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November 04, 1993 - Image 9

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


On the wings
of chickens
The first great revolution in agri-
culture was when humans learned to
plant seeds in the ground and reap the
harvest. Agriculture was revolution-
ized for the second time when we
discovered that the power of animals
could be harnessed in this effort. And
still today, billions starve. It is time
for a third revolution. It is time to
,.unleash the awesome untapped power
41f chickens.

PS IV

By KIRK WET

TE

RS

The world-renowned baritone muses on poetry, performance and music in general

Chickens make up a huge portion
f our diets. We raise and kill chick-
ens by the millions. It is no exaggera-
tion, then, to say that ours is a nation
of chickens.
Yet we have been entrapped in the
traditional mind set that chickens have
value only as food. A chicken is born.
It is fed. Eventually, it is killed. In the
meantime, the chicken does nothing
- its limitless potential utterly squan-
*ered as it grows fat in festering
chicken coops. Chickens are born free,
yet everywhere they are in chains.
Consider, for one second, if this
were different. Dare to imagine a
world in which chickens were not
only the centerpiece of our diet but
the engine driving American produc-
tivity.
Some say that this is an impos-
sible goal. Chickens will never be
Oroductive, they argue. It is better to
allow chickens to lay dormant than
attempt to use their energy for the
good of man. They belittle any at-
tempts to allow chickens to live up to
their full potential as crazy pipe
dreams.
Perhaps this was true in the past,
before anyone developed a realistic
mnechanism to harness the power of
*hickens. But we are now living on
the edge of a revolution, at a time that
historians will later call: The Dawn of
the Chicken Powered Cart.
The idea is simple. Take an ordi-
nary carriage and attach a lengthy
pole to the front, aiming forward and
parallel to the ground. Onto to this
pole would be harnessed a team of
several hundred chickens. At the head
qf the pole would be the lead chicken,
chosen for its strength, endurance and
leadership.
The Chicken Powered Cart (CPC)
would initially be used, out of conve-
nience, by chicken-farming families.
The Chicken Powered Cart would
replace the family pickup truck for
driving to and from town and to the
market. Teenagers could even take
he Chicken Pdwered Cart out on
ates.
The Cart could also replace plows,
tractors and other expensive, high-
maintenance machinery. Eventually,
other people could convert to chicken
transportation. Chicken Powered
Carts could take commuters to work,
bring rural children to faraway schools
and take the elderly to hospitals for
desperately-needed medical atten-
on.
Some argue that the Chicken Pow-
ered Cart merely duplicates existing
modes of transportation - engine
power or horse power is the best we
can do. Chickens, they claim, are
cocky, spineless lackeys unable to
handle the responsibility of pulling a
cart on a daily basis. And if a few
children can't attend school, or some
old people die for lack of care, well,
Whese sacrifices we must make for the
sake of convenience.
But the Chicken Powered Cart is
far more efficient than either horse or
engine power. Both the horse and the
car share a common weakness: they

homas Hampson's down-to-earth, practical, yet heart-felt ap
proach to music is a refreshing change from the pretensions
often associated with recital and operatic singing. Hampson is
an American baritone with few equals on the world's operatic
stages and recital platforms. A singer with a vast repertoire,
Hampson is perhaps best known for his advocacy of the "Lied" or "art song,"
and particularly for his innovative programming in this field. Hampson's
approach to music and programming will be exemplified in a Sunday after-
noon recital at Hill Auditorium.
In a recent phone interview from a hotel room in Zurich, Hampson
discussed his Ann Arbor recital, as well as singing and music in general. Often
vehement in his opinions, Hampson's devotion to the music he sings was the
clear throughout his comments. He stressed that audiences should be enthusi-
astic about the music more than about the performer. "It should be an
exploration of the repertoire," he said. "It's just gotten way out of hand with
this business of celebrity. The repertoire is not the vehicle for the realization
of a personality; it should be the other way around. I am the vehicle through
which music and thought and poetry should come alive and give it back to the
same source from which it came."
Those attending Hampson's performance should bring their reading glasses
and arrive early, so as to take advantage of the program's detailed background
information. Hampson explained the need for such thorough program notes.
"I think it's terribly important that the public understands why a particular
program has been structured the way it has been, and why the songs have been
chosen," he said. "I like studying history and psychology and sociology and
literature through music, and through song, and I feel that people wouldn't be
able to enjoy that or appreciate that as much if I wasn't providing that
information."
Half of Hampson's recital will be Schumann's "Dichterliebe" (Poet's
Love), a cycle of songs set to poetry from the "Lyrisches Intermezzo" of
Heinrich Heine. Hampson particularly emphasized the importance of the
Heine's poetry in understanding the work. "The whole unrequited love
business is not because she was such a bitch and didn't return his love," he said.
"That's a bunch of nonsense. He could see, he knew that it was never theirs to
be because fate never allowed them to realize their love."
Schumann has often been criticized for not fully grasping Heine's poetic
idiom. According to this argument, Schumann's lush, melodic settings do not
fully capture the ironies and anti-romantic tendencies which lie beneath the
romantic language of the poetry. Hampson explained how the original version
(including four additional songs), reveals Schumann's absolute comprehen-
sion of the poetry, "I heard the subtle differences, so much more use of
dissonances, so much more exposed thought in the vocal line. I think that
Schumann understood exactly what Heine was talking about, and that comes
into much stronger relief with the original manuscript version."
Hampson stressed, however, the importance of the performer's role in
realizing the complexities of the cycle. "I think there are some pretty tough
turns in the Opus 48, the 'Dichterliebe,' some pretty tough corners to make
sure that the irony is there," he explained. "It's easy with a song-cycle as
beautiful as the 'Dichterliebe' to simply go along with it, just being a melody-
freak. You really have to be very poetically astute."
Hampson explained the nature of his research into the origins of
"Dichterliebe." "The Schumann study literally came about from just seeing
inconsistencies in the printed material for the 'Dichterliebe,"' he said.
"Schumann did not come up with the title for the piece, nor did he ever refer
to the piece as 'Dichterliebe.' And that's when actually the research really
started, we then went back through from today's writings on Schumann and
got clear back to the time of the printing of Schumann's work. It's not like I
roll up my sleeves because I want to do some research, it's just literally a hands-
on usage. I honestly want to understand - I don't think I'm more clever, or
have more to research than anybody else. It's just all part of my approach to
learning music.
The recent retirement of the century's most respected and prolific baritone,
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, is an opportunity to consider his impact on singing
and music in general. Hampson may be exaggerating in saying that "Fischer-
Dieskau is probably the most significant musical.impetus of the last 25 years
or 30 years," but there is certainly no denying that Fischer-Dieskau has had
incalculably great effect on how singing is understood.
Unfortunately, Fischer-Dieskau's excellence has led many to view his
interpretations of song repertoire as absolute standards of comparison. In-
stead, his approach should be seen as a unique interpretive perspective among
many differing and equally valid perspectives. "I think the pre-eminence
accorded to Fischer-Dieskau is very much due," Hampson said. "The problem
that then goes hand-in-hand is how his accorded and rightful dominance of the
field has somehow formed in people's minds a definition of what the field is,
rather than a definition of what his role in the field was. I'm as much a fan and
devotee and admirer of Fischer-Dieskau as I am frustrated with the impact that
people not involved with music have let it have on the whole genre of recitals."
In opera, Hampson's opinions and frustrations were even stronger. When
asked about the much-discussed issue of the lack of "large" voices among
today's opera singers, Hampson exploded, "I think it's a bunch of junk. If you
believe opera to be the arena of great circus events, and if you're particularly
an operatic fan because of the phenomenon of loud vocalism, or that a voice
can be that loud, then I don't have much to say to you in the first place - how
did one define what was amazingly loud or articulate in 1940 or 1930 or 1920?"
Hampson continued by decrying the current standards of operatic expres-
sion. "When you look at what was considered to be shocking on an emotional
level in 1950 or 1920," he said, "I'm quite sure that if some of our singers of
today had been singing then, they would have been considered vulgar mon-

sters of audacious loudness that should never be allowed on the lyric stage. The
whole argument is terribly naive, is terribly unfounded for the most part, and
T thinr pignral lamentin n onra fans that there's n loud- gnrinu voies is

amPSon' s Collection
In the past few years, Thomas Hampson has built a substantial discography
i both opera and song repertoire. Hampson's first recital disc, entitled '"Des
Knaben underhorn' (Youth's Magic Horn) was hailed with numerous
international awards. This disc of German romantic and late-romantic songs
includes many composers from Brahms to Mahler. All of the songs are settings
of poems from the collection of folk-poetry, "Des Knaben Wunderhorn." This
disc is a fine introduction to the great variety of German romantic song-
writing.
Also with the title "Des Knaben Wunderhorn," Hampson's most recent disc
is appearing in stores this week. The disc features Mahler's settings of "Des
Knaben Wunderhorn" in rarely (if ever) heard piano versions. Mahler enthu-
siasts will want to hear these original piano versions, which are often very
different from their better-known orchestral counterparts.
Hampson has also recorded Mahler's three mature orchestral song-cycles
with Leonard Bernstein conducting. These performances have already right-
fully become recorded classics. The exceptionally rapt and measured version
of 'Um Mitternacht" (At Midnight) alone is worth the price of the disc.
One of Hampson's most revelatory recording projects is his CD of German
songs by American composers. The songs by Charles Ives, Charles Griffes*
and Edward MacDowell are skillful and beautiful realizations of German
romantic poetry. This disc is excellent proof (for those who need it) of the
.breadth and diversitv of I ieder renertoire.

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