Naive

Went to two Elliott Carter concerts in Washington this weekend, neither much good. Not Carter’s fault; weak performances. Sent me running back to the old Arthur Weisberg recording of the Double Concerto. Precise, expressive, musical, informed, and above all — in great contrast to the Carter concerts I went to — clear. (I’m starting to think that the striking virtuosity of 1970s new music groups like Speculum Musicae and Weisberg’s Contemporary Chamber Ensemble has now migrated to eighth blackbird and the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Alarm Will Sound. And that with a few exceptions, like pianist Steven Beck and the Pacifica Quartet, it just isn’t found in the very serious younger musicians who now have taken up the older — complex, atonal — new music styles.)

After one of the Carter concerts, I was home flipping channels, and came across a Pete Seeger documentary. He says he likes nothing more than getting his audience to sing along, and after Carter’s complications, that seems almost naive.

But on the other hand, Carter’s just as naive. His naiveté starts with thinking that people should care about his complexities. Very few will, no matter how much fun they can be for some of us who enjoy them.

And his naiveté continues with his dismissal of minimalism, so similar to Pierre Boulez’s frequent dismissal of pop and rock. Neither understands what anyone might hear in the styles they so utterly dismiss. They don’t know — or never talk about — the strengths of those musics, as experienced by smart and musically sophisticated people who like them. That’s naive, and the more Carter and Boulez insist on their rudimentary, so easily refuted arguments — after a generation of minimalism, and two generations of rock & roll — the more naive they seem.

And finally Carter’s naive because all he really seems to know about is music. This is charming, actually. Take this excerpt from his program note about his song cycle for soprano and instrumental ensemble, A Mirror on Which to Dwell:

The poems of Elizabeth Bishop impressed me because they have a clear verbal coherence as well as an imaginative use of syllabic sounds that suggest the singing voice. I was very much in sympathy with their point of view, for there is almost always a secondary layer of meaning, sometimes ironic, sometimes passionate, that gives a special ambiance, often contradictory, to what the words say.

Which means, in simpler language, that the poems play with sound, and that they have a subtext — or, in even simpler terms, that they’re good poetry, because we’d find sound and subtext in just about any good poem. But Carter doesn’t quite seem to realize that, and rhapsodizes about things that are obvious, almost as if nobody had ever talked about them before.

That’s sweet, and suggests to me that all he really lives for is to write music. There’s no crime in that, especially since he does it so well.

For some similar thoughts, see my wife’s review of two Carter concerts, in the Washington Post. I agree with what she says, though as always I have to note that she speaks for herself, and can’t be assumed to agree with everything I write here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Greg, I think the word I would use for Carter would be “idealism” rather than “naivete.” And as for his dismissal of minimalism and rock/pop…well, it’s a composer’s job to have a strong aesthetic viewpoint, a distinct voice, and that often entails some negative attitudes towards musical styles other than one’s own. After all, Reich himself has been no less dismissive towards what one might call late-Modernist music like Carter’s.

    No, it’s the performers (like some of the younger groups you mentioned) who have more all-embracing tastes and interests. They are often as adept with Carter as they are with Adams.

    I wish more of today’s younger composers had the fierce (and yes, sometimes combative and nasty) aesthetic determination that would have the nerve to say, “this is the right path,” and “this over here is bogus.” But that takes real courage (which both Carter and Reich, to stick with our examples) had in abundance.

    Of course artists may well reject styles other than their own, but that doesn’t mean that what they say about those other styles can’t be criticized. (Which would include anything Steve Reich or Philip Glass say about Carter or Boulez.)

    And that’s especially true when (a) the composers making the statements are considered to be formidable intellectuals, as Carter and Boulez are, and (b) when the statements are part of a larger ideological discussion, as the statements I mentioned are. Rejection of popular culture is one of the founding tenets of IRCAM (see Georgina Born’s book about that institution), and Carter’s statements about minimalism are part of a debate that began in the 1970s. Rejection of popular culture also lies at the heart of many current defenses of classical music.

    As for courage, I’d yield to nobody in my admiration for Carter’s courage when he wrote his first quartet, which still breathes an air of pathbreaking excitement. (I relistened to it yesterday.) But I’ve been in the music business, first as a student in the early 1970s and as a professional from the mid-’70s on, and during all that time Carter didn’t need courage to maintain his course. He was honored and feted; anything he wrote would get performed. This isn’t any criticism of him. Any of us would love to be in that position, and more power to Carter for getting there. But while artistic courage may still be one of his virtues, he’s hardly needed it for the past four decades. (Well, maybe it took courage to write his third quartet, a piece wildly complex and difficult even for him. But even so, the piece was guaranteed performances, and just about guaranteed success.)

    Nor did he need courage to attack minimalism. As I said, those attacks were common decades ago from established atonal composers. We don’t hear them much nowadays, so it’s easy to forget how virulent they once were. It was common during the ’80s, for instance, for eminent composers to say — even in print — that Philip Glass evolved his minimalist style in order to make money. When I’d ask them why they believed that, since they couldn’t quote anything Philip ever said to support their view, they’d say, “Well, just listen to the music!” Which meant they also disregarded Philip’s well-known history — working as a carpenter and cab driver because he couldn’t support himself with his music. When minimalism started, there was hardly any way to predict that it would become popular, or that anyone could make a living from it, so those composers, too, needed artistic courage to do what they did. Which makes the criticisms of minimalism that Carter still repeats something more than naive — they could be called really ugly and tendentious, as well as thoroughly ideological. In that light, calling Carter “naive” would be generous. But I genuinely think he is naive, and just doesn’t concern himself with the details of any arguments over different styles of music. And also has too sunny a temperament, God bless him, to say anything ugly.

  2. says

    Which means, in simpler language

    Simplifying the man’s language in order to characterize his ideas as simplistic is like drawing a goatee on his photo in order to criticize his facial hair.

    His original language is right there in my post, for everyone to read. Everyone can decide for themselves if I’ve distorted what Carter says. And if you, Matthew, think I’ve distorted it, you haven’t said why.

    In my view, Carter’s language is unduly lofty, making it seem that he’s saying something very deep and important when in fact he’s saying something elementary. If Matthew — or if anyone else — disagrees with me, please say what Carter’s words mean to you, and show me why my quick distillation of them is wrong. I’m always ready to learn something new.

  3. says

    Carter’s attitude toward minimalism is worse than dismissive–he thinks minimalism is “a terrible thing,” that repetition “is a way of destroying intelligence,” and complains that “We have our own propaganda, but much more unfortunately, Hitler in propaganda. And I find that this repetition thing reminds me of all of that and I don’t like it.” He says minimalism “is death,” that “If you write one bar and then repeat it over again, the music ceases to have anything to do with the composer, from my point of view, anyway. It means a person’s stopped living.” He compares minimalism to repeated exposure to junk mail and cat food commercials. He thinks Minimalists “are not aware of the larger dimensions of life. One also hears constant repetition in the speeches of Hitler, and in advertising. It has its dangerous aspects.” And those are just the quotations you can turn up in a few minutes of searching the web.

    I don’t care if Carter likes minimalism or not–he was 50 years old when La Monte Young wrote the Trio for Strings, so his aesthetic sense was already largely formed, and he has every right to whatever aesthetic preferences he wants. His viciously malignent opposition to minimalism and his denigration of its composers and fans, however, is inexcusable.

    Also, his take on Bishop is laughable. I guess the standards for English majors at Harvard were pretty lax back in the day. Personally, I like how in Elliott Carter’s music you can tell that he wasn’t just writing notes on the page but actually planned out how they would sound when played together.

    Thanks, Galen. Not for the first time, you’ve said it all better than I did.

    Those quotes about minimalism are truly shocking. They come from a sweetly noble point of view, but they’re — not to put a fine point on it — truly stupid. Carter hasn’t thought much about repetition. The repetition in Hitler’s speeches is nothing like the repetition in minimalism. If it had been, those huge crowds would have melted away. It’s more like what Wagner might sound like, if — horribly — the same leitmotifs were hammered home every few bars.

    Carter’s cultural perspective is limited, to an astonishing degree. Because most of us, I’d think, would have, in our era, other referents for repetition. For instance, there’s the repetition of mantras in Buddhist meditation. Surely the repetition in minimal music is a lot closer to that (and let’s not forget that Philip Glass is a Buddhist) than to Hitler!

    Galen and I both admire a spectacular study of minimalist repetition by Robert Fink, a musicologist at UCLA, Repeating Ourselves. Robert puts minimal music alongside disco, Suzuki violin training, and (Carter would nod his head in agreement at this last point) arrays of a single product, on supermarket shelves.

  4. says

    I read what Carter is saying about Bishop as this: the sounds of the words, the sense of the words, and the narrative flow of the words are gently misdirecting your attention from one to the other—a “special ambiance, often contradictory”. Which is actually a nice and non-trivial hint into what separates Bishop from a lot of other great poets, not just a generic observation that sound and subtext exist in poetry.

    Galen, you don’t have to buy Carter’s characterization of minimalism (I don’t, either) but what exactly about it is inexcusable—any more inexcusable than, say, John Adams getting on his high horse about serialism? It’s his opinion—he’s listened to it, he doesn’t like it, he knows why he doesn’t like it. And he’s usually pretty scrupulous about saying that it’s his opinion. (I find the objection to such rhythmic regularity overkill but still interesting, particularly since it seems to crop up among so many from the generations that lived through the World Wars—a reminder that “the drumbeat of war” was once more than just a metaphor.) Here’s a thought—you might be able to make an interesting case that the advent of minimalism, in fact, made for an audience more receptive to Carter’s music, seeing as how they come at an aesthetic of musical immediacy from opposite poles, frustrating the usual 19th-century music-appreciation need to comprehend structure and form. (Minimalism makes it so obvious you move past it; Carter makes it so elusive that you ignore it.)

    I don’t honestly know how the standards for Harvard English majors back in the day compare, but reading up on George Lyman Kittredge, the Nietzsche that-which-does-not-kill-me thing at least springs to mind.

    Thanks so much for this, Matthew. You’ve really advanced the discussion, and I’m grateful for that.

    You make a good point, too, about minimalism preparing an audience for Carter. Certainly there’s room in the world for both, and certainlyl we’ve now evolved a generation of listeners who can go easily back and forth, if they care to. I also think that there are bound to be hidden links between striking developments that happen at the same time, even if on the surface they seem very different. I’ve long thought, for instance, that the more or less simultaneous emergence (if you look at a ten-year period) of serialism and rock & roll has to be more than coincidence. Music that strongly emphasized simple (or apparently simple) body rhythms emerges at that the same time as music that rejects those rhythms.

    But I can’t follow you in thinking that Carter’s view of minimalism is simply his opinion, and that opinions are something we all have a right to. Galen’s quotes seem quite honestly shocking to me. Many of us fault George Bush for lacking curiosity about things outside his immediate experience, and I think these quotes show that Carter has the same problem. In my response to Galen, I mentioned other views of repetition, which were widespread in the culture Carter is part of. But I might also have mentioned the personalities and intentions of minimal composers (beyond just Glass and Reich), and the ecstatic atmosphere in the first decade of minimal music performances, which was nothing remotely like any Nazi rally. These things were widelyy written about, even in the New York Times, which I have to assume Carter would have been reading. If I cared to, I could develop a theory that Carter’s naiveté in these matters also shows up in his views of his own work, for instance, in his belief that the greatest meaning of his music is its depiction of the individual functioning in an ideal democratic society — while his music might be said to enforce something very different, passive listening while a cadre of experts set forth the gospel.

    As for Elizabeth Bishop, Matthew, I think that what you’ve nicely explicated is something that’s generally true of any major 20th or 21st century poet, and of novelists and playwrights as well. Ambiguity, as I’m hardly the first to mention, is one aspect of the modern condition. Even an apparently simple poet like Robert Frost presents a great tension between the simplicity of his language, of his poetic forms, and of his images, and the darkness of his vision. Beckett famously presents a contradiction between humor and utter grimness, and between motion and stasis (exemplified in a line so famous it’s become a cliché, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Pound and Eliot are rife with ambiguity. Anne Carson, my favorite current poet, explicitly goes down several tracks at once in much of her work, writing (just for instance) a long cycle of poems that’s simultaneous an essay on Keats, a story about a painful marriage, and an exploration of tango rhythms. Or I might cite a moment in one of her superbly literate and intensely rigorous translations of Greek plays (in which, among much else, she reproduces the meter of the original Greek), when she has someone yell out a one-word outburst, “SHIT!” (Or I think that’s what she does. My copy is in my country house, and I’m snowed into New York, so I can’t check my memory. But any mistake I’m making is about some tiny detail.)

    I don’t doubt that Elizabeth Bishop does what you describe, and superbly well, but she’s hardly alone.

  5. Stephen Soderberg says

    ‘It was common during the ’80s, for instance, for eminent composers to say — even in print — that Philip Glass evolved his minimalist style in order to make money. When I’d ask them why they believed that, since they couldn’t quote anything Philip ever said to support their view, they’d say, “Well, just listen to the music!”‘

    Mr. Sandow,

    What eminent composers (plural, more than one, per your claim)?

    You say “in print” — could you please give cites (plural), and, preferably, give the quotes (plural). And who exactly did you challenge face-to-face (names, please)? I’m sure you can suppply this information to keep anyone from coming to the conclusion that you are hiding behind a vacuous “people say” argument which many people believe is, well, cowardly.

    Thanks.

    PS: FWIW, I like Glass’ music and I like Carter’s music. That’s not the issue. Critical standards and ethical responsibility are the issue. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks I’ve asked about.

    Hi, Stephen. I’ve been hoping our paths will cross in Washington, so we could say hello. For those who might not know, Stephen produces new music concerts in Washington, including a major festival focusing on Carter this fall. I hope I’ve got that right — even though my wife is the classical music critic for the Washington Post, I can’t know everything that goes on there. The festival is a major achievement, whatever I might have thought of a couple of concerts (not even a statistically significant sample) that I happened to attend. If I was in any way cavalier in dismissing what went on, I apologize. Probably comes from being jaded after too many new music concerts in too many years in this business, something that I’m not saying is a good thing.

    So, Stephen, moving on to the question you raised: When I wrote the words you quoted, I thought, “God, someone might call me on this.” And so now I’m in the position — with one exception I’ll come to in a moment — of being unable to provide what you’re asking for. If you’d been in New York during the early ’80s, as I was, and talked about musical styles with what we then called “uptown” composers, you might have heard what I mentioned often enough. I certainly did. I didn’t think, at the time, that I’d be called on for a detailed accounting of these conversations, so I didn’t keep a log. And also didn’t keep one of things I read. Of course, you’re absolutely right in asking for citations, because my memory could be faulty. I could be exaggerating — to myself, honestly, if mistakenly — how often these things were said and written.

    Citations of published writing would of course be a great help. But on the other hand, I might ask you to trust my memory, because I’m an established professional in this field who’s generally been found to be reliable, and I was there when the things I described happened. I’m sure you trust other people, on other occasions, on other subjects, and maybe even sometimes trust me.

    But here’s one specific recollection, with a major name attached. In the late ’80s, I was editing an essay by a composer whose name we all know, for a publication that, as it happened, never appeared. (The fault being mine, as an editor who never finished his editorial work.)

    I’m not going to mention the composer’s name, out of respect for his privacy, since I don’t know that he ever expounded in public what he wrote in his essay. But, Stephen, if you care to e-mail me privately, I’ll share the name with you, trusting in your honor as a professional not to spread it around. I think you’ll be satisfied that I’m talking about a major figure.

    I don’t remember what the overall subject of the essay was, but the composer did say, in the plainest of English, that Philip Glass wrote his music in order to make money.

    I, in my role as editor, challenged him on that. Not because I was defending Philip, but because I was doing something that my editors at the Village Voice did when they edited me. They were vigilant about the “intentional fallacy,” the practice of ascribing motives to someone based on what you think is the effect of what they do. Philip Glass writes music that eventually makes a good deal of money, and somebody says that must have been his intention in the first place. Anytime I strayed in that direction, my editors made me undo it, and instead say only what I in fact _knew_ to be true.

    In that spirit, I asked the composer whose name I’m not mentioning — such echoes of you coming up here, Stephen! — to show me places where Philip had said in print that he wrote his music to make money, or had been quoted as saying it. I believe I even said (maybe more leniently than Stephen) that this composer could give me hearsay, that he could merely quote someone who’d told him that he or she had heard Philip saying this. But if the composer couldn’t establish that Philip actually said such a thing, he couldn’t state — as fact — that those were Philip’s thoughts. He could say, if he liked, something along the lines of “It sounds to me and to many others I know as if Philip Glass writes his music to make money.” But he couldn’t say, “Philip Glass in fact actually does that.”

    Aas I said, this essay never appeared in print, or at least hasn’t as far as I know. My reaction, as I recall, when I read the passage I objected to, was “here we go again. I’ve heard and read this so often.” And note that the remark could easily have appeared in print if it had been submitted elsewhere, to an editor who was more lenient than I was.

    Again I’m sorry that I don’t think it would be fair to cite the name of this composer in public. But, again, I’ll be happy to share it privately with Stephen (who’ll be completely within his rights to say, “But it’s only one name”).

  6. says

    Matthew–

    The distinction I’m trying to draw is between personally disliking a kind of music and thinking that music and the people who make it are morally or intellectually compromised. Carter doesn’t just say “I’ve heard minimalism, and I can’t stand it, and I’m not sure what other people see in it,” he says it reminds him of Hitler’s propaganda, that it makes you stupid, and so on. The rhetorical strategy of claiming that it’s merely his “opinion” that minimalism is a force for evil is completely different from acknowledging that an aesthetic preferences is merely an opinion. I’m not familiar with Adams’s rhetoric on serialism, but if he does the same kinds of things Carter does then I’ll condemn him for it too.

    To be clear, it would be possible to say “minimalism reminds me of Hitler’s use of propaganda” in a non-offensive way. You might say “I find myself unable to appreciate or assess the value of minimalism because Hitler’s use of repetition in his propaganda is seared into my brain and I can’t help associating it with anything else that employs a lot of repetition.” But I don’t think that’s what Carter means–I think he’s saying “Extreme repetition is bad. (See Hitler, A.)”

    There’s probably some truth to what you say about Minimalism helping with the reception of Carter’s music. It’s certainly relevant that La Monte Young drew strong inspiration from Webern’s treatment of the row. I’m not sure I buy your gloss of Carter’s Bishop comment, but it’s plausible and worth considering.

  7. Steve Ledbetter says

    This discussion of minimalism and whether or not it reminds one of Hitler’s speeches and the like reminds me of the chapter Alex Ross wrote in his book The Rest Is Noise about the post-war avant-garde, and in particular about its political viewpoint, which, to tell you the truth, I had not thought about before — that to people like Boulez and other composers strongly asserting the significance–indeed, the necessity–of ultra-dissonant, atonal music, this was a gesture, or a movement explicitly designed to move as far away as possible from the vastly more traditional music espoused both by the Nazi regime and the Soviet regime. To these composers, anything that smacked of traditional harmony in any way was the enemy. I’m not sure that Carter himself feels that explicitly, but it is a mindset that certainly became well established after the war and into the ’50s and ’60s, by which time Carter was a figure of that aspect of the establishment and no doubt accepted that viewpoint fully.

  8. Stephen Soderberg says

    Mr. Brown, I have to thank you for the quote you took out of context since it made me search out the context which I found in an interview with John Tusa here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/carter_transcript.shtml

    Here’s Carter’s “Hitler” charge in context (much more sensible than you indicated):

    TUSA: It’s a total confusion, though, if the absolutely respectable job of being a journeyman composer who is fulfilling a function such as writing music for films is confused with the word that you tend to use, which is the person who writes art music which is music which stands or falls in its own terms and in relation to its own quality.

    CARTER: That’s exactly right, and the problem has become that many, many young composers and even many critics feel that the point of view of writing something that stands on itself, let us say, is not as important as something that is accessible to the public; and hence very often the music that the young people write is, you know – will have a little bit of Bach and a little bit of Schonberg and a little bit of Gershwin or anything else, all mixed together and this pleases the public and unfortunately it pleases even many conductors of orchestras nowadays.

    TUSA: 50 years ago of course American minimalism – the Adams ‘s, the Glass’s..

    CARTER: That didn’t exist.

    TUSA: … didn’t exist.

    CARTER: The small public that we had we felt were very musically literate, and repetition was something that was not a very interesting thing to do. Now, the public apparently likes to hear the same thing over and over again because they can’t understand it until they’ve heard it 10 times.

    TUSA: But you don’t dismiss what the Reich’s and the Glass’s and the Adams ‘s do just because they base a lot of it on conscious deliberate patterned repetition?

    CARTER: Let me say, I think anybody should write what they want to write and what they think is important to write and assume the situation they want to, but I myself feel this is really a terrible thing because in my opinion we have been overwhelmed with the problem of advertising in the whole world, and advertising is a system of repeating the same thing over and over again, true or false, and trying to bulldoze the public into believing what they’re saying, and furthermore, we’re getting into more horrible and awful situations. We had this in many ways during all of our lives in propaganda. I mean, we have our own propaganda, but much more unfortunately, Hitler in propaganda. And I find that this repetition thing reminds me of all of that and I don’t like it.

    TUSA: That’s quite a charge against the minimalists.

    CARTER: Well, I’m not saying that they want to do it but to me that reminds me of it. I’m not saying that they’re doing it that way but it bothers me very much that I see this in the background – having in the background this awful thing which is to beat people down to believing something just because it’s repeated over and over again, and this is terrible. In my mind this is a way of destroying intelligence.

    Sigh. It seems to me, Stephen, that you’re being somewhat tendentious. Galen was citing a number of sources, if I understand him correctly, one of which is this. But he also cites direct quotes that don’t come from here, whose context might be different.

    Or, of couse, the context might be the same. But how does the context you provide here change the force or meaning of what Carter is saying? If you or somebody else shares Carter’s distinction between art music and music that in practice has a lesser role (no matter what good intentions may have led to it), then, fine, you may find that this in some ways justifies that complete nonsense — as I see it — that he then goes on to say about minimalism. But I certainly don’t see how the context explains why Carter has such a one-sided view of what repetition can mean — why (to repeat what I said earlier) he completely misses any spiritual meaning that repetition has had, and sees only horrible uses of repetition in current commercial culture.

    In fact, my reaction to the fuller context you provide here — and thanks for doing so, as I should have said earlier — is that it makes the nonsense about minimalism stand out in even greater relief. The context, though it’s a line of thinking I don’t share, is something it’s easy for me to identify with. I feel for any artist who cares about the integrity of art, since I feel (and very strongly) the same way myself. So to go start from that position of sympathy, and then to be jolted into seeing that Carner now wants me to believe absolute nonsense, is really a shock. Certainly it makes me understand the limits of art. You can be a great artist, and at the same time a fool. Or at least in some ways a fool. (Cf. Wagner and — because of his pro-Nazi views — Webern. Or Ezra Pound. Or make your own list.)

    In fact, it’s not even remotely surprising that great artists might say stupid things. So now a question for you, Stephen. Why are you so ferocious about all this? Why do you bristle so much when you defend Carter? Why can’t you just say, “Oh, maybe the things he says about minimalism aren’t exactly right [which I assume you must believe, if you like Glass's music], but I don’t mind them as much as Greg and Galen do”?

  9. says

    Ledbetter’s comments about Ross’s political-ideological reading of the post-World War II avant-garde are apt and can be found in theoretical form in the work of none other than: Theodor Adorno. Trained as a musician (he studied under Alban Berg, right?), Adorno found ideological issues under the bushel not only of European classical music but also the culture industry’s popular music, exemplified by jazz. Etc. One reason I like Ernst Bloch’s philosophy is that, like Marcuse’s, it offers a means of reading along the lines of Adorno while understanding that there are other elements–for Bloch there is emancipatory potential, in the imaginary wish-landscapes of popular culture, I guess you could call it, and for Marcuse a substrate or residue, resistant and full of potential, in most of what we think of as popular culture. One need not engage in negative dialectics, per se, to get to it, though it does require some thinking through.

    At any rate, back to Carter, his comment relating repetition to advertising and the Nazis is admittedly clumsy and also silly. I guess you could construct an argument out of it, but really, come on. As Greg says, what about the long history, in Europe and elsewhere, of repetitive music, in particular chant, with its demonstrable spiritual aims, purposes and effects? But repetition in of itself is being condemned here. Does the repetitiveness of Beckett’s prose or Hemingway’s make either a form of advertising or inherently Hitlerian? (Any of the novels in Beckett’s famous trilogy could stand in among the least self-advertising works in English language literature.) Does Tolstoy’s constant use of repetition, which shows his profound grasp a basic and quite ancient RHETORICAL effect, with specific oral and aural mnemonic powers and predating modern advertising and the Hitler regime, somehow put the great Russian author, qua Bloom’s theory of influence, in a state of of great anxiety about his work’s debt to the National Socialists’ jingles, speeches and rants? I guess poor Homer is turning over in his grave….

    I think Carter’s aim is to criticize the simplicity of minimalism by suggesting that it uses an EFFECT that is constitutive of advertising, but his leap from this link to Hitler is a bit crazy. And really, wasn’t it Goebbels who laid out that infamous quote about repeating the “big lie,” that he should be invoking? Or perhaps Gertrude Stein, who was the all-time champion of textual repetition, mentor to Hemingway, and a politically sketchy but pathblazing aesthete?

  10. says

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