Lee Siegel,

27 de maio de 2012 | 05h00

NEW JERSEY - Forget the politicians. Forget the protest movements. Forget the satiric comedians. What America needs is some good music.

I can barely listen to rock music now, and my most vivid memory of it is something that happened when I went to a Led Zeppelin concert in Madison Square Garden as a teenager. All of a sudden, the fellow sitting next to me gripped the iron guard rail in front of our seats, shouted "Yeah!", threw up, and fell over the rail into a pool of his own vomit. I was thrilled. Perhaps there is a metaphor there somewhere, though I can't, for the life of me find it (what happens when sex and drugs meet the adolescent digestive system?). But what's certain is that America would not have left Vietnam without the disappearance of melody into rock's pounding rhythms and deafening noise. The unspoken threat seemed to be: Bring the troops home and we'll tone it down.

The French Revolution had the musical catalyst of "Le Nozze di Figaro"; Napoleon's imperialist, democratizing armies marched through Europe to the cadences of Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony; Prokofiev wrote the score for Sergei Eisenstein's films, which accompanied the Russian Revolution. In America, swing jazz propelled the New Deal; cool jazz and Motown ushered in the Civil Rights era; disco fueled the energies of gay liberation. Is it any wonder that the very first act of a coup d'etat - at least in the pre-internet age - was to take over the radio stations?

These days, in an America torn by economic displacement and bitterly divided politics, the music is tame, thoroughly commercialized, splintered into a billion micro-niches throughout the internet. Outsiders disgorged from America's less tolerant small towns and rural areas could once find soulmates by seeking out urban havens for a particular style of subversive music. Now they sit in Starbucks listening on their Ipods to Adele fake unhappiness.

Music created a revolution in my own life. Bossa nova destroyed my parents' marriage. Well, bossa nova and my own musical efforts, so my parents' separation and divorce were not entirely the fault of Brazil. Sometime in the mid-1960s, my mother starting believing she was the girl from Ipanema. She began walking though our split-level suburban home like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, and each day, when she walked to the basement to get the laundry, she looked straight ahead, not at my father. Even after the brief bossa nova dance craze had flickered out in America (nobody really knew how to dance to it), her eyes were still dreamy with all that swaying. 

Meanwhile, I had started protesting rapid hormonal development by locking myself in the bedroom and playing the electric bass guitar, compensating for my lack of aptitude for that instrument by turning the volume up louder and louder. My mother swayed, I thundered, and my father nearly had a nervous breakdown, which was ironic since he was a jazz pianist who had once played with Stan Getz, and who had introduced my mother to the bossa nova that had given new life to American jazz and pop music.

That bossa nova swaying affected both my parents. It meant that life didn't have to be lived plunging forward and yearning backward, that it could be lived more gently, more sensually, more meaningfully, side to side. The arrival of bossa nova in America was one type of revolution in pleasure. The appearance of rock music was another. But rock's hedonism was insistent, programmatic. It was so aggressive because it was a defensive reaction to America's deeply rooted Puritanism. In the way rock drove out melody, it was Puritanical itself. It was not a portal to pleasure, like bossa nova, but an ideology of Pleasure. 

Yet you could also see jazz, bossa nova and rock as being part of a continuum. Each style opened up new vistas in consciousness for various groups of people. Perhaps political change in modern times - and this is not to say that the change, a la the Russian revolution, always turned out for the best-has often been accompanied by music because music appeals to pleasure, and pleasure is a more powerful argument than politics. Reactionaries have become revolutionaries, and vice versa, countless times over because someone tall and tan and young and lovely was dancing on the other side. On the deepest level, maybe all reform politics needs to be successful is a tune you can whistle and a rhythm that moves you. And of course, a strong stomach, whatever side you're on.

Leia a versão em português do texto de Lee Siegel.
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