Hans Pfitzner, An den Mond, Op. 18 (1906)
Aribert Reimann, piano
From my own experience I was well aware of the mysterious attraction of the ‘royal game,’ which, alone among the games devised by man, regally eschews the tyranny of chance and awards its palms of victory only to the intellect, or rather to a certain type of intellectual gift. But is it not already an insult to call chess anything so narrow as a game? Is it not also a science, an art, hovering between these categories like Muhammad’s coffin between heaven and earth, a unique yoking of opposites, ancient and yet eternally new, mechanically constituted and yet an activity of the imagination alone, limited to a fixed geometric area but unlimited in its permutations, constantly evolving and yet sterile, a cogitation producing nothing, a mathematics calculating nothing, an art without an artwork, an architecture without substance and yet demonstrably more durable in its essence and actual form than all books and works, the only game that belongs to all peoples and all eras, while no one knows what god put it on earth to deaden boredom, sharpen the mind, and fortify the spirit? Where does it begin, where does it end?
[Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows?] But I’ll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.
—James Crumley, from The FInal Country (via the-final-sentence)
Amy Winehouse “shot” by William Burroughs
Félicien Rops, La Tentation de St. Antoine, 1878.
“We think that a man who does evil to us and to his neighbours must be very evil. So he is, from a social standpoint; but can’t you realize that Evil in its essence is a lonely thing, a passion of the solitary, individual soul?…It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner…Sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and knowledge that pertain alone to angels, and in making this effort man becomes a demon.”
Arthur Machen, The White People, 1899.
Sin is no sin when virtue is forgot.
Richard le Gallienne, “The Decadent to His Soul,” 1892.
The Decadence was fascinated and titillated by evil, sacrilege and sin. Like Existentialist novels, Decadent novels often ended with some gratuitous, ambiguously philosophic murder – Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Rachilde’s Monsieur Venus and Marquise de Sade, Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-Morte. But unlike the Existentialists, the Decadents never toyed with amorality, aspired to atheism or cast good and evil into the muddy waters of human, secular subjectivity. Their perversity implied an inverted piety – their conception of sin relied on a basically Catholic moral universe – in order to experience fully the pleasures of the Sinner, one must credit the virtue of the Saint. All that adultery, sodomy, obscenity and literary blasphemy would’ve been dull and meaningless to people who had declared religion foolish and such acts nothing but banal crime – petty legal transgressions. The Satanism Huysmans investigates in Là-Bas is theistic and indeed Catholic – the Black Mass must be performed by a defrocked priest with consecrated hosts. The fallen priest in the novel, Canon Docre, has the face of Christ tattooed on his feet so that he is perpetually desecrating the image. Such actions are in no way an abandonment of religion, simply a perversion of it, so when Félicien Rops declared that his then-horrifically shocking Tentation de St. Antoine was not an ‘attack on religion,’ he was being sincere.
Philippe Jullian tells us Catholicism was “utterly repellent to every rationalist, but by the very irrationality of its propositions proved attractive to a generation which preferred Verlaine and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam to Zola or Taine.” At a time when these dreamers were revolting against dull, demystified, industrial, rational materialism, Catholic religion in all its most morbid and mysterious manifestations became de rigueur, whether one was idealizing ancient rites and saintly souls, or siding with Satan. The excesses of the Medieval Church possessed all the appropriate aesthetics – monumental, unfathomable beauty executing grotesque and bizarre torture, a time when superstitions were reality and dark, Wagnerian woods hid orgiastic Sabbats and witches transforming into wolves. Therefore the fin de siècle’s renewed interest in the Church and its mania for anything sinful, occult, magical, or Satanic are indeed two sides of the same quest to shirk modernity in favor of mystery.
The cultural mechanism for renewal resides in the courage to use human passion and energy in the direction of what is authentic again and again. The ring of authenticity is more important than the clang of originality. Whatever is authentic about the twentieth century will be preserved, and we need not worry about it. Given that certainty, we can safely leave it alone and get back to the business of writing music without falsely institutionalizing the means we use to produce it. But we must be sure that it is music, i.e., that we write what we believe in, write in consummately well and that we intend at least for the delectation and edification of the human ear and heart- beyond that, if possible, for the purification of the mind.
—George Rochberg from his essay “On the Third String Quartet” (via feast-of-starlight)
Havergal Brian, Symphony no. 1 “The Gothic” (1/10)
Some internet goober (probably from alt.nerd.obsessive) has put together this perfectly cromulent graphwhich shows all the episodes of The Simpsons ranked by their user-voted IMDB ratings. A few things…
“I wanted to end the world, but I’ll settle for ending yours.”
“In our world, there can only be triumph and self-abasement. Everything else, we will destroy.”
The Shining minus Delbert Grady