Saturday, December 19, 2015

I Love Young Music Geeks

You remember a few days back I posted a video of young Jordan Moore's brilliant arrangement and self-played multi-track recording of a march by Holst for ocarinas and euphonium.  Well, here's what might be an even more impressive video posted three days back of him playing The Holly and the Ivy on piccolo, flute, oboe, clarinet, trumpet, horn, trombone and euphonium.  I'm guessing he did the arrangement and the filming and editing as well.  I'm no end of impressed with his talent and work habits.

In the notes he says he's going to be having his wisdom teeth out in a few days, I wish him luck.  I'm betting he's someone who is going to go far.

More of Mr. Moore's Christmas music multitracks from years back.

If this kid isn't some music teacher's favorite student I'd love to see who is.

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

Now, now.  It might be wrong for me to make a statement about you but as far as I've been able to discern it wouldn't be wrong for me to say that what you said is about as classy as neck tattoos.  

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XX Vision of The Religion of Love

Anton Batagov, piano

This is the last of the pieces in the cycle, putting the many themes in the previous pieces into their proper context.  In my recent posts I went over the statement of Jurgen Habermas in which, in contradiction to the distortions of what he clearly said by other atheists, that modern egalitarian democracy had its origin and its only source of nourishment from the Jewish tradition of justice as channeled through the Christian ethic of egalitarian love, that so difficult ideal of loving everyone including your enemies as they are attacking you, of those who commit wrong, of those whose existence is of no value to you or anyone else.  I certainly haven't achieved anything like that, who knows if my several decades in the sterile wilderness of willfully blind agnosticism hampered what might have otherwise been possible.  I would likely have been a lot less witty and cruel, I'd certainly have been more politically realistic.  In that I think my personal experience is a microcosm of why the left has been in wandering in the political wilderness for about as long.

Messiaen's intent that people listen to the entire cycle in a single performance is seldom realized, though it is shorter than many things people sit through, such as many movies, the density of material, the uncompromising treatment of the subject makes a rarely attempted thing for a pianist, I've never heard a complete performance except on disc.  There are several which have been issued, the recording by Olivier Messiaen's colleague and wife, Yvonne Loriod, of course, has to take first place, no one had anything like the access to the original source of the music that she did.  The others I've heard in excerpts are quite good too.  This isn't music you take on professionally without being prepared, I doubt anyone undertakes the entire cycle without the intent to reflect the composer's meaning, though there are performances of individual pieces or sections of it which do sort of seem like an empty athletic performance, the same is true of any music which gains the reputation of being a feat instead of communication of the composer's ideas.  The music and its intent, though, survives those kinds of misuse, other performers respect its intended meaning.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ernestine Schumann-Heink - Stille Nacht

Ernestine Schumann-Heink singing Stille Nacht was an annual Christmas event in the early years of radio, this record is from even earlier in her career.

Debussy - Noel des enfants qui n'ont plus de maisons

Victoria de los Angeles, soprano
Gonzalo Soriano, piano

I've never heard a more heart-breaking interpretation of this Christmas song in the voice of children who had lost their families and homes during World War One.   It's especially relevant to this season when so many Americans want to close the doors to people made homeless and even orphaned as a result of our previous administration's invasion of Iraq and subsequent incompetence and corruption.

Hate Mail -

Naw, I'll take it down, it makes me feel cheap.  And those were the mildest of what I felt like putting up.  

Joe Perham - Harry, Ray & Hugo

Hate Mail - Denying An Accusation of Habitual Lying By Lying About What Was Said Proves My Point

I merely noted what what dear old John Mortimer said about the connection with the use of lying, bending the truth and deceit on the part of lawyers and judges in connection with writing for the stage and TV.  Even "documentaries" which have quite an interesting definition as constructed "reality" in the same article.   I wasn't the one making that connection, Mortimer did.  If you had done what I can count on you fans of such media never doing, reading the provided links supporting what I said, he was even more explicit about his dismissal of reality.

Life as a barrister never was terribly real to me and courtrooms were always a place of fantasy to me. They had nothing to do with discovering the truth, really, of course.

Well, maybe in his perusal of such things, he might have realized that unlike in his role in the drama, as a lawyer who didn't have any personal investment in the issues of a trial, once he took off his wig and bands and went back to his chambers or home, the people who were the subjects of the case didn't have that luxury, it was very real for them.

I don't really see much of a difference between his attitude and the attitude of the audience of "reality TV" shows or cabloid hate talk, the on-air talking heads and others who aren't much touched directly by the lies it sells.  John Mortimer was a nice guy, I'm sure, in his private life and even in his professional life, among his colleagues.  His indifference to those people whose lives were the raw material of his reality based legal career and who he used in his creation of fiction isn't any more admirable.  His convenience as a creator of TV and stage fiction is, in the hands of those who are also, so, enabled is far from inconsequential in real lives and in real deaths.

He also said:

Well, they were very nice to me, my parents; they were never nasty. And they did treat me as if I were grown up. I try and treat my children from the age of ten months as if they were totally grown up, which I think is the only way to treat children. But as for that lack of communication you mention, I’m very fond of that, I think. I hate people saying what they think. If you’re an American you must say what you think, whereas if you’re English you should say everything except what you think.

That's a charming thing to hear said by a semi-eccentric Brit, in regard to his upbringing by a real eccentric Brit, it's a recipe for poisoning democracy if taken seriously.  Our legal system, our alleged intelligentsia has adopted it.  Yet the alleged liberals who reserve that alienation from the necessity of thinking realistically for themselves are, then, perplexed to find that other people who, practicing the same level of fantasy in place of reality, come to quite different outcomes and vote for people like Reagan, the Bushes, Sarah Palin and, Lord help us, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or any of the others who our regime of "free press-speech" have resulted in.

While you might laugh now, you won't be laughing when the Republicans win another presidency and cement the present majority on the Supreme Court into place.   Failing to seriously address what they are doing now, of the regime of lies they enable, will not produce a decent, democratic society.  I think they are far more likely to lead to a violent, bloody moral catastrophe.  Moral relativism carries with it the almost certain conditions that will make a true, reality based democratic self-government impossible.   Everything that brought about the conditions that brought that about is what have brought us to the catastrophe where Donald Trump might be president.  Foremost among those, allowing hate-talk radio, cabloid and corporate TV and other media to lie with total abandon in pursuit of the profits of its owners and investors is certainly the foremost of those conditions.

I mean, TRUMP IS A TV CELEBRITY, THE CENTRAL FIGURE IN WHAT IS CALLED REALITY TV FIFTY YEARS AFTER THE SULLIVAN DECISION.  How much more obvious does it have to get for those of the "reality community" to see what's right there in front of their snotty noses before they see it?  George Orwell wouldn't have been surprised, though John Mortimer didn't seem to see it in the decades after his death. 

Update:  And, for those who remember the wake of PBS introducing an unreading American public into the charms of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, note what Mortimer says about the reality created by people consuming his screen play of the fantasy.


Well, I was in Oxford during the war, during the blitz, and the blackout, and rationing, and a period of austerity. Although there were relics of the old Evelyn Waugh period, my Oxford was very different. I was very pleased to do Brideshead, which I remember reading at the time that it came out. In the forties everyone liked it because it took them away from the austerity, and it talked of a past, vanished age and wonderful golden youth and all that. And so it’s popular now, when there’s another age of austerity in Britain.


What do you think accounts for its huge popularity in the U.S.?


As to the popularity of it with the American audience, there’s a letter from Evelyn Waugh saying he never thought that more than eight Americans would like Brideshead. And now they have Lord Sebastian look-alike contests in the streets of San Francisco! I’m not sure it hasn’t done a terrible disservice to the world, with all of these young men being frightfully right wing and carrying teddy bears!


I don’t believe you shared many values with Evelyn Waugh. Did this in any way cause difficulties for you in writing the adapation?


Well, he was a great Catholic reactionary, and I’m a sort of an atheist and an inactive socialist. But on the whole I like the book and I love writing about religion. I mean I love writing about it, but I don’t have any religion.


Did you therefore find it difficult to identify with Charles Ryder’s eventual religious awakening?


No, I found that very easy. The difficulty I had with the character was his political stance, his behavior during the General Strike, which I could hardly bear to write about. And there’s also a scene in which he takes Rex out to dinner, in which he feels terribly superior because Rex chooses the wrong sort of food and the wrong glass. This I find unbelievably snobbish. I don’t mind his religion, but I do mind his snobbery. And he’s a difficult character because he’s the most boring character in the whole thing—and all the other characters are so good.

You really have to wonder about Mortimer not getting the connection between Waugh's and his aristocrat glorifying fiction and the promotion of aristocratic attitudes in reality in the Reagan years. And he's supposed to have been great and perceptive commentator on society and reality.  He knew it was happening, he commented on it, but he was able to keep a comfortable distance between his creation and the reality it led to.  That makes his comments about the General Strike section of the fantasy ring more than just a bit hollow.

Ryder's religion, the religion of Evelyn Waugh was certainly not based in the Gospel of Jesus, in the economic commandments of the Jewish Law, it is based in 18th and 19th century British economics and the legal system that was created to ensure those.   In the end, they aren't anywhere near as removed from John Mortimer's style of socialism as are The Law of Moses, the Jewish prophetic literature and the most radical of all of those, the Gospel of Jesus.  I don't think the  absence of the understanding of the relationships among those things, of  Mortimer's inability to see the relationships among those things is unrelated to his atheism.

update 2:  Where Do You Guys Think Such Idiocy Comes From If Not The Media Which Is The Source of It?

In checking on some hate mail, I notice, even as what I said was denied by his readers, Duncan Black notes that 30% of Republicans and 19% of Democrats want to bomb a fictional "Arab" country as seen in a Disney cartoon.

Here is what his typically terse "post" links to.

You can either use this to feel superior to the rather frightening percent of the media-informed American public who maintain such ignorant concepts, CONCEPTS ON WHICH THEY ARE QUITE ABLE TO BASE THEIR VERY REAL AND ENTIRELY EFFICACIOUS VOTES for your own preening edification or you can recognize the very real potential for disaster in that situation and the reasons for it and admit that an informed vote is damaged by allowing the media to fill peoples' minds with bigoted lies designed to make them hate Arabs and as a replacement for reality. That was the basis of the Bush II sale of its invasion of Iraq, which has mostly benefited terrorists and despots who use theocracy in their hold on power.

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XIX I Sleep But My Heart Keeps Watch

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

Possibly President Trump Is An ACLU Baby

A country which gives its mass media the freedom to lie will cease to be a democracy.

There, my contribution to the creation of aphorisms.  Or maybe not, I expect it's a point which was made, in one form or another.  It has a sort of Lao Tsu ring to it, though he'd be talking to an emperor about extending his reign, not democracy.

It is just about the stupidest feature of our intellectual class that it has observed and participated in the catastrophic permission of our mass media to lie, to bear false witness against individuals and against entire races and religions and ethnicities and other classes of human beings, an effect heightened by the 24 hour "news" stations and universalized through the banal attempts at construction of story lines by idiot writers and producers and directors in their overtly entertainment wings.  All of which is geared towards attracting eyes to the screen to maximize profit instead of to tell the truth.  There is something rather blatantly obvious in what a disaster that has been with Ronald Reagan, a b-list movie actor on one end and a man who is most known to most people as the avatar of The Apprentice being talked about seriously as a contender to the most powerful office in the country. They share little more that would have brought them to the notice of voters than their face being sold to them on TV.

The fact is that a nation of people which is informed mostly by such corporate, mass media will not be able to have a vote which is informed by media which is honest and accurate.  If someone watches entertainment which promotes racism, xenophobia, fear and loathing, anger and ignorance and whose alleged news reinforces those messages, either because they want to attract such people to their channels or in some calculation to game them to produce a government more profitable to their financial interests, they will not have anything like a realistic view of the world.  In large numbers they will be susceptible to a TV provided demagogue like Trump, they've been trained for that from infancy by TV and other electronic media.

The fact is that this situation is the product of lawyers and judges using lines and slogans from the late 18th century, written by men who had little to no practical experience in even the proto-democratic government they were founding and no intention of founding a modern democracy in which people other than prosperous white men are not the only people who exercise self-government through the vote and holding office.  That their words, applied under what is alleged to be a recreation of their intention is harmful to the interest of virtually all others than rich white men is little to wonder at. But such is the power of those words and their mystique that the obviously bad effect of those interpretations for the political and real life interests of the middle class, the poor, women, minority groups are all swamped by the exigencies of "freedom of speech" "freedom of the press" and other such words as "right to bear arms".   For the left, "freedom of speech-press" is what the "right to bear arms" is for the right, only the idea that words will protect you from guns is one of life's more obvious delusions.

The fact is that lies have a persuasive advantage that the truth often doesn't.  Lies can be constructed in ways unhampered by a need to hew to reality, they can be constructed out of fantasy for the purpose of appealing to peoples' weaknesses, appealing to their desires instead of the necessities of reality.   The truth is often not an easy sell because it is not pleasant and flattering. it often carries an accusation instead of  gratifying and emollient praise.  It is often used to blame other people for what its intended audience has done when the consequences of those aren't avoidable anymore.  In just about every way it is obvious that lying has both a sales advantage and the potential to destroy the absolute prerequisite for democratic self-government a sufficient grasp of reality on the part of voters.

There is nothing liberal, in the traditional American meaning of the word, to this absolutist, oligarchy enabling regime of "free speech, free press".  There is nothing good at all, nothing that could rationally be expected to be good about permitting lies, especially in politics where dishonesty and duping people with easily swallowed lies are an obvious democracy destroying practice.  Yet the widely lauded and praised, the alleged liberal group, the American Civil Liberties Union has been in the forefront of promoting this insane legal regime in which judges and Supreme Court justices are allowed to pretend they can't distinguish between lies and the truth when that is what their job consists of in its ultimate terms.  That this practice also enabled what has become the massive porn industry is a fitting example leading to the decision that the entire thing was in service to a degraded view of humanity which is also in opposition to the view of humanity which mandates democracy.

The fact is that much if not most of truth can be distinguished from lies, it is insanity to allow those cases in which it is not easy or possible to swamp the benefits possible when you can make that determination is insanely irresponsible.  In one of his introductions to one of the Rumpole stories on TV, the delightful lawyer-writer John Mortimer talked about the defense of a man who murdered his wife by strangulation involved selling the idea that it could have been accidental when he accidentally squeezed the vagus nerve too tightly, while strangling her, and, so, her death with his hands around her neck was an accidental death.  As I recall the story, his defense rested on an assumption of gullibility in the judge and jury, the ability to sell a lie to them.   He gave an interview to the Paris Review in which he noted the similarity between that kind of lawyering and writing fiction as "documentary".

It’s a funny trick that you learn, writing documentaries, or being a barrister, for that matter. You can prepare yourself to cross-examine a doctor on the vagal nerve. You don’t really know all about it but you know how to put it so that a jury can understand it.

Now, I know what will be important for such "liberals" of the ACLU type in my mentioning that and it will be an accusation that I didn't like the Rumple stories - which I both watched and read all of - or that I hate on dear, amusing,  John Mortimer, when I don't,  Though thinking about this, I can't pretend that I really respect him anymore or can read the Rumpole stories in quite the same way. Someone who could dismiss the part his profession plays in allowing wife murderers to get off by appealing to either the ignorance or sexism or bigotry of judges and juries can't retain my respect, no more so can lawyers and "free speech-press" absolutists who blithely and self-righteously do the same politically, the consequences be damned.

If we want democracy instead of what comes in its absence, we are stuck with the messy, often risky and quite often wrong responsibility of trying to discern what the best choices are for society in general.  If we choose not to take that responsibility or allow our society to be disabled through the PR sold lies which are permitted, we will get despotism, dictators and the entire range of moral and material catastrophe that comes with them.  Our developing experiment with democracy has lost its way just as its promise of fruition was at hand.   If you want to know what made black lives not matter a half a century after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts were signed into law, it was through the constant racist propaganda of programs like C.O.P.S. of hatred and resentment sold through TV plots and story lines, and what passes as the news.   It is a product of the very "free press" and its "free speech" which, absolved of any responsibility to the truth, found lies more easily constructed and far more profitable.  All of that is a product of the ACLU and similar facilities of the free-speech industry.   Once the corporate right abandoned its anti-smut wing it realized that porn was profitable and the legal regime which such liberals as provided judicial rulings allowing lies as well as smut was a gold mine for them.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gamme Zayan - Trio Soleil

Franck Nicolas, valved bugle
Sonny Troupé. drum
Nelson Veras, guitar

Gildas Bocle - One's Way

Jean Baptiste Boclé: Vibes, Keyboards
Simon Bernier: Dms
Gildas Boclé: Bass
I don't care if Simps and the Eschatots don't get my humor.  Simps wouldn't get a joke without a laugh track and a cue card to tell him it was time to laugh.  And the tots think he's funny.  

Horribly busy day. I hope to post something after work.  

DON'T Cheapen Beethoven!

Someone pointed me to the Beethoven's Birthday Google doodle, I usually use Firefox, these days.  

Starting with the fact that Beethoven was a young man in his 30s when he wrote the Fifth Symphony, to the rest of the stupid thing, it's a fitting artifact of the superficial, urban myth based untellectualism that the unformation age seems to have reinforced.  

I'm feeling grumpy about historical inaccuracy and narrative fiction about real people, not least about musicians, these days.  It could turn to grouchy.    

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions Of The Baby Jesus - XVIII Vision of the Terrible Anointing

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

This is another of these pieces with a title that is difficult to translate.  In the original it is "Regard de l'Onction terrible".  My first inclination is to translate "terrible" as "awe inspiring.   I don't own a copy of the score - as is often the case with French music publications it is enormously expensive and I've never seen a used copy of it, so I don't have access to what Messiaen indicated as to the meaning of his title.  In the absence of that it could refer to anything from the circumcision to the commission at the baptism of Jesus, to the crucifixion to the Resurrection or any of a number of other things.  It could refer to the incarnation, itself.  I admit that I'm stumped on this one.

The Staple Singers - Go Tell It On The Mountain

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

William Bolcom - Free Fantasia On On O Zion Haste and How Firm A Foundation

This is the last of the Gospel Preludes by William Bolcom, so far.  Who knows if there may be more to come?

This is probably the most performed of the pieces, though all of them are quite wonderful.  It's also one of which there are many obviously good performances on YouTube but which are often not successful as recordings, the huge difference in volume between the more subtle passages and the loudest ones mean that most of them lose some of the beautiful subtlety of the quite passages.  Most of those are in the O Zion Haste passages before the variations on How Firm a Foundation, ending in some of the most affirmative music you'll ever hear.   This is the kind of thing you hear as a pianist and wish you'd taken that route instead.  

I hope that there are a lot more recordings of all of them available in the future.  These are some of the most important religious music written in the past two centuries.

And This One On The Republican's Violation of Hospitality

As Usual The Staple Family Said It Best

I read that they're trying to get a declaration of war on Christmas in the Congress, to which I say, and I'm looking at you, Republicans.....

Who took the merry out of Christmas
People all over the world forgot about Mary
Too busy fighting wars, trying to make it to Mars
Searching for light and can't seem to find the right star
Searching for light and can't seem to find the right star

Who took the merry out of Christmas
(People all over the world forgot about Mary)
Too busy buying toys, learning 'bout Santa's joy
Making believe He was just another baby boy
Making believe He was just another baby boy

Who took the merry out of Christmas
(People all over the world forgot about Mary)
Too busy having fun, drinking with everyone
Showing no respect for Mary's only Son
Showing no respect for Mary's only Son.


Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XVII The Vision of Silence

Paul Crossley, piano

On The Importance of Being Earnest

Oh, yeah, there's no question that Gertrude Stein was an active Nazi collaborator, through her connections with the puppet Vichy government.   They protected her and Alice Toklas and, probably more important to Stein, her art collection, and allowed her to live in comfort in occupied France even as Jewish children a few miles away from her were being sent to their deaths.  She attempted to produce pro-Vichy propaganda to be marketed to the American audience, I would think it was supposed to keep America out of the war.  It was amazing stupidity that fit right in to her pre-war proclamations about how Hitler was no danger because he was a German romantic and how war was like dancing, going back and forth.

“Hitler will never really go to war. He is not the dangerous one. You see, he is the German romanticist. He wants the illusion of victory and power, the glory and glamour of it, but he could not stand the blood and fighting involved in getting it. No, Mussolini—there’s the dangerous man, for he is an Italian realist. He won’t stop at anything.”

Like so much of the common received wisdom, right and alleged left, and especially among the ersatz intellectual class of the unlightenment, the reputation of Gertrude Stein is a total PR cover up job which people repeat in complete ignorance of her actual production and her putrid and self-centered life. That such an abominable record of stupidity, superficiality and phoniness is still the common conception of Gertrude Stein seventy years after she died only shows what a phony, superficial and stupid thing our so called intellectual class is, these days.


Yesterday's comments made the accusation that I dissed Oscar Wilde.  Well, you see that little search box at the top of the screen?   If you type Oscar Wilde and search my blog you will find I've mentioned him three times.  My thinking on Oscar Wilde is a bit more complex than that.

Once in a piece pointing out, among other things, the biological and epidemiological fact that anal sex was and still is a risk to the health of the people engaging in it.

Not having yet seen K.J. Dover's book about intercurral sex as depicted on Greek pottery or knowing that Oscar Wilde and a number of other famous gay writers had rejected anal sex, I didn't argue the issue on those grounds.

The second, in reference to one of his not unproblematic The Soul of Man Under Socialism, was far from a slam.

I intend to be as underservingly poor as was imagined by Oscar Wilde and as outrageously insistent on facing the most inconvenient and uncomfortable reality of intentional liberal failure as Marilynne Robinson in her great, ignored essay, Mother Country.

There are huge problems with Wilde's conception of socialism,though no more of a problem than the socialists conception of socialism.  Beginning with his opening sentence which is about as anti-socialist a statement as it's possible to imagine.

The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody.

Well, no, that's the chief desideratum of the opposite of socialism, even as found among many socialists, and it is the opposite of any system that even has a decent society as its goal.  Wilde had a few good ideas and was able to write some biting satire on upper class British society but he wasn't a deep or systematic thinker.  He did, though, see through the grotesque hypocrisy of much of British social welfare which was the upper income doing the minimal amount of good to the poor while extracting the maximum of shame, embarrassment and petty cruelty to the recipients of its incredibly stingy largess.   He might have been superficial but he saw something as desirable that the establishment social thinkers of Britain couldn't bear the thought of, economic equality.  

If by the word "charity" you understand the kind of stuff that the British establishment did to the poor, his use of the word makes complete sense.

They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.

But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last we have had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problem and know the life – educated men who live in the East End – coming forward and imploring the community to restrain its altruistic impulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on the ground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They are perfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.

Perhaps he didn't consider there is another kind of charity that doesn't have the goal of the giver having the satisfaction of lording it over poor people, the sadistic pleasure of making them feel ashamed of needing to take their crumbs and the other and many ways in which the British establishment at its most "charitable" was just the other arm of its hatred of poor people.  There is a conception of charity as the just distribution of wealth and the benefits of society and culture on an equal basis for the benefit of the poor.  That is the concept that is behind the economic content of Jewish prophesy, in both the First and Second testaments of the Bible, the economic ideas that I've come to see as entirely superior to just about any definition of socialism I've come across, it is far more radical than Marxism and the opposite of that putrid pantomime of socialism, Fabianism.  

But this is the passage I was referring to, again keeping in mind that he was talking about Victorian and Edwardian Britain and its pathological notion of charity.

The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are much to be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partial restitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by some impertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table? They should be seated at the board, and are beginning to know it. As for being discontented, a man who would not be discontented with such surroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute. Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less. For a town or country labourer to practise thrift would be absolutely immoral. Man should not be ready to show that he can live like a badly-fed animal. 

The third time I mention Oscar Wilde one ties up this post.

The reports of [Gertrude] Stein nominating Hitler for the Nobel Peace Prize are convincing.  She was a right winger, a rich trust-fund baby, decadent, superficial fraud, promoting her "genius."  Her declaration of her genius is the only thing distinguishing about her and she stole even that act from Oscar Wilde who did so much more to earn the title, though I wouldn't hold him as having actually been one.   He was certainly deeper on those occasions he wasn't playing the fop.  Stein was only a fop and her act grows really tedious through the sameness of her production.

You see, Simps, I've read both Stein and Wilde and I've read some history too.  It's not enough to just repeat lines you've read in the foppish magazine journalism of the smart New York set, or, more likely, in pretentious movies and TV shows.  There's more to life than entertainment, in fact, there is more to politics.  I've never gone far into the corrosion of the left through people being distracted by stupid stuff but it's probably as bad as anything in producing that effect.  We are in a country in which one Hollywood B-list actor was given the power to destroy everything Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson did to produce egalitarian democracy.  We are in a year in which there is a real prospect that the man who most of his followers know through The Apprentice is a front runner of one of our two parties.  That's not just a coincidence.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Olivier Messiaen: Oraison (1937)

Ensemble D'Ondes De Montréal.

I believe there are four Ondes Martenots playing this piece, though I might be wrong.  I'm not a huge fan of electronic instruments though, clearly, Messiaen was.  His sister-in-law, Jeanne Loriod, the sister of Yvonne Loriod, was a virtuoso on the instrument, many of the recordings of his orchestral works have her playing even as they generally had Yvonne playing the piano parts.

One of the big defects of the widely touted theremin is that it doesn't really produce clear articulation and separation of notes.  Or it's mighty hard to produce that effect.   You can't really play staccato with one, and, then, there's the tone which is strange or what we imagine sounds "unearthly" though why anyone thinks they know what "unearthly" sounds like is an interesting question in itself.

I think the ondes Martenot is, in many ways, superior to the thermin or, in fact, lots of other electronic instruments. Though I can't really say it's something I find all that attractive.   I'm posting this to show that even in the pre-war period, Messiaen was trying new things.  

And in Non News

Duncan's head cheese hoard is showing it's as illiterate as ever.  As if Sims and Tlaz have ever read a single piece of theology in their so called lives of the mind.   There's a reason that I noted that simple writing was for simple minds who never face a challenge to their preconceived attitudes and preferences.  

Scientism is the religion of the pig-ignorant, though I've encountered more intelligent pigs.  I don't think the ones I've seen would swallow anything whole or reject it without at least inspecting it first. 

Update:  And now Sims is again championing the Nazi collaborator, Gertrude Stein.  A woman who wrote hundreds of thousands of words, saying nothing. 

The Brat cut his tutoring session update:  


steve simelsDecember 15, 2015 at 10:58 AM
Get back to me when you come up with something as good as "There's no there there."


The Thought CriminalDecember 15, 2015 at 11:09 AM
Her magnum opus. Something tells me you never actually read one of her books. But, then, why should your common received erudition on Gertrude Stein be any different than your common received erudition on any other topic, based securely in standards that would have the approval of Lady Bracknell

“I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.”

The Eschaton head cheese trust can be counted on to not to risk any of the regulars tampering with natural ignorance.   Duncan bans anyone who risks that.   I wonder where Ralphie went. 

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XVI Vision of the Prophets, The Shepherds and the Magi

Susanna Pagano, piano

It's noteworthy that Messiaen puts the prophets, the shepherds and the wise men together because there is nothing more egalitarian than the visions of the Jewish prophets, the vision of the shepherds is as important as those of the prophets (many of whom were also of humble backgrounds) and the sages.  That is why the living symbol of an ignorant, helpless baby is so important in Christianity, its foremost prophet said that salvation only comes to those who are like little children, the humble and the outcast*.   That is something which my favorite works of recent theology, The Gospel in Solentiname, Black Liberation Theology, other liberation theology assumes.  In some modern sources, Jesus is presented as an illiterate peasant.   I'm a bit skeptical that he was illiterate but if he were that would only make the miracle of his understanding more instead of less amazing.   The secularist-atheist line ignorantly deriding the prophets as "bronze age goat herders" is a product of the opposite of the Jewish tradition, the thing which makes it despised by elites from far right to pseudo-left, it is the most radical programs of social and economic leveling there is.   Nothing I've yet read in Eastern philosophy or religion matches it for that.  Even Buddhism which rejects so much of the social and familial inequality built into other philosophic-religious traditions has a hierarchy on the ladder to enlightenment, fixed by karma only to be resolved progressively in other lives instead of the one and only one we have to work with now.

Nothing in Western philosophy or theology which departs from that radical egalitarianism, the radical insistence on equal justice is true to that radicalism.  That so many who profess Christianity ignore and even hate that egalitarianism is evidence that narrow is the gate.   You've got to be small to pass through a narrow gate, if you're swelled up and full of yourself, you'll never get through.

*  Today's gospel reading in the Catholic church is the passage in Matthew's Gospel, chapter 21 which says to the priests and elders,

Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Short Sentences Are For The Short Attention Spans of Those Who Don't Have Ideas

I get a lot of flack for my writing, which doesn't much bother me.  I'm not a writer.  But a lot of it is rather funny.  One of the favorite accusations is that I sometimes, well, quite often, write long sentences.  To that I say that it's not possible to write about complex things without using complex and compound sentences.  Especially not on the amount of time I have to write.

The idea that short sentences are mandatory and the definition of good writing is evidence of the decrease in intelligence of the intelligentsia in the past hundred years.   I haven't noticed that the fetish for short sentences, particularly popular since at least the idiocy of such popularizing as is contained in "Strunk - White" the idiotic "Elements of Style"*, has resulted in an increase in either general sophistication of thought or literacy.  I think the short sentences so dutifully written in accord with "Strunk -White" are generally banal in content and, quite often, are not worth reading.  And that's not the only source of non-wisdom on the topic of short sentences.  There are a number of sources ordering that only short sentences consumable by someone with what used to be considered a fourth-grade reading comprehension are allowable.

In the early months of my blogging I experimented with writing short sentences in easy style and found it only worked at all when the topics were rather obvious and simple and of general agreement.  I also found it was a lot harder to avoid banality while doing it.  None of which is compatible with exploring what's wrong with the common received wisdom.  The common received wisdom seems to be compatible with such rules mandating banality and such corsets on expository content.

The fetish for "elegance", of supposed simplicity, supposedly a virtue in science, has come to dominate over the humanities.  That is a basic denial of the exigencies of the topics of the humanities, including history, including commentary on the widest of human experience and the literary record of humanity which are far vaster in their complexity than the proper topic of rigorous science.  There has also been a pudding headed decision that nothing of any difficulty, things that won't be readily comprehended is to be deemed elegant.   Elegance, though, doesn't cut it when the topic is hard and thorny and inescapably ambiguous and handled only in a way which will and can not have unanimous and instant agreement.

To dictate short sentences while dealing with the complexities of human experience and life is as stupid as it would be to dictate linear equations while dealing with science that requires more complex calculations.

I look at the writing of E. B. White, so admired, so often held up as a model and it looks banal to me. There is a reason that his most famous writing was either in the form of children's books or light, semi-flippant magazine articles for The New Yorker.  So much of what people admire in White is a mirror of their preexisting ideas or, more so, their attitudes than any kind of hard challenge of their previously held beliefs and wishes.  I don't do that stuff.  It's not what I do.  I'm not an elegant, polished writer, I have a different agenda.   I will not bow down to the oracles of Cornell and pledge obeisance to their dictates.

*  Some will remember I committed the mortal sin of dissing "The Little Book" the sacred "Elements of Style" the very end of last year.  I still think there is no better short source pointing out the incompetence in English grammar of both Strunk and White than the article 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice by Geoffrey K. Pullum. .  Him pointing out that not only did the authors of the great work demonstrate they couldn't even reliably identify passages in the passive, as they condemned it, but also that they baldly and ignorantly violated their own edicts as soon as they'd laid them out.   Not only does that prove the incompetence of Strunk and White on the topic of the book, it also identifies those who have lavished praise on the book as incompetent to do that.  He notes some of their worst instances of that incompetence are dutifully repeated by would be critics and language mavens to this day, unaware of the wrongness of their perfect masters.

Note:  I should also repeat that I have good reason to despise E. B. White who was the foremost of the "Maine writers" who moved here and held up the natives of my state as a quaint amusement for his readers in New York and the alleged sophisticated world. He was a cultural imperialist and an example of the folks from away who convinced too many Maine natives of the inferiority of our thoughts.    I will also mention again the anthology of "Maine writers" once published which contained not a single piece of writing by someone who was born and grew up in the state.  The literary lights who produced it, no doubt fans of irony as read in the friggin' New Yorker, apparently didn't see the irony of that.  I'll bet they don't know what a passive construction is either.

Update:   Here is some more of Pullum from a blog post on the writing dictates of the Harvard economics prof, Greg Mankiw

My heart began to sink when I found he advises against using the passive voice (expressing that instruction by saying "The passive voice is avoided by good writers' — I am assuming this is economist humor) — a long-standing, indeed tired, old theme (see here for discussion).

And ultimately (perhaps you guessed this was coming), he says:

Buy a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Also, William Zinsser's On Writing Well. Read them—again and again and again.

Oh, dear. Again and again and again, American professors with absolutely no background in English grammar insist that their 21st-century college students should study this unpleasantly dogmatic little work, written by men born in the 19th century. But the dictats given in The Elements of Style range from the redundant to the insane. Anyone who read the book again and again and again, and took its edicts literally, would do disastrous damage to their writing.

Most of those who dip into it come out with some signs of a nervous cluelessness about grammar: they get edgy around adverbs and prepositions and instances of the verb be, without exactly knowing why they feel like that, or what they should do about it.

I am quite convinced that The Elements of Style harms students more than it helps them. Yet the Google search term {Strunk White "Elements of Style"} calls up nearly ninety hits. Replacing by yields more, about 140. At Princeton it's 23. At Stanford it's about 95. The finest universities in America continue to insist that this awful little compilation of century-old peevery is an important accessory for today's literate student. It isn't. The difference between carrying around The Elements of Style in your backpack and carrying around a slide rule is that slide rules gave accurate answers. (I actually don't know much about Zinsser's book; I'm trying to obtain a copy, but it is apparently not published in the UK. What I do know is that he makes the outrageous claim that most adjectives are unnecessary. So I have my doubts about Zinsser too.)

I will bet you that 99 out of 100 of those who venerate Strunk-White don't get the point in the first sentence.  I doubt Mankiw realized it. Is it any wonder that a product of both Yale AND Harvard asked "Is our children learning? " when the cream of the Ivy League class of universities contains so many examples of obviously ignorant erudition.

Such stuff led Pullum to declare:

I've simply had it with all the people who keep telling me that they revere The Elements of Style because it's such a nice little book and helped them so much with their writing when they were in college that they carry it everywhere they go and give it to all their students or hand a copy to each new employee that they hire for their company yadda yadda yadda… I have decided that my campaign against Strunk and White's toxic little compendium of unfollowable dumb advice, bungled grammar claims, and outright mendacity must be taken directly to America's colleges, starting with the great universities of the East Coast.

Monday, December 14, 2015

William Bolcom - Gospel Preludes Book 3 -

Jesus Calls Us O'er The Tumult 
Blessed Assurance
Nearer My God to Thee 

William Bryant, Organ.  Recital was on June 1st, 2015 at University Presbyterian Church - Seattle.

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of the Baby Jesus - XV The Kiss of the Baby Jesus

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

Update:  This is a really wonderful video of Messiaen improvising at the organ of the Paris Church of the Holy Trinity, where he was organist for more than six decades.  The first improvisation is on the Gregorian chant Puer Natus Est, A Child is Born.  I think the second one is on Reges Tarsis about the Magi coming from the East but I'll have to listen more carefully, I've only been able to listen to it once, it would take a lot of listenings to unlock more of its meaning.

Update 2:  Listening a second time, I think the third one is based on Omnes de Saba Venient,on a text from Isaiah.  But don't quote me on that.

Hate Mail - No, There Is No Doubting That Jesus Is A Jew

In your your ignorance which is so typical of those with a college degree these days, wise guys who could tell you every line in some stupid TV show or movie but whose every concept of Christianity is based in not knowing what you're talking about, you are flat wrong.

For example, overlooking the birth narratives, the presentation narrative, Jesus being lost and found at the temple as a boy, etc.  In the Gospel considered the least friendly to Jews, often accused of being the source of antisemitism among Christians, the Gospel according to John, Jesus identifies himself as a Jew and says that salvation is through Jews.  In the narrative of Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, there is this exchange in which Jesus unmistakably identifies himself as a Jew, even as he proclaimed the universality of salvation.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

John 4:19-24

There is no doubting that the central figure in Christianity not only was identified by every single person who encountered him in the Gospels as a Jew, he identified HIMSELF as a Jew.  Those who worship Jesus as the second person in the Trinity, beyond any question, believe a person who is a Jew is the embodiment of divinity.

That so many people who professed Christianity in the past and today overlooked that and lied about, oppressed and murdered Jews is through essentially the same ignorance you, yourself lie out of.  And you've been to high school and college, they were mostly illiterate or uneducated.

I think that the prophesy in that passage could as clearly identify modern Judaism in the period after the temple worship had ended as legitimate as it could Christian worship.  After all, Christianity didn't even exist at the time Jesus said that.  He had to be referring to something the Samaritan woman would have known about.  There isn't any reason to believe that modern Judaism wouldn't be approved of in this narrative.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Gaudate in Domino Semper Introit for the Third Sunday of Advent

A Public Service Announcement

I wish there was some way for you to see the stupidity of the comments I'm sparing you from having to read.  You'll have to take my word for it. 

Olivier Messiaen - Twenty Visions of The Baby Jesus - XVI - The Vision of the Angels

Christoph Scheffelt, piano

The image of angels in recent popular culture has gotten them all mixed up with the quainter notion of faeries.  The Biblical angels were hardly all like Gabriel who delivered the news to Mary that she was going to be the mother of the Savior, they are generally scary to the people they appear to.  Even the one who announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds scared them,  they "feared a great fear" until the angel told them the glad tidings of great joy.

The angels appearances were generally far from quaint and homey and comforting they marked some of the most momentous occasions in Biblical narrative.  Rainer Maria Rilke, in the first Duino Elegy t says "Every angel is horror" all of them mark a major disruption in the givenness of things. The concentration on the typical events of the physical universe in the last several hundred years have bound us to expectations that everything must be reducible to the simplest terms because those have a banal, seemingly all potent universality.   But that way of looking at human experience isn't any less blinding to a larger reality than thinking everything is reducible to dollars and cents or what the gods of fashion have deemed you are to wear this year.  All of them are a willful narrowing of view out of a willful denial of things which can't be so easily disposed of.

In thinking about the snark I've gotten over the assumption I believe that the story of the Virgin Birth is something that actually happened, it makes sense to me that, given what people are like, how caught up we are in our own narrow vision of things, it would take something of such total uniqueness, something so outside of the bounds of biology and expectation to make a dent in our world.  The same thing with thinking about the Resurrection.  When the rich man looking up from the flames at Abraham and Lazarus asks to be sent back to witness to his brothers so they won't suffer the same fate, Abraham tells him that they didn't believe Moses and the prophets so they wouldn't believe him. Even after reportedly seeing the miraculous cures, even the Transfiguration, even the followers closest to Jesus lost faith at seeing him crucified and denied him.  If I ever do believe in the literal truth of the incarnation, it will be on the basis of it taking something that outrageously audacious to get our attention so we can do the even harder things like giving what money we have to those who won't pay it back, loving our enemies and praying for them...    Compared to those, things which even the strongest believers in the literal truth of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection consistently fail to do, believing in an angel being necessary to shake things up is easy.  Hard truths can't become real without things being what you don't expect them to be, you've got to get shaken up.  I doubt they look like they've got wings and pretty gowns on. I'll bet they look dead serious.

.... Every Angel is terror.

And so I hold myself back and swallow the cry

of a darkened sobbing. Ah, who then can

we make use of? Not Angels: not men,

and the resourceful creatures see clearly

that we are not really at home

in the interpreted world.....

Rilke, Duino Elegy One

Hate Mail - The Advice Of Being Careful of What You Wish For Is Perhaps Called For?

This question of the promotion of paganism, or Paganism. of you will, as an alternative to Christianity has been something that I've grown more interested in.  It is, obviously, a product of buying mostly 19th and 20th century BS about pagan culture, alleged "Old Religion" most of which, on inspection, turns out to be about as authentic as a Hollywood movie about the "Old West".

It seeming to be of most concern, I've concentrated on such quaint practices as ritual and horrifically brutal human sacrifice, including that done periodically in celebration or observation of the winter solstice at places like Uppsala. the ritual murder of female slaves to be the concubines of warrior thugs who have died, and have noted the practically universal practice of infanticide among pagans, especially the disabled and, probably most often women.  Killing people was a major feature of paganism, the Germanic and stylish Celtic forms of them, what with various bog burials of its victims and archaeological excavations of the burials of upper class thugs prove.  I have also shown the direct documentation by such pagans as is seen in the Oseberg ship burial tapestry depicting, as in the literary sources, nine men ritually hanged in a grove.

Pagans wanting to deny the fact that their imagined nature loving, gender egalitarian "old religion" was an unequal and horrifically vicious reality have the problem that the same Sagas and early Christian works that they depend on for whatever information they can have about the Pagans, apart from such excavations, also document those horrific sacrifices and the grotesque patriarchal inequality of pagan cultures.  They can't use them as a reliable source for what they want without also having to turn around and say they were lying about the things they don't like.  Even some of the supposed scholars try to do that, on the basis of nothing I can see, saying that the sacrifices of nine men every nine years was a pantomime, not an actual sacrifice.   I haven't seen anything about pantomime in anything I've found.  The bog burials and other obvious victims of sacrifice who have been dug up would have been some kind of theatrical accident, I guess? 

The recent desire to push paganism in English speaking countries gaining ground since the 1960s has been something which a lot of supposed liberals have done, part of the push to diminish the influence of Christianity.  Well, as I've learned and shown this week, that is right in line with what the Nazis did and, as I indicated, the neo-Nazis have pushed that old "Christians stole Christmas from the Pagans" line as well.  And,as you can see if you go searching through the sewer that is the neo-Nazi internet, if anything they are more overtly antisemetic about it than their Nazi predecessors may have been.  The original Nazis had to peddle their lies to Christians for whom Mary and Jesus and Joseph were all identified as Jews, the post-war neo-Nazis don't have to deal with that because their converts probably never learned that inconvenient fact.   

I look at it all and think that any Jewish people and women and liberals in general  who push that line had better be careful for what they wish for.  The pagan fundamentalists who could arise in a country with large numbers of them could make the Southern Baptists look mild by comparison.   The Nazis rose out of a sort of pagan club, The Thule Society in Munich.  It's newspaper,  the Münchener Beobachter, became the chief organ of Nazi propaganda, the Völkischer Beobachter.  They were really big on Nordic mythology and folkways complete with lost lands and powerful, runic symbols which became part of Nazi symbolism which became potent parts of Nazi recruitment and organization. These things didn't happen at a glacial rate, the same people involved in such neo-paganism in Munich in 1918 formed the Nazi party the next year and within 14 years took over Germany and began killing people.  The whole thing from beginning to end took about 27 years and about 50 million lives sacrificed.