Icarus

icarusThis recording of Gene Gutchë’s experimental composition Icarus was recorded by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1977.

We chose to post it today in recognition of Indigenous People’s Day, which was (here in Minneapolis) formerly recognized as Columbus Day until August of 2014. This change is slowly being made all around the United States, and as we have posted every October for more than half a decade, it is long overdue.

However, Gutchë’s music celebrates Christopher Columbus, who is alternately recognized as the New World’s first slave trader and genocidal murderer. His remarks on the composition (below) reveal the often absurd inaccuracies indelibly left by the way we have taught history for generations. The phenomenon is entertainingly studied in an early chapter of James Loewen’s classic study of American history textbooks, Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Setting aside his naive view of Columbus, Gutchë’s remarks express an optimism which offers an impetus to praise this country, rather than suggest it is in need of repair. Gutchë was an immigrant, having come to the United States in 1925 at the age of eighteen and settled permanently here in the Twin Cities mid-life.

This year, more than previous Octobers, we are best to remember that America remains as great as ever, in part because we have welcomed immigrants like Gutchë.

In the album’s notes, composer Gene Gutchë describes the work, and here is an excerpt:

Essentially, Columbus, a seafaring adventurer, measures his wits against the sea and comes to grips with rebellious men. Against these obstacles is the promise of a vast new continent. In context with its title the music is austere and assumes a raw physical power. Power can mean many things to different peoples. Wealth is a power. Position can direct our lives. Ideologies have destroyed civilizations. Today we need the strength Columbus implanted into our world.

It is the strength Washington/Lincoln/Kennedy possessed. A deliberate aim to set all me free. By this mean we become powerful.

I don’t know about you but I love this country. Tolerate everything. Dismiss the doubt. Accept. Overlook. Break many cups. In compassion is joy.

One of these days our earth shall be likened to the moon. When that happens another Icarus will rise and take us to a new star.

 

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