Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Anti Art Again

For Mann's twentieth-century Faustus, a German composer of genius, all the most fruitful possibilities in music have already been so brilliantly exploited that nothing is now left for the art except a parody of itself and of its past -- a self-mockery, technically accomplished but spiritually dead in hope, in short, an "Aristocratic nihilism." It is "anti-art" in the sense of art turning finally against itself. And this modern Dr. Faustus, so cerebral and self-conscious before the variety and richness of what has already been done, sells his soul to the devil -- as in the old Faust legend -- in order to be able once again to produce great art. The special horror is that this involves the willing, the deliberately chosen, destruction of part of his brain in order to free himself from the crippling inhibitions of self-consciousness -- a partial destruction of the brain that is to be followed, after the agreed lapse of years, by what he knows beforehand will be a complete disintegration.

The universality of the problem lies in the fact that the arts, in addition to everything else that can be said of them, are also the sensitive antennae of human life generally; that as with them so, in time, with everything else that we still subsume by the word "culture" (however inadequate the word--but we have no other shorthand term). If what is implied in Mann's fable is or even could be true, or half true, then what of man's situation in general as he is now beginning to face, and will face increasingly, the potential self-division forced upon him by his growing literacy and sophistication -- his knowledge about himself, his past, the immense variety of what has been done and said, all brought with immediate focus and pressure, like a huge inverted pyramid, upon the naked moment, the short flicker, of any one individual life?

Bate, W. Jackson, The burden of the Past and the English Poet, p.10-11

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Hee-larious that Mann wrote his Fausts fable while "living in exile in Southern California."

Southern California--a great place to disable part of your brain in order to make art.

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Speaking of "the immense variety of what has been done and said, all brought with immediate focus and pressure, like a huge inverted pyramid, upon the naked moment," I went to VCMI.

Good times, and worth every penny. The chance to have Darśana with the likes of Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, Ramon Strid, Giorgio Magnanensi, François Houle, Benoit Delbecq, the Bozzini string quartet and Ken Morrison, let alone the chance to suck up plenty of sonic prana spilled freely and generously by the unnervingly capable instrumentalists gathered for said event made it well worth the capital.

What was especially interesting about VCMI (for me, anyway) was all the different huge inverted pyramids pressuring the different individuals.

Certainly everyone has the Bill Dixon/Cecil Taylor/Charles Gayle/Jimmy Lyons/Marco Eneidi pyramid stabbing them in the chest, no?

Well, no, actually. In fact, only one "old guy at the club" had that particular pyramid problem. The rest were plagued by, well, other things and other people. This pyramid disparity became quickly apparent within the first hour or so of classes at VCMI, thus compelling me, as old guy at the club, to keep a list of proper nouns heard at said event.

So here you go, an incomplete list of proper nouns I heard at VCMI in no particular order without citation as to who said them or the context in which they were said:

Jon Falt
John Rahn
Boulez: Dialogue Between a Man and his Shadow
Messian: Quartet for the End of Time
Francois Louie Reeds
Daniel Pinchbeck
David Chokroun
Barry Guy: Phases of the Night
Charles Farrel
Ned Rothenberg
Michael Nyman: The Piano
Lynn Picknet
Richard Hoagland
William O. Smith
Jessee Canterbury
Christopher Dudney
Cornelius Cardew
The Oxford Linguists
Jean-Marie Londeix
Maggie Nichols
Peter Van Bergen
Coat Cook
Hilliard Ensemble
Peter Eisman
Joel Ryan

Charles Muses: Destiny and Control in Human Systems
Jacques Attali: Noise: The Political Economy of Music

Lars Gullin
Stephen O'Malley
Arthur Young
Foucault: Discipline and Punish
Martid Davidson
Tony Faulkner

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How did that list make you feel? We'll analyze said list another time--for now I just wanted to share.

And I really did have a good time at VCMI, and I am eager to find out who will be at next year's VCMI, as I would love to attend it again (and again.)