Blog postings, round one! (Due 3 April 2015)

In a blog of 700-800 words, reflect on one of the following prompts. You are not required to answer every single question within a given prompt, nor are you necessarily limited to these topics. You may merge prompts or invent your own, if you like. These are intended merely to guide your thinking.

Whichever prompt(s) you select, be sure to cite specific examples from the reading(s) in support of your arguments. You don’t need to attach a bibliography—it will do simply to cite sources parenthetically, like this (Butler 9). Do be sure, however, to cite your sources if you go outside/beyond the syllabus. (If you are using a web source, the simplest solution is probably to link to it directly; WordPress makes this pretty easy to do.)

Blog postings are due by 11:59 p.m. on 3 April 2015. Please either sign your name to the posting, or make sure your name appears in the subject heading (e.g. “Ricky M.’s post on Schoenberg). First name and last initial are adequate, if you don’t feel like baring your identity to the world, but I certainly encourage you to stand behind what you write.

Finally, before posting your blog, please tag it “Blog 1.” Do this by going to the “Tags and Categories” menu (you’ll see this at left when you go to post); under “Enter your tags below,” enter “Blog 1” (no quote marks). Next week’s will be tagged “Blog 2,” etc. This will make it much easier for me to keep track of your blogs at the end of the quarter.

Have fun, write well, and cite specific examples. Feel free to bring in other media, links, etc. if you find them illustrative.

(1) Though Piet Mondrian is a visual artist, you will note that he uses the words “rhythm” and “harmony” in his philosophical ruminations (see Butler 24). Aren’t these predominantly musical terms? How can a painting have “rhythm”? Since you have the painting there on the page, reflect on how these musical/aural terms might apply also to a visual document. You might (or might not) then also consider how music, visual art, and language might be interacting with each other.

(1.5) You could also quickly peruse the correspondence between Schoenberg and Kandinsky, found in the Albright anthology, pp.169-172. This wasn’t assigned, but it might help you underscore specific points. Given what you’ve read in Butler, and what you’ve read from Schoenberg himself, how can we interpret this dialogue between a painter and a composer? What does each take from the other?

(2) In the excerpt from Roland Barthes’ “The Grain of the Voice” discussed in Monday’s class, Barthes suggests a little “parlour game”: “talk about a piece of music without using a single adjective.” Sounds good. Describe one of the musical compositions discussed in Butler’s Very Short Introduction, or discuss Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (excerpted in the Albright anthology), using no adjectives. What you might do here is spend 300 words or so trying this parlour game, and then the other 400-500 words reflecting on your own efforts. It might be useful, for example, consider what Barthes’/Schoenberg’s/Butler’s reflections say about music, language, modernism, or the relationships between and among them. (You can find any of these compositions on YouTube, and you don’t have to describe the whole thing. Use whatever sample will help you engage with what Schoenberg/Barthes/[whoever] are saying.)

(3) Christopher Butler uses James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) to illustrate specific aspects of modernist writing. Given that, closely analyze the extract from Ulysses that we get in Albright’s Modernism and Music anthology (the opening–overture, if you will–of the episode called “Sirens”). How does this excerpt exemplify a relationship between literature and music, or exemplify the qualities of “allusion,” “echoes,” “structural parallels,” etc. that Butler describes of modernism? (Given that “echo” is itself a sound-related term, how might Joyce be playing with both literal and figurative kinds of echoing?)

If you’ve read Ulysses, more power to you—feel free to draw on any part of the novel. If you haven’t read it, however, you can stick with the excerpts given to us by Butler and Albright.

(4) Various forms of modernism, as Butler notes, are “against expressionist individualism, and anti-romantic” (9)–invested, in other words, in an impersonal ideal for art. Based on your readings this week, why do you think that is? What do impersonality, abstraction, geometrical purity, etc. have to do with artistic beauty? What do they have to do with music (sound, hearing) specifically?

(5) Choose your own adventure (i.e. create your own topic). Just make sure to keep your ideas grounded in specific textual examples from this week’s reading.


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