The sight of Blair and Brown now acting to save the planet provokes the response “at last”. Instead of embarking in costly and deadly wars, given the steady stream of warnings, a start could have been made a lot sooner. Still we are intent on replacing Trident, but precisely who do we intend to target with it? Bin Laden?
George Monbiot (Guardian 31/10/2006) gives his list of priorities on the grounds that Blair and Brown’s proposals don’t meet the demands of global warming.
Here in the Midlands we are still living in the past, certainly as far as transport is concerned. There are still plans to build a new coach station centrally. The Metro is facing longer delays and ideas of dealing with congestion have run out. Cllr Len “Gridlock” Gregory has set up a “congestion taskforce” which seems to rely on fiddling with a junction here and a junction there. That the problem is the sheer volume of cars coming onto the roads in the absence of even a half decent public transport system eludes him.
Evidence in soil samples and the unusual amputation of limbs and burning of bodies is raising questions about exactlt what forms of weaponry Israel used in the Lebanon (Independent 28/10/2006).
Both Jerusalem Post and Haaretz pick up The Independent story, but Haaretz speaks also of the Gaza Strip referring to an earlier report in the Italian press.
Africa is in the spotlight at the London Film Festival which is outlined in the Independent today (27/10/2006). There are a number of films about incidents occuring in Uganda, southern Africa and elsewhere. It will be intersting to see how the African film industry is represented. In the past it was Francophone countries which produced a number of notable insights where it was possible to get an African perspective on events. A number of films were shown on Channel 4 giving a rare and welcome glimpse of the richness of life and culture. If poverty existed, the power of human life to exist and flourish came through.
The problem with films by outsiders may not allow the perspectives of Africans to emerge and can easily reinforce stereotypes, if not give a completely false image. C.L.R. James complained in his introduction to the “Black Jacobins” that Africans and those of African origin in the Caribbean, in America, were shown as passive recipients throughout history. This is inclined to continue even within the most well-meaning offereings. India too has suffered from a colonial filter when a whole succession of utter rubbish purporting to show India was screened. One distinguished British director opined that India had never been put on the screen, ignoring the achievements of Satyajit Ray and Rama Rao.
Ethiopia is said to be the place where the coffee bean originated, but coffee growers are being denied the benefits of their crops. Starbucks coffee outlet has an annual turnover representing three quarters that of Ethiopia’s economy. As the ordinary citizen of southern Africa is denied much of the benefit of mineral wealth, so the farmer loses out to business interests of the developed world.
Oxfam has accused Starbucks of attempting to block Ethiopia‘s attempts to patent the names of the coffee produced in that country in the U.S. which would be worth a substantial amount to Ethiopia’s producers.
Speaking of what happens to Africa’s wealth, it may be worth looking to see what is happening in the mining world. A Guardian report (25/10/2006) sates:
“Anglo American, the world’s third largest mining group, yesterday shocked the City when it broke with tradition and announced it had chosen an outsider to lead the company when the chief executive steps down next year. Even more surprising in a male-dominated industry, the new boss is a woman.”
Does appear to be a blow for equality, but clearly there are some who don’t welcome the news:
“Some analysts, however, worried about Ms Carroll’s lack of experience. Alcan is an aluminium producer – an area where Anglo has no interests. Ms Carroll has also worked for Amoco, the American oil company that merged with BP in 1998. One analyst said: “Oil and aluminium have got nothing to do with Anglo. She has no direct experience in anything Anglo does.”
Analysts at UBS added: “In our opinion, heading Anglo is one of the more challenging positions in mining due to the complexity of the group and time spent on ‘soft issues’ such as South Africa.” Anglo American still generates about 40% of its earnings from South Africa. Under the country’s policy of black economic empowerment, the company has to liaise closely with the government.”
The process of writing black people out of history goes on apace. We can see from the release of Clint Eastwood new film about Iwo Jima where it is impossible to pick out one African American. There were some 900 serving at the time who took part in this battle. Since there are living survivors they are able to give first had accounts of their experiences. This is included in the Guardian report. They speak of cameramen deliberately turning away from black troops.
The involvement of black people in history seems always to attract debate and be contested. “Out of Africa” was countered by “Not out of Africa”, African history itself has been questionned. The fact that black cowboys played an active role alongside their white counterpoints is well hidden. As a child I watched innumerable westerns but don’t remember African Americans featuring!
In Kenya the flower market is big business. European supemarkets are kept stocked with exotic blooms. The cost to Kenyans is high since the water being used is drying up rivers (Guardian 21/10/20060.
“One hundred miles from its source on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, the great river Ngiro was just ankle deep yesterday as nomadic farmers walked through waters which have become the focus of conflict.
Kenya’s second largest river is a life-sustaining resource for these farmers, but it also sustains big business for flower farms supplying UK supermarkets. British and European-owned flower companies grow vast quantities of blooms and vegetables for export and last week the official Kenyan water authority, regional bodies, human rights and development groups as well as small-scale farmers accused flower companies near Mount Kenya of “stealing” water which would normally fill the river.”
The Guardian (20.10.2006) tells the story of a small Malawian boy’s adoption by an American superstar. There has been plenty of criticism and comment about a story which covers an uncomfortable reality, a reality which the intention of G8 has been unable to touch.
Africa is a poor continent. Wrong. It has wealth untold, as Botswana is demonstrating quite spectacularly. The problem is the distribution of wealth. When I visited Francistown there were new buildings appearing everywhere with the expectation this will continue. As I return to the station someone calls my name. It is a Nigerian I met in Birmingham. He has come here to find work, but he’s African and maybe it’s not that easy. The diamond mining is controlled jointly by De Beers, the company founded by Cecil Rhodes a highly controversial figure in his dealings with Africans and others.
Reconstruction of zimbabwe at Khami west of Bulawayo
The existence of a state of Monomatapa is still hotly debated. It includes present day Zimbabwe where there exist a number of stone houses, or zimbabwes, the most well-known being Great Zimbabwe itself. I visited the site at Khami which includes a Portuguese cross on top of the highest point of the hill complex. Khami is being reconstructed by an international group of volunteers with its walls showing the same patterns familiar from its predecessor at Great Zimbabwe. Peter Garlake, the Zimbabwean archeologist who has researched some of the sites and written about Great Zimbabwe, left the country of his birth in 1970 when the Rhodesian Front “instructed that no official state publications may state unequivocally that Great Zimbabwe was an African creation”. (Garlake 1982). Portuguese sources provide a different picture some of which are cited in W.G.L Randles’ “The Kingdom of Monomatapa” (1981).
A book on the deportation of Jews from Vichy France had its launch cancelled in New York because its author expressed an opinion that Jews in Israel had forgotten the Palestinians as has the world. Last week I asked a speaker who goes into schools to talk about his experience as a survivor of the holocaust in Germany about other acts of genocide today, including what was happening in Israel. He told me he wouldn’t speak about the Middle East, although he went on to say his daughter lived in Jerusalem and had happy relations with Palestinians.
It is terrifying that what can go on in a country can continue without comment. It is safe to tell and retell accounts of past atrocities while turning a blind eye to what is happening now. One of the main points made about making the Jewish holocaust known was that its shouldn’t be repeated. Many feel that what happened to Africans through centuries of cruelty should be classed in the same way. Is it? Ethnic cleansing has been going on in the Balkans, and is now happening in the Sudan.
As I write the Sixth Symphony plays under Michael Gielen and the SWR Symphony Orchestra, Baden-Baden. Quite an arresting performance with clear and detailed sound. I started a period of listening again to performances of his works after my wife gave me a copy of Mahler’s letters to his wife Alma.
I think my first Mahler disc, on vinyl, was Solti’s account of the Fourth Symphony with the Concertgebouw, an orchestra closely associate with the composer in his lifetime when Mengelberg encouraged him at a time when he was struggling to be understood. I still like this account which seems a straightforward approach with a fine soloist in Sylvia Stahlmann in the fourth movement. However I have just listened to Mengelberg’s account which seemed to me extremely revealing. His close association with Mahler must surely have provided an insight: for example the use of rubato, apparent on the piano roll that Mahler played himself, is likely to be idiomatic. Rattle’s account with the CBSO is also of interest when he takes the opening with a change in tempi, reversing the usual way it starts quickly the slowing. This is claimed to be in accordance with Mahler’s wishes.
I added Solti’s performance of the First Symphony to my collection, which again I still enjoy for its dynamism, although Abbado’s account with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is even more so. I have this in a tape cassette collection along with Tennstedt’s performance of the Fourth which I very much enjoy. Lucia Popp like Stahlmann has the right innocence in her voice for the finale,
I was present at the live recorded performance of the First Symphony which Rattle gave with the CBSO in Symphony Hall. He also included the Mahler song cycles alongside the Nielsen Symphonies. Somehow this didn’t work for me. I love the objectivity of Nielsen and somehow I couldn’t enjoy the Mahler songs which are such an important influence on the earlier symphonies. I treasure recordings of the Songs of a Wayfarer and Kindertotenlieder by Fischer-Dieskau under Furtwangler and Kempe.
Mehta was the conductor of the recording of the Resurrection Symphony on vinyl, with Klemperer and the Philharmonia on tape. I heard Klemperer live at the Royal Festival Hall in this work, and presumably his associations with Mahler give this a special place. I like this sober, but powerful approach.
My recording of the Third Symphony was again with Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under Bernard Haitink. Again I have acquired this on CD coupled with an early work. When the DVD appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic, again with Haitink, I couldn’t resist it. I see he is performing it in Chicago as newly appointed Music Director there. I have not heard this is the concert hall as far as I remember – ah yes I did attend a performance at the Promenade Concerts at the Royal albert Hall in London in 1962 when Norman Del Mar conducted the London Symphony Orchestra with Helen Watts as soloist. also at the Proms in 1963 Colin Davis directed the First Symphony also with the LSO. At this same concert Luigi Nono conducted his Cantata “Sul ponte di Hiroshima.” In August 1964 there were two noteworthy Mahler performances I heard at the Proms. On 13th was the first performance of Deryck Cook’s performing version of 10th subsequently made famous by Rattle This was conducted by his friend composer Berthold Goldschmidt with the LSO. On 24th Charles Groves led the combined Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and BBC Northern Orchestras, soloists and choirs in the mighty Eighth Symphony. It was Groves with the RLPO who, we wre told, introduced Mahler to Rattle. On vinyl I chose Kubelik (along with the 7th) while on CD I have Mitropoulos’s account in addition to Rattle with the CBSO.
Barbirolli’s Fifth (with the New Philharmonia) was added to the LP collection. Although he takes broad tempi this is a gripping account. Fond as I am of Barbirolli in Elgar and Vaughan Williams, I’m not always so persuaded in some other repertoire (I can’t take to his 4th with the BBCSO and the sleigh bells seem to have been replaced by someone hitting a tin can!), although I went to some of his concerts and remember an outstanding Sibelius Second and Nielsen Fourth with the Halle. I have both the Fifth and Ninth (with the Berlin Philharmonic) on CD. This year I heard the Welsh National Orchestra give a remarkable account of the Fifth in Hereford Cathedral at the Three Choirs Festival. It was under Owain Arwel Hughes. Fantastic playing from these young players.
I have returned to Jascha Horenstein with the Stockholm Philharmonic in the Sixth. Again I attended Horenstein concerts in Birmingham and Cheltenham with Bruckner and Brahms in the repertoire, but I regret not Mahler. I found a wonderful account of Das Lied von der Erde with the then BBC Northern Orchestra (now the BBC Philharmonic with the late Alfreda Hodgson as an affecting soloist.
I reported elsewhere of the performance of the Ninth Symphony Barenboim gave with the Chicago S.O. (He conducted the East-West Divan Orchestra in the First.) On disc I had one of the Karajan performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, the other on CD. Barbirolli, Rattle (with the Vienna Philharmonic) and Bruno Walter on CD are on my shelves.