The Internet is now filled with rage against Walter Palmer, the dentist who reportedly paid $50,000 to kill a well-liked lion from Zimbabwe named Cecil. Dr. Palmer has been called a monster, a psychopath, and one of the worst human beings on the planet. As the Internet reflects on Dr. Palmer’s character and on the needlessness of Cecil’s slaughter, I propose that the Internet should also give some consideration to the thousands of cattle that are slaughtered every hour in the US, along with many more pigs, chickens, sheep, and other living beings often raised in abject misery. If Cecil’s death is worthy of our sadness and our rage, is it right to exclude all of those other animals from our sphere of concern because they do not happen to be endangered celebrities with human-assigned names? Given that we slaughter all those creatures not because we would starve without their meat, but simply because we prefer it, why are our actions exempt from the moral outrage now levied against Dr. Palmer? If the Internet agrees so readily that an individual hunter who killed one lion is deserving of brutal mockery, the destruction of his business, and threats against his life, how does the Internet feel about our factory farming system, about the people who run it, and about those who consume its products? If you think Dr. Palmer is a terrible person for slaughtering Cecil, remember that feeling and let it inform your decision the next time someone offers to sell or serve you the remains of another slaughtered animal.
Here’s a short piece I’ve just finished writing for guitar; maybe it will become part of a series. The style here is romantic and the texture is more homophonic than contrapuntal, a departure from the keyboard-oriented canons I’ve been working on recently. It feels good to now be writing for the instrument I actually play. This is in fact my first “composed” piece for guitar — my past guitar work has been improvisational and it’s taken me some time to move from a spontaneous to a planned approach to working with the instrument. One thing I’ve learned is that writing for guitar involves a constant interplay between abstract musical thinking and a nut-and-bolts examination of the instrument’s possibilities and tendencies. I suppose that’s true for any instrument, but it’s especially so for the guitar because the guitar is polyphonic, but not in the rational, orderly way the keyboard is polyphonic; instead, in a quirky, limited way, where the fingers of the left hand can quickly become immersed in a nightmarish game of Twister if the composer isn’t careful. But one nice thing about being the author of the piece you’re playing is that if a certain note gives you trouble you have the authority to change it, and I did that several times in the course of practicing this! In the clip, you’ll hear me playing my 2009 Connor guitar. Feedback is welcome.