New (Awesome) Schnittke

Toccata Records (a rather interesting label with a rather interesting agenda) has a new Schnittke record out called Discoveries. If you are a fan of all things awesome (or you would like to pretend to be to impress that special someone), give this a listen. You can hear some samples on Toccata website.

The output of Alfred Schnittke (1934–98) has been documented in recordings more thoroughly than that of any other Russian composer since Shostakovich. But there are a number of works which have not yet been released on CD, and four of the five here are not only first recordings; they also document Schnittke’s stylistic evolution over more than four decades of creative activity, moving from the relatively traditional Preludes, via the serialDialogue and the experimental Yellow Sound to the elliptical Variations, one of his last works, written in the teeth of enormous physical difficulty.

Frankfurt School in Exile (new book)

Sorry, a boring post to remind myself to pick this book up.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading this newish book by Thomas Wheatland, The Frankfurt School in Exile:

Members of the Frankfurt School have had an enormous effect on Western thought, beginning soon after Max Horkheimer became the director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt am Main in 1930. Also known as the Horkheimer Circle, the group included such eminent intellectuals as Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, Leo Lowenthal, and Friedrich Pollock. Fleeing Nazi oppression, Horkheimer moved the Institute and many of its affiliated scholars to Columbia University in 1934, where it remained until 1950.

Until now, the conventional portrayal of the Institute has held that its members found refuge by relocating to Columbia but that they had little contact with, or impact on, American intellectual life. With insight and clarity, Thomas Wheatland demonstrates that the standard account is wrong. Based on deep archival research in Germany and in the United States, and on interviews conducted with luminaries such as Daniel Bell, Bernadine Dohrn, Peter Gay, Todd Gitlin, Nathan Glazer, Tom Hayden, Robert Merton, and others, Wheatland skillfully traces the profound connections between the Horkheimer Circle’s members and the intellectual life of the era. Reassessing the group’s involvement with the American New Left in the 1960s, he argues that Herbert Marcuse’s role was misunderstood in shaping the radical student movement’s agenda. More broadly, he illustrates how the Circle influenced American social thought and made an even more dramatic impression on German postwar sociology.

Although much has been written about the Frankfurt School, this is the first book to closely examine the relationship between its members and their American contemporaries.The Frankfurt School in Exile uncovers an important but neglected dimension of the history of the Frankfurt School and adds immeasurably to our understanding of the contributions made by its émigrés to postwar intellectual life.

Some press about Wheatland’s book can be seen below the fold. Continue reading

Medici.TV ~ Free Concert Broadcast.

I meant to post about this, but forgot and now I was reminded that tomorrow (1/29) you can hear/see a free concert from Paris (8pm Paris time) of Gergiev conducting a couple of symphonies by Tchaikovsky (on Medici.TV):

The most prestigious Russian orchestra will perform Symphonies No.3 and No.6 by Tchaikovsky within the framework of France-Russia Year 2010.  A captivating programme because of the great contrast between the two works: Symphony No.3, the only one in a major key out of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies, with its two scherzos, clearly evokes dance music (Balanchine choreographed it). The 6th Symphony, the “Pathétique”, with its gloomy introduction, its waltz in 5/4 time (second movement), its unstoppable descending scales and its explosions, expresses a dark bitterness while remaining so full of splendour…

Philosophy and Rotten Metatheory

While searching for a Wittgenstein reference I chanced upon this comment by Rogers Albritton:

Philosophy, as he [Wittgenstein] means to be practicing it “simply puts everything before us, [it] neither explains nor deduces anything” and it “may not advance any kind of theory” (Philosophical Investigations I 126, 109). Its aim is, rather, “complete clarity,” which “simply means that the philosophical problems should completely disappear” (ibid., 133). I’d like nothing better. Moreover, I believe it: the problems (at any rate, those I care most about) should indeed, as he says, completely disappear. That’s how they look to me. I love metaphysical and epistemological theories, but I don’t believe in them, not even in the ones I like. And I don’t believe in the apparently straightforward problems to which they are addressed. However, not one of these problems has actually done me the kindness of vanishing, though some have receded. (I don’t have sense-data nearly as often as I used to.) And if there is anything I dislike more in philosophy than rotten theories, it’s pretenses of seeing through the “pseudoproblems” that evoked them when in fact one doesn’t know what’s wrong and just has a little rotten metatheory as to that.

Well said.