the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Archive for May, 2011

said on the imprint of personality in music

Posted by rigorousm on May 27, 2011


“Handel, more so than Bach, Mozart or Beethoven, was a composer whose method included a great deal of borrowing, substituting and reworking. Those who adhere to the cult of Mozart and Bach as endlessly and even effortlessly fertile composers have looked askance at Handel, who trails behind him a milewide stream of plagiarisms and casual thefts. Handel is even more unlike Beethoven, whose introspective struggles, tortured sketchbooks and tragic self-awareness seem written all over his music. Handel’s in an art not so much of concealment as, paradoxically, of containment and adequacy. He could, as scholars have noted, say anything, represent any mood, any situation, without a single seam showing. And yet he haunts one by the protean restlessness of his work. He seems never to be there, and yet his unmistakable sound and range regularly stand out. In no composer is originality harder to pin down and yet easier somehow to experience intelligently.”

Edward Said – Collected Reviews – Giulio Cesare, The Nation 9/14/1988


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highmore on modernity

Posted by rigorousm on May 27, 2011


“In Simmel’s writing the material base of modernity is found (as it should be) everywhere: in fashion, in trade exhibitions, and emphatically in urban culture. There is no attempt to ‘tame’ the brutual actuality of representations (money, images or exhibits). It is in the sensual cacophony of the city that the sensorial consciousness is determined but not in any predetermined form. For Simmel, the sensory foundations of the metropolis are likely to fashion a divided set of responses: neurasthenic and agoraphobic on the one hand; cold, calculating, rationalist and blase on the other. Modernity in its base and sensual form offers a challenge: ‘shape up or ship out’; ‘whatever doesn’t kill you will make you strong.’ Modern individuals bombarded on all fronts by intensified stimuli will either become numbed to such stimuli and successfully parry the blows to consciousness (the blase attitude), or they will become over-sensitized, jumping at every car horn, jolted by every ‘shock of the new’ (neurasthenic). The synaesthete (who as well as seeing smells and hearing colours treats representation as actuality) offers a third option. It is a disposition that in opening-up to the sensory attack of modernity radically questions our ability to dodge the moment of impact. If a heterogenous base modernity (photographs, factories, trains, traffic, toxins, telephones, etc.) ambivalently conditions consciousness, then the forms of consciousness that result (the blase semiotician, the hypersensitive neurasthenic, the mad materialist synaesthete, etc.) will offer different negotiations of modernity. Who will ‘safely’ navigate this urban everyday?”

Ben Highmore – “Crashed-Out: Laundry Vans, Photographs and a Question of Consciousness”, p 56 in Crash Cultures: Modernity, Mediation & the Material (2002)

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nancy on love

Posted by rigorousm on May 27, 2011

“… love alone abandons. What is not love can reject, desert, forget, dismiss, discharge, but love alone can abandon, and it is by the possibility of abandonment that one knows the possibility, inverted or lost, of love.”


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said on opera, criticism

Posted by rigorousm on May 27, 2011

“Much of the great outburst of intellectual energy in recent literary criticism has focused on the difficulty, even the impossibility of interpretation. Psychoanalysis, semiotics, linguistics, deconstruction, feminist theory and Marxism have so expanded our notions of what a text or an authorial performance is that buying what was meant in King Lear or Ulysses is now an enormously complex enterprise. At its best, interpretation has therefore become inventive, a form of deliberate misreading, supplying all sorts of frankly conjectural possibilities as a way of rendering the work’s historical distance, the author’s silence, the critic’s manifest power over the work. Texts that are subject to the turanny of the unconscious or the tactics of class are no longer read for their lifelike depiction of characters, settings, or history. “Wordworth” has become a convenient shorthand for the writer whose text — a much more significant word– is the tangled meeting place for innumerable and unstable forces, none of them renderable “realistically” in a way that photograph of waterfall represents a real waterfall.”

“Mozart’s characters… can be interpreted not as individuals with definable characteristics but as figures driven by forces outside themselves that they don’t comprehend and make no effort to examine. These operas, in fact, are about power and manipulation that reduce individuality to a momentary identity in the vast rush of things. There is very little room in them for providence, or for the heroics of charismatic personalities.”

Edward Said – Collected Reviews – The Barber of Seville, Don Giobanni, The Nation 9/26/1987

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proust on timeliness and talent

Posted by rigorousm on May 18, 2011


“We are very slow in recognising in the peculiar physiognomy of a new writer the type which is labelled ‘great talent’ in our museum of general ideas. Simply because that physiognomy is new and strange, we find in it no resemblance to what we are accustomed to call talent. We say rather originality, charm, delicacy, strength; and then one day we add up the sum of those, and find that it amounts simply to talent.”

(Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way, 76)

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quality proust

Posted by rigorousm on May 17, 2011


“We try to discover within things, endeared to us on that account, the spiritual glamour which we ourselves have cast upon them; we are disilluioned, and learn that they are in themselves barren and devoid of the charm which they owed, in our minds, to the association of certain ideas; sometimes we mobilize all our spiritual forces in a glittering array so as to influence and subjugate other human beings who, as we very well know, are situated outside ourselves, where we can never reach them.”

(66, Swann’s Way, “Combray”)

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