F O R MONUMENTS
A N D BUILDINGS, 1965 - 69,
B i g T a b l e Publishing Co.,
1969, $12.95.
By RICHARD D. TURNER
Taken as a work of art in
itself, rather than as an "art
book," Claes Oldenburg s
Proposals for Monuments and
Buildings, 1965-69 is an intrigu-
ing example of a use of the
print medium which is as scul-
ptural as it is literary. At first
glance, the book appears to fall
in line with your basic run of
the mill art books. It contains
an interview with the artist, a
set 'of reproductions of his
drawings, and a few photos of
the artist at work, or in this
case, on location. What makes
this book unique is that* the
work does not lose anything in
translation to the printed page,
and is, in several instances, en-
hanced -in the process, since
the works with which the book
concerns i ts e 1 f are manipula-
tions of the imagination.. None
exist outside of the mind of
their creator and that of his
public.
Oldenburg's proposals - such
as a Good Humor. Bar as tall as
the Pan Am building, a colossal
gearshift to replace the Nelson
Column in Trafalgar Square, a
skyscraper in the shape of a
wooden clothespin for Chicago

In terms of the visual arts,
reading this book is participa-
tory experience in one of its
most rewarding' forms and goes
beyond merely appreciating Ol-
denburg's accomplishment. In
envisioning what an island-siz-
ed pizza in New York harbor
would look like, you actually re-
enact the artist's creative ex-
perience. The invitation to the
reader is clear: use your imagi-
nation not to fill in the details
or capture the atmosphere, as
you must do when looking at a
photograph of a cathedral or
temple, but as a creative act
complete in itself.
Oldenburg's drawings, which
make up the bulk of the book,
serve as guides for those of us
who are- slower witted. They are
of no help whatsoever to the
person who might wish to com-
pare his visualization with
"what it really looks like", or
for someone interested in seeing
'the monuments in detail. They
indicate a possible scale and sug-
'gest location, and little more.
The style is loose and quick. The
economy of line and wash mat-
ches the brevity of the written
descriptions. Their sketchy qua-
lity reflects the rapid workings
of the conceptualizing mind.
The lack of detail and improb-
able perspectives only serve to
remind us once again that the
work exists in the mind, not on
the page. The drawings, graphi-
cally exciting though they may
be, are the by-products.

perfectly. A collection of his
works in book form does noth-
ing to detract from their origi-
nal qualities. Many of the draw-
ings are reproduced half or one
third size and thus do not suf-
fer much in loss of scale.
Proposals for Monuments and
Buildings, 1965-69 goes beyond
documentation of the artist's re-
searches into a truly challeng-
ing experience. Oldenburg's ero-
tic humor, social critiques, and
aesthetic subtleties are all ac-
cessable - full strength - in
this fine book.
The story the.
newspapers don't
tell in "one of the
most important
books.. .yet written
about Vietnam."
-Publishers' Weekly

si'.0
In DO IT!, Jerry R
g written the most importantI
statement made by a white revolutic

ubin has
political
onarv in

America today. It is The Communist Manifesto
of our era and as a handbook for American
revolutionaries must be compared to Che
Guevara's Guerrilla Warfare.
DO IT! is a Declaration of War between
the generations --calling on kids to
raise a new society upon
the ashes of the old.

c

,-i

1

Saigon, U.S.A.

I

* ' * * * * * ' *
by Alfred Hassler
Introduction by
Senator George McGovern
"A telling indictment of Presi-
dent Thieu's r6gime."

DO IT! is a prose poem singing
the inside saga of the move-
ment; it is a frenzied emo-
tional symphony for a new
social disorder; a comic
book for seven-year-olds;
a tribute to insanity.
Eldridge Cleaver has written
an introduction to it and

.1

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