My Scientific American Blog is now here.
To give me another easy day at my blogsite, and take care of Christmas, here’s a cartoon by B. Kliban that nicely represents a lot of what Christmas, or–more accurately–the dead of winter, means to me(i.e., awe, a sense of security, a certain somewhat silly normalcy . . . all due to the Jehovacule I’ve been writing about!):
Tennis, errands and a meeting of the small local gathering of writers I attend monthly have drained me. I did add another chunk of text to my ongoing book, now over 30,000 words long. Got nuttin’ left to put here. Oh, I can mention something new I added to my model of the human brain: an innate mechanism sensitive to confusion, and representing Problem. No name for it yet. As I confusedly see it, it tries to help one unconfused–ultimately by linking to the Jehovacule! That is, it’s what allows the brain to explain anything by, in effect, attributing it to God’s will, which passeth human understanding. It falsely solves unsolvable problems to prevent them thereafter from bothering one, so one can work on to solvable problems.
Very tentative jury-rigging, really. But maybe it isn’t completely idiotic.
Today it’s back two centuries to Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” when he speaks of having felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man: A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things.
And this from his sonnet about the beauteous evening:
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea; Listen! the mighty Being is awake, And doth make with his eternal motion A sound like thunder--everlastingly.
In these two poems, Wordsworth, it seems to me, connects to what I am calling the Urceptual Under-Presence, although his conception of it differs from mine in important respects, and is much more vague than mine is–or perhaps I should say as I hope mine will be. This Under-Presence is what I think many identify as God. I think of it as something evolution gave us to cope with the vast meaninglessness of the universe–a personification of it we carry around in our heads it as a comprehensible being, false but soothing. But it is also a powerful–and valid–metaphor.
It’s only the third day of my audiotextual art classes, but–hey!–it’s Saturday, so I’m taking the week-end off from it. I can’t take the weekend off from my blog, though, so am posting the pages in the little booklet accompanying Mark Sutherland’s Sonotexts that concern his second piece–which I’ve only listened to once (and liked):
Note: a “lavalier” is a kind of microphone, something I had to look up on the Internet so out of it I am in this territory. But I didn’t feel I had the trouble with ”Sound Poem for Emile Berliner” that I thought I would when I listened to it for the first time this morning.
Here’s what I just wrote to Mark about his piece:
Yikes, Mark, I’m sure how to break it to you, but . . . I liked your Berliner piece and felt COMFORTABLE with it the very first time I heard it! Before I knew it, I was listening to and enjoying your second piece. I’ll be trying to figure out what happened over the next few days. I think maybe just exposure to things like language poetry, conceptual poetry, even popular movies sometime use of dramatically-expressive noise effects, and an increased ability to be tolerant of new kinds of art due to a fair amount of contact with it as critic and maker, and possibly the thought I’ve given to what music is–for instance, in trying in some of my visual poems to make graphic metaphors of it–have set me up to be able to appreciate what you’re doing–assuming I really am! More in due course, but who knows when, considering how erratically I function.
Oh, you should know I listened to it a second time, and found more things in it to like. So I expect it to be continuingly interesting, and look forward to where your sequence of pieces will go! By the way, if I were to characterize the piece as a kind of found art, how would you react? It really isn’t, although inventive art is always “found art” in the sense that a finished piece is a specimen of art you’ve found in the result, or maybe found the result to be. Especially the way recording feedback from a microphone will give your a field to find things in that recording chords played on a piano won’t.
(I bet I couldda made lots of money as a PR man if I’d been able sincerely to like crap the way I like Mark’s work. I’m so perhaps overboard because I really feel like I have tripped into what is a major new field for me. Oh, because I don’t know how to include audio in my entries, and actually would prefer not to, so those interested in Mark’s work would buy a set from whomever is selling it, and because I will have the challenge of describing something very hard to convey, I should tell you–roughly now, but better tomorrow, I hope, that it begins with sandpaper-scratching sounds but soon includes random musical tones, single and chordal, sort of falsetto-sounding to me, but not human, and–for me–feels like it’s going somewhere.)
More on this piece tomorrow.
One last note: I’m part megalomaniac but also very much amazingly humble in spite of my superiority to everyone else, including you louts, so I want say that the principal joy of being a critic for me is my feeling of being on someone else’s sailboat, plunging into wondrous new climes. Yow! And a Large Thank You to the many of you whose boats have done this for me.
One of my many problems as a would-be culturateur is biting off more than I can chew. Today, for instance, I needed something for this entry. My laziness struck first, telling me to just use the graphic immediately below:
It’s from Mark Sutherand’s Sonotexts, a 2-DVD set he recently sent me–with a copy of Julian Cowley’s user’s guide to sound poetry from Wire. As soon as I saw what Mark had sent me, I went into one of my yowie-fits, perceiving it, as I wrote Mark, as a sort of class in sound poetry, something I’d been wanting to come to terms with for years. I had visions of taking a fifteen-minute class in the subject based on Mark’s package–something I’ve followed through on for four or five days now, except my requirement isn’t fifteen minutes daily of immersion, just a significant immersion that might last only a few minutes–like the amount of time it took me to read the text and above and study the graphics.
I had a second yowie-fit concerning my use of the above here, which I suddenly saw as the first step in a Great Adventure, Bob Grumman’s Quest to Assimilate Audio-Texual Art. (Not “sound poetry” because I had already realized my subject would cover more than sound poetry.) I would write a book here, one Major Thought per daily entry that would not just describe my attempt to learn about sound poetry and advance the World’s understanding of the whole range of audio-textual art, but expose the World to my theory of aesthetics–down to its Knowlecular foundation. All while working on three or four other not insignificant projects daily. But I was not wholly unrealistic: my aim was “merely” a good rough draft, not a perfect final draft.
Well, maybe I’ll keep going for more than a few days. Perhaps I’ll even write something of value. For . . . ? One of the reasons I probably won’t get far is my belief, strengthening daily–if not hourly–that there are not more than a dozen people in the world able to follow me at this time, nor will there ever be, so I’ll be wasting my time. Yes, I do recognize that the reason for this may not be how advanced my thoughts are but how badly expressed and/or obtuse they are. No matter, I myself will enjoy writing about my adventure, and having it to write about may be enough to keep me in it until I’ve actually accomplished my main aim, an understanding of audio-textual at that makes sense to me.
Its words, of course, are Mark’s.
Student Assignment: two words or more concerning “Sound Poem for Emile Berliner”–prior to listening to it. Not much to say except for taxonomical remarks unsurprising to anyone who knows me. First off, since there can be nothing in the composition anyone will be able to recognize as verbal, as far as I can now see, I would term it “linguiconceptual music,” “linguiconceptual” being my term for asemic textual matter in an artwork that conceptuphorically (or provides a concept that metaphorically) adds appreciably to the work’s aesthetic effect. I will say more about this after hearing the composition. Right now I don’t see how its textual content can be evident without a listener’s simply being told that it is there.Unless the tracing is exhibited as the composition is being played, as it seems to me it ought to be, and maybe is! The tracing IS a visual poem, albeit a simple one that serves the work as a whole as its caption.
No, it’s more than that–the textual music is metaphorically its voice, which makes it an integral part of the composition that is secondarily a caption for it.
So much for lesson 1. (I think I passed.)
From a George Will column:
When Britain’s education secretary said children should learn to add and subtract, and memorize some of the nation’s kings and queens, a teachers’ union objected. The union had hitherto said: “For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st century environment.”
All knowledge, you see, is equally valuable: to say it isn’t would mean that Igor’s knowledge of car-types might be termed inferior to Hozlick’s knowledge of algebra by some insidious elitist, which would have to hurt Igor’s feelings.
Yeah, I’m too blah to post anything but hate-entries at the moment.
I got eight hours of sleep last night, which is a lot for me, and felt pretty good. But morning tennis wiped me out. Hence, just the following today, a letter I emailed to my local paper ten days ago that it did not publish:
As a creative artist (whose visual poetry is on view at the County Administration Building until December 31) and old man (72) I had to let you know that the question asked by an article in The Wire this Saturday (23 November) may be the silliest your paper has ever printed: “Is Creativity Destined to Fade with Age?” For Pete’s sake, what does NOT fade with age? Does my circulatory system get blood to my brain as efficiently as it did forty years ago? Of course not. And what’s more important for creativity and all other brainwork than getting blood quickly to the brain? Can my endocrinological system, what’s left of it, take care of its many crucially important functions in the cerebrum as well as it once did? Don’t be ridiculous. The rest of me is doing no better (except my vision, thanks to the cataract surgery of Dr. Neil B. Zusman). Ergo, my creativity is definitely fading. Appreciably.
Oh, well, there’s one good thing about that: it’s now possible I’ll become uncreative enough as an artist for arts academics, arts writers for publications like the NY Times and the New Yorker, and people at outfits like the Macarthur Foundation to be able to appreciate my work.
The paper is extremely politically-correct, and the average age of the people in Port Charlotte, where I live, is around 60. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the rejection of my piece. Yesterday I asked whomever is in charge of the paper’s letter section if my letter had arrived, and if so why it had not yet been published. No response.