On that note (the Halloween one), a commenter at Pharyngula today had a good zombie joke:
Q: What do vegan zombies eat?Heh heh.
Q: What do vegan zombies eat?Heh heh.
The voice of Daniel Hamm, a 19-year-old member of the Harlem Six--five of whom, including Hamm, were later acquitted--is first heard clearly saying, "I wanted to come out and show them." The phrase "Come out and show them" is then transformed through phasing to become an evolving series of rhythms, timbres and pitches. These early works remain fascinating, but their politics is troubling. They seem to spring directly from the civil rights struggle, and yet the phasing process calls attention away from the meaning of words to their sounds.This provoked your hot-tempered blogger to fire off the following peevish missive in the general direction of the Nation website:
Re: David Schiff's description of Steve Reich's "Come Out" ("A Rebel in Defense of Tradition"):Of course The Nation is a political magazine, not a music magazine, so it's not surprising that their writer frets about music that seems content to produce magic rather than advance the revolution. And I'm certainly not waving the flag for "aestheticism" or "formalism," whatever the commissars of political correctness may say. I just don't see how self-consciously "political" art, which is invariably crap, can even do what it's supposed to do, let alone what it should be doing.
For gosh sakes, it's "Come out TO show them," as anyone who's actually heard this piece can tell you. As Schiff mentions, what happens when the loops overlap is that you no longer hear repeating loops of text but instead the repeating sounds of one or two phonemes. So you hear "mm-mm-mm-mm-mm" at the same time as "o-o-o-o-o," as well as the more percussive "tsh-tsh-tsh-tsh-tsh" (from "To SHow them"). Hard to forget.
Not only that, it's not even "I wanted to come out (and/to) show them," as if Hamm were explaining why he was there in the first place. Here's Wikipedia on the matter:
"The voice Reich eventually used for the work was that of Daniel Hamm, then nineteen, one of the boys involved who was not guilty of the murder, saying: "I had to open the bruise up and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them." Hamm had punctured a bruise on his own body to convince police that he had been beaten; they had not previously wanted to treat Hamm's injuries, as he had not appeared sufficiently wounded."
So yes, "the phasing process calls attention away from the meaning of words to their sounds" - that's why the piece works at all, a point analogous to one Schiff explains very well w/r/t "Clapping Music": these pieces concern the relation between rhythm and sound ("the ordinary became magic"). But the idea that this makes the "politics" of these pieces "troubling" is just silly. It's actually the ham-handed didacticism of some of Reich's later works which is politically troubling, as if he were losing faith in his art - as if magic were somehow insufficient - and felt he needed to preach instead. Still, he is (was) a titan, and "Music for 18 Musicians", at least, will live forever.
This [an unholy conglomeration of Hobbes, Russell, and Frege – don't ask] has led to the fatuous injunction "Don't look for the meaning; look for the use," as if it were possible to discover the use of a word without first ascertaining its meaning as used, a meaning that it must have had before it was used in order to be used in one certain way rather than another. Language does not control thought, as contemporary linguistic philosophers appear to believe. It is the other way around.This is worse than useless. If it were simply false, then it would at least be something to argue against. But it's just a muddle of Colbertan truthiness (avant la lettre, I suppose). Adler doesn't mention Wittgenstein, the apparent target here, but it's just as well, considering the hash he makes of it. If you've never heard of him, Adler was the 50's equivalent of William Bennett, pushing upper-middlebrow quasi-Aristotelian pop moralizing as a tonic for midcentury modernistic ennui. (10 P. M. is subtitled "Basic Errors in Modern Thought - How They Came About [neglect of Aquinas], Their Consequences [Communism and hedonism], and How to Avoid Them [Take a Guess].") In the bio-blurb, the publisher (MacMillan) blithely refers to the author as "America's foremost philosopher." I think that's because he's the one who's been on TV (he had a PBS series on the Great Books or something).
Moral values are rather strange. We cannot see them, hear them, or feel them, but we cannot doubt they exist. A witness to a crime sees the criminal and the victim, but what is perhaps most important remains invisible—the moral evil of the act.Much predictable whining about naturalism and relativism later (okay, only a few paragraphs – these things are short), we get:
Yet evil is unquestionably there [....] Good and bad are unseen but real, much as God is said to be. Does that suggest a close tie between two mysteries, moral values and God?
More important, we should consider the very nature of moral obligation. [Okay, fair enough: what is it?] We cannot be obligated to atoms, or gravity, or evolution, or time, or chance; we can be obligated only to persons. [So far, so good, I suppose; but it can't last ...] Indeed, we typically learn morality from our parents, and we stick to our standards at least partly out of loyalty to those we love. An absolute standard, one without exceptions, one that binds everybody, must be based on loyalty to a person great enough to deserve such respect. Only God meets that description.Ow, my head. But the other guy – a philosopher, even – isn't much better. It's right, as far as it goes (he gives Leibniz's arguments against "Divine Command Theory"), but then he goes right to the conclusion:
Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society. But they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards. Philosophers as diverse as Plato, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, George Edward Moore [!], and John Rawls have demonstrated [!] that it is possible to have a universal morality without God.Phew. Maybe this will be good blogfodder though.
Faust: O selig der! dem er in SiegesglanzeRomantic poetry, sure, but not ridiculous by any means. Here's the English:
die blut'gen Lorbeern um die Schläfe windet,
den er, nach rasch durchrastem Tanze,
in eines Mädchens Armen findet.
O wär' ich vor des hohen Geistes Kraft
entzückt, entseelt dahin gesunken!
Meph: Und doch hat jemand einen braunen Saft,
in jener Nacht, nicht ausgetrunken.
Faust: Das Spionieren, scheint's, is deine Lust.
Meph: Allwissend bin ich nicht; doch viel ist mir bewusst.
Faust: O fortunate, for whom, when victory glances,Glug. Well, at least it's got the German, and I've got a dictionary ready to hand (or is it present at hand?). By the way, there was a foreign-language section at the book sale, and most of it indeed seemed to be original language material. But there were some translations too, and it was pretty weird to see things like Racine: Werke and Isaac Asimov's Preludio alla Fondazione.
the bloody laurels on the brow he bindeth!
whom, after rapid, maddening dances,
in clasping maiden-arms he findeth!——
O would that I, before that Spirit's might,
ecstatic, reft of life, had sunken.
Meph: And yet, by someone, in that Easter night,
a certain liquid was not drunken.
Faust: Eavesdropping, ha! thy pleasure seems to be.
Meph: Omniscient am I not; yet much is known to me.