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Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.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
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

IDLE THOUGHTS ON A FOGGY WEDNESDAY MORNING


1.   When J. K. Rowling tweets, "How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near as bad," and Lord Voldemort himself declares that Donald Trump's anti-Muslim plan "goes against everything we stand for," I think I may safely say there is no pressing need for me to weigh in.

2.    This morning, as I was driving to Whole Foods to shop for two dinners, I turned on WCPE, the local classical music station.  They were playing The Four Seasons.  I sighed.  The Four Seasons is one of the most familiar, over-played, clichéd pieces of music in the classical repertory.  In Paris, there is actually an orchestra that seems to do absolutely nothing but play The Four Seasons and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik at Sainte-Chappelle, apparently on the theory that there is a never-ending supply of tourists who will go to just one concert while in Paris and who want the musical equivalent of comfort food.  I often wonder how the musicians keep from going stark raving mad.

I was about to turn off the radio when I heard a phrase, an elaboration, that was new to me.  Then I actually started to listen, and realized that I was hearing a simply splendid performance, crisp, clear, beautifully phrased.  I was delighted but not surprised to learn, when they had finished, that it was the great American violinist Joshua Bell leading the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

When I came out of Whole Foods, I still had to go to Fresh Market for tomorrow night's main course, so I turned on the radio again.  WCPE was playing The Goldberg Variations, another Golden Oldie.  But once again, I was struck by the clarity, the precision, the elegant grace of the performance.  "My God," I thought, "that sounds like Glenn Gould."  Sure enough, it was.

Well, this got me thinking about the old concert warhorses:  Beethoven's Ninth, Bach's Cantatas #4 and #140, even the much maligned Pachelbel Canon, which is now reduced to wedding music for upscale millennials.  "You know," I thought to myself, "there is a reason these works are so often played, so tiresomely familiar to those of us who feature ourselves musical connoisseurs.  The reason is that they really are beautiful.  All it takes is a first-rate performance to remind us of their delights -- not a quirky performance, like Hamlet in lounge suits or Oedipus Rex in drag, just a brilliant traditional performance, true to the music.  Bach or Vivaldi or Beethoven will do the rest."

3.    I live across the street from a Harris-Teeter supermarket, the local equivalent of Stop & Shop, Big Y, Piggly-Wiggly, or [in the old days] A & P.  Each December, a little group of musicians -- two trumpeters, a French Horn player, a clarinetist,  set up shop at the entrance in the afternoons and play Christmas carols, which I can hear from my home office.  No one pays them, and they do not seek donations.  They just like to play.  They aren't terribly good, but it is rather sweet.  As I was listening to them on Monday, I reflected that with the exception of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "All I Want For Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth," the carols they play were all standards seventy years ago when I was a boy. 

2 comments:

Warren Goldfarb said...

As for "recent" Christmas songs, the two that Prof. Wolff mentions were debuted in the late 1940s. But I'm surprised that this musical group doesn't have "Jingle Bell Rock" or "The Little Drummer Boy" in their repertoire, both of which stem from the 1950s.

Warren Goldfarb said...

J.D. Fix suggested to me that "I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus" might also be of that period, and sure enough it turns out to be 1952.