lördag, december 31, 2005

Fireworks and ferries

I am watching the dark sea and the horizon. Soon the fireworks will explode everywhere - in the village, and across the water. Other lights in this dark winter evening are coming from the ferries - huge vessels slowly and almost silently moving half-hidden behind the nearest islands.

I wish all readers a Happy New Year 2006!

lördag, december 24, 2005

Christmas, and other beautiful myths

Wishing you a peaceful and happy holiday!

fredag, december 23, 2005

sonate, que me veux-tu?

[found this written in Russian; thought it looked interesting:]

СОНАТА, ЧТО ТЫ ХОЧЕШЬ ОТ МЕНЯ?

[...and now for something completely different - here is MW's piece of writing about Reagan...]


The Revolutionary

During the York University’s bitter strike by tenured faculty a few years ago, I was a part-time instructor. Living on such a meager salary, library fines made a serious difference to my well-being. When I attempted to cross the picket line to return some overdue materials, however, my learned colleagues violently assaulted me.

Then as now, what I found most galling about this incident was the delusional pretentiousness of these professors. Now middle-aged and comfortable, the strike gave them a chance to relive–as a fantasy, alas–the radicalism of their youth. In their minds, these well-fed folks were not fighting to fatten their already-comfortable salaries; no, they were once again landing blows against empire, offing the establishment, or, like Homer Simpson, sticking it to the man. (That the ‟man” in this case was a penniless graduate student seems to have escaped them.)

To be sure, there were causes worth fighting in those days of their youth, especially the Viet Nam war. Today, however, their revolutionary pose is a grotesque joke. The more so, since the revolutionaries they seek to emulate were all failures. Of Stalin, nothing remains today but the general will to bend history to present purposes. Of Mao, nought but the forced labor sweat shops, now suitably retooled for global capitalism. Even Che Guevara, Romantic icon of the New Left, accomplished little, and nothing enduring.

Ironically, the complacent professors were on the side of revolution after all, in fact the only one that truly succeeded. Though that revolution brought the entire world together, it was anything but utopian. In the name of anti-collective individualism, it changed humanity’s collective experience forever. In the name of old-fashioned values, it destroyed the family, and wrought a world of dizzying complexity in the name of supposedly simple truth. An avowed enemy of intellectuals and their systems, the revolution created a truly inescapable ‘new-world’ order. Despite never firing a single weapon to gain power, it has ingrained a terrifying (and permanent) violence at the very base of social existence.

The revolution was the victory of global corporate capitalism, and the victorious revolutionary was Ronald Reagan. While his competitors may have had the intellect or cunning to understand the world afresh, Reagan simply changed it, permanently. From the global economy and its politics to basic values and ideas, nothing in our lifetime (and well beyond) will ever escape the shadow of this “narcoleptic pinhead,” as Frank Zappa so rightly described him. Working barely two hours a day, Reagan himself did virtually nothing, instead allowing a sinister crew of ideologues to run riot with the world. The revolution’s great secret was his inaction, blended with the outrageous, soothing lies he sold so well. While Reagan smiled and slept, the insanely avaricious turned our entire planet into a rigged gambling casino.

Undeniably, the revolution wrought miracles. Within two years of Reagan's election, the greatest creditor nation in human history had become its greatest debtor. By then, “trickle-down” economics had, impossibly, managed to combine ruinous levels of inflation, interest rates, and unemployment. Everything in Reagan’s Presidency grabbed historical superlatives: the sharpest upward migration of wealth, the greatest (and arguably most futile) expansion of military funding, highest number of indicted officials, largest loss of permanent jobs.

These are merely the measurable changes. No numbers could capture the long term effects of general economic deregulation, and its accompanying dislocations. The Reagan era saw the legalization and immense profusion of organized theft on a grand scale. It was now possible to take over and destroy a company by selling all its assets, borrowing money against the prospective profits. International capital transfers and currency speculation went from minor disturbances to controlling aspects of the life of every person on earth. Men who stole billions of dollars got minimal jail time, and U.S. government officials who committed capital high treason got none.

From the ostentatious vulgarity of his first Inauguration onwards, Reagan announced a declaration of war by the superwealthy against everyone else. He and his class not only emerged victorious, but gained the fervent gratitude of their defeated victims. The American working class, whose livelihoods he destroyed in the tens of millions, voted overwhelmingly for his reelection. More incredibly still, the cynical, barbarous value system Reagan espoused has become general common sense. Tax cuts which benefit a small few (and them alone) are universally accepted as a boon for all. Labour unions are reviled as the work of the devil, even among those who desperately need their protection. Economic society has become nothing but a lottery, purely dedicated to selecting a few unscrupulous individuals for fabulous riches, by any means necessary. Save for a handful of tedious radicals, no one dissents from this astonishing arrangement.

The passivity with which the world’s peoples accept such monstrous injustice beggars belief. North Americans embrace the devastation of their personal hope as an utterly natural state of things. For some, human injustice is God’s Will directly. Yet everyone else seems to welcome their own ruin just as fatalistically.

Thus the real success of the Reagan revolution lay not so much in the creation of this vicious world, but in convincing its victims that they are better off by its lawless rules. In practice, “globalization” means the planet-wide acceptance of Social Darwinism as a just and reasonable way to organize our species. Reagan destroyed not only the dream of a just society but its very possibility, anywhere in the world. Should any local administration foolishly attempt to stem the tide, globalization ensures that all its capital can disappear overnight. Deregulation has opened Pandora’s Box, and it is presently impossible to foresee how it could ever be closed again.

Our children and our children’s children will live with the consequences of allowing Ronald Reagan his retributive revolution. How could the world have gone so mad? I’ve thought long and hard, and suspect a part of the answer may lie in the psychological effects of overpopulation. A global population of several billion is simply too many, and engenders a kind of panic, a desperate need to distinguish oneself from the massive human herd. That would explain the pathetic and disgusting urge for fake aristocracy indulged by Reagan and his creepy spouse, not to mention homegrown reactionaries like “Lord” Conrad Black. At base, it may not even be money they worship, but the chance to escape the general condition through a specious pseudo-aristocracy. Since the rest of us have no such opportunity, we cope by projecting, desperately kidding ourselves that we can and do share in the unjust society. Above all, like my esteemed York University colleagues, we do everything in our power to deny what we have become: a passive mob, grateful for the opportunity to drown in our own delusions.

MWM

torsdag, december 22, 2005

"Why are you listening to this?"

[MaLj:] Some say it surprises them that I listen to music that they can't imagine is "my" genre, like some of the older songs by Madonna. Maybe they don't know I have a history of also listening to Bob Dylan; Elvis Costello; Carole King; Abba; Roxette; Cardigans; Paul Simon; Art Garfunkel; Leonard Cohen; Neil Diamond; Toto; Bryan Ferry; Beatles; Anne Murray; Barbra Streisand; Helen Reddy; Sally Oldfield; Hothouse Flowers; Elton John; Chicago; Blood, Sweat & Tears, and many many more, mostly from the 1970's. So it seems to be a problem to understand why I am not listening *only* and always to the music I explained many years ago was "my music": Bach, Beatles, folk songs, romantic Lieder, piano sonatas, hymns, and Christian pop music, but forgetting that I purchased records with and listened to jazz, Tibetan monks, opera, and symphonic music with interest and very little prejudices even then, that long time ago.

[MWM:] No matter what a list like this contains, it should never be a surprise to anyone that a composer would listen attentively to every possible expression. As I attempted to explain, in vain, to our rather dull-witted and intolerant colleague [on an internet forum for composers], the default setting for a composer must be that music is potentially useful, until proven otherwise. Useful comes first, and whether it's good or bad is, literally, secondary (and therefore trivial), to be discovered after the fact. There are some quite inept performers. for example, who have been instructive to me; I know it, and I know how and why. Groucho Marx singing Gilbert and Sullivan is one such, Anna Russell, Captain Beefheart and Marlene Dietrich some more. I've learned things about orchestration and (legato) phrasing from Muzak®, things about rhythm and sonority from Elvis & the Ventures; hell, even a trick or two from the ever-tedious mister Handel..

tisdag, december 06, 2005

Madonna at McDonalds

Musak is always a horror - because it is injustice done to musical ideas (if you can say so). Background music in shops and restaurants can be very annoying - but it can be a bliss, too.

Sometimes the "silence" without it isn't enough relaxing or interesting, so an added musical pattern can make the environment more bearable. Or - which I suppose is the idea behind the phenomenon - make people comfortable and happy when they hear a favourite song. The commercial secrets with background music are also to influence the behaviour of customers. Play calm music when you want them to stay for a long time and buy more; use uptempo music when you want a larger crowd of people to move around and buy as fast as possible; chose group-specific music when you want to attract some people and repell other.

My best memory of background music is from a small and cozy McDonalds restaurant in Gothenburg - believe it or not! It was a lazy day just after the end of the term in June 1996, and I had been to the university to collect some printed copies of my thesis and talk to a professor. On the way home, I decided to sit down and drink some Fanta and eat something McDonald-ish, all on my own (very unusual behaviour for me). The restaurant was nearly empty, and I got a table with a view over the Avenue (there is only one avenue in Gothenburg, so it's called "Avenyn" - the Avenue). And suddenly the music started. It was a cd I liked very much, and they played it from the beginning, so I stayed there for half an hour, to hear all my favourite songs on it. (OK. I'll reveal which music this was. Ahem. It's a cd with Madonna's greatest ballads...)

My worst memory of background music is from a Zara fashion shop in a shopping centre near Stockholm. I went there to look at clothes for the autumn, but could hardly concentrate on the nice things for sale, because there was music playing - and stopping - and starting - and stopping - and starting again. Nice jazz music, but a torture to hear just a few seconds of it on full volume, and then silence, and a new start. The strangest thing was that the staff people showed no reaction to this audio terror. (And of course I was too polite - and angry - to tell them what I thought of it.)

måndag, december 05, 2005

teenage poetry fragments

THE DOOR IS TURNING AND CLOSES; THE LAZY MAN TWISTS IN HIS DESK CHAIR

(Proverbs 26:14)

I - must learn how to work
Express
my knowledge
get more knowledge
get a visible will

Imagine some teachers
overestimate
the students' knowledge but
underestimate
their perception!

IQ = ? (hardly matters how much, but interesting)

You! who decide the best of society's,
invest in IQ,
even the second best,
don't believe
only in
the chatterboxes.

Is there somebody to trust
in - no - My estimation
is low of most of them
no help to trust in
No models.

and you mustn't deviate from
school and students
you could be marked as
good-for-nothing.

And now, do not
burden the friends
with your problems,
they can't do a thing
for you, they just will be
destroyed for you
and leave like in
consideration.

[---]

What's wrong in
what I do these days?
Many good ideas have I, becomes
nothingness,
retarded,
because my foundations
were poor...

Parents today
wanting children to have better lives,
more matter,
more nice things but filthy food and
nothing more is given
Poor children

[---]

We, modern youth,
being raised on
neurosedyne and donald duck,
in the genes
their chauvinist dwarfness
blooms
in earth's last flower,
the broken bud of the heart
thriving in the fat earth of city parks

[---]

The mental climate is cold. People
confused careful giggling
about the NEW
(they think)
like that were inventions by the
young

Everything is repeated,
or left, or living on
Nobody notices it.
We know too little about what is already
done, what was taught before
and also
today, or why so was
necessary
We don't even know what is
needed,
from school today, to our living.

I am more stupid than
I wish
People generally think
too little, too seldom or too small.

[---]

Listen to the heart
sound, there beats
Strained happiness
and (poisoned)

[---]

Most important: that my
Friendships
are not plagued

[---]

No help for me
nobody helps you
say Help! even.

life more beautiful than
you think
I more tired than
to hell
take it easy

Why am I sad,
why you see
where those who can
act re it

[---]

And: You miss my laugh?
you are worried?
compassion surely does not
lead to passion

The present is nothing like before
I am far taller
away
than that but
Rather
clear-sighted and
ill
than acceptable in
spite of a sick routine.

(MaLj, 1977-78)

måndag, november 28, 2005

Instant sonnets - Sonettmaskinen

1.

Hur mycket kan ens intellekt prestera?
Man undrar vad ens hjärna kan förmå
Man skriker högt, men ingen tycks förstå
Det känns som om man skulle explodera

Nu gäller blott en partner, inte flera
Det mål man har i sikte ska man nå
Det är så mycket Tjo! och Hej och hå!
Ens kropp, ens minne ­ allt tycks haverera

Kan någon enda människa förklara!
Man måste hålla koll på ny musik
Det är ens öde, att man dömts att vara

Man säger: "Visst är jag Bob Dylan-freak!"
Man äger varken vilja eller snara
Man diskuterar Nietzsches estetik


2.

Vad snabbt ens liv helt plötsligt kan forcera!
Och inte har man kunnat förutspå
Man lyder snällt, men undrar varför då
Men Varför? verkar ingen acceptera

Man vet att detta inte får fallera
Man skriker så man närapå blir blå
Men vänta, vad är det som krånglar så?
De ska få se på en som kan studera

Jaha. Minsann. Då var vi alltså klara?
Man anar ett slags tillvarons komik
Man saknar pengar, liksom lust att spara

Ens barn och barnbarn känner lätt panik
Som vuxen kan man äta godis bara
Nu får man ingen puss. Man får en pik


[två försök att skapa en meningsfull dikt från färdiga sonettrader, som är skrivna av Lotta Olsson för Dagens Nyheters interaktiva poesiruta på kultursidan. Lite för "lustiga" för min smak, och svårt att välja rader när det bara finns saker skrivna som syftar på bestämda skeden i livet - rader som inte alltid går att kombinera innehållsmässigt. Men om jag inte vill bestämma mig från början för att skriva en vers om nyfödda bebisar, lekande barn, golfspelande pensionärer eller unga vuxna - vad fan gör jag av det då? Det blir bara löjligt. ]

lördag, november 26, 2005

Come, Sweet Jesus!

(MW has got his song Come, Sweet Jesus featured on the first page of the worship category at SibeliusMusic.com today. In the program note for the piece you can read:)
"A new ecumenical spirit is abroad in these United States, a new pride in the triumph of our Faith®, and its capacities to solve all our woes, once and for all. If it isn't exactly a spirit of tolerance and compassion, it is instead--and ever so much better--a firm respect for the exact letter of the sacred scripture, as interpreted by great and pious men like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and of course our beloved president, George W. Bush, who was chosen for us by the Almighty® Himself.

I pay tribute to that powerful spirit with this hymn of praise and thanksgiving. If you're right, you don't need to be tolerant, or even curious. If you're washed in the Blood of the Lamb®, that washes away the blood of others. Hallelujah! -- and God help us all."
As this bizarre case shows, getting "featured" depends entirely, far as I can tell, on quantity of comment text. There's no other explanation for how this adolescent-blasphemous score would become featured on the worship page. They look at quantity, not content; indeed, it's conceivable that there is some sub-routine in the webpage program that randomly selects pieces within the category that have 50 words or more of text, and jams them onto to the highlights page.

Rod adamantly refuses to play this game, and so never gets featured. We've discussed this, and I agree with Rod, writing programme notes for compositions is turnip-witted in most situations. What does pointing out that your piece was premiered by the Tuscaloosa Firefighters' Light-Heavy Symphony Orchestra do to change the fact that the work in question is a poorly-wrought mess? Or, for that matter, that it's a near-masterpiece? Never mind that the inspiration was the lamentable passing of your favourite pet cat, Herbert, who was a dear and jolly fellow, tragically taken away from us at the still-too-young age of 19 years, 4 months, and 357 seconds.. If there was a poetry page, would the poets' be similarly obliged? (I doubt I'd care for the real answer to this..) I mean, we do know the realities; the pretense that this is a composer/arranger's list, with all the professionalism that implies, is just that, a pretense. The absent "professionalism" I have in mind is precisely expressed by the prominence and prevalence of programme notes. It's bad enough that these things are a virtually ironclad prerequisite for audiences--but for composers, examining each others' works? It's a sign of the times, and not a good one.

Again, there have been numerous composers since Schumann and Berlioz (who seem to have been among the first) to babble on cheerfully about their music, its meanings, aesthetics, life on earth, and the very best recipes for potato salad. And we all know, or strongly suspect, that "letting the music speak for itself" is itself just one position among many, and itself perhaps a canard, of sorts. What animates me here is personal experience, with scores both online and off. I can honestly say that personal knowledge has never once animated or directed anything I've learned from score study. Reading and studying Beethoven's opus 18 quartets, composed when he was healthy, is no different from the same experience with the last five, when he was deafer than Dick Cheney's conscience. Put another way: I have had moments, many even, of insight into the personal aspects of music. Mahler's despair in his last few works is impossible to overlook or mishear, for instance. But I have never once had a moment of "Aha! that's what s/he's doing!," or "right, now I get it!" that was based on such things--"such things" as can be expressed in words at all, much less in maudlin perorations about dying cats, regional premieres, philosophical and political convictions, divorce and travel plans, favourite restaurants, cherished ["Kodak®"] memories, heartwarming anecdotes, or the rest of the sentimental detritus that, however much it powers our lives, has got buggerall to do with what's happening in music.

MWM

Something really, really true (and depressing)

In an old issue of The Onion, I found this depressing satire - a kind of celebrity interview with an average [U.S.] suburbanite.
Experts say Chelecki, while aware of the inexorable passage of time, does not comprehend the magnitude of what is happening to him.

"Many people don't truly allow themselves to consider the finite nature of their lives until the end is right in front of them," said Brown University sociologist Geoffrey Gausmann.

fredag, november 25, 2005

Hysterical bird

Found a little blue-tit fluttering around in the bedroom when I came home. I have heard something making noises in the ventilator in the outer wall some nights the last weeks, but was unsure if it was a dry leaf, a bird, or a mouse. Now it got out by its own efforts, so I know. Out in the room; out of the window.

Advent Sunday coming. I hope the lamps and wirings in the window star and the electrical candles for the window sills are functional. Time for gingerbread and hot wine. And my usual three-day-long search for the perfect Christmas cards to send, now that decorations and cards for the season are out in all shops.

torsdag, november 24, 2005

Beat Your Swords Into Timeshares

Time shared

This short fanfare for MW Morse's jazz ensemble is a musical sign for life; the good power of music, and the ideal of people living in peace and joy together. However, the witty title Beat Your Swords Into Timeshares suddenly reminds me - not of the Bible, not of holiday cottages - but of the unfortunate events with a sacred sword in The Transposed Heads, a funny and horrible story by Thomas Mann, after a legend from India:

"How in thy breast must generosity and despair have gone hand in hand, in sacrificial dance, ere thou couldst slay thyself! Oh woe, Oh woe! Severed the fine head from the fine body!"

And I guess it is snowing in Southern Ontario today. Also a good sign. Even if Mike had to fire the bassist in his band, employ a new musician, and find a new job for the old bassist. That's like what happened in the story: the head severed from the body...

Have a happy Holocaust holiday

Norman Lebrecht writes in a recent column, about some moral and artistic problems with books and films about Holocaust:
"There must be a credible justification, a reason that can be given before the courts of conscience, before an author sits down and makes a fine living out of other people's suffering."
One of the books mentioned, that also has become a film, is Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer. I bought that book years ago, but for some reason never read it. My son started to read it, and I thought it could be "fun" for him as illustration of both history and the hilarious use of English language by one of the characters. Well, I have to try to read it. I am not sure I want to see the film, or, Schindler's List.

onsdag, november 23, 2005

Musicals without musicians

Reading in Svenska Dagbladet today about the tendency for small or non-existant orchestras in musical theatre productions.

Next February a musical - "Sweet Charity" - with only pre-recorded music is scheduled for premiere in Stockholm. Already many productions have reduced bands and are using click-track solutions instead of live musicians for some instruments. Comments from the producers are along the lines that "ordinary people can't hear the difference between live music and recorded":
"Men publiken märker ingen skillnad om det är inspelat, det är ingen som protesterar, säger Hasse Wallman som producerar Sweet Charity.
Staffan Götestam, producenten bakom Skönheten och odjuret och Jesus Christ superstar, är inne på samma linje.
– Ingen vanlig människa kan höra skillnaden eftersom tekniken är så utvecklad."

söndag, november 20, 2005

Respect!

Photo Credit: Nick Galifianakis For The Washington Post Photo

And here we have a little something about misunderstood "liberal" liberal arts education (from Kyle Gann's blog). So - what has freedom to write poor essays to do with today's theme in Carolyn Hax' advice column? Am I suggesting that students who don't want to learn anything should be forced to eat their words? Or, that it is not disrespectful to give a vegetarian a beef course against her will?

Music blogs to explore later

Did a little first search for other blogs that could contain interesting views. Will look at these sometime again and read bits of them. Just bookmarking the findings for now.

Kyle Gann
Michael Kaulkin
Alex Ross
Sequenza 21
Sequenza 21 "Composer Forum" (=blog)
Anne-Carolyn Bird (singer)
The Fredösphere
Helen Radice (harpist)
Jessica Duchen
Prima la Musica (Sarah Noble)
Of Music and Men
Musical Perception
Renewable Music

Musicians with blogs or diary sites I have found and read earlier, for various reasons:

Laurence A Hughes
Ursus Demens (aka Edo S Bear)

A composer blog I found some days after I wrote the above:

Norfolk calling!

lördag, november 19, 2005

First snow

Frost and snow. Nothing to write about. Last night I finished and published two pages of a piano piece I had planned to do something more than my usual miniature style of. But it just wanted to end there:

Lady M pays a visit to a painter

After finishing that (the first inspired composing period for months) I have still a dozen books to read, cd's to listen to, other people's music to comment on, a diary and a novel to write, some "commisioned" music I have no idea how to start on (or if it matter at all to spend time on), and a house to clean and shirts to iron, and sewing projects, and more music to write and revise and prepare parts for, and I just sit here...

torsdag, november 17, 2005

Another view about gender-inclusive language

I am old enough to have been taught that the masculine third person singular was a gender-inclusive form. The issue was raised, and unambiguously answered. There are problems with it, to put it mildly, chief among them that masculine-only is not "gender neutral," and therefore fails in its manifest purpose. That this was its manifest purpose, however, whatever its degrading latencies, is undeniable.

I had a brace of women's studies students one year, however, who were deliberately taught that the masculine-only third person pronoun was intentionally not gender-inclusive. These students therefore refused to read an article from the 60s - on music at college parties, for heaven's sake. I explained the custom of the time, admitted its undeniable irritation, and asked that they make the appropriate allowances, holding their nose if need be. Again they refused, telling me that this was a clear case of intentionally sexist, gender exclusive usage.

I asked where they got this idea. They told me their WS teacher said that the masculine third person singular was never considered gender neutral. I asked if this instructor was old enough to remember this first-hand? No, but she, quote, "just knew."

At this I exploded, and called her a goddamn liar. They ran to her, and petitioned the chair not to have to read the article (on the basis that it was insulting to them as women). I prepared a simple affidavit, to be distributed and signed by all faculty over 50: "I was taught that third person masculine usage is not gender inclusive." I said that if a single faculty member signed it, I would resign, and return my salary for the year. That was the end of that.

[and this was written by MW, in a discussion in another forum]

söndag, november 13, 2005

Everyone's got an opinion to publish


Underbar ruta av Berglin i Svenska Dagbladet idag. Nödvändig självironisk läsning för alla som bloggar. Tills vidare (om ingen ber mig att ta bort den av copyrightskäl) lägger jag bilden här. (Klicka på bilden om ni inte kan läsa de minsta texterna i serien!)

Swedish crisis in the humanities

Har just upptäckt att det pågår en intressant debattartikelserie i Dagens Nyheter, som kallas Humaniorans framtid? Idag var det en bitsk artikel av Ebba Witt-Brattström:
J’accuse! Jag anklagar statsministern för att han som skolminister 1989 i hård och ohederlig kamp med lärarfacken och en rasande opinion genomdrev beslutet att kommunalisera skolan och därigenom avskaffa den enhetliga skolan, likvärdig för alla. Till följd av denna ödesdigra omstrukturalisering av svensk skola har dagens vilsna studenter och doktorander, framtidens forskare, sämre förkunskaper än tidigare generationer och måste ägna en stor del av sin doktorandtid åt att komma i nivå med såväl tidigare svensk som internationell forskning. Som om inte detta dubbelarbete är tillräckligt uppmanas de nu av utbildningsministern att publicera sina avhandlingar direkt på engelska trots att forskningen entydigt visar att man förstår och tänker sämre om man inte skriver på sitt modersmål. Här ansluter jag mig till Janken Myrdal (DN 25/10) som föreslår att forskaren skriver en artikel på engelska som sammanfattar resultaten av den forskning hon/han utfört på god svenska. En förklaring till att den svenska forskningen inte har det inflytande i världen den förtjänar är att forskarna allt oftare skriver direkt på svengelska.
Så därför skriver jag på svenska idag.

lördag, november 12, 2005

Totally aestethic and healthy

What is art? Is it an attitude or a life-style? Or, is it a necessary expression of human experience? Something that can hurt as much as it can heal? How much is personal in artistical expression - and to which limits can an artist's control over his soul, body and environment be extended? Does the art need to be centered around the artist's ego, and reflected in the things surrounding her in her life world?

My questions were provoked by a recent visit to a local artist's studio and home, after I had decided to become more involved in the visual arts, and in the things going on in my neighbourhood, and learn more about painting - something I haven't tried since school. Maybe that decision was a reaction after I heard some weeks ago about the death of a distant relative - a great painter and wonderful person. I suddenly realized that I had missed the chance to discuss art, life and music (he was also a jazz pianist) with him on the occasions when we have met through the years. It was just the usual social talk, and I always let others ask their naive questions about his pictures, and be content with the obvious answers. There must have been so much more things I could have learned from him. Now I have to learn it on my own (as we all have to, more or less).

So, now I wonder a lot about the mentality of artists, and what they are doing to stay healthy and/or creative. Some work in chaos; others in order. Some live in a mess; other live in a totally aesthetic perfection. My relative was much for order in his studio (and in his entomological collection), but the home decoration (mostly by his artistic wife) was never over-whelmingly perfect; and their focus was not on the methods to get a long and healthy life.

Success can be dangerous, so it takes some modesty and maturity to handle...

fredag, november 11, 2005

Does nothing you do matter if you are female?

An interesting reply by Carolyn Hax, to a somewhat common generalisation. Found at the Washington Post site, in the advice column Tell me about it online discussion today:
RE boys will be boys: Well...if men's self-worth and societal 'value' were predicated on looks and looks only, they'd freak out too.

Carolyn Hax: Is that really how you feel? Like nothing you say or do matters because you're female? Are you reading this because you think I'm pretty? That is some serious self-loathing you're carrying around. And I'm saying that not in a what's-YOUR-problem-way, but in an I'm-worried-about-you way.

torsdag, november 10, 2005

Are sea birds (too) becoming too dumb to survive?

After I read an article about a new cure for inherited learning disabilities in mice (a common drug for cholesterol-lowering), I found in another scientific piece of news that birds have cognitive problems, too. These can be traced to environmental change, which has lead to malnutrition in chicks, which increases their stupidity, and lower their chance to survive through adaptions to the changes.
"It has been shown recently that brain size effects behaviour and can even influence population trends, so it would be expected that an increase in stupidity in some species would adversely affect their ability to perform their day-to-day activities.” http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8287

Comments: first it seems like they have found a cure for stupidity. That may save the world. If intelligence and plenty of well-functioning creatures was all that was needed to avoid disaster. Then you have to realize how many eco-nurses and brain development doctors it would take to administer the medication to all the mice, cock-roaches, elks, porpoises, herrings, presidents, criminals, musicians, journalists, web designers and athletes whose behaviour would benefit from more reason and less belief. We haven't the resources necessary for such large-scale projects.

onsdag, november 09, 2005

Shock-therapy?

[Leaving room for a discussion I can't contribute to, since I know too little of the reality behind and around it: why American fundamentalism is divided in incompatible sects, like the 60s and 70s European Marxism - which I know even less about.]

(Strange things happen around me. While I wrote the above, our black cat decided he couldn't wait any longer for a fresh-smelling litter tray, so he sneaked into the wardrobe for his private business. Again!!! My sailing-shoes were the place of choice this time, but most of the mess missed them by an inch, thankfully.)

Generalising personal pronouns

In a discussion about new music and "avant-garde composers", some people were defending the use of "he" as the neutral personal pronoun in normal English. I don't know what is normal in English (it is not my first language), but the reason I pointed out the use of only he and his as a problem in the first place was to see what happened to people's thinking. I just changed all the "he" to "she" in a post, without comments. Two British gentlemen took it as a provocation. So I had to reply something, which was:
Don't generalise about the personal, if you can avoid it. I prefer saying he/she/it/they when I speak about avant garde artists, politicians and God. You can't be sure that the generalised person in question is not a hermaphrodite polar bear, the whole cultural industry, or a computer.
A more serious reply could have been to refer to a neutral article at Wikipedia about gender-neutral pronouns:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicene_pronoun

I haven't yet decided which pronoun/re-formulation I prefer to use when I write. Sometimes I write "he", or alternate with "she". Sometimes I use the explicit but clumsy "he/she(/it)", and lately I have started to try the dubious singular "they". I sense that it is a problem to use only "he" when meaning any human, but in fact I do this quite often, contrary to what my opponents in the recent debate may think! This is what feels most comfortable (even with that nagging sense that it ain't just right and fair, because it isn't obviously inclusive language), so when I int' ids struggle with the political correct, I pretend that we're each and everyone just one of the boys... However, there is this question of whether I as an enlightened intellectual and compassionate human has a moral duty to always help the less fortunate to think about and understand what they say and mean? (If you get the irony.) Should I be an example in creative and correct use of language, even if I risk to provoke people into conservative reactions? If I don't want them to feel attacked, but want them to think sensible and with humour about a problem we have no good solution to yet, then I can hardly use the methods associated with senseless militant activists. Whatever. Sigh.

(int' ids, or, ids inte, is the succinct Swedish expression meaning "can not be bothered to". Short "i", as in rinse.)

tisdag, november 08, 2005

The normal state of the art(ist)

The frozen leaves -

if you are in the creative soul's hell, you will see them:

all the mis-told stories, all pathetic poems, all the letters you wrote, all diary pages, all the lecture notes, grocery lists, excuses to your children's teachers, silly postcards, and - all the music -

cold, still, looking strange, wrong, handled with or without care, and then re-sent - deep frozen.

(Our hell isn't a warm place. We call it Nifelheim.)

måndag, november 07, 2005

War symphonists

This morning, while I breakfasted on instant coffee (with milk) and a double toast with cheese, I listened to an orchestra piece by a composer friend from UK. He wanted comments about the premiere recording, and help in deciding if the work is suitable to expand into a symphony. As it is now, the piece is in my opinion a kind of colourful ouverture; complete as a short (ca 12 minutes) story about a part of England's history of wars, but not satisfying without some more development and changes as a symphony movement. The composer has used a recognizable song theme as a nice gimmick - successful in the ouverture version, but in the many repetitions of it it needs to be more disguised to work in the different context of a symphony. I also think the ouverture ending is too much a triumph march à la Star Wars to be convincing in a serious symphony. I know John Williams borrows all his ideas from older masters of symphony, opera and film music writing, but I say what I realize most young listeners today will think, with the references they have to orchestra music being mostly contemporary film scores. (My friend told me later that the obvious reference for him here is Walton's music). I am not competent enough in the craft of composing and/or analyzing to judge if the material in the ouverture in itself - after proper development of more themes and transitions from it - will suffice to base a whole symphony on. So my idea is to use it as a first movement in a symphony on the extra-musical theme of (British?) war history - with its many aspects of ideology, duty, leadership, collective suffering, and short triumphs.

After listening to this new British music, I put on a cd with a somewhat older symphony on a more recent war theme: the Finnish composer Einar Englund's first symphony (from 1946). It is not fair to compare the two works, but since I am not interested in using concepts as minor-major-mediocre to label composers, there is no harm in it either. The neo-classic post-Sibelian symphonist Englund can be inspiring for a younger composer, without being dispiritingly impressive - as maybe Prokofiev or Shostakovich are as role models. Englund's music was a sensation of modernism when it was new - at least in Finland. Now I think it sounds good, but it is audible (the harmony and some of the orchestra tricks) that the work was written in the 1940s, by a young man who was not only just home from years in a horrible war that had interrupted his conservatory training, but also an experienced improviser and jazz/entertainment musician, who surely listened to sounds from other music worlds, outside Finland and the Sibelius Academy. In his second symphony, which has been called "The Blackbird", his memories from war are told in music, too, and set in a thematic contrast between Nature (the bird song) and Culture (the war sounds). You can read about Englund:

A remark made sometime in the '50s is still often quoted: "As a composer, Englund is the salt of the earth." The comment illustrates the key position held by Einar Englund (1916-1999) in postwar Finnish music. The premiere of his First Symphony in 1947 marked a turning-point and heralded a new era in Finnish music. Englund gave voice to a young generation which had survived the war and lost all its illusions, and in so doing he swept away the lingering National Romantic idyll. It was also no mean feat that he succeeded in rejuvenating the symphony, the most highly valued genre of all in the land of Sibelius.

Ever since his breakthrough years, Englund's style was associated with Neoclassicism, and his music shows affinities with Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Bartók's late period. His œuvre, stylistically coherent, is dominated by rhythmic drive and a clear, powerful orchestral sound with frequent use of doubling, with a melodic-harmonic thinking peppered with dissonances but founded solidly in tonality. Dense motivic work and thematic thinking underlie his compositions. Englund favoured the established genres symphony, concerto, sonata and also cultivated traditional forms in the individual movements of his works.

Englund was an accomplished pianist, and often moulded his material at the piano. "I play through my material hundreds of times to tes t it for its fatigue point. Only if the musical idea retains its original freshness despite wear is it worth keeping", he has said. It is not surprising that the efficient use of instruments and unaffected expression were his guiding principles.

[...]

The war was generally perceived as the work's psychological background, echoed in the heavy tread of march rhythms and the desolate melancholy of the slow movement. The composer, however, later rejected the epithet War Symphony, preferring to characterize the work as "the joyous shout of a young man who survived the war". [Kimmo Korhonen (1995)]
www.fimic.fi/englund
http://www.fennicagehrman.fi/comp_englund.htm

Polar Music Prize

Brittiska rockgruppen Led Zeppelin och den ryske dirigenten Valerij Gergijev får 2006 års Polar Music Prize.
The Led Zeppelin Citation
The 2006 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the British group Led Zeppelin, one of the great pioneers of rock. Their playful and experimental music combined with highly eclectic elements has two essential themes: mysticism and primal energy. These are features that have come to define the genre "hard rock".

The Valery Gergiev Citation
The 2006 Polar Music Prize is awarded to the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev for the way his unique, electrifying musical skills have deepened and renewed our relationship with the grand tradition; and for how he has managed to develop and amplify the importance of artistic music in these modern, changing times.

The prize winners will receive the prize from His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at a gala ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall to be followed by a celebratory banquet at Grand Hôtel on Monday the 22nd of May.
http://www.polarpriset.se/
http://www.svd.se/dynamiskt/kultur/did_10961577.asp

söndag, november 06, 2005

Das Ding an sich (Gullberg's poem)

Tinget i sig (av Hjalmar Gullberg, 1935)
The Thing In Itself (by Hjalmar Gullberg, 1935)

1. En vinterafton läser Örtstedt Kant
och finner honom verkligt intressant.
[1a. One winter evening Oertstedt is reading Kant
and finds him really interesting.]
1b. One winter night the assistant is reading Kant
and finding him quite interesting and -----.


2. Men filosofens tyska flyter tungt.
Snart somnar över boken vår adjunkt.
[2a. But the philosopher's German is heavy-flowing.
Soon our assistant falls asleep over the book.]
2b. But German heavy metaphysics bores.
Soon over the book the master's assistant snores.


3. I nattens dröm gror dagens tankesådd.
Kant illustreras och blir lättförstådd.
[3a. In the dream of the night grows the day's seed of thoughts.
Kant is illustrated and becomes easy to grasp.]
3b. In that night's dream, an illustrated Kant,
an easy one, is growing like a plant.

4. Det kommer, svept i brokig omslagsfärg,
till Örtstedt ett paket från Königsberg.
[4a. There arrives, wrapped in gaudy colours,
for Oertstedt a package from Koenigsberg.]

4b. There arrives a box in gaudy colours wrapped,
from Koenigsberg to the thinker who has napped.

5. Aktas för stötar! står det utanpå
med petig stil som verkar rokoko.
[5a. Handle with care! is written on the outside
with meticulous handwriting that seems to be rococo.]

5b. Handle with care! is written on that ---
in meticulous hand - it looks old and ----

6. Avsändare och varans fabrikant
är ingen mindre än professor Kant.
[6a. Sender and manufacturer of the article
is no one less than Professor Kant.]

6b. Sender and the article's producing hand
is none less than the famous Immanuel Kant.

7. Han granskar lådan vid sin fönsternisch.
Det står som innehåll: DAS DING AN SICH.
[7a. He examines the box at his window-bay.
The content is said to be: THE THING IN ITSELF.]

7b. He examines the thing at his bay-window shelf.
The content is said to be: THE THING IN ITSELF.

8. Kring tinget i sig själv, de vises sten,
är sinnevärlden blott ett brokigt sken.
[8a. Around the thing in itself, the philosopher's stone,
the material world is just a motley semblance.
]
8b. Around and about such a Philosopher's Stone,
our material world is just ------------------

9. Vem törs dock rycka undan slöjan kring
den rena verkligheten, tingens ting?
[9a. Who then dares wrench that wrapping veil away from
the pure reality, the thing of things?]

9b. Who dares wrench the wrapping veil from the thing;
this pure thing of things, reality ------

10. Adjunkten Örtstedt ryggar bort bestört
från det som ingen sett och ingen rört.
[10a. Assistant Oertstedt backs away in dismay
from that which none has seen and none has touched.]

10b. The master's assistant backs away in dismay
from a thing unimaginable, a word impossible to say.

11. Om gåvan i hans grova händer sprack!
- Han returnerar den med tusen tack.
[11a. What if the gift in his coarse hands will crack!
- He returns it with a thousand thanks.]

11b. What if this gift in such coarse hands will crack !
-- With many thanks he sends it back.

lördag, november 05, 2005

Beyond good and tonal

My first new idea for a blog title is inspired by old philosophy and a never-ending debate about the tonality concept. What key is this blog in? The sharp major North flat seven dwarf key?

fredag, november 04, 2005

Blockquote

[test of quotation formatting]
"Thou dost not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed"
Axel Oxenstierna

onsdag, november 02, 2005

November story

Like a garden pavilion from anno dazumal,
the multi-stemmed pine grows on the shore.
Heavy limbs bend down like a pagoda roof,
protecting against the autumn grief.
The view out over the lake is calming.
The surface is grey and closed,
like a turned-off television receiver.
No disturbing signals reach us here today.
In the pine tree’s top lives a wise old dragon.
It is dangerous to be seen on this track,
where the moss is weaving gobelins between the roots.
The night will come, and Saturn —
like the fireplace with its ring of stones.
After every end, we will find
still another day to be together on,
before the whiteness, the snow.

http://www.sibeliusmusic.com/cgi-bin/show_score.pl?scoreid=39192

(text & music from 1992, and the Haydn reference was unintentional!)

tisdag, november 01, 2005

Introduction



Welcome to a new blog. More info later.