July 26, 2007

Yeagley, the phony "American Indian" victim

from the Bad Eagle journal

Today there is a great topic on the national call-in radio program Native America Calling. It is called “Don’t Speak For Us” and it’s all about the David Yeagley’s of America, and how these opportunist Indians of unverified lineage are misinforming the public on Native history and culture. While Indians are swimming around in the cosmopolitan waters of today’s American culture, the Yeagley’s are out there peeing in the pool.

NAC (Thursday, July 26, 2007) — Don’t Speak For Us: Non-Native authors, scholars, filmmakers, anthropologists, scientists, lobbyists and government officials often seize opportunities to speak on behalf of Natives. This leads to controversy over accuracy, interpretation, legitimacy, and in some cases, false representation of Native people. What consequences does this present? Our guests are John Trudell, activist/artist from the Santee Sioux Tribe and Hanay Geiogamah, a Kiowa professor at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television.
Yeagley, the anti-Indian, dishonors Americans Indians seemingly at every turn of a phrase. He claims removing so-called “Indian” mascots amounts to a modern-day cultural genocide against “Indians,” but fails to see the mascots as harmful to Native People. Yeagley wrongly argues that preserving (even “making more”) mascots is the thing to do, but again he conversely dishonors Natives as a result.

However Yeagley is simply playing “the victim” yet again; Yeagley falsely behaves as if he were personally worried that Native people will be forgotten if these inaccurate “Indian” mascots are erased. Sometimes Yeagley will argue that removing mascots will erase whatever is left of the “dying” Native cultures, but fails to point out that so-called “Indian mascots” only represent fake “Indians,” phony “Indian dances” and make-believe “Indian cultures.”

Even further, Yeagley’s false victim stance is generally meaningless for American patriotism as well, because retiring fake “Indian” mascots does not harm any portion of American culture, but only serves to improve it. Would America “fall” if all the fake “Indian” mascots were retired? No. Yeagley’s pro-mascot chatter is wholly without merit, both from an Indian standpoint and an American one.

Yeagley loves to pontificate about the taming of the West by nature of white superiority, but the facts send Yeagley’s ideas off to Neverland. To learn more about the truth of the takeover of Indian lands, I suggest a book far superior to any of Yeagley’s blear-witted ranting.
New Indians, Old Wars by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn Addressing Native American Studies' past, present, and future, the essays in New Indians, Old Wars tackle the discipline head-on, presenting a radical revision of the popular view of the American West in the process. Instead of luxuriating in its past glories or accepting the widespread historians' view of the West as a shared place, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn argues that it should be fundamentally understood as stolen.

Firmly grounded in the reality of a painful past, Cook-Lynn understands the story of the American West as teaching the political language of land theft and tyranny. She argues that to remedy this situation, Native American studies must be considered and pursued as its own discipline, rather than as a subset of history or anthropology. She makes an impassioned claim that such a shift, not merely an institutional or theoretical change, could allow Native American studies to play an important role in defending the sovereignty of indigenous nations today.

July 21, 2007

Native Museums Disassociate Themselves From Yeagley

from the Bad Eagle blog

Bad Eagle (.org) was born from the ashes of reason and commonsense, when those two qualities were being burned by Yeagley’s blog and his desperate aspiration for some kind of “American Indian” celebrity, no matter the cost. In addition to his puffed up image as a “doctor” (when he’s really a simple piano player who dabbles in composing), it is widely recognized that on nearly all things ‘American Indian’ Yeagley is a lost soul. Yeagley pontificates about his own self-worth as a supposed “Indian” by quoting bible passages of all things, and by citing this “time-honored” activity or that “time-honored” accomplishment as if there were such a utopian honored place in time.

Fortunately for most of us, Yeagley’s fantasy-based rationale is easily dismissed as the utopianism it is, especially when fact-based reality enters the picture as it does here at Bad Eagle (.org). And as time goes on, Yeagley’s basic demeanor becomes clearer and clearer to me, vacillating between the “I’m a persecuted victim” stance (that he uses to blame others rather than take responsibility for himself) and the “I’m gonna show you who’s boss” mentality (that many find snobbish and pretentious).

However, in the midst of all Yeagley’s false claims to accolades in music composition (such as his boasting the “newness” of an already hashed-and-rehashed theory of harmony), one might miss a subtler point if not directed to it by a professional and accredited composer. As a person who earns my living by composing (composer by profession), and as a person who was awarded the Outstanding Alumni Award from both Universities were I received by composition degrees (composer with training), I have two brief points to make regarding Yeagley and music.

Indians and Musical Meaning

First, Yeagley appears to my eyes to be very non-Indian in his approach to music. Why? Because he seems to “compartmentalize” the material constructs of music away from the emotional and communal foundation of music, a mistake common to practitioners of western composition. For western thinkers, music has been treated as a “thing” that one creates, that impacts upon the emotions as an afterthought but which remains itself concrete and stagnant once composed or written.

For American Indian musical thought however, no such tidy “box” exists in reality, separating emotion from musical activity (including music composition); Yeagley simply does not think ‘musically’ as an Indian would think, with his “time-honored” harmonic boxes all lined up in a row. Yeagley is missing a fundamental reality of Indian thought — being related — which applies to all things musical and nonmusical.

David Yeagley — “Now, I think probably all are equally important, equally valuable, and certainly equally precious in the eyes of the Creator. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion of ART!!” (7-18-07).
It is because Yeagley appears to be a non-Indian thinker that he discounts the ‘relational’ reality that other Indian thinkers readily understand. American Indians generally do not put music and emotions into “time-honored” boxes, separated one from one another like apples and oranges. The social realities and the musical realities could never be separated, even conceptually; for Native People there is no important distinction between the “psychology” or “sociology” of music versus the “aural” or “oral” realities of music. Those boxed distinctions are a product of westernized thought, not American Indian thought.

It is precisely the communal activity of music — the inseparable nature of things mislabeled “musical” and “nonmusical” by the West — that Yeagley seems to lack in his own approach. Yeagley has moreover adopted the inaccurate westernized categories, as an "acceptable" false dichotomy, for activities that Native People understand to be relational.
David Yeagley — “Now, for social value, for power to effect social change for the better, that's a different issue. That isn't about art, but the effects of art. THat isn't about music, but the effect of music” (7-18-07).
There is no separation between social power and music power for Native People. If you wish to examine this concept further, might I suggest two books for further reading. Even if you are not a music composer, these would provide a beginning outline for better understanding the ‘relatedness’ concept of American Indian people, both in a deconstructive and constructive way.

The Sam Gill book is deconstructive, as it breaks apart the faulty ways in which Westerners have mistakenly viewed Native People. The Ruth Underhill book is constructive, as it begins a discussion of music and power as actually inseparable for Native People. Taken together, these books would provide an excellent initiation into the history of American Indian thought and the inseparability of music.
Gill, Sam D. 1982. Beyond the Primitive, The Religions of Nonliterate Peoples. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 120 pages.

Underhill, Ruth Murray. 1938. Singing for Power: The Song Magic of the Papago Indians of Southern Arizona. Berkeley: University of California Press. 158 pages.

Musical Craft and Meaning

Secondly, Yeagley’s desperate need to disprove his so-called “detractors” simply has Yeagley slipping further off the deep end. The more Yeagley pontificates, the more of his utopia-driven rationale slips out from his own “time-honored” tongue.
David Yeagley — “I felt obligated to demonstrate the meaning of the concepts I have presented in a few recent blogs, concepts of music, words, and consistency. ‘Classical’ music, I insist, pertains to the nature, character, and content of the music, not what instruments happen to be playing it” (7-20-07).
Yeagley "demonstrates" nothing, but again refuses to explain his own theory of harmony, even when challenged to do so by his contemporaries. Instead, he relies on catchall declarations like “nature,” “character” and “content” but never really explains what he means by using them. No musical definition, no footnote, no explanation, no clarity. Rather than uncovering his musical method, he has sought to obscure it in an effort to puff up his own image.
David Yeagley — “I simply note that time honored, established words are most likely to be usurped by lying, cheating knaves... The attempt to use top-shelf words to validate the less worthy, or the unworthy, is a communist use of language... This is called 'redistribution of word meaning'” (7-20-07).
Language is not a word game. Language and meaning go hand-in-hand, again they are “inseparable” for Indian thinkers, rendering his hermeneutical argument above moot. One cannot shift word meaning around as if it were a fixed deck of printed plastic cards. Language is ever shifting as is meaning. Life, language and music cannot be boxed up in tidy little boxes of “meaning” to be paraded around on someone’s resume. Yeagley’s semantic ploy is nonsensical.
David Yeagley — “‘Classical’ music, as I explained before, generally refers to the highest order of intellectual, artistic craft, both in composition and in performance. The word is rightly reserved for that specific reference. Some may call this elitism, or snobbery, but I call it consistency, respect, and accurate communication” (7-20-07).
Actually, Yeagley's attitude is snobbery. Yeagley’s view is also inconsistent, because his so-called “classical” craft is utilized in many art forms considered non-classical, but used in nonhierarchical ways. Yeagley’s notion of “high art” versus “lower forms” is simply classical-centrism.

But most of all, Yeagley’s utopian “highest order” rationale is also very non-Indian, it is completely contrary to the “all my relations” reality of Native People. For Indians there is no such hierarchy of music, there is only music that is related (good music), and music that is not related (bad music). Classical or not, Native People can easily see that Yeagley’s “time-honored” classicism is a utopia-based rationale that he uses to claim personal accolades for himself.
David Yeagley — “‘The Writhing of Earth Worms’ was given its world premiere... at the National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington DC... Of course, not everything on the program was classical, unfortunately... the Museum's approach to ‘Classical Native’ contributes to the popular obfuscation of the concept” (7-20-07).
Setting aside Yeagley’s snobbish comment about the NMAI’s alleged “obfuscation” which I’ve already identified above as Yeagley's own non-Indian mischaracterization, I did give a listen to his recent You Tube upload. My initial reaction is that it’s not-too-bad compositionally, but also not-too-great.

His harmonic language (his self-attributed-but-never-described harmonic theory) seems adequate, and an acceptable effort. If he were my student, he’d get an acceptable grade on that aspect of his composition. There are a couple weaknesses though, too, that could be improved upon: rhythm and orchestration.

Rhythmically, the piece is rather middle-of-the-road in quality, seemingly reliant on a series of steady pulses of regular beats with little variation. One can listen to the beginning for awhile and by reaching the end will have heard almost no change in rhythm throughout. If you, either as a musician or non-musician, reach the final notes of this music
finding yourself rather uninspired, generally speaking, one of the reasons for this effect is the rhythmic monotony.

A similar critique of the orchestration is warranted, as the ranges of the instruments are never utilized to full capacity in the composition. The higher range of the upper instruments and the lower range of the bass instruments remain largely unused, rendering a middle-of-the-road outcome. Great music has satisfying ups and downs, like a musical roller coaster ride generating excitement for an audience. Yeagley's orchestration seems excessively committed to the mid-range and remains a lackluster effort as a result.

Native Museums Are Not Fooled

Yeagley is basically a media whore for ill purposes, taking a highly questionable and unverified claim to a drop of Comanche blood, along with a degree in playing the piano, to the gross heights of white supremacy and misogyny. His unearned and rather egocentric demeanor is Yeagley’s way of clawing out some attention for himself and crackbrained agenda. His musical claims have been repeatedly proven as lackluster and inflated, serving moreover to pad his own media resume and continue his lunacy.

But, in retrospect, Yeagley is starting at least in part to be recognized for what he is, delusional. He was uninvited to the National Museum of the American Indian because of his derogatory mischaracterizations of the Museum, and the negative associations with his anti-Indian stance; The NMAI promised to never have him back. Even the two American Indian violinists invited by Yeagley to perform his work at his sole NMAI appearance, were justifiably disinterested.

And now, it appears that the Comanche Nation’s new Museum has followed the lead of the NMAI, declining to even consider Yeagley’s participation there. When asked if Yeagley would be associated with the Museum’s opening activities, the response from the Museum was “No, absolutely not,” citing the need to disassociate the Museum with the negativity generated by Yeagley’s activities. Bravo to the Comanche Nation Museum.

So it seems that Native People are not so easily fooled by Yeagley’s mental contortions, though sometimes amusing to watch. Yeagley’s puffed up image in the media, his self-aggrandizing, is not being gullibly taken in by as many folks as in previous years. That is a hopeful note for all of the Web Sites who regularly correct Yeagley’s misinformation and half-truths, including this one. Yeagley’s abuse of his piano degree as a means to further his deluded agenda, is as mediocre as his “new” harmonic theory, and we can be thankful that more people are starting to realize it.

As for his music, it seems to me that perhaps Yeagley has spent hours pouring over his "new" theory of harmonic development, but in doing so has mostly sidestepped the development of other important aspects such as rhythm and orchestration. But I’m not Yeagley’s teacher, and am not intending to give Yeagley advice with my comments. Quite simply, it is of interest to note the non-Indian approaches Yeagley has utilized in forming his compositions, as well as some apparent weaknesses of the craft involved. He may have received a D.M.A. for playing the piano, but he is a student of composing with much to learn.

Music and meaning are subjective and communal activities, so those who see greater value in Yeagley’s work have simply to claim a diverse world where differing opinions coexist (you know, a "cosmopolitan" world), and they are justified in claiming so. As for my own opinion of Yeagley’s efforts, I see some room for improvement and further study. Obviously, there is also much room for Yeagley to improve regarding all things American Indian as well. It is unfortunate for legitimate musicians and American Indian musicians in particular, that Yeagley's piano degree continues to be utilized as a media ploy for his promotion of white supremacy and misogyny.

July 17, 2007

Yeagley berates other composers to promote himself

(Part III of Yeagley’s fake opera claims)
from the Bad Eagle journal

David Yeagley “When I say I wrote the first classical music for American Indian flute, I mean that I have written and recorded music for the flute which is classical in content... The famous Louis Ballard... wrote a piece called "Why the Duck Has a Short Tale." It isn't identified or described as a flute concerto” (7-16-07).

"Why the Duck Has a Short Tale"

Despite Yeagley’s limited google searches, Ballard's "Why the Duck Has a Short Tale" is indeed a composed classical work for Indian flute, indicated in the printed music. Ballard’s writing for Indian flute was not pentatonic, nor some Indian style flute melody. As Louis always pointed out when asked: “The music I write is 100% Louis W. Ballard music.”

In the 1980s, I saw an advertisement from the Flinn Foundation annual report, that boasted of the first American Indian flute concerto having been composed in classical style. My curiosity was raised, so I called Louis to ask him if he knew of any previous such concertos. Lou said he knew of an earlier one from 1969, and he immediately faxed me a copy of his Phoenix Symphony program of “Why the Duck Has a Short Tale,” which clearly shows the work as an Indian flute concerto.

Sorry that web searches do not provide for such detail as one receives from composers directly, but there you have it nonetheless; the web lackey method of doing hasty research cannot provide that same level of attention to detail.

"Ritmo Indio"
David Yeagley[Ballard] wrote a piece called "Ritmo Indio," which did include an American Indian flute, but not as focus... the flute part is insignificant, and isn't listed in the instrumentation. It uses only the natural pentatonic scale inherent. The music for the flute is therefore not "classical" at all. The ensemble music is more on the Contemporary side, rather than classical in style. Again, writing for classical instruments does not mean the music is classical. Classical refers to content, nature, character, etc., not the instrumentation” (7-16-07).
Actually, as I have performed the Indian flute part in "Ritmo Indio," I must say that it is listed in the instrumentation; Yeagley is obviously looking at something other than the printed score which clearly lists the instruments including Indian wood flute, a “flageolet” style Indian wooden flute. Again, "Ritmo Indio" does not center around a pentatonic scale, and it is 100% Louis W. Ballard in character, not traditional American Indian; and, the Indian flute part is completely written out in printed notation the same as any other classical flute part.

Classical vs. Contemporary

What’s even more puzzling about Yeagley’s false claims above is the “contemporary” versus “classical” comment, because Yeagley himself is a contemporary composer, also not composing in “classical” style. In addition to his list of requirements for classical music, Yeagley’s omitting an important component — pitch. More than “content,” “nature,” and “character” (whatever Yeagley means by using those nonmusical terms), it is pitch that largely determines classical music, major and minor tonality and the chordal progressions accepted by those classical parameters.

In fact, almost all of 18th Century counterpoint CENTERS on pitch and harmonic development as a foundation. Therefore, by Yeagley’s own declaration of a self-created new harmonic theory, he is well outside the accepted norm for “classical” pitch development, and his music is nowhere near classical.

David Yeagley “Classical music, as a term, represents the highest order of musical activity. It is the top term. Therefore, it is highly abused and regularly usurped. People want to think they have the value, without the work” (7-16-07).
Classical is not the “top term;” classical music is not the highest order of music in some imaginary stratosphere. Classical music is merely a circumstantial type of music produced with a set of parameters particular to a specific era in history. It has no superior intrinsic position and is of no greater importance than is any other type of great music.

Yeagley is trying to “usurp” a higher and mightier glory for his classical (nonexistent) brotherhood than is warranted. It is not others who are usurping, it is Yeagley crying the victim again (“classical music is under attack from those trying to tear it down,” that sort of Yeagley malarkey). Yeagley loves to cry ‘victim’ whenever he feels his meager pontificating is shown to be a fool’s errand.

Circumscribing & Castigating
David YeagleyDeMars' music is not really classical either, but in the pop style of John Williams and the movie score venue--all luscious and sensual, but without musical gray matter. Entertaining, but without intellectual interest. It certainly represents no "classical" music for the Indian flute. If the New York Philharmonic were backing up Nakai, it wouldn't mean he was playing classical music. He can't” (7-16-07).
Actually, DeMars doesn’t compose pop style, but in a constructed method of his own design that he calls a “tapestry” method, by weaving the musical material around as if one were creating a fabric of sound. As I also know DeMars personally and am familiar with his techniques, I must say Yeagley is greatly diminishing DeMars’ efforts and creativity with a rather reductionist censure. In truth, DeMars’ accomplishments in classical music far outshine Yeagley’s.

Additionally, R. Carlos Nakai is very practiced playing classical music on Indian flutes as his many recordings show. He performs written music for American Indian flute often, in various settings and with many classical ensembles. Nakai’s first instrument (before flute) was classical trumpet; he reads and writes ‘written’ music in the classical sense. I suspect Yeagley is simply spewing sour grapes (above) after his visit with Nakai in Arizona a couple years ago was rather unfruitful for Yeagley. Rather than agreeing to perform Yeagley’s flute music, it appears that Nakai has declined to take up any opportunities that Yeagley offered.

It should be noted however, that Nakai is classically trained and does perform “classically” on his flutes, and Yeagley has misrepresented and disparaged Nakai’s abilities and accomplishments.
Jealously once again is showing in Yeagley’s demeanor. Just like Yeagley’s green-faced loathing of Redford’s Sundance Institute (which dismissed Yeagley’s entry into their competitive film scoring program), Yeagley is simply spewing ‘sour grapes’ towards a superior Indian flutist with classical chops that exceed his own.

Discounting the Deeds of Others
David Yeagley “Unfortunately, for all Ballard's serious accomplishments, he never showed any real interest in other Indian composers until the last three years of his life. In fact, he was averse to the idea of an Indian composers cadre. He made no effort to encourage young Indians to become composers. He simply went about his own work, quite successfully” (7-16-07).
On this comment above Yeagley is way out of his league, both professionally and historically. Louis Ballard was a great educator; one of Ballard’s more famous accolades was teaching music at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, in the early 1960s. There he formed Indian marching bands, Indian classical choirs, and taught many American Indian students, such as well known musician/composer Joy Harjo and others.

As a dedicated educator, Dr. Ballard researched and assembled his comprehensive anthology “American Indian Music for the Classroom,” first published as a six-album set with textbook by Canyon Records and later released under a new name, "Native American Indian Songs," as a double-CD set with textbook under Ballard’s own Wakan label. Ballard was a supremely accomplished educator of Indian youth, and was in fact a mentor to me as well.

Yeagley’s damning words for Dr. Ballard’s legacy are especially revolting, especially for those of us who knew him to be a generous and gentle teacher in addition to a gracious and accomplished composer. Yes, Dr. Ballard recently passed away. I still retain Lou’s first letter to me (1979), with his characteristic encouragement typed at the letter’s conclusion, all in capital letters, “BE BRAVE, WRITE WELL AND LIVE LONG!” Dr. Ballard was a consummate educator, mentor and friend.

Inappropriate Self-Aggrandizing

However, while the rest of Indian Country was mourning Dr. Ballard’s recent passing, Yeagley intentionally and continually blogged about Anna Nicole Smith not once but many times in a row. Not a single word about Dr. Ballard. Even after Yeagley was chided by another American Indian composer, Raven Chacon, for ignoring Dr. Ballard, Yeagley quickly dismissed Chacon’s concern and continued with his Anna Nicole rant for several additional days. Still no mention at all of Dr. Ballard.

In this exchange (below), we clearly see that Yeagley’s pursuit of Anna is ostensibly disgusting, considering that Dr. Ballard had just passed away (pay attention to the dates):
David Yeagley “Anna Nicole Who?: By public demand, Bad Eagle must comment on the passing of Anna Nicole... Bad Eagle has presented much commentary on women and womanhood, and it seems that Anna Nicole qualifies for at least a mention... All she has was a body, at least in the beginning. She birthed two children that we know of, but, any woman can do that... Revelation 22:15 says the whoremongers are outside the gates. Heaven is not theirs... However 'willing' the woman is found to be, she is the man's responsibility. It's like abortion” (2-11-07).

Raven Chacon
David, Perhaps you didn't check your email. Louis Ballard has passed on. Much more newsworthy to Native America than Anna Nicole Smith” (2-11-07).

David Yeagley “Raven, I got your first email about Ballard. I'm going to prepare a memorial essay for him. These things can't be rushed. Also, BadEagle has a lot of forums on Indian matters. Have you checked them out? Our idea here is that what Indians think about the world is important! Fancy dancin', eh?” (2-11-07).

David Yeagley “I don't think Anna (Vicki)'s mother loved her at all. Women who love their children don't push five fathers in their face. I don't hink [sic!] Anna loved her children, either” (2-12-07).

David Yeagley “Anna Nicole's Valentine: Who's the father? This is the legacy Anna Nicole Smith... Let the white race take a good look at this. If it were a black woman, or any woman of "color," there would be no such concern, no such life, and no such story, no matter how many fathers, or how much doubt about each... And we haven't even gone in to the matter of that blubbery body that developed after Vickie's porn debuts” (2-14-07).

David Yeagley “Anna Angst Syndrome: ...Everything about her story was foul... The soul of every human being is outraged, whether the anger is fully conscious or not. The story will continue, ad infinitum, because it calls forth ...the natural rage for right” (2-15-07).
The “memorial essay” that Yeagley flippantly promised to Raven Chacon was never written, but Yeagley made sure to promote his blog forums to Chacon. Nothing like a little self-promotion in a time of tragedy. Then Yeagley went right back to blogging about Anna. No memorial. No consideration. No honor. Only misdirection and obfuscation.

Playing the Victim Card

Playing ‘the victim’ yet again, Yeagley attempts to defend his erroneous claims by throwing mud at every other American Indian composer for not recognizing Yeagley’s fantastical accomplishment of being the “first” composer to write chromatically for Indian wood flute.
Like clockwork, the martyr complex resurfaces in Yeagley’s rants, attempting to set himself up as the great misunderstood composer that no other Indian composer has the capacity to comprehend.

Yeagley eagerly contrasts all other American Indian composers against himself and apparently we all fall short, for "this" reason or "that" one. Her music is not “really” classical, or his music is too “popular” to be classical, etc. All extremely narrow boxes that Yeagley alone has defined, precisely to weed out everyone but himself. Yeagley is "the first" you see; the first to compose chromatically for the wood flute.
David Yeagley “When I said I wrote the first classical music for American Indian flute and orchesta [sic!], I meant just that... Unlike other people who play or write for the Indian flute, my music involves all the notes, not just the pentatonic scale inherent. Therefore, it is the first classical music written for the American Indian flute, and the first recorded” (7-16-07).

More to American Indian "Classical" Flute Than Meets the Eye

It is unfortunate for Yeagley that he does not know the music field very well, before attempting to define and write about it. For example, R. Carlos Nakai plays flutes chromatically (not limited to pentatonic scales) and has done so for quite a number of years — long before Yeagley conveniently “turned Indian” for his own musical exploitation and commercialization.

Vince Redhouse also plays flute chromatically, rather well in fact. Vince’s expertise illustrates yet another example of Yeagley’s erroneous claims of writing the only chromatically played Indian flute music. The audio CD that Vince sent me stands in direct opposition to Yeagley's uniformed claims. There are other examples of classical (and chromatic) American Indian flute players as well.
David Yeagley “James Pellerite was the only flutist I knew that was then able to play the American Indian flute in a classical manner, as a classical instrument” (7-16-07).
Apparently, Yeagley is not too savvy about the availability of American Indian flutists in the classical music field. I, too, have been performing chromatically-sophisticated compositions on American Indian flute since 1987. I have even performed Chopin on my wood flutes; as proof I offer an American Indian flute arrangement of Chopin’s final piano Nocturne that I performed at the Joyce Theater in New York city.

As a comparison, first listen to a traditional Lakota Song on wood flute using a non-chromatic (diatonic) scale. Then, listen to the fully chromatic (12-tone) playing of the Chopin Nocturne on Indian wood flute. The two examples are easily identified as American Indian flute music, but the Chopin Nocturne is clearly being played chromatically. Quite simply, Yeagley’s claims to exclusivity in this arena are not true. Whatever opinion one has about Yeagley's compositions, he was certainly not the first to compose chromatically for Indian flute.

Padding a Resume & Being Found Out Is No Fun

Do I believe his outrageous claims of prowess about
his so-called first's in flute music, grand operas, and exclusive harmonic theories? Absolutely not. Yeagley’s approach is a classic case of tearing others down to try building himself up. Yeagley mischaracterizes George Quincy as a non-classical composer; Quincy’s too “popular” you see, but it turns out Quincy is a classical composer after all. Nakai cannot play written (chromatic) music according to Yeagley, but it turns out that Nakai really can.

The only way, it seems, that Yeagley can toot his own horn is by dressing down the career accomplishments of seasoned composers such as Dr. Ballard, R. Carlos Nakai, George Quincy, Raven Chacon, and myself. It appears that even funerals will not deter Yeagley’s self-idolizing behavior.

Yeagley’s victimhood approach, combined with his extremely “boxed” and outdated views of so-called ‘classical music’ are probably why Yeagley remains a marginal figure in the field of contemporary composition at best. Maybe a little less mudslinging at other composers and a bit more study of composition might better suit Yeagley’s budding career. But he so loves to play the unappreciated martyr, we will probably just be shaking our heads at Yeagley's malicious antics far into the future.

July 14, 2007

Footnote on Yeagley’s fabricated OPERA claims

from the Bad Eagle blog

In our previous article I pointed out the false claims of Yeagley’s puffed up self-aggrandizing as a composer, and that critique (unfortunately for Yeagley) stands. Mostly though, I recognize a pattern in Yeagley’s blog these days: musical purity is akin to powwow purity is akin to racial purity — it’s all a fool’s errand in the end. Going backwards to some “time-honored” (as Yeagley constantly insists) “pure” era, backwards to an era without impure mixing, is an imagined scenario. Such a place never existed, and anyone setting themselves on a voyage to find such a place is (repeat after me) “on a fool’s errand.”

David Yeagley — “yes, I've written the first classical music for the American Indian flute” (7-13-07).
Actually, the first classical music for American Indian flute was a work called “Why The Duck Has A Short Tail” by Dr. Louis W. Ballard, that was commissioned and premiered in 1969 by the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Ballard wrote this work to feature the Indian flute in front of the orchestra, in other words, it is an American Indian flute “concerto” (a concerto is a work that features a soloist with orchestra).
David Yeagley — “I have the first solo album of an American Indian classical composer... I do put a lot of weight on the word ‘classical’” (7-13-07).
There are several American Indian classical composers who have released albums (cassettes, CDs, etc.) prior to Yeagley’s release in 2004. Off the top of my head, George Quincy (Choctaw) released several albums, the earliest in 2003. But okay, so Yeagley’s counterclaim might be that his was a ‘major’ label not an indie, but even that argument would be blowing smoke.

A GRAMMY-winning American Indian flutist composing a long while in classical music is R. Carlos Nakai, who has been released on tiny insignificant labels such as Columbia and BMG, in addition to others like Silver Wave and Canyon Records. Nakai has 27 albums in commercial distribution on many labels since the early 1980s, and has sold well over 2,000,000 units worldwide.
David Yeagley — “I've invested in a new harmonic system, but my compositional prodedures [sic!] are classical, in the historical, European sense... In classical music, there are compositional procedures to be observed... The content of the music has to be there for it to be ‘classical’” (7-13-07).
Today’s composers invent their own harmonic theories often, as new harmonic theories are: (a) considered common practice, (b) not of noteworthy significance, and (c) certainly not notable for a composer’s biography. My own students create their own theories routinely, not that they are revolutionary or new, most harmonic theories are not new in fact. Harmonic theories are built on mathematically-defined relationships, so any ‘new’ harmonic theories would necessarily be accompanied by a revolutionary mathematical theory.

Yeagley has put forth no groundbreaking “E=MC2” type theory, let alone allow for a peer review of his harmonic claims by describing his theory to other composers. I suspect, Yeagley never will reveal it; but if it does exist, it is most likely a commonplace variation of preexisting harmonic theories and mathematics that have been around for centuries. Even more, in order to compose “classical” music, one would necessarily have been born in the Mozart era, the “classical” period. Yeagley might be technically considered a “Neoclassical” composer or “neoclassicist,” but whether he’s another Mozart I would highly question. Most reasonable people recognize mainly two kinds of music, ‘good music’ and (to be kind) ‘not-so-good music.’

These ‘classical’ vs. ‘popular’ music categories are rather useless, except to limit and constrain music to some ideal or imagined purity. Go to Brazil and the differences Yeagley tries to separate are all mixed up together, a country with a long and rich concert music tradition. Only in Yeagley’s imagined reality is there such a thing as pure “classical” music even in America, the cosmopolitan continent.
David Yeagley — “grand opera is a historical term, with specific meaning. A person who would dispute my claim that my opera Jacek is the first grand opera on the Holocaust, simply doesn't know some basic terms of music history... I said I wrote the first grand opera on the Holocaust. I did” (7-13-07).
The first “grand” opera written by an American Indian composer was by Gertrude Bonnin (1876-1938), also known as Zitkala-Sa ("Red Bird" in Lakota) — some 87 years before Mr. Yeagley supposedly wrote his. As a classical violinist and classical composer, Bonnin's own Yankton Sioux heritage informed both her libretto and composition “The Sun Dance,” a “grand” opera co-composed with fellow musician William F. Hansen. Bonnin’s grand opera received it’s full production with orchestra, costumes, chorus, even dancers, in Orpheus Hall, Vernal, Utah, in 1913. In addition it should be noted that the first opera was composed by an Indian WOMAN composer.

Once more, Yeagley’s hope of writing the first grand “holocaust” opera is a pipe dream. Do I believe his claim? No way. Just google “grand,” “holocaust” and “opera” together and read the results. Yeagley’s claims are puffed up resume padding at best, and downright fabrications at worst. If he had even a finger of Mozart’s talent, maybe people would pay attention. However, as far as Neoclassical composition is concerned, Yeagley is (repeat after me) “on a fool’s errand.” Though he claims to have written an opera, it remains (technically and musically speaking) unfinished:
David Yeagley — “My opera ...has never been produced. (In fact, it isn't completely orchestrated. I've never had the support, I must say... I do have part of Scene 2 from ACT I recorded... Of course, my grand opera of classical music has not been produced. [David] Amram's involvement in popular music, jazz, etc., will forever bar him from the brotherhood of classical musicians” (7-13-07).
First, like I suggested in previous articles, an aria or a recit does not an opera make; and, without actually writing the orchestra music Yeagley’s so-called ‘opera’ remains nothing more than a compositional sketch: no orchestra = no opera.

Yeagley has (perhaps) composed a 'piano opera' (in some undefined state of completion) and is attempting to convince others that it is a "grand" opera scored for full orchestra (a requirement, technically speaking, of all grand operas). Yeagley’s claims are fantasy, and though he is free in America to pontificate freely, it is not necessary to actually believe him.

And second, I know David Amram personally and have many of his recordings, and he is absolutely a neoclassical composer. His compositions are jazz "influenced" but they are not jazz, they are well-constructed compositions for full orchestra. Amram plays concert piano and concert horn himself, and can also play jazz on both instruments. He is considered a crossover artist in performance, because how many other concert French Horn players do you know that can improvise like Winton Marsalis? Amram is called the "renaissance man" because of his immense talents as performer and composer; and he is 100% a classically-adept concert music composer, despite Yeagley's sophomoric attempt to "bar" David Amram from Yeagley's shadowy underground (nonexistent) "brotherhood."

In sum, Yeagley clamors on with a false sense of music “purity” the same way he pontificates about “pure” powwows of the past, and the lily-white “pureness” of America’s beginnings. America was never actually a white enterprise, not that Yeagley gives a hoot about historical accuracy (Yeagley aligns himself with the white supremacy movement). Yeagley’s idealistic notion of powwows as exclusively a “plains tribe” phenomena were shown as false (Yeagley is unfamiliar with powwow history).

And we can clearly see above, Yeagley’s own musical protests are not “classically” pure either — nor especially noteworthy. What Yeagley seems to be doing is padding his resume with jargon intended to obfuscate his lackluster professional activities. His degree is in piano performance; perhaps he "minored" in composition at some point? But he certainly did not fully complete any academic requirements to become a composition graduate. Again, this is America where one can speak freely, but nowhere is it required that anyone believe what Yeagley says.

So what's up with all Yeagley's "opera composer" malarkey? Basically, Yeagley is attempting to start up a
'sing-along' fan club — inviting the rest of us to join in — singing his praises. Does anyone know the words to "On A Fool's Errand?"

July 10, 2007

Can a White Supremacist spawn the FIRST Holocaust Opera?

from the Bad Eagle journal

Can a White Supremacist spawn the FIRST Holocaust Opera? Well, as you have probably guessed already, Yeagley is prevaricating yet again. As you can easily see below — from the rather small assemblage of evidence to the contrary — Yeagley did not create the first holocaust opera. And, I find it highly unlikely that any white supremacist including Yeagley could ever truly compose something noteworthy of that particular horror. Pray as loud as you wish, I simply do not believe him.

David Yeagley — “How a Comanche Indian Came to Write the First Opera About the Nazi Holocaust... the first grand opera on the Holocaust” (4-24-01)

David Yeagley —
“There is a reason no Holocaust opera has ever been written before. What I have done is more modern than modernist... THIS is the Holocaust story... I made this as painful as possible... It is a strange opera, in this sense... constant increased disappointment... It is all quite dreadful” (1-14-05)

David Yeagley —
“I want to let everyone know, I have composed the only grand opera on the Holocaust” (3-15-05)

David Yeagley —
“Furthermore ...I created the first, and so far the only, grand opera on the Holocaust” (7-9-07)
For those of you "believers" who still insist on bowing in the church of Yeagley, I have a simple equation for you to consider:

the probability of tumbling onto Yeagley’s blog is directly proportional to the muttonhead gymnastics being exhibited there, because anything is possible in Holy Yeagleyland if you don't know what you are talking about.
Viktor Ullman's Holocaust Opera
“A rare performance of an opera that was written in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Terezin, Czech Republic during World War II ... composed by Viktor Ullman.”
Hans Krasa’s Holocaust Opera
“...a charming piece by the Czech-Jewish composer Hans Krasa.”
Stefan Heucke’s Holocaust Opera
“Stefan Heucke, 47, the composer of the opera, said he had been interested in the topic since he read the 1977 memoir ''Playing for Time,'' the Holocaust survivor Fania Fénelon's portrait of the orchestra, which was led mainly by the conductor and violinist Alma Rosé, a niece of Gustav Mahler.”
Nicholas Maw’s Holocaust Opera
“Its complicated set, which takes in Auschwitz, including a train of cattle trucks that brought the heroine there, and Brooklyn streets and apartments, has been devised by Rob Howell, who won an Olivier award last year for his work with Nunn at the National on Troilus and Cressida...Nicholas Maw has delivered a great score.”
Cathy Mansfield's Holocaust Opera
“The opera follows a German Jewish family in Berlin... The extensive research Mansfield undertook for the opera brought her to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., ...What began nearly 30 years ago as a production produced at a community center has become the driving force in her life. Mansfield would like to take a year off to complete the work.”
David Amram’s Holocaust Opera
“David Amram has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works... including the classic scores Splendor in The Grass and The Manchurian Candidate, two operas including the ground-breaking Holocaust opera... He has collaborated with Leonard Bernstein (who chose him as The New York Philharmonic's first composer-in-residence in 1966), Langston Hughes, Dizzy Gillespie, Dustin Hoffman, Willie Nelson, Thelonious Monk, Odetta, Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, E. G. Marshall, and Tito Puente, among others.
Joel Hoffman’s Holocaust Opera
Joel Hoffman, professor of composition, was commissioned by Hebrew Union College to write a piece ...his now-complete opera, is the culmination of more than two years of work. With the country entangled in war, Hoffman didn't realize that the opera he wrote would have such a timely message and theme... about the life of Mordechai Gebirtig ...who was killed in a concentration camp during World War II.”
And this list goes on and on ... on and on ... and on.