Barcelona, Economics, Music, Thoughts

Alan Jay Lerner and the scarcity of democracy and freedom

Yesterday I went to listen to Brent Barrett singing the music of Leonard Bernstein. Brent Barrett is one of the greatests tenors from Broadway.

He was performing at Barcelona’s opera house, also known as the “Liceu“. It was an impressive performance. This artist knows how to sing, how to express and how win the audience.

But, let’s go to the point. I already knew that Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was Jewish, from a liberal family in Massachusetts and a strong defendant of human rights. I was surprised to know, tho, that Alan Jay Learner and Leonard Bernstein had written a musical in 1976 in the context of the Watergate scandal, disenchanted by politicians and especially of Richard Nixon. The musical was about the story of the White House and called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (that’s the White House address).


Leonard Bernstein with sister Shirley in the Green Room at Carnegie Hall after a performance with the Israel Philarmonic, March 1951

The show was a flop and lasted only for seven days. But it contained more than one century of American History, from George Washington to Roosevelt. How the country had strived for freedom and the struggle for black freedom. It’s a story about the difficulties of maintaining a democratic society.

This work has been largely overlooked and unappreciated. It wasn’t recorded until 1997. But there’s a song that Brett sang yesterday that inspired me a lot. It’s called “Take care of this house”.

Take care of this house
keep it from harm
if bandits break in
sound the alarm.

Care for this house,
shine it by hand
keep it agleam
so it can be seen
all over the land

Be careful at night
check all the doors
if someone makes a break in
the dream will be lost

Take care of this house
be always on call
for this house
is the home of us all

It is sung by the First Lady to Lud, a young black boy that is a slave to the White House. He is the future. She is presenting him with the challenge to attempt a democratic society that will be able to overcome social injustice. The house represents the whole nation and the whole of the democratic world; it’s the hope for us all.

As I usually, capitalism has won, but don’t take democracy for granted.

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b-school, Barcelona, Blogging, MBA, Music, Personal, Thoughts

(The need to) Move on

Sometimes it’s hard to move on.

There’s a psychological trait that makes us cling to our investments. Even the clever investor can hold on to an equity that is going down further than expected and loose a lot of money. Bu, when you’re inside, when you don’t have perspective, It’s hard to know when to quit.

But then there are stop-losses, and dynamic stop-losses, that will let you make that decision ex-ante. (Ex-post is even easier).

The same happens with project management. There are certain moments where the project is not feasible anymore. And the best option is to just close it. But it’s not easy. And sometimes, inability to recognise a failure can lead to heavier losses.

There are two forces that you need to master:

  • The need to adapt. You need to be able to adapt to a new project, a new investment, a new job. The more, the better. To be able to enthusiastically think as a member of a project.
  • The need to change. You need to be able to quit, to introduce change in an organisation you’re already in, to know when to drop a solution, to see when a project has failed.

But both collide in a certain point. And that can drive you insane.

  • Excessive identification can lead to Stockholm syndrome: the hijacked that ends up caring about her hijackers, and that keeps her away from reality, and from much needed chances for change.
  • There’s a need to forget sometimes, but there’s also the need to remember what we have learned.
  • And excessive change can lead to disaffection, to being a mercenary, to not caring what you really do, to your work having no meaning for you.

As always is a matter of balance, but don’t forget the need to move on. That’s the hardest part: knowing when, or how, even why.

Why did I come up with this? Well, yesterday I went to hear british actress Maria Friedman singing Stephen Sondheim, Palau de la Música an incredible modernist theatre in Barcelona built by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1908, proclaimed heritage of humanity by UNESCO. It was so great. The public was so enthusiast that didn’t want to let her go. She even had to do repeats.

Stephen Sondheim makes you think with his lyrics. Let me share some with you. This song is about a brave young lady that is going nowhere and decides to leave everything, her country, France, the man she loves, the painter Seurat (she is pregnant with his baby), to start a new life in America.

“Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George by Stephen Sondheim

Stop worrying where you’re going, move on
If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone
Just keep moving on.

I chose, and my world was shaken–so what?
The choice may have been mistaken
but choosing was not.
You have to move on.

Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be.
Look at all the things you’ve done for me:
Opened up my eyes
Taught me how to see
Notice every tree!
Understand the light!
Concentrate on now!
I want to move on . . .
I want to explore the light.
I want to know how to get through
through to something new–
Something of my own!

Move on!
Move on!

Stop worrying if your vision is new.
Let others make that decision . . .
they usually do!
You keep moving on.
Look at what you want,
Not at what you are
Not at what you’ll be
Look at all the things you gave to me.

See what’s in my eyes, And the color of my hair,
and the way it catches light.
And the care, and the feeling
And the light, moving on!

We’ve always belonged together.
We will always belong together!
Just keep moving on.

Anything you do, let it come from you–
then it will be new.
Give us more to see.

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