Barcelona

Not a political post, weirdly enough… I’m headed to Barcelona where a conference on music criticism happens to be taking place in a couple days (it’s not canceled!). I’ll be throwing in a few cents about possible object-oriented contributions to criticism. My  example is a major work by the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. (Here’s the program.) The tune is called De Staat, which is Dutch for Plato’s Republic, and was finished in 1976. It is structured around three selections from the Republic. Below is a 2017 performance at Oberlin.

Continue reading “Barcelona”

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Interesting ruination of Radiohead’s “Creep”

A few months ago, Open Culture posted a couple videos of Nirvana and Radiohead songs that have been modified by a digital tinkerer named Oleg Berg. I was particularly curious about the “Creep” one.

What interests the author of the article (Josh Jones) is that Berg has reversed the modes of these songs. The Nirvana tune used to be minor. Now it’s major. The Radiohead tune used to be major. Now it’s minor.

Fun fact: the whole band giggles whenever Jonny tries to roller-skate.

After Jones observes that the original minor key of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is “an essential vehicle” for its anxiety and rage, he notes that the Radiohead song does something a little more complicated.  Continue reading “Interesting ruination of Radiohead’s “Creep””

Zionism contra feminism?

A rare political-ish post.

The topic is Zionism versus “intersectional” feminism (thanks Wonder Woman), and the way that hashes out in bizarre articles like this one.

A juicy summarizing quote: “It’s an open question about whether it’s possible to support Zionism while also proposing useful iterations of feminism and racial justice.” The author’s answer from the beginning is “nope,” by the way. No explanation required.


You can tell he’s smart because he points to books.

I grok the idea of opposing injustice toward disenfranchised groups like Palestinians (because duh), and I get supporting a two-state solution (because duh). What I want to know is, apart from the social justice angle, what do people mean by their polemical use of the word “Zionist“? Are they referring to all-or-nothing single-state partisans? If that’s the case, then they’re simply conflating “Zionist” with “zealot” without taking present or historical reality into account. That comes across to me as a pale leftist imitation of Trump’s methods. Or is there something else going on that I’m missing?    Continue reading “Zionism contra feminism?”

Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman

I just read through Eric Salem’s contribution to the new book Contemporary Encounters with Ancient Metaphysics, a chapter titled “Object and Οὐσία: Harman and Aristotle on the Being of Things.” The book has a lot of Deleuze stuff going on, including a new translation of a Deleuze essay from the early ‘60s about Lucretius. While I mainly concentrated on Eric Salem’s chapter, I would certainly recommend Adriel M. Trott’s chapter, “Does It Matter?” She asks whether the difference between form and matter in Aristotle is itself to be conceived in material or formal terms, and links this problem to sexual difference. Trott arrives at the strange conclusion that material in Aristotle is “inscribed with form” insofar as it is capable of leading to distinctions such as sexual difference. It’s an interesting reading of a work by Aristotle that I’ve never read before, and seems to have a vital materialist aspect.

The Salem essay examines the connection between Aristotle and Graham Harman from the perspective of an ancient Greek scholar. In a brief aside, Salem mentions that the problem of how to distinguish arbitrary aggregates from genuine objects is a sticking point for him about Harman’s philosophy. This actually relates to what I consider a genuine blind spot in Salem’s understanding of Harman, explained in bullet points below. Overall, though, I find the essay refreshing and vividly executed. Within the context of speculative realism commentary, it’s like coming in from an unending Edge of Tomorrow war zone to play a game of chess and drink a smoothie. Continue reading “Eric Salem on Aristotle and Harman”

An interesting early take of Lucy in The Sky

NPR just put up a delightful short fluff piece with a newly released early take of The Beatles setting down verses for “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.”

The most fascinating thing about it is Lennon’s performance. He sings in straight eighths on words like “tangerine” and “marmalade” instead of syncopating them. Also, the vocal timbre is less stylized or instrument-like at the beginning, whereas in the final version it is basically filtered to get more overtones and fit the weird quasi-harpsichord electronic organ that Paul’s playing—think Billy Corgan. Finally, John is accompanied by a slightly distracting mechanistic bass drum on downbeats instead of the softer (and harmonically functional) bass guitar, but they probably already knew they would make that change, yeah? Paul can’t be everywhere at once.

Glimpses of the creative process for tunes like this often show how making something more aesthetically consistent (like fitting John’s voice to the overall style of the verse) means to make it more extreme, to “stylize” it even more.

Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?

Most of us can agree on certain vaguely defined elements of fiction like character, plot, setting, and style. Other storytelling aspects happily enter discussions with more or less neutral, conventional meanings, like theme, narrative viewpoint, scene structure, symbolism, and so forth. These categories exist to make meaningful communication possible. You want folks to understand you when you complain about how a confusing setting and nonspecific narrative POV soften a scene’s dramatic punch.

What about worldbuilding? Lincoln Michel over at Electric Lit believes the concept of worldbuilding in fiction is counterproductive.* Continue reading “Who’s Afraid of Worldbuilding?”