Antonio Negri’s catechism of the revolutionary militant

Inspired by “learning plays” by Brecht and Müller, Negri wrote a “morality play,” Swarm, structured as a Way of the Cross of a revolutionary militant on his way to the common of a Franciscan multitude.

20 May 2020

Posted in Left, Revolution | Tagged , , , , , ,

“Ο Μάρκος Μέσκος στον Μέλανα Δρυμό της ποιητικής”

Το τεύχος 86 (Μάρτιος 2020) των Σημειώσεων είναι αφιερωμένο στον Μάρκο Μέσκο.  Στη  συμμετοχή μου τονίζω πως ο Μέσκος και η υπόλοιπη παρέα του περιοδικού “κάνουν τη μεγάλη θεωρητική τομή στην ελληνική ποίηση στη δεκαετία του 1970 όταν με το ποιητικό και δοκιμιακό έργο τους βρίσκονται να συνομιλούν με τον Ντεριντά χωρίς να έχουν απαρνηθεί τις καταβολές τους στον Λούκατς, φτάνουν δηλαδή να στοχάζονται μεταμοντέρνα χωρίς να έχουν απορρίψει τον μοντερνισμό. Ενώ η πρώτη μεταπολεμική γενιά ποιητών έμεινε προσκολλημένη στη σχέση λογοτεχνίας και επανάστασης, η δεύτερη γενιά, εκείνη των Σημειώσεων, παραδέχτηκε πως για τη λογοτεχνία η επανάσταση είναι ένα λογοτεχνικό θέμα.”

Νοέμβριος 2019

Posted in Friends, Greek Poetry, Left, Melancholy, Revolution | Tagged ,

“Looking for the perfect beat”: Great pop songs since the 1950s

What is pop music and what makes it irresistible?  One way to find out is to list irresistible songs.  All fans of pop music make lists so here is my personal anthology of great Pop songs.

13 May 2020

 

 

Posted in Popular Music

The pride of friends

Is he one of the very best collaborative pianists in the world?

A distinct feature of powerful friendships is that great friends admire each other greatly.

With our great friends, we identify in each other with some important personal things (such as features, qualities, and capacities) which we treasure, praise, perhaps even emulate.  We reflect on these wonderful things, endlessly impressed and happy that our friend possesses them.  Whether they are intellectual, moral, educational, or corporeal, we wish to see these characteristics preserved, cultivated, refined, displayed.  We keep telling our friend how great they are at them.

Because they represent our friend at their best, these characteristics also enrich our own personal identities and lives as lessons in conduct and distinction.  We approach them as peaks of our experience, summits of our understanding.  We also feel the need to tell others about our friend so that they too may admire and praise our friend’s knowledge, virtue, skill, beauty, or experience.  Social high esteem for our friend makes us happy since we feel they are the best and we want everybody to believe it too.

Sometimes of course we exaggerate and, in response, we are asked to be more measured in our praise.  Yet it is very hard to temper that most excited voice of enthusiasm for a dear friend, the exhilarating sense that nothing compares to their abundance, and our desire to honor and celebrate it.  If we believe that a friend can do, display, contribute, achieve something extraordinary, we feel fortunate to have them as friend, and we want many people to admire them as well.

Since Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis is my other self, I often see his musical and educational qualities in a most enthusiastic way, and it is then that I consider him one of the very best collaborative pianists in the world.  I am not stating a fact, I am declaring how proud I feel of my accomplished friend, and more than ever I do so today, on his birthday.

8 May 2020

Posted in Friends

The time of friends

Friends operate on their own time.  The time they spend together cannot be estimated by calendars and schedules since they walk together at the unique pace of their friendship.

When friends communicate, the time they share expands.  It grows flexible and malleable.  It spreads, moving outside all measurement.  The friends’ moves determine its size, their pulses its duration.

When sharing parts of our lives with great friends, we do not become oblivious to time.  Friendship is not an overpowering bliss that takes us out of history to soak us in ecstasy.  It is an intensification of history, and that is why its proceedings seem to take a long time.  When we are enjoying the grand company of friends, we do know that time is passing but do not care because, no matter how long it takes, we can always accommodate it in our day.  The time of friends overrules all time scales.

Our usual live or virtual conversation with Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, my other self, lasts three to four hours since, in addition to news and sentiments, it includes recent discoveries, new ideas, personal projects, collaborative plans, silent reflection, and ample room for staring in mutual admiration, the contemplation of our blessed togetherness.  As Pantelis likes to say, “Right now, I would rather be here with you than anywhere else.”  While we converse, we are aware that time is passing, and we mark its flight in different ways, but we don’t mind since we are also creating our own time, carved out of the public one, a time that sets the tone for the internal history of our friendship.

When we get together with a friend, we enter a very special chronos/space of time, a periodic one, the rhythmic return of our friendship.  We slow down and sit back, marveling at being once again at-tuned and also affirming our shared future.  The immanent time of friends is not a measuring of meter but a rhythming of refrain.

30 April 2020

Posted in Attunement, Friends

Learning from the listening skills of composers

When we discuss musical classical works that draw on other classical works we focus on allusions, references, quotes, paraphrases, parodies and the like, trying to see how new compositions revise and appropriate earlier ones.  However, I have been thinking that such inventive treatments are also the record of inventive listening.  Thus, we can listen to them to discover how composers listen to their predecessors, and we can learn from these creative receptions different listening skills.  For example, we may listen to several appropriations of Paganini’s 24th caprice in order to understand not modes of composition but composers’ techniques of listening which in turn may affect our own listening.

Three recent first recordings of new pieces drawing on Beethoven sent me back to two earlier similar pieces, and together made me think about techniques of listening to Beethoven.  If I were to learn from each one of these pieces, how would my classical listening be affected?

Raptus:  The Freedom of Beethoven (2019) by the German Enjott Schneider (1950) is a ten-minute orchestral piece in two parts depicting, first, Beethoven’s struggle for freedom, and then, his humble thanksgiving.  It uses numerous familiar quotes and dramatizes them by making them emerge in dynamic, self-affirming ways which reward the listener’s ability to recognize them.  It encourages a traditional hearing that seeks the composer, recognizes his endeavors, and honors his suffering.  So long as listeners admire a great artist’s fight for his “freedom,” they do not even need to know his music.  The quotes can do their own celebratory work.

Absolute Jest (2012) by the America John Adams (1947) is a twenty-five-minute concerto for amplified string quartet and orchestra which the composer originally was going to name after David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest (1996).  It is a single movement scherzo that quotes numerous scherzi from Beethoven’s late quartets as well as symphonies and piano sonatas.  The quotes are not itemized and emphasized in their uniqueness but integrated in a higher synthesis, a symphonic monument to Beethoven.  As they revel in a universe lovingly composed with motivic gems and cells, towering toward a self-congratulatory crescendo, listeners are encouraged to admire, in “jest” as well as awe, the contrapuntal supremacy of the composer’s powerful yet playful world.

Con brio (2008) by the German Jörg Widmann (1973) is a twelve-minute concert overture that contains no exact Beethoven quotations but sounds like variations on fake quotes from the 7th and 8th symphonies.  It playfully challenges listeners to identify quotes they think they just heard or they are about to hear though actual quotes never materialize.  It sounds more like a survey of the ways in which composers from Mahler to Varèse to Widmann himself listened to Beethoven.  It certainly works as a deconstruction, not of Beethoven’s work but of the classical tradition, and, like any effective deconstruction, it ends up affirming its object.  Listeners are encouraged to recover this tradition, understand its codes, admire its operations, and receive it as its worthy inheritors.

Nine in One – You Really Can Listen to Beethoven (2018) by the Austrian Wolfgang Mitterer (1958) is a fifty-six-minute mash-up consisting of all the themes from all the Beethoven symphonies with running electronic commentary.  The composer took a 2006 recording of the symphonies and fragmented it through splicing, sequencing, looping and the like.  The mix & blend floats on an electronic space in a rather paratactic way.  Rather than a synthesis of some kind, this is a catalogue of samples of equal promise and availability from which anybody can draw for their own mash-up purposes, musical or other.  Listeners are encouraged to salvage and repurpose their own arbitrary choices from the detritus produced by the decomposition of classical organic forms.

Ludwig van:  Hommage à Beethoven (1969) by the Argentinian Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008) is a non-work for any combination of forces lasting a minimum of fifteen minutes.  Its non-score consists of photos of fragments of Beethoven scores pasted over all walls and furniture of the music-room in Bonn’s Beethovenhaus for the purposes of Kagel’s film Ludwig van:  A Report (1969).  Any number/kind of performers play whatever they like, either from the non-score or any other sources.  This random performative activity does not even constitute an avant-garde engagement since it does not criticize anything in particular.  It just attacks what Adorno called the “musealisation” of tradition by demolishing the very conditions of that tradition.  Its nihilistic echoclastic (cf. iconoclastic) frenzy encourages listeners to denounce classical music as idolatry and never engage with it again.

I have commended briefly on these five works in order to illustrate my argument that they each suggest a different technique of classical listening (in this case, to Beethoven).  I did not comment on points of convergence (their shared gestural theatricality) and divergence (attitudes to canonical interpretation).  Since my blog is dedicated to the listening arts and skills, I wanted to indicate how our practices of classical listening may be enriched tremendously by learning from the codes and regimens mobilized by musicians who belong in some way to the same guild.  A similar argument can be made about listening energetically to other musical genres as well (pop, jazz, folk) in ways their masters do.  What remains very important to me is to continue meeting my other self, Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, where music and friendship converge, and learning from listening to him listening with me.

20 April 2020

Posted in Classical Music, Listening | Tagged , , ,

“The price of the revolution”

I propose that Heiner Müller wrote the learning play Mauser (1970) to show that rebellion against party discipline means betrayal of the revolution and deserves punitive measures.  To convey this lesson, he composed a pre-tragic ritual for chorus only, where any claim to personal freedom is treated as a violation of collective necessity, and the only ethics is politics.

8 April 2020

Posted in Left, Revolution | Tagged , , , , ,