Moral Panic and The New Didacticism

New rules of conduct are popping up everywhere, and in many cases, that’s a good thing, e.g. reduction of the harrassment of women in the workplace, expansion of civil rights for minorities, and so on.

This zeitgeist for updated ethics has spread into the arts, and that can also be a good thing, if it results in changes that reduce predatory behavior within institutions, as when two male dancers were recently fired from the New York City Ballet for alleged sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, now everyone is empowered to leave a comment on everything, and any asshole with a smartphone can take down somebody else with a bad review. People nit-pick anything and everything, leading to an infinite regress into social atomization.

Reorganization of codes of conduct is periodically necessary for societies to move forward, but at this point there is so much social media-fueled uncertainty, division, and vitriol in the air that it is bleeding over into the work itself, often with less-than-satisfactory results.

Of course artists can’t disconnect themselves from current events, and a political work can sometimes have the power to transcend its time and place. If all art and poetry are fresh responses to experience, then that must include the social and the political.

The problem for me with didactic poetry and artwork is more form than content. It’s tonal. We can and must respond to the world around us through our work, but the preachy tone and the black and white, all or none, baby with the bathwater attitudes will go away in time.

I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Nonmusic, Pt. 1

Non-musical components have always been included in musical compositions. To go beyond the boundaries of normal or acceptable parameters in an art form is to explore, it is akin to scientific experiment, takes courage and commitment, and when most successful, the attempt can shed light into the dark corners of the soul. Whereas philosophy also often takes as its subject the intricacies of human nature, it seeks to evaluate its findings, in contrast to art, which is revelatory.

In a series of theoretical essays which I will post here on my blog, I will attempt to set down a theoretical basis for the inclusion of such components, including definitions of relevant terms, structural functions, procedures, a conceptual framework, along with some examples and quasi-philosophical method of evaluating preëxisting work.

When complete, the essays will form a larger whole, which will be a unit within a larger music theory manuscript. The sections within the unit consist of the following:

Section 1:

Linguistic: Prefix considerations - naming conventions (a-, anti-, non-)

Definitions: music, rhythm, melody, harmony; nonmusic, nonmelody, nonharmony

Purpose - why nonmusic: outside of normal or acceptable parameters, derangement

Structural Functions

Section 2:

Methodologies:

As a conceptual framework

As a set of procedures

Section 3:

Evaluating nonmusic in music criticism

Relation to common practice and examples

Aleatory music

Noise music

Field recordings

My Own Rules

As contributing members of society, there are certain rules we all follow to keep the grand experiment in operation: laws, social customs and traditions and so on. These rules are unnatural, but with good reason, as they are designed to protect us from the innumerable dangers of nature, not the least of which are the more violent aspects of our own.

But as an artist, I believe it’s better to play by one’s own rules. Of course, that is hardly a formula for success, if one defines success in terms of gross wealth and fame. Some of us, however, not only function in a manner that is outside that spectrum, but openly oppose it.

As one who wishes to join the exclusive club of those who make up and follow their own sets of rules, I have drafted the following and put it through one round of revision.

  1. Question all assumptions that limit you or otherwise reduce your quality of life.

  2. Refuse to submit to the will of others.

  3. Work around your weaknesses and develop strengths.

  4. You are not a product or brand. Your life is not for consumption.

  5. Develop a vision of what your life is, what your days and nights are to be like, and how to use your time and live accordingly.

  6. Trust your creative instincts, especially when that instinct demands you explore risky work.

  7. In your life, you are the captain; you are the king. The ship is yours to command; the castle is yours to protect.

  8. Work in more than one language.

  9. Do not allow your rough edges to be sanded.

  10. Do not water yourself down in a false attempt at “relatability.”

IMG-4994.JPG

Unity Paradigm

The Unity Paradigm (UP) is a framework in which all my work - past, present, future - may be placed so that it may exist within a common context. It is a function of Harmonic Theory, and attempts to reconcile various structures, some of which are apparently at odds, through juxtaposition and hybridization.

UP is an attempt to define, demonstrate boundaries, and on occasion dissolve them. It is essentially Buddhist and poetic because it seeks to identify analogous forces, parallels, parities, comparisons, metaphors, and so on, and show the relative oneness or sameness of disparate, often seemingly contradictory, contrasting, or paradoxical things. It is also a Daoist thought structure, or even Manicheanist, as it is sometimes a bringing together of opposites, and shows essentiality of all things, and the impossibility of polarities to eliminate each other or achieve some final victory over one another.

To approach work through the UP is to have a skeleton on which to hang all the organs, the muscles, and the skin of said work so that it forms an organic whole in terms of form and content in poetry, fiction, music, photography, philosophy, video, assemblage, sound art, graphic design, and so on.

It should be noted that successful unity between forms is neither universally sought or desired. At times, the unity displayed may be the contrast itself, or often a deliberately incoherent, dissonant effect.

In a fundamental way, the UP is an application of the musical Drone Principle, meaning that a single things is presented for a duration. In music, that means a recurring or sustained tone, as in the music of the Indian sitar, or Western Drone music, which begins with LaMonte Young. The monotone is also applied to ostinato figures and vamps.

The Drone has within it the implication of the mathematical and spiritual infinite. Under UP, I permit myself sustained monomanias. In this way it is also a framework for creative behavior patterns - indulgences and deprivations, and the attempt at balance between them.

I have sustained a monomania for poetry for half a year, leading to rapid development and learning. I believe I have reached a true breakthrough via this method of sustained attention, having increased my comprehension, close-reading technique, and facility with a few technical methodologies. I have read more poetry as well as criticism, which has deepened my hermeneutic practice. I feel as though I am now on the cusp of producing actual poetry.

All that being said, the most natural course to pursue at this, the beginning of a new year, is to leave the intensive and extensive practice of poetry momentarily.

To clarify, I won’t quit writing poems, but I will pause my study of poetry. Instead I will produce poems to the best of my current ability and focus my learning elsewhere, specifically on image-making, treating it as an aspect of the core pursuit of writing poetry.

Now the real poetic practice may begin. I will study again in the future, but for now I must apply all that I have learned and direct my curiosity to vision, a fundamental aspect of poetic experience.

Political Discourse

You know what they say about opinions.

Let me get something straight: I don’t care about your opinion about anything, and nobody does, with the exception of yourself. That unwritten rule of thumb is subconsciously applied to any subject on which you may choose to opine, be it government, economics, literature, art, science, whatever.

When it comes to true discourse, there are certain minimal requirements that make it useful. Especially when it comes to political argument, without a few ground rules, a vast sea of personal thoughts and opinions drown us in uselessness.

Why is that, you might ask?

I’m glad you ask. The reason most of the opinions put out there by your fellow earth dwellers are not useful and oftentimes detrimental to the conversation at large is that there is no rigor in the thinking behind them.

In the realm of political argument, I have found three useful components which I find essential, if the argument is worth paying attention to. Anything less is simply not good enough, and ignorable.

  1. The Emperor Has No Clothes - a childlike insight into some discrepancy in the status quo.

  2. Research - honest and bonafide information to back up all arguments. Not youtube videos, not dubious conspiracy websites or other nonmeritorius sources, but instead scientific papers, books, and other high quality source material.

  3. Logic - carefully structured arguments.

In every argument may be found the inherent biases of the speaker, but discourse that is presented logically, with verifiable research, which questions or offers alternatives to unsatisfactory systems, laws, and practices, arguments which are rigidly consistent and above all coherent, are infinitely more useful, no matter the value system represented.

The demand for such coherence and consistency must be much higher now, in an age of abundant false information and atomized social structures.

The Man in White

The afternoon was mild and warm and the breeze was soothing. Florence had been downgraded to a tropical storm and the light rain that sprinkled our corner of the state had yet to begin and the children and I were downtown for no reason other than it was more interesting than being at home.

I’d decided that given the chance of rain, rather than a wilderness day (admittedly more nourishing for the soul) it would be a city day, with some pizza and pavement pounding. After some slices we sauntered over to the Plaza where the wind blew water all over the place from the horizontal concrete fountains and the kids quickly found a playmate in a little girl called Amelia.

It was a medium gray kind of day, neutral, not taking anyone’s side, nothing outstanding in the way of good or bad occurrences. As a day it was a blank slate upon which one could carve a picture of whatever one might choose. The kids enjoyed themselves and I enjoyed watching them as they played with little behavioral correction, exuberant and energetic but not boisterous. It was the kind of day you might say was routine, if you didn’t know better.

Joan of Arc engraving by Albert Lynch (1903)

Joan of Arc engraving by Albert Lynch (1903)

Observing passersby and observing myself observing them, two songs came to mind, one compassionate, the other condemnatory, both from Leonard Cohen’s 1971 album Songs of Love and Hate: “Joan of Arc” and “Diamonds in the Mine.”

“Joan of Arc” moves me. The thing about Leonard Cohen’s songwriting and delivery that resonates with me is a deep empathy he creates between character and listener. It’s a singular power in a songwriter, a man who seems to have possessed a rare ability to create harmony between souls. Perhaps Mr. Cohen was a more highly evolved soul than most of the rest of us.

My own dearth of compassion is a pernicious habit of mind that begs correction. Too often I see individuals through the eyes of someone like the narrator of “Diamonds in the Mine.”

The truth about oneself is often painful. But isn’t admitting that you have a problem the first step in solving it?

Diamonds in the Mine

The woman in blue, she's asking for revenge, 
the man in white -- that's you -- says he has no friends. 
The river is swollen up with rusty cans 
and the trees are burning in your promised land. 
And there are no letters in the mailbox, 
and there are no grapes upon the vine, 
and there are no chocolates in the boxes anymore, 
and there are no diamonds in the mine. 

Well, you tell me that your lover has a broken limb, 
you say you're kind of restless now and it's on account of him. 
Well, I saw the man in question, it was just the other night, 
he was eating up a lady where the lions and Christians fight. 
And there are no letters in the mailbox 
and there are no grapes upon the vine, 
and there are no chocolates in the boxes anymore, 
and there are no diamonds in the mine. 

Ah, there is no comfort in the covens of the witch, 
some very clever doctor went and sterilized the bitch, 
and the only man of energy, yes the revolution's pride, 
he trained a hundred women just to kill an unborn child. 
And there are no letters in the mailbox, 
oh no, there are no, no grapes upon your vine, 
and there are, there are no chocolates in your boxes anymore, 
and there are no diamonds in your mine. 
And there are no letters in the mailbox, 
and there are no grapes upon the vine, 
and there are no chocolates in your boxes anymore, 
and there are no diamonds in your mine.

By Leonard Cohen

An Argument

If neurochemicals and hormones affect human behavior

and

behavioral patterns can promote or inhibit production of neurochemicals and hormones,

and

the human brain remains changeable even into adulthood

then

it is within human ability to affect deep change in habits of character through practice and exercise in self-control.

When I read Frank Herbert’s Dune in 2009, beginning on the day of my daughter Beatrice’s birth, I became intrigued by one of its fantasy plot points: that through breeding and conditioning a human could gain conscious control over all of his or her bodily functions, from breathing and heart rate to neurochemistry. This conscious control is one of several superhuman abilities possessed by the novel’s protagonist, Paul Atreides, taught him by his mother Lady Jessica, Bene Gesserit and concubine of his father, Duke Leto Atreides.

Is it mere coincidence that the world’s greatest and my personal favorite    actor   , leading man of the greatest television    show    in the history of television, was also in the 1984    film    adaptation of my favorite and the world’s greatest science fiction novel?

Is it mere coincidence that the world’s greatest and my personal favorite actor, leading man of the greatest television show in the history of television, was also in the 1984 film adaptation of my favorite and the world’s greatest science fiction novel?

In the years hence, struggling with anxiety and depression, this once passing fancy in control over brain function renewed itself in my consciousness, and with therapy and a lot of reading I found that some degree of control over the chaos in my mind was possible.

The brain, remaining plastic throughout a human lifespan, can be changed. Neural pathways, like foot trails through forests, are grown over when not used. Similarly, new neural pathways may be trodden, replacing the old ones. In other words, you can change your mind by changing your habits.

Psychology and self-help books provided some insights, but what seems to be left out of them is the fact that this type of change is neither fast nor easy. Only through patient, perseverant work can we influence our behavior deliberately through hormones and neurochemicals.

Of particular interest in this age of the internet is the neurotransmitter dopamine. Social media use, i.e. posting and achieving likes and comments, triggers dopamine release, much like a drug, producing its addictive quality.

Say it with me: “CIR-SUM-VENT”

Say it with me: “CIR-SUM-VENT”

I found a way around this problem. In early 2016, as an experiment in active control of my neurochemistry, I cancelled my internet connection at home. This was only a temporary measure, as I moved in with my parents for a time later that year (where there was internet), and reinstated my own service when I moved into my current residence late last year.

But over the three months in which I deprived myself of internet service, I made several observations concerning my own behavior and mood.

  1. I was unable to participate in social media or binge-watching (the two online activities which were the most significant drains on my time and mental resources) unless I was located elsewhere.

  2. There was an initial withdrawal period, with increased anxiety, irritability, and depressive feelings. These feelings subsided after two days.

  3. I began reading voraciously again, a habit which had dwindled significantly in the prior two years.

  4. I wrote twenty four songs, and began to capture and edit photographs prolifically.

  5. I blogged frequently, and wrote my fourth short story (it’s trash, don’t ask to read it).

  6. I developed morning and evening routines, and corrected my sleep pattern to approximately 81.25% efficiency (an average of six and a half of the recommended eight hours of sleep each night).

  7. My house became cleaner and more well-organized.

  8. My moods were stabilized, with increased feelings of well-being and satisfaction in my work.

  9. I saved $149.97.

Some of this progress was hindered with reintroduction of regular evening internet use, but my morning and evening routines, sleep pattern, and mood gains remained, although each underwent additional stress.

Now once more I find myself on the cusp of change, and once more I am driven to deprive myself of internet connectivity for the sake of mental health. it’s not that I’m feeling particularly bad. But I can, and have felt better, and I can and have done better.

For better or worse, my mind occupies the poles. There’s no middle ground for me; it’s all or nothing. That’s not a choice, but a signifier of how my brain works. At least, that’s what I believe at this point.

What I’m getting at is that even though I wish I could balance things like a neurotypical person and enjoy movies and social media* at home as well as a lot of reading, writing, and other creative work, I just can’t. It’s one or the other for me, at least for now.

To live my life to the fullest, to raise my children to the best of my ability, to develop healthy relationships with my loved ones as well as friends I have yet to meet, to be an involved citizen, to compose the music and poetry, the designs and artwork of my soul, to expand my mind through careful study, in short, to participate in all the activities to which I am capable of contributing, requires my home to be disconnected.



*I deleted my personal Facebook account a couple of months ago, and and have converted my Instagram accounts to business profiles for the sole purpose of promoting my art and music.

El Cuerpo de Cristo

"Y la Palabra se hizo carne, y puso su Morada entre nosotros, y hemos contemplado su gloria, gloria que recibe del Padre como Hijo único, lleno de gracia y de verdad".

Juan 1:14, La Biblia de Jerusalen

"El cuerpo de Cristo" es una frase que significa varias cosas. Por ejemplo, en el sacramento de comunión, Cristianos creen que el pan y el vino están transformado en el cuerpo y sangre de Cristo por transubstanciación. La iglesia también podemos llamarnos "el cuerpo de Cristo". Asimismo, cuando usamos la frase "el cuerpo de Cristo", podemos remitir al cuerpo físico de Jesus, el cuerpo que sufrió, murió, fue enterrado y resucitado.

Negar la corporalidad de Jesus es negar su humanidad y sufrimiento. Negar la corporalidad de Cristo es negar su muerte, y negar su muerte es negar el sacrificio y misericordia de Dios. Por lo tanto, creer en la corporalidad de Jesus es componente essencial de la fe.