Saturday, April 24, 2021

a history of religion riff on Western art-religion: a Donatist controversy in art-religion and a progressive push for the priesthood of all believers in art-religion

In order for what I'm about to propose to make any kind of sense it will help to establish that I've been writing about thesse ideas for years.  These ideas may have started with a difference of opinion I had about a piece published in 2017 at Mockingbird 

Ethan Hein on J. S. Bach's Contrapunctus I. from Art of Fugue, Bach's legendary work as a springboard for new musical explorations

As a Bach fan I am also partial to Art of Fugue so, of course, Ethan Hein's comments on Contrapunctus I are fun to read.

Not much of a Gould fan, actually, but Angela Hewitt's Bach interpretations I really dig.  I got to hear her play Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier in concert years and years ago and it was a great recital.  I also like the Emerson String Quartet performance of Art of Fugue, too.  Kerman's book is a worthy read on Bachian counterpoint, in case you didn't already know that, and Hein quotes Kerman extensively to elucidate the appeal and longevity of Bach's late work.

Something else Hein adds is how Bach's work sounds when adapted to a contemporary drum groove.  I ... know of another contemporary appropriation of the Art of Fugue subject that has been reworked so as to be the introduction and conclusion for a sonata in natural harmonics in B minor for solo guitar.  You can play through a three-voiced fugue exposition on Bach's legendary subject using natural harmonics alone as long as you're comfortable playing the harmonics spanning just below fret 3 through frets 4, 5 and about 5.8 (the septimal minor seventh harmonic isn't actually at fret 6).  

The performance could be tighter, of course, but let's just say that I have it reliably confirmed that at the time this was filmed the composition was just a few months old.

Freddie deBoer on the pernicious influence of the cult of American minimalism in literature

I shudder to think of how many writers have been wrecked by the cult of American minimalism. If you want to define everything wrong with 21st century American writing, think of some self-impressed brodude gazing down at you in mock concern and saying “uh, have you tried writing less?” Minimalism is a virus that infected American writing in the early 20th century and which has flared back up for seasonal outbreaks again and again ever since. Minimalism says that there is nothing a writer can say that would not be better left unsaid. Minimalism lusts after a blank page. Five word sentence? Couldn’t it have been three? There’s a profoundly regressive spirit to this shit, and it teaches young writers that words are something they are confined by rather than something that empowers them. (Why write if you’re scared to write lustily and out loud?) Over and over again, “couldn’t you have said this more concisely” (OK), “less is more” (sometimes yes, sometimes no), “nobody wants to know what’s in your heart, just give us the facts” (says who?), “what, are they paying you by the word?” (fuck you). I have never known any of these crabby ass old men to be capable of writing anything that moves anyone, so I don’t know why we’re supposed to bow to their monastic wisdom. Write as much as you have to.


In our tradition minimalism is something like the mutant child of Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, James Wood, and Strunk and White. Bastards, all of them. Talented! But bastards. Strunk & White ruined a generation and I for one am glad that The Elements of Style is steadily fading into the mists of history. (For an interesting look at Strunk & White’s connection to political and social conservatism, I recommend this article by Catherine Prendergast. Favorite line: “Though a terrorist, Kaczynski is also Strunk and White's target audience: an amateur writer who hates to be wrong.”) Woods has been parodied so effectively that I feel nothing more about him needs to be said, though he has written many great book reviews. Orwell was a shitty novelist but a sublimely talented essayist who frequently used those skills to say things that didn’t need to be said. Hemingway is like Glenn Danzig in that he was a walking talking self-parody and yet at times that parody matches the moment so perfectly you don’t really care. Where was I? Oh, right - don’t let an older generation lay a curse on you just because they labored underneath it themselves. Write the way that you would like, including expansively if it suits you. The world is complicated and sometimes writing has to be too.

That Danzig reference reminds me of how much music from the 1990s I hated but never mind.  I'm going to resist the temptation to write about how Kurt Cobain and Mariah Carey distilled two paths in pop songs that "ruined melody" and paved the way for the Millenial Whooping Cough problems of mainstream pop. 

Following a chain of Freddie deBoer posts on the institutional press and journalists, he seems to be arguing that there's an impulse toward an authoritarian view of the press culture in the Twitter/Slack orbit

So for those of you who haven’t been following Freddie deBoer’s blog in the last month or so, this chain of published pieces is going to be time-consuming to read. These are presented in order of most recent to oldest links:
I have been considering what deBoer has been driving at writing about popular distrust of the institutional press, particularly with regard to the reflexive liberalism of the press, which must necessarily be kept distinct from the potentially (or actual) conservative stances of those business leaders who own the institutions and apparatuses of the press.
Granting that media and journalism are not his fields of training, what deBoer seems to be making an ultra-longform argument for is that as the institutional press goes through its death rattle members at the lowest rungs of the industry, the writers themselves, seem open to endorsing what in journalism studies used to be called the authoritarian theory of the press only instead of the state the authoritarian mentality is a weird mixture of herd mentality and social media bids at cancellation. Another way to try to put things is deBoer seems to have noticed that there are sumptuary codes around production rather than consumption in the contemporary media/entertainment/journalistic nexus of industries.

That the alt-right has been championing the libertarian theory of the press, apparently, might be reason enough for progressives and leftists to point out that the alt-right are arguing in egregiously bad faith about how faithfully they are defending the liberal tradition and/or the libertarian theory of the press.  It could be argued that, sure, the new right is arguing for the necessity of freedom of the press now but will they once cultural and institutional capture are achieved? 

But deBoer's plea has cumulatively been that journalists should not, now least of all possible times, budge on a defense of the necessity of the press and freedom of the press even if the traditional journalism industries are in a death spiral.  The liberties need to be defended for whatever comes up next.

All that under consideration, one of the problems with the newer forms of postjournalism is a lack of vetting processes.  Institutions might be corrupt or the proverbial servants of industry but they brought with them a semblance of quality control.  Whether those skill sets are still inculcated into journalists now is a bit hard to tell.  I never got into that field myself, despite having studied to go into that business.  

deBoer's warning that if progressives and liberals who want to silence the alt-right by deplatforming them find Republicans have regained power then the shoe being on the other foot will reveal just how powerful the capacity to chill and suppress speech will have become.  It might be a Captain Obvious observation but I had a professor in college once advise "Never underestimate the obvious". It might be more prudent to consider whether public figures should even be on Twitter (where they seem to be demagogues) than to consider Twitter free to suspend an account that, maybe, just maybe, shouldn't have been granted to begin with for certain public figures.  

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Igor Rekhin: 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar (complete) up on Youtube

The signal is pretty hot with distortions and there are some moments where some lower notes sustain so long in relationship to what's physically possible on the guitar that it sounds like there's some overdubbed electric work throughout but at other times it sounds like Tervo's old live recordings are present an accounted for.  Whatever the case may be, as I have the two books of scores for the whole cycle I can confirm that yes, finally, somewhere on the internet there is a recording of all 24 Preludes and Fugues for solo guitar composed by Igor Rekhin by the mid-1990s.

So far as I know no one has written about this cycle of preludes and fugues as a musical work in any language and if I'm wrong I'm more than happy to be corrected!  Matanya Ophee mentioned in a Google Groups discussion on classical guitar he was approached about publishing this cycle and passed on it but that it's published.  As cycles of preludes and fugues for solo guitar go, personally, I believe Rekhin's cycle is respectably ambitious and was the first cycle for solo guitar ever written but that I prefer to listen to the cycles by German Dzhaparidze and Koshkin and I'd like to hear the Drozd cycle if anyone has recorded that.  But keep in mind Rekhin isn't a guitarist from what I've read about him and no one else composed a solo cycle for guitar like this previously.  So even if, as a guitarist, there are cycles I enjoy more that were composed by guitarists Rekhin's cycle has been overdue for some more extended study for decades and I hope, if possible, to remedy that somewhere down the line.  

Stand outs are the pieces that have been commercially recorded in the past, namely the B flat major, D flat major and D minor entries as recorded by Illarianov (sic?) for Naxos. Vladimir Tervo's recording is a little tougher to get if you don't know where to look but Classical Archives has it in audio file format.  Of course you can "also" go listen to the entire thing from here as it's presented on Youtube.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Andrew Violette (1953-2021) an American composer who wrote a formidably long solo guitar sonata

Over at Slipped Disc Norman Lebrecht writes about the death of a composer I have heard about, perhaps a bit surprisingly, Andrew Violette.

Lebrecht lists Andrew Violette as having been a student of Elliott Carter, Roger Sessions and Otto Luening.   That's cursory, considering you can find out more over here.

Since I've listened to Violette's Guitar Sonata it's interesting how this composer seemed to start in the post-Carter vein and shifted to a different approach later.  Rochberg moments seem to have happened.