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Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum

What books are you reading right now?

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Showing 176-200 of 1000 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 12:28:56 AM PDT
Charade says:
But my dear Micah, if I were to disclose what I think openly, then I would not be a good student of Plato, precisely were many academics have found their short comings.

But not to displease you too much, the Ideas themselves are the Revelation needed, the ironical poetry required to govern. The Enlightenment decided to shred the noble rhetoric, believing that people are fit. Spinoza, G-d bless his soul, who taught that reason alone is necessary, would be revisiting his claims now. He, who has given rise to modernity, next with Machiavelli, would be retracting his claims of an universal liberal society, where the Epicurean attempt is tangible to all.

If he had been a more salient student of the Medieval falasifa, as Maimonides was!, he would have never dared to open the alluded. The falasifa understood that, that the alluded is always necessary. Instead, Plato's ideas found a higher plane than did the natural, the phenomenon. This obsession with Plato's noble rhetoric, which Kant and Hegel took to the extreme (look at Nietzsche, then trace his thought back to Plato-specifically "Beyond Good and Evil"), led to the "thinking-rational solution", which was only the more augmented symptom of our disease.

However, I make this concession to you, Moses and Muhammed's intention were wise, but like everything the political leader envisioned, those who came after did not follow through as planned. The Enlightenment attempted to provide alleviation to this very exact potent poison, but its resolve was not able to offer a solution. Instead, Dostoevsky's Raskolinkov has become the Last Man.

If I have not succeeded at what you have asked of me, forgive me.
I do not wish to speak more, at least now. My wisdom is too infantile.
Best wishes!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 2:34:46 AM PDT
William Yate says:
Maybe it's because I don't know Plato well, but I utterly fail to see the Nietzsche connection. Care to elucidate?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 3:55:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2009 3:59:36 AM PDT
William Yate says:
Micah: Thanks for the "spacing out your listens" suggestion; I'll try it. I'll also try to relieve such pieces with even more radical ones, though at the moment I'm not sure I have anything more extreme than Schönberg. I'll look for the Feinberg sonatas.

"I listened several times to [Brahms's 2nd piano concerto] today, and I did indeed find it divine. I am not sure I follow your critical points about it though, as I enjoy every movement of it. If any movement is somewhat off it is the third I suppose, but really they all seem pretty nice." I'm thrilled you found and enjoyed it, but my points were anything but critical (or did you mean critical as in "critical of" rather than Kantian or literary criticism?). They were rhapsodic, rambling, and hardly intelligible to me, let alone another, and I would have deleted them if it weren't for the fact that Aggressive Arms responded with his own, much more interesting, comments. I too have trouble with the third movement: it's too saccharine for so great a work of art, and for Brahms in general. I continue to listen to the Quintet, hopefully the light will dawn eventually. I'd relisten right away, but I just dug up an old best-of collection of The Animals, and I'm getting the feeling I won't listen to anything else all night.

I've got most of the Bartok you mention (I'm a completist, so I tend to accrue works more quickly than I can listen to them), and I'll focus on them as soon as I get a chance. Have you checked out the Emerson Quartet's discussions of the quartets through Carnegie Hall's website? I've found them very helpful: I've _only_ listened to the 4th Symphony when it comes to Ives, but again, I'm hoping for life-changing revelations from Swafford's biography. I don't like opera much either; I've grown to enjoy Verdi, but as far as I'm concerned, opera exists for the sake of Wagner.

I hope you do check out the Dickens, but they're certainly bigger commitments than your recommendations. What made you think those three wouldn't be the best? Bleak House is definitely his best novel, but my favorite at the moment is Our Mutual Friend. You might check out the second chapter of OMF, "The Man From Somewhere," in a bookstore or library, to give yourself a quick reassurance that Dickens is worth your time. It's one of the funniest chapters in the history of literature. Given your love for Dostoevsky, I imagine you would take to Dickens; Dostoevsky revered (and translated) Dickens and Balzac, and you can see much of each in Dostoevsky.

I'll keep your Kafka comment ("Kafka...forces us to look at ourselves as ourselves looking at ourselves, where Pynchon forces us to look at ourselves as ourselves viewing the self") in mind; I don't understand it now, but I did when I first read it, so hopefully I will again.

I won't bother with Russell's Principles, however, simply because I don't understand math: I couldn't even understand the Tractatus.

I'm not sure what your Spinoza comment means; I feel like I've missed a part of the conversation. What verbatim arguments?

Thanks for field theory 101; I've always wondered what Einstein found in Spinoza, and now I think I've got an idea. Not sure what you mean about space being prior to matter though; I think of them as interdependent, but maybe you've got a more sophisticated understanding of matter than as Cartesian extension? Also, did Spinoza really say space is fundamental? Or for that matter did Einstein? I thought that Einstein thought space and time identical; and I'm pretty sure space was just another mode/attribute for Spinoza. Are you sure you're not reifying Spinoza's substance?

Perhaps you can further explain how you think space and matter can be independent of one another; is so, I may be able to get what you mean about Newton/Leibniz/Kant.

The Jacobi/Mendelssohn correspondence is both fascinating and important (more so than anyone but historians of German Idealism appear to grasp). But I forgot to mention the part that might most interest you: the very slim (four pages) postlude "On the Kantian Philosophy." It includes Jacobi's epochal (though misguided) claim that "without that presupposition [of the existence of things-in-themselves] I could not enter into [Kant's] system, but with it I could not stay within it." I think I've finally come to understand _why_ this is wrong, but it's a complicated point that even the great German Idealists failed to understand, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on the problem if you have the time. I only ask because, as a professed Kantian, I assume don't share Jacobi's doubt. My pleasure for the Sorabji link; I'd be happy to send you the links to the other tracks, but I'd rather not post them here publicly and cheat the performer of multiple potential sales; if you're interested, I'll give you my email.

"University of Southern California. Hopefully you won't think too meanly of me for attending such a place, but it was within a semi-reasonable commuting distance." I'm flabbergasted that you would feel the need to apologize for such a school: has it had a calamitous drop in reputation since I was applying to college? I always thought it to be in the top 25-50 schools in the country, and I know they never would have accepted me out of high school. I too haven't eradicated all traces of Ivy-envy in myself but, having taken classes at schools ranging from community colleges to the fairly reputable, and having observed an essentially uniform (uniformly middle-of-the-road) quality in the students therein, I'm pretty sure there's no justification.

"I am a philosophy student actually, but I learn much more outside of school then inside it." As far as I'm concerned, this only means that you're a real rather than a nominal student of philosophy. "My educational history is a sordid tale though, which I will only tell if you wish to hear." I DO wish to hear it, if you wish to tell it. And I forgot to ask you about the business you said you started at 13.

"I wonder where you attend, and what is your field of study?" Just graduated from Berkeley, with a double in English and Philosophy; but I'm applying to grad. school in comp. lit., which I'm hoping will bridge the gap between the two. "I am shocked, I must say, for I had taken you to be an older gentleman in his 50's or thereabouts." Not knowing whether or not to take that as a compliment, I'll take it as a compliment. "so horrendously courteous, almost to a fault, in his communications". I realize I often sound stilted on here, and it's semi-intentional (I assure you in person I'm every bit as crass and vulgar as could be desired). My experience with online communication has been that everything is touchily interpreted in an insulting light (I'm as guilty as anyone else: it's the nature of the medium), so that even close friends, who are accustomed to allow for my insensitivity, find digs in the most innocent phrases. Consequently, I'm very cautious. And even with that caution, I've found myself making apologies on here that would never have been necessary in real life.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 4:16:33 AM PDT
William Yate says:
Micah: Fortunately the Feinberg Sonatas are on BIS, which means I can get them more or less free on eMusic. But I'm down to 17 downloads for the months, and I have 26 days until I get more, yet many things at the top of my list. Luckily most of the sonatas are one movement, so I can sample a few before getting the complete set next month. I just got the 6th (since it's the longest and so most worth the cost of a download); which others would you recommend looking into first?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 7:54:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2009 10:12:14 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Charade, your March 30 post at 115PM. I also am alternately abashed and aghast at the erudition on display here. Nice to see your mention of Thomas Mann's novella "Tonio Kroeger", which ends with his long letter to Lisabeta Ivanovna, his painterly friend, who is so like my painterly friend Ouida Sebestyen that I conflate the two. A confession: I cannot read Plato, and recently abandoned the sixth attempt ... Phaedra, the Dialogues, the Republic, even in idiomatic modern translations. My favorite and most useful reading from that time is Epictetus, the Greek slave in Rome in the time of Marcus Aurelius, who also wrote. Epictetus, like Socrates, wrote nothing himself that has come down to us; his pupils did that for him. My sons read Plato in high-school and patiently tried to instruct me in him, but without success, eheu, evoe, alas.

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 9:42:13 AM PDT
Alex Fields says:
Is it just me, or does Charade's above post read more like something out of a Thomas Mann novel than a real conversation?

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 2:50:21 PM PDT
sharp9 says:
I'm presently in the process of re reading the Dune series by Frank Herbert. Even if you're not a Science Fiction fan, these books are an intriguing blend of ecological, political, religious, and philosophical themes, which continue to resonate in today's world.

Also, a musical recommendation; if you can find the long out of print "I Am A Conductor" by Charles Munch, read it for a glimpse into the conductor's world.

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 2:56:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2009 6:23:17 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
I finished and returned "A Schnittke Reader" edited by cellist/Schnittke biographer Alexander Ivashkin to De Paul from inter-library loan. I think Peter-from la-la-chi-chi put me onto it, for which I'm grateful. The articles by Schnittke are of great interest, as are those by Gidon Kremer and Roszdesventsky, but I decided I can live without it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 4:42:30 PM PDT
M. Zehnder says:
"Is it just me, or does Charade's above post read more like something out of a Thomas Mann novel than a real conversation?"

It's not just you.

I feel like Charade is living in a different reality then the one I and forced to deal with on a daily basis. If this is the world "governed by reason" then I must claim that the world has "severely misunderstood reason".

The ideas of David Hume rule the world...well, not really, but the ideas Hume used to destroy Plato were taken as literal truisms somehow instead of "sickening" the way Hume felt about them. In fact, the ideas of his, which were really the ultimate conclusions of Plato, made Hume so nauseous that he had to stop thinking altogether and go out and drink to get over how horrific the ideas were to him. Now we are governed by these very ideas.

And, of course, the Platonic response on how to fix all of this is, "I can't tell you". Maybe I'm just insane, but it seems to me that any philosophy that can't even attempt an answer is fundamentally flawed, and more like pseudo-philosophy then anything real.

Now, on to my reply to dearest Will.

On the Brahms: Yes, I meant "critical of", in that you seemed to think the movements after the first were somehow really deficient in quality. But I may have simply misunderstood you.

I'm glad you have all the Bartok, I am semi-completist myself; the only way I can explain this is it is one of those areas where my OCD and ADD battle it out, and I go in two opposite directions at once. I shall certainly look at that talk on the quartets though, as I have not seen it before. I really do need to look into these Swafford biographies. I recently purchased Stendhal's Life of Rossini, which seems a rather pleasant read, so I think a biography of Brahms would be quite fun. I think a Mahler one would be in order as well, but I am not sure of a particularly good one.

I figured you were probably not so much of an opera buff. Still, I recommend Bluebeard's Castle, because, like I said, it is kind of a "non-opera buff's opera" in my opinion. I really need to listen to Wagner...but I have no idea where to begin. I am ashamed to admit it, but I just haven't had the time for him yet I guess. With his tp work being a 12 hour opera, it's kind of hard to pencil in. Any suggestions?

Quick note on Feinberg sonatas: I would get 1 and 7 for sure. If you should like, I would be happy to provide the mp3's of all of them for you to download, or of any music actually. After all, you may end up not liking some, or even most, of the music I recommend to you, so maybe it would be better if I provided it for you, at least initially? I would be more then happy to do so.

I will certainly check out Dickens. I should put in an order for Bleak House as soon as I can I suppose. I have no qualms about it at all. To be honest I had Dickens foisted upon me at a young age, and the people doing the foisting were basically unaware that Dickens wrote anything else besides the big three books you mentioned earlier, so I was convinced that people were just fools for liking him, and moved on without further enquiry. It was a poor choice in retrospect, but I never really thought about it till now. I thought that three novels of an authors repertoire would have been a good judgment of his skill. I am most thankful to have encountered you to awaken me to the "dark side of Dickens" as it were.

On my Kafka/Pynchon comment, and your comment on that comment; I think that I have sort of made this a kind of goal of mine, to create literature that makes perfect sense in an instant, but only in an instant. That has always been my favorite kind of art. A slight elucidation on my comment though, is that fundamentally Kafka is creating an externally internal sketch of reality, while Pynchon is making an internally external sketch of reality. I guess that is a simpler way of stating it, though I meant something a bit more personal earlier.

Now, I must admit to you that I am actually a righteous blunder of a psuedo-mathematician. Unfortunately, although mathematics fascinates me to no end, I am utterly reprehensible in my mathematical skill. I have only recently begun to probe at it though, and I mean literally this semester, for I never had to take much math in my life, and have avoided it like the plague because of how poorly it was taught to me as a child. Pure mathematics however, fascinates me. Russell's work though cannot fail to fascinate even the most mathematically minimal-minded person so long as they are of a philosophical disposition, which you surely are if anyone is.

On to Spinoza:

The verbatim arguments I refer to are those referenced by yourself when you said I was repeated verbatim arguments of now obscured philosophers in regards to Spinoza.

Well, from a simple understanding of General Relativity, and I do mean very nuts-and-bolts, the way that bodies are treated is as space. In a sense you are right; Einstein thought space and time were one entity. The Einsteinian explanation of motion involves, if I understand it correctly, the movement through space-grooves.

In terms of Cartesian ideas of extended things, I don't understand him at all. I don't know how a thing could be existing and not extended. It's the same as saying something has no body. What does the phrase, "X has no body" even mean?...Malbranche said "Nothing has no properties", to which I have added, "Not even nothing". I think the argument for space being fundamental while matter is not is the following: All matter is only mode of substance, hence matter can be destroyed; space is fundamental, and cannot be destroyed, therefore motion is governed by space, not by matter. I am pretty sure that the reasoning for space being an attribute of substance rather than mode is this: If space is a mode of substance it can be destroyed, like matter. But space cannot be destroyed. So space is either another substance, or an attribute of substance. It can't possibly be another substance [at least not be Spinoza's view of substance], so space is fundamentally an attribute of substance. This being the case, there is at least a strong link between Spinoza and Einstein.

When you ask if I am just reifying Spinoza's substance, I do not comprehend the question. In my understanding reify means to consider an abstract concept real. Spinoza's substance is anything but abstract though, so I don't know how I could even begin to reify it?

The Jacobi problem seems quite odd to me. It seems very simple actually though, but maybe I am being disingenuous somehow. It seems to me that he is still seeing the world as being only two possible ways, that is, either things are in themselves, or things exist only outside of themselves; fundamentally this is just Aristotle vs. Plato, and Jacobi seems to be Aristotelian. Either way you will be startled by Kant's suggest that it is, essentially, both. Things cannot be just in themselves, nor can they be just outside of themselves. Kant basically proves that we only see things outside of us if we already have them inside of ourselves. Kant introduces the idea of a concept that is truly "three-dimensional", and requires a synthesis [which is evident in language] to get things. Obviously such a notion is foreign to Jacobi who, being of a mind to lean only one way, finds that while Kant will immediately demolish the idea that things exist only in themselves, he will realize that Kant basically proves that a thing has to exist in itself as well.

As for USC, well, I guess it is still in the top schools, though I think it is 27 now, or something. I honestly just applied on a mere whim. I began at a community college [family thought that I was too young to leave for a university at 15 for some reason...]. I have to admit, I met more intelligent, and more interesting people at community college then USC, although the professor quality at USC is clearly a level up.

It's not the "objective" ranking I am ashamed about, but the fact that I just don't feel like it is that respectable a place to be. If I apply to law school in the future I want to go to Yale or Harvard, just to see what it's like. Although, my father, who attended Yale, says that both institutions are basically worthless, having long since lost their standards of education. I don't know if Ivy envy is appropriate or not, I just want to recapture my childish view of a university as, well, something akin to this forum I guess. Before attending USC I thought that it would be an oasis of intellectualism where everyone would be like you, Alex, Etha, and Alonso...I met at least one or two of these people at my community college after all. So imagine my surprise when I found that the average quality of student mind was horrifically low, that no one cared about learning or knowledge, and that even amongst all the potential, no one really interesting presented themselves at all. I have been heart-broken, and sick of academia ever since. I would only want to attend a "higher" institution, if it had the kind of atmosphere I am looking for, not just for the name, names mean nothing, unless you're a Platonist, hah. But you can see where I am not proud to be attending the institution, and honestly, it just happened to be within commuting distance. I thought it would be much better then it has been.

Now, my educational history, at least post-high school [which I skipped actually]. But let me begin there:

At 13 I was basically not doing any school work, I had been essentially "forced" [even though we all do what we want], into a large amount of sports programs which occupied almost all my time. I was a computer nut, from 11-13 though, which translated into co-founding a custom computer and network maintenance company called Provision Systems when I was 13, as I previously said. Well, at a certain critical point when I was 14, I sustained massive injuries from sports, and ended up bedridden. At the end of it, I made me declaration of hatred for sports, and got my high school diploma [equivalent] soon thereafter and enrolled full-time in a local community college for computer science. Fortunately for me, the community colleges near me are considered some of, if not the, best in California, and California's are considered some of the best in the country [I confirmed this in a later visit to the East Coast]. Now, shortly into my new collegiate career Provision Systems fell apart due to many personal things, and we essentially sold out for a marginal sum. I never really got my full due for it all, but it was an interesting experience. Over the summer I switched my area of study to business, and ended up meeting a new business partner in a business class over the summer. Actually, we were almost contracted by the school to teach a course of internet marketing, but it fell through the cracks for various reasons. Anyway, we started a small Internet marketing company called Particle Group, which ended two years later when he siphoned off all the profits, spent them on cocaine, and stopped answering his phone. I attempted to salvage what I could, but eventually gave up. Around this time I decided I needed a change of scenery and put in my application to USC. I should mention though, that about a year into my studies at one community college, I simultaneously enrolled in the fashion design and philosophy programs at another community college. I was very seriously into fashion you see, and I wanted to see if I had the potential talent to become a designer, but, as it turned out, I did not. Anyway, I took a semester off to live on the East Coast and try to become a stylist, which didn't pan out at all, and turned out to be a kind of huge disaster, but I came home to USC, and a new friend of my best friend, and ended up immersing myself in philosophy, and music in a new, and profound way as I squirmed through my USC courses, which, to appease various people, were scattered in various GE's [USC has odd standards], business courses, and music industry courses. This semester I finally got the idea of a philosophy degree nailed down, and it has only been literally now. I am somewhat angry with myself, because I could have obtained several degrees by now had I made better decisions but oh well. Originally I wanted to go to cosmetology school hah I still think that would have been a better idea, since I'd have a way of making money already well established by now if I had, but everyone thought I was nuts.

So, that is, essentially, the story. Amazingly, I've learned almost nothing from all of this. The only times I have ever really learned anything has been from my experience with Dostoevsky, and then, years later, on the bridges, and in dialogues with my friends in the past year, or so. But of course everyone is much more impressed by all of this bullsh[i]t then any real learning, which, for me, is always self motivated, not bullsh[i]t motivated. For most people it is precisely the opposite. I hear this all the time, "Why would I study that when I don't get school credit?" I always feel like puking, or stabbing someone when I hear things like that.

It's a shame I didn't contact you earlier as I spent my spring break in SF, less then two weeks ago. I would like to get a degree in literature, but all the english classes I've ever taken are like jokes it seems like. I've gleaned so much more from reading on my own that it hardly seems worth it. I seem to know at least as much, or more about literature, language, and writing, not to mention a love of words, then most English majors I meet [you, of course, being an exception]. What was your motivation for getting an English degree alongside the Philosophy one?

I am somewhat sorry to hear about your vulgarity, although to a certain extent I love it. I ahve been meaning to ask you how it is you can even listen to the Animals when you are simultaneously listening to Bartok quartets...I know a painful amount about rock history, but I have such controversial opinions on the matter that it usually just ends in regret for me to discuss it with anyone. Normal people can't respond to you when you say you listen to classical music, they can think you're insane when you say you listen to Zappa and Beefheart all day, heh.

But my point is, I am very "old" in real life. I do not care for parties, or anything really "exciting". My idea of a good time is going to a nice restaurant, to a decent coffeehouse, or just sitting somewhere, perhaps with some whiskey on the rocks, and discussing music, philosophy, literature, life, etc... Most people do not consider this to be a "good time" of course, so I am rather a severe "outcast" of sorts. I can't say I am not a little disappointed, for I had imagined for a second that I had found another person of my own sort in California, but no matter I suppose. I get over my emotions somewhat easily at this point in life.

By the way, what is it you want to do? I am not sure where one goes with a graduate degree in comp. lit.

I think we may as well exchange our emails, for if you are actually interested in writing as a career, I have much private conversation, as writing novels is a part of my "life goal" you know, and having someone to discuss literature with in that way would be excellent.

My public email is If you send me your email then we can exchange private emails from there.

I have passed out in classrooms the past few nights trying to get this paper on philosophy of mathematics done, and I am still stumped, but I imagine I will go pass out in my own bed for a bit now.

I shall look forward to further correspondence, as usual though.


- Micah

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 4:47:07 PM PDT
M. Zehnder says:
I finished and returned "A Schnittke Reader".

I need to get that hah I have a feeling I may feel the opposite about that book.

Have you warmed up to Schnittke at all Piso?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 4:59:04 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Micah Zehnder -- Oh, yes, as I've guiltily mentioned too many times, I have eight hours or more of Schnittke's music on CD to work my way through. He's sympathetic to me for several reasons ... the string quartets and "Faustus" especially, but other things also. Two Italian musicologists kept bringing me news of him when he was very sick in Germany. The first Schnittke I heard was the Hymns for Chamber Ensemble in which Ivashkin played cello; Three Madrigals (1960); second string quartet, and "Dedication to Paganini" for solo violin in a Vox collection of Russian avant-garde music by Denisov, Gubaidulina, Mansurian, and Schnittke.

I was intrigued by what Rostislav Dubinsky, founding-leader of the Borodin Quartet, wrote about Schnittke in his book "Stormy Applause", and also by Schnittke's own devotion to Shostakovich and Thomas Mann's "Faustus", attractive traits to me.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 5:11:05 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 14, 2010 9:20:35 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 5:27:35 PM PDT
M. Zehnder says:
Have you heard Schnittke's opera Life With An Idiot based on the Erofeyev story? It's really something hah I have been meaning to get the text actually.

Schnittke is in my time 5 composers of all times.

I think you promised me a day of going through Schnittke if I make it to Chicago.

I may just take you up on the offer if I can get away for a road trip sometime this summer =)

It's actually difficult to tell if Schnittke ever really wrote anything I would call "bad" or even "not good", it seems like he was always perfect.

Have you gotten to hear his concerto grossi yet? I really want to see those performed live, especially 5, and probably 1 and 2 as well.

- Micah

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2009 8:22:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 31, 2009 8:23:04 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Micah, I have not heard Schnittke's "Life With an Idiot", but my wife says to tell you she likes the title. Why do you suppose she would say that? If you do make it to Chicago this summer or anytime, give a shout and we'll burn the midnight oil, either here or by E-mail to I have a concerto grosso by Schnittke but haven't mustered courage to hear it yet. Also concerto for three, the viola concerto, piano quintet, and a number of other things. I have yet to hear and see anything by Schnittke performed live in concert.

Posted on Mar 31, 2009 8:32:09 PM PDT
M. Zehnder says:

Thank you so very much for the extended courtesy [again I suppose] =)

Well, I am unsure of your wife's sentiments, but I can assure you that the opera is almost certainly more dastardly then any marriage haha ;)

Do you have Schnittke's stirng quartets? Those are really something.

I wonder if I'll ever get the chance to hear Schnittke performed live. I'd especially love to see Kremer play him.

Do you know that Rostropovich premiered that opera in Amsterdam? I doubt it gets performances anymore, but my, what a historical night that must have been!

Anyway, which grosso do you have? I think they are his greatest work personally.

- Micah

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 3:17:51 AM PDT
William Yate says:
Micah: "you seemed to think the movements after the first were somehow really deficient in quality". But only in comparison with the incomparable first. And Aggressive reminded me of a favorite moment in the 2nd mvt. that I always overlook.

I didn't know Stendhal wrote a Life of Rossini; that too is going on my list. Either Henry or Piso, I can't remember which, dislikes Stendhal and considers him the equivalent of soap opera, which saddens me: I love him, especially his Charterhouse.

I've got Bluebeard's Castle, but bought it online and haven't listened to it yet because I didn't have a libretto. But I recently found one, so I'll listen to it soon. As for Wagner, most people will tell you to start with the lighter stuff, like Flying Dutchman and Tannhaüser. But I think the place to start is the one with which I serendipitously began: Das Rheingold. It's part of the big one, but is considerably shorter (2 1/2 hours on my Solti) than the rest. You can listen to it independently of the rest of the Ring, since each opera more or less stands on its own (and Rheingold even more so than the rest). I first came to Wagner in order to understand Nietzsche's writings on him (not to mention Eliot's ubiquitous references in the Waste Land and Tolstoy's vicious summary of the Ring in an appendix to What Is Art?), and I expected to suffer through 12-14 hours of misery. But from the first notes of Rheingold, I was in love. The introduction to the whole cycle is a slow, inexpressibly beautiful unfolding of E-flat major, and of the universe, which Wagner claims came to him in a dream (Oliver Sachs quotes Wagner on this dream in his Musicophilia, and juxtaposes it to Paul McCartney's dream of [I think] Yesterday). This is followed by the Rheinmaidens' song (the "Weialala leia" of the Waste Land, though actually Eliot is quoting its poignant reappearance towards the end of the final opera), and from that point I was hooked. (If you do get around to the Ring, I can warn you of dead-spots to prepare yourself for as you progress.) Also, Rheingold is the shortest Wagner besides Flying Dutchman, so you not only get to complete the first leg of the Ring journey, but you get the most mercifully brief introduction to Wagner. And if you listen to it multiple times before you can afford to move on to Die Walküre, you get a great education in the famous leitmotives, since Das Rheingold introduces most of them.

That's really kind of you to offer me the mp3's to Feinberg, but since I've already picked up a few of them, I might as well buy the rest (besides which, my listening list is so clogged I wouldn't be able to listen to more than the three I've already got before my eMusic downloads regenerate next month anyway). But I'm very touched by the offer.

I appreciate your problem with Dickens: same thing happened to me with Hemingway, and it took me years to get over it. It almost happened with Dickens too, though in my case the offending article was the less-than-perfect Great Expectations.

I've got to think some more about your Kafka/Pynchon comment, and at the moment my brain is too addled by Nabokov's Ada to do so, but would it be fair to say that by "externally internal sketch" you mean something along the lines of an emotionally-detached ("objective") description of first-personal ("subjective") problems? If so, I think I get what you mean: I'm obsessed with a similar sort of phenomenon in, e.g., Shakespeare and Chekhov. (I'm reminded of a wonderful anecdote in re the latter two: the young Chekhov was visiting venerable old Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana, and was appropriately floored by the presence of the Old Man of Russian Literature. He was almost knocked senseless when Tolstoy began praising the young doctor's work. Can you even imagine what it would be like to have TOLSTOY approve of your work? But the final blow was yet to be delivered. "I like your short stories very much," said Tolstoy. "But your plays: they're absolutely dreadful! They're almost as bad as Shakespeare." [Tolstoy despised Shakespeare.] The story goes that as Chekhov left the Tolstoy estate and entered his droshky, he shouted to the skies in a fit of ecstasy "Worse than Shakespeare! Worse than Shakespeare!") And if that is what you mean (not the anecdote: sorry for the length of the interruption), a little bit of mental labor should bring me to an understanding of its inverse in Pynchon.

Okay, you've got me interested enough in Russell to troll for the Principles in bookstores; but I have too many doubts about my ability to understand it to buy it sight-unseen. I might try the Stanford and Internet encyclopedias of philosophy for an overview, I'm sure they'll have something. (BTW, have you discovered those two resources yet? They're a sort of philosophical CliffNotes, but they recognize their limits and so provide more useful information for novices in a given thinker.)

Now, it sounds like you subscribe to Newton's non-relational view of space, so that there can be such a thing as "empty space." This is the disconnect between us, as I find it incomprehensible. I rather thought you would too, since as a Kantian you should find both Newtonian and Cartesian space indefensible. But much more importantly, you seem to distinguish between Spinozistic mode and attribute in a way I still don't understand. You say: "If space is a mode of substance it can be destroyed, like matter. But space cannot be destroyed. So space is either another substance, or an attribute of substance." This would mean that attributes are fundamental while modes are not. I, for one, can't tell modes and attributes apart, but as I said in an earlier post I do think there is the hint of a mode/attribute metaphysics/epistemology correlation, so that if one of them is to be granted full ontological reality, it must be mode and not substance. But this is a terminological quibble; the important point is that you think there IS a difference between the two, and that it has implications for the understanding of space. So, to put it as simply as possible (probably too simply for the good of the argument): how can a mode of substance cease to be while an attribute of it cannot?

"When you ask if I am just reifying Spinoza's substance, I do not comprehend the question. In my understanding reify means to consider an abstract concept real. Spinoza's substance is anything but abstract though, so I don't know how I could even begin to reify it?" Your definition of "reification" is not wrong, per se; the problem is that it pushes the question of substance back to a different one about what constitutes "the real." In contrasting the real to the abstract, you suggest that you think of the real as reducible to the material. I think this must be the case, for it explains why you think of space as identical with substance. It would be arrogant of me to tell you straight-out that this is wrong, but I think you will find that it is generally considered misguided to think of Spinozistic substance as a material thing. The problem lies with the connotations of "substance" in modern parlance. This wasn't a problem in Spinoza's day: for him, substance was merely that without which a thing cannot be (or at least cannot be what it is). Spinoza's substance is perhaps, as you say, "anything but abstract," but this does not mean that it is material: recall that mind (the non-material par excellence) is also a mode/attribute of substance.

Also, I don't think matter can be destroyed because it's "only a mode of substance." In fact, the point where I found you to be repeating (and, I repeat, this repetition is not indicative of unoriginality, but rather its true opposite, rigorous thought) somewhat obscure philosophers (like Jacobi) was in considering every single manifestation of substance as necessary, and thus in embracing a determinism (in regards to Spinoza, that is) that appears to preclude the possibility of God. I too think Spinoza is a determinist (though as we've been over, I don't think this makes him an atheist), but I think this determinism precludes the possibility of any mode or attribute of substance being "destroyed," since these modes/attributes are precisely the _expression_ of substance (and thus what finite creatures like ourselves interpret as destruction is only a further expression of substance's infinitude). The point I'm trying to make in all this is just the original "accusation" that you're reifying substance, and this means that I think you're mistaken in taking substance for material existence, or in thinking it the only kind of existence. (Remember that Spinoza was a reader of Descartes, and his substance is meant to _resolve_, rather than take a side on, Cartesian dualism.)

The Jacobi objection opens an enormous can of worms that, for now at least, should probably be left shut. What interests me about it is that it constitutes a philosophically rigorous version of what a layman's response to Kant's system would be if he understood it. The problem for the layman is that he can't wrap his mind around the idea that _nothing_ is transcendentally real, and that all TRUE knowledge is transcendentally _ideal_. In other words, how can something cause our perceptions if it is merely (transcendentally) ideal? After all, it comes from US, not from things-in-themselves. There has to be something causing our perceptions that doesn't come from least if we don't want to be solipsists. So the challenge to Kantians (which I think is answerable, but not straightforwardly), is to show that the "matter" of our representations (in the Kantian sense of matter) is _not_ the product of the transcendental unity of apperception. This is easy if we can say that "things-in-themselves exist independently of us." But we can't; we must somehow prove that we don't think the world into existence, and we must do so without reference to things-in-themselves. Perhaps you still don't see the problem, so I won't bother with the laborious solution; suffice it to say that in the final analysis I think that things-in-themselves derive what reality they have (and it isn't much) from the ontological status of the transcendentally ideal, and not the other way around. (So in a way, the Kantian response is deceptively simple, and perhaps you hit upon it intuitively as a Kantian, though online discussions of this sort make it hard to determine. I just know that I had to write a paper on it once, and while I thought I could dispense with it in 3 pages at most, I ended up spending most of my time trying to whittle it down to 12.)

It is a shame we didn't get in contact sooner, especially since we may have even crossed paths in SF (I spent a lot of time there 2 weeks ago with some visiting East Coast friends). The English major is a bit of a joke, and it tends to attract the same lost souls that gravitate to Psychology: people who are in college because their parents told them they should be. But any major is what you make of it, and if you're serious about it you can get a lot from professors who appreciate seriousness of purpose. A propos of which, I agree wholeheartedly that the quality of a school has more to do with its professors than its students: I transfered to Cal because the philosophy department was populated by my equivalent of most people's Brad Pitts and Angelina Jolies, and so I wasn't disappointed in the slightest when I discovered the students were the same there as elsewhere. I doubled with philosophy because I'm not convinced literature and philosophy are distinct entities. This explains my interest in comp. lit. and what I want to do with a Ph.D. in it; but at this point we're getting into a more personal conversation that I'd prefer to conduct privately (I'll email you).

Probably needless to say, I'm blown away by your starting a successful business at 13, and college at 15. I've no idea what computer and network maintenance means (I have enough trouble using my email and MSWord), but it sounds forbiddingly impressive. (You may think it's bs to be impressed by such things, but it's easier for you to shrug them off since you've accomplished them; for an aesthete like myself, business acumen is as foreign as multivariable calculus, and is even more miraculous in an adolescent.) Even more impressive is your equanimity in the face of your setbacks: I'm so much more bitter about infinitely more trivial things. Sorry to disappoint with my love of vulgarity (the Russians have raised it to an artform: the tryokhetazhnoe oskorblenie [three-layered insult]), parties, and rock n' roll; though I think further discussion would reveal such visceral pleasures are not precluded by more elevated interests. I can't imagine I'd be put off by your "controversial" takes on these things, but I'm afraid you'll have some convincing to do when it comes to Zappa.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 3:32:32 AM PDT
William Yate says:
I see, Mr. James. I shall follow your lead and interpret "collegial discourse" as callow circumlocution. (Speaking of circumlocution, should I interpret "I will not forget them until you apologize" as a threat? When making a threat, you must be explicit about the consequences...) In fact, I'll start right now with one of your classic dodges: "idiot" did not refer to you but to what I interpreted as the thrust of Philippe's argument (which opinion of you I may or may not hold privately). This can easily be deduced if you take the time to notice (and if you speak enough English to recognize an implied conditional) that the comment was not directed to you, but to Philippe. IF I were to express a similar feeling to and about you, I would be much more "collegial" and say something like "God you're thick" (your preeminently collegial and complimentary response to Philippe, which could in no way be interpreted as an "unprovoked violation" of the "standards of decency," and certainly not, perish the thought!, a "personal attack."). Other decent and in no way personally insulting or vitriolic options, culled from your complimentary and collegial discourse with Philippe, include "Don't continually display your complete lack of wit"; and "Have an original thought once in a while, rather than an obvious and unimaginative observation." I suppose I must be mad to detect even the slightest hint of "vitriol" in those comments. But if all you want is an apology as sincere as your very own complimentary congeniality, you can accept my sincerest (I also accept your forthcoming apology for slandering as "unprovoked" and "vitriolic" a comment that, as I have demonstrated, resembles nothing more than it does your own supremely collegial ones). Now run along and delete those quotes so you can say you don't know what I'm talking about. And when someone calls you out on it, no problem: you were just being "ironic" and "collegial." Alternatively, you could argue that the above were uncharacteristic lapses, not indicative of your generally collegial, congenial, complimentary and good-natured style. Someone might even believe you, though his hallucinatory initials will probably be HJ.

I omit as uncollegial any reference to the general vicinity of YOUR thoughts on an unbiased scale of obviousness and imaginativeness. No matter; who needs subtlety or imagination when you have both unimpeachable lists and an omniscient understanding of the value of artistic expression that appears to operate independently of any first-hand knowledge of the works in question? Though it must be difficult to keep track of such lists when you can't remember who wrote what... It's a good thing Beethoven's 9th is identified as Beethoven's, otherwise you might be (notice I didn't say you WOULD be, most collegial of Henrys) in danger of attributing it to Tolstoy. Did you say you're a teacher?

And you needn't bother responding with another one of your collegially indirect and totally irrelevant insults, or with more hysterical and hypocritical cries of victim: after your most recent flurry of egregious misattributions (you'll forgive me: the lack of collegiality, if any, in the phrase, is reality's, not mine), I'm putting you on ignore, before I start thinking Balzac wrote Notre-Dame de Paris, or that Henry James's grandfather was responsible for the quote about books and hollow sounds, or that Yeats never wrote a poem called Easter 1916, or etc., etc., etc. (Did you really say you're a teacher?) I must take it on faith, therefore, that your next move will be to thank me for responding to your post about beauty, thus saving it from rightful obscurity and providing you with yet another opportunity to vent your spleen in another of those ridiculous tiffs with total strangers that light up your life. I, however, prefer to remain a stranger in the fullest sense of the word, so you'll have to sate your passion for anonymous bickering elsewhere; and since, again, I won't see your expression of gratitude, I must preempt it with a collegial "you're welcome."


In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 7:27:46 AM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Micah, I have Schnittke's first concerto grosso with Kremer, Bashmet and ensemble on Col Legno; and the second concerto grosso by Rozhdestvensky, Oleg Kagan and Natalia Gutman on Moscow Studio Archives. My New Year's resolution is to learn to spell R., and next year to pronounce it. A friend can do it perfectly, but is a former FM announcer. I have Kronos playing all the string quartets, and another of Borodins on the third, with the piano quartet and quintet. and another pf. quintet on Naxos with Irinia Schnittke, Ivashkin and Lubotsky, recorded in Australia. I don't know any of these well yet. It interests me that one quartet is supposed to have a movement depicting universal dissolution or destruction, which I'm all in favor of, musically speaking.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 10:35:05 AM PDT
Robert Scott says:
Just delivered: "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" by David Hume.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 1:46:07 PM PDT
Alan Alten says:
Piso,I enjoy your posts and learn a lot from them but,when do you sleep? alan alten

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 2:16:37 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
A. G. Alten -- I get up early, scan the boards, throw out a line or two at a tenth of the going average here, but, um, you know, like, I mean. ... when do you find time to read them all?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 2:30:48 PM PDT
Alan Alten says:
Can only read a few------late afternoon. Really do appreciate your knowledge. alan alten

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 2:53:59 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Feb 14, 2010 9:20:32 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 3:01:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 1, 2009 3:08:10 PM PDT
Edgar Self says:
Henry and Alan -- Darlin' Erda and I have two things in common: we like scrambled eggs, and we both know everything but only while we're asleep. And you know all the rest, Henry.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2009 3:09:20 PM PDT
Alan Alten says:
What a combo we'd make as I dont' know a thing and prefer my eggs hard boiled. alan alten
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