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January 06, 1993 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-06

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01

ARTS

TheMihian.alyWeneda, Jauay,199 PaeI

Disaster 'Leap'
Steve Martin's latest in a long line offlops
by Michael John Wilson unbehevable the crowd's swooning
Steve Martin may be a fine comic becomes. It's about as close as we're
actor, but his taste in scripts is chroni- going to get to see Steve do stand-up
cally impaired. In corn like "Father of nowadays. And his cynical, unsenti-
the Bride" and "Housesitter," and pre- mental attitude offstage is refreshing.
tentious dogs like Larry Kasdan's When the townspeople complain
"Grand Canyon," it'sonly Martin him- about the lack of rain, however, and
-Iwe're introduced to a disabled young
boy (Lukas Haas) who has faith that
Leap of Faith he'll be cured, look out. Trying for a
Directed by Richard Pearce; written by "Field of Dreams" kind of inspiration,
Janus Cercone; with Steve Martin, Debra the film tailspins into a forced conclu-
Winger, Liam Neeson sion. God and Cercone's script inter-
vene to provide two awful miracles,
self that makes the films watchable. betraying all the wonderful nastiness
His latest mediocre feature, "Leap of the first half of the film.
ofFaith,"comesfromfirst-timescreen- Worse is the love-affair sub-plot
writer Janus Cercone. Her story of a betweenJonas' lovesick business man-
cynical road evangelist is predictable ager (played by Debra Winger), and
and implausible from beginning to end. the town sheriff (played by, in perhaps
Yet Martin's performance as the dirty most strangely effective casting of the
rotten minister is hilarious and engag- year, cool Irishman Liam Neeson).
ing, even when Cercone's script goes The sheriff seems to be the only person
for the sentimental crap. in the whole dumb town that realizes
Martin plays Reverend Jonas Jonas is a con-artist, and Neeson's
Nightengale, a deadbeat who changes earnestness is appealing in the midst of
his name and becomes a preacher who all the fakery. When he inexplicably
takes his rock 'n' roll-style tour to falls for Winger's pathetic come-ons,
small towns. Jonas has no illusions however, it's utterly unbelievable. Only
about any devotion to Jesus: "I give an actressalotlesscloying than Winger
my people a good show," he says. could make this romance work.

Arnie Schoenberg:
atonal and eternal
by Kirk Wetters
The 20th century Austrian avant-garde composer Arnold Schoenberg has
always had more than his share of critics and defenders, a fact which has obscured
his talent and kept his music from being widely appreciated. The pianist Glenn
Gould remarked, "Although the name Arnold Schoenberg is known very widely
indeed - it is in fact as frequent a drawing-room reference as Freud or as Kafka
or, if you happen to be in a particularly 'one up' drawing room, as Kierkegaard-
yet many people remark that apart from a few of his docile and romantic works,
his compositions have so far failed to attract any large share of public response."
The controversies surrounding Schoenberg's theories of atonal and serial
composition have hidden the fact that Schoenberg was a phenomenally gifted
composer. Even if his theories become forgotten or obsolete, Schoenberg would
be judged favorably based on the power of his compositions themselves. As a
composer, Schoenberg had the most overwhelming artistic vision of any com-
poser after Beethoven, coupled with as much innate talent and inspiration as
Schubert.
The grounds for criticism of Schoenberg's music have always been weak,
regardless of whether it came from academic or media sources. Academic
criticism mostly focused on the validity of his theories and methods, not the
effectiveness of the music itself. His "technique for composition in twelve tones"
treats all twelve notes of the chromatic scale equally and structures them with a
predetermined note pattern called a "row." This serialist technique is still
extremely controversial because many see it as arbitrary and unjustifiable.
Composers such as Copland and Stravinsky were won over by serialism in their
later compositions.
Schoenberg certainly provoked more violent reactions from reactionary music
critics than any composer before or since. His "Pierrot Lunaire" was described as
"the last word in cacophony," and his "Chamber Symphony" renamed the
"Chamber-of-Horrors Symphony" and described as "self-torture of a flagellant
who whips himself with a cat-o' -nine-tails while cursing himself." Unfortunately,
the "Chamber Symphony" isn't quite as good as these comments make it seem.
Much criticism, both in and outside of Germany, was blatantly anti-Semitic.
The English composer Arnold Bax said that. atonal music was "cluttered up with
morbid growths emanating from the brains of a few decadent Central European
Jews." Fascist propaganda went even farther: "Schoenberg's tendency to negate
all that was before him is the old tested Jewish tactic which is always put into
practice, at an opportune moment, to destroy the cultural values of the host
peoples."
All criticism of Schoenberg tends to focus on his negation of tradition, but
Schoenberg's rebellious nature is vastly overstated. His theories, unlike the more
widely accepted neo-classicist principles used by Stravinsky and others, werenot
based on a rejection of 19th Century music. Schoenberg loved German music,
from Bach through Mahler, and developed his techniques in order to assure its
continued dominance. Schoenberg once remarked, "My music is not modern,
only badly played."
Despite such sentiments, a great deal of confusion still surrounds his music.
Many confuse Schoenberg's own personal style with his compositional tech-
niques. Regardless of the method of composition, whether tonal-romantic, free
atonal or serial, there are clear stylistic and thematic similarities in all of
Schoenberg's works.
Generally, his music depicts psychological extremity or dysfunction. His early
romantic masterpiece, "Gurre-lieder," tells of a knight whose sorrow and madness
drive him to raise up a horde of dead warriors in order to conquer heaven. And
"Pierrot Lunaire" is about a poet, drunk on moonlight, who delves into his own
horrifying subconscious. Schoenberg's late "String Trio" describes his near-death
experience following a heart attack.
Like Beethoven, Schoenberg's powerful and expressive visions make his
music easily appreciated in spite of its complexity. Perhaps Schoenberg's music
is not for everyone, but it certainly deserves to find a larger following than it has
now.

Onstage, Martin's rock star miracle-
giving is fun to watch, no matter how

LEAP OF FAITH is playing at
Briarwood and Showcase.

Why are Steve and Deb smiling? Almost no one likes "Leap of Faith."

Bad 4 Good
Refugee
Interscope
All grown up and no longer cute, the
red-headed kid from "Dif'rent Strokes"
is now singing for this pubescent heavy
metal quartet(I'm using the term "heavy
metal" extremely loosely).
Danny Cooksey aside, the kids in
Bad4 Good have some famous connec-

tions. You may, for instance, remember
12-year-old guitar prodigy Thomas
McRocklin from Steve Vai's video "Is
the Audience Listening."
The kids are adept at theirrespective
instruments and Cooksey's voice is fe-
rocious beyond his years. What dis-
credits Bad 4Good is the fact that Steve
Vai had a hand in writing II of the 13
songs on "Refugee," as well as produc-

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ing, arranging, engineering, and art-
directing it. As if that weren't enough,
Vai's innocent three-year-old son ap-
pears on the album's cover to symbolize
the ugly truth about Bad 4 Good - this
band is Steve Vai's baby.
"Curious Intentions," "Felony," and
"I Want Everything"offerarare glimpse
into Cooksey's poetic abilities as a lyri-
cist. Unfortunately, in obvious and fu-
tile attempts to sound older and more
mature, Bad 4 Good usually opts for
collaborations with Vai, like the vulgar
sexual fantasy "Rockin' My Body."
Paradoxically, then, the Steve Vai
saturation does not allow for a true
picture of Bad 4 Good; and yet without
him, this band would not exist.
Oh well. Soon they'll be Gone 4
Good.
-Kristen Knudsen
Information Society
Peace and Love, Inc.
Tommy Boy/Reprise
Information Society's second album
"Hack" was no smash, combining some
interesting tidbits of non-songs with
rehashes of tunes from their first album.
"Peace and Love, Inc.", their third al-
bum, is a worthier effort structure-wise
- none of the songs seem like they
don't belong. Don't expect any new
stuff going on here, though.Insoc hops
on the techno / house bandwagon with
this album, still sticking with their foun-
dations in computer technology. Yes,
there are a few samples here and there
- another Trek quote, one from "The
Outer Limits," some stolen from their
own albums. But mostly, "Peace and
Love" is an amalgam of repetitive,

danceable tunes made from electronic
sounds. Perfectly fitting Insoc-ian tracks
on "P&L" include "Where Would I Be
Without IBM" and "1,000,000 Watts of
Love."
Fun if you're not bored to tears by
more of the same.
-Jeff Rosenbeig
The Jesus Lizard
Liar
Touch and Go
My roommate calls this disc "an-
noying," "discordant," and "repetitive."
1le may be right, but I love it. If you're
one of those people who think that
music should hurt, you will love it, too.
Like Pigface, or perhaps Ministry,
TJL kicks you in the head with its beat,
but that's where the comparisons end
TJL is truly unique. Nobody on the
planet yells in quite the same way as
David Yow. Listeningt to TJL, I honestly
get the feeling that I am sitting in aroom
with a crazy man. Lyrics like "Take off
your shoes if you're going to dance on
me," or "Laugh at the noises my break-
ing bones make," (both from Perk)just
don't come from nomnal people. It's all
more than a bit unsettling.
The music itself isn't quite so scary,
but it's just as powerful. David Sims'
rumbling bass propels the music for-
ward, while Duane Denison's skillful
guitar work adds a level of tunefulness
otherwise absent from this disc. There
aren't a lot of melodies, but there are
plenty of hooks, and in the end, every-
thing comes together magically. On top
of all that, TJLis Al Jourgenson's favor-
ite band. If that impresses you, be sure
to check this disc out.
-Jason Vigna

Schoenberg on.CD
So that you don't experience "badly played"
Schoenberg, here are a few good CDs. I recommend
starting with his works, "Pierrot Lunaire" or "Verklarte
Nacht."
Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 for speaker and small
ensemble: Jan DeGaetani with Alexei Weisberg con-
ducting the Contemportary Chamber Ensemble on
Elektra/Nonesuch.
Five String Quartets, Verkarte Nacht Op. 4 for
string sextet, String Trio Op. 45: Members of the
LaSalle Quartet on Deutsche Grammophon.
Gurrelieder, for choruses, vocal soloists, and every
orchestral instrument imaginable: Raphael Kubelik
conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony on
Deutsche Grammophon.
Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 15: James Levine
conducts the Berlin Philharmonic in an incredible
recording for Deutsche Grammophon.
Piano Music: Maurizio Pollini on Deutsche
Grammophon and Paul Jacobs on Nonesuch are both
excellent.
Moses und Aron, the great unfinished opera:
Soloists with Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra on London.
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