Monday, 2 February 2009

Naughty Shelving

It was with no small pleasure that I slid Schönberg's Structural Functions of Harmony onto the shelf alongside Cage's Silence, especially as they fit beside each other so snugly. We're not anti-Cage by any means, but there's something infinitely cloying about his quasi-naiveté, the innumerable anecdotes about mushrooms, and of course the incessant eulogisation (which is of course ironic, considering that's partly the genesis of his rebellion against Schönberg). I suppose also that one needn't be forced to choose - Schönberg represents the ultimate in mastery, demanding of the complete assimilation of the Classical tradition before smashing it up, and Cage is the epitome of aleatoric submissiveness (although of course this angle drifts a little close to a certain diet-buddhism of which Cage is so guilty).

Anyway, it's worth noting that as far back as the 1890's Mahler, Schönberg's greatest inspiration, specified that a five minute silence be observed between the first two movements of his second symphony. All he needed to come up with that idea was an insatiable thanatological obsession, rather than consultations of an ancient text on divination.

This is Mahler playing his own Das Himmlische Leben, recorded onto piano roll. Lo and behold, it's the source of Susumu Yokota's Card Nation:

ps- The phrase 'insatiable thanatological obsession' has just struck me as a bit stupid. Surely a thanotological obsession is the only obsession guaranteed to not be insatiable?

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