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Borders as metaphors and membranes

Monday, January 14th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — i continue in the opinion that limina, thresholds borders, have an archetypal importance that transcends and is embodied in individual cases ]
.

With the Wall the dominating issue of the current US government shutdown, tracking the penumbra of borders is all the more important: things look very different when you squint at them.

**

Previous posts in this topic area:

  • Zenpundit, Liminality II: the serious part
  • Zenpundit, The Korean border / no border dance
  • Zenpundit, Borders, limina and unity
  • **

    Alexis Madrigal, A Border Is Not a Wall:

    Borders are an invention, and not even an especially old one. Predated by the printing press by a good 200 years, borders are constantly under revision. Even the zone of a border itself, the Supreme Court has held, extends far beyond the technical outline of a nation. Imagine a border as the human-made thing that it is, and it’s no longer surprising that it takes a multitude of forms: a line on a map, a fence, a bundle of legal agreements, a set of sensors, a room in an airport, a metaphor.

    As Elia Zureik and Mark B. Salter explain in a book on policing, a controlled border creates the notion that domestic space is safe. Protecting “the border” safeguards the home, the family, and a way of life. This idea of safety is so potent that it has shut down the United States government.

    But the border itself—the line on a map, or the gate at a crossing—isn’t what’s at issue; it’s the idea of the border, a membrane that defines a nation while maximizing its market power.

    **
    _
    Humanitarian concerns:

    Dr John Sullivan‘s paper, Determining Reasonable and Proportional Use of Tear Gas offers a number of provocative insights, including the prohibition on the use of tear gases (CN> CS< CR), pepper spray (OC, capsicum), and sleeping gas on battlefields -- provocative since we normally think of battlefields as "worse" than peacetime situations, and thus that what's prohibited in wartime should be so a fortiori in times poof peace..

    Here’s the border-specific instance / comment that caught my eye:

    In the border control setting, the recent use of tear gas by CBP agents against migrants seeking asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among others. The cross-border issues are also controversial and Mexico has demanded an investigation into the use of nonlethal weapons in the Tijuana incident.

    **

    In another post I hope will follow quickly on the heels of this one, I quote MSNBC host Bryan WIlliams telling Jon Meacham:

    if you’re going to clear those better angels of yours fo takeoff, remember the air traffic controllers are working without salaries..

    That’s an interesting juxtaposition if you think about it: angels and air traffic controllers f unction in two different above-earth atmospheres — heaven and sky, respectively — which used to be one at a time when myth and history were one, astrology and astronomy, alchemy and chemistry.

    Might we say there’s now a border between heaven and sky? If so, that next post can be considered an entry in this series, too.

    **

    Addendum, 1/15/2019:

    An excellent set of photos under that title educates us via our visual sensibility on the history and variety of walls:

    The current debate in the United States about building up and reinforcing the border wall with Mexico may have distinctly American roots, but the problems, and the controversial solutions, are global. Growing numbers of immigrants, terrorist activity, continued drug trafficking, and protracted wars have sparked the construction of temporary and permanent border barriers in many regions worldwide.

    Recommended!

    **

    Additional addendum:

    Ha, yes!

    GBG: another form of associative linkage

    Friday, January 11th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a meander to ponder, wonder, wander, a maze to amaze, or as CS Peirce might say, a muse to amuse, an amuse-bouche ]
    .

    Here’s a quick, long run-down of my HipBone games, where they came from, and where they’ll be going if book and online game plans come together.

    My various HipBone and related games are intended as playable variants on Hermann Hesse‘s great Glass Bead Game (GBG for short).

    You remember this?

    As I said before:

    I don’t know how Theodor von Kármán came by his Vortex Street, and I’ve spent a decade in Pasadena wandering its streets and even picked up his four volume works — signed — at a CalTech book sale — but if he had the Van Gogh painting in the back of his mind, there’s the beginning, the seed of an awesome leap.

    And you might say van Gogh made a mighty leap, pre-intuiting the von Kármán pattern in the night sky..

    This DoubleQuote is my favorite move in the game that has obsessed me for the last thirty or so years, the Glass Bead Game as described in Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel of the same name.

    Linking arts and sciences as it does, I see it as a move at the nave roof-apex of what Hesse describes as the “hundred-gated cathedral of mind”.

    The essence of a move in Hesse‘s game is associative linkage.

    **

    I’m using this post as something of a primer on my game thinking, before proposing a recent instance of a type of associative leap / example of a game move.

    **

    There are many fairly basic types of associative linkage that provide the connextive tissue between the items in an ontology:

  • this is the same as that
  • this causes that
  • this is the opposite of that
  • this symbolices that
  • this is above that
  • this is inside that
  • this is the parent of that
  • this follows that
  • this governs that
  • this proves that
  • **

    Getting more complex and multi-layered, John Robb once posted:

    Some philosophical thinking:

  • Human knowledge, at an elemental level, can be described as a “transformation” of data.
  • Complex ideas are built using layers of “transformations” with each layer feeding into the next (think pyramid)
  • We teach these transformations at home and at school to our children.
  • We communicate by sharing transformations.
  • Questions We Need to Answer in the Age of Cognitive Machines:

  • How many transformations would it take to model all human knowledge?
  • How deep (how many layers of transformation is human knowledge) is human knowledge? Both on average or at its deepest point?
  • How broad is human knowledge (non-dependent transformations)?
  • How fast is the number of transformations increasing and how fast is it propagating across the human network?
  • **

    From a process orientation, it’s pretty clear that the fundamental way in which most associative leaps occur to human minds takes the form:

  • this reminds me of that
  • — and that holds true even of conspicuous creative leaps not just out of the box but into the unknown — as when Yutaka Taniyama proposed his hypothesis that there exists a correspondence between elliptic curves and modular forms in 1955. Andrew Wiles eventually proved the linkage in what is now known as the Modularity theorem, as the key part of his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem in 1993 [don’t ask me to explain, I’m not a mathematician]

    **

    Creative leaps are in general the basis of much “opening of fields” both in the arts and sciences, as described by Arthur Koestler in his Act of Creation:

    and elaborated by Douglas Hofstadter in eg his Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies and Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, and at a depth of penetration equivalent to Robb’s questions above, by Fauconnier and Turner in The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending And The Mind’s Hidden Complexities..

    **

    Level on level, the structure of a gothic cathedral is arch building on arch (forgive my Spanish):

    Erwin Panofky‘s masterwork, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, argues for a common mental structure explaining the simultaneous occurrence of Gothic cathedral architecture and the scholastic argumentation characteristic of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas..

    **

    The music of Hesse’s cathedral?

    All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number.

    And the game’s ultimate destination – besides the creation of an overarching synthesis uniting sciences and arts, great leaps of discovery and profound flights of imagination?

    Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.

    In the coincidence of opposites — the buttressed left side of the cathedral’s gothic arch leaning into, against and with the buttressed right side, culminating in the high vaulting that characterizes the nave — transcendence of the physical in the spiritual..

    **

    An aside:

    Okay, very quickly, one associative link that jumped out at one poster recently after the Democratic response to Trump’s resolute desk address was the similarity between Schumer and Pelosi‘s stilted appearance, standing shoulder to shoulder at a single podium [left], and — returning to our theme of gothic as in a fugue — the celebrated painting titled American Gothic [composite, right] —

    That’s a “haha!” (comedic, laughter) rather than an “aha!” (creative, excitement) or “aah!” (tragedic, tears) explosion, to return to Arthur Koestler’s notion of bisociation and its various types and expressions.

    But that’s just fun, and will quickly become dated.. that’s an aside.

    **

    A new category of linkage:

    More seriously, I’d like to suggest that one faascinating type of linkage, close kin to “this is similar to that” is the category of mistake:

  • this is, has been, or can be mistaken for that
  • My example here is the weird sonic effect that seems to have physically hurt American diplomats and other embassy employees in Cuba, and confused national security analysts —

    That headline was taken from an article dated December 12, 2018, less than a month ago at time of writing. Doctors called in to examine embassy workers were flummoxed:

    The patients complained of intense ear pain, hearing loss, headaches, dizziness and difficulty with balance, as well as increased anxiety and irritability, doctors found, but who or what caused the damage is still unknown.

    From The Atlantic:

    Various parties argued that the strange noise was the result of a sonic weapon, a microwave attack, or malfunctioning eavesdropping equipment.

    And back to ABC:

    “The possible sources and the medical findings we have here do not have a quick or easy solution,” said Dr. Carey Balaban, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who contributed to the study. “I wish someone could tell us that right now. I wish we’d have that.”

    Damn commie Cubans!

    The thing is, otolaryngologists and high-tech security experts were the wrong people to solve the problem. Whenentomologists listened to a recording of the sound, they recognizedd it —

    as the mating call of Anurogryllus celerinictus, the Indies short-tailed cricket.

  • the cricket’s call has been mistaken for a devious commie attack on American diplomats
  • **

    Very briefly, then, to wrap up, since the idea is to link one concept to another, I use graphs as my game boards, assigning the concepts (images, quotes, clips &c) to numbered positions (nodes) on the boards, with the lines between them (edges) representing their associative links, which can be spelled out in however much detail a given game requires:.

    top left, the standard WaterBird board; top right, a board from the Sembl game as played on iPads in the National Museum of Australia; lower left, the Doublequote board, for direct comparison of two concepts / images; lower right, the Said Symphony board, for us in “aymphonic” games.

    The idea of conceptual graphs precedes Margaret Masterman by centuries:

    Left, the Sephirotic Tree of classical Kabbalah; middle: Oronce Fine’s diagram of the elements and humors; right: a medieval Trinitarian diagram

    And as a grace note — my two now ancient pages on Masterman, Boole and that Trinitarian diagram are still a quiet delight for scholars of conceptual graphs and the like. Masterman really was an unsung genius, and her curious and vastlky erudite paper Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis proves it..

    I wonder when AlphaZero will be playing a game like this:

  • HipBone, What sacred games shall we have to invent
  • Having God buy you Stuff — Very Nice Stuff, Nice God

    Sunday, January 6th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Janis, obviously, & Sovereign Citizens, a curious and dangerous wrinkle on anti-governmental thinking worth your attention, with some Janis facts that may surprise you in the tail ]
    .

    Here’s a DoubleQuote for you — this from JJ MacNab in a thread about a Sovereign Citizen:

    Writing fake checks for $1,680,000 isn’t a political or religious statement even if you hold deep-seated beliefs that owning a new Camaro ZL1, Corvette, and Sierra will bring you closer to God.

    And this from Janis Joplin — another JJ, eh?

    **

    I bring you this DoubleQuote in fun, and to have some Janis Joplin near to hand.. but the JJ MacNab thread is serious business:

    Attempting to defraud the government is what sov cits do. They believe that if they can just get their magical incantation correct, the gov will throw huge bundles of free money at them. Attempting to claim this free money isn’t a political statement for crap’s sake.

    From my POV, it can be religious in an anthro-sociological sense, and I’m glad I don’t have to decide between MacNab and Noah Feldman on the First Amendment issue — I think as a Brit I can safely recuse myself from that one…

    **

    Sources:

  • MacNab, Attempting to defraud the government is what sov cits do
  • Feldman, This Man’s Protest Is Free Speech. Courts Called It a Felony.
  • MacNab, A snapshot of the Anti-Government Extremist movement in the US
  • That last link, the snapshot, is a decent intro to its subject matter — a movement that cops know all too well as a source of dangerously violence at traffic stops, and the courts know equally well as a source of copious legally mumbo-jumbo’d paperwork — as is regularly the case with MacNab, recommended.

    **

    Did you know?

  • Janis recorded that song two days before her death
  • She snagged the first line from a McClure song / poem
  • Song info:

  • Performing Songwriter, Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz
  • From exceeding dark to joyous light

    Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — via Strange Fruit and Jonestown, deviously wandering, to Merton and thence O Happy Day ]

    .

    Let’s start with the exceeding dark, brilliantly brought to us by Billie Holiday:

    **

    I got there via the phrase “strange fruit” — which cropped up without any overt reference to the song in an account of the aftermath of the Jonestown mass-suicide / murder in Guyana — Gaiutra Bahadur‘s The Jonestown We Don’t Know in the NYRB.

    A sapling had lifted a child’s patent leather shoe off the ground like “strange fruit that some rare and exotic plant had produced.”

    As I tweeted on reading this, “shades of Southern trees bear strange fruit / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root” — Ms. Bahadur responded, “I also thought of this song when I read those lines” to which I replied, “I’m betting Jan Carew. was conscious of it, too.” — Jim Carew being one of Ms. Bahadur‘s sources and the grandson of the Carib chief who had observed Jonestown from its inception to its post-destruction, albeit invisible to the participants from the fringes of the forest surrounding Jim Jones‘ settlement.. “I agree, he probably was” Ms Bahadur commented in closing out our little Twitter ping-pong.

    Ms. Bahadur is a vivid raconteur.

    Here’s more on the Carib chief, his grandson Carew, and Jonestown from her marvelous piece and those forest fringes:

    Jonestown was built in the Kaituma region, heartland of the Caribs, who had dispersed to various islands from their historical homeland in Guyana over centuries. Named after the river running through it, Kaituma means Land of the Everlasting Dreamers..

    With candle flies in bottles to light the way, I walked amongst their dead. They’d died in circles, like worshippers around invisible altars

    the old man recounted singing Carib death-songs among the suicide victims. The elder explained that he was calling on the homeless spirits of the Americans to reconcile with the ancestral Carib dead, because they had never asked for permission to share the land

    and:

    Carew reflected that if anyone understood mass suicides, it was the Caribs, whose mythology marks sites across the Caribbean islands where they jumped from cliffs to their deaths rather than accept slavery at the hands of European colonizers..

    I hope you can appreciate with me the poetry to be seen in these quotes.. dark though the Jonestown tragedy indeed was..

    **

    Here’s how I was taking this: it seemed like another glimpse, from another angle, of the rich stew of religions bleeding into everything and blossoming anew where the Americas meet, that I’d mentioned in a tweet the day before — a tweet I was, let me admit, just a wee bit proud of:

    For the record, far & away most fascinating, explosive area of religious studies these days is the cross-border Mexico-USian folk-syncretic part-narco-theological terrain, Santa Muerte, Templarios cartel &c, studied by Andrew Chesnut, Kate Kingsbury, Robert Bunker and David Metcalfe, with more doctorates between them than I can count.

    and here’s my follow-up:

    Life lives at the intersection of cultural anthropology, comparative religion & depth psychology — not studied as three separate fields, but as one breathing whole, since the drivers of human actions found at that hermetic crossroads are among the most radical, powerful for change

    These have been a rich couple of days for my stumbling onto materials of this sort.

    **

    Here are some more mythico-anthro-religious quotes of keen interest — two concerning the Northern Lights:

    In ancient China and Europe, the auroras were dragons and serpents, flitting around in the night. In Scandinavian folklore, they were the burning archway that allowed gods to move between heaven and Earth.

    and:

    According to Sami mythology, spirits are present in everything, from rocks and trees, foxes and reindeer, and the northern lights in the sky.

    Those quotes are from what’s ostensibly an Atlantic “science” article, An Ancient Tradition Unfolds in New York, subtitled “The recent light show over the city tapped into a deep vein in human culture”. The city, here, is New York. Is it always?

    Neil Kent, The Sámi Peoples of the NorthA Social and Cultural History.

    Next up, from another source:

    their camouflage is so perfectly tuned that they appear ethereal, as though made from storm clouds

    Who they? Rangers? SEALs? Storm clouds themselves? the Fay? Angels? –Who knows? I’ll give you a hint — Peter Matthiessen. Beautiful, no? who or whatever they are..

    And then there’s Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, priest, hermit, writer, world traveler, on his final journey from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky to visit his Buddhist monastic equivalents in Thailand…

    I dreamed I was, temporarily, back at Gethsemani. I was dressed in a Buddhist monk’s habit

    Merton’s, i suppose, was one of my poet transmissions, delivered by letter. I was just two days into 21 at the time., more than a half century ago.

    **

    We’re getting lighter, time to close these files and give you the final video.

    Jonestown was gruesome with its strange fruit, lynchings, lynchings and lynchings likewise. It is, I surmise, the depth of our griefs and wounds that allows in us an equal height of joy — as though our griefs hollow us, and thus we can be filled with joy..

    Within the profundity of Billie Holiday mourning, then, let us find the possibility Ray Charles embodies in his song, O Happy Day:

    Today’s contest for your listening ear

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — sensing the sense of the season, musically, with JS Bach, GF Handel, and a special appearance by Dean Swift ]
    .

    Today’s contest is between Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Christmas Oratorio, here performed by Michel Corboz:

    and Georg Friedrich Händel‘s Messiah, here under the baton of Sir Colin Davis at the Barbican, with the marvelous Sara Mingardo in the alto role..

    Cast your ballots, faites vos jeux — this is a win-win game.

    **

    You knew, perhaps — I didn’t — that Dublin, the place of the first performance of Messiah, was at the time spiritually dominated by Jonathan Swift, Dean of St Patrick’s cathedral, and thus the commander-in-chief under God of that cathedral’s choristers? —

    Jonathan Swift of the Modest Proposal “that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled” —

    and that the said Dean Swift was at first unwilling to let his choristers sing in what seemed uneasily like an Opera, but later relented?

    **

    The child promised, delivered — despised, rejected — crucified and finally arisen in Handel‘s magnificent music himself became, it would seem, bread broken and shared, thus to be digested spiritually by his followers.

    **

    Dean Swift, Handel (Händel was quite British by now) — the two of them crossed staves (a pun, that, ahem) in Dublin that year, 1742 of the Common Era or Anno Domini, 16th in the reign of George II. The King’s Viceroy for Ireland at that date would have been William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire, who was a founding governor of the Foundling Hospital in London, an establishment instituted for the “education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children” — note the echo of Dean Swift‘s concerns, a DoubleQuote in history if you will.

    George Frederick Handel conducted Messiah to great acclaim in the chapel of Foundling Hospital in 1750, and was elected a Governor the next day.

    **

    Swift‘s children get roasted, God‘s child narrowly escapes death at the hands of Herod the Great, but the children of the Foundling Hospital not only get saved from starvation and the gutter, but are exposed to some of the European world’s most magnificent choral music.

    Hallelujah! — if you don’t mind me saying so.
    *


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