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Border crossing: Mexican folk religion, meet American pop culture

Monday, August 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — this should really be a Sunday Surprise, but you probably won’t see it till Monday, so why not wait and post it in the morning? ]
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A DoubleTweet killer: The Mexican cult of the skeletal sacred, Mictecacihuatl or Santa Muerte depending what century you’re looking at:

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Saint Death, to whom one might pray, or Holy Death, which one might pray for, with an implied positive afterlife — Santa Muerte can be translated, or understood, either way, or perhaps better, both.

The idea that that Titanic ending love-image can be translated into a muerte santa tableau illustrates the imaginative power of the santissima muerte tradition — liebestod, lovedeath, if you love Wagner — or in Hilaire Belloc‘s version of Tristan and Isolde:

My lords, if you would hear a high tale of love and of death, here is that of Tristan and Queen Iseult; how to their full joy, but to their sorrow also, they loved each other, and how at last they died of that love together upon one day; she by him and he by her.

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Wagner, Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, sung by the impressive Nina Stemme, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by (I believe) my nephew Daniel Harding:

Jews converting to Catholicism, a Dual

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — “Conversion is sort of like the untouchable ‘third rail’ of religion” ]
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It’s an ancient, uncomfortable story:

The Genetic Legacy of the Spanish Inquisition
As Spain simultaneously persecuted its Jews and expanded its colonies in the Americas, conversos secretly came over to the New World. Their legacy lives on in DNA.

In 1492, best known as the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Spain also decided to expel all practicing Jews from its kingdom. Jews who did not leave—and were not murdered—were forced to become Catholics. Along with those who converted during earlier pogroms, they became known as conversos. As Spain expanded its empire in the Americas, conversos made their way to the colonies too.

The stories have always persisted—of people across Latin America who didn’t eat pork, of candles lit on Friday nights, of mirrors covered for mourning. A new study examining the DNA of thousands of Latin Americans reveals the extent of their likely Sephardic Jewish ancestry, more widespread than previously thought and more pronounced than in people in Spain and Portugal today. “We were very surprised to find it was the case,” says Juan-Camilo Chaco?n-Duque, a geneticist at the Natural History Museum in London who co-authored the paper. [ .. ]

In the case of conversos, DNA is helping elucidate a story with few historical records. Spain did not allow converts or their recent descendants to go to its colonies, so they traveled secretly under falsified documents. “For obvious reasons, conversos were not eager to identify as conversos,” says David Graizbord, a professor of Judaic studies at the University of Arizona. The designation applied not just to converts but also to their descendants who were always Catholic. It came with more than a whiff of a stigma. “It was to say you come from Jews and you may not be a genuine Christian,” says Graizbord. Conversos who aspired to high offices in the Church or military often tried to fake their ancestry.

The genetic record now suggests that conversos—or people who shared ancestry with them—came to the Americas in disproportionate numbers.

Paper:

  • Nature, Latin Americans show wide-spread Converso ancestry and imprint of local Native ancestry on physical appearance
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    A variant on that story then reappears in the life of Gustav Mahler. My nephew Daniel Hardin explains:

    Two comments on Mahler and conversion:

    On 23-02-1897 (Year 1897) Gustav Mahler walked into the St. Michael’s church in Hamburg and was “received” or baptized into the Roman Catholic faith. The rite of conversion, Mahler believed would clear away a major stumbling block as a prerequisite for being named principal director of the Vienna Hofoper, the Court Opera, today’s Vienna State Opera, and a position for which he and his supporters had been discreetly campaigning for many months.

    and:

    Conversion is sort of like the untouchable “third rail” of religion: switching faiths is frequently the cause of family rupture, personal torment and bitter theological debates. Some parents consider converted children to be dead, both spiritually and physically.

    Sources:

  • National Catholic Reporter, Unconventional converts
  • Gustav-Mahler.eu, Religion
  • See also:

  • Simon Dubnow Institute, Christianity and Conviction: Gustav Mahler and the Meanings of Jewish Conversion in Central Europe
  • Academia.edu, The Conversion of Gustav Mahler
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    Here Daniel Harding conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in Mahler‘s 5th Symphony, in a live recording this year:

    Daniel’s recording of the Mahler 5th with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra,very recently released by Harmonia Mundi, won enthusiastic praise from The Gramophone, the reviewer concluding:

    In a market where modern rivals sound pedestrian or perfumed with finesse by comparison, this Fifth raises high hopes for what the graphic cover artwork implies may become a complete cycle.

    Here’s from another review of the same recording:

    Rarely have I heard the few opening measures of this symphony unleashed with such oppressively inexorable force, and its final minutes infused and driven by such ecstatic euphoria, with everything in between shaping the radical transformations that link the two extremes. After all the Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) is an expansive epic journey ‘per aspera ad astra’ (‘through hardship to the stars’) from fears of oppressive intolerance to great feelings of overwhelming joy.

    Highly, obviously, recommended.

    On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: thirteen

    Friday, December 21st, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — the Trinity and National Security, Game Boards and Mathematics, Japanese wave patterns, Maestro Harding on the interconnectedness of “all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music” — plus Blues Clues at the tail end ]
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    Not only have the last couple of days been riotous in Washington, with more news to track than I have eyes to see, but today, still reeling under the weight of Mattis‘ resignation, McConnell‘s statement in support and other matters, I found myself with a richesse of board-game and graph-related delights.

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    Trinitarian NatSec:

    Followers of this searies will be familiar with the Trinitarian diagram juxtaposed here with its equivalents from classical Kabballah and Oronce Fine:

    That little triptych is from my religion and games avenues of interest, but of course I’m also interested in matters of national security, as befits Zenpundit, the strategy & creativity blog. You can imagine my surprise and delight, then, in coming across a natsec version of the trinity diagram, in a tweet from Jon Askonas.

    Here’s my comparison:

    My own attention was first drawn to the Trinitarian diagram as a result of reading Margaret Masterman‘s brilliant cross-disciplinary work, “Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis”, which ran in four parts in a somewhat obscure and difficult to find journal, Theoria to Theory, Vol 1, 1-4, 1966-67.

    See:

  • Margaret Masterman, George Boole and the Holy Trinity
  • Margaret Masterman’s “Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis”
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    Game Boards and Mathematics:

    I could hardly fail to be intrigued by Calli Wright‘s piece titled The Big List of Board Games that Inspire Mathematical Thinking, eh? And look, the first game they show is a graph-based board game, Achi:

    Dara also looks somewhat relevant.

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    Japanese wave designs:

    Again, those familiar with my games will know of my juxtaposition of Von Kármán with Van Gogh as a DoubleQuote — but let me quote from an earlier post, Sunday’s second surprise — the Van Gogh DoubleQuote:

    Here’s the Von Kármán / Van Gogh DQ, which I value in light of Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game as a clear bridge between one of the crucial dualities of recent centuries — the needless and fruitless schism between the arts and sciences, which has given rise not only the rantings of Christopher Hitchens and his less elegant disciple Bill Maher, but to such other matters as the Papal condemnation and “forgiveness” 359 years later of Galileo Galilei, Charles Babbage‘s Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Andrew White‘s A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in ChristendomW, and CP Snow‘s The Two Cultures:

    karman gogh

    And finally, here’s an ugraded version of the other DQ of mine that seeks to bridge the arts and sciences — featuring Hokusai‘s celebrated woodblock print, The Great Wave off Kanagawa (upper panel, below) and Jakob aka nikozy92‘s fractal wave, which I’ve flipped horizontally to make its parallel with the Hokusai clearer (lower panel) — Jakob‘s is a much improved version of a fractal wave compared with the one I’d been using until today:

    SPEC-DQ-Hokusai-fractal v 2.0 minikozy92

    That brings me to the Met’s marvelous offering, to which J Scott Shipman graciously pointed me:

    Here’s where you get the collection:

  • You Can Now Download a Collection of Ancient Japanese Wave Illustrations for Free
  • Rich pickings!

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    Maestro Harding and the Glass Bead Game:

    Finally, I’ve been delighted today to run across a couple of vdeos of my nephew, Maestro Daniel Harding, conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra some years back in programs exploring the interplay of mathematics and other disciplines and music:

    and:

    Daniel is not working the graph-based angle that my games explore, but his thinking here is pleasantly congruous with my own. His work with the SRSO has, he says in the first video here, “to do with all branches of human knowledge and curiosity, not just music — because everything is connected”.

    You can’t get much closer in spirit to Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game than that!

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    Earlier in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: seven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eight
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: ten
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: eleven
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: twelve
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    BTW:

    NatSec, yes, and a DoubleQUote. Too good to miss. Thanks again to John Askonas..


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