Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And now...a Trakl moment

Im hellen Spiegel der geklärten Fluten

Sehn wir die tote Zeit sich fremd beleben

Und unsre Leidenschaften im Verbluten,
Zu ferner’n Himmeln unsre Seelen heben.

Wir gehen durch die Tode neugestaltet

Zu tiefern Foltern ein und tiefern Wonnen,
Darin die unbekannte Gottheit waltet -

Und uns vollenden ewig neue Sonnen.

In the bright mirror of the clarified floods
We see dead time strangely animate itself
And our passions in the bleeding
Lift our souls to more distant heavens.

We go through deaths newly transformed
To deeper tortures and deeper delights,
Where the unknown deity governs -
And we are completed by eternally new suns.

-Georg Trakl ("Einklang")

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Fauré Headache

Poulenc claimed that the music of Gabriel Fauré made him ill. The power of music! Now, the important thing to note is that he did not simply mean this as a generic broadside. Poulenc actually claimed that Fauré's musical language (and Fauré, one of the most underrated composers of all-time in my opinion, did create his own musical language), with all of its listless modulations, languorously acidic modalities and lethargic rhythmic development (or total lack thereof) made him truly, utterly physically ill.
"Physically ill" for Poulenc should also be qualified; if someone put Fauré's Pénélope on the hi-fi, it wouldn't trigger violent, Francis Poulenc-style marshy diarrhea *. Rather, those hallmarks of Fauré's peculiar style mentioned above, especially in the late music, had the ability to make Poulenc feel very uneasy and agitated. Despite my love of Fauré's music, I can understand where he is coming from. The music is strangely difficult. The infamous modulations create nonstop tension. The harmonic element, so unique and personal, is largely contrapuntal, built of interweaving lines that don't clash as much as they enigmatically susurrate to each other. One might read this and think I am describing Max Reger (oh you are a smart one, one!). In the end they sound nothing alike, because Reger's music is unceasingly chromatic in its polyphony and dynamic in sound. It is craggy and brash and takes the Beethoven of the late quartets as a starting point with the highly advanced motivic development.
Fauré's music on the other hand, is primarily modal (or polymodal). It is fluid and subtle, and the modulations always make sense. Still, the music requires strict attention and obedience. I remember reading pianist Emile Vuillermoz, Fauré student (and lifelong friend of Ravel), in his book on Fauré describe his teacher's music as constantly leading the listener around a labyrinth with a thread. The way in which Fauré teases the listener, Vuillermoz writes, breaking up the tension with a fleeting release only to pivot another corner in the exquisite maze, is "quite intoxicating". At least I can agree.

I can still somewhat sympathize with Poulenc, as the one composer who can make me profoundly uneasy by the very nature of his style is Scriabin. Scriabin, like Fauré, Reger, and to some extent early atonal Schoenberg delights in an absolute lack of harmonic contrast. I like his music, admire his craziness as a human being, but I have to be particularly brave to withstand more than 20 minutes of his cephalalgia-inducing theosophic quartal hexachords.

This post has been extremely boring.

*And you are quite welcome for this memorable image.
My Philosophy of Life

From the wonderful site (a collection of mostly Japanese ads and products with hilariously mutilated English).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time to thank the Christian God for the totally awesome things you own and no one can steal from you. I have made up another list (see also, here, for example) of material things I heartily recommend, and am thankful for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tempo/Expression Mark of the Week

Lent et voilé comme une femme arabe.

"Slow and veiled like an Arab woman."

-From the first of Jehan Alain's Dix piéces pour piano

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies

My wishlist is nearing 300 items. I often put things on there simply for the record of what want to buy. I always find that when I am in bookstores I am aimlessly wandering around and forgetting what to look for.

On a unrelated note, my birthday is coming up soon on the 4th of December. But that is unrelated.

Maps and Mazes

"Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery."

-Cormac McCarthy ("The Road")

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Question and Answer

I am sure the Ensemble Sopeso are wonderful musicians, and I am always glad to see a group devoted to modern music. But who the hell does their interviews? All the questions are longer than the answers:
You speak of a work's "appropriate weighings of innovation and convention." Is this a dialectical, historical model? In spite of the traditional demand to recognize the radical innovation of great works, isn't a great work essentially conventional rather than innovatory? Isn't "convention" just another word for the permanent dégré zéro frame of mutual reference which must be assumed before we can enjoy "innovation"—"the revelation of new perspectives, according to constantly mutating sets of (musically immanent) rules of play?"

Nailed him! Yeah dude, what the fuck? Just come out and admit that you are using "convention" as a word for the permanent dégré zéro frame of mutual reference which must be assumed before we can enjoy "innovation"—"the revelation of new perspectives, according to constantly mutating sets of (musically immanent) rules of play"!!! Everyone knows it, you dick. Don't lie. And don't even pretend you don't know where that final sentence in quotes is from. Yeah, it's from Lacan's book where he psychoanalyzes his bag of Cooler Ranch Doritos. We've all read that and can attest to its intellectual importance in the history of civilization.

Seriously, though, if I may return from the clouds of academic obscurantism, why do all semi-intelligent writers feel the need to posture and drop French words and phrases in their sentences?* "Dégré zéro"? Jesus Christ. And a lot of the times, the French words or phrases they spruce up their paragraphs with are cognates, too! Let me pretend to be a writer, if I may:

"Daily, the news of Iraq places us of our place in the midst of une situation importante."
Just say "IMPORTANT SITUATION"! It's spelled nearly the same way, and it means the goddamn same thing!

In all fairness, I should let you know who is being interviewed here. None other than Brian "flute fluttertonguing in 7/16 time = complexity" Ferneyhough!

His answers aren't very helpful either, and if you have heard his music, typical. Quick, verbose, arcane and pointlessly articulate:
On the other hand it might be said that, whereas Brecht's strategy involves a consciously pre-calculated expulsion of the observer from one zone of otherwise integral mimetic witness into another, far bleaker space of alienation, Schoenberg's quartet actually lives through some sort of organic rebirth in and through the necessary flowering and fading of untenable discourse-immanent contradictions.

Hm, yes, yes. I always have a flowering and fading of untenable discourse-immanent contradictions first thing in the morning.

*(There is an awful, awful "Classical Liberal" columnist named Ilana Mercer who does this shit every column, often in Latin, another pointless trick that is supposed to inform the reader of the author's familiarty with the Ancient World. Check her out at the most hilarious news site in the world, World Net Daily. Also, go to her site. Lots of pictures of her pretending to be sexy and smart. Apparently, she likes Dream Theater, which immediately negates anything she could have to say politically, culturally, etc. )

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

And You Call Yourself an Aesthete?

What's the most effete, decadent aesthete thing I've done in the last month? Oh, I don't know. I recently read the Book of Ezekiel high on painkillers (badly sprained ankle) while Szymanowski's piano triptych Métopes played on the stereo. Also be sure to note that my bedroom, a snug monk's cell of books, CDs, DVDs and blankets, was bathed in Christmas Lights majesty. The vital, brumal winds of a chilly autumn night ambled through the window, ruffling the fur of my cat as he slept at the foot of the bed.

Ezekiel the prophet's hissing padparadscha of a book, a glorious jungle of technicolor schizophrenia and advanced epilepsy culminating in a intensely visual and detailed tour of YHWH's temple


The effect of Analgesic on a hyper sensitive teetotaler


Szymanowski's sublimely personal, dissonant and erotic amalgum of Debussy, Stravinsky, Scriabin, Bartók, Polish and Oriental folk musics, all jangly broken arpeggios of octatonic and whole-tone scales, halting ostinati beneath ecstatic melismatic muezzin-calls.

Oscar Wilde ain't shit.

PS You can beat me in a fight.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Autumn and most modal musics (From Indian Raga to Bill Evans to Jean Langlais) share the many of the same, cryptic secrets.