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Dear Friends,

Our remarkable team will have well-deserved time off for part of August. We’ll resume properly on Monday, August 22. But we’re not ready to break yet.

This week, we published Carl Gershman on Ukraine and Russia. Carl’s essay is adapted from remarks he delivered at João Espada’s Estoril Political Forum in Portugal this summer. Ukrainian forces must defeat Vladimir Putin’s war machine. But it’s political change in Moscow that will ultimately create the conditions for lasting security — both for Ukraine and the region.

Editorial board colleague Carla Robbins has a heavily reported article on the Biden administration’s national security strategy (the latter expected in August). Editorial board member Michael Mandelbaum writes on Iran and nuclear weapons this week. In early August, you’ll be able to read a deep dive on German foreign policy by Peter Kielmansegg and a carefully researched piece on the Budapest Memorandum by George Bogden. That’s the 1994 agreement that had Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances from the United States, the United Kingdom — and Russia.

Back to this week: Read Deborah Birx and William Steiger on AIDS, Africa, and democracy. Their “taking exception” piece is a reply to Jon Temin on how our efforts to battle disease can be at odds with our efforts to support decent, accountable government.

When we return in the fourth week of August, we’ll be full on with publishing and convening, by Zoom and in person. The lineup includes: Vittorio Hösle on Russia, Dan Chirot on West Africa, Scott Montgomery on energy, Sophia Gaston with Peter Pomerantsev on Britain, Piotr Krygiel with Ivana Stradner on Poland, Giselle Donnelly on the Middle East — plus Bill Deresiewicz with Kate Epstein on culture criticism, Mickey Edwards on Congress, and Sam McIlhagga on neoliberalism.

We’ll host Chris Miller on his new book Chip Wars and Elliot Ackerman on his new book, The Fifth Act, a personal take on the American experience in Afghanistan. Elliot served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Chris’s book places the complex and contested history of a modern device at the heart of modern commercial and geostrategic competition. We’ll have Eric Alterman as well. His new book is titled We Are Not One: A History of America’s Fight Over Israel.

We’ll share new podcasts hosted by Richard Aldous, Charles Lane, and Frank Fukuyama. Expect a new series of offerings in history, culture, and political reform. Nicole Penn has something in the hopper. Azar Nafisi joins us for a program with Merve Emre. We’ll host Richard Rodriguez in September on the 40th anniversary of his book Hunger of Memory. Yuval Levin recently republished a terrific 1982 essay by Martha Bayles on Rodriguez and his autobiography in National Affairs.

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I found this (Opens in a new window) interesting. It’s a piece on Kherson’s secret art society under Russian occupation. Just as we’ve never viewed aspects of our affairs at home as easily separable from our engagement with the world, we don’t view arts and culture as something to be siloed, as a mere recreational, diversionary activity. A good number in the American Purpose network are fond of music. I’ll start sharing some of the mail we receive.

Last week, I wrote about Diana Damrau’s “Queen of the Night.” Harold James writes to recommend Lucia Popp’s “rather different, ethereal rendition.” Harold has also brought to my attention this charming interview (Opens in a new window) by Popp given to the BBC (Harold experienced Popp live in Munich in the role of Pamina). There’s so much brilliance in Mozart’s “Magic Flute.” Here’s an iconic performance (Opens in a new window) of a famous duet.

Harps and Such

I’ve been stuck this week on three instruments that get overlooked or are underappreciated: the viola, double bass, and harp. More another time about the viola (Berlioz, who actually wrote a concerto for viola, also maligned viola players as “taken from the refuse of the violinists”).

It’s a pity that the harp — an instrument with a spectacular history going back to 3,000 BC — gets associated today with lobby music, cheesy covers, and pretty, minor parts buried in larger symphonic work.

But try this (Opens in a new window). It’s Alice Coltrane (1937-2007), a classically trained musician and accomplished pianist who played jazz and experimental harp. Alice was married to the saxophonist John Coltrane. Here’s (Opens in a new window) Brandee Younger playing a jazz piece for harp written by Alice Coltrane. AC grew up in a musical family in Detroit. Her mother was a church choir member. Her brother was a jazz bassist. Her younger sister became a songwriter at Motown. Alice went from secular to spiritual (Hindu) and left a remarkable imprint.

Natalie Lurie is a classically trained harpist. She teaches, sings, and composes. Try this (Opens in a new window), beautiful and serene indie-pop. And this (Opens in a new window). She studied in London and has worked in Indiana, Alabama, and Nashville, in France and in Israel. For Lurie and her instrument, it was love at first sight at the age of seven. She recounts:

I grew up watching the Marx Brothers movies. Harpo Marx would hilariously fill the screen with his slapstick comedy, except for five minutes where he would dazzle the audiences with a virtuosic harp performance. Both the beauty of the instrument and his whimsical sense of humor made the instrument so appealing. Then when I saw a harp in real life at a music shop at age 7, I was instantly drawn to it. I refused to leave the shop until my mom agreed to let me take it home.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) Lurie, harp, and orchestra, with a piece by Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo.

Double bass is a different kettle of fish, of course. It’s barely six centuries old. Esperanza Spalding (born 1984) is a bassist from Portland, Oregon. Her mother knew her young daughter had a gift when she discovered Esperanza could reproduce Beethoven at the piano by ear. Spalding says she was inspired as a kid watching Yo-Yo Ma play on an episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

How lovely is this (Opens in a new window)? Here’s (Opens in a new window) cool jazz from Spalding. Here’s experiment, improv, and fun (Opens in a new window). It’s called “Little Fly.”

We need a new synthesis in our politics and public policy. We aim to look at things through different lenses. We want to engage both hemispheres of the brain.



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