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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Art songs vs. Orchestral works

Since my goal is to finish the chapter on vernacular styles in January, I have been trying to get a leg up on the previous chapter, on classical versions, in December. Anyway, I have created a little dichotomy in my head. Heavier, works, with more instrumentation, vs. art songs with only piano and voice. These shorter art songs tend to focus on Lorca's childlike sensibility, with a predilection for certain types of poems (the songs for children). Longer orchestral works are more weighty and tend to emphasize death rather than childhood. 

I've discovered who the main expert on Ohana is, and on Nono. This makes it obvious that I could never match the insight of a specialist on these composers. My role is to bring everything together, ranging over wide areas.   

Dream of Brazil

 I had a night of very intense and vivid dreams. At one point I was in Brazil.  Since I have never been there, my vision of it was from my own brain, and not at all consistent with itself. The colors were very saturated. I knew it was a dream, but I wasn't sure where I was sleeping, perhaps in Spain (the dream before?). I suddenly got in a taxi and asked to go to the airport. 

In the dream before, I had been in Spain. There was a phonograph record playing of José Ángel Valente talking about his book on Lorca. I was excited and embarrassed, because I didn't know of the existence of this book, and I should have dealt with it in my previous book on Lorca. On the record he began to recite a poem about Lorca:  "Fotos familiares. Las tías solteras..." [family photos. The maiden aunts...]


 Maurice Ohana was a Sephardic Jew born in Morocco, but considered a French composer. Influenced by cante jondo and writing works based on Lorca and La Celestina, among many other things. He was quite prolific. At one point he was going to be a minor footnote, but he is just too interesting. I've discovered that he wrote an oratorio on Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías in 1950s. I don't know that it is a transcendent work of music, but its very existence moves me greatly. It also makes a good contrast / comparison with Luigi Nono and George Crumb. Also, helps me with my mine thesis that the approach to Lorca most often found is defamiliarization. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Shostakovich 14

 The first movement of Shostakovich 14 stands out for me, along with Revueltas's Homenaje, and maybe the second Epitaffo of Nono. The Lorca cantabile book could start out with the poem "De Profundis," since Lorca wrote it early on.  

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Lorca Cantabile

 Here's my most recent brilliant idea. (or maybe not, just a pipe-dream] A book-length translation, not of a book of Lorca's, but of the words of *all* the Lorca songs I refer to in the book. It could be a companion book, a translation to accompany all the musical analyses. I would include the 13 canciones populares not by Lorca that are always done in conjunction with him, and which don't have good translations into English. And I would translate them in cantabile style, in other words, so that they could be set to music themselves. 


Copious dreams the last two nights, but not ones amenable to narrative treatment.  Someone asks me what I work on and I say "Lorca." He seems to think Lorca is a Russian author... I don't correct him; he seems very glib. Marjorie Perloff is giving a talk, and stops half-way through. She doesn't recognize me and I am too shy to approach. Shifting scenery and narrative content.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


 I was auditioning to be the student of a famous voice teacher. There was another couple who were in a zoom call with us on our phones, and somehow involved in this situation, and the hour was getting late. I was going to do an aria from some classic Italian opera like Tosca, but when the time approached I couldn't remember it, so I decided to sing "Tres morillas de Jaén," one of the Lorca folksongs. {This is a song I actually do sing in waking life, unlike the aria.) When I finally connected with the teacher, she asked, "what drops are you going to to drop in for me?" I didn't have any throat drops so she suggested water. But my throat was too dry to sing. I was worried about the right pitch and I couldn't remember whether it started on G or A, and played a G on my keyboard. I was also somewhat worried about getting the words right, and hitting the ornament where the words say "tan garridas."  

It was about 11:30 p.m. I was somewhere else now. A woman was explaining how she kept warm at night despite sleeping on a roof with minimal possessions. Then we were in a swimming pool, where the water was warm. 

Monday, December 21, 2020

El Pais Strikes again...

 "Como casi todos los madrileños, Trapiello no nació en Madrid, sino en León."

What the sentence is meant to say is that many people who live in Madrid were born elsewhere in Spain. What it says on the literal level is that almost all people living in Madrid were born in León. 

If almost everyone in Madrid was born somewhere else, that must mean that almost all the babies born in Madrid go somewhere else to live, which I seriously doubt.  

Book Proposal

I sent off the book proposal this morning. I am going in for cataract surgery (eye #2) in about 30 minutes. Then I will have a period in which I cannot read very well.   

Dream of Father Still Alive

 In this variation of the dream that my father is still alive, I see him in academic robe on campus. He says that he will see me at home. Somehow the idea is that my dreams of him being alive still, over the course of 20 years, is evidence that he really has been alive this whole time. So I am thinking "I knew it all the time." I wake up and it is still true, so it isn't just a dream. But when I finally wake up for real, I force myself to acknowledge he is actually dead. It takes a few seconds to realize I have been fooled. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Things that are not obvious

 I'm looking at art songs now. As it turns out, that is only one part of the Lorca / Music book: for another poet it could be the whole book. My idea is that the favorite work for classical composers who work with the standard piano + voice format is Canciones.  This seems predictable, but it is not, since that is the only more or less straightforward correspondence I have found. 


 I found this book by César Vallejo, Contra el secreto profesional. It has been translated into English too.  It is essays and aphorisms. It has interesting things about his poetics. There was a book of aphorisms that came out in English translation a few years back, and these are mostly (if not all) from this book. I'm thinking of using some things from it in the intro to lit class next semester. There is one about hats that is hilarious, and could be presented to students as a prose poem. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020


 There is precise subject category, name of author, musical settings, like "García Lorca, Federico, 1898-1936 Musical settings." For Lorca the number of items in WorldCat is more than 800, for William Blake, 1475, for Shakespeare, 5,000, etc... Dickinson, 1,600, Whitman, 1700.  Baudelaire, 500. This is imprecise, but it gives a rough idea. There will be duplications, and this counts both scores and recordings in libraries across the world, with inevitable duplication of results, with the same thing being counted more than once. I can't believe there are only 2 for Rilke! Celan has 200 or so.  Just for a ballpark, the category "Song Cycles" has almost 25,000 entries, and songs with piano 300,000. 

What this means: any treatment of the subject can only deal with a small percentage of the material. A catalogue alone would be a 500 page book, so a 300 word book about the subject matter can only deal with so much. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020


To DEI they have added a fourth term: Belonging. So now it is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Or perhaps it's Inclusion and Belonging, without a comma between them. It's here where the Oxford comma would be clarifying. Is belonging a different thing from inclusion?  

I helped our ABD grad students yesterday parse some job ads. The university with an actual population of minority students, in Texas, advertised itself as "Hispanic serving." The New England liberal arts school wanted someone with secondary interest in "Latinx." The school in Texas is asking for an actual commitment to diversity, while the school in Vermont asks for openness to different perspectives, but in a less emphatic way. Nobody thinks of themselves as closed-minded or inflexible in recognizing perspectives of other people. 

Periodical Room

These memories sometimes come to me in a flash.

The periodical room was a discovery for me. The look and smell of an old time university library periodical room. There were rows of metal shelves with issues of periodicals laying flat in piles on them. I didn't even know the word periodical before that. I must have gone there to look at poetry magazines, like The Paris Review, but I found out that there was a whole scholarly journal devoted to the work of William Blake. I'm pretty sure this was before college, and I started college at 17, so I could have been 15 or 16 when I made this discovery. 

My father was the editor of The American Sociologist. I had some idea, then, of the existence of scholarly journals. My mom helped him to correct proofs, and at least once I helped them. I would read aloud very fast from the original document, while one of them was following along in the proofs. It was all in this hideous social science jargon, full of abstract nouns and clunky syntax. But the Blake journal seemed a marvelous thing to me, its mere existence, that is, of existence of specialized knowledge like this. 

Un poeta en Nueva York

 So far I've looked at two graphic narratives about Lorca. One I have in print is by Carles Esquembre, Lorca: un poeta en Nueva York. As might be expected, the approach is biographical. I have another one on Kindle, La huella de Lorca, that I can't read very well because of my eyesight. Every medium in which adaptations of Lorca occur has a particular slant to it. With graphic novels / narratives, it tends to be biographical, whereas poems about Lorca tend to be elegiac, etc... [not a solid generalization in this case, but simple the first tendency to come to mind], art songs tend to present a childlike or folkloric Lorca, but are not biographical, not songs about Lorca.  

These are interesting slants or biases that we find. We say sesgo in Spanish. It tend to have a negative connotation, but all interpretation is slanted in one direction or another. Think of a flat coffee table with a marble on it. You put the marble in the center and it doesn't roll to one side or the other. The reception of a writer is never like that. The table is never flat, and two tables never have the exact contour. 

Esquembre's book is marvelous in some ways, especially bringing out the surrealism. Lorca has weird nightmares and visions. A realist style of drawing is needed for a surreal vision. There is definitely a lot of research and thinking that went into it, and it all adds up to a particular vision. The novelistic, or invented parts of it blend seamlessly with the biographical facts.   

Stained Glass

 In this dream we were outside at some picnic tables. Around us were strange multi-colored living creatures of various sizes, such as birds that looked like flowers, or flowers that looked like fish. The surfaces looked translucent. I remarked that they looked like stained glass, but that was apparently bad luck to say in this particular culture. I had apparently made this same faux-pas earlier, but hadn't remembered. I was rebuked again for this mistake. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Discography Fridays

 I've decided to have Discography Fridays. I will work on the Discography every Friday until it is done. Then I can see that as a different issue than finishing the book. 

I found out once that Discography started with jazz record collectors. This makes sense, because recording was the primary mode of existence of jazz, and early jazz fans developed discography to document their passion.  


There will be change, so change is not optional. You can prefer to stay the same way you are, but that just means that change will be erosion, or letting things get worse. Once I realize this, then I can be free to direct the changes in ways I choose. 

I realized too, that struggle is not an option. The struggle is a necessary part of the process, and thus part of the positive change.  

Two Dreams

 I was acting in a movie with DeNiro. I was in a bar and he walked in and I said "Hi DeNiro." I wasn't sure if we were supposed to be in character or not.  There was another actor there too. DeNiro ordered food from us at the bar and then bought a cookie and handed it to me. The he took back half the cookie, which was actually three cookies stuck together. He started putting salt on the cookie, an excessive amount, in a jocular way. A woman said "we have to clean up the salt," which was creating almost a mist in the air. 

I woke up, realized it was a dream, and fell asleep again. Now I was floating down a canal, up to my neck in water, that paralleled part of the highway. It was supposed to be a pleasant way of commuting, since the water was warm. A woman was hanging on to my shoulders. Other women near by were speaking to her in perfect Japanese, although they were all white women. I thought of asking one of them why they were speaking Japanese. Now we were in a taxi, about four of us, going to a restaurant on the other side of town in an unidentified city. We kept stopping for gas, in an hour-long ride, and I had to sit next to new people each time. When we got to the restaurant, we got out. I realized I had left my coat in the car and flagged down the driver. He through my coat out the window. Then I could not find the people I was with in the restaurant, or outside at other tables. I tried to find my phone to see if I had contact info on them. I found two identical knives in my pocket, and realized I didn't know who the people were exactly. Then I woke up.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

You heard it here

 The DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) has now expanded to Diverstiy, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.  There is no comma after Inclusion, so I'm not sure how to parse it. 


I suddenly had this flashback of a memory. I had a Peanuts cartoon book in French, maybe when I was 13 or 14. Charlie Brown was flying his kite, which inevitably the tree would eat up.  I learned words in French from it, like cerf-volant.  

Maybe somewahat later, I had a book of poems by Paul Valéry.  I was thinking of the young park as a young park, not a young Parque.   


Anyway, I also have a book proposal done. I'm uncertain of it: this is the hardest genre, the  book proposal, the grant proposal. It doesn't seem to represent the richness of the work itself, but I'm not always sure what I am leaving out. 

There are something like five books on Beckett and music. I guess you can call this a speciality within a speciality. It's odd because a non-canonical writer would never have this. If someone is not very canonical then there is no room for subspecialties, there would be one book about the author or 2 at most. The whole idea of "Ezra Pound and music," or "Lorca and the visual arts" implies the existence of critical industries that can be divided into subcategories.  The process is almost humorous, in that there would be no topic too trivial if the writer is canonical enough: "Proust and insects." 


 Today, I started on the discography. It is somewhat intimidating to me, but this is an illusion based on my inexperience. After a few minutes I started grasping the syntax of the entries. I'm using Chicago style in the hope that that's what the publisher will want. I will publish my book with Toronto, although they do not know it yet.  

Monday, December 14, 2020


 I posted some  tunes to my soundcloud account.  5 years ago I thought of being a composer, but I'm not sure what this even means for me. It seems unbearably pretentious of me to call myself that.  Even a songwriter would be too much. 


 Since classes ended I finished two chapters in more or less submittable form.  My project for January-March will be to do this with Chapter 4. Chapter 3, a lengthy chapter on classical Lorca, will be the last, after the epilogue. What I tend to put off is bibliographical references. It is not intellectually challenging or interesting, but it gives a sense of finality, as though the scholarship were in the final stages of preparation, making sure everything adds up.  

Saturday, December 12, 2020


 I thought I hadn't published about Olvido García Valdés, but then I remembered something in an article a long way back:  https://www.amazon.com/Principios-Modernos-Creatividad-Expresiva-Contemporanea/dp/9042026332 Page 337 of this book.  


Taruskin thinks he is against something called "aesthetic autonomy," but really he sees any kind of link between music and almost any kind of ideology as a taint. So he defends the cancellation of an opera in the wake of 9/11, on the grounds that the libretto might be offensive (too sympathetic to Palestinian terrorists). He is against the use of the principle of autonomy to defend the opera, but his own objection is to the libretto, not the music. The same goes for his discussions of works by Bach and Stravinsky with anti-semitic texts. He thinks it is fine to change the words to save the music. But why is the music worth saving, but for the principle of autonomy? The value that the music has as music?  He is perfectly right in denouncing the defense of the text itself under the principle of "autonomy," since the autonomy of the music does not save the text from its anti-semitism.   

He is really opposed to the use of music in the cold war for propagandistic reasons, on both sides. He is an expert on Russian music and spent time the USSR. So what he really prefers is music that is not propaganda, in other words, aesthetic autonomy. His work as a sociologist of music is devoted to denouncing bad faith uses of the principle of autonomy, but his heart as a musician is with Roger Sessions admiration for "the medium itself." He waxes eloquent every time he quotes this passage from Sessions. 

Friday, December 11, 2020


I made a plan to finish the book in 2021, but I had a whole month laid out for a chapter that is practically done. This morning I just started in on what was missing, which is mostly bibliographical citations. I did about half of those this morning. If I can do the same for the intro in December, then I can modify my plan enormously. I can read with both eyes, but at different distances, which makes it a bit awkward. I can see the computer with right (operated) eye, and read up close with left (as yet unoperated eye). Yet this is not seeming to slow me down. 

The octave is universal

 A rise in an octave means a doubling of the number of vibrations per second. So something vibrating at 440, will be the same note as 880 The note we call A is an A no matter what octave an A it is. Faster vibrations are higher notes. A group of men and women singing together in unison will sing an octave apart without having to be told to do so. The octave is universal,, in that this perception of the sameness of the note is not based on cultural differences. Monkeys can hear octaves too.  

The idea "8" has to do with particular scales or modes having 7 notes and then beginning again on note 8. But even scales with 5 notes begin again on the "octave," or the pitch twice, or half, the original pitch. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Plan of classical chapter








Mompou [other art songs]

McClary on Madonna

 is even more ridiculous than you might have suspected. She makes certain keys in a Madonna song allegorical for different subject positions, then creates a whole narrative around those attributions, like return to the tonic is masculine closure. I don't think that anyone listens to Madonna like that, not even Susan M. The narrative is the product of an analysis, but this analysis, though I'm sure it is correct in naming the chords of the song, would never suggest this exact narrative to another analyst looking at the same chords, and even less to an actual listener uninformed by these abstruse music theory codings. This, I suspect, is what is meant by low hermeneutics. She attribute agency to Madonna, and makes it perfectly clear that she thinks this is what singer is doing with a quite deliberate effort, and this narrative is audible in the music itself.  

I don't even know if she believes it herself, or simply thinks that this is a convenient way to put music analysis to a noble purpose. There's probably a good reason for sociological discussion of music NOT to put too much emphasis on the technical analysis of music. Music's social effects do not depend on things that only musicologists, if even they, can perceive. I like Taruskin's formula: not 'what music means' but 'what music has meant.'  


 Taruskin really hates Adorno, and especially objects to the way popular music studies use Adorno, despite Adorno's own quite explicit condemnation of popular music. They they explain that away, and continue to use Adorno. Taruskin can be quite hilarious on how musicologists trained on the classics behave when analyzing popular genres. They fall in fandom or condescension or slumming of various kinds. Jazz musicologists trained in jazz don't do this; it seems particular to people who began in classical music and then try to approach popular genres. 

Taruskin vs. Rosen / goring the Ox

 So Rosen says that Taruskin writes about 20th century music with a decided lack of sympathy. He never explains why anyone would like it. Taruskin responds that he is an objective historian, not an advocate. But... is such an overt lack of sympathy objective? 

Rosen:  "What he is unable to do, however, is to give us any idea of why anybody would want to write, or listen to, most of the music he treats at such length."

Taruskin:  "Advocacy is not the historian's task, and a historian who indulges in it has become a propagandist. As one who regard's Rosen literary output--all of it-- as cold-war propaganda, I am heartened that he perceives the distinction between our objectives and our methods the same way I do."

But surely this negativity does not occur in the rest of the five volume of the Ox (Oxford History) that Taruskin wrote. It only comes up with certain kinds of music. I haven't read the ox yet, but other people's reviews, as well as Taruskin's other writing that I have seen, makes clear that negativity pervades the parts written about 20th century music. Clearly the new musicologists have no use for musical modernism of the Schoenberg tradition. Taruskin even say he shares in the admiration for Elliot Carter, "although the Oxford History was not the proper place for me to say so." So he might even like it himself, but he has to disguise this to be objective?  Or to fall into place with the proper anti-cold-war stance? If he mentions this in a book with "history' in the title he become a CIA stooge.   

Later, in postscript written after Rosen's death, he voices some appreciation for his late and states the position that almost everyone would agree with, that the during the Cold War the CIA promoted the idea that art in the Western world was excellent because of its freedom and diversity and lack of government control. Of course, the CIA was completely right about this. The only problem was that by supporting this view, it tainted the very thing it was promoting, by exploiting it as propaganda. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Literal Minded

 If you really thought "architecture is a verb," as the title of a book has it, or "music is a verb," then you would use it as a verb. You'd say I need to architecture this building little more, or Hey, let's music!  


 The Lucini book is much less scholarly than I expected.  Sigh. That leaves more room for me, I guess, though it would be more satisfying to have material of a higher level with which to engage. I view it as a primary source, a memoir of someone who listened to it and was DJ, etc...  

More Taruskin

 Taruskin objects to writing in which there are no human agents doing things. "This sort of writing gives everybody an alibi. All the active verbs are described in the passive voice. Nobody is seen as doing or deciding anything. Even the composers ... are not described in the act, but only as a passive vehicle of 'emergence.'"  

Yet this passage caught me up short, because I find RT to be really addicted to passive constructions himself, as well as to writing with subjects of the verbs other than human agents.  Here it is the "sort of writing" that gives alibi, and the next verbs are all passive. On the next page, he writes:  

"Reasons for the long and embattled dominance of internalist models for music history in the West, (reasons that account for Dahlhaus's otherwise inexplicable prestige), have more than two centuries behind them, and I shall try to illuminate them at appropriate points. But comment is required up front about their special reason for dominance in the recent history of the discipline, reasons having to do with the Cold War, when the general intellectual atmosphere was excessively polarized (hence binarized) around a pair of seemingly exhaustive and totalized alternatives. The only alternative, it then seemed, was a discourse that was totally corrupted by totalitarian co-option. Admit a social purview, it then seemed, and you were part of the totalitarian threat to the integrity (and freedom) of the creative individual."

There are only two agents here, one in a sign-post (I will illuminate) and the other in hypothetical you at the end.  Everything else is passive voice or abstractions backed up by other abstractions. While this paragraph is clunky prose, I think it is not realistic to conform to the idea of using only, or even mostly, human agents as subjects of sentences.  Taruskin only notices this kind of writing when other people do it, or when he disagrees with the writing for other reasons. The next paragraph, too, is mostly passive voice and copulative verbs, with only an active verb in the final sentence: "We acknowledge that out methods are ground in and guided by theory...."  With more passive voice. I'm sure I could find examples on every page of his book.  My point is not to condemn his use of passive (which is not my preferred voice in my own writing) or his hypocrisy, even. I think he is simply not self-aware about his own writing style, or the extreme effort it would require to write scholarly prose using mainly human agents as subjects of sentences in the active voice.  He writes clearly and grammatically, but is unaware of what his own style really is. He has an idea of something he dislikes when other people do it, but he doesn't realize what it would take to fulfill his own stated ideal.   

Crónica cantada

I  received Lucini's book in the mail today, from Abe books. It doesn't have much about Lorca in it, but he is working on a subsequent project that is only Lorca. Also, I guess, he is only interested in popular (vernacular) music, not in classical traditions. 

I like these little gifts I give myself. Ordering a book and then not knowing when there is a knock at the door. I had cataract surgery two days ago and I still can't read with my right eye, so these gifts are kind of hard to handle right now.   


 I'm reading Richard Taruskin, Cursed Questions: On Music and Its Social practices.  UC Press, 2020. He comes up with a critique of allegorical political analyses of harmonic movement very similar to what I came up with, and similar to Charles Rosen's critique of the "new musicology." Taruskin cites Carolyn Abbate, who had coined the turn "low hermeneutics" (or "soft hermeneutics") for this kind of reading. My term for this was the "melodramatic style."  Taruskin uses a passage from Susan McClary, the same musicologist that I used. I think I took this whole discussion out of my book, because it is a tangent, but that is what the blog is for. 

Taruskin and Rosen clashed frequently, with the former's infamous accusation that Rosen's entire literary output is "cold war propaganda." Taruskin rapidly dismisses the one modernist (12 tone) composer I treat in my book, Luigi Nono, saying that it is silly for Schoenberg's son-in-law to be a communist, because a communist regime would not like his music. So this is a bit like Taruskin's coldwar propaganda? Nono used "his father-in-law's advanced compositional techniques to promote a political program that, when successful, invariably resulted in the suppression, as socially parasitical, of audience alienating art like his own." But isn't that an interesting 3rd option? Between formalist 12 tone music in support of American democracy, and Soviet agit-prop music, you can have Eurocommunist 12-tone music as well.  You can call this silly, as RT does, but isn't it just as silly to see 12-tone music or abstract-expressionism as propaganda, just because the CIA promoted these things in an opportunistic way? 

Anyway, I had expected Taruskin to be more supportive of the new musicology, but he concludes that it "quickly took a wrong turn, away from the sociocultural into naive hermeneutics, which caused it to age with stunning rapidity" 436).  

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Graphic novels

 Apparently graphic novels featuring Lorca are a thing now. There is an article out that I haven't read yet. It supports my idea that Lorca is a favorite for adaptations of all kinds. 

Friday, December 4, 2020


Some courting plots.  The rich girl falls for the bad boy of humble origins. The rich man comes rescues a poor woman from poverty, like Pygmalion. Juanito Santa Cruz and Fortunata: In Galdós's novel Fortunata y Jacinta the wealthy man falls in with a group of shady characters (with Andalusian accents?) and they have all-night parties (juergas). One of the women he meets in the sordid environment is Fortunata. I don't remember if they are doing cante jondo or not, but the narrator notes "Las crudezas de estilo popular y aflamencado que Santa Cruz decía alguna vez..."  There is an article I haven't read about Galdós as an anti-flamenco guy, as many intellectuals have been. Of course, there is Merimée's Carmen

Class differences are sexualized in these plots. Burke mentions some D.H. Lawrence. There is Juan Marsé's Últimas tardes con Teresa, with the charnego seducing the bourgeoise university student.  

More Dante

 Dante assumes that poems will be set to music. Canzoni are poems that might be set to music, whether they are actually set to music or not. Earlier he defines poetry as verbal inventions obeying the rules of rhetoric and music. We cannot call it a song unless it has words:  

"Furthermore, we must now discuss whether the word canzone should be used to refer to a composition made up of words arranged with due regard to harmony, or simply to a piece of music. To which I answer that a piece of music as such is never given the name canzone, but is rather called 'sound', or 'tone', or 'note', or 'melody'. For no player of a wind or key- board or stringed instrument ever calls his melody a canzone, except when it is wedded to a real canzone; but those who harmonise words call their works canzoni, and even when we see such words written down on the page, in the absence of any performer, we  call them canzoni. And so it  seems clear that the canzone is nothing else than the self-contained action of one who writes harmonious words to be set to music; and so I shall assert that not only the canzoni we are discussing here, but also ballate and sonnets and all arrangements of words, of whatever kind, that are based on harmony, whether in the vernacular or in the regulated language, should be called canzoni." 



Dante is pretty rad:  

"But since it is required of any theoretical treatment that it not leave its basis implicit, but declare it openly, so that it may be clear with what its argument is concerned, I say, hastening to deal with the question, that I call 'vernacular language' that which infants acquire from those around them when they first begin to distinguish sounds; or, to put it more succinctly, I declare that vernacular language is that which we learn without any formal instruction, by imitating our nurses. There also exists another kind of language, at one remove from us, which the Romans called gramatica [grammar]. The Greeks and some - but not all - other peoples also have this secondary kind of language. Few, however, achieve complete fluency in it, since knowledge of its rules and theory can only be developed through dedication to a lengthy course of study. Of these two kinds of language, the more noble is the vernacular: first, because it was the language originally used by the human race; second, because the whole world employs it, though with different pronunciations and using different words; and third because it is natural to us, while the other is, in contrast, artificial. And this more noble kind of language is what I intend to discuss."

Translation in the liga de hiedra

 I noticed doing review for a tenure candidate at Harvard that translation is a big thing now. Book length projects that claim that translation is foundational / crucial to peninsular studies. Another tenure candidate at Yale last year had a similar book in the works. I also reviewed a book on this, and another book, pre-publication, on a similar topic. There's my 1st Lorca book which also involved translation heavily. Some people cite me in this regard. These projects can be vastly different from one another, but this is a trend of at least 10 years duration that has not peaked yet.  

Another trend is working on music. There are probably 5 or 6 books by well known literary scholars involving music in the peninsula. 

tl dr

 I was writing a guide to writing for undergraduate Spanish students. Things like don't use the passive voice, write only in the present tense when analyzing literary works. Anyway, as the document got longer, I realized that it could be very, very long, but that the shorter it is, the more useful it is. If it is very long, then the whole point of the assignment would be to follow the guide, and I would be constantly saying, see page 44, instead of page 1 or 2.  

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Blank book

 The blank book is terrifying... 

For the dreaming poet, though,

It offers more possibilities

Than all the books already filled in


 Rita Felski cites me in her recent book Hooked about art and attachment. It was in something I wrote that cited her, so it makes sense that she would agree with me.  I had downloaded a sample of the book on my kindle, and hadn't seen the citation, but a friend of mine pointed it out to me today.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2020


 I found in Burke's Rhetoric of Motives and idea about rhetorical courtship, the dynamic, for example, of the pastoral, with its idealized relation between rich and poor. This applies, I think, to the dynamic of patronage in flamenco practices. There is a complex dynamic of degradation and dignification involved. 

Burke's analysis of Kafka's Castle is really convincing, in relation to this. 


In the courtship relation, the vernacular musician wants cultural capital, the classical musician wants authenticity and popularity. What I am calling vernacular modernism Ross call "realism." He probably has his reason for this. I don't have to use the same language. What is important is recognizing this is a main feature of modernist music. 

Everyone probably thinks 12-tone is the modernist movement par excellence. It is probably the most disliked, and composers see it both as intellectually prestigious and a bit academic. I remember when my sister was a music major, there was a dept. without any performance at all!  The anti-conservatory. There were a few musicologists, but the dept. was dominated by 12 tone composers like "Dick Swift." That's a name that stuck with me somehow.  I don't think "atonal" is really the right term. There are still tones, and the avoidance of tonality can only be achieved by a very studious method of avoidance I composed a tone row and it had tonal relationships all over it.  Any three notes in a row are part of some hypothetical chord, even the most dissonant intervals. For example, the tritone is in diminished and dominant seven chords, the minor 2nd is in the major 7th chord (inverted). 

 I supposed I could have tried to make it more random sounding, but then it wouldn't be as musical sounding, so how can you win? 


Got rejected for in house humanities center fellowship. I tend to think I am one of the best scholars in the humanities in my university, and that my proposal is groundbreaking.  But it is kind of dumb to invest anything more than a minute of moping about a rejection. I put myself through a lot when I was turned down three times for DP.  What good did it do me?  I'm sure this will never happen now. 


 I took the phrase vernacular modernism, by which I mean all kinds of folkloric or nationalistic elements in classical music, and turned it around to find the phrase modernist vernaculars, by which I mean vernacular musical idioms that undergo a modernist or avant-garde phase, like modern jazz.  These two phenomena are in dialectical relationship. Well, avant-garde jazz might seem more similar to atonal music, or other forms of unvernacular classical music. In Alex Ross's book The Rest is Noise, Charlie Parker sees Stravinsky in a club where he is playing and quotes from The Rite of Spring in his solo.