Monday, November 5, 2018

Beethoven/Kerman readng group, Week Thirteen

The Grateful Dead in 1980. (Creative Commons photo by Chris Stone). 

Kerman Week 13 – Op. 127

By Eric Wagner, guest blogger

This week please read sections 1 – 3 of chapter 8 (pg. 223 - 242) and Op. 127 over and over again. Please comment on this week’s reading/listening and continue to comment on previous weeks’ readings/quartets.

I hope all goes well. Thank you for the terrific comments. On page 239 Kerman talks about “the extraordinary sense of coherence created by the sequence of movements in Beethoven’s greatest compositions.” (Note that he considers the quartets Op. 127, 132 and 131 Beethoven’s greatest compositions. Bob Wilson would likely prefer the Ninth Symphony and the Hammerklavier Sonata.) I enjoyed Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven, but I disagreed with how much he stressed thematic unity as the key to the coherence between movements in Beethoven’s music, especially in his early music. I find Kerman’s more nuanced approach, emphasizing harmony and form as well as melody, much more convincing.

On page 242 Kerman says, “The exquisitely calculated journey leads to a castle in the clouds.” This reminds me of a comment in The Deadhead’s Taping Compendium, Volume I, calling “Dark Star”, “St. Stephen”, “The Eleven”, “China Cat Sunflower”, and “Clementine” “psychedelic castle music” for their Medieval elements.


Eric Wagner said...

Great picture!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

When I first read Eric's latest posting, I tried to think of any other Beethoven compositions RAW had mentioned, and I only came up with one, the Fifth Symphony, which is mentioned in "Illuminatus!" If Michael Johnson reads this blog post, maybe he can think of another work. But yes, the Ninth and the "Hammerklavier" are the ones that RAW mentions often.

Eric Wagner said...

Bob mentions the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies in Schroedinger's Cat. Her refers to the late quartets in SC and in Illuminatus!. He mentions the Emperor Joseph Cantata in Prometheus Rising and the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles. He mentions the Sixth Symphony in Email to the Universe.

Oz Fritz said...

I thought last week's chapter "Voice" quite insightful. I don't know if Crowley's "Vision and the Voice" would be helpful for understanding Beethoven's voice. Both Beethoven and Crowley tried to articulate, give voice to visions that reach beyond words; a voice that to make their visions cohere? For instance, this sentence seems equally true for Crowley and his Voice: "... are Beethoven's greatest works because each creates a more profound and individual impression of coherence than he or anyone else had achieved before"(p. 228 - 229): Beethoven with music, Crowley with mysticism.

I couldn't find a reference to an android named Voice from Ultron. However, Artificial Intelligence has certainly found a voice to communicate with humans in recent years - gps, etc. When they start talking to each other could signal trouble for us.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Since Eric mentioned Robert Anton Wilson's favorite Beethoven works, would this be the place to post our own favorites?

The pieces I listen to often include the "Waldstein" and "Pathetique" piano sonatas and the third piano sonata (at least when Sviatoslav Richter is playing it), the third cello sonata, the "Ghost" trio, the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh and Ninth symphonies and the first piano concerto.

Oz Fritz said...

The opening chords of op. 127 suggests to me that something epic is about to happen - Wellington defeating Bonaparte’s army or something of that scale. The Quartet proceeds in the first two movements to become soft and on the introspective side, what you could call ambient and atmospheric. Again, I hear it as feminine, perhaps because, as Kerman observes a “complete absence of dominant articulation.” The epic events crescendo in the third and fourth movements.

I would suggest Kerman familiarize himself with Deleuze’s, “The Logic of Sense,” in regard to his criticism of other critics “general compulsion to account for the extraordinary sense of coherence created by the sequence of movements in Beethoven’s greatest compositions.” (p. 239). In that book of philosophy, a key concept is the idea of “series.” Each chapter is called a series rather than a chapter as in, “Twenty-Third Series of the Aion.” Incidentally, this series connects with RAW’s “Cosmic Trigger” by starting with a discussion of time. RAW mentions in CT that he got advised to study time. Kerman brings this up earlier (p. 232), “In this whole series of madly contrasted ideas, none lasts more than a few bars.” He continues to illustrate how this series provides a particular kind of shock, the kind of shock Gurdjieff describes as a necessity for personal evolution.

“The Logic of Sense” has as one dominant theme, the “sense of coherence” produced by the elements of a series. Deleuze believed that sense (sense of coherence) was produced. “Moreover, we have the impression of a pure counter-sense imposed on sense; for, in any case, heavenly or subterranean, sense is presented as Principle, Reservoir, Reserve, Origin. As heavenly Principle it is said to be fundamentally forgotten and veiled, or as subterranean principle, it is said to be deeply erased, diverted and alienated. But beneath the erasure and the veil, we are summoned to rediscover and to restore meaning, in either a God which was not well enough understood, or in a man not fully fathomed. It is thus pleasing that there resounds today the news that sense is never a principle or an origin, but that it is produced. It is not something to discover, to restore, to re-employ; it is something to produce by a new machinery.” (LoS p. 72)

Some imaginative commentators have suggested that this production of sense constitutes what Gurdjieff called “The Work,” or what the more poetically minded Crowley called “The Great Work.” Beethoven participates in The Great Work with his compositions. This final quote from LoS ( p. 72 – 73) connects in an abstract way with Beethoven’s greatest works: “What is bureaucratic in these fantastic machines which are peoples and poems? It suffices that we dissipate ourselves a little, that we be able to be at the surface, that we stretch our skin like a drum, in order that the ‘great politics’ begin. An empty square for neither man nor God; singularities which are neither general nor individual, neither personal nor universal. All of this is traversed by circulations, echoes and events which produce more sense, more freedom and more strength than man has ever dreamed of, or God ever conceived. Today’s task is to make the empty square circulate and to make pre-individual and nonpersonal singularities speak – in short, to produce sense.” This notion of making them speak connects with Kerman’s ideas on Beethoven’s lyricism.

Eric Wagner said...

Alas, Dr. Kerman passed away. I think Deleuze wrote a book on Proust. Perhaps I should read that. Thanks for your comments.