Friday, August 8, 2014

CiRCE Conference 2014 -- more Hobbits, lots of music

With Hobbits on the Road to Wisdom -- Andrew Seely

[Posting a bit more from this in light of Mystie's comment to my previous post.  I think that the Shire is Practically Perfect in Every Way, so I agreed with all the positive stuff Andrew Seely said and mostly wrote down the correctives I needed to hear.]

A society with few laws needs a strong sense of decency to maintain itself, but this means that it has a certain narrowness of perspective -- they become small souls, suspicious of outsiders.  The society is vulnerable to anything new.

A custom-based society must carefully censor the stories it allows to be told.

We Hobbits can't live long in the heights, but at least now we have seen them and can honor them.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Truth in Music:  Form, Fashion, Flattery, Forgeries, and Fakes -- Hank Reynolds

Form is the structure of the music.  People have expectations based on past experience -- this is how we make sense of music.

Fashion is a set of expectations that happen to be in vogue at the time -- this is not a derogatory word.

In order to listen to music intelligently we need to build familiarity with it, but in our culture, this is hindered in an odd way -- the fact that we're surrounded by music.  Mr Reynolds said, "Have you noticed what's going on outside our doors at this moment?"  There was a pop song playing in the hotel lobby and you could hear it all day long in most of the areas where the conference was being held.  Like this, most of the music that we hear in a day comes to us unwanted -- it's playing in the background where ever we go, so we've become accustomed to tuning it out and have lost the ability to really listen to it.

image via Wikipedia

Mr Reynolds played some of Bach's Goldberg Variations for us, but first he showed us the four building blocks:  1) the ground -- this is the basic melody; 2) the inversion -- this is the ground played upside down; that is, where ever the ground goes up the inversion goes down, and vice versa; 3) the ground played backwards; 4) the inversion played backwards.

That's it!  Using the four building blocks, Bach does stuff like adding trills, or bringing in another voice in a different pitch, then he changes the key, and plays around with the blocks some more.

For Bach, this was fun stuff to play around with.  And it's all math, y'all!

Bach was the Master Craftsman.  The slip of music he's holding in the portrait above was discovered a few years ago in a box of manuscripts -- it's one of the Goldberg variations and he'd composed it that morning while waiting for breakfast, just for fun!

Here is a playlist with the original aria and all thirty (30!) variations, featuring the fascinating animations of Stephen Malinowski.

 This wasn't part of the Mr Reynolds' presentation, but here's a quick way to see this kind of thing in action -- Bach's Crab Canon played on a mobius strip.  I think what's happening is that the first seven and a half measures are the ground, then he plays it again with lots of trills, then he reverses it.  The piece is meant to be played from beginning to end, then from the end to the beginning.

Mr Reynolds also played Smetana's Moldau for us as an example of art imitating nature.  The music tells the story of the river -- it arises as a trickle, gathers strength, and travels through the country, passing through a forest, then past a village where a wedding is being celebrated, and finally joins the Elbe.

Here's a video illustrated by pictures taken along the river.

"Art" is a craft aimed at the unconcealment of Truth.

Because we as a culture no longer believe in the existence of Truth, artists have lost their purpose.  In a world where Truth is not important, the only thing left to unconceal is the self.  A cheap authenticity is replacing craft.

I won't torture you with this, but the last thing Mr Reynolds played for us was a video of a little girl, eleven years old, I believe, who was introduced to a crowded stadium as a singer-songwriter and then allowed to sing our National Anthem.  It was awful.  The poor girl was trying to imitate some pop star's way of singing the Anthem.

You know today's fashion -- no one can sing the Anthem in a straightforward manner.  It must be personalized.  Our Anthem is actually the world's worst national anthem because it's just not singable by a crowd of regular people, which is the opposite of what a national anthem should be.  So it has become a performance piece -- a way of showing off your ability.  Or rather, your individuality -- your self.  Singing the anthem isn't about the country, it's about the singer, and the artist singing the piece must, to be an "authentic" artist, unconceal himself in his art.


[More to follow.]

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