Blog One (make up blog)

Rhythm to me implies resonance. It is the force that drives a piece of music forward and gives it pace, and it is one of the elements that allows the listener to engage and follow. Engaging with art rhythmically would be to, in a sense, nod along with it and follow it and get it stuck in your head. Visual art brings a unique quality to this effect because it really never ends until the viewer looks away. Schoenberg made the point to Kandinsky that “when the artist reaches the point at which he desires only the expression of inner events and inner scenes in his rhythms and words, then the ‘object in painting’ has ceased to belong to the reproducing eye” (Albright 170). The process of expressing shape creates form. It moves through creation and recreation of the reproducing eye. Schoenberg is remarking on the subjectivity of art that gives it rhythm and words by his statement about what turns art into something objective, separate, stagnant.

I was looking at Kandinsky’s painting trying to apply some sort of understanding of rhythm or harmony in visual art, and I guess it frustrated me until I read the correspondence between him and Schoenberg. It seemed to me that both Schoenberg and Kandinsky understood the constructs of modern art and music working as and through each others’ terms, and then simultaneously both of them intentionally work against these things and within these things in order to create new form. “I am certain that our own modern harmony is not to be found in the ‘geometric’ way, but rather in the anti-geometric, anti logical way” (Albright 169) wrote Kandinsky to Schoenberg. This makes way more sense when looking at his work. Everything in the painting in the Butler reading looks like its moving up and criss-cross. Schoenberg responded by commenting on the “elimination of the conscious will in art”. Instead of having a geometric, conscious form, the painting moves in an original, stream of conscious way which creates new form. It’s organic and natural. It’s anti-rhythmical, or at least sort of syncopated. But, in its own way, it is continuous because every viewer then recreates the form by following its lines and blotches of color. The painting doesn’t have harmony, but dissonance in the way it is never “complete” or “finished”, like a triad with a random augmented or diminished 7th that leads it forward.

I really liked what Kandinsky had to say (and how he said it) about the two-sidedness of construction. He commented on the relationship between obtrusive geometry and dissonant expression in art and music. They seem to be opposing: one is self-conscious and purposeful, the other is free and expressive. He compares it to anarchy, which gives a sense of working against the rules, but always in relation to the rules. Even rejection to a subject inherently implies an engaging with that subject. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Kandinsky seems to approach this in the sequence of construct first, then rejection of such construct afterwards. On the other hand, I felt that Schoenberg approached it in the sequence of the creation of expression first, and then comes the deciphering of those “puzzles” which are created. Either way, one cannot attempt to authentically express originality because those expressions are actually conscious and therefore calculated. It is conscious of its subconscious, which seems paradoxical and is certainly inauthentic. It brings into question whether there is such thing as pure art. That constant anxiety over originality and push-and-pull of conflict is part of what is expressed in modern art and music. It’s what I think keeps it going and keeps it continuous.

Really, the practice of engaging with these art and music and literary forms is continuous, as well. Butler addresses the process of the reader/listener/viewer passing down the relevance of their experience with the subject to their “successors”, who then go through that same process except different, and on and on. This is what prompted me to want to learn how to approach modernism in the first place: it is a form that continually challenges whoever engages with it to produce a new and unique outcome. Its forever interactive.


Blog 3 // Rachel Mann

In this post I’ll primarily be concerned with Ezra Pound exercising his authority over the reader within his poems. Through dialect, fragmentation and spacing, and interjections within the text, the reader is manipulated to read in certain ways or through certain lenses. I sometimes get the impression that Pound is teaching his readers how to read, since his works were new innovations in the world of poetry. I suppose a good example of what I’m trying to illustrate can be found in his short poem that everyone knows him for writing:

In A Station Of The Metro

The apparitions of faces in a crowd;

Petals on a wet, black bow.

The syntax of this poem is what changes the words on the page to something that moves and impresses upon the reader. “Apparitions” is a noun, not a verb, but it holds qualities of something that acts because it implies that something wasn’t there a second ago, but just came out of nowhere. The impression of the apparition of faces in a crowd is a moving one, even though the phrase itself is stagnant. Placing the poem in a station in the metro also gives it movement. This is the way I read Pound, and most modernist poets. Reading their poetry isn’t like staring at something and trying to make sense of it. It is very much like being in a station of the metro or in the middle of a moving crowd. It’s the brevity and pace and fragmentation of the reading that communicate.

The Pisan Cantos behave similarly, fast pace and fragmented, alluding to an impossible amount of different references that overwhelm the interpreter, but communicate through their form and place within the poem. Even calling the poem “Cantos” throws the reader into a musically influences reading of the poem. I want to look at a few of the different ways that Pound “teaches” his readers how to read his own writing.

Canto 77 is written in free verse and is peppered in Chinese symbols, Greek, French, and even particular dialects of English. These images, interruptions, and sounds of different languages can easily distance the reader from the text, but they can also force the reader to listen to the tonal leading of the sounds of the words instead of focusing on what the words are saying. Example below:

255. “30,000, they thought they were clever,

why, Hell / they cd/ have had it for 6000 dollars,

and after Landon they picked Wendell Willkie

Roi je ne suis, prince je ne daigne

Citizen of florence, cd/ not receive noble titles

Pound frequently interjected comments in the poem which remind the reader of the poem’s textuality. Essentially, he is telling the reader how to read the poem within the poem. He does this by removing the reader from the fragmented, existential impressions to the actual words on the page, shifting from content to form, creating a bit of distance. Examples below:

15. “and having got ‘em (advantages, privilege)

there is nothing, italics nothing, they will not do

to retain ‘em”

Here, Pound draws attention to the way italics are read and drawn out by repeating and emphasizing the word “nothing” in a different form.

234 domini 1910 but I do not know what he has done with it

for I wd/ steal no man’s raison

and old Andre

preached vers libre with Isaiac fury, and sent me to old Rousselot

who fished for sound in the Seine

Here, Pound drops the term “vers libre”, as he’s writing in vers libre, calling attention to form. To me, “fishing for sound in the Seine” is an explicit command of how to read: listening to it as opposed to pouring over and interpreting it. He discusses in depth the ideas of free verse becoming something to be listened to and interpreted musically in “A Retrospect”:

“Indeed vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it. It has brought faults of its own. The actual language and phrasing is often as bad as that of our elders without even the excuse that the words are shoveled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound. Whether or no[t] the phrases followed by the followers are musical must be left to the reader’s decision.”

Ezra Pound is one of the most important names in modernism, and to me it seems reasonable to me that in his innovation with the movement and subject that he would require a sort of cipher decoder. I felt that Pound tactfully integrated this into his works.