Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Romantic genius

As an earlier post documented, I bought a Beethoven bust. It towers above me, solemnly scrutinizing my every move and action.

I've often thought a lot about Beethoven's life and the Romantic ethos as a whole. Ludwig van made some revolutionary advancements in music. Yet he was brazen and moody. It can't be denied that he was up his own arse - pathologically.

Yet this is an integral part of his art... Beethoven, and the Romantics, tried imprinting their own personality into their art. Whether they described themselves as geniuses or not, that's what they did.

What I like about the whole Romantic ethos is the way you feel 'small' within a much 'bigger' context. Looking over a hill-top; being in awe of beautiful cathedrals; being entranced by the most amazing symphonies.

Their constant emphasis on 'the imagination' sounds great to me, too. But did this put a halt on the scientific and artistic advancements of the Renaissance?

Now that we live in post-modern times, I say that the best compromise is a synthesis of the two. We need scientists to think imaginatively and analytically. Writers and composers should also opt for a happy medium - judiciously analyse the world, structure something carefully yet always approach the two with imagination and creativity.

Don't laugh at my platitudes, Beethoven!

Friday, 23 November 2012

The hazards of solipsism

The universe we inhabit is mighty big. It is macrocosmic in scale, beneath our reach. We keep sending satellites and various other apparatuses, but it is clear than we have only dipped into its shallow surface. The universe keeps expanding and expanding beyond our reach and it is unlikely that we will have a full grasp of its breadth and complexity.

The argument the solipsist takes, therefore, is a hazardous one. It is an argument I myself have taken in the past, but it is one I am very happy to revise.

The solipsistic concept - the concept that one's mind is the only mind - is a counterproductive proposition. As soon as one takes such a stance, the whole world tumbles down on you.

Our minds are infinitesimal in the bigger scale of things. To claim that such a complex fabric as the universe is just there  to serve one individual is a mighty claim to make. It is selfish and shallow.

The solipsists in this world are the people who are damaging it. Those right-wing moguls who invest in business are solipsistic. Those people who claim that Angela Merkel is one of the most powerful people in this world are wrong. It is self-consumed business who invest in their own ventures, bringing about the collapse of the world economy.

A solipsistic stance is self-destructive. Claiming to be a solipsist takes into account the objective world. How can you live a life in opposition to objectivity when you have already acknowledged it? When you are constantly, day by day, running against it? The solipsistic thesis is redundant because it can only exist by acknowledging the argument's antithesis - the other minds.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Commemorated through words

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes. 

Sonnet 55 by William Shakespeare

I don't make a habit of posting poetry here (perhaps I should!), but I can't think of many things as beautiful as this.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Elliott Carter (1908-2012)

This is the third string quartet by Elliott Carter, who passed away three days ago, almost at the age of 104.

It was a very well-lived life. Carter oversaw most of the twentieth century and was acquainted with the likes of Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky and Edgard Varese to name a few. Aside from Pierre Boulez, he was quite possibly the last great modern 20th century composer to leave this world.

What I like about his music is the way the multiple layers of melodies and pitches do connect and intertwine on repeated hearings. And, unlike other composers in the 1950s (younger than himself), he sees this kind of process less as a scientific experiment than as an exercise in heightened expression.

I chose to put up his third string quartet, as it is his most assaulting and aggressive piece.

Monday, 5 November 2012


What is rebellion? How is one truly a rebel? I think that most people's use of this word is completely perfunctory. We are swayed by advertisements of all kinds which teach us what a 'rebel' is. Che Guevara t-shirts are marketed; suitable angry music is distributed. Is this rebellion or is it conformity?

I always remember back in school that, whenever the marginal 'nerdy' type did something mildly outrageous, there would be the sarcastic jibe "Oh, you rebel!"

Someone in my corridor last year couldn't believe that I went through a period of angst. I'm her idea of a goody-two-shoes. Mainly because I never went clubbing and always orbited around my room.

For example, whenever I've gone to classical concerts in the past, I often go there furious, angry, full of adrenaline. I half expect the audience to consist of angry young men. It's usually heaving with old ladies.

The whole idea of 'rebellion' that's marketed to us is a form of conformity. Those who are 'rebellious' wear appropriate clothing and have mohicans. They have to behave outrageously. They think that, by going through the most raucous drunken frenzy, that they are somehow usurping authority.

So, in the framework these people think in, I am a conformist. I don't behave like this. But I am rebellious in the sense that I do not give in to this type of behaviour and think it is of utmost importance to challenge and question authority. That's the essence of rebellion - challenging authority.