Saturday, May 26, 2007


"The spiritual life can be accurately represented by a diagram of a large acute triangle divided into unequal parts, with the most acute and smallest division at the top. The farther down one goes, the larger, broader, more extensive, and deeper become the divisions of the triangle. The whole triangle moves slowly, barely perceptibly, forward and upward, so that where the highest point is “today;” the next division is “tomorrow,” i.e., what is today comprehensible only to the topmost segment of the triangle and to the rest of the triangle is gibberish, becomes tomorrow the sensible and emotional content of the life of the second segment.

At the apex of the topmost division there stands sometimes only a single man. His joyful vision is like an inner, immeasurable sorrow. Those who are closest to him do not understand him and in their indignation, call him deranged: a phoney or a candidate for the madhouse."

- Wassily Kandinsky Concerning the Spiritual in Art


Le Colonel Chabert said...

An interesting contrast to Musil.

(Also goes with D'Annunzio's and those guys take on Nietzsche.)

Also something, on an entrely different scaffolding (but sharing that arduous and premature anti-philistinism Bull remarked on), presented in Badiou's "theory" of "Event".

Le Colonel Chabert said...

Alex ross in The NewYorker:

In one room of the Schoenberg Center is a gigantic CD player that contains recordings of the composer's complete works. As an academic cocktail party went on around me, I put on earphones and began listening to Schoenberg's compositions from the revolutionary years 1908 and 1909. The composer's abrupt departure into atonality comes in the middle of his Second Quartet, which begins in F-sharp minor and sounds for a little while like a chamber piece by César Franck. Then, in the third and fourth movements, a soprano joins the quartet to sing two Stefan George poems, and the rapture of the words—"Kill the longing, close the wound . . . I am only a roaring of the holy voice"—causes harmony almost to dematerialize before one's ears. It is like those early Kandinskys in which a cannon or a horse hovers in the middle of glowing abstract blobs, but this Kandinsky changes as you look at it, so that the horse is there one moment and gone the next.

Schoenberg was also a theorist, essayist, and polemicist, generating some six thousand pages of writing on every subject imaginable. When he wasn't addressing such things as pumpernickel, highway interchanges, and Zionism, he was asserting the composer's right to find his own path and the audience's obligation to follow him. If the audience failed to hold up its end of the bargain, so be it: better to be pure than popular. "Called upon to say something about my public," he wrote, "I have to confess: I do not believe I have one." And, "If I must commit artistic suicide, I must live by it." And, "If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art." Sometimes Schoenberg's ferocity is hair-raising. In a collection of correspondence with Alma Mahler, I found a letter dated August, 1914, in which he praised the German cause and denounced the music of Bizet, Stravinsky, and Ravel. "Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery," he wrote, "and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God."

catmint said...

thanks Chabert

I thought the Musil piece was very interesting and may find some things to say about it in the future

sorry to say I don't really understand classical music. I have to drive for my job and listen to BBC Radio 3 in the car, but the music doesn't mean too much to me. If there's anything on I like it's always Bach, stuff like that.

I've had a cursory look at some of Badiou's writing, and I think he's a genuine researcher in philosophy, but you couldn't just apply these ideas to politics this way, it would be a disaster

Incidentally, Badiou appears in Althusser's book (l'avenir dure longtemps) not as a philosopher but as an ultra-left militant