Workout 16 Jan 2012

25 minutes equivalent: 15 minutes rowing machine in physio center and then a “conductus” (10 minutes) of Beethoven’s underrated Choral Fantasy.

Getting better every day like the Beatles. For example, I walked rapidly without thinking towards the common room this morning to get a wireless password merely to have a backup to my “Netvigator” dongle access; unlike Tung Wah or the medical wards of Queen Mary, Grantham provides convalescents with wireless.

I realized only on return to my bed, hey, I’m walking!

I walked to the loo, and worked sitting up this morning. It is the case that after about an hour on my computer I had pain in my butt and some nausea which drove me back to my comfortable bed but my plan is to return to the practice of the day before and tenaciously thereby, hold a position; I am reading Ulysses “Sam” Grant’s sublime Memoirs and this mulish, unimaginative tenacity, witnessed at Shiloh, was the key to Grant’s success. It ultimately makes no bit of difference that I shift from comfort to comfort, for the basic idea is that I’m in pain, and that to resume my life I need to self-strengthen once again, and this time from a null basis of no fitness at all. Tenacity says to General Sherman on the night after the first day, in response to Sherman’s saying something like “helluva fight, Sam”, “Yeah. Beat ’em tomorrow.”

I’ve been so weakened that it’s not overdramatic of me to call this a Jahr Null, the term Germans use for 1945 and the destruction of that year. In this state you look for the smallest improvements, the smallest signs of hope.

The day before yesterday my upper thigh had exactly zero muscular force, today it has some, and the muscles put in a reappearance, and I don’t need help to move, for “thou didst not leave his soul in hell”.

A Brass Band Led by a Bear

The Choral Fantasy is a poor man’s version of, a sketch for, Beethoven’s sublime Ninth, containing a rousing but basically common little tune: just as Karl (Beethoven’s nephew) thought the An Die Freude beneath the composer as indeed it is shorn of all associations, the Schmeichelnd Hold tune of the Choral Fantasy is another Pub bawl like one celebrating good fellowship, wine and tobacco in which, as in Adorno’s theory of the occult, a genuine human reality (solidarity in An Die Freude, the liberating power of art in the Schmeichelnd Hold) is misprized because once too often in practice it was a false solidarity soon betrayed, or appropriated by Fascism.

The Choral Fantasy contains all the elements of the Fourth movement of the Ninth symphony including sudden rants, repeated in orchestral form and forestalled the second time by the surprise entry of the human voice, much to our relief: after the second entry of the dissonant chords in the Fourth movement of the Ninth symphony, we are in reality annoyed until the orchestra calms the pianist in the CF, and the bass admonishes the orchestra (o Freunde, nicht dieses Tonen: Sondern Lasst Angenemehre, An stimmen) in the Ninth. Both passages create joy in our hearts. Then, we’re treated to a noble, yet easy to listen-to, setting of the keynote tune and even more fun (in the Ninth only), a “Turkish March” which in both works sounds to us like a “German March” because Johnny Turk of all people taught the Germans and Austrians, during their long struggle for mastery of MittelEurop in the 17th century the march format (meaning that in turn, owing to Johnny Turk’s use of Ethiopian musicians, the German march is of African origin).

The Turkish March is fun in Adorno’s “culinary” sense; Adorno felt that music was “culinary” when it stooped to please. He did not feel that no music should be culinary for he liked marches owing to the clarity of their musical form (usually that of the trio sonata) but he did not feel that all music should be culinary which is where Richard Strauss is heading in Four Last Songs.

Adorno’s caustic comments on the culinary aren’t an invitation to listen to difficult music all the time. Instead, they point to the function of “difficult” music when the performer and listener make an effort which is to get out of oneself and perform or listen to music “objectively”, where the performer doesn’t pander to the listener’s desire for cheap musical reassurance and the listener doesn’t expect a new piece to gratify in the same way, or same culinary way as the preceding, nor sucks on the marrow of the old piece expecting the same frisson.

As it is, rather like my long sentences, the “whole thing”, especially the Choral Fantasy, is a brass band being led by a bear towards a precipice only to be saved by Beethoven’s genius; but, of course, this is the case and the key to all of Beethoven, how he resolved impossible contradictions, here between the cheesiness of the An Die Freude and Schmeichelnd Hold tunes and the grandeur of the Fourth movement of the Ninth symphony, and the lesser but real grandeur of the Choral Fantasy.

Confronted by such unpromising material, Mozart would have thought “fun fugue!” because unlike Beethoven, Mozart just wanted to have fun. But Beethoven used sonata form, melody and harmony and very little polyphony in either the CF or the Ninth. I can recall no grand fugueing tune in the Ninth as a non-musician, comparable to the fugueing passages in the Missa Solemnis and late quartets, or Bartok’s use of the fugue in Bartok’s own self-aware chef d’ouevre Concerto for Orchestra; the Ninth stays with sonata form because it was only after the Ninth that Beethoven could fill a hall with fugueing and religious tunes as he did with Missa Solemnis. The Ninth enabled Beethoven to release the Missa Solemnis and the Late Quartets except for the Grosse Fuge which was found unacceptable even by audiences who loved the Missa Solemnis and other late Quartets.

Finally (and I will try for a brevity corresponding to my brutality) we remark with Schopenhauer on how language breaks down when it tries to haruspicate music because, as Schopenhauer believed, music is just more expressive than language, there being no “language of music” although in poetry there is a music of language. We sound silly…Frank Zappa remarked of rock and roll music “criticism” that it’s written by people who cannot write by people who cannot read. Hamlet is like the Art of Fugue as evoked by Glenn Gould:

How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused.

But the Art of Fugue is unlike Hamlet, where we abused the logic of language necessarily (normal “like” is symmetrical but aesthetic “like” is more like Facebook Like) to show this incommensurability.

“The Greatest Piece of Music Ever Written”

There’s nothing like the above to make one lose one’s tiffin because it sounds so wrong. I used to think of it as the lack of culture on the part of cultural workers in classical music where classical music, being organized along industrial lines with the conductor CEO and interrelations among various “chairs” so savagely defended as to make jazz, with its shifting and improvisational harmonies, seem truly civilized despite jazz’ reputation for barbarism which is of course, unmerited even in Adorno’s thought…”On Jazz” takes popular culture seriously as the attempt at a minimum to rebuild a destroyed civilization while “media studies”, post Adorno, accept the degringolade.

But take a look at “the greatest piece of music ever written”. Comparative adjectives, “Great, greater and greatest” announce in a rather high-handed way that music is a song-contest, that is as seen in Tannhauser and Die Meistersingers, where in a song-contest it’s taken for granted that the judges can predecide the genre; a truly human, humanist, humanitarian song-contest would be first broadened to eliminate the requirement that the entrant sing a song and might allow him (or her!) to play an instrumental. The word “song” has been generalized by the iPod so that idiots can identify a “piece of music”, which places a movement of an instrumental symphony on the same level as Amazing Grace but we never generalize genres for human needs as opposed to the needs of gadgets.

[NB My butt hurts and I need to take a stilnox and pass out. Real soon.]

But worse is “piece” of music which is used most of the time to reduce the effect of the whole by means of focusing on a part of the whole. We cannot, goes the reasoning, sit still for more than, say, thirty minutes. Therefore let us listen to a piece of music. Oh what a nice piece of music.

But music’s role is to overmaster us like the angel who wrestled with Jacob:

Herr, ich lasst dich nicht, du segnest mich denn

Until we say like Jacob said, Master, I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.

Music should be in control, we cannot control our reaction to it. Like Beethoven, the Grateful Dead, as music, forces us to follow Uncle John’s Band; the seeming cultishness of the Dead’s followers is contradicted by the fact that they were normal people with normal jobs who just happened to follow the Dead around the USA. The language of “piece” of music is nonsense: the notion of great, greater and greatest is nonsense on stilts. It’s inapplicable to pastiche: many Grateful tunes such as their Tangled Up In Blue cover here, like Coltrane’s A Love Supreme are unrepeatable, such as the Dead’s version of Tangled Up in Blue, and any use of great, greater or greatest is likewise, nonsense on stilts…we need to resign from the job as music critic while retaining all our critical facilities.

Google Becomes Evil

Years and years ago my former wife and I had to go to this Halloween party and since my wife had fallen hard for Frank Langella as Dracula she had no problem dressing in a gauzy and bloodstained night-rail and vaporing about in search of her daemon lover. But I who was drained of imagination and heart by work at the time (1980) had no idea for a costume.

So my wife a theater major grabs a mid length girl sweater that goes over the hips, a stage crown I’d given her, and puts a pillow into the back of the sweater and bids me GLARE, and snarl and launch into the words from our A* scene in…Shakespeare’s Richard III:

Stay, you that bear the corse, and set it down.
What black magician conjures up this fiend,
To stop devoted charitable deeds?
Villains, set down the corse; or, by Saint Paul,
I’ll make a corse of him that disobeys.

I was reminded of this when I found this video touting Google’s putatively new “knowledge graph” software.

This ad is funny until you think about it. Then it is creepy.

The accusatory voices of children when they are old enough to be able to take responsibility resulted in tragedy in my family which is why I find the kid in this video repulsive and creepy…in her snotty tone of voice, in the way she walks so slowly and announces something that the Mom could never know…as if Moms were supposed to know everything including the existence, let alone the date, of “Dress Like a President Day”. Supermoms in the USA, and Tigermoms in Asia, buy in to this system which is basically sexist and strive to be Perfect to the point of being able to know the unknown.

So this brat here expects her Mom (and Dad) to help with a massive homework assignment.

Mom triumphs (of course: she may look exhausted and stressed and a sitting duck for a stress-related illness but while Dad can die and indeed must in American films, Mom must live since nobody will, in American society, take responsibility for the children “rawly left” in Shakespeare’s phrasing.)

If we could only admit that Moms don’t always find Martin Van Buren’s image and that they fail…and wind up on the street like this Mom I met in Seattle, with her child, as long ago as 1986, we might start fighting for mandatory funds to take care of children whose mothers fail to find Martin fucking Van Buren on Google and start as a result smoking crack or something horrid like that.

The Incomprehensible Maestro Undt Seinem Antics.

As I write, he is performing a crystalline version of the Choral Fantasy using a Chop Stick interrupted only by cries of rage from our chef, Mrs Wong for to her an odd number of Chop Sticks is bad cess. I shall buy our Incomprehensible Maestro his choice of baton at the musical shop, not worrying about the expense for Chef Wong, whose son is our first chair violist when not pursuing a Stanford medical degree, is a marvelous cook in all cuisines here in our cozy Bunker.

Meanwhile the Incomprehensible Maestro’s body guards, Samson and Ajaz, despite their being fleshed villains and bloody dogs, turn out also to be talented cellists as they passionately saw away under their dear Maestro. Sometimes our IM can be a bit over the top in his gestures, one of them, they tell me, is an invitation to onanism.


I am exhausted and my butt hurts. This cannot be good for my cancer therefore it is time to pass out. All the same it is marvelous to convalesce and work here.


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