A Little College on a Hill

One evening in early November, 1927, Dr. Harry Hefner Price stood in the old Chapel Hall of Westminster College and addressed a convocation of students, alumni and friends of the institution.  Westminster College sat atop a limestone bluff in Tehuacana, Texas, a town you have never heard of, and the old Chapel Hall was in a handsome three-story building made of stone quarried from that very hill. Continue reading

Enclosing the National Commons

An externality is a cost of economic activity that is not easily ascertainable, or accounted for, and that therefore is not usually covered by the prices of goods. Externalities are costs that are suffered, but not paid for. Because the market has a hard time recognizing them properly, they are considered a sort of market failure; and the perfection of markets involves accurate accounting for externalities, and for their inclusion among the factors of production, and thus of the prices of goods and services. Perfect markets internalize all costs.

Many externalities are costs imposed on commons: goods held in common by the whole commonwealth – by everybody, and by nobody in particular. Precisely because they are difficult to account for, externalities are not usually controlled costs. The commons they injure are then subject to unbridled exploitation.

Imports have obvious benefits, or no one would want to pay for them. They also impose externalities.

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Berlioz: Musical High Romanticism

Berlioz

Hector Berlioz Later in Life

My essay on the composer Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869), entitled Musical High Romanticism in an Age of Technical and Ideological Correctness, appeared at the Berlioz Website back in 2007. Berlioz, perhaps best known for his Symphonie fantastique (1830), rather eccentrically took inspiration from English and German sources. He adored Shakespeare, writing a “Dramatic Symphony” (1839) on Romeo and Juliet and an opera (1869) on Much Ado about Nothing. Goethe was as important to him as the English bard. He composed his “dramatic cantata” La damnation de Faust (1845) to a French translation of Goethe’s masterpiece. Berlioz considered his grand opera in two parts, Les Troyens (completed in 1858), to be the summit of his achievement. A lifelong worshiper of Virgil’s Aeneid, he wrote his own libretto, which recasts the epic story as Shakespearean dialogue. It is a remarkable moment in musico-dramatic art. I reproduce the first two paragraphs of the essay below, followed by some music-videos of Berlioz’s compositions in performance. —

Before he became a Teutonic enormity and an artistic prophet, before he had made his own mark in the world of music and well before he had conceived his monumental Ring of the Nibelung, while writing during his Paris sojourn of the early 1840s, a sharp-witted Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) declared keenly of the Gallic composer Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869) that he stood out against the prevailing un-musicality of the French capital both as a phenomenon and a paradox. “Berlioz is no incidental composer,” Wagner writes in a dispatch for the Dresden Abendzeitung; “he is in no way related to and has nothing whatever to do with the pompous and exclusive art institutions of Paris: the Opéra as well as the Conservatory hurried to close their doors at the very first sight of him.” As for Berlioz’s not being “incidental,” this means for Wagner that he boasts no organic relation to metropolitan musical life but constitutes rather something sui generis within it – “within it,” one might say, spatially or phenomenally while yet existing spiritually apart from and artistically entirely beyond it. Wagner hesitates to call Berlioz either a Parisian or even a Frenchman; he seems so antithetical to his scene: “Berlioz was forced to become and to remain an absolute exception to long-established rules, and such he is and always will be, both inwardly and outwardly… You will hear Berlioz’s compositions only at the concerts which he himself gives once or twice a year.” Wagner notes that “nowhere else will you hear anything by Berlioz, except perhaps in the streets or in the cathedral, where he is summoned from time to time to take part in some politico-musical state occasion.” Not even government acknowledgment, whether Republican or Imperial, served however to guarantee critical respect; official notice could indeed exacerbate critical hostility. The Conservatory professor F-J Fétis wrote meanly of Berlioz in 1837: “His rare melodies are deprived of meter and rhythm; and his harmony, a bizarre assemblage of sounds, not easily blended, does not always merit this name.” In Fétis’ snide opinion, “What Monsieur Berlioz writes does not belong to the art which I customarily regard as music, and I have the complete certainty that he lacks the prerequisites of this art.”

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Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Causation is Stochastic

It would seem that freedom and causation are incompatible. If acts are wholly caused – as they must be, if they are to be intelligible, and so more or less intelligent, and so integrated fully in a coherent world – then how can they be free? If acts are even a little bit free, are they not to that extent chaotic, ergo unintelligible, and so an insuperable impediment to the integration of a coherent world?

There is in fact no such incompatibility.

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Where Erotic Madness Ends

“A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’re beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover.”

Coleridge, Kubla Khan, ii, 14-16.

When a woman asks her suitor if he “really loves her,” she is asking if he is “madly” or “passionately” in love.  Madness and passion are the same thing, both words indicating a state in which the man’s reason has been overturned and he is operating under the control of more primitive impulses.  This is why we speak of a “crime of passion” as a “fit of temporary insanity.”  The inquisitive woman who asks this question is, therefore, seeking to discover if her suitor has lost control and is, quite literally, “crazy about her.” Continue reading

Delius: On the Heights

220px-Fritz_Delius_(1907)

Frederick Delius (1862 – 1934)

Sir Thomas Beecham described the English-born, German-descended composer Frederick “Fritz” Delius (1862 – 1934) as the last great advocate of beauty in music.  About a decade ago, I contributed an article to the website of the International Delius Society entitled “On the Heights: Frederick Delius and the Secular Sublime.”  What I denominated “the secular sublime” holds this interest to Traditionalists” The “secular sublime” is a concession by materialists to the apologists for another world, the Platonic world of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.  Delius, who thought of himself as a Nietzschean, and who set excerpts from Thus Spake Zarathustra in his musically magnificent Mass of Life (1906), nevertheless devoted his art to beauty, setting himself in contradiction with the implication of materialism, that beauty is an illusion. Delius lived in Florida in the 1880s, nominally managing an orange grove. He is the first serious composer to incorporate Negro tunes and harmonies into symphonic music — beating Gershwin to it by fifty years.

I link my article here.  My articles from more than fifteen years ago tend to embarrass me, but this one eschews the first person, is reliant on evidence throughout, and manages to be fairly well-written.  I reproduce below the first two paragraphs of the article followed by a number of Delius’s works in performances uploaded to (the loathsome but unavoidable) YouTube platform.

Others might have known the Bradford-born, Dutch- or German-descended composer Frederick Delius (1862 – 1934) longer than did Eric Fenby, the old man’s amanuensis for the late flowering of his music in the last six years of his life, but none save his wife Jelka (née Rosen) knew him so plainly, or, as an artist, so intimately, not even old friends like Balfour Gardiner or Sir Thomas Beecham.  Fenby lived through most of the period 1928 – 34 in the Delius household at Grez, a village on the river Loing, some forty miles southeast of Paris.  While working out the daunting problem of how to take full-score musical dictation from a creative artist blind and paraplegic, he saw daily his idol in the idol’s unscreened candor.  Transparent to Fenby, who in his saintliness of dedication overlooked the rudeness habitual to the self-proclaimed disciple of Friedrich Nietzsche, Delius remained largely opaque to himself, a supreme egotist, and now and again an insufferable bigot in the prejudice and tenacity of his views.  To read Fenby’s beautiful, tactful first-person account of his residency chez Delius, written and published soon after the master’s death, is to confront in particularly high relief the paradox that a great artist need not be a great man.  When one speaks of greatness in a man, one usually means magnanimity or largeness of soul.  Fenby has magnanimity – a capaciousness of spirit that opens itself to other spirits – but Delius rarely if ever reveals this quality, as a person.  He occasionally reveals it, as an artist, but his receptivity to others remains confined, even in his art, to a narrow range of types close to his own.  Indeed, Delius appears detached from other human beings generally, rather like an Ibsen protagonist or the central figure of a Knut Hamsun novel.  Consider the man’s relation to his wife.

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Conflation of Ends is Confusion of Means & of Men

There is a curious temptation to conflation of incompatible ends. I saw this most recently in my exchange with Orthosphere commenter Theodman about the optimal tonlieu. He objected – not unreasonably, and indeed in these latter days quite normally – to any restrictions on immigration, such as a tonlieu, because they discriminate against the poor. Which they do. And which does not mean we ought to be cruel to the poor. And which does mean we ought not to confuse immigration policy with social welfare policy.

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Blind Justice

You have no doubt heard it said that the people of the United States are “governed by laws, not men.” The phrase is from Aristotle, and therefore has no direct bearing on the government of the United States, but the notion will be comforting if your arch enemy wins the election for county sheriff.  It will be less comforting if your arch enemies win control of the legislature and the courts; but, even then, persecution under the color of law is harder than arbitrary persecution. Continue reading

Sandhillers

If you were interested in yesterday’s post on tackeys, crackers and poor white trash, you may wish to read this poem by the Massachusetts educator and poetess Mary Hall Leonard.  I’ve appended a note about Miss Leonard after the poem.

Sandhillers
Mary Hall Leonard
(1894)

Brown jeans, cotton gown,
Pipe in mouth, they come to town,
Dull eye, cheek of tawn,
Two-wheeled cart by ‘critter’ drawn. Continue reading

Tacky People

“Now Sorry Tom was owner uv the Gosh-all-Hemlock mine,
The wich allowed his better half to dress all-fired fine;
For Sorry Tom was mighty proud uv her, an’ she of him,
Though she was short an’ tacky, an’ he wuz tall an’ slim.”

Eugene Field, “The Conversazzhyony” (1889)

Like the word taste, the word tacky is difficult to define.  To most modern readers it will suggest the cheap finery that is on display when low class people put on airs.  It thus has a strong connection to vulgar ostentation on the part of the poor, and recently poor, when they make a maladroit stab at magnificence.

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