Monday, 29 August 2016

A courageous life

“.....the story of a German who wanted to be a European, of a European who wanted to be a citizen of the world”, someone who “spent the best time of his life in a social and spiritual vacuum, striving for a true community but never finding it, disconnected, restless, wandering, haunted by those solemn abstractions in which nobody else believes – civilization, progress, liberty”.

Review of 'Cursed Legacy', a new biography of Klaus Mann: 

http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/manns-inhumanity-to-mann/

The two Manns did not go along very well: Thomas was a classicist, skating on thin ice; Klaus was a romantic, thirsting for redemption. As a character, Klaus was morally superior to his father, but that only added to his troubles.

Wagner's Ring dissected

Sir Roger Scruton's new book on Wagner: 'The Ring of Truth', received a thorough review on the Standpoint website:

http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/6596/full

Quote:

'As Scruton writes of the celebrated Funeral March: “freedom, individuality, ambition and law must run their course and nothing will sound of thereafter save the distant lullaby of nature.” Love, in its most noble and sacrificial form, may transfigure us along the way, but cannot in the end rescue us from a godless and purely tragic condition, which we can only meet by willed self-abnegation. Thus the enthusiastic discipleship of Feuerbach gives way to the orientalist pessimism of Schopenhauer.'

A thoroughly pessimistic, suicidal vision of civilization, prefiguring the abysses of 20C modernism.

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I sent-in a comment under the review on the Standpoint website:

No doubt, Scruton is one of the most profound thinkers of our time, not only for philosophy but (I would say, especially) for music (his Aesthetics of Music is a superlative standard work). But he also appears to be a pessimist, and if Scruton's analyses of the Ring are true, they reveal the contradiction of non-spirituality in a work suffused with the spirituality of music. I greatly admire much of Wagner's music, but what Scruton seems to show in his book, has been achieved as well, and sometimes better, in other works of the 19th century, but purely in terms of music, and in a much more concise form: Beethoven, Brahms. And in the works of these two composers, there is no denial of the possibility of a spiritual realm (and thus of the existence of a 'god'), while the contradictions of the human condition are treated and exposed as painfully true as in Wagner, but without the load of mythical material which hinders Wagner's 'message' in the Ring.

Sometimes I have the suspicion that Wagner merely demonstrated his philosophical ideas in his stage works to create fascinating drama for its own sake - like theatre plays are supposed to be enlivened by strongly emotional effects like murder, betrayal, tragic love etc. etc. to offer an attractive evening at the theatre. There is a contradiction between the requirements of the theatre and those of philosophy, something Nietzsche had already noticed, a contradiction which does not exist in the form of absolute music because such music is non-conceptual, but 'about' meaning nonetheless.

It seems to me that works like Beethoven's symphonies and quartets, Brahms' two piano concertos and violin concerto, and his four symphonies and lots of chamber music, 'say' the same things that Wagner tried to put in his elephantine creations, but in a much more clear way.

That Scruton hardly treats Wagner's antisemitism, is right. W's obsession about Jewry was a cultural critique, clothed in racist terms. Racism was a 'normal' part of 19C discourse (think of colonialism); seeing the calamities brought-about by early industrialism and wild capitalism, and observing that on those fronts it were often people from Jewish descent who held the reigns, he connected the one with the other. It is like thinking that if you see a lot of communists with red hair, that it is their hair colour that makes them communists. A bad banker from Jewish descent is a bad banker 'an sich', not because of his descent. Thus, because of 20C history, W's antisemitism has been blown-up out of proportion. And the hatred in his writing about the subject is not more intense than the emotional intensity he put in everything else he did.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Long and sensitive toes

For music lovers, the subject 'modern music' is still a sensitive and important one, as appeared in the following discussion:

http://slippedisc.com/2016/08/atonal-music-is-a-form-of-musical-terrorism/

Still a lot of misunderstandings and clouded minds around.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Does reality count?

I stumbled into a very interesting article about how information technology in combination with the effects of globalization, populism and quasi-philosophy opened the doors to collective suicidal insanity and evil. A quote:

"Maurizio Ferraris, one of the founders of the New Realism movement and one of postmodernism’s most persuasive critics, argues that we are seeing the culmination of over two centuries of thinking. The Enlightenment’s original motive was to make analysis of the world possible by tearing the right to define reality away from divine authority to individual reason. Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ moved the seat of knowledge into the human mind. But if the only thing you can know is your mind, then, as Schopenhauer put it, ‘the world is my representation’. In the late twentieth century postmodernists went further, claiming that there is ‘nothing outside the text’, and that all our ideas about the world are inferred from the power models enforced upon us. This has led to a syllogism which Ferraris sums up as: ‘all reality is constructed by knowledge, knowledge is constructed by power, and ergo all reality is constructed by power. Thus . . . reality turns out to be a construction of power, which makes it both detestable (if by “power” we mean the Power that dominates us) and malleable (if by “power” we mean “in our power”).’"

Hence, the current rejection of facts, expertise, reality as such, the idea of truth, and the populist longing for mere 'stories' confirming individual prejudice, and the emergence of nostalgia for fake, unworkable models from history - because they are 'simpler' and cosy corners of private projections.



Are also attempts of restoring art forms to their original intentions, mere defense reactions to truth and facts? Or, in contrary, comparable to attempts to get back at truth and factual reality, like Ferraris and this New Realism movement? This is a question that has to be dealt with, to be able to distinguish the attempts at cultural renaissance from the nonsense spreading through public space..... in the end, they are both protests against 'the world as it appears to be'. The proof of the pudding is in its eating: it will be the qualities of the art works which will demonstrate reality in the context of culture. Is an existing, generally-admired work of art, say Rembrandt's 'Night Watch', mere made-up reality, because created by the artist? But certainly, it is the capacity of a work of art to move the viewer, or the listener in case of music, which counts for something. A great work of art is 'unreal' in its form, but 'real' in its contents. The artist creates his interpretation of experienced reality to say something about real reality of the human condition, which is definitely something else than populist nonsense about the world.

A very important territory to explore today, with all these shifting paradigms.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Killing innocence

Who thinks that the profoundly evil practice of training children for war, for killing, for handling rifles and granades, for cutting the throats of enemies, only takes place in the darkest corners of underdeveloped sub-Sahara Africa, has not as yet discovered the new strategy of Russia's regime to encourage families to send their kids to 'summer camps' where they are prepared for the coming wars, all under the disguise of 'stimulating patriotism'. There is an increasing militarisation going-on in this thoroughly-frustrated country, that once figured as one of the great cultures of Europe, with a very impressive harvest of literature, poetry, ballet, music and philosophy, The president hands-out rewards to Russian artists, showers them with medals, money and honors, and the gullable and vain victims of this obvious attempt at recrutement accept with pleasure: 'Finally politicians who care about art!'

Why are the young being prepared for war? One despairs about the human frailty of mind and soul. It is in the interest of the Russian regime, which becomes more and more authoritarian, that the population believes its existence, its country - Mother Russia - is under threat from the evil West. Of course we know that Russia is not threatened by the West, it is the regime who feels threatened by the closeness of nations where not nepotism, oligarchy, and mere power reigns, but the rule of law, democracy and freedom for its citizens. Hysteria, paranoia, and flagrant lies are the best preparations for catastrophe, which means that the Russian regime plays with fire and is dangerous not only for its own population, but for Europe as well. Russia pays the extremist rightwing parties in Europe, who want to destroy the EU and to return to the nationalist narratives of division, exclusion, and the rejection of human rights which forms the basis of the current asylum policies. A divided and rightwing Europe where opposition and civility is stamped-out, is for Russia a better neighbour - in short, a Europe more or less like Russia itself. In spite of the overwhelming availability of information, a majority of Russian people prefer to live in unreality, lies, emotional mist, and seeing those entirely ignorant children happily throdding through the woods, complete with uniform, rifle, and branches-as-disguise on their helmet, encouraged by 'friendly' uniformed adults, is extremely painful. The German TV documentary which showed this abhorrent practice, interviewed a nice lady representing the government, who 'taught' the young groups daily about their love for the country, the country that served them and which they in turn had to serve when the time was there. All delivered with the most friendly and matter-of-course air of absolute conviction. So: lying, brainwashing, indoctrination and finally blackmailing with the instruments having nested in the innocent souls. Satan himself could not have found a more intricate, evil process of soul destruction.

In the future, there will be eager masses, ready to storm the borders of the West where they imagine the Greatest Enemy of the Fatherland is plotting its downfall.

Freedom, civilization, the rule of law, human rights - the great enemies of the Russian regime: demonstrating the barbarious heart of the ruling elite, disguised with 'patriotism' and 'cultural stimulation'. I don't believe Russians are, as if by nature, aggressive people - they are the inheritants of a great culture and a great political crime - 70 years of communism. But it is stunning to see the readiness with which a majority is prepared to be brainwashed and indoctrinated.