Saturday, July 05, 2014

The Mud May Be a Form of Sincerity

"Some accuse Brahms' orchestration of being muddy. This may be a good name for a first impression of it. But if it should seem less so, he might not be saying what he thought. The mud may be a form of sincerity which demands that the heart be translated, rather than handed around through the pit. A clearer scoring might have lowered the thought." That's Charles Ives in one of his ESSAYS BEFORE A SONATA. It popped into my head after I finished a recent "post" - no, not the one about CANNONBALL RUN, the one before that. Really, it came up in an email exchange with Bill Taft about that "post." I was trying to tell him what William James said about St. Paul. I'm going to get this all wrong, but there were some historicist critics of the Bible (is that what they were?) who said that St. Paul probably just had an epileptic seizure on the Road to Damascus, not a vision... and I think William James's question was, Why should the two be mutually exclusive? He may have asked, What if the epilepsy was NECESSARY to the vision? I don't know. I guess I could look this up, but who cares? Here is some choice stuff from Bill's side of the emails: "I’ve been reading Acts of Apostles so any time Paul pops up in a piece of writing I get excited. (Ha! That sounds weird. Maybe 'more deeply engaged' is a better description of my mental state.) I read Acts as an episodic road story ('And he went through Syria and Cilicia…') mashed up with a style guide... Paul always knew his audience and used the epistolary form to great advantage. But as you point out, he could be repressed and a huge scold: 'O foolish Galatians!' What kind of a jerk addresses the recipient of a letter that way? Were he alive today, Paul would probably wind up seduced by the internet, posting obsessively in the comments sections of obscure blogs... I love Acts because everyone is having a vision of some kind that justifies future action or change. Cornelius has a vision and sends his minions to Peter who is having a vision when Cornelius's minions arrive, downstairs I think. I love that image of Peter up on a roof having a vision, while visitors knock on the door downstairs. So anyways, Peter follows his visitors to the home of Cornelius. What do they do when the get together? They tell each other about their visions. I love the repetition for some reason. These days, Cornelius and Peter would not have had visions. Rather they would have visited their therapists who would have given them an insight, which would have led to change. Maybe James's point is that positive change is good no matter what the causal agent. Having said that, I enjoy reading about visions. Acts would not be the same if Cornelius were described as having sent his men unto Peter because his shrink said that doing so would help him lose weight." Truly, this is just a fraction of Bill's entertaining thoughts about the Acts of the Apostles.