16 thoughts on “Western Culture IV

  1. Beautiful! As a follow-up to my comment to “Western Culture I” about “imperials” and “tribals,” let me add that one particular group stands alone, sui generis, excelling in taking in and on the world while remaining the tribe of tribes. An impressive feat, indeed.

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  3. Beautiful in every way. Thanks.

    I read somewhere that Greek and Roman ruins were thought by the common Medieval man as having been built by giants. It’s tempting to speculate, to say that the sense of social order that engendered the great Western works of music and art and literature is now lost to memory just as the classical world was lost to Medieval man. But then you have your Beethoven’s and your Puccini’s. Well, decline is a long, complex process, not an event, and the decline, when comprehended by a gifted individual, is itself an ironic source of inspiration for great art and it is still being produced although it won’t be long before it will all be banned. I read T. S. Eliot and Orwell in high school. Where are they taught today and, furthermore, how are they taught? Have they been appropriated for their prestige and drained of their meaning? Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.

    But I do think that the connection between Western art and its source has been broken. The ’80s were a time when everyone moved away from polyester toward wool and the liberal elites moved from popular art and music to the classical. It was a stylistic act of appropriation by a class of people who wanted things to adorn egos and to provide a sense of prestige and depth to the liberal order of things. But the elites themselves — the drooling barbarians — are at a total loss to understand how those things were and are created.

    • Sir Arthur Bliss was wounded and invalided in the trenches in WWI. His brother Kennard was killed, by gas, I believe, on the Somme in 1916. Bliss wrote the score for the H. G. Wells film Things to Come (1936), which recalls WWI and predicts WWII. “The World is charged with the Grandeur of God” is a post-WWII work. Bliss does not seem to have been a practicing Christian, but his attraction to Hopkins suggests what Voegelin would have called his “noetic sensitivity.” Bliss’s father was an Englishman; his mother was an American. He lived in Santa Barbara in the 1920s.

      Elicia Silverstein’s performance of the Passacaglia from Biber’s “Mystery Sonatas,” also called the “Rosary Sonatas,” strikes me as totally non-egocentric. The lovely young woman seems totslly committed to the spirit of Biber’s composition.

      • G. Orwell’s dystopian novel was compulsary reading, among many others, in my lycee years back in 1981. And I make sure it is part of my children’s education, in which I callously disregard our socialist minister of ‘education’s’ plans to convince parents that our youth needs ‘training’ . Silentium triplex on education, though.
        Education starts at home. That’s why I streamed this piece by Biber this morning to the music system during breakfast. The kids loved it and wanted to see who was playing this. Needless to say they were stunned and impressed to learn the music is almost fourhundred years old.

      • I teach high school history. The English dept still assigns 1984; though they think it is about the Soviet Union.

      • My 6 year old was trying to do the queen of the night aria at the breakfast table. You know the part I mean. It was not pleasant, but at least she has taste if not talent.

  4. Wonderful how Biber maintains melodic interest and musical invention over the repeated bass voice. A moving performance, full of introspection and Baroque pathos, no showy pretensions.

    Need a bit more light in the background to contrast with black gown. Some unfortunate street noise at around 6:45.

    Here’s another Baroque gem I recently discovered:

    • Både Biber og Vivaldi var katolikker. De var troende. Min fornemmelse er, at tro er grundlaget for noget, der er at sige alt, kunstnerisk fortjenstfulde i de sidste 350 år.

      Alvorlig musik-kultur i Danmark er imponerende. Danskerne knoe fortiden og de dyrker deres egen nutid i musik. Jeg anbefaler symfonier af Vagn Holmboe og symfonier og koncerter af Hermann Koppel.

      • Not familiar with Holmboe or Koppel. One of the saving graces of YouTube, an otherwise avalanche of imbecility, is the availability of full-length symphonic concerts as well as recordings of obscure works. Lately I’ve been enjoying concerts of works unfamiliar to me. I’ll have to investigate Holmboe and Koppel.

        Speaking of Danes, there are excellent performances of the Nielsen symphonies on YouTube.

  5. Pete: As my “Western Heritage” students are currently reading Beowulf, I streamed Eivor’s “Trollabundin” through the classroom AV system, which also allowed me to show Faroese and Anglo-Saxon texts side-by-side, demonstrating their kinship. The students were deeply impressed by Eivor’s performance and wanted to know more about her. I also got good results, after we read The Aeneid, from screening Berlioz’s opera Les Troyens in class. The students admitted that when they read in the syllabus that they would be attending the opera (so to speak), they were a bit intimidated; but they found the experience, especially since they knew the story, to be positive and interesting. The possibilities for modern education are great, bu they are largely unexploited.

    Today, I taught the students how to pronounce Anglo-Saxon, and then I put them through the exercise of reading aloud – and really dramatizing – the text. If someone had done this for them in the eighth grade, when they would have been perfectly capable of it, they would be much more advanced intellectually than they in fact are. The American education system is a criminal conspiracy.

  6. Scott: Vagn Holmboe is one of the most remarkable composers of the last century. He was a successor, in many ways, of Carl Nielsen. His thirteen symphonies and fifteen (I believe) string quartets are two epic journeys through the inexhaustible realms of tonal music. Start with Sinfonia Borealis (No. 8 – 1952). After that, Symphony No. 3 on Danish folk-ballads. After that, you’re on your own.

  7. Josh: Regarding your 1984 comment, a few years ago I taught One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Most of the students thought that the action took place in Germany and that the prisoners were prisoners of the Nazis.

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