Thursday, February 16, 2006

Cold Fusion—Strange Collaborators

In 1946 Igor Stravinsky composed Ebony Concerto for Woody Herman’s big band. At the time, it was a highly unexpected collaboration, but it would establish a precedent for further fusions of jazz and classical music, later to be dubbed Third Stream.

Fuse the verb—to combine elements—became Fusion, a noun for a particularly style of jazz in the late 1960’s. Fusion: the deliberate mixing of jazz and rock musical styles. Of course there were many earlier fusions of jazz with other musical genres, be it Third Stream Jazz, Western Swing, or Terry Callier’s blend of folk and jazz elements.

There is always curiosity about unusual pairings, like Bing Crosby singing White Christmas with David Bowie, Frank Sinatra singing with Bono, or Tony Bennett teaming up with Flea. Someone usually makes stylistics concessions. In their popular rendition of White Christmas, Bowie wisely adapted his style to Crosby’s. Sometimes diverse collaborators come together for a shared musical conception. Sometimes for novelty.

While I enjoy many musical fusions, I think the time for fusion in New York politics has come and gone. New York has an unusual system, where major party candidates may also take the ballot lines of minor fusion parties, and add those votes to their total return. For instance, Gov. Pataki has long been the nominee of both the Republican and Conservative Parties.

There are noble roots to some fusion parties. Anti-Communist liberals like Reinhold Niebuhr were instrumental in founding the Liberal Party, as way to support national and statewide progressive candidates without voicing support for the corrupt local Democrat Party, or the American Labor Party which was dominated by Communists and fellow travelers.

That was then. Now several NY minor parties seem to survive largely on donations from prospective candidates interested in their ballot line. It’s hard to see the value they add to the political system. When the Conservative Party can join the far-left Working Families Party, cross-endorsing Democrat Michael McNulty (NY-21), with a lifetime ACU rating of 22% (, you have to wonder. The Conservatives might at least play a role keeping the state party from reverting to its Rockefeller roots, but the Working Family Party doesn’t have to worry about state Democrats morphing into Zell Miller anytime soon.

Currently, the most coveted minor ballot line is row C, the Independence Party. Consisting of elements from the Perot campaigns and the avowedly Marxist New Alliance Party (, the IP’s endorsement has been sought in the past by most major NY politicians, including Pataki, Spitzer, and Clinton. It does make one wonder about stylistic concessions. For fusion, I prefer early Weather Report.