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Advertising series 01: Music

Thursday, April 11th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — trying to gauge the appropriateness of music in TV advertising, and getting the sense that music has a — frankly — higher purpose. And then? ]
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I’ve been trying to figure out, from the poetry plane, just what it is that music does or is, or where, and as I’m watching TV commercials, I’m struck each time classical music is used, and forced to consider the role that music plays — in the ads, in my life, and in our lives. Commercials, like haiku, are highly concentrated affairs, and I’ve been learning a lot.

In brief —

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I don’t terribly mind that you can jazz the greatest of composers IMO, in what feels more like a virtuoso exercise than music as such..

Flying Bach:Red Bull

And when the music is jazzy to begin with, no problem — fun, even ..

Rhapsody in Blue: United

Unh — and ditto, speeded up:

High speed Orchestra: Porsche

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But Ave Maria?

Ave Maria: Planters

I guess that’s arguably a Hail Mary overpass, and the Ave Maria only slips in very briefly while the peanut’s in flight, so I’ll let it slide by..

But then I must admit I do get a bit uneasy about the semi-sacred last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth being repeatedly associated with a somewhat silly sad for a line of sports-car, lovely though they are:

Ode to Joy: Alfa Romeo

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The Hallelujah Chorus comes from a sacred oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, to be sure, but Messiah has been drifting from the sacred towards the social for decades, maybe even a century… Boots, though?

Hallelujah: Boots and Shoes

That seems a bit off-kilter: ads are repetitive things, and the idea that millions of concert-goers may have a less than stellar shoe ad pop into their heads in the middle of Handel’s iconic work — not a great taste to leave in the metaphorical mouth, methinks.

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Compare this commercial using the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem

Mozart Requiem: DirecTV

— with this paragraph from the philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis:

Remember that philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?

DirecTV? You can count me out.

Kurt Vonnegut quite wonderfully explains:

I am enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount. Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far. Perhaps we will get another idea that good by and by-and then we will have two good ideas. What might that second good idea be? I don’t know. How could I know? I will make a wild guess that it will come from music somehow. I have often wondered what music is and why we love it so. It may be that music is that second good idea being born.

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Frankly, I don’t think commercials are up to the Castoriadis / Vonnegut standard.

But let me leave you with a puzzzlement, a koan — assuming you haven’t diverged too far from my perspective thus far. If the Mozart Requiem should be spared participation in TV advertising, what do you think of Bach — remember Bach? — being embedded in a grisly scene from Silence of the Lambs?

Hannibal Lecter plays Bach:

Masterpiece within a masterpiece? Okay?

Next, 25

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — a quarter century of chyron and metaphor posts — Booker, 81 at Stanford, is now a legit sports metaphor for politics — finishing up with Beto and the Cult of the Dead Cow !! ]
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Ari Melber, the Beat 3/18/2019:

My notes on what happened which day are seriously confused at this point. I hope I can go back and rescue a chyron “Trumped” from the very start of this show, ami I right?

Quotes:

he sits at the center of a crime syndicate ..
John Flannery: to pin the tail on the donkey, the [ .. ] in the West Wing ..

Hardball 3/18/2019:

Cory Booker:

just another example of his moral vandalism ..

Ron Reagan:

What is it about John McCan that sets him off? John McCain was everything Donald Trump isn’t. John McCain wasa man ofn integrity and a man of great courage.

Meghan McCain:

My father waas his kryptonite in life, and is his kryptonite in death..

We now need, more than ever after this President, more than ever we need a revival of grace in our country, a revival of civic grace in our civic spaces..

I suppose this image is now a sports metaphor for politics

I got into Stanford because of a 4.0, 1600 — 4.0 yards per carry, 1,600 receiving yards..

at 27, not on my download to verify: I see this as whiffle-ball ..
at 38/9, sonny liston vs muhammad ali
40, we want to see some white smoke, some hope
40, the goose-eggs add up
59 steve king?

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Uncertain sources &c:

The house is just going to be a bear-pit ..
kasie:it’s a home game for him, not an away game
does he have what it takes to go the distance ..
i wasn’t born to run, but i am running ..
we are not trying to hide the ball here at all ..

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Three that I may have posted before, forgive me:

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And saving the best [??!!] for last:

As “PsychedelicWarlord,” O’Rourke spent most of his time posting thought-provoking essays, song lyrics from punk albums, and the occasional poem. At one point, he and another member interviewed a neo-Nazi. And in one post, he gave “The True Story of Cult of the Dead Cow,” in which he claimed authorship of the name..

Header for a Beto poem:

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Metaphoric chyrons 13, the Cohen testimony, continued

Friday, March 1st, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — that same history-making day of congressional testimony from michael cohen— part 2 of 2 ]
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Hardball:

Chyrons:

Steve Kornacki: .. dramatic split-screen when we return

Quotes:

Steve Kornacki: The unbelievable political theater from one Republican on the committee defending the president ..
Noah Rothman: I think in a lot of ways he’s trying to ingrate himself with the anti-Trump left, and he’s been singing the sermons of the Resistance to the hilt ..
42 Tulsi Gabbard: Kim saw what happened in Libya, he saw how we promised Libya’s dictator Gaddafi that if he gave up his nuclear weapons program, that we would not over that throw him. Well, he gave up those weapons, he gavee up that program and we blew him away. And so Kim’s not going to make this mistake..
Jackie Speier: I think we’re getting closer and closer to being able to put all those puzzle pieces together and have a pretty profound picture to show the American people ..

All In, Chris Hayes:

Chyrons:

Quotes:

14 Chris H: It’s a Chinese finger-art type of situation
Cohen: You don’t know him. I do. I sat next to this man for ten years and I watched his back ..
Rick Wilson: It’s the “my black friend” theory, it was cringe-inducing ..
It’s high school drama class ..
Danielle Moodie-Mills: The proximity to power and money — it’s an incredible aphrodisiac, and that’s what we saw today, that’s what Michael Cohen said, don’t be like me ..
Rick Wilson: You know who doesn’t give a damn about high school drama? Southern District of New York, Robert Mueller. The facts that Cohen’s revealing today today are going to be remembered, and known and litigated long after this playtime is over ..
[ 56 visual split screen ]
he doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in a code ..
Hayes 58: he doesn’t tell you something,

Rachel Maddow:

Quote:

This is a feast-day for the news gods ..

And that’s it for yesterday, the 27th February, 2019

Metaphoric chyrons 12, the Cohen testimony, flabbergasting

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — we only got to see one in three of cohen’s days before congressional committees — but what a history-making day — part 1 of 2 ]
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Header:

Shocked barely causes a ripple these days. Earth-shattering, on the other hand, is about as strong a term as any I’ve chronicled here, as in a different register is flabbergasted.

As a source told Emily Jane Fox,

Some things that are earth-shattering are right in front of your nose, and the reason you don’t know that they’re earth-shattering is because they’re right in front of you

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That was yesterday. Today, Michael Cohen testified for seven hours before the House Oversight Committee.

Meet the Press:

Chyrons:

Quotes:

Elijah Cummings:
16: I lived in the inner city of Baltimore, and when yoiu call somebody a ratthat’s one of the worst things you can call them, because when you go to prison, rat means a snitch ..
19: And hopefully, this part of your destiny will lead to a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world, and I mean that from the depth of my heart. When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do to make sure to keep our democracy intact..
We have got to get back to normal ..
Kasey Hunt:
This was akso a very human day ..

**** amash clip[ 32-33 ****

Chuck: You don’t say it, you say it ..
34 Ben Wittes: the direction without direction .. for Michael Cohen, when to lie ..
39 Cummings: we have strayed so far from normal ..
44/5 these were my exact words: I’ll nail you to the cross ..
55 [ Sam Nunberg re Matthew Calamari ] he was a security guard and was beating somebody up and Trump hired him, saw him at the US Open ..
Carol Leonnig: eccentricities of accounting ..

Ari Melber, the Beat:

Chyrons:

[ 59 chyron: Cohen checks .. ]

Quotes:

Cohen: I did the same thing that you’re doing now, for ten years. I protected Mr Trump for ten years. I can only warn people the more people that follow Mr Trump as I did, blindly, are going to suffer the same consequences that I am suffering ..
Maya Wiley: his points about Donald Trump’s wink, wink, nod, nod, in terms of the Trump Moscow Tower ..
Ari; The most ominous thing for Trump has apparently been playing out in plain sight, in public, with this new chapter today that is legally gigantic even though it might have been understandably overshadowed at times by other fireworks and passion, scandal and drama and intrigue in that hearing ..
Maya Wiley: How can you save a client who’s not telling the truth? You can’t. I thought we were going to go old school, Houdini? A friend?
Flannery: This whole gang of Pinocchios can’t be trusted to tell us anything that’s truthful. I do credit the performance, if you will, by Cohen today for giving the sense of being a man who is eating ashes and as close to being transparent as he could possibly be, perhaps in his entire life ..

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I am going to break here, after Ari Melber‘s The Beat and before Chris MatthewsHardball, because this is enough for one bite of an exceedingly rich day.

The human voice, counterpoint, & the analysis of complex systems

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — with Mike Sellers and Ali Minai particularly in mind, and more to come.. ]
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Roomful of Teeth:

That’s composer Caroline Shaw‘s Partita for 8 Voices, a piece she wrote for Roomful of Teeth.

A piece she composed and wrote for them — in the remainder of this post, we’ll explore the overlap of text (writing) and music (composition) in increasing subtlety and detail..

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I’m brought to make this post by a paragraph I read in a fascinating New Yorker article, Roomful of Teeth Is Revolutionizing Choral Music. Roomful of Teeth is the group whose music I first praised in Pulitzer : Lamar :: Nobel : Dylan?, and showcase again in the video clip above.

Here’s that New Yorker para:

The human voice is the world’s most astonishing instrument, it’s often said. It’s capable of everything from a trill to a bark to an ear-splitting scream, from growling harmonics to liquid acrobatics, lofted on the breath like a lark on an updraft. Instrument is the wrong word, really. The voice is more like a chamber ensemble: winds and strings and blaring horns, strung together end to end. It’s a pump organ, a viola, an oboe, and the bell of a trumpet, each instrument passing the sound along to the next, adding volume and overtones at every step. Throw in the percussion of the lips and tongue, and the echoing amphitheatre of the skull, and you have a full orchestra playing inside you.

My aim in this post is to add that “full orchestra playing inside you” to that other internal polyphony of contrasting desires, identities, and emergent thoughts, and the external polyphony of all those voices with a stake in our common concerns, risk assessments and deliberations — which are constituent of our complex analytic topics.

Done.

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The rest is context…

I’ve often talked about the notion that the analysis of complex human systems involves dealing with multiple stakeholder voices, also on occasion with the many internal voices within each individual, and suggested that music offers the clearest equivalent or analogy that humans successfully and repeatedly navigate. Specifically, the twin notions of polyphony — the sounding together of many voices — and more specifically counterpoint — the juxtaposition of conflicting voices and the possible resolution of their conflicts from dissonance to harmony in an iterative process — are clearly relevant to analytic practice, albeit drawing on a tradition that will seem wildly cross-disciplinary to many analysts.

Relevant here is Edward Said‘s definition of counterpoint:

In counterpoint a melody is always in the process of being repeated by one or another voice: the result is horizontal, rather than vertical, music. Any series of notes is thus capable of an infinite set of transformations, as the series (or melody or subject) is taken up first by one voice then by another, the voices always continuing to sound against, as well as with, all the others. Instead of the melody at the top being supported by a thicker harmonic mass beneath (as in largely vertical nineteenth century music), Bach’s contrapuntal music is regularly composed of several equal lines, sinuously interwoven, working themselves out according to stringent rules

In my view , which I have repeatedly expressed, Johann Sebastian Bach, the master of contrapuntal writing, is a significant exemplar for us at this time. And if it should be argued that musical methods cannot be transposed — another musical term — to matters of verbal thought, let me say that the great Bach pianist Glenn Gould towards the end of his life made specifically contrapuntal human voice radio plays for the Canadian Broadcasting Company..

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Gould’s contrapuntal mind:

Among Gould‘s eccentricities — David Howes in Glenn Gould’s Contrapuntal Constitution calls them bi-centricities, a phrase that reminds us of Arthur Koestler‘s notion of the creative leap as the bisociation of two planes or matrices, are:

the way he liked to have one AM and one FM station playing all the time in his apartment, one for news, the other for music; the way he could learn a score while talking on the phone; and the way he enjoyed eavesdropping on three or four conversations at the same time going on at neighbouring tables in the restaurants he haunted (Kostelanetz 1983: 127).

We can see here that Gould‘s basic thinking is in terms of multiple voices, often contrasting, in simultaneous awareness — Gould, Howes continues, spoke of counterpoint as “an explosion of simultaneous ideas”. As Gould puts it, Howes reports, when speaking of his radio programs for human voices:

The basis of it was that we tried to have situations arise cogently from within the framework of the program in which the two or three voices … [recorded previously in conversation with Gould, but with the latter’s voice edited out for the final version] … could be overlapped, in which they would be heard talking – simultaneously, but from different points of view – about the same subject. We also tried to treat these voices as though they belonged to characters in a play, though all the material was gained from interviews. It was documentary material, treated in a sense as drama (cited in Payzant 1982: 131).

This, then, is Gould‘s contrapuntal radio, and we can see Gould vividly transposing conytrapuntal imagination from the musical sphere to that of the varieties of human verbalization.

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As not an aside but the re-introduction of a theme previously only hinted at, here is Arthur Koestler on the conceptual or creative leap:

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Okay, our concept of music must shift, change, expand, if we are to consider Gould‘s Idea of North as a musical composition — in ways that are consistent with my own development of contrapuntal analysis. As Anthony Cushing explains in Glenn Gould and ‘Opus 2’: An outline for a musical understanding of contrapuntal radio with respect to The Idea of North:

A musical understanding of North requires re-thinking some traditional elements of music theory: harmony must take into consideration semantic content and shifting topic areas; form follows somewhat traditional musical structures (ternary, binary, etc.); and texture encompasses layering of literal voices and dispenses with traditional notions of melody. One must also consider the spatial component of tape composition, in which voices inhabit locations in a sound field. The later documentaries in the trilogy and the Leopold Stokowski and Pablo Casals tribute radio documentaries contribute to a more complete musical concept of contrapuntal radio — complex polyphonic textures, stereo sound, pitch-based harmonic content — the germ of contrapuntal radio was developed and actualized in North.

I’d like to take that lead, given us by the masterful pianist Glenn Gould, across into the field of analytic understanding — as a stream of analysis complementary and in counterpoint (for instance) to “big data” analytic tools — contrapuntal analysis characteristically working with a few, humanly-selected verbal utterances rather than data-points algorithmically-selected in the millions.

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Moving to a larger geopolitical canvas, Edward Said once told an interviewer:

When you think about it, when you think about Jew and Palestinian not separately, but as part of a symphony, there is something magnificently imposing about it. A very rich, also very tragic, also in many ways desperate history of extremes – opposites in the Hegelian sense – that is yet to receive its due. So what you are faced with is a kind of sublime grandeur of a series of tragedies, of losses, of sacrifices, of pain that would take the brain of a Bach to figure out. It would require the imagination of someone like Edmund Burke to fathom.

We see here the invocation of Bach in a context of geopolitical analysis — one paragraph in the life-work of Said, who was a music critic as well as a well-known Palestinian-American public intellectual.

That single paragraph — and Gould‘s clear understanding that contrapuntal thinking can be applied to the polyphony of human voices, not just in the musical sphere — prompts me to go further, and assert that complexity studies with application to the human condition and intelligence and geopolitical analysis will all, sooner or later, arrive at the practice of contrapuntal thinking as basic to their deeper purposes.

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Refocusing at the national level, on Glenn Gould‘s native Canada:

I’ve mentioned the simultaneity of voices in social contexts such as listening, hearing and understanding the views and voices of multiple stakeholder. In similar vein, Howes suggests Gould‘s own taste for counterpoint stems from and reflects the Canadian Constitution:

Gould understood music to provide a model of society, and the performing artist, hence, to be performing society, as well as music. Along these lines, counterpoint, Gould’s preferred musical style, provides a specially apt model for comprehending the constitutional structure of the Canadian state. Gould’s interest in keeping the different voices of a fugue distinct, equal, and bound together parallels the concern of the Canadian state to keep the different parties to Confederation distinct, equal and bound together. In this difficult task, however, there is always a risk of overemphasizing or losing one of the voices. If Quebec is proclaimed “a distinct society” will that disturb the equality of the provinces (for surely all are distinct); if it is not, will that lead to the separation of Quebec and the break-up of Confederation? This bi-cultural counterpoint confronts Canadians daily, from the bilingual product information on their cereal boxes to the reports of English/French political jousting on the evening news.

Counterpoint, or in more general terms, polyphony, is non-dialectical, for it involves the interweaving of voices, of ideas, rather than the Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Polyphony as social theory does not, therefore, entail the negation of any countervailing views the way, say, a dialectical social philosophy would. With polyphony, accommodation or peaceful co-presence takes the place of negation.

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Readings:

  • New Yorker, Roomful of Teeth Is Revolutionizing Choral Music
  • NY Times, The Glenn Gould Contrapuntal Radio Show
  • Open Culture, Listen to Glenn Gould’s Shockingly Experimental Radio Documentary
  • Hermitary, Glenn Gould’s The Solitude Trilogy
  • Canadian Icon, Glenn Gould’s Contrapuntal Constitution
  • Politics & Culture, An interview with Edward Said

  • Charles Cameron, Pulitzer : Lamar :: Nobel : Dylan?
  • Charles Cameron, Getting deeper into Koestler

  • Mike Sellers, Advanced Game Design: A systems Approach
  • Ali Minai, A core concern of our research is the desire to catch ‘creativity in the act.’
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    More Teeth — your reward for reading this far:

    And BachGlenn Gould plays Contrapunctus IX from The Art of Fugue — on organ:


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