Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

ON MICHAEL JACKSON, POPULAR CULTURE, AND BEING TOTALLY OUT OF IT

The 24/7 media coverage of the death of Michael Jackson and the aftermath reminded me once again how totally out of touch I am with the popular music of the last three-quarters of a century. I am not a total dork. I can talk The Young and the Restless with the best of them, I am well aware of what tribles are, and who, or what, the Borg are [or is], I have watched most of the episodes of NCIS, and, though I have never seen a single episode of American Idol, I knew, in my day, who the Fonz was. But I have simply never been able to establish any emotional connection with Jazz, Swing, Be Bop, Country and Western, Heavy Metal, or Rap.

Almost thirty years ago, I ran into my older son, Patrick, then a teenager, in the kitchen [a rare sighting, since he was usually holed up in his room studying chess]. He was listening to something with his headphones. When I asked him what it was, he said [I think] "Hall and Oates." I must have made a face, because he stopped me dead by saying, very earnestly, "You have to respect a person's music, Dad." I was properly chastized, and never again interfered with his musical preferences.

But though I am prepared to respect it, I cannot feel it. Since I have been thirteen or so, I have been enraptured by early music. I took out seventy-eight rpm recordings of Gregorian Chant and listened to them over and over. I courted Susie when we were fifteen by taking her to concerts of the Bach Aria Group and listening to her recording of the B Minor Mass. Classical music, especially of the Baroque period, has for me an erotic appeal as deep and as intense as that experienced by a fan of Jazz or Pop. I don't think I have ever actually listened to a Michael Jackson number all the way through, but if you told me that Paul O'Dette had died, or that the Boromeo Quartet was breaking up, I would be devastated.

Now, there is no accounting for tastes, so in a sense this is no more significant than the fact that I do not like pistacchio ice cream. But I consider myself a trenchant social critic [well, a social critic anyway -- I will leave "trenchant" to the obituaries], and it is hard to see how I can engage in serious social criticism if I am tone deaf to the dominant cultural phenomenon of contemporary society.

1 comment:

Buck said...

Perhaps you shouldn't have missed that Pete Seeger concert that you wrote about a couple of years ago that you missed in the 40s that was canceled due to rain. I'm with you on most music but folk music moves me by stimulating my imagination, as it, like this blog (which I think I understand you when you say that this blog is not quite a blog), tells stories and your story telling is simply superb.

I discovered your blog through reading a post at Jerome Doolittle's Bad Attitudes blog today and was so fascinated that I started reading this site from its beginning in 2007, including the biographical and other pdf files that are linked to in the blog starting this afternoon. (it seems I've read portions of some of your biography and some of the stories in them before but I can't recall where or when) So I'm up to 2009 and moving forward. Your (non) blog is utterly fascinating and I'll be ordering at least one of your books when I get through to the current date.

Just as an aside, I'm fascinated with your University ideas, as they remind me of some of what Albert Jay Nock wrote about in the famous Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Although I've not gotten through all your material, I'm curious if his ideas had an influence on your thoughts on your ideal University. At 52 I've only recently discovered I am ADHD and even though I managed to get a law degree by being admitted to law school by strong SAT scores, I would have been much better served by a University system you write about had one been available to me then (or now - as even today I consider myself a perpetual student with much more to learn)