Saturday, May 13, 2017

yet another incubation phase

Longtime readers of the blog may recall how I've written over the years about the ins and outs of contrapuntal music for solo guitar.  Some of you might even remember that somebody was working on a cycle of preludes and fugues for the guitar.

Technically more than one person.

Well, this year I was thinking I might finally get around to doing some blogging on contrapuntal cycles and not just those for the guitar.  Something like a general overview of the following cycles is what I've been considering:

Castelnuovo-Tedesco's cycle for two guitars
Nikolai Kapustin's preludes and fugues
Shostakovich cycle thoughts (though so much has been written about this cycle I might not directly blog about this cycle)
Henry Martin's 24 preludes and fugues
Rodion Shchedrin's cycle

But for the guitar I was thinking I'd want to tackle the aforementioned Tedesco cycle as a topic for blogging and throw in Igor Rekhin's set of 24 preludes and fugues.

But now, thanks to Editions Margaux, Nikita Koshkin's cycle has finally been published.  :)  This is exciting since I've been an admirer of Koshkin's music for decades, having been introduced to his work by another musician.  The fun part for me is that I heard of Koshkin's music not through another guitarist but through a drummer!  When a drummer suggests to a guitarist that Koshkin's music is worth checking out that is, I think, something on the order of what Matanya Ophee was talking about in his lecture "Repertoire Issues", where he said that it was important for guitarists to play and advocate for music that wins respect not from other guitarists or the usual guitar audiences but from other musicians who are not themselves guitarists.

So later this year the idea is to blog about Koshkin's cycle of preludes and fugues.  Of course, having rattled off no less than SEVEN cycles of preludes and fugues I hope nobody expects this to just bubble up quickly!    I might even have to throw in a few references to Reicha's 36 fugues here and there. 

There's always something or other incubating, really.  There's still those essays on the Justice Legue/Justice League Unlimited series I keep meaning to finish.  Green Lantern is next on the roster that I want to get to but John Stewart's actually one of the most complex characters on the series. I meant to write a lengthy screed about why Legend of Korra was such an artistic disaster but I haven't gotten around to doing that because I hate where the show went and yet to explain why it was such a trainwreck I'd have to get into Satoshi Kon and ... what can I say?  I hated where Korra went artistically but by now I'm not sure that it deserves to be treated as seriously as a long-form critical piece might require.  I might be more likely to just review the new Wonder Woman movie or even the inevitable My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic film.  The show is, considering its demographic target, actually a pretty well-executed show.  The two cartoons that have the most compelling visual sensibilities that rely entirely on Flash animation that I've seen are at wildly opposite poles, which would be My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and ... Archer.  I heard somewhere South Park uses flash now, though, so take all this with a grain of salt.

I ended up watching two seasons of Rick & Morty because people suggested the show. The end of season 2 should have been the end of the entire series but thanks to the American way of television being what it is, it looks like we're going to get a season 3 that tries to do a take-back of Rick turning himself in after realizing what an amoral thug he is.   I know that in a lot of ways there's probably an "Adult Swim" aesthetic or ethos that's been brewing since as far back as Space Ghost Coast to Coast.   In a way the sum of the Adult Swim vibe could be to take Cold War era icons and put a nihilistic spin on them.  Some shows do this more effectively than others. 

While I get that some people may think Rick & Morty is funny and perhaps even profound I never get that sense.  The reset button always gets slammed hard in American comedy.  American TV is always going for the reset button.  In anime, whether on television or even in film, when something breaks it doesn't get fixed.  But then anime has a long tradition of characters who choose the path of heroic self-annihilation over against American having-it-both-ways resolutions.  I read somewhere that Eureka was supposed to choose the path of heroic self-annihilation for the sake of the people she loves in the series Psalms of the Planets but audience protest led to a different, more upbeat ending.  Considering the whole of Eureka Seven (aka Psalms of the Planets) was riffing on cultures of child abuse the poor girl was put through enough stuff that giving her an actually happy Western-style ending seemed like a relief.  Eureka set out to repent of being a "military dog" who would just kill people because she was told to, though.  But I digress.

As Adult Swim brands go the one that has the most replay value for me is easily The Venture Brothers.  Yeah, it's got a lot of brutal humor but it's humor is, so to speak, at the expense of the hubris of the mid-20th century Cold War western optimism.  As one of the show creators put it, "Here we are half a century after the Kennedy years and where's my jetpack?"  If Rick & Morty were to believe in the generational condescension that looks down on stupid normal people and conformists in a post-Simpsons style, The Venture Brothers riffs on the possibility that the generation after Johnny Quest is a drug-addled unscrupulous band of failures who didn't live up to the idealism of the previous generation but may, perhaps, be just barely saved by not being able to have the egotism of that generation.   Rusty Venture is, very simply, a self-aggrandizing idiot who thinks he's a super-scientist but is a pale shadow of his father.  But that is paradoxically what keeps him from becoming what Killinger says his nature means him to be, a super-villain.  Killinger's offer to Rusty Venture could be a thematic riff on a little monologue Chris Eigeman gets at the end of The Last Days of Disco on how the axiom "to thine own self be true" presupposes that thine own true self must be pretty good ... but what if it's not so good?  What if your true self turns out to be bad?  Then wouldn't doing the right thing be acting in a way that does not make being true to yourself the highest good? 

So, uh, yeah, there's stuff I could write but sometimes (no, often) it's the deal that I think that thinking about things more before writing is a good idea, and sometimes I just find I don't feel like writing about stuff.  The people who have read this blog consistently over the last decade may recall that it took half a decade for me to finally get around to my blogging about early 19th century guitar sonatas.  There was all this stuff I wanted to tackle in 2011 but then all this stuff happened with this megachurch I used to attend and I felt obliged to document that stuff. 

I know I keep coming back to this but one of the complains that I think critics of watchblogs would have a legitimate concern about bloggers, if they went so far as to put it this directly, is that the watchblog can seem like a new variation of yellow journalistic scandal mongering.  There are, no doubt, responsible ways to engage in blogging that can be considered muckraking journalism and anyone who has read this blog over the course of a year knows I very obviously believe watchblogging can and should be done in a responsible way, and as a discipline of journalism.  But I also believe that to the extent that what attempts to be watchdog blogging can come across like A Current Affair in Christianese blogging terms, there's reason to be wary.  Or maybe I would say, that in my experience, much of what can drain the aura of credibility from a watchblog is not so much the blogging itself as the ramshackle nature of comments.  Eh, that should probably become it's own separate post, really.


Cal of Chelcice said...

There's also this thing about the American ethos, maybe dating back from Westerns, where the hero never suffers his mistakes. This is both with the more optimistic, homey heroes whose aww-shucks do-goodery always works out, and with the quasi-anti-heroes, who drink heavily, have a mountain of dysfunctional and broken relationships, and can be amorally selfish. In both cases, the hero character always makes it out in the end. It's why, I think, Deadpool is an open secret, making fun of Americana and how convoluted and stupid we all are. But the bizarre thing is that he now has his own following, which doesn't say good things about the American people.


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Jeffrey Burton Russell made a fascinating observation about the Faust legend in European and American folklore and literature in his quintet of books about the devil that seems necessary to mention--in the European Faust legends redemption only comes through the love of someone not-Faust or through Faust having some change of heart. In the American variants, minus authors of the Flannery O'Connor variety, the Yankee makes a deal with the devil and gets to keep everything either because he out-deceives the devil or invokes a technicality in the contract or insists on an exonerating trial-by-jury of his peers. This trend in American folklore can sometimes be seen showing up even before the Civil War if memory serves (and it might not, I'm mentioning all this having read Russell's books years ago!).

Cal of Chelcice said...

Also, I'm rewatching JLU. If you want, we could co-write the articles, since I have a lot of thoughts on them as well. We can chat about it by email if you're up for it! :)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I've been away from JL/JLU for a while and I was planning on getting back to that project for Mbird later in the summer a few months before the live-action Snyder thing shows up.

This spring I'm kind of on a guitar sonata composing spree so I want to tackle the Stevie Wonder homage and the Blind Willie Johnson homage while I feel like I'm "in the zone" with those kinds of projects. Now that the Joplin homage one's gotten a premiere I'm looking forward to tackling the other two sonatas I've started this year. I feel like I would have finished one of those by now had I not felt obliged to write a long-form analysis of that Driscoll/Walsh interview.

Come early July I'll be looking at doing writing in earnest on Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and the Flash. The thread I'm still playing with is "Justice has its price" and the angle J'onn J'onz has about how they're all exiles and orphans in some way. Since DZ is likely going to be hugely busy with parent stuff and the 10th anniversary of Mbird I could use a willing correspondent to bounce ideas off of. But it'll be a month or two before I get back into that.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

with the Koshkin cycle of preludes and fugues published, which is the first time a guitar composer written cycle has been published, I'd be remiss to not eventually blog about this set. I want to get to Igor Rekhin's cycle and the great duet cycle by Castelnuovo-Tedesco. While there's a great wealth of polyphonic cycles in the piano literature from the last century, some particularly notable ones from the form Soviet bloc, English language discussions of 20th century polyphonic cycles is still strictly academic for the most part. Hoping to change that, if only at a small level. Classical guitarists have good cause to be excited about Koshkin's cycle finally being published. :) But it IS at least 200 pages worth of music!