week40: mozart; roger scruton; lebron

program: Piano Concerto in b Flat—Overtures: Cosi fan Tutte, The Impresario, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni

program: Piano Concerto in b Flat—Overtures: Cosi fan Tutte, The Impresario, The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni

mozart in may—few pairings are as obvious as that. i have a harder time justifying other upcoming combinations: chopin in august, for example—i’ve already begun brainstorming my case; britten at the end of july….sibelius in october (that one shouldn’t be too difficult). the toronto symphony orchestra would seem to agree with the pairing as they started the month off with a double-billing of mozart’s piano concerto no.12 and bruckner’s symphony no.8.  

the pianoforte concerto in b flat was mozart’s last piano concerto (25 in total), first performed in the last year of his life, 1791—so much like my usual luck to start at the end… thus spoke zarathustra was the first thing i read of nietzsche, and i’ve since worked my way backwards to the gay science—perhaps that might be the case with mozart as well, moonwalking through his lexicon.

[Mozart] gives his hearers no time to breathe: as soon as one beautiful idea is grasped, it is succeeded by another, which drives the first from the mind: and so it goes on, until at the end, not one of these beauties remain in memory. “” Ditters von Dittersdorf

that in general is the appeal of classical musical to me: one is always in something of a  landscape. the terrain is at times smooth and lush with greenery, then leaps of cliffs and hillocks erupt out of thin air and thin strings, just as suddenly one is interrupted by streams and meadows and all kinds of pastoral images. whatever the landscape, one thing is sure: there are intricacies at every turn, every path winds on eternally… this kind of musicality—not at all isolated to classical music—has very little a priority for rhythm: there is nothing predictable about it’s landscape. instruments leave as suddenly as introduced, melodies are dropped with every turn. even if by necessity one remembered some fleeting portion of a tune, there is always much more in the category of forgotten. as such, how easy it is to wander this landscape, rediscover brooks and rose slopes unanchored by imagery. it’s music for the nimble footed, the terrain demands attention: careful, else you might trip over that twig there!

i think rhythm makes us lazy, heavy footed. that one knows a musical experience by it’s rhythm is to explore a flat landscape with something of an auditory map: ‘turn here’ ‘watch out for that drop’... there are hardly any secret places, hidden avenues and so on…. music that relies on the same rhythm all throughout, and is unable to deviate from its own pattern, is music primarily for the conscious experience. to see the inherent problem in that, imagine a film wherein only the main characters exist, and the background is a complete blank. one becomes too conscious of the rhythm, too expectant of the singular musical idea. we are always reacting to much more than we are conscious of—cued by images as by sounds—as such, the more there is to react to in a musical experience, that we are not necessarily conscious of, the more we are in a landscape.


...reactivity covers all stimuli my behavior takes account of in any way, while consciousness is something quite distinct and a far less ubiquitous phenomenon. [...] Consciousness is a much smaller part of our mental life than we are conscious of, because we cannot be conscious of what we are not conscious of. “” Julian Jaynes, Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown if the Bicameral Mind

what else would nietzsche have meant by his ‘without music life would be unbearable’ if he too wasn’t thinking of ‘rose slopes’ and ‘hills of cypress’? if one is in need of music as an escape, a concerto 30 minutes long is an amazon of melodies.

perhaps the very thing von dittersdorf is accusing mozart of is proof of his genius….the multivariety of musical ideas, so much of it that none remains in memory. ‘if you always tell the truth then you never have to remember anything’?—well then, if the musical landscape is large enough, you can’t remember everything. boredom isn’t a possibility here, there’s always something left therein to be introduced to for the first time. (special attention ought to be brought to the fact that my man’s name is ‘ditters von dittersdorf’.......sure).

but his criticism is still relevant to some artists today, especially those who have a high creative metabolism and exist perpetually in-between projects. beyonce, for example. any of her hits could have been a lifelong anthem in the style of alannah myles’ black velvet. instead each new song of hers is immediately robbed of its spotlight—by her next hit. there was a time when her ‘halo’ was inescapable and perpetually within earshot. though part of this might be less a result of her creative metabolism and more of the incredible breadth of the current musical landscape and the incredibly fast metabolism of even the most occasional subscriber to the infinitude of streaming services.

Speaking generally, where the piano works of Mozart are concerned, it might be suggested that the critics have taken an altogether too serious point of view with regard to them. "" Sacheverell Sitwell, Mozart

perhaps any serious attitude regarding this concerto is already too serious…or what is one to make of all the small riffs and rivulets of the piano? mere intimations of the instrument’s capacity for frolicking? especially in the hands of a wunderkind who maintained his boyish appeal into adulthood and was ‘more affected by the italian sun than by an onset of small-pox’?... 

elsewhere. a sudden and inappropo insight into why i’m writing this: perhaps it’s much less than insight, even the opposite?—outsight?—it’s too early to tell what this is…as that good song by the carpenters goes “we’ve only just begun...”


—at any rate, one can take a good guess: i’d always wanted to become a philosopher. ever since i realized that even my most blessed sunday mornings were still, and would ever be, diametrically opposed to every kind of religiosity—this not despite a rigorous religious upbringing but precisely because of it… the most vigorous atheists have always had priests as fathers (nietzsche’s father carl ludwig, for example, was a gentle lutheran pastor). for such offsprings, some kind of an epiphany is inevitable. what a terribly exhausting thing it is to have an epiphany—no one says it often enough how we in fact suffer from epiphanies. what is left of energies then when one has back-to-back epiphanies? for example, that i should realize therafter that i’m no philosopher? again because of that same upbringing. having been enchanted by the  hallowed lights of one too many sunday mornings; how then could i adjust my eyes to the judicious fluorescent lights of our modern philosophers—casting everything equally in same artless glow? setting the same tabula rasa at the seat of every idea? i caught many a glimpse of what makes for today's analytical philosopher and was again and again convinced of the inherent brilliance in becoming, by today’s standards, a failed philosopher.

the first thing needed in succeeding at this kind of failure is to say very little of anything new. enough of that. merely one has to look around and at what is at hand: the artists, composers, filmmakers, athletes—the long etcetera of the here-and-now. they are always in need of ever finer eyes and ears, of organs that bare as much witness as they create. yes, fine ears and eyes… whatever degree of cultivation one has managed, of aesthetic bias and favouritism (what we mean by ‘taste’) is much more interesting, far more brilliant than every kind of tabula rasa. every kind of sub specie aeternitis.

Sure there were real heroes like Havel, Kanturkiva, Vaculik, people who had lost the arena in which they could have shone as public figures. But such people belonged to the heroic past, and now we had to deal with the remainders, the failed writers, failed philosophers, failed artists, journalists, composers, and performers who, by donning the mantle of dissent, dressed up in the borrowed costumes of the heroes. “” Roger Scruton, Notes From Underground.

but my here-and-now is also in the spirit of bygone philologists to whom all of the decipherable past is available as a contemporary. it is at least one line of defence against the infinitude of options available as entertainment to not be confined to what is ‘just released’. when the contemporary is not the primary arbiter in taste and consumption, one is liable to cultivate a slower appetite towards artistic experiences—one more susceptible to awe and attracted to the inherent longevity of true artistic experiences. all the while, in the meantime,  one shouldn’t be at odds with fleeting fanfares and the clamours of carnivals passing by.

elsewhere. in the nba for example: we’re down to the final four and the raptors managed, against all odds, despite every kind of encouragement, to excuse themselves from the quartet—lebron’s plan as they say. who is more ‘for real’—the rockets or the celtics?...we’ve only just begun...