Friday, April 17, 2015

Liquid Architecture

"Music is liquid architecture."
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is going to be self-centered post. I can feel it.

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I Ain't Afraid of No Ghost - Outline in Color ft. Matty Mullins

The worst part about college is that I'm doing too much stuff ever to really sit down and reflect and introspect and talk things through with myself the way I used to. I still keep a journal in which I record the happenings of the day, but I haven't made a habit of sitting down sometime during the day with my other notebook and writing my brains out about a single topic until I have made peace with it. Therefore, disparate observations float in my head, bothering me incessantly because I have not yet committed them to paper, have not tamed them and found a way to walk around them and just think.

This quarter I am in a German culture class. The first two weeks, we discussed the idea of Kultur and how it differs from culture. The readings we had outlined a dichotomy which, while not convincingly presented as reality, offer at the least a useful framework.

The dichotomy is this: Kultur versus civilization. Germanness versus Franco-Italianness. Romanticism versus Classicism. The raw, the genuine, the ingenuous versus the cultured, the sophisticated, the cosmopolitan. The disturbing versus the serene. The weird versus the beautiful.

Quoth my prof: "These writers [Thomas Mann, Goethe] were not saying that the classic is bad. No one in their right mind would call Raphael bad. What they are saying, however, is that the raw and perhaps immoderate works of Durer and other Germans, including the builders of the Gothic cathedrals, possess a beauty that you can only appreciate if you have not been raised entirely on a diet of the cultured and classical."

I am not entirely convinced of the validity of these statements--and my professor did, of course, acknowledge that trying to generalize about "the Germans" or "the French" is an exercise doomed from the start--but I felt that. There are some things that you cannot appreciate if you are too cultured. There are some things that are inaccessible if you are afraid of expressing your genuine thoughts and feelings, no matter how messy or awkward.
Cologne Cathedral
(src)
When I am working in the same space as a group of people, I never DJ. The music I love the most is not pleasant, is not pretty. The few times I have tried to DJ, I have played songs I consider on the softer end of my favorites ("Ein Lied" by Rammstein, "Telescope" by Starset) and in each there are sections that make me go, oh, maybe I shouldn't have played that. Responses have only convinced me further that my taste in music is perceived as bad by most people: "This sounds like the devil singing" and "Oh my goodness, what is that? Do you have a lot of pent-up anger that you're not telling us about?"

It annoys me to have people worry about me, and the music I listen to admittedly tends toward anger and angst. Personally I find it relaxing. Maybe I do have pent-up anger. I certainly have a lot more feelings than I like to show, and listening to angry music helps with that, a lot.

If your "weird favorite song" is an experimental techno remix of a Ghanaian folk song, then that's cool and you are classy. if your "weird favorite song" has both clean and growled vocals and contains the line "say farewell to the chance of survival," then that's *weird* and you are suspected of having emotional problems.

I enjoy my friends' "weird" favorite songs. "School of Athens" is my favorite painting in the world. No one in their right mind would call Raphael bad. I declared my engineering major last week, and while reading Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance I identified very strongly with the classical rather than the Romantic mindset.

But I am not sophisticated, I am not cultured, and my first response to art is always "what does this make me feel?" Same with music. Is it technically challenging, musically interesting, original in its composition? I don't care. Does it help me come to terms with and dissipate the things I feel? That's what matters to me.

I love classical architecture. But the liquid architecture that I love the most does not make you comfortable, does not maintain a stately serenity. No: it is genuine, it is deficient in restraint, it calls down lightning from the sky.

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