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Tag: the Renaissance

the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard

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“Caprices” for Solo Violin – Paganini

musical-f-te-1747.jpg!Large

    “Musical Fête (1747) 

           Giovanni Paolo Panini

                        ____________

though by now you must be assuming 
that Beethoven had been defining the
entire early Romantic Period all by 
himself, 1803, let’s say, to, say, 1810, 
when Schubert, 13 by then, started 
kicking in, however immaturely, with 
his D1 – D1, note, not D960, over a 
thousand compositions later, a work 
imbued, so early, not unexpectedly,  
with the irrepressible spirit of Mozart, 
and therefore, by thenincidentally, 
audibly outdated – but you would be, 
we would  be, overlooking the extraordinary  
influence of a maverick, a relic of the  
earlier Italian domination of the arts, 
from the Renaissance, at least, on – 
Paganini – the wizard of the 
violin, who’d sold his soul, like Faust,  
to the devil, it was susurrated, for his
extraordinary gift
 
Bach had not only changed the course 
of musical history, in the early 18th
Century, but shanghaied the very 
language of art as oracular expression,
and substituted music as the voice that 
spoke for the people, music will define 
henceforth, for a time, the period
 
there is the Italian Baroque, of course,
utterly masterful paintings, sublime
even, see abovebut it has been 
supplanted in our 21st-Century 
popular imagination by the Baroque 
of the German nations, their music, 
Bach’s, transcendental then, though 
ever so intricate, descriptions of his 
particular epoch 

this dominance will migrate to Paris, 
eventually, and back to art, painting, 
after over a hundred tumultuous, 
and impermeable, years, with the 
Impressionists, in the late 19th 
Century

meanwhile, Paganini will get in the 
way, 1780 – 1840, an exact, more or 
less, contemporary of Beethoven, 
1770 – 1827, and show off what 
Romantics can do, unleashed, 
before a newly enfranchised, and 
thrilled, as you will surely be, 
audience  

watch, be dazzled


R ! chard

psst: the Caprices are essentially
          cadenzas, the improvised solo
          sections in concertos, where 
          instrumentalists get to show 
          off their stuff, and riff, however
          exponentially, on their subject

          Paganini, makes an art form 
          of that, as do others, whom 
          I’ll bring up, trust me, later

          stay tuned

 

Cello Concerto no 1 in C major – Joseph Haydn

st-george-and-the-dragon.jpg!Large

     “St. George and the Dragon (c.1470) 

                Paolo Uccello

                    ________

it isn’t easy for me to leave Bach behind
whenever I start listening to him, I could 
ride his musical train forever

but the middle of the 18th Century did, put 
him aside, for about a hundred years, until 
Mendelssohn rediscovered him

Bach’s Cello Suites were themselves only 
reinstated in the 1930s by Pablo Casals,
the Classical 18th Century had considered 
Bach too fussy, his pieces, they thought, 
were technical exercises rather than 
actual entertainments, form was  
overtaking, for them, function 

there’s a wonderful book about all this,
The Cello Suites“, written by Eric Siblin, 
a Canadian journalist, which is not only 
amazingly informed and probing, but also 
beautifully written, it holds a place of 
honour on my bookshelf, along with other 
inspired, and inspiring, texts

not only was Bach set asunder, dismissed,
during the Classical Era, but all of the 
formative music also he had written, for 
cello, violin, keyboard, in other words,
the entire curriculum

which, since Bach’s reinstatement, has 
become, paradoxically, the very  
foundation for learning these instruments

imagine playing a tune with the right 
hand, then a few notes later, picking 
it up in the left hand while the right 
hand keeps on going, imagine what
that does to your fingers, never mind  
to your mind, that’s what his Two-Part
Inventions are all about, fifteen of 
them, eight in major keys, seven in
minor, consider the technical 
difficulties, intricacies, imposed 
both compositionally and upon 
the harried performer 

then Bach follows through with his 
Three-Part Inventions to top it all 
off, for the keyboard at least, and 
only for the moment – there’ll still 
be his transcendental Goldberg 
Variations” among other 
incandescent masterpieces – 
wherein one juggles three tunes at 
time, and all of them in the same 
assortment of fifteen contrasting, 
foundational, keys, the “Inventions
 – if you can do that, you’re on your 
way, one would think, to knowing 
entirely what you’re doing

but time marches on, the Classical
Era hits, Haydn takes over, not
unimpressively

the same thing happened in my 
generation to Frank Sinatra via 
the Beatles, not to mention, a little 
later, to either, with Pink Floyd

listen to Haydn’s First Cello Concerto,
note the bravura inherent in the 
composition, this is not Bach’s 
meditative music, the very Romantic 
Period is, through Classical reserve, 
expressing already its imminence, 
individual prowess is taking over 
from community, which is to say 
religious, affiliation, the same way 
the Renaissance artists, Duccio
GiottoFra AngelicoFilippo Lippi
Uccello had stood out, incidentally, 
from their brethren in the standard 
communal art schools dedicated to 
decorating the ever burgeoning 
churches sprouting out in the still
fervent European environment 

musical, though unaristocratic, 
talents, this time, were beginning, 
within German context, to flex 
their decidedly not unimpressive 
muscles, and gaining some 
significant purchase

and who wouldn’t when a Cello 
Concerto would’ve sounded like 
this, listen


R ! chard

String Quartet in C major, opus 76, no 3, “Emperor” – Joseph Haydn

Ludwig_Streitenfeld_001.jpg

    Francis II as Holy Roman Emperor (1874)

          Ludwig Streitenfeld

               _____________

Haydn’s String Quartet, opus 76, no 3
is nicknamed the Emperor cause the 
second movement, the poco adagio;
cantabile, is a recapitulation of an 
anthem Haydn had earlier written for 
Francis ll, the Holy Roman Emperor
– not, incidentally, for Napoleon, the 
Emperor of the moment, who was to 
defeat Francis lleventually, at the 
Battle of Austerlitz, December 2, 1805, 
thereby dissolving that Holy Roman 
Empire, which had been established 
by Leo, the very Pope, lll when, on 
December 25th, 800, which is to say 
preceding Austerlitz by a thousand 
years, he crowned Charlemagne its 
Emperor 

Haydn must’ve been a monarchist


you’ll recognize that second movement
as the present day anthem of Germany

but listen to how Haydn makes it glisten, 
explicitly, with articulations and filigree 
that render it utterly irresistible

the adagio is usually the moment that
remains immutable, if the composer
is doing hir stuff, it’s the one you walk 
home singing, the faster movements,
however histrionic, are nearly a dime 
a dozen, though ever nevertheless 
often dazzling 

this adagio is utterly Romantic, though
I’m sure Haydn didn’t know what he 
was doing, cause despite their push
against the democratic surge, even 
monarchists, princes, dukes, dutiful 
composers, were finding, and voicing, 
their personal, and individual, which 
is to say, their democratic, opinions, 
however aristocratic their pedigree

artists had done a similar thing when 
their personalities began to single 
themselves out as especially gifted 
when the Renaissance was 
happening, it was now music’s hour, 
individual voices were staking their 
claim, Haydn’s manifestly superior 
based on talent and, after widespread 
economic affluence, audience appeal, 
Haydn’s commercial boots were made 
for walking, and he filled them both
magnificently and incontrovertibly

the poco adagio; cantabile is not 
courtly music, it reaches for not
merely elegance, but the heart,
we’ve entered another 
transformational generation, 
something like the revolution 
that triggered change in the 
cultural upheaval of the1960s 

our first step then was the Beatles, 
theirs was Haydn, or rather Elvis
Presley shoring up the Beatles, 
Beethoven was more aptly John,
Paul, George and Ringo 


but watch the rapture on the players’ 
faces, Francis ll would’ve been 
appalled, much like parents in my 
generation facing the pill, drugs, 
unorthodox sexual couplings, and, 
of course, raucous and unruly rock 

music

today, under the spell of the 
Romantic Period, and encouraged
by that very Sexual Revolution, the
Calidore String Quartet’s Elysium
their evident blissemotionally 
manifest, and utterly arresting, sells 
tickets, for better orhopefully not, 
for worse

but you call the shots, to decorum or 
not to decorum, that is the question

watch, wonder, listen 


R ! chard

“Is Art Truth?”

paradise-jpglarge

  “Paradise” 

        Hieronymus Bosch

                   __________

Is Art Truth?“, a friend asks after speaking of 
its benefits, “Art accepts and tells the truth-Is
that it ?“, she inquires, wonders

art, like truth itself and beauty, is in the eye 
of the beholder, I submit, and therefore my 
definition is, once again, entirely personal, 
though I’ve rigorously plumbed it

it requires background

art died for a thousand years, it was 
essentially unrecorded, dormant from 
the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, nor 
promoted but for Catholic purposes, 
hence the majestic cathedrals and the 
magisterial altarpieces, works produced 
by, however, communities until eventually 
certain artisans were recognized as more 
inspired than others, and given autonomy

enter Duccio, for instance

in time these new, necessarily idiosyncratic
perspectives – see Hieronymus BoschDante
Alighieri – dominated, veering in their search 
for truth in their art and beauty – selling points,
incidentally – towards less strictly orthodox 
utterances

see above

art, and its contemporary science, were 
chipping away at ecclesiastical dogma

till God died, and artists continued their 
prescient march forward, shaping our 
zeitgeist, our spirit of the times, with 
their pronouncements for lack of any 
other guides

but the voices grew personal, see Mozart
often profound and prophetic, see 
Beethoven, till the confluence of disparate 
realities gave us secularism, each soul for 
itself as a tenet, a credo, a belief, a truth

what did they have in common

I believe it was their quest for beauty 
through truth, their quest for truth 
through beauty, with a nod here to 
the salient Keats 

art is prayer, a search for, as well as a 
manifestation of, one’s personal 
identification with the sacred

it is not truth, it is not beauty, it is the 
fervent intention itself, linked with a 
correspondent workmanship, craft, 
which inspires 

see for instance van Gogh for this, who, 
remember, nevertheless shot himself, 
artists are mortal, merely, messengers, 
ever, therefore, fallible, unsure, fearful 
even, often, of their, perhaps 
Promethean, fire

for consolation, or even maybe 
transcendence, see again,
pertinently here, Beethoven  

listen

Richard

psst: thanks, Joan

on odes

                          "The Daphnephoria" - Frederic Leighton

The Daphnephoria (c. 1875)

Frederic Leighton

________________

odes, with their suggestion of music
– despite a history of merely words
spoken in the intervening interim,
counting on meaning and rhythm
without music’s attendant tonality –
go back to the Greeks, the Seventh
Century, BCE, Sappho, for instance,
one of history’s most honoured
women poets, surely quite an
achievement for her in an age of
predominant, indeed
disenfranchising, masculinity

the ode was meant to accompany
tributes to people, events, things,
thereby acquiring an element of
acclamation and praise within its
dimensions, Pindar, ca 552 – 442
BCE, wrote odes for heroes of the
original Greek Olympics, for
instance

by the time of Horace, 65 – 8 BCE,
odes had become stylized,
independent of music, here’s one,
not inappropriately in this season’s
vernal context, to spring

odes remained spoken throughout
their resurrection in the wake of the
rediscovery of the Ancient World
during the Renaissance, onwards
through some famous Romantic
ones, Shelley, for instance, Keats,
up to even this one, by Stanislaw
Barańczak
, which I found in the
New Yorker
, April 20th, a gem, I
think, and in the very spirit of our
Age of Irony

Plywood

O plywood, second best to the real stuff,
believe me, one day I will say “Enough”

to my stooping shoulders, my slouched spine;
my sloped shape and your stiff boards will align,

and you’ll see how my backbone will unbend
and I’ll be standing straight until the end

of my makeshift but rectilinear
prayer, one stiff-backed as a chest of drawers

when we shove heavy furniture around;
I will rise from the dead, though on what ground

and which I, I don’t know; I’ll stand erect,
though my vertebrae’s hierarchic sect

won’t outlive plywood, no, it just can’t win
against that vertical eternity, so thin

and yet so sturdy in its ersatz pride;
as if the moon had shown me its dark side,

I lean, my ear glued to a cupboard’s back,
and I can hear its hollow and exact

hymn to its own cheap immortality;
no, wait, I still can straighten, still can be

square with this upright world (you knew I could),
just as plumb as four planks of real wood.

Stanisław Barańczak

(Translated, from the Polish,
by Clare Cavanagh and the author.)

__________

though you mightn’t’ve caught an “Ode”
in the title, the clue to its essence is in
the initial “O”, an acclamation

and yes, “O, Canada” is therefore also
an ode, as would be most anthems

incidentally Beethoven put the music
back into the form with his incendiary
use of Schiller’s poem for his vocal
triumph in his ninth Symphony, An
die Freude
“,
the Ode to Joy,
incomparable in this rendering for
an improbable 10,000
, yes 10,000, just
click

Richard

“Meditations”, Book 3 – Marcus Aurelius‏

“If thou workest at that which is before thee, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract thee, but keeping thy divine part pure, as if thou shouldst be bound to give it back immediately; if thou holdest to this, expecting nothing, fearing nothing, but satisfied with thy present activity according to nature, and with heroic truth in every word and sound which thou utterest, thou wilt live happy. And there is no man who is able to prevent this.”

Meditations“, Book 3, 12

Marcus Aurelius

_________

the idea of the virtuous man, or the
interpretation of Marcus Aurelius of
such a person, goes back of course to
Socrates by way of Plato, 427 – 347
B.C., who’s ideal was primarily
political, what to achieve within a
political order, rather than a private
meditation, an advice rather than
a contemplation as in Marcus
Aurelius, 121 – 180 A.D., 550,
not inconsequential, years later

other moral perspectives meanwhile
applied, Epicureanism, for instance,
notably, after which the stranglehold
of Christianity produced not philosophy
but dogma, for a subservient and,
biblically labeled, fallen people,
nearly fifteen hundred years spent
trying to figure out how many angels
fit through the eye of a needle,
essentially, how many irrationalities
could prove the existence, and
authority, of a mandated God

René Descartes inadvertently in this
very quest, but not before 1637, put
an end to that, introduced a new, and
revolutionary, perspective, I think,
therefore I am
“,
which put the individual
instead of the Church in the driver’s seat,
this, if it didn’t bring on the Renaissance,
at least gave it a significant push

but because of his famous scientific
method
, studies afterwards in what
we now know as the humanities
became more empirical than
specifically moral, how do we
perceive rather than how do we live
according to what is right or wrong,
Nietzsche‘s Beyond Good and Evil“,
1886, reoriented that investigation,
as it happened, ominously, in an age
where any kind of god had become
irrelevant, Beethoven would be
transformed into a Hitler, an
uncomfortably fateful Übermensch,
Superman

now philosophy is concerned with
language, what do we mean when
we say what do we mean, and can
anybody understand that

our closest moralist, our modern day
Marcus Aurelius, is at present Miss
Manners
, whom I wholeheartedly
recommend

as well as, of course, Marcus Aurelius

Richard

psst: Miss Manners‘ question and answer
format, incidentally, is not at all unlike
what Plato does in his Socratic dialogues
,
she just has a larger, more flip audience

Nemo – “Ennead I” by Plotinus (10)‏

 
 
Date: Fri, 8 Mar 2013 21:28:13 +0000
To: Richibi’s Weblog
From: comment-reply@wordpress.com
Subject: [New comment] “Ennead I” by Plotinus
 
Hi Richard,

Have you thought of writing or already written memoirs? I think I’d enjoy reading them.
Your second story reminded me of the Confessions by St. Augustine,
in which he grieved over the death of his beloved friend.

Descartes might say this about your “This is the census” moment: “I lisp, therefore I exist”.
But how would you interpret the “parable”?

What caused you to stop ministering at the palliative care unit after ten years?

 

 
a parable is in the eye of the beholder, Nemo,  
nearly by definition, and therefore wide in the
possible breadth of its interpretation, that wide
net, should it catch the imagination of many,
can describe a potent, though indefinable,
moral precept that even whole communities
can then propagate and follow, mysticized
fairy tales, for these last serve a similar
purpose, maybe the age of the listener,
reader, here, is the distinguishing factor,
adults have a hard time with fairy tales 
 
dimension to my lisp, if you’re asking what
moral precept I derived from that tale, it is
that something was profoundly watching,
unobtrusive, but gently ready to nudge just
enough to inspire hope, like a second wind
 
I felt, however solipsistically, that something,
someone, was listening, and that was enough,
that indeed would be, wouldn’t you think,
though the information was entirely
metaphorical and abstract 
 
but I’ve experienced too many moments of
transcendence not to subsribe to a more
than merely rational agenda, Shakespeare
again, There are more things in heaven and
earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your
philosophy.” – Hamlet, act 1, scene 5,
lines 186–187 – which I heartily second
 
no philosopher has ever admitted that but
Proust and Beethoven, which is why I’ve
somewhat put aside classic philosophy,
though I love the Moralists, after Rome
and before Christianity, Saint Augustine,
I’m afraid, however, distorted the facts,
as well as his great acuity, in order to
entrench a mythology, the dominion of
numinous, entirely male, incidentally,
Trinity, forcing Truth into a submissive,
not to say penitent, and furthermore
impotent, corner until the very Renaissance, 
specifically until Descartes, and, by the way,
until his near contemporary, Shakespeare,
1564 -1616, nearly the equal of Beethoven
and Proust in his philosophical perspicacity, 
To be, or not to beis of course the first
existential soliloquy of our era
 
Descartes, 1596 – 1650
 
 
after ten years at palliative care I had changed,
and the unit had changed, it had become more
regimented and constrictive than it had been in
its early, more companionable, and not yet so
regimented, years, I now had to go through
security to get to my station, which was not at
all the spirit in which I’d entered the service
 
I am now, I’m imagining, a poet, and live and
write accordingly, these very missives, Nemo, 
are my memoirs, at present you are my muse
 
thanks  
 
I hope you’re “enjoy[ing] reading them

 

 
Richard