the star-spangled banner — why baltimore? — 4/07/17

Today’s selection — from The Accidental Superpower by Peter Zeihan. America’s location makes it almost invulnerable to invading forces from other countries. The last best chance any country had to disrupt America’s progress was the British during the geographically pivotal battle for Fort McHenry in 1814:
“Beyond Mexico and Canada, there are no other powers that could even theoretically march on American territory. … As hard as it is to conceive of a credible military threat to the United States arising in North America, coming up with one from beyond the conti­nent strains the imagination. The oceans serve as fantastic buffers, sharply limiting unwanted interaction with the larger populations of Europe and East Asia. … The shortest distance from Europe to the United States is over three thousand [miles].
“Considering the distances involved, the outside world missed its best chance to disrupt America’s development in the War of 1812, one of only two occasions when the Americans faced an extrahemispheric invasion (the other being the Revolutionary War). The critical battle was for Fort McHenry in September 1814.

“The British had sacked and captured Washington, D.C., just three weeks before and were moving north by land and sea toward Baltimore. At the time, Baltimore was the largest city in the region and a notorious hub for the privateers who had been raiding British shipping lines. But it was also the sole meaningful land link between the northern and south­ern states: With the Allegheny Mountains to the west, all roads hugged the Chesapeake Bay, which in turn led to the bay’s major city and port. As importantly, the entirety of inland America was dependent upon Bal­timore. The Cumberland Narrows through the Appalachians lay just to the west, and only three years earlier the government had begun construc­tion on a road to connect the Potomac River to the Ohio valley. Instead of a months-long sail down to New Orleans, then up the Mississippi to the Ohio, this new National Road would allow Baltimore to serve as an imme­diate outlet for Pittsburgh and lands beyond.

“If the British could hold Baltimore, the war’s other theaters would be rendered moot and the young America would be split into North, South, and interior. Luckily for the Americans, Major George Armistead’s heroic defense of Fort McHenry convinced British commanders that the post could not be taken with available forces. While time has eroded the details from the American mind, all Americans instantly recognize the descrip­tion of the battle and its outcome as recorded by an American who watched the battle from the deck of a British vessel where he was being held pris­oner: Francis Scott Key’s ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’ “
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The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder

Author: Peter Zeihan
Copyright 2014 by Peter Zeihan
Pages: 58-60

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to delegate or not to delegate

Today’s selection — from The Miles Davis Quintet by Bob Gluck. Most organizational management styles fall into roughly two camps: those managers that manage very closely, dictating each decision and keeping very close tabs on each detail, and those managers that are more inclined to delegate and give their subordinates freedom and latitude. Miles Davis, perhaps the most revered and successful jazz musician of the twentieth century, fell into the latter camp. His energies were directed at finding the very finest musicians he could possibly find — in fact a huge number of his band members went on to become legends themselves — and then giving them the space to explore and create:

“He was at the time a nondirective bandleader. Members of his quintet were given wide latitude to play what they wished. The ‘just going places’ ethic noted by Corea was pregnant with possibilities, opening tremendous space for unan­ticipated musical creativity. Corea observes that Davis’s method was focused on the choice of musicians:
Miles … was a chemist — a spiritual chemist — as far as putting musicians together, because he himself didn’t really compose tunes that much, although he developed styles and arrangements but he chose musicians that went together a way that he heard and that he liked. And he went from this piano player to that piano player or from this drummer to that drummer — he chose these guys so that it went together in a way that he heard it. And I guess that’s leadership, you know, it’s like the choosing of the way and the treatment of the group.
The 2nd great quintet: Wayne Shorter,  Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams
“In a 1969 DownBeat interview with Larry Kart, Corea relates that in their first conversation, Davis told him about how to interpret Shorter’s compositions: ‘I don’t know what else to tell you except that we’ll go and play, but whatever you think it is, that’s what it is.’ Hancock remembers Davis’s leadership of the previous quintet in a similar way. He explains in a 1971 DownBeat interview:
“With Miles’ band we were all allowed to play what we wanted to play and shaped the music according to the group effort and not to the dictates of Miles, because he really never dictated what he wanted. I try to do the same thing with my group. I think it serves this function that I just mentioned ­– that everybody feels that they’re part of the product, you know, and not just contributing something to somebody else’s music. They may be my tunes, but the music belongs to the guys in the band. They make the music — it’s not just my thing.”
The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles

Author: Bob Gluck
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press

2016 by The university Of Chicago Press, Ltd., London

Page 14
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the first beatles album — 09/24/15

Today’s encore selection — from The Beatles: Ultimate Album-by-Album Guide by Rolling Stone. In 1963, a young band called The Beatles, forged in the nightclubs of Liverpool, England and Hamburg, Germany, had become the hottest act in British music after performing the song “Please Please Me” on the nationally televised pop showcase Thank Your Lucky Stars. Long play (LP) albums were first introduced in 1948 but still infrequently used by rock groups, and soon after Lucky Stars the Beatles recorded their first LP. Unlike most albums since, which take weeks or months to record, the Beatles completed their first album in twelve grueling hours:

“At 10 in the morning on February 11th, 1963, the Beatles … gathered at Abbey Road studios in London to make a debut album. Twelve hours later, they’d done it. Of all the astonishing things about the album Please Please Me — and there are many — the most impressive may simply be the quick-and-dirty haste with which it was recorded.

“In 2011, it can take a band a dozen hours to mike the kick drum. But in a single long day — with just a £400 budget — the Beatles laid down 10 songs for their album, including some of their most indelible early performances: ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ ‘There’s a Place,’ ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret,’ ‘Baby It’s You.’ The day’s work wrapped up, sometime around 10:45, with a shirtless John Lennon roaring himself hoarse through two takes of ‘Twist and Shout.’ ‘It was amazingly cheap, no messing, just a massive effort from us,’ Paul McCartney later recalled. ‘At the end of the day, you had your album.’ 

first session at Abbey Road

“Coming into that day, the Beatles already had two singles under their belts. In October 1962, they released ‘Love Me Do,’ the blues vamp that McCartney had first dreamed up while playing hooky from school at age 16. ‘Love Me Do’ was backed with another Lennon-McCartney original, ‘P.S. I Love You,’ which offered further evidence of their precocious songwriting gifts and the sheer strangeness — the mixture of rock & roll toughness and old-fashioned tune-smithery, the weirdly beautiful vocal harmonies, the wild left turns of their chord progressions. …

“The session was a testament to the Beatles’ warhorse durability — grinding out song after song, take after take, with unflagging adrenaline. They banged through 13 takes of ‘There’s a Place,’ 12 of ‘I Saw Her Standing There,’ three of ‘Anna (Go to Him).’ They nailed Ringo Starr’s vocal showpiece, ‘Boys,’ in a single take. They even made 13 passes at ‘Hold Me Tight,’ a song that was left on the cutting-room floor. When [producer George] Martin, the engineer Norman Smith and the tape operator Richard Langham piled off to a nearby pub for a lunch break, the Beatles stayed behind to rehearse. No one at the session could remember a band playing through lunch.

“Finally, just around 10 p.m., the Beatles had completed nine songs. No one was sure what to do for the final number. Someone suggested the Isley Brothers’ ‘Twist and Shout,’ a barnburning fixture of the Beatles live act, with Lennon on lead vocals. Lennon was suffering from a cold; after 12 straight hours of singing, his voice was nearly shot. But he decided to give it a try. He sucked on a couple of throat lozenges, gargled a glass of milk and headed onto the studio floor. Two takes later, the album was a wrap.

” ‘The last song nearly killed me,’ Lennon said years later. ‘Every time I swallowed it was like sandpaper. I was always bitterly ashamed of it, because I could sing it better than that; but now it doesn’t bother me. You can hear that I’m just a frantic guy doing his best.’

“Even when frantic, the Beatles’ best was awfully good. Please Please Me is now considered a landmark. It captures the group at its scruffiest and most ‘bar band’ — it is a document, as Lennon once said, of the Beatles before they were ‘the “clever” Beatles.’ As their career took off, the Beatles got artier, more sophisticated, more visionary. But they were never purer than on Please Please Me.”