Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Late Night with Schelling

In his introduction to Ideen, Schelling writes,
"Nature is visible Spirit; Spirit is invisible Nature."

Hmmm, coming from the perspective of the Thomists gratias perfecit naturam (Grace perfects Nature), I'm intrigued as to the relations between the Spirit and Nature in regards to Grace. Schelling, you may have dissolved a dichotomy I didn't know I had, I don't know. It's 3 AM. We'll see in the morning.

Though I certainly did like, "Der Anfang und das Ende aller Philosophie ist - Freiheit."
("The Beginning and End of all Philosohpy is Freedom").

Much Work to Do

Considering my diligent working through Hesse and my reading spontaneously dropped German phrases in theological and philosophical contexts, I think my German is coming along blessedly. But today I decided to let my introduce my Theological Major (advanced in years and reading) to my newly sprouting German Minor (still finding its way through the world) by introducing him to Hans, only to exclaim has I have done previously, that Hans, You've Done it Again!

I've been reading a lot of Hans Urs von Balthasar over my Spring Break (a couple articles or chapters a day) especially in his views on eschatology. I've been increasingly perturbed by the allusions of these theologians to his dissertation ,,Geschichte des eschatologischen Problems in der modernen deutschen Literatur'' (History of the Eschatological Problems in Modern German Literature). I've read so many quotes from it, but have searching in vain today and yesterday in finding it online . . . until now.
Why did I not think to look at Johannes Verlag (John's Publisher) for John's Dissertation? I found it here and hungrily began reading the abstract at the bottom, only to find my German vocab still has a long way to go before devouring the 270 Seiten (page) work. This self-inflicted theo-germanistic ass-kicking can be mine for the low-low price of 18 Euros. I'll keep my eyes peeled in Tübingen. This labor seems incredibly daunting, but for now its a labor a love, and a great theologian once said "Love Alone is Credible."

Heres my vocab from the abstract . . .

greifen (griff, gegriffen): to grab (er grieft)
enthüllen (enthüllte, enthüllt): to disclose
verbergen (verbarg, verborgen): to burry
beichte (beichtete, beichtet): to confess
jmdn. berufen (berieft, berufen): to appoint someone
etw. berufen: to convene something
fassen (faßte, gefaßt): to accomodate, conceive, believe, hold . . . oh fassen, wait til we put some prefixes on you.
ausführen (führte aus, ausgeführt): to accomplish
etw. vermögen (vermochte, vermocht/vermögen)
: to be able to do something
beanspruchen (beanspruchte, beansprucht): to claim, stress,
heranreifen (heifte heran, herangereift): to mature
vorwitzig: meddlesome
erstaunlich: amazing, astonishing
uferlos: shoreless
zähmbar: tamable
die Haltung: attitude
der Anlauf: attempt
die Erläuterung: commentary/explanation
die Fülle: abundance
das Zeugnis: the attestation, credentials pl., testimony
mangels + Gen.: for want of

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hesse: Im Presselschen Gartenhaus

So with my studies in Tübingen 24 days away, I've decided to read a short story by one of Tübingen's most famous alums: Herman Hesse, the author of Steppenwolf, The Magic Mountain, and Siddartha. I've read Siddartha and loved the sparce and delicate language used by this German to illustrate a beautiful Asian atmosphere. Now I wanted to see what he would do with his alma mater of Tübingen.

Im Presselschen Gartenhaus is a short story that takes place in Tübingen in the shadow to the world-reknown seminary (das Stift) with detailed descriptions of the surrounding landscape (umliegende Lanschaft). Is there any better story for me to read? I mean really.

I found this sentence* in the first couple pages especially captivating. He tacks simple elaborative clauses (sometimes 3 or 4 at a time) on to objects in order to offer different shades of perspective (die Wahrnehmung). The shades are not complex in themselves, but taken as a whole, Hesse gives his world layers of interpretation. What results is a cadanced language with the simplicity of Hemmingway paired with the meandering quality of Kerouac, I think. I hope you enjoy it . . .

Wie eine bereitstehende Salzlösung oder ein kaltes, stilles Wintergewässer nur einer leisen Berührung bedarf, um plötzlich in Kristallen zusammenzuschießen und gebannt zu erstarren, so war mit jenem Schwalbenfluge dem jungen Dichtergemüt plötzlich der Neckar, die grüne Zeile der stillen Baumwipfel und die schwachdunstige Berglandschaft dahinter zu einem verklärten und geläuterten Bild erstarrt, das mit der erhobenen, feierlich milden Stimme einer höheren, dichterischen Wirklichkeit zu seinen zarten Sinnen sprach.
(This is Tübingen and the Neckar river running through it.)

This is a clunky translation of my own doing** . . .

"Like a ready-standing salt solution or a cold still wintery pond, needing only a quiet touch, which is suddenly beaten into crystals and banished to freeze, so it was to the young poetic mind with those swallow flights suddenly to the Neckar; the green silhouette of the still tree tops and the weakly hazy mountain countryside behind it, to a transfigured and cleansed picture solidified, speaking with the uplifted cheerful mild voice of a higher more poetic reality to his delicate senses."

*Yes that's just one sentence.
**It wasn't that hard to read in German, but trying to put it into English was a pain. I have a new found respect for translators.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Neue Musik (I)

So I've fallen into total Deutschification this week, which resulted in me getting a new grammar book and three German CD's. This is no easy task. Do you have any idea how hard it is to track down German music? I went to and it took me forever to sort out the German bands lost in the shuffle of American groups. You'd think something called would make it easy to find laut German musicians nein?

So I'll begin by introducing you to Clueso. Who is a very young looking, yet very talented and diverse musician. I bought his CD So Sehr Dabei which translates to "So very close." This is full of artful layerings of acoustic guitar, subtle integration of keyboard, weaving and sincere vocals, and often deep hooks and great syncopated drumming. I was surprised by the diversity of this album, especially coming from the position of an American looking desperately for something that isn't an antiquated political song or Rammstein. This is pretty laid back stuff but it can still shake you.

Barfuß (Barefoot): Listen to the depth in the acoustic layers.
Gewinner (Winner): These lyrics play off eachother really well (rhythmically and semantically) and the repetition leaves a great impression.
Keinen Zentimeter ("Not even a" centimeter) This song has a slightly rockier quality and a drastically lame video, sorry. Nice hook and blending of those rock textures between guitar, piano, and a dynamic drumset.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

An Evening at the Symphony (Movement II)

The second half of the evening was Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony. Larry Rachleff, the conductor for the evening, prefaced it by asking the audience what they would feel if they were to "compose a piece to save your life." He explained Shostakovich found himself in a time where the atmosphere was stale as exhuberant joy was forced into Soviet shackles. Rather than composing a piece that conformed to Soviet rubrics, or write a piece of dreamy escapism, this piece embraced and illustrated Shostakovich's creative struggles against the Soviet censors.

The first movement was defined by the weaving of a creative spirit between the anthemic heralds, in the voices of the trumpets, as they blared behind the red lumbering giants of Communism. With the weaving of lyrical melodies and brooding undertones one can detect the mixture of Beauty and Brutality, which will wrestle with eachother throughout the work.
Movement I (I)
Movement I (II)With the advent of the second movement it felt as though the audience was sitting in on a Russian ballet with a most bizarre pair. There is a whimsical and almost unnerving character to this and one can imagine the Muse of Shostakovich as a Russian ballerina who finds herself paired with one of those lumbering Red Brutes from the first movement. The stubbornness of the Brute with ernest grace of the Dancer make for a tension that is undeniably moving.
Movement II

In the third movement, it is as though the audience finds the Dancer alone in her room with a break from the performance with the Brute. She rummages through her things and her memories and is moved to dance in her solitude. She dances as though no Reds will knock on her door and and cherishes a memory or maybe a hope of freedom. This poignant piece is not a perfect escape though, because one can see the great face of The Terror haunting her dream and breaking through her serenity and she finds the tension has taken root within herself. Her lonely reflection ends with the tinkering of a music box, where she finds a ballerina much like herself closed up, spinning around, in a glass cage; seeing out but not escaping.
Movement III (I)
Movement III (II)

Leaving the previous movement, the audience can see how Shostakovich could not shake this Devil from his thought and so resolved to grapple with it. The final movement gives the audience the impression that the Dancer will not be free and she must strive to be creative even within her pressing constrainsts. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsen say, "The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every human being" and so I see Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony as introducing man to the Struggle that happens within us all. It's especially inspiring how Shostakovich did not flee from this adversity, but rather faced it and incorporated it in his dramatic work. One leaves this piece seeing that every human soul has the ability to be like Shostakovich; to like a bird who is resolved to sing from a branch, a cage, and even from within a clenched fist.
Movement IV (I)
Movement IV (II)

An Evening at the Symphony (Movement I)

The first half of the evening was led by the young violin virtouoso Augustin Hadelich as the symphony played Beethoven's Violin Concerto. Throughout the piece one could find that most romantic feeling of epervesence. There was a sprawling landscape of themes where one could find inspiration and adventure. This performance does wonders for a dreary soul in search of love and levity.

This piece did not understand the word descent. Floating melodies and harmonized lines were intent on ascending to a particular place in the heights of the imagination where one finds serenity and delight.

Hadelich exhibited a fine attention to warm tone whether he be playing blazing lines soaring to the heavens, or rummaging at the bottom of his fiddle for the next set of notes to cast upward. The entire piece seemed to be barrelling with exponential energy towards the edge of a cliff and as Hadelich played his last searing note he cast himself off, only to be greated by that great wave of applause, which cast him back on land demanding an encore.
Movement I (I)
Movement I (II)
Movement I (III)
Movement II
Movement III

This was good, but Shostakovich was where my heart laid this evening. So make it a quick intermission and get to Part II . . .

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"You Stay Classy . . ."

I took a week off from blogging and I think I should make a habit of doing that more often. If I plan on letting myself take breaks, and justify it with the idea of Sabbath, there is less buildup of Catholic guilt. It was good to breath some fresh air, develop inspiring ideas, and sit in on deep conversations, but in the meantime . . . it's time for Jazz.
Being a theologian I admit, I do love the realm of religious classical music: Bach is bombastic, Byrd is mezmorizing, Pärt is like Pentecost, and Gregorian Chant is on my playlist for running. But the mortar to my theological life is jazz.

Jazz is a beautiful form of music and I am so thankful for an evening of swing between thick tomes of dead languages and monolithic theologians. Chris Botti, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, usually fit the bill, but with Tübingen rapidly approaching I thought I'd get back into the German swing of things.

Frank Sinatra was cool, Sammy Davis Jr. was schnazzy, but Roger Cicero is just plain and simple a classy gent . . . and German, which obviously makes him easier on the ears. At least to me. Give him a listen and tell me that German and big band swing music do not go together.* So ladies find some pearls and gentlemen snag a fedora, and move your feet a bit; we're about to get classy.

Frauen regier'n die Welt (Women rule the World)

Das ganze ist ein Zoo (The whole life is a Zoo)

Tübi Wörter
die Gegend: area
teilen (teilte, geteilt): to share

*For some reason unknown to me, Cicero's new album is the same great jazz he usually does, but its in English. It's good jazz, but he's German. Why doesn't he sing in German? It's a beautiful language.