Saturday, February 25, 2012

Composer John Williams (b. 1932): An Appreciation

John Williams (b. 1932)
American Film & Art Composer, Pianist, Arranger, Orchestrator & Conductor

With a Record 47 Oscar Nominations & 5 Wins to Date
Works Include Jane Eyre (1970), Fiddler on the Roof (adaptation), Jaws, Star Wars (Series), Superman, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Indiana Jones (Series), Jurassic Park (I, II), Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, War of the Worlds, A.I., Harry Potter (I & 2 Sequels), The Adventures of Tin-Tin & War Horse, among others.

He's composed the score for almost every major Spielberg film, except for Color Purple, and for almost every George Lucas film, except for THX-1138. For years, he led the Boston Pops Orchestra. In mid-1970's, he was largely responsible for re-introducing the symphonic score to the larger film culture worldwide, and his sophisticated music has continued to form a bridge from the pop culture to the classical music before a global audience. Many a first-rate young talent, and not just in the less developed countries, who had his or her first major grasp of modern symphonic orchestration by being exposed to his music. For years, he's remained the composer of choice for other Hollywood composers, openly admired on record as "the" role-model, by Elliot Goldenthal & James Horner, among others.

I've often recalled that I heard his music for Jane Eyre (1970) one night, as a little kid, on Iranian TV, and it never left me. The theme of Jane Eyre has remained one of my most endeared cinematic melodies ever since. Ironically, it took me many years before I learned that Mr. Williams, by then an established and admired figure in my musical glossary, was in fact the composer of this beloved theme from my childhood. He remains one of my most favorite composers in any genre, and one of the hand-picked film composers I could safely claim to be consistently excellent, without exception.

-- Payman Akhlaghi

(*) War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg is nominated in the Best Picture Category (Oscars, 2012)

(*) This Note was first published and updated on 1/26/2011, on Payman's Facebook page.
Note © 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.
(Photo available on the web.)

The Story of Pouran and Aziz: An Introduction by Payman Akhlaghi

Writing the story of my parents, our story, has been a long-term project; actually doing it, however, continues to prove impossibly difficult. For now, I do wish to leave at least a brief trace of it on the cyberspace.
-- Payman Akhlaghi, February 25th, Los Angeles

Update: Many erudite friends contributed to a discussion on this post, resulting in a thread which I think is of value to the public. You may read and follow the thread located on my Facebook Wall, as it's been made open to Public. (Author)

Preface: [draft 1]
My parents, Aziz and Pouran, were brutally murdered within hours, each in a different Iranian city, on October 18th and 19th, 1990, respectively. To think that how such violent cruelty could have happened to our little family, this remains largely beyond comprehension. The scope and nature of the crime made it one of the worst cases of violence against the Jewish community in modern Iran.

A few months later, shortly before I left Iran, the lead detective on the case told me in person that there was not enough proof to charge and convict the lead suspect in the case. However, about 2 years later, by then in the States, I was informed by my relatives that the same man responsible for the brutality had been finally arrested, had confessed to the murdering of my parents, and had been punished for his crimes. It was rather ironic that this was also the man who had long been trusted by my family and I.

Those who knew my father knew that he didn't believe in revenge, and later in life, neither in capital punishment. To me, this has meant to create arts, communicate my stance against physical violence, trying to spread a general respect for life, and doing the little I can to help prevent such monstrosities from ever happening to anyone again. It means to stop the cycle of revenge -- "now". In part, it entails helping to uproot anti-Semitism, using the limited intellectual means available to me.

© 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Page From My Life by Payman Akhlaghi

It might sound strange, but it now seems that for the past few months, I've been defending the Constitution of the United States, and my dignity, by as little as insisting on my right to drink or eat, and read a book, in a coffee shop or a restaurant, without being insulted, disturbed or humiliated. Such abuse is not new to me. Combined with my sensitivities, they've largely handicapped my life and education for years, with some cases taking place on my very beloved campus, while I'd been doing nothing but a simple walk, heads down. However, the degree or nature of such abuse as I've experienced since about November 2011 has had few precedents. I've become consistently subjected to verbal harassment and manipulations of all sorts, in a straightforward or oblique but highly suggestive language, at times loudly directed at me, by suspicious individuals. These began to happen almost every single time I was out in the evening, as I sat at a place to eat or drink, and read a book. All these has happened while I'd been most polite to others, and mindful of their privacy in public. (Those who know me, would attest to that.)

I did not acquiesce to such thuggish behavior, as isolated or connected as they might have been, and whatever their intent, which I've left to speculation. Instead, I continued to stay, sometimes covered my ears, at all times tried to concentrate on my reading or writing, all the time staying as civil as I could. Only two or three times, when the deliberate intent of the perpetrator became clear, I voiced my concern against such "bullying by quasi-fascist techniques.", once by complaining to the waitress, who immediately sympathized with me, helped me change seats, and apparently asked the man to bring his voice down. I continued to stay, even though my heartbeat was at the ceiling and I'd been made sick to my stomach.

On February 17th, 2012, after months of perpetuated abuse, I finally decided to complain in person to the police department. The officer kindly listened and asked me to ignore such people (I've long tried), talk to them (I consider these too much beneath me), or call the police (which I very well might.)

Now I'm asking myself, was it worth it to for me to stay and suffer, or would it have been better for me to leave? I'm afraid that my answer is still, Yes. To be sure, I'm not the only person to have been put through such ordeals in any society, even in a very civil society in which I'm fortunate to live. Also, it's been very hard to distinguish such incidents from ordinary conversations, loud or soft, which go around us all the time, and which I do ignore like anyone else does. But after careful consideration, I concluded that everything about these particular cases indicated that they had been meant to bully me, a non-suspecting person, trying to have a moment to himself in a coffee shop, or have dinner by himself. If so, what would happen if everyone caved in to such bullying? -- A Page From My Life, © 2012, Payman Akhlaghi."

Film Review Snippet: The Winslow Boy (1999), by Payman Akhlaghi

"The Winslow Boy" (1999, 104 mins)
Directed by David Mamet
Adapted from the 1946 play by Terence Rattigan
Based on Actual Historical Events
Music by Alaric Jans
Cast: Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam, Rebecca Pidgeon, Gemma Jones, et al.

One of David Mamet's finest films, "The Winslow Boy" is based on true the story of a family who loses all they have, both health and fortune, to defend their 14-year old son against accusations of a minor theft, and to clear his name in court. A quiet narrative, as in most other Mamet films, allows his succinctly crafted lines to echo in the dignified spaces of his locations, and the drama to unfold smoothly, helping the audience to absorb the inner tension of the story and join this family in their predicament, while remaining in awe of their civility and persistent dignity. They might be talking, but what you hear feels as a whisper, as the very sound of their breathing.

We know that eventually, in the actual case, the High Court of Justice ruled that the child "is innocent of the charge." The film, however, ends with a more colorful conclusion, one that's never left me since I saw the film more than a decade ago, which I'd to quote in full from IMDB:
"- I wept today, because right had been done.
- Not justice?
- No, not justic. Right. Easy to do justice. Very hard to do right."
© 2012, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.