Making Gregorian Chant sell with Lady Gaga

Early Gregorian Chant is eerily beautiful, and it turns out that the  cloistered nuns at Abbaye de Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation are among the best in the world at singing it.  They’ve recently won a contest for female singers of GC.

So suppose you are Decca Records and you’ve now got a recording contract with the nuns for Gregorian Chant.  Just how are you going to sell it?

Well, as it turns out, you’re part of Universal, which has signed on Lady Gaga.  Lady Gaga and cloistered nuns!   WOW!  As CNN puts it, Lady Gaga and the nuns are label-mates.

To be fair, we don’t know that the company even mentioned the two together. 

 The video below might give you an idea of the beauty of the singing.  (I couldn’t find anywhere to sign up to join the cloister; it does look to  be heavenly.)

And here’s some info from CNN:  Singing Nuns Join Gaga’s Record Label:

The Benedictine sisters have taken a vow of isolation and intend to stay in their convent for the rest of their lives.

As part of an ancient order that dates to the sixth century, the nuns can only communicate to visitors, even family, through a grill, according to Decca. …

“We never sought this, it came looking for us,” said the Reverend Mother Abbess in a statement. “At first we were worried it would affect our cloistered  life, so we asked St. Joseph in prayer. Our prayers were answered, and we thought that this album would be a good thing if it touches people’s lives and  helps them find peace.” …

“When you hear the sound of nuns chanting, it’s like an immediate escape from the challenges, stresses, noise and pace of modern living,” Decca executive Tom Lewis said in a statement. “You’re given a  glimpse of a secret world of peace and calm.”

The group of traditionally self-sufficient nuns includes a plumber, an engineer, an electrician, a silk-weaver and a dental assistant.

You can find posts of ours on Gaga here.

“Gaga Feminism”

The New York Times series, The Stone, organized by Simon Critchley, features philosophers writing on timely topics.    This week’s essay is by Nancy Bauer, and it is about Lady Gaga feminism.  That feminism features the idea that one can both strive to be the perfect object of male lust and, at the same time, a personally powerful woman, with the first enabling or constituting the second.  Bauer also uses Beauvoir to articulate how we might construct an alternative.

Bauer’s article has given me the first understanding I’ve had of the supposedly Third Wave feminist idea that wearing 4 inch heels is not just allowed by feminism but positively endorsed by it.

Bauer’s essay discusses the Telephone video features Lady Gaga and Beyonce; it is long, but I think anyone with young women in their classes should read Bauer and view the video.  Here’s a shorter series of clips in a behind the  scenes video:

There are in fact other good entries in the series which we haven’t covered, including Nancy Sherman on stoicism and  the military.  The idea, suggested by J.M.  Berstein , that tea partyers are involved in a metaphysical mistake evolves into a teaching gem.  I loved the readers’ reaction to Singer’s remarking that many of  them didn’t understand him – “If we didn’t undertand you, that’s your fault.”

Yes. Just yes.

Lady Gaga is responding to the media nonsense surrounding her weight gain, first noted here–and her response is pretty awesome. Posting a series of pictures of herself in her bra and underwear on a new “Body Revolution” subsection of her social networking site for fans, she said by way of captions:

Bulimia and anorexia since I was 15.

But today I join the BODY REVOLUTION

To Inspire Bravery

and BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION

As the folks at Jezebel note,

The page has only been live for a few hours, but fans have already been posting stories and photographs about recovering from anorexia, living with one and a half legs, having cancer. . . Some other celebrity might sue a publication for calling her fat; Gaga’s fighting back by taking the high road, by showing the world that it’s not okay to critique her body — not because she’s a pop star, but because she is a human being, with feelings and a history of eating disorders and we can, and should, do better. By posting these homemade, raw, here-I-am-with-all-my-flaws (not that we see any) images, she shows that her struggle is the same struggle millions of other men and women have everyday: Learning to love yourself just the way you are, finding and believing you are beautiful when the media is hellbent on making you think you’re fat and ugly (and that fat is the same as ugly).

This whole thing has really hit home with me. I’m an intelligent, otherwise confident woman, a feminist who knows better, and if anything I’m underweight — yet, I still struggle with body shame and the size of my thighs. This obsession with women’s bodies is not fundamentally about being thin, or even about being pretty; it’s about seeing women’s bodies as public property — as objects open to legitimate critique from total strangers.  And it’s total BS.  And so, in the words of Lady Gaga,

Be brave and celebrate with us your “perceived flaws,” as society tells us. May we make our flaws famous, and thus redefine the heinous.

Matricide by the third wave?

Katha Pollitt in The Nation  thinks not:

In “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide,” her cover story in the October Harper’s, Susan Faludi argues that young feminists are frivolous fashionistas who choose Lady Gaga over Gloria Steinem and consumerism over activism, thereby betraying the cause—and their second-wave mothers, real and figurative. Faludi thinks today’s young feminists are out to kill their mothers, much as young women in the 1920s rejected the Victorian matriarchs who had won them the vote: “Over and over, a younger generation disavows the women’s movement as a daughter disowns her mother.”

Jessica Valenti’s piece in an earlier Nation  argues a quite different point.  She does see younger women as ignored and/or sexualized by the older feminists, but she lays a heavy charge at her elders’ door.  That is, they’ve neglected what must be the core goals of a sustainable feminism:

Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged. What’s most important to remember as we fight back against conservative appropriation is that the battle over who “owns” the movement is not just about feminists; feminism’s future affects all American women. And if we let the lie of conservative feminism stand—if real feminists don’t lay claim to the movement and outline their vision for the future—all of us will suffer.

Feminism has in fact restricted its attention to “white women’s concerns” and, as such, become vulnerable to the idea that Palin and the Grizzlies can also be feminists.

These are such important issues.  What do you think?

And by the way, we should watch what we write if we have children!  Rebecca Walker’s  reactions to her mother’s writing should give us all pause.  It certainly calls matricide to mind.   (As far as I know I have nothing in print beyond one unfortunate comment comparing cats and babies, or more accurately, observing that I might not have had a child had I had a cat.  Sorry!!  Obviously just a joke!!!)

Vanity Fair’s “Best Dressed” includes

Lady Gaga, as pictured here:

(This is only our fifth post mentioning her, and we are not  obsessed!))

Well, why not?  It’s hard to make sense of selecting her unless dressing well includes wearing uncomfortable clothes to attract a great deal of attention.

This outcome seems to me connected with David Brooks’ latest column in the NY Times.  “A Case of Mental Courage” starts with a description of Fanny Burney recounting  her breast surgery, without anaesthetic.  But it is actually about an ethos of self-discipline, which he thinks we have lost.  He also takes this to be the source of a lot of obvious problems today:

She lived at a time when people were more conscious of the fallen nature of men and women. People were held to be inherently sinful, and to be a decent person one had to struggle against one’s weakness.

In the mental sphere, this meant conquering mental laziness with arduous and sometimes numbingly boring lessons. It meant conquering frivolity by sitting through earnest sermons and speeches. It meant conquering self- approval by staring straight at what was painful.

This emphasis on mental character lasted for a time, but it has abated. There’s less talk of sin and frailty these days.** Capitalism has also undermined this ethos. In the media competition for eyeballs, everyone is rewarded for producing enjoyable and affirming content. Output is measured by ratings and page views, so much of the media, and even the academy, is more geared toward pleasuring consumers, not putting them on some arduous character-building regime.

There’s an obvious connection between his comments and the appearance of Lady Gaga on VF’s best dressed list.  But I wonder if there is not also a less obvious one.  That is, one factor in the loss of the culture of self-discipline may well involve a loss of generational leadership in the early 60’s.  You couldn’t trust people who were horrified at, for example, the Beattles’ hair or Elvis’s wiggle, while so many thousands were being killed for the sake of democracy in South East Asia.

There are many other factors, of course, with capitalism being a large one.  But for university teachers, the question of generational authority is a major one.  And now we have the capitalists substituting their goals for ours in educational institutions.

So maybe I’ll lay off any problems with Lady Gaga.   

What do you think?


**As aside:  it seems to me there’s a lot of talk of sins, but they are conveniently others’ sins.

The many meanings of “Public Affairs”?

From the WSJ:  The “upstart” political party, the Czech Public Affairs party, has published a calendar of some of its leading public office holders. 

Apparently this is seen by the participants as a feminist assertion of their attractiveness as women (and, in at least one case, an animal companion).  And in the era of Lady GaGa feminism, why not?  Member of Parliament as Playmate.

A possibly more mitigating explanation is that the display is a reaction to, and rejection of, the dreary Soviet controlled years of anti-fashion.

What do you think?  Want to see (a photo-shopped) Hilary Clinton in a black satin negligee?

This year has the highest proportion of women in the Czech parliament ever.  Since the Cabinet is still all male, it appears men remain on top.

A Paglia Riff

It’s here, in the NY Times

Does it matter if various parts don’t fit together?  Here’s the situation she’s addressing: All the middle class white people have the sexual blahs.  Why?  Well, on the one hand:

  The real culprit, originating in the 19th century, is bourgeois propriety. As respectability became the central middle-class value, censorship and repression became the norm. Victorian prudery ended the humorous sexual candor of both men and women during the agrarian era, a ribaldry chronicled from Shakespeare’s plays to the 18th-century novel.

But there are some good non-white non-middle-class things:

A class issue in sexual energy may be suggested by the apparent striking popularity of Victoria’s Secret and its racy lingerie among multiracial lower-middle-class and working-class patrons, even in suburban shopping malls, which otherwise trend toward the white middle class. Country music, with its history in the rural South and Southwest, is still filled with blazingly raunchy scenarios, where the sexes remain dynamically polarized in the old-fashioned way

Is Victoria’s Secret and country music old-fashioned in the Shakespearean way or the 1950’s way.  I always thought both were very 50’s fantasies, but nevermind.

Her important indictments actually are disappointingly full of cliches.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.

That’s despite the research that says that feminist have more fun in bed (to put it loosely). 

There is one notable observation; Rob found it for us here.