Chaos, as Wagner himself sometimes suggested, is likely to be the rule, rather than the exception, in our world (and in productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen that try to reflect or comment on that world) until another cruel divine order emerges to force things back into unity. Rings devoted to the evils and collapse of Eastern European communism are surely on the drafting boards already, now that Rings devoted to the evils and collapse of capitalism and fascism are becoming routine. Be grateful if you have the opportunity to see a contemporary Ring that is as compelling to look at as it is to listen to; thoughtfully (not narrowly or spitefully) of our time; on the whole generous to Wagner, rather than mean-minded and reductive; one that makes provocative sense, and still seems to grow out of the music, which is (fortunately) larger than all of these postmodern Konzepts put together.Read the full text here.
The DoJ lawsuit plays, it seems to me, right into the hands of Amazon. Yes, we'll have cheaper books, but at what cost? Is it worth paying a little bit less for a title if it threatens the future existence of the publishers who are bringing us the books? [...] [I]t scares me, it really does.Say what? "Threatens the future existence of the publishers who are bringing us the books"(!)? What cave have these recent doomsday whiners been living in for the past decade or so? Haven't they long ago heard that traditional book publishers are today fast becoming almost wholly irrelevant as the source of new books; economic and cultural dinosaurs all whose demise was sealed the day Amazon introduced the Kindle, and good riddance to them? For the most part, traditional publishers are today coasting on the inertia generated by their centuries of existence. Within a generation they'll largely be history for ordinary new book publishing, fiction and nonfiction. In the past, traditional book publishers served a noble and necessary purpose. Today they're entirely unnecessary and rather than be supported should be left to expire in peace and with dignity, saved harmless from the always demeaning and ultimately futile attempts to sustain a faltering life by artificial means. Let us instead say, Atque in perpetuum, Traditional Book Publishers, ave atque vale.
Publishing is not evolving. Publishing is going away. Because the word “publishing” means a cadre of professionals who are taking on the incredible difficulty and complexity and expense of making something public. That’s not a job anymore. That’s a button. There’s a button that says “publish,” and when you press it, it’s done. In ye olden times of 1997, it was difficult and expensive to make things public, and it was easy and cheap to keep things private. Privacy was the default setting. We had a class of people called publishers because it took special professional skill to make words and images visible to the public. Now it doesn’t take professional skills. It doesn’t take any skills. It takes a WordPress install. The question isn’t what happens to publishing — the entire category has been evacuated. The question is, what are the parent professions needed around writing? Publishing isn’t one of them. Editing, we need, desperately. Fact-checking, we need. For some kinds of long-form texts, we need designers. Will we have a movie-studio kind of setup, where you have one class of cinematographers over here and another class of art directors over there, and you hire them and put them together for different projects, or is all of that stuff going to be bundled under one roof? We don’t know yet. But the publishing apparatus is gone. Even if people want a physical artifact — pipe the PDF to a printing machine. We’ve already seen it happen with newspapers and the printer. It is now, or soon, when more people will print the New York Times holding down the “print” button than buy a physical copy. [...] Institutions will try to preserve the problem for which they are the solution. Now publishers are in the business not of overcoming scarcity but of manufacturing demand. And that means that almost all innovation in creation, consumption, distribution and use of text is coming from outside the traditional publishing industry.To all of which we say, Thewayitis!
As the subtitle [A Guide For The Willing But Perplexed] of this four-volume series implies, The Four Days of Wagner's Ring has been written for those intrigued by Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen but feel its complexities too daunting or complicated to undertake on their own, and who have found existing guides to be either too simplistic or so scholarly and/or lengthy as to be almost as daunting as the work it purports to explicate and make clear. The volumes in this series adopt a middle ground that it's hoped readers will find engaging reading and a helpful and illuminating guide through the intricacies of Wagner's great tetralogy.The curious and unanticipated problem is that we're experiencing some measure of unsureness getting "into the head" of that intended reader and so are having some difficulty in judging whether our approach is really striking the middle ground promised above, or whether we're missing the mark by being not simple enough, or too simple, or condescending, or.... Well, you get the idea. So, this is a call for so-called focus-group participants. If you meet the description of the above intended reader (or know someone who does) and own a Kindle or, alternatively (but not ideally), have installed on your computer Kindle For PC or Kindle For Mac, do drop us an eMail (or have the aforementioned someone do so) at The Wagner Group and we'll eMail you back a Kindle preview (.mobi) file containing the first few chapters of the book along with instructions on how to transfer it to your Kindle or to the proper Kindle document folder on your computer. (NOTE: Please let us know whether you'll be reading on a Kindle or on Kindle For PC or Kindle For Mac.) What we're looking for in return, of course, are your comments, positive and/or negative, on what you've read. We regret that the only compensation we can offer you for your participation in this focus group is a free copy of Volume I of The Four Days of Wagner's Ring on its publication. We do look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your attention to this call.
In the event you've been living in a cave isolated from the outside world for the past decade or so, we'd like to call to your attention that it's the year two-thousand-and-ten A.D., Print On Demand (POD) publishing is available to anyone with a book to publish at little to no cost, and the eBook, also available to anyone with a book to publish at little to no cost, has finally come into its own. So, the question is: Why, then, the necessity or need today for book publishing houses? What function do they perform or what service do they provide that an author could not perform or provide himself, or hire experts to perform or provide for him? In short, why are book publishing houses still in business today at all? Answer: Beats us. Book publishing houses are an anachronism; a relic of the pre-digital past who have — or rather, should have — no place whatsoever in today's book publishing market for new books.Today, we read this not unexpected revelation. Sounds to us like the beginning of the end for old-world-style book publishing as far as the general market for new books is concerned, and sounds to us as well the right way to go. We suspect the transition will take almost a generation before it's fully accomplished, but accomplished it will almost certainly be.
I seem to have written more than three thousand words without a single kind one for How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One. To remedy this, at least partially, let it be noted that, at 165 pages, index and acknowledgments and biographical note on the author included, it is a short book.RTWT here.
For Fish a great sentence is like a great athletic performance. It is an example of something done supremely well, so well that it cannot be bettered. Other similar feats will come along, but only to stand alongside it. What exactly is done in such a performance? There is no single answer, indeed no finite answer since there is no limit to the things that can be done with words. But it is what Conrad called the “shape and ring” of sentences, the perfect adaptation of form to achievement, that Fish wants to share. It is wrong to think that the sentence is a mere slave, whose function is to bear content, which, while being the really important thing, is also something that could equally have been borne by another. Change the shape and ring, and you change everything. The balance, the alliterations, the variation, the melody, the lights glimmering in the words, can work together to transform even an ugly thought into something iridescent.... [...] Do shape and ring matter? Perfection always matters. Without the sensitivity Fish admires, we would not only have no great literature. We would also have had no Gettysburg address, no Churchill, and no Martin Luther King, Jr. If we cannot move peoples’ souls, we cannot move their ways of living either: “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.”Quite right — all of it. RTWT here.
Like many Catholics, I came late to the King James Bible. I was schooled in the flat Knox version, and knew the beautiful, musical Latin Vulgate well before I was introduced to biblical beauty in my own tongue. I was around 20, sitting in St John’s College Chapel in Oxford in the glow of late winter candlelight, though that fond memory may be embellished a little. A reading from the King James was given at Evensong. The effect was extraordinary: as if I had suddenly found, in the house of language I had loved and explored all my life, a hidden central chamber whose pillars and vaulting, rhythm and strength had given shape to everything around them.RTWT here. (Our thanks to ArtsJournal for the link.)
What happens when an industry concerned with the production of culture [the commercial book publishing industry] is beholden to a company with the sole goal of underselling competitors [Amazon.com]? Amazon is indisputably the king of books, but the issue remains, as Charlie Winton, CEO of the independent publisher Counterpoint Press puts it, "what kind of king they’re going to be." A vital publishing industry must be able take chances with new authors and with books that don’t have obvious mass-market appeal. When mega-retailers have all the power in the industry, consumers benefit from low prices, but the effect on the future of literature — on what books can be published successfully — is far more in doubt.Excuse us? What kind of lunatic reasoning is that? "[T]he effect on the future of literature — on what books can be published successfully — is far more in doubt"(!)? No, you purblind flack. What's in doubt is the future of book publishing houses, not literature or books. Books, literature, and authors will do just fine — flourish, even — without irrelevant middlemen like book publishing houses who while eyeing foremost their own bottom line (not "the production of culture") make decisions on which books should or should not be published, and then take a hefty cut of authors' earnings for the privilege of being published by them. Talk about irrelevancy. Talk about chutzpah!
A true believer in unification [as was Kepler, Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger], I spent my Ph.D. years, and many more, searching for a theory of Nature that reflected the belief that all is [ultimately] one. [...] Echoing the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato, this idea carries with it an implicit aesthetic judgment that such theories are more beautiful, and, as the poet John Keats wrote in 1819, that "beauty is truth." And yet, as we investigate the experimental evidence for unification ... we find very little hard data supporting [it]. [...] Slowly, my thoughts converged into an aesthetic based on imperfection rather than perfection. [...] [I]t's time for science to let go of the old aesthetic that espouses perfection as beauty and beauty as truth.See now why we hate the guy? And why exactly do we hate him? Because we've the sneaking, sinking suspicion he may actually be right.
Amazon’s Kindle has become the breakthrough e-reader since it was introduced only three years ago, fueling a nearly $1 billion business that Forrester Research says will triple in the next five years. But it is edged out by the humble laptop as the e-reader of choice, according to a Forrester survey released Monday. Laptop users could very well be reading Kindle editions on a computer using software provided by Amazon, and may be motivated to merely avoid a third device.... Laptops only slightly trump the Kindle, 35 percent to 32 percent. Coming in third was the iPhone, with 15 percent, followed by a Sony e-reader (12 percent), netbooks (10 percent) and the Barnes & Noble Nook (9 percent). Also at 9 percent was the iPad.RTWT here.
[A] sexily swirling dance that hypnotized all who heard it. [...] It is in triple time, with a stress on the second beat.... Players in the chacona band lay down an ostinato — a motif, bass line, or chord progression that repeats in an insistent fashion. Other instruments add variations, the wilder the better. [...] The result is a little sonic tornado that spins in circles while hurtling forward.Ross then explains the basso lamento — "motifs of weeping and longing [that] bring out profound continuities in musical history" — which consists of,
a [four- or six-note] repeating bass line that descends the interval of a fourth, sometimes following the steps of the minor mode [four notes] ... and sometimes inching down the chromatic scale [six notes].Ross makes all of this clear to us sonically by the use of audio clips accessed on the Listen to This Audio Guide; a nineteen-page collection of audio and video samples keyed to the book by chapter title and page number, and put together by Ross himself. For readers not familiar with the repertoire pertinent to this chapter, it's an invaluable aid, and we found ourself consulting it often once the discussion entered the realms of walking blues and of Led Zeppelin. Ross then spends the remaining thirty pages of this musically rich chapter tracing the careers of the chaconne and basso lamento throughout the history of Western music "from Renaissance madrigals to Led Zeppelin by way of Monteverdi, Purcell, and Bach," and a fascinating journey it is, too; one you owe it to yourselves not to miss taking part in if only as an outside observer going along for the ride. We assure you that you could have no better tour guide than the author of this superlative chapter and of this excellent book.
We’ve just finished reading Berlioz's chronicling of his one-and-a-half years spent living in Italy as a 28-year-old Prix de Rome first prize winner, a section of the Memoirs that concludes with a savage assessment of the musical proclivities and sensibilities of the Italians; an assessment with which we found ourself nodding in agreement at almost every sentence. That savage assessment concludes with the following summation:
What are undoubtedly more common in Italy than anywhere else are good voices, voices that are not only full and incisive but agile and flexible as well. But the prevalence of voices lending themselves naturally to vocalization and the public's instinctive love of glitter and display react on each other. Hence the mania for fioriture which debases the finest melodies; hence those convenient vocal formulas which make all Italian phrases sound alike; hence that eternal device of the final cadence, which leaves the singer free to embroider at will but maddens many listeners by its perfunctoriness and dreadful inevitability; hence the constant tendency to break into buffo style which lurks even in the tenderest scenes of pathos; hence, in short, all those abuses which have made of melody, harmony, tempo, rhythm, orchestration, modulation, plot, staging, poetry, the poet, and the composer the abject slaves and playthings of the singer.My oh my. How familiar does all that sound. Who would have imagined that all this time we've been echoing — albeit unwittingly and totally ignorant of the precedent — the assessment of a Frenchman on something other than matters culinary.
On arriving in Paris...with my fellow-student Alphonse Robert, I gave myself up wholly to studying for the [medical] career which had been thrust upon me, and loyally kept the promise I had given my father on leaving. It was soon put to a severe test when Robert, having announced one morning that he had bought a "subject" (a corpse), took me for the first time to the dissecting-room at the Hospice de la Pitié. At the sight of that terrible charnel-house — the dissected limbs, the grinning faces and gaping skulls, the bloody quagmire underfoot and the atrocious smell it gave off, the swarms of sparrows wrangling over scraps of lung, the rats in their corner gnawing the bleeding vertebrae — such a feeling of revulsion possessed me that I leapt through the window of the dissecting-room and fled for home as though Death and all his hideous train were at my heels. The shock of that first impression lasted for twenty-four hours. I did not want to hear another word about anatomy, dissection or medicine, and I meditated a hundred mad schemes of escape from the future that hung over me. Robert lavished his eloquence in a vain attempt to argue away my disgust and demonstrate the absurdity of my plans. In the end he got me to agree to make another effort. For the second time I accompanied him to the hospital and we entered the house of the dead. How strange! The objects which before had filled me with extreme horror had absolutely no effect upon me now. I felt nothing but a cold distaste; I was already as hardened to the scene as any seasoned medical student. The crisis was passed. I found I actually enjoyed groping about in a poor fellow's chest and feeding the winged inhabitants of that delightful place their ration of lung. "Hallo!", Robert cried, laughing. "You're getting civilized. 'Thou giv'st the little birds their daily bread.'" "'And o'er all nature's realm my bounty spread,'" I retorted, tossing a shoulder-blade to a large rat staring at me with famished eyes. So I went on with my anatomy course, feeling no enthusiasm, but stoically resigned. [...] I was on my way to becoming just another student, destined to add one more obscure name to the lamentable catalogue of bad doctors, when one evening I went to the Opéra. They were giving The Danaïds, by Salieri. The pomp and brilliance of the spectacle, the massive sonority of orchestra and chorus, the inspired pathos of Mme Branchu, her extraordinary voice, the rugged grandeur of Dérivis, Hypermnestra's aria, in which I discerned, imitated by Salieri, all the characteristics of Gluck's style as I had conceived it from the pieces from his Orphée in my father's library, and finally the tremendous bacchanal and the sad, voluptuous ballet music that Spontini added to his old compatriot's score, disturbed and exalted me to an extent that I will not attempt to describe. It was though a young man possessing all the instincts of a sailor, but knowing only the boats on the lakes of his native mountains, were suddenly to find himself on board a three-decker ship on the open sea. I hardly slept that night, and the anatomy lesson next morning suffered accordingly. [...] The following week I went to the Opéra again. This time I saw Méhul's Stratonice, and Nina, the ballet devised and composed by Persuis. [...] Notwithstanding all these distractions and the hours I spent every evening brooding over the melancholy discrepancy between my studies and my inclinations, I persisted in this double life for some time longer, without much benefit to my medical career and without being able to extend my meager knowledge of music. I had given my word and I was holding to it. But when I learnt that the library of the Conservatoire with its wealth of scores was open to the public, the desire to go there and study the works of Gluck, for which I already had an instinctive passion but which were not then being performed at the Opéra, was too strong for me. Once admitted to that sanctuary, I never left it. It was the death-blow to my medical career. The dissecting-room was abandoned for good. —Hector Berlioz, from, The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz, edited and translated by David Cairns