Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Is Politics? Hannah Arendt

From Hannah Arendt's "Denktagebuch" (journal)
Vol. 1 1950-1973
Piper Verlag, 2002

Notebook 1
Section 21
August 1950

Translation from German is mine, I bear responsibility for any mistakes in the translation.

What Is Politics?

1. Politics rests upon the plurality of men. God has created man, but men are a human creation, earthly and the by-product of human nature. Philosophy and theology have been concerned only with man, sense in which all their assertions would be valid if there were one man, or two men, or may well be, that all men were simply identical; it is for this reason that neither of the two has found a philosophically valid answer to the question: what is politics? Even worse: In all scientific thought, in biology or psychology, as much as in philosophy and theology, there's nothing but man, after the fashion in which in zoology there exists only the lion. The lions would be something that affects only other lions, in the plural.
It is remarkable to notice the difference of rank between political philosophies and the rest of philosophies throughout all the great thinkers, even in Plato. Politics never reaches the same depth. The absence of depth is nothing but the absence of sense for such depth in which politics is anchored.
2. Politics deals with those in principle different in their being together and being with each other. Men organize themselves politically in accordance with determinate aspects in common that are essential in an absolute chaos or from the perspective of an absolute chaos of difference. Whilst political bodies are built upon the base of the family and are understood under the image of the family, kinship in different degrees is, on the one hand, what can unite those most different, and, on the other, what can cause individual configurations to become strictly limited and opposed to each other.
In this form of political organization the original difference is effectively destroyed, as much as the essential equality of all men, insofar as it deals with man. The ruin of politics under both aspects is brought about by the derivation of political bodies on the basis of the family alone. The innuendo here is a symbol after the image of the sacrosanct family, that is, the opinion that God created above all the family and not that he also created men in the plural.
3. As soon as the family is seen as something more than participation, that is, active participation in human plurality, the one who upholds this view begins to play God, in the sense that he acts if it were possible to naturally avoid the principle of plurality. Instead of engendering one man among many, what he attempts is creating man in the abstract, after the image of himself.
But in the realm of practical politics, the deep-rooted significance of the family is seen in that, given the way the world is arranged, there's no place in it for the individual, that is, for the most different in the group. Families are founded as an attempt to find lodge and shelter in a world both inhospitable and strange, to which one would do better in arriving with a defined kinship. This aspiration leads to the most fundamental perversion of the political, for it suppresses the basic quality of plurality, or rather, spoils it, introducing the idea of kinship as a political idea.
4. Man, such as he is known by philosophy and theology, only exists or becomes realized in politics because of the equality of rights, guaranteed upon the most different men. In this guarantee and voluntary concession of political demand it is therefore recognized the plurality of men, that owe this plurality to nothing but themselves, even though this is commonly attributed to the mere creation of man.
5. Philosophy has two good reasons to never ever find not even the source of politics. The first is:
1) Zoon politikon: As if there were anything political that belongs to the essence of man. This is a fallacy; man is by nature apolitical. Politics happens in between men, that is, outside of man. Accordingly, there's no properly understood political substance in man's existence. Politics happens in between and is established as a relation(ship). Hobbes understood this.
2) The monotheistic conception, the idea of a God after whose image, man was created. But on this basis only man can truly exist, men become a more or less miscarried repetition of himself. Man created in the image of God's loneliness is the basis for the "state of nature as war of all against all" in the conception of Hobbes. It is a war of rebellion of each one against everyone, that are hated because they exist senselessly, senselessly for that man created after the image of God's loneliness.
The Western way out of this impossibility of politics within the Western myth of creation is the transformation or substitution of politics for history. In virtue of the idea of universal history, the plurality of men is molded into one human individual only, that is from now on going to be called humanity. This is what is so monstrous and inhumane about history, that at the end it is ultimately imposed plain and brutally on politics.
6. It is indeed very difficult to understand (or have a representation thereof) that we're really free anywhere, without being either liberated by ourselves or dependent on the arena in which we're apparently free. Freedom is given to us only in that intermediate, in-between space of politics. We liberate ourselves from this freedom as we head toward the "necessity" of history. This is a horrible absurdity.
7. It may well be that the task of politics could be to build a world as transparent for truth as the creation of God is. In the sense of the Judeo-Christian myth this would eventually mean: man, created after the image of God, has received generative power to organize (bodies of) men after the image of divine creation. Probably this is an absurdity, however, it would be the only demonstration and justification of the kind of thought that made natural law possible.
The creation of man as the work of God is contained in the absolute difference in between all men about each other, which is far bigger than the relative differences between peoples, nations or races, and is in itself contained in plurality. But politics has nothing to do with this. Politics arranges out/organizes beforehand those absolutely different on the basis of both a relative equality rather than on relative difference.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Frontal Naked

This is a translation of a piece by Dutch journalist Hassnae Bouazza (find her on Twitter, mostly tweeting in Dutch ) in her magazine Frontaal Naakt (literally, Frontal Naked, an online opinion magazine in Dutch, see  on Twitter) commenting briefly on the Twitter drama that ensued after Ahmed Awadalla () sparked a discussion about a young Egyptian woman posting her picture naked online to express her freedom. The article is available here in the original Dutch (the link contains nudity). The translation from Dutch into English is mine and I'm alone responsible for any mistakes in it. 

"Frontal Naked
Last week Dubai-based Saudi TV station MBC was the subject of acute embarrassment: The broadcaster forgot to cut a scene from the film “Into the Wild”, and so it happened that the innocent viewers were treated to pair of breasts laid bare. Apologies were issued immediately.
Nudity and shame – they remain and by large, sensitive issues in the Arab world. Sometimes it seems as if the shame is lost to curiosity and indiscretion when it has to do with a total stranger, for example, when it is the hymen of a random young lady.
Since the uprisings in Egypt, an intense discussion rages on whether or not what has taken place is also a disappearance of established norms and values that are held as the standard moral norm. Often videos of scantily dressed women are shared and then, forgiveness from God is asked, to conclude that apparently there’s real freedom before it is even demonstrated and it is such a shame when it is not.
The downfall of dictatorships is for some, oh the horror, identical with sexually liberated woman, but more about this later in a different opinion article. The fact is that the vast majority is these videos above mentioned are old and have nothing to do with the revolution.
What does have to do with the revolution is the naked photo of Egyptian woman Aliaa El Mahdy. El Mahdy, describes herself as ‘secular, liberal, feminist’ (she was also behind the proposal that ‘men should also wear head-covering) vegetarian and individualist Egyptian. In her blog, she published a naked photo of herself in order to express her own freedom.
The reactions were predictable: Some find it courageous and some find it scandalous and say this has nothing to do with freedom at all. Freedom as we know, even in this country (Netherlands) ends where the many taboos and sensibilities of the reactionaries begin. Others fear that the nude photos on El Mahdy’s blog will harm the revolution (see on Twitter, the hashtag #NudePhotoRevolutionary). 
Nothing changes in the arrogant gesture of the keyboard masters that whether anonymous or not, work so feverishly to try and downplay the developments in the Arab world. It is only unknown and courageous people like Aliaa El Mahdy, who will care for change." 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Schoenbergiana IV


It's not only about sequences but also that there's no possible simultaneity without time. But what is it that is at work here? Is there really no difference between Zeitkunst (art of time) and Raumkunst (art of space)? What is this problem with language and the Romantic reification of music and art as language? I mentioned before the distinction between sign and symbol. This might well be rather a confusion of human language vis-a-vis systematic grammar. It's not language as such what's taking place in music and painting but what Adorno and Derrida indicate with the term ecriture (not so much writing as scripture itself), this term indicates that painting (and also music) approaches writing/scripture only in that the painting's latent temporality is showing through, like every other element of transience in contemporary art, in words of Adorno "perhaps because the painting is no longer equal to itself". It's letting go of the illusion that it's absolutely timeless (and this is a clear break with classical art and with works like Lessing's Laocoon) along with many other illusions.

It is only writing that can be timeless insofar as it is an image of the temporal. To adequately view a painting, one has to be clearly aware that even something that hangs on the wall as absolutely spatial is only available to perception in the continuity of time. This still has to do with ecriture, because synesthesia, another construct of the late 19th century is just too poor an approach; it's clear that painters don't compose music and that composers don't write novels, and this has to do of course with the fact that art is not so absolutely free, and that of course it shouldn't be because otherwise consciousness and history would come out of its proportions and annihilate it for good.

So we return a last time to ecriture: The linguistic turn that now I'll call the linguistic fallacy, the first-born child of Romanticism, has always preached that everything is reduced to language, but this idea, far from revolutionary, is a transvestite for a reckless Platonism of symbol (idea) immersed in the mathematical world of Descartes (sign) and has lived up to Heidegger himself (language is the house of Dasein -of being in the world). What is so perverse about about it is that any possible form of social existence is also reduced to the mathematical sign (not a signifier as in literature but a closed sign) and not to any human grammar because as a system of signs, it overlooks the historical character of symbols.

The philosophies of language (Humboldt, Schiller, Neo-Kantianism) arose with the intention of tracing the power of language through history but did nothing other than trace grammar through logic. Wittgenstein, who is often blamed for the so-called speech-acts philosophy first tried to solve the problem by re-working completely the internal logic of language but then later on recognized that this was not possible but at the time the linguistic philosophies were already in full swing. The problem of art and music in their crucially troubled relationship to time and space is not going to be solved by speaking of grammar. Ecriture as writing/scripture provides the ground for an enlarged understanding: All the modern arts, painting, music and literature meet at this crucial juncture of the totem or witness or tristes tropes that ecriture stands for as the only timeless image of time.

Even within philosophy the issue of the genre becomes a real issue, because it's a common place to believe that philosophy's aspirations at truth are stultified when you speak of philosophy as literature, precisely because language, literature and grammar are seen as one sole extension. The historical evolution seems to proceed the following manner: First metaphysics, then logic and now language, but I think there's something very wrong about this because the procedure is presupposing more freedom in every newer stage, yet language, supposing it contains the totality of human experience cannot stand ahead of metaphysics and logic because its content is far more dense.

You realize this when it becomes clear that metaphysics stands for full space (nothing moves), logic stands for empty space (everything moves) and this is when time begins to emerge and then this so-called LANGUAGE for fragment space (everything is time). But language can never stand for fragmented space when metaphysics proceeds from a re-organization of language. What precedes and follows from both metaphysics and logic is scripture and language stands outside this rational order: Whoever says that Rosenzweig is a philosopher of language is wrong, he's but a philosopher of ecriture.

Here we return to Schoenberg and the issue of tonality he picks up when he refuses to call his work atonal, but rather PANTONAL. He doesn't abandon the tension of music, only music as grammar, the same way that Rosenzweig claims that 'Judaism' is not his object/end but his method. Music, art and literature share not seamlessness but the fact that time and space are not stable. The representation of this tension that we're calling ecriture is what we would call really SPRACHKUNST, or art of human language, an approximation of ecriture in that both art of space and art of time have been eroded as concepts of lines; figurations have now become configurations.

SPRACHKUNST contains space and time. This means that it is returning to something primordial and primary as the symbol which we would determine as prior to even TONE. Every representation is SPRACHKUNST insofar as it is a mere perspectival approximation based on the reality of the representation itself rather on a grammar of representation. The painting should not fear to sing or to recite poetry, to run, to jump into the past or to advance the future, insofar as it performs an act of writing which is NOT literature. Paintings never speak, that's another linguistic fallacy; they rather envision the way of the totality in destroying it. The illusion of the painting is not appearance of objects within or without but rather the production of time and space out of each other only because their capacity for production has been already nullified by the act of challenging the genealogy of the concept of line itself.

The first end we reach here, at last the end of this postcard I'm sending over to you, with the intuition that time and space are no longer values but variables within an even larger temporal space that transcends even the current capabilities and expectations of the eye. There's a code name for this ancient scent, and it's not even a Biblical transcription: "Unsichrere Raeume" (Rooms of Uncertainty).

Schoenbergiana III


The conflict remains. Perhaps Adorno wasn't so wrong when he blamed Schoenberg for being naive, for thinking that the historical change derived from the principles of the Enlightenment and the tyranny of reason, wouldn't have any effect on the very essence of music; perhaps holding steadfast to a pure idea at the same time one's adopting free style, retains some of the modern character of synthesis' own negation. However Schoenberg's drama doesn't unfold without its own share of inner contradiction; this is perhaps the magical illusion of the Pierrot Lunaire, the never ending flux of contradictory illusions, cancelling one another; like when in the concerto for piano, op. 11, he insisted on that the illusion of musical space must be destroyed, even though he had been himself its masterful creator. But in his fierce opposition to style being governed by reason, he forgot about history again and thought eidetically that the category of the great composer isn't susceptible to a certain degree of historical variation. It didn't occur to him that even though he refused to compose and perform for the public of his age (just like Kafka), that his own work would be established as a classic when the time came.

Ultimately, he was made to conform to a pedigree that he had claimed for himself but that he also came to reject: Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, and even Mahler and Reger. These strange sounds, so little did he know that his adamant refusal to conceive of tonality would be made part of the same petrification of the tradition. But what does this have to do with music, with logic, with language and ultimately with painting? We've spoken about music as an order of grammar, or grammatology, and what is then the difference between music and language? Music has an inner logic (not an external expression) in which there's a sense of right and wrong but the blocks of meaning can't be abstracted from the music, there's not a consistent system of signs that can ably express something like the Star of Redemption could. Speaking of which, it was Rosenzweig who taught us that the stories, the short stories of Kafka were the most strinkingly similar texts to the Hebrew Bible but that reading them was not necessarily a pleasure.

Let's turn now to Kafka to illustrate how music actually PLAYS IN LANGUAGE: Adorno remarked that not for nothing did Kafka in several of his works, gave to music a place that it had never occupied before in literature. He treated the meaningful content of spoken, signifying language as if they were the meaning of music - in broken off parables; this is the most extreme contrast to the musical language of Swinburne or Rilke, which imitates musical effects and which is alien to the origins of music. To be musical means to innervate the intentions that flash forth, without losing oneself to them in the process, but taming them instead. Thus, the musical continuum is constructed.

I think this is one of the most telling passages ever written about Kafka. It helps to establish new Huelsen about the practice of writing, you see? I had told you about the recalcitrant aestheticism of Rilke and Benn in my previous letter, so that here being a musical person or a poet is nothing of a compliment, it's more like betrayal. It's about altering the grammar into music and not about transforming music into grammar because the inflection thus attained is one of such total loss that the materials are no longer recognizable. This is the Romantic legacy of seeing musical and plastic-artistic forms as indistinguishable from nature, leading to the coining of the term "expression", musical or artistic expression (very different from impression, in expression as the word suggests, everything becomes externalized) define music and art as a grammar of signs (not of symbols) in the logical sense of the Alexandrian grammarians so that in the experience of art, unless the totality is kept intact, everything disintegrates again into dust.

The symbol (and even Hegel knew about this) can never be replaced by a sign because the unities of meaning, though autonomous, cannot exist independently of the cancellation and conflation (Aufhebung) of subject and object. If one really wished to compare an act in the signifying languages with the musical act, it would more likely be the transcription of a text than its comprehension and signification. Hence the accuracy of Rosenzweig's afterthoughts on Kafka because a Biblical text, that is, scripture, so to say, is a loyal transcription more than an encyclopedia of sentiment (a thing absurd in itself but applicable to certain neo-Classical styles of poetry).

Is this perhaps the reason why Max Richter could set to music Kafka's Octavo Notebooks and that nobody has done anything similar with Rilke's Elegies? There're other examples of people who are able to write in music, like Marie-Therese Kerschbaumer, Susan Sontag, Paul Celan, etc. unlike the herds of musical poets that lose themselves so rapidly that the world as a whole is swallowed and lost. What happens with Rilke for example is that he masters/dominates nature so completely and that's his mortal sin (Kafka is so totally removed from nature, his landscapes are apocalyptic, at best, a dog pissing on a tree like Taubes remarked) that his absolute domination over nature turns him against himself as a subject and therefore (just like in Kant) it cancels out all possible experience; it remains so to say at the level of musical grammar; this brings me back to something I left out when I write you about the genius and the visionary: Rilke is and becomes a genius in the moment he begins to dominate nature, but this genius is nothing but mere technique, it's one step both behind and ahead of reproducibility, insofar as it's not the vision of the visionary (there can be no visual element here because one is lost in the pre-image long before he's immunized against light) it has no possible Vorstellung (pre-representation).

Musical-linguistic forms can be separated from the material stuff and followed in their development, can be constructed out so to speak. This corresponds to the practice of Berg and above all to that of the late Schoenberg (but also to functional forms of music such as the soundtrack of films). The task here, in conscious mastery of the musical language, would be cristalize out characters of a linguistic nature, Platonic ideas, themes, transitions, questions and answers, continuations abstracted from the musical material that was previously provided by tonality. This is as far as the effect can be reversed, so that music adopts grammar (like in the exercises of Richter with Kafka and Nyman with Celan).

If this is how language relates to music, then what happens in the case of painting? Music is something we defined as Zeitkunst (art in time) and painting as Raumkunst (art in space), so that in music, as a temporal art, time in not self-evident (as in theology) for it is part of the nature of music that it must have time as its very own problem. Music can create temporal relationships (if they're temporal they can't be ordained from the standpoint of timelessness) among the parts of the FORM, synthesize them through time, and to synthesize through time is more hypostasis than synthesis - apotaktasis. Music must act upon time and unlike Rilke, not lose itself to it. But insofar as a FORM is nothing but the temporal order of music, then the FORM refers from the temporal articulation of music to the idea of spatialization (this is the great vision of the Viennese school).

However, on the other hand, painting is the definite spatial art, as a reworking of space in general, meaning that this performance of re-working approaches a certain tendency to look into transcendence toward or against time.

Music and Painting: Music paints sometimes because it suffers a lot of temporary organization and lets go of the principle of synthesis through which, alone, it assumes a form that approaches the configuration of space; whereas painting also behaves with what we'd call for now, the dynamics of music, trying to capture temporal events, getting exhausted in the illusion of time. In both cases however time is not spatialized into a geometric coexistence (what Kandinsky wrote to Schoenberg) but rather organized as a whole, in the way visual surfaces were once organized.

The unit of construction (returning again to Schoenberg's view of tonality) is only that of a relationship units/tones, here the concept of line in either music or painting is no longer applicable. In the painting, as time itself, as a medium, is transformed purely into a material, and as the things that occur in it are reduced to tonal materials (in music too) so that the path is open for spatialization: space becomes identical with the absoluteness of material.

The greatest challenge at this point is that time by its very nature cannot be forced into identity with space. Anything that is organized temporally is not simultaneous as things tend to appear in paintings but successive so that facts cannot be expressed as such. In painting everything is simultaneous, the synthesis of a painting consists in bringing together things that exist next to each other in space. The transformation of the formal principle of simultaneity into the structure of the specific unity of the elements (forms, parts, pieces) in the painting, that's what we want to call simultaneity. But this process, as something immanent in/through the things by no means belong only to production of space, this is a process naturally characterized by tensions.

If these tensions are not there, if the elements of the painting are not seeking to get away from each other, they do not live in fullest contradiction, then there's only pre-artistic coexistence (what I mentioned about some pieces of Mahler) and no synthesis/hypostasis. Tension however stands outside of the spatial and can't be conceived without time.

Schoenbergiana II


Now I can continue with my letter to you almost twelve hours later; sometimes there're two reasons why writing becomes increasingly difficult, either it is that there's really nothing in your mind but an abyss or that there's just too much and you feel at risk of discovering what there's, just like Sontag used to say that writing a journal is not only having a blind, deaf and dumb confessor but it's also about creating yourself the way you like it best.

My case is usually the second, certainly now it is, and remember what Karen Blixen said, that there's no one as severely disciplined as the story-teller (and in this she's so much better than the theological Christology of Tolkien because she discovers not only the Gegenwart/Widerwart as a Marchenzeit but also because she unveils sensuality so completely) although I always wonder how a storyteller/enacter of the present can play appropriately with time. But let's go back to Schoenberg's radical transformation. As I mentioned in my last letter, there's this "new" concept of harmony in Schoenberg on which I didn't want to expand but I feel now ought to do so if only in passing because going into his whole grammar of music would take hundreds of pages: In his lecture from 1934 (a crucial exasperating time) he pointed out that there are two main problems in modern music - the problem of TONALITY and the problem of DISSONANCE (it is not only that both problems are interrelated but that with terminology from the end of the 19th century such as TONE COLOR, this can be applied also to poetry and painting) under the premise that there exist certain timeless relationships between constitutive elements of art and that there cannot be altered, but timeless here is only understood in the sense of the classical and not as outside time.

This is however a problem in European thought in general - in reflections about art we usually take Kant as a starting point even though he really had too little idea about art in material terms, and the problem of Kant goes beyond aesthetics because a general principle of logic (here understood as logic instead of metaphysics, post-Wolff and Leibniz) is that even though time exists, its phenomenal extension/surface is timeless; this is what Schoenberg endeavors to prove when he innocently asks the question of whether the functional relationships between objects (or in this case between tones) can become exhausted?

We soon come to discover that what we call harmony is nothing but an imposition to the masterful creator in charge of technical possibilities; even a Romantic imposition so to say, there concepts of harmony naturally unfold in time and are historically variable, no such concepts of order are pre-ordained. As for Romantic (synonym of both Kantian and Hegelian... perhaps a consequence of the rational tyranny of the Enlightenment, at least according to Adorno) remember what Stefan Zweig said about Kleist, that with the exception of him, a great deal of the German Romantic poets fell under the spell of Kant and left asides the free fall of what could have been the most prosperous momentum of European letters in order to take up rational aesthetics (the divide between sublime and sentimental) that forewent all possible lively poetic instinct and gave way to the most constricted creative space yet seen, even if only as a Widerstand. We're still trying to wear it off, the absurdities of rationality and bureaucracy, or to use the terminology of Hegel, the schism between pure Vernunft and mere Raisonnement (clever arguments, tautologies, wishful thinking, in the Phenomenology of the Spirit at least).

For Schoenberg tonality consisted in the art of combining tones in such successions and such harmonies or successions of harmonies so that the relation of all events to a fundamental tone is made possible. The heart of the matter in such "relation of all events" is that in the context of harmony then tonality is nothing but a rampant desire for unit/totality and this of course couldn't have happened without and outside the age of Reason.

The ambition of tonality (that today all education in classical music takes for the granted with the exception of some isolated daring musicians perhaps because just like it's the case with philosophy, they find it impossible to conceive of a notion/concept "after" the "tradition") would have never occurred to Paganini or to the medieval musicians but yet the results are less daring probably because the possibility of abstract notations was manifold times more limited than it would be at the height of modernity.

When Schoenberg begins to break down the grammar of music he begins with FORMS (such as sonata, minuet, scherzo, dance) that are composed out of simultaneous PHRASES and MOTIVES, phrases as the smallest structural units or musical molecules that consist of a number of integrated musical events that fall under a certain motive, both the smallest common multiple and the greatest common factor of a form; this should suffice for now and we shouldn't go into larger structures. The point here is that technically speaking, the unity/totality is an unnecessary adornment because the segments (phrases within the form) are autonomous, therefore coherence (what I called in my last letter internal structure of the parts) does not depend on tonality, reason for which motives are harder to follow in modern composition than in the classics but are by no means abstracted.

This is of course even in the classics already, a challenge to external logic, so that Schoenberg says: "It's not uninteresting that just in such instances there old masters use the name "Fantasia" and unconsciously tell us that fantasy, in contradistinction to logic, which everyone should be able follow, favors a lack of restraint and a freedom in the manner of expression, permissible in our day only perhaps in dreams; in dreams of future fulfillment; in dreams of a possibility of expression which has no regard for the perceptive faculties of a contemporary audience; where one might speak with kindred spirits in the language of intuition and know that one is understood if one use the speech of the imagination of fantasy".

He's speaking about An/schauung as a category superior to the spatial-temporal organization dictated by tonality. The philosophers are then possibly correct when they say that in Pierrot Lunaire, Schoenberg's atonality is not post-tonality but rather primordial, pre-tonal music; this observation though could be perfectly correct in the same sense that Rosenzweig wouldn't call his work post-Hegelian but in a way pre-philosophical. This is confirmed by Schoenberg himself when he writes in his "Harmony Treatise" that there's no such a thing as atonal or post-tonal music, he calls it PANTONAL.

Notwithstanding there's a problem with Schoenberg's observation and it lies precisely in his ideas about the spirit of music and its relationship to the temporary forms of our life that were very much challenged by Adorno (who was himself a student in Schoenberg's school and who I think also missed on some essential points): He adheres to the Platonic idea of art, to the sense of l'art pour l'art in which art is completely independent from earthly life, what as you know, I think it's quintessentially modern mistake (though in a way, unlike Mahler, he's a master in taking total distance from the world, what you and me are somewhat unable to do). He explores different dimensions in the way how music is performed and listened to. After him, relationships in music occur not only in terms of referential tone (in classical music, or better, in tonality, this is called a total center) but they're also measured by physical distance (interval) in a consistently delineated musical space (this is called system of scales degree).

This is somehow like the dreams in contradistinction to logic and the present skills of the contemporary audience he alluded to when speaking of "Fantasia" in the old masters; the lack of restraint and freedom in the manner of expression, as if speaking of a Messianic dream in art of which himself was part. Adorno criticizes this: "Absolute freedom in art... contradicts the abiding unfreedom of the social whole... The autonomy art gained... depended on the idea of humanity. As society grew less humane (means of technical reproduction!), art became less autonomous. These constituent elements of art that were suffused with the ideal of humanity have lost their force." This is of course a poignant criticism of any attempt at l'art pour l'art, but in a way it's more directed at Hegel than at Schoenberg, because of the obvious incompatibility between the Platonic idea and the abandonment of (figurative) harmony. Hegel's ultimate purpose was the conflated reconciliation of subject and object (and every reconciliation is also a consolation...) but after the obvious (modern) fracturing of both subject and object (alienation, reification, art as a commodity) a synthesis between style and idea is no longer adequate.

For this very reason Schoenberg (like Nietzsche's philosophy) didn't compose for the contemporary audience because he defies stylistic petrification and the appropriation of his music as an exchange commodity in the market (so that in this sense he refused to become a "professional"). The basis of truth in Thomism is the perfect correspondence between subject and object, even at the expense of there no longer being a complete fit. No matter the extent to which the ego as a subject ought to be reconciled with social existence, this is something that the 20th century made impossible and this impossibility has a special place and constitutes a turning point in the history of art.

The possible synthesis between the ego and concrete social existence is denied in society and in works of art too. The perfect accommodation of mind to the works of art is an illusion, just like freedom is to the subject, so that the absolute freedom of art is not only sinful but also pretentious. Adorno says: "The break between the substantiality of the ego and the overall structure of social existence, which denies the ego not merely external sanction but its necessary preconditions as well, has become too profound to permit works of art as synthesis (lest they lie). The subject (NOW) knows itself to be objective, removed from the contingency of mere existence, yet this knowledge which is true, is at the same time also untrue. The objectivity that inheres in the subject is barred from reconciliation with a state of things which negates that objective substance precisely by aiming at full recognition of it".

Something about the nature of modernity (and the success of its failure, the Hellerian disappointment) is compromised here when the social existence wants to eliminate the fragility inherent to the idea of humanity (from Horkheimer/Adorno's Dialectics of the Enlightenment); domination over nature (hence Benjamin's thoughts about the reproducibility of art) turns against the thinking subject himself; nothing is left of him but that eternally same (Cartesian) I THINK that must accompany all my ideas. Subject and object are rendered ineffectual.

The defiance of Schoenberg to produce art as exchange commodities is rooted in what Adorno would say, it's his view of tonality as style governed by (the tyranny) of reason. But the schism between idea and style remains, the idea as eidetic, as Platonic.




"Ich atmet einen linden Duft"

Ich atmet einen linden Duft.
Im Zimmer stand
Ein Zweig der Linde,
Ein Angebinde
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenluft!
Wir lieblich ist der Lindenluft!
Das Lindenreis
Brachst du gelinde;
Ich atme leis
Im Duft der Linde
Der Liebe linden Duft

[I breathed a gentle fragance!
In the room stood
a spring of linden,
a gift
from a dear hand.
How lovely was the fragance of linden!
How lovely is the fragance of linden!
That twig of linden
you broke off so gently!
Softly I breathe in
the fragance of linden,
the gentle fragance of love.]

Friedrich Rueckert, from the Rueckert Lieder of Gustav Mahler, No. 2

My dearest Katherina,

I had wanted to send you my last letter as soon as it was finished, so that even if it could not reach you on this "today", that at least it could have been sent on a certain "today", just for the record, yet it was not possible, because as usual, the letter was finished only in the middle of the night and then the morning after, well you can laugh now, I didn't have any money to send you this small parcel of letters, however I'm convinced that I'll be sending this to you because it's important that you receive them even if it's not today.

Just like in my previous letter, I keep fantasizing about this "O alter Duft" from mythical times. Walking backwards in history, I think about Mahler and Sweelinck and how right your observation was when you said when I described the menage-a-trois and after you laughed (remember the final section of the Star of Redemption: that life is always laughter, it is only death that keeps solemn silence after one final scream of agony. It was not even in the Star but in das Buchlein vom gesunden und kranken Menschenverstand. "Do you finally recognize me? I am your brother". Or what they said about Socrates, that at the time of the trial he laughed once and he never cried. Or was it the opposite? That life is silence and death is laughter? I no longer remember, it just doesn't matter) on how good and funny that story was, how only life writes such stories, and then how after all that, "Mein junges Leben hat ein end" sounds rather pathetic, wrong, kitsch and boring; we could say the same about "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" while you sat in the Protestant garden by Mt. Olives and drew the garden imagining all the parties you had in your previous life...after our Wirkliche Feste in Kiryat Yovel, of whiskey and vermouth all night long.

Then I think about Rueckert, who as an orientalist wrote a book with the title "Morgenlaendische Sagen und Geschichte" so that perhaps this little poem set to music by Mahler is also a Duft from Marchenzeit. Perhaps Mahler though must have been a little dead too, with the same plastic kitsch of Sweelinck. Too much renunciation of the world, finding pleasure in the solace of simple beauty; this is not what is really sinful but rather the fact that they saw this pleasure as a consolation, as a subterfuge, shelter, escape, so to say as a "safe place"; how so very mediocre this is! How so very poor this sounds when contrasted with "Ich weiss keine bessere Welt" (Bachmann) or "Ich liebe alle Dinge dieser Welt -. Ein jedes Bluetenblatt - ein jedes Haar" (Susman). There's something poetic but yet pre-artistic in the performance of Mahler because in a way he avoids all possible distance when he says that "This is scarcely music anymore; it is almost entirely sounds of nature".

I'm somewhat ambiguous about this all but I think it's almost like being dead in a way, something that art can't afford because this total conviviality with the world, the idea that art is so absolutely free and that there's no Grenz between world and art is an Aufhebung of the subject, but I'll return to this later on. About Sweelinck, let's not even go there, unless it's hypostasized with something like Kleist's piece on die heilige Caecil and the spirit of music, there's no life to be found there whatsoever, and just like you said, it is being alive the main and only thing that counts.

But let's return to our alter Duft, whether it comes from Maerchenzeit (Jerusalem) or Zweig der Linde (a passing memory of spring or summertime) it is something so absolutely essential. The young and small guy from my menage a trois, the one for whom I betrayed the incredibly talented and infinitely boring musician, had something to do with this: After that crazy Saturday night, the morning after I woke up with this vivid sensation, I had this strong particular smell, fragance, Duft, of his body and his parfume all over my hands like undeniable evidence of the crime: It was something beautiful, something to hold onto like a postcard from a Saturday night.  So that you're the alter Duft from Maerchenzeit and he's the Duft der Linde. Something so different from Jonathan and that beautiful night of in-tense (ge-Dicht) love, perhaps one of the most beautiful nights of my life; yet I was left with nothing, not a fragance, a postcard, a note on a napkin, a piece of paper with a phone number, absolutely nothing, nothing but my memory and my stories and my skin. How melancholy is this!

Just like my life in Jerusalem, nothing physical is left, not one scrap of paper, nothing... just visions! It might have never happened, I have no way to prove it, it's gone, vanished. Today's even Jon's last day in Bogota, and tomorrow he'll fly out to Germany, not to be seen again, so that not even the fear of geographical proximity is left. No Duft from alter or neuerzeit. But let's forget about me and let's go for a walk through the Pierrot Lunaire again, to have a little talk about art.

Schoenberg wrote the Pierrot Lunaire not out of his own will but commissioned by Albertine Zehme, an actress from Berlin who organized evenings of poetry readings and recitations accompanied by piano or small instrumental ensembles; because she was an actress/performer and not a singer (although she came closer to cabaret than to theatrical performance) the use of the voice as an instrument had to be significantly different than in traditional operas.

What happened here is that the music had to be narrated rather than sung, what reminds me today more of Ute Lemper performing pieces of Brecht; music was no longer only expression but also ecriture in a Derridean sense (postcards? Grittli letters?) in which both the tones of song as well as those of speech were needed, the production of a Sprachraum as such that it would bring together Zeitkunst and Raumkunst; a world constructed out of speech acts (Rosenzweig, Wittgenstein, Rosenstock) rather than mere tonal units. The use of a narrator wasn't totally new to Schoenberg for he had used it in the final movement of the Gurre-Lieder, so that we're not dealing here with just any other lied (unlike Mahler's) and then of course this shows that the radical transformation of Schoenberg was not putting poems to music (this had been done by everyone from Schubert to Mahler and Wagner - making music into a quintessentially secular performance) but rather the formal introduction of Sprechgesang into a formal composition, meeting new concepts of harmony like I had explained in my last letter.