June 16, 2010

See it in your face. See it in your eye. Lazy idle little schemer.

Hey, it's Bloomsday. Yes I said yes I will Yes! I'm celebrating by plowing through a little more of the book at a protracted, Joyce-like pace. Today's assignment: Karl Marx and History. I love that song!

As far as I know, Marx only gets one mention in Ulysses, as Bloom taunts the anti-Semitic "Citizen" in a pub:
Mendelssohn was a jew and Karl Marx and Mercadante and Spinoza. And the Saviour was a jew and his father was a jew. Your God.
Anyway, back to work corralling my insatiable appetite for tangent. But I could talk about leftist punk rock and Joyce and Lacanian psychoanalysis and somehow tie in Stalin's "Marxism and Problems of Linguistics"! No, no you can't. Now write that damn transition into that discussion of Nietzsche's concept of Eternal Recurrence already!

June 08, 2010

Through restful waters and deep commotion

It's Robert Schumann's 200th birthday today. Happy birthday! Over at The Faster Times, there's some more celebratory rambling, in which I propose that Schumann was, among other things, the first great classical-music fan. One bit of evidence: as far as I can tell, Schumann is the first composer to use the B-A-C-H motive as a tribute, in his six op. 60 Fugues. (Beethoven, apparently, did toss around the idea of a B-A-C-H overture, but never actually wrote it.) Here's Silvio Celeghin playing the second of Schumann's B-A-C-H fugues on one of Schumann's favorite instruments, the incredibly cool pedal piano:

Incidentally, the more I think about it, the more the comparison I make between Schumann and Brian Wilson holds up. One other parallel: they both love repetition, taking comfort and sustenance in particularly nourishing harmonic or melodic loops. When you think about it, both musically and biographically, "Sail On Sailor" might be the most Schumannesque rock song ever written.

June 01, 2010

Large and in charge [plus an Ivesian ramble]

Reviewing the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
Boston Globe, May 31, 2010.

Also, I forgot to link to this one over the Memorial Day weekend:

Hailing the 54th With Monumental Works. The joined Civil War memorials of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Charles Ives.
Boston Globe, May 28, 2010.

Ives's original proposed context for his "St.-Gaudens" movement is a little mysterious. It was to have been the third movement of a triptych—the second being his Wendell Phillips piece, the piano study known as "The Anti-Abolitionist Riots." It's the first movement that's a puzzle. Ives's memos refer to something called "The Common (Largo) (Emerson & Park Ch)" (scroll down here to x683). Most Ives biographers have taken this to mean "Emerson and Park Church," a reference to Park Street Church, across the street from Boston Common—but that doesn't actually make a whole lot of sense, Park Street Church having been (and still being) an outpost of rather conservative Congregationalism, and one that, in the 19th century, was not very sympathetic to abolitionists. The best possibility of an Emerson-Park Street Church connection would be the 1846 funeral of Charles Turner Torrey, an early anti-slavery activist who died in a Maryland penitentiary; Park Street Church withdrew their permission to host Torrey's funeral, after which it was moved to Tremont Temple (Emerson attended the funeral but did not speak at it). James Sinclair raises the possibility that Ives really meant Park Square, not Park Church—and Boston's Park Square does still have its copy of Thomas Ball's Freedman's Memorial, the original of which is in Washington, D.C. One other far-fetched possibility—well, maybe not so far-fetched, given the way Ives abbreviated names in his memos—is that "Park Ch" refers to a pair of Emerson's fellow abolitionists: Theodore Parker and William Henry Channing. That reading could circle back to Torrey as well: Channing did speak at Torrey's funeral, and Emerson's subsequent "Ode to W. H. Channing"—
Virtue palters, right is hence,
Freedom praised but hid;
Funeral eloquence
Rattles the coffin-lid
—has often been interpreted as a reaction to that event.