musical consciousness across borders

Casiopea, also known today as Casiopea 3rd (カシオペア Kashiopea, derived from the name of the constellation Cassiopeia), is a Japanese jazz fusion band formed in 1976 by guitarist Issei Noro, bassist Tetsuo Sakurai and keyboardist Hidehiko Koike. In 1977, keyboardist Minoru Mukaiya and drummer Takashi Sasaki joined the group, leaving Hidehiko out of the band.

thanks as always, to GUN.

musical consciousness across borders

music of consciousness: a philosophy lesson par excellence: whether or not one likes dexter gordon, or whether or not one likes any of the interpretations of his quickly scribbled composition, Milano; the brilliance of music and musicians, and their commitment to playing and interpreting, to experimenting and giving music a chance to be richly expansive and negotiable: to the necessity of giving every interpretation and performance new life: the following is an profound example of all the above: in philosophical and technical detail; and so rich because it’s all said and explained and performed within the scope of a mere fragment.

this post goes back to the problem of ‘covers’, authorship, translation, and ‘originality’. 🙂

Hear a Never-Before-Seen 1986 Dexter Gordon Piece, Played by 8 Different Artists
May 18, 2017 by Soundfly Team

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 11.16.03 PM

In November 2016, Peter Pillitteri, an aspiring composer and one of the students in Ian Davis’ popular Orchestration for Strings course, emailed us out of the blue to tell us this incredible story:

“‘Round Midnight is a 1986 film by Bertrand Tavernier about a fictitious jazzman, Dale Turner, who was played by the great jazz saxophonist, Dexter Gordon. Dexter arrived in Malpensa Airport, Milan, Italy, on an overnight Alitalia flight in November 1986 to debut the film at the Venice Film Festival.

“I, too, had flown all night, and I recognized him as he exited the plane with his saxophone in hand. During our bus ride to customs, I asked him what he was doing in Italy. In a tired and hungover voice, he said, ‘I’ve become an actor and I’m going to the Venice Film Festival.’ After such a long flight, I wanted to give him his space. I left him seated alone in the baggage claim area as his female companion scurried about collecting his luggage.

“After a long while, I could not resist asking him for an autograph and opened my music manuscript notebook to a blank page. With eyes closed and face facing downwards, I waited — what seemed an eternity — for him to sign an autograph. I thought for a moment that he had fallen asleep sitting up on the bench when suddenly he began to write what was to become a manuscript. He finished it by saying in a gravelly voice, ‘I don’t know how it sounds, but you’ll have to try it out.’

“Exhausted after flying all night, he wrote a manuscript, and to my disbelief, he gave it back to me. I told him that I could not accept his manuscript but he reassured me that it was OK. I asked him if he was ‘going to sign it’ and he signed it with a big, bold signature and finished by entitling it Milano. I thanked him and walked off in a daze, not believing what had just happened.

“I searched out his companion and told her what Dexter had done and that I couldn’t accept an original manuscript from him. She told me not to worry and shrugged it off implying that, perhaps, he did this type of thing all of the time.

https://flypaper.soundfly.com/discover/hear-a-never-before-seen-1986-dexter-gordon-piece-played-by-8-different-artists/

Here, for the first time ever seen or heard is Dexter Gordon’s 1986 autographed manuscript, “Milano.” Below, you’ll hear brand new interpretations of this piece by eight different artists who have shared their thoughts about the experience of performing a chart that nobody has ever seen, and which Dexter himself hasn’t even played!

Participating artists include: guitarist and instrument inventor Elliott Sharp; violin duo String Noise (Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris); producer and composer, Charles Burchell a.k.a. BLVK Samurai; guitarist Nick Millevoi and bassist Matt Stein; guitarist and electronic producer Mikael Tobias; pianist Adam Daudrich; classical guitarist and sound artist Leonie Roessler; and finally, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader of Tredici Bacci, Simon Hanes.

https://flypaper.soundfly.com/discover/hear-a-never-before-seen-1986-dexter-gordon-piece-played-by-8-different-artists/

 

dextor’s ‘autograph’ IS of course, as much a political statement as an artistic fragment. “I am my work. I give it freely. Don’t reduce me to being a black star. I’m a composer and musician. If you want my ‘autograph’, listen to this! Then you might know me.’ It was an Ali-esque moment.  pearodox/provacateur

 

music of consciousness: a philosophy lesson par excellence: whether or not one likes dexter gordon, or whether or not one likes any of the interpretations of his quickly scribbled composition, Milano; the brilliance of music and musicians, and their commitment to playing and interpreting, to experimenting and giving music a chance to be richly expansive and negotiable: to the necessity of giving every interpretation and performance new life: the following is an profound example of all the above: in philosophical and technical detail; and so rich because it’s all said and explained and performed within the scope of a mere fragment.

Stein and A. N. Whitehead and William James: some repetition, some expansion: further to establishing the ground for ‘chronotopology’: as ‘music’ of consciousness’

It is perfectly clear by now, no doubt, that translations of Stein are little more transparent than the original. This problem is itself a necessary consequence of her use of language. Stein is not merely interested in expressing what is generally referred to as the “continuous present,” but philosophically committed to doing so. This chronotope, the stepping stone responsible for the greatest amount of deflection in Stein scholarship, will be examined in detail below. However, to continue to facilitate the reader’s entry into Stein’s garden, it is useful here to recall briefly James’ concept of the “stream of thought.” In The Principles of Psychology, he gives the phenomenological example of the aural stream of thunder: “thunder-breaking-upon-silence-and-contrasting-with-it.”[i] James is interested in perceptual continuity, with presentness, or immediacy.[ii] Perceptual events are, according to James, extended in spacetime and opposed by language: “…language,” he tells us, “works against our perception of the truth…”[iii] Whitehead’s position derives from James: “language is not the essence of thought, (p. 35), nor is “…understanding… primarily based on inference. Understanding is self-evidence.” (p.50) Whatever the truth of these claims may ultimately be, Stein’s concept of perception and its relation to language is equivalent to them, and precisely aligned with some all of whom pursue “I am” as the most certain route to knowledge, rather than, “I think.” I used hyphens below (feeling-in-believing-in-thinking) in order to draw the comparison to James of Stein’s stream of epistemological (not merely perceptual) thought. The paragraph from Stein’s portrait of Duncan we have just analyzed consists of only three sentences, the first two of which are contained by the first line. The movement Stein attempts to capture with the third, paragraph-long sentence is the movement of artistic-thought; she describes this thought while simultaneously “doing” or performing it. This doubling of her work is one of the reasons she can be so impenetrable; though, the difficulty one encounters in reading her is more a matter of practice in an alien grammar and syntax on the one hand, and on the other, in expecting the conventions of literature when a particular species of philosophy is being performed.

Whitehead’s philosophy demands an hyphenated, “full-blooded” world with which thought and its expressions are inextricably interdependent: “Thought is the outcome of its own concurrent activities; and having thus arrived upon the scene, it modifies and adapts them.”[iv] Stein’s work is in agreement if Whitehead’s proposition is taken in converse form. The “scene” is another of Stein’s technical terms as already hinted at below: her writings may be interpreted as expressions of scenes of thought’s concurrent activities – “plays” – which, unconcerned with thought’s adaptations or modifications, are pre-thought (premeditated) performances of knowledges that will inevitably “arrive upon the thought,” making thought what it is. Given the close, personal understanding and relationship between Whitehead and Stein, and given that Modes of Thought was written in 1938, twenty-five years after Stein’s “Orta,” (and 2 years after her philosophical treatise, The Geographical History of America)[v] there is every reason to speculate that Whitehead was thinking of Stein in his many references to literature throughout that work, and particularly here, in this discipline smashing line:

 

I suggest to you that the analogy between aesthetics and logic is one of the undeveloped topics of philosophy.[vi]

 

If Stein is read philosophically, if her voluminous work is understood as a restless search for experimental expressions for non-rationalist knowledges, and if we are willing to learn new grammars and syntaxes, new vocabularies and forensic attitudes, then we will find that Whitehead’s proposal already stood in a highly developed if intermittent state in Stein’s peculiarly nonchronological oeuvre.[vii] Whitehead interposed “analogy” between aesthetics and logic in order to maintain their separate but equal kingdoms; the difference between them, he tells us, consists in their polar relation to abstraction. Nonetheless, that he meant that logic and aesthetics perform in similar ways is not in question: both are “concerned with the enjoyment of a composition,[viii] as derived from the interconnection of its factors.” A whole object is the consequence of the “interplay of many details.” What gives this whole importance is the “vividness” with which it comprehends one of the oldest of philosophical problems, the Parmenidian classification paradox of quantification – the-one-and-the-many that fuels much of the Whitehead-Russell Principia Mathematica. Logic and aesthetics are absolutely polarized modes of thought eternally fated to contemplate, in Whitehead’s own fabulously vivid phrase, “the dilemma of the finite mentality in its partial penetration of the infinite.” But their vivifying powers operate, like vectors, in a single direction: logic moves from the details to the whole, while aesthetics begins with the whole and moves toward the details. Whitehead is willing to make logic and aesthetics complimentary, but goes no further; “if either side of this antithesis sinks into the background, there is trivialization of experience, logical and aesthetic.” Both have a co-present claim on “experience,” but only through their absolute and mutually exclusive frames of reference. This binaristic epistemology (Kantian in structure) is surprisingly at odds with his demand for a hyphenated, full-blooded world in which thought and its concurrent activities are interdependent and interpenetrate, and with the very task of philosophy as he defines it: “philosophy is the understanding of the interfusion of the modes of existence.”[ix] This would seem to demand that the space and time intuitions of understanding have direct access to the abstract categories of reason, and vice versa, and therefore for an aesthetics not as a merely mediating form of judgment, but a dynamic part interior to logic, while logic is a dynamic part of aesthetics, a consequence of interfusions of the modes of existence themselves. A closer look at James’s Principles of Psychology will help make good on this demand.

Stein’s epistemology emerges from her rejection of dualism in all of its manifestations. Her methodological moving through philosophy is a philosophical rejection of the dualism between epistemology and ontology. Her rejection of Whitehead’s merely analogic relation between logic and aesthetics is based, however, on a principle with which they both agree:

 

In the full concrete connection of things, the characterizations of the things connected enter into the character of the connectivity which was there.[x]

 

If, as we must, interpret this principle as what might be called the “strong form” of metonymy, strong because it goes far beyond mere assemblage of parts at connective points with its claim of a contagious connectivity, (contact), then we must conclude that the character-characterization dualism is not absolute but overridden through the existing connectedness (“which was there”), producing a hybrid object that is more than the sum of parts. This same principle may be translated in terms of identity thus:

 

Who owns the last self owns the self before the last, for what possesses the possessor possesses the possessed.[xi]

 

It may come as a surprise that principle one is Whitehead’s, and principle two is James’; unless one is very familiar with Stein, either statement might be mistaken as hers. Each statement is of added interest because of the way in which the content demands a complex form of expression – the objects (ownership, connectivity) because they are understood as dynamic, relational events or acts, require a language of transitivity. Both Whitehead and James struggle, even against their own dualist commitments,[xii] to describe very subtle orders of things that lie outside the philosophical traditions of their respective disciplines. James’ principle may be interpreted as another variant of Parmenides’ paradox, here in terms of subjectivity, and is remarkable for it late 19th century, socio-political, deconstruction.[xiii]

In its widest possible sense, however, a man’s Self is the sum total of all that he CAN call his, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands and horses, and yacht and bank account. All these things give him the same emotions.[xiv]

This makes it perfectly clear that the objects which are of interest to both philosophers are complexes that do not conform to nominalist versions of realism. Both agree that “namelessness is compatible with existence.”[xv] The last sentence of the above citation is particularly germane because of its emphasis on the emotional causality of identity, and because it understands the cause itself as a plurality – in other words, “identity” is not a singularity but a multiplicity. But a multiplicity of what? Both propositions may be interpreted, accurately though informally, as variants of the logical law of transitivity: if a = b, and b = c, than a = c. For the first principle requires that connectivity is transmitted along the series of things and their connections; just as, in the second principle, moving in reverse direction from the conclusion to the origin, demonstrates that ownership is transmitted over the three subject states of possession indicated by the principle.[xvi] “Ownership” then is a distributed, dynamic, temporal state that consists of multiple arrays of connections.[xvii]

James is quite clear that though dualism underlies the popular distinction between emotion and thought, which pairs the former with bodily sensation, the later with intellectual conceptions and judgments, there is really no basis for distinction between them. When we reflect on our own “past states of mind,” their character is uniquely different from our reflections on those of others, not simply because they are memories, but because of the quality they have for us; they “appear to us endowed with a sort of warmth and intimacy that makes the perception of them seem more like a process of sensation than like a thought.”[xviii] Not only do we recognize here the origin of Whitehead’s understanding of “importance” as a philosophical concept, but again, the slip of dualism at the site of introjection – clear and distinct thought fades into bodily sensation. The “owner” that passes, temporally, through possessor-states is emotionally retroflective on the one hand, and completely, serially unique on the other:

…Nothing can be conceived twice over without being conceived in entirely different states of mind.”[xix]

James thus concludes:

“The passing Thought then seems to be the Thinker.”[xx]

This “Thinker” is the character Stein assumes in her own plays; it is the character that passes through philosophy to the chronotope of the “scene” in which thought itself performs in all its concurrent activities. James’ conception of the “stream of thought,” de-nominalized, de-substantiated, a flow of relations, allows him to be very specific about what these concurrent activities are, and makes both of Whitehead’s synonymous terms, contagious “connectivity” and the “interfusion of the modes of existence,” materially and functionally more concrete. To arrive at this stage of performative realism, we must first shift our attention from a world of “false concreteness,” one falsely supposed to consist of well-defined objects (nouns) arranged against an equally well-defined ground, to a world comprised of fleeting, peripheral perception and conception, a non-substantial yet no less materially definite world comprised solely of relations.

Every definite image in the mind is steeped and dyed in the free water that flows round it. With it goes the sense of its relations, near and remote, the dying echo of whence it came to us, the dawning sense of whither it is to lead. The significance, the value, of the image is all in this halo or penumbra that surrounds and escorts it….[xxi]

James ascribes to these “halos,” “feelings of tendency,” a term that designates no less than the raison d’etre of his psychological studies – “the re-instatement of the vague to its proper place in our mental life.” Measured against the scientism of his own time, such a statement couldn’t be more at odds with the predominant attitude of positivism. And yet, upon this announcement follows another which he considers even more “sweeping and radical:”

What must be admitted is that definite images of traditional psychology form but the very smallest part of our minds as they actually live. The traditional psychology talks like one who should say a river consists of nothing but pailfulls, spoonfuls, quart-potfuls, barrelfuls, and other moulded forms of water.[xxii]

In effect, James replaces a depth-model of psychology with one of a lateral, serial, diachronic relationality, an interpretation that once again recalls Nietzsche, particularly his ironic challenge, “dare to be superficial.” In effect, he reverses the dominance of the mind over body, raising affect, feeling, to a state of thought more significant than rational ideas. His justification of this justifies the radicality of his work. His version of Freud’s paradox of “unconscious thought” is radically opposed to psychoanalysis. Thought is inherently unconscious; just as some schools of physics have abandoned all remnants of “hidden-variable hypotheses,” and assume the material world to consist, in large part, of unresolvable, inherently indeterminate forces, so James abandoned the fantasy of a state of complete and perfectly determinant consciousness.[xxiii]

 

Let us use the words psychic overtones, suffusion, or fringe, to designate the influence of a faint brain-process upon our thought, as it makes it aware of relations and objects but dimly perceived.[xxiv]

 

James’ psychic “vagueness” consists in rhythms, patterns, motions of relational “tones” of “affinity” and “discord” that make up the largest and most significant part of psychic life that he calls the “fringe.” Perceptual and linguistic images both, taken as discrete, nominative objects, derive their “meaning” only from the far more important, palpable tones of affinity and discord attributed to them by the sensorial stream through which they swim. “True,” full-blooded “knowledge” consists, for James, of a “knowledge of relations.” And relations are felt only in the psychic fringe suffused (Whitehead’s “interfused”) with felt overtones. The verbal analogy to music in the word, overtones, is not accidental; but neither is it merely analogic. James gives an example of three successive thoughts physiologically determined by “brain-tracks” a, b, and c. Brain track a is impressed first, followed by b and then by c. A fades but is still concurrent with b, and similarly with c. James states: “If we want to represent the brain-process we must write it thus:

 

c

b

a

three different processes coexisting, and correlated with them a thought which is no one of the three thoughts which they would have produced had each of them occurred alone.”[xxv]

 

The “analogy” to a musical chord is apparent here, and it is well understood that, conceived as vibrations of air, these three “notes” make not only a fourth, but may resonate at an infinity of frequencies between and beyond their absolute values. These supplementary frequencies are the overtones which suffuse the fringes of consciousness and materially comprise its stream. For what are nerve “impulses” but “vibrations” along the “brain-tracks.” Whether or not nerve impulses are transferences of electromagnetic charges along sodium and potassium molecules, or vibrations of pulses of compression or transverse waves, a belief that matter is continuous[xxvi] (and not composed of discrete quanta or corpuscles or particles or bucketfuls) requires that relations exists because the stream consists of coexistent and co-determinant events that produce collective results.[xxvii]

Throughout Principles, James comments on language. His view on first reading seems to suggest the conventional negative reply to the question of whether thought without language is possible. But, as with most of his theory, this appearance is deceptive; the stream of thought is not entirely linguistic; “between all their substantive elements there is ‘transitive’ consciousness, and the words and images are ‘fringed,’ and not as discrete as to a careless view they seem.”[xxviii] Transitive consciousness does, however, have a linguistic correlate. James believed that relations “in the world” were reflected in relations in language. The following passage is remarkable on its own terms, and because of its enormous impact on Stein:

If there be such things as feelings at all, then so surely as relations between objects exist in rerum natura, so surely, and more surely, do feelings exist to which these relations are known. There is not a conjunction or a preposition, and hardly an adverbial phrase, syntactic form, or inflection of voice, in human speech, that does not express some shading or other of relation which we at some moment actually feel to exist between the larger objects of our thought. If we speak objectively, it is the real relations that appear revealed; if we speak subjectively, it is the stream of consciousness that matches each of them by an inward coloring of its own. In either case, the relations are numberless, and no existing language is capable of doing justice to all their shades.

We ought to say a feeling of and, a feeling of if, a feeling of but, and a feeling of by, quite as readily as we say a feeling of blue or a feeling of cold. Yet we do not: so inveterate has our habit become of recognizing the existence of the substantive parts alone, that language almost refuses to lend itself to any other use.[xxix]

 

Transitive consciousness is, then, reflected in language through prepositions and conjunctions; or, to put this more functionally, through what in analytic as opposed to synthetic languages are called the dative, genitive and ablative cases. James concludes: “The truth is that large tracts of human speech are nothing but signs of direction in thought…” Stein’s grammar and syntax are completely predicated upon this relationality between material world and material subjectivity as mediated by language. She constructs a language to embody “thought” in spacetime continua in which language “dissolves,” or “cross-fades,” coevally, in opposite directions: first toward language and “signification,” and secondly, toward its negation through an emphasis on its performative transitivity, to its re-embodiment and restoration of knowledge of the “vague” corporeal fringe. Her language is a language of, a language and, a language if, a language but and by; it is a language on the move as much as a language of movement. It is a language of overtones that attempts to reduce the mediation of language to its diminishing, ever evanescing limit. It is a language of transitive consciousness, in which the transitivity moves is both directions. She makes this, and her alliance with James, perfectly clear:

Beside being able to be mistaken and to make mistakes verbs can change to look like themselves or to look like something else, they are, so to speak on the move and adverbs move with them and each of them find themselves not at all annoying but very often very much mistaken. That is the reason any one can like what verbs can do. Then comes the thing that can of all things be most mistaken and they are prepositions. Prepositions can live one long life being really being nothing but absolutely nothing but mistaken and that makes them irritating if you feel that way about mistakes but certainly something that you can be continuously using and everlastingly enjoying. I like prepositions the best of all…[xxx]

We may now see exactly just how Stein differs from James. For the latter, “the important thing about a train of thought is its conclusion. That is the meaning…” Conversely, “The parts of the stream that precede these substantive conclusions are but the means of the latter’s attainment.”[xxxi] Their difference lies specifically in Stein’s reversal of the significance of the train and the conclusion of thought, of the resting places and flights, of the streams “substantive parts,” and its “transitive parts.”[xxxii] It is not the conclusion that counts most, but the reciprocal passage between them. As with Whitehead, James is in the final analysis in contradiction; transitive consciousness, knowledge of the vague transitions that are inherent to consciousness, are suddenly demoted to the status of “means” to achieve the more important conclusions. Stein, however, is not interested merely in expanding the concept of “thought” and increasing the complexity of the mind-body dichotomy, as James is; as with her rejection of the logic-aesthetics dualism, she rejects James’ notion that feeling plays a far more important role in consciousness than idealist thought has allowed, that the “body” is in fact more important than “mind.” She departs altogether from epistemo-ontological models of synthesis and replaces them with an analytic model whose elements are radical reconceptions of identity and time.

Stein the dancer, as we have seen, reserves the epistemological right to move in any direction, in every direction, AND, in a direction. While concurring that “both logic and aesthetics concentrate on the closed fact,”[xxxiii] her philosophical task, in fact, is to open fact to its interfused, interconnecting, interpenetrating and interchangeable existence; but, not through explanatory modes of thought, and without binarizing logic and aesthetics, the one and the many, the whole and the detail. The vividness she seeks is that of the “one.” When she says of Duncan; “She was one. She went on being one.”; Stein is making a nonreferential, philosophical claim. Stein does not mean that Duncan was a member of a species, one of many, an example of a type, or a unified, singular subject; she meant that Duncan was and went on being unified in refusing to act as though the mind and body were dichotomies. Stein’s meaning becomes clearer in the following passage from The Geographical History of America.

 

Autobiography number V

 

When I was at college I studied philosophy that was

it they did not know what they saw because they said

they saw what they knew, and if they saw it they no

longer knew it because then they were two.[xxxiv]

It is just as necessary as that and that is why a young

one knows it too, he knows he is through not because he

is young but because he is through.

Of course he is through with philosophy because just

then he is not yet two.

The minute you are two it is not philosophy that is

through it is you.

But when you are one you are through with philoso-

phy, because philosophy has to talk to itself about it,

anything but a master-piece does that and if it does then

it is not one but two.[xxxv]

 

The first paragraph of this fabulous analysis condemns the philosophy of idealism which subordinates observations to ideas presumed true a priori. But she condemns it in a very specific way: even “if they saw it” it could not be known to them, could not be seen, because their observations already proceed from a perspective of dichotomy: “they were two.” The observation would necessarily have been prejudged and predetermined as something other than the pure observation indicated. The second paragraph is a humorous, and if we understand “he” to refer to Stein, autobiographically accurate flesh-and-blood example of the epistemological scene of the first paragraph. A priori knowledge has no more status than the accidental, secondary, adjectival quality of youth, a fact the third paragraph verifies with the proposition that our young observer is through with philosophy because he is still “one;” seeing and knowledge are not divided. The fourth paragraph makes a still bolder claim. Idealism destroys the integrity of the knower, and Stein allows that knowledge (philosophy) is still possible and perhaps necessary. The final paragraph must be interpreted with the literalness of a radical empiricist. When one attempts to know something while denying dichotomy, denying having to talk to itself about what it thinks it knows or doesn’t, then one is “through” with (Cartesian) philosophy. In such a state, knowledge is present and as Whitehead said, free of the indignity of proof, of having to talk to itself and convince through its self-evidence. Stein’s comments are not a complete rejection of philosophy, but only make the Whiteheadian claim that philosophy is secondary; to be through is meant more in the sense of having passed through, having kicked out the ladder from beneath because it is no longer necessary, at that moment. Stein’s work offers us actual, direct, experience in which objectivity and subjectivity are coincident.

“Autobiography number V” concludes with the comparison of a “master-piece” to what “religion means when it says two in one and three in one.”[xxxvi] Religion, however, can never be “one” because that state is achievable only after death; “it is not yet or ever begun.” But in the case of the “human mind and in master-pieces oh yes oh yes…” – it is not only begun but achieved. Master-pieces, taken literally, are works of the “human mind” which achieve oneness in the sense of knowledge achieved without dichotomy (mind-body, subject-object), like the young observer, without talking to itself about itself, in other words, without explanation, without proof, but with something greater than self-evidence. In order to remove any last vestiges of skepticism that Stein intends her work as a passage, a movement, through philosophy, but against Cartesian rationalism, we need only interpret “Autobiography one again,” which follows (“one” also = once and won, as well as, whole, first, singular) immediately upon “Autobiography number V.”

 

It is not I who doubt what it is all about but she says

clearly, human nature is not only uninteresting it is

painful but I it is not I who doubt what it is all about

but naturally what it is is what it is not.

 

Stein does not doubt everything, as does Descartes, yet, she speaks clearly (and distinctly as suddenly “she” brings attention to the gendering of knowledge). “Human nature” means, approximately, all aspects of corporeal existence, most easily represented metonymically by the “body.”[xxxvii] Her comment on corporeality has all the understatement and undertones of Nietzsche. The body is “not only uninteresting it is painful.” Stein’s irony is palpable here, her vehement, anti-idealist stance flares forth in the condemning obvious “fact” that the body feels pain, implying, by the insistent tone of contradiction struck three times by the conjunction/preposition, “but,” that pain is indeed very interesting. What she does doubt, however, is the logical principle known as the law of the excluded middle, or the law of non-contradiction, that is foundational to rationalism. She doubts that “what it is” cannot also be “what it is not,” namely, that the mind is in fact what Cartesianism claims it is not – the body. She has no doubt whatsoever that what is and what is not may, (naturally), be conjoined, combined in being, (by the copula – is), in an elusive, chronotopicity of self-evidence. Stein’s mode of aesthetic thought is succinctly encapsulated here in the forceful, secondary meaning of, “I it is not I,” which must also be read in the clear light of the counter-equation, “I-it, is, not-I,” where I is de-personalized by means of the distinct correlate and/or substitution, “it,” indicating that “I” is always also other than itself. It, the body moving in any direction, thinks and feels pain. That is what it is all about. Naturally. Finally, Stein, in these few deceptively simply lines, forces us to pass through a rupture in language, if we are willing; both readings – I-it, is, not-I – and – I, it is not I – are logical, linguistic moments that taken independently are inadequate to deny the mind-body dualism; only when conjoined do these phrases bracket a nonlinguistic portal into another, empirical, concrete, chronotopic, self-evident dimension. The human mind both is and is not human nature, the body. Sustaining existing within this bracketed chronotopicity is being existing in the mode of aesthetic thought.

Stein, in effect, pluralizes I, and we must read these lines through the combination of perspectives unified in the assemblage of pronouns it presents – I, not-I, it, she, and, human nature. We recognize here again the Stein-Whitehead epistemological axis of disagreement, and Stein’s solution to it – to the Parmenidian classification paradox of quantification – the-one-and-the-many problem. “Autobiography one again” continues:

 

Time and identity and what is it that the human

mind does and if it does it what does it do it about.

Identity.

 

If the relation between logic and aesthetics in Stein’s work is not merely analogic, if she is able to develop this overlooked philosophical field and solve actual philosophical problems, she must radically re-envision conceptions of identity. Stein thus relentlessly asks epistemological questions: Not, what does the human mind do; nor, what does the human mind do what it does, about; but, what is the nature of the conjunction between these two epistemological questions. The first question address both time and identity; while the second question addresses identity alone: this conjunction has the chronotopic structure of dissolve in which identity and the world cross-fade from serial moment to serial moment, in a process of co-construction, co-imagination. The I-it and the not-I coalesce in a fundamentally, form-seeking, content-yielding, aesthetic mode of thought. In working out Stein’s epistemology, we must proceed as she does – by analyzing her solutions to the performances of the human mind in terms of time and identity, and at the same time, her solutions to processes of identification that take place when the human mind performs in relation to the conditions of existing, in time, in other words, through chronotopicity.

[i] Stein (1995:155-56)

[ii] This immediacy is the naïve immediacy or realism that Derrida’s work critiques. I will discuss this below.

[iii] The significance of this for epistemology is enormous, and runs counter the dominance of what I have come to call the semiocentrism of critical theory of the last half century.

[iv] Whitehead (1938: 36)

[v] The subtitle of this remarkable work is: Or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind. As an aside, that won’t be discussed here, Picasso, written in 1938, is only superficially a work about the painter; it is, in my view, a sequel to The Geographical History of America.

[vi] Whitehead (1938: 60)

[vii] I say peculiarly nonchronological as a rough gauge of “development” of her work over her life time. Her work literally begins again and again and again, and she comments on this often, with such phrases as: “to know one always has to go back;”

[viii] The term, composition, is too strongly allied to Stein not to be interpreted as an allusion to her, and strongly suggesting that Whitehead’s understanding of aesthetics derives, at least in part, from his understanding of her work.

[ix] Whitehead (1938: 71)

[x] Whitehead (1957: 58)

[xi] James (1990: 219)

[xii] “The dualism of Object and Subject and their pre-established harmony are what the psychologist as such must assume, whatever ulterior monistic philosophy he may, as an individual who has the right also to be a metaphysician, have in reserve.” Ibid.:143.

[xiii] We have already noted Nietzsche’s revaluation of the ego. The earliest Eurocentric devaluation of the integrity of the ego happen shortly after its mercantilist inception; that is, with Hume, in his Treatise On Human Nature. James’ revaluation here is all the more remarkable for it’s “socio-political,” ethical interpretation in term of “power.” “CAN,” (italics and capitalization are James’ emphasis) in effect, carries the ethical burden of a few hundred years of enlightenment domination. And Stein was perfectly aware of this, as demonstrated in Melanctha, in which she assumed the character of a black woman, partly as a cover for her lesbianism. Toward the end of her life, after several years of correspondence, Richard Wright was able to emigrate to Paris and escape the double discrimination of communism and racism, because Stein was able to arrange a visa for him despite the block against it issued by the US Department of Justice.

[xiv] James (1990: 188) The emphasis is James’.

[xv] Ibid.: 163

[xvi] The concept of “ownership” is used in a very interesting and eccentric way in James’ work as exemplified here: “It seems as if the elementary psychic fact were not thought or this thought or that thought, by my thought, every thought being owned. Ibid.:147. James’ emphasis.

[xvii] It would not be too bold to claim that James’s notion of subjectivity is the precursor of the rhizomatic metaphor of Deleuze and Guattari.

[xviii] James (1990: 145)

[xix] Ibid.: 313

[xx] ibid.: 220

[xxi] ibid.: 165

[xxii] ibid.: 165

[xxiii] I overstate the case a bit to make the point that in spite of Freud’s concepts of physiological permanent unconscious instincts and interminable psychoses, ego psychology could, if taken to it’s theoretical limit, attain complete transparency. Social forces are such that this would in fact never be achieved, but there is nothing constitutively, materially standing in the way of such an achievement. James put is thus (emphasis is his): “A permanently existing ‘idea’ or ‘Vorstellung’ which makes its appearance before the footlights of consciousness at periodical intervals is as mythological an entity as the jack of Spades.” Ibid.: 153

[xxiv] ibid.: 167. Emphasis is James’.

[xxv] Ibid.: 157

[xxvi] James no doubt accepted the view that matter is continuous and not corpuscular. “The transition between the thought of one object and the thought of another is no more a break in the thought than a joint in a bamboo is a break in the wood. It is a part of the consciousness as much as the joint is a part of the bamboo.” (James’ emphasis.) Ibid.: 156. See Charles Sanders Peirce’s essay, “The Logic of Continuity,” for the view James would have held, “Lecture Eight” of Reason and the Logic of Things, edited by Kenneth Laine Ketner, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.

[xxvii] It is just like the “overtones” in music. Different instruments give the “same note, but each in a different voice, because each gives more than that note, namely, various upper harmonics of it which differ from one instrument to another. They are not heard separately by the ear; they blend with the fundamental note, and suffuse it, and alter it; and even so do the waxing and waning brain-processes at every moment blend with and suffuse and alter the psychic effect of the processes which are at their culminating point.” Ibid.: 167.

[xxviii] Ibid.: 176

[xxix] ibid.: 159

[xxx] Stein (1957: 212) from “Poetry and Grammar.” For another view of the Stein/James relationship, see Lyn Hejinian (2003: 159)

[xxxi] Stein (1957: 168)

[xxxii] Ibid.:158

[xxxiii] Ibid.: 62

[xxxiv] This passage should also be understood a reference to her days in medical school at Johns Hopkins, where she was less a medical student per se than a researcher in neurophysiology. She hated the standard courses required of medical students, and simply didn’t do well in them. Stein was denied her degree after spending two additional years of research, in which she attempted to construct a model of the medulla and midbrain of a 6 month old human, because her model did not conform to that of Florence Sabin, on Sabin’s word, whose model had been accepted and was already circulating in every text book on the subject. Stein appears here to be expressing her disagreement with the decision against her. For a full account of this, see chapter two of Steven Meyer’s Irresistible Dictation, particularly pages 73-103.

[xxxv] Stein (1995: 178)

[xxxvi] Ibid.: 179

[xxxvii] I put it this way to suggest both the complications of what Stein means by “human nature,” and also of the contemporary discourses from bodies that matter to all matter of cyborgs and beyond.

Stein and A. N. Whitehead and William James: some repetition, some expansion: further to establishing the ground for ‘chronotopology’: as ‘music’ of consciousness’