Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Art and the Man

I've loved composer Richard Wagner since I was in high school. The "Good Friday Spell" from Parsifal is one of my favorite pieces of music. He wrote the librettos for his own operas - unheard of in his day - and seemed to espouse a doctrine of redemption through self-sacrifice. Of course, he was Hitler's favorite composer, and Wagnerian music was a must at all Nazi rallies. I'd like to say it's not Wagner's fault. He was long dead by then. But I think the only reason Wagner wasn't a Nazi is because he died in 1883. His book Jewry in Music, some selections from which I have recently had the misfortune to peruse, is proof enough that he was an asshole.

Does that mean I'll stop listening to him? No. His music elevates and inspires me. It's proud and beautiful, strong and sad, and has the perfect synthesis of words and music.

For me, art must be divorced from the man or woman who created it. In some types of art - popular music, for example - this is not possible. The artist is the art, sometimes. But as long as the art of an offensive person is not suffused with what offends me, I think it's O.K. to appreciate that artist's work.

Paying for it, and by extension helping to fund their offensive agendas, is a different ethical conundrum entirely. Wagner, at least, is dead, so I don't have that problem.

As for Orson Scott Card, well...that's another story. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Underwater Adventures?

In our long-running Gonen's World campaign (a tabletop roleplaying game), we've seen the march of history in the imaginary world during the 14 years we've been playing. From a pastoral medieval land of the Age of Fable, to the gaxium-powered technology of the Classic Age and beyond, the thrust of technology always seemed to be "up." Balloons to airships to ether flyers. But in the last campaign, I started wondering about "down." Gonen's World, like ours, is mostly covered by oceans. What's beneath them? While I had intended to jump off into the ether for a Space 1889-style campaign eventually, this picture by Albert Robida, the Victorian-era French illustrator, caught my attention. I wonder if a Jules Vernesque undersea campaign might be fun? Robida is always good for inspiration, and when he works in color, his illustrations really pop. Those of you who know Gonen's World know this picture fits pretty well. It's even in the "official" Gonen's World colors of blue and orange. Cool stuff!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Call Me Snake: Black Ambient

Since I'm taking a break from social media, I'm sharing more here on my blog. Even though I have no followers, I do get a fairly regular amount of traffic from God-knows-where. You can see from the sidebar I've added a Music page to share some of my creations. Whenever I update that page, I'll share the post here as here goes. 

I enjoy writing and recording music of all kinds. I have been in many rock bands over the years, but aside from occasionally recording with the Electrophonic Foundation, I have essentially lost interest in rock'n'roll, leaving it to younger and more energetic people. My current interest is in ambient, generative and atmospheric music, which I record under the name Call Me Snake. With the last-minute blessing of my late friend Ian Thomas, I have resurrected his CD-R label, Minutewax, to share my stuff with anyone who might be interested. As I release something, I'll post a link to it here and offer commentary that might clutter up the official Minutewax page.

Call Me Snake • Black Ambient
MINWAX03 • 20 minutes
Track List:
01. Night Alone
02. Random Angels
03. Metal Frog
04. Static Stalker
Commentary: This is part one of an ambient trilogy. From the editorial review on Amazon: "Meditation music for metalheads. Drones, bells, static, disembodied tones and voices. Backdrops for sinister moods or creative trances." This is my second ambient recording, and the first one I thought was good enough to share. It is essentially me learning my way around the concept of "generative" music. It is not so much "composed" as "discovered," as I play keyboard parts and layer them without being able to hear the other parts. The notes and chords are generated randomly using music dice. I don't know if anyone else will enjoy this sort of thing, but I find it very helpful to set the mood for deep thinking and writing certain kinds of stories and games. That being said, I wouldn't call it "relaxing." It is a bit too harsh for that. I would like to make it cheaper, but Amazon is the easiest way to share a physical CD. If you really want it and don't want to pay $9 for 20 minutes of drones, hisses, and bells (and who could blame you?), drop me a line and I'll share the mp3 files with you. I think tabletop gamers might like it for horror games such as Call of Cthulhu or something like that. I intend to use it for my gaming explorations of Carcosa.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda

"...the true church cannot declare itself infallible, but rather calls itself ecclesia semper reformanda ("the Church which must be always reformed"), the church that is always repenting of error."

Interesting comment. I read it in an article about the so-called Great Apostasy - the idea that the Christian religion has fallen from an earlier, purer ideal. I fell into that article by clicking over from this one about Christian Anarchism, which seems a little scary. Nevertheless, I agree with Christian Anarchists on one point: government and authority is founded on violence and the threat of  violence. Recent events in nearby Ferguson, Missouri make this all to clear.

At any rate, I had not stumbled over any of these concepts before, and the statement I quoted above really hit home. Wherever we fall on the spectrum of theism to atheism, I think that statement is one most people I know can agree on. Of course, I take that one step farther, and would add that scripture itself cannot be automatically considered infallible. Institutional religion of all stripes has a tendency to devolve into exclusionism, fostering the concept of the "other," and, despite the best intentions of what must be millions of true believers, manages at most a condescending form of love to non-believers.

Personally, I endorse the radical reformation of Christianity and a return to its pre-Nicean roots, if that's even possible. Unfortunately, I'm too busy writing superhero stories, playing old D&D, and watching samurai movies to spearhead that effort.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Lester Bangs Interviews Brian Eno

If you're even remotely into Brian Eno, or interested at all in some of his concepts behind the process and practice of writing and recording ambient or generative music (or even rock) this is a must-read.

When Eno says he's "not a musician" he's not being snarky. Interestingly, I've just read Daniel Boorstin on J.S. Bach. Bach said composers have more in common with skilled craftsmen than with artists. I don't entirely disagree. It does seem to jive with some of the things Eno says in this interview. Very interesting views on the creation of music from a fascinating individual. I firmly believe that most great art happens by accident, and that many artists delude themselves ex post facto that they did it on purpose. I certainly feel that way about my own stuff. Eno owns up to this, and in fact seems to prefer it. Discovering music as you create it is a lot more fun than planning it out in advance.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sensational News: Old School!

Searching for design ideas for the Gonen's World Addendum journal, I found these from the long-running French periodical La Petite Journal. Sensationalism in the news is obviously not a new thing. I wonder how fast these illustrators worked? Interesting stuff.