MLK – repost

NOTE: This entry was originally posted in January 2010. I’m reposting it today in honor of the 50-year anniversary of King’s historic speech in Washington.

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Some years ago while auditioning samples for compositions, I was listening to pieces of Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech and was astonished to realize that that the speech is — from start to finish and without variation — 125 beats per minute for over 15 minutes.

I have always thought that the “Dream” speech is about the most passionate, important, lyric, and beautifully constructed stretch of oratory imaginable. The realization that it’s also right on tempo caused me to start listening to it as a musical construction. It has a nearly symphonic structure, with distinct movements. And of course there’s that astonishing finish.

I wanted to compose something that would underscore the speech’s musicality — a simple piece that wouldn’t call attention to itself or stand independently of the speech, but act as a bed to illustrate the structure and lyric beauty of King’s amazing words.

I did absolutely no editing to the speech beyond toning down some of the applause and EQing it a bit for clarity. It runs in “MLK” exactly as it was recorded, from start to finish, and the music is composed around it. All stops, breaks, returns, emphases are exactly as Rev. King delivered them.

After many listenings my appreciation for Rev. King’s words (and passion, and hope) has only deepened, and the demonstration of their musicality fills me with a childlike wonder. I hope that you are as moved and astonished by the beauty and depth of this speech as I continue to be.

Download: Steve Boyett – “MLK”

[audio:http://www.djsteveboy.com/steve_boyett_-_mlk.mp3]

Kongar-ool Ondar 1962-2013

ondarA few days ago I learned of the death of Kongar-ool Ondar on July 29 during emergency surgery following a massive brain hemorrhage in Kyzyl, Tuva.

Ondar was a master of the art of what Westerners call Tuvan throat-singing. He attained global prominence by a very odd route: When physicist Richard Feynman passed himself off as a Tuvan singer in an attempt to travel to Tuva (technically a Russian republic). Most Americans’ first exposure to Tuvan throat-singing was a recording played briefly during the Nova episode Richard Feynman: The Last Journey of a Genius. There was a bit of a sensation for it, resulting in several Tuvan artists (most notably Ondar and the band Huun Huur Tu) attaining international prominence.

There was a period in my life when activities oddly related to regulated breathing were very important: Throat singing, didgeridoo, and yoga. During this time I started a Yahoo Throat-Singing Group (when Yahoo was the most prominent of such online groups), and that led to many unexpected adventures, some of which I discussed here.

I met Ondar twice. The first time was at a performance at the L.A. Public Library downtown, where I was extremely fortunate to see him perform with Paul Pena, a blind blues artist whose adventures traveling to Tuva are detailed in the wonderful documentary Genghis Blues. The second time was after a screening of Genghis Blues in Pasadena.  Both times he was gracious, and had astonishing charisma. I never saw him — live, on television, or recorded — when he didn’t radiate joy.

Ondar performed on David Letterman, and with a truly eclectic number of musicians, including Paul Pena, Frank Zappa and The Chieftains (!), Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and more. In 1993 he rode and performed in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena.

In his own country Ondar was a national treasure. He was a much-loved ambassador for his country and its unique traditional music. I am very saddened by his early death, but it makes me happy that his music lives on. It’s an example of the astonishing variety and ability of our species.

Bald on Night Mountain

bald01
I’m the one who knocks.

Last March I cut off all my hair, kind of on a whim. It’s all grown back now.

I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

I suspected my head would look a bit like a badly peeled potato, but I hadn’t realized just how much my head had got the living shit knocked out of it over the years. Including a divot scooped in the back that you’d think would have rained on my autonomic parade. I blame my sister’s headboard. Though, in all fairness, I did used to break bricks & boards with the poor sad abused brainbucket, and that couldn’t have helped the whole pleasing-aesthetic-shape thing much.

The thing that bothered me most about it wasn’t getting sunburned, or being cold (though wind on it felt weird). It was that it’s all stubbly within a day, and when you put on a T-shirt it catches on it like velcro. I hated that feeling.

Epistles

feinsteinDear Steven:

I received your communication indicating your concerns about the two National Security Agency programs that have been in the news recently.   I appreciate that you took the time to write on this important issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

First, I understand your concerns and want to point out that by law, the government cannot listen to an American’s telephone calls or read their emails without a court warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause.  As is described in the attachment to this letter provided by the Executive Branch, the programs that were recently disclosed have to do with information about phone calls – the kind of information that you might find on a telephone bill – in one case, and the internet communications (such as email) of non-Americans outside the United States in the other case.  Both programs are subject to checks and balances, and oversight by the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary.

As Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I can tell you that I believe the oversight we have conducted is strong and effective and I am doing my level best to get more information declassified.  Please know that it is equally frustrating to me, as it is to you, that I cannot provide more detail on the value these programs provide and the strict limitations placed on how this information is used.  I take serious my responsibility to make sure intelligence programs are effective, but I work equally hard to ensure that intelligence activities strictly comply with the Constitution and our laws and protect Americans’ privacy rights.

These surveillance programs have proven to be very effective in identifying terrorists, their activities, and those associated with terrorist plots, and in allowing the Intelligence Community and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to prevent numerous terrorist attacks.  More information on this should be forthcoming.

  • On June 18, 2003, the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) testified to the House Intelligence Committee that there have been “over 50 potential terrorist events” that these programs helped prevent.
  • While the specific uses of these surveillance programs remain largely classified, I have reviewed the classified testimony and reports from the Executive Branch that describe in detail how this surveillance has stopped attacks.
  • Two examples where these surveillance programs were used to prevent terrorist attacks were: (1) the attempted bombing of the New York City subway system in September 2009 by Najibullah Zazi and his co-conspirators; and (2) the attempted attack on a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in October 2009 by U.S. citizen David Headley and his associates.
  • Regarding the planned bombing of the New York City subway system, the NSA has determined that in early September of 2009, while monitoring the activities of Al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, NSA noted contact from an individual in the U.S. that the FBI subsequently identified as Colorado-based Najibullah Zazi.  The U.S. Intelligence Community, including the FBI and NSA, worked in concert to determine his relationship with Al Qaeda, as well as identify any foreign or domestic terrorist links.  The FBI tracked Zazi as he traveled to New York to meet with co-conspirators, where they were planning to conduct a terrorist attack using hydrogen peroxide bombs placed in backpacks. Zazi and his co-conspirators were subsequently arrested. Zazi eventually pleaded guilty to conspiring to bomb the NYC subway system.
  • Regarding terrorist David Headley, he was also involved in the planning and reconnaissance of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that killed 166 people, including six Americans.  According to NSA, in October 2009, Headley, a Chicago businessman and dual U.S. and Pakistani citizen, was arrested by the FBI as he tried to depart from Chicago O’Hare airport on a trip to Europe.  Headley was charged with material support to terrorism based on his involvement in the planning and reconnaissance of the hotel attack in Mumbai 2008.  At the time of his arrest, Headley and his colleagues were plotting to attack the Danish newspaper that published the unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, at the behest of Al Qaeda.

Not only has Congress been briefed on these programs, but laws passed and enacted since 9/11 specifically authorize them.  The surveillance programs are authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which itself was enacted by Congress in 1978 to establish the legal structure to carry out these programs, but also to prevent government abuses, such as surveillance of Americans without approval from the federal courts. The Act authorizes the government to gather communications and other information for foreign intelligence purposes.  It also establishes privacy protections, oversight mechanisms (including court review), and other restrictions to protect privacy rights of Americans.

The laws that have established and reauthorized these programs since 9/11 have passed by mostly overwhelming margins.  For example, the phone call business record program was reauthorized most recently on May 26, 2011 by a vote of 72-23 in the Senate and 250-153 in the House.  The internet communications program was reauthorized most recently on December 30, 2012 by a vote of 73-22 in the Senate and 301-118 in the House.

Attached to this letter is a brief summary of the two intelligence surveillance programs that were recently disclosed in media articles.  While I very much regret the disclosure of classified information in a way that will damage our ability to identify and stop terrorist activity, I believe it is important to ensure that the public record now available on these programs is accurate and provided with the proper context.

Again, thank you for contacting me with your concerns and comments.  I appreciate knowing your views and hope you continue to inform me of issues that matter to you.  If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841.

 Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

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From: Steven R. Boyett
Sent: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 12:27 PM
To:senator@feinstein.senate.gov
Subject: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein responding to your message

Ms. Feinstein:

I feel that you are acting against the very principles you have been elected to uphold. Restricting liberty to establish security is a devil’s bargain, sanctioned by corporations motivated by shareholder profit, enabled by sustained government contracts, and perpetuated by massive financial influence over elected officials.

Your justifications enumerated below are simply that: justifications. Your claim that warrantless surveillance will not be conducted because it is illegal has not only been demonstrated to be patently false on a wholesale level inconceivable even a decade ago, it is an alarmingly naive position for the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to take. Edward Snowden’s revelations have made it painfully clear that there is a vast difference between what the law permits and what security operatives routinely do. For you to abet this function is wholly shameful.

I have voted for you in the past. I will not do so again.

–steven boyett