Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rhetoric, Bach, & cultural miscellany

rhetoric: the art or science of using words effectively
in speaking or writing (Webster’s New World Dictionary).

“Rhetoric formed the basis of all his work…Bach exhausted all possibilities in music as it existed up until his time in terms of formal aspects, harmony, expression and melody” proclaimed the period performance pioneer, Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

“Just as form links the elements of a work into a greater whole, with no damage to their particularity, so Culture signifies a link between a specific civilization and universal humanity” writes the literary critic-cum-philosopher, Terry Eagleton.

“The equilibrium of any particular aspect of nature rests on the equivalence of its opposites” saith Piet Mondrian, the painter.

“What do I think? I think that when you’ve made up your mind about what it really means to you, it won’t matter what I or anyone else thinks. You’ll just know” (Leonard Bernstein, when asked by Michael Tilson Thomas what he “thought” of Mahler’s Adagietto).

“This is a stoic concept: to stay in the middle, which permits you to be free from the ambitions of the high, and permits you, through your liberty, to deliver something to those who don’t have anything” said the artist-architect Santiago Calatrava, self-referentially.

Culture…as a form of universal subjecthood, signified those values we shared by virtue of our common humanity. If culture-as-the-arts was important, it was because it distilled these values in conveniently portable form…

Culture is itself the spirit of humanity individuating itself in specific works…

What else is the artistic canon, a collection of irreducibly individual works which testify in their very uniqueness to the common spirit of humanity? Or think of the ethics of liberal humanism, for which I am most peculiarly myself when I rise above my prosaic particularity, perhaps through the transfigurative power of art, to become the bearer of universal humanity. Art recreates individual things in the form of their universal essences, and in doing so makes them inimitably themselves. (Terry Eagleton, from the excellent book, The Idea of Culture).

For what grievous estrangement is such transcendence a poor compensation? (Eagleton quoting one of Marx’s aphorisms on religion)

That most revered of composers, Bach, has always transcended expectations,
rhetorically speaking…

Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir.

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