Surfing the net while treading my treadmill this morning, I felt like the silver surfer. It seems to me a universe of ideas is available on the net only waiting for me to imagine what is possible.
And lately I have been finding Youtube a lot like the old Napster. Sort of a celestial jukebox. Yes.
Of course, I know I’m just fat guy, probably with a bad heart, working up a sweat peering into a tiny screen.
But, wow, what things I can find on that screen. But enough.
Yesterday night I picked up an old copy of American Scholar I have laying around. I have kept it, because it has an interview with Marcel Duchamp in it. ‘Bout time I read the dang thing. So I did.
Duchamp keeps popping up on my radar throughout my life. So I was gratified to read this.
I think painting dies, you understand. After forty or fifty years a picture dies, because its freshness disappears. Sculpture also dies. This is my own little hobbyhorse, which no one accepts, but I don’t mind. I think a picture dies after a few years like the man who painted it. Afterward it’s called the history of art. There’s a huge difference between a Monet today, which is black as anything, and a Monet sixty or eighty years ago, when it was brilliant, when it was made. Now it has entered into history—it’s accepted as that, and anyway that’s fine, because that has nothing to do with what it is. Men are mortal, pictures too.
American Scholar Spring 1971, p. 280 (also in Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp by Pierre Cabbanne)
I probably don’t exactly agree with Duchamp, but I think he is on to something. I have expressed it a bit differently saying that contemporary art and music (by that I only mean art and music created by people still alive) can say something unique to the observer/listener, something that cannot be said in quite the same way by historical art and music.
At the same time I have to agree with Jeremy Denk who said in the entry I linked yesterday that
Bach must have felt the intervals [SBJ note: intervals are the measured distance between two notes of music] were his friends, don’t you think? His best buds. He was closer to understanding them than anyone in history–their possibilities, their limitations, their quirks. Actually, let’s not kid ourselves: It is largely through his understanding of them that we now understand them. And here he is, Bach is explaining to us the circle of his closest friends, introducing us to them … Like a good friend too he is showing us their good sides, but without mythologizing them: they have their “rough spots.” (Knowing the weak spots, the thorny corners of each interval, knowing these deeply, might be one way to define “mastery of counterpoint.”)
So I guess historical music (and art too) has an importance for me. I have this thought about Shakespeare as well. I think I first read it in Harold Bloom’s work. That Shakespeare fundamentally affeccted the way Western Civ people see themselves as people. Not to mention their language.
I can’t resist adding this lovely phrase that Denk wrote back in May on his blog:
a life’s wounds bandaged with music and then the music itself becomes the wound.
I like that quite a bit.
And then there’s Enderby’s Muse who says this about posterity anyway.
Posterity… The poet addresses posterity. And what is posterity? Schoolmarms with snotty kids trailing round the monuments. The poet’s tea-mug with an ingrained ring of tannin-stain. The poet’s love-letters. The poet’s falling hair, trapped in brush-bristles rarely washed. The poet’s little failings — well-hidden, but not for ever. And the kids are bored, and their texts are covered with thumb-marks and dirty little marginalia. They’ve read the poem, oh yes. They’re posterity. Enderby Outside by Anthony Burgess
“Snotty kids trailing round monuments.” Burgess can sure coin a telling phrase, eh?
This brings back me to how much fun I had this morning goofing off with the web. I continue to explore a new web site I have found called Poemhunter.com. I still remember a teacher in high school telling me that poetry was more pertinent and important than anything in any newspaper. I haven’t quite shaken the feeling he’s right. Sometimes when I am perusing headlines I read for Dylan Thomas or Walt Whitman and find a breath of fresh human brutal air.
Since I am a lover of words, i found David Skinner’s entertaining and enlightening article, “Ain’t that the Truth: Webster’s Third: the most controversial dictionary in the English language,” very interesting. Not only does he take one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace, to task, he gives some fascinating (to me anyway) background and history about American dictionaries, specifically the Webster brand.
While it was sometimes unclear whether W3 was written for lexicographers or for people who didn’t know what a door was, it was certainly a quirky dictionary.
W3 is the Webster’s Third Edition.
Finally, I do use Youtube like I used to use Napster. There are tons of recordings on it. I have been plugging speakers into my little netbook and using them to listen. Not bad. Here’s one from this morning.