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May 21, 1961 - Image 13

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1961-05-21
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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Humorists,
Dramatists
Cite Grounds
For Anxiety

Modern America
Needs This Means
Of Communication
By CAROLINE DOW
Folk Music:

Medea-Sophistication in Drama

Mort Sahl-Sophistication in Comedy

Fad and Fulfili

America
By JUDITH OPPENHEIM
THE AMERICAN THEATRE is undercurrent of anxiety which has f
currently experiencing a strik- become so much a part of our f
ing change of mood-from roman- daily existence that we have al- a
tic naivete to serious sophistication most forgotten what life is like J
-and it is beginning to look as without it. 1
though the change will be per- The uneasiness about the world u
manent. situation, which we are powerless a
The shift is not just a new to alter, has made us turn almost
selling gimmick. It is a reflection with a sense of relief to criticism
of a real change in the disposition of our own country and forced us
of the American people with some to question our own pattern of s
very complicated causes and im- life. .
plications. Writers of pseudo-sociological s
One contributing factor is the novels have been flooding the mar- a
generally serious state the world ket with denunciations of our
is in. With more people than ever crass way of life. Images of the t
before reading newspapers and ugly American, chewing gum andc
listening to the radio, the tradi- brandishing dollars, have been I
tional shell of blissful ignorance waved before us, and we have a
surrounding the country has begun recognized our portrait, resisting t
to crack. it at first, and then demanding b
that its features be made sharper b
MANY PEOPLE are aware for and sharper.b
the first time that the prob-
lems of other countries are of VT IS CURIOUS that we should t
very definite concern to us. The become so obsessed with the I
knowledge that mishandling of pursuit of knowledge of our flaws v
any of a hundred trouble spots rather than ignore them in favor 1
around the world could touch off of more diverting entertainment. a
the holocaust, coupled with the Perhaps the reason is that we all t
feeling of helplessness in the ab- feel a vague sense of guilt, and i
sence of one sharply delineated facing a direct accusation gives
crisis on which to focus our at- us a sense of absolution.
tention leads to a highly developed Some people probably go a step

Entertainment

further than this rationale and
feel that by listing our problems
we are on the way to solving them,
just as a student will feel he has
his paper all but written the min-
ute he has an orderly outline
drawn up.
PROBABLY SENSING the mod-
ern American's need for re-
sponsibility, modern playwrights
have expressed their criticisms of
society in more or less clearly
articulated questions.
As Eugene Ionesco, author of
the current Broadway hit "Rhin-
ocerous puts it: "I ask a question.
You see, the playwright doesn't
answer his own questions-he asks
them. He points at problems but
he cannot solve them. All the same
he can point them out. He may
be a little more sensitive to them.
"But if he gives the answers
oo, he becomes a mere politician.
He kills his play ... that's exactly
what he must never do. He must
et others do some of the work.
They have to ask themselves if
he problem the author presents'
s a real one . . ."
YOU CAN usually tell whether
the problem is a real one byl

how popular the play becomes.
The question the author asks may
be very general, or it may be
highly personal.
But to be successful it must ap-
peal to a very common need. You
must be able to see the play,
listen to the question and say,
"Yes, that's exactly right." You
must recognize it as precisely the
question you wanted to ask but
couldn't formulate. You must re-
cognize it as a problem applying
to you, arising from your culture.
This is what most of modern
drama has been trying to do. We
understand Willy Loman because
we understand his milieu. We are
of it. And in understanding what
happens to him we are suddenly
made aware, in part, of what is
wrong with our world.
W E UNDERSTAND "J.B." be-
cause it poses a genuine riddle
we have not heard before, "If God
is God he is not good. If God is
good he is not God." And we sud-
denly understand what is at the
root of many of our religious mis-
givings.
In plays like "Raisin in the Sun"
and "West Side Story" we reverse
the process and see in particular1

situations what we have only heard
discussed in very general terms,
and all at once the meanings of
these generalizations and the
problems are reduced to single
questions.
The musicals, once purely de-
lightful froth, have begun to ask
questions too. Kurt Weil's "Three-
Penny Opera," which is more than
holding its own against such ex-
travaganzas as "My Fair Lady"
and "Gypsy," presents the most
base and corrupt aspects of human
nature.
NO GOOD VENTURE man at-
tempts can ever be achieved
the play. tells us. Mr. Peachum
says:
" . ..Sad to say it happens
almost never
You have to reach up high
and man' is low
Who wouldn't want to live in
peace forever?
It seems that circumstance
won't have it so."
The characters in this play de-
bate the wisdom of staging a
pleasant outcome singing, "Happy
ending nice and tidy, it's a rule
I learned in school."
But then they conclude that
"Circumstance won't have it so"
and the real ending is the utter
(degradation brought about by
human weakness.
We had suspected before that
the happy ending seldom mater-
ializes. Now we begin to learn
why.
THE QUESTION and answer
process, however, does not
need to be carried on exclusively
in a "deep and solemn atmos-
phere.
Some of the poignant and illu-
minating social commentary has
lately come from a new form of
entertainment labeled "Sick Com-
edy." Actually, this comedy is not
sick but diagnostic, and its popu-
lartiy as such is increasing stead-
ily.
The best of the "sick" enter-
tainers is Mort Sahl, who adver-
tizes himself as a "professional
iconclast" and is just that. His
approach is a blitz of merciless
satire on every American institu--
tion, sparing no one and leaving
nothing sacred.
He wonders at America's abihty:
to lose entire nations while main-
'rHIC;AkIDAILYn AAAA7INE

WHEN CARL SANDBURG heard
America singing, the songs
were jazz and blues.
Now answering a new need,
America's song has become the
folk ballad. Music stores now sell
folk records as they once sold
rock'n roll; Seeger, Odetta and the
Kingston Trio win top billing in
Carnegie Hall; any record with a
folk-type cover sells.
In reaction against the deper-
sonalization of the industrial rev-
olution the Americans have turn-
ed to folk music as a personal and
coherent art form.
According to David Riesman,
the American people have become
more interested in getting along
with their fellows and less in-
terested in getting ahead of them.
FOLK MUSIC has become a part
of this trend, as a vehicle of
inter-personal expression. It has
answered the modern person's
need to communicate, since folk
singing is both a group and an
individual experience, an activity
in which any person may take
part.
Group singing allows a person
to sing and participate without
being noticed. Yet, if an individ-
ual wishes to contribute he may
add or lead an unknown verse.
The songs are of people -- their,
failures, successes and loves-and
they relate to each singers per-,
sonal experience.'
The industrial revolution
brought the depersonalized andr
egocentric machine-music of -jazz,t
rock 'n roll and blues. Americans;
became near-machines as they
listened to the clangor and inco-
herent notes of this nervous mu-
sic.
Now Bob Gibson calms the lis-
tener with "some come to laugh,1
their voices do ring . . . but as fort
me, I come to sing."
FOLK MUSIC is one of the an-
swers to this paradoxical age
where the advance of knowledgef
has simultaneously freed man to
experiment in the field of human-1
ities and depersonalized-all hum-,
an contact by deification of the
machine.
It gives the coherence of ac
simply told story to the muddled
world, the refreshing directness1
of a story, that needs no back-t
ground such as "Frankie and2
CAROLINE DOW is at
night editor on The Daily
staff, a history major and a c
member of the folk.

Johnny" or "I Gave My Love a
Cherry."
Above all, the folk song offers
a substitute for insincere mass
media, allowing direct contact be-
tween people spontaneously, with-
out any intervening, sponsor or
double motivation.
TrHIS is the very reason that
the rock 'n roll ballad is not
folk music. It is not part of the
people but manufactured for
them. In these songs the "taste-
makers" have found the golden
combination, the ballad and rock
'n roll. However, in manufactur-
ing this monster they have in-
validated the appealing factors of
both.
Rock 'n roll is to be listened
and danced to, words just add to
the frenzy or feeling of the mu-
sic. Folk music has a message
and music is primarily a partner.
A combination of the message
ballad and the dominating music
of rock 'n roll removes the ef-
fectiveness of both. If the rock 'n
roll ballad is to become represen-
tative of the people and the so-
ciety will have lost its coherence,
because men will no longer be able
to relate their actions and feelings
to the popular art forms.
For in rock'n roll and jazz there
is no meaning, only feeling. We
live in a world where one man's
uncontrolled feelings could de-
stroy the world and thus com-
munication and coherence are+
paramount, to preserve humanity.
The folk song offers a means of1
coherent communication and the1
subject of folk songs stress hunan-1
ity. They offer an alternative to a.
world of uncontrolled feelings.
Yet men must express them-3
selves somehow and the folk song
offers a related, communal ex-i
pression. Also, as we emerge fromf
the industrialization of men, the
human need to fulfill individual
talents re-emerges as it did in the
renaissance.
"PEOPLE like folk music be-
cause they think they can do
better," according to Weaver Eric
Darling. This fact presents an-°
other problem that rock 'n roll
would have to face if it is to be-2
come legitimate.Y
Rock 'n roll instrumentationI
has become so complicated that,
an electric guitar, echo chambere
and other props are needed to r
achieve the effect. It is a con-
trived, unnatural and complex art. i
One individual could not pro- r
duce it spontaneously or well, Be- I
cause of this it is ,doubtful that o
any person would think he could f

do it better than the expert or
resort to it as an expression of
the self.
OUR SOCIETY, which needs the
personal expression of folk
music, also corrupts it through
the same forces that produce the
need. Mass media and the loss of
the personal touch overcome good
folksingers and they too, become
commercial. More and more we
hear of folk "concerts" and trade-
mark songs of singers than of
"folk-sings."
There has been a great deal of
research into old folk songs and
more and more are re-entering
the culture. One of the difficulties
in holding an "old-fashioned"
folksing is that not everyone will'
know the songs as they once did.
In addition, it is very hard for
any entertainer, once he has be-
come successful, to keep touch
with the people. Due to mass me-
dia and mass curiosity about any
celebrity-one who has "reached
the top"-he is almost compelledt
to shut his door on the folk.
This alienation with the source;
and the greater and greater fees
he commands will very soon turn a
folksinger into a commercial en-
tertainer
IT IS CONTRADICTORY to say,
however, that folk music is
commercial unless the folk are:
commercial. When the folk turn
commercial and think not in
terms of people but in terms of
things and the best impression
they can make on those things,
then folk music, as an expression
of the people, will also go com-
mercial.
The people will not call it com-
mercial then because according to
the "Encyclopedia of Arts" the folk,
song is:
"Never aristocratic, dictated
by fashion or fostered by a
patron, rather an expression
of the people, traditionally,
naively, economically."
THE TRADITIONAL folk music,
characterized by the ballad
and the simple string instrument
has an interesting history in
America. For as it went into dor-
mancy in England due to the in-
dustrial revolution, it was on the
rise in pre-industrial America.
The folk song is just being re-
ntroduced as a living art in Eu-,
rope as an American transplant.
First regarding the folk song as
old-fashioned and an obsolete art
orm, Europeans changed their

minds as they hailed the American
folk music as an expression of
the "vibrant culture" of the new
world.
NOW, as they gain control over
the machine and put down
their roots after two great wars,
they are beginning to record their
own experiences in music again.
"Trafalgar Square" and "Ban the

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.. . commerce vs. folklore

Box office lines-Death of a Salesman or Marriage-Go-Round.

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