Friday, July 15, 2022

Art is the product of culture. Really. 
The thought that Mozart would have preferred to write for a small audience goes against everything we know about the music itself. Mozart wasn't a snob, but both Adorno and Schönberg were. And they became the model for the art and politics of university chairs. Jäger is blind to his own decadence. Jäger, Slobodian. and the rest. 

It's all in the manuscript.

The decadence of Weber
After Nietzsche's devastating criticism of those 'last men' who 'invented happiness,' I may leave aside altogether the naive optimism in which science–that is, the technique of mastering life which rests upon science–has been celebrated as the way to happiness. Who believes in this? –aside from a few big children in university chairs or editorial offices.

So much for disenchantment. Who needs gods when you have ghosts?


After all, I have to look out for the interests of the Institute—our old Institute, Herbert—and these interests would be directly endangered by such a circus, believe me: the prevailing tendency to block any subsidies coming to us would grow acutely. 
The late Scholastic logicians devised amusing helps to memory by which the many forms or figures of syllogism (conclusions from a major and minor premise) could be remembered. These mnemonic devices consisted of words of three syllables partly real and partly made up for the purpose. Each syllable stood for one of the three propositions, and the vowels therein signified the character of these propositions. The vowel a, for instance, denoted a general and positive statement; the vowel o, a partial and negative one. Thus the nice name Barbara, with its three as, designates a syllogism that consists of three general and positive propositions (for instance: 'All men are mortal all mortal beings need food consequently all men need food"). And for a syllogism consisting of one general and positive proposition and two partial and negative ones (for instance: "All cats have whiskers some animals have no whiskers consequently some animals are not cats"), there was coined the word Baroco, containing one a and two os. Either the word, or the peculiarly roundabout fashion of the main of thought denoted by it, or both, must have struck later generations as particularly funny and characteristic of the pedantic formalism to which they objected in medieval thought , and when humanistic writers, including Montaigne, wished to ridicule an unworldly and sterile pedant, they reproached him with having his head full of "Barbara and Baroco," etc. Thus it came about that the word Baroco (French and English Baroque) came to signify everything wildly abstruse, obscure, fanciful, and useless (much as the word intellectual in many circles today). (The other derivation of the term from Latin veruca and Spanish barueca, meaning, originally, a wart and by extension a pearl of irregular shape, is most improbable both for logical and purely linguistic reasons.)

Milton Babbitt 

This article might have been entitled "The Composer as Specialist" or, alternatively, and perhaps less contentiously, "The Composer as Anachronism." For I am concerned with stating an attitude towards the indisputable facts of the status and condition of the composer of what we will, for the moment, designate as "serious," "advanced," contemporary music. his composer expends an enormous amount of time and energy- and, usually, considerable money- on the creation of a commodity which has little, no, or negative commodity value. e is, in essence, a "vanity" composer. he general public is largely unaware of and uninterested in his music. he majority of performers shun it and resent it. Consequently, the music is little performed, and then primarily at poorly attended concerts before an audience consisting in the main of fellow 'professionals'. At best, the music would appear to be for, of, and by specialists.

Joseph Kerman on Babbitt 

His writing of the 1950s had developed into a strange amalgam. Conjoined with a fanatical scientism, a search for quasi-logical precision of reference which tortured his syntax into increasingly Jamesian spirals for very un-Jamesian ends, there was an undertone of distress, even rage, erupting into repeated assaults and innuendos directed against various predictable targets. This scarcely contained emotion issued obviously (and openly enough) from the same sense of modernist alienation as was expressed very differently by Schoenberg or, to take an even more extravagant case, Adorno. But while Adorno was telling anyone who would listen at Darmstadt and Donaueschingen that modern music was decisively cut off from decadent bourgeois culture, Babbitt at Princeton was pointing out that avant-garde music could find its niche after all – though only by retreating from one bastion of middle class culture, the concert hall, to another, the university. Like pure science, he argued, musical composition has a claim on the university as a protector of abstract thought. (The complicity of composition and theory, it will be seen, was crucial to this argument, the complicity of theory and mathematics extremely helpful.) Instead of lamenting the no-doubt irreparable breach between avant-garde music and the public, composers like mathematicians should turn their backs on the public and demand their rightful place in the academy. Otherwise ‘music will cease to evolve, and in that important sense, will cease to live'. 

SE, continuing

“Jamesian spirals for very un-Jamesian ends.” Kerman restates my arguments, marking the same line from the subjective but impersonal to the ‘objective’, formality to formalism, elision to denial, from bourgeois culture to technocratic anti-culture. But he ignores that Babbitt’s and Adorno’s prescriptions are variations of the same institutionalism, with the same positivist, Weberian, contempt for art. If Babbitt’s art succeeds it succeeds in spite of this. The undertones in his essays,  "of distress, even rage, erupting into repeated assaults” is matched in his music. The parallel is not science or mathematics but the other art music of its time: free Jazz. Formal logic is a cover. 

Expressionism in the atomic age is the product of technocracy and the bomb, the emotion escaping the denial of emotion; it's the melodrama behind positivism, from Vienna to Weimar to New York, the relation of Strangelove to von Neumann. This is what Brendel and Rosen, and Kerman, as exegetes, interpreters not pedants, who are neither positivists nor emotionalists, rationalists nor irrationalists, are describing and debating. If music is formal, how can a gesture that breaks with the form, function within it? Rosen says Brendel defends farting in Church; he misses the logic behind the change. If Beethoven puts an explosion at the end of the metrical line, then formal art has become mimetic. One of my teachers, Abe Ajay, an arch modernist, a friend of Ad Reinhardt who worked with him at The New Masses, used to complain that Beethoven ruined his music with images. "All those wonderful notes and then... Birds!!" Abe wasn’t joking, but I laughed. This is what Schoenberg and Babbitt rebelled against, not Beethoven but the only option for those following him into the 20th century: the vulgar romance of Korngold and the program music of Hollywood, music of the classical western tradition no longer independent, now subservient to another form, the art of images.  

Jäger's vanguardism is reactionary scholasticism.

Meanwhile John Ganz, who deleted his twitter account briefly after being mocked for asking why NATO could be considered colonialist, on the NY hipster wars (repeats: Nick Burns, Lorentzen, et al.)  
Cooper calls it "splendid

They pride themselves in being retrograde or blithely unaware along a number of axes, from declaring, as a last ditch Bohemian provocation, their fealty to conventional bourgeois values; their preoccupation with adolescence; appropriation of lower-brow or conservative religious themes; their affectation of not being the product of arts education but rather the native denizens of the dark underbelly of internet message boards; their deliberate cultivation of a sense of mental debility or confusion with results that less like Dadaist or Futurist experimentation and more just senseless chatter and maudlin ecstasy.
Also Ganz

They're all so confused. And they all defend technocracy: the rule of experts talking amongst themselves. 

Jäger can write about Houellebecq; all Cooper can talk about is video games and argue that It's a Wonderful Life is "the greatest American film of all time." But none of them are able to describe their own politics with any honesty. 

jumping ahead: Ganz explains fascism

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