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Flinching from History

From a history of Southern Baptists:

When Baptists in this country formed the first of their three national societies in 1814, many of their leaders recognized that there were numerous social, cultural, economic, and political differences between the businessmen of the North, the farmers of the West, and the planters of the South. These differences had already brought much rivalry between the several sections of the new nation. Each section continued to revive old colonial disagreements and wrestled with questions about how the new constitution should be interpreted, what constituted the final legal power, and similar problems.

Perhaps most critical of all was the slavery issue. This practice had been forced upon the colonies by England early in the seventeenth century against the protests of Northerners and Southerners. Northern merchants, however, soon sought the profit involved in importing slaves from Africa. Southern planters, the only ones able to use large numbers of unskilled laborers on large plantations in a relatively warm climate, helped to prolong this evil. At the height of this system, however, two-thirds of the white families of the South owned no slaves at all, and Baptists (who were generally of the lower economic status) were probably less involved than this.

The same moral blindness that caused a minority of northern businessmen to purchase and import slaves from Africa and finance their sale to southern planters was displayed in the South in continuing this evil institution.

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by | November 9, 2014 · 12:01 am

Hating Arnold Schoenberg, part 3

Every composer has his aura; the aura of Arnold Schoenberg is, for me, the aura of subtle ugliness, of hatred and contempt, of cruelty, and of the mystic grandiose. He is never petty. He sins in the grand manner of Nietzsche’s Superman, and he has the courage of his chromatics. If such music-making is ever to become accepted, then I long for Death the Releaser. More shocking still would be the suspicion that in time I might be persuaded to like this music, to embrace, after abhorring it.


From Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks, by James Gibbons Huneker, 1915

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by | October 11, 2014 · 2:56 pm

Hating Arnold Schoenberg, part 2

Never before had music been composed that had begun to abandon the precepts of tonal harmony employed through out time in all civilizations, the very laws of nature which allow music to express harmonious and positive emotions. With these compositions, Schönberg began to compose music that was not completely based on the harmonic laws of music: natural, vibratory frequencies of nature, and instead entered into emotionally dark regions that no music dared express before….This is the music that will fill the homes and motion picture theatres of America during the last half of the Twentieth Century. It is music of terror, suspense, and fear.

From Arnold Schönberg: The Father of Negative Music

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by | September 22, 2014 · 5:37 pm

‘What a bitch o…

‘What a bitch of a thing prose is!’ Flaubert complained in a letter to Louise Colet while at work on Madame Bovary. ‘It is never finished; there is always something to be done over.’ Fanatical in his search for a style that, as he put it in another letter, was as ‘rhythmic as verse, precise as the language of the sciences, undulant, deep-voiced as a cello, tipped with a flame’, Flaubert devised a method for purging his sentences of unwanted repetitions. What he called the gueuloir (from gueuler, ‘to bellow’) was his practice of yelling prose at the top of his lungs until he felt it had been condensed to its sonic core. During one particularly savage gueulade he told the Goncourt brothers he felt he was going to spit blood.

From Carthachinoiserie, by Paul Grimstad, in the London Review of Books,

reviewing Flaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’: On ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Salammbô’ by Michael Fried


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by | September 4, 2014 · 3:00 pm

Tonal quagmire of the twelve-tone row

“Even if the decline of musical art, the dissolution of the tonal system, came about of necessity, it would never be valid to conclude that such necessity implies progress. Granted: because the capacity for artistic hearing has declined steadily, the natural foundation of the major system has ceased to be recognized and has no longer found creative expression in works of art. But to infer from this that the tonal quagmire of the twelve-tone row still maintains any connection to Nature–what a short circuit in thinking!”

Oswald Jonas, Introduction to the Theory of Heinrich Schenker

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by | May 27, 2014 · 9:34 pm