Nadia Boulanger

14 01 2019

In connection to finding the last post, I began to meander for similar videos and came upon this remarkable one of Nadia Boulanger. It contains footage from her analysis classes given in her apartment as well as an interview with a journalist. What is notable here for me is how little of use this would be to an advocate of right-wing culture war. In her class, Boulanger says that things have been said one way for a long time, but now things are changing, and they as her students would find new ways to say the things that must be said. The interviewer tries to peg her down concerning a favorite style, music that she objects to, etc. Boulanger doesn’t take the bait. She sees her role of a pedagogue as giving her students the tools to say what they want to say, not one of imposing her vision on others.

This is perhaps to be expected of someone who knew everyone from Stravinsky and Faure to Quincy Jones and Philip Glass. She knew the history of 20th century music like few could, and thus her optimism at the collective ability to continue to creative impulse unencumbered is not surprising. I can’t say that I agree with her sentiments, perhaps there is now a stagnation in the air that she could have never expected. But I consider her impartiality refreshing nonetheless.


11 01 2019

In his Theologia platonica, Marsilio Ficino sought to defend the immortality of the soul and inherent dignity of humanity. Ficino argues that the soul rests in the middle of a great chain of being, with the Christian god and angels above and animals below. His great chain of being consists of five basic levels: God, angelic mind, rational soul, quality, and body. Humanity occupies a central position between mortal and immortal — the body being mortal and the soul immortal. Ficino was deeply influenced by arguments for the immortality of the soul presented by Socrates in Plato’s Phaedo as well as the works of Plotinus.

The rest here

Faure’s Requiem

10 01 2019

To Night

9 01 2019


Starry_Night_Over_the_RhoneNight, parent goddess, source of sweet repose, from whom at first both Gods and men arose,
Hear, blessed Venus, deck’d with starry light, in sleep’s deep silence dwelling Ebon night!
Dreams and soft case attend thy dusky train, pleas’d with the length’ned gloom and feaftful strain.
Dissolving anxious care, the friend of Mirth, with darkling coursers riding round the earth.
Goddess of phantoms and of shadowy play, whose drowsy pow’r divides the nat’ral day:
By Fate’s decree you constant send the light to deepest hell, remote from mortal sight
For dire Necessity which nought withstands, invests the world with adamantine bands.
Be present, Goddess, to thy suppliant’s pray’r, desir’d by all, whom all alike revere,
Blessed, benevolent, with friendly aid dispell the fears of Twilight’s dreadful shade.

-from the Orphic Hymns as translated by Thomas Taylor

View original post

This wanting creature

8 01 2019


04_jose_guadalupe_posada_metszeteI said to the wanting-creature inside me:
What is this river you want to cross?
There are no travelers on the river-road, and no road.
Do you see anyone moving about on that bank, or nesting?

There is no river at all, and no boat, and no boatman.
There is no tow rope either, and no one to pull it.
There is no ground, no sky, no time, no bank, no ford!

And there is no body, and no mind!
Do you believe there is some place that will make the
soul less thirsty?
In that great absence you will find nothing.

Be strong then, and enter into your own body;
there you have a solid place for your feet.
Think about it carefully!
Don’t go off somewhere else!

Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of
imaginary things,
and stand firm in that which you are.


View original post

Ram Dass

7 01 2019

I try to keep my reading material diverse, so I decided it was time again to re-visit “Eastern spirituality”, this time in the form of Ram Dass‘ book, Be Love Now. A reader might be shocked to learn that I didn’t convert after reading one of the latest offerings of from the New Age / Western Hindu guru, though the book wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it could have been. It turns out that Dass is a leading figure of a core group that congealed around the North Indian thaumaturge, Neem Karoli Baba. This is sort of the most celebrity-driven faction of those interested in Indian spirituality, with seekers as diverse as Steve Jobs and actress Julia Roberts falling under the spell of this figure’s Rama / Hanuman driven-spirituality of “feed everybody / love everybody”. Read the rest of this entry »


4 01 2019

This could be a contrarian post about how I once hated pop music but now I sort of like it (in moderation), but that would be expected. Recently I got around to reading John Seabrook’s book, The Song Machine, that is inside look at how most Top 40 songs have been made in the last two decades. Briefly, many of these songs are the work of a group of Swedish producers who work in a highly formulaic and methodical manner. Many of them are the product of a superior musical education program in that country, and some like Max Martin didn’t even start out in pop music. Seabrook even confesses at the beginning of the book being more of a rock critic, but saw an opportunity to investigate a phenomenon that he found obnoxious.

If pop music sounds like it’s in a bit of a time warp, as in songs haven’t changed much in the past 20 years, it’s because it’s probably because of the same people producing them. Compare music from 40 years ago on the radio to songs from 20 years ago and you might start getting the gist of this. From groups like Ace of Base and the Backstreet Boys forward, we are talking about the same cadre of producers, with some additions here and there. We also see that music has been revolutionized due to digital downloads, the Internet, and YouTube.

These are commonly known problems. The question I am left with is: Is the music any good? Is it a profound affront to actual music, as many people adamantly protest? I think a more interesting question concerns its universality. We all know the secrets if we forced ourselves to think about it: familiar beats, an infectious hook, and near-obnoxious mass marketing. It turns out that people like hearing what is familiar, even if they hate a particular song at first. How does one measure a song that has been viewed, listened to, or downloaded millions of times against a work by Bach or Couperin that may have been performed in a church a couple of times during their lifetimes, and perhaps only occasionally in concert halls now? Does scale ever factor into the consideration? Can one at least admire a little the global apparatus that is the “Song Machine”? Is that not a tremendous work of art in itself?


The Apocalypse of Pope Francis

2 01 2019

By “apocalypse” in the title, I don’t mean that Pope Francis will somehow trigger the end of the world, or that he is the Anti-Christ or an anti-Christ. That might be a popular take in some circles, but it is not one I agree with. I take “apocalypse” here in its literal sense of “unveiling”. The ascendancy of Pope Francis this decade has revealed the real essence of the global Church with all of its contradictions. Both liberal and conservative, intellectually derivative and addicted to saccharine kitsch, the actual position of the Catholic Church remains indecisive. Should it fully transition into modernity or pull back into the barracks of reaction? I don’t think the issue will be resolved any time soon. Read the rest of this entry »