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Sunday, July 29, 2018

BERNSTEIN ON BEETHOVEN

Long before there were cellphones and the internet and before you could spend five dollars on a cup of coffee in a size you cannot pronounce, there was culture in the United States. 

Leonard Bernstein was the most brilliant conductor of the last century. In the 1960's he gave interviews that were turned into a series of documentaries. In one, he discusses Beethoven's Fifth symphony and how it was created. And in this documentary, Bernstein gives an  exposition on artistic ...we're not sure what the word is. Artistic honesty? Or integrity? It's about what drives an artist to do what he or she does. 

It's a brief and brilliant, and probably extemporaneous exposition on the subject and we felt compelled to write it down you our readers.  

And so Beethoven came to the end of this long symphonic journey, at least for one movement. Imagine a lifetime of this struggle. Movement after movement, symphony after symphony, quartet after concerto after sonata. Always probing and rejecting in this constant dedication to perfection. To the principle of inevitability.  Somehow this is the key, the only key we can have to the mystery of a great artist. That for reasons unknown to him or to anybody else  for that matter, he will give away his life and his energies just to make sure that one note follows another with complete inevitability. Seems rather an odd way to spend one's life.  But it isn't so odd when we think that the composer by doing this leaves us at the finish with a feeling that something is right in the world. That checks throughout. Something that follows its own law consistently. Something we can trust that will never let us down.  

Is that what appeals to us? Art as perfection? Something we can trust; that will never let us down? The concept is brilliant. The thought that an artist would give his or her life to achieve that perfection comforts us. It lets us know that humanity exists on the shoulders of  giants who are driven by a bigger picture. A need to create perfection for themselves without the slightest care of who, if anyone recognizes it. Creation exists for the creator. What we do with it matters little to the man or woman who achieves that perfection. 

It's a nice respite from the real world, until we are brought back to a land ruled by a slob who scarfs down McDonald's Big Macs, and is surrounded by sycophants who are intoxicated by the proximity to power. That is the power we urge you to fight. So sit back, open an Opus One, and listen to Beethoven's Fifth. 

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, I am sure that you, like the rst of us, are enjoying the beautiful moves of the economy all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

Rump, showing some conservatism to his probable horror, is right about the death of culture in the US. As more evidence of this claim, ask yourself, has there been any great art about 9/11? How about great art that features smart phones, which are now ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives and have been for ten years? Smart phones ought to have revolutionized the idea of "plot", which so often hinges on main characters not having access to vital information. Do our dramas reflect this new reality? No, we are blowing up robot transformers.

What happened to American art? Well, Id say it has a lot to do with what is happening to America. Under the proxy of social liberalism, a form of corporate global capitalism has taken over, pushing for the idea of a borderless, culture-less nation of consumers, not citizens. Anyone can be an American, we are told. All they have to do is get here. They dont have to speak English, or know or care who Thomas Jefferson was. If they need to know anything, it's that he was villainous towards minorities. Twain? His books have that terrible word in them. Hemingway? Lol, in the #metoo era? What does it really mean to be an American? Well, as George W Bush told us in the aftermath of 9/11: go shopping. Keep these giant corporations afloat. People of every color and orientation and language can find a refuge in Target.

Close-knit homogenous communities? Ripe for federal relocation of Somalis. Or see the NYT article of this weekend about how New Hampshire has a huge problem on its hands (No, not leading the nation in lowest crime rates). New Hampshire is "too white". What's the problem with this, as far as the NYT is concerned? Well, it's bad for business. For whose business, you might ask? Well, presumably the corporations who would love poorer immigrants who can undercut wages. Diversity for all!

There is no America in America, at least as its being reconstructed. And this underpins the fact that there are no more people listening to great symphonies or creating great works of art.

We have, instead, the Kardashians and celebrity sex tapes, and the music of Cardi B, a reality tv celeb with a sex tape of her own.

Kissimmee Kid said...

“In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who sell it cheapest. The proposition is so very manifest that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it; nor could it ever have been called in question had not the interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers confounded the common sense of mankind. Their interest is, in this respect, directly opposite to that of the great body of the people. As it is the interest of the freemen of a corporation to hinder the rest of the inhabitants from employing any workmen but themselves, so it is the interest of the merchants and manufacturers of every country to secure to themselves the monopoly of the home market.

Hence in Great Britain, and in most other European countries, the extraordinary duties upon almost all goods imported by alien merchants. Hence the high duties and prohibitions upon all those foreign manufactures which can come into competition with our own. Hence, too, the extraordinary restraints upon the importation of almost all sorts of goods from those countries with which the balance of trade is supposed to be disadvantageous; that is, from those against whom national animosity happens to be most violently inflamed.”

Anonymous said...

Try reading a book:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran
The Good Life by Jay McInerney
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
The Zero by Jess Walter

Anonymous said...

Try reading a book 1:38:
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran
The Good Life by Jay McInerney
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
The Zero by Jess Walter