Bassoon Blue: The Painter and the Blind Composer – a dialogue – second post

Part 3: draft

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right.

Part 3

P

I appreciate, Composer, that you wished to touch all three paintings again. I often wish that those with eyes took such care. Is beauty in the fingers of the composer well enough now for me to attempt to rise to the occasion of your discourse on musical abstraction?

B

Yes, dear Painter. I have your work at my fingertips… So do proceed. I’ve even banished all thoughts of geometry, architecture, the human form, and all thoughts of realism, whatever that might be. I’m all ears.

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P

Good. Is the chair comfortable enough?

B

Do get on with it Painter!

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P

Ahem… Alright… We are in my studio. The walls are white, without color. The ceiling is high. The north wall is formed of large windows that allow the room to be filled with neutral light so it least effects the color of my paintings. This is important because color is light. Paint is the light reflected by pigment. Were the sun to shine on it directly, then it would distort the light of color. This may be similar to the way sound is reflected off the walls, ceiling and floor of the symphony hall. The way Bach’s Cello Suite #5 in C Minor sounds in the Berliner Philharmoniker sounds differently in the Royal Albert Hall.

B

So your paintings look different in different exhibition spaces?

P

Yes. So every individual painting has many different appearances, just as Bach’s Cello Suite # 5 sounds differently when, and wherever, it’s played.

B

So a painting is no different than an musical score?

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P

No. It isn’t. Which is why some painters, like Rothko, attempted to control the conditions of lighting in which his paintings were shown. Most museum’s don’t meet his conditions. So to truly see a Rothko painting, you have to travel to Houston to see his works in the Rothko Chapel. where those condition are met. What I’m trying to say is that, because ultimately, painting is about light, and light is variable, to experience, to see, a painting properly is similar to a musical performance in that there are more or less optimal conditions under which it can be viewed. Who is to say whether or not Gould’s Bach played on piano is better or worse than Savall’s Bach played on harpsichord?

B

So what you’re saying is that your bassoon blue has many shades of cobalt alone, depending on where, and how, it’s displayed?

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P

Exactly. Yes.

B

So, the painting I’ve touched and compared to the others, is not the only one? This one painting can take many different forms, or, appearances? So, like a score, IF I were able to see, it’s possible that I’d see it in many different ways?

P

Yes. That’s what I’m saying.

B

Alright then. That’s very helpful indeed. Every painting exists like a single note or chord within an envelope of grace notes. Okay. I understand that. Go on.

P

The painting before you is 2.5 meters high, and 1.5 meters wide, approximately. And it’s frame is 10 centimeters think, so depending on how it’s lighted, the frame casts a shadow that make it both a substantial object, while also making it seem to float over the surface of the wall.

B

Like a bassoon solo holding a C whole note for several measures?

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P

Yes. Like that, but not the same exactly. In the painting before you, there is a central motif of a blue so pale that it’s almost white. It’s shape, or form, is spatially three dimensional, while the painted marks, the lines or brush strokes that give it definition take the shape of an elongated human head, though less symmetrically shaped than that. And it’s not a solid object, doesn’t have a continuous surface, but is broken up by contour lines meant only to give it an approximate shape. If you had eyes, you’d see that it has an interior volume, that it is porous, that it is shape that floats, or is suspended in, a much denser background space that implies the physicality of a medium, a density of some other kind of matter, a matter of a different nature than what the motif shape is made of, like a human body floating in a river with it’s currents and eddies and whirlpools, and variable depths.

B

Like a first violinist playing a ‘solo’ line in the midst of a full orchestra accompaniament?

P

Yes. Nearly like that

B

Okay. I can imagine that. But what does it feel like? What is the fate of your motif? If it’s like a body suspended in a river, will it sink or swim? Is it part of the river? Or, is it ‘something’ else? It is emerging from the river? Or, is it dissolving into it?

P

Perhaps that is in the eye of the beholder.

B

Fair enough. But if it’s painted in the bassoon key of cobalt, then, musically speaking, your motif would be heavy, wouldn’t it? and therefore its natural tendency would be to sink?

P

It would, yes, if the motive were bassoon, or cobalt blue. But it isn’t. If you recall, the motif is a pale shade of blue, and therefore far lighter than cobalt, in the high pitch range of a bassoon, and therefore a figure that floats on the surface, in no danger of being submerged. It’s a dandelion bloom floating over the surface of a dark blue river. But one that’s always in danger of becoming saturated by the river’s substance, and, yes, of eventually becoming heavy and sinking. So it’s fate, in my painting, is depicted as not yet determined. A wind could still lift it into the air and blow it onto a shore where it might bloom again. Or, it might be eaten by a trout or be dashed against a rock where it would dry and die in the heat of the sun.

B

You’re sounding Wagnerian, Painter.

P

Well, I am, after all, dear Composer, German. Though, perhaps with a bit of late Turner mixed in. And I must say, I’ve traveled in Italy as well. But if were cornered, I’d say my influences are more Indian and/or Australian. With a bit of Venice, Rome, and southern Spain thrown in.

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B

Ah… I see….

Bassoon Blue: The Painter and the Blind Composer – a dialogue – second post

Bassoon Blue: The Painter and the Blind Composer – a dialogue

a fragment from a script for a film initiated by alf loehr, very much in progress…

Note: B = the Blind Composer; P = the Painter

Part 2

B

Well, now that we’ve established a way to translate, or perhaps better put, transform, music into painting and painting into music, describe to me what this middle painting looks like.

P

Alright. I’ll do my best…

B

Don’t be too concerned, dear Painter, I may be blind but I do have a knowledge of geometry, and of the human figure, since, after all, I do have a body myself, though I’ve never seen it. Perhaps that is a good thing…

P

Oh please! dear Composer. You’ve been told often, I’m sure, how beautiful you are!

B

Your flattery falls flat with me, Painter, since I have no conception of visual beauty, only musical beauty.

P

Beauty is in the ear of the listener, is it?

B

Well put, indeed! But I sense that you’re stalling…

P

I see that intuition doesn’t require eyes. Well… I have to forewarn you that your knowledge of geometry and the human form will do you no good… will do me no good I should say, in aiding my description because my paintings aren’t figurative or architectural or geometric or realistic…

B

Ah… they are what is called abstract, then?

P

Yes. And precisely here we encounter the first impasse that we will need to overcome, I suspect. Music is very ordered, mathematical in fact, classical music is, at least. I know that music is often considered an ‘abstract’ art, but musical abstraction and that of painting are quite different, aren’t they?

B

Having no experience of visual abstraction, I’m not qualified to say. We are in a spot here, aren’t we.

P

Yes, I think we may be. Nor am I, really, qualified to speak about musical abstraction, not as qualified as you are. I listen to a great deal of music of all kinds from all eras, so I have at least a toe hold there. But perhaps you should first describe to me what musical abstraction is. That way I can better look for analogies for our different uses of the term.

B

Stalling again, are we? I’d been warned that you were a sly dog. I don’t mean to insult you. I appreciate cunning in a person. Alright, then. I’m game. Music is abstract in the sense… well… in the sense that… hmmm….

P

Ah ha! Now you see my dilemma.

B

Indeed I do. Allow me moot this – music is abstract because it’s made of sound, noise, and silence. It doesn’t appear to us to be a physical thing, because well, it can’t be touched. And for you, I imagine, it’s also abstract because it can’t be seen. It is true though that sound, and therefore music, ‘touches’ us. We can’t put out our hand and grasp it, but our ears, in fact our entire body, can. But for humans, touch and sight are the dominant senses, the perceptual modes which allow us to experience the world as physical, concrete, material, objective. Whereas, we don’t experience sound as physical, usually, as listeners at least, because we don’t think that we experience it, physically. When in fact we actually do. We choose to reach out and touch something, and, so I’m told, we can choose what we look at or not look at. So we think we have more control when we touch or see something. Seeing and touching give us a sense of power and control over the world. But our ears are passive organs, aren’t they? We can’t choose or not choose what we hear. It just somehow, mysteriously, happens to us. As listeners, we don’t cause it to happen. And anything that just happens to us, that we can’t control, is not part of our body, is separate from us, and that is one way in which music is abstract – it’s something independent of us.

My, I’ve become loquacious. My apologies.

P

Not at all. Please go on.

B

It’s a very different case with musicians, for those who play an instrument. For them, it’s a profoundly physical experience. But oddly, even though they cause music to happen, they can’t make sound happen. For, as you say, sound is only in the ear of the beholder. Even for them, as they perform, they are also passive listeners, just as dependent as listeners are on their ears, perhaps even more dependent because they’ve trained their ears to be expert listeners.

P

So music and sound are very different things?

B

Yes. It’s a very strange situation, isn’t it? But it gets even stranger. And this brings me to suggest a second way in which music is abstract. Music, like mathematics, even like language, consists of symbols, of notation, and symbols themselves are not concrete things, are they? They only point to concrete things. But they are not the concrete things themselves. They are abstract scratches on a piece of paper that have no physical existence, other than being a mark on paper. By themselves though, they have no meaning. The note, ‘C’, doesn’t have any concrete existence or meaning until the piano key is struck, does it?. It’s merely an abstract mark that can only point toward a sound, or be a single element of a word, which itself is only an abstract group of symbols. A musical score is a gathering of symbols into some kind of order that can only represent sounds unfolding in time. But they are not the sounds themselves. No more than the word, ‘cat’, is a real, objectively existing, ‘cat’.

P

You’re very right. This is a very strange set of affairs. I’d say that it’s even paradoxical. You were describing how the musician, the performer, is different from the passive listener. This may be key to thinking about painting. So could you say more about that?

B

Yes, of course. Imagine the musician as she plays. She is in two different places simultaneously. She is intimately engaged in the very physical act of playing her instrument. But at the same time, her brain is on fire with the complex patterns of the abstract symbols of the score, as she translates them into the physical actions of her fingers striking the piano keys or plucking the strings of an upright bass. The act of playing an instrument is a truly miraculous event. Somehow the musician is able to forge or compress purely abstract symbols and abstract sounds into a single thing, a single act, the performance. It’s almost like forcing the north and south poles of a magnet into a single force, and, we know what happens when that’s done – a great explosion occurs. So a musical performance is an explosion caused when abstract notation and abstract sound are compressed together. Then, and only then, can one hear Bach or Zappa.

P

Wow! I now regret turning the tables on you! I fear that I’ll not be able to rise to the same heights in describing the abstraction of painting.

B

Come now. You’re just being a sly dog again.

P

Don’t be so sure, Composer.

Bassoon Blue: The Painter and the Blind Composer – a dialogue

19/04/19 – a rare, perfect day – for Benjamin and Marina – that ended with the sighting of a perfect, pink, full moon hovering just inches above the horizon

philosophical lesson 1: Carpe Diem – the second-person singular present active imperative of carpō “pick or pluck” used by Horace to mean “enjoy, seize, make use of”. Diem is the accusative of dies – “day”. A more literal translation of carpe diem would thus be “pluck the day [as it is ripe]”—that is, enjoy the moment. while the phrase has devolved into something of a cliche, does NOT mean that it’s any less profound. to actually, in fact, carpe diem, requires effort and the perfect conditions to make it perfectly memorable because it was, in fact, accomplished.

philosophical lesson 2: seize every aspect of the day – no matter how contemporaneous or ancient. then, draw the conclusions from the journey through the widely disparate temporal dimensions, or, between what i’d call, with mikhail bakhtin, chronotopia.

at B&M’s in the santiago colonia of merida: among the profusion of their patio del fundo” under gray drizzling skies –

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19/04/19 –Dzibilchaltun

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19/04/19 – Dzibilchaltan Museum

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Chelem:

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Chelem, a near eponymous equivalent of Chelm, Poland where Benjamin’s grandfather was born – The city of Chelm prospered in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was then that The Golem of Chełm by Rabbi Elijah Ba’al Shem of Chelm became famous, but the city declined in the 17th century due to the wars which ravaged Poland. In the 18th century, the situation in eastern Poland stabilized and the town started to slowly recover from the damages suffered during The Deluge and the Khmelnytsky’s uprising.

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and the late afternoon, early evening at the beach, a jellyfish, and a pink full moon:

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and, almost forgot, the jellyfish, which in the water and not covered with sand, was remarkably, perfectly transparent, like something from a scifi film…

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unfortunately, the below image was seen in an even more perfect state, but not captured by me. so this is substitute that pales by comparison relative to what we actually witnessed as we drove back to merida. on the surface of the pink moon we witnessed, was the the deep pink shadow of the north and south american continents as it rose about the yucatan peninsula – a celestial mirror of sorts rotating far, far, far above our moving car, that was then, the chronotope that allowed us that perspective.

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19/04/19 – a rare, perfect day – for Benjamin and Marina – that ended with the sighting of a perfect, pink, full moon hovering just inches above the horizon

19/04/19 – for B&M – re: the previous post – lacks, and therefore requires some music to complete it, in an unexpected way… the sound track we might have listened to as we had a beer or a glass of wine to, if we hadn’t been too tired… :)

19/04/19 – for B&M – re: the previous post – lacks, and therefore requires some music to complete it, in an unexpected way… the sound track we might have listened to as we had a beer or a glass of wine to, if we hadn’t been too tired… :)

sound: an interlude

i’ve always loved music like this.
just because i’m an atheist doesn’t mean that i can’t love some of the texts and musics of christianity…
but don’t ever expect me to love christianity…
that, i do despise.
but even some christians can be good people…
it’s just religion in general, by any denomination, that is shit and the ruination of humankind…
the environmental catastrophe that is now upon us, upon all of our children and grandchildren, is equally attributed to capitalism, and, religion.
though, if i had my way, i’d abolish religion first, and capitalism, second. preferably though, i’d abolished both simultaneously….
but pragmatically speaking, religion would have to go first because capitalism is necessary only to keep most people alive until religion can be abolished…
sound: an interlude

sound: the structure, sometimes musical, of conundrum, analogous to pearodox, as the great Sphinx of TRUTH continues to cast spells: the problem is the opposite of ‘alternative facts’. all facts are alternatives, always have been. that’s undeniable. so, it’s not about ‘facts’, or even about ‘untruth’: it’s about a failure of participation, justified or not. so what, then?

draft at work here: in part as a response to my brilliant friend, benjamin. it seems to me that there are only two types of people… [that’s preposterous of course… but it’s a very good rhetorical ploy]… the historian and the philosopher. benjamin is, predominantly the former; and i’m predominantly, the latter. so this is pearodox-worthy because history and philosophy cannot be separated from each other, philosophically speaking. historically speaking, they all too often have been. so, historically speaking, philosophy is as historically determined as any other intellectual pursuit, and therefore, just as conditional and suspect as any other. from that pov, then, history trumps philosophy. and i agree with that, but only to a certain degree. ‘history’, judged by common sense, is certainly not the equivalent of ‘truth’. history is as manufactured by ideology as any other scholastic field, including philosophy. there is no ‘true’ history: only, at best, a variety of near-true histories. just as, ideally, there is no ‘true philosophy’; only, at best, a variety of near-true philosophies. therefore… the only intellectual domain on offer that attempts, but of course inevitably fails, to address this pearodoxical dilemma, is the field that attempts to bridge these two supra-science fields of inquiry – the philosophy of history and the history of philosophy – that is – ‘historiography’. specifically, the historiography of intersections between history, philosophy, science, and art. and well, personally, i’d throw in politics. but that isn’t necessary. historically and philosophically speaking, politics come and go… but historically and philosophically, life goes on nonetheless. while, history and the human tendency to make ‘value judgments’ [philosophy] go on regardless of political vagaries. ‘art’, at it’s best, is sometimes the equivalent of historiography as i’ve denominated here. and by ‘art’ – i mean art as practiced, not theorized, under the philosophical rubric of ‘aesthetics’.

this particular stake for a very specific reason: lost on most. no fault or theirs. at all. a bit of acoustic lore in the register of ‘pop’. i have no intention of privileging pop. just examples close at hand at the moment. the difference between Bach and Couperin would have done as well. or, that between miles davis and chuck berry… or, between david byrne and tina weymouth, the superlative bass player that made the THs.

because i maintain a few different blogs sporadically, some public, some not, one of the most important of which, is not public, and so maintained far more frequently; because of the multi-focused blog world that i use as a way to write free of academic ‘rigor’; i sometimes loose track of what i’ve post where, and to whom. apologies en avance.

this post is a bit of an ‘apologia‘ for that. this, is not a blog, after all, but a notebook. a keeping of thoughts never meant to be made public. a notebook is, after all, something private, akin to a diary. a ‘thinking out loud’, but privately. unedited. or well, to be honest, sometime edited, and sometimes, not.

my point being: nothing in these pages that go on and on and on… has anything to do with ‘truth’. it’s all pure speculation, with enough logical argument in tact to give my post some credibility. but never, more than some.

par exemple, it’s always somehow painful to write more than a few paragraphs without the overpowering need to include some imagery or sound in order relieve the dire straits of a page filled with nothing but words. to counter modernity’s obsession with language, with what theoretically i’ve termed, semiocentrism – a centrism based on an obsession, biblical in scale, with interpretation. and yet, and yet, i remain ethically,  a deconstructionist. just not one who over-privileges, language or interpretation. for, there are ‘languages’ that seek to avoid any possibility of interpretation, and therefore, misinterpretation. well, there are only two, or three, really possible ‘languages’ that aim for eliminating the problem of semiocentrism and interpretation – mathematics and philosophical logic. both entirely hubristic once one focuses on the problem, philosophically, and, historically.

right: historically… it’s only on the outer edge of interpretive possibilities that one begins to realize how utterly bankrupt any system of interpretation is, precisely because it has not ‘factual’ basis by which it might justify it’s claims. this view of thing leads only to one place, dire straights…

okay, not the best of R&R, by a long shot. but they do have ‘something’ difficult to name. and here we are back already at the problem of interpretation. and pearodox.

one can hear, and see, for example, david byrne and talking heads here.

maybe one of the greatest of 80’s music videos.

i mean, really, even if one only ever listens to classical music, how can even such a narrowly prescribed listener, not recognize, in some way, what’s truly great about this performance? who could not be moved by it?

that’s not a difficult to answer.

only the ‘un-listeners ‘ only the ‘un-readers’ of lyrics.

and right, i’m in big trouble here: are ‘un-readers’ and ‘un-listeners’ somehow bad or deficient by nature? no, no way, in no way. it is a sacrosanct right of such ‘un’s’ to judge as they wish. their hatred and complete dismissal of david byrne is completely justified. hands down, no argument. just as it is for ‘unbelievers’ to dismiss the entire trajectory and concrete productive history of modernity and modernism as the downfall of the ‘human race’. that is a valid hypothesis. and to not accept that hypothesis as valid is a sign of the closure of the human, historical mind.  or, to put this claim in worse straights – what is it at work, culturally and socially and politically, etc. – that causes a culture and a people to burn people at the stake, or hang them from trees, or, threaten them with death by the most horrible means, via social media?

in other words, from whence does such intolerance, derive?

from many complicated, irrational, sources operating simultaneously, no doubt.

including the source of ‘rationalism’ itself.

so… to state the ‘un’ – obvious: and to throw us back into the conundrum of pearodox:

were one able to stand on the event horizon, then, because the laws of physics as we generally experience it break down, and one would there and then be able to see the back of ones own head: well, then, what then?

or:

whether or not one loves only classical music.

and i don’t mean here to elevate the Talking Head beyond their ‘worth’. but who’s to judge that? to judge their ‘worth’?

so let’s that as a limiting case: what are the criteria by which one could ‘prove’ that the Talking Heads produce ‘bad’ music?

there are no such criteria, i surmise. none at all.

but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to like them.

only that no one has the ‘right’ to judge them.

without simultaneously eliminating their own criteria for what they like.

and so here we arrive at the theoretical fantasy of what we’ve all been hopelessly inculcated in:

democracy, that utopian place where all ‘opinions’ are equal.

this mode an philosophical analysis could continue. in fact, pursuing along these same line would lead to one of the greatest philosophical conundrums of all time:

the conundrum [pearodox] of infinite regression.

put differently: the problem of proving ‘proof’ – which is the conundrum generally referred to a ‘science kitted out with the unassailable court of judgement, mathematics – is itself impossible and a conundrum and pearodox.

so, reader/listeners!

i challenge you. present alternatives musically. but, once you do, you have to ‘make’ and/or, ‘prove’ your case.

so, the question then is: what do we do in the face of our impossible choices to reconcile values that make us judge as we do?

sound: the structure, sometimes musical, of conundrum, analogous to pearodox, as the great Sphinx of TRUTH continues to cast spells: the problem is the opposite of ‘alternative facts’. all facts are alternatives, always have been. that’s undeniable. so, it’s not about ‘facts’, or even about ‘untruth’: it’s about a failure of participation, justified or not. so what, then?