Friday, March 16, 2018

Night at the Opera: My Lai massacre (audio)

UCLA (Center for the Art of Performance); LAT; CC Liu, Pfc. Sandoval (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
The "American War," see it yourself: My Lai massacre site tour (
Vietnamese instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ plays instruments made from what used to be American weapons of war against Vietnam (Maria Alejandra Cardona/Los Angeles Times)

They have pursued a singular artistic vision that dates back to the ensemble’s origins.
In 1973 David Harrington was inspired to form the Kronos Quartet after hearing George Crumb’s Black Angels -- a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages, and electronic effects.

Kronos revisits the inspiration for the founding of the group with My Lai.

The infamous 1968 massacre by American soldiers of unarmed Vietnamese villagers provides the context for this gripping new work... featuring Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ.

My Lai features traditional Vietnamese instruments and digitally processed sounds.

It's told from the perspective of the heroic helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson, who tried to stop the slaughter and was vilified for reporting it. More
My Lai massacre, 50 years later: Jonathan Berger's opera captures the madness
Shut the hell up! Shut the hell up!! You're all DEAD for messing with the US of A!
The Mỹ Lai Massacre was the US soldiers' mass murder of between 347 and 504 innocent, unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. It was committed by U.S military men who raped children and killed women and old men as ethnic cleansing.
I didn't mean it. It was orders from the top!
There is more than enough method to Eckert's evocation of madness, over the opera's 75 minutes, to make his performance far more than a commanding study in delusion.
Thompson may no longer know what is real, but we do. During his second landing, the pilot says he had to "dive, and dive, and dive…into madness." The listener is right there with him.
Murdered Vietnamese man and sons (W)
The helicopter gunners are said to be incredulous, angelic, mortified. Eckert's own howling is the explosiveness of not being able to express the inexpressible.

But he can just as convincingly turn melancholic and, ultimately, angelic, the inexpressible very much being conveyed.

Ronald Haeberle bravely documented American War crimes at My Lai, bodies burning (W)
Hold him while I kick him in the head for looking at me funny! Teach him to squint at me! Here, get out of the way, I'm blowing his motherfatherin' head off right here! (G-P)

Whoa, did we do Afghanistan, too?
And then there is Kronos. Berger makes the quartet the glue of the conveyance of mood, place, event, and meaning through a rich variety of string writing.

The quartet here does not call attention to itself, but its instinctual rightness makes any given moment matter.
After a half-century, it is now easy enough to memorialize the dead of My Lai and honor Thompson to assuage our collective guilt. That's not Berger's "My Lai."

Yum, let's go eat dead meat to celebrate! Irony
The work does not truck in anodyne catharsis even as it reminds us of our ability to stumble across beauty when there is otherwise no meaning, only insanity, to be found. More
Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam
In his book Kill Anything That Moves, Nick Turse reveals that the American War’s casualty figures are staggering. From 1955 to 1975:
  • The United States killed more than 5,800,000 military personnel in Southeast Asia.
  • Vietnamese troops were wounded around 30,400,000 times.
  • Of those, 15,300,000 cases were serious enough to require hospitalization.
  • And 7,500,000 veterans were left severely disabled.
  • [These number were 100 times less for US soldiers who invaded Vietnam to rape, pillage, murder, subjugate, and enslave the Vietnamese.]
Should we burn 'em, sarge?
“While Americans who served in Vietnam paid a grave price, an extremely conservative estimate of Vietnamese deaths found them to be proportionally 100 times greater than those suffered by the United States” (p.11)
Nick Turse also states that according to Westmoreland’s memoir, MacArthur “urged me to make sure I always had plenty of artillery, for the Oriental, he said, ‘greatly fears artillery,’” and suggested that Westmoreland might have to employ a “scorched earth policy” in Vietnam (p.61).

Oops, we did it Afghanistan
Hey, let's pee on these corpses, guys, then take a selfie of our war crimes. - Let's do it.

1 comment:

Hung Pham said...

It was a sad story. I got shocked when first saw this. But let bygone be bygone! No one win the war!