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Pulitzer : Lamar :: Nobel : Dylan?

Friday, April 20th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — with the nost remarkable, beautiful, unexpected, unexpectable music at the very end, a total surprise ]
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Kendrick Lamar just won the Pulitzer for music. A small while back, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I haven’t seen anyone comparing Kendrick Lamar‘s Pulitzer fuss with Bob Dylan‘s Nobel shenanigans — yet.

**

The black on white of the Dylan lyrics (upper panel, above) and the white on black of the Lamar lyrics (lower panel, above) aren’t racially intended, nor do they represent good and evil as so commonly elsewhere — and in any case, in black on white is it the black or the white that carries the meaning, and vice versa — but in the case of white on black, which do you notice most? And above, below, what do they mean?

Both, and.

Good’n’evil, rock’n’roll. Rock on, world.

**

Sources:

These two will give you the surprise, surprise narratives:

  • New York Times, Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize, Redefining Boundaries of Literature
  • NPR, How The Pulitzer Jury Opened Its Doors To Hip-Hop
  • And those two headlines make a nice contrapuntal DoubleQuote, too.

    **

    Me, I’ve been listening to Dylan since I could crawl and he was folk, and had never consciously heard the words Kendrick Lamar until yesterday, when I started in on this piece.

    Sources:

    Here are the two musics from which the lytrics posted above are taken, both of which you may skip if you know them already:

    and:

    **

    But. And. Yet. Also. Splutter —

    My remarkable discovery of the day.. It’s Caroline Shaw‘s astounding Partita for 8 Voices, written for and sung by Roomful of Teeth. Listen closely, beauty is born fresh here:

    Kudos, where kudos due:

  • Slate, Classical Music Needs Kendrick Lamar More Than It Needs the Pulitzer
  • **

    Okay, just in case — what I hear:

    Human voice sound poetry of Henri Chopin — I visited him briefly circa 1965 — via Glenn Gould‘s polyphonic voice radio plays, meeting Machaut, via Morten Lauridsen‘a O Magnum Mysterium, plus what funk meant first, before it was limited to funk — a twisty ringing of changes in sound: cough, swoop, taal, stutter and bend weaving in and out of dissonance, of purity..

    Utterly fresh and brilliantly performed: watch and listen..

    And tell me below if you knew this wonder already.

    Conflict resolution — contrapuntal humor

    Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — some late night foolishness, with a plea for forgiveness ]
    .

    As you know, I’m interested in conflict in need of resolution and the means of achieving it — and I’m also of the opinion that it’s essential for all voices to the situation to be heard — hence the need for a method of graphically mapping contending voices in a verbal equivalent to polyphonic (many voiced, Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, eg) counterpoint (see especially Bach, JS).

    Here’s a fairly absurd take on at least some parts of that er, equation:

    **

    I was pointed to this video by PTheWeek. What caught my eye was their headline:

    How could I resist?

    **

    Please forgive us all. As I said, these things took place late at night..

    A counterpoint in buildings, statues, ideas

    Monday, June 26th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — Dylann Roof’s trial, the New Yorker, and the scorable music of opposing voices ]
    .

    On the way to taking us Inside the Trial of Dylann Roof, Jelani Cobb makes an observation that interests me, describing the architectural features surrounding the trial asa point-counter-point in ideas:

    Mother Emanuel, as the church is known, traces its roots to 1816. It was a center of clandestine anti-slavery activity and, in 1822, when city officials discovered that congregants were planning a slave revolt, they burned the church to the ground. The current building was erected in 1891, on Calhoun Street, named for Vice-President John C. Calhoun, the intellectual progenitor of secession. The Calhoun monument, a column eighty feet high, topped by a statue of the statesman, is half a block away. The monument and the church, which came to play a central role in the Southern civil-rights movement, stand like a statement and its rebuttal.

    Counterpooint — the musical technique whereby two or more melodies are juxtaposed, now clashing, now harmonizing, but with their melodic integrity uncompromised — is a technique which I believe has application beyond music, in verbal thought.

    **

    Different voices, offering different opinions and perspectives — now clashing, now harmonizing, but with their conceptual integrity uncompromised — are precisely what we find at the heart of all debate, from town hall meetings and parliamentary procedues to maritalspats and the conversations of genius — the letters of Max Born and Albert Einstein come to mind, as does the film My Dinner with Andre.

    My gambit, borrowing from the brilliant game that lies at the heart of Hermann Hesse‘s novel The Glass Bead Game, is to suggest that we take Johann Sebastian Bach‘s use of melodic counterpoint and adapt it to its conceptual equivalent — thus opening the way to (a) thinking many contrasting thoughts as a single conceptual music, and (b) developing fresh means to score such a polyphony — or multitude of voices.

    Essentially, the ability to think in counterpoint is the ability to hold in mind another voice beside one’s own — the capacity, if you will, to listen as well as to think. Seen thus, it is the basic skill necessary for us to make progress away from the terrible divisiveness of our times, and into a more convivial and ecumenical future.

    **

    I watched my son come into this world and I watched my son leave this world.

    This sentence, uttered by the other of one of Roof’s victims, gains power from its closely observed parallelism between birth and death, womb and tomb.

    **

    Forgiveness as a consequence iof counterpoint:

    The Civil War began in Charleston. The Ordinance of Secession was signed in Institute Hall, on Meeting Street, in December, 1860; the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, in the harbor, a few months later. The reaction of many Charlestonians to the extraordinary moment, at a bond hearing the day after Roof’s arrest, when, one by one, family members stood and forgave him, was an outgrowth of the city’s relationship to that past. Forgiveness was not just an example of how to metabolize hatred directed at you, or just a demonstration of Christian faith, though it was both of those things. It stood for a broader redemption, an exoneration from history itself.

    **

    A counterpoint in statuary:

    Herb Frazier, a black journalist who grew up in the city and has attended Emanuel since childhood, told me that black Charlestonians have always hated the Calhoun monument. “He looks down with this scowl on his face,” he said. Then, in 1999, Charleston’s Holocaust Memorial was erected just fifty feet from the base of Calhoun’s column. That proximity suggests either a wishful denial of Calhoun’s legacy or a level of irony not typically found among municipal planners.

    **

    A counterpoint of races and ethical stances:

    Those moral calculations, as with everything else associated with the case, were refracted through the lens of race. In a statewide poll, two-thirds of African-Americans favored sentencing Roof to life in prison, while sixty-four per cent of whites believed that the death penalty was warranted. That result mirrored the general division between blacks and whites on the issue of capital punishment, which is driven, at least in part, by the fact that it has disproportionately been used against black defendants.

    ^^

    A counterpoint in colors and sentences:

    For David Bruck, Roof’s case represented another chance to address the unjust imposition of the death penalty. At certain moments in the trial, though, his belief that he could diminish a racist practice by saving the life of a white supremacist appeared idealistic to a fault. During his cross-examination of Joseph Hamski, the F.B.I.’s lead investigator in the case, Bruck asked, “What became of Denmark Vesey?” Vesey, a slave who had bought his freedom and become a carpenter, was the lead plotter of the 1822 revolt at the church. “He was hung,” Hamski replied. Bruck was suggesting that the death penalty is irrevocably tainted by racism, but he had seemed to equate Vesey, a man who was prepared to kill for the cause of black freedom, with Roof, a man who had killed because he thought that blacks were too free. The families murmured uneasily at the comparison.

    **

    Black and white, crime and punishment, death penalty and life sentence, good and evil, forgiveness and justice, even Union and Confederacy — these binaries rise in counterpoint in the trial and sentencing of Dylann Roof.. offering us a mappable display of cognitions past and present, normative and extreme.

    The Executive and the [unacknowledged] Legislator

    Sunday, April 30th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — PB Shelley ]
    .

    President Trump reads the lyrics of a song about a snake:

    Trump is arguing the dangers of immigration and the necessity of a wall…

    My response:

    Poet Robert Frost reads a poem about a wall:

    **

    There’s irony aplenty in the Frost poem, and the voice of the narrator is generally not taken to be that of Frost himself. Worth pondering, thugh, are these lines:

    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offense.

    Frost’s poem, though, is contrapuntal, with its two key statements clashing:

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

    and:

    Good fences make good neighbours.

    Frost, it seems, leans more to the latter position — and Trump might have done himself a different favor, and quoted Frost.

    Pro and Con, or squished?

    Monday, February 20th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — counterpoint: giving all voices a fair hearing. even when conflicting ]
    .

    I try to avoid taking political sides in American politics, partly because I’m a guest here and it seems only polite and wise to leave such matters to my hosts, and partly because bridge-building is the therapeutic method of choice in times of division and conflict. Keeping to a middle path may be something of a high-wire act, though, and is seldom popular wit those on either side.

    **

    I went looking for a quote that expresses the idea that this kind of middle way can get you killed, and my friends offered me a variety of possible items including Jim Hightower saying:

    There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead armadillos.

    and Mr Miyagi:

    Squished!!

    **

    The most cerebral near-miss was this one, from Adam Gopnik writing about and quoting Camus in the New Yorker a while back:

    At the Liberation, he wrote (in Arthur Goldhammer’s translation):

    Now that we have won the means to express ourselves, our responsibility to ourselves and to the country is paramount. . . . The task for each of us is to think carefully about what he wants to say and gradually to shape the spirit of his paper; it is to write carefully without ever losing sight of the urgent need to restore to the country its authoritative voice. If we see to it that that voice remains one of vigor, rather than hatred, of proud objectivity and not rhetoric, of humanity rather than mediocrity, then much will be saved from ruin.

    Responsibility, care, gradualness, humanity—even at a time of jubilation, these are the typical words of Camus, and they were not the usual words of French political rhetoric. The enemy was not this side or that one; it was the abstraction of rhetoric itself. He wrote, “We have witnessed lying, humiliation, killing, deportation, and torture, and in each instance it was impossible to persuade the people who were doing these things not to do them, because they were sure of themselves, and because there is no way of persuading an abstraction.”

    and the most scriptural from Scott McW, Revelation 3.14-16:

    And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

    Michael Lotus supplied:

    There’s even a film (h/t Barbara Hope) titled In Danger and Dire Distress the Middle of the Road Leads to Death — though I haven’t seen it.

    **

    John Messer catches the perspective I’m coming from when he comments:

    One limitation perhaps is our framing of the challenge as a dichotomy rather than a 360 POV or perhaps a sphere of alternatives. In mediation one always looks for the unifying value that embraces all.

    It seems harder and harder to present both sides of en ever-more-violently polarized situation without taking fire from each side — so I’d ask you to read what follows (and my posts on similar topics) as attempts at that unifying balance, rather than as statements of my own preferences.. which do exist, and no doubt can be glimpsed, but are not what I’m trying to propagate with my writings, at least thus far..

    **

    Consider these two opinions of Trump aide Sebastian Gorka — each the opinion of a valued friend:

    and:

    It was F Scott Fitzgerald who said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

    Is there any room for a first-rate intelligence any more?

    **

    Or consider this juxtaposition as a DoubleQuote expression of a parallelism between Trump and Hitler:

    Is that fair comment or not?

    The two phrases are indeed close parallels –n but obviously the Nazi analogy is one that (a) members of the never Trump faction feel a strong urge to explore, and (b) which is liable to close the ears of the pro Trump faction to any logic it might possess.

    How do we hear both sides of so fraught an issue?

    **

    How do we retain awareness of that superbly humble and nuanced insight of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn?

    If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
    .
    During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

    That’s the perspective I cherish.

    Please see also my follow-up post..


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