Special Forces Standards Struggling

The long tabbers are whining about standards again. I guess this is an improvement on whining about the SFAB beret being too close a shade of green. https://www.cbs17.com/news/changes-to-green-beret-course-draw-scrutiny-as-troops-are-tested-in-nc-woods/

The truth is, standards change over time. I was unlucky enough to get hurt at Airborne school on my second jump a few years before 9/11 happened. At that time the attitude of Sergeants Airborne (aka “Black Hats”) was that Airborne school was a weed out course, only the most dedicated, physically fit, and brave deserved the right to earn silver wings. Nine years after that experience, I went back to Airborne school, and had an entirely different experience, as the school had changed from “weed out” to “train up.” The “War on Terror” was in full swing, and Airborne school was no longer to make “elite paratroopers” it was to get people qualified so they could fill the ranks of the 82d Airborne Division, 4/25th Infantry, Ranger Regiment, SF Groups, and 173rd Airborne Brigade with the people they needed to deploy. Any “make people elite” attitude was right gone, their job was to train people to fill the units that were constantly rotating through theater.

Ironically, the “make people elite, weed out the undesirables” attitude transferred over to Ranger school (or never left, there have always been badge protectors). During and after “The Surge” Ranger school was, as one former Company commander at that time said, “Out of Control.” This was before women were allowed to attend, so all of the instructors were guys who were burnt out on deploying and “needed to take a knee” did so at Ranger school and some of them added a “personal touch” of sadism. One Company commander (now much senior in rank, and pending retirement) commented that he had to personally keep a roster so that his most toxic RIs wouldn’t be walking, or entire platoons would be so exhausted the failure rate would skyrocket. Graduation rates fluctuated wildly, often reflecting how functional or dysfunctional the Ranger Instructors (“RIs”) were at any given time. Because there was a war on, there was no compunction about sending people to units to fill slots, with or without a tab. So keep the standards high, kick ’em out to the force, was the game. Luckily I managed to survive long enough to earn the short tab, so I didn’t have to repeat that developmental training event.

Then, the Army decided that the Expert Infantryman’s Badge (EIB) had become all about “rote memorization” rather than “successful outcomes.” So the “EIB 2000” standards were implemented (and the old guard whined and pissed and moaned about how standards had fallen and it would get people killed, blah de flippen blah). So when I tested, as long as I successfully completed the task I was a “go” rather than ensuring every single step was conducted properly in order. So I didn’t get washed out for lifting the feed tray cover before locking the cocking handle to the rear on a machine gun lane, lucky me. I thankfully earned the EIB (otherwise you keep trying to earn it until you do).

So now SF is getting some senior leader love because the people who ran the training weren’t producing enough of the correct product. The Generals and Colonels that run the SF community need bodies in their formations. The NCOs running things at the school house weren’t producing. The leadership stepped in, and made sure they were getting what they needed, and the NCOs got to whining that it was “lowering the standards” and the usual platitudes given by people who should quietly fade away into the sunset rather than pretend they are in any way still opeationally relevant.

You’ll still find people who say “the badge” or “the tab” used to mean something. Yes, it meant that someone earned it by meeting the standards of the time they were in. There are people who were awarded the Ranger tab who never did a day’s worth of Ranger training (one of them was the Ranger Training Brigade Commander). There are people who were “book tabbies” who completed the training requirements to earn the SF Tab through correspondence course (yes, that used to be a thing). Standards change, and the population of people we have to draw into the military also changes. The millennial generation isn’t all that bad once you get them acculturated to Army life. Of course the “millenial generation” is in their mid to late 30s now, so whatever generation came after the millenial generation isn’t that bad either, especially now that we have Soldiers who were born after 9/11.

So my point is…if you hang around long enough you’ll see things change. And you can either change with it, or get left behind. When the Army was told “full gender integration” it went out and handpicked the absolute best females available and sent them to Ranger school, and kept sending them until they could hold a press conference celebrating the fact that women had earned the short tab. Eventually there will be a female Long Tabber, the operational demand for them is higher than you think.

And it’s happening all over: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9157005/sas-first-woman-mum-afghan-hero/ and https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/best-shooter-in-canadas-military-has-a-long-red-ponytail. There are a lot of advantages in having highly trained females available to dismiss them out of hand. A man and a woman can go places and blend in where two or three men can not, because it is easier to accept a man and a woman together as it is “normal.” It is much easier for a female to get information out of female civilians, because of social norms. Women are every bit as devious, hard, and cold an any man (some even more so) but social expectations allow them access and communication streams men can rarely tap into.

Don’t get me wrong, not every woman can make it in the military. It is also true that not every man can make it in the military. And yes there will always be more men who can make it than women who can make it until some breakthrough in technology allows women to overcome their lower strength, weaker bones, and higher amounts of body fat. Biology is a bitch, and the advantages women bring to units come with the detriment that they are encased in that biology, and sometimes the men have to pick up the slack. Life isn’t fair, military service is even less fair than regular life.

And the Commanders out there, at all levels, need bodies in their formations. The Army was on a shrinking path until National Defense Authorization Act 2017 was passed into law. As a result, I’m not retiring next fiscal year, I get to stay in a tad longer. The Army needs bodies, which is the only reason they are keeping me around. The SF community needs long tabbers, which is why the Colonels and Generals got into the mix, to meet the needs of the force, not the needs of the prestige of a piece of cloth.

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Be a wise and instructive graybeard, not an opinionated asshole who happens to be correct.

In the gun community and HAM radio community there are plenty of self proclaimed “graybeards” that will continually spout the “right way” to do things. Yes I know this is a great big strawman argument, but I’m not going to name names, so use your imagination if you will whoever in your life has attained some level of training or certification that lends some sort of “expert authority” to them (or at least makes them think they have expert authority).

Sometimes these self proclaimed graybeards are right. Totally correct from on a technical or legal point. And all too often they are straight up assholes about it which discourages people from pursuing deeper into the hobbies of competitive shooting or HAM radio.

In my opinion one the main reasons why “Service Rifle” is a declining sport is that it is purposely designed any as a sport for the practice of marksmanship alone, without any sort of “fun factor” built in. The grudging acceptance of “4.5 power scopes with 35mm or less main objective bell lens” in recent years was seriously debated by the graybeards of the sport as to whether or not it would “kill the purity of the sport.” You know what really kills the purity of a sport? Not having new people join and expand the sport so that it can continue.

The recent kerfuffle with the Baofeng dual band HAM radios has shown a similar debate among the graybeards of that hobby. One side rejoiced as it would signal to people that only licensed HAM operators should use the airwaves, and the other side lamented that it’s hard to grow your hobby by pushing people away.

So if you run into a situation where someone new to a hobby is wrong, for technical or legal reasons, you have a choice. You can “put them in their place” and be an asshole, or you can encourage them to get more information and update their kit/knowledge/skills.

Once I was at a state championship rifle match, and my rifle failed trigger weight check. It happens, it was the end of the shooting season and my trigger springs were about four years old at that point. But instead of saying I couldn’t compete, I told the match director that I wasn’t in any danger of earning leg points, and would like to compete as a “match rifle” if possible. The match director smiled, put me down as a service rifle competitor saying, “well, we don’t have to technically test trigger pull until after the shots are fired,” and let me shoot. I came in middle of the pack (where I knew I would be) but I happened to be the “non-distinguished” shooter they needed to actually give Leg points to the top shooter that match. Yes it was a technical violation of the rules, but it was the right thing to do for all the other competitors who drove hundreds of miles to show up, and you could have seen the look of joy on the winners face you’d totally believe me.

In the HAM radio community, if the conversation drifts to cheap dual band transceivers, you can make the same choice. “Totally legal for you to own them, but they aren’t class certified so it is technically illegal to transmit on any bad without a license” is a great way to caveat “but here’s how to use CHIRP and program your radio, and here’s how to set it up as a scanner so you can start finding out what is in your area, and here’s how to build a better antenna.”

We have to grow our sports and hobbies, or they won’t grow. And we grow them by helping people geek out a little bit rather than “putting them in their place.” If you ever start a sentence with, “you’re wrong” or “that’s wrong” you need to think really carefully about what follows so that it encourages people to fix something rather than discouraging people from participating.

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Aluminum Toxicity and Managing Risk

Hundreds of years ago the father of Homeopathy stated, “The dose makes the poison.” For as wrong as homeopathy turned out to be, Paracelsus was absolutely correct that the dose does make the poison.

So…what’s the deal with aluminum? Or “aluminium” to those who speak the Queen’s English?

Too much elemental aluminum is obviously toxic, aluminum compounds like aluminum oxide or aluminum silicates are likely to just pass through your system without any biological activity. This is because elemental aluminum loses electrons easily to become a cation with a +3 charge, which can bind pretty tightly to proteins. The main clearance route for aluminum from your body seems to be the renal system, as people being treated for renal failure seem to be much more susceptible to aluminum buildup than those with healthy kidneys, source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31309799

The old school coffee percolator was once a common source of dietary aluminum in the western diet: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0278691584900048?via%3Dihub but all sorts of food containers and preparation vessels contribute to aluminum uptake: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1397396

Additionally the normal environmental uptake of aluminum is increasing, as worldwide use of aluminum increases: https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2013/em/c3em00374d#targetText=Aluminium%20is%20excreted%20from%20the,nails%2C87%20sebum%20and%20semen.

So….is the aluminum water bottle in your bug out bag “safe” for lack of a better word? Well, mostly. If you are a healthy human being, and your environmental load of aluminum is well cleared from your healthy system, then the miniscule amount of additional aluminum you’d get from an aluminum water bottle is well below the level of quantifiable risk. I would recommend against using an aluminum water bottle as a boiling vessel if you can, because one way to generate electricity is to heat one end of a piece of metal, and aluminum with a differential heat is going to produce a mild charge, which is going to set the condition for oxidation/reduction which releases aluminum ions into the aqueous solution. It will be a small amount, and if you are healthy it shouldn’t bother you if it is an intermittent consumption.

However, do you know what your current aluminum serum levels are? I do not, and I’m writing about this. I have no clue if any of the symptoms I have should be looked at for any sort of metal toxicity or not. For what it’s worth, I avoid using aluminum products so it is highly unlikely that I would experience symptoms isolated from those around me. Since “those around me” are not exhibiting any symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, I am operating under the assumption that I’m good on that front.

So how do you really quantify risk here? Especially when the short term risk is negligible, and the long term risk is almost completely unknown? Well, you can start by choosing to not accept risk that where it is not necessary to accept risk. If you are setting up resources for a disaster, you have the choice to spend the money on an aluminum item or stainless steel. I guess the risk of a stainless steel item is that it is heavier, which might slow you down if you had to flee zombies or mutant bears, and the risk of an aluminum product is that it might give you dementia at an accelerated rate.

If you have to choose between aluminum water bottle or canteen, and no bottle or canteen, use the aluminum vessel without a second thought. The risk of death from drinking bad water is much, much higher than the risk of negative outcomes from the use of aluminum. The odds are quite good that you are well on the “safe” side of “The dose makes the poison.”

I won’t go so far to say that any amount is risky, as a nominal scientist there is a level of environmental dosage where we can’t tell the difference in doses. This “minimal level” can vary a bit depending on the population studied of course, but at some point we lose statistical relevance between dosage and effects. As long as you are below that point, whatever it is, aluminum is “safe” for you to use. The risk is that I don’t know what that is for you, as I don’t know your total intake of aluminum nor whether or not there will be complicating factors in your body clearing aluminum. But unknowns are just that, unknowns, they are not in and of themselves particularly risky if you acknowledge what it is you don’t know, and make an educated guess to answer that question.

So, an educated guess is that if you are a normally healthy, fit person, with properly working kidneys in America, an aluminum water bottle poses no immediate threat to you, and only minimal long term risk. I can’t quantify that because there aren’t a lot of hard numbers to use, but it is well in line with the research I’ve linked.

That being said, if you have a choice between aluminum or stainless steel, unless you have a compelling reason to choose aluminum I recommend the stainless steel. Because you may need to have additional “padding” in your system to deal with aluminum from elsewhere in the future.

More concerning, is that we don’t know much about how multiple heavy metals are excreted. If you have a high environmental exposure, it isn’t always obvious: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/magazine/lead-poisoning-military-soldiers.html so minimizing the risk of one toxic metal seems prudent to me. Those of us in the gun community routinely deal with copper, lead, tin, aluminum, and zinc particles in the air around firing lines.

So I hope this has been food for thought, and something that helps you identify risk, and minimize it where possible, and accept it when prudent or necessary.

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Is passive radar the end of stealth? Probably not just yet.

If you read the headline and full article, you might be persuaded to believe that the end of stealth is near. https://www.c4isrnet.com/intel-geoint/sensors/2019/09/30/stealthy-no-more-a-german-radar-vendor-says-it-tracked-the-f-35-jet-in-2018-from-a-pony-farm/

Stealth doesn’t work in every frequency range on the spectrum. For example visible light is on a very different portion of the spectrum than X Band radars, which is on a very different portion of the spectrum than FM radio, which is on a very different portion of the spectrum than commercial television.

“Stealth” is designed to be stealthy against the types of radars that can provide “targetable data” to missiles or aircraft. Even infrared homing missiles need to get within line of sight to where they can target a hot engine or tail pipe to be effective, and in a sky with clouds or rain, that needs to be pretty accurate as water absorbs infrared energy that an IR seeker needs to guide a missile.

So am I alarmed that a passive radar on a field right next to where two F-35s took off reported back that they were able to use Polish FM radio as a way to “see” the two F-35s, even though the resolution wasn’t good enough to provide that “targetable data”? No, because any radar operating at that low of a frequency that close to the airport would also see the F-35s as they aren’t designed to be stealthy in that spectrum. This is neat technology, but it is not a game changer based on that article.

The infamous shoot down of the F-117 by antiquated Soviet technology used by Serbian forces had more to do with good intelligence work to pattern out flight paths, repurposing low frequency radar, and positioning the missile at a place where it had a high probability of success. Stealth had allowed the US Air Force to become complacent, and they paid for that complacency. This is why on the combat debut of the F-22 Raptor in the Syria campaign, it was escorted by the Vietnam era EA-6B Prowler Electronic Attack aircraft which can do escort jamming.

Stealth is useful, but it is like all technology in that other technology can be adapted to address it.

Secondly, passive radar suffers the same medium attenuation problems as sonar. Sound in water travels differently through areas of different temperature and salinity, and radio waves travel slightly differently through areas of different pressure and humidity. This is why weather radars can track clouds, or why AM radio reception is much better at night. So if a stealth aircraft were to exploit environmental effects, like flying over a storm during the transition period between day and night, without knowing exactly where to look a passive radar station would have a very hard time filtering through environmental noise to identify a location of a stealth aircraft, or likely even a low observable aircraft like a F/A-18E/F or F-16 flying slick.

This does not mean that passive radar is useless, far from it. Passive radar requires far less power than active radar, and they don’t advertise their position the way active radar does. So with enough passive radar stations it is quite possible to create an array of sensors that could produce “targetable data” for something with a self guiding terminal stage. Of course to defeat that network, all the attackers would need to do is shut down TV and radio stations that are geographically likely to be the frequency emitters that the passive radars are using to sense the environment. That’s as simple as bribing a maintenance guy.

I am interested in where passive radar is going, and hopefully it gets to be pretty cheap technology.

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Common saying with deeper meanings

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” You’ll find all sorts of people saying this one to justify why they took four seconds to clear leather and put aimed fire on target. You’ll find self proclaimed gun gurus like John P. Corriea rage against this saying and claiming that it’s a worthless saying. Unfortunately, he’s more of an “gunternet celebrity” than combat veteran.

So what does it actually mean? It means slow down and deliberately do what you are doing when stressed. Whether that is changing barrels on a machine gun, draw/press/fire, or any other mult-step action that you can easily screw up by not aligning something just right, not pulling the cover garment all the way, etc. This means that when you find yourself needing to do that action, in a circumstance that you haven’t trained in, such as now you are wearing winter gloves, you should deliberately focus on what you are doing so that you don’t muck it up. At night, under night vision, in winter gloves, is an additional layer of difficulty that you didn’t experience on the square range mid afternoon. At night, under night vision, wearing winter gloves, while explosions are going off around you and an enemy is firing on you from positions you can’t identify is yet an additional layer of stress where remembering “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is going to help you accomplish that task without fumbling.

If you are paying for training, and your instructor doesn’t understand the purpose of “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” you should find a different trainer.

“Train as you fight” or the corollary “You’ll fight like you train.” Some people believe this means you need to be all combat all the time, everything absolutely as realistic “on da streetz” as possible. If drills aren’t done full force on force with resistance, they are worthless because you aren’t training like you fight. These people are idiots. What this really boils down to is “train seriously so you’ll fight seriously.” If you half ass your ready up drills for close quarters battle and don’t care to get a tight shot group, you’ll not suddenly “rise to the occasion” if you have to clear an apartment complex room by room looking for Abu Shiithead. Whatever skills you trained, those are the skills you’ll bring into a fight.

If you are paying for training, and your instructor is always justifying full force resistance drills rather than mastering the mechanics of a technique because “you’ll fight like you train” you should find a different trainer.

“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.” This is an old saying with for military folks, and it’s not very applicable for almost everybody else. Physical training is to improve your physical fitness, combat skills training is to let you engage in offensive combat operations to kill the enemies of the state with greater efficiency and violence. However, to the uninformed it can become a totem statement, that if you just “train enough” you’ll be “ready for anything.” As someone who’s lost highly trained friends to crap we never expected, training won’t make you immortal. Others also use this saying as justification for unnecessary physicality in training (at least in my experience with military instructors). I don’t need to carry a 230 lbs of man and gear a mile on my back to know that it sucks doing a manual casualty evacuation uphill to get to the LZ for a medivac helicopter, figured that one right out the first time.

For civilians (and I specifically includes law enforcement in the definition of civilian), since you aren’t training for war, you probably shouldn’t be too worried about “bleeding in combat.”  However, if a terrorist attack does happen, and you are a three gun competitor, by all means make like a hero and bust  a cap in the enemies of the state.

However, if you aren’t specifically training for combat, and you have an instructor pull out the saying, “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat” you probably need to rethink who you pay to provide you training. Or if your instructor sells the idea that if you do everything right, such as kydex friction retention holster with condition zero Glock 19 and two spare mags plus a tourniquet permanently on your belt and a sub two second draw to fire time you’ll be fine…. Or you’ll end up like Amber Guyger.  Because you forgot “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” don’t be in a rush to kill someone unless you are certain you can live with the consequences either way.

So train like you’ll fight, seriously about it. Remind yourself when under stress that “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” and be deliberate with your actions so you don’t fumble. And keep training your body to be faster and fitter, because even if you don’t plan on going into combat, having a more physically fit body will always make you a harder target. Find instructors that aren’t selling a resume and will work to help you get better at the skills you need to master, not the skills that make you feel cool.

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Information Warfare and Social Change

This post has a lot of links to other sources. I highly recommend you take the time as you can to read every source, and understand the information presented.

If rules can be changed to hurt someone you oppose, eventually there will be someone who changes the rules to hurt the opposition. https://thefederalist.com/2019/09/27/intel-community-secretly-gutted-requirement-of-first-hand-whistleblower-knowledge/

The National Security Agency and US Cyber Command seldom open up about their activities, here is a rather well done look at what they can do against a non-government organization. https://www.npr.org/2019/09/26/763545811/how-the-u-s-hacked-isis

How much of a minority opinion does it take to create a majority opinion? Science says 10%. This explains quite a bit about how an extremely vocal minority can be successful, and why “Rules for Radicals” is still pertinent today. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725190044.htm  Of course other research indicates 25% is the magic tipping point: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-25-revolution-how-big-does-a-minority-have-to-be-to-reshape-society/

How can you “informationally” isolate people from the majority so that they adopt a minority position believing it is the majority position? https://www.finn.agency/majority-illusion-how-minority-popular-people-influence-majority

One of the consequences of information isolation is that you are surprised by reality: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/d3xamx/journalists-and-trump-voters-live-in-separate-online-bubbles-mit-analysis-shows

But if you are surprised by reality, accuse the other side of not “playing by the rules” https://www.thenation.com/article/journalism-asymmetric-politics-eric-alterman/ but it is easy to point fingers rather than recognize that most of your community leans left and doesn’t have the appropriate expertise to interpret the validity of data: https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/05/journalists-know-they-need-to-get-better-with-data-and-statistics-but-they-have-a-long-way-to-go/  and echo chambers exist that isolate journalists into their own little world https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/04/25/media-bubble-real-journalism-jobs-east-coast-215048

All of these things are interconnected, they all deal with how information is put into the public space, and how information is manipulated within the public space by interested parties. The target can be President Trump or ISIS…but more often than not the primary target is you.

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American Classical Music through the lens of race.

National Public Radio ran this piece: https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2019/09/20/762514169/why-is-american-classical-music-so-white

The only real “data” presented is this:

More difficult to decode is the relationship African American music has had — or should have had — with America’s classical music tradition. Today, it’s not uncommon for Kanye West or Kendrick Lamar to perform alongside a symphony orchestra, yet African Americans generally aren’t performing in those orchestras themselves. Less than 2% of musicians in American orchestras are African American, according to a 2014 study by the League of American Orchestras. Only 4.3% of conductors are black, and composers remain predominantly white as well.

Of course the money quote immediately follows; “All of these ratios are skewed, of course, by decades of institutional racial bias.”

Really? Let us explore this concept a little more. “Why does Scandinavian Metal remain so predominately white?” or “Why does the real of professional koto players remain so Asian?” Seems pretty silly to ask those questions, doesn’t it? The answers are self obvious, Scandinavia remains predominately white, and the traditional stringed instrument of Japan really remains something that Japanese culture values.

Beyond the racial and ethnic make up of Scandinavia or Japan, the United States is still a majority “white of European heritage” nation. Culturally the value of classical music is more relevant to those people who grew up listening to classical music, the same way that I value a good lefsa as an occasional treat. That 4.3% of conductors are black in a country where 12% of the nation is black is actually a good sign of progress at integration.

Further beyond the “cultural heritage” aspect there is the simple financial investment in players. It takes time, effort, and access to instruction to make a truly great musician from someone who has the drive, discipline, and desire to become one. This is not to say that African Americans don’t have drive, discipline, and desire, only that you have to have the resources in terms of teachers, time, and instruments to capitalize on that. Some would say this is an example of “institutional racism” or “white privilege” however you’ll find that there are few violinists coming from rural South Dakota and the majority are coming from more affluent urban and suburban areas. Demographics matter, and in the United States (and across the world) there isn’t truly equal access to all educational opportunities, from stringed instrument teachers to access to research institutes.

Then Dvořák made a radical prediction. In 1893, he told The New York Herald: “The future of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.” In other words, he was telling white composers that their future was bound to the very people they enslaved and killed. How was that prediction received?

This needs to be understood within the context of Classical Music, Dvorak and other composers routinely “gussied up” European folk music and took it from the small villages and put it in the concert halls of Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, and other major cities. Dvorak’s own “Slavic Dances” is a fine example of this, as did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Bartok, and any number of Russian folk tunes that worked their way into symphonies and ballets of Russian composers. What Dvorak was saying is that the African American folk music was truly unique, not the same European folk music that Dvorak and his contemporaries were tapping into.

However, Aaron Copland has a very distinctly “American” sound without dipping into the African American cultural inkwell to create his compositions. This may be why the article has to specifically minimize the cultural contribution of Copland and “gild the lilly” a bit with praise for Gershwin.

Gershwin was a genius — that’s certainly the most obvious reason. That sounds like a very kind of imprecise thing to say, but as a creative force he transcends his colleagues. To me it’s self-evident that he’s a greater composer than Copland.

The study of Gershwin is interesting. One could point to his dipping into Cuban culture with “Cuban Overture” to his skill at incorporating different cultural sounds. However, Gershwin was very much a commercial composer, working with the likes of Fred Astaire for “An American in Paris” and in his day would be considered similar to John Williams or Danny Elfman today. There is nothing wrong with that, time can often pull a piece of music up from the commoners and give it an air of respectability. But the fact still remains that Copland created an “American Sound” without dipping into the cultural heritage of African Americans, showing that the genesis of a new sound didn’t have to be recycled folk music.

Now, all of this is meaningless. The increasing “marginalization” of classical music is simply a cultural trend. When the royals and aristocrats couldn’t support the arts any more, the symphonies turned to wealthy businessmen and the State to support them. The cultural touchpoint of Opera in Europe has been replaced by the silver screen, and now Opera exists as something for the “upper crust” while the commoners watch through flat panel screens at home. However that same bifurcation of who gets to enjoy classical music live and who gets to enjoy it digitally has really opened up the world of classical music to the world in a manner even bigger than radio. This will not make classical music less marginalized, as it is very expensive to pay a whole symphony worth of professional musicians.

To sum up, I’m not alarmed at all by the “whiteness” of the American Classical Music scene, either in the ethnic makeup of artists or in the sound. As far as the “flash of popularity in the 1930s” mentioned, that was shortly followed by World War II, and the massive interruption to American life. After that, there was the whole integration and civil rights era, the birth of Rock and Roll with a younger crowd. Classical music was clearly on the way out for broad spectrum cultural importance to American culture by the end of the 1940s.


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