"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
I have mostly recovered from my accident last December and can play piano again. But my brief retrospective return to playing guitar has been lots of fun. I'll probably keep it up a bit.
Looking at the massive corpus of classic guitar music and lute music available for free online was quite an eye opener for me. If we had such resources available in my student days and computers to make writing papers and producing finished scores so easy a lot of us would have had much different lives in music.
One thing that I found this week is so excellent, so practically vital to guitar players that I'm astonished to find it is available for free. Fretboard Harmony for University Study: Method and Historical Context, the doctoral dissertation of Jeffrey James McFadden of the University of Toronto contains the best practical advice on improvising harmony in a classical (or any) context that it's an act of real charity that it's being given away for less than twenty dollars a copy. I recommend it and if I ever have an occasion to teach guitar again, I'll use it.
The exercises are so good I would advise people interested in historical performance to adapt them to lute tuning. While they are general and not geared to historical practice they will get you a lot farther down that road than anything else I'm aware of. Also available are the two facsimiles of the very rare early treatises dealing with this subject, both in the original Spanish. Here is the pdf for Santiago de Murcia's Resumen de acompañar , this and other articles available online can go a long way to clarifying the text and the tablature. Somewhat less clear and more suggestive than explicit is this text by the famous Gaspar Sanz, the part relevant to this post, his "short treatise on how to accompany perfectly" at the end of the text. Reading the tablatures from the originals is challenging but kind of fun. But I'd master McFadden's exercises first before honing them to any particular historical period.
Update: Someone pointed out this file of the Murcia Resumen to me, which is displayed much more clearly on my browser. I haven't tried printing out pages from it.
Missed this little item about a metal-rock themed burger joint trying on PZ Meyer's shtick of "communion desecration". The joint is called "Kuma's Corner" and its slogan is Eat beef. Bang your head. After making the huge sacrifice of listening to some of the Swedish metal band "Ghost" which it is honoring with its stupid allegedly edgy "communion burger" publicity stunt, I think what's left from all that head banging has a lot in common with the meat on the buns. Of course the "communion host" is unconsecrated so it's not a "communion host", like the "host" used in PZ Myers' own publicity stunt, it's just a cracker.
I would be interested to see the patrons that this place attracts because I suspect they might make the average crowd at iHop look merely plump. There must be a jillion fat calories in one of those things.
And the music? Fourth generation Black Sabbath as imagined by the products of a cradle to grave welfare state. Not that I'm at all opposed to cradle to grave welfare states, just that it's disappointing one would produce the kind of crap pop culture that comes out of Sweden. They so want to be daring and edgy but they lack the experience that requires, something they've got in common with lots of American schlock pop culture. I won't link the the music which is crap but here's an, uh, interview I tried out of sheer boredom. It supports my contention that all that head banging has made them meat heads.
When Robert Johnson sang about selling his soul to the devil he was convincing, these boys are just idiots playing dress up and thrilling an audience stupid enough to buy them. Johnson was alleged to have gotten his brilliant technique and music in the bargain. If these kids got theirs in the bargain it is clear Johnson's soul was worth more. Or maybe he was just too smart to settle for so little, something that rock fans have been doing for the past sixty years. Rock is what is left when you take everything interesting out of the blues. It's a rare rocker who can put something interesting back into it, metal substitutes volume and play-time, would be outrageousness for what is real. As can be seen in this publicity stunt.
You might want to read this article by Jim Hightower about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership that is being pushed like NAFTA was could destroy even more of the only things that make life possible for hundreds of millions here and billions around the world.
Like NAFTA the WTO and others of these corporate designed ways to destroy democracy by treaty, any elected official that pushes or supports these things should be informally considered guilty of treason. That the "founders" didn't include selling out The People during peace time, for the profit of the oligarchs in their definition of legal treason shows that they were not the perspicacious, omniscient sages they are sold to us has having been. That the media has not forced the pull out from these things only shows how unreliable they are, as well.
Ah, Alternet gives the Jesus bashers another round. I've been looking at the number of hits these posts get and the comments, Alternet is practicing hate talk in order to up its hit numbers, no doubt getting more ad revenue from it.
The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. was the last really effective leader that the American left has had, changing laws, changing lives for the better. The anti-religious talkers, notably not doers, never producing anything but futility, have a long record of ineffectiveness. It would be stupid to continue to follow them into political impotence.
You've, no doubt, heard the assertion being made that the Republicans who have shut the government down have been acting out of principle. Which is an odd thing to call the bald and sordid and gleeful harming of poor people, poor school children, those whose lives depend on federal programs, federal workers, for political gain.
The Republicans who have shut down the government are also credited with some kind of adherence to philosophical principles. Which is presented as some kind of virtue. I have to say that I used to be somewhat suckered with that stupid idea in the past, that adherence to an abstract philosophical principle even as it harms people was shielded from its results by the claim that it was the result of philosophical rumination. Criminal conspiracies, especially the successful ones, are also the product of intellectual activity. Perhaps the fact that the ones with clean hands and good clothes are so freely let off for some of the biggest crimes committed is a related delusion. Especially as in a number of cases it involves the same people and their circle of family and friends.
Not much of anything that comes out of the Washington press corps is worth of listening to, it is certainly not worthy of belief. As I type this that's where my inspiration is coming from. The problem isn't that our government services are centralized, made equally available around the country, it's that the politically effective media is centralized in Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles. What's more, it is centralized in the hands of the obviously interested rich. Including "public radio" and TV. The last time I saw figures, Steve Inskeep was making more than 300,000 dollars a year to lie on behalf of Republicans and I suspect he, looking at the salaries of others in his job feels he is a poor man. Not to mention their benefits package which certainly contains full health coverage. Since I'm hearing what Steve is saying reflected in his local equivalent here in Maine, I will not be giving them any of my money to promote the Republican party that has shut down the government and the wealthy people who they all work for.
This would never have happened under the media rules in place during the 1960s. The tea party was the product of hate talk radio and cabloid TV, the impotence of the Democrats in office is as well. That is a direct result of releasing TV and radio from their public service obligations, their obligation to not lie, their obligation to provide equal time under the Fairness Doctrine. It is a direct result of allowing people like Murdoch and corporations like Clear Channel to feed endless lies to the American People. That Ronald Reagan was the one who gave that desideratum to the "free speech" industry to them and that it has been the right-wing liars who have been the beneficiaries shows what a wrong-headed idea it was all along.
Democracy cannot be made without some raw resources, without which it cannot exist. One of those is accurate information had by a sufficient number of people to keep them from being duped by their enemies. The People have a limited number of hours to obtain that information and they are entirely dependent on other peoples' reports of reality to get it. That is a resource as limited as the bandwidth that is considered a public property assigned for use. Any abuse of the limited hours available for people to devote to public affairs by broadcasting lies - including the lies told by the cabloids - is damaging to self-government, it destroys the ability of The People to govern us in order to produce an effectively beneficial result.
The First Amendment to the Constitution is there to enable that self-government, it isn't there to cripple and destroy it, yet that is the clear experience of thirty years of electronic media being allowed to serve itself instead of the public. Pretending that print is going to have the effect it did in the past, ignoring that electronic media has entirely and permanently changed the facts under which the First Amendment exists from now on, serves the enemies of democracy, it serves the enemies of The People and our common good. You might want to consider that as the Republicans on the Supreme Court use it to destroy democracy this term. You might want to consider that as you hear NPR, or as I think of it, the FOX farm team, distort the shut down and Affordable Health Care. They're doing that out of philosophical principle too, the same one that is keeping poor kids from going to Head Start, damaging their ability to learn what they need to know to have a decent life. Ain't the intellectual class a wonder to behold.
Horatio Parker is known today mostly as being Charles Ives' teacher at Yale. In most presentations he's presented as what Charles Ives had to overcome to become one of the earliest of the truly avant garde composers. But Ives was well on his way to being the composer he was long before he went to Yale.
I listened to this Pipedreams program of Parkers music after listening to some of Elgar's music last night. The result of that is that I think Parker was the better composer of the two. Unlike Elgar, Parker's music doesn't have a nationalist music establishment to promote it.
There was a time when, as a devotee of "modern music," I'd have passed Parker's music by but I got over that and listen to everything now. It's a stupid, narrow-minded attitude to have and I'm glad I'm over it.
You can find the scores of some of Parker's music here and some of his choral music here, though, unfortunately, not much mentioned in the program and not the really masterful anthem, Now Sinks The Sun, included in it.
I used to love listening to Pipedreams before my public radio station took it off, no doubt so they could have more NPR junk like Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on. Now I listen to it online as I do so much else now that public radio as it should have been, is dead. To compare Parker's and Ives' music, you can listen to this program from their archive in the Real Audio format.
Seven years ago, when I began regularly writing out my ideas, confronting fragments of ideas I'd been tossing over in my head for decades, trying to put them into a coherent form that could then be tested against real life, a lot of the previous assumptions I'd made turned out to be wrong. One of the most wrong ones was the assuring that fair rules for the fight would be sufficient to do what was necessary. What is necessary is to change laws, to change policies that would achieve economic justice, civil rights, peace and a sustained environment. It turns out that when things are as grossly unequal as they are virtually everywhere in the world, as they have increasingly become in the past thirty three years, that a level playing field favors those with the most power and wealth. As if that outcome is not entirely predictable, the most obvious of intuitions.
It is exactly in the matter of outcomes that real, American liberalism* lies, not in the "fairness" of the process that produces it. I have called the kind of "liberal" who pretends that their work is done when everyone has that weird invention, "more speech" "process liberals". But I've come to realize they really aren't liberals at all, they belong to a sect of libertarianism. And, really, that mythical "more speech" which, somehow, never seems to work, unlike that "money-speech" invented by the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo, is about the only thing that the lib-libertarians have ever produced. "Money-speech" would seem to prove that it is more equal than "more-speech".
The impotence of that "more-speech" is sufficient to explain why the "liberal" Barack Obama, chasing after enough money-speech to do what has been done so seldom in recent years, win as a Democrat, will not produce a truly liberal administration. The legalistic language he learned at Harvard Law soothes whatever scruples might trouble him by his role in it. It also explains the impotence of Democrats in post-Buckley vs Valeo American politics. Money-speech, owned by those with the most money, turns out to not work on behalf of the poor and destitute. Notably few of the "civil liberties" lawyers, the media professionals and the academics who push this tripe are in much danger of being poor and destitute, certainly not as long as they are promoting something that so obviously benefits those with lots and lots of money-speech.
The thing that blinds real American liberals to the counterproductive aspects of a lot of this chasing after the abstract ideals that turn out to be counterproductive - leading to such things as the deregulated media that lies on behalf of the highest bidder, grossly unjust laws that enable the most massive theft on behalf of the ultra-rich, the sustenance of racial and gender oppression, etc. - is the reduction of the words used to advocate those into mere slogans, neglecting to see if the slogans address reality as it is today instead of as it was in the 1780s.
But real liberalism is all about outcomes, about results. There is no room in real liberalism that allows a complacent acceptance of economic, racial, gender injustice merely because the rich and bigoted can obtain results producing those. Though many who are represented as being liberal do accept those results and there is every reason to consider those faux liberals as favoring those. Enough of them benefit from the status quo. Having a free press, after all, is important mostly and most seriously in so far as it aids voters to make informed decisions, changing politics and laws in order to produce an effective beneficial result. A real liberal believes that justice, true equality and the sustenance of life is that absolutely necessary beneficial result.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press... Those are ringing words and generally admirable, all things being equal, but when "the press" means the massive, electronic media proven beyond any shadow of a doubt to rally exactly the kinds of unthinking and violent mobs that the "founders" endlessly worried about, there is every difference between that and a printing press that could print a four page weekly newspaper. The medium isn't the message but it certainly makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the speed and violence of the effect that it can have. And it isn't only the alleged news that has a real, violent effect endangering the lives and rights of people. The film Birth of a Nation helped promote the most extensive fascist movement in American history, the Klu Klux Klan. The "freedom of speech" and of "the press" that D.W. Griffith, Thomas Dixon and Frank Wood exercised, ended up in people being murdered by the Klan revived at Stone Mountain Georgia under the explicit inspiration of that movie. There is a direct line from the movie to those murders through the Klan that used it to organize and inspire its fascist terror.
As an aside, it is notable that Woodrow Wilson, one of the most famous progressives of the Progressive era, a scholar and academic of unimpeachable elite status, made Birth of A Nation the first movie shown in the White House, giving its "more speech" more of a boost in the national consciousness. It's something that is allowed in the rules of the "level playing field". Only later he regretted his role in it.
Since the advent of cabloid TV, it has been instrumental in promoting racism in shows like C.O.P.S, through FOX and through things such as CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight. It has certainly promoted anti-Islamic hysteria that of the kind that has led to attacks against people of perceived middle-eastern ethnicity, including Sikhs. Dobbs has probably done more than anyone to promote bigotry against Latinos. The people influenced by the American media aren't generally a very informed lot. And that is not to mention the media promotion of the hatred of the poor, often by depicting poverty in America as having a black or brown face, though it has no problem depicting poor white people as trash as well. That people like Dobbs** successfully depict themselves as populists while working against The People, even the poor whites who they use, is one of the putrid flowers of our deregulated media. "Populist" should mean a lot more than a rich white racist controlling poor white racists by appealing to their racism. But the destruction of real populism is a large topic which I haven't studied in sufficient depth to write about it.
I would recommend studying the history of NPR as a good example of where the kind of process "liberalism" I'm talking about leads. In each and every case, in the end the process liberal will sell out the poor, the destitute, those who are discriminated against - accounting for such exceptions as those made for wealthy, white gay men and women employed by them. Process liberalism is an elite pose, allowing the P.L. to pretend to be liberal while actually serving P.L.U.
If you find yourself tearing your hair while listening to Morning Edition, as I would be if I were not writing this, or some other NPR show, that's the reason more often than not. The organs of process liberalism should be dumped and defunded, they are a big part of the problem.
* As the living thinker who has had the most profound effect on me in the past decade, Marilynne Robinson, has pointed out, traditional American liberalism is entirely different from European liberalism in that it assumes a higher goal than mere ability to do what you want. Economic justice instead of lassiez faire economics is one essential difference. Matched with real equality it accounts for a complete difference.
** I was recently unsurprised to find out that Dobbs, like so many in our elite ruling class, liberal and conservative, the first black president, Barack Obama, to racists like him, is a Harvard product, fruit of the foremost of the training grounds for our ruling class. Those Ivy League boys love their games with their winners and their losers. And they hate to lose.
Robert Parry has written an excellent short history of how the United States has had to struggle against the financial enemies of democracy and justice all through our history, The Four Eras of the American Right.
Surprising to many will be his naming of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henrey, George Mason and, in his later life, James Madison as the founders of the problem. But, as I've read more of them and more of what they did instead of what their hagiographies cover up, it's a view of American history which I've come to share. Later crooks and thugs named will come as little to no surprise. It's only those of the "founding" generation that we're required to genuflect to, slave owning, self-interested subverters of democracy and justice, every one of them. That the more genteel modern right is tied to them is a point proven by what should be an infamous quote by the perfumed northerner, William F. Buckley, the brother of James Buckley of Buckley vs. Valeo
On the need to keep blacks under white domination, urbane conservative William F. Buckley declared in 1957 that “the white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”
In my comment to the post, I said that he'd gotten almost the whole thing said, leaving out things like the topic of yesterday's post, the liberalish-libertarians who, somehow, begin by asserting civil rights but who, somehow, always seem to end up enabling the super-rich and their political allies in the ideological right. I said:
Excellent article, showing the ties among today’s conservatives and those of the slave owning past. And in mentioning the Ayn Rand influence you almost get the whole way. The frightening truth is that there is a large faction of the functional right which is commonly mistaken as some species of liberal or leftist who are, actually, motivated primarily by a primitive libertarianism. A good example of that is the ACLU lawyer Joel Gora and his like who are engaged in aiding and abetting the wounding, if not murder of informed self-government through exactly the language of “free speech”. Of course what they and the Supreme Court have done is make “speech” anything but free by embedding monetary value in it. That gives the millionaires and billionaires, the heirs of the slave power and the robber barons, the kind of political power that their ancestors less often had. Until real liberals, the real left gets over the ridiculous scruple that turns “free speech”, for it what the “second amendment” is for gun nuts and the paranoid right that feeds and sustains them, liberals are their suckers.
Dumping the ACLU for its enabling of this could be a way to start. A more realistic analysis, based in the political reality of what the rulings under the Buckley vs. Valeo line of rulings and the broadcast-cable libertarian dogma, and the line of truly awful presidents and congresses that we’ve had under them is necessary before any progress is made. The infantile notion of free speech absolutism turns out to be a danger when corporations are people and money is speech. Who could have guessed that would happen except anyone with a working mind and the slightest experience of the world as it really is and not in some law class what if.