Friday, 14 May 2021

Beauty and politics

 'Beauty is a most important thing in political exercise, because beauty unifies humankind. Religion divides humankind, as do languages and social traditions, but beauty unifies the whole of the human family in one admiring being, in a single entity.'

The architect and pioneer in new classicism and urban renewal Léon Krier.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Why craziness is all around us

 Worried about postmodern 'thinking'? Or about the confused interpretations of the past in connection with racism? Or wondering where identity politics come from?

"I’d argued that Shakespeare’s audience’s would not have found Desdemona’s attraction to Black Othello, who was Christian and a soldier for Venice, so difficult to understand because prejudice against skin color did not become prevalent until a little later in the seventeenth century when the Atlantic Slave Trade gained steam, and that religious and national differences were far more profound before that. I was told this was problematic by an eminent professor and asked how Black communities in contemporary America would feel about my claim. If today’s African Americans felt badly about it, it was implied, it either could not have been true in the seventeenth century or it is morally wrong to mention it."

There is a threat of a certain form of totalitarian 'thinking' today which is dedicated to suicide while being inspired by the tenets of civilized humanism.

Super-sharp analytical essay on the website of Areo:


Friday, 30 April 2021

What is the use of the symphony orchestra?

 The tendency of many orchestras in the Western world to try to make themselves ‘useful’ to society, to become instruments of social change, results from the decreasing status of classical music as a whole, and especially one of its most expensive mediums: the symphony orchestra.

Justification of the costs has now to be found in some form of utility that lies outside music because music as such becomes much too difficult to see as something socially relevant. In a time when the notion of culture, and of psychological and spiritual subjects, is eroding, only the material and the financial aspects of life remain visible, and social injustices because they are understandeable by most people, including the culturally-challenged, on the most basic level.

So, in an attempt to survive in an increasing hostile environment, where classical music is seen by large groups as 'white suprematist', 'elitist', 'inaccessible', 'outdated', 'irrelevant to the modern world', a number of people at symphony orchestras think it necessary to turn away from the idea that classical music is a common good in itself and accessible to anyone, and to prostitute the medium. It is like an upperclass woman whose husband has left her and emptied the mutual bank account, and who desperately tries-out selling herself for survival.

But the idea that a symphony orchestra is not, or less, relevant to society if it is not directly connected to the needs of social change, is entirely wrong. Classical music is not an utility instrument, it is an art form which has no other ‘use‘ than being itself. In a world where so much is measured for its utility, it is the arts who offer an island where the value of a psychological and spiritual experience can be found in itself, as itself, and not in relation to some ulterior motive. Classical music addresses itself to the inner experience of man, and not to the outer world with its worldy concerns and needs. It is the opposite nature of classical music to the nature of the world that this unique art form finds its value and relevance, to compensate for the materialist, commercial, trivial and utility-saturated world of modernity, a world which tends to leave people nihilistic, depressed, exhausted and meaningless.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Nederlands: De tragedie van De Hond

'Opiniepeiler' Maurice de Hond heeft zich een jaar geleden, bij het uitbreken van de coronapandemie, opgeworpen als verzamelaar van wetenschappelijke studies uit het buitenland, die aantoonden dat besmetting van het coronavirus voornamelijk via de lucht plaatsvindt. Omdat De Hond naam heeft gemaakt als politieke commentator van statistieken, en als zodanig regelmatig in half-informatieve TV-programma's te zien en te horen was, werden zijn bevindingen m.b.t. de pandemie en zijn kritiek van het overheidsbeleid m.b.t. maatregelen niet serieus genomen.

Want 'wie is Maurice de Hond?' Slechts een TV-persoonlijkheid en opiniepeiler. Wat weet die nou van virussen? Het is geen deskundige, dus roept hij maar wat. We moeten alleen luisteren naar de officiële door de regering aangestelde deskundigen, en dat zijn de leden van het RIVM en het OMT.

Daarbij is totaal vergeten dat De Hond van oorsprong wel degelijk wetenschapper is: een deskundige in de statistiek. Dus hij heeft een grote deskundigheid m.b.t. het verwerken van data. Die gebruikt hij in zijn artikelen om overtuigend aan te tonen dat er nogal wat schort aan de verwerking van pandemiegegevens van de overheid.  Daarnaast ging zijn aandacht in het begin van de pandemie uit naar concreet wetenschappelijk onderzoek, waaruit duidelijk te concluderen was dat besmetting voornamelijk via de lucht plaatsvindt. Dit is geen 'aardig ideetje van Maurice', maar degelijk wetenschappelijk onderzoek; zijn artikelen op zijn website geven altijd de link naar de betreffende publicaties. De Hond heeft het alleen maar opgezocht en verzameld. Inmiddels blijkt internationaal steeds meer dat die conclusies correct zijn: besmetting vindt plaats voornamelijk via de lucht via miniscule druppeltjes, aerosols.

De Hond heeft vorig jaar al concrete voorstellen gedaan die de besmettingsweg voor een groot deel kunnen beperken of teniet kunnen doen. Niemand luisterde naar hem want het is toch slechts een TV-persoonlijkheid en opiniepeiler? De tragedie van De Hond is, dat alles wat hij zei en nog steeds zegt, door overheid en bestuurders wordt gezien als 'de mening van Maurice de Hond' terwijl het gaat om concreet internationaal wetenschappelijk onderzoek. De Hond heeft het alleen maar verzameld en in kaart gebracht. Hij is de boodschapper, meer niet.

De peilloze domheid die niet verder wil kijken dan naar de boodschapper is een beschaafd Westers land onwaardig. Het falen van het overheidsbeleid m.b.t. corona is een tragedie van enorme omvang: heel veel van de opgelopen schade in de Nederlandse samenleving had voorkomen kunnen worden als de wetenschappelijke gegevens indertijd door het RIVM, OMT en overheid serieus waren genomen. Het is onbelangrijk dat het De Hond is die de waardevolle informatie bij elkaar gezet heeft: het gaat om het belang van die informatie. Met het enorme werk dat hij vrijwillig heeft verzet, en nog steeds verzet, vult hij het enorme gat in het begrip en de informatievoorziening van de overheid. Nog steeds wordt er - terwijl er internationaal een steeds grotere consensus groeit m.b.t. aerosols - slechts met grote tegenzin door de overheid schoorvoetend toegegeven dat het 'misschien' wel mogelijk zou kunnen zijn dat.... etc. De kleingeestige mentaliteit van een klein, en kleingeestig land, waar incompetentie en domheid van de overheid de overhand hebben, en waar alles persoonlijk wordt opgevat i.p.v. objectief bekeken, wordt in deze pandemie pijnlijk zichtbaar.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Charles Rosen / lecture on modernism

An interesting time capsule: a video of a lecture by the late musicologist and pianist Charles Rosen about modernism in music.

I stopped watching after half an hour, because Rosen simply follows Schoenberg’s mistaken idea of the ’emancipation of the dissonance’ as an inevitable historic process undermining tonality and leading towards ‘acceptance’ of all 12 notes of the basic musical material. Thereby, playing examples, Rosen isolates details to show this ’emancipation’ but thereby destroys their linearity, their being embedded in a whole – as is obvious with the Mozart ‘dissonance quartet’ example. It shows the problem of modernism: invervening rationally into a texture and destroying its organic wholeness. It is like taking X-rays of lips and MRI scans of brains to explain a lovers’ kiss.

If you think a dissonance is a thing that can be emancipated, you don’t know what a dissonance is…. A dissonance is a tonal relationship in a particular context: and such relationships have different effects in different contexts. Or said otherwise: in a particular style a dissonance can sound as a consonant or the other way around. (An example of the peculiar latter is the sudden sound of a major triad in Berg’s painfully-chromatic opera Wozzeck when a protagonist utters the word ‘money’; another is the sudden and entirely unexpected tutti fortissimo triad in the chromatically floating Adagio of Mahler's 10th symphony, announcing approaching catastrophe.)

Starting from such false premises makes all that follows intellectually chimaeric and nonsensical. Rosen never noticed the fundamental character of the modernist ‘music’ par excellence: sound art, i.e. pattern making, to keep the sound objective, removing the subjective side of music which is carried by tonal relationships.

The rest is linguistic confusion: what is meant by ‘difficult’, on which level, in which context? Music is not a rational art form, but a psychological one, and ALL rational structuring – however complex or simple – is merely a means to an aesthetic and thus, psychological end.

There is a passage in Satie’s cantata ‘Socrate’ where, at a dramatic moment in the text, the orchestra merely repeats a succession of triads in the doric mode (d to d) many times. It is impossible to find a more ‘stupidly simplistic’ musical idea, a child of 4 could find and play it thoughtlessly. However, Satie laboured for weeks on end to find the right music for that very spot, throwing away many attempts. Till he found those crazy repetetive simple triads and knew: this is the right music. And it is: the effect is wonderfully expressive – why? Because of the context, of the work’s idea and style, because of the text, and of the particular moment in the text, and the aesthetic background of Satie’s work. Such an example completely dissolves any argument Rosen could have come-up with.


Friday, 9 April 2021

A better symphonic future


How can we make orchestral concerts more interesting and more attractive for contemporary audiences and especially, for younger generations?

It is not easy, because most of the music performed in concert halls requires sitting still and focussing attention upon what is being heard. But yet, there are ways that invite enthusiastic exploration:

– making the symphony orchestra more relevant to modern times, through relating it to social justice problems, anti-racist initiatives, the needs of immigrants and refugees, and the plight of women of any culture and ethnicity;
– reshuffling the repertoire away from the canon and include more music written by women, blacks, members of suppressed minorities except the talented, Hispanics other than De Falla, and more modern works which audiences can recognize from the cinema and the pop music of their children;
– creating special series with sound art for audiences who wish to better connect with the misery of modernity, combined with medical and psychiatric help on the spot;
– making the concert experience more interesting by adding visuals like big video screens with appropriate movies, or real time views of players and audience members in close-up, or real time views of the foyers, or streets surrounding the concert hall; or combining the performance with ballet dancers, acrobats or mime performers;
– changing concert behaviour ritual into something closer to contemporary life experience: jogging attire instead of evening dress, chatting during the performance, free admission for toddlers and babies, the freedom to walk in or out a performance, and eating, drinking and discussing the music while it is being played;
– extending the concert experience with restaurant facilities, swimming pool, a corner for computer games, a supermarket for biological food, a shop with symphony merchandise, and a sporting hall with the appropriate machinery.

No doubt many more people than ever will want to be introduced to this noble musical tradition, and the art form will be preserved for the future, including its star performers.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Free speech or/and thought?

Interesting article on a Kierkegaard quote:

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use."

Stemming from observations from the 19th century. Not much has changed, it seems. 

Musings by a very intelligent young student in India: