Monday, May 18, 2020

Madness While Our Time Runs Out

I don't mind that people so often disagree with each other on the Web, because people disagree all the time, everywhere.

What I do mind is that people often disregard what is posted, but then argue, instead, against their own projected statements.

Like this:

PERSON ONE: A, A, A. Definitely and clearly A.

PERSON TWO: So what you're saying, then, is B.

And so on.

I wonder, too, how many people misread fiction in the same ways that they misread comments on the Web -- and not only fiction. Back in the days when Internet Movie Data Base included discussions, I often suspected that people had in mind films that played more in their heads than on the screen.

Yes, there will always be variations in how we interpret any work of narrative (and certain stories thrive on ambiguity) but is it too much to ask for people to interpret what is actually there on the screen or in the prose?

Another way to look at this (I call it the Shakespeare way, but many writers and artists follow it), is to recognize that most people live in their own heads, perceive only what they want to see, project the inside of their skulls onto everything and everyone around them; to recognize all of this and to not grieve, but, instead, to revel in the spectrum of our human variety, inanity, insanity. Education is a myth, correction is impossible, self-awareness remains a struggle even for the best of us, and so why not salute the madness while our time runs out?

I wish I could.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

What Do We Mean By Difficult?


Because musicians and students must analyze music, their perspective on the difficulty of a work is often different from the perspective of someone, like me, who listens for the mere pleasure of sound. For example, decades ago, I read that Webern's work was notoriously difficult, but when I sat down to hear it, I found the music accessible, compelling, haunting in its beauty. Of course, that ease of hearing was the result of hard playing by the musicians.

In a similar way, after having read of how difficult Elliott Carter's quartets can be to perform, I heard last night the Arditti Quartet play Carter's Quartet No. 1, and found the music accessible, enjoyable, beautiful. Right away, I heard the piece again, and again found it no more difficult than, say, the quartets of Bartok or Ligeti.

For those of us freed from the task of mastering a piece of music, hearing it can be an uncomplicated pleasure, and one that we owe to dedicated performers. I wish this idea were common, because I often suspect that many casual listeners avoid modern music (the music of a century ago!) because they have heard of how challenging it can be. And it often is a challenge -- to performers. To the rest of us, the task is often easier; all we need to do is to listen.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Powerful and Strange

In this time of doubt and futility, I let someone whose opinion I respect read part of my current project; he called it "powerful, strange, and well crafted."


I held that comment in the same way that I have seen a woman cradle a mug of tea close to her chest on a snowblind morning.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Your Hell, and Mine

One of the curses of life in an atomized, neoliberal society is a decay of solidarity: a failure to recognize the social and political connections that could bring us together and transform the system, if we could only see how close we are to being targeted as others have been.



Right now in Canada, First Nations territories are being invaded by a federal military force allied with corporate power, but these attacks on a sovereign people are hints of methods that could be used against the rest us, easily, as long as we fool ourselves with illusions of being protected by laws and public pressure -- the same laws being flouted by Trudeau and Horgan, the same public pressure that has not yet stopped these attacks.


Neoliberalism has fooled many people into thinking of themselves as consumers instead of citizens, as isolated economic units at work and play in a web of market transactions, not as human beings alive in communities and countries. This lie promotes a tendency to turn away, to see political brutality as a problem for "someone else." But if we turn away, if we pretend to be "above the fight," if we refuse to recognize the universality of human pain and the danger of corporate abuse, how could we expect other people to stand beside us when the cops break down OUR doors in the middle of the night?



Whether we like it or not, we are all stuck in the same hell. The least we could do is to lend a hand, because every human hand resembles ours.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Learning, Loving, Living

When I tell myself to rush, I freeze up. When I tell myself to slow down, I stop. Finding a balance between frozen and motionless can be a challenge.