Category Archives: The West

UPDATED (11/30/022): Complex, Masterful Music Is Not Marxist; Atonal Arnold Schoenberg Is

Art, Cultural Marxism, Culture, Music, The West

Schönberg’s music sounds as ugly as it looks—behold the the sheet-music heading this blog post

People throw about the term “Cultural Marxism” with abandon, without always understanding what it means. Like antibiotics, the overuse of  the term diminishes its potency.

About the virtuoso progressive metal band “Dream Theater,” a reader wrote on Twitter:

It is not MUSIC, it is the INSIDIOUS cultural Marxist degradation of music into a WALL OF NOISE that passes itself off as progressive. In actual fact, it is a step backward for civilization.

The reader is confused. Highly accomplished and polished progressive rock groups like “Dream Theater” or “Symphony X” follow Western rules of harmony, which go back hundreds of years. Layers of complexity in composition are being conflated here with Cultural Marxism.

The fact that it takes some dedication to listen to music that isn’t all of three chords—as is the blues or the country music twang—doesn’t make it Marxist.

What the reader is hearing in Dream Theater is, again, complexity. Highly accomplished and polished progressive rock groups like Dream Theater and Symphony X follow Western rules of harmony. And, odd time signatures, “irregular, complex, asymmetric or unusual time signature,” (my fav) are not Marxist.

While Dream Theater uses exceptionally complicated rhythms, their music is at its structural core traditional Western music.

What the reader says about Dream Theater—some would say about the genius of Béla Bartók or Igor Stravinsky. They would be wrong.

I was trained by a tough father, no longer with us, to listen to classical, in particular, chamber music, starting at a tender age. No option was given. The love followed the discipline, hence the ear for complexity.

If we wanted to spend time with dad, Friday, it was 5 hours of nonstop music. One night it’d be Bartók, the other Beethoven, but dad also introduced us to The Beatles. (Western civilization, parent. Do it up, not Kanye West.)

The routine dad enforced seemed awfully oppressive then. Today, I am grateful for the gift of knowing—nay, seeking out—the greatest music, which is, indubitably, Western music. Thus transitioning from Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” to gifted progressive rock guitarist Tony MacAlpine is organic.

Dad, a rabbi, once whispered sheer blasphemy to me as a kid, “Don’t tell anyone, but Bach is really God.”

Without going into Cultural Marxism and doing the hard work of applying the concept to music, let me say only that the music mentioned is not Marxist as it adheres to traditional scales and structures.

WHAT IS MARXIST is the G-d-awful Arnold Schönberg and his atonal technique. Schönberg’s  music sounds as ugly as it looks—check out the sheet music heading this post.

The reason he’s Marxist is that Schönberg treated all 12 semi-tones as equal, seeking to weaken harmonic progression. This rigidly ruled out patterns and familiarity, and with it the pleasant sensation that comes with beauty and symmetry.

MORE here:
http://barelyablog.com/category/music/
www.ilanamercer.com/category/music/

UPDATED (11/30/022)

Arnie Schönberg would think “Brother Of Mine,” a sublime piece by “Yes,” kitschy in the extreme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5LNojKALxc

https://youtu.be/U5LNojKALxc

While it has plenty odd time signatures; it also has exquisite compositional complexity, masterful execution, top-notch musicianship. AND THIS IS LIVE. Indistinguishable from the studio version.

Most so-called musicians today, other than classical, are inaudible and tuneless live without the mighty Auto-Tune: the “holy grail of recording,” that “corrects intonation problems in vocals or solo instruments, in real time, without distortion or artifacts.”

England’s Augustan Age: On Satirists Alexander Pope And Jonathan Swift

Britain, Christianity, History, Literature, Pseudo-intellectualism, Pseudoscience, The West

The counterculture of England’s Augustan Age was one of the most remarkable in history. It should be a model for the Dissident Right of today

By Juvenal Early

Think of a nominally Christian country in which a beleaguered majority is everywhere beset by the corruption of its leaders and the criminality of rebarbative minorities. Corruption reigns in high places, barbarism and crime reign in the street, and the culture is pervaded by mediocrities, who are celebrated as rebel geniuses, when they’re really just dullards, courtiers, and the usual Establishment lackeys. Can you guess?

That’s right. England in the Augustan Age, 300 years ago.

This was a time after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the Catholic James II was usurped by his daughter Mary and her Dutch husband William of Orange. When the Duke of Marlborough proved that it was possible for a General to become richer than a King. This is also the age when the English Language evolved into what we know today.

But although people in the Augustan age were certainly better-read than the savage illiterates of our own times, still, as always, the lowest common denominator prevailed. And so, people eschewed their rich legacy of Dryden and Chaucer and Shakespeare, in favor of the smut purveyed by the odious bookseller Edmund Curll or the profuse dullness (Dulness) on offer from the hacks who infested Grub Street.

In 1721, Robert Walpole became England’s first prime minister, a year after the “South Sea Bubble,” the Wall Street Crash of its day. Scam and corruption were everywhere prevalent. Walpole was a man of his time, enriching his courtiers and punishing his enemies. He stayed in power for 20 years, during which time highwaymen, thieves, and thief-takers—like the infamous Jonathan Wild—held sway, and the average person was under siege.

But a culture always generates a counterculture, and the counterculture of the Augustan Age was one of the most remarkable in history. It should be a model for the Dissident Right of today. The key figures of that counterculture are two of the immortals of literature: Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope. I’ve been hearing about Swift and Pope all my life but hadn’t known that they lived at the same time and were friends—although Swift was an Anglican clergyman and Pope a Catholic (not a big door-opener in post-Tudor England).

Swift and Pope joined with Dr John Arbuthnot and playwright John Gay to form the Scriblerus Club. Arbuthnot, a little too fond of eating, created the great English persona John Bull, the honest citizen who’s a tad slow on the uptake. Gay wrote what may be the first musical, “The Beggar’s Opera” (1728), a rollicking send-up of Walpole’s corrupt England. “The Beggar’s Opera” would be modernized by the German communist Bertolt Brecht into “The Three-penny Opera,” Gay’s protagonist Captain MacHeath transformed into Mack the Knife.

The Scriblerians inspired one another. More than anyone since the great Juvenal, they elevated satire to high art. Their targets were numerous, and they tended to consign them to the charnel house of Dulness (sic). The enemy list included Classics scholar Robert Bentley, depraved bookseller Edmund Curll, laughable Poet Laureate Colley Cibber, and critic Lewis Theobald. Above all, there was Walpole, as criminal-friendly as a Soros DA, who would’ve strung up the Scriblerians, if possible. As it was, he saw to Swift’s Irish exile and banned theatre in London after Gay’s “Beggar’s Opera” proved such a smashing success. Poor Gay died long before his sequel Polly was staged (in the age of Johnson!).

The best work of the Scriblerians still resonates three centuries later, especially in the case of Swift and Pope. They’ll be discussed for as long as great literature still matters.

Born into a Catholic Family, the same year Papist James II was ousted in favor of William and Mary, Pope’s (1688-1744) prospects were never bright. Fortunately, his family had money and could take shelter from the worst of the anti-Catholic persecution in lovely Windsor Forest. Many career paths were never an option for Pope. Plus, he was born with tuberculosis of the spine. Handicapped in body (he never grew above 4’6”), handicapped by religion (Swift tried to bribe him into the Church of England), denied all but the most rudimentary education, Pope could not have been expected to amount to much. Yet, he made more off the printed word than any writer since Shakespeare.

Inclined toward the Ancients, Pope imitated Horace and wrote first-rate translations of Homer. Classics scholars swear by his Iliad. He edited new editions of Shakespeare that were an invaluable link in the English theatre.

A poet, Pope wrote his brilliant satires in verse, mostly iambic pentameter. What does poetry have to do with satire? Oscar Wilde, anyone? Going back to Dryden, verse was a preferred vehicle for satire. Even Jonathan Swift used it occasionally. In Post-Revolutionary America, nothing stung like a good poem, and newspapers used it often. Take Jefferson’s friend Philip Freneau, editor of the National Gazette. Here he is in early 1800, jabbing fellow countrymen for going overboard in mourning the recently deceased George Washington:

He was no god, ye flattering knaves,
He own’d no world, he ruled no waves;
But—and exalt it, if you can,
He was the upright, Honest Man.

 Pope’s eloquent venom was meted out to many agents of dullness, for instance:

Walpole and the courtier John Hervey (Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot):

Whether in florid impotence he speaks,
And, as the prompter (Walpole) breathes, the puppet (Hervey) squeaks.
Or at the ear of Eve (Queen Caroline), familiar toad,
Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad,
In puns, or politics, or tales, or lies,
Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies,
His wit all seesaw, between that and this,
Now high, now low, now master up, now miss [referring to Hervey’s bisexuality].

George Bubb Dodington, a Walpole ally, very susceptible to toadying hacks:

But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
To Bufo (toad) left the whole Castalian (spring of the Muses) state.
Proud as Apollo, on his forked hill,
Sate full-blown Bufo, puffed by every quill,…

 Sometimes there was tribute, here to his friend John Gay:

Or simple pride for flattery makes demands,
May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands!
Blessed be the great! For those they take away,
And those they left me; for they left me Gay;
Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb….

Pope reserved special scorn for bookseller Edmund Curll; Lewis Theobald, a critic who attacked Pope’s edition of Shakespeare at length; and actor-cum-Poet Laureate Colley Cibber. The latter two would find themselves skewered in Pope’s Magnum Opus, The Dunciad, as respective kings of the Dunces.

The scurrilous Curll, a literary thief and plagiarizer, published purloined texts, hack-writer pulp, bios of newly dead celebrities, and even some smut. An opportunist, he’d got the best of Pope early on, but Pope turned the tables later, manipulating Curll into publishing his letters, i.e., presenting Pope’s side of his own story.

Of Curll and his ilk (Grub Street hacks), Pope writes in the Dunciad:

Hence miscellanies spring, the weekly boast,
Of Curll’s chaste press, and Lintot’s rubric post:
Hence hymning Tyburn’s elegiac lines,
Hence Journals Medleys, Merc’ries, Magazines;
Sepulchral lies, our holy walls to grace
And New Year odes, and all the Grub Street race.
In clouded majesty here Dulness shone;
Four guardian virtues round support her throne…

Cibber and Theobald had offended Pope in other ways, including the dullness of their work. Cibber, a comic actor, was elevated to Poet Laureate in 1730, though he was without poetic accomplishment. The critic Theobald nitpicked Pope’s Shakespearian Editions at great length, advertising himself as England’s supreme Bard expert. Both men were deemed suitable candidates for king of the dunces:

I sing. Say you, her instruments the great!
Called to this work by Dulness, Jove, and Fate;
You by whose care, in vain decried and cursed,
Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first.

After his death, Pope’s reputation only grew. He was esteemed by Dr Johnson in the 18th Century; Byron, Lamb, Arnold, and Ruskin in the 19th; and W.H. Auden and Edith Sitwell in the 20th. Only The Bible and Shakespeare have been quoted more. His tormentors outlived him; his reputation buried theirs. They exist only in the footnotes of many Pope biographies.

And what of Swift (1667-1745)? Born in Dublin to a carpetbagging English family, forced by circumstance and Walpole to spend most of his life in Dublin, he felt cheated out his English birthright. An Anglican, he didn’t particularly care for the Catholic Irish. Yet, he excelled in Dublin as a clergyman, and rose to become Dean of St Patrick’s, a post he held from 1713 until his death. An Englishman by temperament, he’s as much a part of the Irish canon as James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. When the English pushed Ireland around a little too much, Swift rose to its defense, and was inspired to write his sublimely satiric “Modest Proposal.”

From 1689 until 1699, Swift worked as the secretary to the writer/diplomat Sir William Temple, in Moor’s Park, Surrey. Temple, whose work hasn’t aged well, was nonetheless a first-rate prose stylist, as Samuel Johnson said of him, “the first writer who gave cadence to English prose.”

During this period, Temple became embroiled in the literary Battle of the Ancients and Moderns. Temple took the Ancient position in opposition to proponents of modern books, like Richard Bentley. Swift, always loyal to Temple, produced his first great satire in Temple’s defense, The Tale of the Tub. There would also be the long essay, The Battle of the Books. Swift’s reputation as a writer was established.

Why did he write? Entertainment be damned. He told Pope he wanted to vex the world, not divert it. Swift’s oeuvre is vast and rich, from The Tale of the Tub to The Bickerstaff Letters, The Drapier Letters, and many essays and poems. But, of course, with Swift, it always comes down to Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

Gulliver’s Travels, is Swift’s masterpiece, the acme of satire in the English letters. It is Swift’s disquisition on Walpole’s England and the rottenness of Human Nature. Americans know Gulliver’s Travel as a bowdlerized children’s book, an entertaining little Disney cartoon, and most people think it begins and ends with the Lilliputians. In fact, it’s a darkly humourous parody of Robinson Crusoe (Swift didn’t care for the Whig hack Daniel Defoe)—filled with puns, bodily functions, and scatology—that’s an exhaustive survey of what’s wrong with the world.  It’s also prescient and speaks to our present condition as much as anything written 300 years—heck, 3 days—ago. Far from being a children’s book, most people can’t appreciate Gulliver’s Travels until they’re over 30.

Ship’s doctor, Lemuel Gulliver, takes four journeys. First to Lilliput, where the tininess of its citizens is meant to represent the smallness of mind and vision Swift observed in Great Britain. There’s a Walpole stand-in Lilliput, the rope-dancing Treasurer Flimnap. Gulliver, soon in trouble for urinating on a fire in the queen’s chamber (thereby saving her!), will eventually need to escape Lilliput and find his way home.

On his second voyage, Gulliver reaches Brobdingnag, inhabited by a race of giants, as large in proportion to Gulliver as he was to the Lilliputians. The Brobdingnagians are large of mind, large in generosity, peaceful, and open-minded. When Gulliver—let’s be clear; Gulliver is not Swift, not yet—proudly tells the Brobdingnag king about England, the king is aghast. He sees through Gulliver’s arguments and rationalizations. Through the king, Swift sends up his native land, including the national bank and national debt; the warmongering of its leaders; the war profiteers, like Winston Churchill’s revered ancestor the Duke of Marlborough:

He asked me, who were our Creditors? and, where we found Money to pay them.  He wondered to hear me talk of such chargeable and extensive Wars; that, certainly we must be a quarrelsome People, or live among very bad Neighbors; and that our Generals must needs be richer than our Kings.

On learning about England’s legal system and its legislators, the king tells Gulliver:

You have made a most admirable Panegyric upon your Country. You have proved that Ignorance, Idleness, and Vice are the proper Ingredients for qualifying a Legislator. That Laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose Interest and Abilities lie in perverting, confounding and eluding them.

The Brobdingnag King might almost be a paleolibertarian—200 years before the birth of Murray Rothbard. He sums up England as follows:

I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth.

The Brobdingnagians also provide Gulliver with the opportunity to see human bodily decay at close-range, man through a microscope. As enormous as the Brobdingnagians are, Gulliver can easily see the imperfections of human flesh, the pores, the moles, the blemishes. The sight of a human mouth eating is a horror beyond words. Illusions are shattered.

On his third trip, Gulliver journeys to the floating island of Laputa, ruled by people who anticipate 21st Century elites who mandate electric cars and pandemic lockdowns, who demonize their opponents as anti-science. Laputa reveres science too. At their grand Academy of Lagado, the so-called Projectors rule the roost. They are eerie precursors to the rabble who run America’s woke universities. With funding available for the most esoteric of projects, the Projectors seek to extract sunbeams from cucumbers or reconstitute food from piles of human excrement. Wiser by now, Gulliver observes that

The only Inconvenience is, that none of these Projects are yet brought to Perfection; and in the meantime, the whole Country lies miserably in waste, the Houses in Ruins, and the People without Food or Cloaths.

Gulliver’s final voyage takes him to the land of the Houyhnhms (say “HUE-nums), horse-like creatures of pure reason. When he arrives, Gulliver is greeted by a revolting horde of human offal, known as the Yahoos (in case you wondered where that term came from). Gulliver runs away from them, in fear for his life, but recognizes in the Yahoos his own English race.

When discovered by the Houyhnhms, they at first take Gulliver for a Yahoo, but he convinces them otherwise. He takes up residence with their leader, and soon feels comfortable among such rational beings whose worldview is so sympathetic to his own. The king’s conversation enlightens Gulliver. Gulliver has found his perfect home.

But the Houyhnhms are unnerved by his presence, so much does he resemble a Yahoo. So, reluctantly, Gulliver leaves and makes his way back to England, where he is now appalled by human contact, even with his family. They’re all Yahoos to him, and for a long time he avoids interaction. He eventually comes to a sort of détente with his fellow human beings, and lives out his days, spending as much time with horses as possible.

What can we say in conclusion about Pope and Swift? To state the obvious, human nature is immutable and projects devoted to perfecting humans are destined to fail. Also, satire is a very effective weapon. Truth, matched with wit, is a powerful combination.

If you’re a Christian, it’s okay to be a misanthrope like Swift. Let’s be honest, all this love thy neighbor/love your enemy stuff gets carried out way too far. Tough love is much better. If you love your neighbor to the point that you’re tolerating open borders, foreign wars, and drag queen story hour, you’ve got a problem.

In conclusion, we need to emulate men like Pope and Swift. They were the coolest guys in town in their own time, and their work has lived on until ours. If you match truth and wit with intelligence and real learning, you just might leave a legacy that people will be talking about 100 years from now.

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“Juvenal Early” is a contributor to Barely A Blog. His 2020 piece, “The Dissident Right Has An Idiocracy Problem,” created quite a buzz.

* Screen picture credit here

UPDATED (9/7/022): Being Neocon, Wrong And Immoral Earns America’s Pundits More Plaudits

Conservatism, Foreign Policy, Ilana Mercer, Neoconservatism, Russia, The West, War

Sorry, Tucker Carlson: We like Victor Davis Hanson (VDH) as a person–but his record, put charitably, is that of playing catch-up. Only recently and slowly has he loosened the grip the neoconservative worldview has had on his thinking. And unconvincingly so.

VDH has been avidly cheering for the Ukrainian project—and seems unable to quiet his rhetoric about American foreign-policy Manifest Destiny. His first instinct was to support the Ukrainian endeavor and he holds the most mundane neoconservative views on Russia.

How predictive is VDH’s analysis in this, our latest, foreign-policy debacle? Not at all. In March of 2022, VDH celebrated “the muscular response of a West supposedly in decline,” when the West is manifestly in decline and Russia is winning by attrition. See “Russia Admits Weaponization Of Gas, Halts NS1 Shipments ‘Until Sanctions Lifted,’ As EU Prepares Response To Energy Crisis.” “[I]n response to the west’s weaponization of currencies and capital flows—Russia has halted gas supplies through Nord Stream 1.”

UPDATE 9/7/022: Putin: “We’ve Lost Nothing” – Putin Warns Western Elites’ “Sanctions Fever” Will See European People “Freeze”

…the blowback from EU and US-led sanctions and attempts at decoupling from Russian fossil fuels is wrecking lives in the West. “Now we are seeing how production and jobs in Europe are closing one after another,” Putin said, stressing that this is happening as “Western elites, who would not, or even cannot acknowledge objective facts.”

While against its war of aggression—those of us who see Russia as a natural ally of traditionalism (expressed in “America’s Radical, Foreign-Policy Alinskyites Destroyed South Africa!“) offered a solid distillation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Not VDH. He celebrated the puppet Zelensky, who, early in my analysis (March 24, 2022), betrayed his people for war and western aggrandizement.

When VDH, in March 2022, was getting hot for war (the mildest neocon finds war a turn-on), proclaiming a western revival—which is EXACTLY how neocons see war; a rejuvenator of sorts—aggrandizing its horrors ; I wrote this, March 3, 2022:

Good old realpolitik is what Zelensky should have been practicing with his powerful neighbors and historic brethren, the Russians.

Realpolitik is practical politics, the art of getting along, differences and all, in a real world in which reality, including the differences between people and their political systems, is accepted and dealt with.

VDH absolutely loved the war on Iraq (we railed against it from 2002 onward) and admits to NOT supporting Trump in the primaries. We were Orange from day one. (Trump book was published in June, 2016.)

Here we were for Trump from the get-go; against the Iraq war; hold a realistic position on Russia as friend of conservatives (the rest is the business of Russians, not Americans).

Still, readers have become angry with me, and not with the famous, rich, sinecured fools who led them astray and have proven wrong all the time (including in their current pursuits of the Ukraine production).

That kind of schedule of reinforcement and preference in public intellectuals and politicians explains the quality of cognoscenti Americans get. I’ve always said the government and culture don’t stand apart from us; they are us.

The more you reward those who are frequently and reliably wrong in public life—the more flourishing wrongdoers you’ll get and the more likely you are to keep going wrong.

Those who are right and principled get maligned for having foresight and principles. Those who were wrong are redeemed and forgiven, for they reflect the masses.

“PUNDITS, HEAL THYSELVES!”

* Image credit, screen pic

Lousy Lithuania Blockading Kaliningrad Could Be A Catalyst For World War Three

EU, Europe, Foreign Policy, Russia, The West, War

Russia will have to intrude into NATO territory to feed its people in Kaliningrad. NATO, doing Uncle Sam’s bidding, could then invoke its Article 5 obligation to, one and all, galvanize against Russia.

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia pursuant to the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, thus effectively starting the First World War.

Americans, aside some asses who may rot in Russian jails as prisoners of war, have not gotten as worked up about Ukraine as the neoconservative, neoliberal and the ConOink laptop bombardiers have wanted them to.

But Lithuania’s partial blockade of Kaliningrad—“a Russian sovereign territory on the Baltic Sea, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland,” and thus reliant on these EU neighbors, also NATO members, for overland shipping of essential supplies—might just constitute a provocation like the one that ignited WWI.

This is the case because Russia will have to intrude into NATO territory to feed its people in Kaliningrad. NATO members, doing Uncle Sam’s bidding, could then invoke their Article 5 obligation to, one and all, galvanize against Russia.

Via ZeroHedge:

Ahead of the new Lithuanian transit ban taking effect, the state railways service was reportedly awaiting final word from the European Commission on enforcing it:

The cargo unit of Lithuania’s state railways service set out details of the ban in a letter to clients following “clarification” from the European Commission on the mechanism for applying the sanctions.

Previously, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas said the ministry was waiting for “clarification from the European Commission on applying European sanctions to Kaliningrad cargo transit.”

Brussels then ruled that “sanctioned goods and cargo should still be prohibited even if they travel from one part of Russia to another but through EU territory,” according to Rueters/Rferl.

In Moscow’s eyes, this is tantamount to laying economic siege to part of Russia’s sovereign territory and one million of its citizens. When the EU first proposed the blockage of goods as part of the last major sanctions package in early April, Kremlin officials warned of war given Moscow would have to “break the blockade” for the sake if its citizens.

MORE.