Monday, May 23, 2011


from my COLLECTED SONNETS 1970-2010 (which like all my other books can be downloaded free via the link atop the sidebar here):



Military sculpture is
to sculpture as
military food is to food,
if there are

any sculptors or chefs
left who have not
been conscripted, since
military verse

is to verse as
military noon is
to noon, the hands
straight up in rhyme.

And music—
music of course is war.

Anybody who reads poetry can see the ubiquitous self-doubts poets evince regarding the validity/value of their art. Compare that to the smug self-satisfied attitudes exhibited by the advocates and practitioners of music. They take it for granted that music is the highest art, the universal art, the only art that transcends all borders and biases. They never question that given assumption. The arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable. They really believe Pater's dictum that all the other arts are inferior, that all the other arts "aspire towards the condition of music." But every military that ever marched out to murder rape and destroy was led by what art: were those armies fronted by poets extemporizing verse—by sculptors squeezing clay—by painters wielding brushes—actors posing soliloquies? No, the art that led those killers forth, the art whose urgent strident rhythms stirred and spurred their corresponding bloodlust, was the art to which they felt closest, the art that mirrored their evil egos. That's why they have always put music up there at the vanguard of their war-ranks, because not only is it the emblem, the fore-thrust insignia of their purpose, it is their purpose: it is the condition to which they aspire. But if music is what its hucksters continually sell it as, 'The Universal Language', what that means is that before the Babel Discontinuity there was no music. Music did not exist before Babel, and will cease to exist when a true universal language (and a true universal peace) returns in the form of digitaldata/pictovids exchanged instantaneously by androids cyborgs robots. Music will soon be as obsolete defunct extinct as humans are.


After I wrote the above, I was intriqued by its ending, and this short poem came about as a result:


Before the Babel Discontinuity
there was no music, only poetry—

when we return to that prior state
as androids cyborgs we shall hate

this falsity called "music"; solilovids
will provide our numbered heads

with much truer means of commune.
Attuned we'll be without a tune.


As I tweeted the other day:

Not until the last musician is strangled with the entrails of the last composer will we be free from Walter Pater.

But going back to Pater: think how very different our (contemporary) relation to music is from his, compared to his experience of it. How often would he have heard music?

I ask that literally: how often and under what conditions would he in his daily life have physically heard music, ie real music as opposed to any tune humming in his head?

I would guess to answer that question by saying : not very often: on special occasions, concerts, recitals, probably church bells more than anything else, a street musician perhaps, though it's hard to imagine Pater walking on streets where such creatures thrived . . .

Now compare that to our current experiencing of music, how it ubiquitously presses in on us relentlessly from every medium, you can't make a phonecall without being assailed by it, every store you go into blasts your ears with it, every street is boomboxed and car-stereoed to death with its intrusive noise. . . in many cities you can hardly find any public space not polluted by amplified "buskers"—

there is no escape from it.

It greases the gears of consumer capitalism as much as the oil our government is currently killing as many as it can to gain control of.

If Pater had to hearsuffer what the average USAer is deluged with on a daily basis, I doubt he would reverence music quite as highly as in his pre-massmedia'ed cloistered Oxford. . .

Anyway, my poem above (with its note) is in the mode of hyperbole, and not meant to be taken entirely unsatirically.

But I can't be the only poet in the last hundred years who has chafed at Pater, and has resented the fact that poetry is not ranked first among the arts.

And yes, I would say it again, the complacency and arrogance of composers and musicians is insufferable. Poets are constantly questioning the value and the validity of poetry; do composers and conductors ever do that?

I have had no personal acquaintance with those in music—my view of their smug arrogant attitude is based on what I've read and heard them say in various media.

another sonnet on the subject:

Granted every poet "constantly aspires
towards the condition of music," that sphere
of perfection which Walter Pater declares
the other arts must humble themselves before:

so why shouldn't I kneel by the podium
and beg the conductor to leave her baton
propped upon my proselyte head like a sword
knighting me until I can hardly rise from

that ideal sill: one could have no grail beyond
that grace; could never long for that pated wand
to guide your own quest: its shadow bids us toward

the stead path still, sticking out over the brow
like some penile spitcurl: so why not die there
while maestro Mater makes his lowest bow?

"In music, then, rather than in poetry, is to be found the true type or measure of perfected art." —Pater.
Title: Trans(from poetry to music/from Pater to Mater)hendec(-asyllabics)ulous(ridic- of no-brow me to adumbrate the Great Pate).


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