Saturday, November 30, 2019

links for the weekend--Alan Jacobs on Pauline Kael on Citizen Kane; Metaxas and Graham demonize anti-Trump stances (?); and some treatises on musical stuff

Alan Jacobs has a moderately long piece on Pauline Kael's contentious and in some ways slippery take on Citizen Kane.
If you look at the black-and-white comics of the masterful Will Eisner, the similarities of Eisner’s visual language to that of Citizen Kane are obvious. (Chabon’s characters create a comic called The Escapist, which was later made into an actual comic. Issue number 6 of The Escapist [2004] includes the final appearance of Eisner’s character the Spirit, who had his first appearance in 1940, as Mankiewicz and Welles were working on the screenplay for Kane.)

Kael tries to get at a point very like this one by referring to Kane as a “Gothic comedy”: the “witty, potent dialogue” that comes from the newsroom comedies of Broadway and the early talkies is merged with the “theatrical lighting and queasy angles” that look Gothic, European, maybe even, yes, Expressionist. (But Gregg Toland, the genius cinematographer who did so much to shape the movie’s cinematic style, was not a European refugee but rather a native of east-central Illinois.) She takes the point too far, of course: Kane is greatly indebted to those earlier comedies but it would be a perverse viewer indeed who walked out of the theater after seeing Charles Foster Kane’s demise thinking “What a charming comedy.”

Joe Kavalier has a vision of comics as a powerfully hybridized endeavor: text and image, European and American, “popular” and “serious.” Similarly, Kael sees Kane as energized by the multiplicity of the forces that pass into and through it, as constituted by its tensions. What she realized was that there are more such tensions than a superficial viewing might reveal. It is easy enough to say that Kane, as a movie that portrays the downfall of a titan of print media, represents or somehow enacts the transfer of cultural power from print to film. And to say that would not be wrong. But what Kael uniquely understands is that that transfer is also a kind of homage—and more than an homage: a continuation of a flamboyant and entertaining social project by other means, in a new form.

And the tensions which generate the magnificent energies of Citizen Kane—text and image, New York and Hollywood, “serious” and “popular,” elite and arriviste, the solitary and the collaborative—continue unabated in today’s media, with the massive added complications of Silicon Valley and the world of the web; complications that turn every binary into a triangulation. And a powerful instrument for comprehending these forces may be found, oddly enough, in a movie that was released in 1941. Kael’s lies and thefts and distortions and exaggerations have served not to reinforce this vital point about Kane’s relationship with earlier media — which was, after all, the chief thing she wanted to say — but rather to obscure it. This is a shame, because if you strip away all the nonsense you find in “Raising Kane” a key that unlocks much of the mystery of the power of this endlessly compelling film, which may still be, even now, the greatest yet made.

Peter Wehner at The Atlantic broaches the polemical point of whether or not those who oppose Trump and his policies can be, as lately discussed by Metaxas and Franklin Graham, as in some sense demonic.

Wehner doesn't go so far as to say Graham or Metaxas are bad or unscrupulous people.  Metaxas was recently willing to endorse Mark and Grace Driscoll's spiritual-warfare self-help manual after reports came to light in the press regarding ResultSource (World magazine) and the plagiarism controversy kicked off by Janet Mefferd).  Metaxas seems to have joined the mutual endorsers book club crew.  Graham, there's still investigative journalism that's been going on about Graham but I can't find it in myself to take either of these guys seriously.

Here in the Puget Sound area there were folks from a more United Methodist wing that were willing to consider the idea that Bush 2 was an antichrist.  Literally or figuratively demonizing groups we're opposed to or we regard as opposed to us is how people behave, apparently.  That during the Clinton years there were those who regarded the net effect of his policies as beneficial enough that his personal conduct didn't matter, the other shoe seems to have dropped and those who have supported Trump seem to be supportive of his policies whether or not at a personal level he has demonstrated sterling character.  There is apparently room for a kind of GOP variation of "It's the economy, stupid."

If your Spanish is ... decent ... Luciano Tavares has a treatise on the solo guitar sonatas of Manuel Ponce you might want to read.  My Spanish is remedial at best but I'm familiar enough with the Ponce guitar sonatas this is going to be, I hope, on my 2020 reading projects list.
Las Sonatas para guitarra de Manuel Ponce

Dr. Luiz Mantovani has an English language dissertation on Ferdinand Rebay that I'm reading

Ferdinand Rebay and the reinvention of guitar chamber music.
The Abstract:

Ferdinand Rebay (1880-1953) was a pioneer among the non-guitarist composers who started to write for the guitar in the 1920s. However, in spite of having composed close to 400 guitar works, he is today undeservedly obscure. This thesis examines his more than 30 sonatas or sonata-structured works for guitar, most of which is made of chamber music for combinations that range from duos to a septet. In Part 1, I situate Rebay’s chamber sonatas within the guitar repertoire, understanding it as a reaction to the lighter repertoire of the guitar clubs, the turn-of-the-century's main guitar niche in German-speaking territories. After investigating the guitaristic context, I look at Rebay’s career and interactions with the Viennese guitar circles, highlighting the work of his main champion and niece-guitarist, Gerta Hammerschmid. Later, I analyse his compositional style and demonstrate that, by associating the guitar with the Austro-German Romantic sonata prestige, Rebay may have intended to elevate the instrument’s status in the eyes of the mainstream Viennese audiences. His exploration of the guitar in chamber music is equally paradigmatic, as he frees the instrument from its typical accompaniment roles and explores a fully-balanced texture in his sonata writing. In Part 2, I approach a selected group of seven chamber sonatas from a performer’s point of view. Faced with the lack of a continuous performance tradition of Rebay’s guitar music, I propose to incorporate an extended stylistic and technical mindset largely supported by historical investigation, which helps understand Rebay’s meticulous notation and realize it convincingly. Finally, I trace Rebay’s collaborative steps through the layers of information available in his manuscript sources, also proposing a “posthumous collaboration” to deal with score-based issues and make problematic passages—or in some cases, full works—playable and idiomatic. By initially situating Rebay’s guitar music and later addressing some of its most important performance aspects, I hope to provide secure historical and interpretative grounds for the modern guitarist interested in his music.

You can go follow over here to find out more and get the dissertation.

I've gotten about a hundred pages into it and it's fun.  Mantovani has cleared up a misunderstanding or early liner notes mistake to the effect that Rebay died poor and destitute away from family.  Rebay also wrote a lot more music for guitar than I had previously imagined, hundreds of pieces.  Mantovani situates the development and evolution of Rebay's writing for guitar in a context of Rebay's work in choral music and training as a pianist but also in terms of hausmusik traditions in Austrian music that go as far back as Biedermeier customs in the early 19th century. Pardon the probably bad German, never studied that language so I'm probably botching some words on the weekend.

A short links for the weekend but I get to make a links for the weekend post short once in a while. Enjoying the holiday weekend by doing some reading and ... also watching season 1 of Unikitty.  Wenatchee The Hatchet does watch animation regularly.  Brie was not going to be be voicing Princess Unikitty for the series and it's no surprise at all Tara Strong was brought in to give voice to Unikitty.  Strong being Strong, she gives a voice that I would say is like Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls if Bubbles had power-bombed four liters of Mountain Dew, a relentlessly manic performance for a character who can be seen even by her friends as oppressively upbeat and positive, which basically works.  It could also come across as immensely aggravating but voice cast and scriptwriters lean hard into this and lampshade it in moments where Unikitty in one episode has made it so her friends act like her and in a moment of doubt says, "Gosh am I really like this all the time?"

Can only watch it in small, small doses but I have to admit, basically it makes me laugh and it's what I would expect Miller and Lord to do with one of the characters who would transition from film to TV sensibly.

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