week43: mozart, roger scruton, my morning jacket

mozart violin concertos 1&2; bath festival orchestra; yehudi menuhin, principal violinist

mozart violin concertos 1&2; bath festival orchestra; yehudi menuhin, principal violinist

The most perfect melodic shapes are found in Mozart; he has the lightness of touch which is the true objective. With Beethoven the melodies are heavier; one is clearly conscious of the labour. “” Richard Strauss, 1918

is he still relevant? who gives a fuck anyways?—these and other persisting questions….

of course he’s not relevant relevant…at worst his music persists—at best, he remains available. i feel this tremendous availability to be the supreme achievement of music as industry: it is truly in the democratic spirit of things that my shuffle button weighs evenly the chances of selecting say, david popper’s hungarian rhapsody  as say big shaq’s mans not hot (—one of the two is doubtless an ageless masterpiece, i’ll leave you with the mystery)—how anyone can still manage to cultivate any kind of ‘taste’ amidst the ever-whirling whorls of new artists—that until very recently were relegated to a private but grateful familial audience—is beyond me. thankfully one is free of old-world words like taste and cultivation, thereby being more susceptible to ‘phase’ as the periodic calibration of musical interests.

the immediate question is to whom and for what is mozart still available?—for there is an unquestionable decline in the interest and revenue available to continue introducing classical musical to posterity—the answer, i believe, is a hodgepodge of musical historicism, cultural elitism and, most interestingly, the everlasting, evergreen, interminable spirit of music that finds in classical music it’s most universal dialogue—and in mozart, among others, an apostolic concentration of the instinct for a universal melodic dialect.

For this finale is a French rondeau (Mozart’s original spelling is deliberate) in very much the same vein as those in the three other 1775 concertos, in which elegance and humour alternate. “” Robin Golding, concert notes.

for whom?  i continue to rely on what i meant earlier as the democratic spirit of things—that is, the tremendous availability of  the highest as well as the lowest to anyone possessed by even the most fleeting flicker of curiosity. the difficulty of introducing the art form to posterity is an ironic one inasmuch as i am not alone in the assumption of what is always the initial misestimation of universality  as the unique virtue of classical music as a genre.

Putting it very roughly: Mozart’s themes are timeless, those of Beethoven were written expressly for his time. “” Friedrich Blume, Mozart’s Style and Influence

cultural elitism?—well that is equal parts a source of interest and disinterest in classical music and therefore insufficient as a definitive explanation of what it is the genre remains something of a physician to. yes, a physician. among and perhaps above many things, musical experiences like the ones derived from a symphonic performance are a physician for the catalogue of spiritual ailments that characterize the nervous energy generated by the daily inquisitions of whatever it is we mean by ‘modern life’. and that is what i find most interesting, for it is the inherent capacity of any artform concerned primarily with the most terrestrial and essential dialogue of emotions or ideas that their medium can communicate. in contrast, to be in the know, in the now—a necessary and productive thing—is also to be in the perpetual heat of confusion. to what extent is what we accumulate as our ‘consciousness’  merely the spindrift of our many gears grinding in pursuit of one project after another. yes, mere spindrift—dry spittle sputtering from the heat of every kind of monday.

yet, there is no shortage of places i’d rather be found than among those eager to tell you how the solution is whatever kind of ‘slowing down of the gears’ that can fit into a thirty minute meditation session. no, three times no.

one of the  patients i was attending to during my stint as a volunteer at st. michael’s hospital’s urology ward felt himself the mouthpiece for a piece of advise impromptu of nothing we were discussing, but especially relevant here: if you’re losing balance, go faster. i answered him then with my usual slogan to awkward preachiness: sure—but i’ve grown since to appreciate the genius in those words (though i believe he was quoting einstein). as such i’m evermore opposed to preaching of the sabbatical, meditative sort. there’s as much tranquility in stillness as in just the right cruising altitude. i’m even less likely to subscribe to constant strife for the sake of strife, as a method…this headlong rush, entrepreneurial work-horse-ness. i believe i can count on one hand the percentage of people who don’t fall completely into one of those two mantras. but work must be done—climbing-up-the-ladder kind of work—there’s no serious alternative to that. yet what must be done in regards to that aforementioned dustbowl of spindrift that characterizes the daily chatter of social intercourse?—nothing that i can abbreviate here, nor is it something that can at all be abbreviated. nevertheless there are many kinds of lubricants available (bear with me).

this churning of hopes and ambitions, of day-old dreams and day-old blues has learnt to use music, not merely as leisure, but a necessary aioli to grease the gongs that grind us through the week. look up and around you on your next ttc trip, the overwhelming minority are those ears that are unplugged by a pair of headphones. might i say: music is the sperm-fluid that the workday runs on. coffee is a close second: turn off the ambient music at your local starbucks and see just how long before the seats go empty. we’re in need of music, as a mere device, a lubricant to be constantly reapplied. i’ve said elsewhere how music as a tool makes for bad listeners—but surely the alternative, silence, in intolerable…

(a gymnastics of attention)———is it that we suffer from an over-exposure to the musical experience, and so expect less from it? and find it exceptional when we by chance are exposed to it’s cathartic element?—i can’t help but think this to be just the case. in my case i suffer from too much of an expectation of that cathartic element from every musical experience and at present still struggle to comprehend the concept of ambient music. in either of these cases more music is the remedy—if you’re losing balance, go faster—or, even better, pay attention. Notes From Underground is a novel by british polymath and genius-in-need-of-a-haircut, roger scruton—a psychological investigation derived from dostoevsky’s novel of the same name—in it a priest is the mouthpiece for yet another unprovoked insightful advice, except in this case its wisdom is self-evident: you have to practice, as best as you can, a gymnastics of attention.

that is precisely what makes mozart relevant: or anyone other musician whose approach to melody is a multiplicity of melodies rather than the monolithic spread of rhythm. his ever-cascading rivulets, the plenitude of which renders each musical idea a silken pearl to be discovered again and again and again.

the distinction between acceleration and velocity is akin to that between that multiplicity of ideas just describe and the much more prevalent monolithic soundscape that forms the average four-and-a-half-minute song. simply put: velocity measures speed, and acceleration measures the change of speed. even the most introductory physics course informs us how much more difficult, and therefore more interesting, is the conceptual jump from velocity to acceleration. similarly, similarly, similarly—how much more careful, solemn, somber, inventive, robust, light-footed, agile the musician whose artistic vector is through the maximum sequence of melodies that relieves her of an inspiration. consequently, consequently, consequently—how much more likely it is that her audience too is of the lightfooted sort, the attentive sort, eager to be submerged by the experience, therefore eager for and expectant of the cathartic element as intrinsic to the musical experience.

i for one am especially bad at that aforementioned gymnastics of attention. though i thinking the root my listlessness owes less to some psychological incapacity than to what is perhaps a very healthy response to so limitless a cacophony of available options. despite having so strong a disposition to antagonize every kind of limitation, it is especially telling that i should be pursuant of the most narrow and  parochial alleys of exposure in musical interests. despite such tremendous efforts to make available the near infinitude of streaming options, the arc of every development of musical taste binges eternally towards the most limited, local and personalized apertures—indeed when it comes to musical taste, one is never not in need of la trappe.

for those of us newly weaned to musical experience as the supreme secular cult of aesthetics—those of us just starting to believe that what we believed in all along was not the divine in the music, but the musicality of the divine—being young billy goats, kids through and through, and in need of directional cues and paved trails in the wilderness of options: an artist like mozart—his first two violin concertos for example—are blessings of an inexhaustible kind….there cannot be too conscious an effort towards whatever kind of music improves one’s performance in the gymnastics of attention.

(in need of la trappe?)——— that is of course merely reference to the strictness of the trappist order of that monastic french enclave—so strict was this order that today it’s name is borrowed by a brewery that specializes in high alcohol content in their beers, as if to say: after so long a seriousness and privation, why not a little foolishness, a little madness, a gay science?!—t

Everyone nowadays lives through too much and thinks through too little: they have a ravenous appetite and colic at the same time so that they keep getting thinner and thinner no matter how much they eat.--Whoever says nowadays, "I have not experienced anything"--is a fool. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human.

yes indeed, one is need of la trappe generally, and in musical taste especially. on account of this over abundance of options, we listen to a great and unprecedented volume (and at a deafening volume) of music and our appetite is only more ravenous for the newest, latest artist uncorked from the soundcloud cellar—and yet, hardly are we ever sated. our musical experience suffer at once from colic as from malnutrition… la trappe, la trappe, la trappe!

did i just suggest that satisfaction was the purpose of music?—three times no, run don’t walk away from anyone wielding the idea that there is ever a purpose in music. in fact, that religion uses music is, i suspect, a reliable source of apostasy.

The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow

what a sniveling little ass of trickster god—a giggling anansi!—our dear Nietzsche must have been at the precise moment he conjured up that clever parable. for those two sentences remain my best summary of music as the nearest doorway to the concept of eternity: the end is not the goal, nevertheless if you never reach the end, you never reach the goal. that feeling of suspension, of extreme weightlessness, that the cathartic musical experience can provide—is it not an ambiguous mixture of reaching the end and yet feeling on the way…there is hardly a better glimpse at eternity than that. and if ‘eternity’ is too baseless a word, then it’s synonym should elaborate on the point—attention. the presence of mind wherein one is attentive is the only kind to which eternity has any significance. to pay attention is the tremendous courage of facing the eternal now. to hold a moment in your trembling hands and say to it, chin up: now, now, now. the only wisdom i could obtain from fatalism as a philosophy is that: if it happened once, is happens forever.

it requires an olympic amount of courage to subscribe permanently to the here-and-now. life is hard and elsewhere is always the more alluring option. but to sit in the moment, to eat from its plate—as one of derrick walcott’s poems go: sit and feast on your life—to enter into it is to accept the high and low as an eternally recurring phenomenon, perpetuated through you. and also, it ain’t fucking easy. one is need of training wheels, especially of works of art whose currency of interaction is with the only possibility of repaying our gratitude for their creation: attention. works of art, musical experiences especially, whose many turnings, ascensions and descents, accelerations, can remind us of the awe-some intricacies of our own internal landscape that listlessness and mad endeavor and a pervasive fear of being here, has all but made us mere strangers to.

(in a landscape)———among the other things i’m grateful for is the refinement, as a consequence of my musical experiences this month, of slogans through which i identify what is crucial to these experiences. that i should seek always to find myself in a landscape, for example. it is no accident that this phrase was borne from the experience of mozart, whose artistic output was of such awe-some magnitude. though i’m sure the phrase entered my subconscious by way of a john cage song title. so great was his output that one could rise to fame just by attaching ones name to his complete catalogue—as was the case with professional planktons like ludwig von köchel whose ‘köchel’ lends its k to the official catalogue of mozart’s compositions. the violin concertos 1&2 are K.207 and K.211 respectfully. it took a whole month to get through just six of his over 600 compositions and yet i already feel myself in a landscape. but i credit that partially to my incredibly slow metabolism pertaining the musical consumption—and to how dense the foliage is on every single one of those k’s.


(yehudi menuhin—principal violinist alongside the bath festival orchestra [or] just a bit of merrymaking)———i’ve been searching without luck to find a recording of yehudi menuhin performing sibelius’ violin concerto in d-minor. not merely to hear but to see it… a violinist physique is not entirely  irrelevant to their performance. and one cannot entirely discard the baseless fascination with the picturesqueness of the tall svelte violinist—jonathan crow, the tso’s principal violinist, for example. but for yehudi, his physique might have to play second fiddle when it comes to what it is that makes him interesting at first glance. with a name like yehudi menuhin, so many intimations of an exotic musicality cloud the lazy mind. how much more likely one is to be mesmerized by an artist with a phonetically pleasant, mnemonically distinct name, especially with intimations of an indigenous quality in its sequence of characters. yes his performance at the royal wedding was applaudable, but how much more interesting sheku kanneh-mason is as a cellist on account of his sheku kanneh-mason nomenclature. though there are some whose names, however unique, fall in the shadow of their incomparable talent. most notably in recent months is the phenomenon that is the case of yet another mason—mason ramsey—or as he’s popularly know: the walmart boy…

(—this entire blog is mostly a writing exercise of sorts, and part of it is being able to write a good string of sentences that make no attempt at any kind of profundity.  if this whole writing thing does workout, it’ll sure not be on account of fitting the cast of that profound and serious type—one must make use even of half-baked ideas—at least of a bit of merrymaking).

(mozart in may)———all through may gratitude has poured forth continually. i’m grateful even for a partial submersion in one of the many snowflakes that constitute mozart’s iceberg of a discography. on the task of paying attention, i was not very successful as whole, but there were  moments, evenings, wherein a particular melody, turn or phrase would catch me from my elsewhere, like a hand. and that’s fine—as i’ve said: if it happened once…

so that’s it for mozart then, till next may—god willing and if the creek don’t rise…as were the closing words of mason ramsey’s walmart concert.

secretly though, on the shy sly underbelly of things—one is glad to be done with mozart for the year. the weather has gotten too good for any kind of sage self-preservation, one is tempted everywhere to put one’s self about about a bit, ‘to shoot one’s shot’, put a bit of stick about… ‘step out of your cave, the world awaits you like a garden’…let loose the pollen pouch, take a swig from the sap-flagons of summer and so on…—i’m sure i’ll be regretting all of that by august.

Slow, not the meter of today
But I'm not singin' for now anyway
This slow, slow tune // True, daddy's singing just for you
But do you hear him, baby anymore?
Now that you've outgrown
This slow, slow tune
“”My Morning Jacket, Slow Slow Tune

that i suspect i might regret such quickening of catabolic output is a matter of physiology: above any great idea, one has to know precisely the optimal conditions demanded by the concert of organs that make up one’s own body, as well as those that make it sluggish and exhaustible—mine for example has its most conservative phase, pertaining to the output of energy, between the months of may and august…precisely the period most tempting to spend and exhaust one’s energies. yet my excitement outruns my best reason and as soon as june i’ll be found panting and huffing in that famous torontonian humidity. and even my best reason still is lacking: that i compiled a quick succession of eight composers in the eight weeks between june and july, for example. this is no time for a fast metabolism in regards to musical indulgence—i’d be much better served by yet another long stretch of someone dense and immersive, camille saint-saens and his slow carnival of animals, for example. what i’m in need of right now is a slow-slow tune—that i’ve left all of august to chopin’s piano is perhaps the first glimpse that i might someday make a decent physician. that i might have, despite tremendous evidence to the contrary, the instinct for self-preservation characteristic of the profession.

(elsewhere, in the nba)---old joe has gone fishing, young joe has gone fishing, we'll know who's gone fishing when we cast the nest shoal--- well we've caught the next shoal and it turns out it's the same catch as the last four years: yet another cav-warriors finals.... ffs....